Given the status of previous titles in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series as the best-selling games of their respective years, game studio Infinity Ward could’ve just made Modern Warfare 4, but instead the developer wanted to do something different. And so the game’s architects set out to create a new level and tone in game play but also a more personal story, written by an Oscar-winning screenwriter.
“A the end of Modern Warfare 3 we were in the studio and it was time to make a new game. What do we want to do?” says Mark Rubin, executive producer of the latest title in the COD franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts. “We wanted to create this new world and that world had to be meaningful to players. And we wanted to turn the normal Call of Duty on its head. You are not the superpower anymore, you are not the big massive army. We realized that we couldn’t do Modern Warfare 4. We had to do something new.”
After a massive event, the nature of which publisher Activision and Infinity Ward won’t divulge, America and its military have been dismantled. The game follows a pair of brothers who have joined with a group of men who are remnants of different parts of the U.S. military as they struggle against the superpower that has emerged from the ashes of the collapsed America. “We centralized that collapsed U.S. around the players. Two brothers are the main characters you are following along. They are seeing their home and neighborhood just outside San Diego destroyed by that event, and then 10years later, they are seeing their home and neighborhood after that event. The personal part of the war is what we focused on, and what Stephen Gaghan helped bring us,” said Rubin.
Gaghan, who wrote (and won an Oscar for) the film Traffic and wrote and directed Syriana, was integral to giving the game that emotional core, but Gaghan did more than hand in script pages. Rubin says, “We’ve worked with Hollywood writers before, but with Gaghan, it’s been very different. He’s been intimately involved with everything. He’s there every day. He’s more part of the team than anybody we brought in from outside before. He’s a director also, so he understands scenes and setting up scenes, so he’s also helping with game design.”
Part of the decision behind the reimagining of Call of Duty comes from the new consoles coming from Sony and Microsoft this year. The more powerful tech allows a graphic fidelity not seen in previous Call of Duty games, which allowed the team to do things they couldn’t before. “There were some environments that we avoided in the past, just because the tech couldn’t make them look as good as we wanted. An example is the underwater level,” says Rubin. “We’ve done underwater before but never made it look that good. (In the new game) it’s not just beautiful, there’s a huge amount of underwater combat. It’s three dimensional, so it’s not just running down hallways so you can use cover above and below you–some really cool stuff that we never did before, that we never could do before.“
But ultimately, like the writing and story, the new tech is about making a new kind of Call of Duty to capture the attention of players. Rubin said, “We were able to make more immersive environments than before. A big part of it for us is making an experience that is cinematic, that you are flowing in, that there’s no point that takes you out of the experience.”
[Images courtesy of Activision]