[Interview] Dave Votypka, HOMEFRONT

Kaos Studios' Dave Votypka sits down with us for a brief chat about Homefront.
Author: Ryan Green
Published: November 4, 2010
About a month ago, I got to take a nice little trip up to Canada to see THQ's new Montreal Studio. While the space was rather empty of developers and general staff, they did go to quite a lot of effort to show it off for THQ's next first-person shooter, Homefront.

While schmoozing with other journalists, talking about our experiences in the French-iest place in the world (sorry, France), I got to sit down with the creative director for Kaos Studios, Dave Votypka. Unfortunately for me, I had not been given a chance to play Homefront until after this interview, but Dave was more than forgiving about this.

TotalPlayStation: I have to say, there is certainly some buzz behind Homefront so far, and you aren't even approaching its release yet. That has to put a smile on your face. Oh, wait, it did as I said that.

Dave Votypka: *Laughs* You've nailed it for me.

TPS: From what I've seen of the game (and that is quite little), you seem to have a very realistic set of weapons. That seems to be your general approach to it. Are there any more surprises in terms of vehicles or other devices that might stray from that line? Should we expect something different?

Dave: Yeah. Generally speaking, what we're trying to do is, not only in the weapons side but in real-world brands, create the US as accurately as we can. Not necessarily, "This building is in Montros and has to be on the street." Montros in the single-player [campaign] is loosely based on reality. But, generally, we wanted to have real weapons and real vehicles and real brands. I'd have to look at what's on the main page, but basically we're utilizing all the real-world weaponry as well as looking at what's slightly in the future - looking at [an] air-bursting grenade launcher that delays the distance, killing a guy that's behind cover... cool stuff like that. Goliath in the single-player is based on a real vehicle called the Crusher that we kind of evolved it from, which falls into the future weapons category but also based on reality. And then the drone stuff that we're doing as well. So that's kind of the gamut of it.

TPS: Is the Crusher going to prove a dominating force in multiplayer, or will there be some balance in that regard?

Dave: It depends on your play style, I guess. There's various assault rifles that you're going to unlock, and each of them have different fire modes. Personally, I like the Scar - it's a diverse weapon and it's very accurate; you don't have a lot of recoil on it. Each weapon has a little bit of a different personality to it.

TPS: In a lot of multi-console efforts, the PS3 gets the shaft when it comes to online play. It usually isn't the case of bad netcode, but rather a less-than-ideal network of users. Has the team taken any special consideration when handling the PlayStation Network?

Dave: We're doing dedicated servers on all platforms. So that's a great step forward. It's interesting because, on the PC, we're using Steam; on the Xbox, we have Xbox Live and XLSP and this custom solution that we built dating back to Frontlines; and on the PS3, it's GameSpy on the back end. So it's a very robust backing and it's using our dedicated servers to play the game, so you'll be able to do 16-player system-link local games. But we'll also have the 32-player dedicated servers, as well.

TPS: In the game's development, what came first - was it the combat component or was it the story?

Dave: I'd say that everything kind of stemmed from the world we wanted to make. Watching Red Dawn was one of the inspirations I had for the idea. When you see the paratroopers drop from the football field and attack the school, and the main street [filled] with Russian soldiers, it's like, "Those things shouldn't be happening." It's a very powerful idea. And when you take that and have this motivation to fight back and "correct" this problem, [it's like,] "Let's build the game around that idea." So I think the squadmates came from that and the campaign came from that. It's like, "We're a small resistance squad. We have this overall mission to get jet fuel to San Francisco to meet up with military." But what are some of the things you'd experience along the way trying to do that? If we were in this situation, how would we fight back? And what would matter to us? It kind of all stems from that.

TPS: For many single-player games, we are wrapped in the disguise of being in a squad when we are really a lone wolf on the battlefield. Do you feel that Homefront puts you in a squad more and [that] they're acting with you? Or are you doing most of the leg-work?

Dave: I think there's two elements to the resistance squad in the single-player. One of them is them doing the storytelling and advancing the plot along, and it's modeled after the Half-Life 2 in-game storytelling [style]. And working with Alex, she would talk to you a lot about what she's thinking. But one thing we have is the multiple squadmates that you're with pretty much throughout the entire game. Their conversations and their relationships and what they're thinking - a lot of that is kind of communicating what the player might be thinking at that moment. And then, also just having the human side of it. So there's the storytelling side of the squad. And on the gameplay side... as we developed the game, there would be a bug, say, where the squad didn't jump over the fence and join you in combat. I'm like, "Wow... this combat is really hard this time." It's because the squad wasn't there. So they definitely help you out in the combat. But we want to allow the player, of course, to be the hero a little bit and feel like they're making a difference. But the squad... it's just about balancing them from being too overpowering and them not doing anything at all. We feel pretty good about where we are now.

TPS: If there's one feeling you try to instill in the player in single-player, what is that feeling?

Dave: I was asked this question awhile ago - "How would you describe Homefront's single-player in three words?" And I thought, "Wow, that's a tough question." But I thought about it... what I said was, "Experience occupied America." That's really what we want. In addition to that, it's being you - a civilian. You're not this soldier that you can't really identify with. It's more like us as average civilians. "How would we respond to that situation?"

TPS: Do you think "fear" is something that would be recanted a lot?

Dave: I think fear is part of it. I think some anger in terms of wanting to fight back and do something about it. And I think the emotion of seeing things you're attached to, as a human being in our daily lives, being twisted by these events and how you react to that. Everybody has a slightly different reaction, but it's usually a pretty powerful reaction, because it matters to us and it's personal.

TPS: Well, we look forward to playing some of Homefront. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!