Getting to the nitty gritty of War Commander's Live Battles [Interview]

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War Commander Live BattlesChances are, if you're one of the 4.3 million War Commander players, you've found yourself to be the victim of an invasion. And now with the new Live Battles feature in play for a few weeks, chances are that you've been given the chance to fight back against your invaders in real time. It's an interesting if inevitable move for Kixeye, considering the kinds of games that Facebook is generally reserved for (i.e. FarmVille 2).

To get a better grasp of Live Battles, and what they mean for not only War Commander but Kixeye and Facebook on the whole, we sat down with executive producer David Scott. But in a nutshell, let's just say Kixeye is more than bullish about real-time multiplayer in its games, it's devoted to it.

Could you explain exactly how Live Battles work when you're in War Commander?

So, let's say you are not on War Commander, you're just on Facebook, and I attack your base. The first thing that's going to happen is, down in the left hand corner, a little notification is going to pop up, saying 'David is attacking your base. Click here to defend.' If you do that, it will take you straight to the game and load you directly into the battle, so you can instantly start aiding your troops in defending the base.

The way you do that is you can actually sit there and watch, let the A.I. do it's thing, and learn from that in terms of how you should change your base layout. Of course, at any point you can click on a unit, or drag a selected group of units. You can actually give them orders and control the battle on your side.
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Now, when that happens, so is that a full, real time connection?

Absolutely. It's fully real time. If I move my tank north, you see it move north instantly. Then, if you move your guys south, you see them move south instantly. [You can] jump in at any point, and it's fully synchronized. Just like if we were playing Command & Conquer. It's not a watered-down version.

Between Battle Pirates and now War Commander, why the focus now on real time multiplayer?

It doesn't feel like we're focusing now on real time multiplayer. I mean, getting synchronized battles into the game, or Live Battles as they are calling it, was something we wanted to do for the launch. We just didn't have the time or ability, at the time, to make that happen in the way that we wanted that to happen. We discussed several short cuts we could take, but none of them were as sexy as having real time control over your unit.

So, we held off doing it until now. It doesn't feel like we've, all of a sudden, decided to do synchronous. It's something we've wanted to do for a very long time. It's only more recently that we had resources and know-how to actually do it, to pull it off.

Kixeye David ScottHow has implementing this feature into War Commander changed how players interact with the game?

Quite a bit. We've got about 2.5 percent of our battles fully synchronized, so that means that both the attacker and the defender are on-line at the same time. That's just over one battle per second that taking place that's starting fully synchronized. Of course, any point, the defender can jump in. So, the real number is higher and, of course, the concurrent number of synchronous battles at any one time can be in the thousands.

But for those players that do partake in synchronous battles, they have to completely change their attitude. Because before you were playing against an A.I., which is somewhat predictive, and you can kind of do it back to the base, so it deploys certain units one way. You deploy certain units in one place, they'll act a certain way, but in another place online, controlling the units, all bets are out of the window. It comes very much down to the skill of the two players engaged in the battle.

Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on real-time gaming on Facebook, especially considering it's traditionally a place to get a five-minute gaming fix?

I think the rules are slightly different for us, because of the nature of our games compared to our social games on the same platform. Our users are spending 90 minutes a day, over multiple sessions, playing. That's the average. Of course, you've got some people spending hours playing the game.

The conventional wisdom was that you can't really do synchronized game playing on Facebook, because the chance of two friends being online at the same time being able to dedicate the overlap of a 15 minute game session between two people that know each other is slim. But, given that our session times and our engagement are much higher and the players aren't battling with their Facebook friends, they're battling with people they don't know in the real world but they know very well in the game, it is completely different. I don't think the same rules apply.

War Commander screensThat being said, what do you see as the future of real time multiplayer both as far as Kixeye and Facebook on the whole are concerned?

As far as Kixeye is concerned, every single product we have--open production and on our road map--is fully multiplayer, fully real time. We really don't have interest in doing single player or asynchronous.

As far as Facebook's concerned, it depends on the genre of the game, to be honest. Something like X-Com on Facebook could do really well. I remember playing the original X-Com--I think it might have been before X-Com. The way I played with my friend was that I had to email him a file, which then he copied and pasted into the game, played my move, and then he'd play his move and email me the file.

So yeah, it very much depends on the game. Kixeye is very focused on multiplayer now. I mean it's always been the case that we were making the game that we want to play. It just so happens that all the games we want to play have multiplayer.

What do you think of Live Battles in War Commander? Do you dig real-time gaming on Facebook? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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