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Interview – Homefront’s lead designer discusses why the US is sensitive to the game’s themes

Friday, 19 November 2010 15:17 GMT By Keza Macdonald

homefront

After playing the first 15 minutes of Homefront, VG247 got in touch with lead level designer Rex Dickson from Kaos Studios to talk about the game’s unsettling portrayal of a Korean invasion of the United States, and why American audiences seem especially affronted by it. Apparently, you guys need to adjust your cultural mentality – can Homefront do it for you?

Hopefully, because as Dickson puts it, the US has never had to deal with the possibility of an invasion like other countries and has the “elitist idea” it’s the “best the world”. Because of this bravado, Kaos Studios preys upon the idea of excess, democracy and freedom being stripped away, and how the US portrayed in game is unprepared to deal with an invasion by a formidable opposing force.

VG247: There’s a lot of brutality on show in Homefront’s opening section. How does Homefront use violence in its narrative?

What we’re going for is not necessarily violence in a gore kind of way, but more an emotionally unsettling context. One of our big goals is to make players feel… All first-person shooters are obviously violent, but what if we had violence with real consequences and human emotion? That’s what we’re going for. Having a lot of gore wasn’t the goal; it’s all about these emotionally charged situations.
What’s the justification for the brutality of this invasion that you’re depicting?

Any occupying army in a foreign country is going to have these elements of brutality, mainly because – and this is a big theme in Homefront – war brings out the worst in people. And this doesn’t only apply to the Korean army Over the course of the game you’ll find that there are segments of the American population that are actually behaving just as brutally. One of the big themes across the entire game is that we don’t demonise the Koreans – it’s just the theme that war brings out the worst in humanity.

The structure and viewpoint seems to owe a lot to Half-Life 2. Would you say that was an inspiration?

Absolutely. Half-Life 2 was our biggest inspiration. Kaos Studios’ pedigree wasn’t in big narrative single-player campaigns – our territory has always been multiplayer. So when we decided that we wanted to make this kind of game, we looked at the past ten or twenty years of gaming and though, who’s done it the best? And we felt that nobody has done it better than Valve with Half-Life 2, so we used that as our model.

A few of the themes that you’ll find carry over from HL2 into our game is the idea of an oppressed population, and also the main character not having a voice. I think the biggest one is never cutting the camera away from the player, or rarely doing that.

The modern FPS tends to rely heavily on setpieces for storytelling – is continuity important to you?

Yeah absolutely, and not only that but I think generally people don’t want to watch movies when they buy a game. You can make a good argument for games like Final Fantasy that use cutscenes to great effect, but I find that usually when a movie starts playing, people want to skip it, they start hitting the button. If they’re not willing to watch the scene, then we shouldn’t be investing our time and energy into it. So we really wanted to keep the player in the game the whole time and always give them a reaction when they do something with the controller, rather than blocking them out from it.

Homefront certainly has a different feel from the mainstream military FPS – is this intentional?

Yes. If you look at the landscape now, it feels a lot to me like everybody is going after COD’s market share or Halo’s market share. But for us, as gamers, instead of doing that, what we want to do is give the public something new, something different. With all these clone projects coming out, we think the market is actually desperate for someone to inject a new bit of creativity into the FPS formula, and bring something new to the market.

Do you feel the suburban American setting is a big part of that?

If you look at other products, you see a lot of people do these iconic locations – the White House, New York City, places that are familiar to everybody, landmarks that you can easily find. But what we wanted to do was create environments that were familiar to a large amount of people. We wanted it to feel like people’s hometown. Whether you’re from Ohio or Kentucky or wherever it is you’re from, these towns look like your town, and that presents an element of “That looks like my backyard, that looks like the school I went to.” It creates this unsettling environment, whereas a more iconic landmark like the Statue of Liberty would have a completely different context.

A lot of people are apparently affronted by the “implausibility” of a Korean invasion of North America. Why do you think people are so sensitive about that?

That’s a good question. Honestly I think people part of the reason that people question the plausibility is because we’re using this real-world footage in our trailers, which is unique to us, and it immediately makes people ask questions like “How realistic is this?” If you do your research you’ll learn that North Korea has the fourth largest standing army in the world, and as time goes on you see the American financial crisis and military forces stressing the Middle East – this really isn’t that far-fetched a concept. There are border engagements between North and South Korea once every few months or so.

I think that people are grasping onto is this idea that America could never be invaded, that we’re untouchable, and that’s kind of what we’re going after, to build on that fear, that paranoia, that feeling of “God, how could this ever happen here?” And some people are so unwilling to accept that possibility that they just dismiss the concept outright as implausible.

Do you think it would be the same if it were set somewhere in Europe, for instance?

If you think about it, places like Europe and the Middle East over the years have had these situations where there’s been war on their home turf, where there’s been the threat or the fact of invasion, and that’s not something that the US has ever had to come close to dealing with. But that’s one of the things that the game deals with. Probably more than any other society, America has this elitist idea that we’re the best in the world and also this culture of excess, and we prey upon the idea in the game. When all these things get stripped away – the life of convenience, democracy – perhaps more than any other culture, Americans are the least equipped to deal with that situation.

Homefront is out March 8 in the US and March 11 in Europe and the UK.

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26 Comments

  1. Freek

    Certainly sounds interesting but subtlety is going to be key. Otherwise the game is going to come across as another deardfull overly patriotic fantasy of the “big brave americans fighting off the dirty asians”.
    Especially to gamers who don’t live in the US.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. OrbitMonkey

    Hmmm the only similarity this will have to Half-life is that it begins with a H.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. NiceFellow

    Interesting points. But, gotta say, if they really want to explore those themes a film or novel would work far better than a videogame.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. RickyWicky

    @3 Well, what are some games these days other than interactive novels? That’s what they are to me, at least.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. stretch215

    @2 and you know that how ? You’ve played homefront ?? Oh you haven’t ? Then don’t make judgements pal.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. OrbitMonkey

    @5 Lol, or what pal? Maybe you’ve got a hard on for yet another xenophobic America versus the foreign horde military shooter, I ain’t. THQ are not fit too lick Valves boots in terms of gameplay or story. Don’t have to play this to see where its gonna go.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. stretch215

    @6 then you’re an idiot. Only an idiot would make a judgement without any hands on experience. “or what” obviously nothing, this is the internet.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. OrbitMonkey

    @7 Hands on experience? The decade plus of gaming, of seeing games like this churned out, of hearing the same marketing spiel, all the wasted hours playing a turd *everyone* said was great, is my hands on experience mate.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. stretch215

    @8 for the last time you have NOT played THIS game. All the experience in the world would not give you the ability to tell the future, mate. And your decade plus of gaming is nothing, I was playing games before you were probably born kid. And in my life I’ve learned NEVER to make a judgement unless I know what’s really going on. A lesson you have obviously yet to learn, making you either a juvenile or a slow adult and I have no desire to further conversate with either.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    @6: Totally agree. I’m sick and tired of this “America is the victim / America needs to fight back / America needs to help out people by invading other countries / America needs to protect itself by invading other countries / America is good, everyone else is stupid and evil” bullshit games. How about Russia gets invaded by America, because you know, Russia has oil, and you’re playin’ a russian boy, bearing witness of how his parents got shot by american her- i mean soldiers.

    That would be fucking ballsy and awesome.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. OrbitMonkey

    @9 Lol, check out the urban dictionary for the term conversate, before trying to take a intellectual highground old boy. As for not judging something until I know what’s going on, let’s see if I can’t make a fairly accurate assessment on the evidence so far eh? THQ want to release a modern day shooter in a crowded market. USA invasion isn’t used often, whoops MW2 just did it! Shit we wanted to use the Russians too! Ok we’ll make Korea the bad guys (nobody likes them) & throw in a few brutal scenes to stir up a patriotic self righteousness… Oooh & we’ll say we were “inspired” by Half-Life to keep the jaded hardcore happy. Obviously experience has made me a tad cynical :D

    #11 4 years ago
  12. stretch215

    First of all my use of the word conversate is spot on. Did you not know what that meant? And my initial point still stands.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. stretch215

    @6 Too bad it will probably never happen. America is where most games make the bulk of their sales, and devs know how fickle the American people can be, at least recently. The game would probably be protested.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. OrbitMonkey

    @12 No I had to look it up. You see although it is a word, the correct term is “converse” :)

    #14 4 years ago
  15. OrbitMonkey

    Your initial point is flawed. Prejudging something you know nothing about is one thing, but thanks to this site & THQ i think I know enough to make a educated guess on this game. Another suspicious fact is the constant name dropping of Half-Life. They need quality by association? How often you hear Bungie or Rockstar claim their inspired by another game? This game is stale.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. ThatBoyTim

    These guys are trying something edgy and daring. Watch the dev film, its really interesting stuff and the locations and maps looks great.

    Someone said they should “explore these themes in a movie or a book” – why can’t a video game tell a story!?

    I will certainly look out for this game next year and keep an eye on its development.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. OrbitMonkey

    @16 No their trying something manipulative & cynical to tempt male teen Americans away from COD. Theirs nothing edgy or daring about seeing civilians massacred by stereotypical foreign stormtroopers.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. LOLshock94

    the AI on this game are retarded i mean full on retard

    played the first mission where your in a gasstation and i blew up the gas staion and the AI kept running threw the fire to kill me when they could easily go around the fire but no they just run into it

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Crysis

    @17, Would you be happy if you were playing as Muslims & Asians shooting Americans & Europeans for once?
    I honestly would… if the gameplay’s good :P

    #19 4 years ago
  20. DaMan

    ‘ Muslims & Asians ‘
    middle easterners and asians then ;) ..

    #20 4 years ago
  21. Stephany Nunneley

    Maybe someone should make a “shooter” about the American Indians fighting off the invading Europeans or the Aztecs fighting off Catholic Missionaries and the Spanish Conquistadors instead of saving those themes for strategy games.

    /runs out of the room

    #21 4 years ago
  22. Crysis

    @21, would be kind of hard to fit as a 3rd/1st person shooter, but i would like to see some action/rpgs in these eras.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Erthazus

    @22 play Deus Ex next year.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. DaMan

    @21 in the veins of Turok. only this time you shoot the holy inquisition.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. Stephany Nunneley

    @24 That would be a best seller. :)

    #25 4 years ago
  26. OrbitMonkey

    Actually I’d love to play as a spec ops commando during the cold war… Maybe voiced by Sam Worthington… Anything like that out there?

    #26 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]