Call of Duty: Black Ops III Design Director Talks Graphics, PS4 and Xbox One Controllers and More

on September 3, 2015 7:29 AM

The multiplayer beta of Call of Duty: Black Ops III just ended, and it was quite impressive. The release of what will probably be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year is drawing near, and I had a chance to have a chat with Design Director David Vonderhaar.

Vonderhaar talked about the game’s engine, how the studio approached the new generation of consoles and their controllers, and accessibility to those who are still new to the series.

You can check out what he told me just below.

Giuseppe: I just tried out the multiplayer, and I have a question that might seem a little strange. You know, I’m actually really bad at first person shooters. Yet, I actually managed to do something useful in those matches.

David Vonderhaar: What did you do?

G: I actually managed to kill people.

DV: (laughs)

G: So… did you do anything with the aiming to help out those like me that actually suck at shooting?

DV: I’d love to tell you that there’s some secret sauce there, but no… I mean, we have a new controller [The DualShock 4, the game was playable on PS4 at the event], it got new dead zones, and the high frame rate helps. So you know, there have been tech improvements, but, to be honest with you, there’s nothing feature-wise that makes you suddenly a better player.

Call of Duty®: Black Ops III Multiplayer Beta_20150819034421

G: You talked about high frame rates, so the game is 60 frames per second?

DV: Absolutely. We strive really hard for 60.

G: The engine looks really impressive, can you tell me how it has been improved?

DV: Only at a very high level. There has been work on the engine. There has been tremendous work in the lighting, and the deferred renderer. I think that’s a lot of where that good look comes from is in the deferred rendering, the lighting and HDR stuff that’s going in there.

There’s always been AI engine improvements, the UI and UX engine has been completely overhauled for this project, there’s a new tool for that. When you go to a new console generation you have to go and make sure that you’re working hard to take advantage of the new graphics capabilities of the next generation. That’s what this team had the graphics engine torn apart for a while, to make sure that we can get all that beautifulness out of it, get all of the high poly stuff, get all of the shadows, and get all the lighting, and still run at sixty.

G: Normally gamers play Call of Duty mostly for the multiplayer, but now that there’s co-op, a lot of those who normally come for the multiplayer will probably play the campaign a lot more. Have you guys put more attention on the campaign design than you did before? 

DV: I guess it’s hard to answer when you say, did we put more. That would suggest that we didn’t invest in it before, but yeah. The investment in the design of the game for multiplayer zombies and co-op is high because of co-op, there’s no question. I understand the spirit of what you’re asking. The spirit is that yea, there’s a huge investment because just think of it. You have to play the game with four players at all times. It instantly quadruples the amount of investment that you have to make.

Everyone needs to have a lot of development kits, and you have to organize a lot of co-op play testing and it changes the way the game gets designed, because you have to build spaces for four players. So yeah, the design team is massive.

Black Ops 3_SP_Lotus Towers_WM

G: This is the first time you worked with the DualShock 4 and with the Xbox One controller, that are massively improved. What are your impression of the new controllers, that are very important for a game like this.

DV: Yeah, they’re super-important for a game like this, and there’s a lot of control that we have. I said about the dead zones earlier, and that was something we were working on last week, trying to make sure that we understand the two controllers, put them side-by-side, feel the differences, because that is the feel of the game, right?

The precision controls that Call of Duty has is one of the major staples in the game. You do not wanna mess that up. We had ten years of the last generation of consoles to get that perfected, so when you switch to the new generation, you wanna make sure it’s good, and we spent time on it.

G: What can you say to those who are new to Call of Duty, but want to approach the series with this chapter, now that are at your best with a three year development cycle. 

DV: Don’t be intimidated. This is an accessible game. It’s just big, so take your time. There’s three things here to go experience. There’s the campaign co-op, there’s zombies co-op, which is survival-based and a completely different fiction obviously, and there’s the multiplayer itself.

If you wanna play multiplayer competitively, you can actually go into a custom game and practice on your own. You don’t have to dive into the deep end of the shark tank. There will be some stuff to help you on board there, that we’ll be talking about later.

Here’s the thing: I love to see new player come in. There’s still new players to be had for as popular as Call of Duty is, and I hope you join the family.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.