Next up in our PAX 2010 Q&As is Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. Here is the interview with Tripwire's President, John Gibson.
Question: When is the release date for Heroes of Stalingrad? Answer: 2011. Heroes of Stalingrad is the sequel to Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, which came out in 2006. This is a WWII FPS, set on the Eastern front. For this title we decided to focus the game down on the actual battle of Stalingrad. That battle was kind of the turning point of the war, there are a lot of WWII games that have focused on Normandy and the Americans fighting the Germans but, we felt like the story of Stalingrad was something that really hadn’t been told in this medium yet. There were so many facets to that battle, so many iconic struggles there that we wanted to show. So, it was the Germans and Russians, one of the biggest battles in history, I think there were 3,000,000 casualties, just from the fight for one city. It’s a really exciting setting. Question: How involved where you with the research?Answer: I have a very small part in it that way; I’m the resident gun nut. I collect WWII weapons, so I did a lot of the weapons research for the game. Question: Tell me about something in your research that stood out.Answer: One thing that was really exciting was some of the things we found out about the sniper rifles. I actually own at least one of the sniper rifles in the game and one of the things I found was that these WWII sniper rifles have a scope but are also still equipped with regular gun sights. So one of the things I came across when using the weapon in real live was that the scope was effective at range but almost useless when the target is too close. So in the game we added an option to use the actual iron sights as well as the scope, in case someone surprises you at close range when you’re sniping. Question: I’ve had that problem in games, someone gets too close and all you can see is the fabric on their torso.Answer: Exactly, so that’s one thing that we added that came from some hands on research.Question: Would you have ever found that out if you weren't and actual real life gun nut?Answer: No, no, not at all. Question: How else has that influenced your role in the game’s development?Answer: Well, one of the things that people have said about the original Red Orchestra and I think they’ll say it even more about this one is that weapon handling in the game is very authentic and in depth. From the beginning with Tripwire, we’ve really wanted to do better then anyone else in the world when it comes to giving people the experience of using these weapons. We want to make it feel like, play like and sound like the real thing. I think I’ve influenced that a lot. Some of the stuff that you can’t get, like some of the fully automatic stuff, we found a range where you can rent them. We went and shot machine guns and sub-machine guns and that really effected the game. Being the guy that actually loads some of that stuff into the game, it makes a real difference knowing what it really feels like to fire them. It was also a really good thing to do because, in the original game since we hadn’t fired some of the fully automatic weapons, we kind of over did it with some of the effects and made them harder to use them they should actually be. So in the new game, they’re the right amount of difficulty, sub-machine guns, they don’t actually recoil that much. So what we ended up with this time around was a game that is more in depth but, a little easier to play.Question: What weapon got left out that you’re really choked about?Answer: Flame throwers. We were planning on having flamethrowers in the game and I was really excited about that but, as always happens, you get closer to the end and some things just have to get cut. With that said, at Tripwire, we’re known for putting out free updates for our games, post release. Red Orchestra was released in 2006 and our last update for that came out in 2009, it was shipped with four maps, I think it’s up to fifteen. So maybe we’ll see a flamethrower post release for this. Question: What sets this apart from others FPSs in your eyes?Answer: There are a lot of intangible things that you can’t put bullet point on the back of a game. Our game’s weapons feel better then everyone else’s, that’s just not something you can explain in words. We put a lot of emphasis on raw authenticity and game-play depth. I think that a lot of military shooters are trying to create a Hollywood experience, trying to make the player feel like they’re in an action movie. Which is cool, I don’t want to take away from that but, that’s kind of the path that everyone takes, they all turn right, we turn left. We want to give the players the experience of being in a real war, not a war movie. Obviously there are parts of war that aren't fun; you don’t want to have a player sitting for hours in foxhole, waiting for your enemy to freeze to death, that’s not enjoyable. So we take the real parts of war that make for good gaming and we narrow the game down to those things. Question: Re-playability is the holy grail in all games, it sounds like you guys strive for this with the depth of immersion in the game. Are you looking at multi-player as well?Answer: We were very successful in the multi-player in the first one and that will be a major part of the new title as well. In the first game we only included one mode of multi-player and in Heroes of Stalingrad has three. It will include player vs player game types as well as cooperative campaign. It will also focus on a mode that is all about skirmishes, this is a fun simple game type, where you and a bunch of buddies go in and there’s a bunch of enemies and you just go in and kill them all. Another thing that sets Heroes apart is the way we’ve taken on vehicles. Other games have vehicle systems that put you on the outside, where basically you are the tank. With Heroes of Stalingrad what we wanted to do was give someone the feeling of what it’s like to be a solder inside one of these big hulking beasts in WWII. So we’re creating a fully modeled 3D interior, we’ve got a fully functional AI crew and when another shell comes in and hit your tank, you’re going to see you’re A.I. buddy die. You’re going to get the full experience; you’ll look through the periscope or the little view slits and get the feeling of what it was like to be inside one of these things. I like to say that we’re giving people a near simulator experience but, streamlining it enough to work in a FPS. We think that everyone kind of skims over the in these games and we wanted to do something different. Question: Segueing into AI, tell me a little about the level of competency of your foes and allies in Heroes of Stalingrad. Answer: Well I’ll be the first person to admit my mistakes and anyone who played Red Orchestra Ostfront knows, the AI was terrible. We were a small studio when we started; you know we didn’t have the time to put a lot of work into the A.I. The game was a multi-player shooter anyway, so we were like “oh yeah A.I., who cares”. In the new game we put a lot of focus on the A.I. We actually went so in depth as to have morale, so if the morale is high for instance, they might stand and fight or, if the morale is low and they get charged by the enemy they might just run away. We’ve gone to great lengths to make the A.I. very tactical and intelligent. One of the things you’ll here typical programmers say is “the typical life span of an A.I. in a game is three seconds, they come on screen and you shoot them”, so what follows from that is that you don’t need to make the A.I. very smart. I don’t believe that, I think that’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If you make them dumb, of course they’re only going to be on screen for three seconds. So our goal is to give them a high level of tactical intelligence, they understand what’s happening in the game, they understand the tactical situation, like if they’re being flanked and need to relocate for better cover. They’ll dynamically take cover knowing where their enemies are. We have made it so that they have a realistic vision and understanding of the world. Question: How do you use cover in this game?Answer: We’re really excited about the cover in this game; we’ve developed what’s called a first person cover system. Almost all other games have a third person cover system, there was one other that I can think of that did this called Killzone 2 but, they didn’t do it in multi-player for some reason. One of the reasons we when first person is that third person actually give you a lot of unrealistic advantages, like you’re behind cover and can see your enemy and shoot at them but they can’t hit you. In the game-play, what we have been trying to give you is the feeling of a dynamic fire fight, when you blind fire over a crate you can’t see what you’re shooting at, when you lean out of a door you become more and more exposed and when you pop out to take a shot you have to line up your iron sights with the shot, as opposed to lining it up before hand. Question: Sounds great, thanks for your time.
Thanks to John for talking with us about Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, which is set to come out in 2011 for the PC. For more information about Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad check out their website at www.heroesofstalingrad.com.
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