The denial of plausibility. The Spec Ops are the unsung heroes, as discussed by the next Call of Duty title, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Going back to the 1980s, a conspiracy is afoot by a “Perseus” wanting to destabilize the world. We bring you David Vonderhaar, Studio Design Director, and Matt Scronce, Lead Designer, to walk us through the building of this game.
A whole bunch of you have probably quite enthusiastically jumped on the betas the game has had so far prior to its full release on 13 November. It would seem quite a few of you have the opinion that BOCW‘s guns handle similarly to Modern Warfare. Scronce takes that as a complement, but does state that the team is continuously pushing hard on new technology and these will be tested out accordingly in the beta: weapon tech, recoil, firing animations and aiming down sights to maintain that immersion and fantasy while not interfering with gameplay.
Cold War pays homage to the previous Black Ops games, with the run and gun gameplay making it feel like an arcade shooter, while still having slow and tactical points. Vonderharr confirms this played into what the team had planned for: What made the series well known in the first place, while also not discarding any innovation they’ve made across the previous titles, to make a balance between the “classic” and “realistic” in technical terms.
“We definitely learnt something from Black Ops 4, but we also learnt things from Black Ops 1, 2, and 3, so this is really taking in all those learning experiences to making the best classic Black Ops game we can.”
We’re well into a new era, console and age generation wise, and we’ll be heading to the 1980s in the game, a time when some younger gamers haven’t even been born yet, with references probably seeming quite foreign and ancient to say the least. Simply put, yes, there will be more modern inspirations to make it relevant for the newest generation of gamers, but they haven’t “betrayed” the era, as Vonderharr puts it.
While Black Ops Cold War is the next game in a venerable franchise as Call of Duty, there still remains room for improvement. Vonderharr brings up finding a balance of making a fast and fluid game while still making it grounded, while both Scronce and he agree on accessibility being a big driving force.
You want the game to be fun… we want all players to engage because we’ve made some really badass content that we want the player to get in and have fun with.
The story may be all dark and conspiracy-based, but Black Ops as a series is more colourful than the Modern Warfare series. Those who’ve played on the Miami map would attest to this, and may be wondering if there will be more maps with a similar design, while older fans would surely want to know if throwback maps will be available. Vonderharr isn’t at liberty to reveal any future maps, but what he will say is that the map colours and design will depend on the environment, the narrative, the design and the like. Miami should be the vivacious one, while you won’t be expecting a similar treatment for Moscow, would you?
With Warzone being a free to play mode, this could be many gamers’ first experience of the Call of Duty franchise if they haven’t opted to get Modern Warfare. Warzone being a battle royale and Operator-centric, it differs from the main line games. Black Ops Cold War would ideally want to balance the experiences for these types of players. As Vonderharr explains:
“It boils down to 3 major things:
- What does the data tell us about the game?
- What do we find in our development and play testing?
- What are fans saying?”
Balance is done in what they expect and want out of the game, from the weapons, to attachments, perks, attributes, what have you. “We’re looking at these not through the lens of someone else’s game, not even through the lens of our last game.” He jokes about achieving true balance when everyone is unhappy with the end product, but yes, it is basically their three core philosophies as mentioned above.
This balancing act ties into the whole levelling system of the game, like that of gun attachments.
“The beta test is not only to flex our systems, our servers and gather data on weapons, but also to test that progression.”
They’ve heard your feedback and are extremely appreciative of those who have sent in detailed ones with suggestions as this helps them gauge where you stand and helps them with what to focus on when it comes to fixes. It’s easy to simply say you want or don’t want a feature after all, so telling them exactly how you feel about it will ensure a better quality result overall. Their plan for the levelling system is meant to ensure you get a constant stream of rewards as you move from game to game without overwhelming you all at once. Scronce cryptically mentions “exciting stuff” and ways to help players get to content, but this will be detailed at a later point.
They’ve been at work to help players know more about the game they’re playing, and one of this is the new gunsmith feature, showing the weapons with in-depth stats, even including vertical sway and laser visibility. We’re told that weapon tuning has been a large, if not the biggest focus in developing in Treyarch. Know what you have so that you can play the way you want!
Speaking of player feedback, the Armada map was brought up in specific to discuss its design concept and story. Vonderharr is incredibly pleased about the map being loved, mentioning how multiplayer is typically player-driven – “as it should,” he notes – instead of being a story experience. Armada is pretty much them pushing how far they can get with map design, proving having a storyline within a map isn’t impossible, where you can get the most “cinematic” moments of gaming in one single map and making you feel, “Am I playing a game, or am I in a trailer?”. Scronce himself is a big fan of the map. The love that both the men feel towards the experiences Armada can give is palpable.
They’re not going for any specific “flavour” of multiplayer, wanting to offer as many modes as they can to cater to whatever to what a player or their friends feel like playing. “It’s about building a portfolio,” Scronce says. You might be wondering about the match-making system at this point, and both men stress that ping is their priority.
Hence, with cross-play, the system will not be working on matching players based on platform at this moment, and in-depth details regarding optimization, especially that for next-gen consoles, will not be covered in this session. Just know that yes, they have put in the work and preparations, and want to make all the features work the same across platforms, so even if you’re not utilizing next-gen technology, you won’t be dramatically missing out. The anti-cheat system is pretty much also not up for discussion to maintain security.
“Ultimately, we’re just not going to sacrifice connectivity for any kind of skill-based matchmaking ever.”
With the next beta commencing, players have brought up inconsistencies with the aim assist: notable as previous games in the Call of Duty franchise have perfect aim assist. Vonderhaar muses it would depend on specific instances, but he reassures that the system is part of their tuning process. It will be addressed, and it would be especially helpful if anyone who has come across such issues also provide clips so that the team will be better able to fix them for everyone’s benefit.
Players are encouraged to reach level 10 to get a gun blueprint, and well, it’s also a test for cross play. The designers would love to see people enjoying and promoting the game, especially after all the work they’ve put into it. It’s like how people have been excited to see Frank Woods return as an Operator skin you can get with the pre-order bundle. Maybe we could expect other familiar characters returning? Both Vonderhaar and Scronce share a hearty laugh over their future plans, as this is also unfortunately currently kept under wraps until the official announcement. Vonderhaar teases that “the list is so good”, so feel free to let your imaginations go wild.
It’s not that long to go before Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War launches across platforms. They’re clearly wanting to appeal to players of all walks of life: the traditional single player campaign, the varied multiplayer modes, Warzone support, and yes, zombies. No matter how old you are, be it this being your latest in a long line of Call of Duty games, or your first one seeing all the hype built around it, there surely will be something for you in this title.
Enjoy the beta this weekend, and we’ll see you when the game launches. Nobody may know the sacrifices the operatives make when they’re out on the field, but that doesn’t mean their stories can’t be told.