GB: I was trying different things, like getting a big pile of all kinds of troops and sending that one big group out. But when you run out of those you have to go back and rebuild.
Nicholson: Exactly. It’s interesting to observe the tactics of—players sometimes feel that they can win with overwhelming numbers. They’ll sit at their base, set out turrets to defend the base, and then just build and build and build. Another player could take the same time to go and secure power nodes on the map. They’re generating a lot of resources, and they may not be spending all of them on their units, but then they can build out a smaller number of more powerful units that come over and wipe out your army. You’ll be left with no army and they’ll still have a ton of resources left. Then you’re exposed to different tactics for learning to counter that sort of thing. There’s depth for players who want it, but still accessibility for new players.
GB: If someone does come at you with something like 20 air units, is there a particular response you would do with that big an attack?
Nicholson: With that many air units, I want a bunch of Wolverines. You don’t necessarily need to retreat from that. If you’re just coming at me in the air and I’ve got my Wolverines out there, I’m pretty confident I’m going to do okay. It depends, though. If you have a bunch of infantry coming in from one side as well, then maybe I need to start bringing my vehicles out as well. It’s rock-paper-scissors, with some interesting nuances on the side. As I say, there’s a lot of depth in it.
GB: I got hurt pretty badly by a lot of those air unit attacks. I wasn’t ready.
Nicholson: That’s the interesting thing. If you’re in Deathmatch at that point, you can look at and think, “Okay, about seven minutes back I should have stocked up on this resource to build this building to pump out more Wolverines.” But if you’re in a mode like Blitz, you think, “Okay, I have some Wolverines in my deck, so let me cycle through these guys, discard these cards, pay a slight energy penalty, and get the Wolverines right out.” You’re still in the battle and you can counterattack. Then you go back to the deck management aspect. Is this deck solidly equipped to counter everything, or do you need to try a different approach? Do you maybe just need to stay out of the way of those air attacks and capture points more quickly?
GB: Is there an advantage to having a lot of bases?
Nicholson: We see strategies where having multiple bases is helpful, certainly. Then you’re dividing the area that your opposition needs to attack, and you’re also making sure you have the ability to build up armies in different places. If your main base is taken over, you still have somewhere you can pump out some units and maybe go recapture your main base or start building something new. You’re not just wiped out if you lose one location.
GB: Now that you’re close to the end product, where do you think fans are going to find the most fun?
Nicholson: What we’ve got is a game that’s going to be, as I say, the RTS for everyone. If you love Halo, there’s a lot in this game you’re going to enjoy: the story, the environments, how we’re moving the universe on, the familiar units and the new ones. We have a whole new faction of new units we’ve brought into the world. If you’re an RTS fan, we have the depth there. You have the ability to explore that with a compelling console control mechanism. You can play this game if you know a lot about the Halo lore and the Halo backstory, but you don’t have to know anything about it. You can still come in and experience a compelling adventure. I think players are going to enjoy all of that.
Hopefully they’re going to enjoy the new Blitz mode, too. It’s a fresh approach to playing an RTS. It separates some of the strategy outside of the battle and lets you deploy your tactics. There’s a lot in there that appeals to a variety of people.
GB: Is it going to be possible for PC and console players to play each other, or is there not much point in that?
Nicholson: The title is an Xbox Play Anywhere game, so if you purchase the digital version on one platform then you get it for free on the other one as well. But we don’t have cross play. PC can’t play against console and vice versa. There are pros and cons to it. That’s certainly on a list of things we’d like to do. We’d like to get to it in the future. But early on we had to make some priority calls as far as where we focus our time and our talent. We decided to focus on the campaign and on innovations like Blitz. Maybe cross play will come into the series further down the line.
GB: As far as where people spend time, does it seem like they go back and forth between multiplayer and campaign and co-op?
Nicholson: Yeah. There’s a compelling campaign in there. It’s great fun to play, a great story to move the universe forward. There’s the co-op element for both campaign and skirmish mode, so you can play against AI with a friend. And then you have 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 in all three of the more traditional multiplayer modes, as well as Blitz. And you can play Blitz in solo or co-op modes. There’s a lot to do, a lot of Halo Wars for people to play.