Men of Valor Designer Diary #2

Lead level designer Scott Maclean explains how 2015 will make this Vietnam War-era action game take advantage of the technical power of PCs.

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You've probably played a first-person shooter by now, so you know they're usually fast-paced action games that you play from a first-person perspective, blasting everything that isn't you. Or they used to be. Nowadays, developers are trying to expand on first-person shooters not only with great graphics and sound, but also with other features like squad-based gameplay and a complex story. A great example of this is Men of Valor, the upcoming Vietnam War-era action game from 2015--the studio whose previous work includes the acclaimed PC shooter Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. In the new game, you'll play as part of a squad of American soldiers in the war, and you can expect to fight battles in lush jungles where your enemies will have plenty of places to hide. Since the game is coming to both the Xbox and the PC, lead level designer Scott Maclean, whose previous work experience includes study at the Naval Postgraduate School on behalf of the US Department of Defense, has graciously agreed to discuss the environments and on-foot action of both versions, with an explanation of how the team is taking advantage of the technical strengths of modern-day PCs.

Hope you love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Hope you love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Run Through the Jungle

By Scott Maclean
Lead Level Designer, 2015

Working for 2015 has been a blast--the team we have here is top notch, great to work with, and just all around good people. Currently, my team and I have been putting in some long hours as we push to put the finishing touches on Men of Valor. All the long hours and hard work are really paying off. Instead of merely providing a port of the Xbox version of Men of Valor, we're hard at work ensuring that the PC version of the game will take advantage of the extra processing power and memory that current PC platforms afford us.

One of the biggest improvements we've made is to completely overhaul the lighting system. Instead of the broad shading that vertex lighting produces on map models and terrain in the Warfare engine, we're going with a new light map solution that provides realistic lighting and shadows on all of the assets in the game. We've incorporated dynamic shadows so that characters both cast and receive shadows. Watching the shadows cast by the dense foliage in our jungle maps slide over your squadmates as you hunt for hidden VC is a cool sight!

The PC version of the game will have enhanced graphics.
The PC version of the game will have enhanced graphics.

In addition to the lighting enhancements for the engine, we've also incorporated a few new graphical treats. We're pleased to be one of the first first-person shooter titles to ship with truly reflective water. Everything in the scene is dynamically reflected in our new water system. It's amazing to watch a firefight unfold along a riverbed in the game. Friendlies and enemies sprinting for cover, tracer fire, muzzle flashes, mortar explosions, and more--all show up in the reflection. It takes an already intense firefight and makes it even more dramatic.

The graphic and lighting enhancements we're adding to the PC version of the game aren't the only enhancements. The rest of the designers and I have spent the last several months (and will continue to spend the next few months) ensuring that each map has the increased level of detail we can afford on the PC. Jungles are more lush, urban areas are more war torn. One of my favorite enhanced areas of the game is the retouched battle of Hue mission. Our research of the city of Hue (all of Vietnam for that matter) shows a very lush, very green environment with all manners of trees and ground vegetation, so we're making sure that the enhanced Hue levels for the PC will be representative of urban areas in Vietnam during the war.

The artists here at 2015 have also been busy taking advantage of the additional system resources. Higher resolution textures as well as reworked character, weapon, and vehicle models are just some of the cool enhancements the artists are putting into the PC game. The level of detail is so great that you can see the individual strands of ripstop nylon in the US character uniforms!

You can also expect to see enhanced foliage in the PC version.
You can also expect to see enhanced foliage in the PC version.

In terms of gameplay, we're also focusing a great deal of attention on making sure this is a true PC game, not just an Xbox port. The weapons have been overhauled, with things like accuracy, recoil, and so on, and they have been adjusted to give a better feel for PC players. The levels have also been tweaked to account for the different experience that playing a shooter with a keyboard and mouse instead of a controller provides. Enemies will be more aggressive and more accurate, and oftentimes, more numerous on the PC than on similar Xbox levels. PC players who are assuming that this game will be some kind of stripped-down shooter for kids are in for a serious surprise the first time they're ambushed by a squad of hidden VC snipers and their world goes to hell in a hurry. We're very excited by the changes we're working into the PC version of the game, and I'm confident that we'll be delivering a title that will prove a worthy successor to Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

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