David Vonderhaar Hints at Black Ops 3 Ruleset

David Vonderhaar, the Studio Design Director at Treyarch, has been very involved in the Call of Duty community.

David Vonderhaar, the Studio Design Director at Treyarch, has been very involved in the Call of Duty community. He has helped promote the competitive Call of Duty scene, introducing the eSports reveal for the first time months before the game came out and playing a big role in the development of the Call of Duty World League, run by Activision, the game publishers. He has also recently joined Reddit and remains active on all Call of Duty subreddits.

Today, Vonderhaar posted on the CoDCompetitive subreddit with the title, “Hypothetical Story”. The post reads, “Big team plays small team. Small team Protects UAV with the first vote. Big team gets knocked off their game. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? -V.

Edit – David Vonderhaar has released an unofficial “work in progress” ruleset for the qualifiers. UAV is listed as a restricted item.  

What is this hinting at? Hypothetically, the competitive Call of Duty ruleset used for the World League will be the one that we have been playing with all along. Hypothetically. This would mean that there are no universal bans, so everything is fair game. Things like UAV and tripmines would need to be banned by players during the protect/ban phase. This is currently how Arena mode plays and how the Totino’s Invitational played out. However, at that event, players agreed ahead of time that certain items should not be used and they stuck to those agreements very closely.

Vonderhaar seems to think that by not banning anything, individual matches could change so much that the underdogs would have a chance. He implies that this would make the eSport more entertaining. Of opposite theology are the pro Call of Duty players. The point of the protect/ban phase and the specialist draft was to create an ever-evolving game meta throughout the game cycle, but many pro players still believe that universal bans are a must. In their mind, anything that decreases the skill gap should be eliminated, that players should not rely on UAV, Vision Pulse, or Tracker  to determine where players are located, or tripmines and C4 to place near bombs sites to prevent a plant or defuse. These are all things that have not been used in the competitive ruleset in the past, so why should they be allowed now?

The post has completely blown up on reddit. People from all walks of competitive Call of Duty have come to voice their opinions on this hypothetical situation, many arguing that UAV has no place in a competitive match. One top argument is that the game meta will never change if people are banning the same few items every single match, making the protect/ban phase virtually useless.

Another part of the argument is that the scorestreaks that have been banned in competitive Call of Duty for years also happen to be the most accessible. UAV, Counter-UAV, and Care Package are some of the cheapest scorestreaks, meaning they do not take many kills to obtain. A scrub team would only have to get a few kills to call in a UAV in hopes of changing the course of the match, forcing the other team to either shoot it down, counter it, or wear Ghost to remain undetected. Vonderhaar himself pointed out this fact: there are multiple ways to counter this particular scorestreak. In retaliation, pro players have chimed in, saying that communication is one of their strongest attributes, making UAV virtually pointless for them to use anyway. By allowing UAV, the necessity for good communication decreases for bad teams, lowering the skill gap.

The argument is far from over, but at least there has been some sort of news. We just recently made a video about the lack of communication from Activision about the Call of Duty World League and many people have been wondering about the ruleset. The good news? Vonderhaar used the word ‘hypothetically’ in his post. This suggests that the ruleset is still not completely agreed upon, but also that Activision is leaning toward not making any changes. They want to make the game accessible to newcomers, which is something Vonderhaar brought up in one of his responses, “Our growth is limited. We are a minority. We know this. If we create something that everyone “could” play then maybe we can grow. My objective is to grow Call of Duty Esports. I choose to believe that the closer the competitive game and the “regular” game are to one another the better chance we have at reaching that goal. Among many reasons, and not just this one, the more restricted the game was the less popular it was as an experience.

This out-of-the-box argument has been made many times before. Some of the most popular eSports in the world, League of Legends and CSGO, play with competitive rulesets with very little changes from what the everyday player is accustomed to. Call of Duty, however, plays by rules that the pub star would never expect. Matches are 4v4, items are banned, and only certain game types are played. When Black Ops 2 rolled out League Play, it was a stepping stone from public matches to competitive matches. It’s how I, the writer, first started paying close attention to the competitive Call of Duty scene, and many others can attest to the same. Features like the Live Event Viewer (not yet active) and an upgraded League Play called Arena are meant to bring in new competitive Call of Duty fans. He is right in saying that a less restrictive ruleset would bring more attention to Call of Duty as an eSport, but is that a good thing?

Vonderhaar loves the community, but he is being pulled in different directions and needs to find a middle ground. Activision needs to be happy if we expect to see the Call of Duty World League continue after this year, and the current competitive community needs to be happy to enjoy playing/watching the game. At this point, there is a real struggle in the community, but we will know more about the fate of our scene in a week when the Pro Division Qualifying Invitational Tournaments take place.