Until now, the heady world of pro-gaming e-sports has been focussed around FPS or RTS - two largely PC-centric genres of game that lend themselves well to competitive play. With professional gamers like Fatal1ty ripping the very soul out of titles like Counter-Strike for fame and bundles of cash, there's now a new breed of game entering the arena.
Guild Wars Factions has single-handedly created an entirely new e-sports genre, won over thousands of fans and provided a brand new way to earn a Ferrari. We recently caught up with Michael Gills, ArenaNet Tournament Coordinator, and asked him about Guild Wars's fledging steps into e-sports status, and what the future holds for the game.
What challenges have you faced when attempting to stay on top of keeping the game balanced, and how has the introduction of large cash prizes changed the way you run the league?
Gills: As with any game, whether computer, card, or even a board game, there are many, many more players than there are the people who create it. While the designers do their best to create a fair and balanced game, the simple reality is that the player base will do a much more thorough job in testing the game and stretching the rules of it than can ever be done in-house.
With that said, one of the advantages that Guild Wars has over more static games such as trading card or videogames is the ability to be constantly monitoring and making changes to maintain the overall competitive balance of the game. With our streaming technology we are able to quickly make needed game balances and upload them to our entire player base. This was done constantly before high level PvP play was started and is watched even more closely now.
As for the second part of your question, the first thing we did was to clearly spell out the rules for each tournament and for participant behavior so that each event is clear in how it is run and who is eligible to play. It is always important to make the rules of any competitive system easy to find and clear to understand and that was even more important prior to the start of high level competitive play.
Other e-sports are usually based on set-in-stone skill sets, i.e. FPS games and RTS games. But as you plan to release a new campaign every six months with new classes and skills, the demands on the player may well change dramatically. What do you think are the implications of this?
Gills: This is actually the best thing that can happen for the players and for the game itself. Change provides more players more opportunities to excel.
Games that have set-in-stone rules and skill options can end up feeling limited in strategic scope over time. There are certainly a lot of skills and knowledge that are needed to compete at high levels in these games, but there end up limited options for the individual to contribute their own discoveries to the strategic history of the game.
Players first learning their competitive skills in a static game certainly have their work cut out for them in mastering the game rules, improving their reflexive skills (if needed) and such, but can learn pretty much all there is to learn of the strategy of the game based upon everything that has been done before. Hundreds of books on chess, net decks for trading card games, and other similar sources make it easy for a new player to gain all of the knowledge of past masters. Then it all comes down to practice and recognizing what set strategy to use in which specific situation.