Modern Warfare 3: 'There's lots of innovation here. We've absolutely got new mechanics'
10th Oct 2011 | 13:02
Modern Warfare arrives in less than a month on November 8. Ahead of the release of what's in all likelihood going to be the biggest entertainment launch of the year, we sat down for a chat with Glen Schofield, general manager and co-founder of Sledgehammer Games, the new Activision studio initially formed to take the series in a fresh direction.
Things didn't turn out as originally planned though, as staff departures at series creator Infinity Ward resulted in Sledgehammer taking on Modern Warfare 3 co-development duties. In part one of our interview, former EA Visceral Games GM and Dead Space executive producer Schofield explains how the unlikely marriage with Infinity Ward came about, and how gameplay innovations will make Modern Warfare 3 the most accessible Call of Duty game yet.
What stage of development was Infinity Ward at when Sledgehammer became attached to Modern Warfare 3 as co-developer?
Well they hadn't kicked off, they were about to kick off. They knew they had to get started on it but they had personnel issues, so before they could get started and feel confident they were going to make the game, they needed another team to help them out.
What were the core design principles for the single player campaign?
Basically, we sat down, talked to each other and one of the things we came out and said was: 'We want to tell a story. We want to tell a good story, we don't want it to be confusing, I want to know who I'm playing.' We came in and said here are some of the things, as a fan that we believe should be corrected. And they were pretty much like, 'You're speaking to the choir. We agree.' So that was like a big touchdown, first day, goal. So here's a big win on day one, sort of agreeing that we need to do that. There were so many things that we were agreeing on in the first few days of meeting and talking.
You said the game's going to wrap up the first two Modern Warfare titles nicely. Is the Modern Warfare series designed as a trilogy?
No. No, it's not a trilogy. The idea was that the other two were left on cliff-hangers - doing it again felt wrong. As a matter of fact, it was like, we just escalated this thing from the first game to the third game to World War Three. We could leave it hanging, or we could do an Iron Man and wrap it up. You feel good, you know. Is there a glimmer of something that says the series isn't done, if we wanted it that way? Yeah, but not in terms of a cliff-hanger, more in terms of the universe has blown up, if that makes sense.
Can you say how long the single player campaign lasts?
I don't know.
Compared to the other games?
I've played each level four to five hundred times. You're just playing it and playing it, and I've been playing it since it was just boxes. So I don't know. All I can tell you is that from a design point of view, we sit down and write a story. We don't ever say 'Write a five hour story,' we just write a really great story, and at the end of the day if it comes out and it feels too short, we don't want to just add stuff. With that said, I don't think it's too short. It feels like a great story. The right amount of time. You and I are going to play it at different speeds.
Do you have any data on the percentage of players who complete the single player campaigns?
I don't know if we have scientific data, but I know that people have talked to me about it and have said it's pretty 50/50. One of the big differences is that we had numbers at EA... like 50 percent of the people that played a game, you know, went to level three, but finishing the game, like ten percent. One of the things I heard with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is that when people start playing single-player they'll finish it. I think this is sort of a testament to the good ramp in gameplay and the excitement of continuing.
Lack of innovation is a criticism often levelled at Call of Duty. Can you tell us how this game innovates and builds on past games in the series?
Well for this game I think there's a lot. Let's start with the single player campaign, the story itself. We spent a lot of time on it, there's some great stuff in there, the character development, some great dialogue. That's not innovative in itself but I think it's new for the series. We go to these huge urban environments now, we have different types of battles going on. We're in cities, we're fighting with other people and with different groups, we're changing the pace of things.
And we've absolutely got new mechanics. We've got the XM25, which is a grenade launcher that's just being used right now. It's got a laser target. Let's say somebody's hiding behind a rock, you laser the rock, aim a metre above it and it blows everything up below. We're using a nine-bang instead of a flash-bang. That came right from Delta. They said 'We're not using flash bangs. We haven't been using flash bangs for years. We're using nine bangs.' We've got the dual scope, so you can switch between an EOtech and a red dot sight really quickly. It's so convenient.
There's also stuff I can't talk about. There's so much. The big moments are bigger than they ever were. We've got a new audio engine. We've upgraded the audio engine. You're hearing whizzes, bangs, which way they're coming from, how far they are. The sound is all around you, we really, really upgraded that.
With multiplayer we've added Strike Packages. So you've got Assault, Support and Specialist, and that in itself allows you to customise the way you want to play. You're going to get rewarded for being a team player now, for destroying objectives and things like that. We've also added Weapon Proficiency. You can add attributes to your weapons. You can upgrade your weapons to take out some of the sway, some of the kick, so you can hold your breath while holding an assault rifle in ADS (aim down sights) and so on and so on. The more you use it, the more it's upgraded.
We've got new modes like Kill Confirmed and a bunch of other things; we've got dedicated servers. Also, Spec-Ops Survival mode is a major, major addition to the game. It's huge, we just added infinite amount of time. You can play forever. We've brought in the leaderboard system and all the upgrades which you saw and played.
You can imagine now that one of the things we did consciously was to use the levels in multiplayer and put them in Survival mode. That was to try and create this bridge so that people who do play single player, who are maybe a little intimidated by multiplayer, will sit down with a buddy and play co-op and go 'wow, that's cool. I'm really getting to know this level. I get the upgrade system now, I get it all.' And then they could jump into multiplayer.
So it's a more accessible Call of Duty than ever before?
Absolutely. Then if you think about adding Call of Duty Elite to it, if you want to jump into multiplayer after you learn Spec-Ops and just use your friends list to play, then you're given a higher level of comfort. It's one of the things we've been hearing: 'I don't want to jump into a game with a bunch of teenagers and get trash-talked all the time. I want to actually have fun and get in there.' And a lot of people like that type of gameplay, but we're trying to make it so you can customise it for yourself.
Keep an eye out for part two of our interview, to be published shortly, in which Schofield discusses criticism of the Call of Duty game engine, review score, sales targets and Battlefield 3.