Download the full video of EA's Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault presentation thanks to our BitTorrent-based files service, Eurofiles, here, and listen to Matt Powers' presentation and see the game in action for yourself...
Matt Powers: In Pacific Assault clearly we go to the Pacific Theatre. In the Pacific Theatre, our character Tommy Collin, we take him through some of the more significant battles of the war, starting in Pearl Harbour, and then he goes to Makin, Guadalcanal, and end up in Tarawa. In Tarawa we found this a good ending point because this was always dubbed kind of the D-Day of the Pacific, because of both strategic and the moral victory that occurred on this island.
Now, the interesting thing about the Pacific Theatre in its battling is in this case we're not reclaiming territory or saving natives. It's really based on a strategy of us trying to get to Japan to bomb them, and Japan basically keeping us away and taking as much of the Pacific as possible so they can own the trading routes.
This is the key moment for us, because this island, and even though it's only a strip of dirt it did have an airfield. So for the Japanese, they used it for supplies, they used it to move their troops and ships and planes further. For us we wanted it not only to cut off their supply routes, but so we can get our bombers and get them to Japan to bomb the hell out of them.
So, we finally got to this point in the war, and this took us... You know the war started in '41 - Pearl Harbour. The Japanese took this island the day after Pearl Harbour, December 8th, and defended it. So they started putting all their defensive measures here and they took two years to do that, because we didn't get there until '43, right? So they had this really well defended, and there's a quote from Admiral Shipsaki, who was responsible for the defences, and he boasted that that the Americans could not take Tarawa with a million men and a hundred years - so there's some pride from our part, as we usually have in war.
We came in with all our ships, bombed the hell out of it for days, and we're talking millions of tons worth of munitions on this island. One, unfortunately most of them missed because it's a really small island, and two, as we were firing it there's a lot of smoke and dust and water fumes that it made it even harder to hit, and the last thing - which we didn't find out til later is all our ships were pounding it with these guns, and we thought we were bombing the hell out of it, most of them would hit the island and skip off, because the profile of the island is so small.
After three or four days, we figured there's nothing left here. The other thing we didn't really realise at the time is that the Japanese love to dig - they're big tunnellers - so they just went underground for about three days and just hung out and drank Sake all the time, and they're just having a good time thinking there's just fireworks and stuff going on outside [laughs] - not the historically accurate version - but they did drink a lot of Sake!
So we finally get here, we get our boats, and our great military intelligence forgot - or didn't realise - there was a low tide when we were bringing our ships in. So the reef ends up here [points to a map] 300 yards out. The ships come cruising in having a good old time, hit this reef and it can't go any further, so 1,000 troops have to get out, have their guns over their head, wading into shore. In the meantime, there are machine guns on one side, machine guns and mortars all over the beach and they're just taking our troops out. So, it was not a good way to start this battle.
Imagine D-Day if your boat didn't make it to the beach, if your boat got stuck 800 yards out and you had to wade in for 40 minutes and that's what those guys survived.
It showed our resolve that we didn't quit. It was definitely our point to take this island. We actually changed the types of ships we were using to get them in past the shallows, and we start the game with Tommy Collin coming in with a boat. His first objective is to come up on this pier and he's got to fight his way, his goal is to take out these machine guns that are strafing our troops as they wade into the island.
It was one of the big innovations of this invasion because this was the first amphibious invasion we ever attempted - this came before D-Day, and a lot of the successes of D-Day came out of the failures of Tawara. It's one of the most heavily studied naval invasions in modern history. People still study it to try and figure out what works and what doesn't. Those LVTs, the landing vehicle tracts - those things were originally designed to be cargo carriers. The idea was you'd go and use this as basically a tractor boat that you could just drive in your supplies with. Our colonel Shoop, who was one of the architects of these invasions, said 'well, why don't we put troops in these things and see if we can get them in closer and drive all the way up to the beach?' As it turned out, those were the only boats that made it, because the Higgins boats couldn't make it over the reef, so if you were one of the lucky ones to be in an LVT you probably made it to the beach, but if you were in a Higgins boat, only a quarter of the guys that got into the boat got back out.
If you're particularly interested in the history, the Director's Edition [of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault] has a lot of extra content including a pop-up feature that will let you see historical facts as you're playing through, so it will show you either quotes or references to history. It'll also tell you where we took licence to facilitate gameplay. Obviously the game is meticulously researched and so this is a good way to see how realistic these games are. We also have a really awesome interactive map, that shows the planes and boats coming in, you can click on a boat, you can see who the crew is, you can get video and audio clips, and it's awesome.
Eurogamer: Tell us how the multiplayer will work in Pacific Assault.
Matt Powers: Multiplayer is one of my primary focuses. When we started Pacific Assault I saw it as one the areas that we could improve upon the most out of anything. A lot of games, they do it as a single-player focused product, and multiplayer kind of comes as an afterthought. It's still really good, but I really wanted for Pacific Assault, the multiplayer as much of a focus as possible as the single player game.
So, we did that from the beginning, starting with a separate team basically working just on multiplayer. We set out some goals, and one was to be more involved in the community. We started early on as we gathered all the most active people in the Medal of Honor Community in all territories around the world, and we said 'what do you want in the game? What are some of the features we could add in there? What are the things that we did well in the past? What would be better this time?', and we started our design talking to them, and based on their input.
Second phase we wanted more online features. Some of the thing the community said was about cheating; it's a big deal. So we said 'how do we solve that?', so we integrated Punkbuster, do more admin commands for banding and other features like stat tracking, and we have rights restrictions on servers so admins can say 'I only want a server with people who have a really high kill-death ratio', or you can do a newbie server, or we track team skill points. I'm jumping all over. We have classes. These classes we track and it's helping your other squad mates - you can make a server that says 'we don't want people who have high team skill points', and [we've added] features like chatting, buddy lists, more mod development, more mod development tools.
So those are all online features, and the last thing, but certainly not least important is actually the multiplayer game itself. And we really spent a lot of time developing a multiplayer game that promotes a little bit more squad and teamwork in the game. We want to make it easily accessible, but also with a lot of depth - and of course that seems really easy - hey, accessible, yadda yadda with everything on there.
It also wants something that's long term in a game standpoint. Something that wasn't going to be a one off for when Pacific Assault ships, so that we can continue to add and develop on our expansion pack, the next Allied Assault game that we make. It could still have more invader gameplay.
So, Invader's a game type, that's what it's called. It's an objective-based game, that's the simple part of it. It's offence versus defence on islands which are extraordinarily accurate where there's multiple objectives, and you either take the defence side... the objectives of the offence are going to be trying to push through and take the objectives. It's class-based, so you pick a class and three, four men, combat engineer or ammo class, and these classes each have unique abilities within them. So you can complete your objectives or play the multiplayer game without using classes. Again, it's easily approachable, just run around and shoot everybody versus the depth. If you had a team that had a core man, and a combat and infantry they'd be able to complete their objectives more successfully, and it'd probably be a much better squad. We did things like spawn pool; there are a certain number of spawns that you can have on the map, so if the team runs out of spawns you'll lose. So there's an advantage to that. If you don't want to die as often, but also there's the advantage of, like, a Corpsman. A Corpsman on your squad actually revives players, so if you're running to your objective and die or get killed, instead respawning of you can sit there in your verge of death state, and if you have a Corpsman on your squad you can call for him and he'll appear on the radar - he can see where you are, and he'll come to you and revive you. So not only do you save your spawn pool, you also start battle fresh from whatever point you're at, rather than go right back to your spawn location.
There's a lot of little features that we've been tuning to create this depth of gameplay and it's fairly simple because those objectives are toggable. Again, we looked at all these games and said: what's the number one thing people want to do in multiplayer? Well it's basically just shoot other people and blow things, so we want to make it really easy to find the objective, and just everyone focus on the same objective - then you don't spread your people all over.
Eurogamer: What size typically are the team?
Matt Powers: We're maxing out at 32 total, so 16 on 16. We tune the maps, we have dynamic spawn positions, based on where the battle is and based on your team size we can move the spawn points around.
Download a video of the presentation featuring eight minutes of game footage from Eurofiles here.