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Homefront Postmortem

There's a postmortem for Homefront on Polygon taking a look back at the development of Homefront. This is more true to the term postmortem than most such articles, as it outlines how this lead to the demise of KAOS Studio, the game's developer that started off as the team behind the Desert Combat modification for Battlefield 1942. This holds no bars, as shown by the title: "How mismanagement, incompetence and pride killed THQ's Kaos Studios." This covers the difficulties the team faced after the departure of founder Frank DeLise, the economic pressure of running a studio in New York City, the Chaotic way Homefront was planned and pitched, the "endless pre-production" the project endured, an eleventh hour attempt to dial the game up to eleven, the almost miraculous way that some imported THQ talent completed the game, the difficulties of their final crunch, and more, all leading up to how the studio was eventually closed in spite of the game selling over two million copies. Thanks Joao.

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21. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 5, 2012, 10:29 MajorD
 
Jerykk wrote on Nov 4, 2012, 18:53:
What the game needed was a complete overhaul of its direction. They should have focused on the strategic elements of guerrilla warfare, with the player starting with a home base and reclaiming the country, one area at a time. Players would have to manage resources and decide which targets to prioritize. Do you liberate a prison camp and gain more recruits for the cause? Doing so will give you more soldiers, doctors, mechanics, etc, but will also increase the drain on your food, medicine and shelter space. If someone gets captured by the enemy, do you risk more lives trying to free him? If you don't, what happens if he cracks under interrogation and reveals the location of your home base? Maybe you play it safe and just assassinate him so he can't talk, but what happens when your group learns of it?

NICE! A lot of good ideas outlined there; too bad they didn't have you on the development team. Wink
 
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20. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 5, 2012, 05:25 Kajetan
 
Jerykk wrote on Nov 4, 2012, 18:53:
What the game needed was a complete overhaul of its direction. They should have focused on the strategic elements of guerrilla warfare, with the player starting with a home base and reclaiming the country, one area at a time. Players would have to manage resources and decide which targets to prioritize. Do you liberate a prison camp and gain more recruits for the cause? Doing so will give you more soldiers, doctors, mechanics, etc, but will also increase the drain on your food, medicine and shelter space. If someone gets captured by the enemy, do you risk more lives trying to free him? If you don't, what happens if he cracks under interrogation and reveals the location of your home base? Maybe you play it safe and just assassinate him so he can't talk, but what happens when your group learns of it?
Red Faction Guerilla comes to mind. Suprisingly interesting shooter, doing what you are suggesting.
 
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19. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 5, 2012, 04:45 ShakaUVM
 
I actually liked the game...

The developer death march should never have happened, though. It's counterproductive to work coders 90 hours a week. They literally will get less done than with a 50 hour workweek.
 
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18. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 5, 2012, 00:45 Prez
 
Hump wrote on Nov 4, 2012, 20:24:
By far one of the most riveting post-mortems I've ever read. A very sad tale and a scathing look at a business model that can't possibly sustain itself much longer.

The amazing thing is that while I have never been involved in game development in any way whatsoever, I can relate to almost every facet of gross mismanagement, incompetent leadership, egotistical crusades, unrealistic expectations, brutally unfair treatment, horribly long work weeks, and soul-crushing despair detailed in this most excellent and informative post mortem. These are not problems exclusive to game development; rather they are indicative of many of the everyday goings-on all throughout corporate America. I could write a very similar piece about the last two places I have worked - all I would have to do is change the names.

On the one hand this article is somewhat encouraging - it reads like a detailed list of how NOT to manage a project and a team that every person in a position of authority can read and learn from. On the other, it can be downright depressing because this is not the first time we've heard a horror story such as this, and most definitely won't be the last. Of all it's failings, the most egregious and destructive fault of corporate America is how it will never learn from these mistakes and will invariably continue to make them, ruining businesses and the lives of the employees in the process.
 
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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
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17. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 5, 2012, 00:40 Hump
 
PHJF wrote on Nov 4, 2012, 23:04:
I had no idea that was them, however didn't DICE buy most of that team? After which they then made BF2?

They were let go immediately after BF2 shipped. And they were brought onto BF2 development after it was underway.

I seem to remember after prototyping BF2 for EA they (Trauma/Kaos) got fucked out of 350k because EA ditched them just prior to the completion of their contract and brought DICE in to finish BF2. While EA had the legal right to do so, it was plainly a scumbag move on the part of EA management. Kaos was still a small studio that could barely absorb the financial hit that they were given.
 
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"Both the “left” and the “right” pretend they have the answer, but they are mere flippers on the same thalidomide baby, and the truth is that neither side has a clue."

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16. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 23:04 PHJF
 
I had no idea that was them, however didn't DICE buy most of that team? After which they then made BF2?

They were let go immediately after BF2 shipped. And they were brought onto BF2 development after it was underway.
 
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Steam + PSN: PHJF
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15. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 21:52 strong placebo
 
A great read, though it can be easily said that there are still AAA games that sell boatloads.

And that means there will still be some devs that try to make crazy promises they can make a AAA game with limited resources.
 
"More turn-based please"
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14. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 20:24 Hump
 
By far one of the most riveting post-mortems I've ever read. A very sad tale and a scathing look at a business model that can't possibly sustain itself much longer.  
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"Both the “left” and the “right” pretend they have the answer, but they are mere flippers on the same thalidomide baby, and the truth is that neither side has a clue."

- Jim Goad
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13. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 19:56 Prez
 
I have yet to fire up Homefront. I got it for 5 bucks on an Xmas sale (which is really all I'm willing to pay for a linear 5-hour CoD MW imitator) but I haven't felt too compelled to play it thus far. Sooner or later I'll have a few hours to kill and I'll play the singleplayer campaign which I mostly have heard is solid and fun if short and forgettable.

I loved the first Call of Duty games (the WW2 ones) but became indifferent after they switched to multiplayer focused modern settings. I find that I've come to greatly prefer the more dynamic, open-ended shooters like Arma and Ghost Recon. Far more rewarding to me.
 
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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
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12. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 19:55 RailWizard
 
KAOS Studio, the game's developer that started off as the team behind the Desert Combat modification for Battlefield 1942.

I had no idea that was them, however didn't DICE buy most of that team? After which they then made BF2?
 
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11. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 19:45 jacobvandy
 
Well, I meant that the SP portion was average at best, and that it was so short was just adding insult to injury, so to speak. If I already spent the money on a crappy game, the least they could do is make sure it has enough content that it's comparable to something like buying a ticket to a crappy movie. Although, I guess I'm not the type of person to walk out of the theatre after 30 minutes; they were probably fine with Homefront lasting only a few hours.  
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10. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 18:53 Jerykk
 
Making the campaign longer wouldn't have made it better. The gameplay was stale, the level design was formulaic and predictable, the enemies were stupid, the weapons were boring... a 20 hour campaign would have only made these flaws all the more glaring.

What the game needed was a complete overhaul of its direction. They should have focused on the strategic elements of guerrilla warfare, with the player starting with a home base and reclaiming the country, one area at a time. Players would have to manage resources and decide which targets to prioritize. Do you liberate a prison camp and gain more recruits for the cause? Doing so will give you more soldiers, doctors, mechanics, etc, but will also increase the drain on your food, medicine and shelter space. If someone gets captured by the enemy, do you risk more lives trying to free him? If you don't, what happens if he cracks under interrogation and reveals the location of your home base? Maybe you play it safe and just assassinate him so he can't talk, but what happens when your group learns of it?

There are tons of interesting things that could have been done with Homefront's premise. Unfortunately, the game didn't do any of them.

This comment was edited on Nov 4, 2012, 19:00.
 
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9. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 18:42 jacobvandy
 
It would have been a passable campaign if it were 15-20 hours long instead of 3-5. Multiplayer was decent, as well. But "passable" and "decent" still aren't good enough in a genre as populated as military FPS, especially if you're looking to charge full price. Greenlighting this is one of those things that has led THQ to the brink of ruin.  
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8. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 17:36 [VG]Reagle
 
Rolling on the floor here just freaking hilarious how this suck ass company took it right up the wazzo. Desert combat sucked ASS in the first place. Well perhaps they should not have cheated to win the EPIC contest in the first place.  
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I am MUCH MUCH better now.
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7. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 17:17 Jerykk
 
Trying to compete with CoD was their biggest mistake. Spectacle is expensive and unless you have CoD's budget, you probably won't be able to match its spectacle. Homefront would have been better off trying to carve its own path and focus on depth and innovation instead of elaborate set-pieces. The basic premise had a ton of potential. Shoehorning it into a CoD clone squandered that potential.

The campaign mechanics were 1997 - AI Blocking - Super linear levels with super artificial blockades - and the plot line...oOOF! They should have thrown Zombies into the levels just to make it interesting :-P

I think you mean 2007. In '97, levels were more open-ended and less scripted than the stuff you see in CoD.
 
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6. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 16:44 Asmo
 
Even if the story was a fairly pedestrian experience, this game might have been rescued by feeling less like you were being dragged by the nose through every step you took. The bit where you're trying to pass unseen through the gun nut camp, all you have to do is maintain your place between the two team members and you literally cannot be detected unless you start shooting. Leaves nothing to the player to do, almost like a guided tour rather than a game.

Length was also abysmal, they had the opportunity to throw in some pretty cool stuff.
 
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5. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 15:10 DangerDog
 
The problem that Kaos had is that they kept using the Unreal Engine for their games and seemed to lack the ability to get under the hood and really change some of the core systems enough to make the games they made with it feel like something other than just a mod from Unreal Tournament 3.

They're still clueless, I played the "Ravaged" demo for five minutes before uninstalling it.

If you're going to attempt to make a shooter with vehicles make sure you can have a solid experience out of both elements. Gearbox has managed to pull it off with Borderlands using the unreal engine, solid shooter experience and the vehicles are fun but could still be improved - they've at least attempted to make them feel different than what comes out of the box with the unreal engine's physics and handling.

 
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4. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 14:43 Ray Marden
 
At best, it should have been released as a budget shooter. I bought it for either $5 or $7.50 and I feel that I paid a fair price - it just felt a little crude and it was really boring. Short, linear levels, useless teammates, heavy use of scripts to advance the gameplay, basic shooter mechanics, lackluster story, extremely confined levels, brief campaign, etc.

It certainly is not a bad game - it works and you can see what the were going for - but the actual game did not amount to much. The word presented in the game offered up many more possibilities than the actual game executed.
DNF gave us a spectacular failure and Bulletstorm gave us sheer stupidity.
Finding more and more of today's game to be worth $10 or less,
Ray
 
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Everything is awesome!!!
http://shoutengine.com/GarnettonGames/
I love you, mom.
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3. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 14:19 ASeven
 
Only proves what I've been telling for a long time, that the gaming industry has one of the most brutal work environments of all industries out there. This article lays that in a terrifyingly clear way.  
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2. Re: Homefront Postmortem Nov 4, 2012, 14:17 ELITE
 
15 bucks at launch would have been fine.

The campaign mechanics were 1997 - AI Blocking - Super linear levels with super artificial blockades - and the plot line...oOOF! They should have thrown Zombies into the levels just to make it interesting :-P
 
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