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One of the first groups to contact us for an interview and demo when PAX East was approaching was Muzzy Lane. They are local to Boston and had an interesting project called Making History II that they wanted to show us. Chris Parsons took some time to walk us through what they were hoping to achieve and to show off some of the features that set this game apart.
Making History is what they call a Grand Strategy Game. It is a turn based game, set during the World War II era. On the surface it resembles Risk or Axis and Allies, but it quickly becomes clear that once you get under the hood there is a lot more going on. As in those games the primary focus of the game is survival and conquest, but what sets this game apart is the sheer depth. Taking over a country doesn't just hand its resources over to you and change its color to yours. You are given different options on how to govern, including Puppet Governments and Colonies. Each has its own level of control and its own inherent problems. Conquered regions with a high level of ethnic diversity, like the Balkans, will be as unstable as their real life counterparts, and they must be managed accordingly.
The economic aspect to the game is just as deep as the military aspect. Since you can play as any recognized country during the era, you might not want to fight fire with fire if you can fight Dollars with Deutschmarks instead. Various victory conditions allow for gameplay as a militarily weak but economically strong nation like Switzerland to win by brokering to other states and getting filthy rich. The same interface that allows you to manage resource stockpiles to ensure you have enough to keep the war effort going can be used like the stock market to jack up prices and make a killing. Nice to get a chance to commit some white collar war crimes for once.
One of the key changes to Making History II over its predecessor was ease of use. Whereas there was great focus on Making History I being used for education, concessions have been made this time around to make it much more user friendly. Things have been greatly abstracted to take much of the burden off of the shoulders of the player while still providing the complexity under the surface to make it a truly grand strategy game. Work done by a former Lucas Arts designer has allowed volumes of information to be represented in a purely visual form, with map overlays demonstrating everything from changing national boundaries to cultural makeup of a nation. Panels pop up to allow finer management, but virtually all of the gameplay is done from the map. No more poking though walls of text or tedious spreadsheets.
Multiplayer is naturally a major focus, but such a deep and nuanced system makes getting the gang together long enough to finish even a single game difficult. We are talking about playthroughs lasting upwards of 100 hours. Muzzy Lane has thought of this. A service has been provided that will host the games in the cloud. Definable turn timers will allow players to plot out their moves over an entire day, with email notifications alerting others when each has finished their turn and the game can move forward. As a result, the game can be played almost like a game of chess by mail. You don't even need to have the game installed to play, as the Sand Stone platform that the game is built upon allows users to play via a web browser.
While a casual player might have some fun with this game, hardcore strategy fans will get much more out of it. This is a game that would probably appeal to retired generals. The visual style and level of detail gives you the distinct impression that you should be looking at this on the big screen in the White House situation room. So if you are looking for a remarkably authentic strategic game that will test your mettle in the most sweeping military campaign in history, Making History II serves as the perfect counterpoint to the candy colored and cartoonish Risk: Factions.