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Exclusive Interview: Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
by Chris Hawke

Gamer's Guide to electronically sat down with Alan Wilson, Vice President of Tripwire Interactive, to discuss the upcoming World War II first-person shooter, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.

Why isn't Heroes of Stalingrad appearing on PS3 or 360? Technical limitations, or lack of time?

It may well do in the future; we develop on PC, so PC comes first! As, when and if we do a version for consoles, it will be designed for consoles, not just a quick-and-dirty port.

Can you give us a concrete release date?

Yes – and we will when we are ready to! To be honest, it is one of the advantages of being independent; we can release the game when we believe it is ready, rather than to fit in with some large publisher’s 200-games-a-year release schedule.

First person collision detection is something rarely seen in FPSs. Do you think it sets the game apart from others?

We don't really tend to sit down and do the whole "we've got this feature and they haven't" thing – we develop what we think the game needs. But the system in there for detecting weapon collision with surfaces is just one more element that helps to keep you very much in the 'first person' view. Same goes for the cover system, and blind fire – it is a 'first person' cover system and blind fire is, actually, blind.

Do you feel you are directly competing with any other shooters?

Of course; it gets raised all the time. Well, not completely, as people like to buy more than one shooter, if you are sensible about these things. People like variety, as well as familiarity... We get the obvious comparisons with everything from Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, through to the Battlefield games and ArmA.

What did you learn from Killing Floor?

To remember to have fun, and also some reminders about making a game approachable. There were the old accusations (founded in truth) that the original Red Orchestra was hard to learn, hard for people to get into. Many times we heard people saying that the first few hours were just plain hard, but after that it got brilliant. So, we don’t want another game where you have to feel like you are ploughing through a few hours of pain to get to the fun.

How long will Red Orchestra 2's single player be? Will there be a proper, character-focused story?

We don’t actually go for the "proper, character-focused" bit. We are more interested in telling the story of the whole battle, the history. Vignettes of what happened to individual soldiers give us a snapshot of what it might have been like. Trying to tell the whole story of the Battle of Stalingrad through one person’s eyes just wouldn’t work. As for how long, we haven’t really timed it yet. We’re looking for six to eight hours, though.

What improvements and changes have been made to multiplayer?

We’ve done a tonne of work on it, not surprisingly. Apart from all the bits such as a full first-person cover system, blind-firing, climbing and mantling, weapon deployment, I think we’ve talked about multiple game-types. As well as the 'tactical HUD on demand', to make it simpler to figure out what is going on.

The basic Territory game type is an enhanced version of the original Red Orchestra Objectives mode. We’ve also talked about the new Countdown gametype: this is a single-life gametype, but played for a series of objectives on a full-size map, with each objective time-limited. If the attackers take the objective, everyone respawns and goes after the next objective. If the defenders hold the objective, swap sides and go again. It actually gives you a reason to cheer for your team to win, if you are dead; not just the old "hurry up and die so I can respawn" thing. Then there is Firefight, which is our own take on the classic Team Deathmatch. More to come on that another time!

Are you pleased with the end product and community of the original Red Orchestra?

We were really pleased with the game on release, back in 2006. And the community has always been phenomenal; amazingly welcoming and helpful to noobs over time, unlike some. I think there has always been a shared camaraderie with Red Orchestra players. But over the last few years, as we’ve been putting out free content for Red Orchestra and working on Red Orchestra 2, we did begin to think of things we wished we’d done differently the first time. Some of it we couldn’t – it would have been a massive amount of work to get bullet penetration of materials in and actually working well, for example. Starting from scratch again on Red Orchestra 2, we have that in now.

Just in general, some things were more difficult than they needed to be in the game, in terms of the mechanics. Weapon deployment could have been easier, for example. But a lot of this has been learnt from the community. On the forums we can look and see what things matter to people, not to mention the ideas that they come up with. Keep them coming!

How realistic is the game? Can you soak up lead, or is one bullet enough to kill?

This is Red Orchestra. You aren’t superman. You can’t soak up bullets. One to the head or vital organs will kill you. Another reason for not going the character-driven story route, of course. This is why we are interested in the unit, squad or platoon. Individuals may die – will die – but the squad will keep going. Unless you manage to get everyone killed, obviously.

But yes, realism is important to us – fully-functional bullet/projectile physics in flight, penetration of objects, realistic wounding, armour penetration and damage models. Does this make the game more difficult? Well, we don’t think so; it is fairly obvious that if you put a round in someone’s skull, they should go down. I prefer that to "how many rounds do I need to pump into the guy?" And, as we aren’t doing the character-led scenario, the player can simply take over another warm body from his squad if he dies in game.

What stages of the Battle of Stalingrad will be playable? Will there also be other famous battles available?

There will be 10 maps from the Battle of Stalingrad at launch. Many of these will be famous, iconic locations from the battle, recreated as accurately as we can. Some we have mentioned include the Grain Elevator, Station 1, Pavlov’s House and Fallen Fighters’ Square. We also have a separate mod being created as we speak: Rising Storm. This is aimed to be available a few months after Red Orchestra 2 itself, as an add-on. It will provide a full campaign in the Pacific, with the American and Japanese forces all playable. There is also a Vietnam mod in the works: In Country.

Will there be destructible environments?

Yes. Well, we’re not going to have the players dismantle the entire city, but artillery and explosives will certainly be capable of destroying houses, walls and so on.

How large are area maps? Can you enter any building?

Our maps are usually fairly large. For Red Orchestra 2, they will probably vary from 300 metres to more than two kilometres. Most buildings in the play area will be enterable, although obviously some of them are going to be pretty heavily rubbled!

Are there plans for a Killing Floor 2, or Red Orchestra 3?

Nothing announced. But sequels pretty much depend on the success of the previous game. Killing Floor sold around 500,000 units in about fifteen months on PC, so it would be rude not to do a Killing Floor 2. Hopefully we’ll be saying the same about a Red Orchestra 3 next year! But no actual plans to reveal at this time.

Will the game be moddable? Will it ship with Steamworks?

Yes, the game will ship with a full SDK, as we always do. The community always ends up creating some amazing content and we love that. We’ll probably end up sponsoring mapping contests and so on again. And yes, we’ll be using a lot of the Steamworks features.

Can you explain to us the 'new system of statistics tracking enabling player development'?

We’ll keep the fine details of this as a surprise, but in principle you’ll be able to increase your skills as you play, as well as using an honour system to rank people. The differences as you increase your skills will be very subtle, though. This isn’t Killing Floor, where a Level 6 Sharpshooter can pick the wings off a fly with a 9mm at 100 yards! There will be some benefits to higher honour in terms of the availability of specialist roles and weapons, as well as an enhanced look to the battle-hardened soldier on the battlefield.

How many vehicles are there in the game, and can you tell us a bit about them?

We’ll ship with two, the Panzer IV G and the T-34 76 Model 1942. There will be more along later, including transport vehicles. Tanks can be crewed by up to 3 people, with real A.I. filling in the other slots. So you can tank with a couple of friends, or stay solo and command the A.I. crewmen.

This time, all the crew positions will always be filled - unless one of the crew is dead, of course. And they will be realistic. Full 3D interiors that you can look around, crew animated (see the trailer for examples), all the vision devices usable. A detailed damage model, including a complex penetration calculation system and modelling of damage to individual components within the vehicle.

What's the maximum number of players that can be in a single match?

We're aiming for 64 at the moment.

A big thanks goes out to Alan Wilson and the Tripwire team.

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- Chris Hawke

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