At gamescom today in Germany, El33tonline participated in an illuminating group interview session with Treyarch’s community manager, Josh Olin, where we discovered a little more about how the studio has prepared itself to deliver Call of Duty: Black Ops in November this year.
Over the course of the interview, Olin spoke about the importance of the game’s realistic violence, the pressures of creating a blockbuster Call of Duty game, and how Black Ops will stand out from other online multiplayer offerings, while musing on whether or not critters found scurrying and flying in the jungles of Vietnam will give away your position to enemies during the game.
The interview began with a question about the level of violence in Call of Duty: Black Ops and the necessity to include such realistic gore, to which Olin responded by saying that the violence in the game is included to instil a strong emotional response in players and to tell the brutal story of deniable operations (or ‘black ops’) soldiers during the Cold War.
Olin believes that there is no gratuity in the violence in Black Ops and that it’s used to punctuate key moments in the game, while the title’s pacing (which is very important to Treyarch) also benefits by providing shocking spikes in action to complement the more slow-paced stealthy sections.
Olin also talked on how Treyarch as a studio has changed in order to properly tackle the challenge of creating a blockbuster Call of Duty game to rival Infinity Ward’s 2009 effort, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. While the general consensus amongst gamers is that Treyarch is the ‘B’ team in the Call of Duty development partnership, Olin pointed out that while the studio was creating 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War, teams there were also working on the James Bond title, Quantum of Solace, as well as the Spider-Man game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
This meant that the company’s resources were stretched extremely thin, and while World at War was still a critical and commercial success, Treyarch has now dedicated all 250+ members of its team (including QA) to work solely on Call of Duty: Black Ops, allowing the developers to co-create both the multiplayer and singleplayer portions of the game in-studio with two separate teams, not including the cooperative mode which also has dedicated team members.
Because of this, Infinity Ward has had almost zero involvement in the development of Black Ops, and everything is created, designed and written at Treyarch, including additions to the World at War engine which has been injected with improvements specifically for Black Ops.
Adding to this, Treyarch has always held itself to high standards for the games that it develops, and while the pressure to create a new, blockbuster Call of Duty game to outdo Modern Warfare 2 must have added intense levels of stress to the team, Olin did enforce the fact that the studio always pressures itself to create the best games possible and that they’re now used to the stratospheric expectations of Call of Duty fans.
They’re confident they can deliver, and it seems as though Treyarch and Olin aren’t worried about the competitive market Black Ops will be released into this November ‒ a market which currently comprises a host of similar and enjoyable first-person shooters, including Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and will comprise Medal of Honor and Halo: Reach this year, and Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 early next year.
Black Ops, says Olin, will differentiate itself from those other titles with Call of Duty’s signature action formula, as well as the satisfying controls and smooth 60 frames per second gameplay you’ve come to expect from the series. Olin wants the quality of the experience in Black Ops to speak for itself and get people talking simply by delivering a great game. Naturally, however, Olin agrees that the name that will be brandished on the box come release day, ‘Call of Duty,’ also has a part to play in the franchise’s continued success, as players have come to expect a level of excellence that they can count on in Black Ops.
When the topic of the multiplayer beta for EA’s Medal of Honor came up, and the fact that this taster was generally panned by gamers for not offering enough fresh features and copying too many elements from Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Olin also agreed that fresh new elements must be introduced with every game a developer makes in order to provide a new and entertaining experience ‒ a game that is similar to other titles, no matter how fun, will still be derided for lifting ideas from other titles.
Olin pointed out that Treyarch strives to bring fresh new experiences to the market with every game the studio develops, and cited Call of Duty: World at War as an example of the company delivering new features and ideas to the World War II sub-genre of videogames, which was (and still is) a genre that had been squeezed dry of new ideas after a deluge of titles set in this time period.
To seemingly demonstrate how the studio intends to bring new experiences to gamers with Black Ops, Olin revealed that the multiplayer portion of the game will not only include familiar and improved features that Call of Duty fans know and love, but the game will also include brand new ‘core’ multiplayer elements that he expects will ‘surprise’ and amaze Call of Duty players when these features are revealed on September 1st.
Also: Olin confirmed that Call of Duty: Black Ops will not require subscription fees to play the game online in multiplayer, and that this requirement was never planned for the game.
Olin also confirmed that the PC version of Black Ops will feature support for dedicated servers, and that every version of the game across each platform has a team dedicated to ensuring the quality of the title will be equal and as high as possible.
A few more morsels of information were revealed in the last few minutes of the interview, as Olin admitted that the team is considering (not planning) to release a beta test for Black Ops prior to release, but the final decision on this hasn’t yet been reached.
Plug: If you want to find out if Treyarch decides to go with a Black Ops beta, you can find out the second it’s announced if you follow Olin on his Twitter account: but also be sure to check out El33tonline, of course. End of Plug
When asked how long the singleplayer campaign in Black Ops will take to complete, Olin replied that it will be “long enough” ‒ the team is aiming for a sweet spot as far as playtime is concerned, trying to ensure the game isn’t too long (thus diluting the experience) or too short (thus disappointing players). Two random asides include Olin saying that there will “probably” be ground vehicles and more air vehicles revealed and included in Black Ops, while the slow motion ‘bullet time’ sequence shown in the gamescom presentation of the game is a scripted event (i.e. not triggered by a player), and this effect will be used throughout the campaign to add punch to the end of combat sections.
Two final pieces of information (as bizarre and mysterious as they may seem) were revealed when Olin was asked about whether or not animals (little ground-based critters and birds) in jungle areas would give away a player’s position if surrounding enemies saw a sudden flurry of movement as a result of the player disturbing said creatures. Olin said that “nothing [the public] has seen” has yet revealed if this will happen in-game.
Lastly, when asked if Treyarch is yet talking about a zombie mode in Black Ops, Olin replied: “We’re not talking about co-op [at the moment].”
Be sure to read El33tonline’s impressions of the new gamescom Call of Duty: Black Ops presentation (which includes the reveal of a level including a playable helicopter) over here.
Also, why not rummage through El33tonline’s previous coverage of Call of Duty: Black Ops to see a host of awesome screenshots, as well as videos and information.