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INTERVIEW: Greg Wilson on Company of Heroes 2

INTERVIEW: Greg Wilson on Company of Heroes 2

At the THQ Pre-E3 Event last week, MCV got the chance to interview one of the producers on the much anticipated Company of Heroes 2.

Beforehand, we were privy to a hands-off demo of just a handful of the new features the second game will incorporate. We asked producer Greg Wilson a few questions about following up such a successful first outing so long after the original release.

It’s been a significant period of time since the previous Company of Heroes game came out. Has this time helped the team really digest what a sequel would need?

Yeah, absolutely. We’ve had a ton of time to think about this sequel and other games come and go in between the titles, and they’ve all gone into helping us make decisions about where we go with the franchise. What we realised when we came back to look at CoH2 was that we were really proud of what we’d originally built, and obviously it resonated with the fan base, with the original breaking a number of records.

So what we learned was that we have a great recipe here and we wanted to make sure that we moved forward with the franchise, not detouring too far away from what we had already built. So our tactic here is more rather than different. The gameplay will be very familiar to players who have played CoH before, but we’ve also tried to make certain elements easier to understand for players who are new to the franchise. Then for both of those player bases we’ve added a bunch of new features which will give them more choices to make.

For us, that’s what games are about is making choices, choices which are fun and exciting and we really feel that we’ve brought all those great ones from CoH forward and built on those here.

And is your fanbase more likely to be up for the challenge of pushing those choices? Are they a more patient crowd in general?

I think there’s a fine line. They expect a lot out of us, but I do think they’re very respectful of what we’re trying to do with the game and the experience that we’re trying to deliver, so I think we can push in different directions, and I think the fans expect that of Relic. That’s our pedigree is always to produce really really high quality experiences that are innovative. In this case, we’re certainly continuing to push the envelope with the new features we’re introducing.

Did Company of Heroes Online offer key learnings you’re able to use with CoH2?

Yeah, absolutely. We’re very proud of CoH Online, and the team that worked on it went through the tremendous learning curve of how to run an online experience (which is growing in the US at the moment with free-to-play) and building the technology to support that. They had to work hard on iteration and quick patching etc, and had to really learn how to build that properly and make it work. We launched in China, Korea and North America for beta, and the response was quite good.

So, for the team, on the technology side, there’s a lot that we learned and now a lot of processes internally that we use. On the gameplay side, there’s lots of stuff we’ve taken into not just CoH but also Relic. There’s lots of learning around what keeps players interested which we’ve taken on board.

How universally appealing to do you think the RTS genre is? Do you see CoH expanding to consoles? Is it even possible for an RTS to break into mainstream with the kind of numbers we see in shooters?

Yeah, I think it’s very possible. There’s a very loyal fanbase for people that like strategy and tactical games, and they buy most of them which come out and generally play them to death. We still have servers running on the original CoH, which shows us that people love playing that kind of game.

I think the success of Starcraft II (or really even Starcraft I) shows us that it’s possible for these kind of games to take off and be exposed to a broad market type of consumer. And I think that with the new advances in technology (all these touch-devices on slates and tablets that they’re talking about for the new consoles) RTS games will be able to break into that kind of mainstream, because it’s really the interface that’s so challenging for people, what with so many buttons to press, left and right clicking, trying to manipulate the camera, multiple units to control, and that’s in addition to all the gameplay elements they need to master.

There’s a high level of complexity to the game itself, and then when you throw in the mouse and keyboard it confuses some people. I would hope that in the future we can look to bring RTS in general to a broader market. I think the quality of gameplay and the experience is on par with any other type of genre out there. The only thing in our way is that interfaces, so as we get better there, we’ll reach more people.

And would you say the pinnacle of reaching that mainstream audience within the RTS world is to be a flagship title in an e-Sports community, or is that only for a certain niche of gamers?

That’s a really interesting question. e-Sports are really cool, I love seeing what’s happening with them and being able to go to Barcraft and stuff like that (going to a bar and watching people play Starcraft). I think that’s just amazing, and there are just more gamers out there now that are into doing those things with their friends, so I think we’re going to continue to see that grow. It is a sport in itself, in that it’s worth paying to play or to watch.

I don’t think you need an e-Sports breakout hit to be successful. I think you need to have a high quality experience that connects with people on a couple of different levels. So CoH2 is not about action, CoH as a franchise is not about making a certain number of actions per minute – it’s about making tactical decisions based upon what’s happening at that moment. We’ve seen players come from other RTS games who will simply not understand why they can’t hurt a tank with their squad of riflemen. So what we’re doing is exposing the realities of these units and giving people the different counter-moves to make that a success or a failure.

Thank you for your time!


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