Medal of Honor Allied Assault Interview with producer


For many years we've played Medal of Honor Allied Assault unaware of the fact that this 2002 production also had a Polish trait to it. Radomir Kucharski was at the time an employee of 2015, Inc., the studio which produced this one of the most appreciated and original games. The moment we accidentally stumbled upon this fact, we started trying to contact Radomir in order to ask him a couple of questions from our long-lasting Allied Assault community (after all, it used to be quite large at its height). Below is the result of our efforts.

How did you end up at 2015, Inc.?

Everything began with the demoscene of the 90s. I was a graphics artist with the groups Taboo (Commodore) and Illusion (Amiga). At one point Taboo started working on games for C64 and the PC. The beginnings were modest, but during our college years, we started working on our first big project – a motorbike racing game for the PC. It looked very promising, but the development was being hindered by problems typical for young, amateur teams: no budget, lack of experience and lack of organization. The development was dragging on, we couldn't get a publishing contract. The advantage of this effort was that I've learned the basics of 3D graphics and built myself a decent portfolio. Then I finished college and my parents started making suggestions that I should get a job and start looking after myself.

I sent my portfolio to any development studio I could find on the Internet. I can't remember exactly how many e-mails I sent; 50, maybe 100, anyway, I got about 10 replies, and 3 of them were looking quite good. At first I was taken most seriously by 2015, but then there was a pause in the talks. I got a bit worried that 2015 will back off, so I asked Justin Thomas (at the time the lead artist at 2015, Inc.) for a test. I offered to do something for their game for free (I didn't know they were making MoHAA yet). No strings attached, if they like it – they keep it, if not – they can do whatever they want with it. Justin and Boon (2015's lead animator at the time) liked this approach a lot and asked me to do the UV mapping and the texture for a Wehrmacht soldier model they sent me, plus make any WW2 plane from scratch. They gave me two weeks for it. I was so excited about the possibility of working at an American studio on a serious project that I did everything in a week. They liked the results so much that I started working remotely from home. After three or four months they called me and said they have a worker visa for me, and if I'm determined to go to the USA, they'll buy me the ticket. I didn't think twice and one week later I was in Oklahoma.

I arrived at Tulsa, where the company HQ was located, in July 2001. After leaving the airport I was struck by the heat and the sweet-ish smell of the exotic foliage, and in the parking lot there was Justin waiting for me in his new Ford Mustang. He brought me to the hotel, paid for by 2015, Inc. By then I knew that this is what I want to be doing in life. The next morning I went to the company HQ on foot, because Justin said it wasn't far from the hotel. I gave up after 3 kilometers in the heat. Later it turned out the company was 5 miles away.

What was your post at 2015, Inc. and what were you responsible for while working on Medal of Honor Allied Assault?

While working on MoHAA I was a graphics artist, making various details that everyone in this profession starts with – furniture, crates, equipment etc. From the more serious stuff I created the Panzer IV tank in two camouflage versions (temperate and desert), I also created almost all of the damaged vehicle models.

Were there any other Poles working on Medal of Honor Allied Assault?

Not at 2015. I'm sure there was some Pole at EA working on localization. Anyway, as far as I can recall, there were only three foreigners in the studio: Matt from Canada, Boon from Australia and myself.

How did it happen that a studio external to the EA, such as 2015, Inc., got the deal to make Allied Assault? All the previous games in the series were created by the EA Los Angeles team.

Actually, the previous MoHs were made by Dreamworks Interactive, a company founded by Spielberg (with whom I had the chance to exchange a few words at E3 in LA, by the way), and MoH was supposed to be a console version of Saving Private Ryan. Later the company was bought by EA and renamed to EA Los Angeles. It was supposed to continue making Medal of Honor games for the PS2 and the PC. It wasn't working out quite well, so EA started looking for a contractor. 2015 made a demo that they people at EA liked, and that's how it began.

What was the reaction of 2015's team to MoHAA's overwhelming success?

That was obviously an amazing feeling and everyone was extremely happy about how the game was received. We were aware before that the game is going to be good because it was well received at the E3 expo, besides, we played a lot of it ourselves and we felt something cool was taking shape. Towards the end of production an EA boss paid us a visit. He said the game was going to be a blast and their marketing department estimates the sales at the level of about 2 million copies in the first year. Anyone who has at least a vague idea about how many copies of PC games are sold must've received such a statement with a shock.

The first patch for Allied Assault was released 5 days after the game's debut, which was a surprise, but there were no further patches later on. Was there any talk or plans about another update?

No, there were no such plans. The game was well-polished because EA postponed the release for two months – at first it was supposed to ship before Christmas 2001. Anyway, we were the last ones to learn about this. There were rumors and eventually someone at the official MoHAA forums asked whether the game was going to ship for Christmas. A 2015 employee replied, to the best of his knowledge, that there is no delay and the game will ship on time. Two days later we were told that EA moves the release date to January 2002, which was met with an outrage on the official forums. It was quite funny, because suddenly we were accused of lying and hostility appeared, for no real reason.

Was there anything such as missions, maps that didn't make it to the final version of MoHAA?

I don't remember anything being discarded.

Part of the 2015, Inc. team moved to Infinity Ward and started working on Call of Duty, some stayed with EA, and you took a yet different path and returned to Poland. What was the reason for that decision?

Actually, almost everyone quit after MoHAA's release. Most went to Infinity Ward, founded by Vince (project manager at 2015, Inc., he was responsible for MoHAA), a few people (e.g. Benson Russell, responsible for the famous D-Day mission on Omaha Beach, among other things) left for Ritual Entertainment. They then moved on to EALA and worked on the next MoHs there. Benson currently works at Naughty Dog on the Uncharted series.

When I came back from the 2001/2002 New Year's holidays, there were 4 people left in the company: Tom Kudirka (the CEO), programmers Mike Milliger and Jon Olick (after 2015's closure moved on to id Software), Matt Campbell (animator; currently works in advertising, he gave up making games). The founding of Infinity Ward was an interesting story in itself. From what I heard it started with EA wanting to buy 2015, Inc. and turning it into an internal EA team. For some reason they couldn't agree on something with Tom (the CEO). They concluded they'd take the team over without Tom, moved to an office 3 kilometers away and were probably already making another Medal of Honor game, but Tom got furious and sued Infinity Ward. When EA learned that IW had been sued and is most probably going to lose, they withdrew from the deal and left them on their own. Activision took advantage of the situation – they gave IW the cash to pay for 2015's lawsuit, and instead of making another MoH, they released Call of Duty. The entire thing was being done in secret and I only learned that something was happening and that people are going to be leaving the day before the Christmas holidays. I didn't really want to get involved in it for two reasons. Firstly, I really liked it at 2015 and I didn't expect so many people to quit, and secondly, my visa was assigned to 2015 and I might have had problems getting a new one (keep in mind it was the grim period right after the 9/11 attacks, when all the visa procedures got a whole lot more strict).

I worked at 2015 until the end, which came in December 2004, when after releasing a mediocre Men Of Valor: Vietnam and THQ killing the SF shooter we were making, 2015 practically ceased to exist and everyone was fired. I then made the decision to come home and start my own studio. First I was a co-founder of The Farm 51, then I left for City Interactive, where I was a project director and then the CEO of City Interactive's branch in Katowice. About half a year ago together with a couple of friends I founded Spectral Games, where we're working on a TP shooter on the Unreal Engine 3, titled Global Threat.

What's your opinion on Allied Assault's further development – the Spearhead and Breakthrough expansion packs?

I played the entire single player campaigns of both expansions, they weren't too long and I think they were a bit worse than the original AA. Still, I enjoyed them a lot.

Currently you're working on an Unreal Engine 3-based project. Was the technology well used in Medal of Honor Airborne?

Medal of Honor: Airborne is a great game in my opinion, both visually and gameplay-wise. I was especially impressed by the Flakturm mission. I know that many faithful MoH fans are turned off by the departure from realism – uber-Germans in black leather coats with Panzerfausts or MGs shot from the hip and the like. It wasn't a big deal for me and I had a lot of fun playing the entire game. The game looks so good mostly because of the UE3 engine, at the time it was definitely the leading technology. Even now I think that UE3 as a complete package with a tool set is still unmatched. My first experience with Unreal technology was in 2002, when we've started working on Men of Valor: Vietnam at 2015 on the Unreal 2 engine. Compared to writing shaders in the notepad for Quake 3, the UnEd visual editor was an enormous improvement in quality. Later I had the chance to try many different engines and now I don't want to work on Global Threat with anything but UE3.

Your new studio, Spectral Games, is currently working on a new game based on UE3. What will it be about?

I can't reveal any details about Global Threat. We started it half a year ago, we've shown it to a few people from the industry and the reception was very positive. Unfortunately, I can tell you nothing more at this stage, but we're making a TPS mechanically close to GoW2 set in contemporary Middle East.

Is there any publisher yet?

Yes, but I can tell you nothing more.

What's the expected Global Threat release date?

November 2010.

What about after Global Threat? Are there any new projects?

There are none yet.

What do you think about the development of the games industry in Poland?

I think it's been developing very dynamically lately. We've become a major market for Microsoft and Sony, most publishers have branches in the country, and apart from players we've got more and more experienced developers. There's People Can Fly acquired by Epic – it's a world class studio and I'm sure the game they're currently working on will rule. There's Techland, which at least when it comes to visuals is definitely in world's first league. CD Projekt Red and The Witcher are another example of a world class studio and franchise. And that's about it in the matter of professional first-class teams in Poland. It's not a little, and there are new teams popping up everywhere, so in my opinion our games market, both in the sales and the development aspects, is stepping up and there's a lot for us in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thank you too. It's nice that people still remember games that are almost 10 years old, like MoHAA. After all, a decade means an eternity in this business.
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