CheatCC’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Treyarch Interview
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Each year, you wonder what developers can do to make the multiplayer experience better for people coming to a Call of Duty game. Treyarch has been responsible for all of the Black Ops installments, as well as Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, Call of Duty 3, and Call of Duty: World at War. The sudio has years of experience and research, knowing what does and doesn't work for people. When attending the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 reveal event, Cheat Code Central had the opportunity to meet with Treyarch's Brittany Pirello, the Senior Associate Producer on Multiplayer, Miles Leslie, Producer on Multiplayer and Blackout, and Tony Flame, and Expert Gameplay Designer focusing on Core Gameplay Systems, Weapons, and Movement. They offered a glimpse into what people can expect from the Multiplayer mode and what else is to come.

Cheat Code Central: Regarding Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's weapons, Treyarch has said that there are all these different changes being made to them specifically for this installment. Are there one or two weapons in particular that you feel you have put a lot of effort into, between past entries and Black Ops 4 and can you explain how you have improved them?

Tony Flame: Well, we look at everything. We get a lot of data, in terms of what people are using and how they are effective with them. We like to make weapons everybody uses. We don't want to make weapons that aren't seen. We want to give love to everybody. But, we've done improvements that do apply to everything.

The four guns, assault rifles and submachine guns, the way that they handle has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, which has never actually been done in the Call of Duty engine. So, the entire weapons, the way that they handle, is brand new. And that's in the recoil system and how they move. We now have a predictive recoil pattern; it is no longer random. Every single gun has its own personality profile now, in how it kicks and how it handles. That can be learned; that can be mastered, which gives a great new curve and aspect that wasn't there before.

And in addition to that is the way that it feels. We can control exactly how it feels, which lets us just make it feel better than they ever have before. That's just one example.

But aside from that, we've really been pushing the audio/visual, so just the experience of having them in your hands is levels, layers above what we have before in terms of games before.

CheatCC: You said you have data on which ones don't get used as much. Which weapons really did not get used as much?

Flame: When we look at the data, we use that to do balance patches and do design considerations. We have targets. We say, "You know what, we want this many people to use sniper rifles." We don't want as many people using sniper rifles as assault rifles, because then people get frustrated. What we use that data for is targets. Say, "Okay, this is the appropriate amount of shotguns." That's one way to use that data. We say, "Given that this is the amount of players that are using [them], how do we want to design this for the players that are going to be engaging?"

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CheatCC: How are you working to balance financial considerations while keeping a fun, fair multiplayer experience?

Miles Leslie: By "financial," what do you mean?

CheatCC: Microtransactions and lootboxes.

Leslie: We're not talking about that today. We just revealed everything.

CheatCC: Are you going to try and keep it fair, so it won't be like people will be paying to win?

Leslie: We've got the strategy for that. We're not really talking about it today.

Brittany Pirello: That's more of an Activision question.

Flame: We just make the game, man. [Laughs.]

Leslie: I can tell you in Black Ops 3, that was certainly a consideration.

CheatCC: With the Zombies campaign, before the intial trailers there was talk of mythology and legends being used. I noticed the artifact looks kind of Egyptian and we saw kind of a Roman arena. Can you talk about some of the legends and influences that are going to be seen in there?

Flame: I can't, or [Jason] Blundell [Treyarch Co-Studio Head and Senior Executive Producer] and [Craig] Houston [Treyarch Lead Writer] would murder me. But I can tell you that it's bonkers and they are doing some crazy things.

So, you've got those three experiences, again. We've never had three experiences on day one. And each one is going to offer something new. You've got the new characters, all new mythology, and then, I'm excited to see how it is interwoven with some of the older stuff as well.

I think, like, you're already picking up on that stuff, and that's the stuff we wanna talk about. I think we've one-upped ourselves again. Which is scary when we have to do it again.

Leslie: And then, being able to, like, cater to the rookies...

Flame: Yes.

Leslie: ...who are just getting into the series. You know, like doing the adjustable difficulties or introducing the bots in Zombies.

Flame: Yes. That's a huge thing. And as we started to look out... We started to go so deep into Zombies' lore and mythology. You've got hardcore [fans] that eat it up and love all that. And then, we need to find a way to bring those new players in so they can have that experience. You know, back to the simpler Zombies experience. And that's bridging the gap that we did on Black Ops 4.

So, as a hardcore, you can bring a casual buddy, and maybe you don't have to worry about quests. Maybe you don't have to worry about these things since you can change the difficulty. And now they can come in and get to the point where they're talking about the mythology and all those things. They don't have to jump right in and get overwhelmed.

Pirello: We're definitely making it accessible for anyone new who wants to jump into Zombies, while still having the challenges and Easter Eggs that, like, hardcore Zombies fans know and love.

CheatCC: I was able to play through Seaside earlier. What are some of your objectives with the maps you are going to have in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 multiplayer? What do you want to see people do and try out?

Pirello: Lots of things. [Laughs.]

Leslie: You know, the approach for this game is really about, if you talk about, like, the higher level for Multiplayer is about the experience and making sure there is as much emergent gameplay as possible across all the content and maps. And so we've really taken a hard look at every single map. It has to offer something new.

So Seaside is leaning into tight quarters, right? You have those tight alleyways, really quick turns, right? You're coming through the cafe. The doors are tight.

That also lends itself to teamwork. Right? So you're Ajax with the shield; I'm going to get behind you. Maybe we can go out to the crazy center. We can use our equipment in interesting ways.

Talk about Payload; that's all about the barrel of the gun. Right? We like to think of the player as a bullet, and they're about running through this missile, right?

Each of those really offers something unique. It's always a challenge. And we're like, "Okay. This map needs to do this. Now, what does the next map need to do that is unique on this."

Pirello: And also, just looking back through all the maps in Black Ops history and trying to do something brand new and unique has been a challenge as well. And so trying to find that, make sure it works, and get it down for that gun-play. And then also finding really cool opportunities for Specialists to use their abilities in unique ways on the map.

So Contraband has really cool water-play, like something that we've explored even more this game is to try to get players to think really tactically about how they use water.

CheatCC: Yeah, I got to go through that part, and it was really smooth going into the swimming area and it was really natural.

Leslie: Swimming's got a different feel to it, now that there's no way to thrust jump out of it. So we've got to design around that, and you've either got ladders to get out of there or you can come out at a nice, smooth gradient. It opened up some nice [options]. You know, a different design space and design opportunities.

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CheatCC: With the character creation, it seems like the Specialists have defined personalities and looks. Did you have an idea in mind what you wanted the person to be, then you built up the skillset around that? Or did you have a loadout in mind, then built up a character around that?

Leslie: It's like a combination of both, right? Cause you start from Black Ops 3. You go, "Okay. Ruin was awesome. What did Ruin do? He rushed the fuck in and just caused destruction with his Overdrive and other aspects. Let's take that and try to make it a role for someone if they want to play that role." So that is someone who wants to be a slayer and rush in.

So now you give them the tools to be successful and do that in a meaningful way, and then give the breadth of that across the Specialists. How does each person do something that they can be really specialized in and be successful? In Black Ops 3, a lot of those things were focused on offensive abililties. So now, it's, "How can you be more supportive and defensive? Like, you know, shield? Like Firebreak with area denial. These are new things that every single Specialist does different from each other.

So it's a combination, right? What's their look and feel? Each of them gets refined together.

Pirello: With the changes of the core to the gameplay, it's also just seeing what other opportunities for different skillsets Specialists would have that would play really well.

Flame: It's very organic through development. We have a vision for the role that we want a Specialist to play, and then we try a lot of different things out to achieve that role. And we'll give them different pieces of equipment or special skills just to find the right one. We'll iterate on that until they're filling the right role for their team.

CheatCC: And do any of their skills tie back to their personalities? Like I know in the trailer there was one Specialist who had a dog.

Flame: Absolutely. Right again. Like Ruin is a big example. He is, "I am going to go in there and I am going to murder you." Right, so what does he do? He'll grapple right in your face, and he can shoot you or he can grab slam.

Crash? He's more support. He's going to throw out that Assault Pack. "Hey, grab that. You're going to get a bonus score that will do more for your Score Streaks. Oh, and also, I'm going to boost you. You know, I don't like to jump in, so you go. You're the crazy mofo. You go in and handle business. I'm going to stay back here.

Pirello: Battery just has fire in her eyes and wants to explode everything.

Leslie: The narrative, personality aspect is one of the considerations. Like, "Does this fit with this character? It actually doesn't go with their personality, but it goes great with this other person. Can we make it work for their personality and for their gameplay?"

Flame: We want people to argue over the Specialists. "I love Ruin. Ruin's the best." "No, Battery's the best."

CheatCC: You want to see fan art and rule 34?

[Pirello, Leslie, and Flame laugh.]

Flame: No comment.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 12, 2018.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
JMariye

Site Editor
Date: 05/21/2018

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