Call Of Duty Vanguard interview with Greg Reisdorf – ‘we can't please everybody'
This year’s Call Of Duty has just finished a controversial beta but why is its multiplayer director so confident the final game will still impress?
If there’s one thing Call Of Duty fans enjoy more than anything it’s complaining about Call Of Duty, but there has been more disquiet about Vanguard than most recent games, from the return to the Second World War setting to the fact that the recent beta was already inundated with cheaters.
Like many over the weekend, we recently got to play a little of the game ourselves but one of the key concerns for everyone has been that the game does’t really seem to have much of an identity of its own, regardless of the historical setting.
The more you play the game the more its nuances become clear, but we recently got to talk to multiplayer creative director Greg Reisdorf about what makes Vanguard different, as well as the process of map creation and how to make a modern Call Of Duty with very old-fashioned weapons…
GC: Obviously in 2017, Sledgehammer Games made Call Of Duty: WW2 and you are going back to the setting again with Call Of Duty: Vanguard. Each Call of Duty has its own identity, so with a return to WW2, how is Vanguard forging its own?
GR: The previous one we did was all about this Band of Brothers type feel to it. Just more of a traditional view. It focused on Europe. It was great for that, like getting the whole experience on D-Day and Normandy, it did all that. But we wanted to change it up for this one and we wanted to go show the true war, like the global aspect of the war and then also give it a little spice and some extra little bits there.
So, what we do in the campaign is we focus on the birth of special forces, which, if you’re familiar with the history, involves the British commandos forming the SAS down in North Africa. It’s kind of a little bit inspired by those stories and those aspects, but also going across the entire globe as well with the Western Front, the Eastern Front, North Africa, and the Pacific. So, there’s a lot of awesome content that we’re getting in there.
Then on the multiplayer side, it’s all about playing as those special forces operators and these operators are from all over the place. In coming up with these operators and finding out really interesting facets of the war that aren’t really explored very often.
We have 20 maps at launch, so there’s a ton of them. Just being able to have several maps in the Pacific and then go to North Africa and then go to the Western Front and the Eastern Front and have this great variety of maps to play, that was really something that was pretty inspiring for us as a team.
Then there’s the other side of it, which is the special forces side of it, where you get to go into gunsmith and you get to customise these weapons. Really thinking of these weapons as like, ‘Well, what would people do on the field? When they had their standard issue weapon? How would they go and modify it? What would they change up if they had extra parts? What would they do with these things?’ So there’s a lot of cool stuff that we’ve been able to do with that.
GC: There’s a real diversity in the locations of the maps, but you’re also bringing maps forward from previous titles too. How do you go about that process of deciding what to use again and which new locations to feature?
GR: One of the processes that we have in place – the designers have to be excited about the map, our artists have to be excited about the map going in. We do have a divide around like, ‘Okay, well we want X number of…’. We want that variety. So making sure that we have variety going across all of the maps is really important to us. Because if they were all in North Africa or if they’re all in the Western Front, like we did in the previous game, it starts to get a little boring after a while and we want to keep it fresh and interesting.
The other aspect of this, when we look at what we’re doing new in these maps, and to Call Of Duty as a whole, is that something that we’ve never done before is we’ve brought reactive environments into the game, which is destructive or… ‘tactical destruction’ is a word that we’re using for it. It’s small arms scale destruction. So you’re going through, you’re breaking out walls, you can shoot through doors now, and you’re blowing out little holes in these things, so you’re able to really use it tactically. It’s not like you’re bringing down the entire building, but you are creating new lines of sight on the map. You’re creating new pathways on the map. And it’s really something that’s pretty exciting to have in all of these maps.
Then when you look at bringing maps back that were fan favourites, that work really well with our setting and our environments, like Dome and Castle, those maps get that treatment. So you have this level of nostalgia, and nostalgia is always an interesting thing because when you go back and you’re like, ‘Ooh, wow, I remember this way better than what it was, or way better than what I just experienced.’
And so we want to harness that nostalgia, but also bring something new and fresh and make it fit in with the rest of the game. That’s where the reactive environments really help with that. And when you think about Castle, it has a ton of screens all over it, and those are all completely destructible now and you can go through them and poke little holes in them, or you can break through and mantle, which is pretty exciting to have.
GC: Going from modern and near future settings you want the game to feel distinct, but it also has to feel like Call Of Duty. Theoretically, WW2 weapons would probably feel more cumbersome. What’s the process of making those guns feel like something that works within the framework of the modern game?
GR: We didn’t want to make a slower game just because it’s in the past. People still ran at the same speeds. They still moved the same, and with the idea of being the birth of special forces, and playing special forces operators, you’re not the doughboy on the front line; these characters didn’t just come out of high school and then just get thrown on the line without any training. These are special forces operators who’ve seen a lot of combat, who are proficient at what they’re doing, they’ve survived battles and now we’re putting you in their shoes.
You have to feel competent when you are playing this game because we want that. We want you to be competitive. We want you to go round the map and have fun in the map and not be restricted by arbitrary design decisions that we’ve made to try and make you feel like you’re in World War 2 somehow.
So, that is one of the aspects of it, is just making sure that it’s competent. So, a lot of that is like what players are used to within the franchise, and so keeping that familiarity but also bringing something new. Like Gunsmith, when we look at that we have 10 attachments that are open that you can go through and you can customise each one of them. You’re not restricted to the five that we’ve had in the past. It offers a ton of variety to that weapon, and it also makes that weapon look crazy different, and you’re able to go in and find the weapon that works for you and the way that you want to play, which is really important to us.
GC: What do you consider when deciding what to take from one game and not from another? For example, there is some discourse around how the mini-map works in Call Of Duty: Vanguard. Another interesting one is the decision of killstreaks over scorestreaks. How are those decisions made?
GR: We always want to make the best game possible, and at the end of the day, we can’t please everybody. We’re trying to please the majority of people, and we’re so trying to focus on our goals that we have in the game. And one of our goals from day one was fantasy design… or like fantasy and immersion of design over this sort of clinical design that we’ve done in the past. You can think of clinical design as 90° corners everywhere. It’s three exact lanes, you know where everybody’s spawning. It becomes more of a sport at that point.
And where fantasy design is about immersion; it’s about being there, feeling like you’re there. So that’s why you see an emphasis on the VFX, the weapon recoil, the weapon muzzle flash, everything that’s going on with that. There are cases where we’ve gone too far, and the beta has shown that in some areas, and we’re bringing that back where it becomes a little more favourable to being able to do everything that you want to do in the game.
Those decisions are all based around those goals. So when we have those goals in mind, that’s what we’re pushing on. And in some of the other goals that we’ve had, it’s just the down the barrel experience. The gunplay has to be amazing. It has to feel great.
Then just being able to learn maps over time, having discovery maps, where you’re able to be in the map and experience it. That’s where a lot of those reactive environments comes in because, with those environments, every match is a new experience. Because when you go into the match, you now have different destructibles in different places, based on who broke what and what lines of sight are open. You’re now having to change your strategy and change your tactics in that map, where you just can’t do the same thing over and over and over again unless you’re at the very end of the map and everything has blown up.
GC: Obviously you have the COD League, where pro players want to play on the lowest settings, they don’t want any distractions, but if you’re a normal player coming home from work, you want something that looks cool and sells the experience of war. Balancing that has to be kind of complicated for you guys.
GR: It is. And one of the cool things that we’re bringing this year, as well, is the combat pacing around that, which really helps with that kind of mindset. So this is a filter on a playlist that you can go and select and you can select all of them or you can opt into certain ones. And so we have Tactical, which is a lower player count mode. And what we’re doing with these is… combat pacing really comes down to players per square foot – if that makes sense. So the larger maps have a higher player count, the smaller maps have a smaller player count for Tactical. So Tactical 6v6 across the board. And then you have Assault, which brings that cap up to increase how quickly you’re engaging with other players. And then Blitz makes that super, super-fast, and we pack as many players as we can into that map.
So if you want that sort of very tactical experience where you’re looking the other player in the eyes and you’re playing Search and Destroy and those types of very strategic modes, you can get that experience with Tactical. And then on the other side, if you’re a player who just wants to go into Shipment all day long, or Nuketown all day long, you can get that crazy high energy match with Blitz across every map in the game. And when you start looking at the 16 maps that that system is working on, that’s a lot of different experiences. And then you pair that with the destruction, the tactical destruction, every match is something new and exciting to go and be surprised by.
GC: That is what struck me when I was playing. The sheer variety of maps and experiences. It’d be the same maps and sometimes there would be 30 people running around and in one instance I matchmade into an intimate 3v3 game.
GR: And that is like trying to find those things and bring something new to the game. We’ve been 6v6 for so long that breaking out of that… we still have it, you can still do it, but going into those new experiences brings so many other things to the game. And when you think about, well, what’s that going to do to my create-a-class? When I go into a Blitz match, am I running SMG? Like, ‘Oh, it’s a sniper map, I can go and unlock more things, because I’m essentially being able to grind that a little more.’ There are so many targets there that, yeah, it just changes your whole experience.
By Patrick Dane
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