While we were at i34 absorbing the unprecedented levels of geekery and hardware lust, we also had time to take in some of the many upcoming game presentations on offer, one of which was Tom Clancy's End War.
Joe already had a good look at the game back at Ubidays in June, and the 3D action-RTS is still on target for a winter 2008 launch. Looking very much like a shrunken down World in Conflict, this multi-platform title has one very serious ace up it's sleeve - the crucial use of voice control to command all your units.
Let's be honest, anyone who's ever tried to play an RTS on a console using the point and click interface favoured by PC strategy games will tell you it simply doesn't work; a game pad simply doesn't have the speed or level of control available from a mouse and keyboard. With the inclusion of some very advanced and accurate voice communication End War looks set to succeed where others have failed by offering an engaging and enjoyable RTS on the consoles.
We had the chance to speak to Julian Gerighty, the Editorial Content Director of Ubisoft Shanghai, the development team responsible for End War, and ask some questions about one of Ubisoft's most innovative upcoming titles.
bit-tech: So let’s get the ball rolling – how would you describe End War in one sentence?
Julian Gerighty: All you need to know is that Tom Clany’s End War is World War Three, Tom Clancy Style, and you control everything with your voice.
BT: What challenges has using voice recognition brought to the development process?
JG: It’s interesting actually. We had to think about the use of voice command as one of the building blocks of the entire design. Once you’ve done that it doesn’t end up as a gimmick, it becomes the heart of the design process. Once you decide that, you can really concentrate on the phrases you use and refine them so that, say if you’re using the phrase “secure” instead of “capture” you’re achieving a five percent improvement on recognition. We’ve done that over three or four years now and found that all our languages recognise between ninety five and ninety seven percent of commands, which is something that’s never happened before with voice recognition.
BT: With previous voice recognition systems, such as that in Windows Vista, you need to train the software to recognise your commands. Will users need to train the software in End War and if so can users add their own custom commands?
JG: You can’t add extra commands, but the software in Windows Vista is very primitive compared to what we have. At CES Bill Gates delivered his final Keynote speech and his basic direction was natural input methods like Microsoft surface and voice commands like in Vista and Microsoft Sync, all of which are very primitive compared to what we have. While you can’t train End War with extra words, we’ve refined it to about forty words that give us thousands of command combinations and allow us to do absolutely everything in game just with voice command.
BT: Ubisoft has told us that the game will only initially be released on Xbox 360 and PS3, but can we expect a PC launch in the pipeline as well?
JG:Honestly, we’re just really focusing on Xbox 360 and PS3, so it’s difficult to say what Ubisoft will choose to do afterwards. The core concepts of the game; the camera, the involvement, the living room experience, the immersion that a close camera gives, that voice command gives – none of those things make any less sense on PC, so there’s no particular reason why it shouldn’t come out on PC.