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Homefront Interview: PC Gamers Won't Be Left Behind

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Posted by: GameZone Staff

GameZone had the opportunity to sit down with THQ Creative Director Sean Dunn and interview him on Homefront, THQ's first-person shooter darling. Concentrating on quality control in effort to make sure that they are capable of entering the competitive first-person shooter environment with a bang after the dud that was Frontlines: Fuel of War, THQ has a lot question to answer.

Read on to find out more about dedicated servers, the differences between the PC and console iterations -- much more than controls -- and how the team is attempting to appeal to both the hardcore and casual crowds.

Dakota Grabowski: What are your responsibilities as Creative Director for Homefront?

Sean Dunn: "My responsibilities are to help ensure the consumer approach to the game is met at a high quality. I play the game constantly. I participate in all the multiplayer tests. I make sure the game doesn’t focus too much on the professional or hardcore approach."

DG: How do you feel about the balance between appealing to the casuals vs. the hardcore?

SD: "It’s really important to appeal to both. You have to set the right tools in place so that the casual players can feel comfortable getting into a game and having fun. That’s where the breath of the game comes into play. The ability to do things like hide behind a house and pull out a ground drone is appealing to the casual person. If the ground drone gets blown up, the player isn’t dead and they don’t feel like they failed. The hardcore player will see four air drones in the sky and realize that there is a dude behind a barn and sneak up on him to stab him in the neck to gain a lot of points."

DG: What have you done to keep the interest of the hardcore player beyond the first few hours of gameplay?

SD: "Controls and responsiveness have been a huge focus in Homefront. If you have played Frontlines [Frontlines: Fuel of War], it was not a big focus through the game. The controls were loose. The framerate wasn’t great. There were a lot of issues there. We spent a massive amount of time to perfecting the feel of the control and responsiveness. From aiming down sights to throwing a grenade to going prone to firing the weapon, that stuff has to happen instantly and it has to be smooth. That pro player has to get that familiarity and mastery over the controls. Same thing with the map design; we make sure we take into play all of the sight lines. We have two different styles of sight lines to take into account. Not just the horizontal sight lines but the vertical space."

DG: Now, you mentioned Frontlines. How has the team evolved and matured since it released?

SD: "Many, many, many years of development. We have shored up areas of talent from competitive products. Really, we’ve been paying attention to the lessons learned from where consumers enjoyed the game and where they didn’t. It’s been a process of learning for us. We feel we have focused on the right areas for this [Homefront]. "

DG: The single-player experience has been pushed to the forefront as of late for Homefront rather than the multiplayer we saw today. Care to go a little further on why this is so?

SD: "From the public relations side, that’s the case. But from the development aspect, it’s a 60/40 [single-player/multiplayer] play. That’s saying a lot since there’s a lot of stuff in the single-player. There’s a huge focus on the spectacle, the story and narrative. For the multiplayer, we’ve only showed you a small portion. There are tons of different maps, play modes and a big feature we haven’t talked about yet. There’s a huge focus on multiplayer still. You don’t put yourself in the best mode of success if you focus on one and let the something else stagnant. We have seen games throw in multiplayer just for the hell of it. That money was probably spent in the single-player and better skipping the multiplayer altogether. We went with the approach that both had to be completely viable play options. We are focusing on quality for both equally."

DG: When can the public expect a public or closed beta for the multiplayer?

SD: "We will definitely have all the things you can expect from that standpoint. Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with the dates on those things. We really want to use those things like a closed and open beta, even demos, to collect huge amounts of data we can act on. Whether it’s a balance or game mode perspective, whether it is vehicle controls, we’ve played play-tested the shit of this game. We’ve run internal tests every single day, 60-70 people a day, gather data on everything. I mean, we’ve played this game over a year, so balance is really important. There’s so much stuff you can do, so every piece you add to it exponentially adds to the amount that you can screw up the balance."

DG: You’ve only shown off Ground Control. Any plans on when the next game mode will be revealed?

SD: "We have a decent amount of time to go. It’s telling to how important the quality of this product is. In the past, THQ has not, maybe, been focused on quality first. But that’s a paramount importance for this title. We are entering the polish stage now and we have seven months left to go, approximately. It’s about ensuring that this game feels fantastic in the players’ hands, looks wonderful and is as fun as hell."

DG: Outside of the controls, how will the PC and console versions differentiate from each other?

SD: "A lot, actually. The PC is an entirely self-developed product. It’s not a simple port. We have all the first-person cockpits in the vehicles in the PC that’s not present in the console versions. All the vehicles are played third-person in the console versions. You have the option to go first-person or third-person in the PC version. The game will be balanced differently. Obviously sniper rifles, assault rifles and weapon damages will have their own branches of paths, but the content will all be the same with the exception of the first-person cockpits. The game is being developed entirely as a PC game. All the resolution support, all the bells and whistles, DirectX 11, dedicated servers, custom servers and everything you want from a PC standpoint. We aren’t trying to shove console sensibilities on top of PC gamers."

DG: How important was the inclusion of dedicated servers? Was it a conscious decision at the start?

"Absolutely it was a conscious decision given the size of the battlefields we want, the number of players we want to support and the fact we want to support air vehicles. It takes a lot into play when you have a three-dimensional space you are moving targets through. When you have ground-only combat, infantry-only combat, the predictive nature of what the client does when it is predicting where the player is going to be, and where shots are fired has to look right. There’s always going to be the case of ‘I think I shot the guy first,' but reducing those instances is important. Dedicated servers allow us to ensure that we have fast machines they are running on, that we have them on locations local to where you are and not playing a dude from Shanghai and he is kicking everyone’s ass because he’s the host. So it presents a balance battlefield and allow us to have huge battles."

DG: Thanks for your time. We look forward to taking advantage of dedicated servers on all platforms.

SD: "You’re welcome. They’ll be available day one, so we can’t wait for everyone to see it in action."

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