With Medal of Honor: Warfighter due for release later this month there's been a lot of hyperbole thrown around about the involvement of military consultants in the development of the game. Electronic Arts claims they've helped create a better, more authentic title - but might that represent a philosophical conflict for an entertainment product? We sat down with Senior Game Designer Ben Jones, to find out.
Bit-Tech: So, the first question I wanted to ask was about the involvement of military personnel in the game - Military Consultants, basically. How exactly were they involved in the game?
Ben Jones: Very closely, actually. We put together a group of over two dozen Tier One Operators at the outset of the project as consultants to work very closely with the two to three guys we had that had written a story for the singleplayer campaign. That was because we really wanted to round things out and get a broad perspective.
What's great though is that what came out of that affected the development of our multiplayer component. We looked at the Tier One units and the thing they kept coming back to was the amount of respect they had for each other and that they really enjoyed the healthy competition amongst themselves. You know, every year they'd go and meet and have different trials to determine who's the best.
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So, we looked at that and thought 'That's a really great idea for multiplayer, let's capitalise on that.' So, we took it an built our multiplayer around blue-on-blue combat with these ten different nations of Tier One operators.
Bit-Tech: What sort of trials are you talking about there? Do you mean actual physical wargames?
Ben Jones: Yeah, so that was the inspiration for most of our game modes. Those kind of wargame competitions that they have on a routine basis. For us it was a case of; 'OK, so let's have all these different teams, but let's also break it out to the idea of fire teams' - which was another idea we got from the consultants.
You know, they talk about their working relationships and the close proximity they have with their buddy in the field. They have a sort of innate sense of where he is and what he might need, so we built a large feature set around that idea to replicate the feeling of, y'know; I can see my buddy and I'll work closely with him to achieve our objectives.
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Bit-Tech: Was it hard to capture that sense of, I guess... camaraderie and communication? In most games when that happens it's sort of emergent and spontaneous, but you've tried to build features to encourage it specifically.
Ben Jones: It was a challenge and a lot of the mechanics definitely evolved over time, but what we've seen when we're testing the game in public is that people naturally adapt to it based on the features. It's not something we have to force, people just take to it - we even see players who are normally lone wolves making use of the ideas and taking advantage.
Bit-Tech: And do you have modes which cater to their normal playstyles as well? To lone wolves? I mean, I've only really played the Home Run mode, but I liked that that seemed to very much encourage dashing off on your own. The idea I took from that was that communication just slows things down.
Ben Jones: Well, there are certainly a few different ways you can look at it, but all our game modes support fire teams. Home Run is certainly the furthest separated from that though, especially as it's a single life game, but I've found myself working with my fire team buddy in Home Run a lot. The way the landscapes are set up for Home Run means there are only a few routes to take, so you want to co-ordinate often. There are some really great opportunities for communication there.