Call of Duty: Black Ops developer Treyarch has responded to a Kotaku report in which numerous developers reveal what they describe as a brutal work environment. Studio heads Dan Bunting and Mark Gordon released an email to staff in the wake of the report, informing employees that they are planning “significant improvements” for work-life balance.
The email goes on to state that Treyarch plans to improve working conditions through “better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines.” Bunting and Gordon added that they are committed to “increased transparency.”
The studio heads encouraged developers to speak with their managers if they have concerns, and if that doesn’t work, they should reach out to Bunting and Gordon.
“Game development is a wildly complex art and it requires a diverse set of people and skill sets to do it successfully. It’s important for all of us to foster a studio culture that treats all team members with respect,” the pair said.
In the report, which is titled “The Human Cost Of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4,” numerous current and former developers shine a light on how Treyarch’s contract employees, in particular those working in quality assurance (QA), say they are treated as second-class.
The developers say they are informed not to speak with developers from other units and that they have to park in a separate parking lot. They also reported working extended hours; around 70 hours per week.
In addition to complaints about crunch and general workplace conditions, the report reveals key details about the development of Black Ops 4. It’s reported that management decided to cancel the game’s campaign mode in early 2018. This was a tough blow for the developers, as their previous game, Black Ops 3, reportedly saw a big shift in direction, too; a planned open-world design was dropped in favor of a standard linear story.
Black Ops 4’s campaign was to feature a new spin on co-op and multiplayer with two players fighting against a pair of other human characters. One example of a gameplay scenario is one side would try to protect a journalist with the other side trying to kill them.
With the campaign mode canceled, Treyarch decided to release its own spin on battle royale in a mode that would go on to be known as Blackout. Development on the battle royale mode reportedly did not begin until nine months before release. “That mode came together by the seat of its pants. It’s kind of a miracle that it did,” one developer said.
In a change to the normal Call of Duty development schedule, Treyarch is said to be developing 2020’s Call of Duty title which is believed to be a new Black Ops title set in the Cold War. According to Kotaku, other Activision studios Raven Software and Sledgehammer were lined up to take the lead on a Call of Duty title set in Vietnam, but management decided to put Treyarch on the game as its lead and make it a Black Ops title. The title is said to launch in holiday 2020 as a cross-gen release for current and next-gen consoles.
2019’s Call of Duty game is Modern Warfare from developer Infinity Ward. It’s a soft reboot of the series, and it launches at the end of October on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.