One of the most popular Call of Duty brands, Black Ops, returns this week with Black Ops Cold War from developers Treyarch and Raven. The sub-brand is one of Call of Duty’s most successful commercially and with fans, and two veteran developers have spoken to GameSpot about why they believe the series continues to be so popular.
Senior creative director Dan Vondrak from Raven said it comes down to the stories that can be told in the Black Ops universe. Whereas the other games, like Modern Warfare, are grounded in real history, the Black Ops games are known for being more playful with their tone. Also, people love conspiracy theories and learning about the seedy underbellies of governments, real or not, and Black Ops delivers this in spades.
“It’s pretty simple. It’s these few tenets that I think all Black Ops fans love. The other Call of Duty games, a lot of them were like these open wars, frontline headlines stuff, whereas Black Ops stuff is like no, we’re going to be between the headlines,” Vondrak said. “We love the deniable operations. The secret missions governments don’t want you to know about.”
“The conspiracy, grounded in real history, is what triggers that Black Ops feeling. You see this footage and it’s a piece of history you know, but Black Ops loves telling you the real story behind it, and they put just enough truth in it and they blur those lines where you’re like, oh man, that maybe could have happened,” he added. “And then that paranoia, that mindfu**ery. That’s something that gave us a lot of license. It gives you something that some of the other franchises can’t necessarily get away with.”
Lead designer Tony Flame from Treyarch also shared his thoughts on the popularity of the Black Ops series. Flame worked on the first Black Ops, which came out in 2010, and he’s been involved in the series ever since. Like Vondrak, Flame said the serious-but-not-so-serious nature of the Black Ops series is part of what makes it so popular. And also the Zombies mode, which has turned into a fan-favorite.
“I think there is something playful about Black Ops. It’s serious. It has historical significance. But there is some play there, and Zombies is part of that. Some of the twists and turns in the campaign are an example of that. And even in our multiplayer. There is some creative license where we get to have fun with the fans. And with Zombies in particular, the fans can participate in, and we really do look at it as a back and forth,” Flame said. “Fans are participating in this, and our community is so passionate and so large now. We listen to them and the game changes in response to the community, and it’s very organic in that way. that’s what Black Ops has become.”
Black Ops Cold War releases on Friday, November 13, for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5. Treyarch also recently spoke to GameSpot about the game’s various next-gen improvements for PS5 and Xbox Series X, including DualSense support. The developer also told us why the game is adopting its new synchronized XP system.
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