RSE Interview Nov 5, 2005
By: Hatchetforce

Published : October 16, 2006

In November of 2005, several staff visited Red Storm Entertainment studios in North Carolina. The following interview transcript is the result of hours spent talking to RSE. The answers given are from a particular slice of time within the development cycle of GR:AW Xbox 360 (close to beta). Keep in mind that game features and details may have changed since then, and RSE’s statements shouldn’t be taken as descriptions of the final product, but rather as a ‘snapshot’ of GR:AW MP for 360 during that period of game development.

  • Christian Allen (CA) – lead MP designer for GR:AW
  • Brian Tate (BT) – overall lead artist for GR:AW MP
  • Pete Sekula (PS) – co lead artist for GR:AW MP
  • Robbie Edwards (RE) – producer
  • Travis Getz (TG) – authenticity coordinator
  • Hatchetforce (HF) – Staff
  • ZJJ – Staff

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HF - Wanted to start at the beginning of the game. Ask you guys about if you know anything yet about packaging, the way the game is going to be set up, is there going to be just one standard game or is there going to be a limited edition? That seems to be the thing to do now with a lot of packaging is offer limited edition that shows production materials and things of that nature. Has there been any discussion of that?

RE - Not that I am aware of.

CA - That is generally handled higher up than us.

TG - We are delivering a bunch of assets like artwork and concept art and stuff like that so what they end up doing with that is kind of up to them. At the studio level we are delivering things to use. I did go by Casey’s desk and he showed them a level of concept art.

RE - Most of the concept work will be released in some form, so that people can see it and that type of stuff. It’s kind of cool.

BT - There is a lot of gorgeous work. We’ve got a new concept art team that we put together specifically for this project and they’ve done some amazing stuff. So we are proud of it and want to show it off.

HF – Is that team in house that you put together?

CA – Yep. I can show you guys some of it after this meeting. We really focused along with that prototype process that we talked about earlier; we focused a lot on concept work. So once that rough prototype is done then it goes to the concept for mood concepts and also specific detail architectural concepts which has been really, really nice because then you can visualize the entire thing first before it goes into play.

BT – So we’re working on a butt-ugly playable space, and we are actually testing it, while the concept art team is defining, well, where is the look of this space going. And when we’re happy with both, when we are happy with the concept art and we’re happy with the game play on the space, then it comes together and we do the production environment and build it that way. Our concept art team has primarily been focused on the environment because that is where most of the artwork is in the game play.

HF – In the past 6-8 months, Red Storm has been involved in multiple projects going on at once, not just this but the completion of Summit Strike earlier, the involvement with Lockdown for the PS2, then furnished the material for the XBox version and the PC version that is ongoing. You guys in the past have farmed out some of the work. I know Blackfoot Studios did some of the work for you. Is all of the multiplayer stuff being done in-house or is there assistance being provided by anyone else?

BT – This project is 100% in-house.

RE - We have some assets that we borrowed from the single player game.

BT – Oh, yeah, there is sharing of work.

HF – But just restricted between the two studios, basically in France and here?

TG – Right. Also, of course, sound and voice over, stuff like that.

CA – We did separate voice over for the campaign, it’s all unique.

TG - But I’m saying it’s done externally of Red Storm.

CA – Yeah, we used voice actors and all that kind of stuff. We didn’t do all the acting.

RE – For the most part it is done the same as any of our other titles the only thing that is different is we borrowed some models and some art assets from some different places. That’s about it, everything else is entirely in-house.

HF – How many people total are dedicated to the multiplayer project, roughly?

RE – 63? 68?

BT - Yeah

HF - 68 Red Storm personnel?

CA - Yeah. GR2 was about 5 people, in the design section. GR1 was 17 for the whole team. So we got more people on GR3 online than we did GR2 for the whole game.

RE - Summit Strike (SS) was 25 or so.

BT - That’s about right. A lot of people, primarily art for SS.

RE - The team will only get bigger from here on.

BT - The next generation games are big productions.

HF – You said you borrowed some stuff from France, what do you think the percentage of that is for character models and things like that?

RE – Zero (0) character models.

BT- Actually it went in the other direction for the character models. Our character team here produced a lot of characters for the SP. We got some pretty thoroughly experienced experts in house.


HF – Well, since you are handling the MP, how do you do the work on the coop campaign if that’s done in a MP fashion, but yet it’s utilizing aspects of the single player game. Is it not the SP missions? How is that coordination done?

CA – The coop campaign for this project is completely unique. So it’s actually a completely separate campaign then what you play in single player.

HF – Because in GR2, you’re basically playing the SP campaign all over again.

CA – Yeah. We wanted to get away from reutilizing the SP missions in coop because of some of our experiences on GR2 where you end up objectives that may work for a single player, single person, don’t always hold up well in coop. In GR1 we, the team, built everything for coop first, and then went back for SP. In GR2, we built everything from SP and then went for coop and this time we said, no. Coop is coop, you design for coop. It’s all about completing multiple objectives, working as a team, and communicating. So we can balance it. It allows us to do a lot of things. One, we can balance it for the number of players that are in the game. As you notice when you play Summit Strike, if you have 4 people or 6 people or 8 people, it’s really easy. If you have 2 people it’s really, really hard and it’s kind of right in the middle for 3 or 4. Well now we can take that into account. We can say there are 2 players in the game so the mission is balanced for 2 players. It’s not going to change all the objectives but you will have a little less guys and a little more guys if you have 4 players, things like that.

HF – You have a rough number of coop missions you are looking at right now?

CA – We are shipping with 4 coop missions and then there is going to be episodic content and they are cliffhanger, they’ll come out and the storyline goes through so it’s continuous.

HF –Like Splinter Cell 3? Splinter Cell 3 did the same thing where each coop mission was tied to the next coop mission.

CA – Yeah, it’s all a story driven campaign.

BT - If you choose to play it out of order it will hold up pretty well, as well as we know many coop players just like to forget the whole mission progression and “I like this mission, I like that mission” to mix it up. So it holds up pretty well for that, too.

HF – We had talked earlier about the size of the MP maps. How does that fare against the size of a coop player map?

PS – The maps that are designed to support the coop missions are the biggest spaces. We need the most room to have different options for tactical play. So those are the very large spaces. Then we have other maps that are primarily focused for adversarial player/ team or solo adversarial. Those spaces are typically smaller, because the full sized spaces like we designed for a full on mission tend to have lots of dead space in adversarial play, and you often get campers who use that dead space. They’ll go play last man standing, for example, and just run away when they get in the lead and will they ruin the experience for everybody. So we are tailoring those maps to be tighter and to keep the game play in closer for the adversarial experience so we are building small maps and big maps for their own purpose. But I should say that adversarial works on the big maps and we’ve tested it and it’s all designed to be fun. And other than missions, the other coop game types, such as design your own coop mode, and the preset modes like firefight, defend, recon, etc., all work great, on even the smallest of the adversarial spaces.

CA – Some of the biggest ones, like one of the maps we are playing is along the big size for a GR map, it’s something like 600X400. In MP we are actually cordoning part off that space. When we designed the map for the coop mission, we laid out here is what we want to happen in the coop mission, here is all of our objectives and scattered them around and put them in order. Then we said this is way too big for MP, you are never going to see each other. So what we did is we designed in the space gaps that we can close off in MP, in adversarial. So then you can have that smaller space to have a really cool [experience]. We went in and built features for the MP that work in MP but double as objectives in the coop missions, so that way everyone can have a good experience. Because what we found with maps, like The Dam in GR2, were just too big for adversarial. People would play thief and the guy gets ahead, just take off, he was just gone, you can’t find him. It’s like “come on,” so that some of the things we take in to account.

RE – One thing I would like to add to this. We use the prototype process; we haven’t had to develop maps. We can develop the experience we want. Like Rocky Cove is a very small map, but you can see very far and it’s very sniper friendly and we know this because we played it a lot. So while the maps may not sound much larger or much different than the GR2 maps, remember there is 5, 6, 10 times the detail, and they are really, really, very detailed and very good looking. Some of the maps you couldn’t see today will blow your mind when you see them finally. That is something that is difficult to communicate. So while these maps may not sound like a big difference than was GR2, they are very large and the game play we are trying to give you is there and they look phenomenal.

HF – Christian showed me when we first came in, he was satisfying me about my bitching about the M468, and when he first showed it to me, I said, this is a portion of the single player campaign, right? Because there was a concern when word first started to get out that the MP engine was going to be the GR2 engine, and it was like, Ok, well we’re not going to see this gorgeous thing that we’ve been seeing in these single player films. Which I had seen a month or two ago I was up here, and Gary took me over and put me on the 360 to let me run a piece of the single player mission and I was like “beautiful.” And Christian shows me and I said well this is a single player engine, right? And he goes no, this is the multi-player engine, and I was astounded. The textures were just gorgeous, and the particle effects and the lighting were phenomenal.

RE – What map was that?

CA – That was Desert Gulch.

RE - That’s one of our more simplistic maps, that one is focused a lot on desert.

HF – The details, the texture of the rocks is phenomenal, it looks like being out in a canyon somewhere. I had to tell you, I was astounded.

BT - It’s worth pointing out that we call it the GR2 engine only because it’s built on that foundation. It is not the GR2 engine; it’s the GR3 engine, the GR3 MP engine. There has been just a massive amount of work done on the graphics engine, the physics, MP code optimization for network performance, you name it. We’ve had this huge team working on it optimizing every aspect of this game, improving the feature setting and so forth. We wanted to keep everything great about GR2 and build on that.

HF – OK, You weren’t sure earlier which version of the havoc you were using.

BT – Version 3.

CA – I thought that’s what we were using, but I wasn’t sure.

HF – Going back to the co-op maps, one of the issues with the single player game in GR2 was the inability to use suppressed weapons because the AI just basically said that weapon is not suppressed. Has that been addressed?

CA – It wasn’t actually that the suppressed weapons weren’t taken into account, as it the detection model when it came to things like foliage and stuff. It wasn’t as robust as we would have liked. It is one of the things that people are spending time with.

HF – So we’re going to see sound dampening due to terrain now, and not just distance? Because a lot of games, even to this day, you see sound dampening based on distance, and not necessarily the terrain involved.

CA – Oh yeah. If you’re on Desert Gulch and if you’re on the each side of that rock, and someone’s shooting as they’re moving, you’ll hear them move behind the rock where the sound will change. You’ll hear footsteps, then he goes behind the rock, you won’t hear footsteps anymore. It’s all included by real time geometry. You can track someone now. If you turn off the HUD, and just listen to 5.1, and someone just starts shooting in the air, you can track them down and find them. Easy.

RE - The sound gets muffled as it travels over obstacles or along side of something. The rain sounds differently say if you are inside a cargo container

BT – Or under a boardwalk, or on top. You can totally track them by listening to the footsteps on those creaky boards.

RE – It’s certainly not dampened by only distance as you said. It is aware of what’s around you and what could be occluding the sound.

HF – Is there non-controllable multiplayer vehicles?

CA – Yes. Obviously in coop there are vehicles. One of the options you can set in Territory is a helicopter option. The team that controls the most zones has a helicopter on their side hunting the enemy platoon. So, it depends on how you set it up. Like with siege, the defending team gets the helicopter. Then like with Domination or Hamburger Hill, whoever controls that zone gets the helicopter on their side. And the helicopter is just using the AI, like from Summit Strike; just going through doing their thing, hunting the enemy team.

HF – What are the major multiplayer game types that we’re looking at besides the standard Deathmatch and team Deathmatch?

CA – It’s mainly just in the customization. The player will have over 1100 different options. We have shipped presets for the game types from GR1 and GR2 for like Siege and Domination, and Search and Rescue. Every single game type that was available in those 2 games is available, with the exception of Assassination from Summit Strike, which doesn’t work on this system. But basically, you have over 1100 combinations. So if you wanted to play 3 Zone Siege, where the team had to capture all the zones, or Hamburger Hill, with a zone that moves every time someone captures it, Siege, Double Siege, Blind Siege. Basically you build your own defense.

HF – Have you placed any heavy weapons?

CA – In coop, yes. I’m not sure if they are going to be on the standard adversarial multiplayer mode. If they do, they will be scattered around.

HF – I didn’t know that if I had team bases, if there would be emplacements there.

CA – There may be. There may be. We put some of them in on Summit Strike. One of the big things now is, if you play a map, no matter what game mode you play it on, the layout’s the same. Your team start locations are the same, your control zones are the same. Say if you always play Double Siege, and you say you know this map, and then you play regular Siege on it, now it’s totally different. But you can control all of the setup of those zones, so you can change bases, you can change where those control zones are, you can have random control zones, all those different things. But you always know the map. You always know that if there is a central zone, the central zone is always there. The team base is there. That’s nice, because it was always hard having so many game modes, because you get someone who has never played Recovery before, they have always played Team Sharpshooter, they never had a clue where to go or what to do. They’d get lost, and then wouldn’t want to play that game. They’d say “well, that game looked stupid.” So now there is the ability to try all of these different options, while still knowing the maps.

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