We Interview Steve Mele, EP at Relic Entertainment, about Company of Heroes 3

In addition our practical preview During the game, we caught up with Relic Entertainment’s Executive Producer Steve Mele to talk with him about Company of Heroes 3 and what it’s like to work on the upcoming game. He was very knowledgeable about the mechanics of the game and the general process. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

GT.) First things first, what’s it like working on one of the world’s most popular tactical strategy franchises? How does the team cope with the pressure of following one of the best RTS ever?

SM.) As soon as I joined Relic 4 years ago, you got a sense of the legacy of great games created in its (virtual) halls. Also, the connections we made with key members of our community early in development made their aspirations more tangible. Some of these community members have joined our Relic team, including designer Will Ward, and provided invaluable input from their experience as community members. . I feel lucky to be a part of a great studio working on a game with an amazing story and a passionate audience.

GT.) Company of Heroes 3 has some real game-changing features. What do you think is the biggest and why is it the side armour?
Fun question!

SM.) We have lots of great new game features for COH3. I think breach, drag, and high play will play heavily into the multiplayer meta. Entering the building and trying to take out the enemy is violated due to risk and reward factors. Dragging allows players to move large weapons from one place to another instead of destroying and rebuilding them over and over again. And verticality adds a whole new layer of strategy. They are a new and influential game based on the type of map found in the Mediterranean theater. Side armor is a fun addition because it adds to the authenticity of the experience, and our community worked closely with us to design it. Side armor (as opposed to front or rear armor) opens up new opportunities for flanking strategies and vehicle damage. But the game’s number one change will be Tactic’s pause. Let’s discuss it below.

GT. ) Joking aside, Tactic Pause seems like a pretty big adjustment. What prompted players to add the ability to pause the action? Do older people need us to think about our next move rather than just make it?

SM.) A tactical pause will allow players to play the game at their own pace. It’s completely optional, but it really changes the game. COH3 is a deep game and we know there are a lot of units to learn in each of our 4 factions. This feature allows players to time-lapse a single-player game to assess the situation on the battlefield. Players can then line up their next commands to units, readying them to switch positions or make tough decisions without too much pressure. I know I use it every now and then when I’m blocking, flanking enemy units, or approaching particularly dangerous situations on the battlefield. But I also know that I used it less and less once I got used to my favorite factions.

GT.) You have two types of campaign modes – dynamic and more traditional linear. How does it manifest itself in practice?

SM.) These two single-player experiences offer different things to players. Our North Africa operation feels like the previous COH campaign experience with more linear RTS missions and traditional storytelling about the impact of the war through the eyes of the North African people. The dynamic Italian campaign is completely new to COH3, with multiple ways to reach the goal of liberating Italy from German occupation, and the open map of Italy adds a sense of grand scale to the action. Do you bombard the airport first with naval artillery, or do you send troops to take it back before it does more damage? Do you attack with airborne troops? Where will you land? Do you have the right soldiers for the job? These are the questions I want to ask players as they embrace all that Italy has to offer.

GT) What has being in constant contact with the community given you? Any big surprises?

SM.) The number one thing our community has given us is more confidence. When we talk to them, they help shape our direction and set our priorities. There are times when we have to rework things many times before we get them right. And then when we get it right, we hear it and it feels amazing. The RTS HUD is a great example of trying out a few things with our community and finally landing on something that most players agree on is a great start. While working on the HUD versions, we received a lot of valuable feedback from a number of perspectives. Often, feedback points us in a very specific direction, but this exploration involved a lot of personal choices, making the way forward unclear.

GT.) I see you got modding tools on day 1 – what was the main reason for exposing maps, scenario editors, game modes, and tuning packs? Do you find that players spend a lot of time modifying the engine like this?

SM.) We are creating the story of the heroes of the company! Throughout development, we’ve had conversations with our incredibly passionate and active modding community, and support for mods at launch on Day 1 is a result of those conversations. When Company of Heroes 3 launches, it will come with the latest versions of what our brand new Essence Engine 5 has to offer and new capabilities to create a more immersive COH experience than ever before. Players can create maps, scenarios, game modes, and customization packs. We’re excited to see all the great concepts and experiences the community is coming up with.

GT.) You’ve expanded the game quite a bit. 120 playable units instead of 42, 52 maps instead of 22, and over 40 hours of campaign instead of 15 COH2. That’s a lot of growth in terms of content – how do you grow it exponentially? Was there anything that allowed you to explode with content like this? Was there a big blocker that allowed the team to reach this level?

SM.) This is the greatest company of heroes! Our fans wanted diversity and we ran with it. We deliver the intimate, boots-on-the-ground story of the series in two all-new theaters spanning over 40 hours of war, through a dynamic replayable Italian campaign and a more linear North African operation. At launch we will have four factions: Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK), United States Forces (USF), British Forces and Wehrmacht (Germany) and will have 120 playable units.. It’s a big game so we’ve delayed it for months. We wanted to polish and fulfill the expectations of players for a really great COH game. Our team is amazing and has worked so hard to get to this level and we look forward to seeing you all playing Company of Heroes 3 on February 23rd.

GT.) You have four very different groups in COH3 – what would you say are the main differences? How does this work in practice?

As you spend time with each faction, you’ll get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can put pressure on the enemy or when I need to be on the defensive to keep up. For example, if I play defense, I am confident in the last tanks of the Wehrmacht, no matter what. Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) seems fast. I can get resources quickly, but may be penalized for overdoing it. US Armed Forces provides an aggressive gameplay style that encourages you to use a combination of weapons. British forces are ideal for new players and lend themselves to a strong defensive style of play.

GT.) Let’s talk about the elimination engine. Hitting a tank shell building does wonders for concrete and mortar. Is it just cosmetic, or does it have gameplay implications?

We are very proud of our work on building damage. We’ve developed a number of new technologies for our Essence Engine to support cosmetic and gameplay improvements. The shadows are amazing as the plaster tears away and exposes the damaged layers until you can see the underlying bricks. The new physics-based destruction looks amazing and terrifying as walls crumble and fall to the ground. A cool new gameplay element we’ve added to Destruction is that buildings will now occasionally collapse, leaving new spaces for infantry to take cover within the remaining walls.

GT.) What’s left to polish before release? February 2023 isn’t that long from now.

The rest of the time, we’re laser-focused on polishing, balancing, and fine-tuning Company of Heroes 3 to meet fan expectations and deliver the deepest tactical experience in COH. The main areas are changing our game experience, fixing bugs and improving the “first user experience”. We’re also fine-tuning the HUD and UI, which we think players will really like.

GT.) Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Anything else you’d like to share with the Gaming Trend audience?

Company of Heroes is back with a great mix of combat, strategy and tactics! COH3 is the biggest game in our franchise yet, delivering an intimate, boots-on-the-ground story in two brand new theaters of war through a dynamic Italian campaign and a more linear action in North Africa. The Mediterranean theater creates a stunning and varied backdrop that gives players conflicting choices that influence their strategy. The North African operation offers players a more “traditional” and linear COH3 experience, but no less exciting story and explosive action.

Our goal was to continue to deliver the great COH RTS game that our players have come to expect. We also wanted to give players the option to play the game their own way… be it a single-player campaign, multiplayer, or co-op comp-stomp. Our goal was to continue to deliver the great COH RTS game that our players have come to expect. We wanted to give players the option to play the game the way they want, whether it’s a single-player campaign, multiplayer, or co-op comp-stomp. Thank you for your interest and interest in Company of Heroes 33. Let us know what you think when the game releases on February 23rd!

Ron Burke is the Editor-in-Chief of Gaming Trends. Currently based in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who loves CRPGs, adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently ventured into board games. Ron is also a 4th degree black belt and holds master titles in Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu, Mu Duk Kwan Tang Su Do, Universal Tang Su Do Association, and International Tang Su Do Association. In his quest to become a good fighter, he ranks among several other categories. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend editor Laura Burke for 21 years. They have three dogs, Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Ate, and Calliope (Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mix).

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