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.”
CDL Commissioner Johanna Faries set to be lead both CDL and OWL
This week has been an interesting week for Activision Blizzard’s Esports division and leagues.
It was first reported earlier this week that Hector ‘H3CZ’ Rodriguez is in talks with Immortals to reacquire the OpTic Gaming brand. With that, H3CZ would also acquire the CDL LA Spot.
Since H3CZ is a part of NRG has Co-CEO with the Chicago Huntsmen, Activision’s rules state one organization cannot own two spots in the same league. Rumors of who H3CZ plans to sell the spot to is rampant, but no official information has been disclosed.
Late on Thursday, Esports Observed also reported that Pete Vlastelica, the Commissioner of the Overwatch League stepped down from his role.
Now, EsportsObserved reports that Johanna Faries, current Commissioner of the Call of Duty League, is expanding her role to become ‘Head of Leagues’ at Activision Blizzard. In this newly created position, she will lead both Overwatch League and Call of Duty League’s league administration and broadcast operations.
Brandon Snow, current Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports, is expanding his role to include marketing & analytics for the league. The former Chief Marketing Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports left in early September to be VP of DC Comics division of WarnerBros.
Both these new roles will take effect October 12, per EsportsObserved.
The first season of the Call of Duty League ended on August 31 with the Call of Duty League Championship Weekend. The event featured the most viewers in Call of Duty esports history, capping off a dynamically changing year with the on going pandemic.
Call of Duty League’s second season is set to kick off in 2021 with some major changes. The league announced that it will return to a 4v4 format, leaving one player on each roster looking for another starting role. They also announced that matches will be played on PC using controllers going forward instead of extending the esports partnership with PlayStation.
Activision has not announced these changes officially at this time.
Activision files cease and desist letter against another cheat manufacturer
Activision Blizzard continues to take down cheat manufacturer sites to stop the spread of different cheats for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone.
In August, the company filed a lawsuit against CXCheats for illegally creating cheats to be used in an IP owned by Activision Blizzard. CXCheats since deleted all cheats for Modern Warfare and Warzone in compliance with the lawsuit.
Now, in September, another large cheat manufacturer, GatorCheats, has said that Activision Blizzard has filed a cease and desist letter to stop them from making cheats for Call of Duty games.
The owner of GatorCheats said in their Discord that the first letter was filed by in May 2020, but they did not fully comply with that – opting to allow cheats to continue to be available.
In May 2020, Activision Blizzard’s attorneys contacted me via a Cease and Desist letter. Considering this event, I decided to act on my already pending decision to close all sales to new customers for my product relating to Modern Warfare and Warzone.
Activision has since escalated the requests. In Sept. 2020, the owner of GatorCheats claims that Activision Blizzard served another cease and desist letter. But, this time, a PI showed up at his residence with the letter and informed him of what Activision knows about their site and the owners behind it.
In September 2020, Activision Blizzard’s attorneys had another Cease and Desist letter hand delivered to me by who I assume was a PI, considering he knew my family members by name and made a point to showcase that he did. Also in September 2020, I received very clear communication in a follow up from Activision Blizzard’s attorneys communicating that they would litigate (file a law suit against me) if I didn’t comply with continuation of stopped sales as well as a complete stoppage of interaction with and updating of any products related to their client’s products.
The full letter from the owner states that he will “never make or create” a cheat for an Activision Blizzard product again after receiving the letters and a visit from them at his house.
Activision has not commented on their anti-cheat initiatives since June, where the company said they continue to ban players on a regular basis.
Activision files lawsuit against cheat manufacturer
Activision filed a lawsuit to sue a company responsible for creating hacks and exploits for Modern Warfare and Warzone.
Activision has sued CXCheats for illegally creating cheats to use in Call of Duty, the company announced.
CXCheats claims on their website that they are “dedicated to quality.”
This is a pathetic marketing line to convince users to buy cheats to use in Call of Duty.
As a result of our lawsuit with Activision, we have agreed to cease development and support for all Call of Duty related products or services sold through the site. These products will not be returning to CXCheats in any form. You also should be aware that using third-party tools in Call of Duty may result in the suspension or banning of your account by Activision Publishing, Inc. or the game’s developers. We apologize for any pain we’ve caused to players of Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Warzone has been experiencing an intense amount of hackers since the game’s launch on March 13 on the PC platform.
With cross play, the hacks impacted the console players as well. PS4 players have opted to disable cross play to avoid them. Xbox players currently cannot disable cross play for unknown reasons.
CXCheats said on Discord that any user found using their software in Warzone will be banned, permanently.
Any user who utilizes unauthorized third-party software to gain an unfair advantage, manipulate stats, and/or manipulate game data is subject to penalty. Unauthorized third-party software includes, but is not limited to, aimbots, wallhacks, trainers, stats hacks, texture hacks, leaderboard hacks, injectors, or any other software used to deliberately modify game data on disk or in memory.
As of now, Activision has not commented on the lawsuit.
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