Video Games

WGN Brain Trust: Interview – Tony Flame, Expert Game Designer, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

13 Sep , 2018  

By: Matthew Rondina

WGN was able to speak with Tony Flame, Expert Game Designer on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 during Fan Expo Canada.

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He works primarily on the game’s multiplayer experience, and across the game’s other modes. Flame is responsible for how all the gameplay and combat systems feel, working hard to give you the best Black Ops experience possible.

As a key authority on the new Call of Duty experience, Tony was happy to give an inside look on all that Black Ops 4 has to offer.

What can you tell us about the legacy of the specialists in Black Ops 4?

Flame: It started with Black Ops 3 where we created the specialists and they were such strong characters and they had such big gameplay implications that we just wanted to follow through on that in the next game.

Specialists became the center of the narrative, even with all of the things we were actually trying, at the time, with the campaign, it all involves specialists.

So, the great thing that we love about that is that it gives people a strong tie-in. Not only is Ruin about moving around quickly and about grappling around and getting right into the action, getting in people’s faces, that’s his type.

And that’s what he says. And then you go play a specialist mission and you get to figure out why he’s like that and you see him at his most bad-ass. And that’s true with each specialist.

The specialist missions, are they also going to be multiplayer as well, will you be co-oping with other people?

Flame: We haven’t announced anything about that, but they’re mainly designed for the single player experience, getting you wrapping your head around what each specialist does, and how to play them.

They’re set in multiplayer maps where you get to learn the maps well, and they’re also designed to be replayable. So, they’re a good experience for learning the specialists.

And again, they all have this great, cinematic, epic narrative tie into them as well. So, by the time you play through them all, you’re a few hours in, and you’ve really gotten your feet wet and understood Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

What would you say are some of the strategies that professional players can, look forward to?

Flame: I think that the core of the gameplay of gun-on-gun action, with a 150 health point model and completely redesigned the guns from the ground up really look to change things up. The way that the recoil works has been in Call of Duty for the entire time, and we completely nixed that and rebuilt it.

The core gun play, 150 health point model, that we’ve already seen both the pros and people feel satisfied when they win. When you get a one-on-one engagement, it’s not just about the positioning. It’s going to elevate the intensity of the matches, because you’re going to see every single gun fight feel more and more like a real, true display of skill.

How has the development team used specialists and weapon types to differentiate the competitive gameplay experience in Black Ops 4?

Flame: We’ve designed it so that there’s a lot of depth there and we’ll see how that plays in the pro scene, but we think there’s going to be a lot of options for strategy. And it’s going to be great to see how the players that are watching relate to how the players that are playing, so that’s why we went to a five player count on objective modes.

It creates more variety as well. You just see different match-ups from game to game.
You’re not just seeing the same thing over and over. You’re saying, “Okay, how are they going to … Oh, they swapped their squad out. How is that going to be to play against? How is that going to be to watch? How are those moments going to come when they decide to combine their powers at those pivotal moments?”

What would you say makes the Blackout experience different from other Battle Royale games out there today?

Flame: There’s nothing else out there that scratches that itch for me like Black Ops’ signature combat. We’ve been refining it for the course of a decade, and putting that in a massive scale that you’ve never seen in a Call of Duty game before.

The way that we approach game design, the pacing, the map design and how we carefully craft such tight experiences and applying that to a massive scale, I think it’s just really that feel and that pacing.

The map’s going to have all sorts of different elements. It’s a massive area, so there’s a tower in one place, if you’re on the other side of the map, every area is going to be different. This is why no two Blackout experiences are going to be the same.

The pacing and the mixture of indoor and outdoor environments and how you move from place to place and scavenge and build up and strategize on where you’re going to go next.

What implications do you think Blackout could have on Call of Duty’s pro scene?

Flame: We’ve built this game to be as fun to watch as it is to play, so from the very beginning, that was a pillar.

We want to get those streamers viewers.

We want to get people playing Call of Duty Black Ops 4 and watching it when they want to.

It’s all about just bringing people together and having more things to play with your friends than ever before or watching with your friends, because a lot of players do that now too.

So we have a lot of experience designing competitive systems, designing systems that the pro players use, balancing, working with the pros. We have close relationships with them, so we’ll have to see where we go, but that’s certainly something that we’ll be interested in taking a look at from a design side.

What else would you like to share with players about the incoming Black Ops 4 experience?

Flame: It’s really a game changer for us. This is a game made for the Black Ops community. Whether it’s the pro scene, or the zombies scene, or Black Ops 1 lovers, or Black Ops 3 lovers.

There’s the best of all those games, and even if you haven’t been part of the Black Ops community, it’s the best time to jump in. We’ve got so much for you and it’s structured in a way where you can learn and play and enjoy it with other people.

There’s a lot of passion and love gone into this game by the team. The majority of which at Treyarch who have been working on this for the entire series, some of us going back to World at War, so we’re very close to the community.

We love making them happy. We’re going to keep on molding this game to be what fans want to play for years to come.

A special thanks to Tony Flame and the Treyarch team for taking the time to chat with us about all the improvements and changes coming to Black Ops 4.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 arrives on Xbox One and Playstation 4 on October 12th, look forward to seeing you on the battlefield, game on!

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About the Author: Matthew Rondina

Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!

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