Video Games

What we know about Advanced Warfare’s development so far

When Activision unveiled Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, there was a lot of information floating around the web. Activision and Sledgehammer Games wasn’t done, tho. As a month-long information blowout of the new Call of Duty, Activision, Sledgehammer Games, and GameInformer all slowly, but surely released new information about Advanced Warfare. So, what do we know about Advanced Warfare’s development so far?

First, let’s start off with who is Sledgehammer Games, and their origins. From 2006 – 2008, Glen Schofield, Michael Condrey, and Don Veca were all at Visceral Games when they started development on Dead Space for Electronic Arts. Dead Space was supposed to be developed for the original Xbox console, ended up being developed for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Glen Schofield has been working on games since 1991, most of the games that he’s worked on are either licensed games, children’s games, or original IP’s. Micheal Condrey shares a similar resume. Except that he started in 1998. Don Veca has a long history in video game audio dating back to 1992, he has worked primarily in licensed games, sports games, and original IP’s. Their biggest game is Dead Space, which has won numerous awards, and went on to become a smash hit with 2 million copies sold.

With the combined expertise between all three colleagues, Glen and Michael formed Sledgehammer Games in 2009. They begun work on a possible third-person title. They pitched to Activision to develop this 3rd person game, but in 2010, Activision was facing a lawsuit against Infinity Ward employees. In March 2010, Activision called Sledgehammer Games to co-develop Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. When MW3 was finished in 2011, Sledgehammer Games went back to work on the aforementioned 3rd person title, and Activision offered Sledgehammer Games an opportunity; to create their own Call of Duty title. This is where the ‘Advanced Warfare’ development begins.

Advanced Warfare is the first Call of Duty title to be thrust into the 3-year development cycle. During an investors earnings call, Eric Hirshberg, the C.E.O. of the Activision Publishing arm answered the question of “What makes Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare so unique, given that it has a 3-year development cycle?” Eric answered…

I think, first and foremost, is visual and graphic fidelity and polish. I hope you’d agree that you’re seeing, even in the reveal trailer, a different level of graphic fidelity than we’ve had in the past. And it’s our true — first true next-gen — pure next-gen development where we have access to the new hardware throughout the development process, unlike Ghost which was cross-gen.

Eric continued…

Second, it’s allowed us more time for experimentation, creativity and iteration in the development process. So that led to things like us adding some of the first new mechanics in core gameplay in the franchise in a long time, things like boost jump and exo strength and new mechanics, which we have also had time to test with our players to make sure that they resonate and will create a compelling and balanced gameplay. IGN, I think, just ran an article talking about 11 game changers they were perceiving just from picking apart the reveal trailer frame-by-frame. So there’s a lot of new ideas in it.

Eric concluded…

Third, it allowed us more time to put more emphasis on story and character. And you could see that in the trailer, too. We hope that the villain character being played by Kevin Spacey soon to become iconic. And also, you’re seeing really state-of-the-art facial capture and animation. That’s a full performance capture technology that we revealed last year at [GDC]. We’ve got some great acclaim from the 3-year cycle. It allowed us the time to move that from an R&D effort into real gameplay.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is being treated as a new Intellectual Property. In other words, Sledgehammer Games is approaching Advanced Warfare as a completely new game series, a completely new franchise. Glen Schofield commented further…

We approached this like we would any new IP. I mean, this has been one heck of a creative challenge. I mean, everything is brand new in the game.

Aaron Halon, the Senior Development Director built on Glen’s comments, by saying that Advanced Warfare will retain familiar franchise features such as the blazing fast 60 frames per second on-screen movement, however, they’ll put their own take on the series…

We really looked closely at a lot of the things – the pacing is different. There’s very core things of Call of Duty that won’t change, 60 FPS, the moments and things that are very memorable in the game, but our take on it, our spin on it is different.

Source: Worlds Factory

Advanced Warfare’s story had taken Sledgehammer Games over 2 and a half years to write. Sledgehammer Games confirmed on Twitter, that the story took over 2 1/2 years…

Furthermore, Sledgehammer Games’ Michael Condrey wants to get Advanced Warfare to be talked about from a marketing standpoint by matching the story, similar to the Red Wedding scene from Game of Thrones…

Our goal as entertainers is to deliver a Red Wedding scene through interactive entertainment, and have people talk about Call of Duty on that sort of level one day.

In addition, Glen Schofield made this statement…

It’s not just about the big moments; it’s about the emotional moments, and they can still be big and bold, but it’s to me, right now…at this point in our career and I think in video games, with the new consoles and the amount of fidelity you get with the characters, it’s about emotional connections. Narrative is extremely important to us. Not that it isn’t to others, but we pay an awful lot of attention to that.

Source: OnlySP

It seems like Advanced Warfare is getting a lot of care, and attention to detail. From start to finish. And it seems that the story of Advanced Warfare is at the epic center of it all.

Furthermore, the Sledgehammer Games team wants Advanced Warfare to be in an episode of House of Cards. Kevin Spacey plays the character “Frank Underwood,” and the character plays video games. He talks briefly about games and systems like PlayStation Vita. So, when the co-founders of Sledgehammer Games e-mailed the director of House of Cards about a possible appearance, the director responded “Wow. That’s awesome!” [Game Informer]

Activision feels that Sledgehammer Games was the perfect candidate for taking the 3rd developer slot. During an interview, Eric Hirshberg explained that Sledgehammer Games was working on a ‘cool’ 3rd person title, fresh off of Dead Space. After their work on Modern Warfare 3, Eric commented that Sledgehammer Games was in a unique position to come in, and bring in new ideas to Call of Duty. [GameRanx via Game Informer]

That 3rd person game was a new Call of Duty title, set in a new genre for the franchise. Sledgehammer Games was working on a game for a 6 to 8 months, and it was a Call of Duty title set in the Vietnam war. In an interview with Game Informer for the June issue, Sledgehammer’s Glen Schofield had a lot to say about their intention with a Call of Duty title set in Vietnam…

Everyone thought that war was in Vietnam, right? It was Cambodia and Laos, too. We did a lot of research on that war, a hidden war, and there were thousands of miles of underground tunnels. We had the tunnels, and we were definitely going for some Dead Space moments. It was going to be a fresh take on war, that’s for sure.

Glen also talked about gameplay mechanics that was something they want to get into a game…

We had some really cool mechanics. We had a big moment that I would love to get into a game someday, but it’s not something we could do in first-person.

Glen went on to say that their decision to take up Eric’s offer to become a co-developer or a developer for Activision was not a decision they took lightly. It took days for them to come to a committed consensus. And once they did, they were off to the races to get their game done. [MP1st via Game Informer June magazine]

Sledgehammer Games claims that their company operates differently from other Activision studios. When Sledgehammer Games was formed, the duo of Glen and Michael had a vision of what they wanted to bring to game development…

It was two of us with a vision for a different way to develop and the opportunity to start the studio we wanted with the culture and development methodologies and the design vision and marry that with Call of Duty.

And, that’s what set Sledgehammer Games from the other Activision developers, Condrey added, “We’re different than any other Call of Duty studio in terms of how we operate and the culture of our space.” Activision’s philosophy for game development is/was, “Build the team the way you want to build it. Use the practices that allow you to build great software.” And Condrey thought it was a great match for Sledgehammer Games, and that there couldn’t have been a better partner in the beginning.

Sledgehammer Games was such a small company at the time of formation, that when Don Veca joined Sledgehammer Games, he was not fearful of the company’s future…

The thing about Glen and Condrey is that you know they’re not going to fail. That’s the way that I’ve felt when I worked with them on previous games. I saw that in those guys. These guys will take us to the finish line. I have total 100% trust in them.

Source: MP1st via Game Informer

Speaking of Don Veca, having to have come from Dead Space, he wants to bring Call of Duty weapon sounds to the next level. In the middle of an interview with the other developers at Sledgehammer Games, and Game Informer, Mr. Veca offered his perspective to Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty development, saying “Another really important thing, obviously, for Call of Duty are the weapons,” and then he continued saying “Obviously, that’s the thing we have to bring to [the] next level. ‘We have three years, guys. We need to get it together.’” In fact, Don Veca does so much research, that Sledgehammer Games looked at games like Battlefield 4, the other Call of Duty titles, and yes, films.

It’s absolutely always in the back of [our head]. Matter of fact, one of our biggest things we’ve done, we’ve studied the hell out of movies to understand how they’re really getting that focused mix. But our competition, and probably the one you’re talking about – we have competition in this industry, absolutely, and we’re constantly monitoring everything they do, playing their games, trying to figure out what they’re doing that sounds great, and also saying, ‘Okay, well, that’s not so great. Let’s – don’t do that, and let’s keep doing what we do really well.’ Let’s retain what’s useful, and then suck in as much as we can that’s really cool from not just one competitor, but multiple ones.

Source: MP1st via Game Informer

We’ll learn more about Advanced Warfare in the weeks to come. Sledgehammer Games will be at E32014, and they are really excited about showing off Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to the world, so much that they wrote a letter to the fans..

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost three years since we started working on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and the last time we were at E3 we were on the road sharing MW3. It’s been quite the journey and our show plans are shaping up to be incredibly special. We’ve been busy reading all your comments, watching all your videos, and absolutely glowing with the excitement of sharing more with the greatest community on earth – the Call of Duty community. The anticipation of showing off the most ambitious project we’ve ever worked on is a truly humbling feeling, and we could not be more proud of the amazing work being crafted by the team at Sledgehammer Games. The studio is buzzing with the excitement and looking forward to sharing more from our game with you.

Furthermore, the co-founders added…

So as much as you can’t wait to see more, we want to show it. If you are going to E3, come by the Activision booth and say hello. We’re looking forward to meeting as many people as possible, and if you see us – don’t be shy. Even if you don’t bump into us, please follow along @SHGames for our real time updates from the show floor. We’ll also be sharing photo galleries and updates from the showroom floor from our official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Source: Sledgehammer Games‘ website

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare heads to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC on November 4th, 2014! Are you ready for destruction!?