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.”
Activision issuing “hardware bans” to thwart Warzone cheaters
Activision have confirmed that they are handing out “hardware bans” to banned cheaters who keep making fresh accounts.
Cheaters and hackers have plagued Call of Duty: Warzone since its launch, but on top of account bans, Activision has confirmed that they are issuing hardware bans to thwart repeat offenders.
Cheaters have been a thorn in both players’ and developers’ sides since Warzone launched in 2020. It has been common to run into players blatantly wall-hacking and aim-botting, ruining the game for casual players and pros alike.
Raven Software has been providing regular updates on how many cheaters have been banned, and Activision recently confirmed that 475,000 permabans have been issued since Warzone’s launch. The likely reason why this number is so high is that Warzone is free-to-play. It’s widely believed that even if a cheater’s account gets banned, they can simply create a new one and carry on as if nothing happened.
Activision is aware of this issue and player’s concerns and released an in-depth update on their anti-cheat progress on April 12.
Because so many players have been concerned that account bans are ineffective, Call of Duty staff responded to this, saying that “Removing cheaters and taking away their ability to move to alternate accounts is a key focus for the security teams.”
They confirmed that if you’re cheating, not only could you be unknowingly downloading malware to your system, you could also receive a hardware ban.
To make sure players don’t keep creating fresh accounts to cheat with, Activision said, “We do issue hardware bans against repeat, or serial, cheaters. This is an important part of our effort to combat repeat offenders.”
This means that players who receive a hardware ban will be permanently locked out and won’t be able to simply create a new, free account and go back to their cheating ways.
Activision also confirmed that not only are they targeting individual accounts with cheats installed, but also “the commercial market of cheat providers and resellers.” They revealed that they have recently banned “45,000 fraudulent, black market accounts used by repeat offenders.”
Cheaters will likely still make their way into your Warzone sessions, but Activision is making sure it’s continuously more risky and difficult to do.
In the meantime, you can check out our guide on how to spot cheaters in Warzone so you can assist Activision by reporting these players.
Image Credit: Activision
Report: Activision Blizzard HQ & Treyarch offices set to relocate
A new report states Activision Blizzard will no longer lease its office space in Santa Monica and are actively searching for a new HQ location.
DoTEsports reports that Activision Blizzard and Treyarch have ended their lease at their Santa Monica HQ offices. The company has had the office under their lease for more than a decade.
Per the new report, the teams that work in those spaces will work from home until further notice.
The company is reportedly in search of a new space. An internal memo, which was sent to staff and obtained by DoTEsports, states the company is actively looking for a new office space in the Santa Monica area.
“We have narrowed down the search for our next office location to several properties in the Santa Monica area and we hope to finalize our plans in the coming weeks,” the internal company communication said.
Activision employees have been working from home since March 2020. As of now, the company says they’re on track to return to office by September 1, 2021. The timeline remains unchanged.
Activision’s main headquarters was located in the Santa Monica office on Ocean Blvd in California. Treyarch’s studio space was located right next door to Activision Blizzard HQ in Santa Monica on the first floor of an office building. The two used those buildings for over 10 years now, and are now up for rental and purchase.
Activision has not commented on this information as of now.
Investment group calls out Activision for CEO payout
Activision Blizzard’s CEO continues to rake in bonus after bonus, and now investment firms are questioning the decisions.
An investment firm, CtW, issued a statement report directed at Activision for upcoming bonus pay for their CEO, Bobby Kotick, which is valued at a remarkable $200 million.
The report states that an SEC filing and agreement between Activision Blizzard CEO and the board of directors of the company will allow the CEO to receive a bonus pay of $200 million at the end of this year.
Per the investment group, as released to GameSpot, a loophole created within Bobby Kotick’s employee agreement allows him to claim full bonus payout for previous years regardless of the company’s performance. This loophole is described in the “Shareholder Value Creation Incentive” provision in Kotick’s employment agreement. He can receive a full performance equity payout from previous years – 2017 and on. That is valued at almost $200 million, which is set to be paid out in cash upon the end date of the incentive provision.
Investment group CtW issued a scathing statement over this, as the company just this week laid off less than 2% of its workforce, which is less than 190 people for “restructuring” purposes. The lay offs impacted Activision Blizzard esports department, alongside the company’s King division.
“While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” director of executive compensation research, Michael Varner, said. “There are many factors that may contribute to a rise in this particular company’s stock price that may not be directly attributable to Robert Kotick’s leadership. The use of video games as one of the few entertainment options available amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has been a boon to many companies in the gaming industry irrespective of executive talent or strategic decisions.“
Bobby Kotick already makes $30 million a year from Activision thanks to his base salary and bonus yearly pay. He’s one of gaming’s highest paid executives. Activision continues to report record profits with 2020 being the company’s biggest year yet.
Activision has not commented on the latest developments on this payout.
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