"MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Black Ops forum

"MLG Playlist" - Full discussion


Last weekend I attended my first MLG Pro Series event in Dallas, Texas. At that event, and via Twitter, many MLG players asked me about the possibility of an MLG playlist.

I've been thinking about what this means at a design and technical level. Not everything the MLG has in its rules are enforceable at a playlist level. In fact, most are not.

Some fans of the game assume "anything" is possible in a playlist. This isn't accurate.

While many things are possible, many more are not. At least they are not without some significant engineering work. The more engineering (coding) required the more risky the change is. The more risky the change is the less likely we are to want to do it.

Unless you professionally develop software for a living, the above can be really hard to understand. My hope is that by telling you this so matter-of-factly, you will take my word. A full lesson on software risk management is outside the scope and purpose of my post.

In this post, I literally go through the rules one by one and tell what is possible and what is not possible.

It's going to be long, long post. Buckle up.

Let me make something very clear. Off-topic replies will not be tolerated. I have asked the forum mods to come down hard on off-topic posters. If we feel we have to delete a post, it's grounds for a permanent or temporary ban.


Basically, no General rule is enforceable at the playlist level. If you don't care about that (and most won't) skip to the next sections.

Players may not use a Turbo controller or a Button Macro controller. Turbo controllers allow Players to press a button that results in their Character performing a set of actions that would normally require the Player to press the same button multiple times. Button Macro controllers allow Players to press a button that results in their Character performing a set of actions that would normally require the Player to press multiple buttons. The first party wireless controller is the only wireless controller that can be used.

Not enforceable. The game (not a playlist) has some level of modded controller protection, but we wouldn't be able to not let you use a wireless controller that wasn't 1st party.

The game doesn't have that low level access ot the hardware and even if we did, it wouldn't be a good practical use of time.

Players may not use a controller that has been modified in such a way that it alters their Character’s abilities and/or in-game mechanics. Players are allowed to make cosmetic changes to their controller. However, Major League Gaming reserves the right to deny the use of any controller suspected of providing an unfair competitive advantage.

Same as above. Not enforceable at a playlist level at all. Somewhat enforceable at a game level, but modded controller manufactures are always trying to get around any in-game mechanics we use to defeat them.

Players and Coaches may not use a Wireless headset or a headset that requires an outlet for power.

Not enforceable. The game has no way of knowing if you are using a powered or wireless headset.

Teams that break General Rules #1-3 will be given a Warning. Each subsequent Warning that a Team receives will result in a Forfeit of the Game.

Not applicable for all the reasons listed above.

Players and Coaches may not intentionally manipulate a button, trigger, bumper, D-Pad, and/or joystick on a teammate’s controller while a Game is in progress. Breaking this rule will result in a Forfeit of the Game.

Not enforceable. The game can't see if some guy is sitting next to you waiting to press a button as though you have an extra pair of hands.

Players and Coaches may not appear on a Main Stage or Feature Station with sponsor insignia that is not approved by MLG or conflicts with MLG sponsors. Players and Coaches may be asked to wear MLG apparel for Main Stage and Feature Station Matches.

Not enforceable. But also not applicable.

Players may use any unoccupied plug-ins on their Astro Rack and Monitor.

Not enforceable. (Frankly, I'm not even sure what this means.)

In the case of a PlayStation 3/Monitor malfunction, the Round will be restarted, from the beginning, with both Teams keeping the appropriate top or bottom team and starting on the appropriate side of the Map.

Practically impossible to enforce, especially with the unpredictability of the Internet. The scope of adding this to the game is so large, it's frankly never likely to happen.

No Warm-Up Games may be played outside of scheduled Warm-Up periods.

Not enforceable. It's the Internet. You can play whenever you want. It's also likely not applicable so it's hardly a problem.

During Friday and Saturday’s scheduled Warm-Up periods, all Players must get up at the end of a Game and allow any Players, who have been waiting, to take their seat.

Not applicable.

During Saturday and Sunday’s scheduled Warm-Up periods, Teams that haven’t been eliminated from the Event have priority over other Teams regarding the use of open Stations.

Not applicable.

Players and Coaches who break General Rules #9-11 may be given a Foul (See Pro Circuit Conduct Rules).

Not applicable. More importantly, circuit conduct rules are completely enforceable unless every MLG match was played with an official.

If a Team fails to report to their Station within 5 minutes of their Match’s announcement, they will Forfeit the 1st Game. 10 minutes after the announcement, a Team will Forfeit their Best of 3 Game Match or the 2nd Game of their Best of 5/7/9/11 Game Match. 15 minutes after the announcement, a Team will Forfeit their Best of 5/7/9/11 Game Match. If both Teams Forfeit their Match, the higher seeded Team will win the Match.

Not enforceable or actionable. Putting in this level of "meet me online at this time" is so far outside the scope of how playlists work it's hardly worth commenting on.

Playlists were always met to be public-based matchmaking and to get you in the games as fast as we can.

Players set to play a Split Screen Match will have 10 minutes to create their account and adjust their classes and settings. Players set to play a Full Screen Match will have 7 minutes to create their account and adjust their classes and settings. These time limits will begin when all Players have arrived and are seated at their Station or at the time at which Teams would Forfeit the 1st Game (See General Rules #13).

Not enforceable. The game has a configurable lobby timer. However, setting it to be 10 minutes if someone is split-screen is implausible.

The lobby timer begins when the min players are reached. The min players could be equal to eight.

Teams may be disqualified or forced to play a Round(s)/Game(s) shorthanded if a Player leaves their Station without their Referee’s permission, or is otherwise unable to play. Referees may set a time limit for a Player who has requested that they be allowed to leave their Station, however, Referees may also deny a Player’s request to leave their Station. Teams may be disqualified, or forced to play a Round(s)/Game(s) shorthanded, if a Player hasn’t returned by the end of their Referee’s set time limit.

Not enforceable. We can't stop someone from walking away from the contoller.

In order to dispute Round/Game results, Players/Teams must notify their Referee that they would like to Protest the Round/Game. In order to dispute Match results, Players/Teams must notify their Referee that they would like to Protest the Match. Players/Teams must notify their Referee of their intent to Protest a Round/Game before a new Game has begun. Players/Teams must notify their Referee of their intent to Protest a Match before the Match’s Score Sheet has been submitted to the Black Ops Tournament Director.

Not enforceable.


No going outside the normal boundaries of a Map.

Not enforceable. Treyarch has put in a lot of effort to keep this from happening. It's pretty rare, but occasionally spots are found and fixed. If someone did abuse it, we could hardly do much about it at a playlist level.

No looking at an opposing Player’s Monitor or projected screen by Players or Coaches.

Hard to enforce, but less of a problem on the Internet in general unless teams are colluding.

No Switching Teams or going into Spectator Mode at any time during a Game.

We can enforce no team switching. We are likely able to prevent no spectating except where the game does it normally (dead in CTF, for example).

Breaking any of Gameplay Rules #1-3 will result in a Forfeit of the Game.

Not enforceable.

Any sign of cheating may result in a Forfeit of the Game, disqualification from an Event, a Temporary Ban from MLG’s Network of Websites (including majorleaguegaming.com and gamebattles.com), the loss of a Pro Player benefit(s), a fine, and a Competition Ban for a future Pro Circuit Competition(s).

Not enforceable at a playlist level. Black Ops has aggressively dealt with boosters, cheaters, and hackers at a policy level.

For Domination Games, two Rounds (each an 8-minute Game) must be played, with Teams switching top/bottom teams after Round 1. After Round 2, the scores from both Rounds will be added together in order to determine a winner. If the added scores are tied, two more Rounds must be played, each with a 5-minute Time Limit.

Partially enforceable at a playlist. We should be able to remove the score limit so that it's only time limit driven. We cannot, without significant investment in design, user-interface, or engineering, aggregate scores from previous rounds.

Domination wasn't really designed as a round based game.

Perhaps more importantly, this is where we start to disagree with the MLG.

In a public game, if you aggregate scores from previous rounds someone entering mid-match may be faced with a huge deficit that seems insurmountable.

We prefer that each round (or match) stand alone. Each one can be one, or lost. You play another and the scores are reset to zero so that you have a chance to win that round (or match).

More on this below as it's likely the key philosophical difference between game makers and tournament organizers.

The scores from both Rounds of a Capture the Flag Game will be added together in order to determine a winner. If the added scores are tied, at least two Tiebreaker Rounds will be played. For Tiebreaker Rounds, the Host will not be changed and Teams will use their Round 1 team for all odd numbered Tiebreaker Rounds and their Round 2 team for all even numbered Tiebreaker Rounds.

Not enforceable.

In fact, we went out of our way to change this so in CTF you don't have these major run-ups of flag caps for a single team.

Imagine joining a pub game and the score isn't 2-1, it's 15 to 3.

For tied Capture the Flag Games, the first Tiebreaker Round will be ended once a Team scores a Point and the time at which they scored will be recorded. The recorded time will be used to set the second Tiebreaker Round’s Capture Time Limit and the second Tiebreaker Round will be ended once a Team scores a Point or the Round’s Capture Time Limit is reached. If Team A scores a Point in the first Tiebreaker Round, Team A will win the Game if Team A scores a Point in the second Tiebreaker Round or the Capture Time Limit is reached. If Team A scores a Point in the first Tiebreaker Round, Team B will win the Game if Team B scores a Point in the second Tiebreaker Round before the Capture Time Limit is reached. If Team A scores a Point in the first Tiebreaker Round and Team B scores a Point in the second Tiebreaker Round as the Capture Time Limit is reached, two more Tiebreaker Rounds must be played. If no Teams score a Point in the first Tiebreaker Round, the first Team to score a Point in the second Tiebreaker Round will win the Game. If no Teams score a Point in the first or second Tiebreaker Round, two more Tiebreaker Rounds must be played.

Not enforceable. Very niche. Would require significant re-factoring on the CTF game mode.

In my opinion, this is some seriously confusing overtime / tie-breaker rules. I've read it a few times and I still don't totally follow it.

I've asked the MLG to open a SIG (special interest group) to discuss the finer points of something like this as I'm not sure what they are trying to accomplish or why.

Teams are permitted to start all Rounds/Games with three Players. Teams with fewer than three Players are not permitted to start any Rounds/Games. If a Team doesn’t have the required minimum number of Players to start a Match, they will Forfeit Games based on the timeline set in General Rules #13. If a Team doesn’t have the required minimum number of Players to start a Round/Game, after the previous Round/Game has ended, that Team must Forfeit the upcoming Game. Players are permitted to join Rounds/Games that are in progress, however, Players are not permitted to add a Character to a Round/Game for a Player who is absent.

Not fully enforceable. We can set the minimum players to six and the minimum party size to three (3 on 3) but changing the auto-team balance rules to allow a late joining player to end up on the correct team automatically or via his own selection is outside the scope of a playlist.

Players who quit out of a Game before it has ended will be allowed to rejoin the Round/Game, but a Team will Forfeit the Game if all of their Players quit without Referee’s permission.

Partially enforceable. The game automatically ends if an entire team forfeits. However, it takes the entire team to do so.

The playlist has no concept of "forfeit if the team falls below N players" and adding one is outside the scope of what would make sense to have at a playlist level.

Many people have made the incorrect assumption that we can disable join in progress at a playlist level.

It's covered at the game mode level, which is what makes it possible in Wager Match. This is something we could considering adding, but see my point at the start of this post about technology risk assessment.

If a Round/Game is started without the approval of a Referee it will be restarted.

Not enforceable. The game starts when the minimum players are reached. The game is clever, but it's not a thinking machine like a human referee.

Teams that incorrectly end a Round/Game, without Referee’s permission, will Forfeit the Game.

Not enforceable. The host of a game can quit at will. Changing the game host migration or somehow improving its capability to recover from a rage quit is far outside the scope of anything that can be done. Especially at a playlist.

The Team that doesn’t Host must choose to play as the top or bottom team. For Round 2 of Domination Games, Teams will switch from the top team to the bottom team and vice versa.

Not enforceable. We could consider allowing team switching to be enabled, but this would require a lot of good will on the participants to not abuse other stated rules.

All Host choices must be made before the start of a Match.

I may not understand this one correctly, but it does not seem enforceable. The game does host selection. The scope of a feature to allow players to vote or somehow agree on who is host is far outside the boundaries of what is possible at a playlist or even game level.

Teams that are disqualified prior to the start of a Round/Game will not be allowed to play in the Round/Game. Teams that are disqualified during a Round/Game must quit out of the Round/Game. Teams that are disqualified won’t receive any Rank Points for their ranking in the Event.

Not enforceable. The game has no concept of disqualifications, nor could it.

Players must use their registered MLG Username during all Games. No Team Name abbreviations are allowed. Players found breaking this rule may be given a Foul (See Pro Circuit Conduct Rules).

Not enforceable. The game uses Xbox Live or PSN IDs and it's a violation of 1st party rules to let you use something different. Even if we could, the level of technology integration with the MLG itself to be sure you are using an MLG registered name is way outside the scope of what we'd be willing to do.


It's been a lot of bad news so far. But it gets a lot easier from here.

Game Types

• Capture the Flag - Firing Range

• Capture the Flag - Hanoi

• Capture the Flag - Havana

• Capture the Flag - Summit

• Domination - Firing Range

• Domination - Villa

• Domination - Summit

• Search and Destroy - Firing Range

• Search and Destroy - Grid

• Search and Destroy - Havana

• Search and Destroy - Villa

Any combination of allowed game modes and maps are possible. We couldn't necessarily make you go through all of these in a sequence, but a playlist that ONLY has these combinations is "easy."

Settings - All Games

• Hardcore Mode = Disabled

• Allow Killcam = Enabled

• Headshots Only = Disabled

• Allow Sprint = Enabled

• Force Respawn = Enabled

• Wave Spawn Delay = None

• Max Health = Normal

• Health Regen = Normal

• Spectating = Team Only

• Friendly Fire = Enabled

• Class Editor = Allow Player Classes

• Killstreak Editor = Don’t Allow Killstreaks

• Perk Editor = Allow Perks

• Game Recording = Enabled

• Party Privacy = Closed

Most of these can be enforced at a playlist level, but not all.

• Game recording is always enabled in public games.

• Party privacy is controlled by the party leader and not the playlist.

• Friendly fire can be enabled (but then you should expect randoms trying to team kill you, so you best go as a party of 4).

• Would need to investigate spectating for team only and some others.

• Disable kill streaks is possible

I would need to investigate more closely but I am fairly confident most of this is possible.

Settings - Capture the Flag

1. Time Limit = 5 Minutes

2. Flag Return Time = 30 Seconds

3. Enemy Carrier on Radar = Delayed

4. Touch Return = Enabled

5. Round Win Limit = 2 Rounds

6. Capture Limit = 10 Flags

7. Respawn Delay = 7.5 Seconds

8. Number of Lives - Unlimited

Most of this should be possible. The game can redefine most rules it already has at the playlist level. There may be some exceptions that we would need to talk out.

Settings - Domination

1. Time Limit = 8 Minutes

2. Score Limit = 1000 Points

3. Round Limit = 1 Round

4. Flag Capture Time = 10 Seconds

5. Respawn Delay = 7.5 Seconds

6. Number of Lives = Unlimited

Same as above.

Settings - Search and Destroy

1. Time Limit = 2.5 Minutes

2. Bomb Timer = 45 Seconds

3. Plant Time = 7.5 Seconds

4. Defuse Time = 7.5 Seconds

5. Multi Bomb = Disabled

6. Round Switch = Every Round

7. Round Win Limit = 4 Rounds

8. Number of Lives = 1 Life

Same as above.

Banned Secondary Weapons, Tactical Grenades, Equipment, Perks & Weapon Attachments

1. Secondary Launchers

2. Flak Jacket

3. Nova Gas

4. Decoy

5. All Equipment

6. Warlord

7. Second Chance

8. Grenade Launcher

9. Flamethrower

10. Rapid Fire

The "All Equipment" might be enforceable.

However, this entire category is largely not enforceable. The game is not equipped to restrict individual perks or weapons or weapon attachments.

Many of you might be saying to yourself, "... but Vahn ... you restrict the Tactical Insert in Free for all."

True. That's because we knew a long time ago we wanted to do that as a anti-boosting measure.

The playlists don't allow arbitrary restrictions on specific items, only categories of items. Examples include: No killstreaks. No perks.

This would require new code to execute. Again, see my opening remarks about scope and software risk management.


It's not technically prudent to build a full "MLG Playlist" that echoes a changing set of rules for a specific league. The MLG isn't the only competitive league. It's just the one I have some (limited) firsthand experience with.

MLG players are a micro fraction of our audience. Any MLG playlist would have lower user counts. I don't care about that all that much. Bringing exposure to professional competitive gaming and growing the Black Ops participating in it is my motivation.

However, we would want to sacrifices a playlist to make this happen. Although it's outside the scope of this blog post, any time we add or delete a playlist, we have to work with Microsoft so as not blow up their matchmaking infrastructure. While not a huge deal, it's still a bit of a pain.

Since we use our own matchmaking infrastructure on PS3 it's less of a problem. Shouldn't the "MLG Playlist" only be on the PS3 since it's the PS3 game that is on the circuit? This would simplify things, but likely disturb Xbox players.

Given what I've told you about what is feasible and not, is it even worth doing? If so, what playlist gets sacrificed (assuming it's both 360 and PS3) for it.

In talking to fans, it seems like all steps towards a playlist that uses MLG modes and maps despite any disinterest or inability to do all the other rules is exciting.

This is MY OPINION ONLY but I am going to tell you exactly what I told the MLG.

At a macro level, I believe the MLG needs to soften their stance on some of the hardest core and esoteric rules they use. I understand the desire to keep the game "competitive" or "fair" for the greater good of a competitive experience. However, if the rules are so abstract they won't ever be in the game itself, it really just hurts their own player community and long term ability to expand their presence.

The goal should be a set of rules that both game makers and tournament organizers can live with.


Even non-MLG players can discuss as long as it's relevant to the topic. I for one would like to see more of you at MLG events. I firmly believe many of you could field a team. Even if you showed up and lost all of your matches, you will learn a lot about competitive gaming and make new friends.

I did.

David 'Vahn' Vonderhaar
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Sacrifice Sabotage. It's not a bad gametype, but it's just not as fun as most of the others. Move it into Team Tac and Mosh Pit though, I don't see why it isn't there already to he honest. (That goes for HQ's too).
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Thanks for doing this Vahn. I'm not going to lie, I didn't read ALL of it but I did read the majority. Things like headsets and getting outside the boundaries of the map aren't important and irrelevant. MLG had a playlist in Halo 3 and although the rules clearly stated no getting outside the boundaries of the map, those rules were really only designed for tournament play. Online nobody really cared if anybody got outside the map.

Although some aspects of MLG's rules and settings are impossible to do, the majority of those are arbitrary. You can't control modded controllers or map boundaries, just focus on the gameplay aspects as best you can.

Undoubtedly the biggest complaint about the Call of Duty series is it's lack of new playlists. I think an MLG playlist and a Snipers Only playlist ( http://community.callofduty.com/thread/100454886 ) would do wonders for Black Ops. Hell even 24/7 Nuketown was fun while it lasted, and although the majority of the people who want it back for good just want it back because it's an easy map to boost their KD some of us were just glad to play something different.

Regardless of what you do I think it's awesome you show so much care. The majority of game designers just release their game, get their money and then never touch it again unless they're making map packs to get some extra spare cash.
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Honestly Vahn,

I think and MLG Playlist would be excellent.

Sure, we have to lose playlists, but let's think, there are some playlists that doesn't need to be there. One go for Team Tactical. It's the less-played of all playlists, and it contains only gametypes present in other playlists such as Demolition and Domination.

An MLG playlist would avoid a bunch of noobs to play it because of the restrictions, and in fact, it could actually help noobs in improving their gameplay's level by playing in a higher-level playlist.

Another idea of mine, and I don't know if it can be done, would be adding another playlist into the list that contains "Core", "Prestige", etc. "MLG" and as soon as you enter you get MLG CTF, MLG Domination, MLG SnD. If you also had to sacrifice one of those playlists, go for Prestige or Barebones. Prestige is only there to separate players that have played 24h+ from those who haven't. And Barebones is also not that played. Both of them, specially Prestige, it only have Team Deathmatch at different level, in fact, what the Prestige leaderboards do is get one gametype from the other 3, Core, Hardcore and Barebones.

I don't see a great reson for not pulling that out and putting MLG in there.
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Some fantastic ideas Vahn. I'll admit I didn't read all of this, so, is anyone allowed into this playlist or is it restricted?
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

It seems as if you guys either aren't able or aren't willing to incorporate these rules. While it's true that MLG is not the only competitive organization for CoD, every other organization bans generally the same things. You're not going to find a competitive organization for Call of Duty that does not ban things like grenade launchers, last stand, etc.

If you guys are not able to go all the way on these rules, then please don't butcher them by only going halfway, and instead just don't do it at all. We will just wait for another game either by you guys or anther studio to come out to create a competitive playlist. We've been patient for years. We will still be waiting when you guys do get around to it.

Thank you for taking the time to approach the topic. This is the first time we've had that and it means a lot to us.
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

If this goes through Id be really happy. The playlist I would removed would be Demolition or remove the hard core stuff and all put it into new playlist called "HARDCOREMOSHPIT" problem fixed.
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Vahn you truly are the man. You answered EVERY single rule MLG has set, and it made me laugh HARD. As far as a MLG playlist goes, us competitive players really only care about the settings. I read whats possible for settings and it seems like most of it will be pretty easy. Sure you can't ban perks, but this gives us a 4v4 playlist where we dont have to worry about getting terrible map/gametype combos, no offense. As far as I'm concerned this would be a HUGE step for the MLG side of CoD. As far as what playlist to remove, possibly one of the smaller playlist? I don't really know, but I beleive a MLG playlist is a MUST. Vahn it was nice meeting you in Dallas. Keep up the good work.
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Re: "MLG Playlist" - Full discussion

Since we use our own matchmaking infrastructure on PS3 it's less of a problem. Shouldn't the "MLG Playlist" only be on the PS3 since it's the PS3 game that is on the circuit? This would simplify things, but likely disturb Xbox players.

Are you saying the PS3 can
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