Justin Lee On August 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

With the upcoming release of Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising coming soon, we ask Tim Browne, Senior Game Designer at Codemasters some important questions about the game.

1.)    A large issue with these military simulators is that while they look immensely cool to everyone, they are not very forgiving. What have you done to improve the accessibility this time around so that casual and hardcore can both enjoy the title? And vice versa, have you done anything new to increase the realism for the hardcore community?

One of the cool and unique things about Dragon Rising is how we deal with difficulty in our game. We deliberately chose to not have different bullet damage or increased AI accuracy on the harder modes. Instead we turn off the help the player receives in the form of on screen guidance, hints of where to go next, where the enemies are and using checkpoints.

We’re really proud of the Hardcore difficulty mode as the player has next to no HUD to help them. There are no checkpoints to rely on and this creates a very dramatic and atmospheric game. The player really has to be cautious as if their life depended on it because if they get killed they’ll have to start from the beginning of the mission again.

2.)    The military isn’t made up of a single type of unit. How will the different specialties be handled? Do we choose a class to play as or modify a load out with the weapons and equipment we want? Can we switch our roles on the fly (ex. pick up equipment off the ground) or are we confined to our chosen role?

The player doesn’t choose the role they play as but are always armed with the right tools for the job from the start. This doesn’t stop the player however picking up weapons from killed enemies or even fallen friendly forces. We spent such a long time researching and developing not only the USMC weapons but also the PLA ones that we wanted to make sure the player can access them. In Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising you don’t magically absorb bullets when you run over enemies. If you have an M4 for instance and you’ve just killed an enemy who was using a Type-81 Assault rifle the bullets will not fit in your gun, so if you’re running low you’re going to have to pick up and use that weapon.

3.)    What can you tell us about squad control? How large is your squad, can you split them up into different teams, and how have you adapted the controls to the controller? Do you play as the same guy the entire way through or can you switch characters?

You play as two different characters through the single player campaign. One is an infantry and one is a Spec Ops guy. You can give out individual orders to each of your fireteam members and we also allow the player to become a squad leader which gives them control of up to another four separate fireteams. The player can string orders together for each of these, creating very complex squad maneuvers.

As you can imagine allowing the player to do all of this while using a controller didn’t come without issues but we have a very elegant control system. The player is able to give commands to each fireteam member or individual fireteams using the Quick Command Radial from the first person view. However if they wish to do more complex strings of waypoints etc then the player must access the map. The controls are still the same however and it has a very fluid feel to it.

4.)    One of the great things in Operation Flashpoint was you never knew what was going to happen. Everything could go perfect one time and the next time everything goes to hell. What new things have you done to the AI to keep the replay-ability high?

As we built Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising from the ground up we decided to use a new type of system to control the AI. We use a playbook system where the AI has lots of different ‘plays’ to choose from in a similar vein to that of an American football team. This makes the AI very dynamic and quite unpredictable. Also we have various underlying systems which affect the AI, such as morale and a threat assessment system. All of these things add to the unpredictability of the AI which makes for high replayability value.

5.)    Operation Flashpoint is still being played on the PC today because of the community churning out content. Do you have any plans for a mission editor again and will it be on consoles as well? Also, are there any plans to support the title down the line with any downloadable content?

The PC version of the game is being shipped with a mission editor. This is effectively the same mission editor that our own in-house mission design team uses. It’s very easy to use but also incredibly powerful. We are not releasing an editor for the console currently but we are planning on fully supporting the community with a lot of downloadable content.

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