It's not a huge surprise that most people took one look at the new Black Ops 3 trailer and thought 'hmm, looks a bit Deus Ex-y', what with all the augmentations and so on. It was, however, a complete revelation to multiplayer director Dan Bunting.
"I was actually shocked by that," he told me recently at E3. "Because what they’re correlating it to was basically a lot of very common science fiction tropes. If you’re in the future you’re going to instantly be compared to science fiction." Robot arms and bionic eyes will do that, unfortunately.
For Dan, though, it's more about the authenticity of Treyarch's research into potential future tech, than lifting anything from other games. "In our world we build from technology stories of today. What’s the zeitgeist and cutting edge realms that may not have hit the mainstream yet? We never start from looking at what some other game is doing. Especially when many other games are building off of other pre-existing troops and other genres".
"We always start from a position of research into real world technology," he continues. "We did so much research on this game, looking into what’s happening today that’s going indicate where trends are heading tomorrow. It was a lot of fun to draw lines from present day cutting edge technologies and sciences to where they think they might be in 30 years, 40 years time".
Despite the fantastical nature of some of Black Op 3's tech, such as full robot armies and incendiary flying nanobots, Dan says, "we’re probably actually fairly conservative on some fronts. Even today there are nanobots that are at the scale of insects. If you do research into it now and there’s definitely a lot of interest from military organisations to develop that technology further. If you can get something that imperceptible, at a small scale, transmitting information that would be quite a powerful technology".
Check out Harvard's RoboBee for instance. The video below's already a couple of years old so you can see where the idea for a swarm of autonomous fire wasps came from, even if might still be a few years out from COD's projection.
Ultimately, though, when you do have bionic soldiers wall-running into the future, you can't blame people for grabbing on to familiar handles. "I guess it’s not surprising because I know the nature of the internet or the public is to have a knee-jerk reaction to a very simple image or message," admits Dan. "They make connections to something. It’s easy for them to grasp and understand it". As far as Black Ops goes however he thinks, "it’s really nothing like anything they’ve experienced before and they have to get their hand on the controller to get that".