Battle Royale: Treyarch says it will “do it best and better than” Fortnite, PUBG
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 developers are confident their take on the popular game mode will outshine the competition.
We were lucky enough to parachute into the LA live reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. A post-show debrief with game designer Matt Scronce and senior producer Yale Miller yielded some interesting insights into Blackout, Treyarch's beachhead move into the battle royale space...
Clearly, you guys would have looked over the fence to see the popularity of the battle royale sub-genre right now. But have you also noticed that the fan bases of both PUBG and Fortnite seem to be at each other's throats a lot of the time? To use a military metaphor, with Blackout you're about to parachute into an incredibly hot LZ. What are your thoughts there?
MS: [Laughs] Oh, that's how we like it. We wouldn't do this if we didn't think we could do it best and better than everybody else. We've got a huge library of content, ten years of history, we've got the best gunplay out there, we've got the best movement, so we're not too worried about it. Honestly, we're just worried about making this damn thing as fun as possible.
MS: And look, we're in a world where there's plenty of room for multiple titles. We've seen that in first-person shooters as a whole. Y'know, people would sometimes ask “how is Battlefield and CoD going to exist in the same industry?” We do. What we're doing is going to be different. Some players will gravitate to us and people may gravitate towards other games. We're making something that, when we play it, we have a whole lotta fun and I think we can grow out from that.
We're in a world where there's plenty of room for multiple titles
With Blackout, what is your take on loot boxes and will you have more than one map for launch, or...?
YM: So one map at launch, but it's huge, being 1500 Nuketowns. There's also the matter of land, sea and air vehicles, plus we're weaving in some of our favorite parts of our multiplayer experiences from over the years. As far as loot boxes and things of that nature go, we're focussed solely on the game, right? What is going to be playable at launch, what are the things players get to do. How the company and Activision decide to distribute that stuff isn't something that I personally have insight into.
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Fair enough. Two parter: Will the PC version launch on the same day as the console version and what sort of player counts are you looking at?
YM: Yep, same day for all versions. With player count, it's going to depend on the map. We've tried very, very high numbers and we've tried lower numbers, but it's still something that we're dialling in on. At this point I can guarantee that it will be more players than we've ever done in a Call of Duty game. The exact number is something I honestly don't know right now. I mean with traditional MP we experimented and took it down to 5v5 because it's what felt right in that space – we'll approach Blackout in the same manner. It's all about what's best for the game, plus getting into engagements, engagement distances and these sorts of things. That's the stuff that will decide player count.
At this point I can guarantee that it will be more players than we've ever done in a Call of Duty game.
Initially, I was shocked to hear land, sea and air vehicles being thrown into the MP mix for Blackout. But then I remembered that OG Treyarch technically already has vehicles in its Call of Duty DNA – back in 2004 some folks at Gray Matter were responsible for a vehicular-inclusive expansion pack called Call of Duty: United Offensive. After that came out, that studio folded into Treyarch, right?
YM: Oh yeah, man, lot of Gray Matter folks still here and working on Blackout!
That's good to hear, but a lot has changed from vehicle physics then compared to vehicle physics now. What have you guys learned in the intervening years and how will it benefit Blackout?
MS: I can speak to that. We kind of dabbled a little with vehicles on Black Ops III with one of our DLC maps that featured siege-bots. But when it comes down to it, with vehicles we're all about the feel. What we'll be delivering in Blackout will be all about intuitive controls, being able to pack up with your buddies. It's about fun whether you're on the offence or defence or just travelling to point-to-point. Like you said, this isn't something new for us, we have that DNA from [jeeps and tanks in MP long ago] but also vehicles used in our single-player campaigns. The guys on the team responsible for those know how to make a damn good vehicle.
With the consoles, specifically Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, will we see optimization for the newer units? If yes, will there be an unfair disadvantage if, say, I'm playing on an older PS4 versus somebody rocking a Pro?
YM: Well just outside this interview area we have a range of different capture machines running. The capture setups out there are just running SDR, but there are also ones that are running full HDR, higher resolutions, better visuals in general and smoother framerates. We are absolutely optimizing for the boxes that are out there.
As for large advantages/disadvantages: I don't think there'll be any. You're still going to get your 60fps no matter the console – you'll just get better visual fidelity.
The most interesting part of the reveal had to have been Blackout for many fans. There's so much potential there, possibly for it to break away and become a standalone game if you guys pull it off right. Has that avenue been considered?
MS: I don't think so at this stage. We're always looking to add value to that package that we deliver and October 12th you're going to get three brand new zombies experiences, you're going to get Blackout and you're going to get multiplayer. Some of these things absolutely could be sold as their own entities, but we're really focused on giving you Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. This huge package that you're going to play for thousands of hours. (Hell, I'm going to play it for thousands of hours.) So no, it's all about continually adding value to what our players expect.