Ken Levine And Randy Pitchford Discuss Call Of Duty/Medal Of Honor

Irrational Interviews, which has Bioshock creator Ken Levine talking shop with other creative people about the process of making art, be they video games movies or comic books, is easily my favourite podcast on the web. In the latest episode Ken speaks to Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox software, and gets into an interesting debate on the nature of scripted shooters. Are games becoming too scripted?

"My take is that it’s a spectrum," said Randy, "and that there are a lot of customers and all customers have varied tastes. I do think though that there’s a lowest common denominator thing. I watched a video on YouTube last night of a guy playing the new Call of Duty in the hardest difficulty without firing his weapon. He’s just basically running through.

"And you know what – there’s a lot of people that buy Call of Duty and have a great time – so who are we to judge? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter – what matters is if we’re entertained or not. If you have entertained your customer then you win."

Later, when discussing Gearbox's Brothers in Arms series, Pitchford discusses how they deliberately set out to create a point of difference between what they were doing, and what Infinity Ward were attempting to create.

"We did that purposely - almost as the kind of anti-Call of Duty/Medal of Honor formula. Now, measuring those things, you can see that lowest common denominator won with that Hollywood approach, but we still were able to be very successful."

Ken Levine then jumped in, with some comments on the importance of not simply imitating what is successful in the shooter genre.

"Call of Duty does that incredibly scripted thing," claimed Ken, "and also gets away with it and succeeds with it because it’s so remarkably successful – they do what they do really, really well.

"A lot of people say well, we’re just going to make another Call of Duty game and I think when you see that happening you have that problem," continued Ken, "I say this advisably because Medal of Honor was Call of Duty before Call of Duty was Call of Duty - but Medal of Honor didn’t really know its place in the world... I think it’s quite difficult to just walk in somebody else’s shoes and do what they did and be successful. If you’re going to do a scripted game – you’d better make the best fucking scripted game that ever got made."

Some interesting points being made - and it's interesting to hear top developers opine on the success of their direct competitors.

That's just a small segment of what was being discussed on this months Irrational Interviews. Ken and Randy also get into the nitty gritty of Duke Nukem Forever's development, the potential pitfalls of moving to the next generation of consoles too quickly, and a number of other topics. You can download the podcast here.

But what's your view - are games becoming too scripted? Have we had enough of the Call of Dutys and Uncharted 2s of the world?


    But what’s your view – are games becoming too scripted? Have we had enough of the Call of Dutys and Uncharted 2s of the world?

    If it's a good scripted game, then I'll play it, plain and simple. I enjoyed Uncharted. I liked CoD4's campaign. They were very well done. But I tried playing World at War. I got bored. It wasn't well done. I tried MW2 at my friends: again, it wasn't well done, imo.

    Certainly, there have been more and more linear games, but I only play the ones that I like. Besides, there are plenty of other open world games to play, if that's your thing.

    Also, you know you've listened to too many Irrational podcasts when I read all of Levine's quotes in this article in his voice.

      lol, reminds me of this...

        I know you said one of his quotes in his voice, in your head.

    I like the scripted games. I also like the unscripted games. As Randy said, if your entertained at the end it's a win for everyone.

    I remember thinking how cool scripted events were in the first Half Life - it was such a new thing to have "cinematic moments" mixed into the actual gameplay.

    I think what really annoys me about CoD is the lack of any sort of puzzle element, and not just traditional puzzles (like Half Life's environmental puzzles), but the puzzle of the battle. i.e. I'm playing through Halo ODST at the moment, and when I die during a battle I think about how I can approach the battle in a different way, I think about strategy. That's a big thing that CoD is missing for me.

      I'm with you there about thinking of statergies when playing halo. Its great, each death forces you to re-think your stratergy! its great!

      Sorry for the double post!

      Have you played the Brothers in Arms titles? They're pretty much the definition of what you're after- you control your two squads of soldiers and need to out-flank the enemy across the battlefield using real world tactics in a really simple and effective manner, they're absolutely brilliant.

        Hear, hear! I loved Brothers in Arms' gameplay (although Hell's Highway had some rubbish story around the juicy gameplay goodness).

    Ken, your are the man! I couldnt have said it better myself! And yes, I'm over scripted games. Uncharted 2 is a good example. The best parts of that game were the parts you didn't actually play! Quite an overrated game in my opinion, its a basic 3rd person shooter really, one firefight after another. Its a fun game, but I think that all the fancy set pieces clouded many a reviewers judgement. Its an 8 out of 10 from me easily, not a 9.5/10. what would games like Uncharted & COD be without these fancy scripted events? And don't get me started on quick time events! Lol

      What would Schindler's List be without Liam Neeson? Star Wars without special effects? The fact is that those games you mention do have the scripted pieces, you can't take them out and then say 'Well what are they now?' because you've just taken out one of their key features.

      I get the argument you're making, but doing it that way isn't going to work.

        If these sort of elements are indeed a games key features, then thats kinda sad isnt it? I stand by my opinion, but then again, im an old school gamer. (i remember the good ole days lol) I dont get suckered in by fancy set pieces, I get suckered in by the gameplay. Which brings up the way games are advertised on tv. All they show is cut scene/set piece footage! Show me the actual game!

          What's an old-school game? What about the early Baldur's Gate type RPGs that had hundreds of pages of text to read? How are those interactive, any more than a video/cut-scene? And by their interactive nature, I'm not sure you can "show" a game in an ad. >.>

      So scripted events are worth 1.5 imaginary super reviewer points?

        Well I never have argued for a points-based system...

        Criticising a game for having scripted events isn't really a critical argument against that game, its a statement about what you think videogames, essentially, are. It's also a really reductionist argument that fails to account for the fact that there are hundreds of things-we-call-videogames with scripted events and even cut-scenes which are even less interactive.

        The only thing that is sort of above argument is that the player will have 'an experience' while playing a game, or watching a film. I prefer to start there, and then work backwards to explain why I had that experience.

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this, massive fan of his since the 1up days.

    Funny topic. I was under the impression all shooters are 'scripted' to an extent as they all involve players moving towards an objective, funnelling down to a certain point to move the story/level forward. The difference is how wide you make the path to the objective and how well you disguise it as a path.

    Wide Paths
    - A game like ARMAII a shooter where you have a largle map and an objective to complete. Everything else is free reign.
    Narrow Paths
    - CoD series. Go down that one corridor and survive... we may give you a side alley or two to mix it up a little but you'll always be heading in the same direction.
    Disguise the paths
    - Done really IMO well in shooters like Half Life 2, and MW1. You know you always end up in the same place but the games atmosphere, design etc all help with this. The immersion factor.

    I really didn't like the experience of Uncharted/Uncharted 2. Aside from the combat sections all you did was push in a direction and press the triangle button. The levels were extremely linear. There are all these "amazing" sequences that people talk about but they are so tightly controlled. The train carriage sequence at the start of U2 was just pushing in the only direction available and pressing triangle.

    I'm not sure where I want to go with this rant, I just wanted to say that when the game experience drives you rather than you driving the experience, I think something is a little off and that product would probably serve better as a film.

      I second that. It was fun, no doubts there. But how linear it was kinda killed the experience for me too.

    "We did that purposely – almost as the kind of anti-Call of Duty/Medal of Honor formula. Now, measuring those things, you can see that lowest common denominator won with that Hollywood approach"

    This sums up the CoD franchise to me now.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now