Gamers will get a brand new Tom Clancy franchise this September for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from Ubisoft.
Developed using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3, Ubisoft Shanghai is finishing up the world’s first completely voice-controlled game, “Tom Clancy’s EndWar.”
EndWar is a real-time strategy (RTS) game that has been built specifically for the console audience. In an effort to make this strategy game even more mainstream, Ubisoft teamed up with Fonix Speech to incorporate their VoiceIn Technology.
Fonix created a 70-word vocabulary for the game, which can be combined to offer thousands of voice commands. Players will be able to control all of their in-game soldiers, choppers, tanks and other weaponry by simply speaking into the headset microphone. Ubisoft will even be offering a bundle at retail for those gamers who don’t already own a headset for Xbox 360 or PS3.
"Unreal Engine 3 was perfect for this game because of its online capabilities with multiplayer and the technology’s ability to display so much visual detail," said Julian Gerighty, editorial content director, Ubisoft Shanghai, who recently demonstrated a playable build of the game at New York City’s Shoreham Hotel. "The cities we’ve created are huge and completely destructible. UE3 really let the team bring this world to life."
For an early look at the game’s plot, a book by the same title of the game is already available. David Michaels, the author of four books about another Clancy game title (“Splinter Cell”) is the author.
UbiSoft acquired the rights to the Clancy franchise when it bought Morrisville-based Red Storm Entertainment. While some Clancy work is done in Morrisville, EndWar was developed in China.
World War III Breaks Out
The EndWar game offers three different modes of play. The campaign is a single-player game that begins in 2011 and takes players through the events that ultimately lead to World War III. Players will assume the role of the Americans, Europeans and Russians over the course of a dozen prelude levels as the conflict comes to a head in 2017.
There are two different multiplayer options at this point of the conflict. A skirmish mode offers the traditional multiplayer warfare amongst players online for up to four players, who can pick a faction and play through a battle. There’s also a much larger massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game play mode that will allow thousands of players to engage in all-out global warfare.
"A world war could last one to two months and span 25 to 40 matches," explained Gerighty. "The battles take place in a persistent universe with customizable unit types. Every 24 hours the front lines of the war will move."
All of the action in the game can be directed with the standard controller, or players can opt to press the shoulder button and issue commands using their voice. Strings of orders can be dealt out to multiple unit types in the air and on the ground, which Gerighty said allows for strategy at the speed of thought.
"Once players get used to the commands, and we offer on-screen orders for them to get accustomed too, the pace of game play moves much faster than a traditional RTS game," said Gerighty.
Ubisoft was showing off a Paris level of the game, which featured detailed city streets and buildings. The game also offers other key cities like Washington, D.C. and Moscow, all of which are completely destructible.
"EndWar developers created an environment where the player doesn’t have to wonder what commands to say, thereby allowing the player to become further immersed in the ‘reality’ of the game," said Craig Belliston, vice president, product development, Fonix Speech. "They have used integrated speech in a way that feels natural for communication and control."
Other UbiSoft Teams Offer Support
Ubisoft Shanghai, in keeping with the real-world future weapons and vehicles, worked closely with other Tom Clancy game developers to keep the universe based in a possible future.
"We worked with the Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell teams to incorporate characters and entities into EndWar to make it feel like part of the Clancy universe," said Gerighty.
U.S. Army Captain Scott Mitchell of the Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter games is now a commander in EndWar. Third Echelon, the division that Sam Fisher worked for in the Splinter Cell games, provides the player with Intel in EndWar.
Belliston doesn’t see voice recognition replacing the controllers of games moving forward, but rather offering developers another aspect of the entire game experience.
"Most likely, developers and users will better understand which functions are more easily accomplished using speech and which using the controller," said Belliston.
For those who haven’t yet tried the popular RTS genre, which has always had its largest audience through PC gaming, Ubisoft is offering a very different take on the genre and the Tom Clancy universe in this new EndWar franchise.