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Controller Freak

Chad Sapieha leads you deep into the world of games, covering gaming trends

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A screenshot from Activision/Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision/Treyarch)
A screenshot from Activision/Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision/Treyarch)

Treyarch studio chief Mark Lamia on Call of Duty: Black Ops Add to ...

I recently had the opportunity to interview Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia, the man who oversaw development of Call of Duty: Black Ops .

The focus of our interview, which was arranged for another story I'm working on, was the Call of Duty franchise as a whole, but there was a point during the conversation that he offered a nice tidy summary of his new game. The details he provided weren't a fit for my other piece, but it seemed a shame to let this little Black Ops rundown go to waste.

Luckily I have this blog at my disposal.

So, here's everything you need to know about the game that recently set the record for most copies sold in a single day from the man who made it. And it all started with this one simple question...

What's new with Black Ops?

I'll talk about each part of the game separately.

The campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops is unlike anything that people have experienced before in Call of Duty. From the moment you put the disc in we're immersing you in the fiction and the world that we've created. The story just starts; things are revealed to you immediately.

The narrative structure is unique as well. The story is told as a series of memories, flashbacks, and flash forwards. These elements are woven throughout and inside the missions. It's a tight narrative structure, but it has depth to it. I think players are going to find it very interesting and exciting. There are some good twists and turns.

We've also done a lot to bring our characters to life. We've used techniques such as performance capture that allowed us to use real performances for our characters. Performance capture isn't just motion capture, which captures movements. It captures facial movements and voice at the same time. That allowed us to take the next step in terms of developing our characters. It's the same production pipeline that James Cameron used to produce Avatar. In fact, we were at one of the studios where he worked.

On the gameplay front, every mission is distinct and has a lot of variety. Players are taken all over the world and introduced to new environments and do new things, like control helicopters for the first time in a Call of Duty game. There's just a ton of variety.

And on the multiplayer front we've introduced a new currency system that allows players to customize their characters, weapons, and loadouts as they se fit. Some of these customizations are fundamental to gameplay, like weapons and attachments, but some are purely cosmetic. Now you can do things like place emblems on your weapons and customize your reticules. The currency system gives you the freedom to choose what you'd like to emphasize.

The other thing you can do with currency is participate in "Wager" matches. These matches put players into free-for-all modes. Each game has its own set of rules. You go in, put your Call of Duty currency on the line, and the top three are in the money. It's just another way to play and earn currency.

We also learned from our community that there are a lot of people who play the campaign but who either haven't experienced the multiplayer portion of the game or just aren't interested in playing with the mass population online even though they might like to have a multiplayer experience.

So, we developed a mode called Combat Training that allows you to play a multiplayer game with player progression, ranking, and customization. You can play against A.I. You can choose a level of difficulty for that A.I. You can play alone. You can play with friends. You can play with A.I. bots on your side. You can play with multiple friends. It's really configurable and customizable. It allows players who haven't experienced the multiplayer portion of the game or who have but aren't interested in the competition that goes on online a chance to play on their terms.

I've also found that some players like to go into Combat Training to practice. They can practice with weapons, they can crank up the level of difficulty against A.I. bots, and they can learn the maps. There's all kinds of ways people will use this entirely new mode that has never existed in another Call of Duty game.

Then there's the theatre. The theatre will record games. And we have an editor that lets you edit a clip together and attach it to your player card in the game, sort of like a personal highlight reel. And you can invite people to come in and watch your movie in your theatre. It's a creative outlet for Call of Duty players, but it's also a social thing for them as well. It's acknowledging that people spend a lot of time with Call of Duty, and it gives them different ways to share their experience.

And then, of course, there's zombies....

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