GamesBeat: Are you actually sharing stuff there, like the cinematics team or the engine itself?
Lamia: Well, as you know, we’re part of Activision. We actually do open up anything from our side that they can have access to, but they have their own team with their own creative work. The way the parent company operates with the studios is it lets them take the lead on their own creative work. Whether it’s inside of the Call of Duty franchise or, frankly, some other area of essential technology or whatever other area — if there are things that teams can access or leverage, then they do.
For example, the facial rig and the performance capture was something that we worked with Activision’s central technology team on quite a bit. There’s a lot of learnings there that can be applied to other teams. That’s a pretty good example right there.
GamesBeat: So the graphics look surprisingly good to me.
Lamia: Oh, good. Thank you.
GamesBeat: The faces as well — the animations there. I would have thought it might require a next generation before you could make more improvements. [laughter]
Lamia: Write it! Right there, write that! The team worked really hard to make that art.
GamesBeat: Did it surprise you as well that you could get more out of the 360 or out of the PS3 here?
Lamia: Did it surprise us? I have to say that I was really happy when they showed me the team’s efforts on the prototyping. I was very happy with what they’d done. Surprised? I think, you know, given the team’s experience, as we spent more and more time in this engine — some of these graphics engineers have been working in this generation of technology now ever since before it even launched because they were on launched titles. So I guess it’s not entirely surprising.
But I was amazed at what they were able to do. They have done some amazing work in this generation of technology if you think about it. They set a really ambitious goal with this one; to say that they’re going to get a piece of hardware to look — through both graphics and techniques on the artists’ side — to look like an advanced PC and keep this game running at 60 frames per second was a really challenging goal. And I’m really happy with the results.
GamesBeat: Is it the same strategy to make it the same across the PS3, Xbox, and PC?
Lamia: The game is the same. The game experience is the same on the Xbox, the PS3, and the PC, yeah. The PC will, however, will have things like DX11 hardware support, which will support things that this current generation of console hardware can’t do. There are things like monitor resolution, where you’re going to get details with more memory that you just don’t have on the resolution of TV screens. So you’ll be able to get those. But the games themselves will be the same on all platforms.
GamesBeat: I guess the way I absorbed all of that was that you could create more effects, like either the dust or the smoke or the particles, you could do a lot more of that in the same view in the same scene, right?
Lamia: That’s right.
GamesBeat: A lot more things happening all in the same space.
Lamia: Yeah, I think you could do more of it. Hopefully this came through. Really, the challenge is not that we couldn’t do some of this stuff. It’s that we couldn’t do it and maintain that map playing at 60 frames per second. That is the tricky part.
It’s not like we just started working on it. We could have done the kind of lighting techniques that we did before, but we would have then had to compromise the frames per second. There are all kinds of trade-offs you always make when you’re trying to do that. It is the challenge of being an interactive artist and engineer. We don’t get to render things out to a fixed piece of media.
It doesn’t matter how detailed and complex it is. These guys can detail all day long. I think what’s amazing is that they can detail it to that level of detail and have it running in real-time on that piece of hardware. That’s, I think, the trick. And so if a reaction is like yours, where people are thinking, “Wow, I didn’t think I was going to get that until the next generation,” that’s awesome. That’s a very high compliment for the team.
GamesBeat: One of my concerns in multiplayer would be that some of those guns we saw would be too good to use. You would dominate the field.
Lamia: So you’re talking about balance now. You’re talking about balance….
GamesBeat: Shooting through barriers — cement barriers or whatever. That looks like some people could really go to town on people like me.
Lamia: So are you a camper? Are you serious? You’re a camper! Some would argue that your play style is not the fair play style. I think it’s all about balance; it’s all about trade-offs. Dave has to engineer enough tuneables in there to balance it, but also, one of his goals is to ensure that there are enough counter-play styles to all the different kinds of play styles.
He’s very experienced. He has made a lot of Call of Duty games. People comment that they like how Black Ops feels. There’s a good gunfight that’s going on in the multiplayer. So I’m really confident in David’s ability to handle the technology and balance that properly.