Call of Duty: Ghosts and the story written by everyone

Saturday, 15th June 2013 15:58 GMT By Phil Owen

Call of Duty: Ghosts is written by an Oscar winner, so it should have an amazing story. But, amazing stories don’t always equate to fun gameplay. Phil Owen found out whether that’ll be the case or not during E3.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is being written by Stephen Gaghan. A man who has an Oscar. Sp, Ghosts will be a profound storytelling experience, and we will feel emotions while playing it. That’s what happens when you have a famous writer on your game, right?

When Gaghan’s role on Ghosts was announced during E3 judges week, I was skeptical. I know how major game development usually works, and while there might always be one bro or lady credited as writer who might end up being the only person receiving a WGA nomination for that game at the end of the year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what it looks like it means.

On Halo 4, for example, 343 created what that game’s lead writer Chris Schlerf once described to me as a “narrative team.” This group of folks represented all various roles on the development team, and they worked together to build a story that jived with the gameplay experience they were creating. Collaborative experiences like that are the norm, which is why in general the “writers” aren’t singled out.

Going to the dogs

Riley the dog is a playable character in Call of Duty: Ghosts. A member of the Ghosts squadron, he is part of the player’s support team and can sniff out explosives and attack hostiles. Riley sports a camera with various tech which can be used to target enemies.

But Stephen Gaghan is Stephen Gaghan, and when I had the chance to speak with Chance Glasco, a senior animator at Infinity Ward working on Ghots, I had to ask what exactly Gaghan’s role has been during production. Surprise: Infinity Ward is not straying from the normal model.

“A lot of it is working with designers, and so it isn’t just like he stays in a room and comes up with the entire story,” Glasco told me. “He works with pretty much all the designers as kind of like the creative side of the story. Because we know games, and he knows stories, and [we use] his knowledge in the creative aspects of stories and our knowledge of gameplay.”

But when Glasco says Gaghan is working with designers, he’s not talking about an intimate Halo 4-esque narrative team. No, sir. Glasco said that while there are certainly folks on the team at Infinity Ward who had more say in the plot than others, pretty much every designer contributed. This was a truly large scale collaborative effort, and Glasco described their process and mindset for me in a bit more detail.

“When you’re developing a game, you’ve got designers on it who are just thinking of good mechanics, good gameplay ideas, good ideas for levels while you’re simultaneously coming up with the story. The difference between movies and games is you have to make those work together,” Glasco said.

“The bottom line here, is the most important thing about making a game is making it fun. And if you can have an amazing story along the way as well, that’s great. But you don’t want your story to keep you from making something fun.”

Speaking of fun, at E3 we were shown three missions from the campaign, each of which highlighted some sort of new mechanic or set piece that we haven’t seen before in Call of Duty.

The first was a pretty standard stealth-oriented section in which you’ve got two siblings trying to progress through an area without starting a full-on firefight. The new wrinkle, of course, is Riley the Dog, whom you can control via tablet kind like when you’ve launched guided missiles in previous games.

Next, we saw a team of three infiltrate a skyscraper in South America, and the twist here was that they would rappel down the side of this building and shoot foes through the windows. These weren’t firefights, but rather another stealthy segment. Then the demo skipped forward in the level , and the guys are running through the building as it started leaning over – it didn’t appear to be as smooth of a section as the sinking ship in the original Modern Warfare – and they end up falling out the side of it. Exciting!

CoD: Ghosts – Into The Deep Gameplay

The third level was all underwater, and it was yet another small-scale, stealth-oriented. But, like, it was underwater, and later on there were some battles that seemed interesting. But at the end of the demonstration, we hadn’t seen any large-scale combat situations – the building falling over doesn’t count because there was no actual fighting during that section, but admittedly that is kind of a big set piece – and so I mentioned to Glasco that the difference between Infinity Ward’s last project, the constantly epic Modern Warfare 3, and what we were shown of Ghosts was rather stark.

“We like to have really good pacing, which mean sometimes having a really intense, pump-it-up-to-11 level, you know, craziness going on, and then maybe the next level will be slower, more stealthy level. We still maintain that within Call of Duty: Ghosts,” Glasco replied indicating, as you would probably assume, that Ghosts has some as-yet-unseen wild shit in store for us. But he did qualify that comment a bit.

“I think it will be a little bit more of an intimate experience, let’s say, you know with the dog and such.”

Indeed, Ghosts is at its core a story of two brothers and their dog fighting a sort of covert war in a post-apocalyptic world – the first of the demo levels we saw featured what appeared to be an enormous impact crater of some sort near San Diego – and that aspect of the premise in itself implies a cozier story than we’ve typically been treated to in this series.

But who really knows at this point? Activision is being cagey about plot details, saying only that an “event” happened in the present day that crippled the US and that there are new world powers, including a South American conglomeration of nations like the European Union. For whatever reason, they won’t give us more than half the premise of the story, and while I knew Glasco wasn’t going to fill me in on the details, I did have to ask why they were holding back such basic information.

“When you market a game you only market a certain amount of it at a time, and eventually you get deeper and deeper,” Glasco said, not really getting into whether there was some in-game storytelling reason for not saying what the Event was yet or if they were just emulating JJ Abrams.

In any case, I’m inclined to believe the basic premise won’t be a secret that lasts until folks are actually playing the game, but they’ll tell us when they tell us, and no sooner.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is out in November and will release on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.



  1. Lengendaryboss

    They can hire all the talent they want, at least that will be the part that is new, you know not engine or anything.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Froseidon

    @1 Activision? Talent? Something is off…

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Lengendaryboss

    Not when it sells gangbusters year in year out, same story (not that story) over and over again: In fact this tells it better:

    #3 2 years ago
  4. CaptPierce

    The Call of Duty: Black Ops stories were written by the same guy who wrote The Dark Knight Trilogy, and that isn’t exactly a sweeping, engaging story with anyone worth remembering. Movie 43 had the biggest stars in Hollywood, and that movie was complete trash. Slap all the names you want on it, that doesn’t make it good. This coming from someone who loved the movie Traffic, too.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Knight Of Justice

    Call of Duty has been always good and it will be good this year too.
    But some obsessed people are trying to insulate that the best selling entertainment ever is not good.
    I bet you SHOULD change your idea.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Lengendaryboss

    @Knight Of Justice
    For a game that sells gangbusters, manipulating the FPS genre with its yearly repeats and COD clones, it really needs a break so the genre itself can grow and develop into something unique and not COD clones. I could comment more on its problem. but not right now.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. DSB

    CoD is succesful, so somehow it’s to blame for an entire industrys willingness to sacrifice their IPs chasing the same buck?

    Malarkey. Your idea of cause and effect is way off.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Lengendaryboss

    I assume you’re talking to me, no doubt COD is successful but its that success which creates COD clones, let me go into detail publishers see something successful so they copy it, that either leads to a publisher A. succeeding, B. Failing C. Neither. I am not saying COD itself is at fault for FPS clones but more of the influence it has on publishers to imitate its successful.

    #8 2 years ago

    But Stephen Gaghan is Stephen Gaghan, and when I had the chance to speak with Chance Glasco…

    This sentence is all types of confusing…

    #9 2 years ago
  10. reask

    I wonder why they even bother with sp anymore?
    I have mw3 and blops2 and played about 5 missions between the 2 of them.

    Funny enough I was a big fan of the earlier cod games prior to mw2.
    COD 2 on 360 is still my favorite.
    Amazing game on top difficulty imo.
    It really mattered what gun you picked to get through each level.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. DSB

    @8 So what’s the problem, beyond it not being your cup of tea? If they weren’t copying CoD they’d just be copying something else. What’s the symptom, and what’s the disease in that equation?

    Activision funds it, their studios build it, and people enjoy it.

    Seems to me like a lot of people just happen to like speed, guns, and fast rewards.

    #11 2 years ago


    MW3 campaign was loads of fun.

    Nowhere near as deep as CoD4, but it was intense at times.

    Barely touched the two Black Ops SPs, though.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Lengendaryboss

    My problem? Nothing that i haven’t already gone into amongst other factors.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. zinc

    @10, Because, believe it or not, people still play for the SP.

    And if the SP is a jumbled, incoherent mess, they feel cheated, no matter how good the MP is.

    Its the SP that provides the hero’s gamers root for. Halo has the Chief, Half-Life has Freeman…

    And now CoD has Riley…

    Woof, woof.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. reask

    I@ GIGA
    Yeah 3 was OK if the truth be known but I felt it to be the weakest of the series, sp wise of course.
    I finished it on highest diff and really didn’t think it was that hard.
    I think I got stuck on about 2 or 3 occasions.

    Went off the sp after that as it just felt like you were been led by the hand too much.
    I think most people buy them now for multi which is why I find it hard to believe this one will be different.

    Problem is the reviewers seem to give them top scores no matter what.
    (again talking sp only).

    #15 2 years ago
  16. DSB

    @13 But that didn’t make any sense.

    Does Activision tell any other publisher what to do? I think it’s pretty clear that they don’t, so maybe you should be expecting more of other publishers, instead of asking 20 million people to stop playing something they obviously want, while expecting a business to give up its most succesful product.

    The world really doesn’t work like that. If people enjoy something, they’re going to keep buying it. And if they keep buying it, someone else is gonna keep making it.

    I think the problem, if anything, lies with idiosyncratic publishers who keep chasing the same buck down the street, instead of trying to invent a new one. EA, Ubisoft and any other publisher have every opportunity to create something of their own, but they choose not to. That’s hardly someone elses fault.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. reask

    Dont get me wrong I loved the sp of the earlier games.
    I played them all and after mw3 stopped playing them for the reasons in my other post.

    I loved the ww2 themes especially.
    Something about the guns was special.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Lengendaryboss

    “Does Activision tell any other publisher what to do?” Its the money that lures publishers to do what i have already stated.

    “instead of 20 million people to stop playing something they obviously want, while expecting a business to give up its most succesful product.” Don’t know where that came from, i don’t mind someone enjoying the experience COD bestows on them but i do have a judgemental tone in person when chatting about COD :) My opinion is that COD has an influential effect on the FPS genre: sales figures prove that and publishers set out to imitate COD, that last part is what irks me.

    Like i said “I am not saying COD itself is at fault for FPS clones but more of the influence it has on publishers to imitate its success.”

    I am not sure whats tripping you up.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Djoenz

    I love(d) COD Ive spent way too much time on certain titles, more than I should have. Always behind though cause some people got to insane high prestige levels within 1 month of the game’s release. No lifers.

    COD is supported by many many No Lifers worldwide. SP is getting worse and worse.

    I actually loved Black Ops SP. One of my favo cod’s ever by TreyArch.
    It has a killer Protagonist Mason,it has zombies,great weapons and great MP.

    MW3 had a decent SP and the MP was very addictive.

    Black Ops 2 disappointed me .They fucked up the zombie mode so badly and the MP is boring as hell.

    I have become COD fatigued. CoD:Ghosts wont be anyting better or innovative it will probably be the same old shit.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. DSB

    @18 I’m just saying you have it backwards. CoD has the influence on publishers that publishers let it have on them.

    They’re running their own show, what they choose to make is purely their own responsibility.

    And personally I don’t see the genius in trying to beat CoD at its own game. Why fight for CoD’s scraps when you could try to give people something they aren’t already getting?

    You’re saying CoD needs a break, when really it’s just publishers who need to grow a pair.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Lengendaryboss

    It does need a break: I feel we go through the same routine each year: confirmation, a few leaks out of the next COD title, formally revealed “this will be the best COD ever with top tier marketing come November”, gameplay reveal at MS E3 conference, previews/interviews, Launch Trailer then Live Action trailer, DLC then the cycle repeats itself.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. DSB

    @21 Whether you want to read about it or play it is entirely up to you. Those 18-20 million people obviously feel it’s worth repeating.

    You can always argue whether Treyarch and Infinity Ward actually do enough to earn those sales, but a lot of people obviously feel it’s good enough.

    It’s the same for EA and their sports games, and they’ve been doing that for close to thirty years now.

    #22 2 years ago

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