Call of Duty: Ghosts Exclusive Interview With Infinity Ward Producer Mark Rubin

Infinity Ward Producer explains what next gen gaming opened up for Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Last week I had the opportunity to see Call of Duty: Ghosts in action at the Activision pre-E3 event before the Xbox One Reveal today at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. The new game engine technology behind Ghosts is quite impressive, as is the decision to go with a new story and new characters. Also intriguing is Infinity Ward’s decision to continue to work with Hollywood talent. This time, acclaimed director Stephen Gaghan has embedded himself in the game’s production. The Modern Warfare games, and more recently Black Ops II with David S. Goyer in the Hollywood spotlight, have focused on cinematic storytelling.

“We wanted the characters in this game to feel like real people,” said Mark Rubin, executive producer on Ghosts at Infinity Ward. “Stephen Gaghan brings that to the tablet. And the new game engine makes everything around you more lifelike to pull the player into this story. Modern Warfare 3 pushed that engine to its limits, but Ghosts brings visual fidelity never before possible to the franchise.”

Some of the technology buzz words that Rubin focused on were things like Sub D, which boosts the polygon count in real-time to create perfectly smooth curves (no more jaggies up-close), HDR lighting (for those cool light ray effects coming through the treetops or from the ocean surface) and subsurface skin and self-casting shadows. What this means is when the Ghosts are trekking through the jungle or fighting across a stream or diving into the ocean in the middle of combat, everything looks lifelike – especially with next gen technology added to the mix. The extra processing power of the PC, PlayStation 4 and XBox One is creating geometry on the fly in-engine in real-time, and this is happening all over the terrain in the game.

Rubin showcased a jungle level filled with HDR-based lighting featuring real-time volumetric lighting effects. With the increases in particles, the visual fidelity of those particles brings the world to photorealistic life. He also said the studio has been busy hiring. In addition to Gaghan, Infinity Ward has hired a number of talent from Hollywood and brought new technology philosophies from movies to this game.

“The gameplay drives the technology,” said Rubin. “When you’re running in Ghosts and come to a wall or obstacle you leap and keep your momentum going forward. You can now lean feature for a better view of the battlefield. When you’re running, you can slide to get out of the line of fire, and do it in a cool way.”

In Ghosts, America is crippled and the government is in disarray. The player is outmanned and outgunned, which is a stark contrast to the Modern Warfare games where the cavalry was always coming to help you out. The Ghosts are remnants of the different branches of the Special Forces. They’ve adopted the various fighting skills and parlayed that into a force to be reckoned with – which you’ll take control of.

One of the cool new aspects of the game is the dog. His name hasn’t been revealed, but his role has. He will be part of the family dynamic of the gameplay. Two of the Ghosts are brothers and the dog takes on a vital role as he sniffs out explosives, warns you about enemies and is an instrumental part of the squad. Infinity Ward actually used a real German Shepherd in performance capture to bring this K-9 to life in the game. I’m a dog lover and dog rescuer, so having a dog in a game that you don’t have to shoot is awesome. The new gameplay dynamic this dog introduces is pretty interesting.

Rubin also said multiplayer has been revamped. A lot of the specifics are being held for a later date, but the maps we’ll be fighting on this November 5 will feature dynamic events. Natural disasters like floods and earthquakes will change the battlefield, quite literally. Gamers will also be able to trigger man-made obstacles like unleashing logs down a hill or activating explosive traps. This has the potential to change the way online multiplayer is strategized.

According to Rubin, all of this new technology has been utilized to immerse the player further into the gameplay. In other words, it’s not tech for tech’s sake. The underwater sequence Rubin showed us in LA was amazing. It felt like I was watching real HD footage of the ocean with the schools of fish, coral reefs and sharks. Of course, the battle that was taking place above and below the surface made it obvious that this is another epic Call of Duty game. Prepare to become a Ghost this fall. Prepare for next gen gaming.

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John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site

Published Jun. 5th 2013

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