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Brothers in Arms: Double Time

With the somewhat surprising success of the Wii, many publishers are bringing their franchises to Nintendo's new console. One of those franchises is Brothers in Arms, which is being developed for the Wii by Gearbox Software and Demiurge Studios.

This is the third collaboration between the two developers, who worked together on the two prior Brothers in Arms titles for the Xbox. GamesIndustry.biz was able to speak with Al Reed, studio director at Demiurge Studios, about the new Wii game.


GamesIndustry.biz: Brothers in Arms tends towards the "hardcore" gamer, in that it requires players to command teammates and formulate strategies beyond the "run and gun" tendencies of the average first-person shooter. Yet the Wii is known for attracting a more casual population of gamers. Have any changes been made to the underlying gameplay to make it more accessible to the casual gamers?

Al Reed: Working on the Wii was a strategic decision for Demiurge a couple of years ago. Bringing an existing franchise over to the platform was a logical decision, but we wanted to find a project that was well-suited to the platform. Brothers in Arms is a tactical shooter that encourages the player to think through their actions. Turns out that a slower-paced shooter translates over beautifully. Players have time to take careful aim with the Wii Remote and rotating the camera around need not be done under such duress. It's a great introduction to WWII-shooters for a market that might not yet have tried them out.

To accommodate the more casual gamer, we toned down the difficulty on easier settings. We brought in streams of players who hadn't tried an FPS before and asked them to comment on the rotation speed of the camera and the ease of troop movements. Since ordering your squadmates around on the Wii is a snap (point and click) we're actually able to bring a deep game experience to an audience that might have otherwise been alienated by it.

Were there any specific challenges you faced trying to port the prior games over to the Wii?

The biggest challenge was probably moving the Xbox shaders over to the Wii. We moved skeletal mesh processing over to the CPU, and re-wrote the pixel shaders to Wii's fixed-function pipeline. Overall, the lighting, water, particle effects look just about like they did on the Xbox.

You assisted Gearbox Software with the online multiplayer portions of the prior Brothers in Arms games, correct?

We did — multiplayer has always held a warm place in the hearts of the developers at Demiurge.

Are you similarly handling multiplayer duties for the Wii version?

Having taken a deep look at the Wii consumer, we decided to focus our efforts on taking advantage of Wii hardware and especially the controller rather than MP.

The Wii's selling point, of course, is the wireless remote controller. Since Brothers in Arms was not specifically developed from the ground up for the Wii, how are you going to avoid the feeling that the Wiimote control is being "tacked on" to the prior games?

We picked BiA as a title because it was well-suited to the controller but we also gave the team here free-reign to make whatever changes they needed to in order to leverage the Wii Remote. We tossed out the interface for sniper scopes, ironsights, crouch, grenades, melee, squad commands and stationary weapons and never looked back.

If you haven't played BiA before, you'd never know that the game is based on a prior release - the game feels like it was built for the platform.

What sort of unique actions will the Wiimote control allow players to perform?

Just about everything you do takes advantage of the Wii Remote. For the most part, we stayed away from replacing buttons with gestures unless it was a really good fit — as you said it ends up feeling "tacked on." Ordering your squad, melee and movement and aiming all leverage the controller.

Grenades are a great example. The temptation when given motion-sensing is to just have the player throw, but that motion doesn't end up being precise enough for BiA. Instead we have the player aim where they want the grenade to go and switch up the movement scheme so they can then duck behind cover and throw with their arm without making the camera get whipped around on them. It fuses the tactical BiA gameplay with the benefits of the Wii Remote beautifully.

Have you been able to get the same level of graphical detail that you were able to reach in the Xbox game with the Wii, or is it closer to the PS2 version?

Closer to the Xbox for sure - The Wii version actually utilizes higher resolution textures than the original Xbox version. As a result, the fidelity of the world is actually quite a bit improved — it's really noticeable in 480p.

Will this version of Brothers in Arms still have an M-rating, or have you toned it down due to the Wii's demographics?

It's [rated] M. The cool thing about the Wii is that it's really the platform for everyone. We wanted to make sure that folks who like Mature games still had some mature content to enjoy.

Al Reed is studio director for Demiurge Studios. Interview by Mark Androvich.

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