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EXCLUSIVE: Medal of Honor: Warfighter dev discusses the dangers of too much realism, and the birth of the new game

Earlier this month EA and Danger Close unveiled what will certainly be one of the year’s blockbuster hits, Medal of Honor: Warfighter. There is no denying that the industry has more than a few first-person shooters on market. You could try counting them all, but odds are you your attempt would end in tears, and more continue to be introduced. But among the sea of games int he genre, few have the clout and name recognition that the Medal of Honor franchise wields. 

During a stage show at GDC, the developers discussed several of the things that make the revamped Medal of Honor franchise unique among the current flood of shooters on the market. Some of the highlights were the the Frostbite 2.0 engine’s graphical prowess, the use of real anti-terrorist groups from around the world, and the inclusion of missions based on current events around the world. 

The game prides itself on realism, so much so that the developers have relied heavily on real life Special Operatives to do more than just offer the odd piece of advice–one of them even helped write the manuscript to the game.  Danger Close and EA even went so far as to introduce two of them on stage. Known only as Kevin and Tyler, they expounded the idea that the game was as real as gamers would want it to be.

Check out our first look of Medal of Honor: Warfighter here.

We got the chance to speak with Danger Close’s Senior Creative Director, Richard Farrelly, about where the line between realism and fun ends, as well as several other details regarding the game that hits stores on October 25, 2012.

For the 2010 Medal of Honor DICE handled the multiplayer, but Danger Close is doing everything in house for Warfighter.

Yes we are.

What can you tell me about the multiplayer?

We’re using it as a vehicle to honor the multinational Tier 1 groups that we didn’t mention in the last game. We wanted to say “hey, this isn’t just an American-centric thing, there are Tier 1 groups all over the world.” And what better way to have them represented than by 12 of the best units in the worlds from 10 nations, in our multiplayer.

The other thing is Blue on Blue playlists. In addition to all the other cool things we have in multiplayer that I’m not talking about, we have this thing called Blue on Blue playlists. Who’s the best of the best—Its where Navy SEALs and Army guys can go head to head and see who is best, for bragging rights.

So will the multiplayer follow the style set by the last game and feature modes from the Battlefield games, like Rush and Conquest?

I can’t talk about that. We’ll save that for E3.

The manuscript was written by the former Special Ops member known as Kevin. Did you already know the story you wanted to tell, or did Kevin point you in a certain direction?

It’s an interesting story. We were talking to Kevin for a long time, we’ve known him for a while and he helped us out with the last game. We knew we were going to make this game while we were working on the last game, so we started sowing the seeds early on by having some of our characters appear early on. We really wanted to build this universe with this rich world from the get-go, and start establishing characters like Voodoo, Mother, and Preacher, so they meant more to players later on.

Having that base of the manuscript that Kevin wrote, in addition to just looking at what is going on in the world right now—specifically this renewed threat of explosives. I mean, there are guys putting bombs in their shoes and their underwear, sending printer toner cartridges all over the place, car bombs, and all kinds of stuff going on. We got to thinking, where does this stuff come from and who makes this stuff? So we pulled from that and created this story thread—it’s like a detective story. Our guys are chasing down where this stuff comes from so they can stop it before it gets to where it is going to cause damage.

So there is a single, overarching narrative?

It is a story based on a global threat. One thing we’re doing on this one that we’re really excited about—the main character, is Preacher from the last game. The last game was all about the sacrifice that these guys make for their brothers sitting next to them in the trenches. It is all about the things they do for each other. It is all about that moment in battle. Talking to these guys [Real Tier 1 members], we realized there was more to it than that. A lot of these guys are married and have kids. They leave their spouses for 300 days a year, so there is a lot that is going on in their heads. There is battle they fight at home.

There was a teaser shown earlier where a solider is explaining to his wife that he has to leave, and she is obviously not happy about it…

Right. That’s kind of a teaser for that aspect of the story that we are going to tell. He’s coming home from war, things aren’t going so well with his wife. He tries to get out, but they keep pulling him back in because all the bad stuff starts happening. It’s all about that kind of personal struggle they have.

Danger Close has been working closely with real life Special Forces members, people that have a personal view the fighting from the ground. But what do the higher up brass think of the game? Do they like it or is it maybe too real?

I’m not sure, that’s above my pay grade [laughter]. I think they would probably be ok with it because of the way we approach the material and how respectful we are about it. I think we proved that from the last game. We earned a lot of trust from the guys that we worked with, and that was a longtime coming, earning their trust, knowing that we were going to portray them in the appropriate way.

So where do you draw the line between too realistic and fun?

That’s a good question. We’re not making a simulator. There are other games that do that and they do it really well. We’ll leave that to them. For us, it is about gameplay and fun, because that’s what it is, it’s an action shooter. But I think what makes us different is the tone and really trying to strive for that level of authenticity—to make you feel like you are one of these guys and still have the ability to run and gun “shoot the man gameplay.” It’s what you want with this gameplay, but we wrap that with a very immersive, authentic story line. Just the chatter, the weaponry, the way they move, all of that is stuff we’ve gleaned from being able to work with all of these great operators.

Tyler [a Special Forces member working on the game] is an avid gamer, so he’s able to look at it from both sides. “This is how we would do it, but that’s boring. So here’s how I think you could do it.” And then we work out the fun way to do it. So we would come up to them and say, “Hey man, what would you say in this situation?” And they would say “We wouldn’t say anything. We already know what we are going to do and we have a plan.” It’s little things like that. And it’s very challenging, and it’s very hard not to do the go-to “let’s blow it up.” Sometimes you have to rein it in.

The last few years have seen some major releases all grouped close together at the end of the year, and this year is no different. Along with Warfighter, there will be a new Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed III, and plenty of others. Is that something you are really even aware, or are you just focused on the development and getting the game out?

Form a business standpoint, yeah, sure, we’re aware of it and we’re striving to be the very best we can be and show up in the marketplace like we did last time. I think the last Medal of Honor sold something like 6 million units, which I think is the bestselling Medal of Honor. So we are really proud of that, and I think it will just get better from there. Frostbite 2 is great. The team has now gelled. We’re on our second game together now. We’re doing the multiplayer in house now , so we have this singular focus on the game—one engine, one team. So I think it is going to be even better.

It is hard not to see a rivalry with Call of Duty. Is that something you guys are aware of?

I respect them as developers, and I used to work on that franchise a long time ago. I know a lot of the guys, and they know a lot of our guys. It’s small, the shooter community. People get around. I love the stuff they make. I think our stuff is different, and I think there is room for everybody in the marketplace.

Is there any one thing you are most excited for fans to experience when they get their hands on the game in October?

I just think that it looks breathtaking. The things that the Frostbite technology can do, the scale of things we can do, and just the level detail we can get into is beyond anything I’ve ever done in my career.

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