Infinity Ward and Activision unveiled a host of online multiplayer features this morning for the latest entry in the “Call of Duty” franchise, but one of the most surprising had to do not with a weapon or co-op mode, but with the gender of a character,
At the conclusion of a new trailer for this November’s “Call of Duty: Ghosts” — the clip features a previously unreleased song from Eminem — a sniper levels a gas station. Cut to a close-up of the previously unseen soldier’s face and, in a rarity for the “Call of Duty” franchise, the shooter is shown to be a woman.
Female characters have cropped up from time to time in the “Call of Duty” series, but never before in what’s long been a boys-character-only club of online multiplayer. It’s a second “first” when it comes to characters for “Call of Duty: Ghosts” — Infinity Ward and Activision previously showed off a combat-ready canine created for the game.
When it comes to adding women to “Call of Duty’s” multimillion-strong multiplayer modes, “it’s something that we’ve gotten tons of requests for and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Eric Hirshberg, who oversees the “Call of Duty” franchise for Activision Publishing.
So then what took so long?
In an interview, Infinity Ward’s Mark Rubin, the studio lead for “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” said the change required a full overhaul of “Call of Duty’s” customization features. Previously, he said, what a player looked like in the multiplayer game was largely randomized.
“It wouldn’t have made sense to do it unless we had character customization,” Rubin said. “When we started down the path of character customization, it was instantly about getting females into the game. That adds a lot of extra work. Not only do you have to create female characters, but you have to rig them differently. We had to motion-capture differently. We couldn’t use our guy animation on a girl, so it became a big thing.”
With “Ghosts,” players will have more than 20,000 customization options when it comes to building a character. Not only will they have the option of creating a female character, they will also have the chance to play as a non-white character.
Rubin said he hopes a more open-armed approach to race and gender will attract more players to “Call of Duty: Ghosts.”
“We really feel a big part of who this hits is the casual market,” he said. “The casual market, we thought, would be more interested in being engaged with who they are, whereas the hardcore players are more engaged in focusing on the competition. The casual player, which is the vast majority of our audience, we think will really be engaged in being able to create who they look like and who they are, including race and gender.”
“Call of Duty” message boards are filled with players asking why they have been unable to play as a female character online. Rubin suggested today that the game needed to do a better job of reflecting its audience.
“It was something we pushed for and the main reason is that our audience is so broad,” he said. “It’s so vast. It made so much sense to try and include everybody as much as possible. We talked to a lot of girl gamer fans, and the community is growing and growing and growing. This is not a ‘guy’ thing anymore.”
“Call of Duty: Ghosts” is out for multiple platforms Nov. 5, but Activision’s Hirshberg had one early review of the game’s new female characters.
“She looked badass, didn’t she?” he said.
– Todd Martens | @toddmartens
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