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Called Back to Duty: Activision on Iterating on Success
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Called Back to Duty: Activision on Iterating on Success

November 10, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

You said it was nine months dev time for COD3. How did you use the extra year for this title? How did you spread your time?

NH: I think it's been about iteration. This has been a game where we can get things wrong and then figure out how to get them right. I wasn't around with the company for Call of Duty 3, but I've heard, for instance, the quick actions during melee fights is something the team wished they had been able to spend a little bit more time on.

In this game, for instance, the dogs in multiplayer: that took many iterations to get right, to feel right. Early on it was terrible. It was very hard to make the dogs pathfind correctly or feel brutal and vicious. Some people just didn't like the idea, but it takes a good designer and a good programmer sitting in a room together iterating to make a great game.

We have a fun little bonus level that unlocks at the end of the game, that I can't say any more about. But again, that was the result of a designer and a programmer sitting down iterating and artists contributing until the idea took hold. The entire team was able to contribute on it.

That, to me, is the hallmark of good game development, and when you have a shortened cycle you never have that luxury.

Over the past 12 months COD4's multiplayer has been gigantically popular. You're introducing things like the dogs and vehicles into a finely tuned framework. How have avoided upsetting the balance?

NH: We've got the multiplayer team helmed by David Vonderhaar, who's our online creative director. They are a cutthroat group of guys that spend every waking hour playing multiplayer.

Every balance issue is put in, taken out, and the game is iterated on. We'd sometimes see six or seven builds in a single day when it came to multiplayer as that team would iterate. And then we brought in lots of focus testing and just tried to see what would feel right.

Tanks are another great example. When we first built the tanks, they weren't controlling right, and then they were too powerful, and then they were too weak. And then the team came up with the system of putting the armor together, and it balanced itself.

It all comes down to iteration. I think what's interesting about Call of Duty: World at War is the addition of the war game type and Capture the Flag. Those are much more strategic and much more slower paced than Team Deathmatch, and so the balance for them has also been very important.

What do you think your game is going to be remembered for in six months' time?

NH: Six months' time from now? I think it's going to be two things. From the single player/cooperative side it's going to be the game that took war to a level of realism that was exciting and yet a little bit disturbing. If we get that kind of reaction, I think that's a really good thing.

I think also it's really going to be showing people the way cooperative play is done. Co-op needs to be about a team working together, not special game modes, not special scripting. It's about a shared experience, and I think we're really going to deliver on that.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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