The term “eSport” has been a very overused buzzword for a while. With various multiplayer games throwing the term around, it’s become something of a term most players will just roll their eyes at. What the hell is an eSport anyway? How do we define an eSport? It’s complicated, and everyone’s opinion differs on the details. I’m not worried too much about that right now though. All this blog post will consider is the following: Can Guild Wars 2 be an eSport?
It all depends on what you consider an eSport. At its basic level, an eSport is the competitive play of a video game. If all that is required to become an eSport is that you are able to play against another player, then we have a multitude of games that fit that requirement. Certainly, Guild Wars 2 fits that requirement. However, I believe that an eSport requires more than that. In order to become a true eSport, the game must be developed with the mindset that if an independent community wished to, they could set up their own individual competitions and play with the utmost of ease.
Tribes: Ascend, a game created by Hi-Rez Studios, is starting to come under a lot of fire from the competitive scene. Originally, the studio marketed Tribes: Ascend as a return to the Tribes series and stated their intentions to make it an eSport. After the release of the beta, the competitive community on the whole was interested and positive about the game. It felt like an updated version of Tribes, fast and furious with many positive reviews from journalists. However, there were a lot of features that the competitive scene needed and requested. They were unable to create their own servers and couldn’t play together without various commands and the studio whitelisting their account, which was only solved a month after the game was released. The spectator mode for casters was still buggy and had no first-person view, which was a major drawback. Competitive maps were few and far between and no ability for the community to make balanced custom maps meant that they had to rely on Hi-Rez to make a map for the competitive community, which hasn’t come. A highly requested feature was the ability to record demos, which helps out with making sure that each player is playing fairly and to get an accurate view of what each person was doing, something inbuilt into the engine they used and yet is now considered to not appear ever.
Let’s compare this to a similar shooter. CounterStrike has servers, spectator mode, the ability to create custom maps and the ability to record demos. ShootMania, a game that is currently in alpha, has all of these features and is being marketed as the next big eSport. If we look at RTS, we have Starcraft 2 with these features. Dota 2 has the ability for tournament organisers to sell online tickets inside the game and have teams with their own flag outside their base. These features aren’t needed to make a good game, but they are required to make a healthy eSport. All of these features let the community do what they want and play the game at a professional level. Without them, you will lose interest from the community and they will move on if they do not see their game having the energy and enthusiasm for competitive play that other games have. Instead of giving the tools to the community to do what they want, it puts pressure on the developers to set up everything. In the case of Tribes: Ascend, these tools have not been given, and as a result the competitive scene is leaving in droves because nobody wishes to set up big tournaments for them without these features.
Guild Wars 2 is an MMO, and so does have a few differences to other eSports. We will not see a custom map maker for PvP, which is OK as long as there is ample competitive maps from ArenaNet. Spectator Mode for casters has been confirmed to be in planning after release, which is disappointing for tournament organisers who wanted to show off the game from the get-go, but understandable. In order for tournament organisers to make sure that there is no cheating or exploits, demos of matches are needed. Arguably, even greater importance has been put on ArenaNet with saying that they intend to make PvP an eSport to give us these features, with thousands of players wanting to play with these ideas and features in mind. Asking for these tools seems like a lot, but in reality it’s not. Once these features are complete, everything is off of ArenaNet’s back and it becomes the responsibility of the community to make Guild Wars 2 a great competitive scene for all, giving us the opportunity to use these tools to promote and play the game. If we don’t get these features, ArenaNet have to organise everything, and it stifles the competitive lifestyle as they may not get a say in what happens to what possibly could be their livelihood.
The community needs these tools to create a great eSport. Please ArenaNet. Give them to us.