I was surprised to learn recently that the 2011 title Homefront was not only getting a sequel, but that this is actually a re-announcement for Homefront: The Revolution. The IP changed hands from THQ to Crytek amid the former’s shutdown, which was then sold onto Deep Silver when Crytek began having financial issues. Since that last hand-over, Homefront: The Revolution has undergone something of a change and Deep Silver tapped Australian visual effects studio Plastic Wax to produce a new trailer.
For those who haven’t seen it, the trailer is embedded at the bottom of this page and you should absolutely go watch it right now. Whatever the final game ends up being like, that is a damn fine trailer. So fine, in fact, that I got in touch with Dane Maddams and Matt Dignam from the studio to have a chat about what went into its creation.
￼What sort of research went into creating a world that had transitioned from an invasion to a full-on occupation?
Good question. Whilst we can’t really speak on behalf of the game developers, I’m sure there has been a lot of research that has gone into the visual language present in the game. From the back story details about how the occupation evolved, to the propaganda and visual messaging presented in the city streets, the game experience certainly feels like a rich and believable one from what we have seen. The more I learnt about the game the more I wanted to play it for myself.
Were there any story elements that were particularly important to you that you felt needed to be included?
Well the trailer was presented to us with a powerful message to begin with. In less than two mins we needed to present a corporate and military takeover of the United States, a boy forced to present a speech against his will, the violence and struggles of the US citizens, and eventually their coordinated assault to take their city back.
The trailer features some key characters in the game so hopefully this will resonate with players when they play through the story. We were careful to portray them accurately in each scene and as shots evolved, we adjusted the roles of certain characters to better reflect their in-game personalities.
Do you feel any pressure about the way you’re representing fictionalized versions of real world entities? And do you think your trailer will have the same kind of creepy prophetic-ness of the first game?
I wouldn’t say we felt any pressure in that regard. Our role was not to create the reality found in the Homefront universe, but to illustrate it as effectively as we could around the singular concept of the boy’s speech.
As for the prophetic-ness of the trailer, only time will tell but I think there are enough broad fictional concepts to maintain that separation of game from reality. At least, I certainly hope so.
This isn’t the first game that you’ve worked on; could you tell us a little about what you do and the role you play within the industry?
Plastic Wax has been in the animation industry for over 20 years. During that period we’ve created launch cinematics for titles such as Bioshock, Fallout, Transformers, Borderlands, Dawn of War, and the hunger games 2 to name a few.
The studio is full service (from storyboarding through to final completion) and boasts 55 team members, an in-house motion capture facility in the city of Sydney. Recently outside of the Homefront trailer, we’ve been privileged enough to work on every Lego Dimensions trailer, the launch trailer for Gears of War: Remastered and many others
There are a lot of parallels between your trailer and the one released during E3 2014 though this time around circumstances seem a lot more hopeful. Would you say that the previous trailer was a significant influence on your work, or something you only took minor cues from?
Story wise, we wanted to move away from the E3 2014 trailer and present something from an entirely different perspective. A narrative based trailer read by young boy on a confronting stage seemed like a good platform for this. Of course, the visual elements of the game and even some background characters are the same between the two trailers. So there are definitely parallels at face value.
How did you and Dambusters collaborate to create this trailer – did they have a direct influence over exactly what went into it or were you given creative “free reign”?
We were given a lot of creative free reign which always makes for a really fun project. The concept had already been defined by the talented folks over at One+K, an agency in Los Angeles. And Dambuster in the UK were really accommodating to our needs. Once we had defined the kind of assets we would need to make the trailer they really delivered by providing us with a lot of their in-game and working files that we could use as a basis to create the characters and environments you seen in the trailer. They were always there to provide what we needed as more assets or characters were required and it made a tremendous difference.
The level of visual detail in this trailer is insane! What sort of work goes into creating something like this and how long does it take to complete? Does the cinematic trailer reflect any gameplay elements that players can expect to see in Homefront: The Revolution?
Thanks, we’re glad the details show through in the final result. We paid particular attention to the young boy as he needed to carry a lot of the trailer’s emotional journey. Once the actor was cast and the look of the 3d boy was defined, we had a relatively short timeframe to create, animate and marry up the performance of our digital character to the nuances and performance of the live actor. Nicolas (the real actor) did a great job of articulating what we were looking for in the speech’s delivery. It was our job to then take the essence of that performance and translate it into our digital character to really draw the viewer into his situation. We took particular care to get small details right like the wetness in his eyes, the awkwardness in his body language and the extremely fine facial hair details and cotton fibres in his clothing. We think these details helped create a more believable character that can support the more emotional element required for the trailer.
From start to finish, the trailer took approximately twelve weeks of production time.
As for game play elements, Homefront : The Revolution calls for an ad-hoc or improvisational style to obtaining weapons and creating tools so that was something we wanted to convey in the trailer. In one scene, a character steals an electronic component off an assembly line and smuggles it to a bomb maker who uses it to activate the final climactic explosion.
The trailer has a lot of juxtaposition between the society the Korean People’s Army (KPA) would like people to believe is real, and the actual reality of the KPA occupied US. Is this a reflection of the themes that we can expect in the final game?
I think so. The KPA seem to think they are liberating the citizens of the US from their own misguided and apathetic ways. Of course, the people see things very differently. This conflict of interest was a fundamental element to convey in our trailer and seems to support each opposing sides’ cause in the game as well.