Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Collection 1 arrives in the PlayStation Store today, and it brings with it a whole weekend of double XP. This is the biggest DLC collection in franchise history, offering four multiplayer/Survival mode maps – Piazza, Liberation, Overwatch, and Black Box – as well as two all-new Special Ops missions, Black Ice and Negotiator. That kind of content doesn’t just make itself, so I asked Mark Rubin, Executive Producer at Infinity Ward, for some insight into how the studio approaches making add-on content for MW3.
Dan Amrich: Everybody has different tastes in maps. When you put together a collection, are you trying to please different groups of fans with specific maps, or do you try to make every map have something for everyone in it?
Mark Rubin: Any map can come up at any time in any game mode, so we never want to make a map that leaves players thinking “this isn’t for me.” Even when we design a map like Liberation, which snipers enjoy with its long sight-lines, we still create areas for players who enjoy, say, close-quarter combat. The central bridge and underground bunker in Liberation are a great example of this. It’s something for everyone, but we try to really offer something of value to each subset of players.
The locales represented in Collection 1 are literally all over the map – a seaside village in Italy, a swanky neighborhood in California, and the heart of Manhattan. How do you choose where a map will be located, and does that location determine what kind of gameplay works best there?
It’s a brainstorming process. Sometimes we think about the single-player campaign and ask “What’s going on a few blocks over? What’s happening that we aren’t currently seeing?” Other times, it’s dreaming up environments that offer the most tension and danger; it’s hard to beat Overwatch for that in Collection 1 – gun battles on a skyscraper are definitely dangerous. Other times we go for locales we’ve never seen before, or something that the art team wants to try out. I’m really proud of them on this collection; it’s worth stopping and looking around a map like Piazza to appreciate just what a good job all the art teams have been doing. And every now and then, someone will go to a great vacation spot somewhere around the globe and think, “This is gorgeous – and it would be a great CTF arena!”
I know each map goes through a revision process. How long does it take to make a map, generally? And with constant iterations, how do you know when you’re done?
We start a level by prototyping the map geometry. Before we decide on a final theme or setting, it’s more important that we get the level layout locked down – it needs to flow correctly, it needs to offer a lot of interesting engagement points. And that can take several months, with playtesting and polishing. As for how to know when it’s done…it just feels right. When the team agrees, from playing it, that things feel balanced, we know it’s ready.
What makes a map fun?
Player interaction and variety. When you spawn on the map, you want to run into other people – that’s the interaction. Maps with interesting choke points and clear pathways feel very satisfying to most players, because they know they’re going to get into battles in those areas. The tight corridors of Air Force One in Black Box are a good example. Yet elsewhere in Black Box, you have completely different environments – inside fancy mansions, a few construction areas. They look and feel different from the airplane sections, and that’s where variety comes in.
Which map in Collection 1 is your favorite to play, and why?
This is like asking someone to choose between their children, and I won’t fall into that trap. I hope everybody enjoys all four of the multiplayer maps. That’s why we made them.
Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer, and Raven Software all square off in a MW3 lobby. Which studio wins?
Do you even have to ask?
Somehow I knew the answer to that last one. Content Collection 1 is available now in the PlayStation Store for $14.99, and double XP kicks in on Friday – all players, all modes. Enjoy it!