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Interview: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer designer Todd Alderman

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There's an upcoming Wii port of the first Modern Warfare. How do you guys feel about that being handled by somebody else?

It depends on what it ends up being, but I have actually played the Modern Warfare on Wii and I think it is really good. So as long as things aren't being distorted and becoming things we don't want them to be, I don't think it bothers us.

What about the name? When this was originally announced, it was just "Modern Warfare 2." Then, when we started talking about it again, it had the Call of Duty tag in front of it. For a while it seemed like this was going to go off in another direction and then Treyarch was just going to work on the Call of Duty games. Now it is back to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. What's going on with that?

Well there are a lot of different factors involved, but we wanted to make sure, and I tried to state this at the beginning, that this is a different game. I mean it is not ... it has got 2 on it obviously, but it is not just a sequel. It is not just another Call of Duty game. It is a big new thing and we want people to associate it with Modern Warfare 2. And it is the same story, so it is in the Call of Duty universe.

So messaging it both ways, I think it's helpful. People that are in the know, know what Modern Warfare 2 is. People that know what Call of Duty is might not necessarily get it in a way, but establishing that identity and making sure that this is Modern Warfare 2. It is not just Call of Dutyblah, blah, blah. It is Modern Warfare 2. And then having the Call of Duty ... we are not denying it isCall of Duty.

But it seems like Infinity Ward would like to call it Modern Warfare 2.

We do call it Modern Warfare 2. It is still Call of Duty. But to us, that is how we refer to it. That is how we talk about it.

Obviously, with Infinity Ward and Modern Warfare, or Call of Duty, whatever you choose to call it, the expectations are very big. Do you guys ever have to sit back and just go, "Okay, how do we top ourselves?"

That is exactly what we did when we started working on this game. I mean how do you not? When we released Call of Duty 4, to us it was the best thing ever. Then it was like, "Oh yeah, let's go to the next one. It is going to be hard." But you have to figure it out. It was a daunting task but I think we were able to do it.

You embrace the challenge.

Yeah, if it is easy to do it is never that fun. And the fact that we were faced with this mountain and we were able to come out with something that is actually new and in the same universe, it was great.

How did you top multiplayer?

Multiplayer is definitely much bigger and deeper than before. There are just so many more elements and variables that make it different. I mean we are all big on customization, being able to let players tweak things. I mean we want everyone to play our game, obviously. We want it to be accessible. But we want every person to be able to have their own play style. There are things in there for people that love to snipe. There are things for people that love to use the assault rifles, that love to be sneaky, that love to use AC-130's and shoot people from the sky.

There is even something in there for people that can't shoot. I am not the guy that shoots; pointing a gun and making bullets come out is not my cup of tea, but you get the riot shield and your job is to help your team. It is a whole new element. It really changes the way you play the game.

Can anybody use that riot shield or is it just that class?

It is a primary weapon. So you can choose to take an M4 or you can choose to take a riot shield. What you are giving up with that is your primary weapon. So when you have the riot shield out, you can't shoot. All you are doing is blocking. You can kill the other guy with melee, but it takes two hits. Like the knife is an instant kill; one hit, he dies. With the riot shield you bash him with the shield and then you bash him again. Then they die. So it is much harder to kill someone, but it is really satisfying.

Does that shield wear down after a while? Like if people are hammering it with bullets, does it eventually break up?


So you can't use the shield and a smaller secondary weapon like a pistol at the same time?

You can swap to another weapon. But while you have the shield out, you can't fire. The shield has a slower swap because it is so big, which is another balancing factor of the shield. You can't just go up to the guy and "bam bam" kill them. You have to swap it out, and they see what you are doing. And depending on what your secondary is, how fast you swap. They can stick semtex to your shield and blow you up.

There are different angles as well. I mean, to be truly effective with it you have to crouch because your feet aren't covered unless you are crouching. But then you are moving slower. You are more vulnerable. It definitely is a unique experience. And also, when it is taking hits you actually get the visual cracks on the shield. So eventually, if you are really good with the riot shield, eventually you can't seen anything anymore because there are nothing but bullet holes covering the shield.

Gears of War 2 added a horde mode, and then Halo: ODST has the Firefight mode. You guys have Spec-Ops. Is that sort of your version of that?

It is not a version of anything.

What are they? Timed scenarios?

When we are making Modern Warfare 2, we want to cover as much ground as possible. We want to have the coolest story that you could possibly have in a video game. We want to have the deepest, longest lasting multiplayer you could have in a video game. And then there is also that middle ground of people that may be intimidated by multiplayer or just have a friend they just want to play.

They don't want to play other people; they just want to play the game and unlock things and work their way up and just have fun, and Spec-Ops gives you different ways to play the game. And it really adds to ... you can play it by yourself or you can play it with friends, and there are so many different Spec-Op missions and different difficulties that will keep you busy for a while. It is a lot of fun.

Can you describe what spec ops is really quick?

Spec Ops is ... you have your campaign, which is the story. You have your multiplayer, which is the online stuff. And then you have Spec Ops. These are like standalone missions that you can play by yourself or with a friend in split screen or over the Internet. This is the best analogy, Airplane from the last game, it is a short mission and there are just a lot of these. They are missions that aren't tied to the story, but there are a great variety of different locations, different types of missions. You will do things that you can't do in multiplayer and you can't do in single player.

Will these take place in locations that don't even appear in single player?


Is Time Crisis a bit of a better comparison? Fast-paced, just trying to get to the end of the level.

Some are. Honestly, every spec of mission is sort of treated as its own game. So it follows the rules of Modern Warfare 2, but everything is almost like a different minigame almost. It might be a time challenge or it might be kill all the bad guys. There is just a huge variety of different ways to play it.

So does your role include overseeing the DLC?

Yeah. I mean when we were doing the DLC on the last game right after the game shipped, so there is a lot of figuring out what the next thing potentially is. It is back and forth. Like, I am working on multiplayer some of the time. I am working on single player some of the time. I am working on DLC some of the time.

Do you guys bring the snowmobiles into multiplayer?

No, not that you can ride at least. They are there.

We saw a lot of problems not long ago appearing with the modders glitching in Call of Duty, and you guys were putting out patches to combat that. Are you guys going to implement any sort of team voting to kick a player out in the next one?

No. There is no team voting. We tried to fix the problem and not just the symptom. So if there is something really messing with the game, we just jump right on top of it and try to fix it.

Does the game already handle griefing? Like, if you have a guy who is team killing all the time.

Well, it's only in hardcore mode. So if you are a griefer in hardcore mode, the more you grief, the more you are punished. There is a respawn timer that gets bigger and bigger the more you grief. But we have different ways that we handle that.

What about the matchmaking in the new game? Have you addressed any of the issues?

There are a lot of improvements to the matchmaking system. I don't have any technical answers for you, but there are definitely new things in place to try and prevent that. But yeah, we know. We know exactly what's going on.

Will you be able to play multiplayer with two people on one console, going online together?


Have you guys announced how many multiplayer maps you're going to ship with it?

No. There are lots.

Lots, okay. More than the original game came with?

Yes. Bigger in every way.

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