The view from above always makes the most sense. With Medal of Honour: Airborne, industry veteran Patrick Gilmore has looked back over years of virtual war to figure out how, in this golden age of AI and physics, EA's troubled series can reinvent itself. He could be the ideal candidate for the job. Associated as much with Disney as D-Day, having produced over a dozen games starring Mickey and co, he brings a fresh perspective to a series that's long been considered stale. And despite Airborne's nonlinear nature, his solutions are surprisingly straightforward.
Aren't you a bit tired of the WWII genre by now?
Patrick Gilmore: Well, this is the first Medal of Honour game I've done since Allied Assault so I haven't been immersed in it for as long as others on the team. For some this is their fourth or fifth MoH. They're the kind of people focused on the history, the weapons, the soldiers and the events of the war. Personally, I could imagine getting tired of it someday. Actually I'd get tired of it when I discovered there was nothing new to get out of it.
Is that EA policy - keeping the same team of engineers but rotating the creative leads to keep things fresh?
Patrick: I think that might have been a big part of it. I was sitting down with one of the producers the other day and - I can't remember the exact line he said - but he was like: "I've just done debugging the weapon ini files and I fixed all the cluster patterns for the Thompson and I checked the muzzle flash is right and the reload rates..." He just spewed out this technical stuff that drilled right to the heart of the play experience.
What you often get on a franchise like this are the people who've gone on the weapon shoots and fired every single one of these weapons. They've played paintball, undergone military training or been coached by one of our military advisors to help capture the knowledge of what it's all about. You don't want to lose that, right? But at the same time we're always trying to infuse new energy into the franchise. So I guess it's not an EA policy but good practice in general for something like this.
What is it about WWII that keeps gamers coming back, that keeps MoH profitable?
Patrick: It was a world war, first of all. It touched everybody and still connects with a large variety of people. And it was a moment in history where the lines between good and evil were crisply drawn - that's never happened before or since with such clarity. In the case of Medal of Honour it's also the scope of it. These were missions on an epic scale, not with a hundred or a thousand guys but with tens of thousands. Market Garden was the largest single airdrop in history with over 20,000 drops... There's nothing else in history that compares with that - the population of an entire town jumping out of aircraft and going to war. It's a wellspring of ideas.
And yet Allied Assault is still regarded as the best MoH of all. Why is that?
Patrick: It did a couple of things, as did Frontline [its console companion] to a degree. They were the first games to feature the Normandy beach scene, made the quintessential WWII moment by Saving Private Ryan. So it was really a breakthrough that a game could actually put you on that beach. And Allied Assault was a crafted experience; it delivered the story, the characters, and the combat and non-combat scenarios. War's not just a parade of enemies, it really is about the language guys share when they're on the battlefield and the way you give orders or receive objectives. Allied Assault did a great job of delivering insight into that whole combat experience.