I don't know if you've heard, but Call of Duty: Warzone is big. For a while, it was so big that it consumed over 200GB of my PC's SSD. Conditions have improved over two years of optimizations (my Warzone folder is currently 80GB), but Warzone's hunger for disk space is apparently holding it back from adding a feature increasingly common among battle royale games: map rotation.
In a recent interview with streamer TeeP, Call of Duty live operations lead Josh Bridge addressed the biggest issues currently facing Warzone and hinted at its future. Following an update this week that increased player health from 100 to 150, a radical change for the game's meta, TeeP asked about the possibility of other major changes like a map pool that would cycle between Caldera and the older Verdansk map that it replaced in December. Bridge said it's not really possible for the current iteration of Warzone, and his explanation was surprisingly candid.
"We want that. We all want that. There's a technical problem. The install and reinstall sizes are f**king crazy," Bridge said. Activision is understandably hesitant to push the game's install size too far over the edge, especially while the majority of its player base still lives on last-gen PS4s and Xbox Ones, some of which are constrained to just 500GB drives. Bridge noted that every time Warzone receives a major map update that requires huge downloads, "we lose players." I get it—if I had to download 50 more gigs tomorrow just to get Verdansk back, I might just uninstall until the next time I want to play.
For daily Warzone players, though, the limitation is frustrating in the face of similar games that have no problem supporting multiple maps. Apex Legends currently has three of its four maps on hourly rotation and manages to match Warzone's 80GB almost exactly. PUBG updates its 5-map pool seasonally and only requires 30GB. Hunt: Showdown uses its 30GB on three small 1km x 1km maps that never rotate out of the game. Fortnite only has one map, but Epic changes it so often that it's never the "same" map for long.
This isn't to say developer Raven Software is missing some obvious trick to make Warzone's other map fit—most of the games I mentioned run on completely different engines with various art styles.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the game that Warzone is built on top of, has a photoreal art style that served the 6v6 arena FPS well, but wasn't developed with years of Warzone updates in mind. Bridge said Activision didn't expect Warzone to take off the way it did and has spent the time since working with an imperfect development pipeline. Put another way, "Verdansk was never authored with the idea that 180 weapons were going to be added to it," said Bridge. By the sound of it, Raven and co. are more or less stuck with the technology base it currently has, at least until that mysterious Warzone sequel comes out sometime next year. For now, Bridge describes map rotation as a "goal" for Warzone, but not something that's currently in reach.
Regarding Warzone's future, Bridge further hinted that what's next for Warzone won't be as simple as another battle royale game. "Battle royale is awesome, we love it. But I like the idea of exploring what else we can do with a large player count and a big map."
Some have speculated that the "sandbox" mode mentioned in the February Warzone 2 announcement may refer to an "extraction royale" format similar to Hunt: Showdown or Escape from Tarkov.
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