Call of Duty: Elite is a new Activision service that expands the multiplayer side of gargantuan first-person shooter series.
Elite, developed by newly formed studio Beachhead, has been built from the ground up over the past two years to change how players "do" multiplayer, Activision said at a press event earlier this month.
Elite is integrated into last year's gargantuan success Black Ops and will integrate into future Call of Duty games, including Modern Warfare 3. It's set for launch with MW3 this November on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Activision has a four screens "philosophy" for Elite: web, TV, mobile applications, and within the game interface.
20 million people play Call of Duty every month, seven million every day. Elite aims to connect those players and help them socialise inside and outside of games.
Elite, which provides a single profile that unites the community and evolves with the release of each Call of Duty game, includes four tabs: career, connect, compete and improve.
Career provides a career summary, with winning percentages, recent matches, customs classes, personal bests, weapon performances and screesnhots. There's also a heatmap of a recent map, with a timeline detailing every kill or death in a match, where it occurred, and which weapons were involved.
You can search for other player and see their stats – click on TRACK to keep a close eye, and then compare allows you to compare stats: most kills, longest killstreak and headshots.
Connect allows you to connect to groups. It outlines a collection of people who share an interest, such as photography. You can view stats for the group, group leaderboards, and group comments. This reminds us of a group in photo site Flickr.
The Theatre feature includes the current staff pic for best user-generated content, with a YouTube video of various cool gubbins. It curates the very best of content, but also offers most viewed, most liked, or videos you're tagged in.
Compete grants access to all the data about a person and a game. It constantly runs events you can compete in. A calendar runs along the top of the screen; click on a day and it shows you the events, right down to screenshot contests. Events are always updated and the team will cook up new ways to engage the community. You can win badges and prizes: even an iPad.
And finally, Improve. This allows you to view all the maps from a top down perspective, seeing where objective locations are placed for different game types and where drops are. You can view each weapon in the game, get an overview and receive tips for use.
There's attachment data, and video guides from the pros. They reveal damage information and range effectiveness. Secondary weapons, attachments, perks, killstreaks and game modes are all detailed. The idea is Elite acts as an in-depth encyclopaedia of tips.
Activision vice president for digital Jamie Berger revealed how Elite will improve the Modern Warfare 3 experience.
Here, Connect will provide "robust support" for clans. More information on that will be provided later in the year. Compete provides a competition program guide not just for the individual, but group versus group, clan, inter-clan and leagues. And Improve connects players into a "collective intelligence". As an Elite member, you'll be able to leverage all community statistics and the "wisdom of the best players on any topic of the game".
So, how will Elite launch?
A number of features, such as the Career section and groups, will be free. A "premium membership" is also planned, although the features provided by this are yet to be revealed. Activision said the average player plays 170 hours per year. The Elite Premium membership, the company insisted, must match that level of value.
"It's an investment in development," said Berger. Beachhead is home to a standalone 24/7 service team. You'll also get full access to all Modern Warfare 3 downloadable content as part of the membership, including map packs.
"Call of Duty does not and will not charge for multiplayer - that's our continued commitment to the player," Berger promised. "When premium membership launches it will cost less than any comparable services online right now. We believe this is the future of connected entertainment."
A public beta is planned for the summer. Sign up at the official Call of Duty: Elite website.