Legacy Interview

Tuesday, May 20, 2003.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War Box artRTCW:Tides of War - Nerve

We sit down with Brandon James of Nerve Software to talk about Return to Castle Wolfenstein:Tides of War. And with E3 2003 in the mix of all of the action, we just get this interview sqeezed out. Enjoy!

Q: Seeing as this game was originally released for the PC, the obvious question is what are the differences between the original version released on the PC and the Xbox version?

A: There are numerous additions and enhancements to the PC version for Tides of War. In single-player and co-operative play, we have the addition of an entirely new prologue campaign that takes place in North Africa and introduces the player to the OSA and Agent One and ultimately leads them on the path to hunt for what it is the Nazis are out to achieve. New enemies and environments can be found in the prologue missions as well as in later parts of the game. The new enemies include the Mercenary found in the prologue areas, the Occult Priest, a wielder of ancient knowledge barely holding onto their remaining shred of humanity and the X-Shepherd, a half-dog, half-machine hybrid with a Venom chain-gun mounted on it’s back. In our adventure you’ll also find some new items. The Holy Cross is a devastating relic that obliterates the undead. The X-Shield is a force-field of tesla energy that grants temporary invulnerability to the player. The EMP Device sends out a impulse ring of energy that immobilizes and disables X-Creatures such as the Proto-Soldier and Loper. Along with the items is a new weapon, the shotgun, found in both single-player and multi-player that’s great for pumping the enemy full of lead at close range. There are new gameplay features as well such as reward for backstabbing enemies, which definitely requires a more stealthy approach to combat. If you find all of the secret areas in a mission you will also be awarded with bonus items upon completing the mission that will be added to your health, ammo, weaponry, or inventory for the next area. In balancing out the bonus items we looked at what players would benefit from most when reaching the next mission, so try to find them all! For multiplayer, we have the addition of a new game mode called “Elimination”, where all of the objectives in a mission are turned off and each player only has one life. This really brings out the best in the medic class as if you want your team to succeed, you’ll definitely want to revive fallen teammates. A lot of the multiplayer maps were tweaked for the controller and to maximize the experience for up to sixteen players. In addition to entirely new maps, other areas were revamped and reworked to allow more players to move comfortably through areas. All of the settings for creating a match for multiplayer are fully customizable and you can select different parameters to search for when browsing for a game through Optimatch. We also worked on just about everything else in the game including effects for the items, water and skies. Cutscenes were reworked and rendered, new multiplayer skins were created to make it easier to distinguish friend from foe as well as what class each person plays, etc.

Q: It has already been announced that Return to Castle Wolfenstein will be fully playable on Xbox Live. Will the game take advantage of the Xbox hard drive and offer the ability to download new maps and weapons in the future?

A: Full content download functionality is build into Tides of War. Over the next few months we will be releasing 3 new multiplayer maps. Although nothing is planned, further downloadable content is always a possibility.

Q: There seems to be two setups for voice communication on Xbox Live, pressing a button to speak (ex. Ghost Recon) or a microphone that is constantly on (ex. Unreal Championship), which of the two setups did you choose for RTCW?

A: In Tides of War the Communicator is always on and you have the option of choosing three different voice channels for your team. Full Communicator support is in, with the option to mute players in the game, mute your headset, etc. Since the game is faster passed, we really wanted to have our hands free to maximize movement, precision and control. When running around in multiplayer, you can always tell which member of your team is talking over their headset as an icon will pop up over their character. If someone cries out, “Medic!” over the Communicator, you’ll be able to pinpoint their location since it shows up on the in-game compass as well. A larger icon means they’re close by, a smaller icon means they’re further away.

Q: Phantasy Star Online is the first Xbox game to include the use of a keyboard. Will RTCW support a keyboard and mouse for those die hard PC gamers?

A: No keyboard and mouse support for Tides of War. Personally, I prefer using the controller now compared to the old keyboard/mouse configuration. We did a ton of testing and added some features to the game to try and mimic the exacting precision found when playing a PC first-person shooter. Since the Communicator is available in multiplayer System Link as well as Xbox Live, there’s really no need for keyboard support.

Q: Co-operative play has been announced for split screen, but is it available via system link or Xbox Live?

A: Co-operative play in Tides of War is only available via split-screen on one system.

Q: A common complaint among gamers is the lack of bots for multiplayer among recent Xbox releases. Any chance of seeing them in RTCW?

A: There are no multiplayer bots for Tides of War. The focus of the multiplayer game is bringing Live players together with the unique teamwork found in the multiplayer aspect of the game and through the integration of the Xbox Live features. Using the Communicator to coordinate attacks, defense and overall strategy really takes the game to a new level.

Q: It was recently announced that the Xbox version of Counterstrike will allow users to submit custom made levels for download on Xbox live. Is this going to be made available for RTCW?

A: It certainly could be, though there are no plans for that at this time. Since Xbox Live is a closed system there really isn’t a way to do this right now without going through a verification and submission process, but in the future I could see this as a great addition to an on-line console service. The big question is how to get the data from the user who created the media to all the possible consoles in the world in a secure manner. There will definitely going to be additional multiplayer missions made available through content download.

Q: Are there any plans for any official RTCW tournaments on the Xbox?

A: There is currently a tournament running that will culminate at E3 this coming week. Outside of that, there aren’t any official tournaments planned. I’d love to see something at QuakeCon this year. It’s great browsing the different on-line forums for Tides of War and watching the creation of Clans and different ladders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some player organized tournaments and rankings in the coming months.

Q: The ability for Xbox users and PC users to play RTCW online together would be ideal. Is this a possibility or is it just a pipedream?

A: That would be a pipedream! I don’t think we’d really want PC and console players to play against each other unless they were absolutely playing from the same set of assets and restrictions. However, in an ideal world we would definitely have PC servers up and running that the console players could connect to or even run themselves.

Q: One thing people complain about the most is awkward controls in a game. Will users have the ability to customize the control scheme in RTCW?

A: Controls in Tides of War are completely customizable. There are also a few presets that we played with at the office that the player can choose from. Other options can be customized as well, such as the aim-assist feature, sensitivity for the thumbsticks, quick-turn, etc.

Q: A problem with many PC ports is the lack of buttons on a control. Was this a problem at all during the development process? If so, how are some of the interesting ways in which you got around this obstacle?

A: Moving from a control scheme that had over 100 customizable keys to a scheme with 12 buttons and two thumbsticks definitely proved challenging and we spent a lot of time looking at other successful console first-person shooters while adding features and functionality to maximize control and precision. Some controls have different functions in multiplayer, such as the white button. when playing single-player it brings up the notebook that outlines your current mission, in multiplayer it’s a shortcut to the Limbo menu for faster access to setting up your class and weapons. The left and right buttons on the d-pad in single-player let you navigate through your inventory, while in multiplayer these can be used to call out, “Medic!” or “I need ammo!” Up on the d-pad in single-player uses your currently selected inventory item, in multi-player it’s a quick select for your primary weapon. Those are some of the differences between the types of gameplay using the default controller configuration. For navigation in the missions, we widened up a lot of the doorways and passages to make maneuverability easier when just moving through the levels or when engaged in combat. Some of the vertical combat was tightened up to play on a more horizontal plane. We also added in a very un-obtrusive aim-assist feature for beginning players, only available in off-line modes of play as well as a “Quick Turn” that can be assigned to a button. When held down, “Quick Turn” acts as a sensitivity doubler so you can whip around faster if being chased by the enemy, or speed up looking around when zoomed in over long distances.

Q: A popular trend among games lately is including previous versions of the game series in the new installment. Will RTCW include Wolfenstein 3D as it has been rumored? If so, when in development was this decision made?

A: The original Wolfenstein 3D was moved over to the Xbox at the very beginning of development. It wasn’t until later in production that we decided it would be included in the final retail release. Once you finish the single-player campaign of Tides of War, the original Wolfenstein 3D is unlocked in all of its glory!

Q: Many times in first person shooters, there are one or two weapons that dominate all the others. Is this the case in RTCW or are all the weapons balanced with strengths and weaknesses?

A: I don’t think there’s one weapon that dominates all the others in any of the game modes. You’ll find that some weapons are used more than others simply because of the amount of ammo to be found. Even the knife has become more balanced in single-player as there is a new backstab reward system built into the game.

Q: It appears as though RTCW has more of a stealth approach to it, is it possible to go in with guns-a-blazin' and still finish the game, or is stealth a necessity in some missions?

A: The environments and combat situations in the game are extremely varied. It’s really up to the player how they go about disposing of their enemies, but in many cases they’ll find that they could find out further information and even have a better chance in combat if they take a slower, more methodical approach. Leaning around corners to pin-point enemy positions, zooming in with the binoculars or another scoped weapon to survey your surroundings are a couple of tactics to use before engaging the enemy. There are a couple of areas in the game where the player will definitely have a harder time blindly charging the enemy as once the alarms go off and the enemy has been alerted to your presence, it’s game over.

Q: Video game merchandise has been very popular lately. Everything from air fresheners to action figures has been used to promote games. Is there any merchandise planned for RTCW's Xbox release?

A: Not at this time, but there is a fantastic strategy guide out from Prima if you need a hint or two.

Thanks Brandon for keeping us in touch...until next time.

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