An Analysis of Call of Duty WW2: London Docks

The London Docks map is one of the multiplayer maps set in one of the London’s busy docks on the Thames during wartime on a bright sunning morning after a night of a German bombing runs during the London Blitz, a period where London suffered from severe nightly bombings by the Germans from 1940-1941. The map comprises of three distinct themes across the map including Docks, Warehouses, Destroyed Industrial Buildings & Bomb Shelters. There is evidence of the destruction caused by the bombs with rubble and debris scattered across the terrain with puddles of water from fire hoses reflecting the sunlight.

The standing out feature of the map is its layout and size. The general layout of the map can be seen as a typical example of a Call of Duty map due to the box like layout with linear map edges, high cover and ninety-degree angles. Due to the map location and the aspect of realism the box like structure is expected and is suited for a dock area. Due to the box design layout and similar architecture across the overall space utilised the map is symmetrical, particularly the spawn points and the middle lane. The symmetrical design of the map suites end to end objectives such as Capture the Flag or Hardpoint due to neither side gaining an advantage due to superior terrain elevation or cover. Additionally, due to the symmetrical element to the map it has helped the designer to balance the timings of the map to a point where no matter what side you spawn at there is no distinct disadvantage to reaching an objective in game modes.

An Overview of the London Docks Map.

In the map the are examples of typical FPS design considerations including:

  • A Mixture of Long & Short Sightlines

  • A Number of Line of Sight Blockers

  • Multiple Routes in and out of Key Areas

  • Clear Flanking Routes

  • Mixture of Exterior Long & Interior Close Quarter Engagements

  • Three Distinct Playable Lanes

The combination of the design components focuses on creating a map that supports and facilitates the classic fast paced Call of Duty gameplay this is partly due to the size of the space as it inherently feels claustrophobic adding to the general intensity of the map due to the small streets, tight angles and enclosed warehouse interiors. As the map is compartmentalized, particularly in the street and warehouse sections it naturally encourages close quarters combat and promotes different playstyles to be used and encourages guns more suited for close engagements such as shotguns or submachine guns to be utilised.

Cover Placed Throughout to Break Line of Sight.

The map has three distinct lanes that players can use to move across the map, each with their own theme. The player can identify routes through the different lanes easily mainly due to their existing understanding of the spatial environment, this makes moving through the map less frustrating, as the map facilitates flow between the strongpoints and the counter-strongpoints effectively.

The three lanes help to divide the players up into separate combat encounters and encourages the player to utilise strategies when reaching high intensity areas in the middle lane or flank and out move enemy players by moving in either of the side lanes. By utilising the three-lane map design concept it gives the players two distinct flanking routes and one main route in the centre where most plays typically congregate inherently increasing the intensity of gunfights, the chance of kills but also a high chance of death. The central route is simpler in comparison to the flanking lanes with minimal high cover that block a player’s line of sight and potential attacking or defending options. There is a light element of elevation when looking down to the dock area however due the architecture covering large sections of the map there is no point in the map that ‘feels’ unfair.

A Number of Routes are Visible from Both Spawns.

The central lane focuses on pushing the player through warehouses onto a central courtyard with a statue, acting as a focal point and a line of sigh blocker. The warehouses have crate cover props placed at the corner of the entrance that players can use to take cover when engaging players in the courtyard or the opposite warehouse, however the cover is singular low cover and keeps an element of vulnerability. In each warehouse cover breaks up the line of sight of the players approaching from either side, preventing players from easily observing oncoming threats forcing them to assume a player is approaching making the player slow down and prepare for an encounter, adding to the overall tension and pacing. The cover used in the interior of each warehouse, large shelves stacked high with supplies, create a path in the shape of a horse shoe on the Allied side but with the addition of another cover prop placed in the centre of the warehouse on the Axis side it create an ‘S’ and adds slightly more options for engagements.

Cover in Warehouses Breaks Line of Sights of Players.

There is an additional possible entrance in each of the warehouses with the addition of stairs on the Axis side and a loading bay on the Allied side that allows players to quickly move to the dock side lane if needed, adding to the overall possible options for flanking movements.

The central lane features a cobbled courtyard with a large statue in the centre, breaking up the line of sight of both players in each of the warehouses, helping to create opportunities of brief points of safety allowing players to reach either flanking lane if needed. The courtyard features two routes to either flanking lane, allowing players to converge in the main contention point.

The route to the docks is open and wide leaving players in the courtyard vulnerable to attacks from either side and a smaller but still a dangerous gated entrance leading to the bombed area of the map. Both of these approaches can be thought of as possible chokepoints to funnel and trap players. The initial spawn points of both teams have multiple routes to each of the lanes giving them quick and easy access on their preferred route, depending on their playstyle. Each lane has multiple routes to the other lane next to it, as it is always preferred to give the player a number of paths to get to and from the major points of a map. Often it is expected to give the player at least three possible options, to leave them vulnerable from at least one side. This can be seen throughout the map.

The dock lane features long sightlines and multiples locations of cover both high and low which allows players to move around the main points of combat. Each team can immediately see the other side of the map making crossing the docks often dangerous during the match.

The dock is also home to a small boathouse that provides an element of protection for the player. The Allied spawning side also has access to a boardwalk across the water, below the dock, giving added protection and reduces visibility from other players. However, the boardwalk can leave the player vulnerable due to the player’s having a slight height advantage. Also, in the Boat House two windows overlook the main route within the interior again adding a possible spot to engage from.

The Dock Lane Has Long Sight Lines.

The Allied spawn features a large crane and a number of supply crates placed in a manner to not only give players protection but allows them to vary their route and understand their positioning in the map. It is key to give the player routes through the map and the cover placement in docks does this well. A similar layout can be seen on the Axis side which also has a path leading to the dock lane with a ramp leading down to the cover and stairs that allow a faster but dangerous route to the stairs that lead to the courtyard.

The exposed section of the lane appears to strategically be redundant of cover due to the designer intentionally wanting the middle section of each lane to be a point of contention and risk. Often large open sections are broken up by cover however the middle section of each lane misses cover encouraging a risk/reward scenario. In open spaces in other FPS games such as Unreal Tournament large open spaces are open to an appealing powerup but instead of a powerup the middle section of the different lanes in the map are home to appealing yet dangerous routes to objectives and points of strength. What makes this particular lane dangerous is the cover on the outskirts that largely protect the player and allow an element of safety to reach the boathouse. The cover placed on either end of the docks provides cover leading to the boathouse allowing players to relatively safely get to the position and push forward, with each having crates or vehicles placed in a path. By funneling the players movement, it helps to create flow, a key element in an FPS game.

Cover Placed on the Path to the Boat House.

The overall theme of docks is clear and provides easy callouts due to a number of focal points in each of the three lanes namely the crane, the boathouse, the subway & the statue with the focal points in the map it provides areas of visual interest by breaking up the map, allows players to plan strategies easier and gain a sense of positioning in the overall space. It is crucial for any FPS multiplayer map to ensure the player has a sense of position to ensure they can anticipate enemy movement and understand the best approach.

The Blitz lane shows the damage of a bombing run from the night before with destroyed buildings and a bus that has fallen into a crater. The difference in theme to the middle and second flanking lane providing a nice visual contrast. On the Allied spawn side, the player has entrances to this lane immediately when entering the map, one provides added cover and is a route on the perimeter of the map, the other is a faster route to the contention zone and a direct route through the burning warehouse to the courtyard.

The Axis side also has two routes in reaching this lane quickly one via going through a warehouse with a large obstruction in the middle, the high cover prop has been placed in the middle of the room to block the immediate view of the player and to make the player enter the warehouse to investigate if players are approaching. By entering the warehouse, the player can see both the gated entrance to the courtyard and the warehouse flanking route but the player’s perspective is still blocked due to a military truck being placed specifically to block the line of sight down the lane to inherently ‘push’ players out of the small interior space to either side and give the Allied side players an opportunity to advance.

The lane features a combination of long sightlines at certain angles but if often blocked by high cover elements including military trucks and London buses that blocks players and assists in player flanking successfully. This lane gives the player more protection in comparison to the dock lane due to the denser cover that has been placed. There is no area that gives the player an immediate long sightline forcing players to move around the lane more instead of a linear path from point A to point B as seen in the dock lane. In this lane the player is constantly moving varying the route through the map, a key component of a multiplayer map. The player has multiple paths to get to and from every major area in the map with access to different lanes. The lane also features an underground passageway that gives the player a flanking route however the route has no cover in it making anyone who uses extremely vulnerable, a probable risk/reward scenario. The tunnel helps to provide variation in the relatively flat terrain with stairs leading down to the tunnel giving a slight height advantage over approaching enemies providing an ideal angle to fire at them with.

The Subway Tunnel is a Dangerous Flanking Route.

In the centre of the lane there is a covered flanking lane through a destroyed building giving the player another route that could potentially allow players to push forward and get behind encroaching enemies moving towards the centre lane, however the exit of the flanking route directs the player to the Axis side warehouse where enemies can easily angle themselves to fire on anyone that uses it.

Due to the linear structure of the map and the moderately symmetrical layout the pacing and balance of the map feels nice as no side has a particular disadvantage and rather it relies on the player reacting quickly and adapting to the changes in enemy approaches. The linear structure and the smaller footprint of the map makes it easy to remember the design and layout of the map making moving through the space extremely easy, there are no areas where the player could get lost or abruptly stops the player aiding in the overall flow. The terrain of the map is fairly flat, apart from the change in height from the middle lane to the dock flanking lane and the small variation in height of the subway tunnel.

There are no areas in the map that allows players to reach a high vertical location suitable for a sniper, a characteristic aspect of a Call of Duty map. In addition to the multiple paths the flow of the map, the way the player moves through the space globally feels nice. Each major area of contention is connected sufficiently with chokepoints, which can be typically found in the centre of the lanes. By looking at the layout, cover placement & chokepoints in the map it allows an understanding of the flow of the map easily and can be shown by a flow diagram to illustrate a potential loop a player may take.

Map Diagrams Showing Flow, Line of Sights & Combat Zones.

In addition, the skybox and the backdrop of the map helps to give the player a sense of location and really supports the WW2 overarching theme with the London Tower Bridge overlooking the map and can be seen from different angles in the map. This is not only visually appealing but helps the player to situate themselves in the space. An important aspect of any multiplayer map is visual clarity and lighting. The map has a strong visual theme throughout and is supported by lights placed in areas where often firefights happen and due to the map being set on a sunny morning the lighting is bright and clear ultimately making the enemies standout easier.

Cover Placement Creates Tight Angles to Fire From.

Overall the map is a prime example of three lane map design that is often seen throughout the Call of Duty series. The flow assists in creating looping paths around the map preventing the player needlessly backtracking. The readability of the map is high due to consistent visual themes, lighting that helps to make enemies standout and uncluttered spaces filled with props unnecessarily. The map resembles the typical Call of Duty archetypal gameplay, pockets of small quick but intense engagements, this works in the maps favour.

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