Close Combat: First to Fight

By Scott Parrino 08 Apr 2005 0

Introduction

It would be an understatement to say Atomic Games' Close Combat franchise of tactical wargames has a close following.  The game was released in multiple forms and editions over the course of five years, and continues to be played, modified, and developed by a loyal group of fans.  During all that time, the game has remained a tactical-level simulation of warfare.  Now Atomic Games has teamed with Destineer Studios to mold Close Combat into a new genre while still retaining its fundamental identity as a military simulation.  Without a doubt, the upcoming Close Combat: First to Fight has captured our attention (check out our previously published preview), so we decided to learn more about the game's background in an interview with Destineer's Steven Charonneau.

The Interview

The Wargamer: The Close Combat series has long been revered, but as a World War II wargame. How did it become a modern era first-person shooter? Why did Destineer and Atomic Games pair up?

Steven Charbonneau: Above all, Close Combat has always stood for authenticity and a respect for its topic. Because of this, the Marine Corps had been using Atomic's Close Combat Marine RTS in its officer training programs. Destineer and Atomic together offered to combine Destineer's first-person technology with Atomic's military expertise to give the Marine Corps an authentic first-person shooter training tool, as well.

The Wargamer: Are there similarities between the old Close Combat games and First to Fight?

Steven Charbonneau: Yes! First is an emphasis on realistic military tactics. And, second is the incorporation of a psychology model into friendly and enemy AI. Unlike other so-called "realistic" military games, First to Fight is about more than just realistic-looking weapons, uniforms, and environment. 

The Wargamer: First to Fight is a first-person shooter. What are its closest competitors (such as Raven Shield, Brothers in Arms, SWAT 4, or America?s Army)? How does it compare with other games in the genre? 

Steven Charbonneau: First to Fight plays much differently than all of these games because of the help we got from combat-experienced Marines. We've added features like Ready Team Fire Assist, which is a system of formations and movement the Marines use that gives them 360-degree cover whether they are crossing intersections, traversing stairways, or walking down the street. Also, we realized that the Marines were never alone on the battlefield because they had access to resources like the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Players in First to Fight will have access to these same resources, such as Cobra gunships, mortar strikes, and Marine snipers.

The Wargamer: What makes First to Fight stand out? 

Steven Charbonneau: Having Marines just back from combat directly involved in the creation of First to Fight has very much influenced what the game is about. First, I think we need to look at what makes the Marines stand out. These men and women live their lives by a set of values. We have tried to represent, as faithfully as possible, the honour, courage, and commitment that are central to their core beliefs. We have gone beyond accurate weapon and vehicle models to provide an experience with authentic formations and manoeuvres, access to the Marine Air Ground Task Force, and a psychology model for every unit in the game. I don?t know of any game that can truly be called authentic without implementing these elements.

I think players will get a convincing experience when playing First to Fight. The sounds, environments, and the way the team communicates with you give players a feeling of being a Marine Fire Team leader. None of this would have been possible without the contribution of the Marines.

The Wargamer: Could you give us a description of how the team command system works in the game?

Steven Charbonneau: Your fire team automatically follows Marine Ready Team Fire Assist procedures in all movement and tactics. They automatically find cover and achieve multiple angles of fire against threats. When issuing orders, you can do so individually or to the group. These orders range from movement, to fire. When interacting with the environment and enemies, we have implemented an easy to use radial menu that offers options based on what you?re dealing with. 

Some of the orders you can issue are Suppressing Fire, Go to (bound) to a location, Take Down a room, Frag-and-Take-Down, Cover a location, Secure enemies, etc. You can also call for fire or support from snipers, Cobra gunships, and mortar.

The Wargamer: What are some of the features which were created based on input from the USMC soldiers who helped to develop First to Fight?

Steven Charbonneau: They've influenced virtually every aspect of the game ? from what it sounds like to get shot at, to the specific tactics they use when climbing a staircase, to how to take down a room, to how to achieve multiple angles of fire against threats. They explain to us how they do it, then they demonstrate it to us, then they test it in First to Fight to make sure we get it right.

But, one of the most important things to the Marines was the psychology model. Since Marines believe the driving force of all action in war is the human will, they were particular about making sure we considered psychology in our artificial intelligence. Marine tactics are all about maneuver and deception, which by definition requires a psychology model.

The Wargamer: How is First to Fight being developed for military applications?

Steven Charbonneau: Marines will use First to Fight to augment classroom training, in their "simulation centers" and in a variety of other ways that we don't publicize.

The Wargamer: Given recent events, Beirut is a very interesting choice. Why did you choose it in the first place?

Steven Charbonneau: Beirut is a city with a rich and diverse patchwork of cultures which fits in with the storyline of the game. However, Beirut is also a city of rich history for the Marines. Called the ?root? by Marines, their first appearance in 1958 was to stop an incursion without firing a single shot. In 1983, 221 Marines and sailors lost their lives. A truck filled with explosives crashed through the American embassy?s gates, driving right by Marines who were forbidden by the UN to chamber bullets in their weapons while in Beirut.

The Wargamer: Close Combat: First to Fight is rapidly nearing release. Where does the game stand at this point? Is it done? When can we expect it in stores?

Steven Charbonneau: The game is finished. You can expect the Xbox version April 8th, Mac version on April 14-15th, and the PC version on April 19th.

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