This week, I struck up a conversation with the team lead and scenario designer, Jason Petho, from Campaign Series Legion. He has been working on our beloved Campaign Series for the last two decades, from Campaign Series West Front Sealion expansion to the upcoming Campaign Series: Vietnam 1948-1967. I hope all of our avid readers enjoy reading the interview as much as I did interviewing Jason.
Max: Welcome Jason, would you like to introduce yourself to our avid readers?
Jason: Hi everyone, my name is Jason Petho, 48, and a Canadian living in the northwest corner of British Columbia. A cartographer by day and the team lead of the Campaign Series Legion by night, continuing the development of the Campaign Series games. Obsessed with SAAB’s and a collector of old atlases and military history books.
Max: Like most wargamer, I am curious about where your love for military history and wargaming comes from?
Jason: My German grandfather fought in World War Two, and while he didn’t speak much of the war from what I can remember, he did have a large collection of military history books, which I would spend my summers during my youth reading and absorbing. This is also why I became a cartographer, as many of the books I was reading didn’t have maps. So mapping military history for authors is a side venture I do.
The older I became, the more interested I became in replicating historical battles and wargaming. Unfortunately, at the time, access to wargaming products was nearly impossible to acquire, so I would spend countless hours drawing maps and making unit counters.
However, with the advent of computer gaming, I used games as my outlet for creativity. Eventually, that led me to modding and then to historical creations.
Max: So the love for military history sparked your interest in wargaming. What about your history with the Campaign Series since the beginning?
Jason: I bought the original Talonsoft East Front game back in December 1997, putting aside any other wargame I was playing as I was instantly hooked. Not only for the gameplay but because it came with a full suite of editors. My next purchase was West Front, and I dived into the editors again, as I was fascinated by the proposed invasion of England (1940) and wanted to build some scenarios regarding that.
Soon, Glenn Saunders saw my mapping work and was able to get a contract for me to help with the West Front Sealion expansion CD. I continued to be an avid supporter of the game, helping on the various forums that had questions. Eventually, Talonsoft sold the rights to Take 2, and Take 2 sold them to Matrix Games. Matrix Games reached out at that point to see if I’d be interested in helping out. Heck yes, I would!
When Matrix took over the rights for the Campaign Series, I was contacted by Matrix to join a team to continue developing the Campaign Series. That team was the Campaign Series Legion and was created around 2005/2006 with the John Tiller’s Campaign Series’s revised installment in 2007. That team also has the Beta Brigade within that consists of the core playtesters of the game.
The current team is utterly fantastic! A big thank you to the team members with a shout-out to Robert “Berto” Osterlund. Without his programming skills, the Campaign Series would have been dead in the water a long time ago.
Max: That’s wonderful to hear that you have such a capable team behind Campaign Series Legion to help keep the series alive for all of us. Is there anything you and your team working on right now?
Jason: We are working on Campaign Series Vietnam 1948-1967. This is the core game for the Southeast Asia theatre of war. A handful of DLCs made available after that will cover the Vietnam 1968-1975 Battles, the Laotian Conflict, the border war between China and Vietnam in 1979, the Cambodian Conflict, and the Korean War.
Max: I am from Southeast Asia, and the theatre is certainly not as widely represented as European theatre. So, out of curiosity, how do the newer Campaign Series games differ and improve upon their predecessors?
Jason: The new Campaign Series games are like having a fine scotch, something to savor and take your time to enjoy, while the old Campaign Series games are like having a beer and pretzels.
Everything is new in Campaign Series Vietnam, and that will be the basis for all future Campaign Series games, starting with an update to Campaign Series Middle East sometime in 2022.
Some highlights are:
- The Campaign Series Event Engine
- Updated and improved User Interface
- New Combat Air Support model
- New Assault Models and Combat Results Models for combat.
- New Spotting algorithms
- Plethora of new features, including; five distinct operating levels (Tunnel, Ground, Nap of the Earth, Low and High Flight Zones), Merging and Reducing Platoons, new special unit capabilities, and much more!
- 50 elevation levels for mapping with many new terrain types
Max: That sounds awesome, and most of us are excited about the upcoming Campaign Series: Vietnam and can’t wait to see all these features. Do you have any aspirations for the campaign series and CS Legion and its future?
Jason: Ideally, I would like to see the CS Legion as a full-time development studio that can focus on getting games out to the public with a faster turnaround and provide the Campaign Series games to various militaries for training purposes.
There are several core games in the queue; Campaign Series Middle East 3.00 (this is a free update to those that own the game already), Campaign Series East Front III 1939-1941, Campaign Series West Front II 1939-1941, Campaign Series Pacific Front 1939-1941, Campaign Series Cold War 1948-1985. Each of these will have DLC’s for additional content.
Max: Fantastic to know that all of our older Campaign Series wargames are receiving the engine upgrade. For our avid readers, can you briefly share your typical day as a computer wargame developer?
Jason: Well, I have a regular day job first. But when that is over, my developer day usually starts with visits to the various forums to answer any questions or comments that have arisen.
After that, it will be to review the task list and focus on what needs to be done. Of course, this will change depending on the status of the current game we are working on. This can be anything from OOB development, scenario research, map creation, scenario creation, writing, Lua scripting, developing AAR’s, developing videos, graphics… and the list goes on. If one is bored as a wargame developer, they aren’t doing it right.
Regarding time, I am in a situation where I can focus all my after-work time on the Campaign Series and CS Legion. So basically, if I’m not sleeping, I’m working on the game or games. A day spent even my last “holiday” writing the manual for Vietnam.
Max: I believe that love and passion in our hobby motivate us to go the extra mile to do what we love. On that topic, what is your hope for players who play the Campaign Series?
Jason: To simply put it, countless hours of enjoyment fighting tactical battles (in some cases with a hint of operational) with the bonus of learning something historical about the particular battle they are playing.
Much effort has been spent on each scenario to give it the best experience while not being a chore to play. The scenarios will give various feelings, including; frustration, exhilaration, excitement, loss, and the overwhelming desire to try and try again until victory is yours.
Max: Finally, do you have anything you would like to share with our readers?
Jason: Thank you for your support and patience while we get the Campaign Series where we wanted it to be. The future looks bright for the series!
I am always open for a chat or discussion. Feel free to post questions or comments on the forum at Matrix Games, our Campaign Series Facebook, or on Discord.
Max: Thank you, Jason, for spending your time talking about your passion and CS Legion with our avid wargamers.