It's the first time Treyarch has worked outside of World War II for a Call Of Duty game. How has that been for the designers?
"Kinda liberating. It's not that they don't like working on World War II games, it's just there's so many more opportunities they could work with for the Cold War era in this Black Ops game. You know, we've been making WWII games for a long time and we're pretty good at it and we have a lot of fun with it, but any time we start a new project we want to start telling new stories and create gameplay that people haven't seen before in the Call Of Duty franchise. Back in World At War, our solution to that was to create the Pacific Theatre, but now Call Of Duty has done WWII, Call Of Duty has done modern, let's make a brand new genre, so that was important."
"No, we've created our own story from scratch, it's a unique fictional story, completely one hundred percent original. We're not there to tell history and we're not there to make any political stances, it's strictly there to be an entertaining game. So when you play through the story you're going to get, it's pretty awesome, it's a rollercoaster ride for sure. It's a complex story but not so complex to the point where it's confusing, we don't want to cross that line, we don't want to be confusing with the story or plot world."
Can you tell us anything about the multiplayer right now?
"You've seen the teaser for sure and you're probably picking it apart for clues and hints, and the point of the teaser was to create more questions than answers, we wanted you guys to wonder and theorise. I can tell you that a lot of your theories are pretty accurate, but I can also say that everything in that teaser is just the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to multiplayer. I think people are honestly going to be really, really surprised when we unveil all of our multiplayer. I think they're going to go, 'Holy s**t, we didn't see that coming'."
"Pretty thorough. A lot of that lives in Create a Class, it's very much renovated and overhauled, but that's not it. There's other elements to it as well that I can't reveal quite yet. But it's a big part, and I don't know that to the first-person shooter gamer, they want to create their own online identity, they want to make the game their own, play it the way they want to play it. So we're going to be giving them the platform to do that."
Both World At War and Modern Warfare 2 have been prone to glitches and exploits online. Have you taken any measures to prevent these?
"Absolutely. That's one of the advantages of [Black Ops]. They all started coming out after World At War's development, they also started coming out pretty much at the end of Modern Warfare's development cycle, which didn't leave that much time to put in preventative measures, they left them chasing their tails in terms of patching it. Black Ops we've had plenty of time. We know how all those hacks are done, and we have preventative measures built into Black Ops built around those. Of course, hackers are very smart, they'll find new ways to break the game I'm sure, and when they do we'll have security measures in place to enforce our policies, enforce our leaderboards, enforce our matchmaking and lobbies to keep those clean, so that shouldn't be an issue for Black Ops."
"A lot of it is still restricted from the first parties, they have to certify the patch and it takes time, that's the unfortunate side-effect. But we do have this hotfixing technology where we can push out network updates, updates that live on the network side, which live on our servers that you guys can pull down. So a lot of things can be fixed and prevented there."
What kind of things can you hotfix?
"This is a really technical discussion that is actually pretty boring, but basically how these hacks work is that they change system level variables, that we didn't expect to be exposed because we expected the consoles to be these closed systems, and [on] our PC we have anti-cheat technology. On the consoles, that kind of came out left-field when they broke the signing authorities for Xbox. So we had to improvise. With those variables that they are exploiting, well those network variables are the things that we can hotfix. So whenever they would mess with one of those, we could just release a hotfix where we would replace the bad variables with the good ones, and everything's back to normal, so we can do stuff like that. But if you're going to do a big patch, like patching actual code and script, then that has to be done through a title update, and that takes longer."
"Pretty autonomous, I don't know what they're doing to be honest. They don't have any implications on us, we're still making our game, and we'll still be making our games too. We've always operated very independent of each other, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, and so Sledgehammer Games coming into the mix doesn't change a thing."
Are you still working on a two-yearly cycle for Call Of Duty games?
"That's what the last couple of games were, yeah. Two years is a pretty good development cycle, it's a long one. It's plenty of time to make a great game. Any longer than that it's pretty touch. A one-year cycle is way too short, it's not enough time to make a game, so two years is fine."
In the past, Treyarch has been doing ports of different games and all sorts. Are you still doing that, or are you now focused on Call Of Duty?
"Yeah, we're focused on Call Of Duty now."
"Right now, yeah. Actually at the end of World At War's development, that year we shipped Quantum Of Solace and Spiderman: Web Of Shadows for that holiday season, and boy that was tough. We have 250 developers for a studio but they're split across three blockbuster titles. After that shipped, we refocused all our development efforts exclusively on a Call Of Duty unit. Right now, everyone's working exclusively on Black Ops. We have 250 developers, rather than working on three games, they're working on three components in one game, that's going to be in one box - campaign, multiplayer and co-op. We've had dedicated teams on those modes for day one, working in parallel, and it's the first time we've been able to do that at Treyarch."
Call Of Duty: Black Ops will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC from November 9.