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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

How Treyarch decides which weapons to nerf in Black Ops Cold War

Treyarch’s lead game designer revealed how they decide which weapons are ‘buffed’ and ‘nerfed.’



Black Ops Cold War has already seen various weapon balancing updates, and Treyarch’s Lead Game Designer Tony Flame has explained what goes into these decisions.

When Black Ops Cold War launched, the MP5 was the undisputed best weapon in the game. It could kill enemies incredibly quickly both up close and at range with incredible accuracy. The FFAR Assault Rifle was also regarded as over-powered, thanks to its incredibly fast time-to-kill (TTK) and minimal recoil.

Since launch, we have seen the MP5 nerfed, then accidentally un-nerfed, and nerfed again. The FFAR has also had a massive increase in recoil, now making it almost unusable at long distances.

With so much work going into game balance since launch, Tony Flame, the lead game designer at Treyarch has revealed how the team decides which weapons to nerf or buff.

“Time-To-Kill is king”

TTK is longer in Black Ops Cold War than Modern Warfare, so enemies now take a little bit longer to die, and when it comes to balancing weapons, Flame revealed in a tweet on November 21 that this was the most important factor they take into consideration when balancing weapons.

“A little insight into the core of buff or nerf decisions,” he said. “Time-To-Kill (TTK) is king, it’s paramount to preserve the best TTK experience across weapons over time. When a weapon far exceeds that baseline, we must nerf it to respect the TTK, and likewise buff to get it there.”

A weapon’s strength is, for the most part, determined by how fast it can kill in core game modes. For example, the MP5 was killing enemies at long distances too quickly, so the range needed to be nerfed.

As weapons are separated into different categories, they need to perform as a weapon of that category. There has to be a rock-paper-scissors element; a Submachine Gun should usually beat an Assault Rifle in close quarters, but an AR should beat an SMG at range.

We can expect more balance updates with the launch of Cold War’s first season on December 10. We’re also yet to see how the development teams will balance the game’s weapons in Warzone, and where they will rank alongside Modern Warfare’s loadouts.