"There are a lot of polarising conversations in the Black Ops community," says Vonderhaar. "You can find guys on both ends of any argument, and we have to balance community feedback with our own tests. The AUG is the most popular gun for people to complain about right now, but the data doesn't bear that out. They're telling me this and I'm looking at them saying: 'I appreciate your feedback young man - however the data says otherwise.' And that's game design; it's part of being a game designer, and it's f*cking hard. So we're addressing the big things by making sure we have the tools to tweak the small things by the smallest increments."
A NEW BALANCE
Scorestreaks are Black Ops II's new Killstreaks. In the new Black Ops, every action is worth points and the value of every action is weighted to the game mode. Kill aplayer in Capture The Flag and you'll earn 100 points, but capture the flag and it's worth 150, while killing a flag carrier is worth 200. Planting the bomb on Search and Destroy earns points and capturing a hill in Domination will earn youpoints.
A few hundred points will earn you a UAV, and over a thousand will let you loose the attack dogs. For the first time since Killstreaks were introduced in CoD4, it's not the best killer who gets the best rewards, but the best player. It's a trick Battlefield: Bad Company popularised a few years ago - overwhelmingly rewarding players who played the objectives rather than the fastest shots - and in Call of Duty it changes everything.
"There are definitely people who play, say, Domination because they know guys are going to gather around objectives and they can kill them," says Vonderhaar. "And if the core reward system in the game is rewarding that then we're saying kills are the most important thing, and that's our fault. We need to make sure the reward system goes with the game modes. If we think a flag capture should be worth two kills or three kills or five kills, we can do that now.
"And it's not like I don't give you score for shooting people; it's still a shooter, but I'm going to give you more score when you place a guard turret and protect a path. I'm going to give you points if you have an assault shield and you're blocking damage on your team with it. I'm going to reward you because you're helping your team. Our new core reward system is always based on the things that make you win the game modes."
It'll be a steep learning curve for Call of Duty's most murderous madmen, but the new league play will keep competition fair. Lifted straight from Starcraft II, Black Ops' League mode will, over time, ensure you never play anyone significantly above or below your skill level. "Treyarch, Blizzard... we're all part of that same Activision family," says Vonderhaar. "They were very generous with their time, helping us learn what they learned. There's a lot of similarities between this and the Starcraft II system."