Robert Bowling

June 10, 2011

IAm Robert Bowling, Creative Strategist on Modern Warfare 3 AMA

I got sent a request to do an AMA on reddit, so here I am. We just revealed a load of content at E3 so feel free to ask any MW3 or non-game related questions.

What would you say is YOUR favourite aspect about MW3 that differs from previous Call of Duty games?

Spec Ops Survival mode, solely because it brings a lot of stuff to the game that we've never done before, plus you get to use a lot of Multiplayer features without worrying about them being over powered (since its co-op and not competitive MP), so you get to do shit like have an awesomely powered ACR and take on bomb dogs with Juggernaut and it doesn't matter if its completely ludicrous since it all takes place outside the story mode. Its all about just having fun.

What's your favourite gun in multiplayer so far?

And how often are patches going to be released? As frequently as Black Ops would be nice, but anything more than the 'never patches' MW2 had.

It changes daily because we're always rebalancing and tweaking the damage in multiplayer. We'll continue to do that until launch based on feedback, playtests. We're currently playing MP every night with big games on Friday (friday night fights) and giving feedback.

We've been building up our infrastructure as a whole since Modern Warfare 2 to focus on extended post-launch support, while MW2 did have patches, it wasn't nearly to the speed and frequency that I would have liked. We fully planned to address that with Modern Warfare 3 with the ability to do smaller fixes more instantly (playlist updates, hot fixes) so the small wait for the patches to cert and release are more enjoyable.

Multiplayer: Do I really have to pay extra to get the full features? and if so, what features would I get?

Absolutely not. Multiplayer in-game has no fee or option to pay a fee at all. You buy the game and you get everything that everyone else gets, there is no option to buy advantages.

What you may be referred to is the ELITE service that Activision is doing that allows you to check full detailed stats, create groups, clans, compete in competitions and tournys, and a lot more. That service is also free to all Call of Duty players, they have said they will include paid features that are optional but not have said what they'll be.

The coolest free feature in ELITE that I will actually use is the ability to change your create a class from anyone online (or your phone / tablet) and push it to the game.

Why has ELITE been capitalized?


What do you feel has been the single best improvement for MW3 over MW2 (or Black Ops)?

Or, should I say, the best improvement you can reveal. :)

Spec Ops by far. Adding in the matchmaking, progressive ranking, killstreaks and unlocks, and wave based modes have made Spec Ops everything we always wanted it to be when we first introduced it.

Also, returning to gun on gun focused multiplayer is a big thing for me.

Could you expand on wave based modes?

Survival Mode in spec ops, which is playable solo or in co-op, contains endless waves of increasingly more difficult enemies. The first wave is just infantry with standard weapons, then they get better weapons and more accuracy, then its infantry and dogs, then dogs and infantry some with C4 strapped to them, then helicopters to shoot down, then juggernauts, then juggernauts with riot shields, and even more. It's constantly throwing new tactics and enemies at you.

Now the cool thing is we have progressive ranking in Spec Ops now, so you'll be able to rank up, unlock new weapons, attachments, gear (like turrets, claymores, armor), killstreaks (like calling in a squad of delta to help you defend or airstrikes) so that you can change up your tactics as you rank up.

Alot of the MW3 footage looked very similar to MW2, what is MW3 doing to differentiate itself from previous games both in terms of singleplayer and multiplayer?

From a story stand point, Modern Warfare 3 is a direct sequel - picking up just hours after Modern Warfare 2 ended.

the big difference, from a single player campaign standpoint, in Modern Warfare 3 is the scale of the levels you're fighting in. Like going through the streets of Manhattan both on foot and in-air, or Paris, or London, or parts of Africa. The sizes of the campaign levels are massive, which required a lot of work in terms of advancing the streaming tech to not only get to that level of scale but to maintain the game running above 60 fps at all times.

From a multiplayer stand point its all about polish and balance. Taking all the feedback from Modern Warfare 2, building up from the core design philosophy of Call of Duty 4 (the simplistic beauty of fast paced gun on gun focused gameplay), keeping what we loved, losing stuff we (including you) didn't, and adding in stuff that will change up the way we play.

The size is great, but are they more open? I like games like Fallout, where you can wander through surroundings, instead of being sheparded down a narrow path. If I'm in Manhattan, can I just turn down any street and run into a group of enemy soldiers, or is there a pre-determined route?

The single player campaign is all about delivering a cinematic experience with set piece moments and massive action. However, we know you want open (let me decide how to tackle this) gameplay and that is where we've really expanded on Spec Ops in allowing you to play out missions with objectives in more open areas that are not tied to the story. Furthermore, you can play every Spec Ops survival mission on ALL multiplayer maps that are completely open.

What are some examples of the loved and less-loved stuff you'll be removing/implementing in multiplayer?

Loved: High gun damage, gun on gun focus, depth of features but simplistic in design.

Less-loved / removed: OMA, Commando, Overpowered Explosives, Nukes, Last Stand aka Second Chance perk.

Will MW3 have long term support after the release? (Like Black Ops does)

Yes. This has been an extremely major focus for us after MW2 and we've spent the last two years building our infrastructure in a way that will allow us to extend our post launch support. Increasing not only frequency (if needed) but speed of them as well as how we can expand the ability to hot fix and playlist updates to address concerns when possible while an full patch goes through the certification process.

When will the public see some Spec Ops survival mode gameplay?

Is dive to prone 100% NOT coming back with Modern Warfare 3?

Soon. Now that E3 is wrapped I'm working on getting a Spec Ops gameplay trailer made for you guys, as well as have some planned TV appearances where I hope to show it off. Follow my Twitter to keep updated on WHEN that stuff gets confirmed.

Sir, you are a BAMF. You wrote a children's book and you made me believe that MW3 will be great ;D I just want to thank you. One time on Twitter, you gave me a code for DLC on MW2. That was my birthday and it really made it great. Thank you and as hardcore MW2 fan, I have to ask: will there be quick-scoping in MW3?

Thank you sir. I appreciated it.

Currently, you can still quick scope in Modern Warfare 3. Keep in mind though, multiplayer is always changing at this stage (new perks, new balancing, new everything all the time based on feedback), however our philosophy on that hasn't changed since MW2.

i personally asked you 4 years ago for fully customizable buttons for cod titles to aid in disabled players ability to play your games. you kinda helped N0M4D. will you ever add 100% button remaps so every disabled gamer can enjoy the COD franchise?

Yes sir, and this is something I've sat down and talked with our control programmers about early on when you request came in.

We worked with N0M4D as well as got a full list of "ideal" controls from several disabled members of our community to try and make sure that the game controls were as accessible as possible for our community.

I'm afraid we never got to the point of fully remapping of controls, but have taken every step to make it as accommodating as possible. I just met up with N0M4D yesterday at E3 to talk about this very thing.

Will there be a MW3 MP beta?

There will definitely be an internal one, but we haven't decided or confirmed if there will be a public one. A public multiplayer beta is a give / take in terms of development schedule. It takes a good month out of your schedule to prepare it for public consumption and actually have time to incorporate the feedback.

In the meantime, while that's decided, I've been flying community members out to Infinity Ward to see the game (not play yet) but to see and discuss it and give feedback. Furthermore, we will fly out members of our glitcher community to give the MP a run through its paces later in development to try to find map holes, glitches, and other exploits prior to release. We also have a full-time QA department.


The severe and insulting lack of dinosaurs in Modern Warfare 2 was embarrassing and a black mark on my career. The addition of Dinosaurs and turtles (the modern day dinosaur) are a high priority on the feature list of Modern Warfare 3.

When can we see a preview of MW3 multiplayer?

There is no date yet for Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer reveal yet. I hope, starting today with this thread, to start addressing hardcore community questions regarding the direction multiplayer is taking, and hopefully start revealing things that won't change (like certain weapons, features, etc), however we can't start showing multiplayer until we get a little later and have it in its final iteration.

Despite Call of Duty being a team based game the gameplay encourages and rewards lone-wolves who ignore the objectives for kills, what's being done about that? Why for so long has a team based game been so focused around being a selfish douchebag?

I completely agree and we have changed a lot of how XP, match bonus, challenges, rewards, and other incentives are distributed in objective gameplay, much on how we are encouraging gun on gun gameplay in TDM modes, in objective modes we are making it so being an objective focused player in objective gametypes.

Furthermore, we have focused a lot of the new equipment additions in multiplayer to make sure were giving the objective player just as many tools to be better at playing the objective focused gametypes as we do a TDM player.

Its not all about kills, we have to reward the defender of a bomb site, the flag runner, and the guy covering the flag runner, more so than the guy just getting kills and never going near the objective points.

I read you loud and clear and while I can't go into further detail, this has been addressed.

I'm a hardcore SnD player and a Dom player after that.

He is implying that Activision (or one of the companies behind CoD, likely a marketing firm) may have hired people to make Reddit accounts that will support and supplement Mr Bowling's answers just for this AmA, in order to make their game look better.

That would actually impress me. I think they would have to figure out what reddit IS before they'd be able to construct a plan to exploit it.

Were you surprised at the backlash to COD: Elite?
How do you feel about Battlefield's similar service?

I was not surprised at all, because it positioned poorly and misunderstood.

If I thought I had to pay for stats, groups, clans, the ability to change my class on the fly online or on my phone, and all the other features they announced. I'd want it for free too.

Luckily, all that IS free for everyone, but people didn't know that.

I think these are services that all shooters should eventually have one day, and I'm stoked we'll have them free to everyone for MW3 and am glad that DICE is doing the same.

Why should I buy MW3 instead of Battlefield 3?

You should be buying both because they both will be stellar games. I refuse to say one ill word of Battlefield 3 or DICE because I think they're both fantastic and am good friends with several of the guys on the team.

If you are a shooter fan, they are both fantastic games to own because of one reason. They are different.

Each do their own thing in a fantastic way and it is refreshing to have the option for both styles.

Only reason I'm not picking up Modern Warfare 3 is the VIP section. It feels like I'm paying $60 for an incomplete game. Bungie does stat tracking and they don't bill me for it. Neither did BF2 or upcoming BF3.

Neither does MW3. All those features are free to everyone.

Will MW3 Have Dedicated servers on PC? Why did IW take them away from MW2? CoD4 was a perfect PC title, MW2 wasn't. Why cant you just do what you guys did in CoD4? And let us have the same freedom we once did?

I want dedicated servers for the PC version of Modern Warfare 3 and we are currently discussing how we can support them, however am not ready to confirm if they will or will not be part of MW3.

The decision to create IWnet was a simple one, we wanted to make the PC version of our game more accessible. We were successful in this by introducing matchmaking and a lobby system. You could quickly find a game, but you did not have the control and consistency that our PC players have come to enjoy.

In an ideal world, I would like Modern Warfare 3 to have both. The ability to the mass PC user to quickly get in a game by default matchmaking via IWnet. However, I would also like to accommodate our users who desire a dedicated server experience, whether by direct IP input or server browser support.

These are the discussions we are currently having on how we can look at go back to our Call of Duty 4 philosophy of PC specific feature.

how we can support them

lol. I know you guys have to keep up the marketing talk but... seriously. I feel a little insulted whenever I hear this. Yes: Insulted. I mean, how stupid do you think we are? Just be honest about whatever monetizing theory is behind this. Accessibility is a ridiculous reason to remove the de facto standard for PC FPS gaming that is used for the most-played PC FPS in the past decade: Counter-Strike (still tops CoD on Steam).

Dedicated servers have been around since... what? Quake 1? Definitely the late 90ies. To reduce latency and, as a side effect, create communities forming around custom private servers. All CoDs had dedicated servers working just fine. Then you removed them. All other noteworthy PC FPS games have dedicated servers by default.

Keep the matchmaking system, just keep the server browser as well.

Geez. But anyway, I feel like talking to a wall. You guys are the worst. IW and Activision are awful companies.

Making the game accessible wasn't the reason for removing Dedicated Servers, what I said was making the game accessible was the reason for adding IWnet (and matchmaking). They're not the same statement.

The team, at the time, wanted a universal experience across all platforms, however had plans for the first iteration of IWnet to be just step one. Once everyone was comfortable with matchmaking it was planned to eventually add support for Dedicated Servers. However this update never came, rather focus was put on addressing exploits, anti-cheat, etc. Work that ultimately ended up moving the code base further away from dedicated server support. When all was said and done, the move BACK in the direction of dedicated server support was never made.

I can't say I agree with the decisions made in the past or the justifications for them, but I can say that you should judge each game on its own merits. As the team on Modern Warfare 3 has changed up, with design philosophies that are now more aligned with what the PC community has been asking for.

Plus, "accessibility" smacks of a post facto justification. There is nothing complex about the server browser in COD4. I challenge anyone to find even an elderly grandparent or small child who would be confused by a built-in one click server browser.

Plus matchmaking and dedicated servers are not mutually exclusive, outside the realm of marketing.

It's not justification at all, it's the actual reason. I was asked why they were removed when IWnet was introduced and that was the exact reason given when the decision was made internally.

I have not once said that it was justified or the correct choice, simply was the reason for the choice whether you or I agree with it.

I'm not here to interpret the true intent of the decisions that I did not make, but to relay the reason and the goal whether that goal was ultimately reached or well received.

totally agreed. it feels like an absolute slap in the face. they word it like everyone had to have a linux box, a big pipe, and the requisite knowledge to setup/run a dedicated server before IWnet, but the reality is FAR from that.

how on earth could they think that going to one of the most frequently and most tech-knowledgeable websites (not to mention one of the biggest gaming forums, period) and tossing gibberish market-speak at us would work? they would be far better off not doing this AMA, than lying and BSing us to death.

so, in short, fuck you for treating us like my grandma.

No need to be rude to me. I'm simply explaining the reasoning behind the decisions and acknowledging that the decision had one goal, which inherently caused another portion of the audience (fans of the dedicated server experience) to lose the ability to do many of the things they loved.

I think that was a mistake and that we should be sure that in the future, in Modern Warfare 3, we are making sure that we are addressing the concerns of the mass as well as the core who want a dedicated server experience.

At the end of the day, IWnet served the purpose that they set out to do, it made the game more accessible. Sales were higher than COD4, player counts were higher than COD4 (both all-time and concurrent to this date), but that doesn't mean it was ultimately the perfect solution by any means, which is just one of the reasons the philosophy towards PC is different in Modern Warfare 3.

The problem is, precisely, that this AMA is a form of marketing itself. A genuine self-interested member of the team could post anonymously here to protect their identities (re: jobs), but instead you have them coming here to continue to hype their game. It really is insulting that they think we can't see through the BS.

I disagree with you. As I started this thread based on a request, with absolutely no expectations or intentions going in. The questions could and have been anything. I'm giving you raw answers as I know them, they won't always be the answer you like, especially when talking about past decisions - because we clearly know that there is disagreement on what was decided in the past (i.e. no Dedicated Servers in MW2)

Blackops doesnt use IWnet yet is very accessible to all players? Im missing your point on Dedicated server and Server Browser being a problem. In fact many of us are still wondering the real reason behind IWnet. It also did nothing for the cheaters, possibly made it worse. I wont mention Host migration and lag, 2 things that IWnet is prone too by design. I am disappointed that a feature such important as Dedicated server in MW3 cannot even be confirmed with the game shipping in less than 6 months....

You're correct, and I think Black Ops took a huge step in the right direction in terms of PC support and I want Modern Warfare 3 to take similar steps.

As the team on Modern Warfare 3 has changed up, with design philosophies that are now more aligned with what the PC community has been asking for.

This sentence enrages me. You just finished saying that you would rather make the game more accessible than support dedicated servers. That's exactly the opposite of aligning yourself with what PC gamers want.

That is incorrect. I said Modern Warfare 2's goal, with IWnet was to make the game more accessible and then made a separate point that Modern Warfare 3's goals are more aligned with the PC communities. They were two separate statements referring to two different games.

Essentially saying, the goals of Modern Warfare 2 on the PC are very different than the goals of Modern Warfare 3 on the PC.

We have verified that this is Robert Bowling.

Thank you sir.

What were you thinking when your controller disconnected during the MW3 demo at E3?

I thought it was hilarious. We had been rehearsing everyday, all day, all weekend long. It was something that happened the first day on the first rehearsal, my mark on stage was exactly out of the range of the console. They brought in new hardware that extended the range and we never had the problem again all weekend it went flawless.

My rule of thumb is, if your last three rehearsals go flawless, then the live demo will go wrong. My theory holds true.

Didn't know you were a redditor Rob...Anyways, huge fan of IW (Well, the previous IW, but hopefully the IW 2.0 is similar). Good to talk to you again too (we've exchanged a few emails, texts a while back, doubt you remember)

I have a few questions/suggestions...(A lot of them are PS3 questions, since PS3 users are still dealing with Treyarchs screw ups on BO)

Much Appreciated

Great to talk to you again. Lots of questions here, so I'll take them one by one:

1) The frame rate (always above 60 FPS) and resolution will be the same across all platforms.

2) No, this runs on the MW3 engine, which would typically be named IW5 but out of respect of our co-development partners at Sledgehammer games we are simply referring to it as the MW3 engine. It is upgraded from the engine we used in Modern Warfare 2. There have been a lot of advances, mostly in streaming tech to allow us to get the scale of levels we're doing in Modern Warfare 3 and maintain gameplay consistency with the framerate and smoothness. We've got a lot of audio stuff mostly adding situational awareness like bullet wizzbys and other subtle upgrades. A lot of lighting stuff updates as well.

3) No, there is no dive to prone in Modern Warfare 3.

4) I absolutely can not comment on litigation. To me the game plays like Call of Duty 4 in terms of gameplay style, but with the smoothness of MW2 plus the new advances we've made. Furthermore, its not an all new team. We do have new people, but less than half left, with a lot of MW veterans remaining who continue to be passionate about the franchise.

5) We've been doing a lot of work on private match, especially on PS3 and plan to address this issue for you.

6) Yes, this was noted by several of our Spec Ops hands on players at E3, check out the comments @z0mgItsHutch made on Twitter after playing spec ops.

7) Yes, and we've removed Commando.

8) Explosives as a whole have been re-balanced to make them the support tool they're intended to be not a primary weapon of attack.

9) Yes sir.

How do you respond to the criticism that modern FPS games are destroying gaming? While Call of Modern Gears of Battlefield is certainly helping the audience of "gamers" get bigger, the number of major releases that are truly innovative is severely dwindling.

Without big studio support for innovation, truly innovative and genre-changing concepts can only be implemented into 2-3 hour games that are relegated to an "indie" category, which to many (dumb) gamers means "not as good games."

I realize there is credence for and against this argument, but I feel it is the prevailing viewpoint on Reddit that originality is great but is dying, and I wondered about your opinion. Many of us feel that the days of major studios releasing games like Fallout, XCOM, and Deus Ex are over, and instead they are releasing rehashes that don't bring much new to the table.

I think our industry is no different than the music or film industry in the sense that the dominance of one genre is never infinite. While first person shooters are all the rage right now, it won't always be the case. Furthermore, the real decision makers are the consumer. We make shooters because that is what we do well, we've always done it, even before they were $1 billion dollar sellers.

We, as an industry, don't need to stop making stellar shooters for a creative new genre or take on the same genre to rise to dominance. We just need to make sure we, as an industry and as consumers, need to give equal opportunity attention to all games.

That's the approach I take, I openly express my love for games like Trenched (coming from Double Fine to XBLA in 2 weeks) as I do Gears of War 3.

Just out of curiosity, what's your favourite game? Say, you have to pick one game. Just one. What would you choose?

Next-gen would be Fallout 3 or Red Dead Redemption, prior to that would be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and before that it was Super Mario Bros. 3.

What changes are being made to the multiplayer for MW3 compared to MW2? Will MW3 be more balanced this time around?

From a design philosophy point of view, we are building up from Call of Duty 4, bringing the stuff we liked from Modern Warfare 2, losing the stuff we (and you) universally did not but overall focusing more on the gun-on-gun fast paced infantry combat, less relying on air support, but still using it as its intended (to aid in your fight, not supplement it).

I can't give too many hard facts on multiplayer at this time due to the fact that we're very much still balancing, tweaking, and adding to it daily.

For sure things I have confirmed is the fact that we removed One Man Army, Commando, re-balanced all explosives, maintained high gun damage without relying on Stopping Power to keep firefights fast paced but closer to COD4's balance.

Current pc technology is a solid 10x more powerful than consoles. Will you be making use of that for the PC version or are we just going to get another console port?

We have to goals when it comes to the PC version. We want to make sure the PC users running the highest end machines can turn on all the bells and whistle and having a super smooth and absolutely beautiful game running.

Even more importantly though is to ensure that we have a reasonable min-spec that allows the majority of our PC users to run the game, out of box, also smooth and as they'd expect.

Essentially, not forsaken the min-spec crowd but also not restricting the power machines from getting the most out of their systems.

Will there be something similar to the BLOPS theater mode for multiplayer?

Yes, but the exact implementation of it is not finished. Its important to look at features and make sure they're optimized in a way that does not affect frame rate or gameplay for the sake just having it.

I'm sure you expected this, so here goes:

What is your opinion on the whole Zampella/West VS Activision debacle? Has it taken away from what Infinity Ward is trying to do as a company? I know I won't get an honest answer here, but do you think IW as a company would be better had you not signed with Activision and stayed independent?

I legally can not comment on pending litigation, which any answer I could give to this would be a comment on. Not even in an AMA.

I hate, loathe, despise, revile Nukes and the gameplay they inspire right down to the bottom of my black little soul.

Will there be Nukes in MW3 and if so, what do you think they add really? Why should a button that ends the game for everyone (even your own team) just so you can sit in a lobby for a while admiring the size of your digital wang add to the general gameplay experience?

Could we at least have a "no nukes" option for those of us that HATE playing with it?

No, the nuke has been removed from the game. We are focusing on "killstreaks" that support and encourage you to be a better player not supplement you being a better player.

Are you, in fact, a stealth clown?

The original.

Is it true your company is planning on nickel and diming players for multiplayer?

Absolutely not. Multiplayer is and will always remain 100% free. You buy the game and as always get everything everyone else has. In addition, there are a full FREE to everyone web service element that allows you to track stats, create individual / friend leaderboards, create groups and clans, change custom classes on the fly anywhere, and much more.

How much do you look at other games to see how the competition is doing things?

I personally play everything and am always looking at how other games implement a feature and think about how that could work in our series. No feature is typically universal, to where it could work exactly the same in another game, but you can typically boil it down to it's core value. What does this feature add and what problem does it solve? Okay, lets figure out how we can take that aspect, and incorporate it differently to work in ours.

I was just having this same conversation with Cliff Bleszinski the other night about this very thing. Particularly crediting them on the LB "show all team mate" feature in their multiplayer games. In a game that relies so heavily on team oriented gameplay to win, being able to quickly and subtly keep tabs on your team mate general position is essential.

How are you approaching the player investment side of things? Will we see the return of Black Ops' custom emblems, or MW2's stock list of emblems and titles, or maybe something completely new?

We want to reward players for specific actions and have their rewards reflect the type of player they are or their accomplishment, as well as focus and invest your time in a specific style and be rewarded for that.

So if you're an objective player, your unlocks would be objective focused. That was the original design goal of Callsigns in MW2, was for you to be able to represent at a glance the type of player you are and the accomplishments you've made.

Will Soap, Price, and Nikolai take any part in MW3? (As in fighting against the Russians or someone) Because I don't think so because Soap was heavily injured.

There are three major plot lines that collide in Modern Warfare 3. First we follow the Delta force operators as they push the Russians out of the US and continue the fight into Europe. Whereas, British SAS as leading the fight in Europe. Lastly, MW3 is a pay off on the investment that players have put into the characters we've created since Call of Duty 4, and with Taskforce 141 (Price and company) dead and on the run at the end of Modern Warfare 2 we get to see how they play into the global conflict now that DC is burning and they're branded criminals.

Will the graphics, animations and audio be updated more before launch?

Absolutely, the game is far from finished (we still have till November - minus certification). For example, most audio at this stage is temp and not mixed properly yet, including all dialogue.

Can you give us some info on killstreaks in MW3?

We have completely re-vamped how "killstreaks" work in Modern Warfare 3, however its far to early to start confirming details.

3 questions:

  1. Is Activision looking into revising how much content is contained in its COD DLC/map-packs and its related price point? I personally would never pay a quarter of a game's cost for merely 4/5 multiplayer maps, but if other content such as new weapons/perks/killstreaks etc. were added, I might be inclined to open up my wallet.

  2. I'd also be interested in what your personal views are in relation to the current game + map packs post release model. Do you think the price points on these maps are a fair value for the money?

  3. How much support are you devoting to resolving network/connection issues on the PC? From personal experience, for the first three months that I played, I spent more time waiting in lobbies than actually playing in matches. Post release, how much of the studio time will be focused on resolving the inevitable bugs that come up, versus generating DLC content? Is there a specific studio working on each of these segments post release?

1) There is a disconnect here, as Activision has no say in the content of map packs. That's our jobs as developer, to handle the creative and asset creation. However, Activision sets the price, this is a business decision not handled by the developer. I can't say what will be in the DLC because we don't even begin thinking about that until we finish the game, which is still very much in development.

2) I believe that users should have a choice in how they purchase their DLC. This is something we'll be changing with the introduction of ELITE, so our hardcore community who are subscribed to ELITE will have ALL DLC included in their subscription. So while they get to enjoy all the free services that come to all players, in addition to the unannounced premium services, they'll also have access to all the DLC. As far as price, it needs to be a no brainer price point, make it where if I'm a hardcore fan and put a lot of hours into the MP and want more content, it's an easy choice. There should be no one size fits all price, it should be priced according to content.

3) This is a very serious issue that I brought attention to during MW2, after we released our second DLC. There are many backend matchmaking updates we are doing to assist our players on PC who have purchased multiple DLC or no DLC in speeding up and improving their connection times.

4) They're entire different departments. DLC creation is handled by the designers and artists where post-launch support via patches is a QA and Code task. They can be worked on side-by-side without delaying the other.

So I hear Will Arnett is a big fan. If you are delivering a cinematic experience any chance we will ever get him to do a voice for the game?

Will Arnett was actually in Modern Warfare 2 (multiplayer voices), he's awesome and I think he should be in every game, anyone does, forever.

what annoys you most about your player base?

Being cynical. There is no need for it.

Your user name makes me believe you are a marijuana cigarette smoker.

Does the staff employed working on MW3 endorse the recreational use of marijuana?

My username actually has nothing to do with marijuana, it was my roster number in the military while training at Fort Benning, Ga.

That said, I can only speak for myself and believe that it should be treated with the same restrictions that smoking in general is handled in California.

PC gamer here: why should I not immediately hate MW3? MW2 was terrible in every way for PC gaming.

Every game should be judged on its own merits. I would never suggest anyone buy a product blindly. Make a informed decision once you've evaluated all the features.

I can tell you that we have a completely different philosophy on the PC version of Modern Warfare 3 than the previous years had towards Modern Warfare 2.

Just wanted to take this time to say. Thank you to all the IW Team that have put all there hard work and I hope they still keep on putting all there hard work into making MW3 the best selling Game of 2011 and I can't wait to get my hands on yet another awesome Game made by the best Games studio. Thank you Rob and Thank you to all the Team putting there time into this Epic game

P.s do you know if COD4 will get fixed as its been hacked to bits and I really want to get some Games on there for old times sake :)

Thanks man, I appreciate it.

Call of Duty 4 is currently being looked into and is not being abandoned or forgotten. Our main priority now, beyond MW3 development, is getting MW2 synced up on all platforms. We patched PS3 first, then patched Xbox 360 with additional updates, and want to get another patch out for PS3 that gets it equal to Xbox 360 as well as get the patch out for the PC version. Then we'll do the same for COD4.

What's it like having a "projected" core audience of 12 year olds?

Our core demographic is actually closer to 30. Comparing two Youtube videos (one from an official source and one from a re-upload from a user) is not an accurate determination of "projected" demographic.

First, I'd like to take the time and thank you for doing this AMA, and it would be an honor for me to ask you a few questions. I like to think of myself as a pretty hardcore Modern Warfare fan, but I find it very difficult to play MP due to all the cheating.

  1. What are you doing differently in MW3 than in MW2 regarding the MP?

  2. Are you using any technologies available today that weren't available in the days of Modern Warfare that will make cheating significantly more difficult, if not impossible?

  3. Regarding the difficulty in cheating, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the easiest, I think MW2 would easily be a 3. What do you thing MW3 would rank on the scale?

Unrelated to cheating:

  1. Highest Prestige?

  2. How many weapons?

  3. Longer campaign than MW2?

  4. What do you think of the possibility of a Modern Warfare Multiplayer-only game?

1) A lot, for starts its all about bringing in the best of the best. Building up from Call of Duty 4, bringing in our favorite weapons, losing the stuff we didn't like and refocusing on gun on gun fast paced combat. We've also completely changed up the killstreak systems but it's not fully implemented so I can't confirm details yet.

2) I wouldn't say they're new technologies but its definitely new procedures that we didn't have implemented in the past to help prevent and address cheating in Modern Warfare 3. We've focused on building an infrastructure that will assist us in supporting and addressing the online multiplayer after release.

3) We're aiming on it being impossible in Modern Warfare 3 and if possible, having more ability to address it without a patch.

Second set of questions:

1a) Not decided yet.

2a) Still adding them, so we don't have a final count yet.

3a) Still working on missions and pacing, so we don't have that known yet either. We let the story dictate the length of the campaign and then if there are moments we still wanted to see we add them to Spec Ops mission mode.

4a) I like offering players an entire package for all audiences, so you have the SP for the cinematic solo gameplay, then Spec Ops for plotless missions and endless Survival Mode, and multiplayer for endless competitive play. It's less enticing to only offer a product for one portion of the audience, even if it is a major portion.

How many changes have been made to MW2's engine? Any boundaries that have been pushed further? If so, any examples that can be given?

Quite a few, a lot in the memory management / streaming areas to allow for larger levels and maintain the smooth 60 frames per second + gameplay.

I've been told that you guys are sticking with a 2 player limit for Spec Ops and Survival. Is this true, and if it is why are you going for such a low player count when 4 players is the norm?

Do you find it funny that you're involved with both children's picture books and violent video games?

What's your best source of inspiration as the creative strategist?

We introduced Spec Ops mode in Modern Warfare 2 and it has always had 2 players. This was a specific design choice, as we want both players to be essential to the success of the mission. The type of missions and survival mode experience we've designed works best with a two-operator team. We understand there are other co-op games with 4 players, which are a different experience, however we feel 2-players is the most fun for Spec Ops.

2) I can see how its funny. I think its important for people to just do what they love and to constantly create new stuff in different genres and industries.

3) Being accessible and not be afraid to sit down and have a conversation about what people like but most importantly what people don't like about your games.


We'll probably do some Spec Ops videos and then after that we'll be moving into a time frame of MP videos. It'll be before launch for sure.

What did IW learn from IWnet and how can we expect MW3 to differ?

It worked in making the game more accessible, there is no denying that, however it failed in allowing our audience a choice in how they experience their game. We'd like to correct that for Modern Warfare 3 and give the mass the option to enjoy the ease of matchmaking but not restrict our other users who wish to have more control over their experience.

What is your approach to weapon balance in the game? Do you have a select few individuals providing feedback, or is it more of a community-driven process? I know personally how hard it is to balance a game so that it works for the novice and pro at the same time.

It's a combination of company-wide feedback through daily playtests to incorporating feedback from players on previous games.

Hi Robert, Big Fan of yours and i wanted to know if there was going to be a hardened or prestige editior for mw3? I realy enjoy collecting all the cool stuff and especially the hard cases.

We've got some really cool plans for the collector editions of Modern Warfare 3, but until we have them 100% nailed down and in production I can't give out details. I'm excited to show you what we put together for you this year though!

In terms of MP balance and play, are you all viewing this as a natural iteration from MW2>Black Ops>MW3? Also, will killstreaks stack?

I think of it as COD4->MW3

We've completely re-vamped the "killstreak" system, so the question doesn't really apply. Its too early to go into detail though.

What perks are you dropping from previous games ? OMA , Commando , Second Chance ?

All of the above. None of those are perks in Modern Warfare 3.

What do you feel has been the biggest event that has contributed to the landscape of the gaming industry today? (a console, a technology, or a mindset maybe?)

The ability to update a game post release. It has created an entire shift on the expectations of a game, a developer, a development timeline, budget, and the definition of "finished product".

will there still be a knife monkey class?(along the lines of mw2's commandopro/lightweightpro/marathonpro/tac knife/carepackgemarkerpreupdate)

Absolutely not. We've removed commando and have re-balanced the knife melee to be the "in a pinch" or "unsuspecting fool" tool that its meant to be, not a default go-to weapon choice.

You should never bring a knife to a gun fight.

In multiplayer, will weapon attachments be unlocked like mw2, or blops?

Neither. We have a unique new way that weapon attachments and upgrades to your weapon are earned in Modern Warfare 3.

Will the maps be pretty like Favela and Terminal from MW2?

Every level and environment has it's own feel and tone to it. Not everything should be bright and colorful, although a little of both is perfect.

Tell Zack I said hi. I met the lead animator late last year, cool guy.

Consider it done, Zach will be told.

I just wanted to say that your service as a Community Manager is unrivalled. You do a great job!

The Inifinity Ward COD experience is always a cut above the alternative year's publication.

How long does it take to develop the game to completion?

It has to be one of the biggest earners in entertainment. What $$ budget is used to market the game? How would this compare to a big Hollywood film?

Thank you sir. I really appreciate it. My official title is Creative Strategist, but I still handle any CM duties among other things, so it's not totally unwarranted.

We have a two year development cycle for our titles.

Our marketing budgets are comparable to most major blockbuster films, generally around the $50 million mark, however this is a combined budget with marketing partners (such as licensing, business development deals, and more).

Will there be a hardened or prestige edition for mw3?

Yes, but I'm not ready to reveal the contents until we get all the production details finalized.

I heard there won't be a official Mw3 forum... id be seriously dissapointed , thats one of the most fun part of the months leading up to new call of duty games !

There will be Official Modern Warfare 3 forums going up at, however the digital team at Activision has been slow to get them up and running.

Mw2 had some awesome/memorable non-playable characters in single player campaign such as Ghost. Will Modern Warfare 3 have any new badass NPCs?

There are definitely some great supporting characters throughout the squads you'll play a part of in Modern Warfare 3.

One of my favorite things about Black Ops is warming up in Combat Training.

Will MW3 have a similar mode?

And will it have a theater mode?

Excluding either of those will mean a giant step backwards for the COD franchise.

I think Spec Ops is a great introductory / warm up tool for multiplayer as it allows you to fight on all the multiplayer maps, rank up, try out new weapons, gear, attachments, against an ever changing wave of enemies.

Mr. Bowling. You recently confirmed that there is no commando, but it there a similar effect of no falling damage that commando pro had for any other perk? Also are YOU personally a fan of cool kill cams, and are there GWK (the 5 second kill cam at the end of a game/ round of SnD.)

I confirmed no Commando, but that has no implication on the features of Commando Pro. I simply mean there is no knife lunge increase perk. It's too early in MP to confirm any additional details on that though.

I love kill cams, and we'd like to focus on highlighting the best kills in a game. However were still experimenting with different implementations of it.

why did you stay at IW following the post-MW2 mass exodus of talent and leadership?

There were many reasons, the main being that I wasn't finished working on Modern Warfare. Coming out of Modern Warfare 2 there was a lot of things I wanted to see changed, added, and improved on in Modern Warfare 3. With the change up, I saw an opportunity to step up and attempt to influence that to a greater degree than I had in the past.

What do you think is a good balance for the bloody screen?

Will special ops be back?

Somewhere between Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2's. I feel we went too far with MW2's blood screen, we have addressed that in Modern Warfare 3, adding in more directional situational awareness tweaks to it that allow you to better understand the source of the damage so you can do more to prevent a total death.

Special Ops is definitely coming back, both the traditional mission mode and an all new Survival mode.

How much pressure do you guys feel to outdo yourselves with each installment in terms of the "cinematic moments"?

There is a lot of pressure, mostly focused on showing players something they've never seen before. In Modern Warfare 3, we're picking up where MW2 left off with DC Burning and really taking players into the major cities. This is something we've never done in the past (typically sticking to traditional conflict areas and outskirts), so it gave us a fun opportunity to try out set piece moments in places you've never seen them and in ways we've never done before. Plus, there's something impactful about see it in a location that is very familiar to you, like the streets of Manhattan.

Do you feel that you don't have enough time to work on the games? It seems like Activision just wants to get the game out.

No, because we've always worked on a two year development cycle. Our dev time is dictated by us, which is the whole reason Activision started having other developers work on Call of Duty because we made it clear that we work at the speed we work. We won't rush a product to meet a deadline, we set our dev cycle based around what we know we need.

I remember many celebrity voices were featured in MW2. Does MW3 feature any celebrities?

We haven't signed any of our voice talent yet. At this stage all dialogue is temp and towards the end we bring in the final actors to record it all. We'll also typically have friends who are actors, like Will Arnett or others, record stuff just for fun.

Who makes your trailers?

Our big trailers (like reveal, launch, etc) are done by the awesome team over at The Ant Farm. Perk trailers, MP trailers, stuff that's all about the gameplay are done in-house by me and an editor.

If John Riccitiello walked up to you and asked to play MW3 at a gaming convention, would you let him play the game?

Of course. We had several Battlefield community guys (not employees or dev members) come up to try and get a private showing of MW3 at E3 this year and I made sure to go out, meet them, and give them a personal walk through of the two levels we were showing. It would be no different for Mr. Riccitiello or members of the BF team.

Did you have anything to do with Blackops? After the online fiacsco, I refused to buy another game in the franchise. I essentially wasted ~$70 and I want to know if I get to be angry with you.

No sir, I did not work on Black Ops.

I'll put it simple. Commando Pro and Noob-tubing. Fixed?!


How do I get your job?

Engage me in mortal kombat. Last man standing walks away with a paycheck.

Since this is an IAM, I'd like to ask a question about you:

Tell us about your career! Where did you start? When? First game? When did you join Activision?

Was it hard stepping into the roll of Creative Strategist?

I'll give you the short version, but if you'd prefer the long I'll be happy to elaborate. My first official job was frying chicken at a gas station in Kentucky that also sold chicken - because that is exactly what you want when filling up your gas tank. I was 13 years old and I did it for 1 week. I would get burned by the fryer everyday, smelled like chicken when I went home, and spent 2 hours hiding in the freezer eating the donuts they kept there. It was horribly sad and mind opening all at the same time.

That single experience was enough to make me realize that I wanted to do something much bigger than my hometown of Piner, Kentucky (the middle of the country).

At 14 years old I went to the court house and got my first business license. I knew no one would hire a 14 year old kid to do what I wanted, so I hired myself, by starting a company. I had no clue where to start or what to do, but you'd be surprised what having a TAX ID and DBA bank account can do for you.

I went to the library everyday, learned how to create a website. Made a website for my company. I continued to go to the library after school everyday to teach myself something new. My business grew, kept evolving as I learned new things, changed my mind, wanted to go in different directions. This was my life all the way up to graduation of High School. I had taught myself and have managed to support myself enough to get by but by every sense of the word was poor.

During this time the war in Iraq was going strong and there was mass genocide happening Sudan. I got the urge to do something more impactful than watching out for myself and enlisted in the US Army as an 11B (Infantry), passed by ASVAB with flying colors, enough to be allowed to put in a letter of request for Special Forces. No one is guaranteed SF training or placement, that's something you earn and are chosen for, but you can show intent which simply means they'll push your ass into the ground every chance they get to see if you change your mind. My intent to go SF was solely because special forces at the time were the only boots on the ground in Sudan and even that was a limited capacity. All other infantry was being directed into Baghdad.

Long story short, my military career was cut short and I never got the honor to deploy. So now I've been out of the civilian world long enough to not have a career, fully trained by the US army (BCT to Airborne) solely as an Infantryman, and ready to take my life in a new direction.

I decided to start a company again, as I was pretty much in the same position as I was at 14 years old. No one would hire me to do what I wanted, so I hired myself.

I did whatever I could to get a paycheck coming in, barely making my $250 apartment rent, playing video games more than working simply due to lack of projects. At this point I was solely playing Call of Duty (the early years) to the point that my wife sarcastically told me "all you do is play that game, why don't you just do THAT for a living"!

So I did.

Being purely a gamer, I wasn't fluent in the ways of the industry, nor had I ever been in any industry I worked in. I taught myself, I set my goal on something, I learned everything I could from books and reference, and I just started doing it. I didn't let things like being broke ass poor and discouraged stop me.

So I look on the back of the box and seen Infinity Ward made the game, so I looked em up and sent them an email. Never got a response, I later found out when I was given control over that very inbox of emails, it hadn't ever been checked. So I found other ways to reach out and eventually got a hold of the guys who started the company.

I talked for 2 hours with Grant Collier on the phone, talking games, philosophy, and what I thought about things. It was nothing but just an unfiltered conversation about gaming, the industry, and what I've done in the past. They flew me out the Los Angeles two days later to meet the rest of the team. I sat down with every lead of the company and talked, from animators to programmers to the studio heads. I spent all day just talking, giving my thoughts, and throwing everything out there.

Two weeks later they called and said "we want you to do what you do but for us full time".

So I did.

My first title was Call of Duty 2 DLC. I came in a massive fan of Call of Duty but also played Ghost Recon hardcore. So when I started and they said your first real project is us taking Call of Duty into modern days - I shit my pants.

No one really knew what my purpose was, what I should do, or how I should do it. So the first year was me doing as I always did, just talking to anyone who would listen, learning what they did and how they did it. Soaking in every resource I could find and contributing any way I could. At one point they had me seeing if I could come up with the intro credit sequence in Coup for COD4. So I spent two weeks teaching myself After Effects. I was kind of shit at it, but I got a prototype going that ended up being the base for the actual credits, but done by someone much better than I.

My greatest strength and weakness has always been my ability to identify what works and what doesn't, from a philosophy stand point and (here comes the weakness part) share that unfiltered opinion with anyone who will listen. Thank god there were people in the right positions who agreed with those opinions and I gradually (and I mean VERY slowly) began building more and more respect among those who thought I represented good opinions.

I just kept working at it, doing anything I thought was needed. Call of Duty 4 ended up being the game that it was and was a massive learning experience for me, as every project after that has been.

The lesson of the story is to just find what you want to do and start doing. If you don't know how, learn it.

Just start doing it and hope that one day someone will pay you for it.

Do you feel your public involvement with the COD community has helped or hurt the franchise? As a follow up, do you feel that you may have listen too much to what the community was saying during the development of Black Ops? After all, the majority of your players are teenagers who have no idea how to create a video game. They just know they don't like getting killed. I work in the software industry myself and sometimes our consumers need to be told what the best way to do things is.

I think having the community be able to give input in the development of the game, and post launch support, has helped our games.

I did not work on Black Ops, that was made by Treyarch, I work at Infinity Ward. We made COD1, COD2, COD4, MW2 and now MW3.

That said, you're correct that you have to have a core design philosophy and vision for what the game will be and then take the feedback from the players and put it through a very thick filter. You can't take any feedback as is, or allow it to supplement your own vision.

What's your strategy for minimizing the presence of obnoxious, squealing, racist 12 y/o's in MW3?

I was only able to play about 3 hours of MP on MW2 before I quit permanently because of the sheer pervasiveness of these 'players'. I know this shit goes on in just about every online game ever and it's basically an unsolvable problem, but this was truly the worst I've seen it get.

Whoever solves this problem will get all of my money forever.

This problem is already resolved on the console side by setting your parental settings to only allow voice communication with your friends.

I have an interview with Bethesda Softworks on Tuesday. It is my absolute dream, but I am so nervous I cannot even think straight. Any advice? I'd love to hear some from someone in the industry.

As hard as it will be, just relax and be yourself. I remember my first time coming to the studio and meeting with everyone (from animators to programmers, to artists, and the studio heads at the time).

I came into it with absolutely no expectations. The best thing I did was just be completely open and honest. More than anything, the thing that will make a break a hiring decision at a developer is your personality. It's so important that every new hire fits the culture of the studio.

Obviously your work has to speak for itself, but your personality is extremely important as I've seen people with fantastic work turned away if they would upset the culture of the studio.

Every dev team is a close knit family, and if they're not, you probably don't want to work there, but Bethesda is a fantastic place to work. Go in, be conversational, and have confidence in your right to be there.

Good luck man!

How's your daughter?

She's fantastic, talking more and more everyday. It's hard to see them grow up so fast. Thanks for asking!

Does the 2 year development time ever feel like enough?

I think that a 2 year development cycle is a good schedule for our team. We determine our own development cycle, so if we wanted more, we could make it happen.

Its a discussion that we have every year when deciding what our next project will be, and if it requires additional time.

How do you take your coffee/tea?

I don't drink either.

Are you hiring programmers?

We may not be hiring, but we never turn away an amazing asset to the team. We are always accepting applications and interviewing candidates that will add value to the team, regardless of current positions.

Also, with the millions you make off Modern Warfare, why do you feel justified in charging $15 for 3 new maps and 2 rehashed, when other developers release more content for free with patches?

That's not a decision that is decided or influenced by me. It is something that is solely decided by Activision.

Hey there Mr. Bowling. I used to read your blog on MSN spaces and remember when you first got hired at IW. It was exciting. I also had you on my Xbox live friends list for a month or too before you became "famous", and had some good times with you in the Shadowrun Beta. I just wanted to say it has been neat following your career.

Aw, I have to ask some questions.

Which do you prefer, White Castle or In-n-Out?

My three daughters are doomed with having a geek Dad, so they are into Star Wars, gaming and comic books. Does your wife approve of pushing geekdom on your daughter?

Hey man! I remember, god Shadowrun was awesome!

That is quite possibly the hardest question I've ever been asked.

White Castles is what I grew up on, it got me through some long nights, but In-n-Out has been there for me my entire adult life. How do I choose between two of my great loves?

I'm going to go with White Castles because I never have them anymore (unless I'm travelling back east) so I have a strong feeling of nostalgia for them.

We need more Geek Dads, I think my daughter can't help but grow up to be geeky. I've already got her Batman PJs so she can match daddy's wardrobe of practically 90% Batman T-shirts. My wife approves.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Robert Bowling conducted on Reddit on 2011-06-10. The Reddit AMA can be found here.