Black Ops: Why Does it Exist?
Call of Duty is a prime example of a tried and true recipe for success. It’s main attributes include an action filled campaign and a surprisingly addicting multiplayer. It has topped the charts numerous times with it’s numerous installments throughout the years, with Modern Warfare 2 being the best selling video game of all time. With Black Ops poised to smash MW2 flat in terms of sales, as shown by its even higher number of pre orders, it is blatantly obvious that people aren’t bored of it. Quite to the contrary; they want more. The only question is- Why?
First, let me clarify what I said about what makes a game in my MoH analysis. I said that story, theme, and mechanics are the core of what makes a game, and what makes a game successful. I in no way mean that they are all that there is to a game. Graphic, music, and many other features all contribute to a game, but they are not the core of the game, and therefore what makes a game good or bad. Mechanics can be unique, or of a tried-and-true variety. A sequel will usually have the same tried-and-true mechanics of the first game, with varying amounts of smaller new mechanics added in. Armor Abilities in Halo: Reach are a good example. They kept the same core gameplay, but added a new layer to it to keep things interesting.
Call of Duty’s gameplay is of the tried-and-true variety. Ever since Call of Duty 4 added Create a Class, the series started taking off by exponential amounts. This did two huge things to make Call of Duty’s multiplayer unique.
1. The Create a Class system gave players something almost nothing had at the time- choice. Not just small dynamic choices, but a real, large, tangible choice that directly and constantly affected their gameplay in multiplayer and let them more control their experience while also keeping it balanced. This was original and played on the feature that, I think, most contributes to Call of Duty’s success- Choice. People could pick their own playstyle and still play against other people with an addicting and already loved multiplayer formula in a setting that was still original and action packed.
2. The second reason was already mentioned in the first, and doesn’t require nearly as much elaboration. The Create a Class system introduced something new and big that other games at the time, that were following the “Halo Formula”, lacked. This, coupled with the already loved multiplayer dynamics, theme, and action packed campaign made Call of Duty 4 a huge hit in the gaming world that really kicked off Call of Duty’s coming explosion of popularity.
Create a Class
So Create a Class gives people choice, but incorporates it into multiplayer in a fun competitive way. This, coupled with good map design, lets the player play however he wants to in whatever gametype he decides to play. It adds that second level of choice in addition to the gametype, and gamers love added choice in a game. The more things that they can decide for themselves, the more that they can make their experience more enjoyable for themselves.
Now, choice is good, but you also have to keep the multiplayer balance between all of the different choices that players can make, and when planning for balance, developers should follow the rule “Whatever can be abused, will be abused.” and keep that in mind when designing a game. In Modern Warfare 2, many people got tired of it’s gameplay because, while addictive, it rewarded more or less all gameplay styles equally. Not bad in theory, but when a commonly used tactic is what is commonly called “Noob Tubing” or using the grenade launcher in multiplayer, and it is not only rewarded but even encouraged by a mechanic in the game, then the developers should have known that something had to be changed. For those who don’t know what I mean, the “One Man Army” perk let you switch your class to another, replenishing all your ammunition. That included grenade launcher ammo, so if you had two classes with One Man Army, you had effectively unlimited ammunition for your gun, attachment, and equipment. They, I assume, attempted to balance this with the fact that it took up your second weapon slot, to (Once again, I’m assuming) also keep you from using it with launchers like the AT4 or the Thumper, but the fact was that with a grenade launcher, you had unlimited ammo. So you could stay in one area throughout a game, never run out of ammo, and never have to move. Not a great move on the developer’s part, but because this wasn’t widely known and used for a few weeks after it came out, people still bought the game. A lot of people. Because from early footage and friend’s accounts, it was just another great Call of Duty game.
So basically, choice is the key to Call of Duty’s multiplayer, and multiplayer is the key to its success. There are of course other factors, but in my opinion at least, choice is the key and the reason that Call of Duty’s multiplayer is so addicting and enjoyable. Too much choice can indeed be a bad thing, but as long as problems are fixed, and the structure is kept, I don’t see the Call of Duty series ending anywhere soon down the line, and I certainly know that Activision will keep it going for as long as they possibly can.