Moderator: Hi everyone! Randy's here now and ready to go. So, Randy, who are you and what do you do?
Randy Pitchford: I'm Randy Pitchford. I'm the President of Gearbox Software. The Gearbox team and I created the Brothers in Arms video game series and other games. I'm currently the Executive Producer of Brothers in Arms.
Hello and welcome to our live interview with Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software! Randy's here to talk about the Brothers in Arms series today, courtesy of our friends at Ubisoft.
As you probably know, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is due out on PS3, 360 and PC on 26th September, and marks the first next-generation release in the tactical World War II shooter series.
Ubisoft is also launching the Wii compilation of Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood, which goes by the name Brothers in Arms: Double Time, across Europe on the same day.
The live interview has finished now, but you can check out the entire chat-log below - and we hope to have Randy back soon to discuss Gearbox's other titles.
Can you give any details relating to the multiplayer of Hell's Highway?
Randy Pitchford: I've talked about Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway MP a bit, but not too much. Can you be more specific?
Is there a ranking up system and is there a skirmish mode?
Randy Pitchford: Multiplayer modes are competitive. Up to 20 players can fight online in two ten-man squads. The usual niceties for setting up games, playing and looking at and comparing results are there. There are differences per platform according to the standards on those platforms.
On Xbox 360, for example, we use the Xbox Live system to great effect. The PS3, however, lets us roll our own. We're using a back-end licensed from GameSpy and a custom front-end in the game.
The PC version also uses the GameSpy back end, but we don't believe that console and PC gamers playing together is good for either gamer, so don't assume that means we're supporting connectivity between the platforms.
Will there be a demo before the release?
Randy Pitchford: We are 100 per cent certain there will be a demo for 360, 99 per cent certain there will be a demo for PS3 and about 50 per cent certain there will be a demo for PC.
I'm still not certain exactly when the best time to release the demo will be - there are two camps. One camp believes we should continue to focus 100 per cent of our attention on the few remaining issues. For example, this morning there are 7 open issues that will be fixed before the end of the day before we submit the software for certification on one of our platforms.
If the people working on those issues instead were working on a demo, the whole process would take a little longer. We have branched our demo builds, however, so we're committed to them - pretty much.
Will co-op campaign (2-8 player) ever be in any future BIA titles?
Randy Pitchford: Co-op is a really neat thing that we like. We're seeing more and more gamers getting involved with coop and that's great.
Brother in Arms has been strong as a narrative game, so we focus most of our investment and care there. But, you'll notice that some of our other upcoming games (like Borderlands and Aliens) are embracing coop as part of the design.
I think it's a natural question as we think about the future to imagine how we want to balance our investment towards different features - including co-op. Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is exceptionally strong as a single player, narrative game because more than ever before, our investment is there.
If we put some of our attention and budget to co-op, that feature would be there, but something else would have to be less strong. There are also a lot of design implications - things that would have to change or be different in order to support co-op. If we make the decision to support co-op in Brothers in Arms later, I think those will be fun challenges in design for us.
For now, I am exceptionally proud of Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway and believe we absolutely made the right decision to focus our care and attention towards making the single-player narrative game the strongest we've ever done. Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is not only the best Brothers in Arms game we've done, but it is the best game I've ever been involved with.
Can we go prone? And will AI Germans flank?
Randy Pitchford: German AI has been really improved. They can do some smart things. They can also make some human mistakes. As much as I like to see the Germans smartly displacing (falling back) when they're flanked, I enjoy it more when I get them in a spot where they're not sure what to do. You can sense the confusion in them when you really trap them.
There are moments and situations where they'll put pressure on you. I've had entire battlefields turned around, where before the fight is over, my squad and I are fighting from where the enemy was set up and they're fighting from where I first engaged them.
However, fire and manoeuvre is tactical. It's not a crazy rampager situation where the AIs just charge at you and every fight boils down to a reaction time skill test at 5 or 10 foot range. BiA will challenge your decision making, not just your shooting skill.
If you want to play it like a run-and-gun game, we've done some things so that you can find a way to win, but it's very much a more evolved action experience. If you want a pure rampager shooting gallery game that's pretty much only about reaction time skill test, all of our competitors are fighting over that kind of game (MoH, CoD).
Brothers in Arms is familiar to anyone who plays shooters, but it's a deeper combat experience because of the ability to actually command your squad and because of the deep AI that is modeled after real tactics with both your Allies and the enemies.
Randy Pitchford: Prone - We had prone. We tried it in our first games too. It's an easy feature, but it adds a button and it complicates the fire-and-manoeuvre design. After thousands of hours of testing and balancing and tweaking, we concluded again that we made the correct decision when we introduced the series. Prone is not something you have to worry about and the game is better for it.
I know some people can't believe it - they always think more = better. Trust us - we have thought about this A LOT. We did the work. It was in the game. It didn't make the game better, it made it worse - more complicated and it fought against the point.
Randy Pitchford: Quick aside - Colonel Antal just walked into the room!
Moderator: I'm sure our readers say hello!
Randy Pitchford: He brought with him a great friend of his and fellow soldier, Lt. Colonel Pete Petracca.
Lt. Colonel Petracca actually helped Colonel Antal during our very first Field Training Exercise with the Gearbox team.
If anyone has any questions for either of them, fire away.
I get obsessed with achievements, will there be an achievement system for the PC version of the game? And can you describe any memorable Achievements on 360?
Randy Pitchford: I LOVE Achievements. I'm addicted to them too. My Gamertag for Xbox 360 is "DuvalMagic". I think I'm up to 72,000 gamerpoints.
Moderator: That's obscene.
Randy Pitchford: PC Achievements - Not quite yet, but we've got our eyes on something. I want to come up with ways where our experiences are persistent. I think Gearbox community members (like the forum members) will get the first exposure to what we're thinking some time down the road when we're ready to start experimenting there. I don't want to set any expectations, though. This is a ways off...
So will we fight against a Fallschirmjager division in single player? and will I be able to play as a Fallschirmjager in MP?
Randy Pitchford: Fallschirmjager - Yes. It's an amazing story, actually. Vanderheydt's (sp?) 6th Fallshirmjager Regiment fought against the 502nd (101st ABD) in Normandy and AGAIN in Holland during Operation Market Garden. The odds of them facing off again were very low - yet it happened. Vanderheydt was a really amazing leader, actually. We wasn't a Nazi, but a soldier, through and through.
Hello Col. Antal! Just got done reading your book and was wondering if there are going to be more?
Colonel Antal: The Novel (Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway - Ballentine) is a companion to the game. Future books should be expected to be companions to future games. Ballentine is the publisher of the book.
Randy Pitchford: Incidentally, Colonel Antal has also finished a History Book (non-fiction). It is also a companion book to Hell's Highway, but is meant to share the true history. It offers pictures, accounts and all kinds of interesting data about the 101st Airborne and other units in Operation Market Garden. Great stuff - Published by Zenith Press.
If you are in the United States, you can find both books at any book store when the game launches. Both books are also available from Amazon.com and other on-line retailers. Great stuff!
Good afternoon Randy, hope you are well, just a quick question in regards to the multiplayer again, what are the hit boxes like and will it take ridiculous amounts of shots to the chest to take someone down or will it be a simple affair where one shot to the heart will down an enemy?
Randy Pitchford: MP damage - It's more on the realistic side, but it's still a game.
Will the PS3 version support Trophies, and if so will that be from launch?
Randy Pitchford: We're still learning about the Trophy system for PS3. By some accounts, Sony will take care of things. By others, we can get involved and do them ourselves. I care about this kind of stuff, so you can bet that we'll make a decision as Sony releases the Trophy system. Our game was in certification with Sony prior to them launching the Trophy system, so it's something we'll have to re-visit. Or, we could just delay the game again? Joking!
In a recent video we saw Baker manning an MG42. Baker was running around shooting the MG from the hip with accuracy. He was also reloading the 50 round belt on the run. It is inaccurate and unrealistic to shoot and reload a 12kg weapon. So with that said my question is will that be changed to reflect real life?
Randy Pitchford: When Baker uses an MG while it's in a fixed position, he can reload it using the ammunition that is at the position. He can dismount the MG from the firing position and carry it. It is possible to fire the MG from the hip, though it's a very tricky thing to do. It's fun, though. He cannot reload the MG from any place but the fixed position where the ammo is located.
Something neat - Once he takes an MG off a fixed position and carries it around, he can "dig in" to any cover and set up the MG on that cover!
If you saw something different in a video it was either something incomplete or something that was misinterpreted. Let's assume it's our fault... While we're making games, they're not finished.
Does Colonel Antal play videogames at all? And if so what's his favourite?
Randy Pitchford: Colonel Antal DOES play games! His default answer for "Favourite Game" of course is Brothers in Arms.
Colonel Antal: I like Gears of War. I also have been playing Rome Total War.
Randy Pitchford: If it's got war in it, he plays it. [Grin]
Hi Randy. Huge fan of the BIA series. Really enjoyed the score by Stephen Harwood. Has he returned to score Hell's Highway?
Randy Pitchford: Stephen is awesome! He crafted our core themes and did a marvellous job. Our Audio Director, Ed Lima, worked with some other talent that is new to Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway. The results are amazing.
There is a great article about the music in Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway at music4games.net. (http://www.music4games.net/Features_Display.aspx?id=292)
The article not only includes pictures and information about the score and the huge orchestra that recorded it in Prague, but also some information about the soundtrack CD that will be available from Sumthing Else Music Works.
In regards to MP, will there only be select 'Classes' to choose from or will the player be able to pick a primary weapon and then side arm?
Randy Pitchford: You'll get into a squad. You can make some requests about your role in the squad, but when collisions happen (let's say everyone wants to be the squad leader) the game helps make choices. There is a voting system, too, so squad leaders can be selected by the other players.
Squad leaders can do things like use the command system to mark targets, manoeuvre orders or otherwise guide the team. They also can call in support in the form of artillery - awesome stuff.
The other players will take on roles in the assault team, fire team or special weapons. There are tanks in MP. I think MP is neat and we're having fun with it. But it's very different. If you're expecting Halo or COD, you're going to be surprised. It feels something like Counter-Strike in the pacing, but the context is totally different.
Anyway - we've always approached MP in the BiA games to concern itself with the squad game play and to do something different. We're not only different than other games, but we're even different with ourselves in MP. This case is the most extreme so far. It might not work, but we think it's interesting.
We can take that risk because we know that most people are interested in Brothers in Arms for the single player game and we invest there to make sure it's the best in class.
Hi will the detail and amazing graphics on this game affected the campaign length, and how long will the campaign be?
Randy Pitchford: The campaign is not too short and not too long. It's longer than COD 4. It's shorter than a Final Fantasy game. It's different for different players. When the end starts to come, you want it to come. But when you get there, you want more. It's really well crafted.
Notice how I'm talking in terms of feelings instead of in terms of number of hours? That's important - it permeates everything we do. The stats aren't important. The feelings and experiences we have are.
A game I'm not interested in can be 100,000 hours long and I don't care. Maybe if it was one hour and all the attention was put on that one hour, the game might be something I could get interested in... Meanwhile, if something is awesome, but too short, I don't feel value for my investment. The goal is to find the sweet spot. Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is where we really put a lot of time and energy into delivering that sweet spot.
Any word on whether Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30, and Brothers In Arms: Earned in Blood, will be made Backwards Compatible on Xbox 360, perhaps as a promotional tie in with the release of Hells Highway? If not, is this something you'd like to see happen in the future?
Randy Pitchford: Well, that's in Microsoft's hands and I think they're pretty much done with that. I am really interested in seeing both games on the 360. I'll want to find a way for that to happen and I'll be looking at that more closely after we launch HH.
By the way, Brothers in Arms "Double Time" will be released on the Wii at the same time as BiA Hell's Higwhay is released on the other platforms. Double Time includes both previous games, but they've been remastered for the Wii. You can use the Wii remote to issue order and aim the weapon - you can even do a throwing motion to throw the grenades. It's really neat and is a GREAT value to Wii customers.
If a Wii customer does not have Brothers in Arms, you'll a great version of both games for a standard Wii game price. Two for the price of one. I was really happy that our partners, Ubisoft Entertainment, found a way to help us do that.
Are there plans for downloadable content and if so what can we expect?
Randy Pitchford: We have ideas for DLC. We want to wait and see what the wish is and then we'll consider what to do. If people turn out to love MP and want more of that, we'll have to figure out how to fulfill the wishes there. If people want more single-player combat scenarios, then we'll be thinking about that.
We have some tools and things we can do to help us understand what people love most about Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway and we'll want to focus on that when thinking about DLC.
We're laser focused on Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway right now. As everyone plays the game, we're going to be watching and listening. Not only to help us think about DLC, but also to help us think about the future of the series.
Any thoughts on where BIA goes next? Do you plan to do another game set in Europe during WW2, or will you consider a different theatre or even different period/conflict?
Randy Pitchford: We have some thoughts about where the series should go. But we really care about the people who play and care about our games and are really going to want to let ourselves be influenced by them.
I think the Brothers in Arms series is about soldiers and team work and squad combat and authenticity. I think that it can be applied to a lot of contexts...
A recent preview wrote that players in third person cover could pop out to "shoot either in third or first person." Is this true? Will players have the choice to aim down the sights or shoot from first person out of third person cover? How will third person cover shooting work with the crosshairs turned off?
Randy Pitchford: Dig-in is a great feature, but it's totally up to you. If you want to play the entire game from the first person perspective, you can do that. When you dig in, you're able to see your character get close to the cover and really interact with hit. You also get a slightly different view of the world which makes commanding your squad and maintaining some situational awareness easier.
The addition of Dig-in was a big deal for the game because it enabled a couple of things. I'm going to use words you understand, but there is some deep design implications in what I'm about to say if you can follow and read into it a bit.
Brothers in Arms has been different because you become a leader - commanding your squad. It tests not just shooting skill, but leadership and tactical decision-making skill. This is important to the game. But when we did it in the last generation, it came at a cost. We traded off the action game a bit. We simulated more inaccuracy with where shots landed. We put in systems so that when an AI was behind cover and facing off against an enemy AI behind cover, they would stalemate - this was to force us to make a tactical decision and win the combat.
In Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway, we wanted action players to be able to enjoy the game more. We wanted accuracy with our weapons. We wanted AIs to be effective in all contexts where they can plausibly be effective. We wanted the game to be winnable whether you wanted to play the leader role and never fire a shot or wanted to play the action hero and run-and-gun a bit. Dig-in is the key to us being able to do that.
In order to balance the action game, we needed to affect the lethality of the AIs. We needed to affect the challenge around the action game. But, in doing so, the game became too deadly when playing in the squad leader role. Dig-in allows the player to be sure of his cover and to have a moment to think and decide about his tactical maneuvers and then to act on those.
From Dig-in, the player can use the third person perspective to look around and gain some situational awareness. From Dig-in, the player can more safely issue orders to his squad. The pure action game, then, may never care to go and Dig-in and that's fine. The game imagines that can happen and it comfortable with that. The pure squad leader gamer will go from cover to cover and play very carefully and tactically. The game imagines that can happen and offers the Dig-in feature to facilitate that.
The game, then, is really comfortable with players moving between roles and trying different approaches to each challenge. There is a depth there that most gamers won't be thinking about as they play, but they'll feel subconsciously as they interact with the game and try things.
Randy Pitchford: Anyway... I could go on and on. I'll answer the next question, then two more. I do have to go, soon, though. We have to finish the game!
Will there be a significant difference between the game rendered in DX9 and DX10?
Randy Pitchford: DX9 and DX10 will appear similar for most gamers. Those that know what they're looking for will see some differences. The DX10 version running on a high end nVidia graphics card will be the best looking version of the game. I'm talking in terms of the image that's being rendered - there are a zillion other trade offs and differences between platforms.
We try to make the game behave with each platform the way we expect it to and want it to when we're customers of those platforms.
There was a lot of talk about the "First Person Actor" is that still part of the game?
Randy Pitchford: First Person Actor is still in the game. It's really cool. It's subtle, but makes a difference. You feel it when you sprint, when you vault over walls, when you get knocked on your ass and when you just move around...
First Person Actor and Dig-In work together really nicely. From a technology and content point of view, doing one without the other would be a mistake.
Heres a question for both Randy Pitchford and Col. Antal, What are your favourite firearms in BIA:HH and why?
Randy Pitchford: For me - I trade off between the M1 Carbine and the BAR. I love both of those weapons for different reasons.
Colonel Antal's favorite is the M3 Grease Gun. He actually carried one of those when he was stationed in Korea.
Moderator: Finally, we always ask this at the end - would you prefer to be invisible or have lasers for eyes?
Randy Pitchford: Hmm. Is the invisibility permanent, or can I turn it on and off at will? If so, I'll take that. If it's permanent, I'll go with the laser eyes (though only if I can turn those on and off too). If both are permanent, then I'll pass and just stick with being a normal non-mutant mortal.
Moderator: I suspect we're talking on/off superpowers, but you're the first person to query this.
Randy Pitchford: Cyclops from X-Men couldn't turn his off without the glasses. I wouldn't want to have to wear glasses like that all the time. Meanwhile, if I couldn't ever be visible - well - that would be a big problem.
Randy Pitchford: I'm going to have to get back to work, but I want to thank everyone for the great questions and for caring. Visiting us at www.gearboxsoftware.com is a great place to learn more and also where you can register as a community member and join our forums. Sometimes I post in the forums and every day Gearbox developers are interacting with people there.
Moderator: No worries Randy! Thanks very much for your time. Remember, guys, Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is due out for 360, PS3 and PC in Europe on 26th September! That's also the day the Wii Double Time pack featuring both previous games is released.