As an avid (and terrible) RTS gamer, I was impressed by the footage I saw of Company of Heroes 2 at THQ’s pre-E3 event. While the game was still very definitely in the ‘smoothing out the creases’ stage, there’s a strong sense of ownership about the game. Relic Entertainment have proved beyond doubt that they know their IP intimately.
More than anything, I was impressed with the fact they’ve chosen to take the game to the Russian front of WWII, and included the infamous ‘Order 277‘ as a gameplay element. I caught up with Game Director Quinn Duffy to learn more about the game and the motivations behind it.
The arena of war you’ve chosen is truly brutal, especially with the inclusion of Order 277. Do you think there is a responsibility on game developers to show the true nature of warfare in military games?
“With games that deal with real world warfare and sensitive subject matters such as World War 2 I think developers have a responsibility to both entertain and educate their players.
We have the opportunity to put gamers in the boots of these brave souls and witness firsthand the reality of war as never before. We want to present the ‘ruthless truth of war’; to be unflinching, yet sensitive as players explore this epic, searing confrontation through our game.
Ultimately we want players engage in visceral tactical combat that will define you as a military leader and challenge you to wield the might of the Soviet Empire as you smash your way to Berlin. Hopefully it’s a compelling mix that both entertains and educates player on the Eastern Front conflict of WW2.”
In the video presentation the word ‘accuracy’ came up a lot in terms of aesthetics, atmosphere and history. Do you think that a game like Company of Heroes could ever be used for educational purposes?
“Company of Heroes 2 is first and foremost a tactical RTS experience about moment-to-moment gameplay and delivering an authentic WW2 warfare experience. A story told through the eyes of a Russian war correspondent as he exposes the ruthless truth of the Soviet Campaign and suffers the failings of communist ideology.
What we want to do is really try to engage the player in the tone of the experience so it’s not about getting a history lesson, but we feel we owe it to ourselves to be true to the events.
It’s an experience based on real soldiers, real battlefields and real warfare so through playing the game we hope players are both educated and entertained and it will inspired them to learn more about this epic conflict.”
The depth of play in Company of Heroes is formidable, and combined with ‘True Line of Sight’, it doesn’t seem like it’s for your average RTS gamer. Is there a sheer learning curve to the game?
“CoH2 is all about depth; it’s about giving the player more options and more ways to tactically outwit their opponent, but we try to base the core game concepts on relatable tactics that players have seen and understand. I actually think TrueSight makes the environment more relatable and true to life. It’s extremely fluid and feels like a completely natural addition to the game. In fact, it rewards smart commanders more than players concerned about Actions Per Minute.
For us it’s about creating an addictive gameplay loop where each time you play; you learn and develop strategic skills and tactical expertise that enable you to tip the very balance of each and every battle. The details and flow of each CoH battle, the uncertainty and the comebacks are critical to the experience and what drives this loop. Players basically make their own luck through skill and attention and they create a narrative every time they play. New systems like True Sight help us create this experience by adding tension and surprise.”
It was stated that the team wanted to do ‘more’ with CoH rather than do something ‘different’. Do you think the games industry in general has a problem with staticity, taking into account the sheer number of sequels we encounter each year?
“You see it in movies too – remakes and sequels and a lack of new creative ideas. There’s a chicken and egg argument to be made though. If there was no demand, would we be waiting for the next reboots of Spiderman or Transformers?
For us, it’s important to understand and be mindful of the core essence that drove the success of the original. In the case of Company of Heroes it’s a game well known for its pace, tone, attention to detail and tactical depth. We have a game we love and a franchise we love and a diverse and loyal player base that wants a rejuvenated experience. CoH2 is a sequel that gives players more, but it’s not all flash and bigger, more unbelievable scripted moments, it’s fundamentally about improvements in gameplay with our True Sight system, cover enhancements, and making vehicles more impactful. This is a sequel with substance.
We wanted to deliver more fidelity, more destruction, more environmental gameplay & more authenticity. Through this directive we’ve developed Essence Engine 3 built on the latest rendition of Relic Entertainment’s state of the art proprietary engine, allowing us to bring to life the reality of tactical warfare like never before.”
Company of Heroes 2 release date is set for sometime in 2013, and I have a good feeling in the time between now and when it hits shelves, it’s going to turn from something good into something amazing. Thanks Quinn, from all of us at Dusty Cartridge!