Earlier this year it was announced that Sledgehammer had joined with Infinity Ward to work on the next Call of Duty game which we now know is Modern Warfare 3. Glen Schofield, the co-founder of the studio, made an appearance at the Microsoft E3 presser showing off the game with Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling.
Last year I reached out to Glen Schofield, head of the newly opened Activision subsidiary Sledgehammer Games, and asked him some questions about his past in the gaming industry, creating Dead Space, leaving EA and what Sledgehammer was looking forward to in the future. This two-part interview can be found over at our sister site, Colony of Gamers. The first part can be seen here and the second part here.
Once E3 was done I figured I'd contact Glen to see if maybe he'd like to answer some questions revolving around both Sledgehammer and Modern Warfare 3. You'll find plenty of co-op information along with information about the development process and even some tidbits about the single-player campaign. Co-Optimus is very happy to get this opportunity and many of these answers may be exclusive information Glen is letting us know first. With that out of the way, let's get to the questions:
Co-Optimus: Has the split duty of Sledgehammer and Infinity Ward working together along with the geographic distance between the Bay area (where you are) and Los Angeles (where IW is located) affected development on the game?
Glen: Not one bit. One of the keys to success in developing a game is communication. We knew the challenges that awaited us prior to diving into the project, so naturally we constructed a very strong line of communication right from the start. The constant advancements in technology allow us to efficiently stay connected across all mediums of game development. And its just a one hour flight down there. Both teams are constantly flying back and forth and helping each other out. We have two experienced development teams working on this game with top notch, proven talent. I think we’ve prepared quite well.
Co-Optimus: What exactly is Sledgehammer's role in Modern Warfare 3's development? Were you given any kind of creative freedom with the game, perhaps introducing some of the studio's DNA into the game?
Glen: We are an equal partner, we are not a team that came in to support anyone. We have our own ideas, processes, strengths and a commitment to quality. IW is the creators of the Modern Warfare games and we have a great respect for them and their legacy. But we also come in with a good track record and a world class team and they respect that. We listen to each other and push one another. The dynamic has worked extremely well as we've each learned things from one another. When you have two talented groups like this working together you can either have egos that hurt the process or you can put your egos aside , work together and make something great. That's the path that we took together.
Co-Optimus: How easy was it for Sledgehammer to come into a situation like Infinity Ward was in, rev yourselves up to whatever Modern Warfare 3 was at that point and bring your team’s expertise to the game and possibly changing direction for the game and the overall series?
Glen: These opportunities are what developers dream about. To be thrown into the biggest franchise in the history of video games was an honor, we knew we had to step up and it wasn’t going to be easy. I mean think about it, a brand new studio whose first game is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. That’s crazy good fortune. There’ve been quite a few challenges we’ve faced like designing the studio, hiring, building the infrastructure, learning a new company, a new engine, then designing and building a game. But these challenges have provided this team with valuable experiences. We’re happy to bring some of the knowledge and practices of developing an award winning game to this specific franchise. Our core guys here are tremendous and extremely talented and it’s pretty evident in the results so far.
Co-Optimus: Obviously we are in a world where multi-team games are being developed. Games like BioShock 2 with four different developers (in different countries) attached to it obviously turned out well from a critical and sales standpoint. It is highly doubtful that the knowledge Modern Warfare 3 is a two developer effort will keep a consumer from picking the game up, but does that possibility ever enter your mind?
Glen: No not at all. Again, it really is about the game and not who’s working on what and who did this and that. Ultimately in the end, both teams just want to put out a Call of Duty product that takes the franchise further. We’re focused on making sure the experience is thoroughly enjoyable and that it meets the fans and our high expectations.
Co-Optimus: You and some of your staff came over from working on Dead Space for Visceral and EA. Is there any wish or push to bring interesting design stuff from that game into Modern Warfare 3 in order to make Call of Duty feel different and more interesting than the crutch of “great set pieces, but you’re going from point to point in an almost rails-like, going through the motions, fashion” that many journalists and players give the series?
Glen: We didn't push anything onto the franchise that didn't belong there or feel right. But we do have our own style, things we're known for like huge set pieces, great special effects, pacing, lighting and of course audio and story, things for which MW was known for as well so we fit right in. Obviously there are things we've influenced just by having different points of view or looking at things a little differently. The two teams have worked together in innovating and adding new features. The things we bring from past products are our learnings, our passion for games and trying to make something of extreme quality. You won't be seeing any aliens in this game, that I assure you.
Co-Optimus: Obviously it was announced before you joined with Infinity Ward on this game that Sledgehammer was working on an “Action/Adventure” Call of Duty game (as confirmed in our previous discussion early last year on sister site Colony of gamers). One would guess Modern Warfare 3 is not the game you were working on, but have you been able to bring over some of the stuff you were working on with that Call of Duty related game or was that put on the back burner with the hope Sledgehammer can (or will) go back to it once Modern Warfare 3 is complete?
Glen: A lot of rumors have surfaced in regards to the Action/Adventure game we were working on. At this point, we’re not sure what Activision has planned for that specific IP. It was coming along nicely and was pretty cool but I'm really enjoying this game and in no hurry to rush back to that. We’ve got so much energy and attention being poured into MW3 right now that, to be honest, we aren’t really thinking about that project right now. We’re just extremely excited to put forth the research and energy into this game. It demands our undivided attention
Co-Optimus: Are there any celebrities confirmed outside of Christopher Meloni (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) for the voice cast so far?
Glen: Christopher who? just kidding, but I doubt we confirmed him. We've got a great cast but I will be shot if I mentioned anything about it.
Co-Optimus: Do we know at this point who is composing the score since the series has seen higher profile composers recently?
Glen: Auto forward to the PR department. (The score and audio will make you weep its so good though!)
Co-Optimus: Is there any plan for PlayStation Move or Xbox 360 Kinect support in the game? If not is it something you would be interested in adding to whatever game you’re working on next?
Glen: No plan right now but we'd never rule anything out, except 30fps.
Co-Optimus: How much of the game had been plotted out before Sledgehammer came onto the project last summer after the Infinity Ward situation had cleared?
Glen: None that I know of. Infinity Ward approached us and said they had some thoughts and by the time we sat down to engage as a co-development group we had some ideas as well. We basically sat down together and created the story and the vision and then we went to planning it. We were there right from the start.
Single Player Campaign
Co-Optimus: Tell us a bit about the single-player campaign. It obviously starts off right after the shocking events at the end of Modern Warfare 2. It also looks like the Russians have moved in and taken over New York City. Task Force 141 was last seen hopping onto a plane to parts unknown. We obviously know that Delta Force (a new group) is present in the game, but is Task Force 141 as well?
Glen: A lot of questions will be answered in MW3. If you are a fan of the other games your investment in these characters will surely be paid off. And even if you haven't played the others, this game features such a strong action story that its also great as a first time player. Either way we know you'll be satisfied by the amount of time and care that went into creating MW3's story and characters. There is a huge emphasis from all of us to make a great game with a great story.
Co-Optimus: What kind of locations are we looking at outside of New York City in the game? Any chance the Russians are going after the West Coast of our country?
Glen: This is a world event. You'll be in the US, all over Europe, India, Africa and even Russia. The scale, story and settings are epic. And we've really captured the look and feel of each and every country we visit. I have to leave some questions not fully answered but I applaud your determination.
Co-Optimus: Is there any idea how long the single-player campaign is going to be at this point since that is usually a contentious subject for people that play Call of Duty?
Glen: That's always hard to tell and judge. What's six hours for one person may be 12 for another. So I could tell you eight hours then you pick it up and bang thru it in 6 1/2 and I look like I was padding it. The truth is that we set out to make a longer campaign, but how much longer is really up to each and every person. And we're still working on the game. Until the game is absolutely locked down we don't have a good idea just yet. I can honestly say we will not pad or reduce the game based on anything else but great gameplay and telling the story we want to tell. That's what really dictates the length of the game.
Co-Optimus: Any word on what type of vehicles we might be driving or shooting from? Obviously from the E3 demo at the Microsoft presser we saw the underwater vehicle which looked pretty cool. Any other kind of cool ones?
Glen: I can only discuss features and mechanics that we've shown in our demos. Obviously we also have that crazy zodiac ride thru sinking ships and missiles raining down on you. When you play the game I know people will find that we have jammed so much action, diversity and new features into this game. I think that's a big advantage when you have two powerhouse teams working together on a project.
Co-Optimus: Any info on some new weapon types we might see in the single-player campaign? Will a crossbow-like weapon be available like there was in the last Call of Duty game, Black Ops?
Glen: We've talked about the duel scope and the XM25 quite a bit as well as the Nine Bang (Delta's version of the flashbang). We have many others but we're also listening to the fans and bringing back old favorites and tweaking others. Yes there will be new weapons but the game is still in production so I'm reluctant to say too much. There are actually two others that I freakin love that I'll have to tell you later.
Co-Optkmus: Obviously the CoD series multiplayer mode is on top of the world right now. Is your goal to have the co-op modes occupy the same place in gamers' minds?
Glen: It would be nice to think we can capture that same attention for all of our modes whether it is SP, MP, or Co-op, but in reality, the most vocal fans that help extend the shelf life of these games are ultimately those that play MP for the majority of the time. However, we pride ourselves on replay value. This year we feel with the amount of energy and cool things being poured just into Co-op alone, this mode will surely gain a reputation as having some fantastic replay value. I also believe there will be a lot of competing back and forth with the leaderboards and people trying to get all the upgrades and emblems, etc that we've packed into this mode.
Co-Optimus: Are there any co-op specific Achievements/Trophies?
Glen: Yes there are but we can’t dive into all the details just yet but there are definitely some fun surprises that come with playing Co-op. People will really enjoy the ‘rewards’! You can upgrade your weapons, rank up, get cash to buy new weapons and perks including more troops to help support you.
Co-Optimus: Do you think having co-op in your game is a necessity today in gaming? Has the co-op revolution surprised you?
Glen: The bar is constantly changing in terms of what games have to offer. For the Call of Duty franchise you’ll notice that, starting with the first, each game in the series has its own personality and features. With each game, we try to top the previous whether that’s driven through gameplay mechanics, graphical upgrades, weapons, story, etc. and usually these decisions are based on community feedback. With the most recent Call of Duty games, Co-op proved to be gaining a lot of popularity. So with MW3, we knew it was necessary to put a lot of energy and focus into developing the best Co-op experience to date. We really want to bring the fans something new, fun and competitive but feels like it fits in the MW universe. Come November 8th, we’re confident our fans will absolutely love what Co-op has to offer.
Co-Optimus: If you could play MW3 Spec Ops with anybody, who would be your co-op partner?
Glen: How about I mention who wouldn’t be my co-op partner. The obvious answer to that is Michael Condrey. That guy still tries to use his PS controller to turn on his Xbox. Do you think I want him on my team? No thanks…
Spec Ops 2.0/Survival Mode
Co-Optimus: In Modern Warfare 2 the Spec Ops section felt like moments cherry picked from the single player campaign and made into co-op, is the plan to do the same thing in Modern Warfare 3?
Glen: In most cases yes, but the gameplay is usually much different. In other words we've changed the way you play through the original maps, your location in the map and how you view the level. In some cases you're flying in a level which you didn't do in Campaign. The fun factor and different experiences you get with Spec Ops in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is unbelievable.
Co-Optimus: Could you talk a bit about Survival Mode (another co-op gameplay type) and what it entails?
Glen: It’s a great new addition to the Mission Mode in Spec Ops. You can play by yourself, split screen or online with another person. It’s a really fun and addictive mode where you fight waves of increasingly difficult enemies. One wave could deliver dogs looking to attack you with explosives attached to them while the next wave may include those same dogs surrounded by enemies with upgraded armor. During the process, you're also upgrading and buying new weapons or even more troops to help you out. It has a ranking system, currency and upgrades. It really is awesome. Currently our studio ‘individual’ record is Wave 24 set by our Community Manager Guy Beahm. He simply describes the waves at the latter stages as: “Super Intense. They don’t mess around” .
Co-Optimus: Are the Spec Ops 2.0 and Survivor Mode limited to two players or has that increased over the last Spec Ops?
Glen: It’s for one to two players. Our reasoning here is that with such a major upgrade to Spec Ops it’s no longer a little mode we've dropped into the game. It feels like the other games were split in half with Campaign and Multiplayer. Now with all we've added the game feels like its three games in one and something for everyone. We have Campaign for single player experience, Spec Ops for two people playing co-operatively and all of MP that caters to all kinds of players ranging from casual to hardcore competitive. Its about the gameplay and at the end of the day two people working together, to us, in our game was more fun.
Co-Optimus: How do you feel Spec Ops 2.0 and especially Survivor Mode will stand out in a field populated by Horde/Firefight/Survival variants?
Glen: Spec Ops was wildly popular on MW2. I think it even took the team by surprise. With the upgrades and the addition of a new mode it will be even more popular. These modes like the rest of the game will be running at 60FPS so the smooth controls already help it stand out. Many of the Survival Mode maps will be Multiplayer maps as well which some people will use to train and get used to in Spec Ops and then be able to jump into MP feeling like that have a better chance knowing the level. I believe with all the upgrades, the leaderboards, two major modes, smooth controls and beautiful graphics our fans will really enjoy it.
Co-Optimus: There anything else you’d like to talk about in relation to either Sledgehammer or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 that hasn’t been covered?
Glen: Thanks for these great questions, once again I enjoyed answering them with you. Sledgehammer Games turned 2 years old on July 21. We now have a full team of extremely talented and passionate developers (gamemakers) who consider Sledgehammer their home. We know how lucky we are to be creating games for a living and never take that for granted. Sledgehammer Games and Infinity ward are all pouring our hearts and souls into making the best Modern Warfare game ever. We're fans ourselves and are truly committed to making this game great. Don't forget to mark November 8th on your calendar!
We would also like to offer a thank you to Glen for allowing us to ask a bunch of questions about this huge game coming out in November. We would also like to thank him for the pictures he sent.