From inventing MP3 to making war strategy games | Tomislav Uzelac interview

Tomislav Uzelac, founder of 2×2 Games in Croatia, was the creator of the MP3 compression format behind the digital music revolution.

It so happens before he moved into games, Uzelac got a little famous for programming an MP3 decoder called amp, based on the ISO standard specification that was public at the time (ISO 13818-3). He didn’t have access to the Fraunhofer source code that was surfacing at the same time. This was in 1996 and 1997, and Winamp (based on his “amp” software) was released in 1997. The rest was history.

He eventually got a settlement out of that work, then he started making digital war games. He started on a game about World War II, using traditional hexagons that game designers used to designate territories in paper-based war games.

We shared a common hobby. He makes historical war games, and I enjoy playing them. I’m not a perfectionist who sticks with hex-based games all the time. Rather, I’ve evolved with the times, playing real-time strategy games and ultimately latching onto first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty.

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By contrast, Uzelac stayed rooted in the world of strategy war games. He wound up creating Unity of Command in 2011, and then Unity Command II in 2019. Ever since that launch, his team of four has been making downloadable content. Now there have more than 250 scenarios covering 250 battles during World War II. The team is almost done with all the battles in the European part of World War II. The last thing left to do is to capture the Soviet drive on Berlin.

We talked about MP3, his transition to making strategy war games, and our history playing war games. I played games like Panzer General, Allied General, Combat Mission, Close Combat, Company of Heroes, and Steel Division 2. And now that Uzelac told me about his game, I’m about to get started playing Unity of Command II, which was made by his studio in Zagreb, Croatia, and co-produced by Croteam.

Vlad Micu introduced us as the recent Reboot Develop Blue conference in Dubrovnik. We had a long conversation about the evolution of this hobby — which, for all too many people, is sadly a reality about survival. I would never get enjoyment out of real war, but the hobby is something else. I’ve played a bit of Unity of Command II now. It’s complicated, especially when it comes to army supply, but I’m enjoying it.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Tomoslav Uzelac is the father of MP3 and the founder of 2×2 Games, maker of Unity of Command II.

GamesBeat: How long have you been making wargames?

Tomislav Uzelac: The first one was in 2011, and then the second in 2019. We’ve been making DLC, but that’s the kind of market it is.

GamesBeat: Is that your main job?

Uzelac: It’s a small group, and we’re completely professional. Currently a team of four. When the game releases it’s a bit bigger. Maybe six people. We’re in Zagreb, Croatia.

The MP3 inventor

Unity of Command II theater of war.

GamesBeat: Were you the MP3 guy?

Uzelac: Yeah, I’m the MP3 guy. That’s so long ago. But yeah.

GamesBeat: How did that story begin?

Uzelac: Way back when–I was just talking to a young developer about that. He’s about the age I was when I worked on that. I did the playback engine for the original Winamp. That was 1996 or 1997-ish? When MP3 became a thing, that was it. But we skipped the first part of the story.

I was a student at the University of Zagreb. I was studying electrical engineering. They gave me an assignment to look into these new compression algorithms that were emerging. I guess I was just a kid who didn’t know how big the job was. I set out, and over a couple of months, maybe a year, I knocked out this engine for MP3 playback. There weren’t any around at the time.

Another kid from the states made Winamp with that. Then Winamp became a big company, millions of dollars or whatever. That was in the late ‘90s. The codec was open source, so they could just use it. They said they were going to give me a bit of money, but that didn’t really work out. There was a lawsuit, and we settled. I got some money from that. They eventually sold for a big amount. But it’s a cool story, being there at the beginning. I was about 23 years old.

GamesBeat: How would you have figured out that there was something useful to be done with that? Were you thinking of making a music player with it?

Uzelac: It was just an assignment in school. My teachers knew what was happening. They understood that the picture around audio and video compression was changing. But at the time nobody knew whether it would be easy or hard. They just gave out these assignments to see what got done.

GamesBeat: What was unique about MP3?

Uzelac: It had much higher compression. It had decent quality, but it had really high compression. At the time you could put 12 albums worth of music on one CD.

For a couple of years we tried to set up various startups and startup-like things. That was in Zagreb in the early 2000s. Nothing huge, nothing to write home about. I ended up a little bit unhappy after that experience. I was looking for things to do. That’s when I came up with this video game project. I was playing a lot of Panzer General at the time. Unity of Command came from that. It wasn’t supposed to be a product. It was just something–can I put this together? That was my first game.

Unity of Command

Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: That’s a pretty good game.

Uzelac: It was. Did you hear about it before now?

GamesBeat: I did hear about it. I played a lot of Panzer General, and I played a lot of the other strategy games at the time. TalonSoft’s games.

Uzelac: Operational Art of War, that was TalonSoft. Operational Art of War is still around. They had East Front, too. Our game is something similar. It’s one unit per hex. That’s similar to Panzer General. If you played some of the other TalonSoft games, you have stacking there. But it’s more advanced than Panzer General in that it’s got supply rules. There’s fog of war. In the fog of war you have these intel markers. The systems are a bit more detailed. It borrows from some of the hardcore wargames. But these are all normcore wargames.

GamesBeat: How widely available did this become?

Uzelac: This is the second one. I can show you a screenshot of the first one. From when I started doing it, it took a couple of years. It was obvious quickly that it was going to be a nice game. After some time spent laying around I decided to release it as a playable product. Initially it didn’t have AI. We decided to add that. Between the first and second one, the rule sets aren’t that different, but you can see the differences in how it looks. This is France, around Paris. That’s the Seine.

This one goes to the east in the DLC. It has eight DLCs so far. We’ve covered all of the war in Europe. The only thing we’re missing is the Soviet advance on Berlin. All the other episodes of the war in Europe are covered. We have Desert Fox, Desert Rats, Italy, France, the Blitzkrieg in Poland. It’s solid. It’s a popular game.

GamesBeat: What have you sold to date across the whole franchise?

Uzelac: The first one sold over a million. The second one is more like 100,000, because it’s still new-ish. But we’ve had decent sales numbers.

Fighting in Sicily in Unity of Command II.

GamesBeat: It’s interesting how back in those days, those kinds of numbers were good enough to keep the whole thing going.

Uzelac: Here’s what changed. The numbers are similar, but–Panzer General was 1994, I think. Thirty years ago. If you bought it at a store it cost maybe $40. Now this costs $30, and it’s not the same dollars. If we could charge $40 in 1994 dollars that’d be $80 at least? It might be double. At least $60 or $70. That’s a world of difference. Eight years passed between the first game and the second game, and the price stayed the same. There are so many games out there.

GamesBeat: When these games first took off, you saw a lot of work done to computerize paper-based games, like Squad Leader. Then bigger games crowded these out. I feel like there was a time when everyone moved on from strategy and war games. But now it’s come back.

Uzelac: There was kind of a comeback for turn-based games broadly speaking. Maybe in the last 10 years or so. But these games have always been around. It’s just that other areas of the market grew, and this one stayed the same. There’s a lively selection if you go on Steam. You’ll find 20, 30, 50, maybe 100 really nice war games. There’s competition. It’s not that this corner of the market was dead. It’s just that other parts got bigger.

GamesBeat: Is this PC only?

Uzelac: PC and Mac.

GamesBeat: Did any of this ever make its way to mobile?

Uzelac: No, but that’s a commercial thing. The biggest publisher for these is Slitherine Software. They make games like this, but they just have many more. We’re independent. It’s interesting, because they have a part of their business that sells to the military. The military uses these games in training exercises, like the academies in the U.S. Slitherine specifically licenses their games that way.

GamesBeat: How many hours of play do you think there is in a game like this, and in each DLC?

Uzelac: If you play the base game, it’s easily 30 hours. With all the DLCs we have about 250 scenarios, 250 battles basically. This one here is the liberation of France, when they went into Paris. After Operation Cobra, they swept back to the Seine. That’s one. But basically every, or almost every period of the war is covered as you progress. You’re taking all the allied armies, and all the battles are covered. In Italy there’s the Gustav line, the Gothic line. Everything from the invasion of Poland to Berlin.

GamesBeat: Do you zoom in and zoom out on the level of abstraction?

The Greek front in Unity of Command II.

Uzelac: No, this is divisional all the way. As players we always dream of these things where you

zoom in and zoom out, but it’s difficult to do, especially with our budgets. And something like the Total War games, they’re not going for historical fidelity. I don’t think anybody in the hobby thinks of Total War as a wargame. Panzer General and all those games, they don’t think of them as wargames. But they try for some sort of historical re-creation at least.

GamesBeat: It’s graphically very pretty. Was there an innovation in that way that you think helped this take off?

Uzelac: Most other war games don’t look so bad. Here, I can show you. Panzer Corps, that’s a similar game. It’s a more direct re-do of Panzer General, a more one-for-one re-creation.

Combat Mission

Combat Mission is a real-time strategy game.

GamesBeat: The game I remember taking off back then was Combat Mission. I played a lot of that.

Uzelac: It’s still alive! Combat Mission on Steam.

GamesBeat: That was a kind of dream wargame, where you could go down to the individual or play at the high level.

Uzelac: If you go to these wargaming forums, people have different ideas about what they want. Everybody has their dream combination. I want to command a platoon, I want to do this, I want to do that. But I think that as a designer, you have to stick to something.

Theater of War in Unity of Command II.

GamesBeat: How did you decide that this is what you wanted to keep doing, to focus on? There are lots of different games, or even strategy games, that you could make.

Uzelac: I made the kind of game I wanted to play. The games business, it’s difficult to find your niche. Once you have one, that’s a pretty big deal in itself. I’m happy to have my place there. It’s not like you can just snap your fingers and make a new game. It’s difficult to land a spot somewhere in the market, to find your audience, to zero in on something that people are going to enjoy and play. That’s not easy at all. I’m happy that we have. We have our audience. If you go to SteamDB, you can see that people are playing the game now. You have the concurrent users there, about 200 people playing. There are always people playing, even years later. I find that really gratifying. It’s really cool.

GamesBeat: Are there meetings for strategy game makers? Do they have a conference?

Uzelac: Nothing that I’m attending. We don’t go to a lot of shows. I go [to Reboot], and I go to Gamescom if I have a project and I need to talk to publishers. I’m going this year, because we have a new game. We’re making a build and we’re going to talk to publishers and see what happens.

The war in the Pacific

Unity of Command II follows the European war in WWII.

GamesBeat: I remember interviewing Jim Rose from TalonSoft at E3. One of the things he said he wanted to get to–it sounded a little more like World of Tanks. He said he wanted to put you on a horse on a hill at the Battle of Waterloo. To create that experience. A wargame, but something where you’re immersed. I suppose that’s how we got to first-person shooters.

Uzelac: If you talk to publishers of these sorts of games, they know a very clear hierarchy around what sells and how much. Eastern Front or Stalingrad, that sells a lot, surprisingly. I’m not sure of these numbers, but I think North Africa sells less. Napoleonic is not as popular. World War II is an enduring setting.

GamesBeat: I asked him at the time why there aren’t more games about the Pacific side of World War II. He said, “Tanks.” You didn’t have [as many] tanks in the jungle or on the islands. That kind of warfare wasn’t as maneuverable, so as a game it wasn’t as fun.

Uzelac: The operations where you have a lot of room to maneuver are the most fun ones. Consistently people want to play Barbarossa. You have wide open spaces. Big lines. Lots of targets. For lack of a better term, it’s just more fun. It’s more fun to play maneuvers. In our engine, you can get–this is Italy. It’s before Monte Cassino. I think Monte Cassino is here-ish.

GamesBeat: It looks a lot like the strategic map in Company of Heroes 3.

Uzelac: We got there first, though! You go into these mountains in Italy and it re-creates the kind of positional, divisional battle. You lose guys, they lose guys. It’s awful and it goes on for a long time. It happens naturally in this system. If you remember Panzer General, whatever you did, the battles were always kind of same-ey. This, I think, we managed to reproduce a variety. If you go into a confined situation where the defenders are entrenched, you can spend a lot of time unpicking the defenses. It will be much more plodding like that. If you go into an open steppe situation, you can create pockets and it’s a completely different experience.

I think we did this well. The only problem is that people don’t like playing this so much. This is probably the part of the game I’m most proud of, but it’s not the part that people like to play the most.

GamesBeat: Like I was saying, when you’re taking over an occupied Japanese island, it’s the same.

Uzelac: We were just brainstorming on the way here about what it would take to do the American campaign in the Pacific, especially the northern campaign. Retaking the islands. The thing is, you’re on the sea and you’re trying to cut off the supply routes to the Japanese defenders, but it’s a really tiny island where the Marines are going almost bunker by bunker, cave by cave. It’s not hugely playable. The Japanese invasion, the initial one, could actually be a bit more playable. Running down Malaya to Singapore, that’s much more dynamic.

Paper maps

Retaking France in Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: In high school, I subscribed to Strategy and Tactics magazine. They’d send you a game every month on a paper map. There was one called The China War. I played that a lot. There was one called The Next War, too, about World War III.

Uzelac: Now that it’s come, it’s nothing like we ever expected. I’m kidding. I don’t know if it’s here. But contemporary combat–I don’t know if anyone expected it would be the way it is, with the giant cages you see on tanks now.

Let me show you what we played last night. You’re going to dig this. This guy is a board game designer. He’s done a game about the war in Bosnia. You have three players – Croatian, Bosnian, and Serb. It’s a three-way game. He’s very well-regarded on Board Game Geek. The hobby lives on. I don’t think it’s smaller. It’s just that other things in gaming are bigger now. It’s a bit intellectual. It’s a victim of its own–it’s difficult.

If you’re playing this game and you try to use the mechanics well, you get to something that looks authentically like the battle. Doing your best as a player according to the mechanics, you’ll make breaches, make encirclements, watch your flanks. I do my best to make that happen historically. But many players don’t have enough knowledge or background to appreciate it. They find this unnecessarily complicated. By definition, the audience is somewhat limited. On a global scale there are enough people to sustain the hobby, but I don’t see it being hugely mainstream.

GamesBeat: I remember at the time, the big problem with the paper maps is you’d put them out on the dining room table–my friend had more money for games than I did, so I’d go to his house to play. You’d take a day to set it up. Then his mother would come in and say, “We need to use the table.”

Uzelac: And then computer games did all of that for you. This game last night went on for three and a half hours. You have to do all the calculations. This thing here calculates everything for you. If you want to attack this unit with that unit, you can just hover and it will give you a combat prediction.

The real Croatian war

Richard Browne took me to see these ruins in Dubrovnik.
Richard Browne took me to see these ruins in Dubrovnik.

GamesBeat: The ruins that are near here, do you know what happened here? The hotel?

Uzelac: I think it was owned either by the army, or someone from Yugoslavia–there are a bunch of these places in Croatia where the ownership isn’t really clear, and then they go to waste because no one has the papers. The local communities try to reclaim them one way or another, because it’s not pretty to have this in their area. Dubrovnik, if you look at it on the map, it’s in this very elongated piece of Croatia. The hinterland is Bosnian Serb, right across the hill. Then to the south is Montenegro. They drove up through the airport, I think, and also from the other side, from Bosnia. It was under siege for a year.

GamesBeat: And they stopped them from the place where the cable car goes up the side of the mountain?

Uzelac: Right, that was a Croatian fortification that held. That stopped the initial assault. Then it stayed like that. They were shelling the town. People here still remember it. But I don’t know that the hotels were destroyed in the shelling. I think it was just the upkeep, lack of maintenance. That’s what 30 years will do. After about a year of the siege, I think one of the initial cease-fire deals involved leaving this part. But I’d have to look it up.

GamesBeat: It’s interesting that someone here would want to make a game about the war. It feels like it’s still a very fresh memory.

Uzelac: Someone has to be first. This designer, Tomislav Cipcic, he’s very popular. He also made another wargame on Steam. He’s very smart. He doesn’t just make board games. He makes computer games as well. He has a North Africa game. It’s more of a hardcore wargame. It’s very fun and innovative. He has these huge, nice maps covering North Africa. He’s a prolific designer.

Modern war games like Close Combat and Company of Heroes

Close Combat
Close Combat

GamesBeat: What happened to me eventually, I moved from strategy to RTS. Games like Close Combat, and then Company of Heroes.

Uzelac: Close Combat keeps coming out. I don’t know if they’re exactly developing them. They’re kind of frozen in time. But there’s a bunch of them on Steam, maybe six.

GamesBeat: The time I spent on Total War: Attilla, according to Steam, was more than 400 hours. Maybe that was because I left it open a lot.

Uzelac: That’s not extreme. On this one, the average play time is 30 hours. We have people, though–you’ll see someone write a review and he has 4,000 hours. I think that’s excessive. But routinely you’ll see people with 800 hours, 1,000 hours. It’s replayable. If you played all the content here, that’s at least 250 hours, just to play through everything once.

The British 8th Army takes on the Germans in Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: Whenever I start trying to play multiplayer in these games, though, I get completely destroyed. I played Company of Heroes III online, and I don’t think I won a single match.

Uzelac: What people usually want in these games is competitive AI. If you have an actual human playing against you, it’s usually miserable. If they just keep winning, it’s an experience sort of like this. What you want is someone who will convincingly lose against you. That’s what you want. That’s what you’re after. We have a competent AI that creates problems for you, but you don’t want an AI that always beats you. Nobody’s after that.

I said that the market for historical re-creation is smaller than the general market. Within that market, the market for people who like to really take the best punch the computer can throw, that’s even smaller. People usually prefer to have a manageable challenge.

AI players

Fighting in North Africa in Unity of Command II.

GamesBeat: I once talked to the AI team working on Gran Turismo at Sony. They said that now they can create an AI driver that can beat any human. The trick is making it human-like, with human flaws, so it can lose while still giving a good game to the really good players. The players who are the best in the world can still beat the AI that Sony puts out. But it’s interesting how they have to dumb it down a little to make it human.

Uzelac: Here’s what we’re doing–we have a new project, a new game. We have the AI that plays against you. For testing, we want to have an AI that plays as the player. That AI has to be smarter. We have to develop a better AI, one that plays full-on. The other AI is there to give you a good game. It’s not there to create that kind of miserable experience. But for testing purposes we’d like to have an AI that plays as the player, so it helps us root out dominant strategies. You don’t want the game to boil down to one solution. “Okay, just spam artillery and that will get you through.” A machine learning AI will sniff that out. It can find these strategies that we don’t like, and we’ll use it to de-emphasize those strategies, debuff them. That AI that performs as the player needs to be smarter than the AI that serves as your opponent.

GamesBeat: It would be interesting if politics came into play here. The American general only wants to get to Rome. He doesn’t care as much about helping the British over there.

Uzelac: We have a little bit of that. I know why you mention it, because it’s the historical thing. In this game it plays out–if you’re the liberator of Rome, here, then the British aren’t super happy about it. Or the other Americans, for that matter. Then it allows the Germans to break out after Monte Cassino. It all plays out in the briefings. We try to re-create the situations.

That situation in particular, once you put it on the map–to me it’s very unclear why Monte Cassino lasted as long as it did. There are other routes you can go through. Maybe we’re missing something in our setting. But it was difficult, with the map we had–as a player I would do something else. But you have the Americans and the free French and the Polish, all these guys just pounding on Monte Cassino. It was such a good position for the Germans to defend. I think we might be missing something. Maybe some marshes there. We might not be simulating the terrain well.

Fighting at Termoli in Company of Heroes 3.
Fighting at Termoli in Company of Heroes 3.

GamesBeat: The problem with Company of Heroes III was that all you could afford to have was [a small number of units] on the strategic map. You couldn’t do as much maneuvering.

Uzelac: Counting here, that’s about 15 Allied units on the map. That’s close to a sweet spot. We would do scenarios in the Soviet Union where you had 50 or more, and then it becomes really difficult to manage. If you have too few, it’s fun, but it’s a different kind of experience. In the new game we’re experimenting with really small battles. But even there we’re working up to something bigger. You have small battles and then you work your way to a bigger one.

This size, to me, is the sweet spot. How many turns are you going to need? Naturally you discover that it’s between six to 10 turns and maybe 12 to 16 or 18 units. Then it’s really sweet to play. It flows. Boom boom boom, surround these guys. In about an hour you’re done and you feel like you’ve done something. I’m very proud of that. You know how games now can end up where it’s 4:00 AM and you think, “Uhhh…” With this one, the scenarios let you play for an hour, close it down, and play again tomorrow.

GamesBeat: What do you see as the competition for Unity of Command right now?

Fighting in the desert in Unity of Command II.

Uzelac: Even Panzer Corps, the one I showed you, it’s not direct–in terms of complexity, compared to Panzer General, this is a little more advanced. There are more advanced mechanics. If you look at Panzer Corps, it’s more or less one-to-one, a modernized version of Panzer General. In terms of direct competition, we have a bit of a niche to ourselves. There’s a new one that just came out.

Steel Division 2

Your forces appear as icons when you zoom out in Steel Division 2.
Your forces appear as icons when you zoom out in Steel Division 2.

GamesBeat: I wrote something about this one. Steel Division 2?

Uzelac: That’s real time. It’s an RTS.

GamesBeat: I liked that one a lot. It got to be hopelessly complicated. But it’s a very pretty game. I found that only by specializing in the stuff I like could I be a good reviewer. When I tried to review everything, I just got into too much trouble. “He doesn’t know how to play!” I’m going to a new game every two weeks.

Uzelac: Even the professionals here, the people from publishers, they have to find somebody who’s into something very specific. The players, the fans, they’re super professional. People in the industry, they’re playing one game today, another game tomorrow.

The Germans strike at the Americans in Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: To learn how to play this game I had to watch guys on YouTube.

Uzelac: That’s what you do with all games now. As a designer now–if you search for Unity of Command, there’s a channel. I watch these guys play. It’s very nice. We don’t have proper telemetry, so we don’t get that much data directly from players. But we can watch people play here. They have all the battles. Eastern Front, Western Front.

GamesBeat: I played a lot of Close Combat 2, but it was the Market Garden one. That was a lot of fun.

Uzelac: Sure. I think they’ve done five or six now. One on the Eastern Front, one in Africa. They pick the sweet spot. Market Garden, sure. That’s a nice way to make games. Just pick the really sweet operation. We’re trying to cover the whole war in Europe. But I have to say, by the time we’re done with it–the last two DLC are being done with people we recruited from the community. None of the original designers–everybody was burned out by this time. It’s been a really long time. It’s five years now, 250 scenarios. But we’ve recruited some–that’s a good aspect of the job. You get to meet some really cool people. We recruited some really fun people from the community.

Ukraine war game?

You drop grenades on Russian tanks from drones in Death From Above
You drop grenades on Russian tanks from drones in Death From Above.

GamesBeat: I wonder who’ll make a Ukraine war game.

Uzelac: For this, on Steam, you have scenarios. People mod it. On Steam Workshop you can download them. They’re using U.S. and Soviet figures. But they have all the battles from the first part of the war set up. I don’t know if this system is super adequate for what’s going on right now. And if you look at the last two years, it’s been changing so fast. The initial battles might have been–sometimes you’d say, “This looks like World War I,” and sometimes you’d say, “This looks like World War II.” But now, what is it? They have drones and cope cages. Nobody understands it. It’s a new thing. Maybe you could do year one in an engine like this, but no one understands it now.

Pushing into the German lines in Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: Do you know Hendrik Lesser?

Uzelac: Yeah, Remote Control Productions.

GamesBeat: I played his Ukraine game [Death From Above]. He calls it a political game, or a propaganda game, taking the Ukraine point of view and fighting battles against the Russians. I talked to him a little while ago about making a game about a war while it’s happening.

Uzelac: Wargames really don’t do that. Even the Bosnian war game, like you said–

GamesBeat: And that’s 30 years ago.

Uzelac: You can play World War II with some detachment. You can say, “I’m just interested in the mechanics of the war,” because that’s an interesting topic in itself. We need to study that. But if it’s something fresh, the human aspect is fresh in your mind. It’s not a game. An ongoing conflict? Even if nobody understands what’s going on.

Rooted in agreed-upon history

The Germans on the offensive in 1942 in Unity of Command II

GamesBeat: There’s one game publisher that actually has a rule. “No ongoing conflicts.” You can make all kinds of games, but definitely not ongoing, active wars.

Uzelac: Here’s how I think about it. We’re not historians. I’m not a historian. I don’t have military expertise. I’m someone who relies on historians and military writers to do their thing, so I can consult all that literature and say, “Here, I’ve put that in the game.” If that doesn’t exist, maybe I can speculate. I can make a game around a gimmick.

But until the historians figure out what’s going on, until there’s a historical agreement–if you look at the Eastern Front, it was the opening of the Soviet archives after 1990 that enabled–there’s an American author, David Glantz, who was writing about the Soviets. He was lucky that at the time, he was in Moscow working. They let him in the archives and he published a dozen books through the 1990s, and then kept going. As I was doing Unity of Command his books were still coming out, during the 2000s.

Prior to that, all you had was the German memoirs and what the captured German generals had told to the Americans. The Americans were studying the Eastern Front for their operational plans. But the whole view of history was biased. Then Glantz came and really revolutionized the field. The Barbarossa he describes is very different from what was taught before that. And there were further releases of information beyond that. It enabled the design of my game, because before you had only very vague descriptions of the battles. There was not great fidelity. The German generals, their memoirs were designed to make them look good. And the other side wasn’t there at all. You’re talking about 50-60 years after the war.

There’s more and more data now. There’s a U.S. archive somewhere on the east coast where they have all the German situation maps. When the Americans captured the Wehrmacht situation maps, they would shoot them on microfilm. If you go to this library, somewhere in Washington, you can get access to that for free. Someone went in and digitized them. At the time bandwidth was a problem, so they couldn’t put it on the net yet. But now you can download all of it. In the credits for Unity of Command 2 we mention this person. He was an enthusiast, someone from the states, and he uploaded all these maps. We have these really detailed German situation maps.

You also have Soviet situation maps that they released, but again, that was something like 70 or 80 years afterward. Only now do we know what happened. Does anyone really know what’s happening in Ukraine?