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AusGamers Call of Duty: Ghosts Developer Interview with Eric Biessman
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:45pm 05/09/13 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Raven's Eric Biessman who is working on Call of Duty: Ghosts' multiplayer portion. Read on or watch for what he had to say...


Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers, coming to you once again from Gamescom in Cologne, and I’ve got Eric, who’s [from] Raven Software -- one of the teams that has come in and helped IW with the Call of Duty franchise in the last few years. You’re a bit of a specialist as far as the multiplayer is concerned.

Let’s talk about the evolution from MW3 to where we’re at with Ghosts, from a philosophical point of view, as far as multiplayer goes. Because obviously Call of Duty as a brand, and as a multiplayer game, has kind of spawned a series of pillars that fans really expect to be met, and milestones. And if you shake that up too much, you shake up a fairly livid group of people. Can you talk about how you guys have approached that?

Eric Biessman: Yeah. So with the next-generation consoles that are coming out, and the tieing off in Modern Warfare 3 finishing the storyline, it seemed like this was the perfect time to start something new. Right from inception, we knew we wanted a new story, new characters, new settings, from the single-player side. Now -- and you mentioned it -- the big thing is that you expect certain things out of Call of Duty games. There’s the fast, quick, precise controls, the 60 frames per second, the intimate combat, I guess you could say -- know who your enemy is; know who your friend is.

Those are things that… we have a huge fanbase of passionate fans, and we wouldn’t want to just throw that out just for fun. So going into it, this is obviously something that we’re thinking about from day one, and it really just starts out with that, and we can just build on that. We can add new things or we can build on from that, but we always keep in mind that that’s the core gameplay; that’s where we need to start.



AusGamers: Now the core gameplay is fast -- it’s always been about that, Call of Duty is a fast game, smaller maps with inside and outside spaces, but they’re all really quickly accessible -- but the one thing I discovered about playing the game yesterday, is the map complexity seems to have doubled. So you’ve got… I can’t remember the map, but it’s the snow map…

Eric: Whiteout.

AusGamers: Whiteout: you’ve got a bunch of trench-lines in there, which hasn’t really existed before, and it’s kind of a hilly terrain, as opposed to just structured verticality. What was the design philosophy behind that? Is it about: we’ve got the processing power now, let’s take advantage of that, and make these levels more complex?

Eric: Well I think it’s that everything we start with is what’s best for the gameplay. We really wanted to offer a variety of maps, so the four maps we’re showing at Gamescom are very different. We have Strikezone, which is a much smaller, more what you’d expect -- intimate; really close, fast-engagement map -- and we wanted to show that our maps aren’t always going to be that.

I think what’s cool about Whiteout especially, is that it’s a larger map that offers different gameplay. So if you are the run and gun person, run through there and take those trench-lines as you said. If you’re more the long-range, reach out and touch somebody, maybe you want to hang out more on the ice. But our goal from the beginning was just to offer a lot more variety within the maps themselves, just so people can really sort of find how they like to play, the find maps they like, and really focus on it.

AusGamers: And is there any difference at all, specifically, between what you’re releasing for next-gen and current-gen, as far as player numbers, dedicated servers, anything like that?

Eric: Well, what I can talk about I guess -- we aren’t going to release a lot of information on that yet -- but currently, what we want people to know is that the gameplay itself -- that core gameplay; all the new stuff that we’ve done -- we want to make sure that regardless of what console you’re on, it’s that game -- it’s the fast, precise motion.

So we really took a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of energy, to make sure that whatever you’re playing on, it has that same feeling. Additionally, obviously there’s more muscle and firepower in the next console systems, so most of that has been spent on making sure that it’s more beautiful -- that we’re really building on the outside. I could list up a bunch of things like tesselation and HDR and displacement -- a lot of tech terms -- but what that really means at the end of the day, is that it looks just much more better.

AusGamers: And are you able to comment on the networking side of things? Obviously there’s always the big question about peer to peer and dedicated servers, and stuff like that -- especially for people like myself in Australia, where latency is a real problem. Can you comment on that at all?

Eric: I know that we’ve announced that PC will be using dedicated servers. They haven’t really said more about that, and I know more information will be coming down later about that. Additionally, I know that Microsoft announced that we will be using the cloud, but that’s about all the information that we’re really discussing.



AusGamers: The cloud is a really interesting thing, and I just want to ask this, from a technical standpoint, and for someone that’s working on multiplayer: Something like Forza’s driveatar system -- which is using the cloud to imbue AI with real player behaviour -- is that something that you guys saw and maybe got a bit excited about? Because you’ve actually got a lot of AI stuff going on in Ghosts, with the squads stuff. Is that something that you’d love to implement down the track?

Eric: There’s so many doors that opens. I can’t really say specifics about what we’ve done, or what we haven’t done, but personally, I think that there’s so much cool stuff that I can’t wait to see what comes, and hopefully, it’s stuff that we can bring in and show you as well.

AusGamers: Ok. So let’s get back to the core stuff, the multiplayer stuff. In the presentation you were talking about the perk Deadeye, which sounds like a really overpowered perk. And I know it costs a lot to use -- a five point perk -- but there are a lot of really good Call of Duty players out there that probably don’t even need half the perks, so if they’ve got that perk, is that not just going to kind of unbalance the map completely?

Eric: Well, like you said, they’re already really good, they’re probably able to take advantage of it, but the way that this perk works, is that the more kills you get, there’s a chance for more damage. It’s one of the Elite Perks, it does cost a lot, and what that’s doing is, the cost of that perk means that they might not be able to use the things that are giving them the advantage. Like maybe they’re not as fast, or they’re not as accurate, or they’re not hip-firing as well.

So it really is a huge balance game, and our job as developers has just always been to focus on… we get focus-testers, and we get pro-players in, and we play the heck out of the game. And you know, once we put it in the wild, we’ll see how it rolls, but we do our best to make sure it’s as balanced as possible.

AusGamers: Our guy that went over to the LA reveal event, came back mentioning that, on top of my comment about the maps becoming more complex, the game itself is actually becoming a bit less… it’s still pick-up-and-play, but now there’s, like, a deep level for players. And there’s always been a deep level -- don’t get me wrong -- but he mentioned that there’s a lot of stuff that would have fit better in Counter-Strike, that is now being pulled into Ghosts, and he says it works really well. Can you talk about, I guess maturing the game in that way?

Eric: Yeah, again it really comes down to that new: what’s new? What can we give players that they can attach to, and that they can explore, and they can learn. One of the things that I think Call of Duty, in general, does really well, is it has been about: you jump in, you can sit down as a new player, and you know, I can use my controls, and I can run, and I can get the base level gameplay.

And you’ll find that the players that keep coming back, are the ones that can find these things that are “Wow, this is really deep, and that’s really meaningful”, and that’s really what we’re just trying to offer, is more meaningful choices, more tactical growth for players, and something that they can focus on, and they can learn, and they can control it.

As a player, I like to feel that I am the master of the game. I am not a master, ever, but I feel like I can master things, and I can step forward. And there will be people that can totally get all the stuff and totally rock at it, but that’s the goal, is just to offer more.



AusGamers: Is there ever a conversation to just dump aim-assist?

Eric: [laughs] There’s always conversations like that. One of the things we’ve done is that quick-scoping is not in the game. And that was a conscious choice, it’s something that we’ve removed, and I think that will make a lot of people happy. I know that’s something that always gets brought up as a questionable thing that always comes back to aim-assist.

But yeah, there’s things we try throughout the whole development, and it really comes down to iterating and playtesting, and just getting feedback and keep going with that. So there’s always a question about things.

AusGamers: I’ve always wondered… from a franchise perspective, there’s IW, plus Raven stuff, then you’ve got the Treyarch stuff, but there never seems to be a huge amount of sharing between the two -- especially in terms of setups. Obviously the Treyarch guys did a fundamentally different multiplayer last year, and it broke the way people thought about Call of Duty. But you guys don’t ever seem to bring across any of that stuff yourselves. Maybe there’s some things there in familiarity, but is it just that there needs to be an identity between the two franchises and teams?

Eric: I don’t think it’s about the identity, I think it’s about the gameplay and the design philosophies. I think what’s cool about it, is that it offers new things, so it’s not the same thing every time. Additionally though, Infinity Ward, and Treyarch, they talk, they’re very helpful with each other, they share ideas. It’s not just siloed away in a basement -- although sometimes it feels that way in development. They really do. So for example, Infinity Ward saw Black Ops 2, they liked the level of customisation that you could do with the Pick Ten system, and that’s where the whole idea started for… look: it was great that you could customise so deep, you could drop your primary, and add another wildcard; let’s take that one step further, and that’s where the perk system came from.

So sometimes it’s not directly, like, “Oh, we have taken this explicit idea and put it exactly in the game”, sometimes it’s just a thought, like “Wow, this was really cool, and this worked really well; let’s build off of that”.

AusGamers: Finally, can you just tell me, I guess working so closely with the game: what’s your favourite aspect that you’ve brought across, and something that you hope that the fans really latch onto?

Eric: I’ve gotten this question a couple of times, and I think that it seems like such a minor thing, but there’s this thing called locational battle-chatter. It’s a big name, but it’s essentially, when you’re on a game, you’re not always with your buds, you’re not always with your friends, and you don’t know who’s on your team -- maybe they don’t have mics on; maybe they don’t have any sort of way to communicate. It’s always frustrating in a team mode, where there’s no callouts, there’s no sort of team help that’s happening.

So what I really like about this system, is that as an AI, or as a player runs around a corner, they’ll see an enemy, and the game itself will call out “They’re in the tower”, or “They’re around the corner”; “They’re down on the ground”. It’s really hard to explain, but when you’re playing, and you hear that for the first time, it’s like “Holy crap”, and you turn, and you see the guy up there. It’s really cool, and it really helps you.

I’m a huge Dom player -- Domination player; like 90 percent of my time is on Domination -- and I think that’s just really remarkable, just to hear that.

AusGamers: Well, thanks so much for your time today Eric. The game is looking awesome, so congratulations and I can’t wait to play it.

Eric: Yeah, thanks for coming out.

AusGamers: Cheers. Thanks.
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