Why Black Ops’ David Vonderhaar doesn’t want his new studio Bulletfarm to compete with Call of Duty

When you’ve made some of the world’s biggest games while juggling multi-million dollar budgets and selling millions of copies, what happens next?

For David Vonderhaar, he and his dog have been living in their RV for nearly a year. But then he decided to do it again—this time just on his terms.

Vonderhaar previously served as multiplayer design director for the legendary Call of Duty: World at War at Treyarch before serving as studio design director on the subsequent Black Ops series. Vonderhaar is now forming a new studio, BulletFarm, part of BulletFarm. The banner of NetEase Games.

“I didn’t want to be an annual, sequel, battle-style infinity game,” Vonderhaar said of the first version of BulletFarm (eventually).

“I think it’s destructive to creatives, and it’s not super healthy for gamers. I think the diversity of things we play is better for entertainment in general. If there were only five franchises in the world, and You can only watch this, what else are you missing? Any new ideas?

“I’ve said publicly that I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to make a game that lasts 10 years. I’ve done that. I don’t need to do that anymore. I did it with a bunch of other people who worked really hard. , but we’ve done it. It’s time for a new version, whatever form it takes.”

In Call of Duty: World at War's Pacific Theater, soldiers charge into a battlefield strewn with dirt and palm trees.

How similar is von der Haar’s new game to World at War? It sounds like, not really. | Image Source: activision

While the finer details still need to be tested and hammered out, Vonderhaar has a background in shooters, and BulletFarm will be making a shooter – and if you couldn’t tell from the studio already, it’s an actual bullet farm.

It’s a crowded landscape and dominated by a large number of estates, especially those where von der Haar once worked. Although BulletFarm is a new studio, it is not an independent studio. So while many established game developers turned to making smaller games, BulletFarm was immediately slapped with the “AAA” label, tasked with delivering compelling experiences for NetEase.

“Why not? Do you want to be Studio C?” Vonderhaar joked when I asked about the decision to design BulletFarm this way.

“It’s just natural. This is where we come from, this is what we do, so subconsciously I want to put this label on us so that’s what we do. But we do put these big statements into practice , which gives us a continuous pursuit.

“Now that we say it, we have to do it. We’re going to make sure our ideas are solid and prototyped. We’re not going to tell the world we’re making ‘this,’ and then spend a year and not Had to lie because it didn’t work out.”

Realistic expectations appear to be a core part of BulletFarm’s mission statement, both from the perspective of maintaining sustainable, high-quality growth (which is becoming an increasingly important consideration in the AAA space) and building reputation and brand.

A soldier in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

The heyday of Black Ops is over – will something else come along and reignite the tranquility of the past? | Image Source: VG247/Activision

Vonderhaar’s initial headcount target is 15-20 people (rather than 150), while BulletFarm is relying on NetEase’s broader ecosystem of external development resources to conceive and prototype its first game over the next year.

The game has been announced to be different from von der Haar’s previous work.We know it will be a first-person experience and a shooter set in the “original universe” (which is a new IP), but until its unique selling points are properly tested, it will be easier to define the details of the BulletFarm game. norather than its exact meaning yes.

“I can tell you exactly why I think it’s different now, but ask me again a year after the prototype is completed so that when I give you the answer, it’s not my hopes and dreams but what it actually is,” Vonderhaar explains.

“But not to beg the question, most shooters – especially military shooters – are about shooting as many bullets at as many people as possible, as fast as possible for as long as possible. Life. That’s it. The core of this game; you can claim there’s a game mode, you can claim there’s a mission, but you end up just shooting, shooting, shooting.

“I think we wanted to do something more intimate than that, not necessarily just shoot. It doesn’t have to be like that, we’re not competing with military sims, we don’t want to make a military sim, we want to make a shooter that’s more shooting than it is today Important game. You could argue, once you kill the 400th guy on the screen, will you still care?

“In a way, it’s against this type of game. To be honest; I’ve been working on this type of game for 18 years and I’m very happy with it. I think it’s time for us to evolve as a team and try some more It’s time for something interesting and different from a specific game loop.”

BulletFarm game studio logo on rolling American fields

No farm, no foul. | Image Source: BulletFarm/NetEase Games

Both World at War and Black Ops are remembered for their multiplayer games (Kar98k and Nuketown 4eva), so it’s easy to forget that there were plenty of great campaigns as well. Highlights include the endlessly referenced version of the original Black Ops (Mason, numbers)then there’s the insane ending of Black Ops 3, and the ambitious, radical choice in Black Ops: Cold War.

We also know that BulletFarm’s game is billed as a “co-op” game, and given Vonderhaar’s multiplayer pedigree, you might jump to that to mean a game specifically geared toward multiplayer, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“The answer you might not like is that we have a very unique take on how to do collaboration: it’s not those two things, it’s something in between,” Vonderhaar said of BulletFarm’s first game Whether it will be multiplayer or narrative driven.

“That’s all you get because again I have to make sure the idea works.

“I’m not someone who wants to go out into the world and promise the moon and not deliver. That’s not the way we do it and that’s not what we do. I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver. I want to make promises. And over-delivered.”

“In my experience over the years, the most innovative, newest thinking, biggest ideas, and biggest drivers of technology in video games come not from mainline, core, massive IPs, but from smaller initiatives: How Blackout Became Warzone , how CoD Zombies exist, these types of initiatives.

“They’re not built on that grand thing, but they’re built by a smaller team, a small group of people working passionately, and everyone is very close. The philosophy reflected is really exactly what Chris had in mind [Cowell, BulletFarm creative director] I also have that mindset at work. That’s when amazing things happen, I’ve seen and witnessed them. “

Stylized BulletFarm logo set inside a farm shed

That’s all we can see of Bulletfarm’s first game. So far. | Image Source: BulletFarm/NetEase Games

So when World at War’s biggest lasting legacy is its Zombies mode, which became Treyarch’s returning trump card in its annual Call of Duty tennis matchup with Infinity Ward, there must be an attempt to reinvent the wheel outside of Activision Creative. The lure that launched this core concept) framework – similar to how Turtle Rock Studios crafted Back 4 Blood as Valve’s spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead.

But that seemed to run counter to the creative ethos that brought Vonderhaar back to lead BulletFarm in the first place, when nearly two decades of similar projects left him looking for new challenges.

“Specifically in terms of gameplay, game mechanics, loops and functionality, I don’t think so. But when you talk about the philosophy of how to create zombies and how we create the products we’re making, there’s 85% overlap,” when I asked BulletFarm When asked if there was any connection between the game and CoD Zombies, Vonderhaar explained.

“When it comes to making Zombies or Blackout, Chris and I have made both modes together and individually, and how you go about it, how you go about being creative, how you make the content and the rules framework that exists, it’s more fluid And flexibility. There are many working modes, and the game is not specific.

“I don’t think you’re going to recapture that atmosphere by doing what you did 10 years ago. You can feel that atmosphere because it’s a first for us. I think trying to chase expectations of the past A failed proposition for us and for us and the fans of our game. We’re going to do something new and it won’t be exactly what you see and you can rely on pedigree and tradition and history but not the game, we Be excited and enthusiastic about bringing you something new and want to be a part of it.”

In Call of Duty: Black Ops 3's Zombies mode, a cowboy character shoots the undead with a shotgun.

Vonderhaar’s first BulletFarm game will have some zombie DNA in it. In a sense. | Image Source: activision

However, while BulletFarm is a brand new studio and hopefully is working on some completely new ideas that will take time to produce, we may be able to expect some more concrete details soon.

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” Vonderhaar said of how BulletFarm will stand out in the shooter genre.

“I’ll tell you what we’re not going to do: We’re not going to compete with Call of Duty. We’re not going to follow what they’re doing because that’s a losing battle. The rest is AAA’s resources, team strength and experience to open up an underrepresented field, and we have a very, very specific vision of how to do that.

“I’m not going to give the world a timeline or timeline, we’re developing Unreal 5 and there’s a lot going on here.

“But I do tell you this: We’re not going to sit around and argue about this forever. We make sharp, quick, crisp decisions and get to work. I think in comparison, we’re going to move faster than a lot of people. Much more, but it won’t be tomorrow and we have to move faster.”

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