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Joystiq interviews Mark Lamia of Treyarch and Call of Duty the Fifth

Kevin Kelly

Mark Lamia with all the games he's worked on.

After having a good look at Call of Duty: World at War, we decided to hurl some questions at developer Treyarch's studio head, Mark Lamia. Find out what we learned from the guy who has worked on everything from CoD5 to Santa Fe Mysteries: The Elk Moon Murder, after the break!

Call of Duty 2 sold really well when it launched, and then CoD3 didn't do so well, then Modern Warfare came in and cleaned up with awards and sales, and now it's back to you guys for Call of Duty 5. How do you address that?

So, here's what I have to say. First off, with World at War, these guys are out to make the best game of their lives, and hopefully what you saw today shows that the quality of the game is on par with anything out there, and any Call of Duty experience anyone's ever had.

Having the experience they'd had working on so many Call of Duty games leading up to this, the Call of Duty 4 engine really letting the designers only worry about the next-gen platforms...

There's no PlayStation 2 version at all?

No. And the Wii has a team that's dedicated to it. The game designers don't worry about any of the platforms. There are designers that are dedicated to the Wii platform, because they're trying to make it for the controls and different stuff, so we have dedicated engineers, artists, and designers associated with the Wii platform, so we have a ton of resources and a stable platform to start with while we're making that thing. But, it will be the exact [same] experience except for the changes that we need to make for the controls and everything else.

Now, when we were making a game that had to run on the PS2 with Call of Duty 3 and everything else, it did affect your design decisions that you're making, which we don't have to deal with on this one. Next-gen only, baby! And no small thing is also -- United Offensive: one year, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, one year, Call of Duty 3: one year, cross generational launch title for PS3 and Wii! I don't even know if there's another studio in the industry that would sign up or let alone get that done in that time frame. This is really about what these guys can do.

What was the time frame on this one?

Two years. They started it right after Call of Duty 3, before Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had come out. There was no Modern Warfare. Since we're taking two years to make it, which is the amount of time CoD2 and 4 had, and having that stable platform to work on, it's really no comparison. Hopefully that gives you guys a good idea of why we're able to do what we're doing right now, and how we're going to be able to make sure that World at War is the most kick-ass WWII game.

Some people say 'So why are you going back to World War II?' Well, we don't really look at it like we're going back to WWII, because the game that we're making ... these guys didn't want to make the same game either. They've been making WWII games for a long time, and Call of Duty has done awesome. It pretty much is the standard for WWII games. But, they're creative and they really wanted to do something new and different. Because they don't have one year, they can actually experiment and go in new directions and pick on themes and different things inside the war. There are totally different things [in this game] that people haven't played before in any game or in any Call of Duty game. When you've got one year, you do what you know, and get it done well, don't mess around. When you've got two years, you have a chance to introduce new gameplay, new elements, a new physics system to allow for new weaponry, new vehicles, or new A.I. Introducing new co-op play, no small feat. So for them, it's totally new. It's not like any of the other World War II stuff.

You mentioned that it's a different team on the Wii, is that an internal team? What else have they worked on?

Yes. Some of them have worked on the other current-gen Call of Duty titles, but some of these also worked on the Wii version of Call of Duty. We also work with a company called Exact that we worked with on Call of Duty 3 for the Wii, but they're a company that works with us. They're in this area here. But, we have our own team associated with it, with content people. So I think we're probably the first shooter team to create two Wii titles. We've got the benefit on that platform ... because when you're making a launch title it's pretty challenging, so we have the benefit of already having launched and released and kind of learning about the platform. It's our second time around.

Will there be online with the Wii?

Yes, there will be. [Then we had to cut this line of questioning short, thanks to the PR rep in the room. Curses.]

We've heard the rumor that Infinity Ward will be producing all of the Call of Duty titles after this, and all of Activision's shooters. Is that true?

I've heard that same rumor and no, it's not true. They're one team. Their last two games they've been taking two years to work, and they're on their next game now.

How soon did you know you were going to be using the CoD4 engine?

It was a big discussion. Wrapping up on Call of Duty 3, we do production planning for our next games to figure out what technology we're going to use. We evaluated all the technologies, and already the team was very familiar with Infinity Ward's technology with working with United Offensive, our design team in particular. They already understood that. While we did some due diligence on it, it really wasn't much of a choice. It was a great piece of technology, it's a Call of Duty game, the team is very close, a lot of the guys know each other on the teams. It was more like, do we keep going with something that we started with here, or do we keep going.

In approaching this in a brand new theater, did your team consider the cultural differences and sensitivity between the United States and Japan? Do you address dropping the bomb?

It's the end of the Pacific campaign, but we're not doing that part of that. There's not much gameplay associated with that and and that's something that we never tried to focus on. We are making a game, we're not making a political statement. What we try to do as we strive for authenticity is: well that was part of the war. The Imperial Japanese were different than the current people who run the country, and to sanitize that situation, to actually not show that they had this honor and code that these soldiers fought with would have been a dishonor. We just tried to tell a story about a part of the war that actually happened.

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