Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

The Future is Now

January 31st, 2013 1 comment

Season 3 in League of Legends is fast approaching. In fact, as of 20 minutes ago, ranked queues were shut down in preparation for the patch. The EU server qualifiers were last weekend. Teams are done.

We’re here.

You know, I find the interesting thing, the really compelling thing about League of Legends at the moment is the way they’re trying to bridge the divide between conventional and electronic sports. They’ve got a regular season schedule planned out, the way you would a hockey season. Each server bracket (NA and EU, who we might think of as conferences) has 8 teams playing against each other in single matches every Thursday and Friday for the North American server, and Saturday and Sunday for the Europeans. Teams are required to have subs, because they’re going to be playing for ten weeks straight. There’s going to be a midseason break, where each division’s lowest teams get pitted against rising non-professional teams from the ranked bracket, who you can be sure will be hungry for their spots. There will be salaries involved.

If you think that eSports is just a fad, we’re talking about millions of dollars in prize money, and more than that in advertising. These games are going to be streamed, HD, for free. There’ll be video on demand, we’re talking about the beginnings of an annual thing. MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL will have at least one more acronym to add to the list by the time season 3 is over, mark my words.

So get used to the future, gamers.

We’re here.

Share Button

Seven Year Itch

January 29th, 2013 1 comment

So, I have been referring to World of Warcraft to my friends lately, comparing it to an old boot. It’s comfortable, and you know exactly what you’re going to get when you set out to play it. It’s very nice having that kind of safety net of a game. Of course, in the heyday of my Blizzardcrush, I’d come home and play nothing but WoW. so would a lot of my friends, and we all took the precaution of having an authenticator on our games.

Time passed, and tastes changed. We moved from WoW to Diablo to Starcraft and then to other games. We lost our crushes. Summer was over, and in the winter time, we all got new phones for Christmas, and lost our authenticators. Well, I did, anyway.

I want to report that the process was relatively harmless, even without having my CDs like I did the last time this happened, which was in Korea. In what amounts to the same circumstance of changing mobile devices, I switched phones when I got to my new home in Daegu. I had to call Blizzard, give them my CD’s serial number to remove my old phone, and then add my new phone from Korea, and it was well worth it. Now home, I find myself having to do the same thing, but I don’t have the CD serial numbers to get me back in. Blizzard offers an additional option to send them a government issued ID.

I did.

I don’t know if this will somehow come to bite me in the ass, but they offer other options for security, such as SMS, that I may look into.

But now, I have to go back to Starcraft II. I’m about to scratch that itch I get so often, and go slip on some old boots.

Share Button

Free For All

January 29th, 2013 1 comment

The alternate title of this post is “A Few More Word On Why You Should Be Watching eSports”, because there’s a great video out from PCGamer. T.J. Hafer takes five minutes, and gives us some very compelling commentary.

Go watch it. I’ll still be here.


I think it’s a great piece, but I also think that I can give you an even better reason for watching eSports, and the reason is accessibility. If you have an interest in the game, you can go be part of a community with not only people like you, but the competitors themselves, just as soon as you want. You can be part of a group within five minutes of learning about the sport.

The necessity of online gaming is there in its name: online gaming. It must be played on the internet somehow, and the truth of the matter is that the medium on which we play is also the medium on which the whole world communicates. I find this level of possible involvement and global influence in the sport itself fascinating. We can talk to the stars of the show on Reddit, or a blog. We can be part of the community of fans by going to the forums and email lists. We can spectate matches on and Because the sport has to be watched online, where anyone can access it, we create a necessarily large potential fan base. As the internet continues its global spread into our pockets, and the ability to get information spans from the mountain steppes of rural China to the slums of the favelas in Brazil, eSports has a path to be seen by everyone in the world.

The other side to accessibility comes from being on the field, and not just watching from the stands. Combine the following facts: Not only does the action take place behind the mask of a keyboard, but the competitors have such names as Locodoco, Saintvicious, and ZionSpartan. That anonymity creates a Mary Jane effect, where anyone could be playing. All of the time that the players put into this is something that everyone can do. Universal accessibility means that we could aspire to be as good as the pros someday. The characters we see being controlled on the screen could just as easily obey our own commands.

These two facets, universal visibility and unlimited participation, make eSports accessible to anyone and everyone. From a 30 year old woman who has just a passing interest in video games to people who have been playing them since they were 3, any gamer is welcome to come and watch.

And you should.

Share Button

You Had To Be There

January 22nd, 2013 3 comments

Sometimes, I worry about the ability or lack thereof of eSports to have a kind of viral impact. I can’t expound on my enthusiasm of xPeke’s spectacular play from IEM Katowice to someone who just doesn’t give a good god damn. I had this very sensation last night, as I was having dinner with some dear friends of mine. The couple are as geeky as you like, reveling in the obscure and nerdy. They’re some of my greatest friends in the world, and if anyone can possibly appreciate my rants about how fantastic that Kassadin was (noreallygolook), it’s this duo. But the wife seemed disinterested. I don’t fault her for it in any sort of way (I love you Roo!) but this is emblematic of my concern about eSports’ ability to captivate strangers to the sport. It seems a far cry to be excited about a series of button clicks in rapid succession.

But I am excited, and so was the other half of my lovely company. When I was describing Kassadin’s swift dodges, managing to duck and weave between axes, using his slows as effectively as a prize fighter, my good friend Nathan was as happy as I was at the plays.

My only solution to the worry of eSports’ transmitability is to stay enthused. To stay interested. I want to make this a thing, and I want you to come with me.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

Long Live the Meta

January 20th, 2013 2 comments

If you’re still skeptical of eSports as a thing, check out the amazing technical skill of xPeke from Fnatic at the second day of IEM Katowice.

Having the presence of mind to think of a strategy and execute it under stress is a remarkable skill for any competitor, and you should rightfully be impressed.

Season 3 is heralding some pretty amazing plays already, and it’s going to be week after week of this sort of thing. Look for unorthodox strategies, radical ideas, and a whole lot of skill. The meta is dead.

Share Button

Seats at the Table

January 1st, 2013 No comments

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about player buy-in. That developers should have to pay attention to this resource should be a given at this point, but what do players have to do with their investment? How should they treat it, and what does it afford them as players?

First off, I don’t think players should be stingy with their investment. It’s not something that should be hoarded or treasured without ever expending. The cool thing about investment is that nothing sells like it. When all your friends convince you you should play in and be enthusiastic about a game, you tend to listen. That doesn’t mean that you should give 110% to everything. That’s going to just drain you until you don’t care about anything, much less a game. To that end, I suggest that you at least give yourself a chance to be hooked by a game. Read its synopsis. Read a blog article about it. Listen to your friend extol its virtues. Merely hearing about it isn’t going to hurt, and it may in fact get you involved in something you’ll enjoy. But be prepared to give constructive feedback, and let the developer have a chance to better his game with it. If your friend comes running up to you and tells you that he has an amazing idea for an Exalted game, give him the chance to pitch it. When he tells you it’s an Abyssal exalted game, and you’re all playing Heroic Mortals, then you may want to tell him why it’s not your cup of tea.

Similarly, do the developer and yourself a favor: be honest about your buy-in. If you have only a little to give because of other commitments, say that at the start of any game you’re going to be playing. “You know guys, this sounds really awesome, but I’ve only got a weekend a month to devote to it. Could we make a character that doesn’t need me to be there all the time?” People (and by this, I mean the game’s storyteller or developer and the other player) will listen. Their ability to listen gets clogged by signal-to-noise ratios though, so make sure the message is heard.

With so many people involved in the creative process, telling people how you feel about investing in a game is tricky. In a tabletop game, lots of these points would be easy to consider. It’s just six people, so there’s not a lot of other opinions to take into account. If you’re a potential player in a game that meets at your friend’s Bob house every Wednesday night and you know everyone there, your communication will be relatively clear. Alternatively, when you’re part of the Mind’s Eye Society or helping to develop inXile’s next RPG, there are going to be a lot of people talking, all at once, and not all of them will want to hear you. Not all of them will be paying attention. This is not always a reason to give up though. If you are enthused about a game, if you’re prepared to invest in it, you should keep talking, and encourage people to do the same. Work out what can be done with something you’re prepared to spend time and energy on and make it the game you want to play. You have a reasonable expectation to be entertained by a game, provided that you come in good faith to the table, just like everyone else.

If, at the end, you don’t feel like you’ve been listened to, or the game isn’t going to be what you want, remember that it is just a game. This shouldn’t devalue it, or your experiences with games, but please be mindful that if the investment you’re putting into it isn’t giving you back what you want, you have every right to walk away from it, and find something else that suits you. It’s up to everyone at the table to play with each other, and create an environment to play in.

This seems like a nice place to start the discussion on investment. How do you become invested in a game? How do you encourage investment? Take a look at the new mechanics for Requiem’s Majesty Discipline and think about how the very fabric of the power requires and promotes investment on both players. The Boon system, teased about in that article, suggests that if you play along as a victim of the power, you get rewarded. Buy-in is created on the part of the user of the power, the victim of the power, and the Storyteller. Tell us your thoughts about buy-in in the comments below.

Share Button

Purchasing Power

December 15th, 2012 No comments

When the medium was young, game developers didn’t have to care as much about “player buy-in”, the investment of energy, time, money, and other resources that is put in by participants. The novelty, particularly in video games, was a sufficient hook to entice people to make that investment. It was something new, something so unlike what had come before as to produce the necessary buy-in. People were practically lining up just for the privilege of trying such a thing.

But as we’ve come along, and as we begin to look critically at tabletop and video games, it’s becoming clear that player buy-in is absolutely necessary for a successful game. Where once Nintendo would get that buy in with the mere idea of a game, the power has shifted to the players. “There are so many games out there that I have my pick. Why should I choose yours?” People involved in the development of games, either those they are writing themselves, or those they’re leading as storytellers or narrators, must be mindful of this facet of gaming.

First, a little clarity. This phenomenon of investment has always existed, in one form or another. It’s what creates fans of books, or movies, or TV shows. “Did you hear about…?”, “Have you seen…?”, “You know what’s really cool…” and variants have existed for as long as we could talk about our interests, and share them. The desire to make communities around things we love is a very primal one, but with games, it’s taken a decidedly more communal turn. Books are written, produced, and finished. Feedback is submitted to an author, and perhaps he takes note of it (turning The Jew into Fagin for example), but it’s not a prerequisite for writing a novel, nor directing TV. Just ask J. J. Abrams.

Games though are an inherently collaborative experience, and investiture in them means getting something out of them than more than just entertainment. When you grab your five friends and tell them you want to run a game of Vampire: the Masquerade, what you’re saying is “I have an idea for a story I want to tell, and would love for you to help me write it.” When you become part of a guild on WoW or a corporation in EVE, you are throwing a lot more than just your time and energy into the game: you’re building something. You’re investing in something that can be transformed, which is why it’s all the more sad when those structures we build fall, as all things do in time. I’m sad I’m not playing WoW with my guild anymore, even though they’re all still my friends, and we spend a lot of time on LoL now. Some of my sweetest memories of tabletop are the outrageous stories I helped to tell with my characters and their actions, and in one notable circumstance, my character’s death.

The people who are mindful of this property of games are going to be the ones who make the most successful ones. Doublefine and inXile used reward tiers on Kickstarter to promote the idea that we weren’t just investing our money in these projects; they opened up forums for backers to come in and give their opinions as the very games are being made, and I think that’s a very wise move. It’s also something that Kickstarter encourages: you’re not only putting your money on the line for a product, but you are also given an amount of control in the production of what you’re funding. I’m not just a backer of Wasteland 2, it’s in a very real sense my game. That buy-in is, in itself, a reward, and will make for a better experience when all’s said and done.

I think, and I’ve talked about this before, that Kickstarter’s role in gaming is expanding. The ability to invest in games will become the new norm, and big name developers have got to be more responsive to their player’s wants and needs. That responsiveness is one of the reasons Valve and Riot are so successful. What’s keeping the bigger names afloat, the ones who chronically and habitually ignore the ideas and investiture of its customers, is capital. They’ve already got the buy in, but now they’re living on borrowed time. Get ready kids: it’s going to be an exciting few years.

(Next week: Part 2! What does buy-in mean for the players?)

Share Button

Triumphs and Tears

December 12th, 2012 No comments

Eight days ago, Riot Games banned competitive player IWillDominate from playing League of Legends in any sponsored tournament for a year. Though this isn’t the first competitive ban, it’s definitely one of the more noteworthy, particularly for this side of the Pacific. In addition, it’s the first ban of a pro player I can find for League of Legends at all, and it’s worth a deeper look.

I’ve long held that Riot’s system is innovative and the standard by which other games, particularly those that want to make a name for themselves in the competitive gaming arena. DOTA, as a genre, has long been known as a place for trolls and griefers to get their kicks, due in large part to the somewhat unbalanced areas of play in the original maps that spwaned from Warcraft III. As more polished versions of DOTA came out, a more forceful change than simple graphics needed to be implemented if any were to distinguish themselves from their competition. Riot’s solution was the Tribunal, a system by which players could review the conduct of other players, and see if it breached , a set of loose rules and guidelines to promote good behavior and sportsmanship. Balanced on the other side of rewarding players for good behavior (with the Honor Initiative), the twin facets of carrot and stick have generally enhanced peoples’ experiences with the games, according to many accounts.

Of course, there were still some people who were abusive and toxic to the environment, at all levels of play from the low brackets of 600 Elo all the way to Dignitas’ jungler, IWillDominate. In a indictment of his behavior, Riot’s Senior eSports Manager
, letting the community know in no uncertain terms that even players of IWillDominate’s caliber need to comport themselves by the social contract all the members of the League of Legends player base have agreed to.

I think it’s brilliant.

When we start talking, as gamers, about gaming being taken seriously, we have to embrace that notion. Games as art must be able to share human experiences that are not easily conveyed, and be able to transform the witness. Games as entertainment have to be genuinely pleasant experiences, rather than just something to frustrate and annoy our friends, neighbors, and parents with.

But games as sport must hold themselves to a greater standard, for two reasons: money and respect. Though these two don’t often go hand in hand, they do with real life, traditional sports. We pay our athletes a great amount of money, and challenge them to be better than us. We revel in their accomplishments, erecting Halls of Fame to immortalize our great competitors. We bring charges against those who betray our trust, going all the way up to the highest levels of government. In short, we build pedestals for those who compete to put themselves on, and we extol them when they get to the top.

As competitive eSports comes into mainstream society’s awareness, we must be ready to build those pedestals for our own digital competitors. We have to be ready to praise their acts of honest, good natured gamesmanship, and we have to be ready to scorn them for their misdeeds, as Riot has done. By prohibiting IWillDominate from competing at the highest level of play, Riot reinforces the very ethos behind competition: the thrill of the game, and the joy of victory. Going hand in hand with the fines levied against AzubuFrost in October, Riot seems ready to treat this just as seriously as they need to, as we move into the future of gaming’s potential. I commend Riot, and their VP of eSports RedBeard for taking this step, and hope they continue to act as a leader in the competitive gaming world for a long time.

Share Button

Opening the Marketplace

November 21st, 2012 No comments

As Nintendo’s latest console (the WiiU, for those of you not aware) hits the market, the indie gaming community is reacting to the news that its online market will allow developers to set the prices of their releases, and not Nintendo acting as distributor. Further, in what may be a particularly generous move, they won’t charge developers, nor require them to charge, when releasing patches for their games.

“These seem like perfectly reasonable things to me, and I don’t know why you’re writing about them,” I hear you say.

“Because they’re not the current industry model,” I reply. “Currently, developers have to pay distributors to patch their game, and can’t set their own price points.”

Nintendo is setting itself up for success here. They didn’t do a lot with the Wii in terms of helping indie developers out the last time around, and invariably, they flocked to the better games in town, if you’ll pardon the expression. We got gems like Braid and Limbo, but on the XBox and the PS3. The Wii was sort of standing in the cold, having three main problems: an unfriendly marketing system, advertising which stressed professional development, and developers wary of trying to build a game around the Wii’s controller system.

At least two of these problems vanish with Nintendo’s about face. With their embrace of letting developers set their own pricing, their online market becomes much more appealing for people making small games on their own. They still have to drum up about $5,000 for a WiiU development kit, but considering that XBox’s new development kit Durango is going for about $20,000, this is a small hurdle. Second, Nintendo isn’t shy about trumpeting their new policy on indie gaming, nor should they be. Lots of press around the move has already circulated, and Nintendo has gotten acclaim from such indie studios as Frozenbyte (Trine 2) and Tomorrow Corporation (Little Inferno), both of which are eager to work with the industry veteran when it comes to their new platform.

The third issue, Nintendo’s unusual controller setup, presents a challenge for the interested indie developers, but I hope they think of it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Can they create something to use the WiiU well, or are they just going to be trying to get something that functions without looking too deeply at the hardware?

Whichever situation pans out, I’m hoping that the increased interest in indie development will spur some competition between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to treat their consoles as new playgrounds for young developers. Give indie teams something to work with and on, rather than clutter that gets in their way. With review systems to get games into the market already established, there’s no need to further burden small but talented shops from taking the plunge into developing for consoles, rather than PCs. Congrats to Nintendo for realizing this, and starting what I hope is a trend.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

Leader of the Pack

November 13th, 2012 1 comment

Is Valve the best game company in the world? Gabe Newell’s reactions to his impromptu interview/birthday party by members of 4chan’s /v/ board might suggest so. Not only was he willing to talk about one of Valve’s new projects being an entirely new engine (perhaps Source 2), but he was also willing to have a frank discussion about the role of gamers in the industry.

Though he admitted to not being particularly happy with Greenlight at the moment, he was earnest in his endorsement of Kickstarter, even suggesting that the audience he was being interviewed by use it to get /v/’s treasured game Pressure underway. “Greenlight’s better than nothing,” he said in summation of its efforts thus far, “but it’s still not really where we want to be.”

In talking about DRM, he noted that Valve wants to use it, which was initially a bit of a surprise, given his stance in the past. Here, he talks about how DRMing is not important to the individual game, but to the customer’s account. “The problem is, you’re going to end up with a lot of assets inside of your games…what we worry about are people stealing accounts, that’s like a million times bigger of a problem. So the question becomes, as you have more and more value in your accounts…that’s way bigger of a concern.”

The video’s first 30 minutes contain a lot of question and answer stuff that you normally expect, but this is in itself interesting for two reasons. One, Gabe is willing to take the time to meet a bunch of fans who have come up to the studios and want to ask him questions. This isn’t abnormal for Valve, but it is for the rest of the industry. Who goes out of their way to listen to the concerns of their customers like this? Riot comes close I think, and should be lauded for their efforts, but allowing open tours of your facilities and meeting with real people in your own home as it were is really something. The second reason this is interesting is because Mr. Newell is talking earnestly. He’s being clear, honest, upfront. He is not an outsider. He’s a gamer. He’s part of this community, and he’s gotten a lot of respect for it. If other businesses (or hell, even governments) could have such honest representation, I think we’d feel a lot better about the state of the world.

Then, “Gaben” takes it for a twist, and asks the assembled fans what they at Valve should be focusing on. “So what should we be paying attention to that we’re not? I mean, this is your opportunity.” The conversation drifts to talk about Gabe noting that /v/ is generally a good predictor of trends in video games, and that they may want to use this talent to create a market for these predictions. “One, you’d be incredibly accurate, and first of all you’d be blown off, but then you’d be like ‘Holy shit! We’re pretty accurate at predicting stuff.’” He was frustrated, it seemed, at the current usage of Metacritic to be a source of quality information. “Metacritic…nobody at Metacritic called up a bunch of game companies and said ‘You should pay us for this,’ it just turned out it was a better tool than anything anyone in the gaming industry had created for evaluating the quality of what they did.”

This sense of things is what separates Valve from a lot of their competition. They are willing to take their time on a host of things, from developing their product, to critically thinking about their customers’ wants, needs, and desires. They’re approaching this industry from a perspective of an artisan who takes serious pride in their product, and wants their fanbase to be happy. “We try to make sure that the customer knows what they’re getting, but we also don’t want to become the dictator that tells everybody ‘You have to do things our way.’ Doing things the customers don’t know is happening is something that we want to avoid. At some point, they’ll [companies that do this] just turn evil, and be put down.”

I wonder about specific examples he may be thinking of. I think that Gabe would be the first to pick up a pitchfork if he thought Valve was headed in the wrong direction, and this amount of integrity in any industry, much less the gaming industry, should be applauded. So here’s to Gabe Newell and Valve, the leaders of the pack.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,