After going hands-on with the Medal of Honor: Warfigher single-player and being shouted at by some large men, I got a chance to sneak up to the solitude of the media room at the EB Games Expo, away from the hectic showroom floor, to have a chat with Warfighter’s Creative Director of Multiplayer, Kristoffer “Hoffe” Bergqvist.
Ben Salter: How do the real world Tier One soldiers influence the multiplayer in Medal of Honor: Warfighter?
Kristoffer Bergqvist: This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to make the multiplayer ourselves at [developer] Danger Close. In the previous game, it was outsourced to Dice. The first thing we did was sit down with the Tier One Operators and talk for hours and hours because we felt that as single-player is based on their real world stories, we wanted multiplayer to be too.
Then features started to happen from those early discussions. For instance, they spoke very highly of the International Operators they met when deployed and we felt that was a very cool idea -- that’s how we ended up with the 12 international units. Rather than only playing as American Navy SEALs you can play as Swedish SOG, Polish GROM or Australian SAS.
Speaking of the Australian SAS, EA brought us together a few weeks ago to put us through some real Warfighter training -- basically making us run a lot, which doesn’t bode well with games journalists. That was awesome from a marketing standpoint, but how closely have units like the SAS been involved in development?
Battlefield is the sledgehammer. It’s the big invasion scale battlefront full of tanks, helicopters and boats. We are the highly trained, motivated Tier One operators, fighting in close quarters, more man-to-man.
We worked extremely closely with the operators from all over the world. Our single-player story was written by operators. We’ve had different levels of involvement from each of the communities, including great support from both the British and Australian SAS. The ones we’ve had the most support from are the [US] Navy SEALs as well as the [Polish] GROM, who have been visiting us a lot.
The single-player is marketed as being based on real world events. Why is it important to be authentic like that?
Telling the real story of the operator, the real story of a soldier, is the core of Medal of Honor; we want to stay true to that. We also know it’s a great experience for the players. Our players want to use the real world tools, weapons and equipment of the real units out there. We take great pride in delivering exactly that -- if you see it in our game, it’s out there in the real world.
With that in mind, where do you draw the line between what is realistic and what is part of a video game?
One thing we learnt through developing Warfighter is that we very rarely have to make the choice between authentic and fun because more often than not they go hand-in-hand. For example, we were designing a claymore mechanic during development, because we wanted a sniper to be able to protect his back, and we weren’t happen with the traditional approach where you place it and if an enemy enters a small radius around it it goes ‘boom’.
So we sat down with our operators and they told us that they actually don’t use those anymore, they use something we call a Spider Mine. You throw it down on the ground and it fires out trip mines in all directions, which creates cool gameplay when you place it -- of course you need to be strategic about where you put it -- and when you encounter it. There you have a really fun tool that came directly out of authenticity.
Being so authentic, does that mean it’s a little bit more complicated than the average shooter for players who don’t have the existing knowledge about real world weapons?
We don’t think so. Being accessible has been a big thing for us from the start. We try and guide the player into the experience by suggesting a class and teaching them as they go along. I think the complexity of the gameplay shouldn’t come into figuring out how to use the tools, so we’ve tried to make that as straightforward as possible. The depth comes from how you use them, as well as End Game features, such as Platoon, which is our clan support.
Platoon is our version of clans, introduced in Battlefield 3. You get six guys together in your clan and then we matchmake you with another clan. You get together, battle it out and we have a ranking that goes up and down depending on your results. This all happens in Homerun, a game mode that we designed specifically for this End Game, pro level kind of shooting. I hope that the complexity of Warfighter happens there, where there’s a lot to explore once you’ve figured out the basic gameplay.
For Battlefield fans, how would you say that Warfighter is both unique and also similar to Battlefield?
We work a lot with the Battlefield guys, obviously using the same engine. We talk a lot about gameplay and we want a Battlefield player to feel at home when they’re playing Medal of Honor. But, of course, we can’t make Battlefield and that’s not what we want to do.
Battlefield is the sledgehammer. It’s the big invasion scale battlefront full of tanks, helicopters and boats. We are the highly trained, motivated Tier One operators, fighting in close quarters, more man-to-man -- that’s the big difference.
When I played at E3 the focus was on the buddy system, which is something very different, can you tell us a little bit about that?
The system with Fire Team Buddies also came from looking at how the Navy SEALs work together, they call them Swing buddies and develop a sixth sense for each other, and we felt that we really wanted to get that into the game.
You get paired up with one guy and you’re going to see if he needs health, if he’s low on ammo and what type of enemies he’s engaging. More importantly, there’s a spawn mechanic attached to this. If he goes down, you need to stay out of sight and out of combat for about 5 seconds before he can respawn safely. When he dies, you can see who killed him for a couple of seconds and if you hunt him down and kill him, your buddy will spawn instantly on you.
That’s the more aggressive take on respawning and creates a really interesting tempo shift in the gameplay where you gain a lot of ground fighting together, one goes down and you need to ensure you fix the situation to help him respawn before you push on. It really changes the core gameplay experience.
What’s going to happen if a veteran is paired up with an inexperienced player? Is that a disadvantage for the veteran?
Hopefully the veteran is going to help the newbie get better. We have a couple of really cool support actions called Score Streaks; the last one is a helicopter gunship which requires two players. If the more experienced player actives that, something the new guy couldn’t do, he can get his buddy in as the gunner. The more experienced player is flying and shooting missiles, and the other guy is manning the gun, which is a really cool experience for the veteran in the sense that ‘I’m helping you get better.’
How do you get paired up? Is it just random or do you have some control over it?
It’s random, when you join we assign one to you. But if you notice your friend is playing and you want to be with him we can matchmake you into the same server.
Any game utilising the Frostbite 2 Engine is always pushed on PC because it looks so amazing and console players sometimes feel they’re stuck with the inferior platform. Would you say that’s the case with Warfighter?
Medal of Honor is traditionally a console franchise and we’ve been working really hard on that, refining everything, especially when it comes to things like input lag, so it should perform just as well on consoles as it does on PC.
Finally, we’re at the EB Games Expo right now. How important is it for consumers to be able to experience a game for themselves before it comes out?
For me personally, it means the world to see them play it. We’ve worked really hard on the game for the past two years and to see them enjoy it so much really means a lot. I also think it’s a great opportunity for consumers to see that it’s not all marketing talk and the development team banging their own drum telling them how good it is. They can actually go hands-on and see how good it is for themselves, which is a great opportunity for them and a great experience for me.
Thanks for your time!
By Ben Salter