Insight: Jolyon Myers, video game designer

'Exploring the worlds I design is wonderful'

Los Angeles-based British video games designer Jolyon Myers, inset, was a key programmer on the wildly successful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. MW3 beat all sales records at the end of last year, earning $400m in its first day of sales and reaching $1bn in 16 days. Here he explains how he designed two of the virtual cities featured in the game – Paris and London.

The Paris mission that I worked on takes place from two different perspectives: from the air and on the ground. Our first job was to choose the path of the journey that would dictate the gameplay, directing where detail was needed and what would be seen from a distance. We used mapping software to plot a path and then used satellite imagery as a template for the scale. From this I would block out the buildings and roads in a very simple form. We'd use the basic building blocks to start adding movement and gameplay at that point and see if it is working. When we were happy, I would add more detail.

I had previously worked on building Paris on a grand scale for a game called The Sabateur, so that didn't seem as daunting to me as it might have to someone else. However, the London street was definitely something more personal. I absolutely insisted I work on it, as London is my favourite city, although it did also have its challenges. While I wanted to build something exactly from reality, the game required a fair bit of modification to make it work for the player.

The choices made in creating an area to make it feel authentic are tricky and are probably similar to those faced by set designers in the movie business. In fact, I visited the set for the recent MW3 live action trailer (starring Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill) and you could see the fun they were having making a New York street set look war-torn.

It's the detail in surface textures, the layout of props and the lighting that takes a fair bit of time. Every prop should have some kind of story for why it is there and every surface needs to convey why it looks the way it does. But it is also a fun and creative part of the process – and the part where you really start seeing your scene come to life.

With London, it was really fun making such a detailed street, which included everything I and my British mates in the office could think of. We'd get together and get really excited about adding objects, like the little yellow fire hydrant "H" signs and "To Let" signs. It's the little things...

Being able to play in the spaces I create is probably the defining part of why I do what I do. When I first started designing and making art for video games, I aspired to move into special effects, as the way we create has similar tools and processes.

The thing that held me back from that industry was the amount of creative input I am able to make in video games. Exploring the worlds I've designed and tweaking them to make them even more interesting is a wonderful part of the job. It's even more amazing when you are building an area that you love, as you are constantly reliving memories from the past, both during and after its creation.

There are plenty of challenges left. No matter how great games look these days, absolute realism in the characters and environments are still elements we aspire to and know will improve constantly in the future.

Artificial intelligence combined with ever more complicated animation systems will also continue to progress. The trick with a great game such as Modern Warfare, though, is to make sure it's fun, no matter how realistic everything gets. As I was told when I first joined [games developer] Infinity Ward, "Gameplay is king".

The gap between what we imagine and what we can develop is minimal. However, if the aim is absolute graphical realism, then there are always some elements that can be improved, much in the same way that special effects in movies from 10 years ago look dated now, even though you thought they were ultra realistic at the time. For game design, I do think we are at a point where it's harder to think of things that we can't do from a pure gameplay perspective.

In my early years, most of the games were two-dimensional, which really limited game design. Now, the restrictions are way less and, ultimately, what you imagine probably can be achieved.

The biggest leap in the experience for me will be the revival of virtual reality – headsets, glasses or whatever else they come up with. It's something that was attempted some time ago, but the consoles/PCs were not powerful enough and the technology for the headsets was lacking and too expensive. Surely now it must be almost cheap enough to become a common household item? If I could I'd create a London pub interior with the graphic tech I have today, but be able to relax in it virtually with a lightweight headset on and a pint.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Lead Developer - ASP.Net / C# / MVC / JavaScript / HTML5

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Lea...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £45000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Engineer is requi...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Technician

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a small IT consultancy...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral