Jul 20 / 2011

Question of the Week | 7-21-2011

By Sledgehammer Games

In your Coronado blog you mentioned two books you read about the Navy Seals. Can you tell us more about how you research to make your game realistic? Are there other books you recommend? What movies do you guys watch for inspiration?

- James, from Vancouver WA.

Hi James,

Finally, a Q of the Week that isn't "Where the #$%& is the #MW3 Spec Ops video?" The answer to that is still: "Coming, promise."

On to your question!

Authentic interactive representations of modern military conflict are a cornerstone value of the Call of Duty franchise. Sledgehammer Games has a lot of experience in the FPS genre, as well as years of built up knowledge of modern combat and tactics. Many of the developers here at Sledgehammer Games, me included, have been developing First Person Shooters for more than a decade. We are all rabid FPS gamers. Some members of the development team have past military experience we draw from directly. Military strategies and technology move forward at remarkable rates though. While we draw heavily on the team's existing knowledge base and IW's long established track record with Call of Duty, we also invest a lot of energy in staying up to speed on the very latest military advances.

One of our best research tools is working closely with specialized experts, both active and retired, from different branches of the US Military including the Navy Seals and Delta Force. We work closely together on many aspects of the game design, and they have been useful in leveraging their contacts to set up offsite activities that put us straight into the boots of today's soldiers. Recently some of us were able to fly a Marine training mission in a V22 Osprey, for example. For our audio team, animators, artists and designers, it gave us an incredibly intimate and up close view of one of the most advanced exfil vehicles in action today. On another research trip, we got exclusive access to the Navy Seal BUD/S training facility at on Coronado. More details about that trip can also be found here: http://www.sledgehammergames.com/blog/category/modern-warfare-3

We read a ton of non-fiction accounts and consume tons of films, both documentaries and fictional military movies, at an incredible rate. Fortunately for us, the Navy Seal's take down of Bin Laden has resulted in a wealth of Spec Ops articles and books flooding the market. My "to read" stack has grown nicely since May. The books in my office, which represent just a fraction of the library at Sledgehammer Games, are consistently changing as I find new books to read and lend books out to others. Currently, the collection includes:

  • Secret Commandos by John Plaster
  • Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
  • Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury
  • War by Sebastion Junger
  • 7 Deadly Scenarios by Andrew Krepinevich
  • The M16/M4 Handbook by Mike Pannone
  • A 10 page article in the August, 2011 Popular Mechanics called "Secrets of the Navy Seals"
  • and the book I just got this week: Lions of Kandahar by Major Bradley

Our studio kitchen big screen cycles a nonstop parade of inspirational movies and key research films. Some of the studio favorites include Black Hawk Down, the HBO series Generation Kill, Hurt Locker, and Full Metal Jacket, to name a few. We also pull from other film genres for inspiration as well. Glen, who tends to have trouble comprehending big words, has a pretty impressive collection of reference films piled high in his office.

Honestly, that's just a snapshot of some of the high level research we do. Each department in the studio dives deep into research specific to their parts of the game. Your question sparks a great topic and we are looking to dive deeper into the subject via our blog. Keep your eye out. More good stuff is coming.