Two of Treyarch’s bosses have offered an explanation as to why the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops IV does not feature a traditional single-player (or co-operative) campaign mode. In short: they focused on social aspects, and prototyping led them in this direction.
The discussion came up as part of a Game Informer feature, with Treyarch co-studio heads David Vonderhaar and Dan Bunting talking about the decision in a Youtube video.
“Development is a journey,” Bunting said, “We try a lot of different ideas and a lot of different things. The game that we are making has evolved over time, and that's just a part of development. I can't remember a single game that we've made that hasn't had a dramatic change in the prototyping stage. Because that's what prototyping is for. You prototype ideas – some of them work out great, some of them don't work out great and you pivot. You find a new idea and focus on that, you build that. We follow the fun.”
Vonderhaar went on to point out similar things had happened with Blackout, the game’s new battle royale mode, it too having seen changes from prototyping to now. Generally speaking, the reasoning behind the lack of single-player campaign comes down to Treyarch’s focus on – and enjoyment of – social gaming. “To do that it means you end up having to change things you’ve done historically or traditionally,” Bunting said.
“It wasn’t a campaign as people usually refer to it anyway,” Vonderhaar added, “So when people ask ‘what happened to the campaign?’ – it wasn’t a campaign in the first place... It was a multiplayer game.”
“We can make a really big campaign, we can add co-op to it,” Bunting said, “But at the end of the day it’s still going to be such a narrative-heavy, guided experience for players that the replayability is limited. We wanted to make a game that players would just keep playing for a long time.”