Modern Warfare 2 Writer Claims Controversy Was Worth the Risk

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Modern Warfare 2 Writer Claims Controversy Was Worth the Risk

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The script-writer of Modern Warfare 2 says that the airport mission was needed to push the game to the next level.

Jesse Stern was a scriptwriter on both of the Modern Warfare games, in addition to his day job as writer on NCIS. In an interview over at GamePro, he discusses why the airport level was a risk that needed to be made in order to make a great game. (Spoiler note! If you are uncomfortable with reading spoilers to the story of MW2, you shouldn't have clicked on this story and you should definitely stop reading now.)

"I hope that game developers take the lesson that you've got to try things. You've got to go out on a limb sometimes. This is a triple-A game and the top grosser of all time with this huge budget behind it, yet we're still taking major chances wherever we can and the airport level was a risk we had to take. Sometimes you take huge risks and it really works. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. But if you don't take the chance, you're not going to make something new," Stern said.

When asked what would be the "right" moral action when you are playing an undercover CIA agent posing as a terrorist, Stern said,

There's three things you can do. Once you realize what's happening, you can open fire on the other terrorists that are with you. They'll turn around and kill you quickly, but that is an option. You can do nothing for the first half of that level too. You're not obligated to do anything other than walk and watch, which I think portrays another completely different feeling of helplessness. And the third option is [that] you can open fire.

Every single person in testing opened fire on the crowd, which is human nature. It feels so real but at the same time it's a video game and the response to it has been fascinating. I never really knew you could elicit such a deep feeling from a video game, but [that level] has.

Given that Kevin McBride, the actor who voices "Soap" MacTavish, has mentioned talks of a MW2 film, it was inevitable that Stern would be involved. "Jason West, Steve Macuda and the rest of the guys from Infinity Ward have an interest in doing it and Activision wants to do it. I'd be very curious to give that a try. You've got your source material to draw on, which is the biggest advantage in getting one of these movies off the ground," Stern said.

It is interesting to hear about the game from a script-writer's perspective, instead of just the game designers. Perhaps other studios will take a cue from Infinity Ward and think about hiring top-notch Hollywood script writers to the team.

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Greg Tito:

It is interesting to hear about the game from a script-writer's perspective, instead of just the game designers. Perhaps other studios will take a cue from Infinity Ward and think about hiring top-notch Hollywood script writers to the team.

I'd much rather they hired top-notch non-Hollywood script writers, but Doom 4 already has one.*taps nose* :)

The first time I played the airport scene, I didn't feel a thing. Not because I'm a monster or anything, but the crowd looked like the same 3 people copied and pasted over and over again, so I didn't feel bad for shooting them.

When I played it again though...damn. I felt like such a bastard. Kudos to the writer.

That's interesting that everyone in the test group opened fire. I wonder how many opened fire on the terrorists first (one of my first thoughts). I am looking forward to playing through the campaign though.

I must say, I loved the way the double-betrayal was played out in the game. Also, I opened fire as well. How can you be a good undercover agent unless you play the role out in full?

Well I have to admit it, this guy has balls of steel. This guy alone has made Infinity Ward into a shining example for the other high budget game developers out there. Perhaps now we'll start seeing some MAINSTREAM GAMES.....TAKING RISKS!!!!!

man i think he's right about the everyone opened fire thing. I did it cause i thought they would shot men for not

I had a grin on my face killing the people crawling along the ground, do I have problems?

I didn't fire on the civilians, only the cops that tried to kill me. Self-preservation y'know.

teutonicman:
That's interesting that everyone in the test group opened fire. I wonder how many opened fire on the terrorists first (one of my first thoughts). I am looking forward to playing through the campaign though.

I wonder why none of them simply didn't fire on the crowd at all. I only returned fire from the security personal myself.

I'm glad they did it because it really does give a feeling of helplessness if you just watch

HardRockSamurai:
Well I have to admit it, this guy has balls of steel. This guy alone has made Infinity Ward into a shining example for the other high budget game developers out there. Perhaps now we'll start seeing some MAINSTREAM GAMES.....TAKING RISKS!!!!!

oh, damn. you did not just say IW is genius because of MW2. maybe if you said this two years ago, because CoD4 was freaking a awesome SP campaign. they bloody spoil most of the game before release, basically stung together as many kewl set-peice battles together as they could, BS'd a plot putting you in another lame-ass OTP SF group.

i will admit, if they made the whole game from some national guard guy stateside through the whole invasion, i might have picked it up.

...

so everyone in testing opened fire...wow... IRL i know 2 people whom played the game, neither opened fire. its sad that that's apparently human nature to do..
and NO SHIT IT WAS WORTH THE RISK, even though i fail to see the risk in a sequel to a well-received game.
go do that with an original IP, then i might say you're taking risks.

MR T3D:

so everyone in testing opened fire...wow... IRL i know 2 people whom played the game, neither opened fire. its sad that that's apparently human nature to do..
and NO SHIT IT WAS WORTH THE RISK, even though i fail to see the risk in a sequel to a well-received game.
go do that with an original IP, then i might say you're taking risks.

i agree with that, but then again
I have a assumption that were going to see alot more of this controversy rubbish in games now, because as we all know, the game industry has a tendency to copy EVERYTHING that people do that seemed to be a stroke of genius at the time

I still don't see the controversy. Killing innocent people en masse is how I play most of my games.

poncho14:
I had a grin on my face killing the people crawling along the ground, do I have problems?

Nope, not at all... if you were someone who was playing with yourself while you were killing them though... it may be a different position and you may want to seek help.

Infinity Ward Action Item list for MW2:

Step 1: copy-paste code from MW1
Step 2: Add controversy
Step 3: Profit!

(Still to do: add new content, like maybe, if there's time.)

Only the game itself is more pathethic that "No More Russian". Controversy was worth the risk?. Please. The only controversy here is that IW released such a turd and it's selling so well.

And the actor is Kevin McKidd, not Kevin McBride.

Grampy_bone:
Infinity Ward Action Item list for MW2:

Step 1: copy-paste code from MW1
Step 2: Add controversy
Step 3: Profit!

(Still to do: add new content, like maybe, if there's time.)

This basically, also I was supprised to find out that Modern Warfare 2 actually had a writers, I assumed work experience kids just knocked it up on a Friday afternoon

Watched a tube vid of that opening sequence, and my first reaction was 'why is he firing?' Pretty sure I wouldn't have fired automatically - maybe next time through, for lols, but definitely not initially. Hell, the guy in the vid was launching nades into the crowds and everything... made me squirm a little, what with the double helplessness of watching this scene without any input at all.

It was when the looped canned screams started to overlap each other that the immersion broke for me - hearing the same woman's scream start three times half a second after the previous started just sounds silly, as does seeing a crowd made of the same 4 stock people. A little bit more work, a more compellingly realistic scene.

Can't believe that all the testers opened fire though. I guess for some people when you sit at a computer and get told to play the game you switch off - actually, that's what I thought I would do before I saw the footage.

MR T3D:

HardRockSamurai:
Well I have to admit it, this guy has balls of steel. This guy alone has made Infinity Ward into a shining example for the other high budget game developers out there. Perhaps now we'll start seeing some MAINSTREAM GAMES.....TAKING RISKS!!!!!

oh, damn. you did not just say IW is genius because of MW2. maybe if you said this two years ago, because CoD4 was freaking a awesome SP campaign. they bloody spoil most of the game before release, basically stung together as many kewl set-peice battles together as they could, BS'd a plot putting you in another lame-ass OTP SF group.

....

first...calm down...

Second, I said that Infinity Ward was a "shining example" because of Modern Warfare 2, not "genius." Are you really going to ignore one of the most important risks taken by a video game company in the past decade, just because you have some personal vendetta against the game's campaign?

Infinity Ward may not be "geniuses" (I mean, lets face it, they can't even bring themselves to start a new franchise), but they're certainly worth applauding for doing something that hasn't been done before, and facing the consequences of doing so head on.

Good.

But they didn't go far enough.

Where were all the civilians when you're defending the suburbs from russian invasion?

Only gripe in this game.

that level was FUCKING BRUTAL

It might be a good idea to bring in Hollywood writers for big-name games, but if the story of MW2 is anything even remotely like the "baseline" for such, I'd have to form a raging mob and lynch the next person who tries.

MW2's story was absolutely terrible. The airport level was definitely new and interesting, and for that I applaud them, but the rest of the story is just terrible to the point of absurdity.

Agayek:
It might be a good idea to bring in Hollywood writers for big-name games, but if the story of MW2 is anything even remotely like the "baseline" for such, I'd have to form a raging mob and lynch the next person who tries.

MW2's story was absolutely terrible. The airport level was definitely new and interesting, and for that I applaud them, but the rest of the story is just terrible to the point of absurdity.

Baseless statements here!

Hey guys I'm I doing it right?

Greg Tito:

I never really knew you could elicit such a deep feeling from a video game, but [that level] has.

Really? I could imagine that people would have a deeper feeling from a video game that's solely about hanging little children from a noose and then beating them until their innards fall out.

Jonny49:
The first time I played the airport scene, I didn't feel a thing. Not because I'm a monster or anything, but the crowd looked like the same 3 people copied and pasted over and over again, so I didn't feel bad for shooting them.

When I played it again though...damn. I felt like such a bastard. Kudos to the writer.

I did the same exact thing. And when i went through it the second time to try to beat it on vetren i just couldn't bring my self to fire the gun and i was forced to just skip the level

BLOONINJA 503:
Baseless statements here!

Hey guys I'm I doing it right?

Alright, here's the basis behind my position:

Edit: Sorry to the people who read this before I added the end of the spoiler tag.

The only thing that irritates me about the "controversy" with MW2 is that Activision/Infinity Ward are claiming that they took risks putting the controversy in the game. Risk or no risk, controversy or no controversy, they game was still going to sell millions of copies on day 0. If there had been more of a backlash and games ratings boards worldwide had demanded that the contraversial parts of the game be removed, they would have recalled the game, editied it and still sold millions of copies (probably more due to the added mystery of people thinking OOH WOW THIS GAME HAS BAD STUFF). Though it would be nice to think that these parts are in the game to add an element to the story that you wouldn't get in any other game because it hasn't been done before, I'm going to assume that they put those parts in the game mostly for the hype, lets say 80% hype/free advertising on FOX news 20% story. Either way, the game has still smashed sales records in a few countries and is probably going to get game of the year regardless of what else is released. The only thing I hope does happen is that more publishers/developers decided to take "risks" and take games further than they've gone prior to the release of MW2. I wonder, if Six Days in Fallujah had been announced after the release of MW2, would it have recieved the same treatment?

HardRockSamurai:
Well I have to admit it, this guy has balls of steel. This guy alone has made Infinity Ward into a shining example for the other high budget game developers out there. Perhaps now we'll start seeing some MAINSTREAM GAMES.....TAKING RISKS!!!!!

When one game has this risky of a scene and has set such amazing first week sales records, it seems like a sure bet that most mainstream developers will take note and start really pushing themselves. I'm looking forward to seeing some games really reach for great material over the next years. Undoubtedly we'll also see some developers that don't get the point who will just try to stir controversy without any real feats of script ingenuity, a.k.a. we'll get a bunch of shitty knock-offs.

Mr.Black:
I didn't fire on the civilians, only the cops that tried to kill me. Self-preservation y'know.

I'm curious (cause MW2 isn't my kind of game, so I haven't picked it up);

Is there a non-lethal take down method in the game/level? Like, a taser? Stealth up to the cops and taser them? Is there a reward for preserving the weak (unarmed civvies), and punishing the wicked (gun totting terrorists)? Or do you just have to watch brutality unfold, and question your own participation?

LopezMeister:
The only thing I hope does happen is that more publishers/developers decided to take "risks" and take games further than they've gone prior to the release of MW2. I wonder, if Six Days in Fallujah had been announced after the release of MW2, would it have recieved the same treatment?

HMMM, good thought! Let's pray that this will open some doors for Six Days! SDiF is a game that really needs to be made, and if publishers want to take their repertoire to the next level they're going to have to stop being such pussies about how the press is going to attack their product. If we're lucky, we're going to see companies taking IW's lead and start pushing the envelope.

Firia:

Mr.Black:
I didn't fire on the civilians, only the cops that tried to kill me. Self-preservation y'know.

I'm curious (cause MW2 isn't my kind of game, so I haven't picked it up);

Is there a non-lethal take down method in the game/level? Like, a taser? Stealth up to the cops and taser them? Is there a reward for preserving the weak (unarmed civvies), and punishing the wicked (gun totting terrorists)? Or do you just have to watch brutality unfold, and question your own participation?

Nope. You start with a LMG, and a grenade launcher/rifle.

It's harder watching your "mates" shoot people than doing it yourself.

And you got it right on the money.

The whole idea is to make the player hate the villian, and to avoid controversy of blaying as a real real terroris, i think IW put in the CIA subplot as a "escape clause".

LordCuthberton:

Firia:

Mr.Black:
I didn't fire on the civilians, only the cops that tried to kill me. Self-preservation y'know.

I'm curious (cause MW2 isn't my kind of game, so I haven't picked it up);

Is there a non-lethal take down method in the game/level? Like, a taser? Stealth up to the cops and taser them? Is there a reward for preserving the weak (unarmed civvies), and punishing the wicked (gun totting terrorists)? Or do you just have to watch brutality unfold, and question your own participation?

Nope. You start with a LMG, and a grenade launcher/rifle.

It's harder watching your "mates" shoot people than doing it yourself.

And you got it right on the money.

The whole idea is to make the player hate the villian, and to avoid controversy of blaying as a real real terroris, i think IW put in the CIA subplot as a "escape clause".

I just youtubed the video to see what all the hubbub was about. You really do start the level (loading, fade from black, and) reading a gun on the innocent. And the way the gun drops into its "ready position," I noticed, had a very "you should use this right now" feel to it.

My jaw was scraping the floor in that opening sequence. When the briefing guy said you'd lose a piece of yourself, he really meant it! I felt morally wrong just watching that scene unfold. o_o And people were crawling away too! Awful.... I also see now that there's no "stealthing" any cops. It's all chaos.

But as a writer and artist myself, I applaud the risk taken, the emotions and feelings this scene evoked. I don't know if I could have done it myself, but, kudos, Modern Warfare 2 creators.

Agayek:

BLOONINJA 503:
Baseless statements here!

Hey guys I'm I doing it right?

Alright, here's the basis behind my position:

Edit: Sorry to the people who read this before I added the end of the spoiler tag.

You missed out the bit where

I actually opend fire on just that first crowd, then stopped. However my dad never shot until he had to(when the military came in) and it made me feel kinda bad about shooting them and thats what I want in a game, immersion that makes me actually feel somthing, I want an experience.

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