What is Terran Shield?
Terran Shield is a turn-based strategy game developed in the the same vein as X-COM and Jagged Alliance. Most of the action takes place in an underwater environment. The storyline is aligned with the current paleo-astronautical trend, attempting to combine a hyper-technological future with a worldwide ecological crisis and an alien invasion on top of that. Terran Shield has been designed as a strategy game which will test the player’s ability to adapt, plan and reflect on their own actions. The more difficult game modes require an intense mental effort in order to find strategic and tactical solutions for achieving the mission goals.
Who is Zamolxis Entertainment Studios and what are the goals of the company?
We are a group of young enthusiasts from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, who whishes to take Zamolxis Entertainment Studios alongside the top digital entertainment companies. The games we are planning shall be designed to capture the attention of the player, offer a fluid gameplay and offer a special atmosphere. Besides Terran Shield, we are also planning a second title in which we wish to bring to the fore the immense mythical univers of Romanian folklore, a universe which is mostly unknown not only to foreigners, but to many of us as well.
What is the story behind Terran Shield? Why are you developing this game?
The first thoughts on this game came about long ago in 1995, while playing X-COM: Terror from the Deep, during college years. The uncommon combination of strategy and tactics, the game atmosphere and the multitude of game modes, made X-COM one of the most highly acclaimed game series. Even back than I was imagining a game to rival the excellent strategy game produced by Mythos and Microprose. The opportunity, however, only emerged about 2 years ago while talking with my friend Răzvan Florian about a strategy game in which we could fully exploit an advanced AI to reveal its true potential. The fact that this is a turn-based game negates the AI’s speed advantage in performing multiple commands, leaving room for the strategy and tactics aspects to shine through. Once we agreed on the type of game we would like to create, we recruited professor Laszlo Bencze from the Cluj Arts University, to our team. We have previously worked with professor Bencze at Firma9 Advertising Production (one of the first design and advertising companies in Transylvania) and asked for his input to shape the graphics style and the visual identity of the game. Building the rest of the team was seamless, as we worked on bringing in only people who are passionate and experts in their respective fields.
Why do you call Terran Shield a simulation as well as a strategy game?
The emphasis on simulation, as detailed in the description for Terran Shield, is in order to highlight the connection to the early “romantic” period of game development from the 80s and 90s. At the time, the lack of established game mechanics, made every game a self-contained experiment by attempting to copy reality, not necessarily from a graphics standpoint, but from a game mechanics one. The first 3 X-COM games were designed to be more of an alien invasion simulation than strategy games available for a broader public. The developers were looking to simulate a global crisis situation, hence the relationship to world nations which financed the player, the stamina indicator for soldier characteristics, the complex interaction system between various factions of the megalopolis, or the alien infiltration inside the buildings of X-COM 3. All of these features give the impression that the player is inside an invasion simulator, rather than a simple game. We wish to keep this aspect as part of Terran Shield, in which we have already built in a complex underwater fighting simulator. The technologies presented in the game have a real-world equivalent and the invasion mechanics are not scripted, but instead attempt to simulate strategic objectives that an actual alien civilization would have when invading Earth. The approach will appeal to the player, who will not be under the impression of playing a simple game, but instead will always wonder whether what they are seeing could be real. This will make the player approach the game as a real task, keeping them constantly on the edge of their seat, as the AI will attempt to confirm the hidden fear.
Where does Terran Shield fit within the current gaming context and trends?
The current trend is an increase in indie games, to the detriment of those produced by established publishers, and it is my belief that this tendency will become more prevalent over the next few years. The increase in the number of specialists across a multitude of areas associated with entertainment will lead to the majority no longer being absorbed by the large companies and allow them to join smaller developers. Another fact to supports this type of growth is access from the onset of the development process to performance engines, such as Unreal Engine or Unity, as well as numerous assets developed by the community. All of this results in easier development, programming and general game building. All of this, along with the passion and dedication with which a small team approach a project, result in a game which is better received by the end user, when compared to a high-budget game.
Terran Shield is an indie project following this modern approach, attempting to bring an “old-style” gameplay into modernity and further improve it by adding up-to-date graphics and new game mechanics.
Who are “The 6” and what do they want from earthlings?
„The 6” are the leaders of an alien faction threatening Earth and their plans go well beyond an actual physical threat and risk of extermination of the human race, to something much more complex and difficult to imagine. This religious/military/scientific faction supports a personal doctrine, derived from the doctrine of an ancient race from Uut-Ar, a planet later proved to be linked to the origins of human kind. The doctrine of „The 6” is as complex, as it is alluring to both current and future followers. From this point of view it is similar to Nazi doctrine, both promising and persuasive. The aliens attempt to make use of this and make life difficult for the player, by attracting the population of Earth to their side. Therefore, the battle to save the planet will occur on multiple fronts: strategic (at Geoscape level) and tactical (from Tactical Missions). The player will have to counteract the doctinary corruption of Earth, to stand up to the intimidation of „The 6”, who will attempt to mislead him or her, or offer trades which seem advantageous . Terran Shield will provide a permanent diplomatic dialogue between „The Dark Side” and the player and success will be highly dependent on managing this complex relationship.
What sets Terran Shield apart from other titles in the same genre?
Besides the complex strategy and diplomacy aspects we are preparing, Terran Shield will offer an AI that is capable of handling intricate strategic scenarios and challenge the human player on higher difficulty levels. The AI is built of two parts: an active one which makes decisions, commands troops and manages resources and a passive one which analyzes the player’s approach and strategy in order to find weak points. It is precisely this permanent analysis that will impact game decisions and force the player to acknowledge their weaknesses and attempt to reinvent themselves in order to overcome the traps set by the maleficent alien overlords.
Another aspect which sets Terran Shield apart from other TBS games of this genre, is the fact that the majority of the action takes place in an underwater environment. This approach requires implementation of different game mechanics than what is currently offered by other games. Movement on the tactical map will therefore be over shorter distances, given the dense nature of the underwater environment, and will therefore shift the focus to whomever discovers their enemy first and manages to attack. As a general rule we are looking to avoid using heavily armored units equipped with lots of health, as this reduces game flow and restricts the number of enemies on the map. Of course such units will be included, but the majority of alien units will be vulnerable to specific types of damage and will be able to be killed with 1 or 2 shots.
What sets Terran Shield apart from Terror from the Deep, another underwater TBS game, release by Microprose in 1995?
The comparison is somewhat appropriate, as Terror from the Deep is up to now the only underwater TBS game. On top of the storyline and the multitude of unit types, the underwater simulation aspect in Terran Shield is better developed. The explosions have a stronger effect and the sight distance is limited, which will require the player to utilize various means for orientation and scouting such as electro-sensors, sonar or drone scouts. Resource management, base development and alien research are dynamic and new resources are not made available strictly on time elapsed since starting the game. The AI also has to gather resources (metals, oil, radioactive compounds, organic material) by utilizing collection and exploitation UFOs. The resources will be utilized for expansion, research and military improvements.
Besides the game mechanics specific to strategy games, we are also going to offer a small questing component that is linked to the central storyline and the upgrade of the main transport and combat vessel in Terran Shield: the Squid. Humans received the vessel as a gift from their Anunnaki predecessors, as written in ancient Sumerian texts.
Another aspect we wish to improve upon is related to the game mechanics, where we will adjust the save and load aspect. Therefore, while loading a previously saved game, the shooting accuracy for the following 3 turns will be decreased in order to discourage repeatedly re-loading games in order to obtain maximum damage during each turn. Additionally, the AI will recall all tactical and strategic combat situations, therefore cancelling the human player’s advantage, who often uses the first part of a mission for scouting and then reloads a game already knowing where enemy units are positioned. In Terran Shield, the AI will reposition its units following a saved game load. In order to improve game fluidity, the damage inflicted by a specific weapon is fixed under identical conditions (without the possibility of a critical hit), so that the player will not be tempted to reload the game in order to achieve higher damage. The critical hit aspect will be replaced by preferential aiming at vulnerable enemy parts, which once hit will make it easier to defeat the target. On top of that we will include vulnerability and resistance to specific types of damage, which in turn will positively impact the planning stage and will reward players who are able to make use of a diverse arsenal and can adapt to the different types of aliens and their vulnerabilities. We are also going to introduce the concept of a designated target. Therefore, one or more soldiers will be able to mark a target and during the following turn they will have increased accuracy for the specific target, as long as they do not engage a different target in the interim. This approach will be beneficial in annihilating the types of aliens in the latter part of the game and overcome their increased health and armor, as the time units required for automatic shots will also decrease for designated targets.
What are the remaining steps until the Terran Shield release?
We are currently working on the information for the crowd-funding campaign, while also developing a demo level to test the ability of the Unreal Engine to handle the destructible environment aspect. If the crowd-funding campaign proves successful, we will hire additional team members to work on finalizing the game by the end of 2020. In the meantime we have a beta-testing period scheduled, in order to give fans a chance to test and help improve the game. Until such time, the crowd-funding campaign packages may be pre-ordered on our site: http://www.terran-shield.com/pledge.htm
What should the players expect from Terran Shield?
First of all, we wish Terran Shield to be a game that will allow every player to apply their own preferred tactics, even if unconventional and unusual. Each strategy-game player should have the right to a place in which to test his or her ideas. We also wish to offer a varied and surprising gameplay, which can extend the strategy’s lifespan as much as possible. We are not adepts of games which lead the player down an interesting path, graphically attractive, but which ultimately turns out to be redundant. Equally, we do not wish to provide a game that can efficiently be completed following a simple Internet search, which is why Terran Shield is developed as the exact opposite to this scenario.
Terran Shield will always be full of surprises, perhaps frustratingly difficult on higher difficulty levels, rewarding to those attempting unconventional strategies and tactics and satisfying to those who are looking for a non-cliché storyline. But above all it will provide a well-balanced strategy. It will be ideal to those searching for a means to relax after a long day, but also to those looking for a challenge worthy of their mental abilities.