Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

January 1st, 2010

I'm really loving this game, it has great graphics, gameplay and some really neat features in spawn and server management.

One of the coolest features of the game is the spawn manager. In most multiplayer FPS games, each team has a definite side of the map that they start on. As they die, they spawn from these same locations to re-enter the battle.

The positive aspect of this is it makes a map easier to learn because there is a definite flow of direction in the map. You always start from a consistent place so it's easier to recognize where you are, where you need to go, and where the enemy will likely be coming from.

However, on the downside, this also means in a game with very unbalanced teams, the stronger team can pin down the other side to their spawn points and kill them before they can even really get back in the game. You appear, and 2 seconds later a grenade rolls around the corner and your dead. This can be really frustrating and ruin an otherwise great game.

Some games have tried to eliminate this by making several predetermined spawn points that you can randomly appear in. This does help in that it's hard for an enemy to predict the exact location of a spawn, however because it is usually still within a confined map area, you will eventually have to run through an area that will have enemies waiting.

What COD:MW2 does is quite interesting. If I am correct (I deduced this just by gameplay), the computer will try to spawn you as close to the location that you died without putting you in harm's way. So you may end up very close to where you died or a little further if there is too much enemy movement surrounding the area.

The interesting result of this is that during the course of the game, the map "sides" can change dynamically. If one team pushes through to the other "side" (where the enemy was coming from at first), and starts dying there, eventually that team will start spawning from that side and the enemy will start spawning from the other side, reversing the map.

This can make it somewhat confusing the first time you play the game, because your spawn point is constantly changing and it's hard to tell which direction an enemy can come from. They are coming from all directions! But the beauty is you will never have to deal with spawn camping again. It makes it virtually impossible to predict where the enemy will come from, which is more challenging and helps balance the game for all players involved.

The other thing I noticed which was interesting was the server manager. In most games I've played to date, you download a list of servers, filtering out the ones you don't want (e.g. too slow, maps you don't like, game types, etc.), and play on the server you select for a while. In COD:MW2 it appears the server system is fully load balancing and managed. It will automatically find the right server for you, balancing teams and selecting the fastest server with the game type you prefer. If your server becomes too slow, the player group is kept together and the server manager will transfer the game - intact - to another server. It's like the group of people and the game are an object or package that can be transported to any server in the network on the fly to provide the best experience possible. I also noticed that when your group loses too many players to stay on a server (e.g. half the people leave the game after a round is finished), it will either try to find a server with the right player limits, find other players to join the game, or even try to find another straggler group like yours and merge them together for a new game.

The entire thing is very fluid and fully managed by the network, likely allowing the server administrators to balance their server loads evenly and prevent bottlenecks in performance. So far from what I've seen it works very well, I've always been able to find a server and game quickly and easily, with none of the connection and lag problems that were so common in other multiplayer FPS's I've played.

Boo-ya to great server tech and innovative ideas!

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