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Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling on Modern Warfare 3

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Tech Guide caught up with Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling – the creative strategist behind upcoming blockbuster game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

On a visit to Sydney from LA, Bowling spoke about the Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer changes which came about from user feedback.

And he also hinted that while Modern Warfare 3 will tie up the campaign story line it may not necessarily be the last Modern Warfare game we see.  

Tech Guide: With the success of Modern Warfare 2 and then going into Modern Warfare 3 and making changes – was there the risk of fixing something that’s not broken?

Infinity Ward's Robert BowlingRobert Bowling: No, because we are in tune with our audience. We never step away from our core design philosophies and what makes a good Modern Warfare game. As long as you let that guide you and, on top of that, incorporate the user feedback. Our fans are pretty vocal and they’re brutally honest and that’s what I love about them. And I makes sure I’m extremely accessible on Twitter – I can get a gut check on what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. What you’re doing wrong is just as important as what you’re doing right.

TG: Some of the changes this time around you talk about making the game a bit more balanced for all types of players. Is that the idea of the game – to introduce new players as well as accommodate the existing ones?

RB: It’s a combination of both. You’ll see it’s about accommodating a number of play styles and that doesn’t necessarily mean a new player. A player like me – I’m extremely good at our game – but I don’t have the experience of the Team Deathmatch player because I am dying all the time. In the past MW2 wasn’t accommodating to my play style despite being a better player. As you can see there is no shortage of depth that’s there for the hardcore player.

Tech Guide’s hands-on with the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer.

TG: Tell us about the new weapons proficiency and being able to level up your gun.

RB: Every weapon has its own rank and as you’re levelling it up, you’re unlocking attachments, unlocking camos, different reticles but also weapon proficiencies which are abilities you can assign to your weapon to change the way it handles – less kick, less flinch when you get hit. They allow you to specialise in your weapon. MW3 is about that gun on gun gameplay – much less about the air support always dominating – it’s about you and your skills with your weapon.

TG: What are some of things you’ve incorporated into Modern Warfare 3 from user feedback?

RB: There’s endless stuff. The ability to cycle through killstreak rewards with the d-pad is one. That was a big feedback of MW2. Now you can actually use the d-pad and choose which one you want to use first. That way if I have an airstrike and a UAV – I obviously want to use the UAV before I call in my airstrike. Now there are user interface elements so you can see how close you are to your next killstreak reward. You notice now as you get points for kills and objectives it is showing you icons of what killstreak is coming next which gives you situational awareness and you can start planning your strategy based on that.

Modern Warfare 3 changes are the result of player feedback

TG: You’re obviously a very good player – what type of player are you?

RB: I’m a run and gunner objective based player. I always want to be in the fight. If I see a red dot I run towards it – if I see five red dots I’m sprinting towards them. I don’t care how often I die but I’m taking out a few guys with me. I am focussed on getting a lot of kills – I don’t care if I have a lot of deaths.

TG: What’s your longest killstreak?

RB: On MW2 it was 24 because I never got the nuke. I was one short.

TG: There’s no nuclear bomb in MW3?

RB: There is no game-ending nuke. From the feedback there were quite a few things we took out. No Commando perk, no One Man Army – all that stuff came from community feedback.

TG: What about campers? It’s frustrating when people sit on a map and wait for you to come around a corner.

RB: It’s about balancing out the different play styles.  Camping, or hiding, goes against the philosophy of Modern Warfare. We design a super fast pace always-in-the-action game and you can be a sniper or a run and gunner and you can be a defensive type of player but typically camping in Team Deathmatch is frowned upon because it’s a fast paced mode. We have changed way we do map design to give less hiding places like that and to find the map flow so you have less places to hide like that. There’s still good spots to defend if you’re defending a bomb site or something like that. We also gave the players like run and gunners which help flag and identify that kind of play style.

There are new game modes in Modern Warfare 3 including Kill Confirmed

TG: How long does it take to get a Modern Warfare map right for multiplayer?

RB: It takes the entire project to fully polish a multiplayer map. You’re looking at six months, a year that goes into it. It’s about playing it and looking at the sight lines, cover and choke points. It’s about understanding how many hotspots you want in a level when you come around a corner. You want a fair fire fight so it’s about being able to get a sense of your environment quickly.

TG: Where are the maps located?

RB: There are maps from the single player which are completely different for the multiplayer. You’re in Paris, London, parts of Germany, parts of New York, Africa – you’re getting a wide variety.

TG: The campaign is quite a compelling story – you need to find Makarov. Is this final Modern Warfare game? Is it a trilogy or will there be a Modern Warfare 4?

RB: I never say there’s an end to anything. This is definitely a pay-off to the investment in the characters that we started with in Modern Warfare but I never say anything is ever at an end.

TG: So – that’s not a no.

RB: No it’s not.

Even though Modern Warfare 3 wraps the campaign story, a Modern Warfare 4 is stll a possibility

TG: The original Modern Warfare 2 at the time went on to become the most successful entertainment release of all time – does that make it easier or harder when it comes to producing Modern Warfare 3?

RB: We don’t really focus on that a lot. Obviously we love it because it means there are more people enjoying our game but to us we just want to make a great game that we like and that our fans are going to like. If it’s three people or 30 million it doesn’t matter – of they’re having a good time then we’ve done our job correctly.

TG: Do you get put and play with the fans?

RB: My gamer tag is FourZeroTwo and my list is always full so I am playing with a lot of people. Every night I get a chance. MW2 is the game I still play when I have free time. When I play for fun and just having fun with the community I’m the night owl player so I’m the guy who gets on at midnight and plays till three in the morning.

TG: Have you found that fans have stuck with Modern Warfare 2 even after the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops?

RB: They’re very different styles of games. We still have hundreds of thousands of players who are playing everyday.

TG: Australia is trying to get an R18+ rating for games to bring it in line with other forms of entertainment like movies and TV. What is your take on the issue?

RB: In the US we are a mature rated game so it’s 17 plus. We let the local ratings board decide what’s best for the community and their audience. It’s not something we dictate – we make the game we want to make. We make entertainment for adults and we let the ratings board decide what’s best for their environment. The ratings system should have full transparency with a very clear reason why you have that rating. Using that information parents should make a determination about what is appropriate for their family and what they want in their house.

Tech Guide’s hands-on with the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer.