Behind the smoke: How Call of Duty: Mobile esports works

Posted by Bryan Terng on June 4, 2020

When Call of Duty: Mobile (CODM) broke records in its first week of launch and surpassed PUBG Mobile and Fortnite last year, it proved that there was a place in the esports scene for the mobile shooter. Although it’s been eight months since the launch of the game, despite the slew of esports competitions centered around CODM, it’s unclear how the competitive format for the franchise-based game actually works. 

In our efforts to understand the format (especially with the CODM World Championship presumably resuming soon), we graciously enlisted the help of Abdul Hakiem “Ranger” bin Tajudin to give us a helping hand in compiling a guide to know how CODM esports operates. After all, who better to ask than the captain of 21Huntsmen, champions of the ESL Malaysia Championship 2020 CODM?

Who is Ranger?

This CODM esports player is no stranger to the competitive Call of Duty scene, having begun his electronic sports journey eight years ago with CoD on console. Although he went on a hiatus after competing for four years to no avail, Ranger returned to the scene last year October, but this time as a professional CODM player; he was a member of FaMe apeX before joining 21Huntsmen, having participated in the inaugural official CODM esports competition, Clan Invasion, along with the Penang Lawan COVID-19: Liga Duduk Rumah (which his team won) and Playtonia’s CODM Frag Masters. Ranger is also the content manager for Resurgence MY.

CLAN INVASION: The inaugural OFFICIAL CODM Tournament is here!😍Think you have what it takes to be the nation's best?🥇...

Posted by Garena Call of Duty Mobile on Khamis, 14 November 2019

How matches work

CODM esports matches are typically played in a Best of 3 (BO3) model, with the Grand Final upping the ante to a Best of 5 (BO5). But unlike Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and PUBG Mobile esports which uses only one mode, competitive CODM instead utilises two Multiplayer modes:

  • Search & Destroy
    • The attacking team has to either eliminate the defending team, or detonate either one of three available bomb sites.
  • Domination
    • Both teams compete to own all three control areas to earn points on the map; the team with the most points wins.

Additionally, "most CODM tournaments have also been implementing Hardpoint mode (similar to Domination, but there's only one control point that shuffles around the map every minute) as the third choice ," Ranger said, adding that this Hardpoint isn't an official competitive mode yet but it's likely that it'll be included in future major tournaments.

Selecting maps

The Land of Dawn is the sole battleground of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, the mobile battle royale of PUBG Mobile has four different arenas, and CODM includes around eight maps in the esports scene (we’ll explain the number soon). However, not all maps would be played in a match, which is why the map selection component exists in every series.

"We use the veto system when selecting maps," Ranger explained, saying that most organisers would do a coin toss to determine which team will get the first pick to ban which map, with the second team banning another map before the first team finalises the round’s battle area. If it’s a BO3, this process is repeated two more times, alternating between the opposing teams to decide which maps to play in.

How the map selection looks like in ESL Malaysia Championship 2020 CODM

Although there’s no standardised map pool for tournaments, Ranger got wind that all Malaysian competitions follow the format set by the ESL Malaysia Championship 2020 CODM, which featured these maps:

  • Crash
  • Crossfire
  • Standoff
  • Firing Range
  • Summit
  • Raid
  • Scrapyard
  • Takeoff

“(CODM publisher) Garena gave ESL MY the set of rules to use in the series.” This is why local competitions now use its rule book as a basis for not just the map pool, but also for everything else, including the structure, penalties and more.

Are there roles in CODM?

Unlike PUBG Mobile, which features official roles such as fragger, scout, support and sniper, official roles for CODM have yet to be standardised. Even so, it doesn’t stop Ranger and his teammates from coming up with roles for 21Huntsmen as a basis:

  • Sniper - long range player
  • Rusher/attacker - SMG player
  • Objective player - SMG player
  • Scout - assault rifle player
  • Flex - multi-role player

Although they fairly resemble the roles of PUBG Mobile, notable differences for CODM include the addition of an objective player - important in securing points by fulfilling the mode’s, well, objectives. For example, as the attacking team, the objective player is responsible for detonating the bomb in Search & Destroy, or conquering control points in Domination/Hardpoint. 

Despite the aforementioned roles, Ranger insists that in reality, everyone’s role is mostly situational. “Roles don’t always match everything that happens in-game,” the usually-scout player opined, explaining that this is why 21Huntsmen has a more adaptive and flexible approach. “We’re all pretty much multi-role players.”

Pro habits to start having

In terms of gameplay and player attitude, there’s a vast difference between playing CODM in Multiplayer/Ranked mode and competitions. While casual players either just enjoy the game (Multiplayer) or care too much about their points (Ranked), professional players instead focus on winning tournaments through strategy, team coordination, and a deep understanding of the meta. Here are some of the habits Ranger suggests taking up for players who want to get serious:

Join tournaments

“This is the best way to see how good you can get at the game,” not to mention that it’s a great place to learn from better opponents or experiment with your gameplay; "official CODM tournaments are usually announced by Garena," so the best way to stay informed on competitions is to follow the CODM Facebook page and keep an eye out for them on the social media platform.

Watch gameplay videos of pro players

One doesn’t always need to experience pro plays firsthand, not when we have the lovely Internet to scour matches of other teams across the world and learn from them, particularly those in the big leagues. (Hint: why not check out Ranger's CODM live streams on Facebook Gaming?)

Be responsible

“Be a team player and talk to your teammates,” so that you can coordinate with them better and give suggestions. Ranger also advised to “not troll other players” and ruin others’ playing experience.

Know thyself

Although the 21Huntsmen captain mentioned that player roles differ based on the scenario, it’s still a good idea to focus on a role. So, “you can adopt the right play style” properly and have a focus on mastering it, giving you an edge in combat.

Stay informed with the meta

Garena changes the meta every season, which is why it’s important to stay up to date on which guns or equipment have been nerfed or buffed. 

What battle royale/MOBA players should expect

The main difference that sets CODM apart from PUBG Mobile and MLBB, is the absence of resources. “Battle royale games focus on survival (by managing inventory) and MOBAs require farming to win,” Ranger said. Without those moments in CODM, “there’s no breaks in between, because each round lasts for only a few minutes. It can be quite a mental challenge,” due to the game being a lot more fast paced.

What the future holds

There is no doubt that MLBB and PUBG Mobile are unparalleled giants in the mobile esports scene so far, and CODM is trying to catch up to its peers mere months after its release.

In Ranger’s eyes, standardising its esports ruleset would help boost the mobile shooter’s growth significantly. “Making the game easy to understand would be great, because right now, every country has different rules for their own CODM tournaments,” which can get confusing. The assault rifle player even suggests adding an esports mode to the game, so that it’s simpler to understand the rules and meta.

Despite the above, he feels that the popularity of CODM is “actually still pretty big” and has been growing exponentially. For starters, the first ever official CODM tournament, Clan Invasion, saw a max number of 256 registered teams from Malaysia alone, not to mention that Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand has a pool of registered pro players. “Even EVOS Esports, RRQ and Bigetron have their own CODM teams.”

Plus, with an upcoming international competition with the CODM World Championship, who’s to say that the mobile shooter doesn’t have a global community?

Thank you, Ranger, for your insightful ... insights on the CODM esports scene. Be sure to follow the 21Huntsmen captain on Facebook!

Feeling pumped about getting your pro gamer mode on in Call of Duty: Mobile? Grab your teammates, download CODM on Google Play or the App Store, and start practising now!

For more CODM esports goodness, be sure to follow eGG Network on Facebook.


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