Originally published by THQ in 2011, Homefront took players to the future where the United States was occupied by global superpower North Korea. Players had to gather forces to fight against the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and help liberate the nation.
The rights to Homefront were auctioned off and purchased by Crytek when THQ declared bankruptcy. Homefront: The Revolution was announced before it was sold again in 2014 to Koch Media, Deep Silver’s parent company. But like the freedom fighters depicted in the game, the developers continued to work on the game with strong resolve, despite its perceived setbacks.
Homefront: The Revolution made its big debut last August with a trailer called “Thank You,” featuring a boy giving a speech at a school thanking the occupiers for giving his country a new sense of purpose, supported with scenes of violence and revolutionary activity. A few days later, audiences were given an early look at the gameplay within the Red Zone, with more gameplay shown in the months that followed. Homefront: The Revolution will still have players fighting for freedom against an occupying foreign power on American soil, but this time with an all-new story, setting (Philadelphia) and features like an open-world and four-player co-op.
[a]listdaily caught up with Huw Beynon, global brand manager at Deep Silver, to talk about how Homefront: The Revolution will rise up and create a whole new perception for the franchise.
What would you say sets Homefront: The Revolution apart from other shooters?
Homefront: The Revolution has a unique premise in gaming that continues to drive huge interest in the intellectual property. It delivers the emotional experience of a war on your own soil. The player is cast not as a super soldier, secret agent or trained professional, but as a freedom fighter with a powerful cause: to liberate an oppressed population. We deliver this premise through the gameplay experience of guerrilla warfare. This is not a linear shooter where your overpowered hero steadily grinds his way past waves of enemies. You have to master the art of guerrilla warfare – hit and run, infiltration and sabotage – all while using the environment and your improvised weaponry against a technologically and numerically superior force.
Dambuster Studios has created an amazing gameplay sandbox that differs radically from Zone to Zone. In the fall, we showed our Red Zone experience, and we saw a few media outlets pin it as an ‘urban Far Cry.’ After unveiling our “resistance mode” co-op experience, we heard ‘Left 4 Dead meets Freedom Fighters.’ The Yellow and Green Zones have yet to be revealed, so there’s a lot more to this game than first meets the eye.
Living in a country occupied by a foreign nation may be a sensitive topic for some, even though Homefront is science fiction. How has promotion for the game worked with that?
Homefront: The Revolution deals with serious themes, not just from history books, but events that are happening around the world today. We see oppression, occupation and civil war happening to ‘other people’ on the news. Homefront asks the question, ‘What if this happened on our own doorstep?’ That ‘what if’ premise of Homefront is one of the reasons why the I.P. is so compelling. A core pillar of the brand is, ‘The familiar has become alien.’ Homefront works when you see images of Americana twisted and subverted – whether it’s the burnt out yellow school bus being used as a roadblock, to the brick row houses of Philadelphia hung with KPA propaganda. I think our audience is smart enough to realize that this is a work of fiction, but that the themes that Homefront explores are mature, timely and relevant. So long as we don’t try to exploit our audience, I am confident we can engage and inspire them with our premise.
Were there other challenges in promoting the game?
Homefront: The Revolution is a complete reboot of an I.P. that had a somewhat checkered past. A major challenge has been overcoming some of the preconceptions that came with that. We saw real value in the brand because the premise is so unique and powerful, but we’ve had to constantly prove that our product is ahead from the previous iteration. The original Homefront was great at establishing the fiction, but as a gaming experience, it didn’t match the full potential. Homefront: The Revolution is a much more ambitious product, with close to 10 times the content in single player; we need to keep proving that to our core audience who deserve to know that their $60 will be well spent.
Another challenge to overcome is the back story. The first Homefront depicted an alternate future where the North Korea of today grew to become a superpower capable of invading the U.S. within 15 years. Understandably, this fantasy did not convince everyone! It’s been well documented that the original antagonist was supposed to be China and THQ got cold feet, making the switch at the eleventh hour, so there’s little credibility in the notion that the North Korea we know today, despite their sabre-rattling, could ever invade America.
When Deep Silver acquired the I.P., we saw the opportunity to rip up this back story and come up with something new. We’ve created an entire alternative history and future, based on a divergent point in the 1950s that turns the world order on its head. In Homefront: The Revolution, the U.S. has been occupied by North Korea – but the story of how this could happen is, I think, one of the most interesting things about the reboot that we’ll be showing in the coming weeks and months. Suffice to say, while the old fiction was a blunt instrument, we think the new back story is smart, extremely topical and ripe for a lot of interesting interpretation.
Homefront: The Revolution seems to have had a tumultuous development. Were you nervous that the history might be an impediment?
Homefront: The Revolution’s development is a lot more stable than most reports suggest. Underneath the I.P. auctions, acquisitions and name changes, this is the same team working from the same office space, mostly at the same desks, for the past five years ever since THQ first signed the project. The sale of the I.P. to Crytek in 2013 gave the studio the opportunity to pause, take stock and re-scope the game from solid ground. However ‘tumultuous’ it may have been perceived, the development path has resulted in a game that we cannot wait to unleash.
What did you learn from the recent closed beta?
This was a proper closed beta with real development goals, and as such, the beta was a massive success. We tested our matchmaking tools, stressed the servers and obtained hundreds of gigabytes of telemetry that will improve the final product and hopefully a smooth day-one experience for the consumer. We held the beta early for a reason, so we could get the data and give ourselves time to take action and improve the final product.
We also learned that today’s consumer expects ‘beta’ software to closely resemble the final product quality; a lot of recent alphas/betas have only reinforced that idea. And you can’t argue against that. The consumer is right. We have to prove to them that the game they spend $60 on will be of the highest quality. I’m confident we will do that long before the May 17 release.