Every year a new Call of Duty is released, with each new title becoming more popular than the last. With different teams producing each subsequent title however, each entry ends up having very different approaches in creating the mechanics behind the multiplayer modes. The most recent title, Black Ops II, has kicked off the series’ push for a larger focus on creating an e-sports franchise. While a lot of features have been added to Black Ops II to make it an appealing e-sport, several mechanics have been removed from Modern Warfare 3 that cause the game to play very differently; those mechanics beings strike packages, nukes, and deathstreak rewards.
The removal of these mechanics is not unexpected as most of these were consciously excluded from the first Black Ops game. With the arrival of Black Ops after Modern Warfare 2, removing the nuke and deathstreak rewards on top of of other rebalanced elements helped to quell a lot of complaints some players had with Modern Warfare 2 and served to cut down on the large amounts of chaos that occurred in an average Modern Warfare 2 match. While keeping these features removed has not really had a negative impact on Black Ops II’s reception, I believe it can be argued that including them would make the franchise an even more entertaining e-sport.
Variety - Why Strike Packages Are Good
Black Ops II includes 22 different killstreak rewards compared to Modern Warfare 3 which has 27, so just from a numbers perspective it would seem that Modern Warfare 3 has the larger potential variety in how matches will play with regards to killstreak rewards. The strike packages however further the potential variety by placing restrictions on which rewards can be used and how they can be obtained. The assault package provides destructive killstreak rewards and resets killstreaks on death whereas the support package provides supportive killstreak rewards and does not reset killstreaks on death. The third option is the specialist package which equips extra perks as killstreak rewards. These packages cater to a larger variety of playstyles by offering more restrictions and rewards than the Black Ops approach. This larger variety of playstyles adds to the unpredictability of how each match will play out, which is a crucial element in making an entertaining e-sport.
Unpredictability - Why Nukes Are Good
Another element that adds to the unpredictability is the nuke, a killstreak reward attained at 25 kills that in Modern Warfare 3 will kill the entire enemy team and produces an EMP to disable enemy equipment for one minute (in Modern Warfare 2 it would just end the match). With such destructive power it is easy to see how it could play a large role in a match, however the high killstreak requirement makes it difficult to attain. This difficulty in acquiring the nuke makes it hard to predict if it will actually be used in a match, and its destructive power makes it hard to predict just how severe of an impact it will have. When the threat of the nuke is present, the match becomes even more unpredictable knowing that one killstreak reward could have a severe effect on the outcome.
Non Zero-Sum Game - Why Deathstreak Rewards Are Good
The final main element from the Modern Warfare series that increases the unpredictability of the match is the deathstreak reward mechanic. Being rewarded for successive deaths is not a popular mechanic among skilled players, particularly because it is seen as a crutch for lower-skilled players and is thought to reward that lack of skill. In actuality the addition of deathstreak rewards prevent the match from turning into a zero-sum game, where every kill is viewed as solely a benefit for the killer and penalty for the victim. Similar mechanics can be found in other competitive games, like a player’s super meter increasing when they take damage in a fighting game, or a player’s respawn time increasing as they level up in a MOBA; these respectively represent a benefit being given to the losing player and a penalty being given to the winning player. Such mechanics can help prevent one team from completely overpowering the other and keeps the tension alive throughout the match so that the audience is constantly entertained.
An entertaining e-sport generally contains a large variety of viable tactics, unpredictable matches, and a constant feeling of tension; all of these things are in greater abundance in the Modern Warfare series than in the Black Ops series. The upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts promises a return of the strike package system, a reworked system for attaining a nuke, and supposedly a removal of deathstreak rewards. What kind of matches will emerge from this new system is still uncertain, but if it has anywhere near the same amount of chaos as Modern Warfare 2, it will at least be entertaining.