Call of Duty Has Become "Expected," Just Like Madden, Doom Designer Says
John Romero says, "You see it, you know what it is, and you know the next iteration is going to be like the previous one…"
Some would argue that this year's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, with its super-ability exosuits, is making a dramatic step forward for the series. But Doom designer John Romero doesn't see much meaningful year-over-year innovation for the franchise. Speaking with Edge, Romero said he understands why Call of Duty is a chart-topper every year, but claimed the core design of the franchise hasn't shifted much.
"Call of Duty is enough of a deathmatch game to keep people coming back to it year after year, but the design isn’t breaking people's brains," Romero said. "It's expected, in the same way Madden is. You see it, you know what it is, and you know the next iteration is going to be like the previous one but in a different location, maybe a different time period. It'll have guns and a lot of the same features."
For its part, Call of Duty publisher Activision maintains that if it were to shake things up too dramatically with the franchise's formula, the series might lose some of its appeal. Mark Rubin, producer at the Activision-owned Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward, said last year that Call of Duty is something like a traditional sport. "If soccer/football were all the sudden to switch from 'OK you can't use your feet, you have to use your hands' Who'd watch that really?," he said at the time.
"If a game makes a bunch of money really quickly, that's a testament to the marketing power of the company and not really the quality of the game" -- John Romero
Romero, who is working on an unannounced shooter, recently said that game designers have "barely scratched the surface" of what's possible in the shooter market. Though he hasn't given any solid details on his new project, he says open-ended sandbox game Minecraft has proven that games don't need a major publisher like Activision to succeed. What games need, Romero says, are active communities of dedicated gamers.
"There’s no Call of Duty-Con, but there is a MineCon, a QuakeCon, and a BlizzCon," Romero said. "If a game makes a bunch of money really quickly, that's a testament to the marketing power of the company and not really the quality of the game."
Romero also maintains that design trumps technology in certain circumstances. He said new consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 allow for better graphics and more believable AI, but they don't make good game design.
"Minecraft doesn't care about how many shaders or triangles or stuff, because it doesn't matter," he said. "Tetris did not care about how many polygons were on the screen. It's nice to have the good technology, but people that develop know the tech race is over."
"Now we have really fast computers, really fast phones. Nobody wants to rush out and buy the next console so that they have something no one's ever seen before," he added. "Because everybody's seen it plenty of times--it's just faster now."
Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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