Speaking to a packed Eurogamer conference room, Black Ops II lead designer David Vonderhaar (better known by his online gamertag 'Vahn') has revealed that Prestige Mode, which reverts maximum level Call of Duty players to their original statistics, is being completely reworked by Treyarch:
"I looked at a graph of how people drop off when they hit the max level, how few of them continue to Prestige mode" explained Vonderhaar "and I know that they could have gone to max Prestige, because their time played suggests that they could of - but they just stopped levelling. Maybe it's because we kept taking their stuff away.
"In Black Ops II, Prestige is not a start-over system; when you Prestige in Black Ops I will not reset your stats. If you were level four on a certain gun, you'll still be level four when you cycle back round. Same with everything else; all the perks, camos and fancy backgrounds you've unlocked. All of that will still be there."
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Vonderhaar went on to reveal that instead of losing all of their weapons and unlocked items, Prestige Mode players in Black Ops II will receive a new, exclusive icon on their online profile, every time they complete another Prestige run:
"In this case, I feel damned if we don't try something new to get you to Prestige. So Prestige already! Look at the cool icons you get! And when you finish Prestige mode, you become the Prestige Master."
Multiplayer details aside, Vonderhaar also found time to discuss what goes into making a Call of Duty game:
"There are hundreds of people involved in creating a game as big and complex as Call of Duty: Black Ops II. And these are very creative people, very smart people and you can't manage smart, creative people. It's my idea that the best I can do is figure out ways to help them realise their vision of the game...There's really this atmosphere of passionate discourse at our studio.
"This is our first Call of Duty sequel as a studio...we didn't want '2' to mean 'another; one more.' We wanted to redefine what it meant to make a sequel, and challenge those assumptions about what a sequel is."
A follow-up to 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops, Black Ops II predicts a futuristic cyber-war, where unmanned drones and nanomachines have been hijacked by Chinese hackers, and turned against the US Military. Vonderhaar had more:
"We wanted to craft what we call believable fiction, or plausible reality, this could happen. It's absolutely fiction; it's absolutely a typically experienced, over the top, ridiculous rollercoaster ride. But it's also grounded and it's plausible.
"It was in 2025 [as a setting] that we found our principle source of innovation and inspiration: A fictionalised view of what the Cold War would be like in the future."
David Vonderhaar is lead gameplay designer at Treyarch studios, and previously worked on the original Black Ops
As well as questions about building multiplayer maps ("I get asked all the time, how long it takes to make a multiplayer map. The answer is, a long-ass time") Vonderhaar also found time to discuss his own career, and offer advice to young people looking to work in the games industry:
"Online game development is a really significant part of my life...Vahn has been my gamertag for over twenty years...it's such an important part of my identity that most people I work with think that it's my name.
"The game Defender is important to me, because that's where I found my love of shooting games. The very first game I ever worked on was called Infinity. Games like Infinity blazed the trail for World of Warcraft, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot; all of those types of games started with Infinity...It was possibly the main source of inspiration for me over the last twenty years.
"Today, when young people ask me how to become a games designer, the first thing I tell them is 'go get your computer science' degree...learn to program, learn to script." You have to know your software better than anyone else on the planet; be efficient, be adept at it. I'm not exaggerating when I say there are less than a hundred people in the world that can do level design, and do it well.
"So if you want to go into design, please, please be a good level designer, because then I could hire you."
"What took you so long?"
Despite an enormous turnout from fans, and a very long queue, IBTimes UK was able to get some hands-on time with Black Ops II's multiplayer, and will be bringing you a full review when the game launches on 13 November.
As for Vonderhaar, he stayed on to answer some questions from fans. When talking about the changes Black Ops II will make to the Call of Duty series, one member of the audience asked Vonderhaar "what took you so long?"
"You've got to make sure you do things in the right way" responded Vonderhaar. "This is a very popular game, and being so connected with the fans, I understand exactly what you're saying to me. But there are another twenty million people who are not in this room who just want to play the game and have a good time, and they're not thinking about it at the level that you do.
So, you have to take these steps in the right order; you have to take them deliberately. I'm glad people are reacting positively to what we're trying to do, because that lets us open up more doors through which we can take the franchise and the series."
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