It’s real, and it’s coming soon. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will be with us this year. But here’s the thing: Activision and Treyarch have rarely shown any love for PC and PC gamers. We’ve gone unacknowledged through the game’s development cycle – we’ve missed out on features and DLC, and our version has often struggled with bugs and security issues.
So what can Treyarch and Activision do to placate us? What do PC gamers want from Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2?
A chance to see the game before launch.
You’d be forgiven for believing the previous Call of Duty games weren’t coming out on PC, given their absence from Activisions press and marketing tours. Every Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare at every event has been shown exclusively on Xbox or PS3 – the PC version hasn’t ever been seen. The first time gamers and the press get to see the PC version is the day it launches. And that’s just madness because…
A chance to beta test
… PCs can be relied on to break everything. I’m a firm believer in betas. I think every multiplayer game will at least benefit from a concentrated beta. Betas can iron out compatibility issues, security issues, performance and balance issues. On the PC betas are vital; vital to check the infrastructure is in place to support a commercial product. The Modern Warfare 2 launch, for instance, was plagued by inadequate matchmaking capacity. The World at War launch on PC was an abject disaster, with the global servers periodically kicking out the entire gaming population before launch. With a beta, these issues could have been spotted before launch; before players put down their hard earned cash. So lets beta test the multiplayer well before launch.
Drop the weird aversion to dedicated servers
IW made great progress in delivering decent dedicated server support in Modern Warfare 3. Except, if you weren’t looking for it, you might not have noticed. To get the option to view the servers, you had to dive into a menu to enable the server browser. It’s baffling and obtuse – hiding the most loyal members of your community behind a tick-box.
The fact is, dedicated servers offer the best, most competitive, and fairest way of playing Call of Duty. So ‘fess up, and give them pride of place. Which brings me to…
Use dedicated servers for matchmaking
Host advantage is a very real problem in all the modern Call of Duty games – a hangover from their Xbox development. It occurs because the Call of Duty games use peer to peer matchmaking, rather than being hosted on a dedicated box. This model is great for game mechanics: you can join games as a party and you join the match at the start of a game rather than half-way through. But it means you’re at the mercy of the connection of the person hosting. If he or she is downloading half of Brazzers in the background, you’re going to know about it.
It’s easily fixed: dedicated servers should be made available for matchmaking.
A proper ping display.
Look, we’re all grown ups. We all know that where ping is concerned, low numbers are better numbers. We don’t need noddy graphs and illustrations to see why our game is lagging. Give us the actual number.
Hi-resolution texture pack
Call of Duty’s looking alright given that it’s being developed primarily for the Xbox. It’s smooth, got a great frame-rate… but it’s a bit grainy. I mean, when you get close up, it’s a bit… eugh. That’s another relic of CoD’s lead platform being the Xbox. But we’re seeing an increasing number of games release high-resolution texture packs for their PC version: Skyrim being the most obvious example. We’d love to see the same happen in Black Ops 2.
According to One of Swords, developers Treyarch are promising DirectX 11 effects and 60 frames per second support – but they make no mention of high-resolution textures.
At the same time, Black Ops 2 would attract a lot of players if it could be scaled back for lower-end hardware. Intel’s Ultrabooks are gaining traction, and their hardware is actually fairly capable when it comes to gaming. We’re sure it wouldn’t take much to optimise the game for integrated graphics chips.
Higher resolution GUI
The user interface for Modern Warfare 3 is horrendous. There. I’ve said it. Pixelated text, awful decals, all on a barf flavoured green background. Call of Duty is the best selling game of all time, and yet our introduction to it, and our navigation through it, looks like a high-end shareware game from 1992. This isn’t just a PC problem, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that the team have clearly designed an interface that is readable from eight feet away. When it’s eight inches away, all you can see are the flaws. I think it needs a complete redesign.
DLC. Just cheaper, please.
We don’t have Elite on the PC yet, and we’re not entirely sure how it would work; the competitive community seems to be coping without having a clan profile on Elite. There’s one reason to pay for Call of Duty: Elite on Xbox, as far as I can see – not for the clan stat tracking, or the video, but for the discounts it gives on DLC. But here’s the thing: the DLC for Modern Warfare 3 still hasn’t landed a full three months after it launched on Xbox and PS3. It’s a ludicrous situation. Does PC gamers’ money not count in the same way as Microsoft Points?
Inbuilt field of view alteration
The process for playing most Call of Duty titles is as follows: buy the game, download it, install it, play it for a bit, get a headache and barf liberally, then install a field of view changer. Thanks to its console origins, CoD titles employ a tight perspective to suit sofa loungers. On a PC you’re closer to the screen, so a wider field of view is both necessary and advantageous. Black Ops had a field of view setting built in; Modern Warfare 3 didn’t. Therefore Black Ops 2 will either come with a field of view changer built in, or a sick bag.
The Steam Workshop is probably the best thing to happen to PC gaming recently. It’s changed people from players to content creators, and it adds bags of value to popular games like Skyrim and Portal 2. Publishers surely love it too: rather than having to make content for games, they can just leave it to the community.
Which is why Black Ops 2 needs proper mod support and an easy-to-use SDK. To date, the most we’ve been able to mod CoD is changing the colours of weapons – we want to be able to make custom maps with their own campaigns, and custom characters with their own animations. If Activision have any doubts, they should look no further than the sheer amount of content that’s been created for Valve’s Source engine.
A more engaging plot
The Call of Duty games’ single player campaigns do action sequences very, very well, but sag in the bits inbetween. It would be nice to play a game that didn’t rely so utterly on standard characterisation and plot development. Maybe one that suggests that American soldiers may not be squeaky-clean, and that the forces they’re fighting are just human beings who have been forced into taking up arms by vicious, complicated circumstances. The Bourne trilogy was one of the biggest cinematic franchises of the last decade – it would be nice if CoD could take a leaf out of its there’s-something-up-with-the-American-military book.