The next installment of Call of Duty, Black Ops 2, is going to feature an overhauled multiplayer system which should show significant improvements in many areas. One of those areas is fairness. The reason? Major League Gaming (MLG) is becoming more and more popular with players everywhere, and video gaming is turning into a sport, complete with monetary prizes. “I’ve seen our game on the main stage at MLG with a hundred people in the stands rooting for their team,” says David Vonderhaar, game designer at Treyarch. “I’ve seen it and I think, ‘I’ve got to find a way to give this to everybody.’” Treyarch goes on to add, “It’s good for e-sports and it’s good for business … This can be the next big thing.”
To try and make Black Ops 2 more suitable for competition, Treyarch has been taking steps to try and make the game fairer, largely by regulating perk usage so that players do not become overpowered for indefinite periods. They’ve also added a number of features for e-sports, such as a one-click button that allows you to instantly stream your games live to spectators online. “Right now, people who livestream have to have a computer with very expensive hardware and lots of cables, and we got rid of that,” Vonderhaar says.
The streamed games will be watchable anywhere and will be available on numerous devices, not just home computers. If you’re out and about you’ll be able to watch matches on your tablet or mobile phone. To ensure fairness, there will be a slight delay between the game as it runs live and the game as it streams to devices in order to prevent cheating. Shoutcasting has been implemented as well, which offers an advanced spectator mode. In this mode, players will be able to not only spectate on matches, but do so using an advanced control panel that makes it easier to jump between players’ points of view. They’ll also have a scoreboard which they can use to see everything going on at a glance. Maps will make it even easier to track the action. They’ll then be able to provide live commentary as the matches unfold. Anyone can use the interface, but it was designed with use at MLG events and similar pro tournaments in mind.
Another change that is relevant to competitive gameplay is the league system, which is based on the one used by Starcraft II. The league system will figure out your skill level based on your matches and try to match you up with players who share your approximate skill level. “Treyarch, Blizzard … we’re all part of the same Activision family,” explained Vonderhaar, talking about how the new league system was developed. The league will be structured around 30-day seasons. At the end of each month you’ll have a chance for promotion based on your performance. The Black Ops Premier League will be the league for the top 2 percent of all COD players. But what’s awesome is that you’ll be able to compete within your league for victory and you’ll have a much better chance at actually getting better if you’re not constantly having your confidence smashed by vastly superior players—or wasting your time taking out opponents which are way too easy for you.
All of it comes together with the development of more balanced gameplay, the result of a number of design tweaks to the multiplayer framework. The way that killstreaks and perks work has been modified, and team players who play support roles and accomplish objectives in not deathmatch gametypes will now be rewarded more liberally than they have been in the past. Steps have been taken to try and dissuade campers and to get people back out in the open. All told, these modifications will not only make the game more suitable for professional competition, but will also make the game more enjoyable for casual players. In this way, pro sports is good for the whole COD community.