EA's Frank Gibeau on Afghan update for Medal of Honour

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Rivalry between video game firms Electronic Arts and Activision has gone up a notch, with EA launching a direct rival to Call of Duty by signing part of the team behind the multi-million selling title.

Medal of Honour, the latest in EA's long running series, has dispensed with its World War II theme and has opted to recreate combat in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

In an interview with BBC News, Frank Gibeau - the president of EA's game label - said that Call of Duty had influenced its decision to move into a modern setting.

However, he acknowledged that a video game set in a current conflict involving American, British and other Nato counties could cause controversy.

"That was the big risk with this project," he said.

"It was one that we took a thoughtful approach too in that a lot of current soldiers are advising us on the game, to ensure it is authentic and realistic," said Mr Gibeau.

Military history

The revamped Medal of Honour follows a number of soldiers serving under the National Command Authority in Afghanistan during the 2001 War. Later missions will put players into the combat boots of a US Army Ranger engaged in long-range missions.

"In prior wars, people would tell their stories on radio, TV, movies, books at the same time a conflict was going on. I think games as a media form are catching up to that, it's a way for soldiers to tell their story," said Mr Gibeau.

"We got a lot of feedback from military families [after the release of the game trailer] that was positive, and thanking us for showing stories of real guys and handling the subject in a serious way, rather than a hyperbolic 'Rambo' sort of way.

"It's important for people to understand what they are going through and the types of choices they have to make. And while a game cannot give you that, it can give people an insight," he added.

Mr Gibeau said EA was working with the Congressional Medal of Honour Society; a body set up by the US government to protect the rights of soldiers.

Two studios are working on EA's shooter - an in-house development team in Los Angeles and Swedish developers DICE - who are working respectively on the single and multiplayer modes.

Staff changes

At an event in E3, the world's largest video game show, EA said that an exclusive Special Edition would be released for the PlayStation 3 that would contain a remastered version Medal of Honour: Frontline. the 2002 release set following the D-Day landings of 1944.

The game is due for release in October 2010 on PC, 360, and PS3.

Image caption,
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare attracted big crowds when it launched

Another announcement by Electronic Arts could also prove controversial - the firm officially announced a partnership between itself and Respawn, a software development house started by Jason West and Vince Zampella.

The pair founded Infinity Ward - the studio behind the Call of Duty series - were dismissed by Activision for unspecified "breaches of contract and insubordination" in March this year.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Gibeau said EA had no contact with the pair prior to their sacking.

"We didn't meet Vince or Jason till after they had resigned for Activision," he said.

Call of Duty has been a major asset for Activision, helping to push its market value over $14bn (£9.42bn) mark, nearly three times that of its closest rival Electronic Arts, which has a value of $5bn.

The dismissals triggered a wave of resignations from Infinity Ward with nearly half the workforce leaving the firm, including the lead designer and programmers who worked on Modern Warfare 2.

"Their dispute with Activision became our boon; they have done amazing things and are proven world class creatives," said Mr Gibeau.

But the firm remains tight lipped on what the pair are developing.

"I can't tell you what they are working on, but it's going to be good," he said.

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