This year, Call of Duty’s multiplayer – like many other games, it seems – is taking a few cues from games like Overwatch, Battleborn and its progenitors Team Fortress and Tribes. It’s got its own set of hero player characters called Specialists, that have specific and unique abilities and powers that shake up the gameplay loop and make the multiplayer a little more exciting and engaging.
We chatted with Call of Duty” Black Ops 3’s multiplayer director David Vonderhaar, who explained these specialists in greater detail.
“In Call of Duty Black Ops 3, The Specialists are nine playable hero characters that you select from. Each of the specialists has a power weapon and a power ability, and those are mutually-exclusive choices so you pick one or the other.
They’re part of the progression system so you actually have to unlock them as you go, and when you go you’ll decide to be “Ruin” with Overdrive (A temporary speed burst) or “Ruin” with gravity spikes (They allow the player to take out enemies with a powerful shockwave.). You pick that character at the beginning of a match, and it stays with you the entire match; you can’t change out until the end of the match. “
According to Vonderhaar, using words that understand individually, but not lumped together, “It’s a really interesting way to spike the power and spike the power band in the combat loop while you’re playing the game. “
Good. More interesting, to me, anyway, is the difficulty of finding balance in these abilities and powers. How does Treyarch manage that fine balance?
“So the first thing you have to do is give yourself lots of control over that,” Vonderhaar says. “Both weapons already have that control: how long they take to bring out, how much damage the weapon does, how soon can you actually charge it up. And something like an ability that doesn’t directly damage a player but aids in the combat and helps the player perform the combat move, you often due with metrics like (and this is just one example of many) something like score per minute.
“So we’ll measure how well the player how well the player is performing, and then we’ll measure it again while the ability is active, and then you can see the distinction between the score per minute when they’re using when they’re using a weapon compared to when they’re using an ability. So it’s a very grounded and simple metric that you can use to keep things balanced across specialists and across both the weapon and the ability.”
How are people using Specialists? Just picking one they like and sticking with it? Are players experimenting, for fun ways for Specialists to work together – or are we going to have games filled with the same specialists, everywhere?
“So what you’ll see in team play is that players will take specialists that complement each other. And you actually have to do this when you’re playing at a competitive level because of what we call the specialist draft, which means that there can only be one specialist of one type on the team at a time.
But in public play, anybody can use any specialist as long as that specialist is unlocked. And what you’re going to see is a high gravitation towards specialists depending on the mode that you’re using. So for example, in something like CTF and uplink, Ruin Overdrive is going to be quite popular; you’re going to see a lot of Ruin Overdrive when you’re playing CTF matches. But when you’re playing other types of game modes, you’re going to see other specialists that are best adapted for that player, that play style, that mode and even in some instances that map.
The specialists, just like all the content in create-a-class and all the score streaks. These are systems built to be sort of dominant in a specific instance in time and not dominant across everything all of the time. So absolutely, I think specialists, and we believe specialists, will be used contextually depending on what people are playing and how far they are in the progression, and what they’re trying to do and accomplish in the game mode and what role they’re playing.”
There are nine specialists in the game at the moment, each adding different abilities and powers, making some definite changes to Call of Duty’s multiplayer. Will we be seeing more? There are no plans as yet, but it’s quite possible that we’ll see more added in the future.
“We’re Treyarch,” Vonderhaar says. “We’ll never stop working on the game – so I would never say never but we have no definitive plans to talk about this stuff.”
Last Updated: November 11, 2015