Sledgehammer Talks Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare; Map Size, Exoskeletons and Uplink

Preceding the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare worldwide reveal at Gamescom, we had a chance to head down to San Francisco and get our hands on the first taste of the game’s multiplayer mode and speak with Sledgehammer Games about all things Call of Duty. We were lucky enough to sit down with Judah Graham, Senior Development Director at Sledgehammer, and pick his brain about developing the first Call of Duty from the ground up for PS4/Xbox One and get insight into the juiciest details of what the multiplayer will offer up.

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“We wanted to make sure that there is enough player engagement and quickness to action for players to get right into the heat of battle.”

[Hardcore Gamer] When you designed the multiplayer, did you take cues from past Call of Duty games?

[Judah Graham] We’re big fans of the franchise, so it made sense taking a step back with a three year development cycle to look at how Sledgehammer was going to bring Advanced Warfare into our vision of the series.

This was the first Call of Duty developed on current-gen consoles (PS4, Xbox One). What challenges did you face bringing it into the new generation?

With the three year development cycle, we really had a lot of time to look how what we wanted to do and what that core experience was going to be. If you look at how fast it is and the pacing and where we’re going with the play experience and mechanics — which is all fresh and new — we knew we’d have to work hard to make sure the engine supported it. If you look at what the current-gen systems are offering, this was a perfect opportunity for us to bring that vision to the platforms.

What size can we expect maps to be in Advanced Warfare?

We’re looking at small to medium size. We wanted to make sure that there is enough player engagement and quickness to action for players to get right into the heat of battle. That’s kind of the signature gameplay of Call of Duty and I think we spent a lot of time finding out what that balance is to make sure that you can engage quickly.

Will the exoskeleton play a large role in multiplayer?

Absolutely, it’s fundamental. When we first started prototyping and looking it three years ago, we started layering in the ways you could have combat in it and were like “oh my god this is it; nailed it.” So we kind of expanded off of that to where it is now. So it’s just a matter of refining and tuning it. It’s a fine balance; you don’t want to underpower it and you don’t want to overpower it. We put a lot of time into just getting it to the point where it’s fun and it’s engaging.

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“We already had the vision and experience when we started in and knew pretty early what kind of game we wanted to make.”

Was having the three year development cycle during which two Call of Duty games were released give you time to look at their praises and criticisms wrap the best parts it into Advanced Warfare?

We looked at those and we’re supportive of all games in the series, but we already had the vision and experience when we started in and knew pretty early what kind of game we wanted to make.

One of the coolest things we’ve seen in multiplayer thus far is the tsunami that wipes through Defender. What was the inspiration for that and can you talk about more about how it will work?

We experimented a lot with the gameplay and how we could do some kind of event that would help change up the dynamic aspect of the gameplay, In this particular map — defender — we felt it was fun and fundamental to that map. We don’t believe [dynamic aspects to be] a must in every single map, but if we thought it made sense in what we call the soul of the map design, we’d do it. In this case, the tsunami was a key part because of that low area, you get to kind of trap players down there. It becomes your strategy as you play the map; if you know when it comes in you can use it your advantage or strategize around it.

If you get caught in it, do you get hurt?

You get killed.

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“There’s a line [at the studio] — people are just dying to play [Uplink] — you have to kick them out sometimes.

Which new mode will players be most addicted to?

We’ve been having a tremendous amount of fun with Uplink. We weren’t sure about it when it started out, but we had so much fun with it in the office and knew we were onto something when we had a big play test and a lot of people were yelling and swearing; that’s how you know it’s a lot of fun. It’s amazing as we’ve started getting everything online and organizing three or four playtests a day at the studio and there’s a line — people are just dying to play it — you have to kick them out sometimes.

Can you describe Uplink?

Basically, two teams are pitted against each other fighting for a satellite drone. There’s two goals — one on each side — the defend goal and the uplink goal. The first person that grabs the satellite needs to hold it and you have to get to the uplink goal. Other team members can escort you to that uplink goal or they can hold back and defend your own goal. And half way through there’s an intermission where teams switch sides; almost like Capture the Flag. You can throw the satellite at enemy players and they are then rendered weaponless for a brief period of time.

For more details on Advanced Warfare, be sure to check out our multiplayer hands-on preview.