Eugen Systems are RTS specialists. The French team have been in the business of real time strategy games for 15 years, and over that time the studio’s grown from a founding team of two, to a staff of around 60 people, working with some of the biggest publishers in gaming, including Atari and Ubisoft.
“I created the company with my brother, in 2000,” says Alexis Le Dressay, co-founder and chief executive of Eugen Systems. “Me and my brother used to be big video game fans, and at that time, I’m 40 years old, there weren’t that many people playing games. Only around 10% of people, it’s not like now when everyone is, where it’s something that’s considered really normal.” “I was a big fan of strategy games,” he continues, “so when we decided to start a video game company, we just wanted to create that particular type of game. That’s just the way it happens. The first game was very difficult to make, and I don’t think it was very good, so we wanted to make another one that was better, and so on.”
That first game was Times of Conflict, a sci-fi styled RTS that laid the groundwork for what would come to typify a Eugen Systems release: solid implementation of genre staples like factions and base and resource management, as well as original innovations to keep the formula fresh. These include new approaches to how infantry move and fight on the battlefield, as well as an emphasis on deception and subterfuge, in 2010’s R.U.S.E.
“We wanted to continue in the same direction as we do today, making RTS games,” says Le Dressay. “They’re still my favourite type of game. I have a feeling that a lot people working in the industry want to make games that have great graphics over great mechanics. But in my opinion, I’ve always wanted to create game mechanics, that’s why I think that RTSs are really exciting.”
Eugen as a company remain committed to the RTS genre, and continue to refine their style through multiple iterations across many franchises. Their games take place in a variety of settings, such as World War Two, an alternate history imagining of Cold War Europe and oil-starved near-future war zones.
“The first game we made that was really recognised was Act of War in 2005, and then an add-on.” Le Dressay says. “Then we did R.U.S.E with Ubisoft. The idea with R.U.S.E. was to make a game that was as accessible as possible. Then we went with something that was very different – I used to be a big fan of the Close Combat series, so we did Wargame, three of them in three years.”
“Now we’re on Act of Aggression,” he continues. “What we want to do with Act of Aggression is come back to this ‘Golden Era’ of RTS, where you have base building, resource gathering, production, big tech trees and things like that. RTSs have gone down a little bit, and there aren’t that many that have, in my opinion, the good quality required – lots of units, great graphics and new game mechanics that make them more modern.”
Act of Aggression takes place in the 2020s, following a catastrophic financial crisis that’s left much of the world bankrupt.
Players take control of one of three factions vying for power, the United Nations “Chimera” taskforce, the United States, or the insidious “Cartel” – an organisation that’s risen to power in the wake of the global economic crisis.
Act of Aggression is exclusive to PC, with Mac and Linux releases yet to be announced. R.U.S.E. was Eugen’s first venture onto consoles, and although it was successful, PC is still the company’s preferred platform.
“I think [consoles are] more work. In terms of controls, it’s much more straightforward on PC, because you can have a lot of them. When you do a game on console, you have to think a lot about the controls. That’s why working on PC is really good, because it’s easier in that way.”
Eugen Systems’ games have always drawn complementary comparisons with early Command and Conquer titles, but have a look and feel of their own. This is, in part, down to the custom-made engine Eugen have crafted over the years to best suit their needs.
“It’s all proprietary technology, we developed it.” Le Dressay says.”It’s built for RTS, it’s made to have a lot of units displayed at once, everything is destroyable, interactive. And depending on the terrain and how far away elements are it displays things in different ways. Usually, free engines are made for seeing things at a very close distance, and have a horizontal point of view, as opposed to the higher point-of-view that you have in RTS.”
For more gameplay info on Act of Aggression, look for the in-depth interview out tomorrow on OnlySP.