Red Orchestra Ostfront 41-45 has just hit retail stores shelves as well as STEAM's digital store shelf. This retail game was made possible largely by Epic's Make Something Unreal contest. Below, BeyondUnreal interviews Alan Wilson, the Vice-President of Tripwire Interactive.

Could you please introduce yourself?

Alan Wilson, Vice-President, Tripwire Interactive. Historian, writer, designer, PR and some other boring stuff!

"Red Orchestra" was the name used for Russian spies in Germany. How did this factor into the original game plan?

The original mod was going to be MoH-like, based on the spy network - but it turned out to be a much better idea to build a combat sim instead.

What process does a mod go through to become a retail game?

Well, I can only speak for us. Over 2 years of hard, unpaid work (well, we did get to split $50,000 between about 30 of us, after the tax-man had grabbed his share). Enter contest and win – that helps. Win a bunch of other awards, helps too. Raise the money for a full development – we funded ourselves and that hurts! Take the big risk and get the development moving and then go looking for a publisher.

What areas of development got the most attention for the retail release?

Hell – everything. All the art-work has been redone from the ground up. A massive design document, so we were all agreed one what we were trying to build. But the most attention went on the overall game play. We knew what it was we wanted to achieve: realistic, tactical and immersive combined-arms combat. Everything we did had to contribute to that in some way, or it simply wasn’t worth doing.

Your historical accuracy ("roots") is astounding. What qualities do you think this adds to the game, because honestly, most gamers probably don't know the nitty-gritty details of the Eastern WW2 front.

It is one of those things that permeates through the game. When you are writing, be it a book, movie or game, one of the key things to get people truly bought in is a level of consistency. Everything needs to feel like it “belongs”. And if you base this closely off reality, it makes it very much simpler to be consistent. So – you may not notice all the detail (and I’m sure the tank nuts will find a bolt or two in the wrong place) but what you will feel is that you are in the war, there on the eastern front. In some respects, doing all that research is cheating – you don’t have to make up a context for the game as it is already there!

How has the response been to the retail release?

From those who knew what to expect it has been very good indeed. But we’ve had a very strong, loyal and vocal fan base over the last 2 or 3 years. What is interesting is seeing the new faces and the reactions. The vast bulk are hugely appreciative. There’s the inevitable few who simply didn’t read the previews and come back with “Hey, where’s da x-hairs? Dis suxors.” But we aren’t going to worry too much about that. We’re finding that it takes people a few hours to really get into the game, which isn’t a surprise to us: the game has depth and complexity, so it isn’t instantaneous gratification – but once it has its claws in to you, it’ll hold you forever! And then there’s the Day-1 bugs that jump at you. Of course, because we had to be different with distribution, going with Steam first, we have a huge number of users all charging at the game on launch day, so you feel momentarily swamped.

How would you react to people that are passing on this game solely because of steam?

If you don’t like digital distribution – the box is in stores across North America, with the rest of the world following. That is precisely why we did the deal with Destineer – they are a good retail publisher and have done a helluva job of getting the boxed version out into the market.

What is the status on the European release?

We’re just waiting for some final ink on paper before announcing the routes to market in Europe. Shouldn’t be long now!

Who is Destineer? How have they been as a publisher?

Destineer are a publisher of computer games, as well as being a developer in their own right. They also work on military sims, so we fit well with them. They are a good crew – small enough that we can get on with them very well, large enough to give us global reach. Should work well for both parties!

What did you guys do special for the retail release?

As far as the version in-stores go, you’ll obviously get a couple of CDs, printed documentation and a nice box. We deliberately didn’t go gimmicky and try and think of “stuff” to do in the box. This isn’t a competition between our digital distributor (Steam) and our retail publisher (Destineer). The two parts complement each other just perfectly. This way we get the broadest possible coverage. The gamers get choice, as well as rapid and easy delivery of patches and updates in the future. Those who don’t like digital distribution, don’t have credit/debit cards or don’t have the internet speed get what they need from Destineer at a pretty fine price. Everyone wins.

How did the team celebrate the release?

By staying up most of the first couple of nights providing on-the-spot support, mostly! Or, in the case of the programmers, catching up on some much-needed sleep! We’ll do some celebrating at GDC, I think.

What is the best advice you could give to mod teams looking to do what your team has accomplished?

That is a long one. Be very, very sure about what it is you actually want to do before taking any big leaps. Be very aware of the risks and consequences. Above all, try and listen to those who play the game. Not necessarily to those who hate it – you aren’t ever going to convert most of them anyway. But listen!

Any other comments?

Just thanks for your continued interest! Its been a long time since the first piece with Beyondunreal and we appreciate you guys sticking with us!

For screenshots, check out our Graphical Review of the Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41 - 45 beta.