While multiplayer mode has long been the main feature of Call of Duty games, players are always fast to complain about perceived unfairness, particularly when it seems like it might be the programmers’ faults. “There are a lot of polarizing conversations in the Black Ops community,” states David Vonderhaar, game designer at Treyarch. That’s why Treyarch has gone out of its way to try and create balance in gameplay in various situations in Black Ops 2. Creating more balance involved a complete overhaul of the multiplayer system. Here are some ways in which it’s being improved.
Killstreaks replaced by scorestreaks. Scorestreaks, as the name implies, will be rewarded for more than just killing other players. You’ll earn scorestreaks by doing other things as well such as capturing flags and achieving other team objectives. You’ll also earn points for kills by other team members if you have a UAV in the air and are providing support. In this way, Treyarch is trying to balance gameplay in favor of more play styles and reward players who choose to put teamwork first. The system is also intended to discourage players who deliberately join objective-based games simply so that they can try to rack up kills by camping out around the objectives. These players aren’t actually contributing to the team’s score, only their own.
“And it’s not like I don’t give you score for shooting people,” says Vonderhaar. “It’s still a shooter, but I’m going to give you more score when you place a guard turret and protect a path. I’m going to give you points if you have an assault shield and you’re blocking damage on your team with it. I’m going to reward you because you’re helping your team. Our new core reward system is always based on the things that make you win the game modes.”
There have been some changes to the way that perks work too in the name of fairness. Vonderhaar says that he believes that perks were becoming too complex, and that the new system will simplify them. They will also no longer be absolute. “In Black Ops our only balancing options were to remove the perk or keep it; now we can tune any perk by increments.” When perks were absolute, they were literally necessary in order to be competitive, but since other players already had the advantage, it was very difficult to move forward against overpowered players. “A perk should never be something you need just to complete … The community helped me understand that.”
One area that has not be specifically addressed where fairness is concerned is maps. One of the biggest issues with COD or any first person shooter game is when maps are designed in such a way that there are problems like respawn areas which are easy to control and take advantage of. It seems impossible that these matters have been overlooked, however, especially given the recent multiplayer map list which has been leaked online. The maps in the list seem to place a special emphasis on balanced gameplay. Hopefully that means that respawn areas have been more carefully thought out.