Call of Duty: World at War - dev interview

With Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward took its signature franchise into the 21st century. But we haven’t played our last WWII CoD game yet. Treyarch Studios, Activision’s B-team and developer of the console-only Call of Duty 3, is entrenched in the 1940s and hard at work on Call of Duty: World at War, which will come to the PC this year. We spoke with studio head Mark Lamia about making his second CoD game.

PCG: What new features will make World at War great?

Mark Lamia: We’re introducing a new enemy, the Imperial Japanese Army, which uses new and different tactics. We’ve introduced lethal fire-based weapons. And for the first time ever in the Call of Duty series, we’re introducing co-op.

Where will we see the most improvement in World at War?

When we started work on the game, we asked ourselves that exact question… and one of the areas we knew we wanted to tackle was co-op. We also put a lot of work into designing the new enemy. This is the first time the franchise has gone into the Pacific theater, and the Imperial Japanese Army was a vastly different enemy than the Germans in the European theater, so we had to design a whole new type of combat and tactics. The Japanese will banzai charge you, ambush you, climb trees to snipe you, and run, crawl, or climb anywhere imaginable to kill you. It’s guerrilla-style warfare, so, we had to give the player more tools to combat them… so, we gave them the flamethrower, an amazingly powerful and devastating weapon to enemies as well as the environment.

Aside from mouse and keyboard support, what differences can we expect from the PC version of the game?

The game will look great in high resolution and, more importantly, will be tuned for the PC player. Fire and water are very big deals for us; the flamethrower is an important weapon in the game, and it will look great on the PC. And, working closely with Intel, we’ve gotten deep into the engine and made some technical enhancements to ensure that the game runs better and faster on multiple processors.

When during development did you identify the core of the game?

There was a point, when we put some great-looking Japanese character models in a Pacific environment with standard Call of Duty AI - and it just didn’t work for us. It looked great, but the enemy didn’t “fit,” and the scenarios didn’t feel like they should. We realized we needed to focus specifically on Japanese tactics in order to realize this new enemy. It took a few more months for this to come together, but when it did, it helped crystallize the game. It was around that time that... the game took on a grittier tone.

Have you come across anything interesting in your WWII research?

We met with a reunion of the 1st division Marines last year, and it was a very moving experience. It’s the stories that blow us away - we heard firsthand accounts of banzai charges and sneak attacks. We heard about one enemy combatant that had his hands up, ready to surrender, but then he raised them a bit higher and two live grenades dropped out of his armpits. The Marines were dealing with a very different enemy, one that lived by the Bushido code. As we grew to understand this, we knew we had to make a very different game.

By Jens Pulver, former UFC champ and CoD fanatic

+ The CoD4-powered graphics can really bring the environment to life, which will make you wanna crouch and snipe from behind everything. Taking your time will let you really get into the game and become a soldier. Bigger multiplayer maps designed with enough corners and walls to hide behind would make clear the difference between the good players and the players that just grab an automatic and fire at everything that moves once their grenades run out.

– There may not be much to do but follow a linear story line. If breaking outside the path gets you shot immediately, there’s no real way to get inventive. And if previous CoD games are any indication, the AI enemies will just stand in line waiting to get mowed down rather than put up a good fight.

Aug 4, 2008