For esports, and for Quake. A bold title for a column maybe, but it is what I feel after this last DreamHack Winter 2011.
The first argument is that the esport crusade, that began twelve years ago and has always been surrounded by doubts, has finally settled foot on a strong ground. StarCraft 2 – the champion and main force of the army – is there not only to survive, but to grow and conquer. And it is not just excitement we are talking about. We now have better business models, we have game developers actively financing events and supporting esport, we have streams reaching important numbers, and organizations benefiting from improved infrastructure. We hear people like Carmac talking about synergistic interaction among the organizations, and more importantly, it seems that the people involved in esports are finally learning how to make sustainable efforts, after the numerous failures of this past decade. Another reason to have faith? All of this is happening during a harsh economic crisis, when conservative and careful thinking are mandatory for any investment. If something grows in these conditions, it means it has a good foundation.
Wait, I thought Quake was dying!
I hate this sentence. Not because I want to escape any reality behind it, but because it has no practical meaning. It is the human nature to witness death but still fight ‘till the end, and it should be obvious to everybody how nonsensical it is to choose not to live because of our fear of death. Simply put, I am mortal therefore I am dying, but I try not to give a fuck. Philosophy aside, “Quake is dying” is a dead-end for our minds; it cuts out opportunities and intelligent thinking, which are the things we actually need the most.
This past Saturday, 40k people saw a Quake final. It was not the perfect final (the mouse failure delay, the 3-0 that left us a bit empty-handed, the dominant SC2 audience, etc) but it was - arguably - the biggest exposure competitive Quake ever had. How? Just by cleverly interleaving the schedule, a simple but powerful decision.
Do those 40k viewers solve the problem Quake Live has? No! So why are you in any way happy?
I’m happy because – goodbye, writing style - Quake is fucking awesome. Old news, maybe, but it is the whole point of our community, of our crippled ESR, and of that part of our lives we spend playing, watching or thinking about Quake. It is an awesome experience. And most importantly, it can be an awesome experience also for those who are not Quake oriented, yet.
One of the nice things about cross-gender (FPS vs. RTS) interactions, is that the blatant difference in the gameplay allows people to drop the “mine is bigger” mindset, and allows a clearer, less-biased view to appreciate what is there. It is somehow funny that we needed CS to be “as dying as Quake” to finally have a mature reaction to it (which is either ignore it, or - for few rare individuals - appreciate it). Anyways, we live this very fortunate situation where the Quake and StarCraft communities seem to like each other. In an internet sense, of course, which means we don’t insult each other too often, nor slur the opposite games too much… :p
Now why is that important? Because they are the “next-gen” spectators competitive Quake can aim for. We no longer talk about Quakers (already oriented), but rather a mass of gamers and esport enthusiasts with little first-hand experience in FPS. They don’t know about all the underground shit, fights, debates, missing resources, id software’s hate or whatever. Still each one of them counts: in the stream counter, as potential new player, as positive judgment that can spread the word. The thinking from there is simple. Allow me a stretch: gamers are grown adult, some already with kids. Do you think so many kids would start playing soccer or baseball if they never saw these sport on tv? This might not be the reality today or tomorrow, but esport AND Quake survived a decade, so these time scopes are not that ridiculous.
This mass of spectators is a challenge and a relief, with big potential benefit for our game and community. For the productions and casters, it means to be able to entertain a broader audience, give that kind of information they need and like. This gives strength to the need for better spectator support (fixing the bugs, and adding some key features), which we all would benefit from. [Insert rage against id software here]. True, but when the evil SyncError sets the priorities to stuff like “allowing tier-slumming in NA servers”, an item like “improve spectator HUD” might receive a few additional points if one knows there is a big event with thousands of non-Quakers viewers ;)
Another advantage is that SC2 streams set standards, with which we would have to cope. A gimmick like showing the player’s heartbeat might sound silly at start, but it goes in the direction where if you give a good caster bits and pieces of information, he will have a base to spice his casting, making it more interesting and fun for everybody.
Third, if SC2 people start liking Quake, we are more likely to see Quake at important events. Think of the delusion after IEM dropped Quake, to understand how important this is for us all.
Ok but Quake still has lots of problems.
I won’t deny this. I just think we have to embrace what gaming is today and present Quake at its best. Drop anything we cannot control, and play with what we can. To me our priorities as competitive community are:
- Improve ESR, both as what the site features and how the people use it. There have been discussions about this, and hopefully this gets expanded in the comments. My take is that this place could look and feel much better.
- Improve the tournaments formats. I liked rapha’s points of having a 2on2 TDM rather than 4on4 and for duel to cycle more among the available maps. I also liked the map round system in the last SK tournament, which would allow to actually see all maps in the pool. The community should discuss, and tournament organizers take actions.
- I’m happy to see that more people started producing commentary videos. These should keep coming and improve. Moreover, good players should start streaming while playing. There are technical challenges, but with some efforts solutions can be found.
- Discussing the game. It would be nice to start seeing the kind of tutoring support one sees on team liquid, where one posts the demo of a match and asks for the mistakes. Posting a youtube video of the match might help getting lazy people to reply.
To conclude, let me give the proper respect to all the people who spent time, energy and money to make this last event happen. Level Up TV, 2GD, the players that attended even if they had little chance to win, the admin that decided to keep Quake at DH, xou who always does an amazing coverage work, and all people who woke up early and stayed up late to follow the streams, cheer, and make the IRC chat the funny spamfest it always is. Quake is awesome.
Edited by Memento_Mori at 22:43 GMT, 27 November 2011 - 34174 Hits