x360a Meets: Randy Pitchford, Brother in Arms: Hells Highway, Part 3
Written Wednesday, August 13, 2008 By Geoff WhiteView author's profile
Well, as promised, here is the third and final part of our exclusive interview with Randy Pitchford. This part contains details on the multiplayer side of the game, as well as downloadable content. Enjoy.
Can you give some details on the multiplayer aspect of the game? What sort of modes will be featured?
Yeah, I’ll give you a few. Obviously with BIA we care about the story and we’re presenting the game to be played in campaign mode, but multiplayer is still a part of it. Whenever we do multiplayer we always try and do something that you can’t get anywhere else. I think this is a mistake a lot of people make when they make multiplayer games, they just look at Halo and see what that’s doing. If you want to play that mode there are some great choices there. Once, we were involved in a game called Counterstrike, and we loved that game. There hasn’t really been a Counterstrike game done on this generation. So what we did was build a very Counterstrike like game that’s round based. You can get up to 20 players, which you can’t do with Halo or Call of Duty, so they’re bigger skirmishes. So if you want bigger skirmishes, you might be interested in this. Or if you want something that isn’t a half hour game with a slayer mode to see who gets the most kills- if you want something that has an objective to it and the rounds happen quickly like in Counterstrike, then you’ll really like this.
It’s also team based. One of the people on each side will be the leader, and he has some tools to use that the other players don’t. In a random internet game people are just going to do what they want, but if you want to you can get organised and communicate there’s some neat things about BIA’s squad combat that can emerge in the multiplayer game that just don’t exist in any other game. And then when you add destructible cover and tanks to it, there are some new things there. I don’t have any illusions- the reason people are interested in BIA is the narrative story and campaign mode we build and I know that. But we’re having fun with the multiplayer game and we did something that you just can’t get anywhere else. So hopefully it will be really refreshing for people.
Yeah, it will be nice to see a change after all the games that have been identical recently.
Yeah, it’s risky though. We’re kind of taking a risk, but for me it’s more important to create something new. If I want to play Halo 3, I’ll play Halo 3. I love Halo 3. But by taking that game and adding it into this game, I’m not really offering anything that you don’t already have. Since the main reason people will play BIA is the campaign mode, it’s relatively safe for us to take that risk.
Have you got any plans for any Downloadable Content over Xbox Live at all?
We have. Well, we’re not talking about anything yet. But we do have that capability and we do have some ways that we can go. We’re pretty close to launch now, we kind of want to see what people want, and react to it that way. But we’ve made it possible, and we’re got some things sitting there waiting for us to commit one way or the other. If it turns out everyone loves multiplayer, then we’ll do more of that! But if people want more challenges, or more tank stuff or more vehicle stuff, we can do that. I don’t know, we can get a sense and then put more in. But we made sure that we have the capability, and we made sure we have some things sitting there.
Sounds good. I remember reading an article somewhere where you called Hill 30 the Star Wars of the BIA series, and that Hells Highway is going to be Empire Strikes Back. Without giving too much away, is Baker going to come back for Return of the Jedi?!
(Laughs) Well I think there’s probably going to be more BIA games, but I think we need to take a breath and see what we need to do next. I don’t think that chapters set in stone yet. I also think that analogy is really interesting. It’s kind of a weird thing, as it’s a really serious subject matter, but it’s surprising how it just fitted in my mind when I was learning more about D-Day and the challenges of Normandy, and the position to the guys on the ground- what they imagined they were facing. It was like this small rebel band, like a couple of hundred thousand guys, trying to break through fortress Europe and Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, and it felt like the most powerful army in the world.
There we’re just 200k guys landed between the tanks and the paratroopers, and they were facing millions of Germans round the area depending on how quickly they could mobilise. So it was a really tough gig the Allies had there, and it felt like a small band against a big evil empire. But they did it, and they pulled it off. So now they’re supposed to be ahead. But just like the Star Wars series with Empire Strikes back, they’re going to fight back a little bit. And in Operation Market Garden, the Germans won. The Allies had their asses kicked. And it was really interesting how history matched that, and I always wanted to ask George Lucas if there was some influence there when he was developing the stories. He was almost mapping the story to some of the things that happened in WWII Europe.
What are you most proud of in the game?
Oh man. Well, I’m proud that we did it. There was a couple of times during the project where we could have just Clipped It and Shipped It, which basically means “we’ve got a lot of good stuff here, let’s just get it out door”. A lot of times that's how you make it not work out. And the thing that I’m proud of is that we had the discipline and the commitment to make the game we wanted to make and fulfil the promises that we made to ourselves about quality and presentation, and fun, and history and all that.
I’m also proud are publishing partner was flexible with us. We first announced the game at E3 in 2006, and we probably imagined it as a Holiday 2007 game. It was really important for us to do it right, and we could have probably made it a Holiday 2007 game. But we would have peaked at 84, 85, 86% scores, and I wanted to do better than that, as did everyone on the team. I’m really proud that we had the discipline to stick to it- and it wasn’t cheap. It took a lot of time, and a lot of money, but I’m proud we were able to do it.
Is there anything that isn’t in the game that you wish was, but restraints on time, money or technology held you back on?
You know, there’s always things you dream of- ideas that you come up with along the way. Some of those make it in, and some you put off for later. I think we did a pretty good job of what we wanted to do here, and in some cases I think we went way above the bar. I think we’re still limited by the hardware, and how big we can make the environments and how much of the war we can create. Someday it will be fun to play one of these invasions where the whole things there for you and you can play it in real time basically. That's so far out the window in terms of today’s technology and hardware is. I think we did a really good job on the balancing act between the fidelity and of the theme and emerging ourselves in the production values but also offering a grand experience. So we found a balance there. It’s a bigger, wider experience than GoW, but we didn’t compromise on the art ... the arts actually improved. We didn’t have to compromise like when you make an open world game- in those, a lot of the art doesn’t hold up to as much because there isn’t enough memory. We found a balance there. We’re not an open world game, but we’re wider than what you’d expect from a linear shooter. I think we made a good call there, and it took us a while, but we got the balance just right.
If you had 30 seconds to sum up BIA, what would you say?
Ha ha, let’s see. BIA:HH is an authentic war experience, which focuses not only on the combat and tactics side of the battle, but on the brotherhood between soldiers amongst the chaos and devastation. Friends are made and lost and the heroic actions, decisions and sacrifices of one can save the lives of many.
Wow, still 10 seconds left!
Well, I’ll have to play that back, but that's certainly the themes and emotions we try to capture.
Well, it certainly sounds like we’ll all get deeply involved in the story, which will be great.
I certainly hope so, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into it, so I hope it pleases everyone when it heads out.
When is it heading out?
Well I don’t know the exact date, but I know it’s around the anniversary of Operation Market Garden, which is the third of fourth week of September. I think we should look for it to coincide with the anniversary.
Ideal. Thanks for your time.
Well thank you, it was fun talking to you.