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Exclusive Interview:

Vincent van Geel (Isotx, Inc.) - Part 2

By: John "Award" Del Percio

Vincent van Geel (Isotx, Inc.) Interview: Part 2

This is part 2 of a multiple-part interview. If you missed earlier parts, Visit our Interview Listings page!

I recently got a chance to chat with the multi-talented Vincent van Geel co-founder of indie developer Isotx, Inc. Perhaps more known for their Half-Life 2 total conversion mods under the Iron Grip title, as well as their MidEast Crisis total conversions for Command & Conquer Generals, they've recently taken their Iron Grip franchise commercial in a full release game. This interview was conducted in two parts via an email Q&A to met with Vincent's busy schedule. In part two if this interview, we discuss details about Iron Grip: Warlord, console development, and future plans for Isotx.

GameVisions: Moving away from the development aspect, lets talk about Warlord itself in terms of gameplay. What has changed in terms of gameplay for the first commercial iteration of the Iron Grip franchise?

Vincent van Geel: In the Iron Grip mod, there was an elaborate team versus team system in which 1 player controlled the RTS faction and the rest of the players controlled a ragtag group of FPS players fighting off the AI armies. It was revolutionary at the time, yet had some problems/flaws, so when we setup to create Iron Grip: Warlord and had some similarities in gameplay, we made sure not to create the same set of problems. One was the reliance on a human controlled RTS player, which meant that although every match was different, a good bunch of times this was in a negative way, which scared away a lot of new players. A new RTS player would basically lose all the time, making the gameflow too dependent on just 1 player. So in Warlord we focused on the cooperative aspect that we love so much, took the webgame Tower Defense, and literally put that in an FPS environment with all the players working together to stop the horde. Initially this implementation was too literal and thus it became a bit boring after a while in the first tests, hence later on in the development we added in more spicy components like hunting the officer and free roaming commando’s.

GV: It's no secret that I'm something of a single-player zealot. Multiplayer can be fun, but I still personally enjoy a good single-player romp, and tend to gear all my reviews along those lines. I suppose you could say I'm a retro gamer even in modern games. Warlord does have a single player mode, though it's clearly a multi-player oriented game. What does the single player mode offer to traditional gaming nuts like myself?

Vincent: well I agree with the single-player stuff, I’m mostly single-player / cooperative myself, hence when I designed Warlord I focused on both, although as opposed to a lot of FPS games, we didn’t have the opportunity to create a heavy, content-focused narrative/story game, so we focused on shorter, more casual confrontations almost like a webgame which I think it’s a fairly new approach to FPS gaming (both single as well as cooperative) in general. The game is therefore best seen as a casual FPS/RTS hybrid which I think works for single-player as well as multiplayer cooperative as long as it’s easy to access.

GV: Obviously you have a strong bias to say "everything is perfect" in Warlord, but if you had infinite control of time and space (and the money produced within) which little details about the final result of Warlord bug you enough to which you could go back and enhance or remove?

Vincent: Oh I wouldn’t say that :P I think that it’s an awesome game, and well worth the price if you like FPS games and want a game you can play daily alone or with your friends in a casual arcade-like setup. Being a perfectionist there’s a ton of stuff I’d like to tweak and fix up, for starters I’d like to include air-based units, not to mention take another pass at polishing some of the graphics, maybe work on adding in some heroes etc.

I think a game (any game really) is never really done, as you can always go in and polish/tweak/add in little bits and pieces or advance it with another episode or do a graphics overhaul etc. I think the only thing that happens is developers abandon projects since it no longer has financial merit to advance them. We’ve had to put projects into the cupboard for the same reasons but we always come back to them; as now for instance we’re doing another patch for the very first mod we ever made 4-5 years ago! I hope we’ll always be in the position to keep doing stuff for Warlord, though it might be that sometimes it takes a while. I just like the overall crazy core concept and would hate for it to end.

GV: Which ones turned out better than you had imagined?

Vincent: Well my favorite parts are when the moments of near-overrun come. It reminds of the last scene in Saving Private Ryan where the Germans overrun the American stronghold (we molded the game with that in mind btw!). What’s cool is the panic that happens at a LAN game when tanks roll through with hundreds of guys barging through destroying defenses left and right. Players yelling left and right, slowly getting pushed back, intense combat on all fronts, and the best part is everybody feels the hero ;) as opposed to many multiplayer games where only the top players pwn and the rest are simply moving targets :P

Anyways, hanging out of a window with a large MG mowing down hundreds of guys coming down the street, or pounding tanks with AT weapons with your friends are the favorite scenes I think.

GV: Before we end, let me change gears here for a moment, if I may. I realize Warlord is sort of hot off the presses and you're all trying to keep it up-to date still, but what do you see in the future of the Iron Grip series? Is Warlord set to close the series, or do you see some sequels in the future?

Vincent: Warlord is one of the projects we will have in the Iron Grip universe, and we’ll be making many more in various genre’s and places throughout this fictional world. We’ll also hopefully be able to continue expanding Warlord to show more and more.

GV: Is there anything else official coming down the line from Isotx?

Vincent: Yeah there’s a bunch of stuff in the works. We’re still working on a really nice Warlord patch with new features and such, and we’re working on 2 new projects of which I need to keep 1 a super-secret so I’m sorry ;) The other is a web based game set in an already known part of the Iron Grip universe, that will be officially announced and released soon.

GV: Any juicy details you can give us? Commercial RTS adaptations of your C&C General's mod series? New IPs? What lies in Isotx' future at the moment?

Vincent: Well as mentioned above we have 2 projects in the works, and all I can say is that they are both set in the Iron Grip universe ;) Our MidEast Crisis 2 partner Derelict Studios is also working on yet another amazing expansion to MidEast Crisis 2 which will feature a new faction, and we have a very solid patch for MidEast Crisis 1 in the making (pretty much done!).

We will be expanding to new IP’s once we’ve shown some more of the Iron Grip universe, as we are perfectionists we really want to put in a lot of effort and detail into a universe, and launch a lot of projects using it to support it before possibly moving on to others. Considering the amount of effort that takes, I would imagine it would take some good time before we work on new IP’s.

GV: How about mouth-watering hints for UNOFFICIAL future projects?

Vincent: Hehe, well our larger new in-the-works project will start out in a recognizable yet not properly fleshed out part of the universe yet, but will quickly advance into completely new Iron Grip factions and world regions!

GV: Thinking long-term, are there any aspirations to move into multi-platform work (PC and console?)

Vincent: Definitely, though nothing solid at the moment. We understand the PC game market mostly, so moving onto consoles will require a whole new mindset, even if it’s a port of a PC title; as we don’t believe in just porting games, we’d work carefully to make sure each game control works best on that platform, and so far our game didn’t really have the setup to work properly on consoles just yet, but who knows what the near future might bring ;)

GV: If the stars were to align correctly to be able to budget for multi-platform work, which console do you find most alluring for digging into development for?

Vincent: Hm, a tough one, it depends on the concept really, and we have a ton of them ;) , but out of the top of my head I’d say Xbox360 and I’d focus on perhaps episodic XBLA games or something similar. Even if we’d have a huge budget, I don’t really want to sacrifice creating fun wacky gameplays for cinematic value, I’d put a lot of money into graphics to make sure the game had a brilliant art-style, but would mainly focus on fun crazy gameplays that blend genre’s and create cool new things. Don’t get me wrong though, I would definitely buy awesome pretty graphics, just that I like a bit of an “illustrated” look that also isn’t scripted (meaning limiting gameplay by scripting it more, in order to show these graphics).

A lot of the pure realism graphics these days also get way to blurred, shaky and overdone in effects to the extent that you can’t even see what’s going on, just because of the cinematic value it creates :p I’d rather put all the money into realizing grander scaled gameplay innovations (which cost tons of money and are highly risky!), like massive battles mixing RTS and FPS, something like actual base-building, harvesting and hundreds of players either AI and/or human with vehicles, superweapons, etc. Dunno if it’s a good idea but it sounds exciting enough to look into ;)

GV: For a closing thought, Warlord, for those who haven't experienced it, is a little hard to describe, both in terms of environment and in terms of gameplay. If you were to try to convince unfamiliar gamers to buy it, what comparisons to existing games would you use to describe it?

Vincent: Hm, now that’s a problem I think, games that are difficult to explain.. Anyways, I’ll do my best :P Picture Tower Defense where you have to defend hordes of badguys from reaching a certain point, meets FPS with some RTS controls! You have a map where hundreds of soldiers, tanks and walkers come down to destroy your stronghold. You and your handful of rebels have numerous things you can do: build structures (RTS mode), fight off the attackers (FPS mode), buy and upgrade weapons, health, armor and build traps (RTS mode); all to stop the invaders. Players use “power” (wealth) to buy all these things, which they earn from a live stronghold over time, as well as can be collected by picking up the riches scattered across the map. There are also several superpower-weapons lying around that players can pick up and use.

The invaders have not only wave attacks of soldiers/vehicles but also have tons of commando troops who will roam the city trying to kill you. They are all being commanded by an officer and if you kill him their morale-bar will drop significantly. While the officer is dead, killing enemy troops will speed up the decline of their morale to a point that the battle is over and you’ve won! If the enemy manages to destroy your stronghold, the same will happen to you though; your morale will go down until you rebuild it (RTS), so defending it is a must!

GV: Thank you very much for your time!

Become a part of gaming history! Vincent has been kind enough to accept our invitation for a Part 3 of this interview featuring questions asked, not by us, but by you, our loyal readers! If you have any questions you'd like to ask, please submit them to, or use the submission form below. We will select the best questions and sumit them to Vincent for the third installment of this interview series.

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