Posted on June 29, 2011, Phil Hornshaw Black Ops Level Design is Becoming Part of Treyarch’s ‘DNA’
Three DLC packages down for Call of Duty: Black Ops, and one could easily argue that Treyarch has found a system. Each package has been better than the last, with the latest, Annihilation, representing a long path of determining just how to structure the multiplayer experience, according to Black Ops Design Director David Vonderhaar.
During an interview with Game Front’s Jordon Justice, Vonderhaar discussed the way Treyarch has come to build its multiplayer maps, and how that process has evolved. He said level design has evolved to start with the type of map the team wants to make — be it a close-quarters experience, for example, or a larger ranged firefight. That’s where it all begins.
“We’re very concerned about pathing through the map,” Vonderhaar said. “You want to make sure players can navigate the map in a consistent fashion. You want your main paths, to say, be wider than your flanking paths – tell a vocabulary in a visual story there. And what we’ve learned over time is that we weren’t always good at that. [But] we’ve gotten better at that and it’s become just part of our D.N.A. … So you’re seeing in the map packs this evolution of our thinking, and Annihilation represents exactly what we’re talking about here… And I think anything Treyarch does long-term will be more cognizant of it.”
Vonderhaar also said that the primary focus for any map design has to be team deathmatch, because so many players spend their time in that game mode. Level design starts with making a good TDM match, and other considerations are then taken into account later.
“It’s a ridiculously tough challenge. TDM is the most popular game type and we can’t sell that experience short in any way,” he said. “Maps have traditionally started off with making sure they’re fine with TDM, and then as we start layering in the game modes we start building, say, a destination location or an overwatch location to deal with the game mode’s specific needs… We’re not afraid to say, ‘Look, this map is just never going to work so well in Demolition, so don’t have it in the play list’. We can do that. It’s okay. You can’t be afraid of that kind of thing.”
Be sure to check out more of the interview with Treyarch and our hands-on time with Black Ops Annihilation.