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Entering the Battlefield: Building Homefront To Compete
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Entering the Battlefield: Building Homefront To Compete

November 12, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

The obvious thing that stands out about this game is the drama of the invasion of America scenario. Is that what attracted you to the project as a publisher, when you saw the proposal?

SD: Well, yes it's a unique take. One of the really attractive things was the method that they wanted to approach from a narrative standpoint. They didn't want the jingoistic, rah-rah, kill 'em all attitude -- it was about characters -- real characters within this world that may have been gas station attendants, or teachers, or whatever.

They have very real humanistic views on what's happening within this space. I don't know if you saw the E3 demo, but there's a part where, as the resistance, you get a hold of some white phosphorus rounds and you drop them on a Korean placement that they've taken over -- lumber liquidators -- and kind of in camped in there. One of the characters that you're with is horrified by these human beings who are basically being burned alive.

And we're really taking care to try to present that human cost without getting too preachy about it. It's a fine line, and it's not something that we as game writers could do really well without the assistance of people that have been doing it for a long time in Hollywood.

Sometimes Hollywood writers come in and it makes it "written like Hollywood" and it just doesn't play right and it doesn't feel right as a game. And sometimes you get game writers that just have no idea what they're doing and dialogue goes on and on and on interminably. And I think we've struck a really good balance, so there's a lot of collaboration between the two teams, and there's some really interesting emotional points within the game.

It's interesting that you talk about the fine line, because I think that that's what we're finding right now. Obviously there was some controversy recently about Medal of Honor and playing as the Taliban.

You guys obviously sidestepped that by being a bit of a fantasy scenario, but as we reach this point where there's a creative drive to have realistic, emotional characters and there's also tremendous visual fidelity that allows us to create realistic visual scenarios... Then suddenly we do, whether we want to or not, intersect with reality.

SD: Yeah, and, you know, it's played both to our advantage and disadvantage. By creating such realistic scenes and such realistic visuals, there's this consumer expectation that it's going to be as good as film, it's going to be as good as television. And there's been so much iteration on the styles of writing through both film and television that, as an industry, games have not had… that we really are needing to play catch up very quickly just because there is that expectation that games should be written well.

We were fine with massive plot holes, super shallow characters, no arcing of the story and things like that for the longest time, but now there's an expectation. We've created a semblance of tools that people are used to using; it's not about the interface or the features anymore, it's about the content and the setting. And so, we have to execute a lot higher on those content and setting areas.

As you said, some game writers are clued in; some aren't. Some Hollywood writers are clued in; some aren't. How do you actually engender this, hitting that point with the writing -- both in how you select talent and how you get the process going?

SD: It's almost voodoo, really. It sometimes just works and sometimes it just absolutely doesn't work, no matter what type of massaging, and then it's just time to change [who's] just doing that portion of the job, and we've been very lucky.

You know, Milius has no interest in writing the entire thing start to finish -- he's about crafting these settings, these scenarios, and really building that emotional depth of the scene and the area. And we've got people that are great at writing dialogue, people who've worked in TV for years and years and years and are able to create good pieces of dialogue that don't sound ridiculous and cheesy and they don't go on and on and on like I do. [laughs]

I've noticed the same thing -- game dialogue, if it has a really obvious weakness, is that people don't seem to know when to shut up the characters. I've definitely observed real, obvious attempts to remedy that, and sometimes they fall as flat as the old style of endless talking.

SD: Yeah, I mean it comes down to... Just like art, and code, and everything else, it's a craft and there's a level of execution that has to be hit. And part of it is -- at least from the things that we can affect as a publisher -- one of those things is insuring that the time is there to iterate upon those things. A lot of time people leave dialogue and things like that till the end, because it's easier to drop in. But you stick yourself in horrible pacing holes and things like that that are very difficult to remedy.

So we've been working on the story and the writing for this game from the start. We've done huge amounts of rewriting and lots and lots and lots of iteration on every single piece and every single scene, and we continue to do that.

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