The Call of Duty franchise is in a unique position currently with multiple games in the franchise–Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare–continuing to perform very well, and a third, Black Ops Cold War, scheduled for release very soon (and this is to say nothing of Call of Duty Mobile which is hugely popular, too). Due in part to the gigantic success of the free-to-play battle royale game Warzone, Activision is introducing a new “synchronized” levelling system where XP and levels apply to all three games.
We recently had the chance to speak with Black Ops Cold War lead designer Tony Flame about this new approach where earning XP in one game applies to all three, and he shed some light on why and how Black Ops will become baked into Warzone.
“Warzone is a 2020 game. It’s not even a year old; it’s barely half a year old. And people are still really highly engaged with it,” Flame said. “So we didn’t want to be splitting players with a game that wasn’t even a year old and has a lot of steam. So we decided to double down on Warzone and make our battle royale experience for Cold War within Warzone. So you’re going to have Cold War guns, you’re going to have a Cold War story.”
Black Ops will become integrated into Warzone in December with the Season 1 refresh. Flame teased that Treyarch will share more details about this soon, but for now, the teased that Season 1 will be “when the Cold War explosion within Warzone really happens.”
The “explosion” wording is intriguing given that the ongoing rumor is that a nuke will explode in Warzone and the game will re-launch with an updated Cold War-style map. This is not confirmed for now, but it’s an intriguing thought.
The idea to earn XP in one game that applies to all three was the only way forward, Flame said, and there was already precedent for it with Modern Warfare and Warzone sharing progression.
“When we realized that people were going to be coming and going between both games, there just wasn’t any other solution to it,” Flame said. “We had to incentive people to play, and it was already there. The precedent was already set with Modern Warfare and Warzone, so we had to meet that precedent. And it was a lot of work.”
There will be cross-game challenges, Flame said, and these posed a technical challenge for the developers. Additionally, weapons can be used across games, and this poses some interesting challenges and considerations, given Black Ops Cold War is set in the ’80s and Modern Warfare and Warzone take place in the current day.
Warzone is a playpen of sorts where the three games combine.
“In Warzone you have Modern Warfare guns and Cold War guns. And they have different attachments; they might even have different level counts,” Flame said. “So all of these we had to account for, but at the end of the day, what the player gets is a continuous experience whether they’re working on their battle pass and unlocking things, they’re going to be unlocking that content across games, and they can play whatever game they want. So what it really feels like is you’re just getting more Call of Duty.”
It’s been reported that Warzone will not change game engines when Black Ops Cold War becomes integrated into it in December. I asked Flame directly if there would be an engine change, and his wording suggests there won’t be. “Warzone will be a continuous experience for players with Black Ops layered into it,” Flame said.
What this means in practice is not immediately clear. Given what we’ve learned from the Black Ops Cold War multiplayer beta, the game has different systems than Modern Warfare/Warzone–for example, you cannot open doors or mount weapons in Black Ops Cold War. Here’s to hoping we learn more about the integration soon.
Black Ops Cold War releases on Friday, November 13, for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5. We also spoke to Flame about the various next-gen improvements coming for Black Ops Cold War on PS5 and Xbox Series X, including DualSense support.
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