With a huge range of nations to choose from, as well as classes that offer differing abilities and perks and an emphasis on co-op as well as team play, the studio has all the right ingredients for an interesting virtual skirmish. Particularly with its new Home Run mode, which strips players of all perks, gives them one life, and tasks them with defending and attacking a baseís flag to score points.
That mode in particular, level designer Ben Jones reveals, is Danger Closeís formal entry into the growing world of FPS eSports. I speak with the developer on the various multiplayer features on offer, and what this means in relation to the competition.
SPOnG: Iíd like to quickly recap on the influences behind Medal of Honor: Warfighter. You had input from real-life soldiers, that are currently serving in the field, correct?
Ben Jones: Yeah, a lot of good consultation by soldiers from all over the place. Both retired, and still serving. We consulted with over two dozen Tier 1 Operators from a number of different nations, just like the ones you see represented in the game. The reason for this is to simply try and make the most authentic gameplay experience possible.
I think whatís great about each of the Operators we spoke to is that, while they each have very different expertise, a lot of the conversations we had with led to a singular focus. For instance, Fire Teams is one of the big focus of our multiplayer, right? Itís essentially a co-op experience baked within the traditional two-team online setup.
Fire Team is a really different approach for us - instead of focusing on the individual, we really focused on these teams of two. And that was something we built on based on conversations we had with these Operators. Many of them talked about always having a buddy on the field - someone that they were so familiar with that they knew where they were at any given time, almost in a psychic sense. And they knew what was going through their minds, and whether they needed help...
So we integrated a number of different features, like being able to see your Fire Team Buddyís outline and status on the HUD, to replicate that sense that those Operators have in the field.
SPOnG: Was there a danger that, because youíre getting insight from active soldiers that are currently serving in modern conflicts, that the game would end up hitting a bit too close to home?
Ben Jones: Weíre very sensitive about that, and we make sure that the conversations that we have with those guys are more focused on ideas that we can take into gameplay. And itís an honor for them just to be talking to us - there are things that may compromise them being consultants with us, so weíre not doing anything like [asking them to] reveal secrets or crazy tactics. Itís about taking the information they give and making the most fun gameplay experience possible.
SPOnG: You mentioned Fire Teams. Do you think that adds a dynamic that other first-person shooters, like Call of Duty, donít have in their multiplayer modes?
Ben Jones: I think it certainly changes the playing field. Itís a really neat feature. And for me, what changes everything with Fire Teams is that Iím really more focused on my Buddy, and making sure weíre successful as a team. We did our best to try and highlight that within the game.
Even though youíre in a large team working on a single objective against another large team, thereíll be a number of Fire Teams on your side that are all vying to be the best in your squad. And the first thing that weíre going to show you in the post-game screen is which Fire Team was the best in that round. So it focuses more on the team than the individual. Thatís a big shift, and I think itís something that people will enjoy.
SPOnG: Danger Close is a relatively new studio. Looking back at your past work, how much do you think you learned from the experience of Medal of Honor in 2010? What kind of steps are you taking to ensure that youíre taking it to the next level with this one?
Ben Jones: Yeah, quite a bit. I think whatís interesting about our studios is that we have a number of people that have been there since the very early days. Since Allied Assault. And weíre still learning from those people - they have this wealth of knowledge that we tap all the time.
But as a team, weíve really continued to grow over the past couple of years, and bring in a lot of solid players from a number of different franchises and build our studio. In terms of what have we learned from recently, I think we learned a lot from MoH 2010. Part of that was itís very difficult to have two separate teams working on single-player and multi-player, and using different engines. So thatís something we did away with for this project.
We have one team in Los Angeles thatís focusing on both single-player and multiplayer, and thatís been brought together with the Frostbite 2 engine. So we really streamlined that process, and I think the results are very positive.
SPOnG: EA has another war shooter franchise in Battlefield. Are you guys worried that you might get overshadowed by that in terms of brand power?
Ben Jones: Thatís less of a concern for us. I think itís because weíve created a very different product. Anybody whoís a fan of Battlefield, like me, will absolutely love Warfighter, because it really is a different experience. You think about... Battlefield is this massively-scaled war, right? Itís like this giant sledgehammer that hits you over the head with a number of different things.
MoH is much more intimate. Itís almost like a scalpel - itís very delicate and focused on infantry combat. So youíre not going to spend a lot of time running across a map to get into a major battle. Youíre in the battle all the time. So it really changes things. Especially with the Fire Team element and the number of different game modes we have. I think weíre bringing a completely different experience to the table.
SPOnG: And what about Call of Duty? Medal of Honor: Warfighter is going head-to-head with Black Ops II. How would you say this game differs from the competition?
Ben Jones: Certainly, the elements we just discussed, including Fire Team. I also think itís about the number of features and content we offer. This iteration of Medal of Honor has the most features of any game in the series. Weíve really focused on that, and part of that success has come from Frostbite 2. Weíve been very stable - weíve been playtesting every day for two years now. So once you have that in your back pocket, you can really focus on implementing features.
Itís not just about the stuff we talked about before - like the amazing class abilities and support actions that differ from each class - but we have all these different nations, massive weapon customisation and of course the Battlelog integration. 192 different nations get to vie for which is the best in the world. I think weíve done a lot to separate ourselves from the competition.
SPOnG: It seems that eSports is fast becoming the next step in the evolution of the First Person Shooter. Particularly in war-based games. Are you guys looking towards that with Warfighter, or any future products?
Ben Jones: Yeah - this game especially. We have a particular mode called Home Run, which was geared from the very outset towards eSports. And we wanted to give, especially MoH players, a really different experience in this mode. Not the traditional multiplayer role - kind of taking a step back. A focus on more tactical, slower-paced combat, where youíre really focused on second-guessing your enemyís movements.
Weíve really streamlined the environments. Youíre down to a single life in that game mode. All the support actions are removed - so it becomes much more tactical, and really... we think itís a really good fit for eSports. Especially when you get in and let people spectate after theyíve fallen. Thatís something that I think people in the community will really enjoy.
SPOnG: Do you think that would feed back into something like Battlelog?
Ben Jones: Yeah. I think thereís definitely a lot of carry-over there. The strength of our Battlelog information is, at its core, statistics. From my side, Iím constantly worried about statistics when I play shooters. I want to know my K/D ratio, and whether Iím doing something wrong in a particular area. So I think thereís some good [eSports] opportunities there as well.
SPOnG: Thanks a lot for your time.
Ben Jones: Cool. Thank you!
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