Video Games

Black Ops II Interview – Jay Puryear Talks Zombies, the 80s and more

With less than a month to go until Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the hype machine will no doubt be kicking into high gear, so as well as getting to see the game again and play multiplayer once more, we had a chance to have another quick chat with Treyarch about its fresh CoD.

Sitting down to talk with Director of Brand Development Jay Puryear, we attempted to probe as much as we could regarding single-player and Zombies, yet with the developer playing its cards so close to its chest, it wasn’t easy. We had a go at prying out some info anyway.

With a story spanning an era of the 1980s and the near-future setting of 2025, alongside Zombies, Strike Force and multiplayer, there’s a raft of content in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and we looked to cover as much as we could. Get on the bus and read on to find out more Black Ops II info nuggets. Thirsty for more? Check out our latest preview here.

What do you think is the main thing that’s made the Call of Duty franchise such a huge success and so popular over the years?

I think at the end of the day, Call of Duty brings together a lot of players, lots of different people, and when you look at how popular its been, it’s really become this part of popular culture that almost everybody does. It’s exciting when you start looking start looking at Call of Duty as three games in one, where single-player is like the big summer blockbuster, where you get to play as this super soldier, where you’re going through it, destroying things or you’ve got an objective that you’ve got to take and it really gives you that emotion of what it’s all about to be that superhero.

Then you get into the competition where in multiplayer you’re wanting to get better, playing with your friends and that interaction where you’re having a great time, and then you look at Zombies. For us it’s such a huge package when it comes to all the different things you can do…it’s just this complete package, right? For the 60 dollars you’re going to spend, all this entertainment, all the things you can do makes for really great value, as well as being just a great thrill ride.

Why did you opt to take Black Ops II to the near-future setting of 2025? Has it freed the team up to be more creative?

Absolutely. Our team came off of Black Ops, so we’d done the Cold War, the 80s and all that, so we thought, “where do we want to take our story, where do we want to go?” And so when you look at this time-spanning narrative we’re talking about, it really gave us the backdrop to not only tell a great story, but now you get this impression of “oh, this guy (Alex Mason) has been around for a while”. He’s been doing lots of things, so for us it was a way for us to really tell this great narrative we wanted to tell. Then along the way, we incorporated the technology like the Nano Gloves, the wingsuit and so on, talking to PW Singer about where the battlefield of the future is going, with drones and so on, and really looking at all that technology and the play mechanics we can bring to the interactive space. And as we’re telling this story, 2025 seemed to be a natural progression for us.

How much of the story is going to take place during the 1980s then?

About a third of the game takes place during the 80s, with the other two thirds obviously set in 2025. Multiplayer is purely set in 2025, so you get the MMS scope, the Guardian turret and all of that other technology.

So it’s safe to assume you’re playing as Alex Mason during that third of the game set during the 80s?


And so far, all we’ve seen of the 80s sections are the horse-riding bits in the debut trailer…

In one of the trailers we’ve shown a little bit of that, sure. It was just the bit with the horse-riding, yeah…

Are any of the 1980s sequences inspired by any of the action movies from the time?

Well, if you look back at what we did with Black Ops, and how we told the narrative of these actual historical events, suffice it to say we’ve done the same thing during the 80s portion of Black Ops II. I think we’ll go to places where people will be like, “oh, that was pretty clever.” So we’re really looking at what was going on during that particular period of time and go to places that are again inspired by historical events.

Talking about what you’ve shown us of Black Ops II Zombies so far, what was the key remit for the mode this time around?

I think the Zombie team – just like the single-player and multiplayer team – looked at it and started tearing it apart, looking at what makes Zombies great. What is it that the fans are really looking for? I think it’s a combination of the strategy that’s come into play, but I think the team were most excited about jumping into the multiplayer engine too, and what that brought. It brings Zombie theatre, it brings leaderboards, it brings stats, and it really gives the team the opportunity to introduce different things within that, where we can see that world is much bigger than it used to be. I think for us it was really about evolving the story, some of those key plotlines and some of those key fundamentals that are associated with Zombies, twist it a bit, turn it on its head a bit so that now instead of a particular room or something, maybe you have to travel to a different place.

So the idea of being able to venture out into this huge environment that’s a lot bigger than it has been in the past, and really find these strategies that I’ve mentioned is key. And then there’s the bus, which is very interesting. People are going to be able to use the bus in a very strategic way.

The impression I’ve got from the Black Ops II Zombies trailer is that the bus will essentially be used to track back and forth between environments. Is that the case?

You’re close. If you watch the trailer, I think we’ve dropped enough hints there. But we think the bus is going to be a really interesting play mechanic.

In terms of Zombies’ new ‘buildables’, will you be able to create them from found objects in the environment or will they be pre-defined items?

Again, I can’t really get too much into it, but in the trailer, the shield that you saw was fabricated from parts you find in the environment. We’ll leave it at that.

Can it be frustrating not being able to say more about Zombies? Presumably you’re excited about it and want to say more than you can?

We would love to be able to talk more about all of this, but I think when you look at the fans of Zombies and what has driven that community is the idea of letting them find those things out for themselves. So we’re very protective over that. We don’t want to give away too much, we want to let the fans know that we’re listening, that we’ve added some things to the game that they asked for, but we really want them to have that sense of discovery and to find out all of these things. We want it to be a surprise, we’ve worked hard to ensure there are lots of surprises in there, and we want the fans to find them for themselves.

With Black Ops II packing in so much content – it’s possibly the biggest Call of Duty yet – where can the franchise go next do you think?

There’s so many creative people working on the franchise that it’s really only limited by our creativity, and I think the fans have always supported what we’ve done across the entire franchise. So I think the future is very exciting when you look at the talented teams that we have, and knowing what they can do and seeing what they’re going to be able to do in the future is very exciting for us.

Do you think it’s going to be difficult to top Black Ops II in terms of content? You certainly seem to be setting a hell of a precedent.

Well, it’s typical Treyarch, right? (laughs) When you start to look at Black Ops and all the things we did there, it’s just something that everyone at the studio is so passionate about what we’re doing and we want to make sure that we’re pushing ourselves to make the best product possible and really bring things to the table that will allow fans to enjoy again, to take this journey with us. As you said it really is this complete package. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff on that disc. It’s just like wow, Zombies, single-player, multiplayer and you can play some or play it all. There’s a lot of stuff there and Black Ops II is a wonderful opportunity for us to do all that, and we’re very excited.

Finally then, what would you say is your single favourite aspect of Call of Duty: Black Ops II?

For me, well, I’m a multiplayer guy. I have played multiplayer on this franchise for what appears to be forever, and I just love it so much. And the things we’ve brought to the table this year with ‘Pick 10’ really looks at that fundamental notion of why you have to have a primary weapon, why do you have to have a secondary weapon? It really allows players the choice of finding content that we have in the Create A Class system, finding the content that they want, so if they want to work on their submachine guns or whatever, they can. The exciting part for me then, is that Pick 10 system, the flexibility it brings and the different loadouts you’re going to see when you’re playing as people are just experimenting with that stuff. I think that’s a great way for a lot of players to see new content. As far as the Call of Duty franchise goes, I love multiplayer, while for Black Ops II specifically, I love Create A Class. I think it’s going to be very exciting.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is out on November 13th.

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