Feature: Spov's Call of Duty

By David Radd

Posted October 7, 2010

There's a tendency with games to think that everything produced comes from one source, perhaps a byproduct of publishers receiving more direct credit over the years for games than development teams. Regardless, many roles end up being sent to specialists outside, whether it's for development, marketing or in-game cut scenes. Spov has familiarity with the latter two and Senior Designer Allen Leitch was kind enough to share with us some of his insights on working on the Call of Duty series and beyond.

[a]list: How are you looking to take advantage of convergence in gaming, TV and movies?

Allen Leitch: We are in the fortunate position of coming from a variety of creative disciplines, and one of our key skills when talking to gaming clients is our ability to deliver extremely strong narrative to move story-lines along as well as producing the scenes themselves. We view ourselves as a directorial agency rather than a production house, so see those skills as applying to any medium rather than being constrained in one area.

[a]list: Describe the work you did for the Call of Duty series.

Allen Leitch: We have worked on the last four Call of Duty titles, starting with Modern Warfare running up to Black Ops. We were asked to get involved after working on a number of animation sequences for a series on the Discovery Channel, called Future Weapons, where we began to develop the technical style that was honed and refined for both Modern Warfare titles. For World at War we worked in a more abstract style as that suited the setting of the title, and the pacing of the narrative. For Black Ops, we have developed a completely new approach.

One of the World at War cut scenes.

[a]list: What can we expect from Spov for Call of Duty: Black Ops?

Allen Leitch: The narrative setting and storyline of Black Ops mark a departure from the previous series. Rather than being tied to a specific historical or contemporary point in time, it is set during the Cold War, which has allowed a much wider use of reference points, and for Spov, the opportunity to harness some of the paranoia, confusion and disinformation which existed to inform our visual style and interpretation of the story. Black Ops will feel darker and more emotional - our scenes are less technologically driven, and more about the character’s experience and predicament.

[a]list: Were any of the materials you made used in the promotional materials (trailers and TV spots)?

Allen Leitch: Yes, absolutely.

[a]list: What's some of the other game work that you've done?

Allen Leitch: Some other games projects we have been involved in include two Transformers titles, Spyro the Dragon, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, a new iPad game, and the development of our own IP ideas.

[a]list: What other franchise have you worked on outside of gaming?

Allen Leitch: We are working on the titles and credits for an animated 3D film due to have its theatrical release in 2011. A number of TV titles, some architectural and product visualization and also the production design of a full length animated feature which is currently in pre-production - all very exciting!

Expect similar quality treatment in Black Ops.


[a]list: Have you done any sort of work for commercials and would you consider that in the future?

Allen Leitch: We are currently in discussion with Warp Films (part of the famed record label) and info-graphics designer David McCandless, to create an animated study of a somewhat complicated ecological issue, and are confident that this work and relationship will bring us greater commercial exposure and work.

[a]list: How do you promote your own work to outside companies?

Allen Leitch: Strippers, mescaline, compromising photographs and paper bags of used notes!

[a]list: Ha ha, thanks Allen.


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