Speaking during an interview with Kikizo, Call of Duty: World at War Senior Producer Noah Heller has commented at length on comparisons with Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, World at War runs on Infinity Ward's proprietary engine, which has prompted more ascerbic commentators to describe it as 'COD4 with a World War II reskin'. Heller acknowledged the debt to Infinity Ward - "Infinity Ward led the pack, established the franchise, created the brand" - but reminded gamers that Treyarch had made its own lasting contributions to the IP.
"A lot of different people have been involved in building up the Call of Duty franchise," he said. "The guys who worked on this game worked on Call of Duty 3, which while it wasn't as critically acclaimed and it was a much shorter development cycle, there were a lot of copies of that game sold. They worked on United Defensive, Big Red One - a lot of Call of Duty games."
Heller observed that a mere reproduction of COD4's gameplay in different clothes would be an insult to fans. "It's clear to us that gamers are smart. They wouldn't take just a World War II 'skin' on the existing Modern Warfare engine. You know, they need to be able to play against the Japanese and see the work that went into the AI, they need to be able to play with the flamethrower and see that blood, sweat and tears went into making that thing beautiful."
While they share a technological backbone, World at War and COD4 are very distinct at the level of design. "I want to be really clear - from a design perspective and when it comes to game content, they're islands... you know, islands apart," Heller insisted.
Nor has Infinity Ward intervened much throughout development. "You can't get good creative game design if you have too many fingers in the pot trying to muck about," Heller pointed out. "It's great to have the technology support and it's great to have the engine support, but you know, you would destroy that team if you had either team trying to executive produce each other, right?"
He admitted that Call of Duty 3 had left a little to be desired, but put that game's discrepancies down to a short development time. "I don't ask the game playing public to 'forgive' Treyarch for Call of Duty 3; it was a good game, and the fact that it took nine months to make... the gaming public shouldn't accept that, you know - they should say, "we want games that game developers had enough time to make.""
"We don't want them to forgive Treyarch," Heller concluded. "We want them to give them a second chance, and that's a subtle distinction, but now that Treyarch has had two years to make a game, I'm not going to draw comparisons to Infinity Ward, but what I will say is that I hope the game can stand head and shoulders against any game on the market - and certainly, I feel it's the best shooter this year."
Call of Duty: World at War launched yesterday in the U.S. for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS. The game hits Europe on November 14.