Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time Commanders

Time Commanders is a series of programmes made by Lion TV for BBC Two that ran for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. The programmes, originally hosted by Eddie Mair and more recently by Richard Hammond, features an edited version of the game engine behind the real-time strategy game Rome: Total War to recreate famous battles of the ancient world. The battles are replayed by 4-player teams from diverse backgrounds. The teams are unfamiliar with computer games, to make sure their gaming skills do not influence their success. After a brief introduction of the battle, including an overview of military units, terrain and available forces, the players have to develop a strategy and then deploy their forces. Two of the players are selected as generals, who will direct the battle and have access to a strategic map. The other two players are designated lieutenants in the first series, and captains in the second. The units are indirectly controlled by the lieutenants, who issue commands to program assistants, who in turn use the game interface to control the units. Troop deployment and battle follows, although in the second series, there is a small skirmish conducted as a separate event, to acquaint the players with the game mechanics and their units. In the second series the team also get strategic pauses where they can refine their strategies.

During each game, a pair of military specialists analyse the performance of the players and explain how the real historical battle unfolded. One of these observers is often Dr. Aryeh Nusbacher and others have included Mike Loades (in the earliest episodes), Saul David, Mark Urban or Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy, the series' historical advisor.

Notably, the series as televised contained no reference to the origin of the software powering the 3D visuals of ancient battlefields that were the show's mainstay. This is due to the BBC's rules against product placement. Wikipedia

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