1) Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions. Could you please start by introducing yourself to our readers and briefly explain what it is you do at Pandemic.
My name’s Drew Marlowe, and I’m a Designer at Pandemic. I worked on FSW: Ten Hammer’s game mechanics, and created three of the game’s levels.
2) What new additions can players look forward to in Ten Hammers that wasn’t previously found in FSW?
We added pretty much everything that players were asking for after the first FSW game. We’ve got a great AI system that gives the game a lot more challenge and replayability. This time the enemy is going to be actively trying to flank you, as well as be able to escape from your soldier’s flanking maneuvers. Player can now order their soldiers to clear out buildings, and fire out of windows to get around – or over – an enemy soldiers cover. We’ve added tanks – you can drive them, blow up roadblocks, duel enemy armor, or suppress enemy forces with their mounted machine guns. We’ve also given you RPG soldiers, to take out the opposing forces armor. And of course, you’ll be able to do all this in our new versus multiplayer multiplayer mode, as well as coop. There’s a new firing mode, called precision fire. This will allow players to order one of their soldiers to stand up and take a snipe shot at an enemy player. This is really helpful and satisfying when you’re up against an intelligent AI driven enemy who keeps sneaking away from you.
Beyond those major things, we’ve got a ton of smaller improvements. We had a writer on the staff full time, so we have a much more interesting story this time around. There are a number of graphical improvements; we have some pretty amazing programmers working with us here. You can now call in airstrikes at any point in a level – it looks pretty awesome seeing a helicopter tearing up the ground and cover all around your target. Buddy teams are much more versatile now. We’ve also got gibbing in, so when someone gets hit in the face with a 203, you know it. It really looks great when you’re driving the tank around, exploding guys into pieces.
3) Can players expect a continuation of FSW or is Ten Hammers placing players in the midst of a new conflict? Please tell us more about the title’s storyline.
The plotline of Ten Hammers takes place in Zekistan, the same fictional country as the first game. It takes place a few months later, in the northern part of the country. After taking out Al Faed in the first game, the US is trying to help rebuild the country. Unfortunately, a group called the Mujahideen are trying to take over, and attack the allied forces. The al-Ra’id, who have been working with the coalition, see this as an opportunity to gain power, and also strike at the US. Of course, neither of them get along with each other, so you’ll see them fighting as well.
The storyline itself will follow a new character, Sgt. Daniels, as he tries to get the situation under control, while at the same time dealing with his past mistakes. You’ll also get to see some of the other members of the coalition when Daniels teams up with a squad of British soldiers.
4) For the players out there who are more “hands-on” action fans rather than pointing and clicking, and then watching their squad execute said order, would Ten Hammers appeal more to them, or is the game more in the same style as the original?
We’ve added in the precision fire feature I mentioned above to cater to this crowd. This allows you to take shots directly at the enemy, putting the gun in your hands. There are also the tank missions, which are very intense. And, in both multi and single player, you’ll be able to control squads of just one character. These squads are able to react quickly, and make you feel like less like a leader and more like a soldier. So player will be able to play in either fashion, depending on their preference.
5) What exotic locales can we expect to see, and will there be more indoor environments this time around?
Since this game takes part in a different part of Zekistan, there will be some much more interesting locales than in the original FSW. There are missions that take place in and around big cities, art museums, mountain villages, and my favorite, the ruins of an ancient monastery. There’re more, but I probably shouldn’t spoil every location in the game.
We’ve got indoor locations in every level in the game, included elevated positions in a ton of places. They add a ton of depth to the game, by allowing a player to go through a building rather than around it, and giving him the ability to shoot right over enemy’s pieces of cover to take them out. It’s also awesome to see your soldiers rush up the stairs, guns at the ready, and obliterate everything in the room.
6) Ten Hammers will see the addition of a multiplayer aspect, please tell us more about it and how you guys went about developing this mode based on the more ‘point and click’ gameplay mechanic of FSW. Will the MP follow the same pace as the single-player campaign (a squad per player, etc.), or has there been a different approach taken for online play?
Geez, I could talk about the multiplayer all day. It’s a brilliant combination of strategy and action. This results in a ton of gotcha! moments after one player’s superior strategic move, or and frantic fast paced tactics when two players meet up unexpectedly. Each map will be able to support 2-8 players, with 2-4 factions per map, and we have something like 6 or 7 multiplayer maps total. So you’ll be able to play 2v2, 1v1, 2v2v2v2, 1v1v2v2, etc.
One of the most refreshing things about the multiplayer is that each level is objective based, and each objective is completely different. One level has a typical “destroy/defend the weapons cache” objective, one has a dual destroy/defend objective (both sides have an objective to destroy and defend), one has a series of objectives that will lead players all over the level. Some levels have spawn points that the player has to secure before moving on, or he risks getting hit from behind. There are even a couple levels where the players get to mix it up with both tanks and infantry fighting for control of an area. I’m very happy that we were able to pull off such a diverse and interesting multiplayer feature.
The other cool thing about the multiplayer is who you get to control. The players will get to pick either the coalition side or the Zeki insurgent side. The sides play very differently. The insurgent player will control single soldiers while the US side is made up of squads of one to four soldiers. In many levels the insurgent side will get an infinite number of reinforcements, while the coalition have to complete there mission with a limited number of soldiers. Of course, the US are much better armed, and can deal with enemies coming in from all sides thanks to their numbers. There are even a few levels where the two players will control two different factions of Zekis fighting against each other.
All told, the multiplayer is an entirely different experience than the single player campaign, and is reason to try out the game on it’s own.
Oh, and of course, we still have the much vaunted coop mode that people really love in the first game. You’ll be able to play through the entire single player campaign with a friend.
7) Has the game’s AI been tweaked or changed in any way? Specifically the manner in which your enemies behaved and reacted to your presence? Will they more actively search you out; try to flank you, etc.?
In the first FSW game, there really was no AI. Every move the enemies made had to be scripted by the designers, and every possible player move had to be taken into account. We made it a priority to include a robust AI system into the sequel. There are a few scripted enemies, but we wanted to have 90% of the encounters to be run on the AI system. Now the enemy will not only react to you flanking him, he’ll actively move around and flank you if you don’t keep him under fire.
The first game felt like the encounters were set up as a puzzle for the player to solve. There are no more “puzzles with guns” here. If you don’t bust your ass to flank the enemy, get in grenade range, or just suppress him long enough to call in an air strike, then they’re going to take you down.
8) For those among us craving ever better graphics, more polygons and even more shaders that we had not heard of before, we have to ask, what has Pandemic done to improve the game graphically?
The engineers and artists at Pandemic have cranked things up since the last FSW game. Every model has been redone by the artists, and the engineers have added a bunch of new graphic effects, such as some nice shaders and particle effects. When you call in an airstrike, and see the dust fly into the air and the cover explode and break into pieces, you’ll see what I mean.
9) Recently, we have seen a few examples of tactical shooters including simulated versions of real world missions into their games. Have you done something similar with Ten Hammers?
We didn’t lift any specific mission directly from real life, but FSW’s commitment to realism is stronger than ever. Gone is the magic “PDA map” from the last game, replaced with a more realistic paper map. We no longer have a magic cursor that only lets you call in airstrikes in particular locations. And you’re not just moving through the levels killing everything in sight; there are a few missions where you’ll need to secure an enemy leader, or escort a bus full of wounded soldiers through hostile territory. We even had an Army Ranger working with us; at first in an advisory position, and later as a level designer. His expertise in the early stages of the game influenced a lot of our decisions, and makes the game feel a lot more like real life.
10) Is there any aspect of the game you are particularly proud of that you’d like to mention?
What I’m most proud of about the game is the team behind it. They recognized all the faults of the first game, and they set out to fix them. The result is a game that is as fun and as realistic as it can be, and stays true to the original intent and realism of the first FSW game. Not only that, but they went above and beyond with the multiplayer mode. The depth and breadth of the gameplay there is just going to pull you right in.
11) To finish it up, is there anything more you would like to add, or get across to our readers?
I’d just like to thank you all for reading through all that!