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Polygon interviews DemonWare, the team behind Call of Duty servers

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Call of Duty has become an entertainment phenomenon across the world. On Xbox, 5 Call of Duty titles appear on the Top 20 list every week; players continue to play Call of Duty at an unpresedented rate. And with that, the servers have to be able handle all of this. Call of Duty games are known for their smooth launch – the game functions as you’d expect it too. Other titles like Sim City, Battlefield face issues at launch and even after trying to hold players on their servers.

So how does Activision do it? It’s because of DemonWare. A company based in Ireland, with a staff of 150 people. Activision purchased and now owns DemonWare, and their server rights and management.

“In 2005, when we were still a pretty small group of people, 12 to 14,” John Kirk, chief technology officer at DemonWare told Polygon in a recent interview. “I moved to Vancouver, Canada to set up a presence. Most of our customers were up and down the West Coast and it was much easier to support them on their own timezones.”

Pat Griffith, Activision’s vice president of online technology, said that they began working with the company initially to support matchmaking and storage systems needs on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. But it was their work on Call of Duty: Big Red One and Call of Duty 3 that won the publisher over.

“DemonWare’s level of collaboration with Treyarch on Call of Duty: Big Red One andCall of Duty 3 surpassed anything we’d ever seen before,” Griffith said. “We found the crew at DemonWare to be highly capable. DemonWare quickly demonstrated an exceptional level of knowledge and experience with our game engine and practices in addition to their domain-specific expertise.”

Originally, the first Modern Warfare experienced a rough launch. Activision, DemonWare, and the developers weren’t ready for so many people to play the title that the servers came to a halt. No one expected the amount of players would be online and buy the title.

“The launch of Modern Warfare came at a point where there was a lot more adoption of broadband internet connections,” Griffith said. “We had, and the industry as a whole probably had, some issues across the board.”

“We became more successful then we had prepared for,” he said. “That’s not just in the online world. Our sales of Modern Warfare were above our expectations.”

And from this experience, DemonWare learned and understood what they have to change and focus on to fix their mistakes.

“Many of our lessons about measuring and everything else, they come from that,” Griffith said. “It provided a foundation that we build on. I think that the nascent of our philosophy begins in that Modern Warfare game and what happened in that title.”

Another integral part that makes Call of Duty what it is is the fact if a certain feature isn’t available, they entire system doesn’t crash. For example, if the leaderboards have to go down, your gameplay isn’t affected. Same with the player count and the global map. If those features aren’t working, the core gameplay features will continue to work regardless.

“One of the things that can happen in any online system is if one bit of the system goes down it can take the whole system down,” Griffith said. “I don’t think it’s magic, I don’t think it’s anything that nobody knows, it’s just very hard to try and decouple and almost isolate a group of systems so that one will not have a knock-on effect on others.”

“Only a small subset of those are required to play a game,” he said. “If player counts or the service that creates the global heatmap, if those systems are down, they’re down but they’re not affecting gameplay. People can still get their profiles, matchmake and join a game. That’s what we focus on, making sure those core systems get a lot more attention and a lot more love then the ancillary systems.”

The team at DemonWare works 24/7 at initial launch phases to monitor the situations, and once the graphs and charts stabalize, their focus is reduced, until the next title hits. Daniel Suarez, vice president of production on Call of Duty, says that even to this day servers for old games are getting background updates all the time.

“I believe that DemonWare is crucial to the success of our online games for all of the reasons mentioned previously,” he said. “They give us a stable platform on which to build. They provide us with valuable data about how our games are played. And their collaboration with the game development studios like Infinity Ward and Treyarch has allowed our game teams to focus on making great games.”

SOURCE: Polygon

Activision

Activision apologize for using artist’s design in now canceled Vanguard & Warzone skin

Activision have scrapped an unreleased Warzone and Vanguard skin after using an artist’s work without permission.

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Vanguard and Warzone Season 4 Reloaded skins

Activision admitted to the major misstep of using an artist’s work without permission. The original art was to feature in an upcoming Vanguard and Warzone skin that has since been axed.

Major content drops like new seasons or midseason updates deliver weapons, maps, and changes to Call of Duty games, but they also tend to bring brand-new skins to enjoy. Vanguard and Warzone have seen some noteworthy skins that certainly got players talking.

After all, who could forget the Armored Titan, or Godzilla and King Kong skins? At the start of Season 4 Reloaded, players also received a new Terminator crossover. However, teasers for Season 4 Reloaded also hinted at a mysterious wolf-like skin.

After the wolf skin was teased in an official Call of Duty blog post, it was later inexplicably removed and replaced from the very same post. It turns out, Activision used content that did not belong to them in order to create the aforementioned skin.

When the wolf skin was first teased, it certainly generated a ton of buzz, or rather raised a ton of eyebrows. The anthropomorphic Operator definitely sticks out in a WWII-era Call of Duty game. Nonetheless, fans were excited at the prospect of running around as a wolf in Warzone.

Unfortunately, that idea won’t come to fruition as Activision have confirmed that they completely removed the skin from their planned content drop for Season 4 Reloaded.

It seems Activision overstepping bounds is the reason behind the skin’s cancelation.

An artist claimed that the wolf skin, also known as Samoyed skin, was stolen without their permission. In a strange turn of events, Activision has issued an apology, seemingly confirming the artist’s claims.

In a statement, Activision admitted that they “regrettably erred in our process and have removed this imagery from the game,” apologizing for the misstep.

While fans may be disappointed to lose their chance at slaying in a furry wolf skin, most would agree that if the artist’s claims are legitimate, the greater injustice was corrected as nobody should have their work stolen without credit.


For more, check out how CoD players are thrilled with the rumored change to Modern Warfare 2’s movement.

Image Credit: Activision

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Activision Blizzard rake in $1.2 billion despite Warzone & Vanguard bringing lowest player count in years

Although 2022 has seen CoD with its lowest player count in years, Activision Blizzard still raked in $1.2 billion from microtransactions.

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T-1000 skin in Vanguard and Warzone

Although Q1 and Q2 2022 saw Activision have its lowest monthly player count since 2019, the publisher upped its Call of Duty microtransaction revenue in the second quarter, helping to rake in over $1.2 billion.

Activision Blizzard held their quarterly earnings call on August 1, and it was a mixed bag for the Call of Duty franchise.

Alongside teasing that there will be a premium CoD game in 2023, Activision revealed they have seen the lowest monthly player count since 2019 but their in-game cosmetics have been selling well, seeing a notable quarterly revenue increase.

In their earnings call, Activision Blizzard revealed that they raked in $1.2 billion from microtransactions during Q2 2022, which they said was a solid increase from Q1.

Call of Duty’s microtransactions have only got more ambitious as time goes on, bringing Godzilla and King Kong-themed Operator skins back with Season 3, and officially licensed Terminator skins live in Season 4 Reloaded.

“Call of Duty net bookings on console and PC grew sequentially in the second quarter, following gameplay improvements and seasonal content across Call of Duty: Vanguard and Call of Duty: Warzone that were well-received by players,” stated Activision Blizzard in their earnings call.

They also confirmed that “Net bookings for Call of Duty Mobile were consistent with the first quarter.”

However, “Activision’s second quarter segment revenue and operating income declined year-over-year, reflecting lower engagement for the Call of Duty franchise, but grew versus the first quarter.”

Despite microtransactions faring so well, Q2 2022 saw Activision’s monthly player count drop below 100 million for the first time since 2019. Back in June 2021, there were 127 million monthly active users across consoles, PC, and mobile, but this dropped to only 94 million in June 2022.

There’s no knowing what has caused this, but there are more players back at work and school, and Warzone’s devs candidly admitted that they “f**ked stuff up” with Caldera’s launch. Plus, players have been vocal in that they didn’t want another WW2 game, and have been slamming the devs over the lack of new Vanguard content.

However, Activision will be expecting a steep rise in player count and revenue when both Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2 release later this year.

Image Credit: Activision

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Activision report hints at new Call of Duty title in 2023

An Activision Blizzard Q2 2022 earnings press release hints at the release of a brand-new Call of Duty title in 2023.

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Call of Duty logo 2023

A previous report indicated that there wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game released in 2023 after development delays persisted. It seems these rumors may not come to fruition as an Activision report suggests there will be a premium Call of Duty title released in 2023.

Thanks to a Bloomberg report, Call of Duty fans already accepted that in 2023, they wouldn’t be getting a new CoD title for the first time in almost 20 years. While excitement for Modern Warfare 2 is high at the moment, most players were wary of a two-year game cycle.

Luckily, an August 1 report from Activision indicates that the franchise may very well receive a brand-new title in 2023.

Activision Blizzard’s Q2 2022 press release in which the company reveals their earnings for the period in question had some shocking bits of information to reveal. For starters, it seems like Vanguard and Warzone managed to increase in-game revenue in Q2.

Despite this increase, the company still produced lower year-over-year numbers than expected. There’s no telling how these poor numbers may have influenced decisions about future Call of Duty titles but it’s safe to say that Activision have lots in store when it comes to Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.

In addition, to an exciting slate of 2022 releases, the report also hints at a new premium Call of Duty title in 2023.

Although nothing has been confirmed as of yet, the wording found in the report is certainly suggestive of a 2023 release.

As Activision detailed their plans for the future of the franchise they revealed that they would be, “continuing development of new premium content planned for 2023 and beyond.”

Players were quick to suggest that the premium 2023 content in question could be Modern Warfare 2 DLC or a standalone Zombies experience.

However, this is likely not the case as CharlieIntel explained: “Activision refers to the yearly CoD release as ‘premium’ as it’s paid. So definitely implying something more than just new content is coming next year.”

Stay tuned for more information concerning the possibility of a new Call of Duty title in 2023. For the time being, you can check out how to get Modern Warfare 2 beta codes by watching CDL Champs 2022.

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