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CoD:BO First Look, Part VI
Written by Jock   
Thursday, 27 May 2010

CoD: BO First Look, Part VI, "Multiplayer"

Mark Lamia and Josh Olin invited the Multiplayer Senior Producer Dan Bunting and the multiplayer design director David Vonderhaar (Vahn) to speak to the First Look invitees after the game demo.

The two provide an interesting contrast. Bunting is a calm, cool character. He never gets fazed or rattled. Vahn, on the other hand, is just brimming with nervous energy and at times explodes into hilarious antics to make his point.

Bunting: "We can't go into too many details...but I can tell you a little bit more about the (MP) development effort we've been going through. On this project, we have had about twice the team size on multiplayer than we normally have had on any previous multiplayer project.

Twice the development effort.

We started production at the beginning of the project, which is really a first for our team. Traditionally, we wait 'til we see how single player gets mapped out and start working off some of the single player baselines. But, on this project, we started (MP) from day one.

I think you'll see that in the MP game. The result is really phenomenal.

You know, Vonderhaar and I...this is the best thing that we have ever worked on. We're really super proud of it.

Bunting then went on to talk about the game's "Pillars" which we covered in an earlier article. From there, they opened the floor to questions.

Aaron Peckler: "Looking at other CoD games, the MP maps are taken from SP. Can you tell us something about the maps, given that you have spent twice the time normally taken for them?"

Vahn: "Let me just say that when you see stuff in SP that looks like MP, it's cuz they took it from MP. Not the other way around." 

<Laughter>

Lamia: "It's not just maps. You know that crossbow? They got it up first and I said...that's going in the campaign".

Vahn: "We're systems people. We think about things at that level. Every map  at one point or another was designed for MP first. I don't think we have a straight conversion at all..."

Bunting:  We don't have a single map in the MP game that is a conversion from single player, because we designed all the maps specifically for multiplayer. That's a first for us. That's how we roll.

<audience giggles>

You gotta design for the competitive experience. That's really important."

JD_2020: "Two years ago we were making three games: Quantum of Solace, Web of Shadows and World at War. Now we have the entire studio focusing on Black Ops. So, it's allowed us to do things like this."

Unknown: "How do you balance the multiplayer experience of catering (the game) to the masses, the casual gamer, and making it palatable to them, while at the same time to us, the hardcore gamers, without making it too noob-friendly.

Vahn: "If you're following the threads on the Black Ops forums, the spirit of this is that we'll take a cut of tuning that represents a competitive set and a cut of tuning for a casual set. And then we generally take a law of averages and find some middle spot. The tuning is more in line with that needle pushing on the competitive set. But it has to be accessible to lots of people.

You don't have to do that specifically with the tunings. The way you introduce things...the way you unlock things, that's the way you can increase the curve over time."

Bunting: "The game as a whole, is not going to be hardcore or casual. The game as a whole is going to offer something for everybody. This doesn't mean we're watering down  the game. There's some aspect of the game that everyone is going to like. The hardcore guys will like the tactical features, for example.

We're even talking 'playlists' for  hardcore old-school gamers, who want the old school style. They don't want the new style."

<An unbelievably animated Vahn starts jumping and shouting at this point>

 

von.jpg

 

Vahn:  Say the word. Say the word. Say the word! SAY THE WORD!! BARE BONES BABY!!! Let's go!

The only way you will really ever appeal to the super-competitive set is to give those people the game rules that appeals to them. Let them go in that world and do their thing and everyone else can enjoy the broader, more social, noob-friendly experience. That's how you solve that thing.

The concept of "Bare Bones" came up a lot in the little side meetings that occurred with individual devs during our stay at Treyarch. There are many console gamers, like Mattks (from weplaycod.com), who are leading the effort to have a "Bare Bones" modes that removes all the post-CoD:UO bells-and-whistles that have been tacked onto the game in efforts to catch the eye of the casual player.

The "Bare Bones" movement in the console community is starting to catch on. Of course, if we are allowed to mod the game (unranked servers), this is a moot point for the PC crowd...our modders will bare their own bones.

However, if we are forced to have dedicated ranked servers (similar to the BFBC2 model), this conversation will be seen as one of the first public discourses on the subject.

Unknown: "For MP, how do you tackle going up against a game that spans so many decades?"

Bunting: "Believable fiction. It's more about gameplay than about the cinema or the story (ed: Talking about MP). At the end of any period, you have everything retroactive up to that point."

Lamia: "...you just have more toys and more tools".

Vahn: "MP doesn't have a time period."

Bunting: "We're timeless".

<audience laughs>

Unknown: "Will there be vehicles in multiplayer?"

Vahn: "...I practised an answer to this one"

Bunting: <mockingly> "That's soooo Vonderhaar: 'I practised an answer to this one'".

<huge laughs from the collected individuals>

Vahn: "Vehicles will make an appearance in Black Ops Multiplayer, but it won't be anything you have seen before or expect".

Josh Peckler: "Peek, lean and prone?"

PCDev: "I won't talk about balancing, but you will be able to lean".

Vahn: <Satirically> "Ya, but we cut crouch, prone and standing."

<huge laughs>

Bunting: "...here's a teaser...there's something new about prone in this one."

Some viewers later claimed that they saw a prone avatar "wriggle itself into standing position". This apparently was accomplished through some console commands. This was not confirmed.

Mattks: "The OXM article talked about create-a-class 2.0, can you explain"

Bunting: "...there is a Create-a-class 2.0 concept, but we'll go into detail about it another day."

Many guys in the community then started to pile on the questions randomly. The questions, turned to recommendations:

  • Night maps were bad for gameplay (ed: Amen)
  • Make sure there are no Care Packages
  • No nukes!
  • Don't mess this one up!

Bunting: "We read the forums all the time. We're super sensitive to what the gamers/fans want, say, care about and want more of. Every single day we play with our team for an hour. And after the game we get together and have our own little bitch session. Our team is comprised of everything from casual to hardcore gamers.

We're very sensitive to balancing concerns: weaponry, killstreaks, perks...

We look at the complaint and look at the problem. If it's a bad idea, it's gone."

Unknown: "Can you put some animation so that people don't go prone so quickly"

Bunting: "We have one member of the team who has a button mapped to prone instantly."

<Huge laughs>

Vahn: "Prone is a game mechanic, it's important to go to prone."

The question of an MP "Beta" was asked but the answers were opaque. However, Lamia has, told XBox360 magazine that "A multiplayer beta's being "considered".

 

...a BASH webcast on this event, including an interview with PCDev, will follow shortly

 
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