Call of Duty: Black Ops Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:31pm 29/05/10 | Comments
AusGamers recently caught up with Treyarch Call of Duty community manager, Josh Olin to talk Black Ops. Read on for the full interview...
For our full Call of Duty: Black Ops preview, click here.
AusGamers: So we're talking with Josh Olin, Community Manager for Treyarch and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Now Josh, just so you know, I'm going to avoid any IW-related questions...
Josh Olin: Everybody has asked that tonight though, I'm going to be disappointed if you don't.
AG: No, no because I think I'm gonna get more out of you if I ask about your game.
Josh: Well played, sir.
(Josh now Tweets that he's talking to AusGamers)
AG: Okay, first up a bit of house-keeping from the Australian side of things, and this was something that was suggested to me a little while ago but we have a very difficult time with online in Australia...
Josh: Yeah, I hear that because of your geographical isolation you get some lag.
AG: We get some serious lag, and so match-making has always been a problem. Call of Duty 4 didn't do a very good job on the consoles with that, however, the PC version supported dedicated servers, but with you guys and World at War, match-making on the consoles was handled awesomely because you allowed for local server search options when looking for games and of course you had a dedicated server model for the PC. Fast forward to MW2 where those other cats decided they didn't want to maintain their dedicated server model, and also took their sweet-ass time fixing match-making on the console - I hear you guys are fans of dedicated servers... would that be a correct assumption?
Josh: That's an accurate assumption. In fact let me one up it for you: Call of Duty Black Ops will support dedicated servers for the PC.
AG: That's awesome news.
Josh: In terms of console MP... I don't know why they undid what we did in World at War. It worked so, know that we're gonna make it even better for the console and the PC, so international gamers are going to have lag-free multiplayer experiences with our game.
AG: Music to our ears. Now let's get into the nitty gritty of your new game - initially there were rumblings that it was going to be set in Vietnam and that was obviously somewhat proven in the gameplay demo we just saw and the debut trailer, but I'm of the mind that it's not necessarily focused entirely on the Vietnam conflict, and instead liken its Vietnam moments to the Afghanistan moments in Modern Warfare 1 or 2.
Josh: There you go!
AG: And so maybe the game is instead focused around how the US became involved in that conflict?
Josh: It's not quite like that. Okay so here's how it goes - Vietnam is an aspect of our game because during the Cold War era, Vietnam was a big hotspot and it was the most famous hot war, everything else was a cold war but you had these various hot conflicts around the world and Vietnam was the biggest and most publicised one. So yes, portions of our game with occur during the Vietnam conflict, but I like to think of our story as a needle and thread; weaving its way through history. So our story is that thread, and history is happening around it. So in Slaughterhouse, which is that second level you saw, that was the battle of Hue City which was the beginning of the Tet Offensive. So that battle is actually happening around you, you as the player though, you're part of this SOG, this special Black Ops team who're CIA-backed and your objective is to go in and secure intelligence inside the MAC V compound, the MAC V is the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam - it's basically a CIA headquarters in Vietnam that was overrun during the Hue City invasion. So your objective as the player is to get that intelligence from that unit, not to fight the battle of Hue City - that's for the regular soldiers on the field, the AI around you. You play as Mason, an elite Black Ops operative whose objective is to get that intel and secure it. He doesn't care about the battle, that's happening around him, he just wants that intel, so he'll go in and commandeer whatever he needs - you saw in the demo he grabbed the radio off the soldier and called in the helicopter, which did what he needed it to do and then he threw the radio away - that's just how they operated. And it's funny because we talked to Major John Plaster, and he's the foremost published author on Black Ops - he was a member of SOG during the Vietnam war, so he knows how it all happened, and he told us about these cards they could pull out that they could use to commandeer anything, even a five-star general's jeep, and no matter what anyone had to yield to them and they would take the jeep or whatever and use it for their mission because these SOG guys were so imperative to the success of the Cold War that everybody yielded to them.
So for the first time in Call of Duty, you're the most important person on that battlefield. You'll play primarily as two players, Mason and Hudson, and you are the biggest bad-ass on the field. No longer are you just a normal soldier, you are now the guy - you can give commands and you're the one everyone is going to listen to. So, another first for Call of Duty, you're going to have a voice, you know in all the other Call of Duty games you're just a Private Miller or whoever, and you don't have a voice, everyone is shouting at you and giving you orders to go over here or there, but now you're the guy and you can tell other people what to do. So it's a completely different feeling and I think it's going to strike players as the biggest difference, you're an actual person, you even cast a shadow now. So you'll know what you look like, what you sound like - who you are. We really focused on giving you a character to play, and that's the Black Ops experience; a driving narrative full of cinematic intensity. We're telling a very complex and in-depth story here, we're very, very story-driven with our single-player campaign.
AG: So Modern Warfare 1 and 2 are the first two thirds of what was a planned trilogy (not sure if it'll play out now), and you guys did World at War which was a little light on story, but from what I've seen here tonight, there's immense potential with Black Ops - are you guys planning on carrying this on beyond a single stand-alone Call of Duty?
Josh: That option is totally viable. It's not something we're planning for at this stage, right now we're just focusing on making this the best game it can be, but we plan on supporting it post-release, as aggressively as we can. So that's where we're at right now, but I guess you guys will ultimately decide if this goes further than what we already have planned. But I can objectively say... well before I worked for Treyarch I ran a fansite for Call of Duty 2, 3 and 4 that got so big, they approached me and asked if I wanted to come work for them, and it's a pretty cool story and I'm very fortunate, and so of course I have a little bias, but before I was here I was a fan and so I take myself out of my position a lot and look at the game, and you know I've seen the whole thing - I know what's in store and what the game is about, and I look at it from a fan's perspective and.. well, it's amazing. This is the best work Treyarch has ever done. And it's a privilege to be able to work on it because it's such a good game, and we just kind of want it to speak for itself which is why we showed you that footage today and played it for you live on stage, but we don't want to spoil the story for you, because it's such a story-driven game, but it's a real trip and there're a lot of twists and turns.
AG: So there's a very rich and deep history to the Call of Duty lineage. Is there a chance that we might see characters or events from any of the most recent games crop up in Black Ops? A lot of the characters from Modern Warfare 1 and 2 are old-school guys who could have been around or involved in events you're touching on here.
Josh: Well I can tell you - and again, not to spoil the game - there is one character from World at War who is going to make a return, and that's Reznov. But I don't want to tell you what capacity he works in our game, but he has a pretty big part and the players who experienced World at War are going to recognise him. But that's all I can really disclose right now and believe me, I would love to tell you about the whole game but I just don't want to spoil that experience because this story is just so rich and deep.
AG: So moving onto the action, the trailer you guys released tonight also featured the breach and clear sequence we saw in the demo being played, but it kind of went a bit quicker in the video than the demo - are you in control of that whole sequence?
Josh: Yes, you're in total control - you decide when to kick off and you're firing your weapon...
AG: So you can aim anywhere? Like, you can shoot the top right of the window instead of the centre and it's all in real-time?
Josh: Yeah totally. I mean I'd recommend shooting the guy in the window as opposed to the top right or whatever, but you could if you wanted to and the game would reflect that.
AG: So err, gameplay length...
Josh: Oh, taboo question (laughs).
AG: Yeah because it's a main point of concern drawn from the last games...
Josh: You know what, I'm not even going to give you the PR spiel or any kind of run-around. The straight up answer is we just don't know. You know the game isn't finished yet and we're still building levels, but I can tell you it's going to be as long as it needs to be to tell this story, but at the moment, we just don't know.
AG: And so co-op will be stand-alone?
Josh: Yeah, it's going to be four-player online stand-alone - a unique experience to the single-player. We're also supporting two-player split-screen, but we can't really talk about it. I know the fans are going to like it though. Multiplayer is going to be very rich and deep. We've had a team working on multiplayer from day one, and it's been huge. And so this time around we're focusing on two main core pillars - socialisation and customisation. So the game will exist outside of the battlefield, so when you're in the lobby and just chatting to your friends, or when you're online or at work or whatever, the game exists in all these other areas, and we really want to cater to players who want to play with their friends or with a clan or create tournaments or leagues and they're going to have tools and resources available to them to really focus on player socialisation. And then player customisation is also a huge thing, and it's something the genre has moved towards, you know players expect to be able to play the game the way they want to play it and one specific example I can give you is Create A Class. Obviously you know what that is already, but we've created more of a Create A Class 2.0, or honestly, it's more like 5.0 but we've really blown the system out and you can really customise pretty much anything. And I would love to tell you more, but this guy over here would probably throw me over that ledge, but the key factors to take away now are socialisation and customisation and that we've had a dedicated team working on making it happen from day one.
AG: Okay Josh, absolute last question - you guys are obviously working off the same optimised engine used in World at War, and I saw the incendiary stuff, but what else has been added/improved here?
Josh: Well yeah, there's the incendiary stuff. We've improved our fire and water tech yet again, because you know that was a big focus for us with WaW, and we've re-tooled that even more here. Lighting has been completely overhauled with world-relative dynamic lighting, you saw the shadows and how dynamic they were in the demo - we've completely overhauled that system. And then the physics and destructibility of everything was another main focus, you know if you check out the trailer and see that building blow up - that's all world-relative physics, it's not a scripted explosion with pre-canned effects or anything. And you know there's just so much to mention, things like texture streaming, frame-rate, bump-mapping, the audio - the sound has been totally revamped... fire and water was a huge one though, and we have some cool underwater sequences in there...
AG: Will I get to fly a Huey?
Josh: We'll have more information on that later on (bursts out laughing).
AG: Will there be a recognisable soundtrack, given the heritage of Vietnam movies and the like?
Josh: Ah, no soundtrack we can talk about yet, or voice-acting, but obviously we'll be talking about that soon.
AG: Okay Josh, thanks we'll leave it at that, you've been very accommodating, thanks so much.
Josh: I hope so. We love Australians, we know how hard you guys have it sometimes, so we're thinking of you.