Interview: Call of Duty: Black Ops producer Dan Bunting, part two

Speaking of weapons: Dragon's Breath. That's based on a real weapon?

It's an incendiary shotgun round called the Dragon's Breath that basically does what you see in the game. You look it up on YouTube and you'll see the guys shooting the shotgun shell and it looks like a big fireball comes out. But, that's a theme that you'll see in the game; modifications of weapons, special ammunition, special prototype weapons maybe not in wide use at the time. These were the kind of guys who would go out and do field testing these things. They were the first to get their hands on a new weapon. So, that's will be a theme you'll see running through the game.


So from a weapons point of view, the relatively small chronological jump from World War II to the black ops / Cold War era may be a relatively short time period but it's a huge jump technologically. What kind of freedom, despite being just 20 years later, has that afforded you? Obviously a lot of the weapons in this game look like they could have been in a modern shooter.

A lot of the lineage of modern weaponry pretty much started in the '60s and '70s. So the weapons that you see are weapons that are going to be very familiar to players. The early versions of those weapons started in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was kind of an explosion of weaponry that came out. There was a wide range of new weapons that we got to choose from.

Are you guys doing Black Ops for Wii and PS2, as well?

Yes, not for PS2. PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 and PC.

And is the Wii being handled by the same team?

Well, it's a team at Treyarch. We have a separate team that works on it. But they're at Treyarch and they are part of the development studio.

While I have you here, though you probably won't be able to comment on it, but Modern Warfare 2 for Wii? Is that something that you guys have talked about doing?

I don't have any comment on that.

How does Modern Warfare 2's development relate to the development of Black Ops? At what point in development did Treyarch like play through "No Russian" and see the stuff Infinity Ward was doing?

You know, we started development on Black Ops back in early 2009 after World at War had shipped. So, it didn't have much of an impact because we were already making the game. We played it just like everybody else.

"The team size is much bigger than what it was on World at War. The entire studio is focused on the game right now."

Were there things in that game that you could pick out as moments or as features that you could say, "Yes, this is something that we should look at?"

You know, our development team ... most of the ideas have originated from our development team when it comes to the actual single-player story line. Of course there's inspiration from the things that they do, but there's nothing that copies it one for one. The fans expect a certain experience when they play Call of Duty and our job is to give that to them and bring them new versions and better versions of it.

Team size, has it grown at all since World at War? Specifically, the Call of Duty team?

On World at War, we had three different development teams working on three different games. Now, after those games shipped, everybody moved to focusing on Call of Duty. So the team size is much bigger than what it was on World at War. The entire development studio is focused on the game right now.

Wow, really? You guys historically developed several games in parallel. When World at War came out, it was Bond, World at War, and ...

One of the Spider-Man titles.

Right.

But this is the most important game that we could possibly be making so we put everybody on this game. And everybody is super passionate about it and really jazzed and pouring all of their energy into it.

What kind of benefits or even hindrances has that introduced, having that many more people, from a managerial perspective?

The team has actually gotten very good at developing at a large scale like that. I think the benefit's that it's afforded us is that it allows us more focus on each section of the game. Our multiplayer team has doubled in size, and it's got its own kind of management structure and development team focused just on multiplayer. And then you've got single-player teams developed entirely on the campaign. You've got the co-op team that's dedicated to co-op. Everybody works together and collaborates. It's where you focus all of your energy and it's actually been a big improvement for us.

Do you feel any pressure to make the best-selling game of all time?

We feel pressure from ourselves to make the best game of all time. We don't feel any pressure from outside influences. On a day-to-day basis, when you walk around, people don't talk about what's going on outside of our studio. There's no sense of pressure from outside. It's all about us and making the best game we can possibly make. It's a very driven team and there's a lot of perfectionists. A lot of high standards to live up to within our own team."


Let's talk about the multiplayer team doubling in size and all these different teams, all these different resources. Are you planning to add any of the things that many of your competitive multiplayer peers have done for awhile? For example, using a website so players can track their progress, track their game, and try to coordinate that way. Are you trying to do any of that stuff with Black Ops?

I wish I could talk about it right now but I promise you that information will come out in the next couple of months. But there's a lot of exiting stuff to talk about in multiplayer.

So that's a definite "No" then, that you're not doing any of that stuff and you'll give me an on-the-record "No" in a couple months?

[laughs] Yeah, that's a no comment. I really wish I could talk about it. Multiplayer's sort of my passion.

"On World at War we did a lot of post-launch support. That's something we are planning to continue doing."

DLC plans! DLC is obviously something you guys are going to be working on, based on the popularity of World at War. I don't know if we have numbers yet if the Modern Warfare 2 stuff has outsold it yet, but World at War at a point was a record breaker for DLC sales. Have you guys started working on things like DLC or maps earlier; is that part of the strategy now?

You know DLC is something you do later in the project. Right now everyone's focused on shipping this game and making sure this game's the best it can be. DLC is something we do later in the development cycle. It's just impractical alongside making a game. But on World at War we did a lot of post-launch support. That was one of our big things, making sure the product was supported after the game launched, and that's something we are planning to continue doing.

Any talk about doing campaign DLC? That's something the Call Of Duty series has not done yet.

Like I said, the DLC is just too early to be planned out.

With the whole Infinity Ward thing going on, do you feel like that in any way distracts people from the work that you're doing? Now that Black Ops is beginning its publicity phase, that some of the discussion is being run off course by all the other stuff going on inside Activision?

Not within the development team, not at all. Like I said, we're a very intense, self-motivated team, and those distractions don't play any role in our day-to-day lives. Everybody's all about making this game and on a day-to-day basis we're playing our game, we're looking at our game, we're talking about our game with each other, and it's all about making this the best possible game it can be.