Interview: Game Director Marc-Alexandre Milot Talks Call of Duty: Modern WarfareSeptember 5, 2019
Recently we had the chance to talk with Marc-Alexandre Milot, Game Director at Beenox for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, while he was in Toronto for Fan Expo Canada He talked game design, fans and what to expect when playing on the PC
So how did you get into this business?
Marc: I came to Beenox ten years ago, we were working on the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions at the time. I was an engineer on the tech side, I worked on the streaming and all the back end stuff and I switched to do the AI engineering on Shattered Dimensions. After that, I switched to lead engineer, working mostly on the Wii and 3DS port, like for Skylanders. Then we switched to Black Ops 3 at the time and were also doing a down port for the PS3 and the Xbox. It was really cool, I told my boss when I was really young I used to play Call of Duty 2 on PC, I was very happy at that moment. Later, we were able to work on Black Ops 4, we were in charge of PC development, making sure the game was working well in battle, feeling great, so it was a big challenge we had at Beenox. At the time I was a lead engineer and near the end of the project, I started doing some design stuff, like for Black Ops, making sure the gameplay was great, all the interface was looking cool. Basically what we have done with the PC version is make sure we have the same features as the console version, looting the bags and the stash, and on PC it is a faster experience. After that, since we did a good job on the PC version, we were put in charge of the PC version of Modern Warfare.
What are some of the challenges for you in terms of making the PC version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?
Marc: One of the big challenges for the cross-play this year, you know Black Ops 4, you could do some balancing, specifically for the PC, you can aim sniper rifles better. The big challenge was to make sure the cross-play was fair for everybody, no matter what input device or console you’re using, so you still want to have a fair experience with the gamepad players, that was one of the biggest challenges we had, in terms of the balancing side of things.
Is it hard to get people to play on PC, in terms of cost and the type of gameplay they get to experience?
Marc: It’s a big challenge because we don’t want to make it unfair for the cross-play, we want to make sure the games run fair if you have a low-end machine compared to a high-end machine. We want to make sure we have the widest range possible of hardware we can support. Of course, I’d love to see more and more PC players. (Laughs) That’s one of the reasons Modern Warfare was really big at the time, Modern Warfare 1, 2 on PC, so it’s kind of the same vibe we’re trying to bring over to make sure the game is going to be good. You will be able to play with the keyboard and mouse with a console this year. Basically it’s a plug and play, you plug in the keyboard and mouse, into the PS4 for example, and join the regular console players. It’s really hard because gamepad players are also very good, so it’s a good challenge. We want to make the experience fair, we don’t want to make a huge distinction between PC and console players.
So what’s a typical workday for you, working on something like this?
Marc: Working for Beenox…well, my part is the big days (Laughs) We had a great partnership with IW so basically every time on their end of the site, we’d create a new menu or new mechanics, we try to make sure the mechanics are going to be working on the PC, so we discuss with them as they are developing it, just to make sure they remember that the mouse is working well, the focus is working well, so that’s the kind of things we do before we implement things. Once all that is done we do playtesting, make sure the feeling is great, make sure it feels very natural…and I have a ton of meetings! (Laughs)
Is it hard meeting the expectations of fans, or do you have your own expectations of how you think you can improve the overall gaming experience?
Marc: We have high expectations and speaking for myself, I’m a big PC player, a hardcore player, so I want to make sure the experience is awesome and I hope similar PC players will enjoy the decisions I’ve made, that we’re going in the right direction. Of course, we don’t have unlimited time to develop this project so we have to make some hard decisions on where we put our priorities, so we ship the game out in time. We have to ship out the same time as the consoles, for the cross-play, so that can be a big challenge. That’s why working with IW was great because they would always let us know what deadline was coming up, so we all can agree on what to do if we need to adapt and get it done on time.
How do you conduct your playtests? Do you do certain sections as you go along, test certain hardware, gameplay etc?
Marc: Internally at Beenox we do playtests, two or three times a week, and we use different people. We have some people from HR, we have some very hardcore Call of Duty fans and they give us feedback on specific mechanics (they are very specific) and we also do some cross playtests, to make sure the server is working well. We also have some user research, basically, we ask people from outside the company to come in and we give them a survey about what they’re experience was like with the PC, we make them test our features and they give us feedback. Since they are coming from the outside they have an unbiased opinion so that’s very useful for us.
How would you pitch the advantages of playing on PC, especially in terms of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?
Marc: Because it’s cool! (Laughs) With PC you have some pros and cons, some of those are related to hardware. Having a high refresh rate monitor is a big help, if you are playing with a keyboard and mouse it’s much smoother. It’s kind of easier to aim, if you wanted to do some quick scoping, like do a 180, that’s easier on PC with a higher refresh rate. We also have some specific features that we are developing like we are developing the shadows, they look so much better, much more realistic. For example, if there are some bullets on the ground you will see some small shadows from the bullets, and this is technology that only the PC is going to have.
I want to thank Marc for taking the time to talk with us
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can be yours to own September 12th, 2019