Black Ops 2′s multiplayer, zombies & more. Mark Lamia on how Treyarch are “not iterating” COD

Black Ops 2 E3 screens gameplay

OPM How do you go about following up the biggest game ever, and how much pressure does that put on you?

Mark Lamia I think we follow up Black Ops by wanting to surprise and innovate in pretty much every area, whether it’s the campaign, the multiplayer or the zombies. The team had some really ambitious goals – a team that I’m very proud of [for] wanting to take on the challenge of not just iterating, but coming up with some great new innovative gameplay on every front.

OPM How early was the decision taken to go into the future – was it tempting to make a more linear continuation of the first game?

Mark LamiaML From the very beginning, going into the near future was on the table for it. We really wanted to do something fresh and exciting and new, and create just this epic fiction. One of the main goals was that we wanted to present the most compelling villain we’ve ever done in COD, and that required us to have part of it take place in that first Cold War era in the ’80s, about 20 years after the end of Black Ops where we learn about that villain’s motivation. And it isn’t until we get to this later point in time in 2025, when technology has advanced at such a rapid pace and been incorporated into our military infrastructure, [that] our villain is able to turn our greatest strength into our greatest weakness.

OPM For you, is a well-rounded villain something the past games haven’t done?

ML In games that we’ve created in the past, I think it’s fair to say our villains have been fairly two-dimensional in nature. We absolutely wanted to take on a completely different challenge with the narrative and fiction for this game. And with this game, what we wanted to do was create a three-dimensional villain, and in order to do that we have to be able to understand the motivations for that villain, which means we’re going to be giving [him] some screen time, so to speak.

We’re going to be experiencing that villain throughout this time period – these time periods, in the past and in the future – and really understand those motivations. And it’s not going to be just a two-dimensional situation… in fact, the villain is at the heart of a lot of the conflict in the world. He’s masterminding and pulling the strings of the second cold war, and bringing it to a boiling point. And just unravelling that in Black Ops fashion is going to be really exciting for players.

OPM The big thing that caught me off guard was this idea of divergent gameplay – that my game is going to be different to your game. How different could one player’s experience be to another’s?

ML I think players can have some pretty different experiences playing Black Ops 2, in a way they’ve never had with any COD game. In fact, there’ll be missions that there’s a good chance you’ll experience if you do a single playthrough of the campaign that your friends might not actually play. Now you’re going to have the opportunity to go back if you want, and replay some of the missions you’ve played where there’s some actually divergent gameplay, story-branching moments – but more so there’s actually missions that you just won’t experience.

Given the choices you make along the way, it may be the case that your ending won’t be the same as somebody else. There are different narratives for each of the characters. There are narratives for the villain. There are narratives relating to the geopolitical situation that’s going on. And the choices that you make while playing the game will affect all that.