Inside The War Machine – Behind the Map Design of the Latest Call of Duty: WWII DLC Pack

We went behind the scenes with Sledgehammer Games to talk about the map development and more in The War Machine.

By Kevin Kelly on May 10, 2018 Editorial Manager
Level 27

The War Machine, the second DLC Pack for Call of Duty: WWII introduced three new Multiplayer maps and one new War map, along with a new chapter of Nazi Zombies. We wanted to dig deeper into the design behind the new maps, Dunkirk, Egypt and V2, as well as Operation Husky, the new War Mode map.

To do that, we visited Sledgehammer Games and spoke to Daniel Bryner, the Lead Multiplayer Maps Designer and Dennis Adams, the Multiplayer Development Director. Read on for a peek behind the scenes at what went into the creating the experience of The War Machine DLC.

So, let’s dive right into the look and feel of these new maps. What went into the design of Egypt? It feels very different from the Call of Duty: WWII maps that we’ve seen so far.

Dennis Adams: There are a lot of factors that went into the design for this pack, especially in coming up with the slate of maps and we wanted to explore the conflict from different parts of the globe.

Starting with Egypt, we wanted to get out of bombed out European towns and the European theater and focus on the African theater. So, it’s not only a new locale but also a new color palette and a more exotic locale. From an exploration standpoint, when we first started working on the Egypt map, we started talking about the feelings that Egypt evokes. Things like wider, more expansive locations, along with really iconic locations like the Pyramids and the Sphinx.

We went through a couple of iterations because our earlier versions felt a little more claustrophobic and that is not what an expansive Egyptian desert would feel like. We talked about making it somewhat flatter, larger, and more expansive, although it still has some verticality to it.


Daniel: To double down on that, that was the starting point for us, because we had already hit our staple maps. We had the D-Day map in the main game, we had the Aachen Forest, the European villages, and the normal maps that you would expect to see in a World War II game. But we viewed The War Machine as an opportunity to go and explore new locations, like Operation Husky in Sicily. Places we hadn't given a lot of attention to in the main game, that were still very important to the war.

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The Egypt map has an incredible amount of detail. Did anyone actually travel there? Or was the research all done in-house at Sledgehammer Games?

Daniel: We just do a ton of reference gathering when we're working on maps like this. So, when you're talking about the scale of the Pyramids and we get in the ballpark of how big those actually are. Of course, we tweak them, move them closer, so you can see them. The composition is better against the sky and things like that. But all of the research for that map was done here, and we did not send anybody to Egypt.

V2 is a very cool location with a functioning rocket in the middle of the map. What went into designing that?

Daniel: The original design was based on the Peenemünde Army Research Center in Germany, so we gathered a ton of reference materials on it. That site was not anywhere near as complicated as what you're playing in the game, so we certainly took some liberties.

We playtest all the time, we iterate constantly, and we figure out how can we adjust the map. We just change and we test, and we change and we test, and then eventually it gets to the polished version you’re seeing. We did a lot of that with V2.

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Dennis: V2 also has a very fun power position when you get to the top of the rocket tower, so that's an added bonus. It’s almost a circular map, and so you're always running around it quickly, but you always have to watch your back. But at the same time, you can climb pretty high and take people out. And of course, there’s a fun little thing that happens at the top of the rocket. It’s not really apparent at first, so it's a fun discovery.

There are challenges, but there are also benefits to having a smaller map. It's totally divergent from Dunkirk or Egypt, and it's a nice palate cleanser in that regard.

Daniel: The event at the top of the rocket was something that the map designer, Evan Hort, really fought for. He thought it would be really cool, relatively simple to implement, and not as complicated at as the map events we had in Advanced Warfare.

It’s really just a cool little Easter egg that can be a really fun discovery. We watched people during the user testing, and we saw people discover the secret and use it. They got really excited.

Dunkirk has been used recently in films as an iconic location, so people may be a bit more familiar with that location. How did you approach the design for this map?

Daniel: From a design standpoint, doing a map on a beach or any super open location is very challenging. So, it was a very conscious choice to split Dunkirk in half: we wanted to have half of the map be the interiors of the buildings, and then the other half on the beach.

After we made the choice, we started thinking about the things we could put on the beach to break it up and give you obstacles and things to duck behind. So, pieces like the boat that is washed up on the beach, the pier, the dressing rooms, and other things like that were fun to design.

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Dennis: There were a lot of iconic snapshots of Dunkirk, like when you look up reference for things that really stand out to you: the vast stretches of sand, the beaches, the boats and the ships escaping with French and British soldiers. We wanted to make sure we keyed in on that by adding a separate lane, which was the interior settings.

Dunkirk is actually a town, it's more than just the beach. But, if you focus on just the town of Dunkirk proper, then it would just be another town map, right? We needed that iconic element, which is the beach. It was challenging because you need to add a lot of things to break the line of sight, but at the same time, if you look at a lot of the historic images, the beach was littered with debris and obstacles. There is sort of that duality of that map. There’s a military slice of life on the beach and then the interiors show the human side.

What can you tell us about Operation Husky? War Mode feels like there is so much more beyond map design.

Daniel: We used Operation Husky as an opportunity to do a lot of things that we haven't done. First of all, it’s a night map, and we didn't ship any night maps with the game. Next, it’s in Sicily, so there is a whole new style of architecture, which looks totally different from our other maps.

We also introduced a new player mechanic, the tripwires, which can be pretty sneaky. I think players are going to have some fun and be pretty nefarious with those. And obviously, the dogfighting section has never been done in Call of Duty at all.

What went into the design of the portion that takes place on the ground in Sicily?

Daniel: The goal when I laid out that space was to have all the intel pretty clustered closely together, and then there is a no man's land, and then the attacking side, which is the church, along with some of the side safe areas.

Balancing that was tricky. We have all kind of little knobs we can tune behind the scenes, for example, we had a buildable wall at the A intel, but we found it was too hard to complete that objective, so we removed that wall, or we changed the respawn timers, or we moved the spawns back just a little bit, or any one of a dozen really small, tiny things that we could adjust to get that completion percentage to where we need it to be.

We do that because when you play a War Mode map, you want people to be able to at least complete objective one, and then have objective two be even harder, and objective three should be the most challenging.

Dennis: When we talked about the concept of Operation Husky, we wanted to make it feel like a commando raid. It's not a long, drawn-out military encounter, it's not like D-Day. It's just six people going in under the shadow of night, parachuting in, taking the intel, communicating that stuff to the planes overhead.

These raids during the war were very tough. You might die, but the command needed the crucial intel. Back in the day, if you were a commando unit performing an operation and you were caught, you were executed. No questions asked, no prisoners of war.

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What was it like adding the dogfighting objective? It’s such a cool, new mechanic for Call of Duty.

Dennis: We knew that we were going to add dogfighting pretty much from the get-go for this DLC. When we decided this was going to be in Italy, and we wanted it to be somewhat historically accurate, we knew that there had to be some sort of context in a narrative wrapper.

We started reading about all of these missions and events that took place in Sicily, and Operation Husky was pretty much a no-brainer. It was the tip of the spear to push into Italy, and if we could be part of that tip of the spear, to weaken the defenses, then here comes the Allied invasion of Sicily. That really lent itself to the setting for this War Mode. You have commandos that go in at night, your bombers and your fighters are pretty much overhead, so timing is of the essence, and you need to communicate the intel to your headquarters.

We’ve been reading a lot of the comments and reading feedback about the game and the DLC. ‘Boots on the ground is awesome, but we'd love to see some new material in the War Mode maps.’ We really keyed in on that player feedback and we were pretty ambitious. We pitched Operation Husky and the dogfighting to the team and half of them were like, ‘This is insane.’ But we had a vision, and the team of developers was unified and willing to take this on.

As difficult as it was, if I could go back and do it over again, I would.

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Thankfully, with Call of Duty: WWII - The War Machine, you can go back and do it over again, and again! This DLC Pack is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Join up with your squadmates and you may find yourself strapped into an Allied fighter plane, doing battle with Axis foes in the skies above Sicily!

For more intel about Call of Duty: WWII, visit CallofDuty.com/WWII and follow @CallofDuty and @SHGames on Twitter.