Modern Warfare 3 – Social Network Preview
“Helping Call of Duty fans play together better”
That’s the tagline. A more accurate description might be: “Helping casual gamers to feel more inadequate and irritated when faced with so-called ‘pub-stomper’ teams of ‘try hard’ twelve year-olds.” But let’s not be too pessimistic, eh? Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Activision have all put a lot of effort into the emerging Call of Duty social network, a network which promises to deliver much more to your experience of the latest blockbuster in the franchise.
If you’ve been keeping up with our coverage of the COD XP event, you’ll already know everything you need to about the competitive multiplayer in Activision’s fast-approaching Modern Warfare 3.
However, the game doesn’t have to stop once the ‘final kill cam’ has rolled its routine humiliation of yet another victim. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games spokesmen Robert Bowling and Michael Condrey talked at some length about a slew of new features, some of which are available to use with Black Ops as you read these words, which will give those gamers who cannot bear to stay away from their consoles almost unparalleled access to Call of Duty on-the-go.
“There are specific apps being designed by the team for the iPhone, the iPad, and the Android devices,” Condrey told the COD XP audience. These apps are going to be linked directly to the features available through ‘Call of Duty Elite’, the online system brought out by Activision to further strengthen and encourage communication between COD gamers.
We know what you’re thinking. Is there any reason we should care? What about any future downloadable content? What exactly is it that COD Elite does that makes it worth the time? And don’t we have to pay more for access to COD Elite, anyway?
If you’re wondering what Activision are planning on doing that’s so different this time around, keep reading. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Stat Tracking, Facebook, and Mobile Apps using ‘COD Elite’
The key phrase of Call of Duty Elite was, “helping fans play together better”.
During their presentation of MW3’s competitive multiplayer, Bowling and Condrey both explained how the Call of Duty Elite system was set to make it easier for both friends and potential friends to make contact with each other through integration of Facebook. “We have taken all of your Facebook friends and brought them directly into the game,” Bowling proclaims with just a small measure of pride, “So now you’ll be able to see when your friends are online, compare them against the leaderboards, and easily invite them into the game.
“With Call of Duty Elite, players will be able to play not only with the friends they have, but find new ones.” He added. Bits and pieces of this friend-finding system already exist in the Elite beta, where Black Ops players can join and create new groups of like-minded individuals, and this is the general direction the finished product will continue to take. “You can connect through just about any interest. Sports, like Barcelona fans, Manchester UTD…Politics, like Democrats, Republicans…” The gist of it was that if you like stuff you can find other people who like stuff too.
Condrey picks up on the subject of how groups will interact when you’re playing MW3: “You’ll see it whenever members of your group are in the game with you, you can also join groups based off of similar play styles – on Black Ops beta right now there’s already a group called ‘Campers’. [COD Elite] takes the anonymous network of Call of Duty multiplayer and makes it a real community.”
Groups aren’t the only way that the COD Elite system will bring players together, though. There’s also the ongoing march of the clans.
Anyone will be able to create and manage a clan using COD Elite, setting up matches with other clans and so forth, allowing the competitive edge to be sharpened on a constant basis between players who want to get a deeper experience. These clans work as a compartmentalised social network, letting players communicate with their fellow clan members through the game, so they can invite whoever’s online (whether it be one or all of the clan members) into a match.
“Because Elite has been developed [in tandem] with Modern Warfare 3, you’ll be able to do this from the web, from your mobile apps, and most importantly from inside the game itself,” Condrey told the audience at COD XP, while Bowling clarified, “This isn’t just a stat site on your TV, this is a full-feature set of Call of Duty Elite designed specifically for your console and controller.” Condrey finishes, “The same holds true for the mobile apps.”
Aside from being a usable and friendly people finder, COD Elite bears all the trademark enhancements of an online sharing application. This includes some intensive stat tracking, weapon analysis, video and screenshot uploads from theatre-recorded segments, heat maps displaying recorded kills/deaths, and news distribution.
“It’s bringing you closer to Call of Duty, anytime, anywhere,” says Condrey.
It sounds ambitious, to say the least, but the main question circling the drain of inevitability in our minds is, “How much does this cost, then?” Well, the simple answer appears to be…nothing.
Premium Elite Membership
Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg arrived back on stage to talk about the paid-for ‘Premium’ membership of COD Elite, but before he did so he made it clear that, “Everything that [Bowling and Condrey] talked about is just a fraction of what you get as part of the free portion of Call of Duty Elite.”
The biggest thing of note is that all future downloadable content for Modern Warfare 3 (and presumably future titles, should you continue your annual subscription) is considered pre-paid at a discount. This isn’t dissimilar from systems introduced by other developers/publishers such as EA and THQ to encourage fan loyalty, but the key point here is that it’s all about individual choice.
Hirshberg reminds us, “We didn’t want to take anything away from our fans. If you love playing Call of Duty the way you always have by buying the game, playing single player, playing Spec Ops, and multiplayer, and buying downloadable content a la carte throughout the year, you can still do that. […] We wanted to create a premium membership to raise the bar for millions of passionate multiplayer fans who’ve told us that they want to take their Call of Duty experience even further.”
Taking this experience further will require a big commitment to getting the most from MW3. Especially when you consider that Hirshberg claimed there would be around twenty pieces of DLC in total. “With the premium membership, not only do you get the content but you get it first and you get it more often,” Hirshberg continues, “In the past we’ve delivered content four times per year, right? For Elite members we’re going to break that up and give you monthly content drops, so you’re never going to be more than a few weeks away from the next new experience.”
Additionally, as to the nature of the content itself, Hirshberg reassured us that Activision had listened to fan feedback and that future DLC wouldn’t just be about new maps (or old ones rehashed), but new Spec Ops missions, game modes, and more.
As a premium Elite member, you will also be able to enter into daily and weekly tournaments covering a broad spectrum of skill levels to compete against other players for prizes, some of which are promised to be massive. Your clan, should you own one, can also ‘level-up’ in its bid for recognition. What this does apart from change a few onscreen numerals is unclear for the moment, but it sounds interesting. An appealing factor in this setup is that Activision has promised that all tournaments will be managed and refereed by real people all day and all night rather than trusting the outcomes to a virtual intelligence.
Your online profile is also bolstered by extra room for triumphant (or embarrassing) videos and screenshots, up to eight times the capacity of a standard Elite member.
Last but not least, premium Elite users will get regular updates on the Elite network such as videos, strategies, blogs and news content, presumably detailing the latest hints and tips on map navigation, lines of sight, camping spots to watch out for, and the latest updates to make it into the game.
Activision, Infinity Ward, and Sledgehammer Games have certainly done a lot for their fan base if what their representatives have told us during COD XP is to be believed. Modern Warfare 3 is due to launch on November 8th and with backing from Facebook, Android, and Apple devices it looks set to incorporate features which could potentially change the way in which gamers interact for the future.
If you want to see the entire COD XP briefing in full, you can watch it below courtesy of IGN: