Call of Duty: Ghosts and The Revealing Power of Buzzwords

Call of Duty Ghosts

Now featuring a dog and superior fish AI.

Even though Call of Duty: Ghosts is going to come out on practically every available system, both current and next-gen, everyone knows that any real discussion over AI or graphical innovation is mainly going to involve Microsoft, Sony, and the PC. What is so interesting about this particular discussion, however, is that it provides yet another example of just how insecure Microsoft is about the upcoming jump from the current generation to the next generation in terms of PR and sales. Take this recent article from Eurogamer and Infinity Ward’s Executive Producer Mark Rubin talking about the differences between Call of Duty: Ghosts on this generation’s consoles and the next:

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“Infinity Ward has said the difference in terms of visuals between the current-gen and next-gen versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts will be clear for all to see.

Executive producer Mark Rubin told Eurogamer the next-gen exclusive features that will have the most impact are dynamic lighting and displacement mapping.

‘It’s actually pretty pronounced,’ Rubin said of the graphical difference between the versions.

‘The coolest is… and every time I just catch a glimpse of it I’m like, wow, that looks so cool, is displacement mapping. On current-gen you’ll walk by a brick wall and it’ll be mostly flat and it’ll just have a bump map or something. But on next-gen you can see the bricks, like, physically they’re there. You see that geometry and it looks so good.

‘It boils down to two things: geometry and lighting. Those two things are going to be significantly better on next-gen than they will on current-gen.'”

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Geometry and lighting; two things which without we would be in dire need indeed.

It’s understandable from a developer or programmers point of view to care about these things, with them being at the technical heart of everything day in and day out. While that’s all fine and dandy, it honestly doesn’t mean much to the consumer. Most people translate buzzwords such as lighting to “Oh great, more bloom and lens flare,” and geometry to “Oh great, math.” The trailer looks nice, however, though that may just be because it doesn’t show much gameplay:

The touching and emotional music and the prominent showing of the dog do a good job of pulling the heartstrings, even if it is somewhat obvious what they’re trying to do. Who doesn’t love dogs? Just put a puppy in your video and people will instantly care. That extra 18,000-30,000 years of breeding these animals hasn’t gone unnoticed. A multiplayer video shows a better look at what the game actually has to offer (also from Eurogamer):

Everything that is offered up as features in the multiplayer video is more of the same, which is fine, as fans of the series (and even those who aren’t fans) know exactly what they’re getting with each iteration of the franchise, and that’s fine.

Further in the article Eurogamer and Mark Rubin speak more about the game’s engine, graphics, and art direction:

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“The game is built on a new engine, according to publisher Activision, although just how new it is remains unclear […]

‘If I go back to interviews from COD4 days, someone asked, ‘How are you 60fps and yet you still look like the best game out there?” Rubin said.

‘I thought about what that meant, and I chalked it up to visual density. Even though we’re 60fps and it’s always about the gameplay, we also have a sense of visual density. When you’re looking down a hallway there’s garbage on the floor and there’s stuff dripping down the wall.

‘Our art director is famous for this: he says, ‘You need more dirt.’ This needs to be much more weathered and grungy. He’s always pushing for that in everything, whether it’s characters or environments […]

‘We really do from an art standpoint put a lot into the scene at any given time.'”

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“Visual density” is a pretty good buzzword, and Mark Rubin uses it quite a bit. Though that’s another deceptive term that can easily be translated to something disappointing,such as “cluttered” or “busy.” What’s really telling (though not all that surprising) is the mention of the art director’s design philosophy of “You need more dirt.” Wanting to make everything “more weathered and grungy” is exactly what everyone complains about in FPS titles nowadays. That usually translates to more “brown” and “gray” dust splattered over everything, and a total lack of color and vibrancy.

More to the point, it’s pretty clear that Infinity Ward is perhaps not quite as confident as they want to be or should be. If you have to repeatedly tell people that “things are different” or that something is “cool,” then it more than likely isn’t.

Then again, it’ll probably sell well, even on the Wii U, and everyone knows what they’re getting and what to expect, so no harm done.

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