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Former Call of Duty Devs Fight Fires, Not Wars

| 30 Jul 2009 17:39
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Bryan Jury and Nathaniel McClure had it made working on the Call of Duty series. So why'd they jump ship from one of the top FPS franchises around to make a game where you battle fires with water instead of Nazis with rifles?

Anyone who's played a Call of Duty game has probably killed his or her fair share of Nazis. But anyone who's had a hand making a Call of Duty game can likely put that kill count to shame. And, believe it or not, while you might not ever get tired of blowing evil Germans to smithereens, some people do.

That's how Bryan Jury and Nathaniel McClure, two developers who have worked on just about every Call of Duty title in every capacity from QA to production, felt when they jumped ship from the mega franchise to start their own company, Epicenter Studios. Together, these two ex-FPS creators are creating a very different type of first-person game.

"Through our time on Call of Duty, we had both killed hundreds of thousands of Nazis, and the thought of creating a game where the objective isn't to kill people, but rather help them, felt like a very refreshing and challenging thing to undertake," Jury told The Escapist.

The product of that desire, Real Heroes: Firefighter on the Wii, is a first-person game that has "all the action and intensity of a Call of Duty title," but puts it in a non-violent context. Players fight fires and save lives by aiming hoses, swinging axes and, yes, using the Jaws of Life with the Wii Remote.

Just because a fire isn't trying to blow your brains out doesn't mean it's not as lethal an enemy as a Nazi, however. In fact, as Jury explains it, fire's a much more devious foe to face, and, therefore, to design and replicate accurately than your average goosestepper. "Enemies in most first-person shooters are a rather predictable group," Jury said. "With Real Heroes: Firefighter, our enemy is something entirely different, and in many ways, very experimental."

Nazis can be designed to pop out at pre-ordained times. Fire, on the other hand, is an unpredictable force of nature. Epicenter's proprietary "thinking fire" technology, Jury thinks, renders that unpredictability perfectly: "It is a cunning enemy: if you leave just a small flame burning so you can concentrate on another section of the fire, by the time you've returned to that flame, it might be twice the size it originally was. You just never know what it might do...but you'll know enough that you can never turn your back on it."

In moving from the Call of Duty series to the Wii, Jury and McClure themselves may have turned their backs on an elusive audience: the core gamer. "I do believe that the majority of the Wii's catalog is filled with games that 'core' gamers wouldn't be interested in," Jury said, citing the Wii's lackluster graphics technology and developers' frequent misuse of the Wii Remote as problems.

With "thinking fire" for some literal graphical fireworks and a Metroid Prime 3 inspired motion control scheme that Jury says revolves around the gameplay and not the other way around, Real Heroes might have the stuff to get core gamers' attention. "I firmly believe that if you make a good game, the gamers will come," Jury said.

Of course, as impressive as "thinking fire" might be, technology is no match for real-life experience. So has anyone at Epicenter actually lived out their Backdraft fantasies in the real world? "Personally, I don't think I had ever considered becoming a firefighter, mostly because I don't think I'm remotely capable of the physical requirements of the job," Jury revealed. "Nathaniel is a much bigger guy, and I told him we need to send him through the Fire Academy to see if he can hack it. For authenticity's sake, of course."

Real Heroes: Firefighter will hit the Wii on August 4.

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