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Activision CEO: How 3-year 'Call of Duty' dev cycle benefits 'Advanced Warfare'

Hirshberg talks about the benefits of additional dev time
Hirshberg talks about the benefits of additional dev time
Photo courtesy of Activision, used with permission

Developing a major AAA title is no easy task and yearly franchises such as Call of Duty have the added burden of being handled by multiple developers. We recently had a chance to speak with Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg about the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which is being handled by Sledgehammer Games. He gave us the scoop about the franchise's new three-year development cycle and how that benefited this year's title.

That extra time to polish the game to the nth degree is probably the most [obvious] benefit, but there are a couple others that are more technology based. Things like the facial animation strategy we're taking with Kevin Spacey. We showed an R&D project at GDC a year or a year-and-a-half ago that had a near-photorealistic face being rendered in real-time demo in a console engine. Figuring out how to actually get that out off of the R&D shelf and into live gameplay takes some time because it's different from the way we've done it in the past. That third year allows us to take things like that and get them out of the ivory tower and make them a reality.

Hirshberg went on to state that the company has been getting a lot of feedback regarding the facial animations, the overall appearance of the characters and how players are able to become emotionally connected to them more than ever before. He cited the footage shown at Microsoft's E3 conference as proof of how effective the game's enhanced visuals and animations can be.

When you're laying on the ground after the explosion at the end, and your buddy comes up to you, you see the look on his face, you don't know what's happened yet as the player, you just know there's a look on your buddy's face that isn't good. That level of detail is something that games have struggled to deliver until now.

Aside from the improved facial animations, Advanced Warfare will also include a few new gameplay features, such as the exoskeleton that allows players to boost jump or cloak themselves. Hirshberg noted that people have criticized the franchise in the past for keeping to the same basic mechanics with each passing installment. Additional development time has allowed the team to play with and incorporate these new features.

It's going to have a lot of domino effect. [Having the three year cycles] gives us a lot more time to playtest, to get it in the hands of our fans, to optimize the maps for that new movement system. At the end of the day, it's a huge investment every time we make one of these games, and we thought moving to the three year cycle was the right thing to do for the games.

Players will have a chance to experience Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's improved visuals and new mechanics for themselves when the game launches for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC on November 4th.