VGB Feature: Frontlines: Fuel of War’s Downloadable Content Plans – A Q&A with Kaos Studios Design Director Dave Votypka

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Last week, THQ and Kaos Studios announced plans for the ongoing expansion of their PC and Xbox 360 first-person shooter Frontlines: Fuel of War through downloadable content, the first update of which brought 50-player online battles to the Xbox 360 version. As a fan of the game myself, I was intrigued by all of the additional content that was said to be on the way, but the original announcement didn’t provide much in the way of specifics so I immediately shot an email over to my contacts at THQ and inquired about the possibility of getting in touch with someone from Kaos Studios to find out more in a quick Q&A.

Thankfully, THQ media relations whiz Raha Bouda was able to get things hooked up in a hurry and had my questions forwarded over to the Kaos team. Kaos Studios’ Design Director, Dave Votypka was kind enough to take time out to give me the lowdown on the new maps, Conquer mode and other DLC that is in the works, and now I’m thrilled to be able to pass along the info to you.

Matt Litten: How have you seen Frontlines’ online community grow since it launched? Has the game been as successful as hoped for thus far?

Dave Votypka: Being the new kid on the block is always tough, but it has been incredibly rewarding seeing our fan base grow. We have a very active community both on the PC and Xbox side of things. Many players visit our official community forums to give us their feedback on the game and there is also a very active forum on Xbox.com. Many of our players see that we are a community focused game developer and we’re doing our best to stay true to that.

We’re happy with the success of the game so far, as is THQ, and they are very supportive of our studio and the Frontlines franchise.

ML: With the latest game update you delivered 50-player online battles to the Xbox 360 for the first time. What were the main challenges you guys faced in bringing battles of such a high scale to consoles and how did you go about ultimately squeezing the functionality out of the 360?

DV: Our biggest issue was when we originally designed the game was that we built it for 32 players, with the goal of leading the pack for multiplayer console games. As we continued optimizing to make the gameplay experience as smooth and lag-free as possible, we realized late in development that 50 player games was within our reach. The credit has to go to our talented engineers who basically squeezed more out of the engine and networking systems than was originally thought possible.

ML: Any plans to have a go at increasing the player max up to 64 to rival that of the PC or are you settling on 50 as the 360’s sweet spot?

DV: A lot of players have been asking about this and some of the PC players are actually running successful servers with as many as 96 players! That’s not our goal but we get a kick out of it . We won’t be raising the 360 player limit for Frontlines: Fuel of War, but stay tuned for news of future plans in this area coming out of Kaos.

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ML: Now let’s talk about some of the other downloadable content that’s on the way. What can you tell us about the new maps that are in the works? How many are planned, what are their themes, how do they fit in and compare with the existing maps, etc.?

DV: These are the new maps:

* Boneyard – Set in a Red Star nuclear missle facility, features the Automatic Shotgun, Rocket Jeep and Red Star Transport Helicopter.

* Hindsight – A massive air combat arena that spotlights air combat and featuring the AB11 tank buster, RS Kobra aircraft, and a new shoulder mounted, anti-air stinger weapon.

* Sunder – Set in a small industrial port, this map focuses on for harrowing close-quarters combat in this infantry-only industrial battle.

* Wide Awake – Inspired by the game’s fifth single player mission, this map is a mid-sized battleground combining armor, helicopters, and fortress like cover amidst the ruins of the southern Russian Command facility.

* Infiltration – The nuclear facility experienced in the single player game becomes a close-quarters, infantry-only skirmish multiplayer map.

ML: How about the new Conquer Mode, what’s it all about?

DV: Conquer mode is reminiscent of an old fan favorite in previous shooters such as Rainbow Six, Star Wars Battlefront, and Conquest in the Battlefield series; though the Frontlines version will have a few of its own tweaks and will be a free download for PC and Xbox 360’s Marketplace, and will be active in all of the original multiplayer maps that shipped with the game. In addition, all new downloadable content maps for the game will also feature the bonus Conquer mode gameplay. We added Conquer to Frontlines because fans always request and enjoy additional game modes, and we are committed to providing maximum value and longevity to our games.

ML: In the recent press release announcing the DLC plans for Frontlines, there was a line towards the end that caught my eye. It mentioned that there will be content focusing on “advancing the game’s near-future story premise.” Does that mean you are working on some form of downloadable expansions to add to the story of the single-player campaign, or something else entirely?

DV: Unfortunately there is no additional single-player content planned. There are tidbits of information tied into the multiplayer DLC maps that provide bits of lore related to the World of Frontlines.

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ML: I think there was also mention of new weapons and vehicles. What types of new gadgets and technology can players look forward to working into their arsenal?

DV: We’re including both hand weapons and new land and air vehicles. First, the automatic shotgun is a deadly and thrilling weapon to use. With full auto firing, if you can learn and manage the weapon’s handling you can be a deadly force.

The anti-air rocket is a non-lock on weapon, that is deadly against aircraft but requires greater skill and precision to use. You might be able to imagine our inspiration from the Stinger back in the Desert Combat days, and why we chose to bring this type of gameplay to Frontlines.

Regarding vehicles, the light armor adds a TOW like rocket to it’s arsenal, increasing the threat of this fast moving vehicle. The Red Star transport helicopter with dual side mini-guns also makes its debut in the game. But most importantly each faction receives a new aircraft in the Hindsight map which focuses heavily on dog-fighting and air-to-ground combat.

The Red Star receives a new attack fighter-bomber, with dual cannons and dumb-fire rockets; requiring good skill, yet high payload and pay-off for successfully connecting with your target. On the Coalition side, the new A-11 tank-buster carries a 30mm gatling cannon along with cluster bomb munitions for devastating bombing runs. Each of these aircraft also feature new camera views, for rear view dog-fighting as well as a top-down bombing run view. It’s some of the most fun we’ve had in Frontlines for sure!

ML: Can you provide any further information regarding the projected release schedule for the DLC and how it will be priced? Will it be free, require purchasing with Microsoft Points or maybe a mix of both?

DV: On the Xbox 360, DLC1 (new map Boneyard) and DLC2 (Conquer mode game mode and map pack) will be free. DLC3 (4 additional new maps) will be a map pack with a price to be determined. DLC1 is already available on Xbox LIVE and DLC2 will be coming very soon. On the PC, DLC1 and DLC2 will be available in the 1.2.0 patch and the remaining maps of DLC3 will be released after that.

ML: Finally, where does the PC version factor into the DLC equation? Will PC gamers be getting these add-on goodies too, or only Xbox 360?

DV: As stated above, PC users will receive all of the DLC that is being released for Xbox 360 for free but will be released after the Xbox 360 releases.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!