With two thick single-player campaigns and a significant multiplayer component on the way, it’s no secret that Company Of Heroes 3 is Relic Entertainment’s biggest COH game to date. After playing a thick new preview last week, it’s clear that there will be a lot to dive into on February 23rd release day. But when I sat down with VP of Production David Littman to talk more about their WW2 RTS, I was curious where their focus would be post-launch. While many love Company Of Heroes for its top-notch campaigns, Littman told me that they “still have over 400,000 players still playing COH 1 and 2 monthly” via multiplayer, which is impressive considering the last game in the series came out nine years ago. And when it comes to COH 3, Littman says they want to go “where the players are”.
“They’re both tough,” says Littman when I asked him about the challenges of supporting both single-player and multiplayer content post-launch. “Supporting a game for many years is something we plan to do […]. For us, we just want to make content for where the players are, so if more players gravitate towards single player, we’ll make more content for single players. If multiple players pull against multiplayer, same thing there. Right now we expect that we will have both, and therefore we will create content for both multiplayer and single player.
“In terms of the difficulty of making it, there are just different groups on our development team, which is great. So if we want to do both, we have our game team and our art team [who] can do things for multiplayer and then the campaign team and single player developers can work on more content there. So it doesn’t matter to us, we just want to make players happy and make sure they get more of the content they love.”
The Company Of Heroes community has already played a big role in the strategy game’s development so far, with Relic forming a high-level player council back in 2017 to help get a handle on what fans might want from a new game in the series . Littman tells me that it was actually the player council that persuaded Relic to include two different types of campaigns this time around.
“The players told us they would love to play a dynamic campaign where you have control over all the units on a strategic level and then you go in and play the RTS battles. And that sounds great. But then we had a group of players saying that they really love COH 1 and 2’s campaigns, which are more linear and just tell a story […], so we said, why not do both? So we did both.”
Relic has also actively sought feedback from the wider Company Of Heroes player base during development as well, particularly following the trio of pre-alpha events over the past 18 months. When I asked him how the team goes about gathering this data and figuring out what to act on, he said it was all about looking for trends. Case in point: Company Of Heroes 3’s new menu interface, which now looks much more familiar than what we had in Company Of Heroes 2.
“People didn’t like the endgame user interface,” he says. “They’re like, ‘We don’t like it. We don’t like where things are placed. Here’s what we got used to in COH 2, here’s what we want to see in a modern game.” And then we said, “Okay, that’s a trend. Everyone’s saying, we need to fix it.” And then the community broke down all the comments and responses, and gave us everything we needed to then build it. And it’s extra time, but it’s incredibly well worth it, because the feedback we’re seeing from just that one example has been night and day. People love the new user interface.”
The game’s lighting was another big sticking point earlier this year: “People said it was too bright, and they wanted to see a slightly more dark and ominous tone. And so we fixed that, and now people like it a lot more,” he says.
Ultimately, it’s about “having that two-way conversation,” Littman concludes. “It doesn’t mean we do everything. It just means we can talk about it. We can work with players and they can understand why we made certain decisions.”
For more thoughts on how Company Of Heroes 3 is shaping up ahead of its launch next February, I’ve got some campaign impressions coming later this afternoon. You can also visit the Steam page for more updates.