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Breach, Six Days in Fallujah and the state of the modern FPS

Monday, 15 November 2010 10:05 GMT By Keza Macdonald

sixdays

There’s something strange going on in the world of the military shooter right now. Call of Duty: Black Ops has recently become the biggest entertainment launch in history. Medal of Honor made the news by virtue of being set in a current conflict. And yet there is a groundswell of feeling that the genre is becoming stagnant, repetitive, unadventurous – that the lack of bravery and conviction evident in EA’s concession to renaming the Taliban is indicative of a wider trend not just in the genre, but in the games industry as a whole, and that the tyranny of triple-A boxed-title franchises is leading us to a creative dead end.

Peter Tamte is the President of Atomic Games, the studio behind forthcoming download-only multiplayer shooter Breach, a title that he hopes will shake up our perceptions about how first-person shooters can be made and marketed. It’s also the studio that made Six Days in Fallujah, an ambitious military FPS set in the early years of the Iraq War that was famously dropped by publisher Konami because of its controversial content. On a recent visit to London to promote Breach, he talked to us about his conviction that something has to change.

Breach isn’t a re-skin of Six Days in Fallujah, redesigned to avoid offending our delicate political sensibilities with wars that are actually going on, though it does use the same engine on which Atomic spent so much time and money. What happened to Six Days gave Tamte a chance to really think about what the games industry needed, he says, particularly in terms of retail and distribution.

“One thing that concerned me is the way that other forms of media have been adopting digital distribution much faster than videogames,” Tamte explains. “When Apple launched iTunes, it was launching with content that was just as strong as you’d get in a retail store. But in the console market, games are either games out a year or more after retail, or games with a small, more niche focus, games that typically don’t have a broad enough appeal to be carried in a retail store. This seems to me a fundamental issue for our industry, because it’s easy for me to access all this other entertainment from my house, on demand, so it’s going to get more and more of my time.

“So we thought, well, we made this huge investment in the Hydrogen engine – why don’t we use that to change perceptions of what people can get via download on consoles?”

Breach is not, like Battlefield 1943 or Blacklight: Tango Down, essentially a stripped-down version of a retail game. It’s a strategic shooter designed to compete on the same level as Call of Duty’s multiplayer. This is hardly an even playing field, though, as Tamte acknowledges.

“I’m expecting that everybody who might want to play Breach has already played COD. They’ve already played Medal of Honour, they’ve already played Halo. I’ve got to give them a different experience. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s 1200MP or zero – I’m still spending money on it, so it had better give me something that I haven’t already paid for.”

breach1_insert

Breach does that. At first it looks like just another military FPS, but it has two key differences: active cover, and universal destructibility. The way these two elements function together makes it a very different FPS from anything we’ve played before, including Battlefield.

The way you can snap to, move around, shoot over and blindfire from cover in Breach is more familiar from third-person shooters. The way that cover degrades and shatters under fire, though, is new to multiplayer shooters. Damage isn’t a cosmetic element – it’s the driving force behind matches, forcing players to change tactics as previously safe areas become unstable.

Blowing holes in things is precise. Very precise. In Battlefield, no matter where you place your pack of C4, the hole in the wall it creates is going to be the same. In Breach, you can blow a new route through a building exactly where you want it, on interior walls, too. You can blow the floor out from underneath someone’s feet, or set up an ambush from the top floor of a building, dropping down onto unsuspecting players below. You can even shoot out specific bricks to create spy-holes.

What this means is that you can’t really learn Breach’s maps. Every time you play, the choke points, cover and lines of sight will be different, depending on how people have manipulated them. The battle slowly shifts around the field as parts of the map become unusably damaged and cover slowly disappears. Bridges fall down under fire, closing off entire sections of the map and preventing teams from flanking each other.

If Atomic Games wanted to do something different, it’s definitely succeeded. Half an hour in Breach’s maps completely recalibrates the way you instinctively play a competitive FPS; it’s refreshing.

I’m not the only one, according to Tamte, who keeps blowing cover that I naively presume to be safe with missiles from the other side of the map.

“For the first 15, 20 minutes people play it just like Call of Duty,” he says. “Then they come across other players on the map using cover and destruction, and they start experimenting with that. About 30 minutes in, they start playing with it themselves, and all of a sudden the way they’re playing the game is completely different.

“It’s more realistic. They’ve using cover and destruction in a way that’s similar to how the military uses it. In essence that’s what we want to do.”

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Since Six Days in Fallujah was dropped, the team at Atomic has been concentrating exclusively on Breach. Contrary to rumours earlier in the year, Six Days was never finished – only a few levels were complete – but most of its ideas come across in Breach.

Tamte is still hopeful that Six Days in Fallujah will eventually be made. “What we need is the funding to complete it,” he says. But Atomic Games will not do what EA did and intentionally fictionalise the setting and events to make it more palatable to a world that’s hostile to videogames with something to actually say.

“Six Days takes place during the most relevant event of an entire generation,” Peter asserts. “Some people suggested, ‘Why not just make it Six Days in Bullcrapistan?’ We could have done that, but that would have taken away one of the reasons why we made the game, which was to recreate the specific stories of some people who are our heroes – I can’t do that in Bullcrapistan because it loses its context.”

He added: “My frustration with [the situation] has grown over time, if that’s even possible. The retail sales of videogames in the US have declines in the last two years. That may be partly because of the economy, but it’s also because the games industry has stopped creating anything new, and consumers are starting to say, ‘Hey, what you’re selling – I’m not buying.’ I have conversations with senior people at publishers all across the world, and they’re telling me that videogames are trivial, and we’re going to keep making trivial games. Someone needs to slap them on the side of the head and say, ‘Hey, guys, sales are going down.
Something is wrong.’

“We should experiment with new categories of games. That’s what we wanted to do [with Six Days]. It has to be made into a purely commercial argument, ignoring all the arguments about the importance of the medium, and the things that we can do for consumers that can’t be done via passive forms of entertainment – because most of the publishers are interesting in the economic argument. It should be clear to them that the path we are on right now is taking us downhill. And yet when I have conversations with publishers, I still get the message back – ‘No, we pretty much want to keep doing what we’re doing.’

“But our goal with Breach is to do the opposite thing – to disrupt the way games are priced and to create an environment where original content can flourish.”

breach3_insert

Tamte makes a very good point. Are scenes like “No Russian” any less tasteless or controversial because they’re fictionalised? Why do games continue to shy away from real situations and real issues, putting themselves into a perpetual circle that prevents them from gaining any real-world credibility?

“We in the videogames industry are not making our job any easier to try and convince people that we are doing anything that is not trivial,” says Tamte. “What happened to Six Days is a case example… until someone challenges that assumption, games will continue to be perceived as trivial.”

Though Breach is trying to change how FPS games can be made and sold, and how they can be played, it doesn’t have any statement to make about what they can contain – though not for want of trying on Atomic Games’ part. But there are advantages to moving from the serious content to Six Days onto a more ‘normal’ videogame.

“We’ve had a lot of fun building Breach,” Tamte acknowledges. “For those of us who’ve been involved with Six Days from the very beginning… it was tough content. To be able to have removed ourselves from that for a bit and just worry about making a fun frag-fest, that’s actually been a little bit refreshing.”

Breach will release on PC, 360 and PS3 next year.

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2 Comments

  1. ThatBoyTim

    This sounds great – I hope this does make it to market and gets the support it deserves.

    I will be keeping an eye out for sure.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. OrbitMonkey

    Breach sounds good & that guy talks a good talk. Defiantly on my one to watch list.

    #2 4 years ago

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  • Leaked Halo Online gameplay shows weapons, maps, and more

    Gameplay from the upcoming, Russia only, Halo Online has leaked online and it looks like a mix of Halo 3 and Halo Reach. Microsoft announced last week that a free-to-play Halo game is in development at Saber Interactive. The game will be available in Russia only, at least on launch. YouTuber Noble, with the help […]

  • Get PlayStation 4 with the PS Camera and The Last of Us for $399

    US retailer Best Buy is offering a free PlayStation Camera with the purchase of The Last of Us PS4 bundle. If you’re in the US, Best Buy is having a very good deal on PlayStation 4 systems at the moment. If you buy The Last of Us PS4 bundle, you’ll automatically get the PS Camera […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC comes to PS4 in May

    Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC has been given a release window for PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360. Jaws of Hakkon, the first story add-on to Dragon Age: Inquisition was released last week on PC and Xbox One. The release was a complete surprise, as there was no prior announcement. What was also surprising […]

  • Watch Rainbow Six Siege developers stream new gameplay right now

    Rainbow Six Siege developers are about to livestream new gameplay footage. Come and watch with us. The livestream below starts at 7pm UK time/6pm GMT. Ubisoft will be showing new gameplay footage and will talk more about the operator system, which was revealed today. The footage will be from the PC alpha build. Expect more […]

  • Advanced Warfare Exo Zombie Infected trailer shows new weapons, massive enemy

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Exo Zombies episode 2, Infected, has been shown off in a new trailer. The official trailer for Exo Zombies Infected is here with footage of the new gear and new enemies. All of which help set up the mess everyone’s making at Burger Town. John Malkovich and co are dropped […]

  • Rainbow Six Siege collector’s edition comes with a 120-page field manual

    Rainbow Six Siege will be getting a collector’s edition and it comes with a 120-page guide. The Rainbow Six Siege collector’s edition has been fully detailed. It’s called the “Art of Siege Edition” and will be available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, priced £65. Here’s what you get: A copy of the game […]

  • Rainbow Six Siege trailer is all about the operators

    Rainbow Six Siege has a new trailer available explaining the operator system. Operators are what makes any Counter Terrorist Unit and you will get to choose each of them individually before assembling a team. Any operator you choose will not be available for others though, so planning ahead will be crucial. The new trailer shows […]

  • Spotify now available on PS3 and PS4, lets you play music in the background

    Spotify has arrived on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The Spotify app is now available in 42 countries on PSN. The app was part of last week’s firmware update and can be found under PlayStation Music. Anyone can download it, as it doesn’t require PlayStation Plus. You can use your PSN account to subscribe to […]

  • Let’s talk Battlefield Hardline weapon balance

    The weapon balance in Battlefield Hardline is causing a controversy among the players. Are some weapons too powerful, or are other not powerful enough? Westie has been playing Battlefield Hardline since it the day it came out and he has some opinions about the state of weapon balance as it stands right now. Westie also […]

  • UK Charts: Bloodborne enters at No. 2, Battlefield Hardline defends No. 1 spot

    Battlefield Hardline has defended the No. 1 spot in the UK Charts against Bloodborne’s impressive numbers. The UK Charts for the week ending March 28 show Battlefield Hardline continuing to hold the top spot despite dropping 43% in sales. Bloodborne achieved the No. 2 spot and came only 22,500 copies short of becoming number 1. […]

  • Halo 5: Guardians release date and new trailers released

    Halo 5 is coming in October. Are you ready? Halo 5: Guardians has been slapped with a release date of October 27. Microsoft and 343 Industries also released a new trailer to mark the news; check it out below. “The Master Chief. Spartan Locke. Who is the hunter and who is the hunted?” Microsoft said […]

  • Denial wins Call of Duty Championship 2015

    In a weekend where favourites crashed out and non-US teams took a beating, Denial stepped up to take the title and $400,000 prize Denial have beaten Revenge to win the Call of Duty Championship 2015, claiming a $400,000 prize. Taking place in downtown Los Angeles, 32 of the best teams in the world battled it […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Ascendance DLC- check out new maps and the grapple ability

    Advanced Warfare’s Ascendance DLC is looking pretty sweet in these two new videos. The Call of Duty Championships this weekend have given our very own Arekkz a chance to check out the new Ascendance DLC coming this month. Take a look at all four new maps as well as the cool new grapple ability (which […]

  • Advanced Warfare’s Exo Zombies gets a “mini boss” with Ascendance DLC

    Zombies mode gets an exo-kick up the ass with Advanced Warfare’s second DLC drop, Ascendance. When Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Ascendance DLC drops this week, players will be going up against some tougher challenges in Exo Zombies mode. “It’s all zombies, all of the time,” says High Moon Studios Matt Tieger, head of the […]

  • GTA Online user videos show out of character Lester, important Police Business

    You know, Lester isn’t as soft as he lets on, at least in these two GTA Online videos he’s not. The first one below is from YouTube user 10Phoenix01 Gamer, showing Lester kick a guy’s ass. It’s apparently punishment for running over the player – at least that’s the way it appears. A second video […]

  • Guild Wars 2 devs explain how the Map Bonus system, precursor crafting work in Heart of Thorns

    ArenaNet has posted information on the Guild Wars 2 website explaining how crafting mastery, and crafting a legendary weapon, will work in the Heart of Thorns expansion. There’s also information on the new Map Bonuses system, which will make acquiring crafting materials a more “directed activity” and streamlined experience. The new system will also add […]

  • Fly around your creations in Cities: Skylines with the Flight Cimulator mod

    Cities: Skylines players can now fly over their creations thanks to the Flight Cimulator mod. Created by Ulysius and available through the Steam Workshop, the mod allows the user to simulate flight through simple controls. According to the mod notes, it is still a work in progress as Ulysius plans to add building collisions , […]

  • The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul arrive on PlayStation Vue

    Sony has announced the addition of AMC to its PlayStation Vue service, which soft launched in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia earlier this month. Those who use the service can now get their Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead fix, and also watch the Sundance channel, WEtv and IFC. AMC and WEtv are […]

  • Play the first level of Super Mario 64 in your browser

    Thanks to Roystan Ross and the Unity engine, you can play the first level of Super Mario 64 in your browser. This little nugget came to my attention yesterday, and unfortunately it became lost on my worksheet. Better late than never, I suppose. Anyway, the level is free-to-play and if you don’t wish to play […]

  • Steam’s Discovery Update has helped increase revenue for smaller titles

    Valve has said its Discovery Queue has increased product page views across Steam by 30% since the company launched the Discovery Update. According to Valve, 75% of those views come from the Discovery Queue, and 16% of product views can be attributed to the Discovery Queue. Even Steam Tags clicks have increased. The system is […]

  • Halo: The Master Chief Collection April update includes “more ranked playlists”

    The next content update for Halo: The Master Chief Collection will “address a variety of issues across the game,” according to 343 Industries, including specific improvements to ranking. New quit and betrayal penalties are also in the works as the development team prepares to roll out ranks to additional playlists. According to 343, the latest […]

  • Get Spec Ops: The Line for free through 2K Games sale on Humble Store

    A 2K Games sale is going on this weekend on the Humble Store with up to 83% off on select titles. Games on sale include Evolve, Bioshock, Civilization and other franchises. Plus, Spec Ops: The Line can be yours for free with the purchase of any -2K title on sale. To see the full list […]

  • Dota 2 The International 2015 tickets are sold out

    Tickets to Dota 2 The International 2015 are now sold out, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The tickets went on sale in two phases starting March 27. Phase one sold out in six minutes, and phase two sold out in four minutes. Each round of sales offered the same quantity of General Admission tickets priced at […]

  • Here’s what’s expected in Battlefield 4′s Weapon Crate DLC – video

    A new Battlefield 4 drop is on the horizon, and to give you an idea of what to expect, we have a video for you below featuring information on the Weapon Crate DLC. According to Battlefield expert Westie, players can expect five new weapons along with the return of the Gun Master game mode. The […]

  • Pillars of Eternity issues to be addressed in patch 1.03, expected next week

    Obsidian Entertainment plans to release a Pillars of Eternity patch next week to combat issues users have reported. Until the patch is released, the developers have posted workarounds for some of the most common issues. The issues reported span framerate drops, inability to launch the game unless in administrator mode, crashes on 32-bit machines, animal […]

  • Mortal Kombat X videos show Erron Black gameplay, Ermac fatalities, more

    Erron Black, the gunslinger which was outed for Mortal Kombat X in the achievements listing last week, was featured in the latest livestream from NetherRelam Studios yesterday evening. Along with gameplay, fatalities and variations for Black, the developer also provided a look at gameplay for: Ermac vs Mileena; Ermac’s brutality and fatality moves; Lui Kang […]

  • The Legend of Zelda Wii U: 2015 release not a “priority”, skipping E3

    The Legend of Zelda franchise producer Eiji Aonuma is featured in the latest video update on the status of The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, stating a 2015 release is no longer a “number one priority” for the team. While Aonuma never specifically says the game has been delayed into 2016, the announcement confirms […]

  • Destiny gameplay designer exits for Bethesda

    Destiny’s senior gameplay designer Josh Hamrick announced on Twitter overnight he would be leaving the company in a week’s time for Bethesda. Hamrick joined Bungie in 2009 after working two years at Midway Austin, where he created multiplayer maps, modified single-player levels, and other designer functions. He was in charge of fixing bug in code […]