Call of Duty

ZooMaa column: Why Gentlemen’s Agreements keep CoD esports competitive

by Tommy Paparatto
New York Subliners

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In his Dexerto column, Tommy “ZooMaa” Paparatto discusses the Call of Duty League’s Gentlemen’s Agreements: a set of attachment and in-game mechanic bans collectively agreed upon by CDL pros. He examines each GA, why they’re controversial, and how their bans impact future competition. 

The first thing I’ll say about GA’s (Gentlemen's Agreements) is that pros just want the game to be as competitive as possible. Bans are aimed at widening the skill gap, delivering a game that is more enjoyable to watch and play.

Every team has a captain (or leader, or whatever you want to call it), so there's a captain’s chat where everything is talked about—what's overpowered, what's cheap, and what's whack. Players voice their opinions and come to an agreement with a vote, or, if we can't come to an agreement, things stay the same.

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So far, the three big bans have been Merc Foregrip, Auto Tactical Sprint, and Snaking—each posing unique problems.

Already, with Merc Foregrip out of the picture, there’s more variety with the MP5—everyone using different attachments based on different playstyles. That’s the kind of impact we hope for with GA’s, making the game even more exciting, entertaining and competitive.

Merc Foregrip

We didn’t want to use Merc because you don't have to aim. It makes hipfire really overpowered – people were hitting first shots without even aiming in across the map. It was reducing the skill gap and making the game a lot easier, when obviously we want the professional competitions to always need the highest level of skill.

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And it just wasn’t fun to watch, it doesn't show you who the most talented players are and was getting to a point where people abusing it made the game feel very random and sporadic. Especially with smoke grenades being so prominent, you could slide into smokes, shoot erratically, and just hope for the best.

Like, my little cousin can do that, you know?

People don’t always agree, but pros are into positioning and outplaying opponents so Merc was a definite "gotta go." Anything that allows you to not aim your gun should be gone.

Automatic Tactical Sprint

Auto Tac is a setting that performs a mechanic for you. The problem is, when you're in a competitive game and there's a broken mechanic like slide canceling, automation just exacerbated the problem, until everyone in the game was just spamming said broken mechanic. 

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People don't like slide cancel, it probably shouldn't be in the game. But it is what it is, that's how the game was made and everybody is going to use it because it’s there and available.

They could have nerfed the slide canceling or gotten rid of it completely, but they didn’t—so the Auto Tac ban was mostly just to get rid of the fugaze. The less fugaze, the better.

Snaking 

Snaking has been in Call of Duty for years and it's never gone away. It’s worse in some games than others, but it’s prominent this year, in particular, because it makes you very hard to kill. If you lay down and stand up over and over again behind cover, it's going to break the ‘cameras’ a little bit and make it harder to hit you.

So GA'ing something like that is tricky, because we’ve been playing CoD for years and are habituated to dropping behind cover when weak and standing back up when full health. That’s not “snaking,” pros just don't want it abused.

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Fans accused me of snaking against the Seattle Surge during their home series. But even Surge players like Apathy said I didn't. I wasn’t sitting on the head glitch and saddling up and down, abusing the mechanic—I got a kill, was one shot, so went down and then stood up with health, snaked the head glitch, got another kill, and laid back down because I was weak again. 

That’s just playing the game, I'm not going to stand on the desk and ask to die.

At this point, it's muscle memory that we’ve been honing for years. Players can try everything to change that, but actually removing snaking from the game will require action from the developers (slowing the movement or taking longer to ADS after standing).

The meta moving forward

Merc was so overpowered that it made no sense to not use the MP5, but now it’s gone and players’ eyes are opening up to different things. Some have even started running the Uzi sometimes, like Envoy during the Minnesota Rokkr Home Series.

You’ll still mostly see MP5 and M4A1s, but players are experimenting and trying different guns out. And nobody knows what's good or bad yet, so everyone is running different attachments too.

The new Vector (Fennec) could come into play a little, as it’s really good up-close, or even the Grau, especially to get picks in SND or on maps with long sightlines like Azhir Cave or Petrograd. 

As far as bans or meta changes, I don't think you're going to see any more throughout the year. 

zoomaa
Instagram, @ZooMaa
New York Subliners' Dillon "Attach" Price, Tommy "ZooMaa" Paparattto, and Donovan "Temp" Laroda (left-to-right).

The league is almost over, we're on the final stretch. Most of what would change are things people have been complaining about all year. So there's no point in complaining, I'm just going to play the game, slide cancel, and do what I gotta do. 

At this point, we’re just focused on grinding everyday to make sure we're the best that we can possibly be.