Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad: Vehicles

To anyone who swore and panicked their way through the original Red Orchestra modification back in 2004, or its commercial release, Red Orchestra: Ostfront, back in 2006, the upcoming sequel Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad should represent a big deal.

To anyone with no idea what Red Orchestra is, let me help out: It’s a multiplayer FPS, set on the Eastern front of World War 2, which captures above all else the grayness and desperation of those nightmare battlefields. Red Orchestra is a game of wincing at suppressive fire, of bayonet attacks, and of struggling to figure out whether that figure is a German or a Russian because muddy gray and muddy brown often look the same in dim lighting.

The sequel’s looking to expand on everything that made the original game great, including its horrific tank combat. Here, we present an exclusive interview with Tripwire President John Gibson, in which he talks freely on the as-of-yesterday unrevealed vehicle combat coming in the sequel.

RPS: You mentioned that you plan to set the standard of tank combat in FPS games for years to come. How, exactly?

John Gibson: The big thing we’re doing with tanking for ROHOS is to really immerse the player in what it was like to be an actual soldier inside of one of these lumbering beasts in World War 2. The typical FPS tanking experience generally has the player viewing the tank from third person, and the player essentially feels like they ARE the tank rather than feeling like they are a person in a tank. For ROHOS our goal is to move beyond that and provide the player with an immersive and robust first person experience. For starters we have fully modeled the entire interior of every tank in the game. At any position in the tank the player will see what a real person in the tank would see. Look down and you’ll see your hands operating all of the levers. Move between positions and it will be fully animated in first person. And your tank will have a full crew of either AI NPC’s or human players to fight alongside you. Look to your right and you will see the hull machine gunner blasting away at the enemy. Fire the main cannon, and you’ll see an NPC crewman reloading the cannon shell beside you. You have a living breathing crew all around you and you can see all of the elements of the tank operating. When a shell penetrates your armor, you’ll see your crewmates die around you, and hear their screams as the tank catches fire.

Beyond this we have added a whole new level of functionality and interaction to the tanks. The first thing that we’ve done is what we call a virtual interior. The player can actually look around in the interior and very easily interact with the interior. Want to look out of a view slit, just look at the slit and press a button. Want to stick your head out of the hatch, look up and press a button. It is all very streamlined and allows the player to do a lot of things but very simply. We’re actual giving players very near to a tank simulation’s level of functionality, but streamlined so it is easy to use and accessible. Speaking of view, one of the things we discovered after we shipped the original Red Orchestra was that while the view inside a tank is somewhat limited, there are a LOT of view ports, view slits, and periscopes that the tank crew had at their disposal to get a better view of what is happening outside of the tank. So for ROHOS we have added the ability to very easily interact with any of these and get a better view of the situation.

Another area which we’ve greatly expanded on is the damage system. The original RO had a generalized damage system with just a few key damageable components. For ROHOS we’ve expanded this to include a very broad range of damageable components with accompanying gameplay effects. Things such as damaging optics, damaging the engine and transmission, damaging the turret rotation mechanism, hitting the fuel tank, drive sprocket, treads and more are now included. And now shots that penetrate the tank armor can hit the crewmembers inside.

RPS: Can you repair tank damage? And what amount of damage can be repaired?

JG: We are actually a bit torn on repairing damage on the tanks. Realistically there aren’t a lot of repairs that you could do to a tank within the time frame of a match in ROHOS. But not allowing repairs leads to unrealistic gameplay where everyone always fights to the death, instead of retreating for repairs when they are too damaged to continue fighting. We’re looking at the idea of allowing tanks to be repaired at the resupply areas. This is something we’re still prototyping and trying different things, so we’ll have to wait and see what the final system ends up being.

RPS: Will we see any playable vehicles other than tanks?

JG: For the initial release we’re going to ship with two medium tanks – the T34 76 and the Panzer IV. I know that might not seem like a lot, but for ROHOS our goal with the vehicles was to focus on quality over quantity. In tank simulations you typically only see a couple of drivable tank in the game. This is due to the sheer amount of work required to implement a vehicle at that level of detail. And for ROHOS, we’re actually implemented tanks at a level of detail and functionality far beyond tank sims or any existing game.

Tripwire has a philosophy though when it comes to releasing games. We like to give gamers a lot of value for their money when they buy a game from us at launch, but they can also count on getting even more out of their game in the form of free content packs. We’ve put out a LOT of free additional content for the original Red Orchestra as well as Killing Floor. So we do already have four additional vehicles in production and those will likely come out in our first free content pack not long after the launch. The four additional vehicles will be two more tanks and two troop transports.

RPS: Awesome as they were, in the past I’ve found tanks in RO can be a source of frustration- either getting slaughtered by them as a fleshy little infantryman, or finding yourself inside one with a crew that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Were you planning to address either of these situations?

JG: A lot of our work for ROHOS for both tanks and infantry has been to make a game that stays true to its realism roots while also being much more accessible than the original game. Infantry versus tanks is a tricky thing to balance in a game that aims to be both realistic and accessible, because tanks really should do very well against infantry. For us one of the things we learned during and after the release of RO: Ostfront was that making good combined arms gameplay is about putting tanks in situations where they are vulnerable to infantry. We found that in the right setting, tanks can be at a serious disadvantage to infantry. In the first game we put infantry in a lot of scenarios fighting tanks in their element – wide open landscapes fighting infantry. These scenarios end up with happy tankers and unhappy infantrymen. So we’ve taken what we’ve learned from the first game and applied that to the levels in ROHOS. Now when we do combined arms levels, we make sure that there is plenty of cover and concealment so that the infantry can more easily get the drop on the tanks. We’ve also given the infantry some additional tools for their tank fighting arsenal in the form of semi-automatic anti tank rifles, and anti tank grenades.

Regarding making tanks less frustrating, let me just say – we hear you. Tanking in RO: Ostfront at its best was an amazing experience you couldn’t get anywhere else, but at its worst could be an exercise in frustration. The biggest issue we found was that tanking with other random public players was extremely frustrating, especially if they didn’t know what they were doing or weren’t using their microphone. To address this we’ve made a lot of changes for ROHOS. First off, players will never have to tank with some one that they don’t want to. When a player chooses a tank role they have the option of locking the tank, or allowing other people to join their crew. Another frustrating thing was standing around waiting for a tank to spawn. Tankers now always spawn inside their tank, and respawn with their tank. Additionally every level will feature enough tanks so that every tanker will have a tank.

Since tanking with random public players was frustrating in the first game players usually ended up tanking by themselves. Because the tanks in the game were designed to be crewed by three people, tanking by yourself was cumbersome requiring the player to constantly switch between positions. This was neither realistic nor fun, as a tank would never leave base in a real battle with just one tank crewman. So to address this the big feature we’re adding that I’ve touched on a little bit already is the AI crew. When you choose to tank by yourself you will now have a fully functional intelligent AI crew at your disposal. You can choose to play any of the main positions in the tank still, but now the AI will handle the rest for you. If you just want to drive around, the AI crew will man the MGs and take out infantry for you, or fire the main cannon at enemy tanks. If you want to operate the main cannon, you can use your movement keys to easily give orders to the driver to move the tank. If commanding is your thing, you can take the command position and designate targets for the AI crew to attack, give locational movement orders to the tank driver using a 3d command widget or the overhead map, give normal movement commands using the movement keys, spot artillery targets with your binoculars, and more.

And with a full live AI crew the player can instantly switch between any of these positions assuming the role of that AI crewmember, and the AI will dynamically take over the functionality in the position you just left. Now there is a catch. If an AI crewmember is killed the player will need to move to the position of the dead crewmember to perform the function of that crewmember. And transitions to the position of a dead crewmember will be a real first person animated transition that will take time. The good news is, if you lose a crew member you can go to a vehicle resupply station and get your tank reinforced with fresh crewmembers. And the player can mix and match other human players with the AI crew members.

There are a lot of other things we’ve done to refine tanking and make it more accessible. In the first game people found the in tank view very limiting, either because they didn’t understand that you could zoom in on the view slits or open the hatches, or because we didn’t provide all of the views that the real tank actually had. So for the new game we will have a training mission that will familiarize the player with the tank functionality, including the use of the view system so they don’t get in the battlefield and think the only view they have is a tiny slit that is feet from their face. Additionally, as I mentioned before we’ve added a lot of additional view ports that the real tanks actually had, and created a system to easily look out of them. This makes the view system a lot more robust and tanking in general easier in the new game. There are a lot of small things too like refining the controls. One example would be we now use a more intuitive mouse based aiming system which better mimics how players aim with their first person weapon as an infantry soldier.

RPS: Hang on. If you can choose to lock your tank with an AI crew, do the AI count towards your team’s playercount? Because if they don’t you’re giving your side a couple of bots, for free, no? And if they do, you’re limiting how many people get to tank on your team.

JG: The AI Crew doesn’t count toward the playercount. On combined arms maps, the infantry are good for fighting in the buildings and the tanks are good in the open areas. So for the players it will be a decision of where they want to allocate their human players. For example, let’s say you are playing with 64 players and there are ten tanks. You could have 1 human player in each tank with a full AI Crew and then have 54 infantry players. Or you could have 30 human players in tanks (3 human players filling the playable positions in each tank) and then only have 24 infantry players. Or you could do something in between.

It all sounds pretty complicated, but the way it is presented to the players in game is pretty simple and streamlined. The key thing here is that every tank rolls out with a full crew either human or AI NPC, and no one is ever left standing around at the base waiting for a tank to appear.

RPS: I’d guess that finding statistics to build a simulation of WW2 small arms is a lot easier than finding info on tanks. How’s researching this been?

JG: Basically, small arms were around in huge quantities and can even be bought in working order today. People still use them. Tanks weren’t – and aren’t. The tanks of the period were practically obsolete by the end of the war and there are very few left running today. Tech was moving so fast that there was also relatively limited research conducted on the “old tech” – everyone was too busy gearing up for the cold war. The research and documentation that WAS done had been done under war-time conditions, was sketchy, too much guess-work – and half of it got lost anyway.

All this adds up to making research on tanks a complete nightmare – certainly at the level of detail we needed. Exteriors weren’t too bad. The interiors were really difficult – mostly some old photos, a few bits of plans, plus recent photos of the interior of (mostly) trashed old tanks. The T-34 is easier – there are at least more modern examples still around, although that means interpreting what the 1942 version was like. Add to that the whole business of armor technology and penetration in the 1940s, of course, and we’d have to say it has been very hard.

We worked with museums and archives (Bovington, Littlefield’s, Patton Museum for a start) to dig out the info, as well as some individuals who have made WWII armor tech their life’s work! And all of that is just to get the information – after that we’ve done a lot of additional work interpreting it and turning it into meaningful, working, accurate models in game!

RPS: If you were a tank, what kind of tank would you be?

JG: If you are talking about the tanks that are in ROHOS, the tanks are pretty well matched. If you are talking about WWII tanks in general, I would say the Panther. It was a great balance of armor, mobility, and firepower. Funny you should ask this though, as there is a long standing debate on the Red Orchestra forums about what the greatest tank of WWII was that has almost taken on a life of its own. As a matter of fact, it has gotten so big, that if you google “greatest tank of ww2” the discussion on the Red Orchestra forums is the top link that pops up. This thread has been going on for 4 years and has reached over 30 pages. Most people there will say that the Russian IS-2 heavy tank is the best tank of WWII. It has reached the point where it is almost an inside joke among RO fans. We even have an IS-2 emoticon in our forums ( And people have forum signatures…

RPS: Thanks for your time.


  1. Alexander Norris says:

    Curse you, Jim. I thought I was dead inside, that no video game could ever get me excited again, and now between this, Dead State and Brink, I’m starting to feel like a ten-year-old in December.

  2. Alex Bakke says:

    Heh, there’s a player going around in World of Tanks called ‘IS-2 GREATEST TANK OF WW2″

  3. Kakrafoon says:

    Wow, you can LOCK VEHICLES so that only your buddies can enter with you? Oh, that is so sweet. I’ve been waiting for a feature like this in Battlefield 2, 2142 and Bad Company 2 for years. Me and a buddy are a self-contained Tank/APC/Battlewalker team, but we always have to watch out for other players stealing our rides while we repaire or clear mines or whatever.

  4. DarkNoghri says:

    Darned Panthers.

  5. Snall says:

    Sounds good. I like killing tanks.

  6. Davee says:

    Oh yes, Jim – this is a bid deal for me! Might be because I used to play for one of the top clans back in the day in Ostfront, as well as the UT2k4 mod. Can barely wait for HoS!

    And finally we have confirmation of the vehicles! YES! RO just wouldn’t be the same without those epic ‘combined’ maps. They are the best imo – simply because they had the best potential for what is commonly called “Battlefield moments” (but I guess RO has RO moments?). I.e. things like nearly getting run over by the same enemy tank you are about to throw a satchel charge at, or seeing half your team getting blown into bloody gibs by a HE tank shell right in front of your eyes. Good times :)

    Ostront is one of my favourite games of all time, and I’ve played a good few. Let’s see if HoS can top it. I think it will.

  7. Kevin says:

    Man, there’s no better feeling than seeing those puny 76mm shells bounce off the armour of your Tiger…

    “Hey Helmut, they’re scratching your paint-job!”

    Shame we won’t be behind an 88mm KwK in a Panzer VI in the initial release.

    • Davee says:

      Yeah. I’ll miss my greatest tank of WWII myself (aka IS-2). ;)

  8. Andrew Dunn says:

    Every piece of information that comes out about this game makes it sound better and better. Fully modelled tank interiors! My God yes.

    The only thing I’m a bit unsure about is the possibility to have AI crew fill all the slots. It would seem, on the face of it, that another 20 infantrymen would be quite the advantage if the tanks were fully crewed as well, even by AI.

  9. IS-2 GREATEST TANK OF WW2 says:

    Great news, but I’m quite sad because of JG’s heresy… How could he choose that pity Panther tractor over the almighty IS-2?

    I hope you are just trolling.

  10. ThePieSpy says:

    Oh Tripwire, you know the fastest way to my heart is a high-velocity 75mm shell, don’t you? I’m not sure, however, that I like the AI crew-members. In my opinion, they should focus on getting people away from one-manning tanks. Stuff like intra-vehicle VON, and forcing the players to hop out of the tank if they want to switch from driver to turret positions would be awesome. I’m also not sure I like the mouse-based aiming on tanks. The WASD control of the turrets in RO really added to the immersion of crewing a 40s era tank without fancy fire-control systems or gun stabilization.

    Minor concerns aside, this game has me foaming at the mouth with every preview.

  11. thenagus says:

    “we’re actually implemented tanks at a level of detail and functionality far beyond tank sims or any existing game. ”

    Bold claim!

    Im pretty sure the damage modelling in WWIIOL is a bit more in-depth. (Eg it models spall and Ricochets.) Surely there are dedicated tank sims with more detail?

    Still, think is the first WWII online game I’ve been exited about in a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly immersive WWII tank experience in a game.

    I wonder if we’ll get maps (and view distances) large enough for proper tank warfare? (Tank only maps, perhaps.) Googling briefly for typical ranges of engagement, I found some figures for the fighting in Normandy:

    In open country, a disstance of about 1km. And a distance of about 366m in close country. Its a shame hat typically in infantry-based FPS games most of the tank combat (and infantry, for that matter) is pretty close range.

    I don’t think the `free bot` think is really an issue, unless the bots are given improbable accuracy. I think its fair to say that a tank crewed mostly with bots is always going to much less effective than one crewed with real people. And if thats not true, nerf the bots until it is!

    One thing that puzzles me: Apart from the limit on how many tanks/tankers can be spawned at one time, will there be an essentially limitless supply of tanks, or will there be a set amount that the team starts off with, after which no more can be spawned? It would be a nice incentive for tankers to retreat and repair rather than fight to the death.

  12. Lack_26 says:

    Is it just me or does the man in the first screenshot look like Zaeed from Mass Effect 2.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      Maybe it’s a distant ancestor.

      “If you do it right you pry off a German’s helmet with a knife. The thought of losing it drives ’em mad.”

  13. IS-2 GREATEST TANK OF WW2 says:

    The first RO already had ricochets, so I don’t see why this one shouldn’t

  14. cliffski says:

    every time someone says ‘tank’, I want to buy the game a little bit more.

  15. BruceCampbell87 says:

    I love Tripwire.

  16. Fred Wester, Greatest Tank of WWII says:

    I’m Fred Wester, the greatest tank of WWII.

  17. B0GiE-uk- says:

    This is shaping up to be one hell of a game. Will their be any aircraft?

  18. Megadeth89 says:

    This will be an outstanding game, I hope the reviews are honest, because we all know call of duty’s are a bunch of crap yet rated so high cause they paid for it, it’s not fair, so I just hope tripwire gets the excellent result they should outta this game. Nice website by they way.

  19. tigershuffle says:

    sounds lovely………. :)

    the distances on some of the tank maps in RO was very good : Orel for example

    oh and hope there is none of the ‘clown cars’ n satchel charge nonsense of the 1st one……god they were infuriating :(

    oh and the hilarity of people screamin at someone for daring to get in a ‘leet’ players tank …. toys out of the pram “not sharing!!! get out of my effing tank…get out ..get out… get out” and then youd smile as they trundle 50 yards and be one shot killed by a tank on a ridge a mile away

  20. IS2 > KT says:

    will only be a matter of time before the GREATEST TANK OF ALL TIME will be added into the game by a community modder!

    all will bow down to the glorious IS2!

  21. Berm says:

    This game is shaping up to be the best PC FPS game in years. Damn, Tripwire is becoming the best PC developer around and RO2 looks fucking sweet.

  22. Curry the Great says:

    Man, for once there’s a game that I’m really excited about. That hasn’t happened for so long. All hail Tripwire.

  23. Peter.Steele says:

    IS2_Greatest_Tank_of_WW2 is an holy apostle, spreading the faith of the most holy IS2 throughout teh intertubes.

    Mr. Gibson seriously understated the level of in-joke that the IS2 has become. It’s a cult, and the holy gospel has even started to spread to other history forums as well.

  24. Sassenach says:

    Pedantry first:

    “For example, let’s say you are playing with 64 players and there are ten tanks. You could have 1 human player in each tank with a full AI Crew and then have 54 infantry players. Or you could have 30 human players in tanks (3 human players filling the playable positions in each tank) and then only have 24 infantry players. Or you could do something in between.”

    30 + 24 is not 64.

    Opinion after:

    This sounds really good, I spent ages with the original red orchestra before TF2 came along and monopolised my First Person Shooting. Though the tanks did have their frustrations in that game they were definitely a positive feature when implented right, such as on the map with the Reichstag featuring at the far end of the Germans side. The tanks were limited on said map, but very powerful if applied correctly. Its good to see that such a large amount of thought seems to have gone into ameliorating the problems rather then writing tanks off as more trouble then they’re worth.

    • rammjaeger says:

      Ugh, sorry about that. Looks like I can’t add :) You are correct, 30 players in tanks would leave 34 infantry players.

  25. Tacroy says:

    I have to wonder, though – is the AI really going to be so bad that having three humans in a tank will be worth it? I mean, in order to make that manpower diversion worthwhile, a three-human tank has to be able to reliably take out at least three one-human tanks in order to achieve parity. I just can’t see the AI being that clumsy.

  26. Zombat says:

    They got me at damagable crews.

    Looking forward to the chunky salsa.

  27. Barman1942 says:

    Really glad they’re implementing some of the damage components that were present in Darkest Hour.

    Everything else I read in this article, I kinda regret now, because I know I won’t be playing it for a while ;-;.

  28. Isometric says:

    So excited nnnnnnngggggghhhhh!!!!!
    This is going to be my go to multiplayer manshoot for years to come.

  29. Kurt says:

    Ugh… Infantry rushing the Reichstag was RO’s greatest moment. As soon as they removed Berlin and introduced tank maps the game went downhill.

    No to tanks.

  30. timo says:

    my ex g/f had a rotating slit.

  31. Shadrach says:

    Thanks for the tanks TWI!

  32. MadMatty says:

    So now its the developers fault that geezers cant be bothered to read the tank manual?
    *sigh* the market really has gone casual.
    Only real let down i had in the 1st Red Orchestra, was that the tANKS HAD hitpoints (enough for excactly two hits from an enemy tank if i recall)… that was daft- go play Modern (sigh) Warfare 2 or something.

  33. Dhatz says:

    this simulation of tanks is like miniature version of a submarine sim.

  34. Dhatz says:

    lol the ammount of spam that spilt beneath my comment. you guys surely are dumb thinking posting link to mod on mafia II is what defines spambots.

  35. Chiablo says:

    You had an entire interview centered around tanks, and tank warfare… and you forgot to say “TANKS for your time”?

    But on a more serious note, I am excited for this. RO only has a few populated servers any more, and they are always stupid 24/7 maps. RO is just the right amount of realism for me, it’s hard core enough to be brutal and unfair, but not ARMA II hardcore where I have no idea what’s happening.

  36. puma shoes outlet says:

    Also, yes, it is still first person, only you stick your head through the hatch and get better field of view. Some tanks, like the Panther, have a rotating slit which helps a lot.

  37. Tonsil Cheesecake says:

    All I can say is Release the Goddamn game already….

    Waiting and waiting for years…

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