Thq’s upcoming shooter homefront examines the possibility of a united states occupied by a unified korea. Game console chatted with the team at kaos studios to find out what’s behind this intriguing premise and how they hope to shake up the shooter scene.
Could you please briefly explain, in your own words, the premise of Homefront and what you’re hoping to achieve with it?
David Votypka, creative director, KAOS Studios: From the very beginning, the goal with the game was always to create and present a vision of ‘occupied USA’. [We were] inspired by seeing that idea back in the ‘80s from watching Red Dawn: the idea of the world’s biggest superpower, whose citizens have always known a life of comfort and freedom, are now subject to oppression, was a very interesting premise to explore.
In doing so, we based the premise on the ‘what if’ question of: "what if the US was occupied? What would it be like to experience that future?” So we’ve taken the all-familiar American nation and way of life, and we’ve applied the themes of occupation as well as post energy crisis and post-EMP existence. The result is something we describe by the phrase "the familiar has become alien”. The America that we’re all familiar with, either by living there or via TV and movies, has now been drastically changed, and we’ve found that the results are very interesting to create and explore in Homefront’s game world.
We also strived to represent much more than just the military perspective of the occupation. What makes Homefront different is that it explores the civilian plight of this future scenario, and our goal and hope is that our scenario, presented from the perspective of the everyday citizen, strikes a chord that doesn’t get plucked in other contemporary shooters.
With Medal of Honor and Six Days in Fallujah receiving flak for "insensitivity” (with the former altering content and the latter cancelling development altogether), are you anticipating any pressure about the nature and content of Homefront?
Jeremy Greiner, community manager, KAOS Studios: You know, we get asked this question all the time and, in the end, we are only asked this question. What we did with Homefront is write a speculative fiction piece in order to create the world of an occupied America and tell that story. We looked at the world today, did a tonne of research, worked with amazing people, and created a rich fiction to bring our idea to life.
And, that’s what it is: fiction. Homefront is not modeled after an existing war; it’s a "what if” scenario and series of unlikely events that result in a dark and twisted America, far different from how we recognise her today. It’s a unique and immersive story that derives emotion from gamers, bringing something new to the table.
From my hands-on session a while back, it became clear that Call of Duty players will feel right at home with Homefront’s control scheme. Was this part of the plan? And is this the audience that you’re trying to capture with Homefront?
The control mapping is 100% intentional; we want Homefront to be intuitive the moment you grab a controller. "Low barrier to entry” is a term you hear often in gaming, and you achieve that with intuitive controls, especially on the console side. A lot of attention has not only gone into the infantry side of things, but also into piloting vehicles in our game. It’s one of those issues that has plagued the large-scale space for years: you know how to run, but not how to fly. In Homefront, it’s a natural and seamless experience; the controls do what you "think” they should do – a breath of fresh air. And what’s great, practice makes perfect so you can get better as you play.
Basically, we decided early on not to spend our time re-inventing the wheel, but rather putting our innovation focus on the areas where we really wanted the product to be different.
What does Homefront feature that separates it from the pack of contemporary shooters?
Great question. When it comes to multiplayer, it’s easy to see what’s different. We just spoke about making vehicle controls intuitive to deal with legacy issues in the genre, but we’ve done more. Through the implementation of our Battle Points system, we’ve been able to introduce the Spawn-in-Vehicle Mechanic. It’s awesome: no more waiting for vehicles to appear or rushing them off the spawn. Now, you earn Battle Points any time you do an action to help your team win. One option with spending your hard-earned Battle Points is in purchasing vehicles directly from the spawn screen. Now you have to earn your ride, which implements an inherent sense of value and ownership towards it. No more glorified taxis, no more ‘three guys jumping up and down waiting for a tank to appear’, no more of that, period. You buy what you want, when you want. Of course, that’s just one feature of many on the MP side that we’ve brought to the table.
In addition to fresh features such as our drones, Battle Commander is an innovation we’re very excited about. Basically it’s an A.I. commander on each team that monitors player actions on the battlefield, and makes both allies and enemies aware of priority threats. For example, if an enemy sniper gets several kills in a row, the enemy commander will flag him as a priority threat to a small number of players on the opposite team. Those players/hunters will have Battle Points incentives and rewards if they take him out. At the same time, the sniper’s own commander recognises his value, and will provide various buffs to keep him alive. As the sniper racks up more kills, while being hunted, his threat level will rise. It begins at a one-star threat and increases to a maximum of five. A five-star priority threat player will have the entire enemy team assigned to take him out, but he will also get great buffs, battle-point rewards, and a high level of adrenaline and some bragging rights.
In a nutshell, this system does a few things that can get really exciting. First, it takes large-scale warfare and makes it personal. In a 32-player match there are now personalised engagements that are created based on various dynamic events. An individual kill streak is one; drones get on streaks, and players can even team up in vehicles and have their vehicle become a priority threat that also receives buffs to help the vehicle stay alive. It also extends to making spawn campers a priority threat, and a player that repeatedly kills you becomes your nemesis and provides you with a battle-point reward for taking that player out.
In Single Player, the answer is easy. Key differentiators we bring include our story and fiction: FPS gaming with emotion. We also bring some exciting gameplay mechanics like controlling the weapon systems of the one high-tech weapon that the Resistance has managed to acquire: Goliath. It’s an autonomous, six-wheeled combat vehicle, but the player controls its weapon systems. We like to think of Goliath as the player’s sidekick in the campaign. Honestly, there’s so much to the Homefront Universe that separates itself from the crowd, but it just has to be played to really get a feel for it.
It seems that the online multiplayer communities for all but a handful of the most well-established, blockbuster shooters wane after a month or two. Has Homefront’s multiplayer offering got staying power? Why?
We sure as heck hope so; that’s the goal! A lot of effort has gone into our Multiplayer experience and we are committed to building that out further. Even before release, DLC for Homefront has been confirmed to add new content and keep things fresh. We will be listening closely to the community post-ship and will work our tails off to not only identify matters, but address them when possible. Homefront MP has Challenges, unlocks, leveling up, etc; all the things you look for in a long-lasting, replayable FPS title.
What can you tell us about the multiplayer gametypes, maps and environments? And what weapons are players going to scramble for?
Homefront is all about large-scale warfare: Massive vehicle battles, infantry skirmishes, airstrikes and drone encounters all happening on large maps with high-intensity action. For the first time we have infantry-shooter-style intensity meeting large-scale vehicle warfare. You’ll see traditional game types like you’re accustomed to, but also killer ones like Ground Control and Battle Commander. The maps are large, but we’ve managed to keep the action intense and have players always in the midst of the battles. Our game types localise play and move the objective points in a dynamic battlefield that is always evolving. Games remain uniquely entertaining as a result, with plenty of weapons to choose from and a variety of Challenges and Unlocks.
My favorite is the SCAR Assault Rifle; couple that baby with an ACOG scope and it’s bad news for the guys firing back.
Tell us about the Battle Points system in multiplayer. And how do you expect this to affect the balancing of the game? For instance, will those who play more get a distinct advantage over those who don’t put as much time in?
The Battle Points system has been a resounding success since we first implemented it; it’s simply a ton of fun. We’ve mentioned "Low barrier to entry” previously, so the question of availability and advantage is a good one. Obviously, those who play more will be better, which is true in pretty much anything, right? However, we’ve helped address the "rich getting richer” by also focusing on team-based behaviours. You will also earn BP for capturing an objective and supporting your allies with strategies like marking targets with a recon drone. You then get BP rewards if/when your teammates get kills on those targets. Effectively, you could earn BP all day, even if your shot is horrid.
Overall, we wanted to promote team play and the BP system gives us a lot of flexibility to reward team-based behaviour without having to try and force players to do it. Also, in Battle Commander there’s a Hunter vs. Hunted relationship; the guys getting beat down also have something to play for. As the enemy Battle Commander promotes his ace up to a five-star threat level, the Battle Commander of the other team assigns additional hunters to help even the odds.
Is there anything that you can reveal to our readers about Homefront that you’re yet to disclose?
Keep an eye on our website (www.homefront-game.com), as there may be some totally awesome tools hitting the site when we ship ;) Also, if you’re interested in learning the back story of the Homefront universe in more detail, I highly recommend checking out the Homefront novel written by John Milius and Raymond Benson!