At EA's winter showcase event last week DICE's Patrick Liu took centre stage to reveal the first batch of downloadable content for the two-million-selling shooter Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor's downloadable content was announced after an interesting week for the Afghanistan FPS. First, EA executive Patrick Soderlund told Eurogamer that the Danger Close and DICE-developed title "didn't meet quality expectations". Then, in an investor call EA revealed a sequel is planned after sales success.
Now, with the dust settled on Medal of Honor's high-profile launch, we sit down with veteran DICE producer Liu to get some detail on the development of one of the most controversial games ever made.
Eurogamer: Take us through the recently released Medal of Honor downloadable content.
Patrick Liu: The stuff we've shown today is Clean Sweep, which is an elimination game mode. Once you die you don't respawn until the next round starts. It's still team based: there are two teams against each other. The first team to eliminate the other one wins the game. There's also a time limit, so you can't just hang around and camp. We have other mechanics in there to prevent camping, to flush out the campers, because otherwise it might happen.
Eurogamer: Is camping a big problem in Medal of Honor's multiplayer?
Patrick Liu: We have seen a lot of sniping on certain maps, the more open ones. We have released a patch on PC tweaking the spawn points on the maps and also how the sniping behaves. That helps a lot with how they play.
Clean Sweep we're releasing for free. Another one is Hot Zone, which is a king of the hill type game mode. Quite tight maps, one single objective: you just have to dominate it. Everyone runs towards each other and kills each other - very simple and very fun.
Both Clean Sweep and War Zone are out now for all three platforms.
Eurogamer: Clean Sweep is free and Hot Zone is paid for. Do you intend to keep providing free content as well as premium? What are your plans for Medal of Honor DLC?
Patrick Liu: We haven't made up those plans, to be honest. We will see how it turns out. We will definitely patch the game even further. We've already seen some feedback on the PC patch that was just released, and it's very positive. We're very happy about that – how the weapons behave and so on.
As player behaviour changes we'll patch the game accordingly. As for new content, there's nothing I can say right now.
Eurogamer: The patches have been for the PC version only. Do you plan to release patches for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions?
Patrick Liu: Yeah. We're definitely looking into that right now. Obviously it's easier to patch the PC game as opposed to a console game. We can patch and service the PC game more.
Eurogamer: Is that because of certification issues with Sony and Microsoft?
Patrick Liu: Yeah, exactly.
Eurogamer: What areas will you address with the PS3 and Xbox 360 patches?
Patrick Liu: They're quite similar to the PC version, actually, with some differences. For example, how the weapons behave. The recoil on PC was quite terrible, to be honest. So we fixed that.
It hasn't been as much of a problem on console, but the spawn points with the spawn camping is something we still have to fix. So that's something we're looking into. And just general bugs.
The thing is it's very hard to anticipate how reality behaves once the game is out in the wild. We have our testing, we behave in a certain way and then once it's out everyone else plays differently.
We anticipate the need to patch and tweak the game after launch.
Eurogamer: Don't open betas help?
Patrick Liu: Oh yeah, they do help. Absolutely. We get a lot of useful feedback from the community there. Still, there will be more differences later on, because as people learn the game, they will behave differently, also. We try to tackle that as well.
Eurogamer: Last week EA announced Medal of Honor had sold two million copies since launch. Congratulations. As creators of the game, do you care about sales?
Patrick Liu: Yeah. I care. Obviously I'm very happy for that. I wouldn't say it's the main driving force, really. It's the process of making the game and releasing it – that's the height of it. Sales numbers are all good. It makes our company happy. It makes us happy.
Eurogamer: Now you've had a bit of time to reflect on Medal of Honor, do you feel it turned out as well as you hoped? Are there any areas it could have been better?
Patrick Liu: We're quite happy with it. We learnt a lot in the process. It's very different from the Battlefield games. We learnt a lot about how to make different kinds of flavours.
We're always very critical of our own work, obviously. So there are a lot of things we'd like to improve, once we've seen the game out in the wild. We found most that we want to fix.
Otherwise, it's been a very interesting journey in terms of working together with another studio in this way. They [Danger Close] make the single-player part and we make the multiplayer part, which is unique in the sense that we use two different engines. We learnt a lot.
Eurogamer: Was the controversy surrounding the setting of the game distracting?
Patrick Liu: Of course we were aware of what was happening around us. At the same time we needed to focus on making the actual game. For me personally, I don't mind the setting so much, whether it's controversial or not.
We focused on the gameplay. Theoretically, it could have been a sci-fi game and still have the same mechanics. That's something I hoped our PR people would take care of – the controversy.
Eurogamer: Do you feel Medal of Honor met quality expectations?
Patrick Liu: The controversy did affect some reviews, I think.
Patrick Liu: It stirs a lot of feelings, just the setting. And that does affect people's judgement. But otherwise, this is a reboot of a franchise. It's an investment for EA as a company. We need to build upon what we have achieved so far, and just improve and improve and build up the franchise again from scratch, basically.
In that sense, I think we're off to a very good start.
Eurogamer: EA said it is a big enough success to justify a sequel. Will you begin work on doing the multiplayer portion of a sequel, or was this a one-off for DICE?
Patrick Liu: We'll see. The plans aren't set yet.
Eurogamer: Will you focus on DLC for Medal of Honor?
Patrick Liu: Yeah. Launching a game is really just the start. It's not the end of development. So that's where we're focusing.
Eurogamer: Would DICE like the opportunity to work on Medal of Honor again? Did the team have a good enough experience to want to do another one?
Patrick Liu: Both yes and no. It would be cool to continue to develop the franchise. At the same time we have a lot of exciting stuff going on in DICE as well that we have been working on in parallel.
I'm in a very good situation in that sense. I could pick and choose. It's a win win situation.
Eurogamer: Patrick Soderlund told us that Medal of Honor was reviewed harsher than it deserved. Do you agree?
Patrick Liu: Yeah. It's partly because we're in a very competitive genre. We're also competing with ourselves. Obviously we're competing with Call of Duty. It's a very tricky situation to be squeezed in between those giants.
Either the reviews are favourable, or they're not. There's nothing in between. It's polarised opinion about the game.
Patrick Liu is a veteran producer at DICE.