Change is a risky business. Change too much, and you risk alienating long time fans. Change too little, and it becomes harder to justify a new purchase every year. But for Raven Software’s Eric Biessman, Creative Director for multiplayer on Call of Duty: Ghosts, change is inevitable. While the multiplayer for Infinity Ward’s upcoming cross-generational shooter will be fairly familiar, there are a ton of new additions that arrive by way of new Perks, a new character creation and customization suite, new killstreaks and of course, new maps.
We talked to Biessman about all these things and much more, including the need to innovate and whether we’d see customization for dog soldiers in future games (spoiler: still up in the air) among many other things.
GamingBolt: As far as I know, there’s a lot more attention in the backup studios. Do you think that’s because Ghosts has more fundamental changes to the formula?
Eric Biessman: I think that there’s a lot of things that add to the Call of Duty gameplay that we don’t want to throw out. We don’t want to alienate the millions of people that love the game, love Call of Duty as a whole. So, yeah, I think there’s a lot of things that we built upon [the previous games] that are different and bigger. So I think there’s a lot of things to tackle.
There’s just a lot of information that we’re trying to get out, that we’re trying to share. The idea behind scraps, the idea behind your soldier, your world. There’s just a lot of things to talk about. I guess that’s why we’ve been so busy. Because there’s a lot of information and we really want to share as much as we can.
GamingBolt: For the people that enjoy Call of Duty but are just kind of starting to get bored, what are the key features in Ghosts that you’re most excited about? You know, for people to sort of get “that feeling” again.
Eric Biessman: Yeah, yeah, there are things I can cover in just broad points without going into too much detail. To begin with, the Infinity Ward designers said that, they know Black Ops 2’s customization was something people really got into. So, right when you jump into the game, you’re going to see the multiplayer side. The way we want you to play is to commit to your character. So right away we see the visual side of things. You can customize heads, arms, legs. There’re something like 20,000 different combinations based on the different pieces. And that’s purely visual, including the female characters. We know there’s plenty of female fans and we want to give them the opportunity to have this connection to their character like everyone else. So from a purely visual side, there’s that.
From the game side, we also have the Pick 10 system. The designers at Infinity Ward wanted to expand that. So, the idea of this is that there’s groups of perks, and they’re for speed and stealth and handling and awareness and resistance and equipment and Within these groups are specific perks. Each perk has a different cost, and you can choose how those work. So you can have a five point perk and a couple one point perks.
For example, Dead Eye – every time you get a kill, it increases the damage of your next attack. So you maybe give up things that you are more used to maybe use this perk. So the idea is, if you want a gun, you can get it, but if you want to be stealthy, you get the stealthy perks and stuff like that. That’s one of the things that I think is pretty deep and good for gameplay.
Then additionally, there’s the idea of having the player connecting with the character, and how you connect with the world. Just from the weapons side, there’re 30 new weapons. You can also slide into cover, you can prone move and slide at the same time. With Call of Duty, it tends to be very much about learning a map, and learning about how you play on that map. And that’s something we didn’t want to disrupt. I think that’s part of the fun- the fast motion, feeling like you can own the world. And so we didn’t want to make just everything destructible. It’s like, you can blow open specific areas to create an overwatch for a sniper, or you can destroy a gas station, and create cover.
GB: So the destruction will be quite limited then.
Eric Biessman: Yeah, we don’t want it to be everywhere. We want it to be in specific spots, so you can still learn the map. You know, “oh, that’s down, there might be someone here.” Or, you know, “this is open, I need to watch my flank from the sniper” or whatever.
And I think player choice is the important part. It’s mostly about, tactically, there’s something you want to use. So, that’s a lot of talking right there. [laughs]
GB: Could you talk about Search and Rescue at all?
Eric Biessman: Search and Rescue? Sure. Yeah, so, several new game modes. One of them is Search and Rescue. Search and Rescue has a lot of aspects from Search and Destroy, and Search and Rescue takes it one step further. Normally in Search and Destroy when you’re shot, you’re taken out of the match. In this mode, when you’re shot, you drop your tag. It now allows your teammates to grab your tag and respawn you, or your opponents to grab the tag and you’re out of the game. So it adds a little bit of tactics. Do you take someone out and let their tags lie there, thinking that maybe their teammates are going to try and rescue them, or do you just pick it up and take them out?
GB: Seven new modes. That’s a quite a lot of modes! You’ve introduced so many new things.
Eric Biessman: Yeah, I think it just goes hand in hand with what the game is. It’s a brand new world, it’s a brand new setting. You know, in single player, it’s all about new characters and new teammates and about finding these new adventures. So I think the multiplayer opens the door for the same ideas. Let’s put some new modes out there, let’s show you some new killstreaks and let’s get those new weapon.
GB: Is there any new stuff in the game that you guys haven’t talked about?
Eric Biessman: Oh, yeah, well, there’s a lot of stuff. [laughs] And I think that’s been the challenge – getting the information out there, because there’s so much of it. You know there’s things like the CoD app that they’re working on which they talked about in the presentation. And the whole clan support, in the game and in the app. I think that’s pretty cool. I really like the idea of the clan wars, that’s part of that.
I really do like Riley the dog. He’s a killstreak in multiplayer. He’s your buddy, he follows you around, he stays pretty close to you. He warns you if enemies are coming up, he attacks enemies when they get close enough and I think it’s just pretty cool to hear him bark. And when you respawn, he’ll seek you out. And if there’s anyone who’s around you, he may be able to take that person out. So if you see a dog and a player, there’s a double challenge there.
And the thing that I guess I really like- I guess it’s a minor thing, I really like the idea of Battle Chatter that’s implemented. A lot of times you’re not playing with your buddies, you’re playing with a bunch of people you don’t know. Some of them may not have microphones, some may. Maybe you just mute everyone out. [laughs] What I like about this is that it detects stuff, and if you see someone on the map, you can send a message to your teammates like, “oh hey, there’s someone up on that tower!” I’m a huge fan of domination and team games in general, so this feature is pretty cool.
GB: Do you see yourself introducing customization for dogs in future games?
Eric Biessman: [laughs] I can’t talk about future games. I know it’s a cool idea and it’s been discussed. [laughs] But there’s no plans that I can reveal.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is set to launch on November 5th for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC. It will also launch with PlayStation 4 on November 15th in North America and November 29th in Europe, along with an Xbox One release on November 22nd.