Treyarch Ray Gun Retrospective with Maxwell Porter
Earlier this year, The Call Of Duty blog team sat down for a chat with Maxwell Porter, Senior Lead Artist at Treyarch, diving into the fascinating history behind the iconic Call Of Duty Ray Gun. Maxwell shared the incredible journey of bringing this piece of gaming history to life—a creation he played a pivotal role in.
With the recent releases of Modern Warfare 3 and Modern Warfare Zombies, it's the perfect time to share this remarkable story. Keep reading for an inspiring peek into the making of gaming history and this legendary weapon!
At the end of October, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Call of Duty® franchise. There are countless moments in its history we all look back on fondly. One of them is the Ray Gun, the Wonder Weapon created by Treyarch for the then-secret third mode of World at War: Zombies.
Few people know its history better than Treyarch Senior Lead Artist Maxwell Porter, who started as an environment artist on Call of Duty®2: Big Red One before becoming a weapons artist for Call of Duty® 3. Ultimately, he became the only weapons artist for Call of Duty: World at War.
“I previously had a conversation with an art director and was spitballing ideas about bringing different elements into the World at War narrative,” he said, “and one of the ideas I had was about those retro futurism toys in cereal boxes back in the day.”
He spent an hour a day doing what he wanted and freeform modelled what would become the Ray Gun; essentially, he is Mr. Ray Gun.
“I wanted to do something that felt between a toy and a real weapon, with Easter Eggs on the actual device because I love that in video games,” he said. “Nobody really asked me to make it; it was something I wanted to do, and in the back of my mind, I wanted to convince a designer to get it into the game.”
“I heard talks that there was going to be a secret third mode in World at War,” he continued, “And I went to the designers and said, ‘So I had this Ray Gun, what do you think?’ and they were excited about it enough for it to be put in the game. It was a time where there was a lot of energy around Zombies and the concept of the Magic Box [or Mystery Box] came up, so having something as a super-rare find was a nice piece of whimsey to add to the mode… People were playtesting at the time and would be shouting, ‘I GOT THE RAY GUN!’ so everyone was excited about it.”
One of those people was Chris Cowell, currently the Principal Game Designer at Treyarch who manages all the big map experiences for the studio, including Blackout in Black Ops 4 and Outbreak in Black Ops Cold War.
“I remember the Ray Gun being the first Wonder Weapon that came out of happenstance as an Easter Egg in Little Resistance,” Cowell said. “I enjoyed getting it working in Blackout specifically because it had a whole new host of technical hurdles, including ballistics and the number of players that could potentially have the Ray Gun. So, to have it work the same and look the same to the player, but have it be something completely different under the hood was a technical achievement.”
Another veteran with vivid memories of the Ray Gun is Collin Ayers, now Lead Sound Designer who started out as an intern for Treyarch more than 15 years ago.
His first Call of Duty game was World at War, where he was responsible for Zombies’ sound design, including the Ray Gun. “The full reload sequence was my first, 100% owned sound design that was tossed into the game,” he said, “and that reload noise relatively stayed the same up until this day.”
He has since continued to work on Zombies to this day and beyond alongside Head of Audio Brian Tuey.
“When Tuey and I were working on this together, we really wanted to create a sound that was modern at the time,” he said, “but really rooted in that classic sci-fi laser ‘poing-poing-poing’ noise.”
He recalled using a couple different tools at their disposal to create everything, including banging a wrench on a wire and helical spring toys. “Those sounds are basically the basis for sci-fi sounds for generations,” he said, “so we took that and added modern elements to bring that up to spec for what we were looking for in-game.”
“We also had the impact sound play,” he continued “but then we had the game shoot the sound out in different directions to have it sound like this crazy alien energy bouncing around.”
All three of these longtime veterans were ecstatic to hear that an official version of the Ray Gun is being made for the Call of Duty community.
“The moment I heard this was happening, I had my wallet open ready to get it,” Ayers said. “To have something to lovingly look back at in my office is something I am looking forward to.”
“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” Cowell said. “I remember on Black Ops 3, we wanted the Collector’s Edition to have a Ray Gun but we couldn’t get it done in time to make it a reality. So, the fact that it is now a reality is so exciting.”
“One of the favorite part of my job is the wonder weapons, and I owe a lot to the Ray Gun,” Maxwell said, “It’s an amazing feeling; I feel emotionally tied to the Ray Gun, because it was made at a time of my career where I was very young and naïve, and to see it come to life alongside its longevity tied to the Zombies mode it just great. It’s a testament to all the designers and everyone who worked on Zombies, and I’m extremely happy and proud to see this happen.”