We talk to game director Quinn Duffy about why the best RTS series in the world is moving to a new front.
It’s about time Relic stopped fiddling around with all that Warhammer nonsense and tackled something that is considerably more real. Only for Company of Heroes 2, they aren’t simply retreading the historically authentic ground they forged with the first game, oh no! Instead they’re tackling one of the most criminally underused settings in all of gaming, the Eastern Front and seeking to produce one of the most authentic WW2 RTS experiences to date., with a new engine, improved visuals and an intriguing new movement system which sees soldiers get bogged down when travelling through snow. We caught up with game director, Quinn Duffy to ask what makes this sequel so special…
Quinn Duffy, Game Director: That’s been important for us from the very beginning; capturing the right tone and authenticity. It isn’t about being super accurate on armour thickness or bolts, it’s really about what the context was and how things felt at the time.
GamerZines: Do you think Company of Heroes 2 tackles the Eastern Front in a way that hasn’t been done before?
Quinn Duffy: To a degree, yeah. Our narrative has a really interesting story to tell and I think there’s been some great recent works on the Eastern Front. Anthony Beaver’s books for instance, he’s a fantastic author and he explores the setting in great detail. What I love about what he does is that he’s able to relate story of the frontline troops to a global, strategic level – that’s something we want to capture in this game as well.
GamerZines: History as a discipline is moving towards covering things from a social standpoint rather than grand theatre narratives. Will there be any mention of the civilian side of the war?
Quinn Duffy: You can’t really tell the impact of the war without portraying everyone involved and we talk about the ruthless truth of war being unflinching There was an impact on the civilian population, and so these are themes that we’re exploring in the narrative. Our main character [a roaming reporter with links to Russian high-command] gives us the breadth of being able to go to different places and meet with different combatants ranging from command to the frontline. So we have quite a bit of breadth in the campaign, and hopefully players will be really interested in that side of things, so we can get them engaged more in the Eastern Front.
Quinn Duffy: Company of Heroes integrated in-game action sequences and cutscenes and one of the things that we don’t want to do is draw the player out of the experience, so the in-game custscenes and intro/outro cutscenes have a very unified look. They set the stage for the mission and provide the context which is a valuable reason for having these cinematics. The game itself captures a lot of emotion, and we use the cinematics to put certain concepts across.
GamerZines: Obviously there’s a wealth of real life footage out there actually showing battles from the Eastern Front, do you guys have any plans to utilise it?
Quinn Duffy: There’s always a sort of a emotional split I think from an interactive experience and an non-interactive one and so we want to keep those things as tightly linked as possible visually. We can use documentary footage as an extra layer players can explore, but what we want them to do is really get engaged and immersed in the game.
GamerZines: Will documentary footage be used as a between mission thing, or perhaps footage which is accessible from the menu as you complete missions?
Quinn Duffy: There’s a number of things that we’ve been exploring, and we’ll talk about them more at a later date.
Quinn Duffy: We aren’t talking much about multiplyer at this point, but we do have it. We’re investing a lot of time and energy in it because that’s what our fans expect and what we want to deliver. Relic has a long tradition of supporting multiplayer, we’ll be talking a lot about our multiplayer offerings in the future. Expect asymmetrical armies and us really trying to capture the tone and the essence of these combatants. You saw some of the units and they’re all part of the every aspect of the game – multiplayer is really important to us.
GamerZines: During the gameplay demo there were certain moments where control was taken away from the player to show key moments, and story events including a time when the general turned the gun on his own troops. Is that indicative of the campaign as a whole?
Quinn Duffy: Those sorts of things like order 227 [Soviet generals being authorised to shoot their own troops to prevent soldiers from retreating] is a way for us to introduce a concept to the player that’s really dramatic and they kind of think, ‘Whoa okay now I understand how to fight for the next X missions’. We present it to the player, like a little bit of a tutorial. The tone of what you’re doing has now now changed and you need to adapt to that. From that point on it actually becomes part of a game mechanic.
Tags: Company of Heroes 2
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