What Does Guild Wars 2 Need to Become a eSport?
Guild Wars 2 is a Massive Multiplayer Online game focused on many aspects of the genre. We’re going to focus on what is known as Structured PVP. Structured PVP is a 5v5 (Tournament PVP) or 8v8 format (Hot Join) on multiple maps with three capture points and one unique objective for each map. If it hasn’t been apparent to fans Arena Net are huge fans of eSports, so much that they are striving for their game to become one.
Early History of eSports
Electronic Sports is the art of playing a video game competitively. But it goes further than just that. eSports provides the arena in which you can compete (in a video game) for a sum of cash on a team or solo for a video game(delete). Imagine a basketball superstar like LeBron James, someone at the pinnacle of his sport with a big salary. Now keep that image in your head, but imagine playing a game like Starcraft 2, League of Legends, or even Guild Wars 2 at the highest level. Being paid a salary to perform at your best, and have the potential to win a tournament which can reward you through cash prizes, peripherals, and even fame.
Creating a Super Star
Now for a brief history lesson, eSports started as early as 1987 when Billy Mitchel had top scores in Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Fast forward 12 years and you have the beginning of (add an adjective like competitive)eSports for the juggernaut Starcraft when a Korean TV channel named OnGameNet sponsored the first OSL championship. This event created one of the first superstars in eSports history, the Canadian Guillaume "Grrrr..." Patry. After winning the event he was mobbed by rabid fans and even appeared on talk shows.
When people think of celebrities in the eSports realm they think of people like “BoxerR” from Starcraft, T2 (t squared) from Halo, and Fatal1ty from Quake. Those three players have made over $500,000 in prize winnings, sponsorships, and other deals. Arena Net has claimed they have to make superstars in their eSports to be successful, and I can’t help but agree. If Arena Net can make Guild Wars 2 an eSport the USA will be one step closer to reaching the legitimacy that countries like Korea have.
Reaching Korea Status
Korea was always far ahead of other countries when it came to realizing that a video game could become a sport and pay their “athletes” reputable sums of money to perform. In Korea it is acceptable (by society?) to grow up to be a professional gamer. This is not yet realized in the United States but is slowly becoming more acceptable by the mainstream audience. Big leagues like Major League Gaming, Intel Extreme Masters, DreamHack, and Electronic Sports League have a variety of games in their leagues and provide the top teams with respectable amounts of money after winning tournaments.
Some leagues even provide salaries, like when MLG sponsored Final Boss for Halo 3 at 1 million dollars. Salaries are a way of the future, something League of Legends is doing with their upcoming Season 3 League of Legends Championship series. Not only are they giving their teams participating salaries, they are competing for millions of dollars in prize winnings.
Guild Wars 2 as an eSport
GW2 Different than other MMO’s
What has set Arena Net apart from other MMO’s or online games in general was before the game was released it held three live events (also known as LAN events) in major eSport (and gaming conventions. These were held at places such as IEM Germany 2011, Gstar in Korea, and PAX Prime 2011 in Seattle, Washington. All three of these events had live commentary, and were structured 5v5 PVP matches between Arena Net Devs and other competitive teams.
I think this was used as a test of some sorts, almost a preview to fans of what is to come. It was not professionally shout casted, or even between professional teams. However, the matches were still very entertaining, especially when the general populous was not able to play the game at the time. When we talk about an MMO becoming an eSport it’s usually a sticky situation. The only MMO to ever be an eSport (albeit shortly) was World of Warcraft.
However, WoW was pulled from many pro circuits because of Blizzards lack of support. They saw WoW as primarily a PVE game, and were more focused on PVE Raidcontent and Battlegrounds over arena, which was what was showcased on pro circuits. But problems stemmed from more than just that, arena it’s self is very rock paper scissors. Every comp can’t really beat every comp in a match; it was very cookie cutter in approach. Also, WoW was one of the few if only games where the objective was to ONLY kill your opponents.
There was no planting a bomb, fighting for resources, or winning a Baron Nashor buff battle. That in my opinion was why it was never a truly popular eSport.
The GW2 eSport Format
Now when talking about Guild Wars 2’s potential to be an eSport you look at what game type would be played as an eSport. Tournament PVP, which is a 5v5 across three different maps with three points to capture and an interesting 4th mechanic unique to each specific map.
With Forrest of Niefhel, you have a mob a style map where you not only focus on the capture points, but killing the buffs that yield rewards too. Then you have Legacy of Foefire, where you have to worry about attacking and defending your keep lord that can yield 150 pts if slain. And finally Battle of Khylo utilizes a siege weapon called the trebuchet which is capable of dealing massive damage across the battlefield. It can be killed, as well as repaired.
So ArenaNet has given Guild Wars 2 a distinctive feel and interesting meta to go with its competitive format. We are still unsure as to the specifics of the formatting at live events, or big tournaments. But one can guess it will have something like best out of three, or best out of five. Single elimination doesn’t make sense when matches end as quickly as GW2 tPVP games.
I believe ArenaNet has a good foundation to build a very strong eSport centric game. However, there is huge room for improvement in order to get to that point.
What does GW2 Need that other eSports have?
Guild Wars 2 currently does not have all the tools to become an eSport. I want to transition into the main topic of this article, discussing what GW2 needs in my opinion in order to become an eSport powerhouse. As many know, LoL and SC2 are the biggest eSports at the moment. SC2 has the highest paid gamers, while LoL has the more known teams/players. Because of that Arena Net has been looking at them to gauge what they should do to be successful which is wise thinking.
I believe you should take careful attention to notice what makes each game successful, and what mistakes each one made.
What does Starcraft have that Guild Wars 2 does/doesn’t need?
Starting with Starcraft 2, the game already had a pre-established eSports scene with its predecessor. This helped for its immense popularity early on, but I think what Starcraft does really well is pacing. The games start off with players gathering resources, scouting, and deciding which builds to use. This allows commentators like Artosis time to discuss each players ideas and what they are trying to accomplish early on which helps to set a scene for more casual players.
If the games started with a large number of resources already it would lose a lot the accessibility in my opinion. As I said, the pacing is fantastic. A Starcraft game on the pro scene never takes longer than 30 minutes. Hell, most games don’t even last 15. You have so many possibilities with how in depth the game is, it keeps it very fresh and exciting.
Guild Wars 2 in the same boat?
Guild Wars 2 has something similar with this, instead of builds for your race in SC2 (Terran, Zerg, Protoss) you have individual skill builds for professions as well as team makeups. This will keep things fresh and interesting, as long as Guild Wars 2 keeps it balanced so no meta becomes TOO strong. Now addressing what I was talking about when I described SC2 and its efficient pacing. I think pacing has a lot to do with the people describing the game, the commentators.
We need to have strong and fun commentators for Guild Wars 2 to be fun and accessible to the casuals or people who don’t play the game. Many people watch SC2 eSports but don’t even play the game. That is paramount for Guild Wars 2 to be widely accepted. Commentators like Artosis, DJ Wheat, “Phreak”, and Day9 are all incredible at what they do for their respectable games. If we could get someone with a name like that to guest star, or someone to match their charisma with a high knowledge of the game this would greatly help Guild Wars 2’s eSports scene take off.
Now something I personally think Blizzard flubbed when supporting their game as an eSport was they preferred online tournaments over LAN events, or live events. The reason why this such a bad decision is it is much harder to detect if someone is cheating online, like for instance “map hacking” is the most common SC2 hack. This hack turns off fog of war for the user, a huge cheat for the person using it. There is a very small percentage of being able to cheat at a live event, in fact I have never heard of a scenario that actually happened like that at a LAN event.
Another reason that many people are passionate about is that LAN events are just more enjoyable. You have arena style setups where computers are facing each other on a platform, it’s almost like you are watching a sporting event…except video games are involved. In Korea these events are big enough to fill entire stadiums; this just brings eSports to the next level and removes us from the stereotype that all gamers are nerds who live in their basement. This presents them as cyber athletes, performing in front of large exciting crowds. I don’t think online events should be scrapped altogether, they are still necessary to have a steady flow of tournaments. But they should not be preferred.
Now that I have discussed Starcraft 2’s pros and cons I want to move onto the current eSport juggernaut known as League of Legends.
What can be learned from League of Legend’s pro scene?
League of Legends came out in October 2009. It was based off of the ever popular Dota (Defense of the Ancients) mod for Warcraft 3. LoL however was much more accessible thanks to an easier learning curve and an easier to understand character roster. However many people think a game has to come out as an eSport out of the gate. But League of Legends proves too many that that thought is just wrong. LoL didn’t have a eSports tournament until WCG Los Angeles, nearly one year later. I think Guild Wars 2 certainly has plenty of time in order to make the transition to an eSport game. People are being too quick to judge their performance; LoL did not start with eSports and look at how popular it is now. Allow GW2 to grow and deal with balancing issues, and expect to see moves towards eSports soon after I am sure.
I definitely think GW2 shouldn’t take it’s time because people get restless easily, but it’s not a good idea to rush anything. I think LoL does a lot of things right, not only is it easily accessible to the public the developers help it be even more accessible with the observation mode they offer to people watching a competition. League of Legend’s observation mode in one word is “effective”.
Accessibility is important!
It’s very slick; I have never experienced any lag or anything. It gives you the rundown on what is going on whether it is items, minion kills, gold count, and buff timers. It’s very easy for people to watch games, even games that might not have any real impact in eSports. Like for instance your best friend is playing a game and wants you to come watch, all you have to do is right click his name on your friends list and hit observe. It’s very intuitive and extremely effective in presenting the game in the most optimal way.
Arena Net actually has history with observation modes. Guild Wars 1 had an observation mode for their very popular Guild Vs Guild game type. The maps were much bigger, and people moved much slower so it wasn’t as exciting as something like LoL. However, with the changes and different feel for Guild Wars 2 if they can put out an observation mode like the one in the first one but just add a few upgrades I believe it would be very successful.
I would say things like buff timers, lord health, trebuchet help, and res timers would be very informative to have in an observation mode. Anet understands the meaning of having something that momentous to help their game reach eSports status, it’s really just a matter of implementation.
I have given you guys the reasons I think Guild Wars 2 has a chance to be an eSport, as well as what it needs in order to get there. I truly think Arena Net can push their product to the next level, the competitive level. I however do not think it is solely A-net’s job to do it. We as fans, and big tournament organizations need to really do our part too. Ultimately, we the fans need to spread our passion for Guild Wars 2 in all assets that we can. Streams, videos, articles, and word of mouth will help GW2 grow to the eSport it should be. The difference in popularity between an eSport game like Starcraft 2 and games that aren’t, is it has that extra level of depth added to the game. It has something you can anticipate for weeks and months, and watch on a Monday instead of turning on your TV to watch football or other sports.
eSports gives video games the ability to reach true mainstream audiences, and allows for people to view it as a competition, a hobby, or even a career choice. Arena Net has the ability to make Guild Wars 2 a juggernaut in eSports. Give them some time to get their feet off the ground and we will be watching furious competitions for big bucks in no time.
I as a competitor myself can’t wait; many people are willing to dedicate part of their life to make it big in eSports, some specifically for GW2. With the fans supporting Arena Net, the next couple of months will be very exciting for everyone.