The Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Unedited Interview Transcript
Written Monday, October 05, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
The sound quality in the latest Operation Flashpoint interview with Codemasters' Tim Browne was... far from perfect to say the least, and that prompted a few of you to request a transcription of said interview. I can happily report today that thanks to one of our dedicated (and awesome) members, ii br00tal ii, we can now bring you that... plus a few lucky treats that didn't make the final cut of the video interview because of the horrific background noise. We hereby dub this, the uncut and unrated version.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is out tomorrow in North America and Friday in Europe.
So what does Operation Flashpoint bring to the first person shooter market that other shooters don’t possibly bring?
One of the key things is we’re bringing, what I consider, the most realistic shooter to console. There is not a more realistic shooter on the marketplace for consoles, and that is one of the key things that we felt was a niche in the console market, but, also, on the PC market, there are other realistic shooters out there, but we wanted to bring out a sandbox tactical shooter on the market, and we wanted to bring out a level of authenticity that hasn’t been seen before. Basing it on such a big island and giving the player a whole load of toys to play with, but also keeping the realism and authenticity was challenging, but it’s something that I think we’re doing that no other team has done.
You say the most realistic, what sort of advances have you made with the enemy AI to cater for that?
One of the cool things with the AI we decided to do was, we wanted it to be a dynamic AI, and this was done by creating, you know like American Football, they use playbooks. We thought we could do something similar to that, so we have lots of different playbooks and options for the AI to choose from depending on what you’re doing and what they’re doing and what the general overall battle is doing, because we don’t just have very basic scripts controlling them.
We have all sorts of things like, they have a threat level, they have a morale level, and various things that can affect these. Such as they have different perceived threats, so the infantry see an enemy tank coming over the hill, obviously they’re going to go, “Oh, that’s a bigger threat,” and that’s going to have a knock on effect on their morale. If your fire team leader is shot and killed, that’s going to affect the morale. So, that can affect things like, what they decide to do... they may panic, they may flee. They might do a more controlled flee manoeuvre, which is, what they do is they’ll drop a smoke grenade and then do a tactical retreat, where they’re pointing towards the enemy, but then running backwards.
These rules are some tactical things that we took from the United States training manuals because we’ve had unprecedented access to all sorts of things like the Marines and asking them their advice and that kind of thing, because, again like I said before, for things like that we had to have authenticity, and we’re really proud of what we’ve got.
Does the authenticity carry over into the squad commands and such?
Yeah, so we have a very cool quick command radial, which people have seen in various other sorts of shooters, but we have different levels of commands. So it’s a three-tier system and we wanted to keep it fairly, not simple, but easy to access. It’s all based off of muscle memory. So, because it’s only got three tiers, it means you only have to remember up, down, up, or something like that. We wanted that.
However, we want it to be a very powerful, useful tool, so it’s context sensitive. So, if I look at a building, my orders change. Or if I look at an enemy tank, or a friendly tank, the options available to you change, depending on what I’m looking at. If I’m in a vehicle, my options change. If I’m in a helicopter, my options change. So, by making it contextual to what I’m looking at or what I’m in, this made a very, very powerful UI, or HUD element, for the player to use, but also kept it easy to use and made it far more diverse than some of the games out there that have very complex system. You know, how many buttons do I have to hit, what do I need to remember, which certain combinations... So, we’re really pleased with that.
With the vehicles, are they specific to certain missions or are they scattered around?
So you will find vehicles dotted around, often the PLA vehicles, because obviously it doesn’t make sense for the USMC to have vehicles lying around. The other missions may give you a little more access to certain key vehicles and things like that. We don’t want to give too much away because we don’t want to spoil the game.
Also, we don’t allow the players – in the single player missions – to use every vehicle at their disposal because we want to keep something back for DLC. That said, the PC gamers who have the editor will be able to access all the vehicles straight away. Console users will be able to use them at different times. We do have plans for DLC and some of this is going to be free DLC, so people can’t say, “oh why do console gamers have to pay for something that PC gamers can use for free?” That’s not necessarily true because we do have plans for free DLC as well. And obviously multiplayer game modes, we’re including different vehicles in that... and that is the key thing.
When the game comes out in October, we’re not going to go, “right, you’ve been waiting for this for ages, here’s your game, we’re off doing something else.” We’re not doing that. We do have plans for other things, but we can’t talk about that. We plan on supporting the community. The community has supported us for a long time and we want to give something back as a sort of thank you, so what we want to do is... We want to bring out DLC, we want to support the community, we want to possibly have competitions and things like that based around great missions. We’ll leave that up to you. Nothing is concrete, nothing has been decided. We’re not promising yet, but we’re not just going to go, “there’s your game, and that’s it.” We do want to support the community as well.
So how does the whole story tie into the whole sandbox structure and how are the missions delivered?
So the missions are based around areas. That doesn’t stop the player from venturing further. Obviously, going into an enemy-controlled area on your own, or with a small fire team is quite dangerous because most of the missions you have some sort of backup as well as other AI that you’re not in control of, but their friendly. Obviously, if they get wiped out, that’s not a failed mission, it just makes the mission harder.
So, yes, there is a narrative to the story, but we don’t want to make the narrative too in depth because that’s not really what happens in real life. Also, that would limit us to take as more of a linear shooter like a lot of the other games that are tunnel shooters and things like that. This game is sandbox, as we said, so you have the ability to attack different primary and secondary objectives from 360º and from the air and things like that, it’s up to the player.
We give the player advice and guidance, even on some of the easier difficulty modes, we give them a hint of where they should go for hardened cover because we appreciate that not everyone has three years of military training. But, at the same time, we don’t say that you must do it because that’s the only way you can do it. We don’t have any sort of constant spawning of enemies. If you see an enemy in the world, he is an entity that exists. If he runs off, he still exists and you can chase him down. You kill him, he’s a goner, there’s not going to be a magical spawn of bringing them back.
So you can effectively kill everyone on the island and have no enemies?
I wouldn’t say that because each mission we have to simulate things like the PLA calling in more reinforcements and things like that. We don’t do the whole, there is only 500 people on the island and that’s it, because that would limit us too much.
Have you looked at different input methods such as voice command or Natal for the franchise?
Some community members have recently asked that as well which is interesting. I can’t really go into detail, what I will say is that we’ve discussed various different control methods and we’re looking at our options. Obviously we’re not doing that for this game but for future projects, that is something that is being looked into, but I can’t say any more than that.
How have you tackled the issue of replay value in OPF2?
One of the things we wanted to do was for replay value in the game, as I say, you can approach missions from all sorts of different angles, all sorts of different tactics. We give the player the tools to do different jobs, but they can choose how they use that tool. When you come up against two tanks, you may have only 1 anti-tank jamming missile, and then you may have some anti-tank mines, and then you may want to lure that tank into an ambush or anything thing like that. There are more different examples that we could give.
So, there’s that replay value, but there’s also the fact that we give you secondary objectives that you don’t have to do to complete the mission, but we may give you or lead you down a path that may reveal an ammo stash or a vehicle. There’s also a bunch of objectives, which tie in very nicely to the achievements and the trophies on the consoles, and these are things that we felt that some of them might be more military type things to do, or some of them might be fun little things to do. I don’t want to give away what they are, and, they’re not even told to the player. The player isn’t given hints or anything about it. They just need to go out and experiment, and that gives a lot of replay value as well. You can play through an entire single player campaign co-operatively, there are different things in that respect as well.
So the hardcore mode, do you not think it’s a little... sadistic?
It’s something that we’ve toyed with, played with, we’ve looked at, and we know that there is a market out there that really wants it. Your word is sadistic, I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily sadistic; I think it’s just for the hardcore player. It’s called “hardcore” for a reason.
Are there any sort of concessions you’ve had to make from reality just because it would render the game unplayable?
Oh absolutely, there’s lots of things that were very steep issues that we had to overcome. So for instance, making the game on PC and console simultaneously, it’s the same game to play, but getting 102 keys on a keyboard and a mouse control on to a joypad was a big challenge. We didn’t have to make concession for it though, it was just a big challenge.
Concession wise, things like calling in artillery; in real life you have to do all sorts of things; they’ll ask you how much collateral damage do you think you’re going to cause and things like that. There is a very specific order and forward observers who call in artillery and airstrikes spend years training and obviously we had to make concessions to make it easier. That said though, I think you’re going to see the most authentic artillery and airstrikes in a game... not only do they look real, but we give you a whole load of different things, right from small airstrikes, to the biggest explosion in the game, which is the 2000lb JDAM Bomb which is huge. The explosion it creates is about the size of four or five buildings. It has a kill zone of a 100 metre radius, so when I say that, I mean, all buildings, all vehicles and every person turned into a pound of red mist effectively. There is nothing left. And we have artillery as well and in that we not only have different size artilleries, and not only are there explosives, but there is smoke that you can use tactically as well.
What sort of destruction model can we expect to see throughout Operation Flashpoint?
We don’t do anything like Bad Company, like blowing out walls. We do have multi-staged destruction though. So, it’s not a case of the building is there, or it’s not. The buildings are broken up into sections, so bigger buildings you can hit or clip the corner of it and take out the corner, but the rest of it stays intact. And, that is a tactical element to the game. You rely on the building as cover, so if you come across a blown up building, it’s not as if it’s not there, there is some rubble that you can still hide behind, but obviously a more tactical building that gives you more cover is better than a semi-destroyed building.
Did you model in any kind of bullet penetration and if so, what sort of level can we expect?
We realistically modelled the ballistics so you can hide behind wooden and dry-stone walls, but certain bullets, certain calibres and certain velocities will penetrate through those, so if you want to be really safe, you need to be behind a big thick, solid concrete bunker wall. Then again, that might not save you against an airstrike for example, so we do, yeah.
Not only is it a case of some bullets will pass through, but we also model how much of a velocity change will be affected by passing through the material. So it may hurt you a little less. Instead of it giving you a serious wound, it may graze you because the deflection of the bullet through the dry-stone wall and the velocity it may have lost in that, but it will still hurt you. Again, another thing that is based on authenticity and realism.
What about bullet refractions?
We do have ricochets, so when you’re firing into the ground you’ll see bullets bouncing off. It’s not just an effect, they can hurt you.
What can we expect from a competitive multiplayer perspective?
There are two game modes. There is "Annihilation," which is where we hand picked key locations of the island that were good checkpoints. I don’t want to give too much away, but you get pretty intense firefights. And then, there’s another game mode, which is very cool, we’re very proud of it, it’s called "Infiltration." This is a deliberately unbalanced game mode. So, it’s 10 USMC spec ops guys, who have night vision, thermal scopes, the tools of the trade, but there’s only 10 of them. Against 22 PLA troops who don’t have quite as good weapons, who are defending something.
This is done deliberately because we thought that this was kind of something that you don’t see in many games, and we wanted to do something a bit more tactical and Flashpoint, you know, it’s very much the Flashpoint-flavour. We’re also looking at, as I say, we’re not just leaving the game, and that’s it. We are planning DLC, we are currently considering additional game modes, but I’m not going to say anymore than that. But, we’ve got some very cool other ideas in the works at the moment.
So that’s 32 over Xbox Live/PSN as well then?
No, it’s 8 players over Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network; however, it’s not just four on each side and that’s it, because that would be just not very much fun at all, obviously. We spent a lot of time and a lot of money developing the advanced AI that we use in the single player, so we’re using that AI in the multiplayer as well. So, that means that, say four of us are playing, each one of us could be a fire team leader with several guys below, and there’d be other fire teams. So, you get massive fights still, despite not having quite as many players as a PC game does now. But on the PC, yeah, you do have 32 players.
Operation Flashpoint is out October 6th in North America and October 9th in Europe.