My first computer when I was a kid growing up was a Dell. It was not built for gaming and it was not running the most amazing software either. Back then gaming for me was defined by my Xbox and the handy Duke controller. I hadn’t broken into the PC gaming scene until my dad dropped a CD on my desk one day. He recently bought one of those pre built gaming computers at the time. The computer came packaged with several games to help push the product. I examined the disk and low and behold. The game was Ghost Recon.
I installed the game on my computer and was amazed at the graphics and the authenticity. I quickly assembled my fire teams and loaded the first mission. The huge sprawling sandbox environment was almost daunting and something I wish more shooters did these days. The mission was truly in your hands. You commanded your own ODA of Green Berets taking the fight to the enemy. This was the most realistic and hardcore game depicting the U.S Army Special Forces conducting direct action at the time.
Patrolling through the woods my squad made contact with the enemy. It was chaotic and terrifying not having a clear view of the enemy. Within a split second my character was KIA from one enemy round. This quickly set in a get it right the first time attitude. Up until then I had been playing Halo and this one shot kill mentality was quite new to me. Luckily you have other members of the ODA to control and you can still complete the mission. But once your trooper was KIA he was lost for good making every loss meaningful. I guess you can say they don’t make games quite like this anymore but Red Storm was just getting warmed up.
Fast forward over 12 years and Red Storm has quite a resume of games played by gamers world wide. The most recently released, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier hit shelves not long ago. For the review on the Single Player Campaign follow this link. http://www.offdutygamers.com/2012/05/ghost-recon-future-soldier-single-player-review/
Luckily enough I happened to be stationed a short drive from Red Storm HQ in Cary, NC. I decided to contact them and see if we could pay a visit as well as build some relations with the studio that helped define the Military Shooter.
Right as we entered the lobby Travis was right there prepared to execute the tour he had prepared. Here is a rough time line of events that carried us through the visit.
– 1:30 – Arrive at Red Storm reception
– 1:30 – Walk around operations side, see military artifacts, test lab, fresh eyes
– 1:40 – Meet Level Designer (Sou)
– 2:00 – Meet the Concept Team (Rich/Andrew)
– 2:20 – Meet a Character Artist (Joseph)
– 2:40 – Meet Weapon Artists (Mike/JD)
– 3:00 – Meet Animators (Steve)
– 3:15 – Meet a Sound Designer (Justin)
– 3:30 – Gear room and goodbyes
Walking down the halls of Red Storm there were plenty of rooms with cool things to look at. Test rooms with comfy couches, workout rooms to keep employees fit for the fight, and a kitchen fully stocked with goodies to keep their developers going through the busy day.
Walking up to the first set of departments there were walls covered in concept artwork. Each department had a great demo or showcase for us to see. The first place we hit were the developers working on new maps for Ghost Recon Online. They put quite the effort into making sure maps are balanced as well as wonderful to look at. The editor they were using was pretty cool and brought back the fun and chaotic memories of making maps for my favorite pc games. The next team focused on character design and concept work. For guys like us it was an eye opener on just how much detail these developers put in to their work. They make sure the gear is believable and that its functional. Being set in the future, models from games like Ghost Recon have to appear futuristic but are believable in use and functionality. No expense was spared in just how well textured, lit and molded each model and character was. Senior developers have been doing this so long they can foresee possible ways gear may be utilized by todays warfighters and apply it to the design.
The guys behind “Gunsmith” are very proud of their work. Hailed as one of the best stand out features of Future Soldier it brought a new meaning to gun customization. Plenty of weapons reference material and assets are readily available at Red Storm. In a matter of seconds the developers could build any dream AR they please using the library of weapons parts they made for the game. When there is no main project to work on many of the artists at Red Storm continue to do skills development work to help keep talent sharp and experiment with new techniques. During the development cycle there isn’t as much time for such experimentation and some of the assets built during the off cycle can be used later for other projects.
We got a chance to walk through the motion capture stage that was set up in the studio. It had been expanded to allow actors and operators to run and capture more action in the studio. Right next to the motion capture stage is the home of the animators. Being a modder for BF2 I can appreciate what a fluid animation can do to a weapon or character model. Until animation is applied any highly detailed or textured weapon is dormant, frozen in time. When animation is applied life is given to the avatar, the weapon, the game. They were able to show different stages of animation from the rough motion capture to the final product. There was even footage of Actors on the stage and how their movement translates in game.
The last stop was the sound studio. There were samples from dozens of weapons and the sound design lead explained how different microphones will capture different ranges of sounds. Sound can help immerse a player into the game or take them out of it. It’s clear that the team at Red Storm is dedicated to bringing the best quality sound to the gamer. There was even a microphone damaged from a ricochet as a display piece in the studio.
Red Storm Entertainment has helped define the Military shooter for more than a decade. Every artist we saw was 110% dedicated to the games they were making. The attention to detail would make a CSM proud. Going as far as to ensure every bolt on a helicopter was there, every minute detail on a Stryker IFV or weapon was right. It was clear Red Storm had hired some of the sharpest minds in the industry today.
Every Developer in the studio had nerf guns, statues, and all matters of geek gamer collectibles. There was one item that really caught my eye though. No matter where I went around the studio these little guys kept popping up. High quality statues of the character Kozak from Future Soldier. They are quite awesome pieces for any geek around the office. These are quite rare but you may be lucky enough to find them online before they are completely gone.
The last and final stop at Red Storm was at the Gear/Gun room. The items stored are extremely rare and would make the most hardcore Ghost Recon fan cry tears of joy. Some very key prototype weapons and gear from Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter reside here. I still remember seeing footage and pictures of the prototypes way back when I was still in high school. To finally hold a model of the MRC caseless rifle was quite a treat and there are only 3 in the world. There was a treasure trove of optics and gear for the artists to reference too. Only Travis Haley of shooting fame could compare such a collection. There was so much history in that room it was hard to believe how much the gear had evolved. There is a special wall at Red Storm filled with real items obtained from overseas as well as gifts from units and Soldiers. One final piece displayed as an American flag folded on display.
Before myself and my fellow paratrooper made our exfil from the building Travis got us an awesome signed poster from Red Storm Entertainment ( very awesome). We also received 25 meter target posters for extra measure. Overall I was very impressed with the professionalism and the dedication the team at Red Storm have for their work. It’s clear that the developers are just as much fans of their games as we are. Every polygon, every level, and every bullet is a labor of love meant for the gamer to enjoy. The team has nothing but the highest respect for our brothers in arms and they are always doing what ever they can to portray the American Warfighter honorably in todays video games.
It was a Pleasure, an Honor and a Privilege to visit Red Storm Entertainment. We look forward to the next project in development from the wonderful team at the studio.