Above: The cafeteria is bright and cheerful, for an end-of-the-world kind of game studio.
Image Credit: Sledgehammer Games
GamesBeat: It has to be interesting, though. You’re making a game that has to be balanced. Fifty years from now, if there’s a weapon that just destroys everybody, what’s the fun of that in a game?
Schofield: You have to be able to find a counter to it. They have a way to stop it or they have one themselves. We have spent a boatload of time on that exact subject. We’ve looked at countless movies that feel like they’re real, in the future, like A.I. But then they have this one element that takes you out of it. “I don’t believe in those robots. That’s science fiction.” District 9 looks so real, so believable, but it has an alien ship. Or even Minority Report – do you really believe those people are reading the future? They all have this one element. What we try to do is not have that element. We say sometimes, “We’re not science fiction. We’re science.” There’s so much science in this game.
Now, I’m not sure we can keep it up in other games. If you look back on the last 50 years, the biggest change is arguably the PC. That came in the middle of those 50 years and changed the world. I’m carrying a phone that’s also my flashlight and a GPS and everything else. There’s probably going to be some other transformational technology that will happen within 50 or 60 years. We avoided that on this one because we wanted people to believe this world.
Condrey: The funny thing is, some of the research we’re seeing today is unbelievable. Some ideas that we’ve seen out there –
Schofield: We knew people we wouldn’t believe it, so we didn’t put it in.
Condrey: But the things that are in the game—one of the skepticisms people say now, before the game’s out, they see a bit of something in a trailer and say, “That’s fantasy. That’ll never happen.” To your readers, we say, “Everything you see in the game, we can point you to the science, to the research or in some cases to the actual thing that is working today.”
Schofield: The smart grenades, stuff like that, it’s all stuff we’ve seen or heard. Even cloaking. We had a guy from DARPA look at us and say, “I’ve seen a cloaked tank.”
Condrey: You know the smart grenade, the one that targets? There was a YouTube that came out last week from some branch of the military. It’s a .50 caliber bullet that self-corrects in flight. That’s interesting. Lemme see. Maybe it moves a couple of inches to correct for the wind? No, this thing literally took a hard left turn in mid-flight, a sniper’s .50-cal traveling 5,000 feet. It took a 30-degree turn to its target. That’s incredible. You say that to people today, it sounds crazy, right?
Schofield: You brought up lethality. There’s a couple of things we stayed away from. One, there’s a drone that can target—say a sniper takes a shot at you. He will be targeted and dead by the time the bullet hits you. The drone automatically knows where he is and will shoot back. That’s too lethal.
We also found a weapon that shoots, what was it, a million rounds a minute? It was insane. Nothing can live through that. But it was cool.
Condrey: There’s a thing we put on our blog today about people printing 3D exos at home, to restore your ability to walk. Imagine a scenario in 40 years — it’s more like 10 years — where paraplegics are printing exos at home to restore their ability to move. That is nuts. And it’s science.
Schofield: They’re making all kinds of military stuff. A guy takes a piece of cloth about this big. He puts it on his hand like this. Takes a penny, puts it on his hand. He busts out a blowtorch and melts the penny on his hand, on that piece of material. We sat there stunned. Why doesn’t everyone have that? Well, they can’t make bigger pieces than that now. But the breakthrough with that, everyone in the tank, every fireman, every cop, whoever has to deal with things like that—He didn’t feel any heat. It was just crazy.
Condrey: Another one you found was around liquid armor. Instead of these bulky ceramic plates, they’re working on a technology with this thin liquid armor that immediately turns solid on impact. A bullet hits it, and it goes from thin and lightweight to something hard that will stop a bullet.
Schofield: Somehow the molecules just harden as soon as it’s hit. That one feels like science fiction even to me.
Above: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Image Credit: Destructoid
GamesBeat: Can you explain why it takes so many people, 225 people, to make a game the way you do?
Schofield: I remember one thing, way at the beginning, when we were starting to put the team together. We’re going through figuring out how many people we need. We bring in a VFX lead, and she says, “I need 18 people.” You can fit so much on, the amount of detail you can get—Just the eyeball. The inside of the mouth. The teeth, the ears. All that detail. What is the air like? And that’s just the characters. Everything is so detailed now, and you still need it to run at 60 frames per second.
Condrey: Glen and I have been on products together and separate where you have a vision, but you don’t have the resources. Maybe it’s the people or the time or the money, but you don’t have enough to complete the vision. Activision has taken the position, because it’s heard from the fans loud and clear, that people love this franchise, but they demand greatness. And so with these next-gen production values, the quality of the assets, the scale and scope of a game that can deliver the equivalent of four Hollywood movies in its campaign, plus hundreds of hours of multiplayer, plus co-op, plus all the content after we release—It takes an army of the industry’s best to create that content.
Could you create a first-person shooter with 30 people? Sure. It might look like Minecraft or Rust. Those are cool, fun games. But you can’t reach these production values anymore, the kind that the next generation can deliver.
I’m a gamer through and through. I love great games. I have no problem talking about other great games I love. Dead Space, single-player only. There are great co-op only games. There are more multiplayer-only games. We have to deliver all three of those, on a Call of Duty scale, every time one of these comes out. That content—holy crap, we’ve built a lot of stuff.
Schofield: Just on the per-scene level. I remember with the opening of Dead Space, what I really wanted was something big. We just couldn’t deliver. We didn’t have the time, the effort, the money. On the opening here, I had this whole idea of dropping out of a blimp at 70,000 feet in the drop pod. The drop pod spins and you see the blimp get exploded. You come down out of control and you smash through a building. You go all the way through it and smash into another one. Then you jump out and it falls down below you and everyone’s like, “Whoa!” We storyboarded it out, and we’re like, “We’re gonna do this.”
We didn’t just drop the Golden Gate Bridge. We dropped it on top of an aircraft carrier. These scenes are gigantic. Stuff you just couldn’t do. We’ll take 10 people, point them at scenes and details, and say, “We gotta make this scene perfect.”
Activision (Activision Blizzard) is an American video game developer and publisher headquartered in Santa Monica, CA, but now operating worldwide. It was the first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consol... read more »
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