Call of Duty XP has splashed down here in L.A., and Activision is finally starting to release details about the multiplayer aspect of Modern Warefare 3. I was able to participate in a round table discussion with Infinity Ward's Mark Rubin, Executive Producer for Modern Warfare 3, and Jason Ades, who is heading up the production team for the Call of Duty Elite project. Rubin controlled most of the conversation, which concentrated heavily on MW3's multiplayer. But we also got a chance to talk a little about the MW fan base, Customization, Zombies, and Infinity Ward vs. Treyarch.
The upcoming incarnation of Modern Warfare has an incredible number of upgrades and innovations, so we were obviously curious about the thought process behind these changes. Luckily, Rubin had the info. "When you ship a new game," he explained, "so many people have so many voices and so many different opinions. It has been, and continues to be, extremely overwhelming. It's like 'how do we manage tens of millions of people and that much feedback?'"
Managing the monstrous amount feedback that comes from an incredibly popular Call of Duty title is obviously a good problem to have, but when you care about the community as much Rubin obviously does, sifting through the pieces can be tricky.
"It's, I feel, something that we're getting much better at," Rubin continued. "We're not only able to find the obvious stuff, like 'oh, that gun's out of balance' or 'oh, that perk is out of balance.' That's the easy stuff. The harder stuff is when you have multiple groups who are contradicting themselves. Who's right and who's wrong? Well the truth is, none of them are wrong."
He explained that Infinity Ward had several immovable tenants, and they would use these tenants as a way to gauge the accuracy of the consumer feedback. For example, one of the tenants, which he called "gunplay," concerned the way that players interact with the guns; how the guns "feel" in the players hands. Rubin believes that Modern Warfare 2 lost focus a bit when it came to gunplay, and I would probably agree. In MW2, users became so concerned with perks and killstreak rewards that the actual skill set of the player became secondary to pursuing rewards.
Rubin explained that as long as any potential changes that a user might suggest didn't interfere with one of their gunplay tenants, it would be seriously considered.
The panel also fielded questions regarding the Modern Warfare's multiplayer host selection. Rubin says that, even though it might be frustrating when a host needs to be migrated during a match, it's better than the alternative. In his words: "We don't want to be constantly switching the host in the middle of the game, but, if necessary, if the game gets so bad at some point because somebody who had a great connection when it started now doesn't, we'll switch it in-game."
Actually, I've always been surprised that people have the balls to complain about this. Host migration is a necessary evil for console gamers, and I would much rather sit through a migrating host than be kicked out of the game completely.
Rubin also added that localization has become a much larger consideration when MW3 selects which players play together. This means that someone playing from Finland will be much more likely to be matched with a group from Finland than a group from Texas. Additionally, Infinity Ward has added a quasi-host-migration system for Xbox live parties as well. In MW2, if a group of players had created a party and the party leader had to leave, the party would be broken up. Thankfully, MW3 won't have this problem, though Rubin admitted that this upgrade was "more like bug fixing than an actual upgrade."