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A Call of Duty game set in ancient Rome was in development years ago, cancelled after initial prototypes – UPDATE

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UPDATE 2: Activision has issued the following statement regarding this:

“The game concept was proposed by a former employee while working at the studio, but was not seriously considered nor requested to move to prototype.”


UPDATE – July 7: GamesRadar has updated their story to state that, following Activision’s rejection of the pitch, members of the team that were developing it left and pitched the idea again to Ubisoft just as “Roman Wars.”


Original Story:

A new article from GamesRadar states that at one point eight years ago, a Call of Duty game set in ancient Rome was in development at one of Activision’s studios, called Call of Duty: Roman Wars.

The game featured “battle elephants trampling soldiers, a playable Julius Caesar and first-person sword combat,” and initially, Activision liked the idea of this game. Eight years ago, Call of Duty was selling incredibly well, and anything attached to that brand could do well in the market.

In 2008, Activision was pitching ideas to studios about expanding the Call of Duty universe because of the success of the franchise. This idea was called ‘Call of Duty: Roman Wars,’ a game which featured the story following Tenth Legion. GamesRadar spoke with some sources — who are being referred to as ‘Polemus’ to hide their real identity. The title was in development at Vicarious Visions, a studio that Activision has owned since 2005. That studio now is the lead on the kids game Skylanders, which is now a billion dollar franchise.

At the time, Vicarious Visions was working on Marvel: Ultimate Alliances 2, but they started prototyping a Call of Duty game set in ancient Rome.

“We were asked to do some Call of Duty prototypes, so we had a whole team working on a new prototype we called the Fireteam,” explains Polemus. “It was basically a new Call of Duty but with an overhead Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 camera.”

“Anything that we put out that had Call of Duty [on], whatever we were sticking out, was selling really well, so [Activision] gave some studios an opportunity to test their their capabilities on the franchise, and whoever had the winning idea would get to take on the IP.”

Vicarious Visions team thought that bringing the Call of Duty engine to such a game would really improve it for the future. The game’s story followed Julius Caesar’s Tenth Legion (his special forces), and one of the levels they had prototyped was based off of the Battle of Alesia.

“I really thought an ancient warfare game would do well, re-skinned with the Call of Duty engine,” says Polemus. “Basically we were following Julius Caesar’s Tenth Legion – his special forces during those times – and we were doing a one level prototype based on the Battle of Alesia. So we built the one mission based on that. We had everything from riding horses, to riding an elephant, to working with catapults. All done in the Unreal Engine for rapid prototyping”.

Call of Duty: Roman Wars had both third-person perspectives, and first-person perspectives that players could play in. The game featured a straightforward combat system, lead by shields and swords. “The real work for the combat system went into just a shield-sword, block and parry which worked really well; it was a fun mechanic.” They also had plans for bows, spears, and even the ability to throw sand in the enemies’ face.

The demo that Vicarious Visions had to show Activision started off with horse riding section and a speech delivered by Julius Caesar. The objective of that mission was to take down the archers. In this game, the ‘tank’ was basically elephants.

“You drive it [and] if there’s any enemies it can trample them for you. Beside that you get a better perspective and you have some protection because it had its own little booth-seat that protected you and you could duck under.”

There was also parts of the demo which showed off the first-person perspective and a different setting. The team’s goal was to have the full game contain variety of characters and perspectives to show off the Roman century.

“You were going to fight against the Germans and the Germanic Tribes and really stay true to the history of Julius’ conquests during the Gallic Wars,” they explain. “You were going to jump around from officers to low grunts to Caesar and get a little variety of all of those little battles, so you’d play an archer here, you’d play a cavalry over in this phase. And it was going to stay true to the Call of Duty franchise in that jumping around, playing those different characters and getting a whole feel of the overall battle during those times”.

This prototype was sent up to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, and it was initially well received by the executives. There was, however, a lot of uncertainties of releasing this game with the Call of Duty branding on it.

“I at the time was being sort of… I was being stiff in that area,” they admit. “I was huge on Call of Duty myself so I was like ‘I really want to keep it on the Call of Duty level.’ And they said, ‘that’s not going to fly with Activision – they’re already looking at a different version and they don’t want to oversaturate the market.’”

Roman Wars, thus, was cancelled. If the game did come to life, as GameRadar points out, there would have been a market for it on the Xbox One too, as seen with the popular Ryse game that launched with the Xbox One console.

“It would’ve started aligning with the Xbox One depending on the roll out and how long the production would have been. And, strangely enough, a launch title for the Xbox One was Ryse – the Roman war game, which is crazy! When we saw that we were just like ‘See! We knew!’ You had Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, you had all the future stuff – especially with Halo and all those more futuristic-style shooters – they weren’t sure if it was going to resonate as strongly, but then a launch title actually was a freaking ancient Roman warfare game. I think if Call of Duty did that, and they did it with the mechanics we were working with and that engine? That launch title would have been a lot bigger and a lot more well received”.

The feature image shows a prototpye of the game on Xbox 360, but had this game been released, it would have also been on PS3 and PC because of Activision’s multi-platform policy, GameRadar confirmed.

There’s also a video with actual footage from the prototype from GamesRadar:

SOURCE: GamesRadar via @COD_Online

Activision

Activision issuing “hardware bans” to thwart Warzone cheaters

Activision have confirmed that they are handing out “hardware bans” to banned cheaters who keep making fresh accounts.

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Call of Duty Warzone gameplay

Cheaters and hackers have plagued Call of Duty: Warzone since its launch, but on top of account bans, Activision has confirmed that they are issuing hardware bans to thwart repeat offenders.

Cheaters have been a thorn in both players’ and developers’ sides since Warzone launched in 2020. It has been common to run into players blatantly wall-hacking and aim-botting, ruining the game for casual players and pros alike.

Raven Software has been providing regular updates on how many cheaters have been banned, and Activision recently confirmed that 475,000 permabans have been issued since Warzone’s launch. The likely reason why this number is so high is that Warzone is free-to-play. It’s widely believed that even if a cheater’s account gets banned, they can simply create a new one and carry on as if nothing happened.

Activision is aware of this issue and player’s concerns and released an in-depth update on their anti-cheat progress on April 12.

Because so many players have been concerned that account bans are ineffective, Call of Duty staff responded to this, saying that “Removing cheaters and taking away their ability to move to alternate accounts is a key focus for the security teams.”

They confirmed that if you’re cheating, not only could you be unknowingly downloading malware to your system, you could also receive a hardware ban.

To make sure players don’t keep creating fresh accounts to cheat with, Activision said, “We do issue hardware bans against repeat, or serial, cheaters. This is an important part of our effort to combat repeat offenders.”

This means that players who receive a hardware ban will be permanently locked out and won’t be able to simply create a new, free account and go back to their cheating ways.

Helicopters flying to Warzone's Verdansk Stadium

Activision also confirmed that not only are they targeting individual accounts with cheats installed, but also “the commercial market of cheat providers and resellers.” They revealed that they have recently banned “45,000 fraudulent, black market accounts used by repeat offenders.”

Cheaters will likely still make their way into your Warzone sessions, but Activision is making sure it’s continuously more risky and difficult to do.

In the meantime, you can check out our guide on how to spot cheaters in Warzone so you can assist Activision by reporting these players.

Image Credit: Activision

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Report: Activision Blizzard HQ & Treyarch offices set to relocate

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A new report states Activision Blizzard will no longer lease its office space in Santa Monica and are actively searching for a new HQ location.

DoTEsports reports that Activision Blizzard and Treyarch have ended their lease at their Santa Monica HQ offices. The company has had the office under their lease for more than a decade.

Per the new report, the teams that work in those spaces will work from home until further notice.

The company is reportedly in search of a new space. An internal memo, which was sent to staff and obtained by DoTEsports, states the company is actively looking for a new office space in the Santa Monica area.

We have narrowed down the search for our next office location to several properties in the Santa Monica area and we hope to finalize our plans in the coming weeks,” the internal company communication said.

Activision employees have been working from home since March 2020. As of now, the company says they’re on track to return to office by September 1, 2021. The timeline remains unchanged.

Activision’s main headquarters was located in the Santa Monica office on Ocean Blvd in California. Treyarch’s studio space was located right next door to Activision Blizzard HQ in Santa Monica on the first floor of an office building. The two used those buildings for over 10 years now, and are now up for rental and purchase.

Activision has not commented on this information as of now.

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Investment group calls out Activision for CEO payout

Activision Blizzard’s CEO continues to rake in bonus after bonus, and now investment firms are questioning the decisions.

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An investment firm, CtW, issued a statement report directed at Activision for upcoming bonus pay for their CEO, Bobby Kotick, which is valued at a remarkable $200 million.

The report states that an SEC filing and agreement between Activision Blizzard CEO and the board of directors of the company will allow the CEO to receive a bonus pay of $200 million at the end of this year.

Per the investment group, as released to GameSpot, a loophole created within Bobby Kotick’s employee agreement allows him to claim full bonus payout for previous years regardless of the company’s performance. This loophole is described in the “Shareholder Value Creation Incentive” provision in Kotick’s employment agreement. He can receive a full performance equity payout from previous years – 2017 and on. That is valued at almost $200 million, which is set to be paid out in cash upon the end date of the incentive provision.

Investment group CtW issued a scathing statement over this, as the company just this week laid off less than 2% of its workforce, which is less than 190 people for “restructuring” purposes. The lay offs impacted Activision Blizzard esports department, alongside the company’s King division.

While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” director of executive compensation research, Michael Varner, said. “There are many factors that may contribute to a rise in this particular company’s stock price that may not be directly attributable to Robert Kotick’s leadership. The use of video games as one of the few entertainment options available amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has been a boon to many companies in the gaming industry irrespective of executive talent or strategic decisions.

Bobby Kotick already makes $30 million a year from Activision thanks to his base salary and bonus yearly pay. He’s one of gaming’s highest paid executives. Activision continues to report record profits with 2020 being the company’s biggest year yet.

Activision has not commented on the latest developments on this payout.

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