Welcome to the first development diary for Hearts of Iron IV!
My name is Dan Lind and I´m the project lead for Hearts of Iron IV, an updated and improved version of Paradox Development Studio’s World War II themed grand-strategy game.
Prepare to lead your armies, upgrade your equipment and deal in subtle (or not so subtle!) diplomacy once again!
It has almost been five years since the release of Hearts of Iron III, and though we released a few expansion packs during this time, it is really exciting to finally get the chance to do a proper sequel!
We showed off an early pre-alpha build of Hearts of Iron IV at ParadoxCon in Miami last month, so some information is already out there. If you missed it, check out this thread.
What is Hearts of Iron?
In light of our recent successes like Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, I realize that we probably have a lot of new faces with us - people might not have tried the earlier Hearts of Iron games. So, before we dig into what makes Hearts of Iron IV different and special, let me talk a bit about what the series is all about so that everyone has some grounding. The Hearts of Iron series is about taking control of your nation of choice in the years around World War II (1936 to 1948) and leading it to victory. And it all comes down to how well you, as a player, can navigate your ship of state - that is your supreme weapon. Hearts of Iron IV is the wargame where a high level of strategic and military planning is needed for you to secure victory. Every action you take has the potential to tip the balance of power in your favor, forever altering the political and ideological landscape.
A WWII Grand strategy game
Hearts of Iron is, like most Paradox Development Studio titles, a grand strategy game in an open sandbox. The World War II theme does mean that there is a lot greater focus on the preparation for war, your industrial output and military doctrines and equipment. But in Hearts of Iron IV, you are dealing with the bigger picture and a very high level of strategic planning; this is not a pure old-fashioned wargame. Losing small battles is utterly insignificant to the larger campaign. You have to look at the entire war and take decisions in a multiple of aspects to reach victory - this is truly high level war planning, including production lines, technological advances, securing strategic resources and, of course, making those large armored drives through the plains of Europe.
Comparison to other PDS titles
The big thing that sets it apart from our other game series such as Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV is that it covers a much shorter period of time, namely the years around the Second World War and that it focuses heavily on preparing for and fighting that war. This means that your priorities will largely stay the same throughout the game – your are unlikely to make a dramatic change from one kind of nation to another. You can pick any nation in the world and either ride out the storm on the sidelines, get involved in the grand cataclysm, or try something a little bit in-between. Hearts of Iron is packed full of historical flavor and awesome details, something much harder to accomplish in games spanning hundreds of years.
However even if Hearts of Iron IV is a grand strategy game highly focused on war, the role you take on as the player is close to the role you take in Europa Universalis IV - you will play as the guiding spirit behind the nation trying to shape history and determine the fate of your country, often guided by in-game events and decisions. The game focuses on making choices for your nation, both in warfare as in the character of your country’s technological progress, national ideas and strategic goals. You can pick any nation and decide what role you will take in WW2.
You can choose different play styles depending on your personal interest or based on the different strengths and weaknesses of the historic powers. For example, as Germany you have an incentive to start the war, while the UK and US will likely start on the defensive and will fight massive naval battles. You can even try to survive as a minor nation, whose government continues fighting from exile or be a smaller power taking advantage of the global war to expand your rightful territory. Nothing that says that your goal must be to win WWII - since the game is sandbox, victory is determined by the goals you set up for yourself during the WWII time-span.
Our goal for Hearts of Iron IV is to do something similar to what we did with Crusader King II and Europa Universalis IV - keep the flavor and complexity of the game intact while making the game much more streamlined and easier to learn, with much improved interfaces. We also aim for a fresh playing experience so there will be changes from the previous game.
More focus on planning and high level decisions.
Hearts of Iron III could either be played with full manual control, where micromanagement would be pretty heavy (often to the point where you would struggle to pay attention to all aspects of the game) or with AI assistance, where your control over the systems you surrendered to the AI was very limited. We are developing a planning system that gives you greater control while not being as taxing as the detailed manual play from the last Hearts of Iron game. We want to give you time to look at the bigger picture. In my opinion, this also adds a lot of immersion, since it feels more like I am guiding a military campaign rather just shuffling units between provinces.
For the micro-managers out there - you can still do very detailed plans and update them in real-time, which will basically work like the old manual control but the system will reward successful longer term plans, so expect to have a few things to learn! There won't be any large "automate this" buttons in the game. We want all parts to be fun and playable. If they are not, they get redesigned or replaced.
Less railroading – more historical feel
A big problem with historical games is that people know what happened, especially in such a well-documented period as World War II. The leaders of those days did not have crystal balls or an active forum of amateur historians from the future telling them what would happen next. This is something that we need to deal with without losing the sense of place and realism that people have come to appreciate about our games. A lot of things will require gradual changes and actually living through events, which should give a much better historical feel as well as creating a game where it is easier to try out alternate paths of history and not feel that the only road to success is following whatever plan Eisenhower had.
Everything at your fingertips
To play Hearts of Iron you need a lot of information so you can make the right choices, be it long term (where is the best area for my armored spearhead?) or short term (what time does the sun set?). Previously this required you to look around in a lot of places - in Hearts of Iron IV information is much more context sensitive, and most important stuff will be shown directly on the map. You will see more of this in future developer diaries.
To sum it up:
Our hopes for this game is that you as a player will feel in control of a real global conflict and want to learn the tools of warfare in an open sandbox environment during this intense period of history. Our goal with Hearts of Iron IV is to create a WWII game completely focused on Global Strategic Warfare.
We are aiming to make Hearts of Iron IV the best WWII strategy game yet with a smoother learning curve and deeper gameplay. Its pretty ambitious, but I think we have the experience and passion to pull it off. And the recent experience of Paradox developed games shows that we’re on the right path, I think.
Of course, actual development for Hearts of Iron IV hasn't been going on for that long yet (we are currently in pre-alpha), even if we have been thinking about it and discussing it for years. As we designed each expansion for Hearts of Iron III, there were always things too large to implement, or that wouldn't quite fit into the world, and we had to put those things in our "future" pile. So when starting development we had a few years of notes and discussions to go through. I expect old beta testers and forum regulars to go, "Ohh, I remember this!", as we start to reveal new things in diaries.
We will start slow and release development diaries about once every month and later speed up their release as we march towards early 2015 so sit back and enjoy the ride!
Oh, I almost forgot! Here is a screenshot of the map (click for larger version). This shows just the terrain currently. It is early and political borders are not yet polished to be accurate enough to show them off. Enjoy!