Before Modern Warfare 2 broke every record everywhere, Call of Duty 4 was one of the most highly-acclaimed games of the generation – but who was the man behind its well-regarded storyline, and how did it all come together?
CoD MewTwo was big – really, really big – but it was only so big because everybody liked Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare first. Beyond the satisfying gunplay and addictive multiplayer, CoD4 surprised people by having a memorable story with likable main characters and moments of sheer brilliance like the unforgettable ending of “Shock and Awe.” But how does a game like that come together? Jack Baldwin spoke with Jesse Stern, the writer of CoD4, to learn about the creation of the game’s characters and story, a conversation that he relates in Issue 236 of The Escapist.
“We don’t do many serialized storylines. The elements of our story that are serialized are our characters. You don’t need to see every episode to know what’s going on, but if you do, you’re going to get a lot more out of it. You’ll enjoy it more. That’s how you build a good season: by sprinkling those serialized elements throughout.”
According to Stern, writing a videogame is similar. Each level is just a piece of the puzzle, and making it click is as easy as shuffling cards.
“This is a level where you do such and such – how does that relate to the next level?” he says. “To me they’re like note cards. To everyone else they’re months and months of hard labor – but to me they’re note cards, and you can just move them around and say, ‘What if we put this level here? Okay, you’ll have to get a thing.’ That will just be a ‘thing’ for months, and then finally it turns into ‘something.’ How about it’s a guy? How about it’s a clipboard, or a bomb? You build it up, and it’s funny how it develops and turns into a story.”
To read more about the craftsmanship that went into the Adventures of Soap MacTavish & Company, check out “Finding Meaning in Modern Warfare“ in Issue 236 of The Escapist.