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Forum » American Conquest » Game Discussion » Interview with Andrew Shpagin -Lead programmer from GSC
Interview with Andrew Shpagin -Lead programmer from GSC
Fallen_KNiGHT_ACDate: Saturday, 2011-10-01, 3:08 PM | Message # 1
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I have recently been in contact with Andrew Shpagin, he has taken a look at the Sword & Arrow mod and is pleased with the ideas and where it is headed. For those who don't know who Andrew is, Andrew was the lead programmer at GSC and programmed all the RTS titles, he is an extremely talented programmer and an extremely nice person, he agreed to do an interview about the games he worked on, and this is really appreciated for us fans that are still keeping the games alive, first here is a background on what he has worked on:

Currently Andrew Shpagin is Lead Programmer and Director of the 3D-Coat project. He gained experience of creating game development tools while working on game projects at GSC Game World studio, where he occupied the position of Lead Programmer in the strategy department. Andrew has 9 projects released. Many of them are well-known and popular not only in ex-USSR, but also in Europe, North America and Japan.

"Cossacks: European Wars" historical strategy game was the first development to give it all a start. The latest 2D-technologies were used for the project, and as of the time the game demonstrated truly groundbreaking images on screen. The game was published by Russobit-M in ex-USSR, while CDV released it in the rest of the world. The overall circulation of the game topped 3,500,000 copies.

Two add-ons to original "Cossacks" were released afterwards.
The first one - "Cossacks: Art of War", was released in 2001. The second add-on - "Cossacks: Back to War" got out in 2002.

Then the next project, based on "Cossacks" was made. But it was a completely different game about conquering American Continent by Europeans in the 16th century.

American Conquest: Fight Back, an add-on to the original game followed suit. American Conquest together with its expansion was sold over 500,000 copies.

There started the development of "Alexander" game, a tie-in of the movie by Oliver Stone. The game was to be released simultaneously with the movie in November. For the first time elements of 3D-graphics were used in-game. Over 350,000 copies of the game got sold.

Along with “Alexander” the sequel to the first "Cossacks" game was in production, released under the name of "Cossacks 2: Napoleonic Wars". It was a historical war-game.

An add-on to the game, named "Cossacks 2: Battle for Europe", was released in June 2006.

Heroes Of Annihilated Empires” is a big project to have been in development for a long time after "Cossacks 2". The whole team along with Andrew Shpagin worked on this game. We combined 2D and 3D technologies to get clear picture on screen, so as possibility to rotate and move the camera almost like in 3D-games. For this project serious mathematics tasks were solved such as boolean operations with meshes and 3D-object renewing in accordance with the set of projections.

Currently we work as a separate company, independently designing 3D-Coat and game project "The Pilgrim's Progress" based on the book by John Bunyan under the same name where 3D-Coat is used for character detailing.

The interview:
Regarding questions - many years passed, I don't remember all this precisely.

Q. What made you have an interest in programming and in particular programming games?
A: Programming games is one of most interesting and creative directions of programming. It is really interesting to create own world from scratch.
I was programming since school years. That time I was making primitive games just for practicing. Programming some simple game is easiest way to start learning programming.

Q. How many years development went into making Cossacks, and how long did it take to complete American Conquest considering you used the same engine as Cossacks and added features to the engine?
A: Programming Cossacks took 2 years, AC - maybe year and half.

Q. What the most complex part of developing Cossacks and American Conquest, e.g. what challenged you the most?
A: Maintaining big amount of units and big amount of units types. Bug amount of units requires special very fast pathfinding for example. Also making pretty graphics engine was also challenge (for that times it was really nice graphics).

Q. In one interview before it was released I read that American Conquest was going to have 4x levels of zoom, the finished product has 2 levels of zoom, what was the reason behind only going 2x zoom?
A: I don't remember all details, but making many zooms was a bit difficult because of 256 colors used. All types of units was pre-scaled too, so keeping 3 sets of units was not good.

Q. I discovered in the Cossacks WALLS.LST file these functions: "UPGRADE_TOWER1 UPGRADE_TOWER2". They are both set to none, At some point was it possible to build towers into the walls, like how you build the gates by clicking a section of wall and click the build gate button, was this going to be possible with towers as well?
A: No, I don't remember this at all.

Q. Can you think of any other interesting features of Cossacks and American Conquest that did not make the final release?
A: I don't remember such features. Usually if something was done we was showing it if it was not too buggy smile

Q. When you were first asked that Cossacks was to have 8000 units on the map at once, did you believe this was a possibility?
A: It was intended initially. Very first my game Warcraft 2000 had 8000 units.

Q. Can you tell us anymore about the game Pilgrim's Progress you were developing, what is this game about, what's the style of game play like?
A: This game was based on Christian book "Pilgrim's progress". We wanted to show Christian principles via the game. But at some point development was frozen because of lack of clear and interesting non violent gameplay. Also at some point money runned out and we started to do 3D-Coat - tool for modeling and painting that is really successful project now.

I will hopefully be doing another interview with Andrew, if anyone has some questions please let me know.
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