A lot of you have been waiting a long time for this announcement. I’ve certainly been waiting a long time to make it. Now that the project in question has finally been announced (with the help of a rather nice article from Rock Paper Shotgun), I can finally reveal what I’ve been working on.
Over the past year, I have been working alongside some supremely talented people as a writer on Burden of Command, a tactical RPG set during the Second World War.
In Burden of Command, the player takes the role of a company commander in the 7th US Infantry Regiment, a unit which not only carries a distinguished legacy dating back to the War of 1812, but also spent three years fighting in the European Theatre of Operations. The 7th (nicknamed “The Cottonbalers” after the story that they used bales of cotton as cover during the Battle of New Orleans) slogged through some of the hardest and least-known battles in the Theatre (Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Anzio Landings, Operation Dragoon, and the liberation of Southern France, to name a few).
Although Burden of Command has a lot of wargaming pedigree and its combat takes place mostly on a 2d hex map, its campaign not just merely a string of historically accurate tactical scenarios set up so that the player can push nameless counters across a static map, towards an arbitrary objective. The player doesn’t just control a handful of impersonal icons representing a rifle company. The player fully inhabits the role of the company commander, both on the battlefield and off. The player’s company is made up of vivid personalities, each custom-written with their own idiosyncrasies, mindsets, and histories. Some even have troubled pasts and hidden agendas. It’s up to the player to earn their trust and respect by managing their subordinates’ doubts, their fears, and their crises of conscience. Making the wrong decision in dealing with a platoon commander could lead to consequences on the battlefield. Keep alienating him, and the player could start a long-term feud, or even push him to the breaking point.
The mental dimension of war is a huge factor in Burden of Command. Not only can events on and off the battlefield wear at the nerves of the company’s platoon commanders, but they can also affect the player character’s own mental state. Embracing a certain way of looking at the situation around them can open up some options, but it can also close off others. Looking after nearly two hundred disparate individuals in the middle of a war is difficult enough. Doing so while also having to carry out orders which will put your company in harm’s way, and while trying to maintain a clean conscience could be enough to drive a player’s company commander to mental collapse at a time when decisive, competent leadership could mean the difference between life and death.
And there will be death. One can hardly make a game about war without it. The only characters who are safe are the historical figures who survived the war. Ordinary soldiers, platoon commanders, and even the company commander can be wounded or killed as a result of the player’s decisions, on or off the battlefield. Ultimately, the responsibility for who gets to go home in one piece and who doesn’t rests on the player’s shoulders, and we have done our very best to make sure that this essence of command will be a heavy burden to bear.
Needless to say, I am very excited about this project, and I hope that at least some of you are just as enthused as I am. Over the next few months, I’ll be occasionally posting some general updates regarding the state of the project. I’ll also be detailing some of the unique gameplay and narrative design elements I’m particularly proud of as we close in on our planned release date sometime next year.