Saturday, May 10, 2014

Open Letter to SHGames: What I'd Like to See in CoD:AW

Dear Glen Schofield, Michael Condrey, and everyone at Sledgehammer Games,

Titanfall famously shipped without a normal singleplayer campaign and one of the reasons was explained by Vince Zampella, "We make these single-player missions that take up all the focus of the studio, that take a huge team six months to make, and players run through it in 8 minutes."  To me that begs the question, Why do players spend so little time going through these campaign missions when they are perfectly content to play the same multiplayer maps over and over again, often hundreds of times for each map?  

Here are a few of the reasons:

  1. In multiplayer games you are playing against an intelligent opposing team making each game play differently.
  2. You can play many different game modes on the same maps.
  3. You can use different weapons, equipment, perks, killstreaks, and change your playstyle according to what you are using.
  4. You have the ranking up and prestige system to go through, with challenges, titles and emblems to earn.
And here are some ways that could add more replayability to the singleplayer portion of the game:
  1. That the game has four difficulty levels is a start.  Another way to mix things up would be to have a variety of skill levels among the AI.  For example you could have an option for the player to choose what percentage of the enemy to make Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran.  However the choices here are limited.  (You should use the MW3 survival mode AI as a starting point.  The AI in BO2 and Ghosts are definitely worse)
  2. Call of Duty 4 included two game modes for the singleplayer portion of the game and I see no reason why every game shouldn't include both the standard "movie mode" and an Arcade mode.
    I also think the game would benefit from adding a sort of free-play mode.  Remove all the barriers at the edge of the maps, all the "don't leave your squad behind" type death barriers, time limits (unless you planted a bomb or something), and then include options for customizing the enemy, the equipment available, your loadout, etc.  Perhaps a little over the top but I would love to have multiplayer game modes playable on singleplayer maps with AI and perhaps the ability to play co-op with a partner.  As many options as possible would be best.
  3. In Black Ops 2 you could customize your loadout and again, I don't see why you can't include that in every game from here on out.  Another element included in CoD4 that I would like to see again is the cheats you get after finding the intel.  It could be another free-play mode option.
  4. A great addition would be the multiplayer progression system applied to all of the singleplayer and co-op portions of the game.  If I were in charge I would have one progression for online multiplayer and another for the whole rest of the game including combat training.
I understand you have to make the game accessible to more casual players, and the many details and even minutiae that appeal to someone like me could hurt the satisfaction of customers who are not as into it.  All I can ask is that you consider some options.

Just in case you have another few minutes to spare on my ideas here is a post on how to make multiplayer more dynamic and fun than any other multiplayer game out there, and here is the post I wrote to Infinity Ward a little over a year ago.

Thanks for reading.
- Matt

How to make Call of Duty multiplayer the most dynamic and innovative multiplayer game ever

First, credit where credit is due: Treyarch was at least 50% of the way there as far as the general idea goes.  In Black Ops 2 the option was there to share your custom game mode recipe online, and to "like" other players' custom modes and sort by popularity.

Now remember back in 2012, MW3's year.  When the game mode Infected was introduced in the public playlist there was a real resurgence in the popularity of the game.  Modern Warfare 3 had its problems, one of which was its similarity to MW2 and players responded by dropping out more quickly.  However Infected was a completely different type of game mode and its introduction helped the game's popularity immensely.  Then the same thing happened to a lesser degree when Dropzone was added.  And there was a week or so late in the game's year when 18 player free-for-all matches were glitched in or hacked into the game and the same thing happened for me personally that week because the massive chaos involved in 18 person FFA was new and exciting.  It made the game fresh again.  The way to keep the game fresh all year long (or even better for two or three years) is to constantly update the playlists.  

Now I think someone who combines these two ideas can make their multiplayer game more interesting and dynamic than any game out there.  Outsource your game mode creation.  In order for this to work you have to put a zillion options into private match so that players can create modes that are not simply a rehash of existing modes.

Some basic ideas for options to include:

  1.  Every game mode from every past Call of Duty should be included in private match to give as many starting points as possible
  2. Rounds in every mode
  3. Limited lives in every mode
  4. Time limits
  5. Score limits
  6. How points are awarded for every mode (like in BO2 you could customize Kill Confirmed to give points for kills and for tags denied as well as tags confirmed)
  7. Limiting loadout options, opening up loadout options (like BO2 having the ability to play with up to 17 points)
  8. Customizing maps like the number and placement of flags, bomb sites and bombs
  9. Customizing maps by creating simple barriers to block off areas
And there are a million other options needed to really make it work, too many to list.  And create an interface so that players can easily look through other custom recipes and let players share and "like" other people's recipes.  Some ideas would be a title for the recipe, the mode used as a starting point, and a brief byline/description all view-able from the menu system, and then selecting one recipe lets the viewer see the details of the recipe.

When the game is new, November and December, the standard modes are great.  Everyone is getting used to the maps, the weapons, etc.  In January start a community playlist.  Then at least once a month (even better would be every two weeks) the development studio can take the top voted recipes, test them out to make sure they work well, and put one or two into the community playlist.  Switch out the old ones with the new ones each month, and if one mode is particularly popular leave it in the playlist.  And when the game's main year is almost up in October put in crazier and crazier custom games like the 18 player free-for-all.  

The DLC season for Call of Duty is getting old.  I bet if you watch the player-count closely you'll see very little change with DLC releases.  I believe if you update playlists with new and interesting game modes you will see smaller drop-offs in playercount and from that an increase in DLC sales and possibly even game sales.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Call of Duty: Online (update)

I found some videos of the campaign of CoD: Online.  The video quality is very good, however the guy talks a lot (which is fine for a youtube channel of course, but if you're more interested in the game than the guy it's not the greatest).

These missions are set in 2013 which is when Operation Kingfish happens, however it's unclear whether these missions actually link into the Modern Warfare story or not.

The initial training mission is CoD4's FNG.  You drive in with Captain Price, do the target practice from the main game, then you do grenade training, both throwing and using the underbarrel attachment, and then you do an obstacle course.  And you do not run the cargo ship course (though it appears that does get unlocked later on).

Mission 1 is MW2's campaign level Takedown, except it's set on the multiplayer map Favela.  They added barriers around the map so that you can't go where you want, and have to follow the target.

Mission 2 is set on the multiplayer map Crash.  The map has been modified so that it kind of sort of matches the style of the Brazilian maps from MW2.  Your helo crashes and you are captured by militia, Ghost frees you and you gather some intel.  Then you have to blow up your helicopter and escape to the top of the tall building for extraction.

Mission 3 is on MW2's multiplayer map Estate (still set in Brazil though).  The beginning is basically the first section of Contingency from MW2, then you have to catch a guy named Vasquez, and you're supposed to bring him in alive but someone snipes him from across a lake.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Call of Duty Microtransactions

   When micro dlc was introduced I was okay with it, but after listening to some other people about it I think it was a bad move for the brand overall. Releasing a lot of micro dlc weakens customer loyalty at the margin and at this point they need to be building it back up.

   It's no secret that sales are down significantly from last year even though there aren't fewer 360s and PS3s out there. Of course a lot of that is due to the console transition, but when people switch over to a new console you have to compete with other games on a higher level. Better graphics is only a piece of that. They could be offering "free" micro dlc (or something else) as a way to reward the people who bought the game and as a way to build brand loyalty during the transition. Supporting your game with patches and fixes is the base level, it's expected. They ought to be doing something on top of that.

   Why is everyone wondering if Titanfall is a cod killer? It's not because titanfall is something great. It's mostly because in the last two years cod has used up all the customer loyalty they built from 2007 to 2010. They don't owe players anything, but letting customers pay extra for micro dlc is a poor way to keep your base happy through the transition while other brand new (and pretty awesome looking) IPs come out.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ghosts Sales Levels and Speculation on CoD's Future

When Ghosts launched the initial numbers reported by VGChartz* they were surprisingly low.  I figured Ghosts would move about the same number of copies as MW2 did on what I'm going to call last-gen hardware (360, PS3), and an additional small amount on current-gen.  The numbers that came in initially had it doing significantly less, but that has turned around.  The holiday sales numbers were about equal to MW2's, something I did not expect, and it sold quite a bit better than I thought it would on the new hardware. 

With nine weeks of sales Ghosts has sold a total of 18.3 million copies while MW2 had 17.8 million sold in the same amount of time.  I imagine that Ghosts will do substantially less business during 2014 than MW2 did during 2010, and it'll probably top out between 20 and 21 million copies while MW2 is working its way up to 25 million having sold 501,000 last year. 

(For comparison Black Ops 2 sold 20.6 million copies in the first nine weeks.)

Call of Duty 11 this year will have an even bigger challenge than CoD10, especially if the rumors are true that Sledgehammer Games is taking the helm on their own.  It will still be a cross-platform game, the console transition will still be under heavy load, going an extra year without Treyarch's Zombies mode will be trying for many stalwart CoD players, and even die-hard Call of Duty fans have a healthy amount of skepticism toward a new studio taking on such a large endeavor. 

2015 is the year when I think we could see some seriously big changes in the game.  It doesn't make sense to introduce a new engine until they're ready to release on next-gen only which I can't see happening this year.  It remains the case that there are over 150 million 360's and PS3's plugged in and waiting for a game to play, and by November 4th there will at most be 30 million XB1s and PS4s plugged in ready to play.

For me CoD loses it's sheen just a little every year, but I still see myself getting the new one for at least two more years.  We'll see how it goes.


* Many people say that VGChartz is useless but I disagree.  They may not report accurate numbers, but they collect data for each game the same way which means if they are off it's by a similar amount for everything.  That makes them somewhat reliable in determining the relative levels of sales across all games.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Easiest Way to Get Safeguard Achievement/Trophy

Map: Freight
Mode: Safeguard
Options - If you have a friend then play co-op, but if you are playing solo then go to a local game and in the options select double health and fast regeneration.

On the map go down into the tunnel and close the door at the far end.  Then set up at the bottom of those stairs under the closed door and all enemies will file down right to you.  The riot shield guys are a little tricky, but if you save your IEDs they shouldn't be too much trouble.  That's pretty much it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

List of Waves in Safeguard

You can get the Safeguard achievement most easily by playing locally and setting max health and fast health regeneration.

Loot rounds always last 25 seconds and give you 8 care packages.
The more teammates you have the more enemies there are each wave.  Playing solo wave 2 has 13 enemies, but with 4 players wave 2 has 20 enemies.

Your loadout: MP-443 Grach w/ ext mags, 1 IED, 1 concussion grenade, 1 support squadmate
1 - Loot round
2 - Shotgunners
3 - Shotgunners
4 - Shotgunners
5 - SMG + shotgunners + dogs
6 - Loot round
7 - SMGs + shotgunners
8 - SMGs + shotgunners + dogs
9 - SMGs + riot shields
10 - SMGs + riot shields + dogs
11 - Loot round
12 - SMGs + riot shields
13 - Noob tubers + SMGs
14 - Noob tubers + SMGs + dogs
15 - Noob tubers + SMGs
16 - Loot Round
17 - Noob tubers + SMGs
18 - Noob tubers + SMGs + riot shields
19 - Noob tubers + SMGs + riot shields + dogs
20 - Noob tubers + SMGs + riot shields

(this is my first pass at the wave contents, I may update this if I find I've made a mistake)

Safeguard Extended and Infinite

A loot round followed by 4 waves of enemies most of who wield noob tubes and SMGs.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Safeguard

IGN previewed Safeguard this week, and while I'm not 100% certain this is the final form of Safeguard, the release date is close enough that it seems likely.  So here are some things I've noticed based on the video:

  • Like in MW3's Survival you do not get to customize your class.
  • Unlike in MW3's Survival there is no mini-map.
  • The first "Loot Round" lasts 25 seconds and has 8 care packages.  It also counts as a round, so the enemies start coming on round 2.
  • You can pick up 3 killstreak care packages.
  • You get weapon points in the top left, and it seems a hit gets you 10 while a kill gets you 20.  Except at the 3:00 mark he gets +30, +30 and +50, and I don't know why.  He was shooting a dog and the headshot counter in the bottom left stayed the same.
  • Weapon level-up tokens are dropped periodically from random enemies who you kill.
  • There are periodic "Ammo Resupply; Team Restock" times which happened in the video when the player picked up a support care package, and also when he got a weapon level up token.
  • The higher your weapon level the more damage it does.
  • There is no middle-of-the-screen XP like in MW3's Survival, but you are still earning xp that applies to multiplayer.
  • Enemies do not drop weapons.
  • The time between rounds is 20 seconds.
  • The Support Drop bar increases based on the entire team's activities and as soon as it's full it will drop.  The support drop is 4 care packages with either a weapon or perk.
  • There is no enemy counter.
  • Field orders are for everyone playing unlike in multiplayer where it's a suitcase for a single player at a time.  It seems the field order challenge stays until you complete it.
  • Bleed-out time is 25 seconds and you can still use your primary weapon.
  • The self-revive mechanic is calling in an AI friendly that revives you and any teammates that are down, and who will stay and help your team until it is killed.
The Squads trailer has a couple more items in it:

  • You can have more than one perk at a time.  (I presume you lose perks when you go down like in Treyarch's Zombies mode)
Some things I got from other videos:

  • Game Options include setting your max health and health regeneration speed.
  • Able to pick up 3 care packages, no more.
  • Calling in a helo scout transports you from wherever you are into the helo, and then you are dropped off back onto the map after 30/60 seconds.  Could be useful for tight spots.
  • Supply drops look to be about every wave.
  • Shotgunners are called 'Ravager'
  • Riot shield holding enemies are called 'Striker' (and they are the same character model as the shotgunners)
  • Enemy K9s are called 'Tower'
  • SMG holding enemies are called 'Enforcer'
  • LMGs are called 'Hammer'
  • Noob tubers are called 'Destructor'

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's 10 Best Campaign Levels

Call of Duty 4

Charlie Don't Surf was the introduction a lot of people got into being in a modern military.  The series' name, "Call of Duty" brings to mind (to me at least) that all men have an obligation to join the ranks and fight in the trenches for their country, which is what we saw with all of the WWII games.  Charlie Don't Surf is the modern version of what that call looks like (albeit a somewhat Hollywood-ized version).

If you've played the game then there's no explanation needed, but for anyone who hasn't this is the single best reason to play the Call of Duty 4 campaign.  The first time you go through play it slow and follow Macmillan's instructions.  It's intense.

Modern Warfare 2

If you haven't seen Generation Kill you should.  I'm pretty sure Infinity Ward used parts of that mini-series as inspiration for Team Player (as well as SSDD).  Great pacing, excellent movement from action to quiet and back to frantic fight-for-your-life action.

This is the level where we are introduced to Soap.  We played as him in CoD4, but here with Kevin McKidd's voice he instantly becomes a larger-than-life hero a la Captain Price (for me at least).  And on top of that we get ice climbing, chasm jumping X2, stealthy snowstorm sneaking and spray-and-pray on a snowmobile.  Two men take down an entire Russian air base.

A lot of CoD campaign missions have a quiet section, either a lull in the fighting or a stealth element to pace things better.  This one though does it completely differently.  It forces you to walk while your crew guns down civilians with some weird pulsing background music that creates a lot of tension while still being slow.  It's a unique section with an atmosphere that I haven't seen in a video game before (not that I've played that many games, but I have played a few shooters).

I spent two years in Minas Gerais and went into a couple of small favelas while I was there so this level brought back some memories.  From my experience they really captured the atmosphere, but beyond that the first time going through the level it seems like a massive maze of bricks and concrete while it's actually quite linear.  I was very impressed that they could do that and guide the player through it in a way that doesn't disrupt the illusion.  Plus it's an exciting level not knowing where you are going and having lots of enemies all around you all the time.

I want to take The Only Easy Day and The Gulag together because they take place one right after the other.  I'm not sure I can really describe why I like them so much, but I think it's related to what I said for Charlie Don't Surf, except applied to a special forces team like the Navy SEALs.  Of course that's on top of the fantastic gameplay.

Modern Warfare 3

Even though I didn't think Soap would die after MW2, the prologue of MW3 where Price is rushing him up to a doctor to get revived was pretty intense, so it was a satisfying relief to finally see that he was back in action here.  After shadowing Price in CoD4 and Soap in MW2 here you are following along with both of them which makes you feel unstoppable.

MW3's story is much more straightforward compared to CoD4 and even MW2.  Soap and Price are relentless in their pursuit of Makarov, so finally getting to the finish line, finally chasing him to the very end of the road is immensely gratifying.  Yet it's also bitter-sweet.  And the soundtrack really hits it home there.

Special Mention

The coup isn't really a campaign level in that you don't actually play, you just watch.  But it's one of the best sequences in any game ever.  This is one of the main reasons I hope we eventually get a CoD4 remake, to see The Coup again but with more detail, better lighting, better character animations, better facial expressions... I could go on but I won't.  It was incredible for 2007, but imagine if it were redone for next-gen consoles in a few years...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

CoD Ghosts - Juggernaut Maniac

So far everyone has said that the Juggernaut Maniac runs faster than normal so its possible it has build-in speed perks and possibly Extreme Conditioning, however that has not been confirmed.

At the 1:40 mark in this video the player unloads into a full-health Juggernaut Maniac with a suppressed Honeybadger.  The suppressor shouldn't affect the gun's damage because it's at point blank, but I can't say that for sure.

From what I could see there was one shot that missed and the juggernaut died with the very last bullet in the magazine.  The first 13-15 shots were in the head, then there were about 4 body shots, then some neck shots, the one missed shot, and back to the neck for the rest.

It seems reasonable to say that gun's damage is between 30 and 45 up close and a headshot multiplier 1.4 (standard for MW3 assault rifles), which would put the juggernaut's health between 1026 and 1575

Even if those numbers are slightly off I think it's safe to say that the Juggernaut Maniac has at least 900 and at most 1700 points of health.