No doubts many heard about the GZM mod. There are lots of mods and addons for Blitzkrieg, so let's find out what makes this one so special. We won't listen to various rumors and opinions, we'll get the answers directly from AlexGeneral_Z, mod author, himself instead.
Q: Hello AlexGeneral_Z, first question is going to be off-topic, but still. How did you get your nick and isn't it a bit too long for online communication?
A: My nick has a long story that goes back to my first nickname back into ZX-Spectrum and 8bit console times. Back then I often signed my score in games by letters A and Z or even just Z so as not to spend much time on an unimportant thing. When the PCs powerful enough for network play became available, I had to make network nick more complex. So the form Alex_Z appeared. Later the lack of individuality in that became apparent and I added my nickname from children's games to it. So that's it, very prosaic.
Q: Can you say a couple of words about your BlitzUnion community, how it was created, how it's idea was born? Do you have some "core" members?
A: Of course. Official history of BlitzUnion community goes for nearly 3 years back, but first reasons for its creation appeared a year before that, when several people, me included, were still working on the first version of GZM 5.55. Back then there was a small forum of an infamous Blitzkrieg mod - Panzerschlema. At first I just wanted to make a thread dedicated to my mod v3.07, and came to the Blitzfront forum with that. However, let's say that, they weren't very friendly to newcomers. One of my comrades adviced me to go to Panzerschlema forum with my topic because there the newbs were seen without formalism and arrogance, and so I did. So it came to be that two mods were discussed on the forum - the 'commercial' Panzerschlema and the free GZM. This way the GZM team received new members and the project was reborn, which resulted in the now widespread GZM 5.55 which was a head above the previous version.
Q: Readers might want to know how the two mods lived together on the same forum?
A: My answer is this. Generally there were no conflicts and tensions between GZM and Panzerschlema teams, even if that can seem strange at first. Reason for that was in different stages of development and design goals of the two projects. GZM has its own unique combat system and its own balance. We aimed at the 'wargame' style. As for the Panzerschlema, I cannot say for sure - I never played it. Of its features I know that much attention was being given to Germany and random mission scripts.
One "good" day a conflict happened, the details of which I still don't know, and it led to Panzerschlema commander, -Эудардочка-, deleting all the contents of the forum and Panzerschlema development stopping. GZM team had to continue the work however, so we decided to create a new community at the ruins of Panzerschlema - the BlitzUnion.
Q: So does the community have a "core"?
A: Community composition changed greatly, some members left, some new ones arrived, but our old comrades, who once laid the foundations of the current core, remained. Among them I'd like to mention cm. Scorpion SS as the main enthusiast of Panzerschlema development in the past and our current portal admin and mapper. Uzbek helped the community very much. Big thanks go to MaxOptima for forum development. Great respect to Alexeyich for sound work, for tens of new unit models and general support. New members are also part of the core, I'll talk about them a bit later.
Q: Internet rumours say the mod is a total conversion, unit screens just overwhelm with the quantity and quality. How were you able to collect such a resource base? Probably more than a few people work on the mod at BlitzUnion?
A: Exactly. As it is now, it's the new members who are doing the work on the new version, and they are doing most of that work. Panzer1941 makes new models in Maya. Yuritch made the geometry for new unique units, particularly boats and some planes. Fasya and KV-1 are busy with objects and textures.
I want to mention the work of Ilyaka especially, he is the main effect and buildings man in the team. Magister Millitum who joined the team only recently is busy with the infantry. Still, all of that work is important as a whole, when used on quality and interesting maps. Currently maps are made by Reks, Zigfrid, Scorpion SS, Simeo and T-34 obr. 41 g.
Q: Let's move from the community to the project itself. Why do you use Blitzkrieg for your project? At present there are many RTS engines that offer far greater possibilities?
A: This is, there were no better platform for real-time WW2 battle modeling of large enough scale than Blitzkrieg. Even now, that niche is still empty, even Blitzkrieg II is no competitor for the first one, not to mention other games (Sudden Strike 3, Officers and more). More or less successful RTS in this setting have a different combat scale (WW2, CoH) and so also cannot replace the Blitzkrieg.
That is why, after the release of GZM 5.55 in 2006, it was decided to develop the project further, because there were no new engines for WW2 modeling that were available for modding.
Q: What is the main idea of your project, do you pursue some set goals?
A: No doubt. They are several:
1. It's said current youth has no morality and values. Especially their view on such an important event as WW2 is criticised. This point of view has some truth in it, but is not fully correct, yet still youth self-view is far from normal. We'd like to change the situation, at least in relation to WW2. Real WW2 history is different from what can be found in modern school textbooks (not that anyone usually reads them anyway), it has little recemblance to what is shown in the movies and of course it's nothing like the noncence that is shown on the TV and newspapers by the corrupt reporters.
2. We want to display WW2 combat as realistis as is possible with BK engine. Our unit and object sets are being made to fulfill that mission. Even more, large part of the project is the new combat system that brings Blitzkrieg RTS much closer to wargame genre. All of that assumes maximum realism in vehicle, equipment and weapon stats.
3. We want to show the historic flow of WW2 on all the main theaters. This task is being accomplished by creating campaigns for all the major sides of WW2. The player will have to fight a lot, and not only in Europe and North Africa (as in original BK). We'll try to include the max number of historic operations into the campaigns, not all large-scale, but all interesting. All of them are in chronologic order. So our aim is His Majesty Historic Realism.
4. We aim to create a virtual encyclopedia of sorts, if not of all the WW2, then at least of the military equipment used during it.
5. Don't know, maybe this should have been the main goal after all. We want to show that it was the USSR who made the largest contribution to the Victory over the world Fascism, as it was in the real history. Sometimes in the West that fact is just ignored. Besides that, the player will see some things which are usually left out of games, but which do happen in reality.
Q: There were more than a few debates related to copyright after 5.55 release. Will mod's reputation be protected this time? To continue this topic, we'd like to know what it the 'Total Conversion' Blitzkrieg addon that is available on the net for more than a year already, isn't it your project?
A: GZM 5.55, no doubts, had some debatable resources taken from BK addons. We had no knowledge how to make them ourselves back then. 3 years ago that changed, and now GZM has no stuff from Intex or French AFM mod. Interesting thing is, there were no copyright violation even back then, as those units were not claimed to be our property and the mod was absolutely free. Never the less, now we are able to defend our work from ungrounded attacks. As for out protection, what are the chances of a free mod to protect own files when even major developers cannot prevent pirate copies of their work? Ukrainian pirates quickly understood that they can profit from the good mod, especially if its quality exceeds the commercial addons. They didn't name our project Total Conversion for nothing.
Apart from that, wide distribution of GZM will help our community goals.
Q: How great are the changes in GZM 7.0 compared to GZM 5.55?
A: The list was in the press-release, but I'll repeat it.
GZM 7.0 includes:
1. More than 1000 3D units (even many srock BK units received new improved models);
2. Approx. 230 infantry types;
3. cavalry for RKKA, Wehrmachs and Polish army;
4. Several new chapters and historic missions of the highest quality (big thanks to the mappers for that), that works is still in progress and there will be more masterpieces in the release;
5. We are the first among games and mods using BK engine to introduce naval units. Mainly those are Soviet-built boats, but there is a German artillery barge (larger ships with functional weapons are not possible due to engine limitations, sorry);
6. Main feature of the mod is still the unit stats (ammo capacity, ricochet probability, armor values, passability, speed, turret rotation rate, reload time, sight distance and such) being brought in accordance with the historic reality, tested and carefully balanced. As a result of this, the player will have to combine different units to be able to complete missions. GZM 7.0 brings that to a whole new level, we are closer to wargame now.
7. Many new skins are introduced, and they are miles ahead of what was in the original BK in both quality and realism (thanks to our texture artists);
8. Many new visuals are introduced, such as smoke from burning vehicles, wooden and African buildings and objects, new explosions, new death effects, new muzzle flares, napalm, incendiary rockets and bombs and more (thatnks to our effects man);
9. We have introduced many new sounds, including new voices for infantry and vehicles (Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Polish and other nations), mortars with a flying shell sound, Stuka dive siren, new weapon sounds, new explosion sounds and more;
10. Player units now have 5 experience levels;
11. Armored units can crush smaller vegetation (but still they should not attempt to cross a forest);
12. Improved smoke screen (in both effect and duration), now it's very important when assaulting fortified positions;
13. Random mission generator reworked, added 50 new random mission types (as compared to the original), some old random missions that were too easy are removed;
14. Many new buildings are introduced;
15. We have many new objects (including destroyed vehicles, trains, planes and such), as well as naval mines;
16. Infantry riding on the tanks was redrawn to look more like humans riding a tank would;
17. New weapons: napalm, explosive charges, incendiary ammunitions, silenced guns, cluster bombs, naval mines;
18. Mineroller tanks: PT-3 based on T-34-76 and T-34-85, Sherman Crab, Churchill Bullhorn;
19. Guard dogs (attack infantry with their teeth) and attack dogs (carry explosives to blow up tanks), Japanese kamikaze soldiers with anti-tank bombs;
20. New interface and buttons;
21. Anti-tank gun hiding ability improved, now they are very hard to spot before they start firing;
22. Many armored wagons and a few locos for armored trains, as well as some armored draisines;
23. Special forces: Soviet army recon, NKVD saboteurs, SMERSH, German "Brandenburg" commandos, British SAS, US rangers;
24. New infantry types: Sturmpioniere, Volksturm, Soviet 1944 Guards and more;
25. Fixed some bugs and improved stability (reduced crash probability) of random map generations;
26. Introduced some new sides and nations, some of them for the future new missions.
Q: Now, probably the most interesting question: when will GZM 7.0 be released?
A: Current deadline is set on 9th of May, 2009. At present main problem is the work on new maps. We think we have enough resources to show combat on any WW2 land theater without cuts.
Q: Will the unit lists from GZM 7.0 appear on your portal?
A: No doubt, and they will be updated every couple of weeks.
Q: Is your team composition constant, or do you accept new membets to the project?
A: The core is there of course, but new members are always welcome, especially if they have interest in WW2, even better if they can offer some help in mod development.
Q: How will your mod be distributed?
A: 1. Free download, 1.6 GB winrar archive;
2. Trough LANs (if someone downloads the mod, he may want to share it);
3. On the DVDs in some major game-related journals, those won't be free of course;
4. I suppose the pirates won't pass that one, too, esp. considering the sales on the Ukrainian internet shops that exceeded the commercial addons;
5. Probably there will be a mail distribution, but not by me personally.
Q: Did you think about what will you do after the work on 7.0 is over? Can that just be GZM 8.0? ?
A: I plan to have some rest at first, and then we'll see.
We have dealt with the most important questions related to BlitzUnion community and their promising project, now we can only wish them luck with their work. Of course, we thank AlexGENERAL_Z for his participation in this discussion.