Dive Into the Maps of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Absolution!

We sat down with Scott Carpenter, Lead Game Designer at Infinity Ward, to find out what makes these maps tick

by Kevin Kelly on July 06, 2017

Absolution, the latest DLC Map Pack for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare adds four maps to the mix, along with a fantastic new zombies adventure, Attack of the Radioactive Thing! We recently visited Infinity Ward to play through it all, and while we were there we spoke with Scott Carpenter, the Lead Game Designer who oversees all of the Multiplayer maps.

Activision Games Blog: So, you’re the Lead Game Designer at Infinity Ward. Have you had a hand in all of the Multiplayer maps?

Scott Carpenter: Yes, that’s right. Obviously, the individual level designers own them, but I'm over charge for overseeing all of them as they go through the process.

How do you approach each new DLC Map Pack?

We always try to have an overall Map Pack goal for each one. Some of the earlier DLC packs we intentionally skewed towards larger maps because the base maps were on the smaller side. We also looked at what maps are working in our opinion, which ones are more popular and why, and we try and facilitate that.

The earlier DLC packs we really tried to cater towards bigger maps with longer engagements. Now with Absolution we're kind of bringing it back more towards the middle. This Pack only has one map that's kind of on the larger side, because we wanted to cater to all playstyles, with run and gunners a little bit more, minus the one larger map.

It's kind of an overall goal of what the maps are going to be and then we give everybody a little something. Like, hey can we have a slightly smaller map or a slightly larger one or anything like that. Then we just try and pull them all together at the end.

Fore is definitely the largest map in this Pack, and we played a very heated Defender match on that which had a lot of back and forth and it was awesome. What was the inspiration behind it?

Yeah, it’s a large map, but I think it really is a nice changeup from some of the other maps. That was pure inspiration from the art team. We had a general idea of what we wanted it to be, but a couple of guys on the art team had some specific ideas. Josh Haun specifically, he was the one that's really drove it. He's a big amusement park fan, so he already had a lot of reference photos and research. He was really passionate about it and so we tweaked the design a little bit to facilitate it. It worked out really, really well.

What about Bermuda? Of all the maps, I can imagine people living there. It feels like a place where people have been surviving on the edge of civilization.

We’ve been really trying to push the idea of a sense of place for these maps and Bermuda is probably the best example of the Absolution maps in that regard. You know, we have a futuristic scenario, and how do people live in different places? What do they do?

For Bermuda, that was actually a really cool process where we went through and just figured out if people live here, where would the laundry go? Where would the marketplace be? How would live in this environment? We worked closely with the art team on that one and I really like it. It's actually my favorite map of the bunch.

Next up: Permafrost. Is that based on real-world locations in Chicago, or an imagined version of Chicago?

It's an amalgamation of places in Chicago. Chicago was the launching point for that map, and we wanted a frozen over, post-apocalyptic feeling. It was a natural location for that because it has Lake Michigan right there, which would freeze over. The map actually has a fairly unique layout: it's not the traditional three-lane or circle or anything like that.

I think that map works really, really well because it feels like an actual place. Yes, it’s a condensed version, but it actually feels like a real place, and I think it plays very well. It is different than a lot of maps but the sense of place is probably the best one we've done. You actually get a sense of what Chicago was like before and what it was like after this event happens. I'm pretty happy with that one.

So let’s talk about Ember. This is based on the map Resistance from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. When you create a new map based on an older one, how much leeway do you have in design?

There is always a balance with it. All the remakes generally pick what's popular and what people love about these maps and so you're very sensitive to how much you change and how much you don't. What we always do is we go back to the source files for the original map and we do a little bit of work to get that in. Then, we'll play it just as is and see how it feels because our movement feeds faster, with double jump and all the advanced moves that come with it.

So, we start from a place of a 100% reproduction of the map and we ask, ‘What is going to take to Infinite Warfare-ize this map?’ Wall runs, elevated positions. That one was a little bit softer in terms of what changes we made to modernize it. We added some wall run areas, but we had a pretty light touch when it came to re-imagining some things. But, really there is no magic formula for it. You just have to feel what's right for the game you're making and still pay homage to the old maps. To be honest with you, remakes are probably the most difficult to do.

I imagine that when you design a map and then say ‘Okay, this feels pretty good,’ you’re starting with Team Deathmatch. But then you must have to try all of the other modes and continue to tweak.

Always. Obviously, we know that most players are TDM and Domination, for the most part. There are some other modes that are pretty popular, but you have to start from those modes. We definitely have situations where we're like, ‘Hey this is all freaking sweet for TDM and Dom,’then we'll throw in Uplink or Hardpoint or something and it's just like, ‘It doesn't work.’

Hardpoint is a really good example because you have to have those Hardpoint areas fairly well designed. If you're just kind of cramming it in, it rarely works. We try to get the more difficult modes in as early as possible so we can make those tweaks. So, Hardpoint, once we get that in there's almost always a little bit of change that goes into it. Some of the other ones are fairly easier like Grind, which runs along the lines of the Domimnation ruleset and that type stuff.

Do you guys like to hide Easter eggs in the maps? I noticed there's a Carpenter on the scoreboard in Fore.

Oh yeah. Everybody has their own taste and artists are always the ones that hide those things in there. Sometimes I don't even know about them until afterwards. We always try and put one or two teddy bears in each map. I don't know if you've seen them yet in Absolution, probably not. Some of them are pretty hard to find.

That's a pretty standard at Infinity Ward, a mainstay. Artists like putting their names or the names of the people that worked on the game. It's just a nice way to remember, so when you go back to the map years later and you're like, ‘Hey, I remember all the people that worked on this.’ It's a nice thing.

It's rarely a focus because obviously there are a thousand and one things more important, but players like it. I think the people that work on the maps really enjoy it, and as long as it's not distracting from the gameplay experience I'm all for it. Sometimes I kind of don't want to know about them until they're out and then find them myself. It's always a fun thing to do.

I agree. Well, thank you very much for your time. It’s a really great Map Pack.

Thank you, glad to hear it! Thanks for swinging by.

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