Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Preview -- Classic Fragging, New Zombies, and eSports DetailsBy Eric Eckstein - Posted May 01, 2012
Call of Duty has always been an online gaming juggernaut, and Black Ops 2 multiplayer will be no different. Treyarch's multiplayer and online director David Vonderhaar spoke to us about the direction BO2 will be going in terms of multiplayer, and even how the game will embrace eSports more in the future. And as a bonus, Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia comments on the return of the zombies co-op mode. If you'd like to see more about the single player game, dig into our Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Gameplay preview.
David Vonderhaar On Appeasing The Call of Duty Fans...
"So, from Call of Duty: Black Ops, we know that, with 30 million fans and 12 million uniques, that there’s no such thing as a one size fits all solution anymore. We cannot just make whatever it is that’s up here. There’s a lot of different people who have a lot of different experience, and they have a lot of different expectations for what they want out of the game. And we became really aware after we made Black Ops 1 just how different those people are and just how different their expectations are.
On one hand you got guys who are pretty new, and they just want to play with their friends, and they just want to have a good time, and they don’t want to get laughed at and kicked in the balls all the time. Right? And then on the other hand, you’ve got these guys like the winners of CODXP who play professionally and win money and actually make a living out of this. This is a lot of different people to satisfy, and no one is more aware of it then we are.
So from the very beginning of the game design all the way through, we knew right away that we had to take care of all these different people, and the game design is structured around that. So of course, something like combat training will be back in full force, but it goes all the way up to some other things that we’ll be telling you a lot about."
On Designing Black Ops 2 Multiplayer...
"In Black Ops 2, we’ve been challenging a lot of our assumptions. You think, 'Okay, you’re making the sequel to Black Ops 1. What do you normally do?' What do you do if you make the sequel to any Call of Duty game, really?
Well, the natural place to start, you would imagine, is right where you left off. You would take Black Ops 1 and go, 'And we did this, and we did this, and we had COD Points, and this is how ‘create a class’ worked, and we made equipment work this way, and we had cosmetics this way,' so what is the thing you do on top of that?
But actually, this isn’t what we did at all. We actually took a very, very different approach when we were developing multiplayer for Black Ops 2. We actually took the game and we stripped it all down to what’s really core, and we’ve been asking ourselves some really important questions about what is absolutely fundamental to the game. What exists in multiplayer because it’s always existed in multiplayer and we think that we have to hold on to it because we’ve had it before? And what is that experience really about? Why are we trying to extend systems when we could just develop the best system?
So a lot of core game systems you know, like create-a-class, like killstreaks, have gotten pulled back to where they started from, taking a really critical look, thinking long and hard about which of these cows are sacred. Which things are very important and which things are not so important, challenging our assumptions as designers and as franchise makers, what’s actually important.
We’re really after three very important things. We just want to give ourselves the best opportunity to create a game that we can balance and have be fun for a lot of different players. We want to make sure that we get our progression curve and getting that feeling of accomplishment needs to be there and keep you sucked in.
But most importantly, and you’ll see this in the create-a-class design when we sort of talk about it in detail with you, is it’s very important to us to make sure that we can support the widest variety of playstyles, because who am I to say what a valid playstyle is.
As long as I can give you lots of ways to experience the game, and I give you lots of ways to deal with people playing that way, lots of good counters in the create-a-class content, then we have the sort of three things that make up the core of what a multiplayer game and what a Call of Duty multiplayer experience needs to be like. And all three of those things are really important, but not at the expense of just tacking on to existing systems that we’ve had. So don’t be surprised when things that you’d expect that we’d have aren’t there., and things that used to be this way now work this way. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. Keep it really pure on these things."
About Multiplayer Gameplay In The Year 2025...
"You’re hearing a lot about the new technology, the 2025 time period. Multiplayer is exclusively in 2025. There isn’t an 80s or 70s component of it. It’s just 2025, and there’s a very specific reason for this on the design side.
The design reason is that this technology allows us to create gameplay that we haven’t been able to justify, that we haven’t been able to reasonably explain to someone because the technology didn’t exist for us. Because multiplayer is a sandbox game, and multiplayer is about giving players a whole bunch of unique tools and letting them go to work against each other around a loose set of game modes, rules and definitions.
This technology really opens up what it is we can do. How would the optics of a weapon work 15 years from now, and how would you apply that to gameplay?
Exploring these gameplay mechanics, and doing it in a believable way that makes sense, is really important to us. It’s got to be rooted in something, it’s got to feel like it could happen. And this stuff is happening, you just don’t know it, because you’re not a special ops soldier until you put a 360 controller in your hand.
This stuff is important to the game design and using the technology of the 2025 period is...for gameplay. You’ll see these drones reflected in create-a-class, in killstreaks, in these systems that you’re familiar with, but in ways that you haven’t necessarily been able to do it before. The mission that you just saw, being about to switch back and forth between in control and not in control. This is the theme, and it’s true with multiplayer too."
On Black Ops 2 Social Networking and eSports...
"We’re pop culture junkies, for sure. I’m a social media maniac. And the team is really big into a couple of things, and these things directly influence the game design. One of these: esports. I read this statistic, and let me make sure I don’t blow it here. This was just a couple days ago. Three billion minutes per month, people watch people play video games. This is a fantastic number.
Black Ops 1 was on the MLG pro circuit for PS3. It was a really fascinating learning experience for me and for the entire team. What we saw was the most passionate and honest community that I have ever seen. These were some of the most genuine and hardest core fans of the game that I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, and I have met a lot of hardcore fans, none of them as mature as this group of people.
They’ve had a really big influence on the game, and the game design. And it really comes down to two things. You have to make the game competitive and give people and environment in which they can be competitive and understand how they are doing in the competitive universe. That’s one of them.
But the more important one, or at least the equally important one, is the game has to be really fun to watch. So this is influencing or design direction. Making Call of Duty a spectator sport and making sure that it’s fun to watch are really important things to us.
The other side of this is social media and social games. PR hates it, but I’m on Twitter. Social gaming…my wife is playing a social game on her iPad every night when I get home. What’s fascinating about these two things for us is what kind of influence they’ve had over the user experience of playing the game, so making the game feature social, understanding how you’re doing in the universe of Call of Duty relative to other people in your friends list in the Call of Duty universe, that’s one thing.
But also just how drop dead simple these things are. They’re usually high visual. It’s 'I am doing this. I am updating my 140-character Twitter update.' Very simple, very in-your-face, very simple to understand. And that media browsing experience, that really simple single task oriented design, very influential and you kind of see this reflected in the game. It’ll be really obvious to you guys when we start to show you in a little more detail, which unfortunately is where I have to end."
Mark Lamia, Treyarch Studio Head On The Return Of Zombies...
"And then there’s zombies, the return of a co-op mode that we created here at Treyarch for Call of Duty. That’s going to come back in a big way. If you’re a zombies fan, you’re going to be happy with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. It’s the most ambitious zombies offering we’ve done. It’s a completely different mindset when you’re sitting down to play zombies than when you’re sitting down to play the multiplayer or the campaign. It’s its own game mode, and there’s a new world that we’re creating just for zombies players with all kinds of new gameplay.