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Call of Duty: eSports and League Play

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Black Ops 2 League Play CoD eSports Call of Duty

The introduction of League Play in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer mode has brought a whole new level of team-based competitive gaming for both serious and casual players alike. As eSports initiatives continue to heavily influence the direction that Call of Duty is taking the competitive gaming scene, now is a good time for veterans and newcomers to get involved with Call of Duty League Play and see what it's all about.

What is Call of Duty League Play?

Call of Duty League Play (or World League) is a new feature in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer that allows players to compete against similarly skilled opponents as a solo competitor or as part of a League Team. The League Play playlists are divided into different series and seasons, each with their own set of rules, game modes, map rotations and ranking ladder. The purpose of playing in any match from the League Play Series is to win and move up in ranking ladders and into higher tier divisions, so it brings a much more defined sense of competitive gaming compared to what most players would find in a general public lobby match.

Before we delve into the specific details of the competitive playlists that make up the World League, let’s take a closer look at some of the League Play concepts and structure and how the ladder ranking system works.


When you first play for each season of a World League series, you will need to play a total of five placement matches that will determine which division you or your team is placed in. This is mainly based on your hidden skill rating and how many of the five placement matches you have won.

There are a total of six divisions that reflect the approximate skill distribution of the active population in a Series, with each division resetting at the start of each new season of a League Series. Each division is then further broken up into subdivisions of 250 players and the players in your subdivision will be whom you directly compete with to climb the ranking ladders.


Each of the League Play Series or playlists are broken up into seasons that run for approximately thirty calendar days. At the end of a season, there will be a brief window of time before the next season starts, which is called the preseason. During this time, the staff at Elite will be finalising results of the previous season as well as adjusting the game rules and map rotations as necessary. You can play and practice during preseason, but these games will not count for League Ladders.

When a season of the League Series ends, you may visit the team or solo homepage in-game to view the final standings for your ladders. Your highest career Division rank will be displayed on your team or solo homepage and your all-time career best Division rank will be shown on your global playercard in-game. It is also worth noting that your results and ranking at the end of a season could also have a positive influence on your initial placement in the next season, which would be very rewarding for players who actively participate and rank highly in all seasons of the World League Series.

At the moment, League Play is supporting Season 4 of both the Champions Series and the Team Deathmatch Series (you can find more details about both of these Series further below). Some players may remember that there was also a third, objective-based Moshpit Series that used to be in the mix, but this has not been supported since Season 3 of the World League Series. Instead, players are recommended to visit the Champions Series to play a variety of objective game modes with competitive rules and restrictions.

For more details about when each of the Champions Series and Team Deathmatch seasons begin and how much time remains, check the League Play Section of your Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 game or on the Call of Duty Elite League Play webpages.


Matchmaking in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 League Play is mainly skill-based so that players can have fun while competing against similarly skilled opponents. Due to the fact that wins and losses are so essential to progression in each of the League Play Series, one of the other important things to note about matchmaking is that any and all game matches will not begin until the pre-game lobby is full, and then once started, players will not be able to join a game that is already in progress. So for instance, if you were to play in the Team Deathmatch Series, you would need to wait until the pre-game lobby is filled with 12 players for the 6v6 player format before the match can begin.

Furthermore, upon completing a match, you and your team will automatically be required to search for a new matchmaking lobby to play against different opponents. This is mainly to keep things as fair as possible for players and teams who may be at too much of an advantage or disadvantage (or possibly for boosting issues) if they were to continue playing in the same lobby.

In essence, all of this also means that sometimes there can be a considerable waiting time in the League Play lobbies before you might actually play a match, although it is usually well worth the wait of getting into the esteemed Platinum Division and then battling your way through to the highest rank in the elite Masters Division. On the bright side, one of the good things about playing in the League Series is that the server connections generally feel much smoother and better than in a general public lobby match-up, so it doesn't often feel like other teams have a major advantage simply because they have a better internet or server connection.

Ladders and Ladder Points

Your ranking in each of the League Series will be determined by Ladder Points that can be earned or lost by playing games. Initially, you or your team will start at zero rank points at the season start after you have completed the five placement matches. Winning matches will earn you points to climb the ladder, whereas losses will lose you points and possibly push you down the ladder. As you play more and win enough games, you may be promoted to a higher Division. But at the same time, losing too many games could cause you or your team to be demoted to a lower Division.

The points earned or lost after each match are determined by the predicted outcome of the game and you can sometimes be awarded bonus points for accumulating a higher win streak. In addition, a Cumulative Daily Bonus Pool is awarded to you for the first few wins of each day as a bonus for consistently participating in the League Play. This is in addition to the Ladder Points earned for those wins and any bonus points that are not used will be rolled into the next day. Earning the Bonus Pool each day can add a big boost to your ranking in the ladder.

Your ultimate goal in League Play is to finish with the best rank possible you can achieve by the end of the League Season.

The World League Series

One of the other good things about League Play is that all of your weapons, perks, scorestreaks and equipment are already unlocked from the beginning so that you are free to make whatever classes suit your playstyle best. This makes it simple and easy for players to get into while also ensuring that no player is at a disadvantage simply because they have not yet unlocked their best weapons. You will also be able to level up your player as per normal while playing any games and matches in League Play.

So without further ado, here are some details of the currently supported Champions Series and Team Deathmatch Series from the World League playlists.

Champions Series

A mix of objective game modes that use competitive rules.
Format: 4v4
Ranks: Team and Solo
Special Rules (from Season 3 onwards, following the competitive Major League Gaming or MLG rules):
  • 3rd person spectating disabled
  • No SMAW or RPG
  • No Grenade Launcher Attachments
  • No Bouncing Betty, C4 or Claymore
  • No Tactical Insertions or Shock Charge
  • No Ghost or Hardline
  • No UAV, Counter UAV, Care Package, Orbital VSAT, Guardian or Hunter Killer

Game Modes: Capture The Flag, Search and Destroy, and Hardpoint
Map Rotation: (Each game mode has its own specific map rotation, which you can find here).

The Champions series is an intensely competitive playlist that promotes skilful and effective teamwork and communication to succeed and win. The Series first requires players to form and create a set League Team of up to four players in the League Play lobby before going through the placement matches and ranking up in the Champion Series ladder. Once created, the team will compete as a League Team and will be placed in Team Ladders. The fact that players can choose a team name and a team emblem for their League Team also means that they can play this series to effectively represent their clan or community group as well.

In terms of ranking for the Champions Series, a team will have its own skill rating that is based entirely on the team’s wins or losses. When playing as a team, your wins and losses only count towards the team’s skill rating and team ladder ranks and do not affect solo skill rating or solo ladder ranks. You can create and be a part of as many different teams as you would like going through this particular series, but because all teams have their own skill rating, each team is unique to the 4 players on that team. You cannot swap a player in for a different one as it would affect the skill rating for the team, so it is often best and easiest to try and focus on playing with one or a select few dedicated teams and team mates to rank up in the Team Ladder - especially since you will still have to complete the five placement matches for each unique team before they can be ranked as well.

Another thing to note is that at any time you do not play as a full League Team, you will be ranked as a solo competitor. This is true even if you invite a few friends to your party to play together.

From past experience, some of the teams you might play against in the Champions Series are very good sportsmen and may take notice and give credit to you and your team mates for performing very well in the matches and on the Team Ladder rankings, so it can definitely be good exposure for your team or clan. As a small summary of everything you would need to know about League Play, here are some of GraphicX's first impressions and recommendations for the Champions Series from when it first launched in November last year.

Team Deathmatch Series

Team Deathmatch using standard rules.
Format: 6v6
Ranks: Solo
Special Rules: None
Game Mode: Team Deathmatch
Map Rotation: Carrier, Cargo, Express, Hijacked, Plaza, Overflow, Raid, Slums, Yemen, Standoff

The Team Deathmatch Series plays out very much like the standard Team Deathmatch games in the public lobby playlist, except that it comes with the extra purpose of moving up in a ranking ladder. Unlike in the Champions Series though, each player will have an individual ladder ranking based on their own individual wins and losses, which essentially means that each player is playing to win for themselves since a rigid League Team is not necessary for ranking up in the ladder. Players are still able to casually party up in the League Lobby before searching for matches or go at it alone. However, given how difficult it can be to predict how random team mates in your lobby will perform during the matches, it definitely helps to know that you have a good and reliable team to play alongside you and win as well.

Personally, I think that if you generally play a lot of Team Deathmatch in the public lobbies then it's definitely worth giving the Team Deathmatch Series a shot to climb that ladder too. There is another dimension of competition in competing even against your own friends in the solo ladders as well as being another great and fun challenge to tackle together as a team. In the process, you may even find and befriend other skilled and like-minded players who are willing to party up and play with you for a much better chance at winning, which is always a good thing.

Road to the Call of Duty Championship

The introduction of League Play (as well as CODcasting and Live Streaming) as a feature in Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is only one of a huge series of steps taken by the Call of Duty franchise to familiarise the wider audience of players with the professional level of competitive gaming, otherwise known as eSports.

There are many professional gaming circuits running Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 competitive events, tournaments and championships worldwide offering a share of huge prize pools for winners, with the major partnerships at the moment including the ESL European Championship, MLG Winter Championship and ultimately the Call of Duty Championship at the international level.

If you're interested, have a look through the websites above to check out the details for each championship and how you might be able to participate or watch some live streaming of the intense matches being played. And if you're definitely interested in League Play and perhaps a more local competitive scene to get involved in, check out some of the competitive Call of Duty events held at SixAxisGaming, CyberGamer and right here at Good Game ANZ.

Author: I_live_4_fun


Top article Live B).  Brings together all the info on the leagues in CoD really well :D.  Reckon we'll see more stuff like this next-gen (both eSports and top articles on them ;)).

Mar 09 2013 06:30 AM
Thanks Axe :D. Yep, I think a lot of us had doubts about League Play and how it would work competitive-wise when it was first mentioned for Black Ops 2, but it's good to see the whole Series is still going well and that plenty of people are getting into it. Means less time waiting around in the lobbies too :P.