During the Las Vegas D.I.C.E. summit, Head of Treyarch studios, Mark Lamia, told the story about how the Zombie mode that has become a much loved feature in the series came to life.
When Treyarch were working on World At War, the team was suffering from creative burnout. This was the third consecutive World War 2-era game that they had been worked on, and they were doing their best to keep themselves entertained to boost morale. In order to do this, a small group of programmers decided to create a Nazi Zombie Mode, much to the disapproval - at least at the time - of Lamia.
Lamia told the crowd at D.I.C.E. that as this mode was being developed during the crunch period of development, he had a duty to Activision and the business partners involved to keep the team focused; stating: "The classic management, the right thing, the reasonable thing to do would have to just insist that the team stop getting distracted, focus on delivering what we were already signed up for and what we were already behind on delivering,”via Games Industry.
It wasn't until he saw how genuinely thrilled his team were of the mode - so much so that they insisted on playing it at the end of the day after 14 hours of developing - that he agreed to try it before killing the idea. He bought into the concept.
Lamia resorted to the same tactic to try and convince the Activision executive team to allow the mode to be a part of the game. However, to make sure that both franchise veterans and newcomers were both happy, to keep the game type from seeming out of place, the type was made into an Easter Egg. Only available after the game was beaten so as to not affect the integrity of the story.
This, thankfully, turned out not to be necessary as the outcry of joy upon the mode's reveal made Activision and Treyarch agree to unlock it for everyone - campaign beaten or not - in a patch soon after release. A close but smart call. This is certainly a contributing factor to Call of Duty's place in the list of most popular game franchises and the zombie mode being something players look forward to each and every year.
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