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E-Sports Comparison of Call of Duty Mechanics
by Cary Chichester on 09/03/13 12:44:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

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.


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Comments


Michael Stevens
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Good points!

I have to agree about the Strike Chains, it's just a mistake to go back to Killstreaks. The streaks in BO2 are super-utilitarian, and basically every offensive streak feels interchangeable and random for their victim. Theres nothing that changes a game like napalm blocking a corridor or a juggernaut with the flag. Most of them might as well be lightning bolts. MW3 did a much better job of rewarding a variety of playstyles even though it had a very standard loadout system and lesser objective rewards.

I feel like the eSport ambition motivated a lot of really conservative and ill-fitting design in BO2. There are actually fewer gametypes than MW3, with the only "new" one being a cleaner version of a MW3 community game. The speed and driving of the game don't work well on tiny, symmetrical maps.

Cary Chichester
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Indeed MW3 did have some nice additions to killstreak rewards with standouts like Recon Drones, Ballistic Vests, Juggernauts, and Escort Airdrops. It usually seems like the Modern Warfare series has always been building up and trying to be a little crazier and more adventurous while Black Ops has always tried to be a bit more conservative and focus on refining its already established gameplay. I think both games have something to offer for e-sports, with Black Ops 2 catering more towards people who want a lot of balance with less chaotic gameplay and the Modern Warfare series (now Ghosts) catering more towards viewers who wants to witness more variety and more chaos with killstreak rewards that play larger roles in affecting the match.


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