Call of Duty: Black Ops Interview

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posted 12/4/2010 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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One of the harder things we have to deal with at Gaming Nexus is that sometimes our interview requests get lost.  This happens a lot and it happened with our interview with the Treyarch folks (who are a little busy these days supporting the game).  Sure the game  has been on store shelves for almost a month (and sold tens of millions of copies to boot) but there are still a few interesting nuggets about the game that you might find interesting.

Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? What kinds of things do you do on a daily basis on the game?
My name is Josh Olin (aka JD_2020), and I’m Treyarch’s Community Manager. I interface directly with the fans of the franchise to ensure their voice is heard here at the studio, and to provide them updates on relevant happenings around Treyarch’s current projects.

Do you feel like you’re under a ton of pressure following arguably the most successful iteration of the COD franchise or are you just committed to making the best game possible? Were you at all impacted by the situation at Infinity Ward?
We put a ton of pressure on ourselves up front when beginning the Call of Duty: Black Ops project, regardless of the industry climate. Every new Call of Duty game seeks to take a big step forward from the previous entry, and Black Ops is no different.


Lots of games and studios, most recently Medal of Honor, have hired military and technical advisors; given the sensitive nature of the era that's covered, in every context of that term from the range of emotional sensitivity to the Vietnam era to the fact that many of the real-world actions that are represented in the game are still classified. Whom did you contact and what kind of information were they able to provide? Could you talk about some specific changes they suggested or advice they offered?
Retired Lt. Colonel Hank Keirsey (US Army) has been the Military Advisor for the Call of Duty franchise since its inception. His expertise is always valuable, and very helpful in the creation of Black Ops.

For this project, we brought in additional advisors with first-hand experience in Cold War military tactics. Major John Plaster, formerly of SOG (the Studies and Observations Group) was actually on the ground in Vietnam, carrying out similar missions to the ones we depict in Black Ops. He was able to provide first-hand anecdotal stories that really inspired the development team to create some of the compelling visuals on screen.

We also met with Sonny Puzikas, a former Russian Spetsnaz operative. He provided a tremendous amount of insight into how their training and tactics different from ours. We were able to actually build an in-game enemy AI type out of what Sonny taught us, which make the Spetsnaz soldiers in Black Ops a far more formidable opponent than in any other COD game to date!


In writing a game essentially about the Cold War and having so many conflicts to choose from (Korea, numerous African bush wars, Cuba, Vietnam, etc etc), what influenced your setting decisions? Could you talk about a few locales that you thought about and then scuttled for one reason or another?
Call of Duty: Black Ops isn’t actually about the Cold War, per se. It just takes place during the Cold War. It’s really about a specific fictional conflict that you are trying to resolve, that took place during that era. As such, any locale that could have relevance to our storyline was fair game – and it worked out well, since the Cold War was very much so a global conflict. There were deniable operations being carried out pretty much on every continent during that era.

Vietnam was such a major conflict during the era, it would have been difficult to avoid it. It also offered such a wealth of great material to work with as game creators, we found ourselves struggling to pick which elements from Vietnam to cover in the game. As you well know, Black Ops isn’t just about Vietnam. But there was so much material there, it’s almost like we could have made a full game just out of the Vietnam conflict. Having more options than you know what to do with can be a great thing, but also a pretty frustrating thing when picking just what interesting elements to cram into the box!
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