Riley, the German Shepherd in the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts, has become a cult phenomenon within the gaming world, and his helicopter take-downs have since become the stuff of legend. But the community has been divided on whether or not Riley will perish on the battlefield, and Activision teases the super-dog’s fate in a recent interview.
When a dog like Riley is introduced as a main character in a Call of Duty game, most gamers’ natural reaction is “Aww…they’re going to kill the dog!”
The series, which is predicated upon war, political strife, and brutal firefights, has since killed off many of its main characters across its dynamic inter-weaving story arc–so it’s not far-fetched to think Riley is going to bite the dust. And Riley the German Shepherd is a big part of the Ghosts squadron; he’ll help players by sniffing for explosives, mauling baddies, and even taking down helicopters by biting the pilots.
Riley’s impressive feats have built up emotional attachment across the gaming sphere–after all, how often do we get to see a dog take down a helicopter?–and canine owners everywhere are hoping he doesn’t die in the midst of battle.
According to executive producer Mark Rubin, the majority of gamers believe that Riley will indeed be sent to the big dog park in the sky during Call of Duty: Ghosts campaign.
“Everybody thinks we’re going to kill the dog,” Rubin told the Associated Press. “Maybe that’s the expected thing we would do, so maybe it’s not what we’ll do?
“We’ll see. People around here didn’t know, and they had that same sentiment: ‘We better not kill the dog.’ The emotional investment for the dog here has been just as strong as what’s happening out in the public.”
A few months ago, Infinity Ward’s Tina Palacios told GameSpot that it was a “constant debate” whether or not Riley will die, but even back the studio had an answer…but of course they didn’t want to spoil it for everyone.
Since Riley was featured as one of the major icons within Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal, the German Shepherd has enamored gamers across the world. His popularity prompted Activision to detail the loyal four-legged war hero during their pre-E3 event, showcasing actual in-game footage of Riley in action.
As Riley’s status grew, Infinity Ward toyed around with the idea of including him more often within the campaign, but the idea was scrapped in favor of continuity.
“There was a risk of shoehorning the dog into scenes where he wasn’t originally going to be,” Rubin explained.
“Fortunately, that only lasted for a few weeks and everybody got back to concentrating on making the game. It’s great that Riley is so popular, but let’s focus on the game. Let’s have Riley make sense and not just put him in space or in a scuba suit.”
The interview also detailed how Riley’s virtual presence was captured within the game. Two different dogs–a German Shepherd by the name of Ruger and a Belgian Malinois with the handle of Rico–were featured for Riley’s mo-capping scenes, each performing different actions.
Rico mo-capped the deadly stuff like biting and tackling baddies, whereas Ruger provided Riley’s sleek gait and fluid movements.
The biggest challenges in mo-capping scenes with Rico and Ruger was simulating actual combat scenarios, says Rico’s trainer Chris Connell.
“In this environment, we didn’t have trees or grass,” Connell said, recounting the mo-cap sequences in front of green screens and other pre-defined areas.
“It was like, ‘OK, Ruger. Pretend we’re in a desert area and act accordingly.’ Ruger is like, ‘Dude, this is a studio with mats like people do exercises on at the gym, and there’s white lines on the ground.’ Just trying to get him to act as if it was a real environment was the hardest thing.”
While we certainly won’t know what happens to Riley before the game is released–or before footage is leaked–it will certainly be interesting to see his fate. If he does pass on, we’ll likely see him go out in a blaze of glory, and remembered as a true hero of war.
Call of Duty: Ghosts releases on Nov. 5, 2013 across multiple current-gen platforms like Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U, with PS4 and Xbox One flavors coming soon after.