Realistic Solutions to the GA Problem

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Haha jk… unless?

Before anything else: GAs are completely necessary in the current, and likely the future, state of competitive Cod.

tldr; click on any section to read a detailed explanation

Why do we need GAs?

  • Studio cannot keep up with competitive, which is fine.

What’s wrong with GAs?

  • Too fast
  • GAs for the players, by the players = BIAS
  • Keeping things the same =/= better

How did we get here?

  • We have no idea what we are working toward; there is no measuring stick

What makes something broken?

  • Forces everyone to do the same thing (weapons, tacs, items, etc.)
  • Making a gun stronger, better in some aspect does NOT make it broken.

What to do now?

  • No more player GAs
  • Minimum day trial period before any imposed GA, followed by vote
  • GAs must be permanent

MY PROPOSED PLAN

Why do we need GAs?

Gentlemen’s agreements allow for an iterative process for producing a more competitive game by opting out of certain features of the base game. With new games, different studios, new guns, new items, and changing mechanics every year, it is impossible that every aspect of the game will achieve a competitive balance out of the gate. Yearly releases, in contrast with a game like CS:GO, requires decisions on this competitive balance to be handled much more quickly. In a perfect world, game devs would remove or tune anything the competitive player needed immediately, but this is clearly not realistic and GAs allow teams to ignore aspects of the game that are deemed uncompetitive, yet theoretically allowed.

What’s wrong with GAs right now?

This could be an enormous list; I will list only the things I consider essential to the issues we as a community have currently. Any potential solutions must address these 3 topics.

  1. Too fast

This is probably the most obvious problem with current GAs. We are banning and unbanning weapons, attachments, and items seemingly daily.

Not only does this create confusion, but it also makes evaluating the state of the meta almost impossible. How can we have strong opinions about the AK47 and removing a dominant AR today when we nerfed the most dominant sub yesterday? Snap judgments tend to drive decisions around GAs. Consider the MW AUG which was only played in competitive scrims for a few days before being deemed unfair. No single player could have seen more than a handful of maps involving 1 (!!) or maybe 2 AUGs in it. A gun that never even saw 50% usage (more in point #3) on a team-basis was GAd almost instantly.

2. Biased

A key aspect of GAs is that they are entirely player-voted, -executed, and -enforced. CDL Coaches, amateurs, and the CDL itself do not factor into the decisions at all. Naturally, when players are deciding what is best for players, players will be biased towards GAs that benefit their team or themselves. Even with the best intentions, any potential GAs will be seen as self-serving much of the time.

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Clay is probably wrong, but it shows how easy it is to doubt decisions by the player, for the players.

3. Same not Better

That is, GAs can be made in an effort to keep the game “the same.” This is probably the most controversial, but, in my eyes, definitely one of the biggest problems with current GAs. At any time, changes can be vetoed simply because it would make the meta dissimilar to the way it was before. In a community where the game changes yearly and nerfs and buffs are pushed constantly, attempting to keep the “status quo” is ridiculous.

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How did we get here?

All 3 of these issues contribute greatly to the current displeasure with GAs. But the reason why we have made so many confusing, fast, biased GAs comes down to one simple observation:

We have no idea what we are working toward.

I would argue there is no goal to GAs. I would challenge anyone who disagrees with that statement to tell me what the ideal meta looks like without using the words “balanced”, “broken”, or “competitive,” all of which are subjective. We have no way to measure whether any GA will put us closer or further from a “healthy” meta. To reiterate, we have no system for making GAs and we don’t even know what a good GA looks like once we make it. No wonder everyone is conflicted on them!

What makes something broken?

Let’s try to define what makes something worth GAing. These aspects are essential because we must be able to hold any GA up to these tests before they take effect. If a GA doesn’t objectively move us closer to our ideals, it is no good.

  • Any tactic, gun, or item, that forces players with different roles to play the same way. The classic example would be a gun that is so good, every player would be better off using it. Clay alludes to this point in a tweet during MW:

Other examples

Smokes: a team with 4 smoke players would inarguably make killing those players harder than a team with fewer smokes

The MP5 from MW: with the combo of 10mm + merc foregrip, the MP5 created a sort of “do-it-all” gun with range, good up-close, and fast ttk. Some maps could allow 3–4 MP5s.

Notice how this addresses things like ARs that are better than subs up close, subs with too much range, or nades that are too strong, for example. The goal is broad definitions

What doesn’t make a good GA

  1. “We need 2 ARs and 2 subs!”
  2. “We need a flex gun!”
  3. “That gun needs more/less range!”

I list these things because they are not RULES, they are outcomes that we deem favorable. Rules can lead to these outcomes, but we must not GA simply to fit our ideas.

What should we do?

Most complaints around GAs acknowledge the difficulty in improving or changing the system. I would like to make a few suggestions that I think are essential to make GAs work: No more player GAs; trial periods for potential GAs; and irreversible GAs.

  1. No more player GAs

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT change our GA system needs to make. As I outlined, players are naturally biased and can socially pressure peers into decisions. This makes GAs into more of a popularity/pissing contest than actual meta improvement. Players may certainly campaign for GAs, but the decisions MUST NOT be directed by players alone. Even good changes will be questioned and lead to more dissatisfaction in the community.

2. Trial period for any GA that is not quick-banned upon release of the game or DLC

If something is truly “broken” it will be banned within a short time of the game release or DLC. Frequent nerfs and buffs should not necessitate instant bans. I suggest a system where, each week, a proposed GA is brought forward and trialed for the next week. At the next weekly meeting, the GA is either enacted or dismissed based on the trial and a new GA is brought forward. Notice I say a single GA; there could potentially be more GAs in one period, provided they do not influence each other. This brings me to the final point:

3. Irreversible GAs

GAs must be final and iterate on the current meta. If each GA allows for the reintroduction of previously GAd items, it will be impossible to determine if a GA moves the meta forward. Think about our current problem with task force barrel (which improves the range and damage of subs) and the AK-47 (which is strong at range and up-close). The performance of the subs is directly related to the viability of the AK, making GAs involving both guns to be impossible. Every GA must be thought of as one-way. In a GA system that truly iterates to improve the meta, the ratio of proposed GAs to completed bans would be very high, with most proposals failing. I think of this system as “innocent until proven broken.”

MY PROPOSAL

A council of coaches, 1 per team, no active or bench players allowed. Any team with no current coach or non-player representative gets no vote. We must protect players, who give up their voting rights to their coaches, from being outnumbered by rouge players.

An 8-vote majority needed to enact any GA. If teams have not been announced or coaches cannot vote, an 8-vote majority is STILL needed, preventing early-game GAs that do not have majority support from being enacted.

Only 1 GA can be proposed each 7 day period unless the GAs are not related, i.e. smoke GA + AK-47 GA because the power of smoke is not impacted by the balance of an AR.

Play for 1 week with the item allowed. All items/weapons/attachments are considered innocent until proven broken.

Players and coaches can campaign in favor of their opinions. After 1 week, coaches from each team will vote and if an 8-vote majority is reached, the item in question will NEVER be played again unless a significant change is made to the mechanic.

New GAs may be proposed the same day as an enacted GA because the players will still have to play with the current meta for 7 days.

Pros:

  • Allows GAs to move in a linear fashion, iterating the meta one step at a time
  • Removes some potential bias. Coaches still represent the will of their teams, but I think this compromise is worthwhile, as opposed to allowing people who have never played Cod (everyone on the Activision competitive team) from making decisions
  • Less confusion for challengers, amatuers, and pros
  • Provide a system for bridging between titles/seasons, during which time GAs become the wild west

Cons:

  • Some bias still exists
  • Slower process may allow certain items to remain longer than they currently would
  • Players will certainly still be unhappy. Sub players will always want the ARs weaker/subs stronger and vice versa

Thanks for reading. This took much more effort/research than expected but I think this is one of the first lists of actual new ideas, not just complaints or defenses for GAs. My proposal certainly plays off my ideas, but the desired effects of GAs can easily be taken without adopting my proposal.

Data Analyst working with the LA Guerrillas CDL team

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