Earlier this month ConsoleMonster was invited as part of the Microsoft Xbox Community Network (XCN) to submit a selection of questions, which would be answered in a Q&A session with Patrick Horne Executive Producer for the upcoming World War 2 shooter – Hour of Victory. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. Four of the most interesting and inventive questions were selected and submitted towards the Q&A interview.
What follows an in-depth Q&A exclusive to XCN members, with Patrick Horne recently this month.
First things first – Hour of Victory is a WW2 FPS. It’s not exactly an under-subscribed genre, so why did you make the decision to get in on the act and why is Hour of Victory different?
The Xbox 360 has a stock of great FPS titles, ShadowRun has just launched and Halo 3 is on the horizon. Which other games have you taken inspiration from and why do you think Hour of Victory will stand out from the crowd?
Patrick Horne: We looked at the competition and I’m a huge FPS fan myself so I tend to play quite a lot of different titles, but we’ve tried hard not to be just another ‘me too’ title in terms of content. With that we looked at the game dynamics such as the fact that in COD3 once you were in the vehicle you were pretty much stuck inside it for the duration of the mission, we wanted something different, something that gave the player a lot more choice so we allowed the player to get in and out of the vehicle when he wanted. It not so much that we’ve copied stuff, more that we were looking at things like, “how do we improve on that?”
We’ve heard that Hour of Victory has been described by nfusion as the ‘Indiana Jones of WW2 games’. Could you elaborate on what this will mean in terms of the play experience?
Patrick Horne: True, but I think this was taken the wrong way by many, I think what they were trying to say was that the game was more adventure-orientated than a hardcore or very sombre FPS. I think the European guys got a better grasp when they highlighted the fact that if COD3 was Saving Private Ryan then HOV is Where Eagles Dare, which I think was a pretty good label since we’re not trying to be too dark or serious. We wanted a title that was fun to play, very easy to learn and for players to have a blast.
If Hour of Victory is less po-faced than games like Call of Duty, do you poke fun at any of the clichés of the genre?
Patrick Horne: Not really, but then at first we did have the German troops talking about Mein Kampf and about Hitler’s personal life which we had to remove due to the censorship laws in certain territories! There are always clichés though, I mean Ross the British commando has a pencil moustache and his commanding officer was very – how you call it – very stiff upper lipped. I think we recruited Miles Richardson for that role in the voiceover, his father Ian Richardson was the guy from the TV series House of Cards which I understand was very big in England.
Who will players take the role of in Hour of Victory?
Patrick Horne: There are three roles, a sniper called Bull, a British SAS commando called Ross and an OSS secret operative called Taggert.
Why have you chosen three different characters, and how do their storylines intertwine throughout the game?
Patrick Horne: All these guys are picked for their special individual skills, it’s kind of like the Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare movies in a way. You have a team of guys who all do different things well so you pick the best and get the mission done. These guys in our story are all recruited to deal with an atomic weapons program that the Nazis are working on which is why they are all brought together.
Do they have different skill-sets that need to be exploited to advance? Could you give us some examples?
Patrick Horne: Well the Sniper can climb drainpipes to get higher in the levels whereas the Commando cannot, also the stealth operative can pick locks on doors but the Sniper can’t. It shakes up where the guys can and can’t go so that there are different routes to take.
Who are your enemies in the game (probably a silly question, but if you could be specific about divisions/units etc) and what kind of environments will you battle through?
Patrick Horne: We had to be careful on this, at first we didn’t know that the German censorship laws are as strict as they are and on some of the crates in the African level these were marked with the Reich Palm logo which we had to remove. You may have seen this in films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and we were looking for that type of look. The enemy troops in Africa are based on the feared Afrika Corps and we went through a late re-design which gave them the sand storm goggles, but we had to drop any plans to have things like the 1st SS Panzer Divisions.
Tell us about the AI of the Nazis soldiers – we hear it’s pretty advanced. Could you give us an example of how that AI will work in a combat situation?
Patrick Horne: We set the AI to be environment specific, that is the AI is programmed to operate differently between levels and for interiors and exteriors. Troops will find cover and switch between cover nodes within their pathway.
Will players be able to take command of vehicles during levels? Which types?
Patrick Horne: Tanks. In the African level players can use the Sherman to take on Tiger tanks. In real life I think it took about 3 or 4 Shermans to knock out just one Tiger so we had to be a bit creative here so that it was a fair one on one fight! Other vehicles like Kubel wagons help the character get to different areas.
Could you talk us through one of your favourite missions and describe some of the cool experiences players will face?
Patrick Horne: I particularly like the Bavarian mission which is heavily inspired by the Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton movie Where Eagles Dare. You get to have a cable car gunfight with German troops coming the other way, and since you are armed with a Thompson there’s a lot of lead flying around!
What kind of Xbox Live modes does Hour of Victory have? Was the multiplayer aspect an important consideration when you were developing the game?
Patrick Horne: It was an important consideration and we created exclusive maps for Xbox Live that don’t appear as single player missions. We also have a kind of ‘bomb the base’ mode called Devastation with the objective of picking up a bomb and planting it into the radio room of your opponent.
Tell us about the Achievements in Hour of Victory. What was the process of developing them like? And do you have any fun or cool Acheivements that you particularly like?
Patrick Horne: Most of this covers off scoring, such as number of kills, sniper kills and mission objective Achievements. It was really hard to come up with some of them because we’d gone so far down the line developing for PC first, so to adjust to console was a big jump. We wanted the Achievements to be something that reflected the arc of the gameplay, so many of them can be gained quite quickly.
What are your plans for downloadable content? Will we be seeing new maps etc?
Patrick Horne: We’re looking into that at the moment but I think we’ll wait to see what the demand is like first.
Do you see a day when WW2 FPS games are a thing of the past? Call of Duty has already moved out of the conflict and into new timeframes.
Patrick Horne: There’s certainly a downward trend for WW2 and I think Activision saw this. I also think that the climate in today’s political world means we’re exposed to more current events and moments in history being made, the Middle East is certainly influencing all kinds of media, books, films and video games. Even Midway’s other FPS, Area 51: Blacksite, has an Iraq level so there’s certainly a shift in place.
Finally, do you have future plans for the Hour of Victory series?
Patrick Horne: It depends on a lot of things, demand being our primary reason to continue.
Thank you Patrick for your time!