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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 Blizzard hires new head of HR as harassment lawsuit scandal continues

Activision Blizzard hires two new executives as fallout over the harassment lawsuit continues.

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Activision Blizzard has announced the hiring of two new senior executives as the company continues to face challenges with the harassment and diversity lawsuit.

The new executives will join later this month, with one coming from The Walt Disney Company, and other from Delta Airlines.

The first new hire is Julie Hodges, who will be joining the company as the Chief People Officer. Hodges worked at The Walt Disney Company for years.

Activision Blizzard says she will be responsible for building and reshaping the company’s corporate HR and people team.

Activision Blizzard’s press release describes her role as:

Ms. Hodges brings more than three decades of global human resources experience in entertainment and an impeccable record of shaping corporate culture. She will be responsible for the company’s global talent organization, making Activision Blizzard the destination for top talent. In her role, she will lead all aspects of human resources, including diversity, equity and inclusion, talent acquisition, employee experience, learning and development, compensation and benefits and workforce planning.

“I can’t think of a better person to join our team and help lead our ongoing commitment to an inclusive workplace,” Kotick said. “Julie is the seasoned leader we need to ensure we are the most inspiring, equitable and emulated entertainment company in the world.”

“I share the company’s belief that a work environment should welcome all perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds,” Hodges said. “A workforce where everyone feels valued is critical to the success of our business, as is a trusting, engaging and safe environment that encourages creativity and innovation and in which all employees can thrive. It takes a collective effort to do this, and I’m looking forward to ensuring that we support the diversity of our talent to bring our people together and continue creating amazing entertainment.”

Per the company’s press release, the current Chief People Officer Claudine Naughton is leaving the company. This comes as Activision Blizzard is engulfed in the harassment and diversity lawsuit scandal in the state of California.

The lawsuit, which first came to light on July 21, has shined a light on many of the incidents that took place at Activision Blizzard – from sexual harassment, in-equality, lack of diversity, and more.

The state of California recently further updated their lawsuit to claim Activision Blizzard’s HR team was shredding documents relevant to their investigation.

Ms. Hodges will start her role on September 21 in a rocky time for the company. Employees continue to demand action and change from the executives, including the removal of arbitration clauses. The employees formed a group recently, A Better ABK, to jointly file a labor suit against the company.

The company said in the press release that these new hires will “help the company build a more inclusive workplace as well as diversify and grow its revenue.”

Activision Blizzard also announced another new executive joining the company. Sandeep Dube will join the company from Delta Airlines as the new Chief Commercial Officer. Dube replaces Armin Zerza’s open role, who was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.

Activision Blizzard press release says Mr. Dube will oversee Activision’s global Sales and Go-To-Market teams. He will be responsible for developing and implementing commercial strategy and delivering on the company’s revenue growth plan.

“Sandeep is a rare leader who not only has the ability to expand our global go-to-market teams, but also bring his diverse experience from an accomplished career to unite our commercial group,” Mr. Kotick said. “Our mission is to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment. While Sandeep connected the world through air travel at Delta, he created a growth-oriented culture that was focused on the very best customer experiences. The innovations he inspired created incredible customer loyalty. We are excited to continue our work on revenue growth with an even greater focus on recognizing and rewarding our players.”

Mr. Dube said, “I couldn’t be more excited to join this team and work together to continue building our inclusive culture and to expand our audiences.”

Dube will start his role on September 27.

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Call of Duty Twitter account trolls banned hacker in new video

Call of Duty took to Twitter recently to show off how effective its anti-cheat system has been recently ahead of its new PC anti-cheat coming in the future.

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warzone artwork

Call of Duty has been affected by hackers for a very long time now, especially within Warzone. However, with the latest updates to the anti-cheat system, it seems the developers have finally got some positive results.

With the announcement of Call of Duty: Vanguard and its integration into Warzone, players were also told that the game would receive a brand new PC anti-cheat system to fend off the hackers who have been causing a great deal of frustration in the community.

Although the developers had been fairly quiet about the hacking situation and issues in Warzone, it seems they have finally got some revenge on cheaters creating as many accounts as they wanted to bypass ban waves.

warzone characters fighting over a loadout drop

Over on Call of Duty’s Twitter, the fan-favorite franchise posted a video of a hacker explaining just how effective the recent upgrades to their anti-cheat system have been.

Originally, hackers have just been able to create new accounts after being banned, allowing them to continue cheating and ruining the game for others. However, a recent video by a player showed that he had been hardware banned and could not play on any accounts on his PC.

This is shown in the video posted by Call of Duty, where a hacker is showing how they are unable to create a new account and use it to cheat: “I’ve been cheating for a little bit, it’s been fun…but every one of my accounts are banned, every single one with even me playing it.”

Although this video was a troll, it is a great way of advertising their anti-cheat strategy to entice players like NICKMERCS back to the game. In recent weeks, many streamers and content creators had been switching over to Apex Legends due to the abundance of hackers in Warzone.

Luckily, it seems the developers have the situation more under control than they have in the past and will be looking to squash the hacking problem completely when the new PC anti-cheat system arrives during the upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard cycle.

This is a great step for the developers at Call of Duty, as it adds another tool to the list when it comes to preventing cheaters and hackers in Warzone and Multiplayer.

For more on Call of Duty, check out our article on every confirmed change from the Vanguard Alpha.

Image Credits: Activision / Call of Duty

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California updates Activision Blizzard harassment lawsuit, claiming company is ‘shredding’ documents

California state government files updated lawsuit with more claims against Activision Blizzard as investigation continues.

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The California State Government’s DFEH has updated its lawsuit against Activision Blizzard to now include temp-workers’ experience, and also state that the company’s HR is not properly keeping records for their investigation.

First reported by Axios, in an updated filing, the DFEH claims that Activision Blizzard’s HR team is not saving records related to the investigation, which is impeding their ability to move forward.

The initial lawsuit, which was filed on July 21, claimed numerous cases of harassment, inequality, and more took place at Blizzard’s side of Activision Blizzard.

The DFEH states that the company has a policy of “shredding” documents of employees who’ve left the company within 30 days.

The California government requires employers to keep records for up to 2 years. It says, “documents related to investigations and complaints were shredded by human resource personnel.”

Further, the government claims that Activision Blizzard has required employees to sign NDAs, speak internally before contacting the DFEH which is impeding their investigation.

The updated lawsuit also claims that Activision Blizzard adding in a review of the company via WilmerHale law group has further caused issues.

The updated lawsuit claim that these actions “directly interfere” with their ability to “investigate, prosecute, and remedy workplace discrimination and harassment violations on behalf of employees and contingent or temporary workers.”

The new filing also added in mentions that experiences of harassment and inequality “exist for employees and contingent or temporary workers.” The initial lawsuit only covered full time employees.

Following this lawsuit’s update being surfaced, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement, one that differs in tone from their original attack on the DFEH.

The company claims that they have “complied with every proper request in support” of the DFEH’s review.

Their full statement is below:

“Throughout our engagement with the DFEH, we have complied with every proper request in support of its review even as we had been implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee. Those changes continue today, and include:

  • Several high-level personnel changes;
  • Revamped hiring and recruiting practices requiring diverse interview panels;
  • Greater transparency on pay equity;
  • Expanded and improved training and investigative capabilities for human resource and compliance staff;
  • Created investigation teams outside of business units to support greater independence;
  • Restructured divisions to support greater accountability;
  • Enhanced review processes to include evaluation of managers by employees;
  • Clear boundaries on workplace behavior with a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and other actions that diminish or marginalize.

We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment.  

We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.

We share DFEH’s goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow.”

As more information arises on the lawsuit situation, we’ll keep everyone updated.

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