Tim Goodlett was the producer of M1 Tank Platoon II, an excellent effort which took the modern tank simulation in directions never before seen. Inevitably, players offered many suggestions for improvement, and many of those were incorporated into a design spec for a new pair of interconnectable sims: Gunship and M1 Tank Platoon III (Tank).
Exciting stuff! This will be the first interoperable pair of simulations from Microprose. Recently Tim Goodlett consented to an interview on the simulations in progress.
Q. Thanks for taking the time Tim! Give us some personal history relevant to the sims you are involved in producing.
Tim: I have a BS in Military History from the US Naval Academy
10 years in the US Navy, I currently hold the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Reserves. I started designing Historical Miniature games while in the Navy, and published four of them. After leaving the service, I was hired by Microprose.
I have worked on Across the Rhine, M1TP2, EAW, and now Gunship and Tank Platoon.
Q: What other kinds of experiences and information have influenced your design goals for these sims?
Tim: One major influence is our concern with the future of Simulations. The recent trend is a sim market that is slowly shrinking, resulting in lower sales and higher production cost. That is a recipe for disaster. Look how many companies are getting out of the sim market altogether.
Gunship: Russian T80UM2
Gunship: Russian T80UM2
Part of the problem is the continuing shift of sims from a balance of realism, playability and FUN, more and more to the realism side. Looking at the early great sims, the original Gunship, M1 Tank Platoon, Strike Eagle, etc. they were not "hyper-realistic", they had just enough realism to suspend disbelief, but they were fun and playable. That is the kind of balance we are looking for.
Q: What stage are you at with M1TP3 and Gunship now?
Tim: Gunship is about 85% complete and is on schedule for Spring 2000. Tank Platoon is on schedule for release 4 to 6 months later.
Q: Will both of these simulations use identical graphics engines, and if not how are they integrated in gameplay?
Tim: Yes, the graphics engine is the same.
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Gunship Apache: Check out the detail!
Q: In simulations of the depth of these ones, AI is the key to gameplay. What are key areas of improvement for the next generation?
Tim: The improvements over M1 include a major improvement on target and weapon selection. In addition, all units will have realistic limits on target spotting. No more omniscient crews. Almost all the AI functions have been improved, including an intelligent use of terrain, and intelligent wingmen who can act fully independently.
Q: I remember a conversation with you last year about use of infantry in M1TP2. You had a great many ideas for enhancing that aspect of gameplay, including modeling tall grass for them to use as cover. What will we see in M1TP3 and Gunship?
Tim: The big problem with infantry in most games is the unrealistic distance they are seen and detected at. We have gone to great lengths to fix this. In addition, they will move and seek cover better than before.
Q: I understand that you are not requiring 3d hardware for these new products. Why not? And doesn't that complicate the design process?
Tim: Yes it does make the game harder to design and even harder to program, but it is really not an option. Sales data on hardware only games, especially sims, is very disappointing. They seem to average about ½ the sales from non hardware only games. This is even more prominent in Europe.
Q: I understand there will be German and Russian units for command in Tank. What are they and why have you decided to broaden the games in this way?
Tim: The player can command the US M1A2 Abrams, the British Challenger II, the German Leopard 2A5 and the Russian T-80UM2. The why is very easy. About half of sim sales are from Europe, concentrated mostly in the UK and Germany. With this being the case, its seems a little arrogant to only use American equipment. I like to reward loyal customers and feel that it is about time we recognize that they are not all in this country.
Q: Does this mean we may also see a later addition of a Havoc or Ka52 Alligator?
Tim: The Havoc is in Gunship. The Ka52 is still in consideration for a future product.
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