Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Q&A – Lack of a Campaign
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has officially been revealed to the world, and Twinfinite recently got some hands-on time with the game at its reveal event. We also had the chance to sit down in a roundtable interview with Yale Miller, Senior Producer at Treyarch, and Matt Scronce, Game Designer at Treyarch. We got to discuss a few details on the new surprise battle royale mode, Blackout, as well as the choice to not have a traditional campaign, changes made to guns and accessories, and more in Black Ops 4.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. For transparency’s sake, we were joined by other outlets during this roundtable interview, so any question marked with a Q was asked by another outlet, while anything asked by Twinfinite is marked with Twinfinite.
Q: Can you kind of give us a timeline of this project, kind of the genesis leading to where we are now?
Yale Miller: Yeah so, Black Ops 3 ends. As soon as Black Ops 3 ended, obviously there were goals that we wanted to do with Black Ops 3 with more social, co-op, you can play missions out of order. So that’s what we had on Black Ops 3, and then the idea was to make an even more social kind of non-traditional campaign, and then multiplayer to kind of double down on tactical teamwork, and then Zombies to make a new story.
Those are kind of the initials on that, and then iteration and iteration over the next couple years of kind of nailing some of those things down. As far as a traditional campaign went, we were never doing that, we felt like where we were going with campaign wasn’t doing what we wanted it to, so the decision was made to scrap that, and then lean into an opportunity that we saw with all the technologies and different things that we had been building to bring Blackout to the table as well. It’s been an ongoing experience. We’re iterating daily. We were tuning up until just before this event, and there’s people back at the office looking at telemetry based on gameplay and listening to fans’ responses, and changing things. There’s a bunch more specialists that we need to bring to the table.
Twinfinite: Not having a campaign, do you think that’s something you want to do for the future of Call of Duty, or is that more of an experiment?
Miller: I think a lot of the things that we do start off as experiments and we go down a path, and if it’s more fun it sticks. As far as what we’re gonna do beyond Black Ops 4, I have no idea. Right now we’re so solely focused on making the biggest and best experience with Black Ops 4. As far as where that takes us in the future, I know we’ll take what we have with multiplayer and grow that over the next year and years. For Blackout, this is just the start. We’re gonna grow that and change that.
Q: Is there any pushback at all from the publisher when you go to them and say “We don’t want to do the campaign anymore.”
Miller: What would you guess? (laugh) With a franchise as big as Call of Duty and the success we have there’s always a fear of trying different things, but that’s why I feel like the Call of Duty model works really well. Activision gives us a lot of freedom to try different things, and each studio is allowed to try different things.
Scronce: I think Activision knows that we at Treyarch aren’t afraid to try different things. So I think it’s kind of expected, and we expect that of ourselves.
Miller: We also have the pedigree that we’re lucky to stand back on, that we tried different things with zombies. People were not necessarily happy with us spending time development time on previous titles. Lik,e let’s do something with Zombies, ‘What? What are you doing, no, we didn’t hire you to do that. You’re spending how many resources against that?” To then, ‘Wait, you should do Zombies again.’”
Matt Scronce: Yeah one of the little taglines we say to each other, I’m on the design team, so it’s about ‘finding the fun.’ So regardless of what it is, whether it’s Blackout or Zombies, it’s all about finding the fun, and even diving down into those it’s about finding the fun and creating that tactical experience that we’ve tried to create across the whole game.
Q: When we were reporting on the rumors that the game wasn’t going to have a campaign, our comments sections just kind of lit up with people that were pissed of, proclaiming that they weren’t going to buy it. What would you say to those players to convince them to give this one a shot?
Scronce: Sure, like we said, we never set out to create a traditional campaign like some players might know it. The hope is that we’re gonna deliver more content on day one than they’ve ever seen, specifically for fans of narrative, we’ve doubled down on narrative. Just because we don’t have a traditional campaign doesn’t mean we have no narrative. We’ve got the completely new experiences in zombies, we’re gonna have Blackout, we’re weaving some of our favorite narrative and locales from past games into that.
Then in multiplayer, we’re really doubling down on letting players get to know those specialists. Even inside of that we’ve got our solo missions, and specialists will have their own solo missions. So you’ll get to learn about some of the background there, about how their ability works, how their equipment works. If you’re a fan of narrative, we’re definitely going to have that in the game.
Q: How would you say that narrative is actually weaved into the Blackout mode, considering it’s something that’ll be different every time people play it?
Miller: I mean, we’re not gonna get into too specific stuff there. But obviously, you’re gonna be able to go through the different locales of Black Ops 1, 2, and 3, which have their own kind of narrative feel to them. And you’ll be able to play those favorite characters from past games, and the specialists. It’s just super exciting and we have that full narrative team who’s really focused on looking at the game as a whole, and how we can kind of inject that narrative.
Continue to the next page for more on Blackout, changes to guns, and Treyarch’s plans to iterate on Black Ops 4.