At Call of Duty XP there was a lot of anticipation not only for the upcoming new instalment Infinite Warfare, but also for the remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that is set to come with it. We talked to two key figures, Jack O'Hara and David Pellas, about Infinite Warfare and the Modern Warfare respectively, focussing on the multiplayer aspect of the franchise that fans have come to know and love.
At the event we got the chance to talk with Jack O'Hara about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and the multiplayer experience it is set to offer this time around, and O'Hara gave a lot of interesting details about new features including maps, weapons and the new combat rigs.
The first thing he was keen to talk about was the combat rigs. "This represents the core of our multiplayer experience. What we've done is, when we set off to create this game we wanted to concentrate on the various playstyles that we find amongst Call of Duty players and the things that we think would be good amongst them. So we went off an created combat rigs as a kind of container for what we have as combat rig abilities and combat rig weapons as well as combat rig traits, so around each playstyle we've gathered different paths to make up that combat rig, the fiction being that you're the person wearing that suit."
He continued, saying "we can say that 30% of our population is mobile mid-ranger warfighter, but not everyone's going to fit in that neat little box and that's why with the traits and the combat rig abilities you kind of have a little bit of blurred lines where if, you're defensive but you like to attack occasionally, you could pick the Merc class where he can equip Bull Charge where a few times a match he pulls out his shield and start picking up momentum, losing the ability to turn and if he hits anyone he smacks them and they go flying."
Something that has been changing dramatically in the Call of Duty franchise in the previous two entries is the traversal in multiplayer, the series shifting and placing the emphasis on jet-packs, jumping, wall-running and verticality in general. We asked O'Hara how the traversal will work in Infinite Warfare and whether it will be reminiscent of Advanced Warfare or Black Ops 3.
"So we started off within our engine and our movement set and then we looked at what everybody was doing and talked to the Treyarch guys, find out what they're doing with their movement, find out how they did it and all the little pieces and knobs that you tweak to get to that. We ended up with something where we got close to Black Ops 3 but there were a few things we kind of dialled down a little bit. For example, double jump is just a tiny little bit, you're talking single percentage points, lower, just because we felt that kept you more in-frame and our map design lent itself better to the lower height engagements."
"This all works hand-in-hand with the maps. Any time you tweak anything it really has to be reflected in the map design or else you're just going to end up with this dissonance that's going to happen. For example, in our map design one of the rules we have is we try very hard not to have any wall-runs that are facing a doorway so if somebody's wall-running they don't have too steep of an angle when they're attacking. So the two really work hand-in-hand and when we looked at the Black Ops 3 system it was one of the best out there, it was smooth, it feels good [...] somebody [said] it felt like the love child of Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3."
Of course a major aspect of every Call of Duty multiplayer experience is the maps, so we asked O'Hara about them too. There's "a map called Throwback which was the 1950s-style museum town [...] that's a strong three-lane map with a strong centre for any objective-based game modes". He gave a few examples, going on to say "we have basically a variety of maps. When we went off to design them we didn't want just three-lane maps. We wanted to give people an opportunity to play different styles."
If maps are a strong pillar of multiplayer then so too are the weapons, and we talked with O'Hara about the design philosophy behind those in Infinite Warfare. He revealed that the team had been investigating papers written by futurologists and figures like Elon Musk in order to give a faithful image of "what technology would look like in a few hundred years but still stay true. So we still wanted guns, overall they needed to still feel good, they needed to feel like Call of Duty weapons."
"We didn't want to go full energy because we feel like realistic is still going to be the primary mainstay, and even on the energy side it was important for us to not go into a kind of 'pew-pew', you know, that direction. It's about the feedback on the gun, the muzzle flash, the sound of it, the little details. The E-RAD for example is an SMG that pops open and then you pull out the battery pack and ram one back in. A lot of the requirements around guns and everything that we've researched doesn't predict infinite energy guns or anything like that, so we still wanted to have everything there and then there's some variations where attachments that are energy-based are slightly different, so for example instead of fast hands you might have an attachment on the energy guns that recharges slowly your magazine, and that's where we want to differentiate them, make them still feel like Call of Duty weapons.
What it all comes down to, O'Hara said, is the team's desire "to stay grounded, we want to make them feel impactful, for each gun to have it's own personality, so when you pick up an energy-based LMG it still has a nice kick to it, but it's own take on it versus the ballistic version that we also have."
Another feature of the weaponry is that the team "took a few weapons and we wanted to push them further technically in terms of animations, we wanted to see what we could achieve and it's especially interesting to think about these situations where you have maps that are mid-range with a couple of shorter corridors and close quarter combat areas. We really liked the idea of being able to switch up so for example the one that [you played] is called the Type 2 and as an assault rifle it has a mid-range, it's fast firing but not super heavy damage. Then if you press triangle you rip it into two and you get your two fast-firing SMG." He also gave the example of the EBR-800 which is a sniper rifle that turns into an assault rifle.
During the keynote at Call of Duty XP a big announcement was crafting and O'Hara talked in more depth about that too. "You'll accumulate currency as you're playing, it's called salvage and it's an in-game currency you'll accumulate just by playing the game. So for each base weapon we have an extra four versions of it, so let's say you take your Type 2 assault rifle that splits into two you're now going to have the base version which you unlock just by playing the game and reaching level 12, and then you'll have variants you'll get [...] if you have enough salvage you can actually just craft the version that you want."
"Each of these variants you have a common, a rare, a legendary and an epic version, and each of them has what we call gun perks. The common version has one gun perk, the rare has two, and then the epic will have something cooler. Now the biggest concern when we were making this is game balance and making sure that having one of these guns is not a requirement, that the base version is just as good, so what we do with the gun perks is we add a lot of interesting variation on behaviour."
For him it's also "about changing the personality of guns. They have names [...] changing up the behaviour, we even have one for people that like to have a challenge called the Masochist that actually takes away from your own health as well." He revealed that these weapons will not only be available through crafting but also from drops and as rewards, although these are a rare occurrence still.
Mission Teams are another new feature in the game designed to "bring people into the game [...] We're going to have three mission teams at launch and basically each one has its own commander and each one has a different personality. You'll see they'e wearing a different combat rig, you'll see their face, you'll [hear] their voice and their personality that gets introduced to you, and then they'll give you missions which are basically small challenges to achieve during gameplay." These will unlock rewards, progressively getting more advanced and attempting to pull people towards different game modes.
In regards to esports O'Hara didn't have any details to share but he did say that European and North American esports players have been invited to play the game and give feedback on the game as well as on Black Ops 3, so that's a work in progress.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a game that captured the hearts of many players when it was released in 2007, and this was in no small part due to the multiplayer side of it. Another person we caught up with at Call of Duty XP was Raven Software's David Pellas and we talked to him about the multiplayer aspect of the remaster.
He started by saying that feedback from the hands-on at Call of Duty XP had been positive. "We're actually getting some great feedback, a lot of people are enjoying the game, very happy that we're maintaining that gameplay that they remember and love, and enhancing it in ways that really are improving the experience for people."
In terms of how the game is remastered, he said that "for the environments [...] the original game had sharp edges on some of the corners of some of the levels, some of the buildings, and one of the things that we're doing to enhance that is we're bevelling the edges and adding details like crumbling bricks, putting moss on them to soften them a little bit."
The team are also "doing things on the ground. For the terrain, the terrain footprint's the same. There's a hole in the train in the old one and there's still a hole in ours. We're adding a lot more detail to make it feel like the pavement's being broken up around it, or maybe a bomb had just exploded in that location so you see a lot of the debris scattered around, and that character to the scene just adds a lot of depth and personality to it and that's really what's driving us for that."
We also asked Pellas about tweaks in terms of gameplay. "So our number one design tenant was to maintain the integrity of the gameplay experience," he said, "so things like timing are crucial. In the original game if it took you X seconds to mantle over an object, it still takes you X seconds to mantle over an object in our game, however, when we looked at the mantling, we said that it feels very clunky. You used to run up to an object, stop, click the button, play the mantle animation, stop, and then start moving afterwards, so for us it was very important to use things like new animations and add visual fidelity to it. So now whenever you run up to an object and press the button at a good time you can actually post your hand and you'll see it plant down and on the object, you'll see your feet crest over the mantle and then you can keep on moving. The visuals, while they help the flow feel more natural and more modern, the timing of it is exactly the same, so there's no advantage, no change there, but there's a visual perception that's just been improved."
A big announcement from Call of Duty XP was that all 16 levels will be returning to the game, but not all at once. "What we announced before today was that we were going to offer 10 maps on launch, and that's still true. The announcement today is that the six remaining maps we are actually going to be delivering to anyone who purchases Modern Warfare Remastered, anyone who owns it or a version of Infinite Warfare that comes with it, they're going to get all 16 of the maps for no additional cost."
"The reason that we had to break them up like that is because when we originally got onto this project one of the first things that we did was try to define what the visual quality bar was going to be that was acceptable for us as fans. What would we expect of the visual upgrades? When we did that we were able to break up how much time we had left for this year and how many maps we had to do and it quickly became apparent that we weren't going to be able to hit that bar for every single map unless we shipped later or we reduced the number, and because we are, and have always been, considered a pack-in for Infinite Warfare, and a great bonus content there, we knew that we couldn't ship later, so Activision agreed 'yep, let's focus on the maps we think we can get done' as long as we maintain that quality bar, because the visuals are super important for us. We came to an agreement that that number was 10 and so we're all happy and proud to ship those 10, but we all wish we could ship with the 16, but we're really happy with the announcement today that we can hopefully stem some of the fears the fans had that they were going to have to pay additional for maps that they should get for free. Nope, it's all free. I wish I could have been able to tell you guys all about it a lot earlier but I'm just happy the announcement happened today."
At the moment the remaster is part of Infinite Warfare's bonus content but some fans would like to buy it separately. When we asked about that, Pellas said: "I will say that since day one the intention has always been to be a companion to Infinite Warfare because it was all about the perfect timing of everything. For the last three or four years we have been getting a lot of fan requests about 'hey, we'd love to see a return to Modern Warfare' and a lot of requests saying 'hey, all these other companies are remastering games, why don't [you] remaster Modern Warfare?', and this was actually the number one game that was requested, which we would agree is a great game to start with."
"So since the beginning we were committed to this companion distribution model and we believe together they offer fantastic value for any gamer [...] For the Modern Warfare Remaster in particular we brought up the game, we believe we brought the game up visually so it stands alongside any of the games today and people can be like 'this is a game that could be in this space if it's released on its own'. The intention wasn't to actually release it on its own but to make sure that it felt like it could if it ever did, so our intention was never really to do it but if that's what the fans want I'd say let us know."
Both Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered (as bonus content) will be available on November 4 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.