Game Developers Go the Extra Mile to Bring Realism to “Call of Duty” Characters
Characters as Authentic as Those in Movies
Tasha Valdez, a senior associate scan technician at Sledgehammer Games, spends nearly 50 hours a week meticulously sourcing and scanning clothing items for characters in the popular video game franchise, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.” The attention to detail is crucial, as the game’s narrative playthrough relies on authentic looks that resonate with die-hard fans.
Mapping Out Looks for a Realistic Experience
Similar to costume designers in the film industry, the creative team at Sledgehammer Games consults military experts and conducts thorough research to ensure accuracy in the outfits. Valdez collaborates closely with a lead character artist to create looks based on character concepts they receive, paying attention to details like wrinkles and the garment’s silhouette to achieve an authentic appearance. The team at Sledgehammer works out of a digital gear library filled with individual clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create different looks.
Going Above and Beyond
Valdez goes the extra mile when sourcing unique items, actively seeking out pieces that are not yet part of a specific concept. Sometimes, the team faces challenges when they need military gear that they legally cannot purchase. In these cases, Valdez finds creative solutions, such as padding a vest to make it appear as if it contains real ballistic plates. The team then scans the vest and the pouches separately, allowing them to mix and match the pieces in the game.
The Collaboration and Design Process
Letting the Narrative Guide the Look
David Swenson, campaign creative director for “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” emphasizes that the game’s narrative dictates the look of the characters. Once the team has a clear understanding of the character’s role, context, and story, they collaborate with content art directors to create unique looks that avoid monotony and ensure recognizable signature styles. The challenge lies in keeping the looks believable and true to real military operations, while also avoiding copyright infringement.
Consulting Military Experts
When developing the opening sequence of the game, the team faced a question about what the operatives would do once they were done with their scuba gear. They turned to military experts, including former Navy SEALs, who provided insights into how the operatives would strip their gear underwater and continue their mission. This attention to detail ensures that the game accurately represents the real-life actions of military personnel.
Collaboration and Reusing Assets
The design process also involves collaboration with other studios that have worked on different “Call of Duty” titles, such as Infinity Ward. Characters created by Joel Emslie, studio art director at Infinity Ward, appear in multiple games within the franchise. For “Modern Warfare 3,” Emslie served as a consultant, allowing the art directors at Sledgehammer Games to take the characters in new directions based on the game’s story.
Creating authentic looks for “Call of Duty” characters goes beyond mere aesthetics. The attention to detail and collaboration with military experts ensure that players have a realistic and immersive gaming experience.