Call of Duty: Elite now features an interview with Treyarch’s Executive Producer Jason Blundell about creating Mob of the Dead, in celebration of the DLC's release on PS3 and PC. He goes into detail about how the location was picked, the character creation, the writing, and the atmosphere. You can read the whole interview here or in the C+P below.
Why Alcatraz? What other locations did you consider in pre-production?
Whenever you take on a new Zombies experience, the first thing is location, location, location. You start thinking, where are we going to put this? What kind of tone are we going to bring? Alcatraz just kind of popped up. Multiple people had referenced it as an interesting space.
That allowed us to really key in and hone it as a real horror thriller. So we had Alcatraz and this horror thriller aspect and they just seemed to marry so well. And then that led to the time period, and that led to the characters and it just kind of rolled on through.
I hear that the whole dev team travelled to Alcatraz. How did you arrange to get in for reference shots?
We did it old school actually. We literally just rang them up and asked if we could bring a film crew. We took a whole bunch of photos. Every dev member that went along took a high-def camera. Everyone was just photographing the entire place.
We just walked in, 20-odd devs with tickets and Black Ops II sweatshirts. We rolled in there and did the audio tour. We’re all taking these pictures of tiny textures. We even had our sound guy, Shawn Jimmerson, with a big cowboy hat on, proper professional audio headphones and a recording mic recording the sounds as we’re on the tour.
Mob of the Dead has an incredible all-star cast. What was it like working with high profile actors in an interactive narrative? Were there any challenges?
Every single one of them was warm and generous, in terms of their time and in terms of their interest. They would jump into the booth and belt out 6, 10, 15 alternates. And we were keeping up with them. We took in one of the biggest scripts we’ve ever done for Zombies for those sessions. All of them just went through it. We thought we might just get through half the material, but they just cleared the plate.
We did this stuff where when you die, we wanted this kind of haunting voice of the past talking to them. And they all just loved that. Just kind of sitting there, talking to the microphone with a certain emotion. And they all had a blast doing it.
Being an Englishman, and our writer’s a Scotsman, there were a couple of colloquialisms that sneak in there that an American from the 1930s wouldn’t say. So they’d throw it in. They’ve got some great stories of growing up, and they all did that. Telling us what their characters would say or wouldn’t say, and gave us multiple alternates as well.
Were they aware of the whole premise from start to finish? Did you record in chronological order?
Not really. In terms of the concept and pitch we did, we would tell them the whole overarching idea and the different layers of the onion. This is what most players will understand when they’re playing for the first time, and this is what they’ll see if they go a bit deeper. And the community hasn’t fully gotten there yet.
In terms of the recording, we have to be mindful of the actor’s vocal chords. What we normally do in Call of Duty, especially with things like battle chatter, you can have a seasoned actor, and if you’ve got him shouting for an hour and a half, you can bust the voice out. What we do instead is record some of the softer, more emotional stuff first, and then we jump into a spattering of some more high-energy lines, and then do the big stuff at the end. On the second session we try to do the big stuff up front. You need pacing and intensity.
With Mob of the Dead, you lay out the plan right at the start. Why the added transparency?
A lot of the prior Zombie maps have very deep Easter eggs and they’re fantastic and that’s a part of the community that we absolutely want to cater to. When it came to Mob of the Dead, we talked about it. Let’s just lay it out, almost like an onion. The guy who just sits down and knows nothing about it, give him a purpose. Survival will be a natural instinct, so give him a purpose. Then there will be the second layer and the third layer and so on. All of that then layers on with these high level, super deep Easter eggs. We wanted to try and engage each kind of member in the community in a different way, and also to make sure that tension and suspense and horror is sometimes driven by the need to get somewhere and do something.
Was there anything throughout the production of Mob of the Dead that really stood out for you?
There was so much, but I’ll say this, and it goes with being at Treyarch because we believe in it so much, but the team just rocked it. There were these kind of fundamental ideas and they took them and really ran with it, and I think it really shows in the quality and enjoyment of the map.
I really appreciated how they put their heart and soul into nearly every single aspect. For example, we had an idea like the dogs sucking the zombies in and eating them. That was just an idea that could’ve fallen by the wayside and died so easily, but then people just poured love and attention into it. It felt like that happened with nearly every single one of the features. When we got to the higher stuff, like the really deep Easter eggs, they just made them up completely.
We normally have a plan and then the plan expands a bit, but then they kept packing on these new things, and they kept putting new stuff in. And not just putting it in and leaving it, but really pouring the love into it, which was really rewarding. I mean, if you had an infinite amount of time, you can say, that would be really interesting, but from a production point that would be torture. But I felt like they got that balance between getting the timing right so they could put polish on it and make sure it was the highest quality, but also pushing it to get as much content in.
Also, we took the visual fidelity of Mob of the Dead to another level and I think that was due to the team really making some hard calls early on. But that fidelity, and the contextual music, had to hit a standard for the overall effect of the map. If any of those components hadn’t been there, or had been a little bit subpar, I don’t think the overall effect would have been as strong. So I think that, in my experience, it’s as close to a smooth landing as possible. The creativity flourished, we hit the deadlines for the release date, and it all worked out perfectly.
In case you haven't heard, Uprising is also now available on Playstation 3 and PC for 15 dollars.