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News How Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Tells a More Personal Story

News Bot Nov 5, 2016

  1. News Bot

    News Bot Chaos Immortal

    Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare attempts to break the series' mold in a number of ways. The obvious one is setting the game in space, but it also puts the players in a leadership role, as opposed to a lower-ranking soldier that follows orders. Additionally, star and writer Brian Bloom says developer Infinity Ward and the game's cast worked together like a family, something that he believes will translate into the game's campaign, resulting in much more personal relationships.

    Bloom's experience doesn't start with Call of Duty. Before Infinite Warfare, he starred as B.J. Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Old Blood, in addition to various roles in other games. He also wrote the A-Team movie with Joe Carnahan, who produced the latest draft of the Uncharted movie's script.

    We got the opportunity to talk to Bloom about the latest Call of Duty, what it's like to act and write for a game at the same time, and how World War II inspirations form a futuristic, space-faring shooter.

    The story of how you came to play Infinite Warfare's protagonist, Captain Nick Reyes, is an interesting one. Can you tell us how that came about?

    Brian Bloom: I started working with the narrative team, with [design director] Jake [Minkoff] and [narrative director] Taylor [Kurosaki] very closely, and we created the characters and put together this incredible cast. I found myself not only in the role of writing this game, but, along the way, as I began taking our scripts and getting involved in the casting process, whiteboarding, roundtables, and reads, somehow, somebody decided that I should play Captain Reyes. I'm glad that they felt that way. It was an incredible experience to work on this for the three-year development cycle, that's for sure.

    What was it like acting in and writing for Infinite Warfare?

    You know, what's interesting about writing and acting at the same time is, because we recorded with our cast, we shot this stuff like a television show or a movie; we were all together at the same time. Infinity Ward has the benefit of having this amazing volume that we're able to shoot in; it's just around the corner. We have access to being able to shoot steadily, and what was amazing about bringing these characters to the page was taking those pages to our motion capture volume with our cast. Watching David Harewood, Jamie Grady Hyder, and others take what was on the page and just bring it to life and watch these things go from the team's whiteboards, from our computers, from our desks into carbon-based life, I think it's going to translate in a pretty cool way. When people play the game, they'll feel the chemistry, they'll feel the relationships.

    So, writing gave me a chance to not only be a part of creating the characters but sort of be manager in the field in playing Captain Reyes and helping guide and feed some of that energy and continue to harness what we were finding in the cast and take those things to the highest ground possible.


    At what point did you start to get involved with Infinite Warfare?

    I was here right from the beginning, which was great. To be here at the genesis and to see the team's excitement, the team's passion, their commitment to this thing; they were determined to tell a great story and to make a great game that incorporated this new environment. It was exciting in the beginning because we talked to Top Gun pilots, COs of carriers, and admirals about the militarization of space, and this game has a really unique design language that combined NASA and the navy in a fusion that's gritty, accessible, and grounded.

    What's cool about the environment of space, in addition to the systems, features, and mechanics, is that space itself is your enemy in this game. Space is a harsh environment; it is not designed for human beings to live, no less fight. So, you have your enemy in the Settlement Defense Front, but you also have your enemy fighting in a battle zone that doesn't have oxygen. So, we looked at the dependability of your equipment, your team, your vehicles, and the durability of your equipment, your team, your vehicles. These are all factors that are part of the progression of where the military may be going today, and our technical advisors helped us hone those things, make those discoveries, and bring a possible version of the future of warfare to our players.

    The campaign definitely seems like it's going for more personal relationships this time around, and with the player in a leadership role as opposed to a grunt who follows orders. How does that change the relationships with other characters in the story?

    There's lots of ways to tell a story and the way that we told this story is that we thought it would be interesting instead of being the new guy, instead of being the grunt, to see what it would be like to give the audience and the player a bit of a promotion. It kind of changes the orientation and changes the POV; you're not being bossed around or moved through the story in that same way, so you have the respect of your ship and crew as you're the captain. And as you move through your hub ship, the Retribution, which is essentially an aircraft carrier that happens to fly, this place is alive and it is vital and it is gritty. We've had admirals that we've had the pleasure and honor of working with in various capacities in terms of technical advisory, looking for authenticity, looking for ways that we can keep this design language as real as possible.

    We've had people say, literally in this room, looking at it on that screen saying, "I can smell the jet fuel" and that's the best possible compliment that we could have. Speaking to the cast of characters: by being the leader, Captain Reyes has some heavy decisions to make. Our players are looking at things from a little different place; they get to see what it's like to be in a leadership role, which can be very powerful and also can be burdensome. There are conundrums there that he has to deal with. Captain Reyes has this philosophy: you do your job right and you bring your man home. As a squadron commander, that may not be possible. As the CO of the carrier with a thousand people under your charge and these odds stacked against you, out-manned, out-gunned, you have to put your ship and crew in harm's way. And Reyes has to look at that philosophy that he has that says, "Do it right and bring your men home," and war doesn't cooperate with that philosophy.


    So how do you balance the fact that the character you control, Captain Reyes, should already know everything you need to teach the player in the story?

    We were constantly thinking about that, and it was a tricky challenge, but one that I think we were able to, sort of, meet by using our design language, dialogue, and that POV. Again, this is the first time that Infinity Ward has had a player voice and the physical representation of the character in our cinematics. So, we have options and tools in the box that we could use that, maybe, some of the other people didn't have to tell a story from this perspective. So, we had other elements that could dictate and help instruct the character, such as his own voice.

    For him to be able to say, "This is what we're going to do next" is a strong thing for the player to feel, but the player can hear him or herself stepping into that role and giving those orders instead of receiving those orders. But, at the same time, they're still getting the instructions, getting the directives, and the rest of the crew is also responsible for helping you make some of those decisions and helping guide you, give you counsel; you can count on them and they can count on you. So, just like in real life, your crew is a vital part of helping you make the tougher decisions, helping you figure out what to do, where to go, and how to adjudicate this real-time experience.

    Why did Infinity Ward decide to break the series' mold with Infinite Warfare?

    I don't know if we were thinking about breaking any molds, I think we were thinking, "What opportunities do we have with these great new environments, what does this do to the mechanics, systems, and features of the game?"

    And each of those things were, hopefully, an organic progression; as each discovery was made, you discover an opportunity and challenge. The design team and narrative and all the departments worked together to figure out how to optimize each one of these discoveries by adding to this new environment because there's still tons of boots-on-the-ground combat here. It's just that, sometimes, that ground isn't Earth. You're still flanking enemies and moving from cover to cover and advancing on your objective with your teammates; it's just sometimes, you may be doing that with a grappling hook in zero G.

    So, again, each one of those things we looked at as, we would see something that was potentially new, potentially interesting, potentially exciting, entertaining, and fun, and you put that controller in your hand and it does everything it did before and more. So, as each one of those discoveries was made, we took advantage of it and thought, "Well, how can we maximize and how can we enhance this immersive experience that the player gets to have by stepping into this leadership role?"

    What were some of the story inspirations that helped inform Infinite Warfare's narrative to connect with players?

    Well, we wanted to tell a story about the burden of leadership, and we wanted to tell a story about people that cared about each other. One of the things that we recognized is that we've been inspired by movies like Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, shows like Band of Brothers, and Generation Kill. One of the takeaways as storytellers and as an actor, as a writer, are these remarkable relationships. Call of Duty has been the standard bearer of the military fantasy for quite some time, so what is that military fantasy? That's being behind the barrel in the heat of the action with your teammates, while developing those teammates and those relationships. It makes it so that, when you're in your set piece, when you're in a climax of the game, when you're in a critical moment, an exciting moment where there's all this stimulation and all of these incredible effects going on in this incredible environment, you care about the people that you're with and you care about their fate and, of course, Captain Reyes cares about the fate of his ship and crew.

    So, as will you when you're on the stick. That should sort of align with your agency as you move through the game and you find yourself in the heat of the action; the people around you are also in the heat of the action and, not only are they helping you through, but you're helping them through; you care about them.


    This is a story about a sneak attack, this is a story about a decimated city and a decimated fleet, this is a story about the odds being against you and having to make critical decisions. Our player is tasked; he's one of the captains of one of the last remaining warships and tasked with this objective that says, "Keep the enemy away from home and give us time to rebuild our fleet, but do it with limited resources and time, and if you don't succeed, this war may be over on the very day it's begun."

    So, it's sort of mortal consequences--a ticking clock--and the stakes are high. You could say that the face of Earth and our humanity here as we know it are in the balance. So, that's on the shoulders of the player, but he also has an incredibly exciting time going about achieving that goal. It's a heavy task, but he does have an amazing crew around him, and he and the rest of Scar Team and those of the Retribution are resourceful.

    Have you looked at other games as examples for how to tell this kind of story?

    We are all the sum of all the great entertainment that we've seen, and we're also the sum of some of the entertainment that we've seen that's not so great. But again, the hallmarks for us were some of those great movies that I've mentioned: Black Hawk Down, Band of Brothers, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket. These have iconic characters, set pieces, and stories that are unforgettable, and we've been inspired by them and more.

    But we're also inspired by taking a look, as I said, at our environment and by bringing space into this, the story itself. The environment speaks to the team creatively, and you're piggybacking on the discoveries that you're making. This not only forms the outward-facing elements but the things that you see as you're building the thing itself. So, people had their heads down working really hard, and we didn't hold other particular games or movies in the kind of regard where we were doing anything other than looking for inspiration from them. We borrowed very little other than our own aspirations to do great work like some of the movies and great games that we've seen. Taylor and Jake come from a really interesting pedigree at Naughty Dog, I've been a screenwriter for many years, and this is the team that made Modern Warfare. Everybody's got a tremendous skill set to bring to the table; there are hundreds of people who work their asses off to make the best possible game.

    How does the game's cast fit into that?

    We put together our cast the way you might want to put together a military unit because, ultimately, those people are your family; you're getting in a foxhole, you're moving into a target-rich environment with them. In this three-year development cycle, many of us worked together for a thousand days to make this great. One of the perks of that is not only the chance to iterate but for the chance to get to know each other. We trained with Navy Seals, we learned how to take doors, clear rooms, field strip weapons, move from cover to cover, and understand the different cover and concealment; that's very important.

    So, during that process, we created kind of our own group dynamic and our own relationships that, I think, translate into the game. And our cast helped us bring these characters that we conceived to life and shooting them together at the same time is something that, again, should translate in the game. It should translate in a way that really fits with the story because it's about leading those people--those people being in harm's way. So, we felt close with each other and, hopefully, you'll feel close to these people as you move through your missions and try to keep the Settlement Defense Front away from Earth.

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