Q&A: We speak with Treyarch about the inspiration for the Outbreak mode, what makes it unique, and the new Crystal types.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's big new Season 2 update is officially out now, bringing with it a long list of new content, including one of the most substantial updates to Zombies to date.
The centerpiece of the new Zombies update is the large-scale Outbreak mode that gives fans of the fan-favorite mode yet another way to play and mow down zombies in a new setting.
We caught up with a handful of developers from Treyarch--including lead writer Craig Houston, game designer Kevin Drew, and studio creative director Corky Lehmkuhl--to discuss the new Outbreak mode and elaborate on some of the other changes coming to Zombies with the Season 2 update.
The full interview touches on things like the inspiration for the Outbreak mode, what players can expect in terms of Easter eggs and secrets, how the game keeps the mood feeling tense and scary in a more wide-open playspace, and how the new Crystals work. The developers also touch on the new investigation types and the open-ended nature of Outbreak in general.
The full interview follows further down the page, while you can check out more of GameSpot's Black Ops Cold War/Warzone Season 2 stories below.
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War/Warzone Season 2 Update: When It Goes Live, Patch Notes, File Size
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Season 2 Battle Pass: New Operator, Weapons, And More Are Coming
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War And Zombies Will Be Free For A Week To Celebrate Season 2
- Call Of Duty Black Ops Cold War Zombies Outbreak: New Trailer And Everything You Need To Know
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - Season 2 Adds New Maps, Weapons, Operators, And More
What was the inspiration for creating this new large-scale Outbreak mode for Zombies and how does it differentiate itself from the other Zombies offerings?
Studio Creative Director Corky Lehmkuhl: This is something that we've always wanted to do at the studio. We've talked about this since around Black Ops, this scale of the Zombies experience. But the technology hasn't been there for us to be able to deliver this and we're just all very grateful that this moment in time allowed us to see this thing come to life. I'll just say that it's a mode that will appeal to casual players that are new to Zombies, but it's also compelling for hardcore players. I think it's a really nice hybrid.
Zombies is known for its easter eggs and hidden secrets, so what can players expect in that department with Outbreak?
Lehmkuhl: On this project we've actually made it a mission to make Easter Eggs more accessible on what we call "the main quest". There are some side easter eggs that are still somewhat obscure but you'll have to find them yourselves.
We’ve seen some larger Zombies locations before, but Outbreak seems to be the biggest ever. How did you go about designing the encounters to still feel tense and scary when you’re not in a more confined space?
Game Designer Kevin Drew: It was a challenging problem filling a large vast space with some of our technical limitations, so what we ended up doing was we paired this idea of "hotzones" where we have populated enemies throughout the large spaces, and as you engage those pockets, more spawn around you. So, sometimes if you start combat from far away you can just snipe a couple of zombies and that's it.
"It was a challenging problem filling a large vast space with some of our technical limitations" -- Treyarch Game Designer Kevin Drew
But if you go into that area and you engage that group, suddenly there could be 15 or 20 more zombies that spawn around you. So you get caught off guard and feel like you've almost sprung a trap. So that's how we increase that tension in the worldspace. And then objectives, the driving force of the mode, is where we're really able to bring all the players into a set location that's a lot tighter, and we can really ramp up the tension there and spawn a lot of zombies.
Along those lines, Outbreak doesn’t have any set paths from objective to objective, and there are no time limits. What kinds of possibilities do you think this will open up for players that they couldn’t do before in previous versions of Zombies?
Lehmkuhl: For me, I can just really focus on becoming powerful and planning for those later regions, because you can go at your own pace. For your first region, you could just spend 40 minutes just looting and killing zombies and gaining up resources to make the next region. You can get ahead of the curve a little bit, whereas in round-based, it's almost like you're just barely keeping up and sometimes you can't get ahead of it.
Lead Writer Craig Houston: I think it definitely lets people strategize a little bit more about how they want to play and how they want to approach each of the different objectives and the world events that happen. I certainly need to spend a lot of time powering myself up if I'm going to survive through more than a couple of regions. I think even more so than round based zombies, this lets you have a little bit more freedom. And as Kevin said, control the pace of the game and how you're going to progress.
Drew: Because of how much of how many random elements there are in the mode, it just leads itself to be so different every time you play it. I think that's what's exciting for me. It will kind of organically create a path for you as you enter a map and you get drawn to different areas because the objective is over in a certain direction and you'll go heading in that direction. You'll encounter things that will inform what you want to do next.
You might find a legendary wall buy, and all of a sudden now my goal is to farm this region until I have enough points to get this legendary gun before I go to that objective. Or you might open up a chest and find a really awesome gun and you're happy and you want to go straight to the objective. So it's that variety is what's really engaging.
There are five main investigation types in Outbreak—Defend, Escort, Retrieve, Eliminate, and Holdout. What are these all about and do you expect players to gravitate toward any specific ones in particular?
Houston: They all have a different pace, that's the thing that's fun about them. When you go into each region, the particular objective you're going to be given is randomized to keep the game fresh every time you play it. I think all of us probably have different favorite ones. One that might be your favorite when you're doing your first objective might not be so fun once you're onto your fifth, just because of the way that difficulty scales. I think they all have a different rhythm and a different feel to them. And that's one of the things that makes the mode feel so fun. Again, the more you're doing in a role, the more intense it becomes.
Drew: I think people will just gravitate towards different ones based on your own personal play styles. Some of them are a little bit more narrative heavy, for example, Hold Out has some interesting implications about what's going on with the greater story, where others are a little bit more scientific and just kind of fun.
Houston: To pick up on what Kevin said there, our cast of Requiem advisors, Grey, Strauss, Weaver and Carver, they're running some of these operations, for their own research in particular areas. They just have a very different atmosphere and different implications for the broader story, as Kevin said, because this is much about the Cold War arms race between Omega and Requiem to try and harness the power of the Dark Aether.
You’re introducing the new Crystals with Outbreak—can you walk me through what those are what they bring to the table?
Drew: We wanted the original Raw Aetherium crystal grind to be a more casual-friendly grind, the time target on that was around 24 hours. Now that we're releasing the new types, the time to acquire those is intended to be longer, and we are also establishing a bit of skill level requirement to earn those things. You have to be able to progress to a certain round or objective to start earning those types of crystals. That being said, it's still tuned so if you're able to get to Round 20 and do the Round 20 playlist, or get to Objective 3, you could still be earning all those crystals. And they are used, all skills are going to be having Tier 4 and Tier 5.