Remember last week? When the first multiplayer trailer for Black Ops 2 arrived? “Over the course of the two-minute trailer,” I droned, pausing only to refer to the Big Book of Ignorance, “it becomes evident that the core experience of online CoD remains much the same”.
Well. Sorry about that.
Kill streaks are gone. That’s the first and most notable thing in the frightening array of changes Treyarch have unveiled at Gamescom tonight. They’re to be replaced by score streaks - accessed by performing ‘scoring events’, with the aim of filling up the score streak meter due to take residence in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen come November.
The plan is to reward not only kills, but any behaviour that will help you and your team win whichever mode you happen to be playing. Scoring events are likely to occur just as often as, and frequently in conjunction with, kills - flag captures, assists and the saving of teammates with riot shields are all events cited by Treyarch.
Pull off enough varied scoring events during a single game and you can gain access to more than one of Black Ops 2’s 22 score streaks at once. Game design director David Vonderhaar described a scenario in which a player might pick up the flag, pull off a ‘flag carry kill’ at the expense of another player, and capture the flag, scoring 400 score streak points in one sequence and unlocking two score streaks simultaneously.
Streak rewards are to take full advantage of Black Op’s vision of future warfare, including swarms of summoned drones and a microwave-emitting, enemy-slowing turret named The Guardian, both of which were on display in last week’s trailer.
Player progression will be simpler in this iteration of the series, with 55 levels - which can be burned through “in 24 hours” - and 10 prestige levels planned. More complex, though, is the Create a Class system, thanks to game-within-a-game Pick 10 Loadout. Tested rather endearingly by Treyarch in tabletop version before its integration into the game, Pick 10 Loadout allows players to build classes that “further a particular play style or favourite gameplay tactic, that won’t impact the tuning of the game in any way we can’t solve".
In practice, this means picking ten things from a pool of weapons, weapon attachments, grenades, assorted equipment and perks to head into matches with. In what sounds to me a balancing nightmare waiting to happen, the system is mostly unrestricted - you can choose to forego guns entirely in favour of grenades and a few key perks, for instance, or vice versa.
Pick 10 becomes a game in itself thanks to the wild cards. Each uses up a slot in your precious 10 in return for a specific bending of the rules. One might allow you a third attachment for your gun, for example. Again: expect launch day to be remembered in the history books as Night of the Nerf.
Right, onto the eSports stuff. If there’s one thing I know about livestreaming, it’s that it usually requires third-party software that’ll shout your processor to bits like Ulfric Stormcloak in a packed club. Ordinarily I’d advise sighing into a tall drink at the inevitability of it all, but this is the future, and Treyarch have pulled something really special out of the bag - full livestreaming support, accessible in-game and with no recourse to specialist software or tech. High upstream bandwidth is a must, said Vonderhaar, but not necessarily a high-end PC.
Life is to be made easier for shoutcasters too, echoing the changes coming to Firefall in its eSports toolkit. Every map will have a number of viewing options to choose from, as well as bird’s-eye-view and a split-screen display of both player information and the unfolding game. Furthermore, shoutcasters will be able to listen in on player communication for both tactics and, presumably, audible rag-loss.
A major structural eSports friendly change comes in the form of League Play, which gathers players into proper sport-like ‘divisions’. Promotion to a new division will come with repeated wins, as too - we suspect - will relegation with repeated loss.
That’s your lot for now, but Treyarch have promised more - particularly on player progression - to come at another big reveal closer to launch.