Greg Reisdorf Talks Advanced Warfare’s Mulltiplayer Evolution
Ben Sheene / Nov 11th, 2014 No Comments
Throughout the years, Call of Duty multiplayer has largely remained the same. A few minor enhancements have helped keep things fresh, but the core has been unchanged. However, the recently released Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare brought with it major changes that could impact the future of multiplayer shooters.
At a recent review event, Gaming Illustrated’s Ben Sheene had a chance to chat with Greg Reisdorf, the lead multiplayer designer for Advance Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games, about the game’s fresh take on multiplayer.
Ben Sheene (Gaming Illustrated): My first question is about the exosuit. It’s the biggest change to Call of Duty multiplayer since it’s been out. How long did it take you guys to integrate that into multiplayer, make it balanced and fun, and not confusing?
Greg Reisdorf: It took some time to really hone in on all of the aspects of it and really integrate it into a nice complete package. Right away, after Modern Warfare 3, we started doing prototypes. Within probably a month or two, we had a working version of boost jump. It was very different at the time, and the heights and the distances, and really how it worked, all that kind of stuff was very different. We took it because we realized that there was something there that was interesting and very fun to do and fun to play with.
One of those elements that we looked at within the game that we were like, “Oh, what can we expand on?” was movement. Movement was one of those big factors, and really looking at that, and taking boost jump and just really extrapolating it out and looking at all the other things that we could do with it.
When you start putting the fiction of the exoskeleton around that and it’s like, OK, well now you can do all these things. What else does that do? It’s like, oh, it leads us to dodge; it leads us to being able to move laterally and in the air move laterally and just combining all those. A lot of it was just iteration on top of boost jump and really just pulling it out and honing it in for the last three years.
Gaming Illustrated: How did you sort of tighten up how long you can boost compared to the campaign? What was the difference between making it work for multiplayer and making it work for single player?
Greg Reisdorf: It took a lot of play testing and iteration. When you get it in there, and you start playing with it, at first everybody plays with it, everything’s great, and it’s working exactly as you’re thinking. Then the next day, everybody plays it and somebody finds an exploit, and then all of a sudden, everyone’s using it, right?
It’s constantly just really looking at the key and focusing on the goal of what we wanted to do, which was increase that movement, increase that tactical combat — the combat that’s lasting longer than two seconds — and really being able to make second-to-second decisions while you’re in a gunfight. That’s really where a lot of those timings and the nuances of how long it takes for the gun to come up or how long it takes for you to recover from a boost slam — those types of elements are what we use to really limit those kind of exploits, rather than just putting a hard limiter and saying, “You can only boost three times,” we use more gameplay nuances.
Gaming Illustrated: My question is how broken was boost jumping when you first started implementing it? Could people just do crazy things, and you didn’t know how to predict it?
Greg Reisdorf: Yes, I think initially we had it off of just a single button. It was a single button press, and you would just boost into the air. Through various iterations and lots of people just trying to really get the most out of it — being able just to want to normally jump, to get over obstacles and to maneuver without people seeing you on the mini-map — those types of things were some of the things that really kind of honed us in. Not having a limited dodge or being able to dodge whenever you want, as much as you want, for as long as you want.
It’s pretty crazy when people are just going all over the place, and at some point it just becomes not fun. You’re just like, “OK, well, let’s bring that in a little bit. Let’s find that nugget of awesome that we’re looking for.”
Gaming Illustrated: Do you think multiplayer had an influence on how the exosuit was used in the single player? Do you think maybe what you guys were doing with multiplayer had an influence on how the powers might be used and what they were doing in levels?
Greg Reisdorf: Certainly. I mean, it goes both ways. There’s a lot of stuff that they’re doing in single player, and we’re all working on the game at the same time, trying to move forward and make something that’s the best game. Everybody’s playing every part of the game, so we had tons of people in multiplayer matches from the single player team and some people on the multiplayer team playing single player. It’s a lot of collaborative effort and really just figuring out what works best for the game and what’s going to be the most interesting thing for the players, and what’s going to be the most fun.
Gaming Illustrated: Did you start out with more or fewer exoabilities and figure out what works best, or do you think you might add any later on?
Greg Reisdorf: There’s a lot of things, and a lot of it’s been more around where do they fit best. Do these things fit better as an exoability or do they fit better as a perk? There’s lots of things that can kind of cross-pollinate between the two and it’s really about finding what’s balanced, like the overpowered perks, various things like that that may seem overpowered — like moving them into a battery-limited exoability helps to maintain balance. What may be something that may not work as an exoability, either moving that onto just the sticks — for a while dodge was an exoability — and moving that into a just the controls. Really moving forward with that was just more iteration and playing with the balance there.
Gaming Illustrated: Obviously height is a big, important factor. In previous Call of Duty games, you got height by running up some stairs or climbing a ladder, and you shot from a window or something like that. Now you can jump over entire buildings in a matter of seconds. How did you control how high the player can go? Sometimes you’ll hit a part of the map where it looks like you can jump, but it says that you’re out of bounds. I know that’s probably a hard thing to always communicate in a small multiplayer map.
Greg Reisdorf: I think initially we went off the walls with it a little bit of like, “Oh, you’re going to be able to jump everywhere and do everything.” Ultimately, that wasn’t accomplishing our goal. The goal of the maps is to encourage combat; it’s to get people into combat and to really just provide the fun for players.
A lot of what we did is we just constantly kept going back to those goals and said, “OK well, we need to get the player into combat. How can we use the verticality that boost adds to really make that combat more interesting and those engagements have a tactical essence to them, and how the player can move through those spaces?” It was another tool in our map-design kit that we could apply to the actual goals of the map.
Gaming Illustrated: With the exoabilities, I feel a lot more free in what I can do. It’s not that I don’t feel hindered, but I feel like I have more possibilities than just running and shooting people. Do you think, with the way mobility and speed works, it’ll appeal to people who are a bit hesitant about like Call of Duty 4?
Greg Reisdorf: I certainly hope so. I don’t think it’s taking away from anything. It’s another layer. It’s something else to learn, a new way to challenge players. Even old players who’ve played [Call of Duty] for a very long time, coming in want to learn something new. There’s something there for them.
For the new players, it does offer more ways to go about playing the game, especially with the new modes like Uplink. Being able to use the mobility to do something that’s really moving the objective forward as opposed to really relying on gun skill. The game is still very much about gun skill, but there’s other things that you can now do within the game to provide a little more gameplay variety.
Gaming Illustrated: Speaking of variety, I know that it’s easy to get stuck with a gun that you’re really comfortable with. You sort of get a build around that gun. I find myself now thinking a lot more about traversal and how I’m going to make a build, not just with the gun but with the exosuit, what I’m going to use for Capture the Flag or Uplink. Do you think you’re still going to have people who kind of shy away from the exoabilities or maybe just focus primarily on that,?
Greg Reisdorf: I think it’s all up to the player and how they want to play. If you want to take all exolauncher and no exoabilities, or if you want to take all exoabilities, or if you want to take neither, you’re still going to have a viable option to go play the game and to go compete in that arena.
That’s one of the things that I like about the game the most — the amount of builds that I can have to go and say, “Oh, I’m going to play Uplink right now,” “Oh, sweet, I’m going to go take my Ultra Run and Gun class and just go grab the ball,” or, “I’m going to defend this time, and I’m going to take cloak, and I’m going to take my sniper class and go patrol an area and lock it down.”
Gaming Illustrated: How far along did it take for loot to become a factor in multiplayer?
Greg Reisdorf: Well, supply drops were very early. They were one of the very first things that were there, even before boost. We knew right away that looking at the title cards and a lot of the ability to personalize your character from previous games, we wanted to just really blow that out and make sure that we provided functional rewards for the player, things that you could take in the game and really do something with and really just go to your play style, along with all the customization.
That goes back to the core tenets of the game that we had right away, which was you play your way and all about customization. It was mainly about figuring out how far we wanted to go and what changed what, what properties were changing, what were the looks.
Gaming Illustrated: So, Nov. 4 comes around, what are you guys going to be focusing on for like that first week? The first couple months? What’s in store for multiplayer going forward?
Greg Reisdorf: We’re going to be watching. There’s going to be a lot of watching, a lot of data management, a lot of just playing games and playing constantly. I’m very excited to just get in there and actually play at home, sit down on my couch, turn on my system, and just go and just start having fun.
Gaming Illustrated: What’s your favorite build right now that you’ve used?
Greg Reisdorf: I think probably the one I’ve had the most fun with at the moment is the SAC3 Blood and Glory, which are bloods on the left, glory on the right. Then, running with the overclock, hover, and lightweight gungho for the fireball sprinting, and then scavenger.
I’m feeling out hover as it’s going to be a very advanced exoability. If you can use it, you’re going to do well. If you’re not used to using it, you’re just going to be a giant target.
Gaming Illustrated: So, it’s a good pro-tip to copy your build.
Greg Reisdorf: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a good pro-tip, but it’s certainly fun.
Gaming Illustrated: Thanks for talking.
tags: activision , call of duty , Call of Duty Advanced Warfare , interview , Sledgehammer Games