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Facing Off With 'Corruption'

Star Wars Empire at War Forces of Corruption screenshot
LucasArts
Alberto Araya is a contributor to GameCore, CBSNews.com's gaming column.

I had the chance to chat with Chris Rubyor, lead designer of "Star Wars Empire at War: Forces of Corruption." I had a few questions for Chris before playing the expansion pack.

GameCore: So Chris, can you briefly discuss the amount of time the game has been in development before its release date?

CR: The production process for "Forces of Corruption" took roughly 12 months from start to finish. During pre-production (about four months) a lot of time was spent carving out the story and missions, flushing out hero characters, figuring out new unit designs, and deciding what new technology will need to be fitted into the engine. From there we launched into full production which lasted out about five months. During this time all the new units, technology, gameplay features, audio and missions were incorporated into the game. The final two months consisted of what we call our "polish phase," where the development team spent many long hours rigorously bug testing and balancing the game.

GameCore: I'm glad you mention the development team. How much experience is on the team that developed the game?

CR: The Petroglyph development team averages about 12 years of industry experience for each developer on staff.
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GameCore: Wow, 12 years. That's a lot of experience working together on a project. With so much experience, did the multiplayer side of the game get enhanced in any way?

CR: For "Forces of Corruption" we expanded upon the original multiplayer component in many ways. For example, we now give players the ability to set up every possible scenario on every map, with any faction they desire, in any positions they want. Players can now truly test their skills by playing mirror matches, which allow them to battle it out against that same faction. (For example, Empire versus Empire games). Next, we made sure every map from the original Empire at War was rebalanced, updated visually, and incorporated into the expansion pack. For all of the new multiplayer maps added, the team made sure that they were larger, well balanced, and extremely detailed.

Lastly, we added new options for players to get involved more with the online community. Clan ladders now allow players to compete with their friends or other players looking for some epic-scale battles. Integrated clan matching has been added to help clans challenge their rivals on the new clan ladders. Quick matching was vastly improved, giving much more control over the choices players select before they enter the battle. In response to popular demand, we added "replays" that allow players to review games and pinpoint what decisions led to their victory or defeat.

It's great that you were able to expand on the multiplayer, and also get more involved with the online community. And adding the "replays" is also a great characteristic to have.

GameCore: Now, Chris, was there any notable challenges that the team faced?

CR: The most challenging aspect of the game was turning the idea of corruption into a viable form of gameplay people could understand, have fun with, and that also fit within the confines of the Star Wars universe.

The corruption mechanic started off as a simple drag and drop feature. Players would simply move a unit to a planet and corrupt it. Of course, players wanted more and, to be honest, the gameplay didn't feel corrupt enough. We started asking ourselves questions like, "What is corruption?" So we broke it down into eight categories: intimidation, piracy, kidnapping, racketeering, bribery, corrupt militia, black market and slavery. Once we had the eight elements we managed to turn them into forms of gameplay that would allow players to customize their criminal empires to their liking.

The corruption gameplay mechanic took many days and nights to hone, but we are very proud of the end result, and we certainly hope the fans are enjoying our approach.

GameCore: Unbelievable. I'm glad that you guys took the time out to make corruption feel like corruption. So, Chris, was the team as a whole satisfied with the end product?

CR: Absolutely! The team managed to implement just about every feature in our production plan. We truly feel that "Forces of Corruption" enhances the original game by leaps and bounds without losing the familiar elements players enjoyed in the original game. In addition, players now get to see a side of the Star Wars universe only touched upon in the movies.

GameCore: Ok, Chris, you say the team managed to implement just about every feature, so did the team want to add anything that could not be added due to time constraints?

CR: There are a couple items that didn't make it into the final game, such as including "boarding parties" for use during space tactical combat. We had designed these such that, by using special destroyer droid shuttles (Droidekas), the player could dock with enemy capital ships and destroy them from the inside out, ultimately leaving crewless ships that the Consortium could commandeer. The time and technology required just simply exceeded our budget so the feature had to get cut.

GameCore: Well then, I guess we know what we could expect from the next expansion pack. Thanks, Chris, for the time, but now I got to play.

You play as Tyber Zann in "Forces of Corruption," who is a corrupt mob boss with no love lost for either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. In "Empire at War," the missions are to take over planets using space battles, land battles and strategy. Now in "Forces of Corruption," the goal is to "corrupt" Empire or Rebel controlled planets as much as possible for additional profit or troops.