It has been a long time since the last UT game (being UT3 in 2008 and die-hard fans would ignore that, preferring UT2004 or even UT99) and even longer since Quake III (1999). Since then all we have really had are casual multiplayer shooters with persistent unlocks and no real place in eSports. The setting of most of the popular multiplayer games also restricts their ability to be taken seriously as an eSport, Contemporary war or WWII doesn’t really mater, it is still war and therefore not a “game”.
There are several things that need to happen, things that were done in UT2004 and Quake Live but seem to have been forgotten by developers these days, before the shooter can become an eSport again.
- Everyone should be on an equal footing, you don’t expect new players on a football team to play without boots for ten matches, it would not be a fair test of their skill, the same is true about persistent unlocks and perks, they are either unnecessary (as they are re-skins of current weapons) or break the game for competitive play. Probably both.
- Proper stat tracking with an Elo style ranking system. None of this XP rubbish, that is for RPGs. Your rank should go down if you have a bad game, you don’t expect a Chess Grand Master to have the same ranking if he suddenly looses 5 games on the trot do you?
- The setting of these games needs to change, get rid of the brown middle eastern setting, your game isn’t exactly realistic anyway so why bother pretending? Get rid of the terrorists and Team America as well, no one over the age of 15 is interested in that surely? Now you are done replace it all with a Science Fiction, or completely abstract, setting. Make it clear who has killed who by making every round a tracer (maybe even team coloured), make all weapons give an audible “glink” when they do damage, no need for blood and screams. All this will make it easier to see what the hell is going on in a fast paced game making it better for players and spectators alike.
I can’t say for sure on every point but most of that looks to change this year with two new shooters on the horizon.
The first, due out next month on Steam is Nexuiz, this unpronounceable game is a somewhat slower (presumably because of the console release, nearly all the weapons seem to have splash damage as well) version of Unreal Tournament or Quake III. You pick up weapons ammo health and armour in the arena, an area specifically designed for fighting in rather than trying to look like a real world location. It even uses the same trope in it’s backstory as Quake III and Unreal Tournament. Where it differs is with the power ups, rather than picking up a specific one that applies to you only you pick up one that gives you a choice of a random 4 out of “over 100” mutators, power ups that can effect the whole arena (low gravity), every player (infinite ammo or big heads) or just you (quad damage equivalent) which you choose to use will depend on your situation, you don’t have to use it immediately and four of them can be active at any one time match-wide. The Xbox 360 version is out already but only time (3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours at the time of writing) will tell if the concessions they have made for console release will effect it as a PC shooter. It could well be the next true eSport shooter, assuming there is an option to turn mutators off altogether…
Coming later in the year is another game that has been designed from the ground up to be suitable for eSports. Shootmania: Storm. From the creators of Trackmania, this one really is something different. They have taken point 3 above to the extreme, no violence whatsoever and clear visual indication of what is going on, your weapon is a rocket like energy projectile which takes two hits to kill. Visual indication is given for this in the form of a shield, the first hit removes the shield, the second removes the player. Being from Nadeo, the level editor is what it is all about and they intend users to create and share their maps and game modes like in Trackmania. To further the eSports idea, they have added the ability to put Team logos (or sponsor logos) on the sheilds and the “flag” raised over captured points, their idea of making it a sport that people outside the community could watch an appreciate could make this the first game that really gets eSports into the public domain in the west.
Of course if both of those turn out to be rubbish then I guess we will have to fall back on Quake Live, UT2004 and Warsow for our arena shooter fix…