At Ubidays in Paris last week, Gearbox Software's resident military hard nut Colonel John Antal took to the stage to tell us all why upcoming WW2 shooter Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is full of Hooah. Which is all well and good. But we thought we'd catch up with main man Randy Pitchford to quiz him on the game's delay, differences between the two console versions and making sure the game's authentic enough for Nick, our resident war expert and co-star of The VideoGamer Show.
VideoGamer.com: Still definitely on for an August release?
Randy Pitchford: Yes. We are in baby! We are landing this plane! We're just trying to keep her held together as we come in. We're looking at August. It's looking good. We've got 300-400 issues left in our queue, we're fixing about 200 a week, we're finding about 50. But it's looking good. We are here baby. We finally made it!
VideoGamer.com: How does it feel to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel?
RP: It's awesome and scary as hell! We've been working on this thing for a long time. The guys work so hard and they care. All of us we spend so much time on this stuff. The guys that work on this game they put so much of their hearts and souls in. My greatest wish is that they're gratified by the result. They feel pride, people like what we've all created and we make enough where we can keep going and do another one even better. That's what I wish for.
And the game feels good. It's impossible for me to be objective but from my seat man we've got something special here and I'm really proud of it. I've made a few games in my career so it's starting to get easier for me to predict what's going to happen but you never can. I don't want to be too cocky so I'm scared as hell. You know I'm scared as hell! But I like the fear, it means we're ready.
VideoGamer.com: It's been delayed a few times, what was the primary reason behind that?
RP: The thing is we've never announced a release date. We have a vision that we're trying to build. I understand every time there's been a preview or every time somebody at our great partners at Ubisoft need to communicate with the retailers, and there's always that blank they have to fill in, the release date blank, and they do the best they can to guess based on how we're feeling. And there has been a lot of uncertainty because we've invented a lot in this game. Whenever you're inventing it's like Edison when he came up with the light bulb, he knew that if he ran electricity through that filament that it was going to make light but I'm pretty sure at the beginning he didn't realise it was going to take him 98 prototypes before he figured out exactly how to get it marketable. So we knew what we wanted to do and we knew we could do it but there's been a bit of uncertainty in places where we've invented new technology and new features that really haven't been done before.
And so we've committed to what we wanted to do which means, 'hey, I'm sorry about your fiscal quarter but we're trying to make a game that we want to make'. I love Ubisoft as a partner because they've been so patient with us and so flexible as we've made the game that we really wanted to make.
VideoGamer.com: So it's got nothing to do with the PS3 version then?
RP: Oh no. We've got all three versions in here and they're all looking good. You can play the PS3 version, the 360 and PC version and they're all awesome. The amount of time that we've spent is because we're super committed to doing what we wanted to do and fulfilling our vision. And some percentage of what we were trying to do is hard to predict. But we're landing now so we're good.
VideoGamer.com: Will there be any differences between the versions when it finally comes out?
RP: Yeah there's always differences between each platform. They're the same game. So if you are, say an Xbox 360 gamer you're going to want our 360 version because we've got the Achievements in there, we know what the 360 controller is all about and we're tuned to that, we understand Marketplace and some things we might come with later after it comes out.
If you're a PlayStation gamer you're going to like the PlayStation version better because you like the way the controller feels, you like interfacing with the PlayStation Network and that's going to feel like a more natural experience for you. Same with the PC. When you get online with the multiplayer game on the PC it feels like a PC server browser situation. So each platform respects what each platform is supposed to be. But it's the same game. You're not going to have a totally different game on each platform.
VideoGamer.com: Have you managed to get graphical parity between the two console versions?
RP: Yeah. There are subtle differences but they're pretty close. Most people won't be able to tell the difference. The hardcore technophiles will be able to see things. Some people say 'hey you know the colours on the PS3 version they're a little more vibrant' or other folks say 'man on that 360 version I'm seeing a little more interest in some of these atmospheric effects with the pixel shaders'. Most gamers, they don't see those differences. We do. We care about them. We use the hardware as best as we can for what that hardware is good at. PC with a crazy ass machine with DX10, you're not going to beat it, but that's what you pay for you know? You got to pay a lot of money for that kind of hardware.
VideoGamer.com: The game uses Unreal Engine 3. How have you found developing with it?
RP: Unreal Engine 3 is awesome. It's the same engine that powers Gears of War. It's great technology. We have a lot of really hardcore technology guys at Gearbox and they'd love to write their own engine but they know every minute they'd spend doing that they couldn't be making our game better and they couldn't be optimising for what we're specifically trying to do. Epic does such a great job we don't have to worry about millions of lines of code we don't have to write. They've written great code there. They're such a great technology company because they support their technology. Since we've licensed it, since Gears of War came out, they've created a lot of new things, they've invested in the technology, it's faster, it does more, and so we've been able to get that. And we've done our own things on top. We've added a lot of technology that we created. Some of our programmers, some of our hardcore technology guys have optimised to get more speed here or to create a better graphical outcome with shadows or lighting here or there. And so the sum of all of Epic's reinvestment in the technology and them giving us that stuff and our own reinvestment, the sum of that means we're actually higher fidelity than Gears of War. So we're able to create a better image using their technology because of that extra investment they put into it. And that's why it's really nice to work with tech guys like that. And I've used a lot of different engines in my time, but I'm very impressed with the technology and I'm very happy to be using it.
VideoGamer.com: Moving away from the tech side of things, Nick our video producer is a WW2 re-creator...
RP: No way! We gotta hang out dude!
VideoGamer.com: He likes to dress up in all the gear and he knows his stuff. Will Nick be impressed by how authentic the game is?
RP: We got a lot of hardcore WW2 guys. We got a group of different friends of ours and friends of the Colonel's, we went out to Zavala, Texas, and these guys are amazing. We went out with two squads, a squad of American paratroopers and a squad of German soldiers, fully decked out in all authentic gear, with the weapons. We did audio recordings, video recordings, we shot all the weapons with high speed film, too, so it captures 4,000 frames per second, so we could see even the metal warping when the round explodes in the chamber. We got all the movement down so we could animate it all right and see here's how the guys get into position and set up their MG.. Now anyone who is on an insane expert level, you're going to find little niggly things. It isn't real life, it is a video game. But in the spectrum of all the video games we go way farther in authenticity than everybody else.
But even still there's going to be things here and there that people find when they're really looking for them. And it's kind of fun to find those things. I remember when I watched Terminator 2 and I was so excited when I caught the RV coming off the bridge and I saw the glass smash out and the next shot he's in there and the glass is back. Sometimes you catch little things like that. But it's kind of fun. When you catch them that's when you know you know a lot. But we've done our homework, we've invested in it.
VideoGamer.com: Are there any surprises you're holding back on what you haven't talked about?
RP: Whenever we talk about the game and what people love about Brothers in Arms is this immersive, narrative action experience where you become one of these guys and you're playing with the squad in this event. These events are so intense. This backdrop, the story of Market Garden is such an intense dramatic backdrop. So that tends to be the focus. But there's also this really fun competitive multiplayer game there and we haven't really talked about. But it's really cool. We're playing it a lot in the office. You can play with 20 people. I get up to 16-player skirmishes in Halo so 20 people, these are bigger skirmishes. It's a different kind of game. You're not going to play free for all deathmatch kind of stuff. It's about squad combat. You get sorted into squads. One of you is going to be the leader and you can give commands or call in artillery. The others are going to be in a fire team or an assault team and you're going to work together. It's kind of like playing the PC game Counter Strike. It's very tactical, fast rounds, really hardcore. We like this kind of stuff. We're able to go that way because we know that most people are playing it because of the single-player narrative experience and so we're able to make a game that's kind of fun for us that we're going to have fun with. And I think there's going to be a lot of people that look at it because it's different than anything that's out there on the consoles. But we're not doing what everybody else does. You know, here's your team deathmatch and your deathmatch and your CTF and 16 players, go for it. We're not doing that. We're doing something that's very true to what the Brothers in Arms promise is all about. We haven't really talked about it and I think it's pretty neat and I think some folks are going to have fun with us playing online.
VideoGamer.com: So the multiplayer will be a surprise for many Brothers in Arms fans?
RP: I think so, for two reasons. One, because it's so different than what you'd expect. And two, because it's different to what we've done in the past with Brothers in Arms. That might backfire. People might go 'what are you doing? You should have just copied Halo or CoD and done that!' and it's like, come on people, give me a break, we're trying to do something we haven't had before.
VideoGamer.com: Are you guys likely to do a demo?
RP: Yeah we do have plans for a demo. We haven't actually specifically decided which thing, which bit of the gameplay we're going to put in the demo yet. We're going to do it. I don't know if it will come out before the launch or not. It might not, it might come after. We'll see. But we're going to give a demo, because there are some people who really want to check things out before they buy. But our priority is making the best game we can. We've had Brothers in Arms games before, people know what the brand is about. In general we've got a reasonable amount of trust. There's a lot of people who know that they want the game and they're just tired of waiting and they want us to get it out as soon as possible so we're focusing on that. But there are some other folks who might be new to us, they don't know if they should trust us yet or maybe they haven't played a Brothers in Arms game before. We'll get around to a demo for them and we've got it in our plans for that.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks very much for your time.