James Parkin: First of all, thank you for letting me interview you about the upcoming game,America’s Army: True Soldiers. Before we begin can I get your name and official title, as well as your role in developing America’s Army: True Soldiers?
Randy Greenback: Hi, my name is Randy Greenback and I’m a Creative Director at Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft.
JP: America’s Army has previously been released on both the PC and original Xbox console, what’s new with the 360 version? Is it just a different location with a few new missions? Or is it a completely revamped game?
RG: Everything is new this time around, from the location, to the missions, the weapons, the AI, the multiplayer modes, and also all the technology behind the game as well. We chose to go with the GRAW2 Multiplayer engine developed at Red Storm, along with our proprietary toolset which allowed us to hit the ground running and produce AA:TS. Fans of the past games will be right at home since the general flavor of the game remains the same as well as the focus on authenticity.
JP: What sets AA:TS aside from other first person shooters?
RG: First and foremost it’s the only modern day military game that has the official Army backing and it’s team-centric down to its core. Run and gun and lone-wolf players are going to get eaten up alive when they go online. A well trained team of average players that move together, coordinate with sound tactics and have each others back will win a battle against a less cohesive team filled with better players. AA:TS also rewards socialization online with the ability for players to show each other Respect and to earn Honor.
JP: What was the most difficult part of making AA:TS? Did the team run into any problems?
RG: There are always ups and downs when it comes to game development. Every day presents a new challenge or a new dilemma with a design choice to be made. Fortunately whenever any authenticity question would arise we could consult with the Army to get insight into what would happen in real-life or what they teach Soldiers during training.
JP: What are your opinions on the achievement system that Microsoft’s using? Are you a fan or is it more of a burden for developers?
RG: I think the achievement system was a brilliant addition to the Xbox 360. Its inclusion brings about a whole new Meta game that people can really dig into. I for one am a big fan of it, and what it does for gamers. Carefully designed achievements push players to play other areas of the game that they otherwise may never have tried or even to try new tactics to unlock others. Personally I enjoy going through and earning more achievements than my friends, its healthy competition.
If there are ever cross platform games, the choice of which one to buy is always made easier because of the achievement system. If it comes down to a game that’s available for either the 360 or PS3, well I want my Gamerscore to rise so the 360 is going to win out.
JP: The PC version of AA has seen loads of extra content, are there any plans for downloadable content to be released on the Xbox Live Marketplace?
RG: In addition to AA:TS Dashboard Themes and Gamer Pics, we are releasing trailers and movies on a weekly basis. As far as in-game content goes, nothing has been officially announced but we’ll keep you updated.
JP: Are there any plans of a demo before the October 23rd release date?
RG: We are definitely going to have a demo on Marketplace and we are aiming to have it out before the release of the game. I hope players take the time to check it out and see what AA:TS has to offer.
JP: How do the Honor points work in AA:TS?
RG: Since Honor and Respect are big parts of a Soldiers life; we wanted to give players that same experience in the game. Honor Points (HP) are earned by performing honorable actions while in-game. You can earn Honor by sharing ammo, shooting an enemy that is targeting your fellow squad mates, dragging a wounded Soldier behind cover, or performing aid on them to get them back into action. The Honor Points you accrue will eventually lead to rank increases and access to leadership roles on the squad.
Respect is represented in the game at the end of online matches or Co-Op missions. Based on how many Honor Points you earned, you will get a certain amount of Respect Tokens that you can then give out to reward your fellow Soldiers. When you fight alongside a group of players that do a good job and work well as a team you award them some Respect Tokens that then turn into HP for them. If players are making bad choices, are not following orders, and in general are not being team players then they will earn negative HP in-game by way of their dishonorable actions. Poor players will not receive any Respect from the rest of the team members and they can even be demoted.
We are hoping this system encourages players to play as a team and ensure that leaders will have earned their positions. The big goal is to help make for a more positive online experience for all players while enforcing the Army Core Values of Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
JP: This one’s an addition to the above question, what are the benefits of playing well online?
RG: Obviously playing well online will help you rise up on the ladders, but it may also gain you other benefits as well. By increasing your rank and becoming an effective Team or Squad Leader you will begin meeting like-minded players that you can then team up with to form your own Unit, which is the AA:TS version of a clan. You can then begin challenging other players or recruiting them onto your team.
You may also get to play against actual U.S. Army Soldiers stationed on bases oversees as the Army will be fielding their own Units online. You can earn Army Coins within the game as well that will allow you entry into contests for real world rewards like a jump with the Golden Knights or a chance to spend a day training with an elite Special Forces squad on an Army base.
JP: How do the achievements work in AA:TS? Will they be singleplayer only? Multiplayer only? Or will stats be combined from both?
RG: Some achievements can only be earned in single player, some can only be earned in multiplayer, and then the rest will be unlocked by a combination of both. We realize that some players don’t have Xbox Live Gold Memberships or can’t always play with an online connection. Knowing that, we have taken care to include a Local Play mode that will let players cooperate in 2-player splitscreen against the AI in any of our Co-Op match types or even go in solo with AI teammates to go through the Co-Op Campaign missions. Doing this allows everyone to work towards completing all the Achievements so that they can get their 1000 Gamerscore points.
JP: I’ve heard rumors about a ‘paintball’ mode, what is this mode and how does it differ from the blood and gore?
RG: We have a ‘Wargames’ Campaign that simulates Advanced Training and highlights the use of Non-Lethal Training Ammunition. The training ammo uses a marking compound that spreads out across the point of impact on the target, much like a paintball. When playing in this mode players that are hit will be called out and will take a seat on the ground just as Soldiers do in real training events. The same tactical experience is there, it’s just done in a safe environment. Parents can turn on this option to enable it across all areas of the game and this will let younger teens play the game as it was intended, but never see the taking of a virtual life.
JP: Anything else you’d like to toss out to the members at Xbox 360 Achievements?
RG: Keep on producing the Achievement guides as some of the team here at Red Storm uses them as well as the forums on the site. When the AA:TS demo hits in October, download it and check it out with a group of friends. We hope you enjoy all our hard work and we’ll be seeing you on Xbox Live.