Broken Setups, Borky Patch, and a Garage Kick Off Call of Duty League

Official events hosted by a Call Of Duty League team are not going as players hoped, nor as smoothly as one would expect in 2020.

Right now, Activision-Blizzard is trying to follow in the questionably-successful footsteps of the Overwatch League. (That is, they’re trying to get those sweet, sweet franchise fees, but that’s sort of another story.) So, of course, it takes the biggest franchise owned and turns it into its own league: the Call of Duty League. And, of course, we start off the weekend with a brand-new patch, sending semi-pros into a parking garage and leaving pros unable to practice.

That’s pretty much what happened yesterday. And if we were to judge from the fact that there’s practically no marketing for the CDL, which, yes, starts this weekend, we’d think that they were keen to these issues beforehand. Except some, we wouldn’t have been able to predict anyway.

So what’s going on anyway?

The Garage

Yesterday, the Call of Duty League’s Challengers, the CDL’s semi-pro/recruitment circuit, started in Minnesota with an open event. The local team for the league, the Minnesota RØKKR—which I am not spelling as such ever again from here on out—is responsible for hosting it. And the tournament is meant to take place in the Minnesota Armory, which doesn’t seem like a bad venue. It’s hosted side-by-side along the Launch Weekend official matches, where the best of the best will play.

But with Challengers being an open tournament, qualifiers need to happen somewhere. And that’s a lot of space, because a lot of players really want to go pro (or semi-pro) in Call of Duty! So they decided that “somewhere” would be… a private parking garage, tucked under the venue.

As filmed by semi-pro KingGudnite, who plays for WolfBlood eSports, they did, in fact, put up at least a hundred setups in the underground private parking garage of the Armory.

Well, at least it’s a little bit of space for everything. And as one pro pointed out, professional COD has been played on the tops of parking lots before.

“We are quick to forget that COD Champs was held not once, but twice on top of a parking garage in downtown LA,” tweeted Mike “hastr0” Rufail, a veteran player who owns Envy and thus both of Activision-Blizzard’s Dallas franchise teams. “We played in a massive tent. It was fun. Make the best of everything and have fun dudes.” (Of course, then, he immediately follows up by bragging how good the Dallas events will be. “We’re going to do it right.”)

To the Minnesota Armory’s credit, the place was apparently pretty warm. Minnesota winters get real damn cold, and cold hands are not optimal for professional gaming. And it seems the teams will be moved to secondary stages for larger and/or streamed matches later on! But no streams for now.

Broken Setups

Warm hands are only a comfort if there are setups to actually play on. According to LA Guerillas player Aches, none of the systems for the actual pro players, set up elsewhere in Minnesota, were set up for practice.

“The Minnesota Rokkr is responsible for the setup and holding the tournament this weekend,” Aches tweeted. “Yet no setups are working for any teams. Practice is on hold for hours.”

For Aches, it’s a matter of professional integrity as well. Most cities’ teams get a dedicated practice space, or at least a “team house,” where they can keep their fingers warm. “However the Rokkr team are at their training facility grinding away!” Aches continued. “No competitive integrity nowadays.”

Apparently, the Seattle Surge even tweeted a meme referring to the broken setups. It’s been deleted since, because I guess in the CDL we can’t have spicy memes. Boo.

The Patch

Oh, and let’s not forget about the patch. First of all, you don’t drop a patch a day or two before a professional event. Even Valve, the chaotic bane of many esports orgs’ existences, has exercised caution in patching its esports titles before massive professional events. And Fortnite has also been more careful after pros called Epic out on the issue.

Except that’s what Call of Duty did. Two days ago, a day before the Open Qualifiers started, Activision dropped a major gameplay patch for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. And as of yesterday’s tweet from Aches, players weren’t informed ahead of time which patch they’d be playing on.

Usually the issue only lies in the gameplay style. But it turns out, some of the patch changes interfere with pre-set rulesets for custom CDL lobbies. CDL Domination, specifically, has a few contradictions between the patch changes and the rules of the CDL itself. Namely, as pointed out by two pros, multipliers for objectives aren’t working as intended. And if players set up their own lobbies, another multiplier not allowed in competitive rulesets shows up instead.

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Tied in with the pros’ setups not working yesterday? Oof.

Apparently it’s not uncommon for Activision to drop patches in some time before major events. But also, this is now a professional league, and—again—every other developer has shaped up to general standards of competitive integrity in esports.

Activision hasn’t said anything about these changes at the time of publication. But here’s hoping Acti-Blizz can do a little something to wipe off the grime and make the opening weekend shine. For the sake of the players. And esports as a whole.

[DISCLAIMER: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which has a partial stake in Activision-Blizzard. But we have absolute editorial independence from Acti-Blizz. And frankly, I’m bitter and middle-aged in “esports years”  so I’ll do all the complaining I want.]