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Old 11-01-2012, 09:26 AM   #1
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The Tortured Journey of Homefront


Polygon has posted a great in-depth article talking about the turbulent development behind Kaos Studios blah military shooter, Homefront.

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From THQs perspective, this made Homefront a failure. If they hadnt expected a Call of Duty-killer, they had at least hoped for a competitor. That disappointment, and the indifference shown by gamers, makes it easy to dismiss Homefront as yet another also-ran in the overcrowded military shooter genre.

That dismissal rankles a lot of former Kaos developers. One director said, "Homefront was tossed-out. It wasn't that bad of a game. It sold two-and-a-half million units, and that's pretty successful, but who speaks about Homefront as a success? Now ... other people are like, Hey, that's one of the few viable FPS IPs out there right now. There are a lot of people who would like to have it, because if they focused on that middle-tier market, you [would] make a lot of money off that IP."
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:55 AM   #2
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Good IP, but poor execution. Although the controls were sorta tight, the game really didn't run that great.

I remember getting stuck in a lot of missions asking myself, WTF do I do next?
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Old 11-01-2012, 10:00 AM   #3
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I never even tried it because I'm so bored with military shooters. Hopefully, publishers will learn to stop chasing whatever game is doing great and start looking at WHY that game is doing well.

CoD started being a huge yearly title because they added leveling and unlocks to their multiplayer that grant access to better guns as you level up AND the really cool kill-streak feature that gives bonuses to players for scoring multiple kills in a row. Two great innovations = increased sales.

So instead of throwing money at a game for being a military shooter like CoD, they SHOULD have been asking, "Okay, what two new innovative features have you designed to make this game more fun than competitors?" They have overwhelming evidence that NEW = profit, but they also have a ton of evidence that NEW = risky. I'm more than happy to add to the pile of evidence that DERIVATIVE = risky too.
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Old 11-01-2012, 10:01 AM   #4
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I never understood their high expectations. They just made yet another shooter in a crowded market and expected a massive marketing campaign to turn it into the next big thing.
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Old 11-01-2012, 10:06 AM   #5
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This game had some good moments, but not enough of them to make it stand out.

It also held your hand way too much, like it was afraid to let you try something and fail.
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Old 11-01-2012, 10:52 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Samstag View Post
I never understood their high expectations. They just made yet another shooter in a crowded market and expected a massive marketing campaign to turn it into the next big thing.
Exactly. I'm not sure why anyone thought that turning "Red Dawn" into a FPS would somehow be competitive with Call of Duty.

By the time Homefront came out, Call of Duty already had that USA Burger King level and it wasn't that great of a level.

More thought needs to go into these multi-million dollar games. If you can't even answer the question, "Why is this fun?" then the game shouldn't get made.
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Old 11-01-2012, 11:05 AM   #7
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nice long read. the setting/premise of the game was great, nothing tugs at the emotions like being on the defensive at home, but implementation was obviously not up to par.

maybe if they didn't bother with a SP portion they'd have more time to do it right for the MP crowd, but then i'd never have bothered with the game, since i only play the SP parts.
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Old 11-01-2012, 02:01 PM   #8
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This article was basically fantastic and required reading for any game dev student. Just so you know what you are in for.

The sales of the game is great case study for where an also ran can land on the sales charts with the amount of marketing dollars poured into it. Nowhere else can you see that clean relationship so clearly of marketing spend vs units on this level of magnitude.
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Old 11-01-2012, 03:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by bean19 View Post
I never even tried it because I'm so bored with military shooters. Hopefully, publishers will learn to stop chasing whatever game is doing great and start looking at WHY that game is doing well.

CoD started being a huge yearly title because they added leveling and unlocks to their multiplayer that grant access to better guns as you level up AND the really cool kill-streak feature that gives bonuses to players for scoring multiple kills in a row. Two great innovations = increased sales.

So instead of throwing money at a game for being a military shooter like CoD, they SHOULD have been asking, "Okay, what two new innovative features have you designed to make this game more fun than competitors?" They have overwhelming evidence that NEW = profit, but they also have a ton of evidence that NEW = risky. I'm more than happy to add to the pile of evidence that DERIVATIVE = risky too.
Two things:

First, neither of those features were introduced by CoD. CoD took the killstreak nonsense to an extreme (thoroughly destroying the gameplay, in my opinion), but the levelling system isn't even all that different from other, older titles. Think what CoD has mastered in that regard is heaping the largest amount of reward possible for the least amount of effort.

Second, Homefront was a large scale, vehicle combat focused tactical shooter. CoD isn't. Homefront also tackled some various new features in its area, at least on a scale with what you're crediting CoD for in terms of innovation.

They do say they copied the CoD single player aesthetic pretty heavy, though I don't understand why they would. The last few CoD campaigns have been unplayable-y bad. Guess it's a shame they didn't focus more on their own flavor, seems like the game had some potential.

Not sure why they focus so much on the campaign though in the article, didn't see much mention of MP. Best thing you can hope for with a solid campaign in this genre is a worthwhile bargain bin purchase. They're short, they're rarely well-written, and they offer almost no replay value. No one in their right mind is dropping $60 for that. The launch day selling point is purely the multiplayer. A "CoD-Killer" (fisherman?) will not achieve that title via a great campaign.

Maybe if the MP was less of a focus and they did a full single player release, like STALKER or similar, then the SP might have meant more, but would've been something apart from CoD altogether at that point.

Passed on Homefront myself. Was releasing in a crowded window against a few other higher priority titles (namely Pokemon Black and Crysis 2, off the top of my head), and I didn't really expect the game to be all that polished at launch.
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Old 11-01-2012, 04:01 PM   #10
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I am an accountant and a gamer. I love business/gaming articles like this. Gamasutra? and pologyn are great websites. Are there others?
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Old 11-01-2012, 04:39 PM   #11
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Old 11-01-2012, 04:43 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Capt_Thad View Post
First, neither of those features were introduced by CoD.
Really? I'm calling bullshit. Which games added leveling to gain gun unlocks and upgrades that were persistent in an online FPS? Which online FPS added killstreak powers before CoD?

Quote:
Second, Homefront was a large scale, vehicle combat focused tactical shooter.
So you're saying that it was a military shooter more like Battlefield than CoD. It's still a military shooter.

Quote:
Maybe if the MP was less of a focus and they did a full single player release, like STALKER or similar. . .
Huh? Maybe. I don't think that's two new features that make it more fun than other games in it's genre though.
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Old 11-01-2012, 05:16 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by bean19 View Post
Really? I'm calling bullshit. Which games added leveling to gain gun unlocks and upgrades that were persistent in an online FPS? Which online FPS added killstreak powers before CoD?
Battlefield 2 and 2142 both had a ranking system with weapon unlocks. 2142 also used it for character abilities and stuff, with some class tree deviation for minor specializations. Quake Wars: Enemy Territory came out the same year as CoD4. There were other games in-between with similar MMO-ish ranking aspects, like the medicore K-MMOFPS War Rock. Prolly could come up with some others with a little thought on it. As far as I know though, it's the BF series that made that big.

Rewarding killstreaks has been around ages, but earliest I could find killstreak rewards manifesting as 'powers' is Star Wars Battlefront 2. Guess I can't argue that CoD has made it more trendy. Supposed to add tension in face of the high spawn turnover, though I think they've made the spawn turnover aspect even worse since MW2.

Quote:
So you're saying that it was a military shooter more like Battlefield than CoD. It's still a military shooter.
Setting != game design. My point though was more that you were saying it was derivative of CoD in the multiplayer aspect, when they actually sorta fall under different tactical shooter sub-genre. Vehicle focus vs. Infantry focus.

There are other aspects to look at in the genre, like how they use arcadey vs sim aspects and class systems. Every genre has tons of sub-genres that'll be written off by people who can't be bothered with them.
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Old 11-01-2012, 05:22 PM   #14
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Huh? Maybe. I don't think that's two new features that make it more fun than other games in it's genre though.
Prolly should've separated my statements better. Only my first and second prefaced paragraph with the trailing one was directed at your comments. The later ranting about SP content in tactical shooters was directed at the odd focus in the article, that somehow CoD-ing the campaign was a cause of failure.

I wasn't talking about your two new features thing (which doesn't really make any sense to me, seems like you're way oversimplifying and there's plenty of examples as to how that doesn't apply, even in the game you're talking about), I was talking about a situation in which their comments in regards to SP might've actually mattered.
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Old 11-01-2012, 05:52 PM   #15
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Good IP, but poor execution. Although the controls were sorta tight, the game really didn't run that great.
This was one of the worst POS's I've ever played. The plot had potential but everything else including the combat was so shit, it was never any fun.

I'll tell you what story someone needs to write. How game companies spend millions on something with absolutely no appeal and poor execution and then are surprised when people don't like it. I always wonder why someone in the company doesn't play early versions of the IP and point out how shitty the game is. Honestly, "Rage" comes to mind. Who played "Borderlands" and then "Rage" and then tells Id "good job there, keep it up". "Racoon City" is another one. It's clear 10 minutes in that the game is meh at best to poor but, they keep pumping money into it. There must be some mechanism like inertia in a company, that, when a project gets far enough along, people are afraid to point out how crappy it is.


If this game had even been 1/2 as fun as COD, it would have been a success. I'm not even a real COD fan but, at least it played well enough to be fun. Everyone seemed to Dis "Bullet Storm" but, at least it was fun.
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Old 11-01-2012, 06:21 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Capt_Thad View Post
Battlefield 2 and 2142 both had a ranking system with weapon unlocks. 2142 also used it for character abilities and stuff.
That's true. CoD:MW made it a main part of gameplay though. In BF 2, you'd get rank in a team position and earn it's special weapons, then you were done. CoD:MW was the game to really make progression central to the experience. That's what people went crazy over and why they flocked to it.

I appreciate you bringing this up though. It's interesting how a thrown-in half-developed feature in one game is completely forgetable and then the same feature fully developed and polished can make a different game a hit. There's probably a lesson in that for developers.

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Rewarding killstreaks has been around ages, but earliest I could find killstreak rewards manifesting as 'powers' is Star Wars Battlefront 2. Guess I can't argue that CoD has made it more trendy.
Well, it's been around in mods forever for sure. I can't think of any games that rewarded it with in-game stuff though. Usually the only "reward" was the announcer trumpeting that you are a badass.

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My point though was more that you were saying it was derivative of CoD in the multiplayer aspect.
My point is that I didn't play Homefront because it was another military shooter, so I didn't care. I'm burnt out on all of them. The fact that it is more derivative of BF2 than CoD is irrelevant to me.

------

I made the point that the reason CoD became a huge hit was that it brought 2 new and exceptional features to multiplayer that made the game a lot of fun and made it stand out from competitors. Too often I see publishers greenlighting titles because they are derivative of other titles. They expect to earn Battlefield or CoD money because they make a military shooter. I think greenlighting games based on a game design that contains two new features that separate and improve upon games within the same genre would be a much better design goal.

To that you responded that this doesn't make sense to you and you can think of examples where this would not be a better way to greenlight games. You also made some other comments about the original article that I'm not really following because I never played Homefront.
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:29 PM   #17
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To that you responded that this doesn't make sense to you and you can think of examples where this would not be a better way to greenlight games.
I was only nitpicking some points in your first post originally. I can go into this too, if you want. Any game is a set of features, and you may have one or two standout things, but they only exist to modify the original set of features. Gimmicks don't make a game, and that's not enough to judge a game by. I'd say you're way oversimplifying in the case of tactical shooters.

How would you weigh the value of CounterStrike vs classic Ghost Recon vs Rainbow Six New Vegas 2 vs Modern Warfare 2 vs Battlefield 2 vs Arma II? What two features separate all of those games? They're all tactical shooters that use very different game mechanics. You can't just say, "Hey, Rainbow 6 is a tactical shooter, and we're making one of those, right? Let's add two new distinct features to that system, then roll out a new title." That approach only maybe works if you're tacking on to your own pre-existing system, not someone else's.

Within the genre you're looking at varying degrees of squad and team mechanics, class systems, weapon handling and customization, world interactivity, use of systems like spotting/comms and cover mechanics, etc. There's no base underlying mechanic that universally applies to all of these games, beyond focus on teamwork and coordination to some degree. Tactical First Person Shooters are in themselves a very wide genre, 'Modern Combat' is just a style of paint. You could paint just about any tactical shooter system to look like a modern combat game, but that doesn't make them all the same.

Honestly, if someone was using a two feature judgement system to greenlight games, I'd actually wager that they could only produce derivative titles. Much as reviewers tear intricate game systems down with barely a glance, it's not like the classic Doom/Quake/UT clones with a new coat of paint on top of the same mechanics any more.

Believe Homefront pulled loosely from the studio's earlier title, Frontlines: Fuel of War for basic gameplay. The big gimmick feature, aside from the American invasion setting and the open vehicle combat, was some purchasing system where players were rewarded for playing well via in-game currency, which was in turn was used for buying vehicles and whatnot to fight with. Sounded like it was kinda somewhere between killstreaks and CS's buy system. If you're looking at purely a two feature requirement though, Homefront clearly had that.

Not really my interest to defend Homefront though. More bitter about the surprisingly solid multiplayer system in MoH:W getting tanked by reviewers for not playing exactly like CoD or BF3. That's neither here nor there, however. Since the article didn't really touch on multiplayer, which was the bigger complaint I made, it's all kind of beside the point.

Quote:
CoD:MW was the game to really make progression central to the experience.
Nitpicking that 'cause I mentioned BF2142 using unlocks for class specializations. Not sure what is more central to the gameplay experience in a class based shooter than unlocks that modify how your class functions. It literally redefines how a player plays the game. For example: You could take Recon up the sniper tree, get an enhanced rifle and some sniping aids, or you could take it up the spec ops tree, get a high speed carbine and a cloaking device. Entirely different gameplay mechanics.

CoD4 had gun unlocks, but they didn't really change how you played the game all that much. Guns within the same category only had minor tactical differences. It's pretty much comparing a reward system vs an actual progression system.

If anything, CoD found a way to include a level system and make it significantly less central to the gameplay, which may or may not be deserving of respect. More addictive, less restrictive. That's what you should be saying about the CoD ranking system.
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:49 PM   #18
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There's no base underlying mechanic that universally applies to all of these games, beyond focus on teamwork and coordination to some degree.
uhh... and that they're FPS games. Kinda hoping that didn't need stating--that I was focusing on the word 'tactical'--but the way I wrote it just asked for a call out.
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Old 11-04-2012, 09:03 PM   #19
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I liked Homefront. But it was criminally short for the price, I think it was under 4 hours. I thought the story was fantastic, but I wish they would have done more with it, instead of just wrapping it around a pretty mediocre man-shoot.
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