The Entirely New Way to Play Black Ops II

Call of Duty's new codcasting feature makes you a commentator, a producer, and a part of one of the most exciting innovations in franchise history.

There's a new way to play Call of Duty. No, it isn't the new multi-team matches. It's not the new loadout system, it's not the ranked division play, and it has nothing to do with zombies. In fact, the most exciting new feature in Black Ops II doesn't even involve firing a weapon. It's called codcasting, and it might be the most innovative and impactful thing that the massively popular series has done since redefining online multiplayer combat in 2007 with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Here's how it works. You start by joining an online multiplayer lobby. You are not placed on a team, however, and you don't have a presence on the battlefield. Instead, you can cycle through every player's point of view and see exactly what they see as they play. You can also call up a map of the stage that shows each player and which way they are facing, akin to an Advanced UAV killstreak reward from Modern Warfare 3. Additionally, you have the option to activate a kind of picture-in-picture mode. Here, you see a list of all the players and their statuses, whether they are dead, on a score streak, or contesting an objective.

All the while, your voice and video feed are being recorded and streamed live over the Internet or just saved to your hard drive (depending on the settings you choose). Codcast, shoutcast, broadcast commentary--whatever you call it, the result is the same: a video of a Black Ops II multiplayer match as directed and narrated by you. All you need is a system, a copy of the game, and a solid Internet connection (exactly what the threshold for "solid" is remains to be seen).

So what's the appeal? Well, omniscience, for one. Even the most skilled Call of Duty players have only a limited idea of what is happening on the battlefield at any given time, but with codcasting tools, you can know so much more. You see who is fighting whom, and who is waiting to mop up the remains. You can use the map to predict where skirmishes will flare up, and then jump to a player's view and watch him or her react to the enemy you knew was coming. It's still nigh impossible to track everything that's happening at once, but it's a heady feeling to know far more than you're used to.

It's a safe bet that codcasters will come up with dozens of slang terms for the new Dragonfire drones.

There's also the thrill of living vicariously through other players. Follow a soldier on a hot streak and wait to see what deadly rewards he or she unleashes, or tag along on the doomed forays of players who are out of their depth. Of course, you don't have to be codcasting to get your voyeuristic kicks. Black Ops II lets players instantly live-stream their gameplay to the Internet, and even supports various USB cameras so players can give you a glimpse into their living rooms.

Yet the thing that makes codcasting so intriguing is that it is a creative endeavor.
The game is the raw material; by shaping what people see and hear, you create the viewing experience. You could deliver play-by-play commentary and track the hot players as they fight for supremacy. Or perhaps you take a broader approach, constructing a dramatic narrative of the overall ebb and flow of the match. You can analyze team strategies and tap into team chat to hear what the players are saying to each other. You can even recruit a broadcast partner and develop a team dynamic as you both codcast the same game simultaneously. And then there are always the comedic options, such as using funny accents, doing celebrity impersonations, peppering in some goofy sound effects, or simply singing your match commentary like a Call of Duty musical.

Whether you play it straight or go straight off the deep end, the opportunity for creative performance is there for you. Perhaps equally important, the audience is out there too. Shoutcasting has been around for years, as anyone who has watched MLG, NASL, or other competitive gaming league play knows. Even if you're just live-streaming your own gameplay, there are big online communities like TwitchTV that revolve entirely around people watching other people play games and talk.

Black Ops II hopes to engender a similarly creative community, and it has two big things going for it: accessibility and scope. To get up and running on a site like Twitch, you need both hardware (a PC, maybe a capture device) and software (a video streaming program) solutions. Granted, these are getting easier and cheaper to acquire with each passing year, but live-streaming still requires an extra investment of time and money, as well as the confidence to jump through some technical hoops. Codcasting also requires hardware and software, but you don't need anything beyond the basics. If you can play Call of Duty online from your home, you can live-stream and codcast from your home. And if previous Call of Duty sales are anything to go by, Black Ops II is going to be in millions and millions of homes by the end of the year.

Everyone on this screen will be dead in five seconds.

This kind of scope and saturation bodes well for codcasting, but there's another reason that this feature is so promising. Treyarch is taking inspiration from the activities of the passionate gaming community and is using its massively popular platform to bring the results to the masses. Other game companies have had great success with this approach before, notably in Valve's acquisition of mod developers and the subsequent creation of popular games like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. Just as avid players knew about these games and enjoyed them (or in the case of L4D, eagerly anticipated them) before their official Valve releases, so too have motivated shoutcasters and live-streamers found enthusiastic audiences in eSports and on Twitch. Only now, their potential audiences are going to multiply many times over.

And you can't think about video game audiences without thinking about eSports. Black Ops II is poised to throw open the doors of opportunity for amateur and professional broadcasters alike, giving them a new avenue to hone their skills and develop a fan base. This bumper crop of talent will likely be a boon for the eSports community, but the real potential for eSports growth lies in the very nature of codcasting.

Unlike spectator sports, whose broadcast style the eSports community and Treyarch's codcasting presentation tools are vigorously trying to emulate, video games evolved as a private pursuit, something you do in the comfort of your own home. The player plays, is rewarded by in-game results, and is thusly motivated to continue, creating a positive feedback loop. Video streaming technology and competitive gaming leagues put this loop on display for the vicarious pleasure of the viewing public, but it can be hard to channel that enjoyment if you haven't experienced it yourself firsthand. You feel out of the loop, and rightly so.

However, codcasting isn't gameplay for the sake of the player; it's gameplay for the sake of the audience.
This key difference busts that traditional feedback loop wide open, actively welcoming in gamers and non-gamers alike. It's no longer "come watch this cool thing that I like." It's "let me show you why I like this cool thing." Codcasting doesn't merely include the viewers; it actively reaches out to grab their attention, tailoring content to their needs with the sole purpose of entertaining them.

This is perhaps the most profound implication of codcasting and live-streaming. If eSports promoters and avid live-streamers can cultivate an audience that likes to watch games even if it doesn't care to play them, then they create immense potential for growth. Through codcasting, Treyarch will give a whole new crop of enthusiastic players the chance to entertain new audiences. These tools are on the way and the barrier for entry is lower than ever, so despite what Black Ops II's marketing slogan may tell you, the future is bright.

Written By

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

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Discussion

112 comments
kojjak88
kojjak88

Whats crazy is people that hate the game continue to troll the news articles. I understand that COD has gotten worse of the years, but Black ops was far better than MW3 and BF3. COD4 still to me is the best game in my opinion. I still like what treyarch is trying to introduce to the game so I'm purchasing it. If you dont like the game or the series than why waste your time posting comments and trolling news articles??

erix43
erix43

This is trash, like the rest of the series. What's funny is that new players are being introduced to this trash and liking it. I get it, it's cool for new gamers/noobs. What's sad is that there are actually monkeys out there that love and respect this series to this day. This franchise is total garbage and another example of the big corporations pumping out CRAP.... NO THANKS I was satisfied after MW2 and that's that.. Done.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

so let me see if i get this straight. you got the option to play the announcer while in spectator mode and stream it live or store it in your HDD? well i have been doing this with video rec software for quite some time now. yes, it might need some more effort, but nonetheless its not that blops 2 did something new or anything.

 

you know that reminds me of Timon and Pumba. Pumba finds a brilliant idea then Timon says the same idea as if it was his. 

AndersK
AndersK

CoD has a weird way of adding basic features that have been in good shooters since the late 90s, and calling it something fancy like they created it. CoD casting? Basically spectator mode. 

feckster
feckster

The reason Gamespot are up-ing COD is due to the numbers of people who play... its all about the number which = more views which = more revenue. The game dose have a couple of new add on's COD-CAST & tweeking the streaks.... but this is the same game it has been for years with a lick of paint/skin. Crysis 3 had more in the SP demo than what I have seen in BOP2 MP, god its like a dumb-downed version of it. STOP buying COD games & Gamespot stop flag waving COD & start telling it like it really is for a change!! People should demand more game for there money & not a rehash of what went before (THE LAST 4 COD GAMES) The COD developers tell us why change whats working... Well the reason for this is they get a new game out every year, it's cost of making/marketing are the same & so in return they make more, more & more money. If they really cared about us gamers they would pull out all the stops to develop a ground breaking COD game each time, but this takes a long time & a lot of money. Making money is the driving factor here for both the developers & publisher, & alas  not us gamers; remember that when you hand over your cash 

TheologicVs
TheologicVs

I'm very interested in Blops 2. I'm really loving the new ideas. I just hope the features work well. It'd be even better if it was free to Livestream. I'm interested and I'll definitely give it a try if it's free.

stevie456
stevie456

BREAKING NEWS: Call of Duty has added a spectator mode.

buffaloblitz85
buffaloblitz85

This truly is 'an entire new way to play COD'     I can't wait to pick up that control and TALK....WTF i mean the title alone is wrong . So when i go on youtube and watch a game i'm playing... seriously don't insult my intelligence...COD casting lol only the lonely and hardcore nerds will use this as for me i prefer to actually PLAY a video GAME, notic 'PLAY and GAME' yeah that is what your suppose to do

ailecks
ailecks

remove the aim assist in hardcore mode..fix the lag issues already. don't want to compete who's got the better connection, but who's got better aim.. 

cjay114
cjay114

Spectator mode....TO THE EXTREME!!!1

 

tashtash
tashtash

This was in CS more than 10 years ago. It's called Spectator mode. You're welcome...

Fatmanfatman123
Fatmanfatman123

Wait, so the revolutionary change is spectator mode with more options? Can please someone explain how this is revolutionary? I just don't understand what this change besides making my HD PVR an antique.

Skysscreams
Skysscreams

this multi looks like from 5 y ago 

_huh
_huh

ok look.  maybe the theater mode redux thing won't be so bad.  I think I'm more irritated that Gamespot placed three full-story articles on the same exact subject on yesterday's homepage.  After the third story and endless talk about this during the live stream, I would have disliked hearing about anything that much at that point.

braydensearle
braydensearle

Codcasting? call it what it is, spectator mode.

raptor6790
raptor6790

I like how the guys playing this only have to shoot someone two or three times. when I play in the real world you have to shoot someone eight to ten times. They keep adding all this crap. cod4 was the best, but it is full of modders so you can't even play that anymore.

pwnater777
pwnater777

Did they seriously think this is a GOOD idea? Call of Duty just fails with new features, and the same gameplay every year doesn't make up for it.

ElJefeDeMedios
ElJefeDeMedios

CODcasting was HAND BUILT for the type of gamer that we all complain about in COD.  This will only serve to enable their behavior.  No matter how obnoxious the videos and commentary will get, in the end Activision gets endless video streams promoting its game.  This addition is pure douchebaggery Activision.

 

Cruisemissile
Cruisemissile

Meh still looks like COD I still wonder why people buy this stagnant brand move on to something else already instead of buying this crap that can take like 5 mins to put together.

Angry3DSNerd
Angry3DSNerd

And now, just because of this new feature, this game will get a 9 or higher...

GreySeven
GreySeven

So they are essentially  reselling the same game again with a new title, and the thing we're supposed to be all excited about is the ability to make commentary on the actions of the players who make multipalyer un-fun?   The dudes who camp will draw great commentary?  The players who exploit every map in every way possible?  This is appealing... how?  It's a neat idea, but apply it to a game where the population isn't 90% douchbaggery. 

foxtrot137
foxtrot137

COD has always been my hands down favorite FPS, the story lines were amazing (still are) and i love the fast pasted action of the multiplier, except thoughs damn campers but (evil laugh) the new CODBO will leave that in the past. Run and gun, heads on a swivel, fingers on the trigger and balls to the wall

eseptim
eseptim

I've always enjoy playing any version of COD not only because of its good action, but also good story. New features just make it more interesting to play. New gaming experiences won't hurt.

CptRexKramer
CptRexKramer

Well, I'll give credit where it's do.  It does seems like Treyarch has taken some of the public comments to heart about the COD series as being stale and are trying to inject some new things into BOs 2.  However, this feature seems a bit gimmicky at best, with no real value at all to the overall game.  Still, the game does look interesting.  Probably pick it up after a drop in original price. 

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Buy a game, don't actually play the game, but narrate it for an audience that doesn't exist because no one else cares about your narration. And who cares about some stranger on a kill streak if you aren't the one doing the killing? What fun is a guy getting spawn killed unless you're the one doing it. I didn't think CoD could get any worse, but if this is what they're packing and shipping as a good thing... I guess it could still get worse.  Shame on Gamespot for even writing an article pretending people are going to want this. Anyone who isn't braindead will think this is stupid, imo.

mr_england
mr_england

This sounds like a feature that would be great in sports games, I'm looking at you NHL 13.

shado_kat
shado_kat

Soooo basically a spectator mode that lets you record a voice over at the same time?

 

Im sure there will be a wave of succesful "codcasters" who will emerge to provide entertaining casts. But people with the talent and inclination to do a good podcast can and already do so by their own means without this tool, as can be seen on youtube right now. The only people this will really help will be casual casters who wouldnt have gone gone to the trouble to set up their own system and who likely wont be able to provide a very engaging play by play in most circumstances.

 

A fun idea, That I suppose will help to attract and make things that one step easier for talented casters, but will also have the downside of throwing up thousands of junk and spam casts recorded by "codgod12x231" and "snipzorzpwnzorz1998"

 

We will see how it pans out, but it doesnt feel particularly innovative or ground breaking.

abnergoinbig
abnergoinbig

the reason i liked black ops more than the others was because it added new things to it that appealed to me and i wasnt planning on getting this but now after hearing all the new things being put in this game im looking forward to this.

blueboxdoctor
blueboxdoctor

Right, so a game that is based around twitch reflexes warrents commentary?  I'm sorry, but the only time I care about a game of COD (or most MP games for that matter) is either when I'm playing or when I'm watching a group of friends playing against each other.  I couldn't care less what other people do when they play.  YouTube is going to blow up with tons of these nonsense videos and for a good month I'm sure every gaming site will have the "videos of the week" section.  Though, it may be funny when people start trolling the games, but that's about it.

 

Oh well, I suppose I shouldn't complain, it's not like I'm being forced to watch any of it.

foxrock66
foxrock66

This may be the first COD I pick up since '09

Alpr1010
Alpr1010

If you polish a turd it's still a turd.

_huh
_huh

who cares about this?  Just make the game better and stop putting resources into douchey theater mode crap.

Tyreeceholmes
Tyreeceholmes

 @PETERAKO This does nothing but take away from the people who are GOOD at it..and fill the internet with a bunch of useless videos of kids saying "uuhhh" or "umm" or "like" every 4th word.

raptor6790
raptor6790

 @_huh

 Gamespot is probably getting kickbacks from Activision. These games always get rated  high even though they are the same rehash. The first Black Ops was playable, but this one will be just like MWF3 and the stupid maps with the stupid lag comp.

TonnFool23
TonnFool23

 @Angry3DSNerd Its the same as previous cod but with a new feature and it get's a 9+ lmao. if CoD BO 2 get's a 9+ dishonored should get a 10.

CiTizenMaSSaKre
CiTizenMaSSaKre

 @foxtrot137 You're a simple minded gamer if you think COD is the best FPS, seriously, you can't be a serious gamer, you just can't be.

Chris_Watters
Chris_Watters staff

 @Ghosthunter54 Have you ever enjoyed watching any broadcast sports? I think there are plenty of people who enjoy well-presented competitive content.

Chris_Watters
Chris_Watters staff

 @shado_kat Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how Treyarch highlights the better codcasts and makes them accessible to the community. What do you think of the ability to live-stream gameplay right from your console?

buffaloblitz85
buffaloblitz85

 @abnergoinbig

 yea you get this 'new' game which essentially added a mic and streaming... wow what an update. ACTIVISION= EA

3k3
3k3

 @blueboxdoctor I agree, but I'm happy to hear that a huge new feature like this  is coming to CoD.

feckster
feckster

 @benfitz123 Most  if not all are COD players from past & present & want a COD game that's not a rehash of what went before. Its now all about the money & not us gamers.

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

 @benfitz123 We're waiting for CoD to go back to what made it a good game and every year we watch the videos to see if this is the year, and every year we're disappointed. That's why.

mkdoomfan2
mkdoomfan2

 @_huh They have. Did you here about how the multiplayer is now set up? It's different enough to warrant that they are changing things.

HeWhoWasHere2
HeWhoWasHere2

 @Tyreeceholmes I can't agree more, CoD games have been going downhill for some time, and this shows that they aren't trying to improve anything improtant.

CiTizenMaSSaKre
CiTizenMaSSaKre

 @TonnFool23 Dude if you seriously dont believe Activision and all these big time mainstream gaming companies dont pay off GameSpot or IGN for better ratings then you truly do have a innocent yet gullible mind for the world LOL. C/mon man, COD is total CRAP, it's the same garbage every year except its recycled and rebuilt with a little better graphics THATS IT. Now they add this stupid shit, for what? So some moody nerd can talk shit while you play? Psssh i'm good man. Sleeping Dogs which is an AWESOME game gets an 8 yet the garbage COD which is the same thing every year except maybe with a different single player story tahts still GARBAGE gets a 8.5+, GameSpot is getting something out of it, i can promise you that.

raptor6790
raptor6790

 @TonnFool23

 They just keep rehashing this crap. Why don't they spend some money improving how the MP actually plays? All there MP videos they run around and only have to shoot someone 2-3 times. When I play there is all this lag compensation that ruins it because I have to shoot someone 8-10 times.

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

 @Chris_Watters Are you seriously equating professional sports broadcasters covering professional sports with random people narrating a call of duty game? 

shado_kat
shado_kat

 @Chris_Watters Its a helpful little tid bitt and again, it makes things that one step easier for talented casters to reach out with their work.

 

The problem is again though, any serious caster (and lets face it, there will be half a dozen casters who accumulate a strong audience and a pool of subscribers) will already have the means to do this. If you were not passionate enough about casting the game to go to the extra trouble of doing it without this developer placed tool, you wont be passionate enough to pull off an interesting cast WITH this tool.

 

These tools wont make bad narrators good and wont make good narrators better. Its only tangible effect will be to unleash a wave of amateur casts that serve only to spam up the good casts. 

 

I see this as more of a bribe and incentive to attract talented commentators away from other games to focus on COD, and I think it has a good chance of working.

 

The other problem that I see is that I dont find COD games to be particularly good for spectators. There is no ebb and flow to the games. The limitation of only using players views is also extremely limiting. Some kind of "ghost cam" would have offered a truly new perspective to the game. One of my personal biggest hates of the COD multiplayer experience is the use of randomised spawn locations. When everybody can spawn everywhere, there is no loss and gain of territory during the game. I like to refer to it as the carousel of death. You run around the outer border of the map from the place you spawn hoping to come across someone doing the same. If you manage to survive and fight across to the other side, then you turn around and fight back the other way having gained nothing but maybe some kills. Rinse repeat, see who has the highest score at the end

 

Even the kills are somewhat meaningless as that the player will just spawn right back into the action. A casting feature like this would have been great in a game like mag. With the massive battlefields, there was a fantastic flow of combat. Battle lines constantly shifted back and forth as attackers pressed forward when objectives went down and defenders pushed them back and repaired assets. The field morphed and changed as meaningful hotspots flared and fizzled across the board

 

COD has always felt to me like a game of 0 consequence. When you die, there is no long shameful walk back from the spawn point, there is no (real) respawnwaiting time. This nonstop "wtfpwage" crazyness can be fun to play, but when watching, it makes even the excitement of a kill feel meaningless (other than adding +1 to the score board). Other people may be different, but i even find watching my friends play COD in real life to be distinctly flavorless

erix43
erix43

 @CiTizenMaSSaKre 

 

I am with you man. Politics. Money rules. It's just like the political system in this "cuntry." You have money, you WIN! Then you have these dumb ass supporters of garbage. Same thing.. 

Chris_Watters
Chris_Watters staff

 @Ghosthunter54 I'm comparing them, not equating them. When a presenter commentates a match well and enhances the broadcast with their personality, it's entertaining. Will every codcaster achieve this? Heavens no. But there will be talented individuals that use this feature and create some good stuff.