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Why CoD: Vanguard Zombies Is Launching Without An Easter Egg Quest Or Round-Based Maps

In this GameSpot interview, Treyarch discusses Vanguard Zombies' upcoming Der Anfang map, and why the main Easter egg wouldn't be coming at launch.


Call of Duty: Vanguard is releasing in less than a day, and this year's game will launch with a full campaign, multiplayer, and a brand-new Zombies experience. While Sledgehammer Games developed the campaign and multiplayer, Black Ops Cold War studio Treyarch was in charge of Vanguard's Zombies mode, and we've now got some new insight into what to expect.

On October 14, Zombies received a worldwide reveal with a trailer that showcases a shift to more demonic themes with Vanguard. Zombies mode is confirmed to launch with the map Der Anfang, which serves as a narrative prequel to Black Ops Cold War's Dark Aether storyline. Along with the trailer, Treyarch released a blog post to introduce some characters and discuss new game mechanics coming to Vanguard Zombies. It's uncertain how this map will be received by the Zombies community, as Der Anfang is not a standard round-based map, and instead is designed as a new objective-based mode similar to Black Ops Cold War's Outbreak.

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Now Playing: Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies First Look

GameSpot got the opportunity to sit down with Treyarch lead writer Craig Houston, senior writer Tony Bedard, associate director of design Gavin Locke, and creative specialist Miles Leslie to discuss Vanguard's Zombies mode, and what lies ahead for post-launch content.

GameSpot: Zombies recently had a big reveal, and we got our first look at what's a very demonic-looking experience with Der Anfang. What inspired the shift to the occult for Vanguard?

Craig Houston, lead writer: The Cold War story was very much born out of the Nazi science experiments, and because this is kind of a parallel companion piece that connects very much to the Dark Aether story, which is the dimension where all of the evil stuff is coming from, this one is more based on the Nazi's occult experiments and it allows it to have a personality and atmosphere that is distinct from Cold War.

Miles Leslie, creative specialist: The main distinction there that we tried to do as well, is that it's really easy to fall into tropes about hell and demons and stuff, so that's where the Dark Aether allows more opportunities for uniqueness. It's our own twisted universe that we're bringing to Vanguard.

CH: It's a good jumping-off point for people, because even though it has connections to the stories we've done in the past, it's kind of a fresh introduction again and stands alone. The Dark Aether entities that the players will bond with and who will help them on their journey bring a lot of personality. And they're completely fresh characters.

Were there any specific influences for these characters? Any mythology or anything that these are based on?

ML: They're standalone characters. For us, it's really about bringing something fresh. We're exploring Dark Aether entities, as opposed to Cold War where it's humans going in [the Dark Aether] and being corrupted and turning into these nasty abominations. This is the first time ever that you're meeting someone that came from the Dark Aether.

That brings a lot of different unique personalities. Some of them have talked to humans in the past, so they've been around and intrigued by humans. But again, they all have their own agendas. They may not all like each other. It's almost like the Guardians of the Galaxy, where they come together and it's a unique team. There's a lot of back and forth between them all, and then the player gets to choose who they want to be, and that comes with its own set of personality and ability as well.

Tony Bedard, senior writer: To whatever extent, there's a human mythology attached to any of these [Dark Aether entities] it's just because that's the humans they've dealt with, that's the lens through which they saw these entities. They're all extra-dimensional aliens for all wants and intents. But some saw them as associated with Greek mythology or Norse mythology, and so there's some of that playing in there. But even our use of the term demon to describe them, it's something the humans who interact with them are sort of imposing on them. They've got their own story and that's all going to play out as the story progresses.

Zombies all started with round-based maps, and now Vanguard is taking a different approach, launching with an Outbreak-type objective-style play--which I'm personally a huge fan of; I love Outbreak--but what would you say to the round-based players who might be hesitant to give this a try because they weren’t a fan of Outbreak?

Gavin Locke, associate director of design: I think we stripped down the round-based experience. The ever increasing challenge and choosing how you want to play and unlocking the map, we wanted to incorporate those elements, and then we used the objectives to be the gate. To expand the hub, you complete an objective as opposed to surviving zombies, earning Essence [points], and then opening a door. So, we put a spin on some of the mechanics they've always really liked. And then the world and zombies definitely grow in intensity and difficulty as they're used to. So, there's still that endgame.

ML: If Outbreak is one extreme and RBZ [round-based Zombies] is one, very directed versus very open, we've taken the ingredients from both and mashed them together. So, you can get in the action faster, but there's still player agency like Outbreak gives you. We're trying to offer a little something new from the best of both worlds.

Now as far as the post-launch content, is this going to be like Outbreak where you're expanding regions [maps] for this, or will there still be standard round-based maps coming post-launch?

ML: I think our approach is a little different in delivering an experience holistically each season and making sure that it's engaging in different ways. Objectives, possibly new Dark Aether entities, more intel, so when you look at the swath of opportunities to engage there's a lot. We're not going to commit to exactly how we're going to deliver it, of course, because I don't want Kortifex to kill me, [laughs] but the key here is we're going to deliver a lot of content.

Kortifex in Vanguard Zombies
Kortifex in Vanguard Zombies

Okay, but no confirmation of round-based maps?

ML: Well, I think the thing there is round-based as you know it might get worked into some other mechanics. That's probably the best I can say without giving it away, but I think because RBZ comes up a lot; we're not forgetting the RBZ fans. They are going to be satisfied [with] some upcoming stuff that will be pretty cool, I think.

One of the exciting parts of getting a new Zombies map is the main storyline quest. Zombies players love Easter eggs, but, we learned from a new Treyarch blog post that the main quest isn’t coming until sometime post-launch. Can you talk a bit about this decision?

ML: One [reason] was to make sure, because we're already delivering a lot of new things, was day one for new players to first come into the world, learn about it, learn about the characters, and there's a lot of intel already in across the locations. We want to digest that. We want to spread it out so people can fully digest it.

One of the main things with the main quest, we wanted it to be more accessible than previous games and we wanted to spend the right amount of time that anyone can do it, and then we're going to deliver it, and spread it across post ship as well.

We also learned in the blog post that more Dark Aether entities and artifacts would be coming. Originally we were told about a core four abilities, which I think [Vanguard's approach] is cool because you get to see a backstory of how these abilities we used in Cold War came to be. Does this mean the post-launch ones [Dark Aether artifacts/abilities] will be the same as the other Field Upgrades we used in Cold War, or will you be introducing new abilities this year?

ML: We have a long list of ones we didn't even use on Cold War, so it's always this "what fits the right gameplay" [question], so I don't know if we can answer yet, because the Dark Aether entities we've crafted, we are using those abilities. And we want players to be able to pick and choose the builds--we're very inspired by roguelikes--each match we want to be different. When we do introduce, which we are hoping [to introduce] new artifacts and Dark Aether entities, they'll be complementary to different types of styles of gameplay. If that's some familiar [Cold War abilities]? Possibly. Some new? Possibly.

I'm just going to ask a fun one, because I can't do this interview and not ask, what are the odds that we'll ever see Black Ops 2’s Grief mode return? And has there been any talks of competitive Zombies modes?

ML: We can't talk about all the things in post ship, but I love that you're a fan of that, because again, we have massive lists and there's a lot [of people] on the team that love that mode as well. So, if it comes back, maybe. But if it doesn't, maybe as well. But it's not forgotten in that sense.

Call of Duty: Vanguard launches on November 5 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, and PC. The new game will launch as Activision Blizzard faces a lawsuit from the state of California over alleged harassment and discrimination against women.

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