Your Interview With Richard Farrelly

Last week we spoke with Richard Farrelly, Senior Creative Director on the upcoming Medal of Honor reboot. And with the fantastical, wondrous powers of technology, we were able to ask him your questions...

Our time with the game was brief and full of brown, rocky Afghani mountainsides. It sounds dull - but in fact our first reaction was "damn, that's beautiful." We witnessed waves of (presumably) Taliban forces surrounding and then bearing down on the player's position as 200 round ammo boxes slowly became rare.

The odd scripted mini-sequence was the most memorable. A mobile phone's ringtone piercing the firefight gave the soldiers barely enough time for a blank look, and perhaps a muttered curse, before feeling the IED's impact.

As an injured player, it's a good thing your squadmates will drag you to safety and patch you up - all of which takes about ten seconds before you're back in the fight. There's no justification. No "It's too hectic, you'll have to fight injured!" Just the acceptance that even though Medal of Honor is aiming for a high level of realism, they won't let it become a hindrance to the game.

When we finally sat down with Richard Farrelly, my mobile ringtone scared the crap out of me.

You brought on special forces people to help you with development. What sort of things were they able to help you with?

Pretty much everything you can think of. We had them on from an early stage. Everything from what weapons they would use, what attachments they'd have on them, do they paint them, how would they hold them, do they sound right, what are they gunna wear... Because they don't usually wear their normal uniform, they wear a modified version of that.

What's the inside of a hut look like in Afghanistan? Just every little detail you can think of. They'd scan through our script and make sure the verbage is how they'd speak to each other.

We've worked with regular Army as well, with Apache pilots and with the public affairs office to get other details, and make this the complete package, and get that authenticity we're looking for.

When soldiers coming back from Afghanistan see the game, how do they react to it?

They like it! They've had a big hand in making it happen. They see it for what it is - first and foremost it's an entertainment product. In fact, it's quite funny, some guys are complaining, saying "I hate how long it takes to reload my weapon, or to bring my weapon up, if this were real life I'd have that thing up real fast!" They're even saying it's not badass enough!

Can he really reload that fast?

I wouldn't argue with him!

Where you guys draw the line between realism and style? How do you decide which elements of realism to include, and which to omit?

We try stuff! A good example is, we were making a sniper level. And we wanted to model what it would be like to fire a heavy calibre sniper rifle at targets in excess of 900 metres away. And in real life you have to take into consideration if the bullet's going to drop, and the wind, and all this stuff, and we tried to work that stuff into the plan, but we just couldn't get it to a point where it was accessible.

So we were talking to one of our consultants, who was a sniper. And he said the other side of this is, it's all about breathing. And you've seen this sort of breath mechanic in games before, but this is a little different.

What really happens with a sniper holding his breath is he lets his breath out at halfway, and the whole time he holds it, his heart rate goes up. So as his heart beats, the reticle will jump. And the longer you hold your breath, the faster the heart beats, and the harder it is to take the shot because you kind of have to time your shot in between the jumps.

So now we have this kind of authentic vibe going on, but we have a gameplay element to it. It's pretty accessible, it's like a one-button thing, and pretty easy to figure out. So that's the kind of stuff we'll do, go a little too far into realism/simulator land, and then we'll bring it back to make it a fun experience for the player.

Because there's obviously some sensitive subject matter, are you guys going for a moral to the story, or just concentrating on gameplay?

This is gameplay, and it's a soldier's story. It really is just putting the player in the boots of a soldier in Afghanistan. There's no political statement to be made, no he said/she said, it's all this band of brothers who are making their way through hardship in battle.

Six Days in Fallujah is set in a similar place and situation, and lost its publisher. Were there similar challenges getting a game like this approved within EA?

I think right from the get go we had support from our consultants, and we worked directly with the Army public affairs office to really make sure we represented this in the correct way. And part of that for us is that this is a fictional story. We based it on fact, and that's where the authenticity comes in. But there's no direct analogues, we don't use people's names, we're not recreating anything, this isn't a simulation of an existing battle. It's kind of an amalgamation of all the things we've heard about and read about with what's going on over there, and feedback from our consultants, etc.

But at the same time, we can contain it and represent it in a way that's respectful, that pays homage to the men & women who are serving over there.

Given the setting's sensitive nature, how will you measure success in the game? Are the people you're shooting portrayed as evil? Are they terrorists? Or could they be civilians - is there any moral grey area?

No, it's basically soldiers on the ground, doing their job. It's not a political piece, it's not a documentary. It's just a game about soldiers on the ground doing their job. In this case their job is to secure this valley.

When you are starting a new game, how much creative freedom do you have in the beginning? How much pressure do you have to clone an existing game?

Making any game, especially in a big company, there's going to be a balance between creativity and business. You have to know your audience, and know what you're going for, and go from there. I still think we have a lot of creative space. I think it's a back & forth, really. We'll come up with the ideas, we'll find what we think our audience wants. And that comes from feedback, from forums and from what we as gamers want to do.

Depending on how far we want to push it, we get some feedback from the other side, the business side of it. And usually we find a happy medium.

Creatively, how do you bring singleplayer and multiplayer together into a cohesive experience, given they're made by two different studios?

That's a really interesting question. Early on, we were using two different engines. We were using two different teams. We decided, rather than try to make this a seamless experience, just to embrace the differences, and say, "This is what this engine does, and this is what this team does particularly well." And really just focus on making that quality.

That said, we really tried to have the thematic carry between the two well. All the script and the way the guys talk, all that will be similar. The whole Tier 1 military theme is pervasive to the whole game, no matter what platform or engine.

The section of play we've just seen suggests how much you value audio in the experience.

We have the most amazing sound crew of any game I've ever worked on. There's a lot of really experienced guys. There's a lot of sublety in the game. As far as weapon shoots, we went and recorded everything from the weapon firing, to the shell falling to the ground.

We were recording way down range recording the whizz-byes, recording the bullets hitting the target. We were off in the distance recording to get the sound of distant gunfire. All of this to maximise the shoot.

And some subtle psychological things too, so when you're playing the game and you're firing and firing, and getting low on ammo, you'll notice a subtle difference in the sound of the way the weapon operates. Just with how the mechanics work. It's just enough to give you that mental cue of "Hey, I need to reload now."

Will opponents be able to hear that in multiplayer?

I'm not sure if that's pervasive as much in multiplayer as it is in the singleplayer.

Our thanks to Richard Farrelly!


    Next time about asking some real questions instead of pre-approved PR crap.

    Every question and answer in this interview has been talking about in almost every behind the scenes video released for this game.

    What a waste of time.

      Steady on. What kind questions would you have asked?

        Why the Beta so bad?

        Why the lack of destruction?

        Why is the hit detection so bad?

        Why the lack of weapons?

        Why the lack of destruction?

        Why the lack of recoil?

        Why bother with military advisers if, from what you have show with vids and the beta, the game is clearly an arcade shooter?

        Why the lack of destruction?

        Why no Co-op?

        Why are the (from the beta) MP maps so small thus promoting rambo tactics, no team work and arcade twitch gameplay?

        These are some off the top of my head. I know some of the problems (recoil and supposedly hit detection) have been addressed post beta, but seeing as they were in the beta to begin with, this is what the devs intended, at least initially, the game to play like. It took a broken beta that was almost universally panned across the board to address even the most basic of gameplay functions.

        I'm not hating on this game because I can. I love my games. I love my military shooter games, I want this game to be good, I really do, but from what I've played, read and seen, its nothing more than a MW2 and a bad one at that.

        I like Kotaku but this is nothing more than a PR puff piece. It would be be nice if gaming journalists actually asked some half decent questions and called the developers on some of the shit they try and pull (biggest example is removal of destruction).

          Honestly klown, even if you had posted those questions in the interview thread, I wouldn't have asked them. What's your goal? To make him feel bad?

          An interview isn't the place to call devs on stuff, it's to gather info. By all means give feedback, and if the dev wants to say the same thing he's said elsewhere, it's his choice (and right). Sometimes it's annoying. But to use interview time to blast someone on why, towards the end of their dev cycle, they haven't included a laundry list of features is a waste of everyone's time.

          And all that's ignoring the fact that Richard Farrelly is in charge of the singleplayer portion of the game, and has nothing to do with the beta problems you mentioned.

            Hey Junglist, thanks for replying :)

            I know you cant ask most of what I listed which is one of the reasons I got worked up about it. I know you cant attack devs on flimsy promises or very suspicious similarities between theirs and other games, I guess the frustration comes from seeing gaming stagnate, the lack on innovation and the consoling on most AAA FPS titles.
            I had hopes this game would be good, would work for its setting and as a good tactical game. It seems a trend now to be proved wrong and watching another potential product being wasted by dumbing it down and reading interviews with devs about how they get advisors in and all the realism that goes with it for example and then watching/playing their product only for it to be as generic and arcady as every other mainstream fps.

            If I came off as a dick, it wasnt really my intention, I love my games and really hate whats happening to them :(

    Should of asked whether multiplayer was going to be a battlefield bad company 2 clone and just as bad as the beta, or was is it going to be something worthwhile.

    I really hate how DICE used the frostbite engine. The singleplayer looks amazing due to Unreal Engine.

      There's nothing wrong with Battlefield Bad Company 2 or the Frosbite engine. The MoH beta played more like a Modern Warfare clone than anything else and that's probably what you're going to get. That's just Dice doing what they know is good for them and keeping Battlefield for the true FPS fans.

      Modern Warfare's multiplayer is over rated. But so far it looks like MoH's multiplayer will just be more of the same.

        Don't get me wrong, I love BFBC2. But why make another one? It's just redundant. And the Frostbite engine has its problems, like other engines, but the Unreal engine is far superior in this instance, as Dice aren't even fully utilising the destruction.

        It is personal preference. If you like the frostbite engine and BF:BC2 multiplayer, then kudos to you. Personally, I much prefer to play MW2. Even though it has it's problems, for me it's just more fun to play (more action). The main issue with MW2 is the killstreaks being the big draw for camping (although its easy to take a camper out in most cases).

        But are you really going to sit there and tell me there aren't problems with BF:BC2? It has campers too (mostly a-hole snipers); the long drawn out times you spend running across maps, only to be taken out by camping snipers; that people often don't work cohesively as a team but often spend time at the back...camping with sniper rifles.

        I am really looking forward to BLACK much more then I am, to say, this game.

          Learn to take cover derp. If it's a poor team effort then lead the way and show them how it's done. Unless of course you're fighting against a clan, then run to the hills and find another server.

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