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Interview With Tripwire Interactive’s Alan Wilson Part 3

This is the third part of our inteview with Alan Wilson, Vice President of Tripwire Interactive, the Developer of titles like Killing Floor, The Ball and the upcoming Red Orchestra 2.  To read the second part click here, and read the first part here.

Player Affinity: There was a cross-promotion between Killing Floor and The Ball where you could get a bonus character for Killing Floor if you pre-ordered The Ball . Will we see a WWII Soviet Character Pack, or other cross-promotions as Red Orchestra 2 approaches?

Alan Wilson:  It is tempting - it is a simple way to reward fans and good fun as well. But no, you won't see a Nazi Fleshpound in Fallen Fighters' Square in Red Orchestra 2!

Player Affinity: The first Red Orchestra was multiplayer, but Heroes Of Stalingrad has a single-player campaign; what will the story be about, and how long is the campaign?

Alan Wilson:  It will be about the battle itself, not about one single individual. Following one or two people around that battle would get ridiculous anyway - the casualty rates were appalling. So you will play through 12 missions on the German side, covering the period from the beginning of the battle (August '42) to the German high-water mark in November, followed by 12 missions on the Soviet side. We're focusing on the small unit (squad/platoon) not the single soldier. Those small units were really all that kept men going, that very tight cohesion.  As for the length of the campaign... it can take me 15-20 minutes to play a mission, plus add in the briefings and so on, makes for about 6-8 hours of gameplay all up. Very replayable too, as it isn't a set story - you'll have the same mission each time you replay a map, of course, but there are always different ways to achieve the objectives - plus the enemy won't perform the same way each time.

Player Affinity: A lot of shooters use their single-player campaign as little more than a training ground for multiplayer.  How will single-player differ from multiplayer?

Alan Wilson:  Good question.  I think we're actually confusing people some with this one. We aren't doing the big $50-million storyline thing - but it is a lot more than just a training ground. It WILL allow people to learn the mechanics of the game offline, in their own time, but it is more than that. We've drawn comparisons with the old Rainbow Six series. It isn't just some play-MP-offline-with-bots thing. The enemy and friendly AI is far more sophisticated than we've ever done before. It is big enough that you can feel the ebb and flow of the battle around you, but very manageable. You are basically tasked with taking part in battles of company/battalion scale, managing a squad or platoon through a phased series of objectives. If your avatar dies in the game, you get to take over another body in the squad - so long as you haven't got them all killed. You can just try and punch through, but that won't work on the higher difficulty levels. The enemy AI will cut you down. They understand how to set up a defense, or mount an attack, with MGs and snipers in overwatch. You lead a squad or fireteam into a killing ground and you'll be in trouble VERY fast. On the attack, you may well need to stop, re-evaluate and pick up a different plan. On the defense - well, I was doing a demonstration last week, where a film crew were having to use the headphones to pick up the sound. So I had no sound and I couldn't tell that the firing had got behind me. Then the film crew got to see me and my squad getting cut to pieces!

Player Affinity: Aside from the single-player campaign, what's new in the sequel?

Alan Wilson:  Lots. New MP gametypes - Countdown is our take on the single-life gametype. Gets very tense! And we introduced Firefight, which is our take on team death-match. Being honest, many of us old-school types were cynical about it, but it works really well. We were concerned it would be way too "gamey" for us, but it has all the Red Orchestra mechanics, but with much simpler objectives - kill the enemy. The multi-player campaign is great fun too, when you want to focus on more than just a couple of rounds.

New game mechanics - the first-person cover system, blind fire (yes, grenades too), mantling and climbing. More weapon mechanics - range setting, breathing system, focus. Bullet penetration through materials. The tanks are a huge leap forward - full crew (AI or your friends), all visible, all doing their proper tasks. New armor penetration and damage modeling. New damage system for humans too.

We've also made a conscious (and big) effort on making the game more accessible. We look back and realized we did a lot that was "realistic" in the first game, but it actually made things UNrealistically hard for the player. For example - I know where the members of my fireteam are when they are close by, from sounds, from glancing round - if you step through a doorway you don't "vanish". So the mini-map on screen will show you where your guys are, so long as they are close by and so on. It won't show you enemies - it isn't some magical "radar". So if there is no-one on that mini-map and you can hear footsteps - it probably isn't someone bringing you chocolates! Add in peripheral vision, the ability to focus slightly (so you can actually see someone on screen in the size they SHOULD appear to he human eye), a command system... its a long list!

Player Affinity: You're making an odd move by working with a mod team to create a total conversion mod for this game, even before it has been released.  Tell me about Rising Storm, and what prompted you begin working with modders so early?

Alan Wilson:  The reason is very simple: we realized how much people enjoy a good mod, with Mare Nostrum and Darkest Hour for the first game. But they can take a good couple of years to produce, which is a long wait, frankly. So we wanted to have mods in production much earlier. We also wanted to ensure the quality to some extent - so we kicked off the first one (Rising Storm) ourselves. This was followed by others - In-Country Vietnam for one, more steadily getting announced. Which is exactly what we want to see.

Player Affinity: How closely after the release of Heroes of Stalindrad can we expect to see Rising Storm?

Alan Wilson:  Don't know, to be honest. We have to finish the SDK first, although they've been working with pre-release tools so far. We'd like it to be 6-9 months after the game, but we'll see!  It is a LOT of work the team are taking on!

Player Affinity: Lastly, what tips do you have for readers who are interested in making mods as a step toward professional work in game development?

Alan Wilson:  It is the way we recommend to anyone who asks - you simply have to have work you can show off. And not just a nice little website with some artwork on it. Something in game. Playable, preferably. It doesn't really matter if the artwork is rubbish if you are a coder - if you can point to some great coded systems that actually work, we can ignore the rubbish art. Look at Minecraft :) Great, silly fun gameplay - deliberately blocky and simplistic art. Or create great character models that make a rubbish mod look great. But FINISH stuff. Please. If you can't get through all the steps that are needed to actually finish something, you are no use to anyone. And, yes, it is a ton of work!

Red Orchestra, Killing Floor, The Ball Dwarfs and Zeno Clash are all available now.  Red Orchestra 2 will be available on August 30th for PC.


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