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Gaming Interview

'Black Ops: Annihilation': Treyarch on feedback, map remakes

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Call of Duty: Black Ops: Annihilation

© Activision

Call of Duty: Black Ops's multiplayer dominance marches on today with the release of a third map pack, 'Annihilation', on Xbox Live. As with previous offerings 'First Strike' and 'Escalation', it features four new multiplayer maps - Hanger 18, Drive-In, Silo, Hazard - and a new Zombies arena Shangri-La. Digital Spy chats to Treyarch's design director David Vonderhaar about user feedback, remaking old maps and the future for Black Ops downloadable content.

What is the creative process behind creating new map packs for Black Ops? What are the priorities and starting points?
"For DLC, we frequently start from a point of trying to accomplish something we've always wanted to do. This could be as locale we wanted to explore, a specific type of gun play, such as a cross-fire or vertical battle, or it could be an interactive element. Often we'll look at how the game has progressed and assign priorities around where we feel we need to fill out the map portfolio. When these two things come together in a clever way, we know we are on to something special for our map pack."

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Annihilation
How is player feedback used when creating new maps?
"Significantly! Developer/player feedback is the primary method by which maps get iterated on. Every day for an hour or longer the maps are played by anyone on the team. They could be FX artists, level designers, producers, or engineers. Whomever participates in the playtest attends a brief gathering at the end where we play a game called 'Pass the Controller'.

"We pass the game controller to each person in the feedback session. This person can fly around the map and call out something they liked and something they didn't like and why. This feedback is managed by the senior level designer and the producer.

"User player feedback [gamers] also plays a role. We've set map pack goals based on the direct feedback from fans. When planning, we always discuss the community perspective on the levels developed so far. Here is one example: Many people like small and medium maps because the action is frenetic, but they don't like dying a short time after they spawn.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Annihilation
"These two things conflict in many ways. Bigger maps spread out the spawns and minimise the chances you will get shot soon after spawning (good), but then you have to run to get into, or find, a fight (not so good all the time). It's quite the balancing act. The fans of the game challenge us all the time. It's important to listen and think about what they are saying about the levels we have developed, but you have to also trust your experience and instincts as a game developer and designer, and what the actual data about map voting for each core game type is telling you."

Previous new maps featured new interactive elements, such as elevators and zip-lines. Does 'Annihilation' offer anything like this?
"We have environmental elements, but no player interactive elements in 'Annihilation'. We've always said we were not going to force interactive elements into any map unless they really fit."

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Annihilation
Can you tease any of the Easter Eggs hidden inside the Hanger 18 map?
"All I can really tell you is that hard core fans of the game should appreciate the inside joke."

Hazard was inspired by COD: World at War map Cliffside - what is the most requested map that Call of Duty players want remade?
"It was one of the most requested, but we still prototyped and kicked around a few different maps. World at War and Black Ops are different games, so not every World at War map layout works particularly well when you have customisable and flyable Killstreak rewards. Hazard is fun as a Black Ops map, but re-theming it as a luxury golf course really made it suitably different enough from Cliffside and that got us really excited about it."

Did you consider adding new cosmetic options or weapons as part of Black Ops's post release content, or was it always going to be new multiplayer and Zombies maps only?
"We do this all the time in Zombies, as it makes a little more sense in that mode. For traditional multiplayer, it's far more involved and can get complicated. We want to make sure there is a level playing field throughout, so we don't want to mess with that. Right now we're focused on getting the fans a steady stream of new maps for traditional MP and for Zombies."

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Annihilation
Call of Duty: World at War's post release content stopped at three map packs - will Black Ops be the same or is a fourth on the cards?
"I can't talk to anything beyond 'Annihilation', but keep your eyes peeled..."

The Call of Duty: Elite beta will launch through Black Ops next month. What level of integration and new features can players expect in the beta?
"Stay tuned..."

Call of Duty: Black Ops map pack 'Annihilation' is available now on Xbox Live. PlayStation Network and PC versions will be available next month.

View Call of Duty: Black Ops's 'Annihilation' trailer below:

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