Activision’s Field Generals Talk ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’

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Glenn, you’re relatively new in the organization. What was the biggest learning curve you had to master going into Modern Warfare 3 specifically?

Schofield: Good question. Look, I have made a lot of games where they’d been licensed products before. And I made a lot of my own IP. This is somewhere in between. Because I get a heck of a lot of say in the game, but we still know that they created it. So, we are right there with them now in story when in creating the game and in creating the big moments, but on the other hand, we’re making sure that our art style fits.

The way that they go after quality, their look, their feel. They had a set of pillars that we needed to follow. So we knew that. It wasn’t any misconception.

Actually, the first couple of months we were still struggling to kind of get our legs because we had to learn the engine. And at the same time, we were learning to work with a new group of people in a new company, and we’re building our company, and that was the toughest time. Can we live up to it?


Schofield: What we did was just go back and forth between locations. They would send people up. We would send our guys down there. And both teams had some of the best developers in the world and really smart people and passionate. So after four or five months, I started to feel really good about it. Feeling like, “Yeah, we’re part of it.”

Up to speed.

Schofield: Up to speed.

And you can keep up with them.

Schofield: Yes, yes. And I actually think that the two teams had pushed each other. In the beginning it was a healthy competition and now it’s more like…

Mutual respect.

Schofield: Absolutely. And we push each other that way.

So, platform specific question: There was a lot of outrage last year about hacking on the PS3 and people kind of feeling like the experience there was essentially broken. I know it wasn’t your game, in that Treyarch developed it. But do you guys learn any lessons from the Black Ops PS3 experience and the ways that some of the players were complaining about it?

Bowling: Well, the reality is that there is no platform or game that is not vulnerable to hacking in the world we live in now. So, we look at that as a whole, in terms of, "clearly there needs to be measures taken to prevent and preserve the gameplay experience for our user base. Especially 30 million people, that’s huge expectations of what they want from their game.

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So, definitely, by far, going into Modern Warfare 3, coming out of Modern Warfare 2, we started focusing on the infrastructure that we could build up on the back-end to make sure that we’re on top and addressing anything that arises. And that’s from a post-launch support in terms of exploits, but even more importantly, going back to our code and looking at, “OK, let’s trim the fat that could lead to loopholes or security exploits."

In addition to building that infrastructure that allows us to have more control to deal with that as it may arise, to making sure that we’re locking down the system and nailing everything to the floor. Something that you didn’t have to worry about in pre-Modern Warfare 2 days when console encryption was all you needed. No longer can you rely on console encryption. But we have to do a lot of work and have done a lot of work for Modern Warfare 3 to make sure that we’re locking our doors and not just relying on them to lock theirs.

That’s a fair statement.

Schofield: And then you’ve got all their knowledge from the past, and their engineers coming at it from, “OK, this is what we’ve learned.” And our guys who have come at it from working on other online games. So now you’ve got two teams of engineers looking at it. And I think we’re quite aware of the situation.

So you talk about the back-end. I know you guys probably won’t be talking about this in-depth until Call of Duty XP, but what about the integration of Elite? For example, Spec Ops co-op, is it going to feed into a leap the same way that the multiplayer would. You’re smirking, Robert? Why?

Bowling: We’re not talking how Spec Ops will tie into Elite. What I can say is Elite from the ground up has been built for Modern Warfare 3, and we’re integrating it in a lot of really cool ways that I’m excited to talk about. But I’m smirking just because I knew I was going to shoot you down when you were done.

Hey, it happens. This is more of like an observation of mine than an actual question, if this ties up the trilogy of like Soap, Price, that whole branch of the Modern Warfare trilogy, and this is literally blowing things out to the level of a World War. Where do you go from here? I’m not asking about future iterations. How do you surpass this? Or is this the equivalent of dropping the mic?

Bowling: [laughs] That’s a good question. We never look at it as a trilogy. We look at it as this is definitely a payoff in the terms of the conflict that you’ve seen start, and definitely a payoff for the characters that you’ve been seeing rise through the ranks.

I mean you started this as Soap MacTavish playing as him, as a soldier on the ground. Then you see him rise to the ranks to captain of a task force. So this is a payoff in that sense. But I would never say that it is the end of a trilogy by any means.

So it’s just the latest chapter.

Bowling: Yes. And I will leave it at that. [Laughs.]

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