Interviews// Treyarch's Mark Lamia and Josh Olin

Posted 28 May 2010 17:00 by
Treyarch is getting inspired. Just ask them - researching into the history behind Call of Duty: Black Ops has helped them think of countless new ways to play the popular first person shooter. And after catching a lengthy glimpse of the game in action, my attention turned to the people behind the upcoming blockbuster.

Mark Lamia is Treyarch's studio head, while Josh Olin is the community manager for the Call of Duty: Black Ops project. Together, they opened up to SPOnG about the stories that influenced the game's design, what we can expect to see in the game and how many uses there can be for a shovel. Read on...

SPOnG: One of the things that struck me as unique was the direction of the squad on the ground at the beginning of the WMD level. How challenging was it to find new ideas and new avenues to explore with each game in the series?

Mark Lamia: That actually was our personal challenge - that people had had so many great Call of Duty experiences in the past, and with us taking in a new era of warfare with Black Ops it was an opportunity to introduce new gameplay and keep it fresh for players.

Early in the pre-production stage we experimented with all kinds of different gameplay. We focused entirely on that, and nothing else - whether it was high-altitude jumping, commanding the squad or create a controllable helicopter... we encouraged the team to think outside of the box, and do things we haven't done yet.

But here's the catch it's gotta be Call of Duty. It's gotta feel like Call of Duty when you're in it and it's gotta have that same sort of experience. As the team were creating the levels, one of the other focuses that we had was on variety and changing up the pacing. WMD is a really good example of that particular thing we wanted to have two levels to juxtapose each other, but in WMD one of our goals was creating a new experience at the start. The build up as you're walking towards the SR-71, and then getting into it and experiencing a take-off...

And then moving into something that's totally different than you've ever experienced in a Call of Duty game - controlling the squad. But we wanted that to be the setup, before transitioning players right into that level.

SPOnG: Yeah, I quite liked how the camera swooped down from the aircraft to the ground in a flash of white it seemed quite short for a squad management section though. Do you plan to do more with that concept in later levels?

Josh Olin: That transition effect happened a lot quicker than we showed, actually. But sure, there's more to that sequence than the SR-71. I think we only showed about a third of the level..?

Mark Lamia: Yeah, we only showed about a third of the WMD level we obviously did some skipping around in the demo, but that was because we wanted to show you multiple levels. Hopefully you noticed the level of variety that can be found between the WMD and Slaughterhouse stages. We're deliberately trying to give players variety and take them through these different experiences.

In the WMD level for instance, after that SR-71 section you move into some stealth encounters, and then onto the rappel gameplay. That's not a cutscene, by the way, that's playable there's like a timing sequence to it. You use the rappel to breach the base windows and start some gunplay. So it's not about constantly shooting at things. There's a strategic element to it all.

You saw our demo player she decided to come into an embankment stealthily, used the crossbow to take out some guys quietly, then used explosive tips to make her presence felt. Actually, one thing I thought was awesome was when she plugged an explosive tip into one of the enemies and took out about three guys at once. Devastating impact, at your discretion. Add the breaking into the science centre and the avalanche and the base jumping... you know, that's loads of different elements in just a third of a level.

I think players have always been able to expect variety between levels - when you've played past Call of Duty games you tend to wonder what's going to be in the next level. We really want you inside of a level, to be anticipating what's around that next corner. Whether it's that sort of level where we have the tension in some more stealth sequences, or if its more like we did in Slaughterhouse where you can command the helicopter or fight through with incendiary shotgun shells. We just want to give players tons of new gameplay. That's kind of the mantra.

Josh Olin: The variety of gameplay was one of the biggest challenges that we tackled in the game, but we had a great toolbox to go with it.
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