A new report from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has shed light on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s cancelled campaign and workplace issues at developer Treyarch. Of course, Activision and Treyarch have never admitted a Black Ops 4 campaign ever existed, insisting they always intended to focus on multiplayer and the new Blackout battle royale mode. That said, per to numerous rumors, a campaign was in development until late 2017, a fact echoed by Kotaku’s report.
According to Kotaku, the Black Ops 4 campaign was originally built around a unique 2v2 multiplayer concept. Basically, players would choose a faction and team up with another person to complete an objective (destroy a convoy, project an NPC, ect) while another team of two worked against you. Technical issues and negative player feedback led to the death of the 2v2 concept in early 2018. Originally, the idea was to repurpose what had been developed (around five missions) into a more traditional campaign, but the change from 2v2 to single-player was made too late and the campaign couldn’t be finished in time. Some campaign material was salvaged for Blackout, but most of the battle royale mode had to be tossed together over a period of only nine months.
Needless to say, all this last minute scrambling led to a lot of overtime at Treyarch, with the team crunching for most of 2018. While not quite as bad as recent reports we’ve heard out of Rockstar, NetherRealm, and Epic Games, many Treyarch employees were working 60 to 70 hour weeks. As is often the case, contractors, specifically those on the Q&A team, were the most adversely affected. Overall, it sounds like Treyarch is not a great place to be a contractor, with the Q&A team being treated as second class citizens with fewer benefits, worse parking spots, and cramped offices. Those who work nights don’t even get air conditioning. One anonymous Q&A voiced their frustration about the Treyarch caste system.
I think a majority of us just want to be treated equally. All of us give a shit about this game. We give away our days to work on this game. None of us would be here if we didn’t like Black Ops and the series as a whole. Why treat us like subhuman even though we work just as hard as you guys?
Following Kotaku’s report, Treyarch studio heads Dan Bunting and Mark Gordon send out an internal email (which, of course, ended up right back in Kotaku’s hands) promising work/life balance improvements…
We have a vision for the future of this studio that includes significant improvements to work/life balance, and we plan to achieve that through better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines. It is also our intention to maintain our commitment to increased transparency.
Getting there will require time, hard work, and commitment. Most of all, it will require open communication. If you ever feel like your needs aren’t being met, please do not hesitate to communicate actively with your manager. No one should ever feel like they don’t have options, can’t talk openly, or that the only choice is to take their concerns to the public. These conversations should always start with an honest dialogue with your manager, and if that’s not working, feel free to reach out to one of us.
As more of these stories come to light, it’s clear the video game industry needs change. Yes, sometimes creativity doesn’t happen on a strict Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 schedule, and overtime is never going to go away. That said, the inequal treatment of certain employees at Treyarch and other studios is completely unnecessary. Here’s hoping such practices are on the way out.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.