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Battlefront.com Interview

I have been playing games from Battlefront.com for quite some time. These guys make some of the best war games on the market. It is my pleasure to bring you this interview with Battlefront.com.

How would you best describe Battlefront.com, and its unique niche in the computer game market?

To our knowledge, we were the first games publisher relying 100% on internet sales and deliberately choosing not to go the classic route of retail publishing and distribution. We have rejected several offers for CM in order
to do that, and by now, we are very happy we did. Even though by now we do have a few retail based partners who help distributing our games, our core focus remains on the direct contact with the customer. In this, we are
unique, so unique in fact that when we are approached by classic resellers and distributors, some still shake their heads in disbelief of why we don't want to work together with them.

Battlefront.com has a reputation for being "developer friendly". How has this benefited your overall business?

In many ways. Essentially, the whole company is built around this idea, as Battlefront.com has been founded as an alternative distribution method, to ensure that WE--at that time Steve Grammont and Charles Moylan, developers of Combat Mission--get their fair share of revenue from the game(s) we offer. Since the business model proved to be successful for us, we decided to extend the same opportunity to other developers, especially those new to the business, to allow them to actually make a living off what they do--and to ensure that players and customers get the games they like, and not mass-market clones of whatever is number one in the charts. Developers signing with us (and we have three currently, Panther Games, Fury Software and Major Holdridge) receive the bulk of profits from the sales of their product. Customers profit from this because they receive a well supported game and a developer who is around to make a second game, and a third, and a fourth...

How rigorous is the selection process when dealing with potential developers?

Very rigorous. Even though we do not request developers to send in materials, we get many requests and offers sent in, and as you can see from the relatively small selection of games we offer, most of what is sent in
to us does *not* get selected. Not because they're bad games, but because we have a very good idea of what fits to us and our customers, and that isn't necessarily the same that appeals to the mass public. There are some other
requirements that need to be fulfilled, and we have to always keep in mind the limited resources we have, so I guess that sums up to, well, yes, a rather rigorous selection process :-)

What's the toughest part of the game development process?

There are many tough parts, and it's difficult to single out one specifically. Research comes to mind as one of the toughest parts. It's something which we approach very meticuluously, as realistic wargames are our "bread and butter", but it's not very rewarding as much of it isn't directly visible to players, or only after a certain amount of playing time. We do it anyway, partly because we know that we enjoy a thoroughly researched historical game, partly because it adds a lot to play depth and replayability. Another really tough part is to take all we want and match it with all we can--meaning that we always need to select features and make design decisions which, for one, ensure that the game remains fun to play, and second, that there actually is a game within a
certain timeframe. We could have been coding CMBO to this very day, and it would have been without a doubt one of the best wargames ever made--thing is, nobody would know :-)

What is your personal favorite title that you offer?

All four game titles (Combat Mission, TacOps, Strategic Command and Airborne Assault) are unique in the scope (from tactical through operational to strategic) and theme (TacOps covers modern war) they cover, so that it's simply not possible to compare them. We play all of them.

How popular are Battlefront.com titles outside the United States?

One look on our message boards will answer this question. You regularly see frequent posters from many countries across the whole globe. Germans, Finns, Aussies and Kiwis, even people from Hongkong, South Africa, Italy... you
name it. Obviously the bulk of our customer base is from the US, which makes sense, since the bulk of internet users worldwide is based in the US, and we offer an english-speaking website only.

Do you think that many of your games have significant educational value?

Being historical and realistic wargames, one could claim they do teach history and military tactics as well as problem analysis and other skills. But the best indication are the posts on our message boards again. Many people who have never before played anything but their favorite sports and racing games now suddenly buy history books about WWII. If this is *significant* educational value, we cannot judge, and we certainly do not see our games
as much more than entertainment software.

How has your personal gaming experience affected the company?

As the introduction on our website says, we are playing ourselves what we make and sell. Our own gaming preferences in no small part influence the titles which we decide to publish. We also try to offer to our customers what we know we would like to see from a games company - support and improvements for the product, a community to find other players, and the trust that the game you bought isn't going to gather dust within 2 weeks
after purchase.

What can we look forward to in the future from Battlefront.com?

After the release of CMBB, our main new project will be developing a completely new engine for the Combat Mission series. Now that we have the experience of making two titles covering the 3D tactical aspects, we are
able to tailor this new engine much closer to the actual needs of the game and gamers, and also make an engine
which is a lot easier and faster to adapt to, e.g. new theaters and time periods. Apart from that, there are many ideas and even some projects (in too early stage to mention them in public), but no really firm plans.

Keep watching CV-Games for upcoming reviews of Battlefront.com titles.

By Jay Waschak - 10/07/02

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