With over 70 games in his resume, Mark Lamia is one of the
gaming industy most known personalities. Treyarch current head lead, this fellow
Lebanese of origin is mostly known for his prized franchise: Call of Duty. We're couple of months away from its release, and I had the chance to talk to this amazing
producer about Treyarch’s hard work into making Call of Duty: Black Ops II the
next title for professional competitive gaming – e-Sports – and hopefully get
some answers on the secret Zombie mode.
Nazih: I’ll start by being honest with you Mark, I’m not
really a big fan of the Call of Duty franchise. After Call of Duty: Modern
Warfare 2, I felt like the series was losing its freshness, but yesterday, your
very own game designer, David Vonderhaar, changed my mind with one simple mention
of something we over at At7addak.com live for: e-Sports. When you guys
unleashed the Call of Duty Black Ops II Multiplayer trailer, we couldn’t really
be sure if the e-Sports hud was custom made, or if it was inside the game. But
now that we know that Black Ops II supports e-Sports inside the game, we wanted
to know why did you wait until now to do that?
Mark: After [Call of Duty] World at War, we starting
following the whole competitive features of our players, and when we worked on
the original Black Ops, we integrated some important features into custom
matches, so that you guys have the tools that you need. We did understand that
our game was being played competitively but it was after the launch, that we
realized that the game was being played in some circuits…
Nazih: Like the American MLG or the EGL?
Mark: Exactly! We learned more about e-Sports, and I think
the gameplay is natively very competitive, and tailored well for e-Sports. But
there was all these kinds of obstacle, and people running these tournaments
were having difficulties to run the game in the circuits, and missed a lot of
functionality that was much needed. So we did some of that for Black Ops, but
if we did some more work in the custom game setup, it would’ve been more
helpful. But most importantly, we noticed that it’s so fun to watch!
It’s not just the competitive element of it, which plays a
factor in how you play map design, weapon balance and things like that. But it
was this aspect of how sports in general are fun to watch: Call of Duty is
really fun to play, but when it’s properly commentated and broadcasted, it’s
really fun to watch, because the game is fast paced.
So when you’re making a game, there’s so many things to
watch for, and what your team should focus on, and e-Sports quickly became our
mantra. So we created an entire suite of tools for people to commentate, which
we call CODCasting, will allow someone like yourself or the e-Sport area to be
able to broadcast and show a game.
Creating an entire mode, and the technology behind it to
allow additional players in the game (as non-players), everything is so
obvious, especially if you watch sports on TV…
Nazih: Like the scoring hud, the names of the players…
Mark: Yeah. You turn into a channel, and there it is: the
score, you know who’s in first place, how much time is left, who’s in position
or what’s going on inside the game, and sometimes, you even get a strategic
view of the playing field. It’s a little bit challenging in a first person shooter
because the players are also important, and you want to follow them…
Nazih: And you can’t really show their name on the Jersey
like in football.
Mark: Yes, and this is why we have the gamer card, and you
can go through the menu, have picture in picture on screen, where you can
quickly switch between different player’s view. To be able to do all that and
working with somebody who’s doing it…
Nazih: Who is he again?
Mark: It’s Hastro [Mike Rufail]. He’s an ex-professional player, team
owner and used to do commentary. So he gets it, he’s someone who’s from a pro
player perspective but also someone who creates content, so we brought him in.
I think this was very important to get that feedback from the outside, to be
like “tell us more about it”. I think the game is well suited for this,
exciting to watch, but it can be so much better if we can give you guys these
Another thing we did, that will add more people into competitive
Call of Duty playing is League playing.
Nazih: Yes, we were told about League playing, but not much
information was given out to us yesterday. Can you tell us more about it?
Mark: Well, putting in the skill based matchmaking, and a
small league structure in place, that is very easy to get into such as
qualifying you after couple of games…
Like Amateur, Semi-Professional, Professional, etc?
Mark: Yes, but except that there’s a lot of players who play
Call of Duty, so we still need to figure out how to break it down or digest it.
But there will be a meaningful number of leagues, where you are qualified in,
with people having similar skills, and then all you have to do is play, win,
and rank up.
And that will be good, just the idea to rank up and
competing as an individual or team…
As well as becoming a good way to scout for new
Mark: Yes, it’s going to be right there. So I think there’s
going to be a bunch of players who aren’t even in the e-Sports scene, who are
now maybe thinking that this is something I want to get into, as either a
player or spectator. Of course how things are going to happen is that
Spectating will be done for the caster, in local custom games, that you guys
But you can also go into the theater mode of a public match,
and commentate on it, but it’s set up for you e-Sport guys.
Nazih: So we don’t need any capturing card, or a mixer for
all the voice channels or much more technology?
Mark: Yeah, so we find that when we’ll give you the tools,
since you guys are already so creative, we will eventually learn more about
what kinds of things can make your life easier, and that way you can hopefully
create better content, and by then we will figure it out.
Nazih: I mean, the only game that was fully supporting
e-Sports from the beginning was another Activision Blizzard, Starcraft II. Some
of the biggest shooters never even got to be showcased to the world. But what I
really wanted to know is what servers or service will upload all this?
Mark: There are two things to this story, and I’m glad you
asked this story actually. The CODCasting feature is available in local custom
play, or in theater mode – as in public matches. So the first one is all set as
a robust tool for e-Sport, and the second one can let you do the same thing as
the current game now (Modern Warfare 3). It’s meant to be set up so you can do
all this in real time.
Nazih: Right, but it’s also because even though the e-Sports
scene is huge, not really everyone can fly over to Cologne’s ESL for example, so
this is why the majority of circuits are working a lot on live stream, and HD
Mark: Yes, but you have to understand that CODCasting and
Live Streaming are both separate feature in Black Ops II. So you guys have your
CODCasting tools, and you now have better tools than you ever had.
Now the next thing is live streaming. We didn’t really
talk about it at all, but there will be requirements on who and how you can
live stream. For example, you go into league play, under proper network
conditions, and if met, you will see a little live stream button and you’re
good to go. It’s that simple, as in Call of Duty simple.
So that’s the feature that we built, but where it goes,
that’s a different discussion, but you know, I think what it’s going to do in
League play for example, is making you meet great players, and people will start
following personality. I mean look at what you guys done already without these
tools! If we give them to you, you guys are simply going to do amazing things
with them, and I truly believe so.
Nazih: All right, so are you ready to give us some information
about the Zombie mode Mark? And is it going to be available for League play?
Mark: Well, I’m not talking about very specific things, but
what I can tell you is that there will be a competitive zombie mode in the
game, which is new, where you will be able to play 4v4 or 4z4 [play as a
I mean Zombie mode was always competitive thanks to the
leaderboards, but we are going to introduce some new modes, pay attention to
what the community is doing, and yes, the Zombie mode is finally in our multiplayer
To me, this is a good thing, because I think what the
multiplayer engine is really good at is getting lots of people, matched up
against each others, and has all these connectivity, so I’m really excited to
unveil the upcoming mode, and continue to learn what people want. When we ship
a game, we always make sure there’s continuity.
Nazih: Well, with Call of Duty Elite being implemented into
Black Ops II, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have a content calendar, with
hopefully monthly DLCs.
Mark, thank you so much for your time, and it’s been a
pleasure talking to you. For all of you Call of Duty Black Ops II fans, make
sure to read our second Gamescom segment - if you missed it - about how the
perks, classes and multiplayer are changing for the best, making the game this
year’s newest competitive shooter.