A few months ago we launched a mini-league for Call of Duty:Black Ops that would pit the best of the communities mercenaries against each other in hard fought street-to-street combat. My vision for this event was simple – “Close Quarter Battles”.
I wanted to remove the run and gun style play that is often present with a larger team, where safety in numbers is assumed, and make people feel the isolation and tension of being on their own. I hoped to see tactical use of cover in both offensive and defensive maneuvers, flanking, storming, flushing out, clearing high ground and advantage areas, and best use of care-packages. What I got was a whole lot more exciting, and I was in at the deep end with the rest of them…
Now, not being a particularly good Call of Duty player at the best of times, I soon wondered what I’d let myself in for on this one, and found myself having to do a fair bit of research and planning before starting the league. With special events there are always little bits and tweaks that need adjusting here and there unless you’re following some sort of model for how you set it up. As we haven’t done an event like this since the Forza league, I realised how few of these things we actually do, and have promised myself to keep the momentum going on community events better.
With Call of Duty:Black Ops allowing ‘join-in-progress’, I was at least able to set my party to private and go running around every map I had, testing their suitability against what I wanted. Not knowing what sort of turnout to expect from week to week, I opted to go for a mix of maps, but ultimately I wanted something that was based on street-to-street fighting. I wanted a feeling of urgency with people rushing from cover to cover, dropping smoke to create diversions, and the need to keep moving rather than digging in for long periods. At the end of the day, if they wanted to win they needed to score points with kills, and that meant finding other players.
I decided to use the following maps -
‘Havana’ for round 1
I love this map. There’s something about it that just says ‘shoot-out’. I think I’ve chosen it based on the tense battles we’ve had in clan matches and because there are so many vantage points looking across the streets. This is the kind of map where you don’t want to be out in the open for too long as there’s bound to be someone watching the main street from the hotels on either side of the road, or the upper rooms at the far ends which are great for long range weapons.
‘Firing Range’ for round 2
Firing Range was picked as a suitable smaller map that still loosely held onto the CQB theme. It had less of a urban dwelling feel to it than a map with streets and brick buildings, but there were still huts, rooms, and ladders with high vantage points. There was also plenty cover to run into, around, and hide behind which meant players had a lot of freedom of movement. As it’s name suggests, this map is based on a training camp idea, with sliding targets, sand bag bunkers, and a watch tower adding to the defensive possibilities.
‘Cracked’ for round 3
This is really what the whole league was based upon. A broken city-scape: a scene of abandoned buildings and vehicles, a gauntlet of death and destruction. Okay, so I’ve just been watching ‘East Enders’ on television and it rolled off my tongue before I knew it, but it had to be be said!
Seriously though, this is the map that I wanted people fighting over and rather than have it being the sole map for 4 weeks, I decided to make it the last round. This is a large map best suited to a good number of players, but I felt that with even a handful of people running around, the attraction to some key locations would present regular challenges.
When I started planning this I knew I wanted to break away from the idea of team formations and weapon specialists performing their roles, which might be more apparent in Operation Flashpoint, but I know some CoD players adopt a similar method. I wanted to highlight the fact that everyone was on their own; there were no alliances, no wing-men, no covering fire. Each was a mercenary in their own right, battling for the spoils of victory, so literally anything had to go. I wrestled with this decision at first knowing that more experienced players who had unlocked every weapon may be at a distinct advantage, but remembering that I tended to be annoyingly handy with a under-slung grenade launcher on my M4, I thought “stuff-it!” – no weapon restrictions at all. This would allow for powerful customization and barbaric simplicity a like, and there would be no taking of prisoners.
The goal, the prize; there can be only two!
From the beginning of the league, anyone involved would see that to win it was going to be a hard-fought and constant battle across the four weeks. I knew that it was a lot to ask players to commit to four weeks regular gaming nights, but then like all things, you get from it what you put into it; and this is part of the Project Echelon ethos. People are not brow-beat into being involved, but if you do get involved and contribute to the life of our community then you’ll get so much back in return. Call it gaming community ‘karma’. Anyway, I had committed myself to running the league as a means to provide something for the Call of Duty players, so I had hoped that they would come along and show support too.
As an incentive for our league, I’d wanted to offer some sort of prize to the winner(s), and I had struggled to decide on what I was going to provide for this. The standard Project Echelon long-sleeve tee-shirts made sense, but I felt something a little more unusual was called for as well. With this in mind, a £20 note was to be wrapped ‘in’ the tee-shirt, and posted to whoever was lucky enough to win. We don’t offer cash prizes for our leagues, mainly because it’s been done before, and sadly it begins to set an assumed standard of future prizes, and when the community doesn’t have an income as such this becomes a major issue.
So with a step of faith on a pretty decent prize intended for 2 players, the league was about to start. Over the next 4 weeks, our players would fight across 3 challenging maps each Friday night, with a time limit of 30 minutes per map. The scores from the first week would carry over to week 2, which would be added together, and after battling, again carry over to week 3, and so on to the 1st July. Here the overall league winners would be announced based on their combined scores from all 4 weeks, with the top 2 winners scoring the highest over all the players in the league.
Can’t say fairer than that now can you??
“Let fly the dogs of war…”
Review of Week 1
This was an encouraging start to the league with some really good players turning up. The downside was that the room privacy settings weren’t tight enough and ‘friends, of friends, of friends’ began joining us and taking part in the league too. On any other night this would have been really good, but it meant that our own member’s scoring would be down due to other non-member players taking some of the kills. With a few of our own squad having to drop off, it seemed a little unfair to continue the league night and it was postponed to the following week for a proper re-launch.
The next, better organized Week 1 which restarted the league wasn’t as well attended, but the quality of play was still there. In some respects having only a few of us taking part made things more intense, with a lot of cat and mouse tension with close quarter knife kills. On larger maps it was easy to lose people, and we’d find ourselves wandering around too much. That said it was great fun, and it gave me a chance to final tweak some settings, rules, and study the maps in greater detail; also helping me to work out tactics and plan ahead for the next week of fighting.
Review of Week 2
Probably the best attended week with 7 players all together. This was how I’d imagined the league going, with a really decent turnout, and lots of good-hearted chat back and forward. Again the quality of the play was superb, and it was great to see building cover on maps like Havana being used to their full potential, and often defended well with claymore mines. About an hour into this session, I realised I would have no chance of winning the league myself at all! Not that I intended to or even wanted to, as at the end of the day I was doing this for the members, and encouraging them to try their best. Sometimes it’s nice not to be consistently last though. . .
Review of Week 3
Not so well attended, but I began to see the handful of players who were interested in our league coming back each week now. Thankfully all the comments to this point had been good, and players were looking forward to our final session the following week.
Review of Week 4
Our final session on Friday 1st July tolled the ‘last orders’ on our league event. With a great turnout of 7 players, the fighting was back to its deadly fast pace; this time with a surprising amount of close quarter kills with knives and tomahawks. Again the quality of play was amazing with lots of good chat and encouragement between the players. We even had a few late joining entrants who knew they had no change of winning, but just wanted to take part and contribute something to what we were doing.
After League Review
What can I say?? Such a good time of gaming with so many great people. A big thank you to everyone who got involved and made it happen with your support -
Pat Shillings, Wolfman391, BluePrint 95, LRoy, xSPOOFx, Colonel Venom, oo PeatLoaf oo, RoundTwo, Racky B, The Likely Lad
For me personally, this has been such a good time of gaming, even if it isn’t a game I play very often. I thoroughly enjoyed this and already have plans for more league events in the near future with the launch of Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Battlefield 3 – gaaawd we’re spoiled this season for releases lol.
Overall league winners are “xSPOOFx” with 25900, followed by “Wolfman391” with 24850
KUDO’s to “Colonel Venom” for coming a close thrid place, particularly as he’d scored very high in a short space of time.
Hope to see you all at the next league event we run, here at Project Echelon!