Suffice to say Call of Duty isn't the most graphically intense shooter on the market. Yet Treyarch's studio head Mark Lamia has no issues with that, and he's fully prepared to defend the studio's decision in reusing an older engine for Black Ops 2.
The latest Call of Duty will utilize the same engine powering Black Ops, with additional upgrades to meet the new game's design. While competitor EA is constantly pushing their shooters' superior visuals in efforts to oust Call of Duty as top FPS dog, Lamia remains unworried. He believes the series doesn't actually need "a new engine."
"People always ask me, 'Is this a new engine?' I liken it to people who live in an older house that has been remodeled. Just because you’re remodeling the house and it will look new or it will have a new kitchen, you don’t tear out the foundation, or break out some of the framing. You might even go as hardcore as replacing the plumbing, and we will do that sort of thing, as an analogy. It’s a gross simplification, but it’s one way to say that. There’s a lot of good still in that foundation that you wouldn’t get rid of, and we don’t. We look to advance in the areas that support our game design.
"Engines, each time they get touched, they change. The creators alter them; they don’t modify what they don’t need to, and then they alter what they need to. You can’t make a competitive product if you’re not upgrading that engine along the way."
According to Lamia, a new engine is really just a "great buzzword," but in the case of Black Ops 2, it really isn't necessary or particularly feasible. Lamia acknowledges that players want better graphics, and he states clearly that the developers also want to "advance the graphics." So it comes down to a question of how, and to Lamia and Treyarch, the best method is improving on a foundation that's already there -- rather than starting over.
"I think the whole thing about a new engine…sometimes that’s a great buzzword. Well, I have a new graphics engine — is that a new engine? Where does it start and stop? Elements of the code, you can trace back for a very very long time…but whole parts of the code are entirely new. Two areas we did focus on for this game were the graphics and the lighting — a pretty significant amount of work is going into that."
He also notes that one of the studio's goals is to keep Black Ops 2 running at 60 fps, concluding, "So this is the Black Ops 2 engine."