There are two kinds of developer in this world, boys and girls: the hairy-palmed half-men who are prepared to ship a game running at an immersion-scuppering, yawn-inducing 30 frames per second, and the steely-eyed heroes for whom nothing, nothing short of double that number will suffice.
Guess which group Call of Duty: Black Ops designer and Treyarch studio boss Mark Lamia belongs to. That’s right.
Chatting to VGD at a preview event this week, Lamia ‘lifted the curtain’ on the coding feats necessary to maintain the game’s lightning looks. ‘We do make our own compromises in terms of where we want our engine to process its power,’ he admitted.
‘So if we want to have something that’s destructable – does the whole world need to be simulating destruction at the time we’re creating it in an environment where s**t’s flying around, or are we just going to simulate that area?
‘That in itself is a lot of work, it means that every single piece of that area needs to have an attribute, a special attribute that maybe it doesn’t have in another location.’
Sounds perfectly reasonable to us. Hardware is a finite entity, and every project has its compromises. But would Lamia and his team be prepared to slip back from the 60 frame benchmark, perhaps in favour of higher detail or more sophisticated lighting? No sir, they would not. And why? ‘Because that’s what players are expecting.’ Good answer.
‘The reason why Call of Duty in my opinion feels so good in your hand,’ Lamia went on, ‘and why it is one of the best expressions of “that is me on the screen”, is because we do let it run at 60 frames per second. That’s why it’s so fluid.
‘So it’s critical, it’s a critical component. Are there parts where it will dip? If there are, only barely for a second if you’re lucky. Almost always you’re seeing that constant 60 frames a second you’ve seen in all the Call of Duties.
‘And I think also visually, there’s a difference. I think that’s why the engine looks a bit different from other engines, because we’re running at 60 not 30. That would be a compromise that some people are willing to make – we’re not. It’s all about the gameplay, and it’s a lot of work to keep it that way.’
Don’t worry, Mark, your efforts are much appreciated. Watch out for the complete interview (with input from Treyarch’s Community Manager Josh Olin) very early next week.
UPDATE: Come and get it.