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On Wednesday, August 5th, 2015, David Vonderhaar of Treyarch made an appearance at Gamescon 2015 in Cologne, Germany for the Black Ops 3 eSports Reveal. We will be breaking down some of the major topics covered in the hour-long stream, which can be found below.
David Vonderhaar is well-known to competitive Call of Duty fans. As Studio Design Director for Treyarch, he has played an integral role in developing the competitive side of Call of Duty, something that members from other publishers have not put as much effort into. This was seen in Black Ops 2, a revolutionary game in the Call of Duty series thanks to the League Play feature. With Black Ops 3, Vonderhaar says that Treyarch has been focusing even more heavily on eSports.
This feature alone takes Call of Duty eSports to a whole new level! Following in the footsteps of major games like League of Legends, competitive matches on Black Ops 3 will begin with a Protect/Ban feature.
With all of the in-game items on the table, the four players from each team will alternate turns protecting or banning items for the upcoming match. Each player has a limited time to decide what to choose.
This feature will ultimately end whining from pro players and gentleman’s agreements (which are often broken), or will it? With hundreds of in-game items to choose from with the Protect/Ban system, there may be a large number of over-powered or “cheap” items left over. In competitive matches, only 8 players will be in the lobby, so only 8 items (or less) will be banned by the time the match starts. This feature is very useful, but in League Play and Ranked Play (Advanced Warfare), certain items were automatically banned in the eSports playlist from the start. Will this still be the case in Black Ops 3 competitive play, or will all items still be available before the Protect/Ban step?
This is a new level of player classes that will make Black Ops 3 very fun to play. Players each choose a specialist weapon or ability, and no two players on the same team can choose the same one. The Specialist Draft will require communication amongst teammates, as this step in the competitive match process will be very important. Some abilities will be very useful in respawn game modes, while they are obsolete in game modes like Search and Destroy.
The Specialist Draft, combined with the Protect/Ban system, will ensure a variety of strategies. No two maps will play out exactly the same way, unless of course all of the same bans and abilities are chosen. An ever-evolving game meta will result, something that will keep Call of Duty eSports fun and exciting for the fans watching.
If there is a downside to the new pre-game procedures, it’s that there will be longer matches overall. This means that online tournaments, as well as LAN events, will take longer to complete than ever before. In the Black Ops 3 eSports Reveal, the Protect/Ban and Specialist Draft took up approximately 5 minutes, and this is performed before every map. Of course, the length of matches in other eSports is much longer, but tournament organizers might have to consider new ways to schedule tournaments in the future.
Scorestreaks have been used in competitive Call of Duty since they were available to, but Advanced Warfare seems to have changed that. Most scorestreaks are just either “cheap” or uneccessary. In Black Ops 2, the most common scorestreaks were the RC car, Hellstorm Missle, and Lightning Strike. With Black Ops 3, it appears that scorestreaks may make a comeback, as the pros were using them at the Gamescon eSports Reveal.
In Black Ops 3, League Play has been renamed “Arena”. Vonderhaar stated that Treyarch hopes to expose more players to competitive play, and Arena is one way to do that. Arena will use the Protect/Ban system and Specialist Draft explained above, and Vonderhaar says that this allows the public to feel more at ease in competitive play because now they have control over what weapons and such to use. Once again, I am a little skeptical about how this will work, because many items will remain untouched due to each player only having one vote. We could see silly things like claymores in Arena!
Arena mode aims to improve the League Play feature by rewarding wins, plain and simple. There will be a total of 20 ranks with a Master Division at the top. If you lose two games in a row, you can be demoted. If you quit the game, you lose two ranks. All of this will work without altering your skill tier, which will prevent what is known as “reverse boosting”, where players lose on purpose to face easier opponents.
The only issue that was not addressed is player booting, or DDoSing. In League Play, DDoSing was prevalent (for whatever reason), and it is currently occurring in the MLG Pro League, ruining the experience for players and fans. Will people that lose connection to the game as a result of being booted be penalized? Clearly, players should not face consequences for someone else’s actions, so hopefully Treyarch will be more specific on this issue.
The broadcast feature in Black Ops 3 was a top priority to Treyarch, who said, “It’s just as important to spectate the game as it is to play it.” Something new: important settings can be chosen by the casters before the game starts. This makes it so that only the desired features are available during the game and they are easy to manipulate. Team identities will be set by the casters as well, decreasing the amount of work needed for production on live-streams. The team name can be set as well as a team logo.
Will professional team logos be incorporated into the game to make this feature especially useful? If not, I do not see this being used at the top level of competitive Call of Duty, where event organizers can already easily alter the screen overlay.
Live Event Viewer
This feature alone has the potential to grow competitive Call of Duty massively. Call of Duty is already one of the most popular games played by casual gamers worldwide. Never before has a Call of Duty title made it so accessible to watch the top players perform! The Live Event Viewer will be an in-game feature that users can access to watch streams of all the popular events. Without a doubt, many casual players will dabble with it from time to time, increasing the number of viewers and fans of the competitive scene.
David Vonderhaar stated that these features are, “Just the beginning of a large plan to grow Call of Duty eSports.” What else does the team at Treyarch have in store?
Playstation the new home of Call of Duty eSports
Perhaps this news was expected already by competitive Call of Duty fans. There had been rumours, ever since Playstation took over as the first console to receive the beta and DLCs. The Black Ops 3 eSports Reveal was even played on the PS4.
Naturally, with Activision, Treyarch, and Sony working together, the Call of Duty Championship will switch consoles. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that all the eSports features will leave the Xbox One though! The Live Event Viewer should be available on all consoles, as you don’t need to play on the same console as the pros to be a fan.
All in all, the Black Ops 3 eSports Reveal gave us hope for the future. With so many major changes that appear to be positive for growing the scene, Call of Duty may have the opportunity to become one of the world’s largest eSports!
The beta will launch on the PS4 on August 19th and the full game will launch for all systems on November 6th. Stick with us at eSports Guru as we keep you up-to-date on all aspects of Black Ops 3!