Sticking with the FPS trend for this week, today we’re going to go over the eSports reveal from yesterday for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It’s a little different event than last year’s Advanced Warfare multiplayer reveal, with this event focused solely around the eSports side of Call of Duty. That said, there’s still some pretty cool info that came out in the stream.
First, the rule set for top tier competitive play is being tweaked. In the past, MLG and Activision have pretty much worked together with the pros to develop a set of rules, then they push them live for online play. It works, but it’s pretty slow, and relies on the pros for changes. That’s getting a bit of a change. Competitive play is getting a ban/protect system – straight out of a MOBA. At the start of a match now, each player picks one weapon/perk/gear to either remove (ban) or keep (protect) for the duration of the game. This is a really smart way of putting the power back into the players’ hands. As the game evolves with patches and hotfixes, the players can adjust bans and protects on the fly; in the past we had to wait for a new MLG ruleset. It also lets teams really define their playstyles – variety is always better in games than homogenization. It’s a really simple idea, but I think it could be the best way moving forward. It just seems so intuitive, which is good, and then allows the game to evolve moving forward. For example – in Advanced Warfare, the ASM1 and Bal-27 are still pretty much the best weapons available, so I would ban one with my pick; while hoping that a different, second tier weapon got protected. It should help foster experimentation – you can’t really be a single weapon player anymore; if your gun is banned, your effectiveness is dropped dramatically. Again, the more weapon and tactic variety that exists – especially in the top level competitive scene – the better the game experience.
One other part of the multiplayer that we got some real time to see in-game were the specialists. Essentially acting like an even further level of score streak, you pick a character, and then an upgrade. The upgrades could be weapon based – we saw a reflex bow, a mini-gun that was built into your arm, and a huge hand-cannon; or they could be mechanic based – sending out holographic clones, a speed boost, and a quick respawn all were shown off. Specialist as an idea has existed in Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2 – in different ways of course, but it’s been there for lone-wolves for a while. In this new form, it acts very much like a scorestreak, a common part of the series. It instead now puts emphasis on proper execution of activation – picking the right moment to use your ability is a major tactical move now. In the three game match in the reveal yesterday, not using the Specialist abilities properly in the Search & Destroy game pretty much acted as the turning point in the match.
I gotta admit, I really like these changes – they put the power to define the pro-game in the players’ hands, as well as help emphasize experimentation with weapons and gear. Anything that exists to keep a game fresh over its lifetime is always a good thing, and seeing Treyarch put that in the game right at the beginning is a good sign that the game’s support is going to be strong.