Q&A: EA talks Medal of Honor: Airborne

We chat with Electronic Arts creative director Jon Paquette about making Medal of Honor: Airborne.

Since 1999, the Medal of Honor series has had its feet firmly planted on the ground--until now. Medal of Honor: Airborne places players in the shoes of Boyd Travers, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, as he drops from the sky directly into enemy-packed missions. GameSpot AU caught up with Electronic Arts creative director Jon Paquette to talk about how the missions will play out, enemy artificial intelligence in the game, and more.

GameSpot AU: With the single-player campaign, how long will each mission take to play out? How big will the maps be?

Jon Paquette: With the open nature of our gameplay, a mission can take anywhere from one hour to three hours to complete for a first-time player. But the more you become familiar with the maps, the more "shortcuts" you can discover--especially taking advantage of the airdrop. Each map is relatively large--about the size of a small town in real-world proportions. Of course, you can drop anywhere you want within that mission, and depending on how you attack once you're on the ground, you may end up having a vastly different experience than your buddy who dropped somewhere else.

You may not be able to control your teammates, but they'll step up to the plate when needed.

GS AU: Tell us about the mission structure.

JP: You play the game from the point of view of one character, Boyd Travers, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. You are only required to play each mission once, but our design has a lot of built-in replay. Not only can you drop in a different place each time, there are also five "skill drops" in each mission that will earn you medals when completed. Furthermore, with the new weapon-upgrade system, you can replay missions and earn upgrades for your weapons, which will give you more firepower in the later missions.

GS AU: Parachuting into areas is obviously Airborne's main differentiator from previous WWII-themed games, with where you land your character greatly affecting the gameplay experience. How much more difficult is controlling your descent when playing at Airborne's higher difficulty levels?

JP: We don't scale the difficulty of the parachute mechanics, but we do scale the difficulty of the enemies. On higher difficulties, the enemies are faster, smarter, and more accurate. So when you land on a higher difficulty, you will have less time to react to the enemies around you, and landing on an enemy stronghold is tantamount to suicide. Furthermore, in the later levels, some advanced sniper enemies will actually shoot at you as you're in the air--so you have to work your chute controls to evade their attacks.

GS AU: Players can choose to land anywhere within the mission areas. Can you talk about how you've manipulated enemy AI to cope with the hundreds of different scenarios they could be faced with?

JP: Traditional, linear FPS games rely on a designer-controlled AI system, where the game designer attempts to anticipate player actions and manipulates the AI to make the best action moments occur. As soon as we realised that our players could start anywhere, we decided, as game designers, that we had to relinquish that control. Instead of following precedence, we built an AI system that understands the environment and reacts dynamically (i.e., systematically) to the player's choices. We stopped thinking about what the player was doing, and instead designed areas where the enemies would have a lot of options in how to defend their territory. Then, when the player uses different tactics against the enemy, the enemies survey the environment, find the most appropriate angle of attack, and take action. We did a lot of prototyping and a lot of trial and error to make the system work, and we're very proud of how the player has an infinite number of ways to attack their enemy. There are no "combat puzzles" in this game. You can defeat the enemies however you want.

GS AU: Multiplayer is all team-based play. Will the single-player campaign allow you to take control of allied soldiers and work as a team?

JP: We wanted to focus on a player-centric experience, where you could concentrate on what your character was doing, moment-to-moment, and the game would react to the choices you make. Giving the player control over additional allies felt outside of that scope, and we decided against it. Instead, we put a lot of intelligence into our allied AI, where they monitor how the player is performing and make smart decisions based on the player's actions. For example, if you're getting hit, and the enemy is winning, they'll recognise that and try to provide covering fire. They also call out enemy troop movements and hard targets (such as machine gun nests) to keep you up to date on what's happening in the battle.

GS AU: Why does multiplayer only allow up to 12 players per game?

JP: We did a lot of play testing and prototyping with our multiplayer and decided on 12 players because of the nature of our gameplay and the size of our maps. With more players, it became a little overwhelming to have that many paratroopers coming from the sky throughout the gameplay sessions. One thing that's unique about our multiplayer is that not only do you have to watch the map in front of you, but also the sky above you. Incoming paratroopers can kill you in one shot by landing on top of you and kicking you. We've had some epic games with 12 players, and it feels like the perfect balance for our multiplayer experience.

Be careful not to get shot by those pesky snipers in that tower.

GS AU: On a different note, Letters from Iwo Jima was a highly acclaimed film because it showed WWII from a different perspective. Do you think we'll ever see a WWII FPS set from the Japanese or German perspective?

JP: It's always hard to compare passive entertainment (movies) and active entertainment (games). Filmmakers have a lot of tools to shape story and events; these tools help audiences empathise or even sympathise with the characters. Game makers have different tools. Our most powerful tool is our ability to let the audience live out a fantasy. Our audience can do whatever they want once they pick up the controller. I'm all for telling different stories from different perspectives, but I guess the real question would be is that what the gamers want. I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility to have WWII stories told from different perspectives though.

GS AU: Jon Paquette, thanks for your time.

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Discussion

61 comments
MoDollars
MoDollars

sounds good but i'm still not sure whether i'll get it.

gws898
gws898

oh man, each mission can only play once. that sucks. :(

cusefan2
cusefan2

man i am totally pissed off they didn't put it out for the PS2 like they were supposed too and i think it''s to expensive for the PS3 or Xbox 360 for me to buy. EA sucks

jasonmasico
jasonmasico

The demo is scheduled for when on LIVE?

AyGuL
AyGuL

cool man its cool i cant wait for this game

murano28
murano28

This one will be the best moh game...

zznn
zznn

What are you guys are talking about!WWll are still awesome! Just thgat each one needs a different character like MOHA is introducing the ultimate freedom that you can land on the map anywhere!!!Just like in real life!

theG168
theG168

I'd really like to get this game, I'm still into WWII games unlike alot of people...

livinglegend305
livinglegend305

all these world war games are getting boring. EA please come up with a different type of FPSthats great the character can jump out of a plane. other than that its the same ol EA

kipue
kipue

I, for myself, really liked the last question... But was a litte dispointed with the answer given. I ve talked about this matter with a couple of good german friends, and they said that they wouldn t see it as offensive, really. Let s say you play the Germans in a WW2 shooter, then, you are not the one that throw people into ovens. Or you don t play the japanese to massacre people in Tianjin (south of China). A soldier s a soldier, I guess, as long as you don t have to do those things. On the other hand, I ve been a good fan of the Blitzkrieg games wich were somewhat historically bound. There you can play as the germans, but I guess that they won t be the center of a game, because you play "the losing side". your missions consist of : we are pulling back from the city, do so with as less casualties as possible. Ok, we were pushed back to our home country, take as much enemy as you can when the end comes. On the Allies side, on the contrary, that s: go to defeat them in their last stronghold, and then, we won! (credits rolling).

MoDollars
MoDollars

like the news, thats more i get to know about, now i should decide whether I should get it....

wjkflke
wjkflke

This looks like a good game. and id buy it if it had a longer campaigne. 6 missions are way 2 short.

adders99
adders99

@ bam226. if you dont like WW2 games then stop playing them. i myself enjoy them and dont want people like you ruining them for me.

bam226
bam226

I got a question!! When are you people gonna stop making WWII games? At least Call Of Duty is going modern but Medal of Honor, nooo, you guys gotta milk that era for all its worth.

Desert_Punk2007
Desert_Punk2007

That is true guilhem_r. EA thinks of everything else but that lol. They mentioned that no one has done a Game where you play as a German or Japanese soldier in a single player campaign, I have always wanted to do that. Its true there are movies like "Letters from Iwo Jima" that focus on thw Japanese Story of WWII. Why not a game? If it was done well, a game about the Japanese or German side would be good and refreshing to play.

guilhem_r
guilhem_r

Major continuity problem: When you die on the ground in the solo campaign, they say that you respawn in the plane, as the same soldier. You're the same character that just died; the objectives you had accomplished before dying are still marked as accomplished. Then how the hell can a character that just died on the ground while accomplishing those objectives be resurrected in the plane ? It's not a restart since you keep your accomplished objectives. It's not a checkpoint since they take you back to the plane. It breaks all narrative logic and it's not immersive to say the least. They should have had you play a different soldier each time you jump. This way it would have made sense to jump and pick the mission where your previous soldier left it.

valcrist09
valcrist09

I am sure the PS3 version will be nerfed, especially when it comes out months after. Luckly it is coming out on the PC so that will work just fine for me.

NeoNavarro
NeoNavarro

I wonder if this game is going to run at 20fps on the Playstation 3 and 60fps on the X-Box 360?

DodgeDuty
DodgeDuty

I am glad that there will be a lot of replayability. I replay CoD a lot but there isn't much element of suprise.

ashuncc2
ashuncc2

It may be a rental. I just don't know how many more war games I want to purchase.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

MoH has some tough competition from CoD this year.

Shinedown220
Shinedown220

I hope its not dumbed down on PS3, like most of EA's other PS3 games.

lamprey263
lamprey263

I used to like MoH before CoD came out, then I lost all interest in the MoH games, though they did actually make a game that took place on the Pacific and the Russian fronts. CoD has yet to make a Pacific theater, but they made one of the Russian front. I always thought that the Russian front made for a better setting than France since fighting for/on one's homeland seemed to have more dramatic element to the story and battles. Plus, I think there's a lot more history there. 25 million dead Russians to say the least. And they also deployed some great ingenuity; for instance, the Road to Life operation during the seige of Leningrad.. The battle for Stalingrad deserves a little more than an Enemy at the Gates reenactment. Also, most these games try to breeze though the entire war and constantly shift perspectives giving little time to actually experience what took place (or how it was fictionalized for a game). Though, CoD3 attempted narrow the story down and develop it, which was a step in the right direction, but their story sucked (still a good shooter nonetheless). Anyhow, I hope this game doesn't prove that invading France on D-Day is a dead topic. It'd be nice to see some life put back into these games, and that WW2 FPSs aren't just sucking up the creativity that went into WW2 films.

Esteban011487
Esteban011487

This game might get a 08.00 schore!!!. I believe so!.

Lord_Nuclear
Lord_Nuclear

justinleo, Having as many players in a multiplayer as physically possible is not the best way to go. There are many games that have far fewer player maximums than Battlefield but are still much better and more fun to play. Wait til the game comes out and give it a shot then 'cause you can't ever tell how good or bad a multiplayer is going to be solely by the maximum number of players. Personally, it looks very promising. They say that a 12 player maximum is balanced. I'd rather have a game that's balanced than overcrowded. Really looking foward to this one...

Funkyhamster
Funkyhamster

Heh, the guy's right about the difficulty in making a WWII FPS from the opposite point of view. It seems like a lot of gamers wouldn't really want to play as Nazis, and activists, Jack Thompson, and those types would have a field day bashing the game.

JackBurton
JackBurton

I prefer the COD series to MOH's... but this looks like it could easily be the best-of-series for the MOH Franchise. The only way i wont buy this game (PC), is if it gets universally bad reviews.

Protocol_5
Protocol_5

Sounds like the game has an interesting concept. And puting the parachutes online sounds cool. I think I'll rent before I buy, but I have high hopes.

boobush
boobush

Well, the graphics don't look EA.

pete_merlin
pete_merlin

i dont see this game getting a high score

justinleo
justinleo

Twelve player max is really pathetic. I had high hopes for the multiplayer aspect of this game as I find that's where the true replayability factor comes in... however twelve folks running around compared to the games like BF just doesn't seem to make an impact. Probably won't stop me from buying... but it's shelf life on my computer will definitely be reduced.

Port5
Port5

MOH sucks. What makes this one different?

diablobasher
diablobasher

Previous MOH's were the worst WWII FPS by far, this one both looks and sounds good however, i'll wait for more gameplay footage and opinion before i give it more than a second glance however.

Moon_Child
Moon_Child

I gave up on the MOH seires after that one where you had to babysit your AI allies and even use your own healthpacks to heal them. I hated that one so much. If this one is anything like that one, I just will pass. It's not like there aren't other good FPSs to be released around the same time. Maybe I will buy it if reviews are good.

COMBATER202
COMBATER202

I wonder what the upgrading the weapons aspect of the game will be like.

DEWMAN08
DEWMAN08

It looks good, but I'll still wait for the review, you never know.

wii_sean_wii
wii_sean_wii

must hav for FPS fans, great graphics and even better gameplay. I think medal of honour designers should think of playing as a Japanese or German person. and im English. ihope they think about it

Wanderer5
Wanderer5

Sound like it a good game. I may get it on the PC.

okassar
okassar

The OXM team reviewed the game(they get early copies of most game),and it turned out average for them.I don't like average games,and unless gamespot,gameinformer,gamespy...don't glorify it then there's no way I'm getting the game.Besides,aren't we tired of WWII games?Just my opinion.But the mostly new concept of parachuting into your war zone(in a game) is radical and gives the game a unique touch.

master_chr1s
master_chr1s

What about CO-OP??? it was announced at the beginning of airborne....don't tell me that EA scimped AGAIN and removed it....oh but some games do play a low amount of people well...take first to fight...only 8 players...there was always action...but then the maps where smaller...i highely doubt that the single player and multi player maps are the same size.

Riddle015
Riddle015

atleast 16 players I mean if you can play anywhere on the maps then it should be able to have more players i hope i dont spend a bunch of my time looking for people or then the multiplayer is done withe but the single [player campaign sounds great.

Warfust
Warfust

Sounds like a lot of fun, another game to keep an eye on.

gtfoh35
gtfoh35

12!!! On a large map! I hope i dont spend half of my time searching for one noob to kill. This can really kill the MP esp with COD3 hitting 24 with ease now-a-days

cardshark86
cardshark86

I'm personally in it for the Single Player campaign. May mess around with the multiplayer a bit, who knows, may like it. If I want large scale multi-player battles, I'll go play BF 2149

Pete5506
Pete5506

Yes 12 is nothing at all but it still looks like EA has somthing good here and I will have to check it out

darkfox101
darkfox101

LOL 12 players? wtf is this a console based game? PC standards are to high for 12, maybe if SP can make up for that :/

NinjaMunkey01
NinjaMunkey01

I understad why ea decided to have only 12 players in an online game. if there were too many the allies would always win. just imagine, you are given the task of defending your flag, then suddenly 20 paratroopers drop on your head. how could you beat that? I do not kow weather to get this for the 360 or ps3. the 360 version willl be cheaper and may look slightly better. but im not really for paying extra money to go online. I like the fact that you dont have to control 3 people like in allied assault as they could not be left alone for 5 seconds and in later levels you were having to watch over them more than you had to shoot the enimes.