Chat with John Hawkins of KE Studios
On January 27th Shrapnel Games conducted a chat session with War Plan Pacific Designer John Hawkins of KE Studios. The chat ran from 9PM EST until 10PM EST. Here is the transcript of that chat session:
[JMHawkins] 8:52 pm: Hi everybody!
[JMHawkins] 8:52 pm: Or, Hi Tim and Annette
[Tim Brooks] 8:52 pm: Hi John.
[Annette] 8:53 pm: Hi John!
[Tim Brooks] 8:54 pm: We will get started in about 5 minutes.
[Annette] 8:54 pm: Hi kaleidoscope, welcome!
[Tim Brooks] 8:56 pm: Great game John, sales are going very well.
[JMHawkins] 8:57 pm: Thanks, glad that people are taking to it.
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: GeneralChaos has entered at 8:58 pm
[GeneralChaos] 8:58 pm: hi everybody
[Annette] 8:58 pm: Hey, GC. Thanks for the heads up on the Wargamer review!
[JMHawkins] 8:58 pm: Hi General.
[Tim Brooks] 8:58 pm: Hi GeneralChaos
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: Redan has entered at 8:59 pm
[GeneralChaos] 8:59 pm: no problem
[JMHawkins] 8:59 pm: Tim, Annette, I love the soundFx for the chat room.
[Tim Brooks] 8:59 pm: Hi Redan
[Redan] 8:59 pm: hello
[Annette] 9:00 pm: You may thank Mindi for that
[Annette] 9:00 pm: Hey John, I just read something very nice on the war historical
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: Johnnie has entered at 9:01 pm
[JMHawkins] 9:01 pm: Hello Strider, glad to have you
[Strider] 9:02 pm: Howdy John, and all
[Johnnie] 9:02 pm: Hello all
[Annette] 9:02 pm: Welcome, Johnnie. We all have to be patient. Tim is a very slow typer
[Tim Brooks] 9:02 pm: Okay. Time to begin. Let me start by thanking John for being here...
[JMHawkins] 9:03 pm: Glad to be here
[Tim Brooks] 9:03 pm: I know he is busy with development chores and we appreciate him taking time for this chat.
[Tim Brooks] 9:03 pm: Also, thanks to all who are here to speak with John.
[Tim Brooks] 9:04 pm: So, John, I'll ask the first question...
[Tim Brooks] 9:04 pm: How did you come up with the idea for War Plan Pacific?
[JMHawkins] 9:05 pm: That's easy. I wanted to play a game like that, but couldn't find one.
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: S.R. Krol has entered at 9:05 pm
[Tim Brooks] 9:05 pm: I mean it is out of the ordinary, who ever heard of playing a Grand Strategy game in 3 hours?
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: RERomine has entered at 9:06 pm
[JMHawkins] 9:06 pm: I just didn't have enough free time to play the monster games that are out there, and from playing Avalon Hill's Victory in the Pacific (boardgame), I knew it was possible to do.
[Annette] 9:06 pm: I see many people wishing out loud that they'd like to see you carry WPP into other theaters. Is that on your to do list?
[JMHawkins] 9:06 pm: War Plan Pacific: The Other Oceans 2
[Annette] 9:07 pm: TOO2? as in tootoo?
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: Timothy has entered at 9:07 pm
[JMHawkins] 9:08 pm: Yeah! I'm currently thinking about what it would take to add the right victory conditions for an Atlantic/Med game, and also how to add a bit to the
surface action for a game with fewer Carriers
[Tim Brooks] 9:09 pm: That sounds interesting. I would play it!
[Annette] 9:09 pm: BTW, we didn't outline any ground rules. Any one is welcome to ask away!
[S.R. Krol] 9:09 pm: Atlantic always seemed harder to do since the Germans weren't really ready for that kind of fight. VITP always seemed somewhat of a better game than WAS, even though WAS actually spawned VITP.
[JMHawkins] 9:10 pm: Scott, yes, I agree. The Atlantic was more of a sub/convoy theater. The Pacific just had the whole package of things going on.
[JMHawkins] 9:11 pm: I always wondered why AH did WAS first instead of VitP. Maybe they wanted a "practice" release for the first one?
[RERomine] 9:12 pm: I haven't looked into the details of is game, yet. Is it a simulation, top down, turn based? Basically, what is it?
[Redan] 9:12 pm: As for AtlanticWW2 naval games, the AH Bismark board game was my favorite.
[JMHawkins] 9:12 pm: Of course, there's always the German plan - was it Plan Z? - that had a large surface navy ready for combat in 1946 or so.
[JMHawkins] 9:12 pm: Redan, I loved Bismark too. And Submarine.
[Tim Brooks] 9:13 pm: AH Bismark board game was my favorite -- Me too.
[Redan] 9:13 pm: The submarine game was sublime
[S.R. Krol] 9:13 pm: Anyone own the new version of WAS?
[Strider] 9:13 pm: I think I still have my AH Bismark game.
[GeneralChaos] 9:14 pm: i have question. Is there allied codebreaking represented in WPP? If no, why not have it in? I believe in VITP thats why the Allies moved after Japan.
[JMHawkins] 9:14 pm: RERomine, WPP is turn-based. Not a simulator. Maybe a computerized boardgame. Unless of course that doesn't sound good, then it's something else
[Timothy] 9:16 pm: I am teaching my nine year old son how to play his first wargame - WAS. Once we master the board game, he is eager to learn War Plan Pacific! You've done a great job on this game!!
[JMHawkins] 9:16 pm: GeneralChaos - there's no code-breaking in the game, and yes, it was the rationale for the Allies moving second in VitP. I worked through a few mechanics for adding it, but ultimately didn't like any of them.
[RERomine] 9:16 pm: That's fine. There were a number of different simulations out years ago, put out by Sierra. Turn based still has it's place in the gaming world
[JMHawkins] 9:16 pm: Timothy, I'm glad to hear your son is getting into the hobby!
[Strider] 9:18 pm: What made you choose the programming platform that you used for WPP?
[jcrohio] 9:19 pm: I created room "war plan pacific chat-10"
[JMHawkins] 9:19 pm: The XNA platform. Well, I had originally written a large chunk of an engine with C++ on DirectX, then a friend from Microsoft convinced me to try XNA. I really, really liked it. I think it's a great platform - it's biggest drawback is the lack of good installation support, but MS is finally starting to address that.
[Johnnie] 9:20 pm: I don't think this engine would translate so well to WW II Atlantic or Med. Different kinds of campaigns; few invasions and little expansion by conquest via the sea. Engine might, however, translate well into other expansion wars (even basically land bound ones) Rome, Napoleonic or WW I or II, where expanding power has to go thru X to get to Y (ala WPP bases). Substitite Corps for ships, etc.
[S.R. Krol] 9:21 pm: Yeah, like Mark Herman's CDGs
[GeneralChaos] 9:21 pm: QUESTION: How are hits determined in WPP? VITP had a easy and cool dice system, 5 meant disabled and 6 meant a hit/reroll for damage. Why no disable in WPP?
[S.R. Krol] 9:22 pm: One thing that has surprised me is that not many folks in the media have noted that it's XNA, which is also the code being touted for folks developing XBLA titles, right?
[JMHawkins] 9:22 pm: The WPP engine would need some major additions to capture the flavor of the Atlantic, which would make it a sequel rather than an add-on.
[Timothy] 9:23 pm: Rather than starting a new Atlantic game, I would love to see you continue to improve and expand the current one. Perhaps something like a WPP 2, with better ai, subs, etc.. I think people would definately be willing to purchase it.
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: jcrohio has entered at 9:23 pm
[JMHawkins] 9:23 pm: Disabled in VitP - that mechanic was actually one of my least favorites. It didn't seem to translate to anything historical. Sure, there were ships disabled, but usually they ended up getting sunk rather than being whisked back to base.
[RERomine] 9:23 pm: I can't say that I've heard of XNA, but I'm not sure what it's overall capabilities are and probably doesn't fit in my world.
[JMHawkins] 9:25 pm: XNA is a C# engine from Microsoft. And yes, it's being pushed as an XBLA platform. It's funny, I don't think many people realize yet how powerful it is. Sure, it's not what you'd build Mass Effect with, but it's got plenty of power for anything short of a AAA title
[Strider] 9:25 pm: I can see WPP being adapted to the Atlantic...using sea-lanes with contact points, patrol areas for TFs, subs and land based AC to spot TFs, then attempt to engage...
[War Plan Pacific Chat]: jcrohio has left at 9:26 pm
[RERomine] 9:27 pm: Most of what I deal with is J2EE and middleware apps. Spend all day working on a computer and then play when I'm done
[RERomine] 9:27 pm: Looking at the screen prints, it reminds me of the old Midway board game.
[JMHawkins] 9:28 pm: I think any Atlantic game would have improvement that flowed back to the Pacific as well. Subs, for instance.
[S.R. Krol] 9:28 pm: So how close is the final product to what you originally envisioned? Did you end up cutting ideas/features?
[JMHawkins] 9:29 pm: The biggest cut was a more complex surface action game, with four bands for ships instead of two.
[JMHawkins] 9:30 pm: But overall, it is pretty close to what I had in mind.
[Timothy] 9:31 pm: Did you initially think about including subs?
[JMHawkins] 9:32 pm: Getting back to GeneralChaos' question about how damage is determined, the individual weapons have to-hit chances, armor penetration, and damage potential. Essentially an internal miniatures game gets played out for each
round of the battle.
[JMHawkins] 9:33 pm: I cut subs pretty early in the design process, but that was probably a mistake.
[GeneralChaos] 9:33 pm: Did it take more/or less time than you planned to make the game? Any major hurdles?
[Strider] 9:34 pm: How did you intend to implement subs?
[JMHawkins] 9:34 pm: It involves computers, so it took more time
[JMHawkins] 9:34 pm: The biggest hurdle really was the AI. Still is, probably
[RERomine] 9:34 pm: Unless you've heavily modelled shipping and supply, subs weren't really directly involved in major battles.
[RERomine] 9:35 pm: Subs scored some good victories, but main targets were transports
[JMHawkins] 9:35 pm: I never completely fleshed out the sub design before cutting it. But one idea was to let the player position a sub unit on a sea lane, with a chance of intercepting any ships travelling across it.
[S.R. Krol] 9:36 pm: A Jap sub did sink the Wasp tho'...
[JMHawkins] 9:36 pm: And the Saratoga missed Midway because of damage from a sub
[Redan] 9:36 pm: Subs sank 2 jap carriers in mariannas battle, sank hornet, couple others
[GeneralChaos] 9:36 pm: Wasp was poor designed ship
[RERomine] 9:37 pm: Not saying subs didn't have an impact
[JMHawkins] 9:37 pm: Wasp was a victim of the Treaty limits. They squeezed her to fit within the remaining tonnage, and it compromised things a bit.
[RERomine] 9:37 pm: I think US subs also sunk the Shinano, sister ship turned carrier of the Yamato
[JMHawkins] 9:38 pm: Yes, Shinano too, but I don't think she was even fully operational yet.
[S.R. Krol] 9:38 pm: Yep. Just built and bam. Sad panda.
[Timothy] 9:39 pm: I think adding subs would definately add another random element to this game.
[Strider] 9:39 pm: Maybe subs could still be implemented in an abstract way, by causing random events to ships. Am I correct in remembering you said weather/breakdowns were abstracted and have some effect on ships?
[JMHawkins] 9:40 pm: Weather during battles is part of the targetting abstraction (e.g. your planes went for that CA because the CV you really wanted them to sink was hidden in a rain squall).
[Johnnie] 9:40 pm: Got to run. Bye all. Bravo JMHawkins ! Love the game. It's what the guys at Strategy & Tactics used to call: "elegant." It should be on my hard drive a long time, especially if I can figure out how to tweak victory conditions, etc.
[JMHawkins] 9:40 pm: Random sub attacks was another idea I had, but wasn't sure people would like it very much
[RERomine] 9:41 pm: Maybe as an option.
[JMHawkins] 9:41 pm: Thanks for stopping by Jonnie.
[RERomine] 9:41 pm: Like mines on land based games.
[JMHawkins] 9:41 pm: er. Johnnie
[Redan] 9:42 pm: the japanese stuck to sub treaty, US declared unrestricted sub warfare in Dec 41. All game designs that use subs allow japan to use unrestricted sub war which they never would have done you get packs of subs hanging outside SF harbor sinking all us reinforcements.
[JMHawkins] 9:43 pm: Well, Saratoga did get torpedoed on her way from San Diego to Pearl.
[RERomine] 9:43 pm: They did have some off the coast, but it was only a handful. The number that comes to mind is five, but not sure.
[JMHawkins] 9:44 pm: And of course, there was that Japanese sub that sank Dan Ackroyd's tank on the Santa Monica peir...
[RERomine] 9:44 pm: lol
[JMHawkins] 9:44 pm: and, and the Ferris Wheel.
[Redan] 9:44 pm: Yes they attacked warships only, it was what the treaty called for.
[RERomine] 9:45 pm: Classic movie, but don't see it on anymore
[JMHawkins] 9:45 pm: Yep, their doctrine was to wear down the US Fleet with sub attacks as the US closed with Japan. Ultimately, attacking merchants was much more effective, even though prewar treaties forbid it.
[GeneralChaos] 9:46 pm: QUESTION: Is there a reason why a player cannot look at the overall map when deciding if to call reinforcements into a battle? Or a list of all battles to happen during that turn before battles occur?
[Redan] 9:47 pm: I have played this game only a little while, but it has many fine features, is clean, and seems quite stable. It's fun!
[JMHawkins] 9:48 pm: Well, no good reason. Reaction moves should probably have a little more info available.
[JMHawkins] 9:48 pm: Thanks Redan. Fun is something I really wanted.
[S.R. Krol] 9:48 pm: Anyone who designs a PTO game has the difficult task of trying to figure out how best to represent a Japanese "victory". Besides the ways you implemented, did you have any other ideas?
[JMHawkins] 9:50 pm: The only real hope Japan had for victory was for the US to back off. Japanese leaders even knew this. The US navy planners worried about it too. I figured every IJN victory condition needed to be based on convincing the US to bow out of the war.
[Redan] 9:51 pm: Pearl Harbor made bowing out impossible. Einstein's letter to Roosevelt made A bomb inevitable
[JMHawkins] 9:52 pm: I did consider a "US Homefront Morale" score sort of similar to the Oil score for Japan. Each turn takes one point away, and the Allied player has some means (never fleshed out) of pumping it back up. If it reaches zero, Japan wins...
[S.R. Krol] 9:52 pm: Maybe losses = points taken away and victories = points added?
[JMHawkins] 9:53 pm: Pearl Harbor was a miscalculation.
[Strider] 9:53 pm: Yeah...excessive ship losses means a lot of sailors not going home.
[Redan] 9:54 pm: The old Koei PTO had morale purchases just like research or armament expenditures...
[JMHawkins] 9:54 pm: Yep, it would've been along the lines Scott suggests.
[S.R. Krol] 9:54 pm: There's always the danger though of adding too much and changing it from a single session game to a game needing much longer to play
[S.R. Krol] 9:55 pm: I remember being impressed when PTO came out that a console game had the depth it had. Pretty good little game.
[Tim Brooks] 9:55 pm: Okay. We are approaching the end of the scheduled chat. Does anyone have one last question for John?
[GeneralChaos] 9:55 pm: QUESTION: Was there any idea of adding Admirals into the game? Or are they abstactly in the game?
[Redan] 9:55 pm: pearl helped the US those big ol battlewagons would have all been sunk with full not just sunday crews....
[JMHawkins] 9:56 pm: Right, initially I had a hard limit of Sept 45. If Japan lasted until then, they won. But that was really hard, and I disliked the artificial "known" end turn. So I added the variable chance of survivial victory, which does take ship losses (well, technically current force balance) into account.
[Redan] 9:56 pm: it's a fine game ty
[JMHawkins] 9:57 pm: I didn't seriously consider adding individual leaders to the game, though it makes for interesting speculation.
[JMHawkins] 9:58 pm: Scott, interesting about consoles, it seems like both XBLA and WiiWare have some desire for strategy games.
[JMHawkins] 9:58 pm: Thanks Redan
[GeneralChaos] 9:59 pm: Any secrect on new game? What type of game would it be?
[JMHawkins] 10:00 pm: I'm still plotting and lining up the team, but I've got a long list of ideas I want to do. Not sure which one is next, but... what would your vote be?
[GeneralChaos] 10:01 pm: How about a simple WPP type game but of the Bombing of the Reich?
[GeneralChaos] 10:02 pm: or Britain 1940?
[JMHawkins] 10:02 pm: I'd actually love to do an air combat strategy game.
[GeneralChaos] 10:02 pm: Can I help?
[GeneralChaos] 10:03 pm: lol
[Tim Brooks] 10:03 pm: Well John, you have made a heck of a game here. It is on track to being our best selling wargame ever. Still early, but it is definitely gaining momentum what with the very favorable reviews and tha talk across the internet.
Thanks for chatting. We'll let you get back to developing great games.
[JMHawkins] 10:03 pm: One idea floating around is a WW I air combat game. My wife's grandfather won a DFC in that conflict.
[GeneralChaos] 10:03 pm: Yes, TY. Good simple fun game
[Strider] 10:04 pm: WWI air combat has my interest.
[S.R. Krol] 10:04 pm: The world needs a PC version of TSR's Dawn Patrol
[JMHawkins] 10:04 pm: Thanks Tim. And everyone else.
[GeneralChaos] 10:04 pm: or Ace of Aces? the book game thing
[JMHawkins] 10:05 pm: I haven't thought about Dawn Patrol for years. So many good old ideas that have been left by the wayside...
[JMHawkins] 10:06 pm: I just wanted to say thanks for all the vocal (textual?) support on forums and groups. I'm really glad to see the reception WPP has had. Thanks to everyone who's helping spread the worl
[Timothy] 10:06 pm: I would vote for a slightly more advanced version of War at Sea.
[JMHawkins] 10:07 pm: er.Word, not worl
[Strider] 10:07 pm: Your game makes that easy to do
[Tim Brooks] 10:08 pm: We'll do this again soon. Thanks everyone.
[Strider] 10:08 pm: See y'all later.
[JMHawkins] 10:08 pm: Thanks, Bye!
[GeneralChaos] 10:08 pm: Take care, keep gamin'
[RERomine] 10:08 pm: Thanks
[Annette] 10:08 pm: Congratulations, John. Thanks to everyone for dropping by!
[Timothy] 10:08 pm: Thanks for the opportunity to chat with you!
[S.R. Krol] 10:08 pm: You don't have to go home but you can't stay here, in other words...
[S.R. Krol] 10:09 pm: See ya folks!