Treyarch addresses Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer concerns

Treyarch's Multiplayer Design Director, David "Vahn" Vonderhaar, has responded to a Call of Duty: Black Ops wish list posted by well-known CoD player and Youtuber, Blame Truth (opens in new tab). Treyarch's response quells some concerns and is a welcome dose of transparency.

Though we've been unable to locate Vahn's forum post, his response is copied in the description of one of Blame Truth's videos (opens in new tab), and we'll assume its legitimacy based on BT's strong reputation. The original video is below, followed by a breakdown of Vahn's response:

The first qualm is with the primitive matchmaking and lack of dedicated servers in Modern Warfare 2. We know that the PC version of Black Ops will have dedicated servers (amongother details about the game), but regarding consoles, Vahn responded:

"The cost/reward structure of dedicated servers for console games is complicated as All Get Out. I am not talking about PC games. That's a different, and much easier, conversation. My point is simply that error you see that you think is lag, is not necessarily caused by latency, and dedicated servers won't solve every perceived error you think is lag.

We have a few very specific ideas to improve host selection. Yet, no matter what you do until you can build a profile/library/db of who is a good host and who is not, the first couple of times someone ends up host he is going to be as good of a host as anyone else. The game can't see into the future. His connection might of been awesome at the time host selection was made.

Generally, however, we like the "make matchmaking as fast as possible" approach. When you start adding in matchmaking criteria, such as: "I only want to play with people who think cussing is OK," you end up making the matchmaking process slower."

The non-inclusion of dedicated servers for console versions isn't a surprise, but we hope that Treyarch's matchmaking improvements have some impact on the issues which have affected MW2 and previous CoD games. Vahn also said that he would "discuss" the idea of allowing players to opt out of joining games in progress.

Regarding map selection, Vahn's response was vague:

"We did do some work in this area. Blame Truth wants to go back to the COD2 way. What we have is more simple and requires active participation."

What "active participation" means is up to speculation.Could itbe similar to Halo: Reach's voting system?

Above: Shitballs! Not Estate again! Puh-lease let us have a little more control over the maps we're subjected to in matchmaking

Blame Truth also asked for a bare-bones playlist with no kill streaks or weapon attachments. Vahn confirmed almost that, and stated that there will be a variety of playlists, pre and post-launch:

"This can be done right now except for the "no weapon attachments" part of it. I would say that if people want a playlist, then they should lobby Josh. We have features that require more post-launch support than ever before. Playlists can be updated."

Above: Which playlist lets us do whatever is happening here?

The final issue regards weapon balance and challenge. Many (including ourselves) haveargued that Modern Warfare 2's weapons and attachments lack challenge, and that too many crutches (deathstreak rewards, grenade launchers, cheap perks...) exist to aid unskilled players. Vahn, again, offered a considered, but fairly neutral response:

"Black Ops is trying to find some place between the skill of World at War weapons with the accessibility of MW2 weapons. Easy to use, difficult to master. I added a guy to my team this year, who is working on this nearly full-time.

We are committed to this idea and committed to fixing what we don't get right. I get a lot of feedback that the guns "should be more like MW2" and are "too hard to use, and should have less kick and sway."

The more focused (dare I say hard-core?) competitive FPS gamer seems to prefer the World at War tuning. I am like you. I also prefer it, but it would be arrogant to complete dismiss and ignore the other 10 million people who are not like us."

Perhaps this full-time balancer and a healthy selection of playlists will make Black Ops work for both "hardcore" and "casual" players. At the very least, the "easy to use, difficult to master" adage must be strongly applied if the game is going to reward those who take skill-building and experimentation seriously. For us, getting better is the most enjoyable part of the game - winning because we lucked-out gets old fast.

Above: This photo is entirely unrelated, but represents how we feel about being nuked in MW2

If these ideas are executed well, Black Ops could be the answer to those disappointed by Modern Warfare 2, as well as those unenthused by World at War's setting and level of challenge. Without knowing much about Black Ops yet, Treyarch's openness is, at least, a cause for optimism.

May 18, 2010

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer