Call of Duty: Ghosts is out now; here’s our Call of Duty: Ghosts review.
Call of Duty: Ghosts’ early development was marked by a veritable staircase of steps up. First, Infinity Ward skipped confidently into a new subseries and a new post-apocalyptic world to match. Next, they hopped into creating a whole new engine to fit both sides of the console transition. And finally, they heaved themselves onto a couple of new platforms. Only then did they look down, and have the scale of their undertaking hit home.
“We started listing out the work and it was like, ‘What the hell did we sign up for?’,” said exec producer Mark Rubin. “‘Holy crap, this is hard’.”
“Everything we’re doing in this game took way longer than expected,” Rubin told Game Informer. “This is the hardest game I’ve ever worked on. It’s good for us [but] it’s also tough because we really underestimated what we were getting into.”
Multiplatform development across current and next-gen consoles has meant the game’s artists have had to create four assets in the place of one. As a consequence, Infinity Ward have built the game in tandem with two other “heavily involved” studios – Raven and Neversoft.
“We didn’t want the studios to just be outsource houses,” explained Rubin. “We didn’t want to say, ‘Here’s the work you need to do, here’s when to deliver it, get back to us when you’re done’. Raven and Neversoft basically are empowered to be a part of the process.”
The entirety of Neversoft’s staff, and the “vast majority” of Raven’s team, are now wholly dedicated to Ghosts.
“I know each of these studios have their own brand names and their own ethos and that’s something we really believe in – the independence of the studio model and the need for creative subcultures to develop,” said Activision publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. “At the same time, they really work as one team. There’s a tremendous amount of crossover in terms of the vision and the creativity.”
But no matter how well the three teams behind the new CoD coordinate, Rubin is unequivocal: big game development is getting harder.
“It’s a scary thing, and I’ll take my Call Of Duty hat off for a minute here, but games are becoming harder to make, more expensive to make,” he asserted. “People want better and better graphics, they want more realistic looking art assets and that comes at a cost and that’s a hard thing to have to deal with.
“The big studios can manage that – we can cover our costs if the costs go up. Other studios may not be able to.”
On the plus side, the publishers behind those big studios can provide employment for FPS studios between projects. It was outsourcing duties on BioShock Infinite that helped keep Human Head going after Prey 2 was wrenched from their hands, after all.
But here’s a thought: as the teams grow, how will those publishers prevent game identity from becoming the second, invisible cost of escalating workloads?