- Update #34 - Event: Countdown to H-Hour Radiopalooza
- Update #33 - Graphic: Rural Serbia Concept Art
- Update #32 - Rewards: Canada & UK Mobile Command Tiers
- Update #31 - Happy 4th of July From The World's Only Special Operations Forces Studios
- Update #30 - And Now... Let's Dance!
- Update #29 - Mission Accomplished!
- Update #28 - Video: EARLY Level Reveal
- Update #27 - Event: Twitch.TV with CrReaM, MystikGunn, Tom & Me
- Update #26 - Rewards: Mobile Command Tier from GAEMS
- Update #25 - Rewards: Women's Founder's T-Shirt Reveal
- Update #24 - Rewards: Beep and Squelch Tier Added
- Update #23 - Video: New Kickstarter Project Video!
- Update #22 - Rewards: Stylish & Tactical Groove Tiers Added & Misc Updates
- Update #21 - Event: USMG Radio Interview with SOF Studios
- Update #20 - Rewards: Elite Founders T-Shirt Reveal
- Update #19 - Graphics: Terrorist Character Reveal & Additional Hero Shots
- Update #18 - Rewards: Sea Snipers Revamped Reward Tier
- Update #17 - Video: SOF Studios' President Tom: Community Address 06-21-13
- Update #16 - Team: Announcing SUKMYTURBAN as The Official Gamers Conscious
- Update #15 - Event: Twitch.TV Open Q&A with Urgent Fury
- Update #14 - Interview: Exclusive Interview by Off Duty Gamers
- Update #13 - Team: Announcing Russ Phillips, Former Art Director of SOCOM
- Update #12 - Graphic: First Character Reveal
- Update #11 - Video: PlayStation Warrior Tier Info & Thank You!
- Update #10 - Event: Reddit IAmA (Open Q&A) LIVE
- Update #09 - Video: PS4 Announcement & New Reward
- Update #08 - Event: Reddit IAmA This Saturday (Open Q&A)
- Update #07 - Interview: E3 Interview by Battle Chatter Online
- Update #06 - Gameplay: Similarities & Differences to SOCOM
- Update #05 - Visuals: Milestones, Some Pie & Our Approach
- Update #04 - FAQ: Some Concerns Addressed & FAQ's Added
- Update #03 - Interview: Exclusive Interview by TheRealSOCOM
- Update #02 - Rewards: New Digital $15, $25 and $65 Tiers Added
- Update #01 - Blog Entry: This One is Blue (Behind the scenes)
H-Hour: World’s Elite is a tactical, team-based, military shooter. Our first release is a core multiplayer experience on PC & PS4 that includes no less than six maps, four new gameplay modes, and our comprehensive community-building/clan management tools.
Like many fans of the early SOCOMs, you may be among the legions asking for an HD version of SOCOM II. This isn’t that. We’re not here to simply deliver the past in a prettier package. We’re building the spiritual successor to the early SOCOM games from the ground up. H-Hour: World’s Elite is immediate, realistic, multiplayer-oriented and team-based. It is an experience directly inspired by the SOCOM series because those games were the starting point. H-Hour is several miles down the road that we traveled with SOCOM, the kind of shooter that SOCOM would have become if I had continued to helm the series beyond the second release.
And while SOCOM focused on the U.S. Navy SEALs for its content, the H-Hour project will lean on the creative experience of its director and its President, Tom, a retired Army veteran to help shape the vision and incorporate aspects of multiple special forces groups from around the globe, formally known in H-Hour as the World's Elite.
Because shooters don’t have to be about long cutscenes or pointless “wow” moments. They don’t need to involve sprinting around constrictive maps and magnetic bullets. They shouldn’t involve overly scripted AI behaviors that are exactly the same every time you play. Or driving a truck through Manhattan on a rail while the city explodes due to unknown causes. They shouldn’t be ranked by who has the biggest explosions and their greatest appeal shouldn’t be “everybody else is playing it.” No, really they should be about connecting on a human level with other players, honoring the contributions of our military colleagues through respect for authenticity, and bringing like-minded people together online to strategize, execute and win.
You know what’s more important than explosions? (Though we do like explosions…) Team play. Esprit de corps. A good attitude. Being part of a healthy, passionate community in which you enjoy spending your precious free time. One of the single most important innovations of H-Hour is our use of modern analytics technology to monitor griefers, cheaters, and generally obnoxious players and utilize that data to deliver an experience free of those elements—a battlefield of other dedicated competitive players who understand honor, respect and the values upon which our great military was founded.
Special Operations Forces Studios (SOFs) is a video game development studio led by elite Special Operations veterans and premier gaming experts. The game development is led by me, David Sears. The company is led by Tom, a 20 year retired Army veteran with 17 years of Special Operations expertise, leadership, and live-combat experience. He has performed countless real world missions in support of the Global War On Terror as a team member/operator, is the recipient of numerous decorations and awards, and is regarded as a global expert in all aspects of Special Operations. Between us, we have forty combined years of experience in creating authentic, team-based shooter experiences, mine virtual, his more literal.
[Note: You can read more about us and some of the other founding company members at our website.]
We aren't big fans of bureaucracy and politics. These things tend to get in the way of the mission and for us, the prime directive is to make great shooter games. Our studio is no nonsense, low overhead, and we ensure that almost every dollar we make goes back into the games we’re working on. We can make creative decisions quickly by trusting our instincts and experience and by listening closely to our online community without having to book a meeting with senior executives next quarter. Honestly, it’s pretty awesome to be able to focus on making games in an old school way, thinking about what’s fun first and what would look good on a box second. Of course we do like to make stuff that looks good on a box, too.
All of this isn't to say we don’t keep a close eye on our schedule and budget. We honor our supporters with a strong commitment to not only ship on time but to exceed their expectations. You can’t do that without smart planning and occasional overtime when inspiration strikes.
People with a whole lot of money to invest—money fund managers, for example—have shown strong interest in us and we suspect that they really like the idea of H-Hour making tons of cash for their investors. They even seem willing to mostly stay out of our hair once production of the game begins. But there’s always a catch: before we take discussions to the next level we’re going to need to produce a compelling proof of concept in the form of a game demo.
Even though the team has shipped AAA games that have made their respective publishers hundreds of millions of dollars in the past, we still have to show a rock-solid playable to unlock access to Venture Capitalist (VC) money. Their investment allows us to build a complete game and in the end, make them a lot more money. Of course having a lot of backers from Kickstarter helps our cause too because it shows that the idea of H-Hour already has real-world support.
Really, it’s only the fortunate byproduct of giving you the shooter experience you want that makes this process tolerable. You’ll get the game and some pretty cool swag out of it and we get to work on a game that we’re passionate about; a game that the gaming population seems to desperately want, but that no major developers seems capable of or interested in making.
Speaking of that, when it comes to the demo, surprisingly, building the gameplay and level isn’t the biggest challenge. It’s making the level and character (and explosions) pretty. I’m totally serious. We’re already pouring a lot of time and energy into getting the game running—it’s just gray prototype ugly looking. I can say that because this is Kickstarter and that’s why we need the initial shot of Kickstarter magic: to bring more artists on board. Those guys want to get paid, after all. Pretty pixels aren’t free.
H-Hour: World's Elite™ is a tactical, team-based military shooter in which cooperation among players is required for success. A run and gun lone wolf approach quickly results in your death; only by cooperating with your team can you hope to achieve victory. But so many players who would love military shooters are discouraged by what they perceive as brutal competition from day one. Don’t worry. We’re including mechanisms that not only allow you to play with players at your skill level but teach and encourage you how to play tactically.
The design philosophy is simple: bullets are deadly, and any character not wearing body armor or staying out of the line of fire will not last long. There are no absolutes in lethality, but in H-Hour, you won't take a shot to the head and keep fighting while you miraculously regenerate health. If you are looking for a change of pace from reckless play and want a little more realism in your combat, you’ll love the feeling of H-Hour and the game will monitor your performance, point out what you did right and wrong, and offer strategies for your improvement.
Reality is a theme of H-Hour. The game is inspired by real world events—the personal stories of Special Operations Forces—repurposed and staged in new and equally deadly locations for the purposes of preserving national security. Environments emphasize all the filth, chaos, and visual disruption common to many of the locales where savages plot and launch their insurgencies or terrorism campaigns.
All animations are sourced directly from Special Operations veterans who bring their expertise and decades of combat experience into the motion capture studio and their war stories into our offices. It’s hard not to be inspired when you work with these heroes.
We believe that players should be able to fine tune their shooter experience as much as possible. This is expressed in the design from the ground up.
H-Hour is a hybrid third person and first person shooter. The third person perspective allows you to view your character and provides increased situational awareness—an intelligence edge in combat situations. The first person view presents you with only a reticle and adjusts the field of view so that you have the feeling of being “in the shit” and a naturally enhanced “zoomed in” perspective that provides a twitch play edge.
The ballistics model is as complete and authentic as any weapons simulation available in a game needs to be, taking into account all the pertinent variables such as stance, weight, character speed, and the particular characteristics of each weapon. Any more realism would just get in the way of fun.
You can choose to carry more or less gear, heavier or lighter weapons, and more or less body armor among other options. Each of these choices bring benefits and tradeoffs in the form of increased firepower or protection but reduced speed, accelerated fatigue, or obstructed peripheral vision.
Within the game and lobbies, players have access to headset chat with multiple channels so that they can speak directly to their teams. Team leaders can also use the TEAMCOM™ visual interface to send predefined and user-defined text commands to their entire team or individuals—including the AI-controlled civilians that appear on many maps. If you’re not comfortable talking out loud in an online game that’s okay—you can just choose from a menu of simplified visual commands and your character will do the talking for you.
Multiplayer games live and die by virtue of their communities. In H-Hour, these communities are supported natively in the game itself through innovative community and clan management tools.
Players with leadership drive can create their own permanent clans with just a few clicks using preset options. However, these leaders have much more customization options at their disposal. These include sending invitations to join the clan, creation of unique clan badges and logos, a dedicated clan page, clan member performance data at a glance, the ability to issue and accept clan challenges, the creation of clan or training games with detailed after action reports, and the ability to tailor a clan constitution to match their philosophy.
Just as players are required to accept an agreement to play fairly and ethically when entering the world of H-Hour, clan members are required to embrace the ethos of their clan. The same technology that measures your performance to help you as an individual helps clan leaders build and better run their clans. Authorized clan leaders have access to the behavior of their members in any match and the ability to give guidance, warn, or censure any clan member. This means that a clan leader doesn’t have to watch everything every team member does in a match—the game will create an “after action” report for them.
H-Hour also gives players the tools they need to build a robust community populated by gamers that want to play, not gamers that want to spout grief and irritate. This attitude is reflected in a subset of voting tools available in any multiplayer game that allows players to report cheating or bad behavior.
Offering dedicated servers allows SOF Studios to not only offer you the most reliable gameplay but to maintain a vast database of player metrics that can be used to improve the existing gameplay experience. Just like the “big boys” of the industry, we’ll be watching closely to identify issues as they arise. Unlike the big boys though, we can release fixes right away without long lead times.
Ladders have always provided players with an easy way to compare their progress and abilities against other players. In H-Hour ladders perform the same function but in addition to the common focci of most matches won, most headshots and achievements of that sort, the games ladders include more abstract and until now, difficult to track performance. For example, H-Hour offers ladders for “best team player,” “good Samaritans” who protect innocent civilians or save teammates, and “best tactical player” for those who apply real world tactics, among others.
Whether you are working together as a lethal SOF team or taking the role of the savages, you’re encouraged and rewarded to play as a team. This means following orders from team leaders, sticking to a battle plan, achieving objectives that require coordination with one or more teammates, and watching the backs of your comrades. There is no “I” in H-Hour where the line between death and victory is crossed by selfish play. Rewards come not only in the form of a match win, but in increased experience points and combat perks available only to teams that coordinate and execute together.
Members of America’s retired warfighter community aren't our consultants—they’re our colleagues. We don’t email them with a question about firearms, they take us to the range and train us. We don’t ask if they have photos from a dangerous part of the world, they take us there. We don’t ask them what extreme rappelling is like, they throw us over a cliff so we know firsthand (which is far more awesome than it might sound). And one of our key teammates is a professional weapons engineer who knows as much about firearms and ballistics as just about anyone on the planet. The game development team blends all these insights and experiences into a shooter that is as realistic as the overarching principles of fun allow.
With Tom’s long standing friendships throughout the defense industry—friendships with people that support the warfighter with the best in design and innovation—we have a direct line on what’s “now” and what’s next in terms of military gear and combat wear. Tom’s advisory network represents companies that focus on weapons and optics manufacturing, clothing, and soldier survival equipment. They are the best in the world at what they do and continue to help support the studio even after Tom’s retirement from active duty.
We’re going to push the PC to the limits of its rendering possibility (don’t worry if you don’t have a bleeding edge machine—H-Hour is scalable) and we have the artists and animators committed to doing this. H-Hour will be visually stunning.
But we think audio is incredibly important too, so we’re collaborating with an extraordinary composer, soundtrack producer and all around delightful person--Penka Kouneva. You may have heard her work in Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands game or her contributions to Gears of War 3 and Transfomers (themes by Steve Jablonsky). She was also lead orchestrator on Elysium; Transformers 1, 2, 3; Pirates 3; and Angels and Demons. You have definitely heard her work if you've watched our Kickstarter pitch—Penka provided the music. She’s World-class and we are beyond excited to work with her. If you want to hear more of her work, check out these links:
Our goal is to unify AAA game design, art direction, and music to deliver you an outstanding game. It’s a tall order but we’ve been doing this for years and with our no nonsense philosophy, we can dispense with the politics and get down to making the game you want to play.
We appreciate Greg’s kind words. You might think he’s implying that I was the creative director on every SOCOM ever made. Just to be clear I was CD and a designer on the first two, CD for the first PSP game, and CD at the studio while we were making SOCOM III and MAG but left before shipping those.
Risks and challenges
No game development production is risk-free. That’s why we’re keeping our initial scope manageable. We would rather offer you a slightly smaller game at a much higher quality level then release lots of DLC as we finish rigorous game tuning. Frequent content updates are a lot to manage and are probably the biggest risk we face—we don’t want you to download something that will break the play balance.
Another troublesome risk is the ongoing war with griefers and glitchers. No matter how good your game is, some people love to ruin it for everyone else. For this reason we’re spending considerable time and attention on monitoring online “bad behaviors” and developing strategies to prevent bad players from ruining your fun.
- (30 days)