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An interview with Black Ops 2’s David Vonderhaar

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David Vonderhaar is the brain behind Black Ops 2. DARRYN BONTHUYS spent time with him at the Call of Duty championships.

While at the Call of Duty Championship last week, I got the chance to have a quick one on one with Black Ops 2 Game Design Director, David Vonderhaar. Maniacally enthusiastic about the game that Treyarch has worked on, here’s what Vonderhaar had to say about design, evolution, co-operation and next-gen ideas.

Lets talk about the multiplayer behind Black Ops 2 first. That saw a major shake-up in design, over the previous Black Ops game. What was the reasoning behind that big shift between games?

Well, it’s really quite simple actually. You have to look at every single you have to keep pushing gameplay systems and innovations inside the game. You’ve got to take things that people like about the game, and evolve on them.

Why not, you know? If you don’t do that, then you’re sort of never going anywhere. That makes the impetus behind that to still have better ideas than last time.

With Treyarch currently working on Black Ops 2, while Sledge Hammer and Infinity Ward work on the Modern Warfare series, what kind of experience does that give you when working on the multiplayer for Call of Duty?

Of course, the simple answer is that you’re always looking at the working relationships between those teams, which is quite important and understanding what is going on inside the bigger franchise, which is obviously important for Activision.

And it’s important for us as developers to learn from each other. Each developer works pretty much independently of each other in that regard, but there’s certainly a knowledge, information share that happens that is quite important.

It is now, right! In three very important ways, is it tailored. At the very fundamental, core gameplay way that it is tailored, is that you actually have to be able to do these custom game setups. Create the rules, structure the rules and save the rules so that you can load up the rules and play the game that way. That’s like the fundamental thing that you’ve got to have.

You’ve got to have system link, and system link lobbies, which allows you to set up the teams and classes in advance before you even start. System link lobbies didn’t even exist in Black Ops. They got added in Black Ops 2, and its largely because of the esports initiative.

That’s the fundamental, ground floor level for that kind of thing. But then above that, you have to make it kind of fun to compete for everybody. And that’s what the league play feature is about. Now, in a multiplayer game, you’re competing with everyone, but there’s a level of competition that gets down to the purity of wins and losses. That’s what the league play feature is for.

A significant part of development went into that part of it, making it, ranking people not on scores, not kill/death rations but on wins and losses. You win or you lose, it’s the purity of that that makes it very important.

That concept in a way, didn’t exist in Black Ops. But we added it to Black Ops 2. The third and final pillar of that strategy that we had, was to make it fun to watch, like with the [shout]casting feature. It’s actually super-important that there’s a way, for all the people that are communicating. 32 teams are here for the COD championship, the best players from around the world doing what they do.

But it’s just as about as much as everyone at home, who can watch it on the stream or on the dashboard with our partner, Xbox and Microsoft. Those things, are just as important to the strategy.

So core fundamental game stuff? Making it fun to compete with league play, and really in totality, making it fun to watch for everyone else.

Black Ops 2 stepped things up in multiplayer by incorporating more league elements, as well as shoutcasting for matches. That side of Black Ops 2 has really become tailored towards esports, hasn’t it?

It is now, right! In three very important ways, is it tailored? At the very fundamental, core gameplay way that it is tailored, is that you actually have to be able to do these custom game setups. Create the rules, structure the rules and save the rules so that you can load up the rules and play the game that way. That’s like the fundamental thing that you’ve got to have.

You’ve got to have system link, and system link lobbies, which allows you to set up the teams and classes in advance before you even start. System link lobbies didn’t even exist in Black Ops. They got added in Black Ops 2, and its largely because of the esports initiative.

That’s the fundamental, ground floor level for that kind of thing. But then above that, you have to make it kind of fun to compete for everybody. And that’s what the league play feature is about. Now, in a multiplayer game, you’re competing with everyone, but there’s a level of competition that gets down to the purity of wins and losses. That’s what the league play feature is for.

A significant part of development went into that part of it, making it, ranking people not on scores, not kill/death rations but on wins and losses. You win or you lose, it’s the purity of that that makes it very important.

That concept in a way, didn’t exist in Black Ops. But we added it to Black Ops 2. The third and final pillar of that strategy that we had, was to make it fun to watch, like with the [shout] casting feature. It’s actually super-important that there’s a way, for all the people that are communicating. 32 teams are here for the COD championship, the best players from around the world doing what they do.

But it’s just as about as much as everyone at home, who can watch it on the stream or on the dashboard with our partner, Xbox and Microsoft. Those things, are just as important to the strategy.

So core fundamental game stuff? Making it fun to compete with league play, and really in totality, making it fun to watch for everyone else.

The thing is with Black Ops 2, is that the multiplayer has become really massive. Is there a long-term plan for this game, will we still see it be more than just an annual extension of the brand and carry weight as the go-to FPS game for tournaments for the foreseeable future?

Yeah, far be it for me to pull up a crystal ball and look into it for you, we’re still focused on Black Ops 2. Just because the game has shipped, doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped working on it, as you well know. There’s still lots of initiative and effort going into that, and when we’re ready to talk about the next thing that is happening for us, I’m certain we’ll be doing a seperate thing to get together and talk about this.

There’s a new generation of consoles on the way this year, such as the Playstation 4 and whatever it is that Microsoft has planned. Can we expect to see some next-gen ideas in a next-gen Call of Duty?

Yeah, you’re correct, you’re not going to get anything out of me on that. Here’s what I will give you. Those are going to be some really exciting platforms.

We’ve done some pretty crazy things with the 360 platform, say the live-streaming feature, so imagine what we can do when we get our hands on some new hardware.

Strike Force was an interesting gameplay addition for Call of Duty, that gave players a more tactical diversion instead of the usual gameplay. Could we see gameplay modes like that, or even aspects of it, feature more prominently in future tournaments or games?

Here’s what I’d say about that: Could you? Of course you could. Will you for Black Ops 2? We haven’t announced specifically for the relationship between Strike Force and multiplayer, beyond what you know and have experienced.

But you know, let me give you this point of view, something that you can relate to: We always have this section of the game, that is fairly self-contained, that doesn’t have a massive impact on things. We put that in and we learn from it. Are you going to be playing a top-down version of multiplayer in the future? The answer is no.

It’s going to be four on four multiplayer from a first-person perspective, not top-down four on four. But, think about the view that is the Strike Force missions, there was a lot of conversations, a lot of talk about will there be a camera tracking in the world so that you can view the teams and players moving.

* Article courtesy of Lazygamer.net. Follow Darryn Bonthuys on Twitter on @darrangedd

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Timberlake to headline iTunes London festival

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Apple has announced that Justin Timberlake, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Jack Johnson and Jessie J are among the headliners at this year’s iTunes Festival in London.

Running every night in September at the Roundhouse, the iTunes Festival features more than 60 acts performing at the legendary venue.

Performances can be watched live or on-demand by millions of iOS users around the world on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, as well as by music fans with iTunes on their computer or in stunning HD with Apple TV. Tickets are free for competition winners only.

Music fans from across the world, including the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan and Mexico can win tickets to the iTunes Festival through competitions run by local media partners. In the UK, fans can win tickets using the iTunes Festival app and the iTunes Store as well as select media partners including Channel 4, Global Radio and Metro.

Sir Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse and Crowded House played the first iTunes Festival at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2007. Since then over 370 artists have performed in front of more than 370,000 fans and tens of millions more online and on television. Other performers have included Adele, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Jack White and Oasis. Performances are available for purchase and download on the iTunes Store.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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New PS games ready for download

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Sony has announced its June line-up for PlayStation Plus subscribers, including Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and two new catalogue releases, Demon’s Souls and ICO and Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection.

Immerse yourself in the ancient world of Amalur and its 10,000 years of magical history in the action-packed tale Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, created by acclaimed New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore. Take destiny into your own hands as you combat your way through this vast and vibrant world as envisioned by the visionary creator of Spawn and much-admired artist, Todd McFarlane.

In Demon’s Souls you are summoned by a mysterious maiden as the last hope for humanity to take on a mighty demon horde that has taken over the kingdom of Boletaria, after a terrible curse was mistakenly unleashed by King Allant the XII whilst in search of greater powers. Prepare for a battle that has so far defeated all other realm champions as you set out on this epic journey to save the Kingdom from a fate worse than death.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection brings two exciting worlds to PS Plus ready for fans to explore. Adopt the role of ICO, a young boy who finds himself imprisoned by the people of his village inside the walls of a menacing castle before joining forces with a young girl named Yorda as she attempts to escape in ICO. Take on the role of a young man named Wander in Shadow of the Colossus as you journey through an enchanted land, battling 16 enormous beasts known as the Colossi in order to restore the life of a girl named Mono, whose soul is trapped in this haunting world.

For gamer’s on-the-go, grab your PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) and transport yourself to lush forests in the cartoon-quality action title Rayman Origins. Alternatively, weave through airborne mazes as you avoid falling coconuts in Coconut Dodge HD, both available on PS Plus from 5th June.

PS Plus provides subscribers with access to top-rated games on PS3 and PS Vita, extending the service to two platforms for a single price for a one-year subscription. Additionally, 90 day subscriptions are also available giving user’s access to the same fantastic titles and great PlayStation Store discounts.

PS Plus subscribers receive an array of exclusive features, including 2GB cloud storage (1G for PS3 & 1G for PS Vita) for game saves. Automatic updates and beta access, as well as a huge collection of exclusive dynamic themes and PlayStation Network avatars, makes PS Plus the place to be in 2013.

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