Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Interview – Giving the Franchise a Needed Boost
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Senior Editor Dan Oravasaari got to sit down with Sledgehammer Games’ Senior Development Director, Judah Graham to discuss Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer. With only a few months to go before the latest installment hits store shelves on November 4. Activision and Sledgehammer Games have finally unveiled the numerous changes they have made to this highly anticipated online shooter.
PlayStation LifeStyle: Obviously, there have been a number of changes in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, so what was your inspiration for taking the multiplayer aspect in such a new direction?
Judah Graham: The coolest thing we have been able to do with the three year dev (development) cycle is take a step back and really look at what Sledgehammer Games wanted to bring to the franchise. We are all really big Call of Duty fans, and when we got our hands on The Exo, of course it was core to single-player, we started figuring out how it became true to multiplayer. We added boost jump in, and we started looking at how adding verticality to the maps would be an interesting gameplay mechanic for the players. So, as soon as we started prototyping and getting it in, we were like, oh my gosh, this is it. Right, you can just tell that you were in that vein where gameplay was going and it was a lot of fun. The play tests were really showing positive, and we were like, hey, this exciting. It just started taking on its own life.
PSLS: I can image that a number of people will draw comparisons to other games, such as Titanfall, due to the added verticality and new additions such as boost jumping. Was this something that inspired development early on? Or, was it more coincidental in just how things panned out?
JG: Three years ago we started testing The Exo, and we realized that it was going to be impactful and really core to our vision and where we were going with our game. So, we have been pretty much heads down and focused on the game that we are building. I think the product will really speak for itself in how it is a Call of Duty title, and how its fun, and there’s lots of stuff that we put in there with our own gameplay mechanics that were really specific to The Exo. That is something we think the players are going to really enjoy and have a good time with.
PSLS: Over the years we have seen the Killstreak and Perk system evolve, how has the system evolved in CoD: AW? And could you tell us about some of the new perks and the process behind developing them?
JG: Well, I would say that the game is really about playing your way. We are big fans of the Pick 10. We thought it would be interesting to add the Scorestreaks, because some of the people don’t like to take them with them and give the player that option. Then, we have another layer of customization, where you can actually customize, take modules and build up the cost associated with the streak in the game. It is layers of customization in the Scorestreaks, and also trying to make sure that they were fun and exciting with the style of gameplay we are going for. Whether it is the rip-able turret, which you can keep the lost cost of and just play it as a base model, or you can use the opportunity to add in layers of customization by adding in modules on top of that. It is the same with the Warbird, the Vulcan laser, etc. There is a tremendous amount that I think adds and enhances the gameplay. As a player, you can either take it or you don’t have to.
PSLS: One of the new features is the Weapon Loot system, which will be rewarding players with unique weapons the more they play. But, with that, how are you going to balance out the playing field between casual players and the hardcore? As some players are going to obviously get more gear than others.
JG: Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time on that. The secret is in that sauce, like how we benefit the player with that rewards system. So, I think the real answer is the playability, and players getting in there and start feeling it, they will feel just how balanced it is.
PSLS: One of the new modes in multiplayer is Uplink, could you explain a bit about that and where the idea came from?
JG: So, Uplink is cool because you get two teams against each other, obviously, and there is a goal on either side, with both teams trying to defend their goal while also trying to get the Satellite Drone into their opponents Uplink. It will have different maps, and different placements. So, when the match starts you try to run to get to the Satellite Drone, grab it, and then jump through the goal. What is really interesting is that you can toss the Satellite Drone through to another player, or your opponent which will render them weaponless for a brief period of time, so you can shoot them. It’s fun. It’s actually really interesting because the guys back at the studio, when we started playing it and started to evolve that mode — Oh my gosh! You would just hear people howling out of the play test pit and having a blast. There were lines out the door. We run like three play tests a day, and anybody from the studio can come in and play. We had lines, people sitting and waiting for someone to jump out of their chair so they could sit down and play. For us, as fans, it is how we know that we were on to something, especially when people are yelling and having fun. It was a lot of good positive feedback.
PSLS: Will there be any environmental destructibility?
JG: Yes, there will be destructables in the maps, if you look at the lane changing aspect of what the tsunami did when came in, it isn’t a whole lot of destruction there, but the lanes change and it changes the way the map is played. You can use it to your strategic balance of the map, if you know when that time is coming. People running down that lower path, you mount your position at the top and force kills at point and use the map to your advantage.
PSLS: Is this something that is randomly occurring? Or, will players be able to activate moments like these?
JG: No, it is usually a set time in the maps. So, people will know when it is happening.
PSLS: Has there been any adjustments to the number of players in any of the game modes? Such as, will we see more players being able to play Team-Death-Match? What is the max capacity you guys have in any of the modes?
JG: We are not releasing that information at this moment.
PSLS: What are some of the target specs for resolution and frame-rate for Advanced Warfare?
JG: Well, we are still optimizing and still pushing the boundaries. We are upping it from where it was last year, but stay tuned for information on that.
PSLS: With so many other AAA titles launching over the next few months, such as Destiny in September, are you worried the reception of Call of Duty in such a busy year?
JG: I can only speak to the game, and I will let the business guys talk about the market and competitiveness of it.
PSLS: Will there be any new multiplayer modes in Advanced Warfare like the popular Zombie mode or Horde based styled ones we have seen?
JG: Stay tuned for more information on that as well.
PSLS: There definitely a great deal more customization and personalization in Advanced Warfare than ever before, is this something that was planned from the beginning? Or, did was it progressively added in?
JG: Well, obviously through the development process you get an evolution. As you start building and expanding on things, it kind of takes a life of its own. I would say the core pillars of customization was one of the fundamental pieces we wanted to have, so we stuck true to those pillars as we developed the game.
PSLS: Were you concerned that hardcore fans of the traditional style of Call of Duty will react negatively to The Exo suit and how it changes the fundamental gameplay?
JG: I would say no. The reason I say that is because the amount of play tests and the amount of user feedback that we have got, whether it was internal or through focus, it suggests that we are really onto it. It’s fun and that is core the player experience. Have you had a chance to play it?
PSLS: Not yet.
JG: Well I think once you play it, you will start to feel it — and oh my god. We sit people down, and once they get their hands on the sticks and they start playing it, it’s a lot of fun. It feels like Call of Duty. In fact, when we were describing it, Greg and I were telling the team, we wanted to keep that core experience, but just throw an Exo suit on it with these abilities and that is how we want the player to feel. I think we have captured that.
PSLS: Call of Duty has definitely been known for their post-game content and season passes. Will this be something we can also look forward to for Advanced Warfare?
JG: I will say, I’m not going to dive into the specifics, but it will be very much in-line with what Call of Duty has done in the past.
PSLS: Will there be any overlap or correlation between the single-player campaign and the multiplayer portion of Advanced Warfare?
JG: You know, there are some things that we are working on, but I think I will wait for other announcements to come out about that.
PSLS: Now that you are able to show off more about Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer, what are you most proud about with how it has turned out so far?
JG: I think The Exo mechanics are a blast. Internally, when we play it, we are addicted — completely, it’s fast, but it’s smooth and still has that whole layer of smooth mechanics that Call of Duty players have always known, but it has this whole new layer of verticality added to the maps. There is a whole new layer of skill that comes into play, that I think is really going to be intriguing of true fans of the franchise.
PSLS: Advanced Warfare looks like it plays significantly different than what we have seen from Ghosts, was this developed using a brand-new engine to run on next-gen platforms? Or was this a modified version of an existing engine?
[PR rep] It is a new engine. The guys designed a new engine for this at the start of development.
PSLS: Does it have a name?
[PR rep] Nope.
JG: We wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing unless it was [a new engine]. To support what we wanted to do, with the three-lane map design…yeah.
PSLS: After having seen so many Call of Duty titles release, and with the obvious issues of franchise fatigue, how have you guys managed to keep things feeling fresh?
JG: It’s a lot of hard work. The team is constantly looking at ways to tune, tweak and make that experience really exciting. Speaking for the franchise as a whole, I think down deep it just takes really big fans to keep reiterating on the next version.