Although the Call of Duty franchise has pursued the eSports crowd in the past, it has done so with a careful eye on its casual fans. With only so much space on a retail disc and only so much development time, the various Call of Duty developers have made sure not to introduce anything too significant into the mix so as not to upset the status quo. That seems to be changing with Black Ops 3.
As part of their Gamescom 2015 presence, or maybe just to capitalize on the popularity of The International, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 developer Treyarch had a lot to offer eSports fans right out of the gate. First, they teased how competitive matches will work in Black Ops 3, before eventually getting into the nitty gritty details. But the most intriguing part of their Gamescom announcements has been the ‘Ban and Protect’ system, which could help Call of Duty push even further into the eSports realm.
Much like a draft in League of Legends or Dota 2, the Ban and Protect system will come into play pre-match and require an added bit of strategy. If, for example, players think a particular weapon, perk, attachment, etc. is over-powered, they can choose to ban it from the upcoming match. However, if one of those items is essential to you or your team’s success, it’s also possible to protect it with the system.
For a franchise that has largely struggled with gameplay and weapon balance in multiplayer, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s Ban and Protect system sounds like a smart move. Sure, the system only works in private or competitive matches, but when it comes to increasing the game’s eSports appeal, this is sure to work wonders.
However, there’s also the new Specialist feature to think about with Black Ops 3, but luckily that, too, is getting some restrictions for competitive play. With the new ‘Specialist Draft’ feature, players can lock in their choice for a Specialist and unique Specialist perk, making it so no opponent or teammate can choose them.
Again, the goal here seems to be to better emulate the eSports experience of MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends. Not that Call of Duty has much in common with those games, but in a way Black Ops 3 does. The sequel’s decision to trade generic fighters for Specialists has some direct similarities to a MOBA’s heroes in that these characters have some unique abilities to differentiate between them. No one Specialist is the same as the next, although they can wield similar weapons.
Even though Call of Duty’s popularity has seemingly waned in recent years, few could deny that Treyarch is going for something different with Black Ops 3. More specifically, the developer seems to be going after crowds (co-op fans, eSports players) that have scoffed at the franchise in the past. We’ll see whether that is a smart move later this year.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 releases November 6, 2016 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.