If you’re recoiling in horror, stop. Call of Duty will remain firmly in corporate hands for the time being, but these ideas are worth hearing.
The Guardian asked some indie developers how they would tackle the shooter franchise. Some are gameplay tweaks, some are high concept re-examinings of the nature of war that place it in different. Some are nuts. It’s interesting to see which developers took it seriously and which ones gave jokey answers. The thing is, even when the developers are giving what they obviously disingenuous answers, they are sometimes stumbling on concepts that might be interesting.
Here are some of the more interesting ones:
I’d do a first person war game from the perspective of a civilian, swept up in events, who doesn’t pick up a gun. Protecting your family, avoiding forces on both sides. It’d be an interesting and under-represented perspective on a conflict.
Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone, Volume)
My version would draw on competitive puzzlers such as Super Puzzle Fighter. Two participants play in separate stages. Enemy soldiers wear either red, yellow or blue jumpsuits, and if you shoot three of the same colour in a row you get a chain. Getting bigger chains sends more enemies to your opponent, but if they chain them right back they can send even more to you. Ka-pow! It would be called Call of Duty: Combo-Bustin’ Chaos.
Alistair Aitcheson (Greedy Bankers, Slamjet Stadium)
Call of Duty: Fallen. The player takes the role of soldiers injured or incapacitated in battle, in a series of set-pieces covering the course of war in human history from the Peloponnesian War through contemporary remotely-operated ‘surgical’ drone warfare. In each case, after a struggle, death overtakes him—differently in each scenario. The soldier’s ultimate duty is not to liberate nor to defend nor even to kill, but to die, and the game strips warfare down to this singular principle.
Ian Bogost (Cow Clicker, Simony)
I have the unfashionable post-Gone Home viewpoint that I quite like the unfettered face shooting that the Call of Duty games provide. Admittedly the single-player is an increasingly pointless, diversionary, and bombastic spectacle and has never again reached the genuinely groundbreaking and interesting narrative highs that Modern Warfare managed. But Call of Duty has always been about multiplayer and it’s still a taut, precise, and largely flawless shooter in that regard. The corporate answer would of course be to suggest a real-time second-screen tactical experience to run alongside the main game allowing you to control a whole squad rather than a single player (*cough* like Salvaged – Kickstart it now!), but actually I’m tempted to go the Billy Joel route and say, “I love you just the way you are.”
James Parker, Opposable Games
An Oculus Rift game set in Blitz-era London. It’s blackout, no lighting of cigarettes, no switching on of lights. You play a pregnant woman going into labour. You have to get across London to a hospital or a midwife before the baby is born. The idea is to navigate by sound and shadow, by the voices of strangers to get help, and avoid being blown the heck up. Your move, Sledgehammer Games.
Cara Ellison (Sweatshop, Sacrilege)
Read more here.