Q: Real-time? Yuurk… Why on Earth?
Q: Why only single-player, and why the US Side only?
Q: No multiplayer in Volume 1? Does it mean I am going to trash some braindead artificial intelligence into submission?
Q: Why is there no campaign mode planned?
Q: You mention crew & staff interaction, what will it look like?
Q: I know it is a game about carriers – but what about surface combat? Will it be simulated at all?
Q: When you say that World of Warships or War Thunder players might enjoy the game too, do you mean you will dumb it down for them?
Q: When will it come out?
Q: Which media platforms will you use?
Q: Is this game going to be on Steam, or elsewhere?
Q: I heard something about a box edition, is that true?
Q: What about a Kickstarter campaign?
Q: Would you consider Early Access? Will you look for a publisher?
Q: What about other platforms?
Q: How will you price the game?
A: Come on, don’t be like that… We wouldn’t go for real-time as our unit of choice if we weren’t genuinely convinced that it is the most appropriate time scale for a wargame/simulation of our kind. It is not and shouldn’t be seen as a softcore mechanic – quite the contrary. Truly, most if not all tactical naval computer wargames, including the most ambitious of them, have been built around this practice since the 1990s – and this includes early classics such as Carriers at War or Harpoon. The famed SSG “Run 5” itself was made so as to emulate Real-time in an effective and convincing manner by using a combination of short time pulses. Since then, even the most hardcore products the likes of John Tiller’s naval campaigns, Command Modern Air/Naval Ops or Rule the Waves have stuck to this policy, to great acclaim. John Tiller himself, a much respected advocate of hex and turns architecture in other cases, went as far as saying in an interview that real-time is the natural choice for naval and air-focused computer wargaming. If the man who brought you Battleground and Age of Sail says so, who are we to say that we know any better?
Truly there are other reasons why a turn-based system just cannot convey the sort of feeling and contents we are introducing to you in Task Force Admiral. Time is a factor in decision making, and an integral part of the burden of leadership. As long as you manage your in-game time properly and plan for contingencies, you will usually have a chance to properly formulate for your next move. Would you expect Nagumo to react like he did at Midway if, by 9:30 AM on that fateful day, had he had an extra hour of comfortable quietness to gather his senses, fully process the available data and think about his plans? Nobody can say for sure, but we suppose it is perhaps doubtful.
Still, because player experience is our priority and remains a personal matter, we plan on letting you issue commands in Pause mode if you wish it so, which should allow our digital admirals to find their own zone of comfort. Still, if you want to experience the thrill to its fullest, you might want to tweak the corresponding option in your realism settings. But in the end what you will make of your gaming experience is truly all up to you!
TL/DR A: For multiplayer and the Japanese side, unfortunately you might want to wait for Volume 2 if we want Task Force Admiral Volume 1 to happen at all.
A: Developing a game is a heartbreaking process like no other. As you might see somewhere else on this very website, we are a very small team, and outside of our Lead Dev’s personal experience this is our first game. We want to make it right and proper, and we forced ourselves into humility when it came to set our objectives.
This is the heartbreaking part. We had to make choices, and none of them will prove popular, but this is the price to pay to ensure that we will eventually deliver a game, and hopefully a good game at that. As a first step, single player was the obvious way to go, as a first technical step most appealing to the larger part of the audience. Multiplayer will come in a future release (hopefully as early as Volume 2) and we are already laying the key ground work needed for the tech. Indeed, we plan to provide Volume 1 with a full replay function and a save-game system, which besides their obvious added value are also a first step in the direction of an actual multiplayer module.
Besides, we decided to stick to the US Navy first for this attempt after much thought given to the fruits of our research and the quality of our production value. Works such as Kaigun or Shattered Sword have thoroughly demonstrated that Japanese and American naval tradition and carrier procedures differ dramatically, and we couldn’t just ignore this and go generic – it is not in the spirit of our game. We do plan on recording hundreds of voice lines for our game, each and every scenario will be researched in depth, and we made sure that your own forces would follow actual US procedures and doctrine whenever possible. In short, considering our small team and other constraints, we could guarantee a good level of presentation and authenticity for the USN, but we would simply fall short of our aims if we were to promise the same for the Imperial Japanese Navy at this point. This game is designed along the lines of a love letter to American carriers – as romantic as we French are, it certainly would not feel right to write the same love letter to two different individuals at the same time, would it? ^^
We are not the kind who enjoy making fake promises. We hope that, in time, you will understand the purpose of these hard choices we had to make in this starting phase, and that in doing so, the quality of your gaming experience was the one and only matter we had in mind.
TL/DR A: There will be blood (and challenge), in a proportion you might not be used to.
A: Not on our watch! We all have a long personal experience in single player, and as such happen to be firm believers in the simple set of rules edicted by The Right Honourable Tim Stone in his Difficulty Compact. Don’t expect a walk in the park, it is going to be history AND victory both, simply not served hot on a plate. You might have to work hard for that – but you also need to know what you are up against, or – more exactly – what real admirals had to face as enemies.
Arguably, the challenge with Task Force Admiral will not be that simple. It is not just about making the AI competitive. Truth be told, the high-skill and proficiency of all the crews involved on both sides of carrier battles in 1942 were such that doctrine and drills made one-sided engagements between comparable carrier forces rare, if imaginable at all. It means that it is more a matter of knowing when you’re discovered, rather than if you will be discovered. Even at Midway, despite the odds, there had to be a Hiryu to rain on your parade before the end of the day. Knowing this, making sure that the AI will kick you where it hurts when the time comes is only a part of the equation.
It might be surprising, but dumb decisions by actual leaders in the era were so frequent, to the point no player would reasonably believe a human opponent capable of making them at all. The scale of these engagements allows dramatic reversals of fortune, the best plan being sometimes at the mercy of a mere error of appreciation. By that, we don’t mean mistakes in hindsight – but actual, real blunders in the heat of battle. What sort of AI would be deemed reasonably clever if it was to recreate Admiral Mikawa’s sudden retreat on the verge of turning his personal triumph into a strategic, long-term victory? Would you believe an AI to be convincing enough if it were to emulate Admiral Takagi and Admiral Hara’s numerous misguided moments on the first day of Coral Sea? Would you find it fair or credible to see an AI act like Admiral Hosogaya at the battle of Komandorski Island, spectacularly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory based on a few wrong assumptions? Hell, if it wasn’t for what actually happened, what would you think of an AI in terms of carelessness and (in)competence if it was to recreate, step by step, the sort of confusion and misunderstandings that led to the battle off Samar?
In retrospect, the challenge is not to make the AI play like some sort of supercomputer. The real challenge lies with shaping a believable, relatable AI, and we sincerely hope to eventually achieve this goal. For lack of a better way to prove ourselves until release, we pledge here and now that we shall search for the right mix of cunning and unpredictability that will make every encounter a bit special, whether you’re on the right end of the stick – or not!
A: We have plans for a campaign system for Volume 2, but right now we wish to focus on the core mechanics of the game, and get the historical scenarios right. Eventually this will be our tribute to the genre and to the men and women who served, which has to come first. Same story again: working on too many different game modes would just guarantee that we don’t get any of them right. We will have to stick to our roadmap for now, but rest assured that we are fully aware of the untouched potential in regard to our tech and the theater itself.
A: Task Force Admiral will allow you to interact with your virtual staff at key moments when a complex decision will have to be taken, whether it is triggered by a random script or an event designed by the scenario maker. You might be told about an important message, asked a question with different choices, or even asked to pick a side in an argument.
Episodes of controversy in the Flag Plot were aplenty during these battles. Conundrums which might require an input from your staff will be frequent and diversified, just like they were back then. What will you do in the position of Admiral Fletcher, in his harsh exchange with his Intel Officer at Coral Sea regarding his immediate course of action and his refusal to seek a surface night engagement? Will you side with the flyboys like Spruance did when he was asked to make a call in an argument between his air officer and the pilots at Midway? As Halsey, following Task Force 16’s encounter with a Japanese picket line, will you take the risk to send the Doolittle raiders in the air at the extreme limit of their range or will you wait a little longer? Once able to judge it in-game, we hope that you will appreciate the research we put in our work in order to make these events enjoyable, while depicting their participants with the utmost respect and conscientiousness.
Besides all the talking, more than 30 accurate portraits of historical Flag Officers, Captains, Air Officers, Intel Officers and Air Group Commanders will be provided with the base game, so that you might actually interact face to face with your crew when the time for making a hard decision comes. You will also be allowed to import your own graphic material if you want to further customize your game experience.
A: Even though we would like to keep any possible “feature creep” effect under control, ignoring the surface dimension of WW2 naval combat would be wrong and very impracticable at the same time. If American Carrier Battles has to make provision for surface-centered brawling well, so be it, and let’s do this well!
Surface combat will be present in a dimension roughly comparable to what you could do in a classic wargame like Fighting Steel, which seems to be on-par with expectations when it comes to a carrier-based game. Individual ship modules, individual shell ballistics, starshells, searchlights and other night fighting shenanigans, advanced armor and penetration mechanics… It will all be there – or to be more accurate, some of it is here already!
In all fairness, even though actual naval combat was rare during carrier engagements, we had to make sure that such an option was not left out of the equation. Had the carrier battle gone wrong at Coral Sea, Admiral Crace’s TF44 would have been the last rampart between Port Moresby and the Japanese invasion force; in the night right before the carrier engagement, Admiral Fletcher could have trusted the judgement of his Intel Officer Forrest Biard, and detach a surface task force led by Admiral Kinkaid or Admiral Smith into the night. At Santa Cruz, the Japanese Van eventually connected with the burning hulk of the Hornet and made her scuttling party retreat. Beyond the numerous what ifs, what sort of historical game would we be making if, for instance, you couldn’t order USS Nashville to dispose of the Japanese picket ships during the Doolittle raid?
Some aspects will be simplified. You will not be allowed to raise the admiral’s flag on a surface combatant for now. Surface radar management will be simplified, so will damage and fire control. However, we can promise an experience at least as entertaining as the one you had in dedicated surface-action tactical wargames in the past, which we humbly deem to be much better than nothing!
A: No, no risk of that happening. The experience is fully customizable in the settings like any simulation worth its salt since the days of Red Baron, and there will be no design choice made in order to make a complicated matter go away through simplified mechanics or shortcuts. At the end of the day, you will be allowed to play that game the way you fancy it, whether as the most demanding Grognard or, on the opposite, someone who simply wants a break and recreate an experience closer to Battlestations.
Still, this space is useful to explain why making 1942 feel more real and authentic than ever is no reason to “look down” on such players either. The cognitive abilities and potential of our more mainstream audience shouldn’t be underestimated. They are accomplished gamers in their own right, and any WoWs or WT player with a few hundred games under his/her belt is bound to have an understanding of history, tactics and gameplay mechanics that is way beyond what self-proclaimed Grognards might imagine. We are confident that the intuitive design and the thorough authenticity around which Task Force Admiral is built will appeal to their standards as much as they will appeal to those of a veteran hex & counters wargamer or a Il2/DCS jokey.
Finally, as a last word we would like to make our position towards these games and their audience very clear. We do not reject them, nor see them as a threat to the genre – quite the opposite actually. In many regards, they helped making WW2 naval combat/air combat/tank combat as a hobby more mainstream than it ever was. We do acknowledge the great deal of historical work that went into their making, and it is still apparent from the events and contents these companies come up with. More than anything, they have kept the fire going while our wargaming and sim community slowly fell out of the gaming spotlight it occupied until the mid-2000s. We are thankful for what they did for the next generation of historical gamers. Task Force Admiral is not made with the idea that some should be excluded from our hobby a premise to enjoyment, but quite the opposite. Uniting people with different outlooks around a common standard without harming their personal gaming experience is an aim we vouched for, and that we hope to uphold as a long-lasting trademark of our work.
A: “When it’s done” will be our policy. We do not want to deliver a half-baked, half-way, half-whatever job to the players. There is a reason why we are defining a specific frame for Volume 1: we want to keep it under control, and doing so we want to make the basics and foundations strong and durable. We are all gamers, and as such, we all know the feeling of being disappointed by yet another delay or postponement when following the games we love. We will do our best so that you will get as little worry as possible from us in that regard.
Now, we can at the very least say that we hope to have a fully playable vertical slice by 2020. This, or we’re going out of business, so there you go – it’s marche ou crève like we say in France!
A: We decided to limit ourselves to a few selected platforms at the beginning. There’s no point in getting all busy with excessive communication if the game is not in a playable state just yet.
This very website will be kept updated monthly (hopefully!) through its devblog section. These updates will be forwarded to our Facebook page, in order to slowly build up our community, and to our Twitter account, in order to develop our brand awareness. Once we enter the prototyping stage, we might want to open a proper Steam page and a Discord channel in order to interact further with our audience. But, in the meantime, we will focus on getting some work done. Babbling about what is not there yet feels less important than making it happen, at least for now. Fear not, anything new and shiny will be unveiled and detailed in due time, for your droolin’ is what keeps us going!
A: A bit early to say. As of Fall 2019, Steam still looks like the place to be. Let us check again in a year from now and we will tell you. As you know, the online platform market map has been challenged by at least one new, big player as of late, and we don’t want to make promises that we might not keep. We reserve our answer for now.
In all honesty though, we would like to have achievements. In the current state of what is available, that means going for Steamworks, which in turn means going to Steam. Besides, Steam has a reasonable policy when it comes to providing the developers with keys in case they sell their products elsewhere. In our case, we would love to sell it on this very site too, as we will have a box edition for those among you who still cherish physical products, like in the old days. Which leads us to the next question…
A: Yes it is! Or at least we hope to be able to pull this off – after all, we didn’t commission box art from our artist for nothing! Our nostalgia for the 1990s doesn’t stop to the sort of gameplay or topics which were encountered in the games back then. It also applies to the way each game was made unique by its artwork, its reference materials, its goodies… Well, pretty much everything that had to do with that holy box you saw one day on a shelf when shopping with your dad. That very box that sold you on the game by the sheer weight of its contents alone, even before you installed and ran it. At that time, from the few screenshots and the charming sounds of fullness you got from shaking that square cardboard thing, you knew that you had a winner in your hands. In those days, bad games hardly made those sort of intriguing noises.
At home, you would open the cover with the nervousness of a pirate opening a treasure chest. And then, the magic would happen. Those 250-pages manuals, those reference cards, those maps, those disks… You even recall that warranty card you could send back to the publisher (and probably never did) don’t you? Simmers and Wargamers of the early 1990s can all recollect and reciprocate that feeling of blissful plenitude and relief when, staring at the riches, you knew you were right to trust your intuition. It was a given that some logos, some names (Lucasfilm, Sierra/Dynamix, Microprose, SSI…) just never disappointed. And we know that deep down under, some of you still have that little kid inside of them. A kid that, although he now has a wallet, seemingly cannot have nice things anymore.
Well, that’s why we are going full retro in here. Expect at least two editions (a normal and a Deluxe one) that would have all the contents you’d expect from a box that respects the player. A thick intuitive and knowledgeable manual? Check. A historical section? Check. A scenario reference booklet? Check. Goodies – the likes of maps, postcards, playing cards, art books? Well we haven’t made our final call just yet, but we may feature some of these options. Still got that map of the Solomons and that identification manual you got from Task Force 1942? Well, tell them their relief is here at last!
At this time, it is not known if we might need your help to bring this to fruition. In any case, if this project was to become reality, we will make our best to sell them directly from here, so that you might enjoy a direct link with us. But before that happens, let’s make a proper game worthy of a nice box!
A: We do not need external financial support to finish this game. We started this adventure knowing perfectly well what sort of expenses it would incur, and we so far our budget isn’t far off the mark. We have more than 18 months of reserve for development ahead, without counting the extra funding we might add to the pot in the meantime. As such, we do not plan on going for a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance the game development itself. It would just be useless, while distracting us from our original objective (that is, finish the game).
Nevertheless, Kickstarter will be a useful tool when the time of promoting a box version comes. In that regard, we might very well go for this option for the first batch in order to make sure that there is demand for the physical product. It will also come handily as a way to make a first round of pre-orders with a small discount. But by then, we pledge that the game will be pretty much ready to roll, and you will know exactly what you will be backing/buying. We are not in the business of selling wind.
A: We have nothing against Early Access as a concept, but it fits some projects much better than others. This would include those that have rogue-like or open gameplay loops, which can be improved overtime by new features and content. Considering the nature of our game and knowing that our gameplay is centered around a lot of selected, scripted scenarios, we don’t really think that we are very Early Access-compatible. Switching to EA in our case would just add to the pressure, to the miscommunication, to the players’ frustration not to own a finished game, etc… This would eventually lower our chances to meet the demand properly with a good, polished product in an unambiguous manner. I’d say there is pretty much a Zero chance of us going down this road.
About publishers, our stance is more on the wait-and-see side of things. We value our editorial freedom as an indie studio, and we are lucky enough not to need additional financial backing. Of course, a publication partnership for release could be fruitful if made with people with the right competence, IPs and brand recognition. But overall, we are really in no hurry nor obligation to seek that just yet. We genuinely thank the publishers who had the kindness to get in touch already with proposals for future collaboration, and we know that in this and many other aspects, we are more fortunate than many of our fellow devs. But for now, we will focus our energy on bringing this game to a mature, playable state before involving ourselves deeper in the publishing process.
A: We are naturally painfully aware that not everybody wants to play on Windows PC. Unfortunately, we have to make choices and make sure that we use a rather ubiquitous and flexible platform for our project first, even if it means going the extra mile to adapt it to another platform later on. In that regard, we would be happy to release some day a MacOS and a Linux-compatible version, but this cannot be a priority. It will highly depend on the cost effectiveness of producing these versions. Porting a software to another platform is not cheap, it requires quite a few man-hours, expertise and follow-up for support, and it has to be worth the move.
Besides other computer systems, we will also be willing to study the feasibility of porting the game to a console platform. We know some console players happen to have a taste for the topic and still hold the classic Koei’s P.T.O. series close to their heart, and we are very interested in exploring new untouched avenues in the future.
A: The market being what it is, expect a premium price for our first product. It might be risky, but we are convinced that we will provide the player with the right kind of magic. Some might believe that a game in 2019 is grossly overpriced beyond $40 – well, that is not our opinion, as long as such a price reflects an actual personal and financial investment, not just yet another money-making scheme cloning a popular trend. If we are wrong, well, just don’t buy it! To each his/her own, and it is completely understandable.
We might not have shareholders, but we still have to eat every day. It is up to you to decide if we eventually achieve something worthy of your attention – and deserving enough of the graces of your wallet!