Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has shown one of the new characters joining the cast: Alejandro Vargas, leader of Los Vaceros and a great guy.
We spoke with brian flowermain author of the game and Jeffrey NegusInfinity Ward’s narrative director on all things Alexander, including exactly how they bring the world of the military to a more mainstream audience.
From our conversation, the team is incredibly proud of their work on Alejandro – they set out to make a heroic figure that still feels like a person, complete with all the nuances of a person like code-switching, as well as a personal belief. system.
Call of Duty is a series known for being more grounded, with no mech suits or anything like that. What part of Alejandro did you want to highlight as a character?
Jeff: Something that’s really interesting about this in general is that 2019 was a reboot of the original series. We had this opportunity where we were going to bring certain characters back and we were going to introduce new ones. We had Farah and we had others that we introduced in the last game.
We had a similar opportunity on this one where we brought back certain elements from the previous series that have very different personalities in many ways, and we also looked to create new characters. Alejandro is obviously at the center of that effort.
What was really cool about that process was being able to pick and choose what things about who those people were in the previous series and who they are now, versus who these new characters are and what they’re about.
We always start in a place of sincerity and truth: where does someone come from, what is it about, and is it rooted in the story, since the story is the character and the character is the story, as Mr. Bloom likes to say everything time and I completely agree with .
Alejandro, like you said, doesn’t wear an exo suit, we don’t have that kind of stuff in our game. So what makes our character stand out is what he believes in and what he’s about. How they make decisions when they are in conflict and how they resolve that conflict.
Brian: You know, we work with an amazing team and we have other tools in the toolbox to make our characters stand out in silhouette. If you turn down the volume, you will recognize them. If you turn up the volume, it’s our job to make sure there’s a voice there, that there’s dialogue that stands out in frequency, range and tone, but also in characterization.
Alejandro, we have done something interesting with. Rather than just speak accented English throughout the game, which is something many entertainment products will do even when the character apparently speaks their own language, say their first language, they will often use an accented language and ask the audience to take that leap and imagine when it is the other language.
We see it in big movies like Hunt For Red October with the Russians. We wanted to remedy that and try something different. Alejandro speaks Spanish when he talks to Los Vaceros, or when he talks to his second in command, Rudolpho, Rudy. So we do that. He hits the mark when it is necessary for 141 and English speakers or characters perceived to be uniquely English speakers to understand exactly what he is saying.
He’s mixing and seasoning what he’s saying, he’s giving some commands in Spanish, he’s using Spanish words but he’s also using English when absolutely necessary. When you’re talking to your own team and the message isn’t necessarily for everyone else or if it’s a conversation or an aside and you’re speaking in Spanish. It’s new ground for us and it’s a new way some players will experience the level. Places where they might have seen dialogue before, for understanding purposes, that might be a bit more important here.
We thought it was a really interesting roll of the dice and we think it’s working really well to hear that authenticity and hear that characterization and hear that voice speaking naturally, speaking organically. Alejandro is in Los Almos, Mexico, and let’s build an entertainment product that honors that down to the language.
Did Alain Mesa, who plays Alejandro, bring something unique to the role?
Jeff: It’s funny, Brian and I have been saying this recently. It was a search to find the right guy to embody this character. There is an important energy that needed to be brought to her.
Jeff: Physicality, exactly. There’s so much in there and when we saw him audition, in just 5 seconds we looked at each other and said “This is our boy”. He has such presence and command, the character is a born leader. He is a guy who commands his Los Vaceros group. He perfectly embodies this guy.
Brian: We wanted to design a hero, bordering on superhero but in the most solid way. In the way you might think of Price or Ghost as superheroes. Or heroes that are a little larger than life. But also very reluctant heroes, reluctant leaders.
We wanted to try something different with Alejandro. He is not reluctantly leading at all. He faces some serious challenges in Mexico and in Los Almos, but he rushes in, he’s completely dedicated, completely disciplined and this really speaks to the first question of his and it’s a big predicate: who is he and what makes him stand out.
Another aspect of that is that if people are already expecting the heroes of the game that they’re already familiar with to be the other members of 141, then one of the faders that we use to grow and rise and develop this character of Alejandro is, ” who calls 141 when you need help? If Ghost learned to trust someone, he shed that lone wolf skin, who would he trust first? What would that relationship look like and how can we incorporate that into a story.
All of those things are part of building the foundation of this strong new character by giving him everything he needs to excel. And to stand up as tall as everyone else.
Jeff: What made you different? I think she embodied so many qualities of who the guy really is. Brian was mentioning that Alejandro is a guy who just dives into things headfirst and will after he’s 100%. Al was the same way. He showed up every day super prepared. He came in with this energy that really created an interesting chemistry on set that gave everyone this energy to play. He really played into the performances that we got because of that, just because of what he was bringing to the role and to the set.
Brian: Al is really the best at answering from his own point of view, which added to all of this. To perform to some degree, we were working from a place of authenticity. We talk to our military advisors, we talk to our language consultants, and we do it routinely with every nationality and every culture and faction and military that we represent on both sides of the ball. Good guys and bad guys, so to speak. We asked the Mexican soldiers we work with, “hey, if you had to get in a trench with one person in a small team, who would it be?” and they gave us a name.
I took that name and I begged for a number and I got in touch with that person and we talked for 20 hours over a few weeks and I learned about their mindset and ideology and their background and what they’re up against and their challenges and their triumphs and trials and tribulations and We take those things.
Alejandro is not based exclusively on those things, but they were part of the DNA and the rudiments of what we used. The seeds of character.
Al said, “I see this character as the spirit of an ancient Aztec warrior.” That makes sense and that helped animate it and gave it another magnetic north on top of the other things that made it authentic and understandable, so it kind of wrapped it in a little bit of that spirit as well.
No matter how you used it, wherever you kept it, and whatever you did to light the fire inside of it each day, it was all great. It’s kind of a combination of things and some of them are relatable, and some of them are more visceral and difficult to identify. Man, he definitely connected with the idea of being an incorruptible and unstoppable warrior.
Call of Duty is very much built around military culture. At SEA in particular, we don’t have a particularly strong understanding of military culture. We are the kind of people who would say things like “marines and soldiers are the same” when apparently that is not true. How do you make things universally readable and at the same time authentic?
Jeff: My background isn’t necessarily in that field either, I’ve been learning a lot working on these games and working with Brian and a lot of different people in that field.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the human experience, for us, and the sincerity of going through the experience that you’re going through. He would say that it’s really important that this game not be viewed strictly through the lens of the military or military jargon or anything like that. Rather something that is more universally understandable, by what a person is going through from moment to moment and what they might be looking for and what they might want.
Brian: It is not a military simulator. It has some Milspec elements and part of what some of our viewers are preparing for is a bit of that military fantasy. We have a wide variety of people from various backgrounds who are making the game and are playing it for sure.
You’re not alone. I tell them that if we bring together a lot of members of our team, some of them have been doing CoD for a long time, and I don’t want to single out any of them specifically, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. what did you say
It’s up to us to make an entertainment product where you don’t have to get caught up in those specifics or those weeds. It’s important that you know what motivates a character or what their intentions are, or if there’s something about them that you identify with or if there’s something about them that you don’t like or if there’s something about them that teaches you something or affects you or hits you in the head. the heart or the head or the mind or if there is something in them that disgusts you and you want to go after them, hopefully those are the bad ones and not the good ones.
I think that’s where we have to work. It’s a balance of having to use the acronyms and the jargon and the other elements of the Lexicon to make the game. But it’s also our job to make sure understanding is king. We were working on the game today and every night while we had our heads here and we were in a thread talking about who I am, where I am and what I’m doing.
The answer to that is inconsequential if the answer is “I’m a Marine” or “I’m a Soldier” or “I’m in the Army” or “I’m in the Air Force.” It’s not inconsequential in real life, there’s a lot more to it than “I’m running an oil rig and I’m looking for a missile.” I’m looking for missile controls and I’m looking for terrorists. This kind of things. And that overrides the other things.
“These are the PMCs.” You may understand that these are private military contractors, but what is more important to know is that these are my allies, they are my friends, I trust them, I am with them, I am fighting alongside them, do I want to fight alongside them? Do I suspect them? I like them? I think that’s what matters most.
With his fiery passion and charismatic charm, there is no doubt that Alejandro will be a fan favorite among the 141. Our thanks to Jeff and Brian for talking to us about all things Alejandro, and may make an order Call of Duty Modern Warfare II now.