WSOW Producer on European CoD, ALGS inspiration, and hacker prevention

WSOW Producer on European CoD, ALGS inspiration, and hacker prevention
Call of Duty League

Written by 

Jack Marsh


16th Sep 2023 09:10

Warzone is finally making that step into the competitive market. Four years after launch, and following countless online events, hosted by both the Call of Duty League and sponsored teams/personalities, the battle royale is heading to the main stage, where 150 players will battle against their equal counterparts until just one trio, and one solo, is left standing.

It's been a long time in the works to get Warzone into a state where competitive play can thrive, and heading into the World Series Global Finals, GGRecon sat down with Rob Belk, Director of Product, about choosing London, harnessing the Copperbox atmosphere, future European CoD ventures, and competitive integrity for the elite championships.

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First off, obviously, we're in the UK. So let's talk a little bit about London. How did you settle on London as the location, coming away from the United States for the first time in a couple of years?

The weather is incredible right now, and I'm sitting in the Copper Box venue, which feels like a little bit of a homecoming for me, and certainly for Cod Esports.

I was here, gosh, close to four years ago when we had one of our CDL events and just the crowd was insane. As an American, it definitely left me a bit envious. The energy, the hype, and the amount of consumption going on were pretty impressive, and I want to replicate that on Saturday.

I have no doubt that the Warzone community can bring that exact same thing, especially in the Copper Box, where on the multiplayer side, there's just an incredible and rich history.

I'm so pumped to kind of start that. This is our first major Warzone event, the first Global LAN, and there couldn't be a better place in my mind to kick it off than here in London.

How have you found the logistics of coming to London for the first time in a couple of years?

We're fortunate that the team focused on the World Series of Warzone is incredible. Matt and Bjorn are incredible, and we're focused on this full-time. But so many of these esports employees do events constantly. Whether that's on the Call of Duty League side or Overwatch League side. So there's just a wealth of knowledge to tap into. A lot of people were at that event a couple of years back. We also have an incredible event partner, EsportsEngine - they're behind the scenes helping us out in the Copperbox.

I'd say certainly it's a challenge. One of the things that was really important for us was to be really player-minded and player-first with our setup. I don't know if there's any other esport that has set up a stage for 150 people, let alone streaming for 150 people too. We have over 300 PCs just on the stage, and then several backups, so trying to get all those PCs in was logistically tough.

Then we've got top-of-the-line Elgato streaming equipment for them. The streaming setup will probably rival some of the best setups from some of our players. But the team was up for the challenge.

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We've seen a small snippet of the stage so far being put together. How did you find it setting up for 150 players rather than 8 in the CDL? What came into your mind when designing the stage and setting everything up?

When you look at the stage you'll certainly see a unique and a new concept. We spent a lot of time working internally with Esports Engine on this. We wanted to think through, "What's going to be the best thing for players, what's going to be the best gaming experience for fans", and give them something really exciting.

You'll see a homage to the W from Warzone with the layout. That's really unique with the Analyst desk too. I spent a lot of time seeing it on a cat drawing and on a 2D piece, but now that I can see the 3D, and gauging lots of the players' reactions when they come out front it, it's good.

The Copperbox is renowned for its atmosphere too. How did you bear that in mind when designing the stage to make sure that you get the most out of the arena?

Fitting 150 people anywhere is no easy task. We wanted to think through how our are planners going to kind of interact with the event.

We certainly had the benefit of seeing what ALGS did in this venue. So, there's tokes to their layout, but let's just say it's highly unique. 

We tried to think about placement too on stage, different than Apex, like this is a more individual influence. We wanted to acknowledge some of the best teams that qualified. So you'll see them front and center.

Everybody's here based on their own merit, which was super important this year, taking that player feedback into account, building more of a foundation for competitive Warzone, where everybody here has earned their spot. Whether that's Swagg, Jukeyz, Ebates, Tommey, we're fortunate that a lot of the names that are really belonged to the community made it here, and they'll be on the front engaging with fans and eachother.

You just mentioned a little bit about how it's going to be the first Warzone LAN and that you've took inspiration from different events and the format as well where you said you wanted to see everybody qualify rather than being invited.

I know you'll want to get this weekend out of the way first, but going forward, is this a test to see what you can also do for future years as well? Are you going to try and maybe use this as a practice for future formats and competitive structures to maybe majors and world championships and that type of thing?

Yes. I've always felt like Activision's been 100 per cent behind us in what we're doing with World Series of Warzone. We're flying all the players in and paying for their flights to hotels and this is a decent chunk of change to usual. So we certainly want to see how it goes. 

A big thing for me is, what do the players like? How do the players react? So I'm certainly trying to think about that and make sure we're taking care of the setups and the flights.

But certainly, I want to see how it performs from a viewership perspective. I think the combination of watching the engagement and then hearing the players' reaction will give us some of the nuggets we need to figure out what we want to do next.

Would you like to see the World Series of Warzone have a bigger circuit and be a similar esport to ALGS, for example?

I think the ALGS is incredible. They certainly have done an awesome job, seeing their finals last weekend. What they've put together is really impressive. 

I would love to watch World Series of Warzone - Warzone Competitive - grow in that way, and they've done a nice job of trailblazing in the BR. I think it'd be a lot of fun if the future for Warzone does include big circuits and and I guess this weekend's the time that we can tell whether that's possible or not.

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For those CDL fans, who have been waiting to come back to Europe since the coronavirus hit, does the World Series of Warzone also have that element of testing out global events again, which could see the possibility of a European CDL LAN again in the future?

It would be another great piece of data for us to review, just seeing what the crowd looks like, what the viewership does and I know for CDL, international audiences are super important, but I'm not specifically working on it, so I can't really comment directly.

With Warzone being out for a substantial amount of time now, and the CDL returned to LANs last year, why are you choosing this season to be able to kick off events in Warzone?

This is the third year of doing World Series of Warzone. After two really strong years, the feedback and the viewership has been really healthy and really impressive. For me, it keeps going back to listening to the players, listening to the community and what they want.

Not surprisingly, they want to see everybody duke it out on LAN. We've had a lot of incredible gameplay to this point, but we've always kind of kept it region by region, so that you have a sense of who the best North American players are, you have a sense of who the best European players are.

This is the first time where everybody's playing on LAN. The players, the community, they want it, I certainly want it. There's been a lot of chatter from the North American players. So, I'm excited to see that, and also expansion regions, too. We've heard from other regions they want to be involved and we certainly can't do that with just server locations, so bringing them in was really intentional and I wouldn't be surprised if some of those teams sneak up on the NA and EU players.

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Are there any surprises in store this weekend? From a production standpoint, what can we expect to see?

We've got one of the best broadcast lineups coming through so I'm super excited to have all those faces and see them in person.

If you're familiar with the operators in-game, you may be surprised by an IRL cameo from one of our operators too.

Ah, cool. So I think that'll you know, the fans know this, but Baby Goat's the opportunity on that getting pumped about the new title coming out.

I think you'll see a lot of really creative segments. We spent some time ideating with the broadcast team and there are definitely some surprises in there. I don't want to spoil it too much, though...

I want to give an incredible shout-out to Beenox, the studio behind CoDCaster, because that was such a good win for us this year. That's one of those year-three innovations we're super proud of, and they've continued to build on that. We're looking at a companion stream with CoDCaster too, and that'll highlight some of the new features that Beenox has put in. I think it'll greatly better your experience.

I'm thankful for all of the other studios, IW, Raven, Treyarch, we talk to them on a regular basis, they're behind us.

Speaking of Treyarch, and Ranked: We've seen a lot of discourse about the Signal 50 over the last couple of days. Is there anything you can comment on why you've opted to keep it in rotation?

I have seen a lot of players reach out with their concerns about the Signal 50. We've been talking about it regularly for the past couple of days. Throughout 2023, we stated that we're going to follow our Ranked settings, and we're continuing to live by that.

I think one of the things that really just hit home is, this got blown up in a loud way just this week. It just wasn't comfortable trying to introduce a new meta change this close to the event. Certainly, there are some teams that have been practising set-ups with the sniper in a different playstyle, and we felt that was something we weren't willing to change right now.

The gun had been present in the LCQ, it's been in the game for several months now, and there are some teams that qualified by using it.

I'll tell you, I've tried to listen to every Pullze chat and the podcasts that they do. Hector is an incredible talent and we're super fortunate to have him, Jake, and the rest of the crew invest in our scene. I sit there and listen to you guys, speak to the rest of the crew, feedback about range settings, feedback about formats, we hear you.

Our team is in a much better position to make specific changes around the format, and the guys gave us some good tips when we talked to them the other week. We came in thinking that the players were going to scrim all day Friday, but the feedback was more in the tune of "some players might want some more flexibility. We're in London, we'd love like a lot of us are meeting people in person for the first time."

There is some feedback that like we can actually really quickly and strictly try to do, but not with weapon metas.

Finally, we know the Warzone community loves to throw around "hackusations" and cheaters. What do you put in place to make sure that everybody's 100 per cent legit and prevent any sort of software cronuses and things like that?

Integrity is of most importance for us. I can say that we really have much better control, we feel really good, and really confident about our setup. We've got every account checked. Every player is going to be playing on PCs and equipment provided by the administration. The number of rats we have is pretty impressive, all 150 people will be checked there.

Then we have tournament accounts, too. So, I'm feeling really solid about this. We've got incredible ops team, the esports team, the EE team. So I think we're really well suited to this. Fans should feel confident that they're gonna watch a tournament that does have an uplift integrity piece there.


The World Series of Warzone starts at 3pm BST on September 16.

Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.

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