Call of Duty (COD) for PC should be dead

The first Call of Duty (COD) game was released on 29th October 2003 and there have been releases almost every year since. You can see more details here. While game 3d rendering, textures, physics and overall graphics quality have had tremendous improvements since the early days today, and they do reflect in the game releases every year, the underlying core game mechanics hasn’t changed much at all. While most Call of Duty players (fans) might claim this to be a positive, basically every year we see the same game with just better graphics quality on the whole, but the same underlying awfully broken system. Let me elaborate on that.

In order to have a good multiplayer experience as a gamer / player there are a few things that matter a lot.

  • Matchmaking
  • Dedicated Servers vs Peer 2 Peer
  • Lag Compensation
  • Protection against Hackers

Matchmaking : essentially is the process of finding a suitable game for you based on your network conditions (ping, location, bandwidth, etc) to keep the game more balanced and hence enjoyable. However COD matchmaking has been broken since pretty much the beginning and there have been no noticeable improvements made in this regards. Although your experience may vary depending on your location, number of players playing the game in reasonably close proximity to you and your network quality (speed, bandwidth), in general COD matchmaking has never (in my experience) really been able to do justice to the game in this regards. You are consistently placed in lobbies with terrible pings and the gaming experience is terrible as a result.

Dedicated Servers vs Peer 2 Peer : Dedicated servers are just as the name suggest, servers dedicated for hosting the game to which all the players connect to during the course of the game. It is then the job of the servers to try and match people better and to attempt to maintain good network conditions for each player. Also, this implies that the strain of managing communication between players is handled by the server and not individual players, reducing overhead on their systems. COD on consoles has had dedicated servers for a while, although even there, often there are no servers setup for third world countries like India, so even though we may be paying the same amount for the game, our experience is extremely hindered as a result.

Peer to Peer is when we build an ad-hoc network between the participants of a lobby of players and based on some basic criteria choose one of them as host (kind of like server) for the rest of the players. For more details with respect to pros and cons between the two refer here. Essentially, Dedicated Servers bring more reliability and stability to a fast paced multiplayer game like COD, peer to peer is very flaky and unreliable since one persons network conditions can negatively impact the experience of all players within that game. COD on PC has predominantly always been Peer to Peer from the beginning of time, although there are rumors every year that they will bring Dedicated Servers to PC, but they fall short on that every time.

Lag Compensation : essentially is a process of being able to compensate for and predict player positions more accurately taking into consideration delays as a result of bad network conditions and other factors. Lag compensation becomes critical & challenging in a peer to peer multiplayer game since the players’ systems would be responsible to account for it and produce accurate results. COD lag compensation has always been horrible in my experience. Earlier on, I blamed poor network conditions on my side for this, however over the years I have significantly upgraded my network connection, and now I run a 100 Mbps FTTH connection with great speed and reliability, however that has had no significant impact over my gaming experience.

I understand that Lag Compensation is a hard problem and there can never really be a fool proof solution, however I would expect that over the course of nearly 15 years the developers would have been able to make at least a marginal noticeable improvement.

Protection against Hackers : another serious problem, especially significant in the PC ecosystem is the problem of hackers who are able to hack and build various tools to cheat the game. There are tools like aim-bots (automatically aim on an enemy), wall hacks (see enemies on the entire map even if they’re behind walls / obstacles), auto-shoot when an enemy is detected, auto-host (force game to choose their system as host) and so on. This is such a prevailing and serious problem, yet COD publishers & Valve have paid little to no attention to improving their system to prevent these players / scripts / tools from ruining the experience of the genuine players, who paid a hefty amount to acquire the game.

COD WWII beta was released on 29th September, 2017 and the was freely available to select players (who owned previous COD titles), and the game had hackers on 1st October, 2017, that’s how bad the situation is. The underlying game engine used by the game developers hardly changes and more often that not, these hackers are able to get their existing hacks and tools working on the newer versions of COD within no time by making little to no changes. Players do get banned, however the hackers are able to bypass those bans in many ways like creating new accounts etc. This in my opinion is one of the worst problems of COD and is also easier to deal with if there were dedicated servers, but COD publishers / valve don’t seem to pay any attention towards the same.

Conclusion : Given the variety of problems in the COD system, the lack of support from the publishers / valve towards fixing / countering them, it is very clear that they care very less about the PC gaming community. The problems in the game far outweigh the other positives of the game and hence, in my opinion the game should be dead. I stopped purchasing the game last year and I see no change / improvements made this year and my stance on this matter stands validated yet again.

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