Happy Birthday, Company of Heroes.
10 Years Later, Unreleased Company of Heroes Images Emerge
Relic Entertainment’s Company of Heroes series celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The first game debuted in September 2006 and the series is now considered one of the biggest and most highly esteemed in the PC RTS space.
To celebrate the anniversary, GameSpot worked with Sega to share some never-before-seen pieces of concept art and other images from the franchise’s vaults.
A big change occurred in 2013, when Sega scooped up the franchise and developer Relic from THQ’s bankruptcy auction for $26.3 million. Sega is now the dominant player in the RTS genre, as it also owns the Total War series and developer Creative Assembly.
Click "Next Image" to begin the gallery. Each image is captioned by Sega, providing insight and context.
"Because units in COH were so highly detailed for its time, the marketing campaign did not shy from showing them up-close and releasing screenshots with the camera at a ground level – leading more than a few people who saw the first screenshots to believe that this may be a FPS or TPS!"
"When it was introduced, COH featured an unprecedented level of character detail for a RTS, as real-time in-game cinematics were to play a key role in building believable human characters. Therefore, character study ended up being way more detailed than for most other strategy games that kept camera at a distance."
"Careful color, pose and silhouette study are critical to ensure the units will remain easily identifiable and readable in the middle of the action. For instance, the machine gunners in all of the COH armies were always recognizable because of the big X formed by the ammo belts across their torsos."
"Maps are at the forefront of the action in RTS – probably more so than in any other genre. As a result, environmental cues are an important device for storytelling: a change in the overall color palette of a scene can infuse a battle with either a sense of dread or optimism."
"As can been seen with the "BIA" designation in this concept art, "Brothers In Arms" was to be the original name of the game. Another famous gaming company also thought of this name for their upcoming FPS franchise and was first to register it, however – leading to the game adopting the Company of Heroes name."
"COH’s environments remain a staple of the RTS genre, thanks in no small part to their highly destructible nature – making for a very dynamic battlefield players constantly have to adapt to. The ability to shoot out of the holes created in buildings was a first for the RTS genre."
"Introducing physics-based environmental destruction raised many questions as to how it would work out gameplay-wise and tech-wise, which the team tried to answer as early as possible through technical concept pieces such as these."
"Fully-destructible environments were a huge challenge early on, since "fully-destructible" sometimes meant nothing left on the maps (and a boring sight). Early games ended with maps that were devoid of any objects and were just massively scarred terrain. The team got around this by leaving permanent rubbles of some objects, to keep the terrain from becoming a complete wasteland."
"Even when they aim to be grounded in reality, games hardly ever feature straight 1:1 recreation of real-world locations. Size and placement are often adjusted to make things tighter gameplay-wise. Concept arts like this one help the team find the right balance between the gameplay requirements and the air of verisimilitude they want to maintain."
"COH’s campaign aimed to create memorable moments by translating real-life situations into gameplay mechanics and through a considerate use of scripting. You can see this being applied early on here, in an early prototype version of the game."
"COH aimed to bring the story-telling quality of movie production such as Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers to RTS. As a result, its in-game cinematics were carefully planned out through storyboards."
"What was initially planned as only one in-game cinematic eventually ended up being split into two, between the now famous Blur CGI trailer – which also served as an intro video to the D-day beach landing in the first mission (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTkLDO0z6xs) – and in-game sequences."
"This in-game cinematic sequence, heavy in lighting and shader effects, was made famous by the in-game benchmark, which used it to test players’ computers performances."
"In the mid 2000s, most (if not all) RTS were still representing maps as fenced-in areas with no backdrop scenery displayed outside of the playable area. With its emphasis on versimilitude and immersion – not to mention its fully adjustable camera view – Company of Heroes had to challenge that. (cont…)"
"In those sketches you can clearly say the limits of the playable area (square or rectangle), how much can be in the player’s camera view at the same time (lozenge) and the remaining backdrop scenery that was to be built / displayed outside of those boundaries, purely for presentation’s sake."