Thursday, 10 September 2009

Interview with Infinity Ward

I’ve been waiting an hour and a half outside the Infinity Ward offices in Boston, Massafornia, the permanent, matrix like rippling effect they’ve installed on the building only entertaining me for perhaps 20 minutes. The effect is created by holograms the programmers built out of old PS2s and car batteries in between birthing Modern Warfare 2, the game I’m here to talk about.

I wouldn’t mind the wait, God knows I’m excited about this game, but chief designer, Dennis Nedry, has been standing outside the building, staring at me, the entire time. I tried to introduce myself but he just stared ahead, stoically, ignoring me absolutely.

Finally at exactly 10:30 he explodes into life, greeting me so loudly that I’m startled and a nearby bird explodes in the sky.

“Please won’t you join me inside,” and with this he leaps 20 stories and crashes through the office window. I’m forced to take the stairs.

Or I would be, if there were any. Inside the building is a huge, artificial Jungle. The design team constructed it with nano technology, so I’m told. It’s beauty is startling. I have to wipe away a tear when a baby Stegosaurus turns up and asks if I’m it’s mother. Which I’m not. So it chokes itself to death.

Eventually, after locating the tallest tree in the building, and probably the tallest interior tree in the world, I make it to Nedry’s office.

“Ah, congratulations. Beer? We’ve been wandering many aeons,” he begins.

“Whoa now, wait a minute. How did you leap into the building like that?” I ask, as any man would.

“Ah yes, I see you’re staring at my dress.”

“No, what? I’m talking about the jumping. The superhuman leap you exhibited that got you INSIDE the building past the massive jungle you built.”

“Well now we’ve nearly finished Modern Warfare 2 we decided the time was right to push ourselves beyond human limits. Everyone here just one day discovered they could jump incredibly high.”

“Bullshit, how did you just discover that?”

“It was a team building exercise.” Is the only reply I can garner.

Fuck it, let’s talk about the game.

“It’s going to be very good,” Nedry insists. But we’ve all seen the videos. Where has it come from, I want to know.

“Good questing,” says Nedry, his trademark facial tick working over time.

“Would you like a pie?” I accept. It’s delicious.

“It’s kitten,” he says. Usually the thought of eating kitten pie would repulse me, especially given the amount of fur that has been cooked into the crust, but somehow Nedry’s words are soothing and I’m soon going back for seconds.

“The entire building is powered by cycling.” Nedry explains.

“You mean someone is powering a generator in the building on an exercise bike kind of thing?”

“Oh no, I mean all cycling in the world directly generates power here. We found a way to link all energy created by cyclists and transfer it into our computers.”

Before continuing we take a break to relieve ourselves. I find it hard to concentrate, two urinals down, because Nedry's urine comes out as thousands of tiny metal beads, causing a constant buzzing/rattling sound.

Nedry furthers our tour of the office. Huge posters, much larger than can comfortably fit on the walls, of Jimi Hendrix, Chairman Mao and Henry the 8th, line the walls, spreading onto the ceiling and tangling on the floor. I trip over several times.

“We just wanted to represent the best mankind has to offer, to give us something to aspire to. I guess you could say we surpassed those expectations!”

I’m silent for about a minute until he explains it’s a joke about the jumping.

“That still doesn’t really make any sense,” I say.

“Well, you better keep an eye out for the Henry V statues in Modern Warfare 2!”

“Henry V?”

“From the posters? C’mon man, you’re English.”

“That’s Henry the 8th.”

There’s another pause, this time from Nedry.

“Please, call me Dennis,” he says. I continue to eat my kitten pie. Then he says,

“There’s an achievement for getting all the statues.”

Of course there is.

He shows me the office swimming pool. Every single computer in the building floats on it, teetering on inflatable desks. Dennis shows off, performing underwater barrel rolls, insisting I applaud and grade each one. This goes on for some forty minutes before I realise the pool contains no water, only urine.

“Ok,” he says, “it’s time.”

“Time?” I ask.

“For you to see.”

“to see what?”

“Our crowning achievement,”

“Crowning achievement?”

“Where Modern Warfare 2 has come from.”

He takes me to a tunnel, which leads to a massive vault.

“We researched,” he tells me, “for decades how to invent a spell. An actual spell. So here you have the only Lightning Field in the world.”

He draws back a curtain and a wall of pure electricity crackles and screams in front of me.

“Jesus CHRIST!” I exclaim.

“Oh don’t worry, it just looks dangerous. It only paralyses you. A child…could be killed in it though.” Dennis is suddenly distant.

He claps his hands after a moment and the lightning field dissipates.

We enter a massive vault lined with drawyers, every one identical and perfect white.

He picks, seemingly at randomn, a drawyer and opens it. Inside, in a large plastic container is a fraction of what seems to be a CD. He says something about the moon landings, Aleister Crowley and King Kong, but I’m distracted by the glass ceiling.

Looking up I see a chamber full of whale hearts, massive cables running between each one. Children with no eyes wash them endlessly with dirty sponges, blackening the hearts with sooty water.

“What the fuck is this place?”

Dennis doesn’t say anything for a long time. Then:

“This is how is must be. We must create this game. The moon landings. The moon landings.”

He lunges for me, still holding the fragment of disc, which I knock from his hand. He leaps after it and I pull open several of the white drawyers. I find a butterfly collection, an old mobile phone and a luger, which is loaded.

I shoot Dennis Nedry several times, his final words a gurgle. Then I turn the pistol on the glass ceiling, losing an eye when a shard of glass falls typically downward into it. I put the remaining bullets in as many hearts as I can.

There is a sound like an air raid siren, pitch shifted as low as possible and then a massive rumbling begins. I run from the chamber, about to go back for the disc fragment when the lightning field lights up again and I’m forced to leave it.

I get lost on my way out but the collapsing walls have revealed a life size model of Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine.

“I know this,” I say, and somehow I do. Operating it is like breathing. I launch it from a window as one of the massive worms from Dune appears and swallows the building whole, before disappearing like the image from a television into a white dot.

And that’s why no one can play Modern Warfare 2 now.