When SOCOM 4 released in 2011, fans were happy to see the franchise return, but many did not agree with the direction it had taken their beloved series. A year later, Zipper Interactive, the team behind almost every major SOCOM release was sadly closed, and fans thought the series was gone for good. Now, David Sears, the Creative Director behind the iconic SOCOM 1 & 2 is looking to bring the heart of the series back with H-Hour: World’s Elite and needs your help. With the assistance of the crowdfund site Kickstarter, David is looking to not only bring the spiritual successor H-Hour to PCs, but also to the PS4.
We spoke to SOF Studios’ Creative Director David Sears about the game and just what it could mean to SOCOM fans and shooter fans in general.
Could you tell me a bit about H-Hour: World’s Elite?
Sure. H-Hour is a skill-based, tactical, team-based military shooter that draws its inspiration from the early SOCOM games on PS2. What this means is that we’re focusing on the core experience—responsive controls, addictive game modes, asymmetrical map design with objectives based game modes—and support for both first and third person cameras. Of course we’re bringing AAA production values so the game will “look like Call of Duty and play like SOCOM.”
Also important to mention is the authenticity aspect. Members of our team are respected retired Special Forces operators. These guys have input into every aspect of the design process and are not consultants—they have a vested interest in making sure the game is realistic where it needs to be but they understand that at the end of the day, fun wins. However, at the very minimum they insure that we treat the real world contributions of military men and women with the respect that they deserve. This is different from hiring consultants who work with designers for a while but do not have ultimate control over how they are portrayed in the final game.
What kind of clan support are you hoping to implement?
I think this is a real strength of H-Hour. While we’re trying to recreate the experience a lot of fans loved about the early SOCOMs, this could also be sent off kilter if we monkeyed with the type of core features those games had. So it was logical to pursue and exceed clan support as a way to enhance the main game, especially since those early SOCOMs encouraged many people to start and then run clans for years.
From within the game itself you will be able to create and customize every aspect of your clan, even going as far to write a constitution for the behavior and ethics of your clan members. Then using our analytics features, clan leaders will be able to monitor the actions and statistics of members and send messages directly to them regarding their performance or behavior. Clan leaders will be able to invite, remove and deputize members to have greater responsibilities in the organization. And we really want to make setting up clan matches easy, so clan leaders will be able to issue challenges, agree to rules for the match, and keep a record of the outcome. There are many more features of course, and we’ll be releasing a video that gives players a complete overview after our Kickstarter campaign wraps up.
You state that you are planning on telling the story of “various elite forces around the world.” Could you elaborate?
Great question. When you have Special Forces operators on your team, you get to hear the “inside” story about different military actions around the world. While you can’t present these in their raw form—names and sometimes locations have to change in the interest of preserving national security—the events can be portrayed. We also have to take some liberties with the timeline of course because a lot of the “events” in the story consist of waiting for long periods between major encounters. Our military colleagues get this and are going to help us design plausible content that’s appropriate for these “gaps.”
The point of view that these personal stories provides can be quite dramatic. We’re really interested in conveying to gamers a sense of what it was really like to be involved in some of the most dangerous and volatile moments of recent history and at the same time bring a humane aspect to the storyline. I think it’s important that gamers understand that even though military actions have targets—the “bad” guys—the locations where these actions took place are home to a lot of good people too. We’ll be sure to stage interactions with these good people because it’s critical to send the message that while war is hell, moments of human kindness create hope and affirm that evil cannot prevail.
Finally, missions will feature a classic series of objectives to complete. These lead the player seamlessly through the narrative, with some leeway for adjustments to their choices.
As the market has changed over the years since the original SOCOM titles, what similarities are you going to have to those games and what new design aspects are you going to be bringing in?
Well, without knocking anyone else’s games—and I play a lot of military shooters so you can count me as a fan—I think that our core gameplay is a bit more skill based. This is not to say hardcore though players can certainly play it that way, even making it more challenging through an array of options for online matches, but that there will not be any of the more recent evolutions in terms of features for a military shooter. Things such as killstreaks or an experience point system, or unlockable weapons. We want to put everyone on an open, level playing field from the moment the game ships.
Another trend I see is more games saying they are team based but then the basic design of those games—features and maps—tends to encourage players to go lone wolf. H-Hour has a number of mechanics that encourage people to play together as a team. Every map is vetted by Special Forces operators who tell us the tactics they would use to succeed on those maps and we tweak levels based on this input. So if you play H-Hour as a coordinated team using real world military tactics you will tend to win more often. Something new in this area is the Analytics Sergeant™ that will monitor your performance and generate after action reports for you. These reports tell you where you were at your best and at your worst and how to improve.
Our competition does a lot of things really well and chief among these is their very high production values. While H-Hour will launch with less total content than what the big publishers can create, we will have the same high quality look of their games and then release more content in a series of planned DLC packs. So that’s two aspects that are similar—high visual and audio quality and DLC.
What game modes are you thinking about developing for H-Hour? Will you be bringing in any of the modes from SOCOM such as Demolition, Escort or Breach?
For sure. Those have become real classics. We’re also including some player-optional twists or variations on those modes. And we have one totally unique, never before seen game mode planned for our initial release right now.