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Interview

IGTV: Medal Of Honor Interview

IncGamers was lucky enough to sit down with EALA’s Sean Decker and Greg Goodrich to discuss the upcoming Medal of Honor reboot. Find out why there’s space for both Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Medal of Honor in the EA shooter stable and what the Tier One Operators have brought to the table. 
Sean Decker, VP and general manager of EA Los Angeles studioIncGamers: Why did you decide take Medal of Honour out of World War II?Sean Decker: I think it really came down to we’d told a lot of stories about World War II, and it was just time to move on. There’s been a lot of good stories about soldiers that are available to tell in the current day. Looking at the medium, people play videogames today. It used to be you’d read books, and then you’d go to the movies, then eventually television, and videogames is another way to get stories across and it’s the medium of the day. We thought it was worth telling those stories.

I think, again, it was trying to stay out of all the politics. There’s been a lot of really good movies – the Gotham Awards just came out and Hurt Locker was the top one. It has nothing to do with the war in Iraq and why it started, or anything else – it’s just about the men on the ground, what they go through on a day-to-day basis, and their emotions. That’s where we wanted to stay. It’s just about the men on the ground. We never talk about the politics, how this all got started, how it fits into the geo-political world – that’s not the story we’re trying to tell. It’s not going to be a big propaganda piece where we wave the flag, or anything like that. It’s literally about the people that’re on the ground.How did you get the support of the Tier One Operators?The Medal of Honor franchise is lucky in that it started off with a good relationship with the military, and because we’ve stayed true to the stories and to what has actually happened, we were able to talk to them and get good co-operation from different government agencies and branches of the military. So when we came to them again and said that we wanted to tell a different story – not one that happened 50 years ago, but one that’s a little more relevant to today – they were very accommodating to us, and we’ve kept that same respect that we’ve always had. It’s been a good relationship, so it probably wasn’t as hard as if we were a brand new game that came out, and said “Hey, we’d like to do this.” They probably would’ve looked at us a little differently at that point.How different was it to move the franchise into the modern day?I think you really have to think about it differently. Today, there’s no such thing, really, as frontlines, and entire nations going to war. It’s much more fluid than that and it’s much more confusing, and we tried to build that in. You have a lot of different people fighting in areas from high mountaintops to the middle of cities, and it’s hard for a lot of people to tell who’re the friends and who’re the enemies, and there are a lot of different tactics being used. I mean, the number one today is the IED. That’s the biggest killer of Coalition troops today – not something you would really have thought about in a World War II game. So those are things we had to take into consideration when making the game.How realistic will the game be?I think that there are certain things that you have to forgive – whether it’s a movie, a game, TV, a book – that the medium isn’t quite good at getting it across. If you were a sniper and you were doing a realistic re-enactment of being a sniper today, you would probably spend 30 hours sitting, waiting, and watching people go by. Not necessarily something that people would want to play a game about or watch a movie about. Great for a description, though, in a book. That’s something that you could easily talk about and get a real feeling of how it is to sit there, and the hours of boredom, and heat, and bugs, and “I can’t move” and so on and so forth, but other mediums don’t lend themselves to that. I think that’s one of the things that you have to do with movies and TV and so on. I think that with games, for us, that’s one of the things that we had to do in that place. There’s going to be a feature that you’ll learn about later on that kind of plays more towards that realism when it comes to your health and things like that, but we’ll talk about that later.As you’re using the Frostbite engine, can we expect destructible buildings?I think you’ll be able to see destructible environments in multiple places, both in the multiplayer and some in the single-player as well.How do things work with the Tier One Operators? Do you take all of their opinions immediately into account, or…?I think it’s more of a conversation. If you get a feeling that people are against doing something, then we take that into consideration and in most cases we wouldn’t do that, and then in other cases they’re fine with certain things. It’s a relationship and in any relationship there’s give and take, and in good relationships we listen to each other, so that’s what we’ve done.Let’s talk about EA for a moment, being that you’re the general manager of EALA. How have this changed for publishers in the past few years? We’ve seen a massive rise in digital distribution, PC retail sections are shrinking…I think it’s more adjusting to where the consumer wants to consume games, and so it’s moving a bit away from packaged goods. Packaged goods are by no means dead, but at the same time, people play games on their iPhones now, and people play games on the PC but they didn’t buy it in a store – they downloaded it. I think it’s more about us adjusting where we deliver our games to the customer, but also at the price point the customer is looking for. So instead of looking for a full game at $60 USD, they’re looking for a smaller game, but at a smaller price as well. I think those are the adjustments that you’re seeing EA make, both in changes to staff, but also purchases that EA’s making.

I think in the last generation – the PS2 and the Xbox – when there was a different look at videogames and a different consumer, almost, where it was more specialised, that in order to draw in more customers you really needed that movie title with the big marketing budget and so on. Today, there are so many people that just play videogames to play videogames, and love them, and know about the different franchises, that it’s sometimes not as effective to have that movie title that you had before. I think also that a lot of movie games, honestly, have gotten a bad reputation when it comes to the quality, and it just seems like an add-on. At the same time, some of EA’s biggest franchises in the past have been both Lord of the Rings games as well as the Harry Potter games. There is definitely a place for it but the game has to fit well, not only with the movie, but also with the audience for the movie. You want to have that person go and see the movie, and at the same time say “I want to extend my experience, and I’m a gamer, and so this is one way I can get that.” So it has to be a fit, I think, on both sides.How do you actually go about getting these movie tie-ins, then? For Harry Potter, do you talk to the film license holder, or JK Rowling, or…?Securing big titles is very complicated. [Laughs] A lots of people have different rights, and are you looking for the rights for a movie? Are you looking for the rights for the book? Who owns the rights? And so on and so forth. EA is aggressive at looking at different properties throughout the world at any given time, but at the same time it’s extremely selective, and so are the people who are looking to give out the rights for whatever they may own as well. It’s extremely complicated and there’s both give and take. EA pursues some people, some people pursue EA.Let’s take a step back for a moment. You’re new to EALA, correct?I got here eight months ago, fresh from Battlefield and Battlefield 1943 and Mirror’s Edge, and now we’ve got Medal of Honor here, and Command & Conquer, and a couple of other games we’re working on.Mirror’s Edge was a rather spectacular game, and it was good to see EA take a chance on something like that… One of the great things about EA is that EA is open to new ideas. Mirror’s Edge was a brand new idea and a brand new IP and I think that, again, EA’s totally open to innovation. But at the same time we’re careful about what we put out. It’s got to go through a lot of testing and looking at, seeing whether we can deliver a good game. There’s a tonne of ideas floating around EA right now and a lot of people working on ideas and prototypes. Some of them see the light of day, some of them don’t – just like in the movie industry, or the TV industry, or books, or scripts, or whatever else.EA is releasing both Medal of Honor and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, both of which are military-focused first-person shooters set in the real world. Do you think that the games are going to be competing with each other, or do you think they’re sufficiently different?I think there’s enough separation between Medal of Honor and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, both in time and in tone. Having worked on both franchises and seen and worked with both teams, they have different ideas of first-person shooters, especially in the tone and how you play, and also the pacing of the game. Medal of Honor is really more of a… I’d put it as a CNN type of feel. It’s much more, again, about authenticity, and about today. Bad Company and the Battlefield franchise has never really tried to take itself too seriously, and has built itself – Bad Company especially – around a completely fictionalised world. At the same time, it tries to be hard-edge when it comes to the actual combat in the game. I think there’s some good separation between the two. A lot of different companies out there have multiple shooters and can find some good space for them, and I think EA will as well.{PAGE TITLE=IGTV Medal Of Honor Interview Page 2}Greg Goodrich, executive producer of Medal of HonorIncGamers: Tell us about Medal of Honor!Greg: Goodrich: We’ve moved out of World War II. Medal of Honor has always been in that war; it’s always been a World War II game, so with this reset of the franchise we’ve decided to move it into modern times. It’s a new war, a new enemy, and a new warrior.

The Tier 1 Operator has really come into their own in this conflict and we’re honoured to have had the access to the people we’ve had access to, and we’re really focusing our character story, our narrative, on them and on the soldier, and the respect for the soldier, and honouring the soldier, and really going deep into that. It’s about that. It’s about small-unit tactics; it’s about small-unit methods and procedures, but we also have big army. Big military, I should say, is also in the game. The two units – the two sides – the sledgehammer and the scalpel, cannot work independently of each other. They require each other and depend on each other, and we’re showcasing both of those in Medal of Honor.How did you get the support of the military and the Tier One Operators when developing this? Were you taken seriously, despite this project being a videogame?It’s a videogame but it’s a very relevant medium, and the story we want to tell is a compelling story, and the way we reach our audience is in this medium. As far as getting access to the people and the groups that we’ve had access to, it’s absolutely unprecedented. It started out at a very basic level – when you want to work with the military, you go to the public affairs office and you ask them for access, and you get access to a certain type of individual and group, and that moves on. But I think what they’ve seen is that we really do mean what we say in the sense of we want to honour the soldier and respect what they do, and we want to show that. As time went on – as I said, we’ve met with the regular footsoldier, we’ve met with pilots, we’ve met with an Apache squadron. As things went on, we gained more and more trust, and there was a moment where we got an introduction to an individual who talked about these units, these Tier 1 Operators, who made an introduction for us. They came out, and we just gained more and more trust, and the further we went, the more and more confident and relaxed they became with us, and they allowed us to really dive into their world.But the cool thing about it is they’ve been very open and very honest, and this is also a place for them to make sure we’re doing it right, and we’re doing what we say and with the right intent and the right tone. Because with those guys, they have absolutely 100% editorial control, meaning that if we go anywhere or we do anything that cuts too close to home or reveals something that they don’t want out there, we’ll take it out. Furthermore, we’ve had things that we’ve wanted to do that we just naturally assumed we shouldn’t do, and they’re like, “No, go ahead.” It’s out there and it’s known, and they’ve said “By the way, you can do it this way,” and that sort of thing. It’s helped both ways, and it’s really refined and honed the product into something really special, I think. One of our competitive advantages, if you will, is having access to these guys and having access to this community that is, like I said, pretty unprecedented. But it’s a heavy burden. If we mess that up, that goes away and we’ve lost it. I lose sleep at night, our designers lose sleep at night, our creative director… we all lose sleep at night because we all just want to make sure we get it right. We want to be absolutely, 100% positively sure that we do not do anything that betrays their trust and what they’ve been giving us so far.Can we expect all sorts of different weapons and controllable vehicles and the like? What sort of hardware are going to get to play with?It’s a shooter, first and foremost – Medal of Honor has always been a first-person shooter, and that’s what it will remain – but the things they do, and the type of equipment and weapon systems and vehicles that they’re exposed to and that they have access to is pretty cool, and obviously we want to explore that. But also, since we do have big military in the game, you will see Apaches, and you will be behind the stick in an Apache. You’ll be on ATV All-Terrain Vehicles. There’s a lot of different infil and insertion methods that these guys use, and we’re going to allow the player to insert that way into a mission in the game as well. There’s a lot of really, really cool stuff in regards to vehicles, equipment, and hardware that we’re exploring.

At this point we have our narrative and the story sort of dictates what equipment and hardware and weapons systems we’ll be using, and so when we were first starting out and designing and working on our storyboard… I like to always say “You have to design 300% of the game to make sure you get 100% in the box.” So in that process of filtering it down and whittling it down into the 100%, we’ve naturally focused in on the tasty bits – the cool pieces of hardware and weapon systems. So there’s a wide variety and we’re pretty excited about what we’ve come up with.

When you play the big military, it’s going to feel big military, because they have a certain look, a certain movement style, certain weapons systems. In the general military, they’re issued equipment, and that’s the equipment they used. At the Tier 1 level, they get to choose what they use. To us, it’s been fascinating that every one of these guys that we’ve had in here all have different likes and dislikes. One guy will dress this way and use this system; another guy will do this; one guy will hold it this way or have a holster this way… and they’re all different, because they’re so highly specialised and they have their choice and what they’re comfortable with, and what they become naturally accustomed to. It’s been really, really cool, so we’re getting the best of both worlds in the game.So you’ve been dealing with more people than just the Tier 1 Operators?We’ve met with all branches of the military. We’ve met with a wide variety of people. Men, women, airmen, seamen, army, infantry… we’ve met with so many people at every different level. We’ve had a general in here looking at our game and giving us feedback. So everyone has a different experience. We’ve naturally honed in and we’ve naturally focused on the Tier 1 Operator, but there still is a lot of the other personalities and characters and stories that come across, based on the access to the general military that we’ve had. Like I said, it’s been impressive. I’ve never seen anything like it, to have this much access.How’s the multiplayer coming along, and how is it having a different team working on that? Is it difficult to put the two together?The way that we’re approaching this is that the team here in Los Angeles is focusing on single-player. The team in Sweden is focusing on the multiplayer. The great thing about that is that we get to focus on what we do best, they get to focus on what they do best. Naturally, there are going to be things that crossover and things so that we make sure they don’t feel like two completely separate products, but as I like to say, it’s like chocolate and peanut butter – two great tastes that go great together – so naturally we’re going to focus on the things that we love and the things that we’re good at. Developers sometimes tend to do that anyway, and then the other half of the product becomes a second thought. If it’s a great single-player team, that experience will be great, and multiplayer will be an afterthought. They still do it, but it’s not as good. It happens the other way, too. Some teams are just really strong in multiplayer and single-player becomes an afterthought. The great thing about this is we get to concentrate on one thing here in Los Angeles, they get to concentrate on another in Sweden, and we put those two together and hopefully get a whole lot of good stuff in one box. As far as persistence goes, and how the two products come together and what’s shared between them, we’re not quite ready to talk about yet. But naturally, there will be things that are crossed over between the two sides of the coin here, and we’re really, really excited.Can we expect to say plenty of old Medal of Honor features making reappearances, or is the fact that this is a reboot going to get rid of a lot of these things?Nowadays there are certain things that a first-person shooter player expects, and we want to make sure that we’re doing something that they’re accustomed to, and what we like and what our fans like. There are also things that the Medal of Honor player expects; things that have been in this franchise since its infancy. Peek and lean is something that has always been in Medal of Honour, and we’ll keep that, so even though we’re moving on into a new war, a new enemy, and a new warrior, there are certain things that will remain, independent of what the timeframe is and who the enemy is.The Frostbite engine supports destructible terrain, and buildings, and environments. Can we expect these things?In the multiplayer side, destructible terrain is what they do; it’s what their technology does. In the single-player game, environments will be destroyed. [Grins] I’ll say that. I won’t confirm if you’ll be destroying them or not, but again, this is a game about warfare. We’re in a place that’s very diverse and there’s destruction that happens in our game.

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