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Sledgehammer Games is five years old, and it’s finally getting its turn in the limelight as the new studio working on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which debuts on Nov. 4. This is the latest in Activision’s Call of Duty first-person shooter series that has generated billions of dollars.

Created by Dead Space co-creators Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield, Sledgehammer Games was born as a Call of Duty studio. It started working on a third-person combat game, but it left that project to work with Infinity Ward — mangled by the departure of its founders and a civil war with Activision — to build Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. After that game debuted to huge sales in 2011, Sledgehammer went to work on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

The team didn’t approach Advanced Warfare as one more Call of Duty. It took three years to build something new from the start, with a new subfranchise, a new setting 40 years in the future, and new technology worthy of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We got a rare tour of Sledgehammer Games in Foster City, Calif., and interviewed Condrey and Schofield about the making of their studio and the game.

“We’re really grateful because we had a chance to go after the next-generation experience and really innovate,” Condrey said. “It was time to give you a new experience.”


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Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Condrey and Schofield.

Slegehammer Games founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield.

Above: Slegehammer Games founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: What was the vision for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?

Glen Schofield: We want to make sure that people realize it’s not a turn of the crank. The amount of research we put into this game is insane — the books, the articles, the scientists we talk to, the trips we’ve taken, the people we’ve brought in. We’ve painstakingly gone over everything. We hope that gets across in the craftsmanship and the personalization and everything we put into this. This is something brand new.

Michael Condrey: For us, we started this game three years ago. One of the first prototypes we came up with was the boost jump through the exoskeleton. The exo’s been the heart of this game for almost two years, long before it was popularized by Elysium and Age of Tomorrow. Nowadays it seems like it’s everywhere. But for us, it was the drive behind a lot of creative decisions in single-player and multiplayer.

For multiplayer in particular, it’s pretty transformational in how you play. It’s faster, with more movement. I wish you could see it. We have an amazing franchise with tremendous lore and fiction. We’re really grateful because we had a chance to go after the next-generation experience and really innovate. It was time to give you a new experience. We went after innovation across campaign, multiplayer, cooperative. We saw an opportunity to deliver a really amazing narrative. We were inspired by films like Black Hawk Down and games like what Naughty Dog with The Last of Us. We introduced the exoskeleton and the boost jump. New ways to play with the controller. It’s faster. There’s more things for the player to do. We want to make multiplayer the stickiest and most reward-based experience you’ve ever seen. That’s a bold statement. The narrative was a big opportunity.

Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Above: Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Image Credit: Activision

Schofield: With three years, we had a lot of time to come up with a good story and game design. The story was something we focused on a lot of time on. It was written by Sledgehammer Games. It’s not just a military story. It’s about friendship and working together with the guy in the fox hole. It’s personal stuff. Emotional times. It’s about life, family, pain, and loss. We made sure we didn’t have a nation-state as the enemy. Is it going to be China? Is it going to be North Korea? Who’s going to be fighting us? Ripped from the headlines, we saw the growth of the private military corporations in Iraq and Afghanistan. You play one guy through the game, Private Mitchell. He becomes a hardened veteran. He’s even narrating.

We saw this rise of great TV, with The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards. We wrote the story with Kevin Spacey in mind, not knowing we would get him. He’s one of the best actors in the world, and he really helped us deliver a great story.

Schofield: Instead of designing levels like you expect from a war game, we’re designing vertically. We’re designing for crawling and all these new things. Climbing on walls. Drones. The hover bike or the hover tank. It’s not only changing the way you play it. It changes the way we design a level. That’s going to be different for the player.

GamesBeat: You were making Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare at the same time you were building a new game studio. What was that like?

Condrey: We started in this building on a small corner and grew out this space. Now we have the whole floor. We fell in love with this space because of the open and collaborative nature of the space. The team is all here together. It’s transparent. We move fast.

Schofield: You see five or six guys gathered around a screen. Everyone around them wants to see it too. It kind of keeps everybody in touch. Ideas are thrown out. We hoped that would work, and it has.

Condrey: We build pods of cross-functional developers, with an engineer sitting with an artist sitting with an animator sitting with a level designer. It’s about empowering a group to do the best work of their careers. The old style of high walls and locked offices doesn’t work anymore. An artist doesn’t have to wait until a programmer frees up.

GamesBeat: Did you try to do this at Visceral Games?

Schofield: We started taking some cube walls down where we could.

Condrey: The culture was too ingrained. People were resistant to it. It required us starting our own studio to make it work. We developed Modern Warfare 3, and as we expanded, we knocked down a bunch of walls.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Above: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Image Credit: Activision

GamesBeat: How quickly did you start working on Call of Duty?

Schofield: That’s what we built this to do.

Condrey: We finished Dead Space. Five years ago, it was the two of us. Five years later, it’s 225 people. It’s crazy. It’s been a remarkable five years.

Schofield: We started work. Within six months, we had a prototype of a third-person action adventure game.

Condrey: We started as a Call of Duty studio. They wanted us to do Call of Duty meets third person. Take the best of the character action adventure space like Uncharted and the fictional world of Call of Duty. But life threw a different curve ball at us.

Schofield: When things went crazy with Infinity Ward, they needed help with Modern Warfare 3. We brought it up to the team. We thought about it for a week or so. We all made the decision, and unanimously decided to do it. We didn’t jump in the middle. We were there day one on Modern Warfare 3. We split the work with Infinity Ward.

GamesBeat: It took you in a very different direction?

Condrey: Obviously, Treyarch has awesome experience. Mark Lamia and his team are awesome collaborators. Modern Warfare 3 got action game of the year that year. That took up the first two years. It shipped in 2011. We had to re-establish that we could do great work. We ran hard that first two years. It was some of the hardest work we’ve ever done.
Schofield: We had to build a studio. We had 40 people at the time. We hired and hired, but maintained the standard we always do. We got the people from all over, but we did get quite a few who worked with us before. We were able to attract the best talent because of what we did with Dead Space, as well as the Call of Duty name.

Condrey: We got talent from a lot of places, like Visceral, Valve, Naughty Dog, Crystal Dynamics, and EA. We always focused on quality. That was our mantra. Infinity Ward had a transition and some needs. We had a lot of really strong talent. It was a great marriage. We wanted to work with one of the best studios in the industry in a co-development environment. We had management and experience with story. They had some of the best first-person shooters in the world and a lot of them stayed. We worked well together.

GamesBeat: Did you find you were learning how to make a Call of Duty game?

Condrey: A lot of us had backgrounds using the same technology base that Call of Duty was using. So we had a familiarity. A lot of us has first-person shooter experience. In the creative space of Call of Duty, we learned about the hero’s journey, the journey of a squad, and the creativity behind it. I think they saw in us a studio that was hungry and was willing to take some risks. With three years and a new engine and a new generation of hardware and a new brand, you’ll see this is not the same old Call of Duty.

Schofield: Dead Space was a quality game. But when we came to Call of Duty, we realized we had to raise our A game even higher. You realize how many people are playing the game. It was an honor to work on it. We learned a lot from Infinity Ward. And they learned from us too. After that one game was under our belt, Activision entrusted us with this new intellectual property in the Call of Duty universe. It’s very humbling.

GamesBeat: Did you share much technology?

Schofield: For this game? No. We really upgraded the characters with a new facial system. We are lighting the game in a new way. All of it is new. It’s next generation, and it’s 40 years in the future. There is really nothing you can borrow. This game had to be done from scratch.

Condrey: We spent three years building our tech. We shared our builds with other studios. We branched into different paths. Infinity Ward went to build Call of Duty: Ghosts. We asked for feedback and vice versa. We know it’s a fan base that is 40 million strong. We were given the charter to deliver something on our own.

GamesBeat: Did you miss doing your third-person Call of Duty?

Schofield: We liked what we were doing. But this has been a lot of fun. This is really a brand new franchise within Call of Duty. It’s a new intellectual property. We have new characters and story. What they drive is brand new.

GamesBeat: Compared to something like Titanfall, is there a different experience you think people will have with the exoskeleton?

Schofield: We can talk about that a little bit. We worked on the game for at least a year and a half before we even saw Titanfall. Then we heard and saw a little bit. But we were probably in development almost two years before the game came out and we could play it and understand what it is. So our game is nothing to do with Titanfall.

We have an upgrade system in the game, the first time we’ve had it in campaign. That’s all about the exoskeleton. We have a new HUD because of the exoskeleton. We went and researched it at Berkeley and talked to MIT and NASA. It’s nothing to do with Titanfall. Here and there you’ll have similarities, but —

GamesBeat: — this is still something people have not seen before, this kind of experience?

Condrey: It’s rooted in what makes Call of Duty great, but with this added movement set. It’s pretty radical, too. The way you play Call of Duty will be fundamentally different from what you’re used to. 60 frames per second, fast, competitive, all those things you know from the past, but we’ve spent a lot of time listening to what people want.

GamesBeat: It makes the fast movement a little more plausible.

Schofield: Melee now, you punch a guy and send him flying 10 feet. It’s much more visceral. There are different layers to what the suit can do, though, without making you feel completely like Superman. The strength, the jumping, the quickness of throwing the guy when you come in that room to capture him. It has many different layers.

GamesBeat: Can you have an actual fist fight now, instead of just sending a guy flying out of the world with one punch?

Schofield: In the future, the combatants are going to have a lot of this stuff as well. In this game, you’re fighting a very advanced team. In some cases they may have a leg up on you. You have the boost jump, but so do they. Where we use the strength on some of those things is when you sneak up on a guy. We have some stealth areas. Or not focused areas, but just instances where you can use stealth to get the drop on someone.

It changes some of your tactics. Now you have boost dodge. You can get out of the way quicker. We use that in different ways to change how we set the gameplay up. I’m not covered in a suit. I just have something on my arms and legs. A bullet still kills me.

Sledgehammer Games founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield.

Above: Sledgehammer Games’ founders, Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: You have some big armored soldiers. They tend to be bosses in a lot of other games, that kind of enemy.

Schofield: I guess so? We don’t necessarily have bosses in Call of Duty. We mix up the experience a lot. One place, you’ll be in a dogfight. Another, you’ll be racing in a boat. Yet another, you’ll be ripping a car door off and using that to block the drone swarm coming at you. We won’t necessarily have a boss fight. Just all of a sudden, “Oh, shit. I’ve got one of these big guys. How am I going to deal with that?” That sort of tactical stuff.

The thing is, you have boost jump. You can jump over them quickly and get behind them. It’s a matter of how you use their tactics.

Condrey: The U.S. government just started speaking publicly about something called the Talos project, which is essentially an armored exo soldier of the future. They say it’s battlefield ready in two years. It’s working now. If you look up the Talos system, it’s like the AST. A little smaller. Sort of a cross between Iron Man and our AST. But we know that’s where the technology is going.

Schofield: I saw an interview with one of the guys designing it. They’re one of the companies Hollywood goes to design suits. They worked on Iron Man. We’re waiting for them to call us. They’ll want to put the boost jump on and all that.

Condrey: It’s true. The U.S. military is going to the Hollywood guys and saying, “What’s the design?” One thing I can say on the multiplayer side, with three years to develop, it’s given us a ton of time to listen to our fans. We’ve had a good opportunity to listen to all the feedback on MW3 and Ghosts and things about the competitive space and the needs of the eSports community, as well as the general public. Good matchmaking and ways to make it so that new players can onboard and have a great experience. Making it feel like there’s a great reward system, where everyone can have a chance to get in and have a lot of fun. There’s a lot we’re going to talk about to specifically address those groups — making sure the onboarding experience is unique and making sure the competitive space feels like they’ve been heard.

GamesBeat: I wondered how you’d react to something I’d heard from Dan Connors at Telltale. They specialize in story all of the time. Everything they’re doing, it’s about a story unfolding. He was saying that in a Call of Duty game, you see the cinematic, it delivers a story, and then you go play. But you play for such a long time that you forget about the story. Then the next cinematic plays and reminds you. It sounds like some of the solution to this problem of how your story could be compelling, but you forget about it before you finish with the gameplay, is that you embed more of this drama into the gameplay.

Schofield: I know exactly what he’s saying, but you could say that about a Dead Space game as well. What we wanted to do, as I said, is get some of the storytelling into the level. We have audio logs you’ll get in the game, telling more of the backstory. We have this video log. Because we have this next-generation HUD system, it can come up in the middle of the game. Someone can just pop up and talk to you and tell you where to go.

The story’s been very important. I hope that we’ve reminded people and told them all along the way what happens. Some of the gameplay stuff that you’re doing is going to remind you of the story. It’s part of the story. In the middle of the level, you’ll be talking and finding out more about the story. I know what he’s saying, but we’ve worked our butts off on this.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Above: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Image Credit: Activision

GamesBeat: It also has the sort of sidekick convention. This Gideon character, if he’s always there communicating with you, you get the feeling of being part of the story.

Schofield: That’s a good point. One of the other things we tried to get across is some humor, some banter between the guys. But also, at the same time, you’re going to see their relationship develop in-game. “Don’t worry, we got this.” “Hey, try this, take this.” Some back and forth, helping each other out. If we get you to like Gideon, to understand more of the characters, you’ll follow the story better as well. So we try not to go, story, 20 minutes, story again.

Condrey: In fairness, some games in the genre, you might not even get a story before that 20 minutes. You just get a bunch of objectives and briefing stuff. For us, we’ve tried to take the objectives and put them into the level so you can follow the story that way.

We’ve married that with the single protagonist. The way to get attached to a character is to have time with that character. For me, I’m excited about the fact that I’m not going to jump around between multiple characters. I’m going to play Private Mitchell on his 10-year journey. That’s hopefully going to make me emotionally attached to his story.

Schofield: In the cinematics, he narrates. He’s telling you the story. You see who he is. A lot of games, you purposely don’t have the main character talk at all. Then at some point we say, “Okay, you’re not going to talk in the level, because we want you to feel like you’re Mitchell.” But in the cinematics, he tells the story.

We went back and looked at all the stuff we did for Modern Warfare 3. We’d have a movie for about a minute, and probably 40 seconds of that was telling you what you’re going to do in the next level. By then, people are just like, “Click.” And once it’s over they think the story sucked, because they skipped through it. In this case, it’s about the story. We have some really good actors. Not only do we have Spacey, but we have Troy Baker.

GamesBeat: The third-person games, like Uncharted, they can tell you a lot about the character because you’re looking at them. You don’t have that advantage when you’re only in first-person. How do you deal with that?

Schofield: You’ll see the other characters looking to you, talking to you. That happens throughout the game. “Mitchell, go get this!” He’s not led along, as if he’s just the handyman. But he’s telling the story when you get outside him. In some places he’ll be narrating over it. I think you’ll get to know the character quite a bit. We put in a lot of backstory.

We tried to have a couple of surprises along the way with the other characters. You think one thing about one guy, like Spacey. You’re going to love him in the beginning, the first few levels. Half the game it’ll be like, this guy’s great! He’s powerful, rich, helping out the world. You’ll see it in his performance. When he came on the set, he elevated everyone’s performance. He got to know all the other actors. They’d sit and eat lunch all the time. There was a good camaraderie between the four or five of them. That comes across.

Condrey: You talk about motivating your cinematic team.

Schofield: We never told the actors, either. He shows up on set one day and they’re like, “What the heck?”

Condrey: Back to what I thought was transformational for me in a first-person shooter, it was the first time I played the original Half-Life. Being immersed in the world of Gordon Freeman. I never saw or heard Gordon Freeman. I was Gordon Freeman. But it was the storytelling around him that was so compelling.

For me, with the rich acting from Kevin—like House of Cards, you just want to watch him. Troy Baker, Gideon Emery, these strong performers around him, I think it’s an exciting opportunity to be Mitchell and go on that journey.

Schofield: Over the last couple of months, and we’re still doing it now — as the game comes together, that’s one of the big things we’re focus testing. Did you understand this? Did you feel you knew enough about this character? There are holes where we as writers knew all the backstory, but we realized, “Oh, we assume too much here.” We do pickups and go back and add scenes.

That’s another thing those three years have allowed us. As we play through, we can go back and help you understand what happened. What we don’t want is a moment where you’re like, “This is good, this is good…wait, I don’t understand this. I’ll still play the game, because I’m having fun, but I don’t get the story.” How many times has that happened? So we’re aware of that.

Condrey: Let’s be honest. We all feel that way. We have amazing gameplay in Call of Duty, but sometimes, with the multi-hero convention and the multiple locations around the world, all the factions—Even for hardcore Call of Duty guys, it’s like, “I was in the favela, but who was I again? Why was I there?” I love those games. You’re not going to find a bigger fan than me. But sticking to one protagonist and his journey is going to be really identifiable.

GamesBeat: Do you value that part enough that you see that as part and parcel of Advanced Warfare? Would you always do it this way, with a single character?

Schofield: It worked well for us on Dead Space. On Dead Space, he was an engineer. He was an everyday guy. We wanted you to be able to relate to him, even if he’s off in space and all. “He’s not some space warrior. That could be me up there.” He started out as just a guy looking for his girlfriend.

This is a guy who’s a patriot, but he’s just joined the military. He’s kind of green. What’s going on here? And he’s thrust into a crazy situation right away. But he’s an everyday guy. How does an everyday guy deal with all this stuff?

One thing that we’ve always tried, even on Modern Warfare 3, was to tell a good story. We really have tried. People are always putting down the game industry for telling stories – we don’t tell stories well. But if you think back 10 or 12 years ago, the game industry was stuck in licensed products. For a while there, we made James Bond games, Lord of the Rings games. We made all these games where a story was just given to us. Then we come out of it, licensed products are behind us, and it’s taken us a few years to understand how to tell a great story in a game.

Condrey: There are amazing stories, great narratives in media now. Every time I turn on Game of Thrones, it’s some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. That has multiple characters you become attached to – and then they get snatched away sometimes. So I don’t think we could say with absolute certainty that we’re always going to do a single-protagonist story with Call of Duty. There’s some real emotion attached to losing a character you care about, and continuing on. But for this one, that’s how we want to tell the story.

The studio at Sledgehammer where you can play and watch Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on a big screen.

Above: The studio at Sledgehammer where you can play and watch Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on a big screen.

Image Credit: Sledgehammer Games

GamesBeat: In the future it looks like it’s easier to kill, and likewise easier to die. What do you do about the problem of survivability? I’m thinking about multiplayer a little, for someone like me — how many minutes would I last — but in general, you have a lethal environment. You can see through walls and stuff like that. The poor infantryman in the middle of all this is just going to die and die and die.

Schofield: We realize we have a huge demographic. There are so many thirty- and fortysomething people who play one game a year, and it’s this game. Then you have the hardcore. I think we’ve made a game for everybody. If you play on Recruit or on Regular, we keep adjusting it all along the way. We make sure that we have a game for everyone. We don’t want to alienate any players.

Condrey: We recognize that there’s a part of the experience that’s about mastering the game. Some people want to build up that skill level. Then you have a group of people who are new to the franchise – and probably more now, coming in with the new generation. You have to provide something that feels like a good introduction to the experience – some good middle ground, where you match skills together to make it competitive, but balanced. When we talk about MP in a couple of weeks, I think there will be some things to get people excited. We’ve tried to address that on all fronts.

GamesBeat: Were there some things you think that were going too far toward sci-fi in this game, Like, “We could do that, but maybe in Call of Duty 3000.”

Schofield: A very simple example is holograms. We know that there’s augmented reality out there. But we stopped short of having—If you don’t have goggles on, it’s not like there’s a hologram you can see there. You’ll see a couple of things like that in the levels, but only when you have AR glasses on.

Condrey: Early on, because it’s 40 years in the future—40 years means so much to different people, when you think about what 40 years looks like. We ended up having a bunch of ideas like that – “Is this too far?” “Is this too fiction[y]?” We came back to a core philosophy that everything has to be grounded in research that we know is happening today. If we can find an article or get access to someone who’s building this, we believe it’ll be on the battlefield in 40 years.

Everything you see in the game, we can point you to the article. We can point you to the prototype. We can point you to something that’s actually working now.

Schofield: We’ve seen it or read about it.

Condrey: We’ve gotten introduced to scientists working on it. Directed energy weapons, we know that’s real. One of our early prototypes was a teleportation grenade. Throw a grenade, teleport to where it landed. That doesn’t exist.

Schofield: It was a lot of fun, though.

Condrey: But that was a bridge too far. That was not a Call of Duty grenade type.

The cafeteria is bright and cheerful, for an end-of-the-world kind of game studio.

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.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

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.”

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