Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 interview: avoiding the sci-fi feel

Five years ago, the Call of Duty series took a leap out of its traditional historical settings into modern day. Tomorrow, the series takes another jump forward in time in Black Ops 2, marking the first time the series has examined a near-future setting. This one change impacts everything from the storytelling to tools. We talked with Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia about how the studio approached such a radical change.

"We wanted to keep it feeling plausible and grounded as we were creating our fiction, but also make sure it's in service of the game as well," Lamia told Shacknews. "We try to become subject matter experts. That's easy when you're talking about the past, because there are books and you can talk to people." When it came to the future, though, Lamia said they relied on the expertise of author Peter Singer, who was featured in an early trailer for the game.

Sometimes, expert projections would predict changes that, while realistic, didn't feel realistic. "Is the world going to be full of energy based laser weapons or projectile weapons?" These are all things that we went through and debated." He also mentions that the sniper rifle, which charges for a more powerful shot, went through "numerous iterations" because in context of the game, it 'felt too sci-fi-ish.'"

Getting the feel of realism touched the vehicles as well, and especially the unmanned drones. "We did our research and our homework, and the first thing that came out [for the CLAW drone] was this thing that was a lot leaner and had a more animalistic form factor. That may be plausible, that may be a direction that technology is going, but what we had felt more grounded for the time frame and we went a different direction."

Meanwhile, the globe-trotting settings had to reflect the future as well. When visiting ancient structures, Lamia says they could create a juxtaposition. "This structure might not get torn down in the next 13 years, but in the interiors you have some element of future technology that will be available without changing the identity of the city." He also referenced a future-city in the form of a man-made island resort, which stands in stark contrast to ancient structures that have been modernized.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will hit PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 tomorrow. A Wii U version will be available next week.