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Developed and produced by Irrational Games, Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich is the 2005 follow up to Freedom Force, one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2002. I was fortunate enough to get a little time with Irrational Games CEO and FFvT3R Producer Ken Levene. Take a look at what we talked about!
World Famous Comics: Hi Ken. Thanks for joining us. What can players expect from Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich?
Ken Levene: A worthy follow up to the mega-hit, award winning Freedom Force. Like the original, FFvT3R is a genre-defining game with an epic story and a huge roster of amazing playable characters. If nothing else, a comic book fan's dream come true.
WFC: I like hearing that! Tell us a little bit about the storyline.
KL: The story begins several months following the events in the original game. After clearing out Patriot City from all the thugs and baddies, the team is essentially out of a job. That is until they get word that Nuclear Winter is up to his old tricks. The team follows him to Cuba where they'll engage in a battle that will ultimately send them back to the battlefields of World War II. There, they'll take on Blitzkrieg and an army of Energy-X imbued super-soldiers!
WFC: In addition to the single-player campaign, FFvT3R also has a nice selection of multiplayer modes. I understand that mutliplayer mode was criticized and considered underdeveloped on the first Freedom Force game. However, it really looks like you made some impressive improvements with this sequel. Was it an important goal for you and your team to improve multiplayer support for FFvT3R?
KL: We're the first ones to admit it was underdeveloped in the original game. That said, we felt we had to include it. With FFv3R, we started with the knowledge of what worked and what didn't. We've taken those lessons and created a full-featured, comprehensive multiplayer game that we think holds up to the single player campaign. We now have a ton of modes including Deathmatch, Tag, Race and Massacre for example. Along with the new modes, we have a streamlined interface, tons of new powers and characters...the list goes on and on. So, yes, it was a huge priority to get multiplayer right this time around. I believe we've succeeded in seeing that priority through.
WFC: It definitely sounds like you've suceeded! So, the game boasts some great features that allow players to not only flex some creative muscles, but also add some great dynamics to game play! Can you tell us about original character creation and what I think is the most promising of your mutiplayer modes, Story-Based Multiplayer?
KL: There's no question that Story-Based Multiplayer is a promising mode. It allows anyone to create whatever scenarios they can dream up and share them with people online. This is all done with a very user-friendly interface. You can include your own comic book covers, stories, characters or whatever else you'll need to make your own epic sagas. And that's just the tip of the modding iceberg. There are many other mod tools, including the new Character Tool 2, that allows you to manage your character creations. FFv3R will be one of the most mod friendly games around.
WFC: Wow, sounds like you guys put a ton of work into this. What were some of the challenges you faced when producing FFvT3R?
KL: The biggest challenge was self-publishing. Thankfully, we had great partners like Digital Jesters to help us through it. The whole process was very rewarding, but involved a lot more work than we imagined. All the unknowns and extra tasks were definitely the most challenging aspect of this project.
WFC: What do you guys do when you're stumped? You don't take a break to play video games, do you?
KL: Of course we do! [*laughter*] Looking to other games for examples of how to solve complicated problems is something we do all the time. Beyond that, there's no particular resource we find ourselves tapping.
WFC: What do you look toward for inspiration and what are your creative influences?
KL: It's always something new. There's always a new game or book that I'm obsessed with. At least, for a while. For the past few years, I've found myself really inspired by Joss Whedon's work. I couldn't have been more pleased when he started writing for X-Men.
WFC: Yeah, a lot of fans are enjoying Whedon's work on Astonishing X-Men. It's great stuff! Another question for you. For those with Macs and consoles, like PlayStation2 and Xbox, is there a chance they'll see FFvT3R available for them too? I know the first game was also made available on the Mac.
KL: No news on that front at the moment, but it's certainly something we'd like to see. The more people who can appreciate the FF universe, the better.
WFC: Well, fingers crossed! It would be cool to see this available for more than just Windows PC. Both FFvT3R and the original Freedom Force show a great deal of love for the comic book medium and respect for their fans. We really appreciate that! I understand that you are a still a comic book fan and many at Irrational are fans or former fans?
KL: Yeah, we have quite a few comic book junkies here. When you have something that you're so passionate about, you tend to want to share it with others. You also want to find ways to work it into your daily rituals. I'm just glad that I'm able to involve both comics and games as part of my career.
WFC: What comics are you and some of the people at Irrational reading? Also, what comic books and comic book creators helped inspire your work on FFvT3R? I see a lot of Jack Kirby, myself.
KL: I'm completely unoriginal when it comes to this. Gimme Spidey and I'm happy. Then we have people like Robb Waters, our character artist, who is a hardcore nut that's into more obscure titles. I think he's into Werewolf by Night and a lot of other lesser known titles. One thing rings true for all of us though: we all adore the Lee/Ditko/Kirby school of comics. I'm sure you could tell that from playing Freedom Force.
WFC: Actually, I think you can see the Lee/Ditko/Kirby influence just from watching the game. And yeah, I have to agree with you on Spidey. Hook me up with some Spider-Man comics and I'm good! [*laughter*] For someone looking to get back into comic books or expand their comics horizons, what would you personally recommend?
KL: If someone were looking to get a good intro, I'd probably just stick with the basics like X-Men and Batman. Not because I have vanilla tastes, but because the big ones are the titles most likely to hook someone. Comics can be an intimidating thing for some. It's important for your introduction to have a broad appeal. With a title like X-Men, there's always going to be someone you can connect with right away.
WFC: Yeah, that's true. Because they have such diverse characters, there usually is at least one character someone can identify with. Now, back to the game. With all the hard work you and your team put into FFvT3R, what are you proud of most?
KL: I'm terrible at picking favorites. I'm really pleased with the new characters though. When you have a few dozen existing characters, trying to create and implement six more can be difficult. The real challenge wasn't so much coming up with the concepts, but making them fit into the Freedom Force universe. Meaning, from an aesthetic, personality and balance perspective. All in all, the new characters all nicely find a place on the team and in the world. That's a huge payoff.
WFC: We have to wrap things up now, but I have one last question... Cape or no cape?
KL: Depends if I'm a flyer or not. However, I'll take teleportation over flying any day.
WFC: Right on. I can see the many advantages of teleporting over flying! [*laughter*] Any departing words?
KL: The beauty of Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich is that there are so many different ways to play it. Between the awesome single player campaign, diverse multiplayer and phenomenal modding capabilities, FFv3R really is the ultimate way to live out your comic book fantasies. Comic book fans do not want to miss this one.
WFC: I agree, definitely worth checking out if you're a comic book fan! Thanks again for your time and congratulations on your first foray into self-publishing with FFvT3R. It was great having you!
KL: Thank you! It's been a difficult path, but we've had tremendous support and an absolute blast all the while.
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