WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Robert Bowling, and I'm the community manager for Modern Warfare 2 at Infinity Ward.
WP: Tell us a little bit about the genesis of Modern Warfare 2. What makes it more than just a sequel?
RB: We're adding things that change the multiplayer just as much as perks did in the original game, such as customizable killstreaks; call signs to call out players and make them famous for the things they do; and death streaks, which give handicaps to players who need it. It's all about going back to these tent poles of what the focus of our multiplayer. It's meant to be fun. It's meant to have a lot of variety and be community-focused, make community members famous for what they do, and being extremely accessible to everybody.
WP: How do you balance accessibility with the hardcore competitiveness? If you've got a game that's accessible and rewards players or gives players a boost who aren't doing as well, that's great for the casual players, but doesn't that make the game less competitive?
RB: It makes the game more accessible. Matchmaking is matching you with players that are at your skill level. If you're playing with people at your skill level and you're all competitive gamers, I assume you're fairly good so nobody in that match is getting death streaks. The good thing about death streaks is that they're for those players who need the help, and they're being matched and playing with other players who probably need that help. It's more of conditioning them into better players so that there's a larger competitive community that's hardcore.
WP: By the same token, if I understand it correctly, it can also act as a handicap. If I'm playing with a friend who's never played before and isn't very good, we can use death streaks and still have a chance against another team instead of constantly losing.
RB: Exactly. There's a lot of variety of game types and how you can play those game types. The hardcore guys and the competitive guys are typically catering toward the hardcore playlist whereas the guys who don't play a lot or are new to the game or dropping into team deathmatch, just the standard public matches.
WP: Looking at some of the customization options, there are a lot of ways to customize your character. What are you doing to really focus those customization options to the clans and teams in the community?
RB: The call signs are all about branding to your identity so you have your clan tag, which is pretty simple. Then you can customize your title and your emblem based on your play style or what you've unlocked or what you've been doing. You'll get titles and emblems for a lot of things that you do. You'll get the standard ones, so if you rank up, you'll get a title for that rank, but you'll also get them for your play style. "I'm doing this all the time now, so I'm being rewarded for that." It really allows clan players and people who play in a group to set a theme or tone for who they are. When they drop into a lobby and people are going through, they can see, "These guys have all the titles unlocked from being marksmen in all these weapons." Or they have titles that you only unlock once you hit certain prestiges, so it's really a way to publicly have your bragging rights out there on your sleeve and show people that you're hardcore and what you've done.
WP: Is this all going to be in-game, or is any of it going to tie into a community Web site? For example, Activision has the Guitar Hero Web sites, where your scores in-game are brought out to the Web, where you can show your friends on the forums and such. Are you going to have any sort of forum integration for the game's community features?
RB: We're definitely going to have an awesome community site. Right now, we're not doing any game-to-Web integration stuff just yet. That's something we're going to look at post-launch at what we can do, but we're going to incorporate a lot of core features from the game into the Web site. You're going to have your call sign on the Web site. You're part of the community, you have your call sign, you customize it, and then we're going to have titles online that you can unlock that are exclusive to the Web site. Say you provided feedback via Twitter that made it into the game, and we unlock this title for you that shows that. You have the stuff you brag about in-game that you unlocked in-game, and then you have this exclusive stuff you've done online and in the community that you can brag about online in the community.
WP: Nice. So there's going to be some back-and-forth between the game site and the community site?
RB: Yeah. We definitely want to reward those people who are active. They're playing all the time, but they're also active in the community, giving us feedback, being part of the online presence.
WP: More specifically about the game itself, you're showing off three maps today. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into the design of each of those three maps and why you guys chose to highlight those specific maps today?
RB: We have High Rise, which takes place on top of an office building. You can either fight in the two adjacent office buildings or the rooftop of a lower one. That one's just all about fast gameplay; it was designed to be a unique location. That's what multiplayer as a hole is all about: constantly seeing new locations, locations you probably wouldn't expect to see in other games, and just places that are fun to fight in. Anytime you're in an office building, people think about how awesome it would be to have a firefight there. It's such a dynamic location. When you're fighting the adversary, you have papers flying, copiers are exploding, there are sparks everywhere and glass is breaking. There is all this stuff that you can just do.
You have Afghan — that's a desert map. There's a crashed AC-130 in the center. You can fight inside and out. It's a rocky terrain, it has a great vista. That one is all about being a beautiful-looking map. It has great flanking paths in it.
The third one you guys are playing on is The Favela. You're down in Rio, it's a colorful map. It's an urban environment, you have a uphill, a downhill slant. That one's all about vertical combat. You have guys firing from the rooftops; there are multiple places where you can get an advantage of higher ground so you're fighting in the rooftops. Guys are running through the shantytowns. That one's just all about an environment that has unique advantages to it.
WP: You said the magic word there: color. So many war and combat games seem to be muted with tones of grays and browns. It's very bright and vibrant in Modern Warfare 2, especially in The Favela map. It's not something that you'd expect to see in an FPS. What was the inspiration to bring some of that vivid color to the game?
RB: The locations that we could go to. In this game, you play as part of Task Force 141. They're special ops guys, they're covert guys. They don't fight the traditional warfare, and right now, all our wars take place in deserts, but we get to go to locations that are fun and exciting and they're locations you don't expect to see. The Favela was one of those which just allowed us to really have fun with that. I mean, you're down in Brazil, it's colorful. The enemies you're fighting against, they have bright-colored clothing and they're civilians. They're militia that aren't trained military so they're not in their normal military attire. It goes into the variety, and the story really allows us to take advantage of that because they're going all over the world and we're seeing stuff. At one point, you're in a thick blizzard, and it's all white and snowy. In another point, you're in sunny Rio, and everything looks different. The enemies that you're fighting are different. The weapons that you're using are different. The locations are completely random.
WP: Are we going to see any updates or remakes of classic Call of Duty 2 or Modern Warfare maps included in the multiplayer for Modern Warfare 2?
RB: I would love to see some awesome favorite maps come back and be revamped and reduxed.
WP: Without giving a yes or no to that question, which you evaded quite well, what are your top three favorite maps from past games in the series?
RB: My top three favorite maps? In Call of Duty 2, I loved Brecourt for sniping. Now that we have ghillie suits, that would just be awesome. I love Crash from Call of Duty 4; that's a staple map, in my opinion. I love maps like Overgrown and Crash, which are just open maps. So I think there are design elements to take from all of those that would work really well in Modern Warfare 2.
WP: Finally, going back around to the game packaging, what was it that made you guys say, "We need to include these night vision goggles in the Prestige edition?" So many special editions of games have a cheap little trinket or maybe a new skin DLC, and you guys went a little bit above and beyond the call of duty — no pun intended. How did that go over in the office when it was first suggested?
RB: It went over great. I mean, it's f**king awesome. I'm a huge collector's edition whore, so if I'm remotely interested in the game, I'm buying the collector's edition version. I love it. I love all that stuff. But you know, sometimes you're disappointed, and I wanted something that was really cool for our fans, that guys like me could just really get into. A lot of the stuff is really cool to display, but there's not much to it other than that. We wanted something that could be functional, that could be used and had fun with, but it was also cool to just put on your desk and display it.
That's why we have both sides. We have the night vision goggles, which are functional, and then we have a custom display stand, which are individually numbered, and it's just cool to put in your office. We have the added stuff for the people who want something digital. Some of the games that we're throwing in are the original Call of Duty. You have the collector's art book, which has all the art and is cool because you get the behind-the-scenes look. We also have the hard case, the steel book, which has custom art in it, and that's very collectible. I like it because it touches on all that stuff. It's functional, it's fun, you can use it, you can display it, and then you also have the extra bonus items.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?RB: Come November, jump on Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer, and really make it the game that you want it to be. We've added in so much stuff that allows you to really customize it to your play style. I'd recommend you to have a custom loadout that is per game type because there is so much variety and so many different ways to play the game, really explore that. Play objective game types, play defensive with a riot shield and a blast shield and with a buddy, and go run and gun with Capture the Flag, focused on speed, quickness and your killstreaks, that are you user-controlled.
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