Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3’s Bans And Protects

I like the Ruhanga multi-animal logo

Massively jetlagged as I am, I decided to ease back into the post-International real world by catching up with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 [official site] announcements from Gamescom. Either I am stuck in a MOBA fever dream or Blops 3 really is introducing a protect and ban phase to competitive play. Tell you what. I’m going to cover it as if it’s real and then you can just let me know (gently) whether it’s all just a big hallucination. I’m also going to put a wodge of new screenshots in.

So, possibly-hallucination-David-Vonderhaar was talking about the protects and bans system during the eSports reveal live stream and said “There’s no doubt that this is the most significant change to how Call of Duty esports will be played over the coming years.” The stream involved a lot of hyperbole and cliché but I am inclined to agree on this point. The idea is that you get to choose which pieces of content to ban from play and which to protect from being banned.

In a shooter or in Starcraft I’m used to seeing veto systems for maps, but the Black Ops 3 approach looks a lot more granular and is more reminiscent of MOBA picks and bans which are used to kick certain characters from the selection pool while taking others for your own team. Protecting is slightly different from picking from what I’ve seen – I think it means the protected item is still available to all players rather than reserved for one side. Scorestreaks, weapons, specialist abilities and weapon attachments are all up for banning or protecting. In the showmatch we saw teams led by pro players Kivi and TeePee compete in a Hardpoint match on the Combine map make the following bans and protects, some clearly for the good of the team, others with specific players in mind:


Thermal (attachment)
UAV (scorestreak)
Shock Charge (tactical equipment)
Mothership (scorestreak)
Sixth Sense (perk)
C4 (explosive)


M8A7 (assault rifle)
Man-O-War (assault rifle – this one was flagged up as a protect by Kivi for teammate Buzzo – apparently he’s been wrecking house on it so there’s the danger of a ban. I’m expecting that players who excel in one or two aspects might find themselves effectively banned out of games)

Then the setup moved on to the specialist draft section. Teams get to pick from the specialist characters’ weapons and abilities but with a one-per-team limit so no multiples. Both of the first players on either team went for Seraph’s Annihilator weapon (a revolver with high-penetration rounds – a one shot kill which reminds me of Destiny’s Golden Gun). Also picked were Ruin’s Overdrive (a movement speed boost), Outrider’s Sparrow (a bow which fires explosive bolts), Nomad’s Rejack (self-revive which happens inside a smokescreen), Prophet’s Tempest (an electricity bolt which can arc between players) and Reaper’s Psychosis (an ability which generates three decoy versions of Reaper).

The sustain power offered by Rejack for holding the point or mopping up kills and the deadly force of Annihilator seemed to be the most appealing to the pros for Hardpoint given they were picked up by both teams. I was interested in Tempest but from the stream it seemed pretty hard to see how the lightning was actually bouncing between players from the viewpoints you get in spectator mode. CoDCast (the broadcasting/spectator feature) has had some tweaking but I’m wondering whether they might be able to add some way of making usage of weapons like Tempest more legible still. Maybe just seeing how the bolt has bounced using the same white outline style as you get to show other players on the map who are technically out of sight for the point of view you’re currently spectating?

Here’s the full video from the stream which has more detail from Vonderhaar about things like Arena as well. There is about half an hour of a countdown screen too which you might like if you’re a fan of countdown screens.

Aaaaaand a wodge of screenshots:

Single player - Through The Lotus Towers

Single player - Provocation

Single player -Lotus Towers

Single player - In Darkness

Multiplayer - Evac

Multiplayer - Evac

Multiplayer - Combine


  1. Ansob says:

    Both of the first players on either team went for Seraph’s Annihilator weapon (a revolver with high-penetration rounds – a one shot kill which reminds me of Destiny’s Golden Gun). Also picked were Ruin’s Overdrive (a movement speed boost), Outrider’s Sparrow (a bow which fires explosive bolts), Nomad’s Rejack (self-revive which happens inside a smokescreen), Prophet’s Tempest (an electricity bolt which can arc between players) and Reaper’s Psychosis (an ability which generates three decoy versions of Reaper).

    Now it really sounds like a MOBA.

    Let’s hope this system is extended to the non-competitive game modes somehow – it’s probably a decent way of flagging the stuff that’s broken due CoD not being designed for PC, and Treyarch have had a tendency in the past to actually patch their games.

    • dontnormally says:


      • dontnormally says:

        seriously, how could you not fully explain what the hell these terms actually mean and how they work

        • Ksempac says:

          Well for someone who knows MOBA competitive play, the terms are self-explanatory, even if the system is slightly different in MOBA. Maybe Philippa assumed that this was common knowledge.

          I have no information on Cod Blops, but just from Philippa’s description and the mention of pick and ban, i can understand the concept :

          2 teams decide to play a match of CoD Blops against each other. Before they start, they have a ban and protect phase. They go through the whole inventory usually available, and each team will have the opportunity of banning a weapon, an ability or an attachment from the match. Meaning neither teams will be able to use that banned thing during the match. So if you know one opponent is very good with a specific weapon, you would ban that weapon, forcing the opponent to find another (hopefully less efficient) strategy. On the other hand, team also get an opportunity (before bans ? in the middle of the bans ?) of protecting a weapon/ability/attachment. If you really really need a specific weapon and it hasn’t been ban yet, you can mark it as protected, and thus be sure it will be available during the game.

        • Ksempac says:

          There are 3 goals in introducing pick-and-bans:
          * first it prevents unbalanced heroes/items to ruin a competition. If one hero/item is clearly superior to the other and there is no ban, then the first team who pick that hero/item will win the game. So MOBA allows you to ban some heroes before you can pick one (order and number of pick and bans changes depending on which MOBA we are talking about)
          * second it forces players to have multiple strategies. if you are a one trick pony, a few well chosen bans against you will prevent you from winning. It thus rewards players who have multiple strategies/tactics/skills. It also prevent the game from being always the same “apply same strategy over and over again because i win with it”.
          * finally, it adds another layer of strategy to the competitive games. Since pick and bans are alternated, you can hide some of your strategy until the very last pick, you can pretend you’re going to go for Strat A, the opponent will start picking stuff that is anti Strat A, and then, when your opposing team has commited to stuff against A, with your last few picks you can switch it around and actually implement Strat B. How much you can hide and much mindgame there is in that phase depends on the specific MOBA.

          • dontnormally says:

            Very interesting. This mechanic seems very powerful, when implemented carefully.

  2. jeeger says:

    Class names (or character names?) sound a lot like Crysis character names. Coincidence?

  3. Steven Hutton says:

    MOBA are a big thing now, what element should we copy from them?

    I know! Why don’t we copy the worst thing about them?

    That’s great! We can prevent players from playing their favourite character/class/weapon and force them to have less fun in the name of ‘variety’. AND we can use the ban system as an easy band-aid fix to save tons of effort actually balancing the game.

    • DCEnygma says:

      I actually have to disagree. Watching The International finals this year, watching what teams ban which characters can actually be super interesting, since it requires them to change strategies on the fly. It’s not really about balancing, it’s about trying to create the best strategic advantage for your team.

      I also doubt this will be a feature in standard online multiplayer, as it would drag out matchmaking. I’m personally kind of interested to see where this goes.

      • Incanus says:

        The problem is not “is it interesting to watch in so-called “high level” matchs”, it’s this: as tons of people absolutely don’t give a shit about “e-penis-sport” and “e-penis match”, and just wan’t to play a game they love, tailoring games to the needs and tastes strictly of these e-penis players is usually detrimental to the regular players (= people that don’t spend their entire lives playing a game in order to win indecent amount of $$$ in a game).

        But, as the $$$ destroyed football with corruption, ads, doping, treachery, violence, etc…i fear a bit that “e-penis-comparison-sport” will do the same to these games.

        We will see.

        Wait, that’s a lot of penis.

        • shaydeeadi says:

          It sounds more like a specific set of modes and not applicable to every match ever played. Just like in Dota2 actually.

          Maybe you should also take your meds? Your writing appears to be erratic, and obsessed with penises.

          • Chorltonwheelie says:

            Nah, he’s right.
            The unconditional fawning over this kind of money and testosterone fuelled willy waving isn’t pretty.

          • Incanus says:

            Well suggesting in a reply that “someone should take his meds”, is at best insulting (for me and for the people that actually have to take some meds), at least the proof that you have no other arguments than ad hominem. Classy of you.

            English is not my native language, so i can understand that some of my writing feels weird for a native speaker. Deal with it?

            And all the penis reference were of course sarcastic^^.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Banning is a super integral part of picking. The draft is half the game. It’s not about ‘variety’, it’s about strategy, about outbidding your opponent.

    • Vandelay says:

      Hmm… Perhaps you should play some MOBAs before you comment on the worst part of them. Banning is never featured in standard matchmaking. It isn’t even on ranked in Dota. As far as I am aware, it is only in Captain’s Mode, which anyone worried about competition interrupting their fun will not be touching.

      I highly doubt that this feature will be part of any regular mode that you are not expected to be in a coordinated team, as banning would be impossible in a public game, even if there is just a couple of randoms.

  4. MegaAndy says:

    E-Sport FPS on controllers? wha?

  5. Allenomura says:

    So, if you want to be able to tailor the CoD experience to your taste, all you need to do is opt to play in that esports mode? Or, maybe this is a special functionality with restricted access. brought out solely for broadcast events…
    If it would be possible to deal with (remove from play) any element found to be detrimental to the game (in the short, or long term) I’d probably be more likely to play.

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      Philippa Warr says:

      I believe the intention is for it to be available to anyone who wants it, you just have to set up the options in a menu called “competitive settings”

    • terves says:

      I would imagine this feature is meant for private and ranked matches, not just every public game. The past few years of CoD games have had the option of ranked play, which is 4 vs 4 playlists of the ‘competitive’ game modes (S&D, Hardpoint, CTF, Uplink) with CS:GO style player rankings where everyone has access every item, weapon, perk and scorestreak except ones chosen by the devs to be banned from ranked play entirely. For example, in Black Ops 2 things you couldn’t pick in ranked included items that let you see people on your minimap such as the UAV, the semi-automatic FAL rifle that could kill people in 2 hits and the shock charge and bouncing betty deployables. This feature is intended to replace the dev-curated bans and let ranked players decide which items they don’t want to play against dependent on map, opponent and game mode.

  6. DCEnygma says:

    Yeah… that’s not going to be the case for every game. Casual multiplayer will be completely untouched by this. I’m really not sure why you’re so worked up about something that literally will not affect you.

    • DCEnygma says:

      Ah, something buggered up. This was supposed to be a reply to Incanus up above. Sorry. :(

      • Incanus says:

        I’m bothered because we know that these types of modifications are usually applied first to “competitive game” (i put this into brackets, because i think the so-called “casual gaming” can totally be competitive too) than trickle down and impact other game modes (“casual”, as you say, ones).

        Driven by the insane money and influence carried by “competitive” style of gameplay, there is tendencies to apply as is, these formulas wider and wider. It’s rather preoccupying. I mean, the atmosphere of multiplaying is already too much toxic in a lot of ways (insults, agressivness, mysoginy, etc..).

        Sorry, again, for my loosy english.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          It’s never going to be implemented in regular games for the simple reason that it takes a long-ass time to start a game when using this. Not only do you have to do the ban and protect phase and the specialist phase, but you then have to allow everyone to redo their loadout to replace any banned weapons you may have. It’s a pain in the ass for a game that people regard positively that you can pick up and play.

        • DCEnygma says:

          No problem with the English, I understand fine. :)

          I have to kind of echo Deadly Sinner here, I really don’t see this in any way impacting standard play, just because of how long it takes. It’s no different than with League of Legends, every game doesn’t have the ban/protect phase. It’s just when you’re playing in the major competitive games where you can actually get ranked globally (unless they’ve changed this since I last played, which admittedly, was like 2 years ago).

          I really don’t think they would want to hinder the more casual playstyle that CoD has become known for. It would be very bad in the greater business sense.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          If people like it, then they’ll play in these modes. If they don’t enjoy it, then they won’t, simple as that.