eSports, and Catering to the pro players

This was an interesting post spun out of a comment made by Starcraft II’s lead designer at Blizzcon last weekend. He said that promoting the game as an eSport was one of their main goals and they cut some content and toned down graphics to make sure it would run as fast as possible for professional gaming.

To me, this highlights the risks in playing and loving a genre which is primarily aimed at some other type of player. If you love the competitive eSport side of SC2 then you’ll look at the trade-off between content and competitive play and see it as reasonable. If you have no interest in that side of the game, then you might feel gypped. Although, to be fair, they are working on free extras such as the DotA mod, so it isn’t all eSport all the time.

But this is part of the reason why I was concerned when I heard that PvP arenas were part of the Diablo 3 plans. I’ve never had the slightest interest in engaging in Diablolique PvP so darned if I want Blizzard spending too much effort in balancing classes for PvP or presenting the game as an eSport.

I am somewhat mollified by the comment in the same interview as above where he says that the designers made a conscious decision not to make PvP the centerpiece of D3.

“With Diablo III, if we made it viable for an e-sport, it would destroy the game”

Despite this, we do also know that there will be ranked team PvP  battles, with points awarded that feed into achievements and ‘other rewards’. But I’m still feeling shocked (and maybe a bit betrayed)  that turning one of the archetypal PvE games into an eSport was even on the agenda. I wonder how much content they had to cut to do that.

Do you like playing a game that has genuine pros playing it too?

Despite all that, there is something appealing about knowing that you are playing a game which has hardcore players practically making a living (or at least a nice bonus) out of playing it.

It underlines the “easy to play, difficult to master” mantra. It affects whether players think it’s worth trying to master the game – for a lot of people, knowing that world class opponents are waiting if they do is one of the lures.

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10 thoughts on “eSports, and Catering to the pro players

  1. WoW shows how PvP “breaks” a PvE game. There were way to many PvE sacrifices in WoW for PvP reasons. That just means that I’m not going to buy Diable III. Doesn’t matter as they’ll have enough customers anyway.

  2. Blizzard has got burned with competitive esport during TBC and WotLK. They stopped aiming for that and not one second too early, from my point of view.

  3. Guild Wars. It was marketed as PvP game early on. But the majority played it as PvE game.

    Skills were balanced primarily for PvP. So often skills that were perfectly fine in PvE got a nerf, and people did not like it. There was also the question if new content should be developed more for PvE or PvP, and mostly new PvP formats flopped, interestingly the most casual form of somewhat organized PvP, “Alliance Battles” (battlegrounds basically) became the by far most popular, probably even more so than the name giving “Guild Battles.”

    In the end the shift towards PvE was very visible, but with the total separation of skills in PvE and PvP versions, PvE also got dumbed down somewhat. PvP ironically helped to keep skill power in check. What contemporary PvE skills and builds can do turns some former “elite areas” into something to laugh about, and that’s not too funny IMO.

    Guild Wars 2 – there will be PvP, but I wonder if will please the more hardcore GW1 pvp crowd.
    I actually think eSports and MMORPG does not go well together. I would like to see some more PvP in the world, but most people want total safety – so we have a strict separation, and PvP mostly suffers or becomes a joke.

    Interestingly so far no pure eSports MMOs have emerged – IMO it simply does not work at all by default. The PvP players always need a PvE player base so subsidize them. I personally say better keep eSports out of MMOs. Sorry, PvP players. I would rather like a separation: World of Guildcraft (PvE) and Guild Wars (PvP). ;)

    But I see no chance in hell that a pure eSports PvP MMO or something like that will ever work. I already have abandoned all hope that we will get PvE and PvP together again instead of separating the latter into instances. In Ultima Online people voted with their feet as the world was split in a PvP and a PvE side – the PvP side was empty and abandoned. I somewhat miss the days when PvP and PvE were not opposites but both part of the game, unfortunately I do not see them returning anytime soon.

      • No doubt about that.

        But they apparently also got the difference between Diablo 1,2,3 vs WC3/SC1+2 vs WoW.

        eSports works fine for the strategy RTS stuff, but for the action-RPG Diablo style or a MMO like WoW?

        Back in the time WoW and GW were released (2004/2005) “PvP” was all the rave! Today we can say that was bullshit.

        Nowadays the buzz words are “Story”, “Fully Voiced” and “F2P.” Let’s see which buzzword turns out to be bullshit, too.

    • WaR came out focusing mostly on PvP, and the PvE side suffered. You do have to go out into the RvR lakes or scenarios to get into PvP though, so it’s still segregated. The RvR ruleset servers were all closed as having too small populations, so mixing PvE and PvP together proved to be interesting to too few people.

      I think it would be really tough to create an MMO where PvP and PvE were mixed constantly without creating a haven for griefers. It would be impossible to just play the game. This was a problem with the first Diablo, if I remember correctly.

      I am looking forward to seeing how GW2 will handle PvP. So far, I think the original GW set the standard for a rewarding and comprehensive PvP. Fighting in “The Mists” in GW2 sounds, so far, like it will provide a lot of variety and different opportunities for all stripes of PvPers.

  4. The existence of “pros” and “E-Sport” within a game is good for the non-competitive player base. The Pros add additional relevancy to the game (we play the same game the Pros do!).

    We all play backyard baseball or football, and basketball in our driveways or at parks. There are old men baseball and basketball leagues, flag football leagues, etc. This is the equivalent of your casual, means-nothing-to-anyone-but-yourself play. It is because there is a pro league that we enjoy these casual times playing these games, because these games are relevant.

    Pure E-sports can and do exist (Counterstrike), but as far as MMO-style? It would not be the same genre and therefore cannot exist, just as debate is not the same genre as prose.

    • We don’t all play sports casually. Some of us don’t especially enjoy those games or the competitive mindset of people who do. Your “non-competitive player base” is still competitive even if it is at a lower level than the pros. I don’t aspire to be an athlete or a pro-gamer so the example they set doesn’t speak to me. They aren’t role models to me. Instead, I’m more interested in the fun to be had at my current skill level or at least some level of skill not too far beyond my grasp.

  5. PvP and PvE just don’t mix. How can there possibly be balance between the standardized scripted PvE and the dynamic PvP? I’ not saying PvP is even guaranteed to be harder, after all, you’re going to get a much higher win percentage in arenas than HM Arthas, but the process of the two is so much different that it’s impossible to make many useful comparisons. With gear moving between the two, talent interactions, trying to get the two in perfect balance is impossible; something must be sacrificed.

  6. Pro gamers…

    Still getting used to that one.

    Me, I would rather be pro at something useful. especially given where the economy is heading.

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