INTERVIEW: Treyarch

Ben Parfitt
INTERVIEW: Treyarch

Two weeks ago, Activision invited the world’s gaming press to experience a range of new multiplayer modes for Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Additions include the new Combat Training mode, which enables players to compete in offline deathmatches against AI opponents, and Wager Modes, in which gamers can gamble for in-game currency ‘COD Points’.

How will Combat Training broaden the appeal of the Call of Duty series?

Activision did some research that showed that, while the Call of Duty multiplayer is popular, there are still a lot of people that have never played it. This seemed like an opportunity.

We consider the single-player and multiplayer to be different experiences. The campaign is an epic and cinematic piece that you get to enjoy by yourself. The multiplayer is its own game.

Hopefully, Combat Training will provide a safe haven for people who haven’t played the multiplayer – the game within our game – without them being bombarded immediately and get them ready to go out online.

Why is the multiplayer so important?

Becuase it is critical to the success of this series. It has tremendous staying power – there are millions of people playing these games every day. At launch, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people playing simultaneously.

It’s entertaining people on a scale that’s mind-blowing and we work really hard to make sure it’s maintained and supported for a very long time.

The effort that goes into the multiplayer is a living thing – we have a team that continues to work on it for World At War. We’ve expect to do the same for Black Ops.

Many publishers now use one-time download codes to unlock the multiplayer in pre-owned games. Will Call of Duty employ this strategy?

You won’t see it for Black Ops. The multiplayer here comes with the game you buy – you don’t have to do anything else for that.

I want to make games – and really robust multiplayer game – that you don’t want to trade-in, games that you want to keep. Black Ops is going to be a great game, and we’re going to support the hell out of it, so I want to take the idea behind these codes in the other direction and bring consumers really great reasons to keep their games.

That’ll be our focus post-launch: making sure we keep our fans engaged, and hopefully as a result, they’ll want to keep our game and keep playing it.

EA’s Medal of Honor recently came under fire from defence secretary Liam Fox over its controversial content. Are you concerned that Black Ops could also be vulnerable?

We cover the Cold War era and there are definitely some controversial topics in there. But I look at it as creating a piece of entertainment and we are strong advocates of creative freedom.

Our game is entirely fiction-based – we’re not doing a historical recreation. We do our research and create that setting so you can immerse yourself in it but that’s just a backdrop for our narrative.

Our story weaves itself around all kinds of controversial historical periods, but there have been many books and movies that do that, so to single out games in that way seems unfair.

We’ve delved pretty deeply into the histories of different conflicts that have occurred. Because this game is about black ops, it’s about what occurred behind the Cold War.
So while our story weaves its way through the South East Asia and Vietnam conflict, it’s not a game about the Vietnam War. You just happen to be there when certain things occur during that period.

Call of Duty has always prided itself on historical authenticity. Why is this so important?

There’s no greater place to draw inspiration than real life. History is a particularly source of ideas. The Call of Duty games are set in different periods of history, so understanding those periods is really important to us.

We go to great lengths to create a very detailed world: the visuals, the audio, the characters, how they look, how they talk. It creates a suspension of disbelief that caters to player fantasies of being in that world, in that situation.

For Black Ops, we’ve had veterans who ran black operations come to speak to the whole team and explain how they did things.

And some of them can only speak about it now because their operations have only recently been declassified.
Of course, this is not a military simulation. We’re making a Call of Duty game, so it’s an action-packed thrill ride, but if we can create that world for players, we’ve found that can be a very exciting thing.

That’s something the Call of Duty games do extraordinarily well. We invest heavily in the production values, so when players are in that world, they really feel the benefit.

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