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EA's Gibeau: Over-Annualization, Lack Of Innovation Led To  Medal Of Honor 's Downfall
EA's Gibeau: Over-Annualization, Lack Of Innovation Led To Medal Of Honor's Downfall
May 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft

May 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Electronic Arts' Medal of Honor franchise, which debuted in 1999, used to be among the most commercially successful first-person shooter properties, but along the way something happened.

Other studios began making FPS games that not only built upon the cinematic influence that Medal of Honor became known for, but also added online multiplayer components that left EA's franchise behind, both critically and commercially.

"With Medal of Honor, we're rebooting the series to get into the top 10," EA Games label president Frank Gibeau said in a new Gamasutra feature.

The new Medal of Honor, set in modern day Afghanistan, is due this year and is under development at EA LA, with multiplayer handled by Battlefield developer EA DICE.

"I was not satisfied with the sales of Airborne [2008's last major Medal of Honor installment], and it was a project that I inherited when I came into this label, and at the very last minute," he said. "We basically had a month on it. So I looked at the future of what I wanted to build inside of the Games label, and we want to be the worldwide leaders in the shooter category, full stop."

Gibeau continued, "I think any franchise that's been around for a long time, they get in a rut, they become over-annualized. They run out of innovation. The team pounds on a game every year, and they get tired, they run out of time and effort to be innovative and try and take some new risks. That was my view on how the franchise has fallen."

"I also felt like the online component wasn't getting enough attention," which was the main reason that the publisher gave online duties to multiplayer shooter experts EA DICE, said Gibeau.

He added, "Any shooter worth its salt is going to be really breakthrough in its online play, and I think Battlefield: Bad Company is a good example of that, I think Modern Warfare 2 is a good example of that, I think Halo clearly is a good example of that. The power of a franchise in the shooter category is in the online component and modes."

"The DICE guys, the Battlefield 1943 team were able to partner with our LA squad and they're doing some pretty remarkable stuff online for MOH that you guys will find out more about this summer," said Gibeau.

The upcoming Medal of Honor is set in the Afghanistan of current times, with a storyline inspired by the real conflict in the region today. Up until now, the franchise was a World War II shooter series.

Gibeau hopes that EA LA, which is currently polishing the game, took the necessary steps to bring the franchise back to its former glory by appealing first to the core market. "I've always had a philosophy in the games business that you have to win the core first," he said. "You have to be seen as quality, legitimate, and relevant for gamers, then you build out from there, and that's where you pick up the mass market."

For more from Gibeau as well as the creative leads of the upcoming Medal of Honor, read the full Gamasutra feature, available today.

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gus one
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Medal of Honor Allied Assault was the best multiplayer for me. I must have spent half a year playing that. I still have fond memories of The Bridge and the V2 facility. Now that's what MP is about.

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@gus---Amen. Playing Rockets at the V2 facility was amazing. Man, if they can take that into a modern setting, I'll definately buy.

Aaron Casillas
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Other factors not noted, from Frontline to Rising Sun, 1/2 the team left to create Spark. With a brand new team the schedule was not adjusted and Rising Sun shipped I'd say unpolished (however with lots of heart). Part of the team was laid off during Rising Sun with no schedule adjustment again.

[We also dealt with reconfiguring or rewriting engines to fit the new innovation, again with hardlocked schedules.]

Between this time and the pre prod for European Assault, I pitched a new open level/world format in an attempt to make the game more of a sandbox, in the style of Ubisoft products like Ghost Recon. There was also an internal conscious effort to utilize and educate interlocking fields of fire, group tactics and dynamics et al features. There was also alot of soul searching in regards to razoring the IP to its core, what is Medal of Honor? I personally always felt a strong connection to honoring the veterans and representing the website of the same name (as so did alot of the designers). However the franchise began moving towards a more arcade like style versus a more serious hardcore sim hybrid shooter (something that Bad Company 2 does well.)

I don't think it was ever an issue of creativity or heart, where I agree with Gibeau it was an issue of time and polish.

David Serrano
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"I was not satisfied with the sales of Airborne [2008's last major Medal of Honor installment], and it was a project that I inherited when I came into this label, and at the very last minute," he said. "We basically had a month on it". In other words, no team is capable of designing a polished game without my supervision. Despite the fact that I know nothing about design, creativity, programming, etc... He's just another overpaid MBA! If he actually cared about quality or innovation, he should have worked to push back the release date. So he acknowledges the game had problems yet "I was not satisfied with the sales". Oy.

gus one
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@David "He's just another overpaid MBA" that maybe true but he has also got good hair. And it's a known fact that in business if you have good hair you will go far.

Aaron Green
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Medal of Honor started out as a great franchise gaming experience for me. I only ever had a few purchased PlayStation 1 and 2 games, which included all of the MoH titles and I replayed MoH for years.

The D-Day opening in Allied Assault was incredible, and I think, still works as a grand daddy reference for shooter design these days.

I wasn't particularly excited about Airborne, as mentioned, and I'm glad to hear that Gibeau wasn't either. It sort of ran through the motions of previous MoH experiences, which isn't bad except to say that the innovation wasn't entirely there. The innovation was the airborne experience that allowed the player to chute into the fray at their own choosing. After seeing Memphis Belle and having Team Fortress 2 released around the same time it wasn't enough to experience the same 5 minutes over and over. I probably would have like to have been more involved with my company as in Band of Brothers.

Something I think is sort of lacking in these titles is the true sentimental qualities that are often portrayed in war, such as desperation, hopelessness and loss surround kin. I remember having some of my gunner mates get killed off by the enemy in Rising Sun, etc, and I hadn't really had a chance to establish a sentimental relationship with them. They tried to make me feel attached with a few in-game cutscenes, but was really connects me to other characters is gameplay contribution and how much they contribute to the relationship. I know I'm going to be pulling triggers and popping pins, but when they do the same and save my life it becomes a much valued relationship because it directly effects the only thing I could lose, and that's not a digital brother but the game. Then, if I lose my AI brother I will be intrinsically upset because I'm exposed to that loss and the potential loss of my own character who is now alone.

I hope EA and DICE do well with the upcoming Medal of Honor, and I'm glad they're applying themselves to the times.