It’s no secret that graphical prowess is one of the most potent means through which to gain hype on PCs and next-gen consoles. With the futuristic setting of Black Ops 2, it might have been assumed that the developers at Treyarch would be taking this chance to launch a groundbreaking game engine. Despite the ground being gained by the most advanced studios in the industry, the team’s lead doesn’t feel that Black Ops 2 will be held back by its use of the same engine as its predecessor.
The news doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, since the same argument of developing a new engine being counter-productive was used for Modern Warfare 3. Both leading studios behind the Call of Duty series obviously place great faith into the IW Engine, since it’s been the foundation of gameplay from 2007 to present.
The engine has received plenty of upgrades and improvements since then, but every year that passes without a new engine unveiling leads to more critics crying complacency. Activision’s Dan Amrich, owner of the OneOfSwords blog, previously gave some details about the graphical improvements and new lighting.
When speaking with Treyarch’s head Mark Lamia, the topic of a new engine once again resurfaced. Lamia explained that the question comes up frequently, and while it’s fair of fans to desire better technology, a brand new engine just isn’t needed:
“People always ask me, “Is this a new engine?” I liken it to people who live in an older house that has been remodeled. Just because you’re remodeling the house and it will look new or it will have a new kitchen, you don’t tear out the foundation, or break out some of the framing. You might even go as hardcore as replacing the plumbing, and we will do that sort of thing, as an analogy. It’s a gross simplification, but it’s one way to say that.
“I think what people are asking for is for us to push. They want us to make a better-looking game; they want things. I don’t think those are things people can’t ask for. We asked ourselves that very same question — we wanted to advance the graphics. I think the questions are valid. The answer may not need to be an entirely new engine, but you might need to do an entire overhaul of your entire lighting system. The trick is, we’re not willing to do that if we can’t keep it running at 60 frames per second — but we did that this time. So this is the Black Ops II engine.”
The concepts expressed by Lamia are certainly fair, since Valve has slowly but surely pulled the Source engine through more than one technological generation. But as far as the announcement trailer goes, there’s no denying that the engine is starting to show its age, to put it nicely. Compared with Battlefield 3‘s outstanding facial and character animations, the chunky fingers and wooden faces shown stick out like… sore thumbs.
Obviously the gameplay shown hasn’t slowed the franchise’s annual buzz, with pre-orders already setting records. And as much as the team intends to “shake things up” in the game’s multiplayer, at this point a graphical leap is starting to seem long overdue. Whether the studios want to call it a brand new engine or simply an updated version of their in-house tools is up to them. But with the series pulling in more money than any entertainment franchise in human history, there’s no real reason that they shouldn’t be leading the industry in nearly every field.
What’s your take on Treyarch’s justifications for using the same engine? Would you like to see some of those record-breaking profits be put back into developing cutting-edge visuals?
Call of Duty: Black Ops II releases November 13, 2012 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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