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Let's talk Black Ops 3 eSports: New features, PS4 and what it means for SA

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Wednesday evening marked the kickoff of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 eSport reveal at gamescom, Cologne. The event highlighted some exciting new eSports features coming with BLOPS3: new competitive ranking system (arena), banning system and broadcast features. However, the major announcement was that international competitive play will be supported on the PlayStation 4.

Treyarch will be bringing five brand new features to the eSports segment of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3:

  1. Arena game mode
  2. Updated COD caster features
  3. Ban and protect system
  4. Specialist draft
  5. Live event viewer

1. Arena - The new league play

Some of our readers may remember the league play feature from Black Ops 2 where players would be able to achieve ranks based on their skill. Arena is the brand new competitive game mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 which, according to Treyarch, will be more accessible for fans than the previous League Play mode.

Arena has a total of 20 Ranks, and the highest being the ‘Master Division’. The ranking system is based purely on winning a competitive round of matchmaking. If a player loses two games in a row they will be demoted in rank. Treyarch's game designer Director, David Vonderhaar, said, “You are ranked on wins and wins alone. Every five ranks, you need to string together even more wins to go to the next level.” 

The system will try rank individuals with equal rank to play against one another. The system sounds very similar to the League of Legends Elo based ranking system, which matches based on equal win/loss ratio to one another. 

2. Updated COD caster features 

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 introduces a new COD Caster mode for players to spectate eSports matches.

The CODCaster features a new loadout widget that allows casters to display which class each player is using. The COD Caster mode also has an X-Ray vision mode that will allow spectators to see the location of all players, similar to the Oracle mode in Advanced Warfare’s broadcaster mode. The CODCaster mode will also feature a Quick Setting menu, which will grant casters access to most needed settings, which are now customizable, on the fly.

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The COD Caster mode will also allow casters to customize the look in new ways; including editing team names, team logos, and team colors. 

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3. Ban and protect system

With Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Treyarch is introducing the new Ban and Protect system. The new system will allow players, before the start of each map, to select one item they want to ban or protect. Players take turns in protecting or banning items.

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The ban and protect system adds a new layer of strategy to the game, as each game will be different as a result of certain components constantly changing. The system allows for tournaments to have different rule sets based upon their own guidelines, as the features will exist to allow for restricting of items altogether, regardless of the ban/protect round. 

4. Specialist Draft 

There is a total of nine specialist classes in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Each class has one ability and one weapon that players can choose from. To find out more about specialist classes please go here. 

The Specialist Draft allows Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 to remain balanced even with the new specialist abilities. With the draft, each player on each team can only be a certain specialist with a weapon or ability. There cannot be more than one specialist type on a team. The feature is only accessible in Arena mode and all eSports tournaments. 

The specialist draft seems very similar to the competitive draft for Dota 2 and League of Legends, where champions are chosen instead of specialist classes. I believe the specialist draft system will add another exciting element to the competitive play in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, that will increase viewer interest. 

5. Live event viewer 

Treyarch has announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will feature a Live Event Viewer directly in the game via YouTube Gaming. The event viewer will allow players to press one button and watch Call of Duty eSports events directly in the game.

Competitive Call of Duty officially switching over to PlayStation 4 

Activision and Treyarch have announced that starting with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, competitive Call of Duty will be played on the PlayStation 4. This is the first time a PlayStation console will be highlighted with Call of Duty eSports since Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Vonderhaar said ‘PlayStation is the new home of Call of Duty eSports.’

Let it be noted that this year there has been no mention of the Call of Duty: Championship for 2016 despite rumors creeping via Reddit that it still may happen. 

What does this mean for the local competitive console scene? 

The local competitive scene for Call of Duty, on console, has seen tournament organizers and community leaders backing the international competitive standard of gaming for the past three years. Last year, there was a push for competitive players to move to the Xbox One in order to compete internationally at the Call of Duty: Championship, an event which South Africa ended up being excluded from

Now as we look towards the seasons ahead for competitive Call of Duty on console, we have to view the options which will give us the most growth potential for our community. The clear choice for South African gamers and tournament organizers, at this point, is PlayStation 4. 

My aforementioned point comes down to two major reasons. The first being that there are more estimated players on PlayStation 4 than Xbox One. The increased pool of players allows tournament organizers to potentially receive more entrants into tournaments. With more entrants, comes more advertising opportunity and, therefore, increased sponsorship. 

The second reason follows the basic standards which we have been promoting from the get go. The standard that we must keep in line with international competitive structures in order to remain relevant in the eSports scene. If South Africa's wish to compete at international competitions, we should be as prepared as possible to do so. 

The move from Activision to officially switch Call of Duty eSports over to PlayStation 4 does not, however, spell the end of competitive gaming on the Xbox One. As we highlighted earlier this week, Halo 5: Guardians is looking to become a great competitive title, which may just become a direct challenger to Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. The Xbox One will still remain a great console for eSports with the likes of Gears of War, Halo Wars 2 and Smite making some interesting entrants to the eSport market on the console. 

For Call of Duty competitive console players, however, it looks like the move to PlayStation 4 is warranted. What do you think about the future of competitive Call of Duty on PlayStation 4? Let us know by commenting below or hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter. 

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