Breaking with tradition, this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 does not feature a traditional campaign. But why? Treyarch studio heads David Vonderhaar and Dan Bunting answer that question in a new video from Game Informer.
“Development is a journey,” co studio head Dan Bunting said. “We try a lot of different ideas and a lot of different things. The game that we are making has evolved over time, and that’s just a part of development. I can’t remember a single game that we’ve made that hasn’t had a dramatic change in the prototyping stage. That’s what prototyping is for. You prototype ideas; some of them work out great, some of them don’t work out great and you pivot. You find a new idea [and] focus on that. We follow the fun.”
The other studio head, Vonderhaar, pointed out that Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode, Blackout, also changed a lot during the development process. “It’s normal,” Vonderhaar said about how video games can change substantially and significantly in the development process.
Bunting added that Treyarch had a huge ambition for Black Ops 4 when development started. He stressed that the studio was always planning to have Black Ops 4–across all modes–being an entirely social experience. Vonderhaar went on to say that Black Ops 4 never had a campaign in the traditional sense. “It wasn’t a campaign as people usually refer to it anyways,” he said. “How can you say what happened to this thing that wasn’t. It was a multiplayer game.”
The interviewer went on to point out that it’s interesting that the prototyping process led to a traditional campaign falling by the wayside the same year the team greenlit a battle royale mode for the game. Fans might wonder if the campaign was scaled back so the team could allocate its resources to a battle royale mode, a notion that–true or not, or somewhere in between–might rub some the wrong way. Bunting didn’t answer the question directly, but said adapting is critical to Treyarch’s success.
“Everything tends to work together for a reason,” Bunting said. “Internally, we have built a culture of adaptation. The most important aspect of game development is being able to adapt. If you can’t look at something that you’re doing honestly and say, ‘This thing isn’t good enough’ or ‘This isn’t what we want,’ and ‘We need to make a change.’ If you can’t do that yourself, then you’re not adapting. You’re not going to evolve in a way that’s going to constantly deliver exciting experiences for your fans.”
While Black Ops 4 doesn’t have a traditional campaign, the game will deliver story and narrative elements through other means.
Call of Duty executive VP and GM Robert Kostich said earlier this year about the lack of a campaign, “Look, it’s not a dedicated campaign like it was in the past. We’re telling stories differently this year. We think our community is going to love this game from end to end, because it has so much to offer.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem really. I think what our community is going to love at the end of the day comes down to the gameplay and the fun you have with it. And I think that’s what this game is going to have in spades. This is a little different from what we’ve done in the past.”
Black Ops 4 launches on October 12 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A beta for the game’s battle royale mode, Blackout, is currently available on PS4 and comes to PC and Xbox One later.