Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Powerful tools for shoutcasters and prospective live streamers are part of a big push on Activision and Treyarch’s efforts to make Call of Duty: Black Ops II a top-tier e-sports title.
Professional and amateur shoutcasters (or “CODcasters” as Activision refers to them, but let’s all agree that’s a dumb non-word and move on) can take control of their broadcast to a much greater degree than simply choosing which player’s eyes to look through. While commenting on a match, or patching through a team’s voice communications to viewers, casters can bring up a larger tactical map and a detail-rich picture-in-picture display. The map shows where every player is on a 2D overhead view and notes whether they’re minimap-visible to opponents. The picture-in-picture view presents a snapshot of current scores, killstreaks, and objective statuses like who is carrying the flag. At all times, a scoreboard keeps track in the top-middle of the screen, while a prominent nameplate occupies the lower-left corner any time the broadcast is following a specific player.
A former e-sport pro ran a live match broadcast for attendees of a pre-Gamescom Activision event in Cologne, Germany as a demonstration of the technology. The whole setup works seamlessly, and should be a great boon to the e-sports community, which until now has often been forced to work with simple spectator-cam streams.
Built-in livestreaming works hand in hand with improved shoutcasting tools. Any player with the requisite upstream bandwidth can livestream a multiplayer match of Black Ops II, optionally including a USB camera view of (presumably) his or her own face. The stream is viewable on any device that can view a standard video stream, as proof of which Activision had staff walking around showing live streams running on iPads. It is unclear whether streams are accessed by simple web links or another method. Shoutcasters connect to matches through the game, and can stream their casts through the same technology.
Even players with no desire to watch streams of other gamers shooting each other will benefit from another e-sports friendly addition to Black Ops II: league play. This matchmaking mode works similarly to StarCraft II, with players broken out into divisions by skill level and matched against others within their division in hopes of creating closer matches. Black Ops II league play takes place in seasons like League of Legends does, so you’ll have a periodic clean slate to try and improve your performance from.
These improvements are great news for e-sports fans, but they come with some limitations. The CODcasting (ugh) feature only works for custom games and local play live; league play and public match games can only be casted with the new tools by doing so over a theater replay. Live streaming will be limited by Activision’s own network capacity and meeting an unspecified minimum number of viewers. In fact, live streaming is unlikely to make it for launch though it looks like the casting tools are in for sure. Additionally, live streaming only works for league play. Neither feature looks to be coming to the co-op Strikeforce mode or single-player in any fashion.
How streaming, casting, and league play fit into Call of Duty Elite is unknown at this time, and Treyarch deferred answering all questions on Elite and Black Ops II to a later date.
What will it take to get you to watch a Black Ops II stream? November 13 isn’t that far off.