Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3, Mark Lamia Speak About The Game - Games Weekly

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3, Mark Lamia Speak About The Game

What a difference a decade can make. Turn back the clocks and flick back the pages on the calendar and, for the majority of PlayStation gamers, Treyarch was viewed as a team muscling in on Infinity Ward’s baby. Now, the Black Ops creator is widely regarded as the franchise’s leading, most innovative development studio. Two-and-a-half years removed from its last entry, Call Of Duty: Black Ops II, we catch up with the current king of first-person shooters to find out what else has changed.

This is Treyarch’s first three-year development cycle for a call of duty game what has that extra time enabled you to do?

Mark Lamia: Without a three-year cycle, we wouldn’t have been able to take the kind of risks that we took on this game, frankly. We would not have been able to overhaul our entire AI system, which supports the kind of engagements in an open play space like we have. We would not have been able to overhaul our rendering technology to be able to render the size of the environments, or the volume and density of activities, art and effects in that amount of time.

We wouldn’t have been able to overhaul our entire movement system, because what goes along with that is a bunch of iteration on map development that took almost a year in and of itself. So we wouldn’t have done it because we wouldn’t have been able to do the two hand-in-hand, and for us they’re so closely connected; the reason to have that sort of movement is so you can use your environment in the way that you want.

You mentioned new ai systems how crucial was it to redo what’s been a pretty consistent element running through the series?

Well, for us it was critical as soon as we decided to make a co-op game, because we [still] needed to make it feel like a Call of Duty game, which meant we needed to have a lot of stuff going on to entertain the player at all times. In those battles, we had to create our own proprietary AI system that had foundational rules, but then allowed us to create archetypes for the different kinds of AI.

And because we wanted to have not just human players but robotics and vehicles, and have them all interplay and make them all dynamic based on upwards of 40 agnostic abilities that a player could enter a battle with, [AI]has to actually adapt and respond and be emergent in those situations.

If we didn’t have that time to work on overhauling the AI system and letting that mature and then having the designers work with that AI system we wouldn’t have been able to make the game like it is and allow it to be the kind of game where you can not just play through it once, but go back and play differently with level-agnostic abilities.


“ROBOTS Don’t Worry About Self-Preservation, So It’s More Interesting.”
Robotic enemies that are less focused on self-preservation obviously changed those ai responses somewhat… 

That was fun to do that with the AI, because human AI needs to look smart, which means it needs to take cover and take opportunities to shoot at you. Robots don’t worry about self-preservation like humans do, so we could create more interesting formations. You can almost imagine them coming at you three-deep as an effective strategy because so long as there are enough of them standing, that’s a penetrable force. But if they’re charging you in that form or fashion… Or if you can imagine them surrounding an asset or that’s more vulnerable… Like I said, they’re not as worried about their own self-perseveration.

Typically, call of duty has been bound to humans and some vehicles as foes was that limitation a driving force behind the inclusion of robots? 

One of our primary motivations behind having the robotics is that we can have a variety of gameplay that we’ve never had before. We’ve made a lot of Call Of Duty games. We started to dip our toes into that [realm] with Black Ops II by introducing some drones to the battlefield, and having some robotics. But these [robotics in Black Ops III] are far more advanced and we can do more complex AI interactions because, fictionally, these are more complex robotics. So it totally played into that.

The bipedal robots are really good because if their legs are blown off, they’ll keep coming at you. They can still fire, so when stuff is on the ground you still need to take it out if you haven’t actually [eliminated it]. It introduces a lot of new variety inside the gameplay.

How much do you share things with the other call of duty teams? is there a degree of ‘i’m going to keep this under wraps from the other studios and we’re going to focus on doing our thing’? 

From very early on we’ll share stuff on all sides. I invited the other teams very early on in this development, as soon as I had what I considered to be a representative prototype. It was nowhere near as polished as what we have now. I shared it with the other studios, but it’s up to them to come up with their own creative [ideas]. I think that there’s [an outside] belief that you can take just a feature and stick it in another game, but I think these systems are fairly complex. You really have to look at them holistically and make sure they make sense for your stuff.

If you’re trying to come up with your own stuff that works for your [game], sometimes it’s actually not useful to look at something else until you’ve exhausted your own ideas because it could influence you. And then, you might not come up with the ideas you [otherwise] would.

Treyarch was on the vanguard of the series with streaming and the Theater mode in the first black ops. where do you think this side of gaming is going to go in the next five or six years? what will be the next social advancement for the fps?

So I think like everything else, on the social front it’ll come down to the content creators. And so what our goal is, is to give the content creators out there better tools so that it’s democratised.

And then it’s just up to the content makers themselves to make compelling content that attracts their audiences. That’s what we’re focused on: on putting the tools in their hands and then seeing what they do with them. And they usually do more with them than we could’ve ever hoped for and imagined, so that’s where our focus is. Developing better tools, more accessible tools, and then getting it in their hands and waching what they do…

And finally, black ops III had an unusual reveal over snapchat. were you surprised by how quickly people were able to decipher your clues?

I was entirely not surprised by what our fans have done. I mean, they have proven time and time again that they are engaged, passionate and really resourceful! [Laughs] And that they solve most of the riddles and puzzles we throw at them… we know that, which is why we keep making them and we hope they have fun. This morning, we released a Snapchat and I believe somebody found a morse code embedded in it within six minutes. It was embedded pretty deep!

The thing is, even though they’ve done that, that’s actually just the start of the game. All they’ve done is found one piece of a puzzle. Some of these games are fairly complex, but so is our team that’s creating them…

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