Call of Duty's Botched Innovation

Chris Watters reports on the promising new features that failed to deliver in Black Ops II.

Gamescom is a huge trade fair held in Cologne, Germany every August and this year, it was a big milestone for Treyarch. For the first time, the Call of Duty developer showed the world several hours of Black Ops II in action. People tuned in to see how the latest iteration of the standard-setting competitive multiplayer mode was shaping up, but if you were watching, you didn't just see the new loadout system, new maps, and new gear. Treyarch also debuted a set of built-in tools designed to let you broadcast the game from your living room and show off your skills, both as a player and as a kind of video game sportscaster.

Having seen these tools on a trip to the Treyarch studios a few weeks earlier, I was already intrigued. I had seen a live Black Ops II match streaming directly from the system it was played on to the Web; the resolution wasn't great, but the frame rate was smooth, and I could easily track the action. I had "codcasted" a match live as three teams of journalists and Treyarch employees battled it out in the room behind me (see the video embedded below). I posted an enthusiastic editorial on what these features would mean for eSports and for the video game community at large.

The ability to live stream straight from a console, in addition to being cool from a technical perspective, would lower the barrier for folks interested in putting their gameplay and commentary out on the Internet for people to enjoy. The codcasting tools would create a new kind of Call of Duty player, a presenter who used the camera controls, overheard map, and picture-in-picture data feed to curate a match broadcast that could be creative, entertaining, and exciting. Furthermore, these features would be a potential boon to the burgeoning world of eSports, sending the message to millions of Call of Duty players that video games aren't just fun to play; they're fun to watch.

These new features were exciting. But when Black Ops II launched, they fell short of delivering what was promised.

Codcasting is in there all right, but the way it's implemented is disappointingly limited. In theater mode, you can codcast films of games that you have already played for the benefit of the few friends that your theater lobby can accomodate. Knowing the outcome of the game and having a feel for the general flow of events may make you better able to create a cohesive presentation of the match, but it takes away much of the uncertainty and unpredictability that make any kind of competition dynamic. The better option is to codcast a live custom game. This lets you channel the excitement of live competition, provided you can get enough players into your match to make things interesting (though you can always add bots to make the battlefield busier).

Yet neither of these options embodies the vision that made codcasting so appealing in the first place. Without the ability to live stream your efforts, the potential audience for the average codcaster is miniscule. Gone is the opportunity for broadcasters without special equipment to play for an audience and cultivate fan bases, and gone is the opportunity for viewers to watch said broadcasters at work. The appeal of the codcasting tools remains limited to competitive gaming leagues and hobbyists who have purchased special streaming equipment. The seed of video-games-as-a-spectator-sport that Black Ops II was set to plant in millions of homes goes unsown.

The seed of video-games-as-a-spectator-sport that Black Ops II was set to plant in millions of homes goes unsown.
This neutering makes codcasting little more than the latest update to the spectator mode that has been in Call of Duty games for years. However, you can still live stream your gameplay directly from your system to the Internet, unless you're playing on the Wii U. When you enter league play, the new ranked multiplayer arena, you can link your gamertag to your YouTube profile and enable the choice to live stream your game. If you're properly equipped, you can even hook up a webcam to send your image out along with it.

When you choose to live stream, the game produces a link that you can then share with your Facebook friends (if you've linked your profile) or write down and send around to people. At launch, you had to get at least ten viewers tuned in to your stream before it would actually show gameplay, but this requirement has been since been removed. Removing this barrier of entry makes starting a stream fairly easy; watching a stream, however, is not so easy.

With action this fast, the video needs to keep up.

Black Ops II, like many Call of Duty games before it, thrives on running at a liquid-smooth frame rate, but the streams that the game sends to YouTube are choppy. It's possible to follow the action on screen, but it's a jarring and unpleasant viewing experience. If you don't have a friend's link to follow, you can seek out the dedicated Call of Duty live streaming page on YouTube. Unfortunately, many of the links you find there lead to black screens that mention technical difficulties or tell you that the broadcast is concluded. Others appear to show live gameplay, but the description reveals that the broadcast happened a week ago. And when you manage to connect to a live stream, it is liable to conclude abruptly in the middle of a match.

At this point, the live stream feature fails as a tech demo, let alone as a viable way to broadcast and view gameplay for entertainment.
At this point, the live stream feature fails as a tech demo, let alone as a viable way to broadcast and view gameplay for entertainment. Codcasting has been used in some competitive events, but it remains a pale shadow of what Treyarch showed during the months before launch day. The notes from an early patch reflect that an effort is being made to improve the live streaming feature, at least, and it's conceivable that subsequent updates could bring these tools closer to the developers' original vision.

The plan for these features was ambitious, to be sure, and it had exciting implications for the future. The day may come when the idea of watching video games for entertainment overflows beyond the bounds of the eSports community, but Black Ops II isn't doing anything to bring that day closer. Instead, it stands as an reminder that what is promised does not always align with what is delivered.

Editor's Note: The ability to codcast a live custom game was not noted in the original post. This information has since been added and the ramifications of this feature have been incorporated into the editorial.

Written By

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

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Discussion

0 comments
Daddio93
Daddio93

Wouldn't class these as "botched innovations", they're just disappointing features.

mechmaster525
mechmaster525

I could really care less about the streaming feature. What missed innovation I'm mostly irritated about was how Activision and Treyarch said that this was going to be the first Call of Duty since, I believe, Modern Warfare to update the Call of Duty graphics. Instead this game looks like every single Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare.

 

I would like some innovation in the Call of Duty gameplay, but I also enjoy the set piece battles (which this game had dissapointingly very little of), if I can't get innovative gameplay can I at least get some new better graphics to make those set piece battles more epic?

 

The current gen consoles are capable of better graphics still, this is evident in Crysis (the Crytek engine) and Battlefield (with the Frostbite engine). So why can't Activision and/or Treyarch make a Call of Duty with better graphics? Is it so much to ask?

sheikweight
sheikweight

Hahahahahah!!! Best picture to date..gamespot.   Still using it for about 1 month now.

godsend1989
godsend1989

Do i have to see a knife in someone's head every time i visit this website on front page ? what is this ?

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

Dota 2 has an amazing in-game client for watching replays and live games.  I think if CoD is going to put something like that in their games, it should at least be comparable.  The fact that you still have to watch the streams out of client -- even on PC -- is pretty shitty.

djpetitte
djpetitte

these features he mentions in the article are something that has been going on for a long time now, so even if cod implemented it...  its not like ground breaking and not only that among those few features are hundreds of other features  that fall short every year in cod. The only reason the game sells so great is because 1) its essentially a shooter for dummies and 2) its a name that every house hold knows.  I mean when old guys at my work come up to me and I know they arent gamer in the least but they tell me how awesome cod is, I cant help but to hate the game even more and more.. Im glad forecasting has finally started to see the fall of Cod.  I want to see what's next out there.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

The title of this article is so incredibly *not* what this article is about.

 

Stop wasting everyone's time GameSpot.

the_bi99man
the_bi99man

I was expecting this to be about the "cool, futuristic technology" you get to use during the campaign, which all boiled down to a handful of QTEs, and a couple brief flying sections that were so scripted and controlled they might as well have been on rails (and actually were, in many ways).

deltamirage
deltamirage

Another misleading topic title by Gamespot, no surprise there. I also love how they are trying to drive traffic with all the COD Nitpick hate topics as of late as well. Writing a whole article about COD lack of innovation and only talk about a useless broadcasting feature.

 

For the record, I'm not a COD fan, but I'm also not a Bandwagon hater ether.

awwitz
awwitz

Interesting article. It's amazing how game reviewers accurately keep track of all the stuff that's happening in game conventions and demo-ops. That's a point you should watch out for, game developers. Live up to your promises, please. Oh, and Chris Watters is a dedicated gamer and a very honest game reviewer, so we can trust him with his verdicts because they're dissected really well.

Rysing_Furi
Rysing_Furi

Having liked the first blackops (for a time) I thought blops 2 would be better having heard all the new 'innovations' etc, but after playing it on the weekend with 7 of my mates (*not an easy task) I was dissapointed. Innovation means something new, but the game just plays the same but with a different coat of paint. After an hour it was 'just another' COD game.

*On said comment, an 'innovative' idea would be including 8 player local system link between two xbox's instead of having four tvs and xboxs connected together! This would warrant me buying the game, but instead we get the assumption that gamers are still lonely 40 year olds who live in their mums basement and have no real friends!*

gmromero
gmromero

If they wanted simple and instant innovation, they would make perks and killstreak rewards based on SPM instead of KDR. It would revolutionize the game and make camping (which plagues this series) completely unviable. Scorestreak rewards are a step in the right direction, but it's still too much of the same because your streak dies with you. Instead make it based on score per minute and achievement based, the higher the spm is, the more you get; regardless of k/d ratio so you don't get punished for dying while playing the objective instead of being rewarded for camping and getting cheap doorway kills. The good players still get the perks and bonuses, and be rewarded for actually playing the game, while campers get nothing. However, EA, Treyarch, and Activision have been known to be afraid of good ideas and too lazy to do anything but copypasta old games. 

Bane_09
Bane_09

First time I've ever seen innovation and call of duty used in the same sentence

Hobbes444
Hobbes444

I enjoyed the article, but quit putting the picture of the colored guy getting his head chopped off in EVERY picture next to a CoD related article!!!!!!!!

lonewolf1044
lonewolf1044

Going from developmental stage to marketing there is always some changes made whether it is for the better or worse. All of this talk about what was promised should have been made known to the consumer before release rather than having it released and people paid money for the game only to find out that what was promised would not be to the degree that was promised before. It is all about the dollar and not about the love of the game or what would make the consumer happy because they are on the notion "Oh they will accept it and buy from again"

tibtibtibby
tibtibtibby

 @mechmaster525

 i belive this is very true they sorta takin a step backwards in the graphics department everythin looks cartoon like especially the furturistic levels in mp the motion blur when sprinting and lookin around quickly is redonkuless an it is nothing different really loadout wise and updated features just small changes to try make a the same game seem different still an enjoyable game gameplay wise tho an story line wise just annoying with the producers say "inovative changes" that dont even happen or change anything

Savior4Life
Savior4Life

 @godsend1989Ahahahaaha, I was just going to make the same comment! Take a new screen shot already.....

 

Lockjaw2000
Lockjaw2000

 @Imperiacommando What does this have to do with the article?  lol and COD's story line for the Modern Warfare series is complete crap.  Treyarch, I'll admit, can actually pull some interesting twists.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

 @Imperiacommando  he kind of is the protagonist. The actions of the CIA antagonized Menendez to the point of him loosing it, so I guess Menendez is a bit of a protag as well as an antag.

Cymru94
Cymru94

 @VickyHauser22 Hey man that sounds amazing but you should check out this website Imacunt.com

djpetitte
djpetitte

yeah... you must have not read the article or cannot read and understand because the title is somewhat tied into what the article is about.

highroller1234
highroller1234

 @deltamirage

 Yeah i thought they were going to bring up something about gameplay that was promised, but not implemented. I really don't care about the broadcasting feature. lmao

Leefx
Leefx

 @gmromero

 It depends what game mode you are playing how can you call it camping on S&D one team attacks the other team defends which inevitably involves 'camping' near to the bombs, the same goes for CTF if all players attack who defends the flag? and so 'camping' is again inevitable, fair enough if the whole team starts to try and spawn camp that is annoying but again you have got to have a pretty good team to pull that off, so for me in certain game modes the annoying people are the ones who keep shouting "your a camper" and spitting their dummy out cos they got their butts kicked

maximo
maximo

 @gmromero Whats wrong with camping? ITs a usefull tactic in TDM. I am not advocating to use it as a normal way to play, but sometimes its usefull. Furthermore, if people are running around gung ho not checking corners they deserve a bullet in the dong.

 

itsjesus123
itsjesus123

@Albaficas @Imperiacommando even twilight had a better story than MGS...

metzenlord
metzenlord

 @Albaficas  @Imperiacommando COD story is about a company that made a great game once, but kept releasing crap games year after year, can't wait to see how it ends!! lol.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @djpetitte Maybe *you* can't read.

The title was phrased "Call of Duty's Botched Innovation" to make people think they were finally getting some recognition of the fact that the Call of Duty developers don't innovate properly.

 

Instead we got an article about a new streaming technology which was implemented in a video game but ended up not working.

Bane_09
Bane_09

 @maximo  it's not that camping is a bad strategy, it just makes the game incredibly boring when half the players are all sitting in corners trying not to die so they can get killstreaks out

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @djpetitte You *are* stupid.  But that's just the luck of the draw don't worry about it.

 

I'll just ignore you from now on.

djpetitte
djpetitte

Wow, grow up dude. no need to freak out and have temper tantrum like a 5 year old.  You can't figure out how the title matches the article and you call me stupid..... dear lord man.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @djpetitte For *Christ* sake, you flit from one point to the other back to the first without opening your god damn ears.

 

I KNOW what Chris is saying in the article.  Repeat after me.  "We.  Both.  Know."

 

But what is in the article, and listen closely now because this is important, *does not match* the TITLE of the article.

 

Wii U functionality was also brought to the Call of Duty franchise.

BUT THAT IS NOT "CALL OF DUTY INNOVATION", AND NEITHER IS THIS.

 

I can't deal with someone this stupid.  I'm out.

djpetitte
djpetitte

 @naryanrobinson   

wow, settle down man! Jebus! youre missing the entire point. The innovation that was supposed to be being brought to the table in cod blops2 was botched, thats what watters is saying. I dont get whats so hard for you to understand about that. 

its not that hard to understand.  

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @djpetitte And how is that CALL OF DUTY'S botched innovation exactly?  Apart from the fact they tried to shove it on top at the last minute it has *nothing* to do with it.

Is a Wii U controller also Call of Duty innovation?  No, it's not.  It's a third-party technology that just so happens to sit on top.

Even if the Wii U controller *only worked* with COD, it still wouldn't be.

This technology has.  nothing.  to.  do.  with.  it.

 

I'm going to just assume this idea requires more rational thought than you can deal with.  I'm fed up with your stupid non-argument already.

djpetitte
djpetitte

yes, precisely... BOTCHED INNOVATION!

and to your other point, at least this is a start at people realizing they havent innovated the game in almost a decade.

James-the-jazzy
James-the-jazzy

 @maximo  @Bane_09 I find cover and run to work well too. Especially when there's someone trying to kill you across Carrier...

maximo
maximo

 @Bane_09

But they are not in this game. In fact its quite the opposite, most people just run around in the middle of the map spraying bullets blindly everywhere. These are the bad players but fun to kill.

 

Key is to watch around corners carefully and not rush around like a 15 year old who has ADD. Sweep the map and cover your back. Thats a winning formula.