Treyarch: Black Ops II Doesn't Need a New Engine

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Treyarch: Black Ops II Doesn't Need a New Engine

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"I think the whole thing about a new engine... sometimes that's a great buzzword," says Treyarch's Mark Lamia.

Originally a heavily modified version of the Quake III engine, the IW engine has powered every console-based Call of Duty game since Call of Duty 2's release back in 2005 (Correction: with the exception of Call of Duty 3). Despite the engine undergoing heavy modification between titles - though exactly how much is unclear, because Treyarch and Infinity Ward tend to be vague with engine titles - grumpy e-critics are still ridiculing the upcoming Black Ops II on the basis of its frumpy, out-of-date engine. Treyarch, however, couldn't care less.

While talking to One of Swords, Treyarch studio head, Mark Lamia, compared working on a game engine to working on a house.

"Just because you're remodeling the house and it will look new or it will have a new kitchen, you don't tear out the foundation, or break out some of the framing," he said. "You might even go as hardcore as replacing the plumbing, and we will do that sort of thing, as an analogy."

"It's a gross simplification, but it's one way to say that," he continued. "There's a lot of good still in that foundation that you wouldn't get rid of, and we don't. We look to advance in the areas that support our game design."

It's worth noting that Valve is still releasing games that use the Source engine, which is one year older than the IW engine.

"I think the whole thing about a new engine... sometimes that's a great buzzword," Lamia continued. "Well, I have a new graphics engine - is that a new engine? Where does it start and stop? Elements of the code, you can trace back for a very, very long time... but whole parts of the code are entirely new. Two areas we did focus on for this game were the graphics and the lighting - a pretty significant amount of work is going into that."

Lamia goes on to add that expecting noticeable graphical enhancements between games isn't unreasonable, but that Treyarch won't any implement changes that prevent the game from running at 60 frames-per-second.

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I would have to agree that a new game doesn't always need a new engine. If they think it works fine then go with it. Modify what you need to and work with the rest.

I agree with there not being a need for a new engine, but I can still question art direction. A lot of the Call of Duty textures just look ugly to me. If they could make a game look pretty without looking like someone threw coffee over every surface, I'd be fine.

True. It probably doesn't need a new engine. It does need higher FOV than MW3 if they want to release it on the PC though, which may pose problems.

Just for fun, I fired up Quake 3 Arena and fought a couple bots, then opened Black Ops. Simply put, holy hell that was a LOT of plumbing you renovated in the house, Mark.

I wonder if this might help other developers take notice to not save up the millions Epic'll want for UE4, and see what's still under the sink in UE3.

It's not whether or not the engine is new that's the issue here. It's whether or not the game is.

A new game doesn't always need a new engine. That would make the cost ridiculous. But sometimes, in the case of CoD, when a series has changed so little, from the graphics to the gameplay, something DOES need to change. At this point, I see CoD graphics and I yawn. Nothing new, same lighting, same particle effects, same vehicle models. Treyarch doesn't help with their sound design, which I've always found to be sub-par to IWs. Every bit of the CoD franchise is tired at this point, including the graphics.

RUINER ACTUAL:
A new game doesn't always need a new engine. That would make the cost ridiculous. But sometimes, in the case of CoD, when a series has changed so little, from the graphics to the gameplay, something DOES need to change. At this point, I see CoD graphics and I yawn. Nothing new, same lighting, same particle effects, same vehicle models. Treyarch doesn't help with their sound design, which I've always found to be sub-par to IWs. Every bit of the CoD franchise is tired at this point, including the graphics.

I agree with that. They don't necessarily need new code and all that stuff, but what the Call of Duty series as a whole desperately needs is some variation.

They definitely have to fix that thing where if you spin around quickly or sprint up to a truck you can watch the texture load slowly before your eyes. Completely immersion-breaking.

Meh, kind of understandable, no real reason to make a new engine when the current one is maxing out the current console tech. There is a reason your gun takes up a giant chunk of the screen, the consoles don't have the power to do all the rendering to do a huge FOV. So why work on a new engine if the consoles won't be able to handle a complete overhaul.

If you have a car, and you've replaced every piece of it at some point along the line, is it still the same car?

Something to think about.

I can really respect this position. It's too bad the games he makes are boring as shit. And not good ones like the bright green turds. Just boring average sized brown sinkers.

I can understand the point easily, I mean its not like there has been any change in the hardware of the main platforms for 7 odd years, except the PC but we know what Acti thinks of that platform so it doesnt count.
Take Cryteks and ID's new engines which are suppose to push the consoles hardware to the limit ( note I said consoles hardware ) and can you really say theres a huge difference in quality ( the 360 especially suffers from low quality textures due to limited memory )... the only platform that can actually use higher levels of technology is the only platform no bugger gives a shite about, the PC.

I havent touch a CoD title since MW 1 ( CoD4 ), mostly due to MW2 taking away so much ( dedi servers, ability of communities to host servers, mapping, modding, options to tweak settings, server browsers, and the Publisher/Devs simply not caring about the PC fans concerns ), and I doubt this title will change that.

I got to say though its not all about the tech in the game, the game also suffers what I consider a lack of gameplay, its more about stats and grinding levels than the actual battles... its about those numbers jumping out the screen with a the rocking audio cue, its about e-peen and perks.
Shooting enemies is just a side effect to all that.
BF3 is a prime example of how uber tech doesnt make the game uber, I mean it looks absolutely brilliant and sounds great but plays like a CoD title... ping you have leveled up, ohh you have a new shiny, hey you got a streak of kills, oh you are so great heres a badge, you are a hero heres a medal ... ohh you lost, ah well I'll give you a shiny anyways and besides heres some exp as well.
BF2142 , I recall the actual battles and can remember epic moments of pure awesome... BF3 I dont recall much more than crashes, getting owned by players with night vision sights that make me stick out while I was still trying to get basic sights, getting one shotted in a tank vs tank fight because he had some upgrade on his tank whereas I barely had smoke unlocked.
Ah yes, I am a noob because I didnt play the game for 12 hour sessions to grind out more levels... wierd though as in BF2142 , even with the starter kit for a class I could still be just as effective and contribute right from the start.

In brief : CoD's issue isnt so much to do with the tech, its the gameplay thats aging fast and needs updating ( and no new skins, new names for the perks, and new perks isnt updating ).

So, "Same shit different game" is what im getting form him.

I agree, why make a new engine when the current generation console can't go any further?
Internal tweaking with their current engine is what they need, make it more efficient, have higher FOV without dropping the frame rate.

Get that efficient programming trick done, then write a new graphics engine.

ASnogarD:

BF2142 , I recall the actual battles and can remember epic moments of pure awesome... BF3 I dont recall much more than crashes,

In brief : CoD's issue isnt so much to do with the tech, its the gameplay thats aging fast and needs updating ( and no new skins, new names for the perks, and new perks isnt updating ).

This. I really agree with this... A lot of games today are just plain FORGETTABLE! That doesn't mean I call every single game today are bad. There are a lot of great games today, but only a few will become nostalgic.

Games back then even though they are not the best, they still remain nostalgic.

I'm calling it! If Black ops 2 is successful, then its likely we will have Battlefield 2143!

...except it will taste like Battlefield 3, in Space... not Battlefield 2142 - 2.

Please don't let that happen...

Amnestic:
True. It probably doesn't need a new engine. It does need higher FOV than MW3 if they want to release it on the PC though, which may pose problems.

It wont. Black Ops had a FOV slider, I don't see why this one wouldn't. Treyarch may make shit games but they aren't a trainwreck, unlike Sledgehammer and whats left of Infinity.

Brad Shepard:
So, "Same shit different game" is what im getting form him.

To be fair, as far as the engine and graphics go, they couldn't change stuff if they wanted too. Why? lolxboxwith7yearoldhardwareftw.

The difference between the COD engine and the Source engine is that the Source engine has been repeatedly updated since it's release. Every new game brought new features and improvements not seen in games before. In fact, it eventually changed so much that they went back and implemented those changes in their earlier games like HL2 and CS:S. Now I know there have been some updates to the COD engine along the way, but I haven't seen anything that seemed nearly as drastic as some of the additions to the source engine. Not that I'd be surprised if they had a hard time implementing major changes when there are two companies making these games on the same engine on a yearly schedule. I'd imagine it make maintaining a single code base difficult if both are making drastic overhauls.

Probably has to do with the current console generation. We are getting near the release of a new generation (within the next 2 years), and no business-savvy developer is going to start working on a new engine now, so close to the end of this console generation life time.

It's just bad business, plus, it doesn't look half-bad. It's not exactly bringing home pushing the envelope, but hopefully that will happen soon enough.

They already have too little time to make the game, making a new engine will naturally make there be less time developing it no? So I think this is a good thing. The graphics look fine anyway, they're acceptable for what they're intended to do. Not every game needs to be a Final Fantasy 13 or a Crysis.

Grey Carter:

"I think the whole thing about a new engine... sometimes that's a great buzzword," Lamia continued. "Well, I have a new graphics engine - is that a new engine? Where does it start and stop? Elements of the code, you can trace back for a very, very long time... but whole parts of the code are entirely new. Two areas we did focus on for this game were the graphics and the lighting - a pretty significant amount of work is going into that."

Lamia goes on to add that expecting noticeable graphical enhancements between games isn't unreasonable, but that Treyarch won't any implement changes that prevent the game from running at 60 frames-per-second.

So you're spending all your times way up the curve of diminishing returns making graphics tweaks most people won't notice instead getting your team to do something useful?

I really hope they update the hit detection because it was pretty terrible in black ops

Developing (or switching to, while retaining some of the previous game's assets) a new engine can be a huge waste of time, time which could be spent on development. A huge AAA title like Black Ops II is not going to waste any time in during development as I imagine the publisher is breathing down their neck to get the game finished for whatever holiday period it's due to be released in.

While I agree with Lamia on this, I'd also say that you need a good art team to compensate, instead of plastering brown on the environments all day, every day. Case in point: Beyond Good and Evil. This game came out in 2003, and it still kicks ass in the visual department to this day.

I agree, Call of Duty feels great to play already (In fact in my opinion it has the best gameplay out of just about any first person shooter out there), and I think it actually still looks great, possibly because I havent been spoiled by PC graphics.

Theres not much they can do to improve in that aspect

I hope they're not using IW 3.0 (modified World at War engine) again.

A Call of Duty game set in the near future (wait, basically the last three Modern Warfare games) at least deserves IW 4.0 (Modern Warfare 2) if not "MW3 Engine".

See, while I strongly don't like the call of duty games, and personally believe they've been over-rated, I believe he has a very healthy view of game engines here.

I mean, every-time a game engine is updated there are always complaints about the old things that were thrown out in favour of shiny new graphics. Check out Saints Row 3 for example, especially when compared to Saints Row 2. The third was far shinier, but at the downside of a quarter of the weapons, half the activities, and a far smaller city/story. Not only that, but the supposed 40 weeks of DLC that SR3 was meant to have has been buggered up, because of memory issues preventing new shiny weapons from being added unless they were already on the disk.

Yeah, but there's no denying that they've all looked very similar for a while. Maybe better textures and graphics, and while I will say the engine is probably the best an FPS has been on Consoles so far, but I think they're getting to the point where they need to change the game again.

Call of Duty could look like Battlefield if they wanted it too.

All they're doing is adding some plants and lamps to their house, and ignoring the fucking dreadful 1970s wallpaper.

I have no problem with that.
It's less about what engine you use, but more about what you're able to make with it.
Please compare CS:S and CS:GO or take a look at Portal 2 or even Dear Esther. Source is old and still looks good. Yeah, not as good as the CryEngine 3, but still good enough.
The only thing that sucks about it is the SDK. It's a pain in the ass to use. :/

Anyway. CoD will most likely look shit as always. With "shit" I mean shit-brown. Why can't CoD be more colorful?

They've already made millions on the announcement of the game. A new engine is way more effort than they need to do at this point.

IW Engine was first used in 2005. Valve's Source Engine was first used in 2004. I bet people would rejoice if they announced they were using a modified Source Engine for BlOps 2. The engine itself hasn't seemed to limit them yet. I guess using an engine from 2005 and remaking the same game from 2005 wouldn't cause too much trouble.

oh noes! they didn't make a new engine to make it totally not like everything else?! BLASPHEMY! Everyone knows if you're going to make a new game like this you need MOAR graphics! *stuffs more rendering capability* More graphics! we need more graphics! WE DON'T CARE THAT GRAPHICS CAPABILITIES HAVE PLATEAUED! GIVE US MOAR!

now. that the trolling is over. i think everyone here needs a refresher course.

http://youtu.be/5oK8UTRgvJU

Oh Extra Credits. how we miss you on this site. you are sorely needed. :'(

fully agree. not every game needs to look awesome. as long it still looks alright and it works, why not keep it? look at games like portal 2, dear esther. the engine is old but still looks good. or even the unreal engine. its also old but they still manage to tune it up a bit and is still hardware friendly.
i cant remember hearing people complaining about amnesia. the graphics werent nice either but still delivered a nice atmosphere.

but i have to agree with others. the graphics dont look so good in MW3 as in black ops 1. i played black ops again and it does really look much better then MW3 in my opinion. also, less fagkimo noobs.

anyway, it will not be a hardware hungry piece of software that requires some people to get a new machine.

It's not the issue of whether or not the game has a new engine, it's what this game brings new to the table. The answer is difficult to define since they are trying out a new setting. This is obfuscated by the fact that they released the same game several times since 2007 and now they are trying to push something that looks like Crysis out into the market. Obviously it's going to be 60$ and it's going to follow the same formula as the previous titles. There are a ton of futuristic shooters out there, many of them good or at least passable. new players may be somewhat hard to come by, so are MW players going to like the different setting and presumably weapons?

Who is this game for? They have been riding the "Modern Warfare" train for a while and the setting and weapons as well as the engine have become familiar to the core players, who are essentially the only ones who are a sure sell.

CrossLOPER:
It's not the issue of whether or not the game has a new engine, it's what this game brings new to the table. The answer is difficult to define since they are trying out a new setting. This is obfuscated by the fact that they released the same game several times since 2007 and now they are trying to push something that looks like Crysis out into the market. Obviously it's going to be 60$ and it's going to follow the same formula as the previous titles. There are a ton of futuristic shooters out there, many of them good or at least passable. new players may be somewhat hard to come by, so are MW players going to like the different setting and presumably weapons?

Who is this game for? They have been riding the "Modern Warfare" train for a while and the setting and weapons as well as the engine have become familiar to the core players, who are essentially the only ones who are a sure sell.

They are actually making a LOT of changes to the formula. They aren't changing the core gameplay, because that would be stupid. But they are changing the way the campaign works (dying affects the whole game, you make choices etc) and they are also changing a LOT about how MP works (they are scrapping everything Modern Warfare 2, BO and MW3 added and starting anew). They also have the obvious new setting, which means more vehicles and such. They have already confirmed fully controllable jets and horses. They are also adding a lot in the zombies front. It'll still be the same "survive endless waves, get money, kill zombies", but it will probably have a lot of changes and they've confirmed it's going to have a 6 hour campaign and other things.

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