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With new engines with spectacular graphics appearing all around with the likes of Frostbite 2, CryENGINE 3, id Tech 5 and even the ever updating Unreal engine, many are wishing that Call of Duty would follow suit with next generation graphics engine also.

Unfortunately for those people, Mark Lamia, Treyarch's studio head, considers game engines to houses; when you move into a house, you don't immediately knock it down and build a new one.

"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. There’s a lot of good still in that foundation that you wouldn’t get rid of, and we don’t. We look to advance in the areas that support our game design."

Lamia confirmed that Black Ops II will use an updated version of the Black Ops engine, which was again was based almost entirely upon IW 3.0, which caused Black Ops to suffer from poorer graphics and texture quality compared to the earlier Modern Warfare 2.

FA38 dogfighting in LA streets BO2
Lamia says improvements will not affect the series' 60FPS framerate hallmark on consoles.

According to sources, improvements to this iteration of the engine include texture blending, which has been improved due to a new technology called "reveal mapping" which compares tones between two textures and then blends them together. Also, there have been upgrades to the lighting engine which include HDR lighting, bounce lighting, self-shadowing, intersecting shadows and various other improvements, while other features may be taken from the IW 5.0 iteration seen in Modern Warfare 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops II is confirmed to also finally take advantage of DirectX 11 video cards for the PC version of the game.

"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, Lamia is promising what we should hope to be substantially better graphics in Black Ops II compared to its predecessor; whether that happens will remain to be seen.


  1. Mark Lamia discusses the Black Ops II engine

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