Wednesday, November 24, 2010

EXP Podcast #105: CoDcast: Black Ops

The following information is for your eyes only: This week, the Experience Points Podcast discusses Call of Duty: Black Ops. Topics such as the game’s campaign structure, its multiplayer philosophy, and its relationship with historical subject matters are covered. Be careful: surveillance indicates the presence of plot spoilers towards the end of show. Your mission: listen to the show and then share any of your thoughts in order to add to the growing body of intelligence surrounding this massive gaming phenomenon. Remember: if you are caught, your Gamertag will be wiped from the records and the government will deny any knowledge of your existence.

Some discussion starters:

- Does the single player campaign’s linear style still hold up? What is the right balance between set pieces and emergent gameplay?

- What makes the Call of Duty multiplayer system popular? How do rule systems, statistics, artistic choices, and cultural dynamics impact your enjoyment?

- How does Black Ops relate to historical reality? What is its place among other Cold War fiction?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 37 min 31 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. You seem to exclusively blame Black Ops for a lot of stuff that has always made the CoD Singleplayer experience kind of a mixed bag.
    Super linear environments, heavily scripted gameplay and AI and so on.

    Don't you feel that it's become an internet habit of blaming Treyarch's CoD iterations for all the lame CoD shit while giving Infinity Ward props the following year(somebody still needs to tell me for what exactly) for the exact same lame BS.

    I'm beginnig to feel sorry for the Treyarch guys...well, sort of ;)

  2. Sounds like I may have been a bit unclear on the show!

    I think Black Ops is more linear than Modern Warfare, but not outrageously so. I've only played a couple Call of Duty games, but I don't put too much stock in the whole Treyarch vs. Infinity Ward thing. As you say, the models are the same. I think people just like to stir up drama!

    I'm more interested in seeing if this design philosophy persists. I feel like people are starting to catch on to the smoke and mirrors. I'm especially interested in whatever Infinity Ward and Respawn do next.

  3. The problem is as long as people keep buying those games for the multiplayer the designers don't have a big incentive to put more effort in singleplayer gamedesign.

    I mean I sort of like them for what they are, at the same time I just wish they were a lot more.
    Not just gameplaywise but especially in terms of how they handle the whole war theme (which they keep a doing a terribly dumb job at in my opinion)

  4. I personally have come to expect a scripted and liner story in COD single player campaigns, so I guess you could say that I accepted it beforehand.

    However, I wanted to touch upon the ending of the game: SPOILER WARNING! I felt that Mason effectively becoming Resnov was believable to me when they explained that he trusted Resnov in Vorkuta and how Resnov stated very strongly that certain men MUST die. I started to catch on to this when the interrogator tried to tell Mason that Resnov was dead. I also really liked how they showed you Mason's perspective of how Steiner died and then Hudson's perspective with Mason killing Steiner.

    I was a little confused by your statement about Mason killing Kennedy. At first, I remember one of you stating that Mason was still brainwashed and is at the place where Kennedy was assassinated. Then the other corrected by stating that Kennedy was killed before Dragovich so that scene must be a flashback. I was just curious if you missed Dragovich's statement as you killed him. Mason says, "You tried to make me kill my president!" To which Dragovich responds, "Tried?" I thought this made it very clear that you had already assassinated Kennedy, with the picture at the end to confirm this. This was definitely the bigger twist and I felt it was a good one.

    Although, I still wonder if Mason's comrades ever knew that he killed Kennedy. Is that why they were interrogating him? Or was it only because of him disobeying orders and killing Steiner?

    Either way, great podcast guys! And don't worry, I love you guys even when your snobby =P

  5. Hey Alli, thanks for dropping by!

    Thinking back on it after your reminder, I do sort of remember Resnov saying something to that effect. I guess could see why they kept the the whole JFK assassination angle quiet: after the controversy over MW 2's "No Russian" level, imagine the shit storm that an explicit JFK level might have caused!

    I actually enjoyed the whole Resnov/Mason thing as a departure from the over-the-top story lines of the other Call of Duty games. Even though the twist was telegraphed, I still liked the whole Manchurian Candidate angle they had going. Kind of reminded me of a Twilight Zone or Star Trek episode.

    Maybe this is a good sign that Treyarch will continue to experiment with the single player stories in future games?