Sledgehammer Games co-studio head and co-founder Michael Condrey made the trip to the Call of Duty World League Dallas Open Presented by PlayStation 4 to see how competitive players are enjoying Call of Duty: WWII. While was attending the first open event of Season Three, we sat down with him to talk shop. Read on for the full interview.
How do you and your team at Sledgehammer Games design Call of Duty: WWII for both casual and competitive players? Is it a different process for both? Or is it the same?
It’s one and the same. Everyone wins when you have strong collaboration between some of the best players in the world and the development team. That question comes up quite a bit, and we firmly believe that this game is made for everyone.
Everyone wants the same thing: they want great maps, balanced weapons, and they want thoughtful choices when customizing to fit their play style. What we appreciate in having a strong collaboration with the Call of Duty World League is that these athletes can pick up on these nuances very quickly. They can highlight when there is an issue on a map, or a weapon imbalance, or if a Scorestreak is overpowered. We get that feedback through the great partnership we’ve had with the CWL over the past three years.
That’s also why we hired Raymond "Rambo" Lussier as a part of this project, because having that feedback from him and from the CWL team makes the game better for everyone.
What did you and your team do this past month to make sure that the game’s meta was solid before heading into the CWL Dallas Open?
We knew going in that this event was super important. We also knew that Ranked Play and GameBattles had to feel great at the beginning, so we have worked closely with the CWL during the whole course of development. We had pro players come in multiple times throughout the process, had multiple discussions around rulesets, and we even had casters in to play with the new CoDCaster mode. This partnership between Sledgehammer Games and the pro players has been important.
So then of course, you launch and you listen. We’ve made changes based on that feedback, such as with flinch and certain weapons. We took some Basic Training skills out of Divisions and allowed players to choose others. And all this reflects how good of a partnership we have.
December 1 marked the day Ranked Play returned to the Call of Duty franchise. What did you and your team focus on when developing this mode?
So many people watch competitive, and so many people play the game. So, having a path for a player who aspires to compete one day is something we really wanted, because we wanted a way for people to start that journey.
Ranked Play is great because it mirrors the CWL ruleset and there are multiple tiers you can compete at. To me, Ranked Play is the first step to competitive play, with MLG GameBattles after that, and MLG GameBattles leading directly to the CWL. For us, it was really setting up a system where any player on the planet can match into a series that mirrors a CWL series, and see if they have what it takes to play at a higher level.
For this game, with the seven tiers you have in Ranked Play, you will really know where you stand. If you make it to the Top-100 in the world, you will get this really kick-ass helmet, and you’ll have that claim as being one of the elite.
This is the placement season – season one – that kicked off on December 1. This is an individual placement season, and then we are about to turn on the option for full teams soon.
How can a competitive player use Ranked Play to improve his or her game?
The one thing about Ranked Play that we love is that it directly reflects the CWL rulesets. It’s the same maps, modes, and restrictions, so it gives you a very clear understanding of how you stack up against other people around the world.
As your matchmaking rank and tier climbs, you have a real sense of where you sit, and you can start to build teams around that. Those teams then form strategies, and that will hopefully elevate them to the point where they can compete. And when they can, MLG GameBattles is there for that.
So I brought up Rambo Ray earlier, and he is actually going through the grind too. He is on the verge of Diamond to Master, and did it the hard way. He placed in, he grinded in the game, and if Ray can do it, anyone can do it if you put in the time and effort and commit to it.
Speaking of people who are playing Ranked Play at Sledgehammer Games, you have managed to fit in a couple of games into your busy schedule. What Divisions and loadouts are you using?
I can’t tell you how many hours I put into this game, and what I love is that I continue to play. I’m at a point now where I use all the Divisions. I use snipers more in this game than in any other Call of Duty, but my go-tos are Infantry and Airborne, and I like them for different reasons.
Since we adjusted the flinch, I really enjoy Airborne, and often I’ll take Primed or Rifleman as my Basic Training. I like the MP40 a lot, and even though, through the data, the K/D for that gun is not as high as the PPSh-41, the MP40 is my favorite weapon in the game.
And for Scorestreaks I have my standard set. I usually default to Care Package because I love the idea of getting a random roll there. I’m a pretty run-and-gun guy, so you will never see me getting the highest Scorestreaks, and I’m old, so my K/D is about a 1.0.
When you walked into CWL Dallas and saw the stage, the players and teams, how did you feel? What does this event, and the events to come, mean to Sledgehammer Games?
Three years is a long time to work on anything creative, so there is a lot of pride in seeing this come to life with the fans. The CWL group has elevated the competitive experience in ways that I am very proud of.
From the Hall of Champions leading into the main stage, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and the city of Dallas, are all great for this esport. And what the CWL has done to make this feel like a true fan event that celebrates esports at the highest level, I felt really proud to be a part of it. I can’t wait for New Orleans, Champs, and the full season ahead. Also, everyone back at Sledgehammer Games is tuning into the event, and they are just as proud as I am.
What are you most excited for during this third season of CWL?
I think the Call of Duty World League Championship stands out as being the pinnacle event of the CWL experience, so I’m looking forward to that. I did not make it out to Orlando last year because we were busy finishing Call of Duty: WWII, but that event was spectacular.
Outside of that, it’s really the excitement of seeing teams engaging in the CWL. You saw how quickly these team passes sell out.
And at this point, I’m excited to see if we can break the record for the number of teams who play at an MLG event. MLG’s record number of teams at an event is 256 teams in the open and 16 in the pool. The next open event of the season, CWL New Orleans, tied that number of teams.
The fact that we are chasing that record shows the number of teams that are interested in competing on this level and in this game, and breaking that record would be an exciting moment for us.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to the Call of Duty esports community?
I want to thank them for sticking with us, and for their feedback, patience and support. The launch of Call of Duty: WWII was exciting, but we have a long season ahead, and we want to thank them for standing by us. The game is going to get better every day, and the competition will get more exciting every week.
This is just the beginning, and we want to thank everyone who plays Call of Duty: WWII.