Rocket League on Switch: Impressions and discussion

November 14 saw the release of a port of Rocket League on Nintendo Switch. Ever since the port’s announcement at E3 this year, many have been looking forward to playing Rocket League on Nintendo’s new handheld-console hybrid. On paper, the game seems like a perfect fit for the system. A portable system such as the Nintendo Switch is perfect for playing in shorter sessions. Having a competitive game such as Rocket League on the Switch can help introduce the game to an entirely new audience. Additionally, more competitive players can play the Switch version of the game on the go, allowing them to practice whenever and wherever they are.

But does the Switch version of Rocket League hold up? Let’s delve into our impressions of the port, and discuss what the Switch version of Rocket League could mean for the game’s future.

Impressions of the Nintendo Switch Port

First and foremost, the Nintendo Switch version of the game is a competent port. The game itself runs at a consistent 60 frames per second (fps). However, over the course of my three hours of playtime, there have been isolated frame stutters here and there. For the most part though, the game remains at a solid 60 fps. The port achieves this through using a dynamic resolution.

impressions

The Switch version of the game (left) has a lower resolution and lower-res textures than the PC version (right), but the Switch version still looks good. Image: YouTube

In an AMA on Reddit, Psyonix provided specs for the Switch version of the game. When docked, the game outputs at 720p.

When undocked, the game uses a dynamic resolution scaler, going anywhere from 526p to 720p, in order to maintain a consistent 60 fps.

Whether docked or undocked, Rocket League on the Nintendo Switch looks quite nice. This isn’t to say that there are a few small issues. For example, explosions from demolitions look quite pixelated. Another example is the pixelation on the Rocket League signs around stadiums. But for the most part, Rocket League looks good and runs well on Switch. Some compromises are made to keep a smooth frame rate, but overall, the Switch version of Rocket League is a well-made port, and a great way to play the game.

The game itself features all modes seen in other versions of the game. Moreover, the Switch version of the game features cross-play with PC and Xbox One players.

As for Nintendo-exclusive content, Mario, Luigi and Metroid themed cars look good and their sound effects all have nice attention to detail (special mention to the 8-bit jump sound effect on the Mario and Luigi cars when they jump). Other than the difference in resolution and the visual quality of textures and some Nintendo-exclusive cars and hats, the Switch version of the game is as potent and playable as any other version of the game.

The portability of Rocket League on Switch

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about playing Rocket League on Nintendo Switch is that it’s on the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the console and PC versions of the game, the Switch versions allows Rocket League players to enjoy the game whenever and wherever they are. And for the type of game that Rocket League is, this feels right at home on a handheld-console hybrid.

impressions

The glory of the Switch version of the game is that you can play wherever, and however you want. Image: YouTube.

This raises curiosity as to how this version of the game may impact the greater community of Rocket League. Unlike other versions, the Switch version of the game can allow players to practice the game whether or not they are near a television or monitor. The only stipulation to playing the game in undocked mode on the Switch is the slightly-lower resolution. Playing Rocket League on an undocked Switch still offers the full Rocket League experience.

Could this possibly invite more players to want to put more hours into the game? That could be likely. Since the Switch version of the game doesn’t demand to be played near a television or monitor, players could get better at the game at any time. Speaking anecdotally, I’ve been able to play and improve at the game just by playing it while on the go. This could be replicated by just about any Rocket League player on Switch.

An easy recommendation to all Switch Owners

This port of Rocket League can only be good for the game in the long run. It will help introduce many new people to the game, and give previous players the option to play the game wherever they are, whether they’re competitive or casual. In appeasing both new and old players of Rocket League, the Nintendo Switch version feels like one of the most definitive ways to play Rocket League. While it doesn’t look as pretty as other console versions and especially the PC version, the Switch port of Rocket League is a great way to play the game.

If the Nintendo Switch version can introduce more people to Rocket League, then it can also lead more people to play Rocket League competitively. Just having the game be portable makes getting into the more competitive nature of the game feel all the more possible. Not only can this version help make Rocket League grow as a game, but the Nintendo Switch can also possibly help the game grow as an esport.

All year, the Nintendo Switch has been selling very well. With that, there are many games on the system worth getting. After spending a few hours with the game on Switch, it’s safe to say that Rocket League is one of the essential games to get on the Nintendo Switch.

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Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo Enthusiast.

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Na’Vi impresses at DreamLeague Qualifiers

The inaugural Dota Pro Circuit is underway and DreamLeague Season 8 is already turning heads, heralding the return of one of Dota’s proudest franchises: Natus Vincere. Taking games off of both OG and Virtus Pro, they clinched a spot in the upcoming Major. A great opportunity to grab some early points in the season. Whether it’s the new patch, roster or something else, Na’vi is back.

Midlane reworks allow Dendi to shine

A large reason that Na’vi has found its way back into relevance is the 7.07 changes to the midlane. The terrain changes to this lane have severely impacted the laning stage. Previously, mid was full of heroes throughout this part of the game. Sometimes with a support almost dedicated to sitting midlane and ensuring their teammate a better start. In many matches this could balloon into a trilane happening mid. But now the extra creep is gone and there is much more space around the tier one towers to position for last hits.

One change that stands out as benefiting extremely high-skilled players is the narrow point at the meeting of the initial creep wave. Dendi and other mechanically gifted mids are able to manipulate the creep wave from high ground. The concept of high ground has always been important in Dota 2, but these midlane changes allow for the best players to exploit it. Keeping the creeps closer to your high ground, as a midlaner, allows you to remain much safer and easily out-lane your opponent. The miss chance along with the vision advantage are enough to secure any lane.

These changes have also driven mid back to a true 1-v-1 matchup. Further compounding the advantage Dendi has over the opponent. A knock against Na’vi for most of their struggle last year was that Dendi could not carry games with the way the midlane worked. Now he can truly exert his immense individual talent in order to snowball out of control.

 

dota 2, ancient apparition, dendi

Dendi with the farm on an Ancient Apparition at 26 minutes (Dota 2 Client)

What have you done for me lately

This year it’s all about the points. That’s what decides who goes to TI. Currently, Na’vi does not have any points in the Pro Circuit. Which is almost certain to change the way they have been playing lately. In their last 11 series, Na’vi is 7-2-2. Boding very well for them with 1,800 points up for grabs over the next 30 days. They will be competing in the MDL Macau Minor as well as the DreamLeague Winter Jonkoping Major.

As a team they have been playing top-notch Dota. Reasserting themselves as a top level team while taking care of business against teams they should beat on paper. Their 2-0 over Virtus Pro came after a hard fought Grand Final in the Dota Summit 8 Minor Qualifier. They did lose 3-1, but proved they could adjust with the result at DreamLeague the next day. They even made a mid Ancient Apparition work.

Na’vi seems to have a pretty good read of where their strengths are within the patch. Their most picked heroes on 7.07 as a competitive patch are Winter Wyvern and Vengeful Spirit. Two heroes that they have helped bring into the meta. Rounding out their five favorite heroes are Enchantress, Viper and Earth Spirit. Hard to argue with a winrate on average of 71.57% across their top five most-picked heroes.

Featured image courtesy of YouTube

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immortals

Achieving immortality: a look back on the Immortals saga

This probably wasn’t what the organization had in mind with regards to its name, but it’s pretty much guaranteed now that the major-finalist roster of Immortals will forever be etched in the annals of esport history – not as a world-beating, unstoppable team, but as the one that’s associated with some of the most unprofessional behavior since the major system kickstarted the rapid growth of the pro CS:GO scene. It’s a sign of its growing pains in more ways than one – and honestly, I’m surprised it took so long for something like this to happen.

Are you sure you want to quit?

Perhaps the most explosive news of the whole CS:GO scene as of late involved the complete combustion of the Immortals lineup at DreamHack Montreal with three members of the Brazilian outfit failing to show up in time for the finals, thereby forfeiting the first map of a best-of-three series against North. They promptly lost the match right after in the following map. The events were juicy enough that they even made it to the Daily Mail, probably alongside a dozen new causes of cancer and a few adorable pandas.

And just as if it were a cheap paperback novel, this is where the death threats began. Vito “kNg” Giuseppe didn’t take a fellow player’s tweet about the situation particularly well, and proceeded to reclaim his lost honor by… threatening to kill the colleague in question.

No, not on the servers, but in real life. Apparently, he had to be restrained in the hotel where they were both located for the event. The justified outrage soon followed, and kNg was first benched and then released from the team. Normally, this would be the end of our juicy little story, but we do have an extra twist in the tale: thanks to the way the major spots are distributed, if at least three of the qualified players join a new organization, they automatically take their Legend spot with them.

Guess who joined ranks with our little harbinger of doom? The other two alleged partygoers, of course. At least some elements of this story are predictable!

Progress and perfection

There’s always been this weird allure of “professionalism” in esports circles, the idea that increased exposure and stability would somehow automatically mean a more mature environment and playerbase. (Of course, the literal definition of the word “pro” is already fulfilled once you’re playing your chosen game for a living, but people generally use it to refer to something more, be it behavior or gameplay quality.)

Thing is, we’re living alongside what I like to call the 0th generation of pro players: young people who haven’t grown up with esports as a viable and reliable career path, they sort of stumbled upon it and created the opportunities on their own.

There are no Williams brothers yet, who conquered women’s tennis basically on the orders of their father: the people in the highest echelons of CS:GO are players who have been playing the game for fun as kids. While this can add some sort of charm to the proceedings, it’s nonetheless important to note that whatever we think of “professionalism” is likely going to be more present in players who were purposefully nurtured to become the best of the best as opposed to those who liked playing a game so much that they turned their hobby into a career.

Can you imagine any other well-paying job where communication is so key and almost everything is organized in English where basic grammar is sometimes beyond the employee’s capabilities and so-called journalists are ramming their tweets into Google Translate to figure out what they really were trying to say? Just because we have six-figure prize pools flying around, that doesn’t mean we’re past the Wild West-period of esports.

It’s a good sign that players throwing around death threats are swiftly removed, but unfortunately we can’t treat this as a total aberration. Especially considering how a very specific group of people actually consider the presence of “bad boys” a positive in the scene: usually casters and commentators who would like to spice things up. Of course, their desire for a unique voice is understandable in a scene where a team can completely migrate from one organization to the next without any change apart from their branding (just imagine if something similar happened in football), but actively hoping for disruptive elements is simply self-defeating, no matter how good copy they would make.

Also, the perceived oversanitization of the esports scene – oh please, you haven’t seen anything yet – is due to most of its participants’ lack of social and interviewing skills. While this usually amounts to awkward silence and boring discussions, tweeting out threats and generally behaving like a twelve year-old is due to the same root cause and should likewise not be celebrated by any responsible member of the community.

On the spot

Putting all the drama aside, the real consequential element of the Immortals controversy is undoubtedly the fate of the coveted major spot. As things stand, the top 8 teams from the previous major are automatically invited to the next one as “Legends”, provided they keep the majority – at least three players – of the lineup. The issues are obvious: if some of the players want to leave or force a better contract, they can essentially hold the organization hostage.

There isn’t really a good solution here: do we prefer orgs hosting players hostage, or vice versa? The implementation of the current system is quite telling as it seems to imply that the organizations seem to be more expendable in the eyes of Valve. If we look at the checkered pasts of the VP or SK rosters, you could actually make a persuasive argument for that.

As things stand, Immortals will be refreshing their roster with Caio “zqkS” Fonseca (recently of Ghost), the trialist Lucas “destiny” Bullo and their summer signing in the form of João “horvy” Horvath who has been held back by visa-related issues until just recently. Is this going to make up for the brothers – Lucas “LUCAS1” Teles and Henrique “HEN1” Teles – requesting to leave? Will the organization get the million dollar bounty they are reportedly asking for them and the major sport? How will they cope without Boltz and Steel? We will have to see.

One thing is for sure: no organization will back a player that may or may not have spent the night before a final partying, then proceeds to show up late to the event and then follows all this up with death threats. No number of in-game frags can make up for even the possibility of a real one.

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The Tyler1 Championship Series is coming soon

Four ways to get your esports fix in the League of Legends off-season

If you spend a significant amount of time watching professional League of Legends (like me), then you are probably starting to feel a void where the LCS, LCK, LPL and other leagues used to be. You have caught up on watching everything at Worlds. Maybe you even went back and checked out VODs that you missed in Summer Split.

But now there is no more League to consume. Worlds is over, and every team is taking a much needed break from competition. There have been several announcements regarding changes to leagues next year, but what about now? We have two months before any professional leagues restart. How do we get our weekly fix of esports in the meantime? Here are my top four recommendations. Hopefully one of them will work for you.

Follow your favorite players’ streams

This is the most straightforward option. While the professional leagues are on cooldown, the individual players will most likely still be streaming on a regular basis. This form of viewership has several benefits. It allows you, the viewer, to feel more of each player’s personality, since the stream is built around them. You also get to experience the game from your favorite player’s perspective, which allows you to analyze their mechanics, builds, etc. For example, here are links to some of the professional players, coaches and casters that were streaming at the time of writing this article:

Watch your favorite player's stream in the off-season

Screenshot of Jankos’ stream on Twitch

Search for your favorite talents’ social media pages, as they usually update their fans when they will be streaming. Consider following and subscribing to their Twitch channels, as any advertisements directly benefit them. These sessions provide a more intimate setting for viewers, and players that stream frequently generally enjoy interacting with their audience. Tuning into streams lacks the casting and third-party analysis that professional broadcasts have, but story-lines and drama pop up now and again.

There are also plenty of top level League of Legends players who simply do not play professionally. They may prefer the casual nature of streaming, have a large enough following that financially they can stream full-time, have retired from pro play or may be a rising star in the making. Preseason is an ideal time to watch those streamers, because they are probably innovating with Runes Reforged, item builds and strategies. You might be able to learn a thing or two and apply it in your own solo queue.

Look out for regional/amateur tournaments and Scouting Grounds

Last year's Tyler1 Invitational was a huge success

Image from Tyler1’s Youtube

While there are regular amateur tournaments for League of Legends around the world, not many of them are actually broadcast. Expect to see some in the off-season, though, as they will not need to compete with the regular professional leagues for attention. For example, CompeteLeague will be hosting the Tyler1 Championship Series, starting on November 18. Last year’s Tyler1 League of Legends Invitational turned out to be a huge hit, so they will be back this year for your viewing pleasure. It is not an entirely serious event, so it may not be appealing to every esports fan, but the teams that were announced include some of the top Challenger-level players.

Regional leagues are also sometimes broadcast during this time period. For example, Ogaming is currently hosting Challenge France, the French national league that qualifies into the European Challenger Series. While the French casting may not be for everyone, the actual gameplay should appeal to viewers of the European LCS and CS. Europe has leagues for the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland and others too. Be on the lookout for announcements to watch these if they have not already happened.

For North American fans, this year’s Scouting Grounds are announced for November 26 to December 3. Riot invites the top Challenger players from each position to create four teams and compete in hopes of being drafted into the LCS and Academy teams for 2018. This is an event that showcases rising stars who may be among the 10 players to join a team following the matches.

Try watching another esport

Overwatch is an alternative esport to watch in the off-season

Image from Twinfinite.net

Yes, there are other esports out there other than League of Legends. The media is building up a lot of hype around next year’s Overwatch League (OWL). Overwatch combines certain aspects of massive online battle arena (MOBA) games with first-person shooter mechanics and game modes. Blizzard recently announced updates to make Overwatch more spectator-friendly and to create larger distinctions between the two competing teams. If the action was difficult for you to casually follow before, now might be a good time to give Overwatch another shot.

If you need something third-person, and much closer to League of Legends, then maybe give DOTA a shot. Summit 8 is currently pitting teams against each other from all over the world for a $300,000 prize pool. The draft, map, role-based gameplay and other elements of DOTA should feel right at home for League of Legends viewers. There are four DOTA tournaments in November and December, which should be plenty of content to help get through the off-season.

Hearthstone could be an option for League of Legends viewers who may not enjoy watching other MOBAs or first-person shooters. It is an online card game from Blizzard, which boasts being “Deceptively Simple. Insanely Fun.” Much like other card games, each player has a deck of cards to play with in hopes of draining the enemy’s health to zero. Spectating this game is incredibly easy. DreamHack is hosting a Winter Grand Prix December 1-4, which will be the last Hearthstone event for 2017.

Put more time into your own game

Everyone should learn about Runes Reforged in the off-season

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Of course, this is the best time to play more League, rather than spectate others. Maybe this could be your first time downloading your replays in the client. Rewatch your games and figure out what you could do differently to improve for 2018. Clip some highlights to show your friends, or just have fun playing a few more ARAMs that you missed during the LCS season.

Preseason is the time to adapt and innovate. Study the new Runes Reforged, watch out for Zoe’s release and figure out where they fit in the meta landscape. If you do not learn these elements of the game in the next two months, then you may be caught off guard when players are drafting next Spring Split. Get out on the Rift, get a feel for who and what is strong and weak, and compare.

Even if you have no interest in grinding more games, watching other esports or tuning into streamers, you can still just enjoy a break. Invest those extra minutes and hours into some other hobby. Most people will turn to exercise or catching up on music, books, movies and television. That is okay, too. If the professionals are taking a break, then why not you? It will be a while before teams return to the LCS, so make the most of it.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

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7.07b

Hot fix: Bringing balance back in 7.07b

When there is a patch as big as 7.07 was, imbalances in the game show up sooner or later. Sooner seems to be the answer in this case, as 7.07b arrived a mere week after 7.07 launched. Even in this short amount of time, the community lamented these imbalances and cried out to dear IceFrog for a remedy. It seems their voices reached the enigmatic DotA developer, as the most common complaints were addressed.

Anti-Mage

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

Anti-Mage gets his own section in this article because he was an absolute terror in 7.07. His stat gain coupled with his new talents negated his old weakness of having to wait until the late game to come online. Developers reduced his strength gain to give him less health, and spell shield was also weakened to make him more vulnerable early. The biggest change though is that Blink Illusion moved up to a level 20 talent from level 15. Trying to chase a mid level Anti-Mage with this ability was incredibly difficult. Though the illusion took increased damage, the mana it drained would quickly make chasing impossible. This fix should return Anti-Mage to his former glory, without getting a free power spike in the mid game.

The new heroes

Pangolier fans rejoice! Your hero received some much needed buffs. Shield Crash grants increased damage reduction at all levels. Rolling Thunder turn rate is universally improved, so hopefully we’ll see fewer players getting stuck in corners. On top of that, it also does more damage than before. The most important of these buffs though is how Swashbuckle’s damage is now calculated. While previously it was treated as physical ability damage, Swashbuckle damage instances are now treated the same as normal right clicks. This means that on hit effects previously unavailable to him like lifesteal and crit are now completely viable. This is huge news for Pango players, and we’re bound to see his build diversity go up as a result.

I’m more of a Dark Willow person myself, and I’m not even upset about the nerfs she received in 7.07b. Bedlam was absurd on a 20 second cooldown and everyone knew it. By level three the ultimate is still about as strong as it previously was, so no harm was done to her late-game potential. Bramble Maze now also deals its damage over time instead of all in one instance. This brings the spell more in line with similar roots such as Crystal Maiden’s Frostbite, and gives players a chance to save themselves with healing items or spells. To be fair, it was pretty absurd for a low health hero to walk into a bramble patch and just explode to a 250 damage nuke.

Tiny is a big boy again…

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

I played one game of Tiny after being intrigued by the massive changes made to the hero in vanilla 7.07. I never felt like I was able to contribute anything meaningful at any point in the game. Valve gave Tiny so much love in this patch that I’m cautiously optimistic about trying him again. Most of his buffs were to his Tree Grab ability, which previously had a long cooldown at lower levels. The cooldown was so long in fact that I never felt like I had it up when I needed it to push.

The ability’s cooldown has since been lowered from 40/32/24/16 seconds to just 15 seconds at all levels. Splash damage done by the tree now deals full attack damage. Tiny even gets an additional swing with the tree once he hits level four with the ability. These 7.07b changes help to turn Tiny into the split pushing tower crusher he was meant to be, and hopefully make him relevant in the meta again.

Meteor Hammer

Most of the other item changes are minor, but Meteor Hammer’s function changed in a pretty meaningful way. It now deals less damage over time, but has a small burst of damage on impact. Players questioned why it was not this way to start with. It made little sense that being hit with a meteor dealt no damage initially. While the weapon’s function now makes more sense, I’m still not sure it is exactly what the item needs to be relevant. The biggest drawback is the three second channel time, which makes it very easy to interrupt or dodge. Most of the time I would probably rather use those three seconds to cast any of my other abilities. Chances are they would probably be more productive.

More changes coming?

Undoubtedly. After all, patch 7.06 went all the way up to 7.06f before the developers finally decided to increment the patch number. It has still been less than two weeks since Valve introduced us to 7.07, so we’re bound to see more in the future. Watching the pros experiment with the patch has been exciting, but it’s clear that they are still learning too. I guess it’s time for us all to get back into it and play more 7.07b DotA 2.

Bummer…


Featured Image: Screenshot grabbed from Dota2.com

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For a more in depth look at what The Game Haus thought of patch 7.07, be sure to listen Episode 1 of our DotA 2 podcast “Secret Shop Talk” here.

Why Splatoon 2 deserves to be an esport

On November 5, SetToDestroyX became the champions of Squidstorm 2017. This event featured Splatoon 2, a game that has become just as, if not more popular than its predecessor. This is largely thanks to the game being on the Nintendo Switch, a system currently doing far better than the Wii U ever did. The original Splatoon was a huge surprise hit, in many peoples’ eyes. It was unlike any other shooter on the market, yet still featured modes that could be played competitively. The original game sold quite well, but it was ultimately held back in terms of reaching a wide audience because of the game being released on Wii U.

With Splatoon 2, that’s quite far from the case. As of September 30, Splatoon 2 has sold 3.61 million units, and continues to sell well. The game is getting into the hands of more and more players. Thus more people are becoming aware of Splatoon’s unique identity. Squidstorm 2017 is an example of what Splatoon’s future could possibly be. Is the game on its way to becoming an esport? Some would argue that it already is. Then does Splatoon 2 deserve to be considered a viable esport? In my eyes, yes. Let’s talk about why.

Splatoon is different, which is only a good thing

One of the greatest aspects of esports is the amount of variety of games on display. So many esports are significantly different from one another. One of the biggest components of Splatoon’s identity as a brand and game is its uniqueness. There’s literally no other game on the market like Splatoon, which draws people into playing and even watching the game. However, does this really make an impact on the game’s viability as an esport?

In my eyes, yes. Super Smash Bros. is a great example of why being different can only be a good thing. Many fighting games that we see at big tournaments such as EVO focus on having players deplete the other player’s health.

splatoon

The Nintendo Switch’s reveal trailer showed Splatoon 2 being played as an esport. Is this getting closer to becoming a reality? Image: Nintendo

Smash Bros. is refreshing to many viewers of events such as EVO because of how different the game’s mechanics and overall objective is from other fighting games. It makes the game and its community stand out among all the other games and competitive communities being showcased.

Perhaps to a lesser extent, ARMS does this as well. As I’ve talked about before, ARMS stands out among every other fighting game out there because of how its mechanics and gimmicks are unique. No other game is played quite like ARMS, which many players and viewers admire about the game. That said, ARMS still has yet to prove itself as an esport, but I feel like that game finds itself in a similar position to Splatoon right now.

Both games haven’t gained a large amount of traction in regards to becoming esports, despite garnering respectfully-sized competitive communities of their own. While ARMS is different from other fighting games because of the extendable arm mechanic, Splatoon is different from other competitive shooters because of the ink mechanic. Additionally, Splatoon is also different due to its objective of not focusing on killing other players, but rather working with one’s team to achieve a certain goal.

Is Being Different enough?

Many people would naturally respond to this argument with something along the lines of, “Just because a game is different doesn’t automatically make it worthy of being an esport.” While there’s some truth to that statement, Splatoon does far more than just being different from other competitive shooters. As stated above, Splatoon’s ink mechanic makes the game different, and it’s also a naturally exciting mechanic.

Playing or watching many matches of Splatoon will show anyone that players can use their team’s ink in a variety of ways. Some players stay in their team’s ink to play stealthily, while others use ink to flank members of the other team. Simply put, it’s exciting to see the different ways in which the game can be played. The more obvious layer of variety within the competitive community of Splatoon is the kinds of weapons players use. The game is frequently being updated and re-balanced.

Splatoon

Splatoon 2 sees many updates and balances, along with new weapons being added, such as the Nouveau Inkbrush. Image: Siliconera

This encourages Splatoon players to use different types of weapons to suit their play style. And just about any weapon is viable, which makes each match feature different weapons. This adds to the variety and “freshness” that we see in competitive Splatoon. This variety that we can see in competitive play is a characteristic of any esport.

Lastly, we also see variety in regards to the game’s modes. Like many other esports, Splatoon offers multiple competitive modes. The three competitive modes – Splat Zones, Tower Control and Rainmaker – all feel significantly different from each other. And yet they offer the kind of frantic, strategic action that only Splatoon can provide. Any game that offers a variety of competitive modes, all of which are entertaining to play and watch, deserves to at least be considered as a viable esport.

The game’s competitive community is tried and true

Although I love Splatoon, I’ve found myself on the fence on whether or not the game should be considered as an esport. This instantly changed when I watched the 2017 Nintendo World Championships (NWC) in October. This event showed to me how fun it is to watch competitive Splatoon matches. The event opened my eyes about Splatoon’s viability as an esport. The game’s representation at the NWC convinced me of something. It convinced me that the game is just as, if not more entertaining to watch than many other shooters that are esports.

I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are important. They give the competitive aspects of the game more publicity. They also convince people about Splatoon’s viability as an esport, just as I was when I watched. With the impressive sales of the Nintendo Switch and Splatoon 2, I would love to see a greater amount of competitive events for Splatoon.

Splatoon

Splatoon 2 was played at NWC and convinced me that the game had a future as an esport. Image: Nintendo

The game simply belongs alongside many other competitive shooters. Splatoon’s unique gameplay mixed with the variety of modes and play styles makes it stand out among many esports that people watch. I’m convinced that Splatoon is worthy of being watched by many people in the context of the game being an esport. The game already has a sizable competitive community. What needs to be expanded is the game’s recognition for those who don’t play it. Splatoon is capable of being an esport if more people see the game represented at tournaments. This will make the scene become more and more familiar with Splatoon and its fresh identity. And I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are great first steps towards that.

Do you agree or disagree with Splatoon deserving to be an esport? Join the conversation and let us know!


 

Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

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dota 2, casting, lyrical

Lyrical on casting, new heroes, and more

Earlier this week, I was able to chat with Gabriel “Lyrical” Cruz. We had a great conversation about casting, the evolution of DotA as an Esport, among a lot of other things. Huge shoutout and thank you to Lyrical for taking the time to chat with me. You can find his Twitch and Twitter accounts at the links provided.

You can also listen to the audio of this interview at our new DotA Podcast “Secret Shop Talk”. Part of The Game Haus’ Soundcloud lineup.

Without further adieu, enjoy!

Eli: Well we’ll start out with just an easier one. So when did you know that you wanted to make Esports casting a career specifically in DotA 2? And when did you know that it was something that could actually take you somewhere?

Lyrical: I think it was always going to be DotA probably if I was going to be doing anything. I didn’t really have an idea that I wanted to do something until it had kind of already happened. If that makes sense? I was casting in-house leagues just for fun with my friends because they would, you know? They have these matches that would go on every night after work I would come home and play some DotA. Or I would like sit in the lobby and watch those people who would be casting them just for fun because you know you want to make it feel like the game has a little bit more meaning.

Somehow it feels like that’s the case; people are casting it and talking about it it feels like it kind of elevates it something beyond just a regular game that you’re playing. It’s cool to hear people talk about stuff. And so from that I kind of just started casting. And then people said I should keep doing it. And it kind of just grew from there so it was never really like a conscious thought of what needed to happen. It was more just something that happened.  

And I think the first time that I realized it could actually go somewhere was when I had been doing it for a little bit. And there are a couple different points but probably the first time I had made you know that it could be something was around the time that I started to get noticed by this company called HeflaTV which I put out a big reddit post saying that I was going to cast these games for TI5 because I wanted to cast the group stages for it and I just wanted to see if people would be interested in it at all and then I got in touch with HeflaTV which is somebody that used to do the Tier 2 scene. And they brought me on for some more stuff so that was probably the first time.

Eli: You’ve been around the scene for how long would you say then?

Lyrical: I think that it was October. Around the time that 6.20 came out. When I first started playing DotA. Actually like being a person in the scene the first event I ever went to, the first time I think anybody really heard my name, was the Frankfurt Major Qualifiers so however long ago that was. I’m not exactly sure how long ago that was.  

Eli: And yet it really just with every patch that comes out every tournament feels like years and years ago when it might not even be that long.

Lyrical: So the fall of 2015. And that’s like two years ago I guess.

Eli: Where the scene’s at right now, you’re almost a seasoned veteran.

Lyrical: Yeah, I guess!

Eli: How have you watched the scene change over those two years and how do you think it might have changed for the better and sometimes for the worse?

Lyrical: Let’s see. How has it changed. Probably the biggest thing will be the implementation of the Major-Minor system. That was obviously something that had just gotten started with the Frankfurt major because that was the very first one that came around, and it was an experiment. They kind of made a first iteration of it that it had its ups and its downs.

The ups was that there was, you know, these big tournaments that everybody had kind of plan around. The downsides with those big tournaments is that everyone still has to plan around. Where it kind of ran into trouble with third party events, then they made the new iteration of it which is the next year where there are just two majors. That was a little bit stronger I think because you were planning around the big tournaments that were happening but there was more room for third party events and now we’ve moved on this year where it’s very different in that the third party events have become the majors.

Also they’re more marketable. So it feels like each time we’re kind of moving in a direction that’s aiming to fix the problems that happened before and it feels like we’re getting closer. I just want to see what the next round of iteration is. Besides that there’s not really a ton outside of the game specific things. You know obviously has been a ton of changes to DOTA. But that doesn’t really affect the macro sense of what’s happening in the scene.

Eli: So moving on. As a caster, how have you had to adapt specifically this year with all the increase in Tier 1 events?

dota 2, dotapit, newbee, liquid, 7.07

(Esportsranks)

Lyrical: The biggest thing for me is all the qualifiers. There’s a ton of them going on right now. And in some ways it’s kind of tough and in other ways it’s good. On the one hand you get a lot of new opportunity for up and coming casters. For instance I know that today was some Moonduck stream games going on that they couldn’t have the main Moonduck casters on it because they’re all coming back from Dotapit so they had other people that were filling in for them. That’s really cool because it gives a lot of opportunities for up and coming people that you know try out their hand. From my point of view it’s really tough because if I’m going to some events it means that I’m not able to cast as many of the qualifiers. And I kind of just go from event to event when they’re happening and that can be tough to keep up with what’s going on in the rest scene.

But it just means that it’s more opportunity to put in hard work and grow from that. The other big thing is that it’s sometimes a little bit nuts. So for instance during the games that I was casting today it was like Vega versus Empire which normally is this absolutely huge event but because there’s like three other tournaments that are going on. It also means that the viewership is split between those three whereas before it would just be like one main headlining stuff. So it means that there’s more opportunities for viewers to pick and choose from what they want. And also it’s less clear that this tournament is going to get this amount of viewership which can be kind of tough, I’d imagine, for tournament organizers.

Eli: Do you think with all the planning that went into doing all these majors this year is that saturation going to show up in the marketing numbers. Like the business side of it. How do you think that saturation might affect the scene?

Lyrical: I think whenever you have competition, I mean really because that’s what it is that you’re talking about, is saturation, is mainly just competition. So you’ve got tournament organizers that are competing against each other for viewership and the tournaments that have the best or the most work put into it are going to get the best viewers so that at the end of the day can only be good for a tournament.

The problem becomes if you have so many high class tournaments that then like I don’t know I think that it can only be good. But it sort of also depends upon what teams go to which events because of a lot of viewership is also based on what teams are going and which teams are playing. No matter what if it’s a South American tournament or a North American tournament the North American one is going to be getting viewership regardless of production value.

Eli: You also do a little bit of streaming on top of being a caster right?

Lyrical: A little bit yeah.

Eli: Do you think that with the scene going right now are you going to have to move more towards casting or are you going to be able to stream? How do you think that’s going to affect what you want to do?

Lyrical: I mean I’m always going to like the idea of playing games on my own stream but I know that that’s also not what people are going to be as interested in me for I’m not as good of a player as these other people. So I think that it’s just going to be more casting which is understandable and makes me happy I love casting Dota. That’s when I first started streaming before I started playing games on my own. So I think that it’s just going to mean that I’m going to be playing a lot more which I’m not upset about at all. Like I said love casting so it’s not like I’m losing much.

Eli: On this thread of of casting and streaming. if I’m wrong correct me but I remember seeing something about you casting people’s pubs for them?

Lyrical: I do that every now and that. It depends on what it is that that’s going on. If I haven’t had like a lot of stuff going on for a while an old cast goes. There was a time recently when I was doing it for charity stuff because I was just thinking thatd be a cool thing to do. It was right around the time when all the hurricanes were coming through the Texas and Florida area. So I said if somebody donated 10 bucks to the Red Cross that I would cast their pub. So I did that for a couple of people. And also there was some for a Reddit charity thing happened too.

Eli: Would you be interested in doing more of these like charity based kind of events? Because that’s one thing that I think is lacking in the scene in form of identity of corporate social responsibility so to speak. Would that be something that you’d be interested in?

Lyrical: For sure. I think it all depends upon working around the schedule because at the end of the day if there’s something where I’m going to need to be able to pay my rent because I’m casting games versus being able to do charity stuff that I’m going to pay my rent over it.  But there’s usually a good amount of free time. I certainly wouldn’t blame anybody for not wanting to do it. Sometimes the hours that people work in Esports are pretty ridiculous. At events it’s not unusual for it to be a 12 to 14 hour day and that’s all like the whole time you know being on camera and being in front of lights and stuff like that. And then when you’re doing the same thing for casting online qualifiers 14 hours isn’t uncommon either and afterwards you do need to take time for yourself as well. But it’s also tends to be like seven days a week. But you know if you have downtime and I think some people should be down.

Eli: That’s something I’ve always wondered. What’s it like being in those super long days where it’s 14 hours of casting and you have to be on your A-game and you have to be in front of the camera and you know people are watching you. What’s that like? How do you motivate yourself to push through those?

Lyrical: It’s not too hard because we’re doing what we love. I think for everybody that’s doing it. So it’s just about making sure that you’re going to be excited and it’s tough to do that. The thing that’s toughest about it is that it’s just like remembering what the stakes are because if your casting, particularly you meet somebody who still, I wouldn’t say by any means I’m established in the scene, that people sort of know me, I think generally speaking. But there’s going to be a lot of people from casting on a big tournament are going to be like “Who is this caster?”.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the end of a long day or if it’s the beginning and I’m completely fresh. Their first impression of me is going to be what they run into when they hear. So you have to keep in mind like what the stakes are in that if you have a bad first impression that’s the impression that you’re going to leave with these people forever. So. Just sort of like reinvigorating yourself drinking caffeine a ton and that type of thing. I don’t know it’s sort of you go through stages of sort of where your beginning casts are really really really really good. And then it steadily drops off as you become more and more tired and your casts become worse. Then eventually it hits this point weren’t like suddenly spikes up and you’re so exhausted the kind of don’t care what you’re saying anymore. You just kind of run off of instinct and that’s when casts become really good for a little bit and then they really drop off the deep end and they become terrible. But if you sort lose all of your inhibitions that’s when the coolest moments come out.

Eli: Could you give me an example of one of those moments that just kind of happened upon you? Maybe in a game and all of a sudden you’re going back and forth and there’s this huge teamfight that comes in and you just kind of run with it.

Lyrical: Yeah I think I have some that are on my YouTube channel actually. Let me see if I can find them because one of the things that came up was that there was this period of time where I was doing, it was like maybe a year ago or something, I was casting from midnight until like 8:00 in the morning and then I was sleeping for four hours and then I was casting for another seven hours. And then I would sleep for another four hours and then it was midnight again. I did that for like two weeks. And it was just insanity. It was like in the throes of all of that when I started to cast this one game that was for WESG Europe.

Eli: I was going to say was this during the WESG stretch because I remember listening to you on a ton of those games and you were just so entertaining. It was just a great run for you right before TI, too.

Lyrical: You know I think that’s what it was. And the one that it was I think was Alliance versus Horde. No no no. It was the SingSing stack, yeah. I don’t remember all of it . I literally don’t remember this game except that there were like a ton of kills right at the start. And beyond that I don’t remember whatever else happened. It was just insanity.

Eli: That’s wild. Do you want to try and play it?

Fight for First Blood right at the beginning of the game. 

Lyrical: Wow. That’s pretty good. It was a good couple of games.

Eli: I mean that’s a great sound clip though. I mean just overall, you’re flying around. You can just tell. I’ve taken on to listening to some of these streams and listening to stuff like this and not even watching the audio because I think the casting is at such a high level right now. Do you think there is an avenue for DotA to go to a non-visual? Like there’s a lot of podcasts and stuff out there right now but there’s not a lot of like audio streams for matches and stuff.

Lyrical: Maybe. It’s tough. It’s really tough. There is this thing that was a while ago that came out called “DotaRadio” which Toffees did.I think it kind of fell by the wayside. It was an experiment to try and be exactly what we’re talking about there. But I don’t know. I like listening to a lot of podcasts usually because, you know, cleaning up around my house or something and you know I’ll need something to do during that time. But it feels to me like it might. It’s never going to be as strong as the visual aspect but it could be and it’s sort of a problem that you run into with like you know sports talk radio or something like that or a radio broadcast of a basketball game or something like different styles where you have to say what’s happening visually describe it visually see paint the picture and somebody else’s head which you can do in DotA.

I could say something that describes the picture that formulates in somebody’s head. But I have to use all these key words that are saying where exactly the person is relative to each other and allow the person to visualize the map in their head. And then I’m helping them direct through it. That’s not what’s important when you’re doing an audio cast. So I think it’s harder to do an audio cast it’s a different skill set to an audio cast only. Versus doing a cast of a game that h as the picture there as well. So you need to specialize in it yourself and I don’t know what the market would be like for that.

Eli: No I agree I think DotA is an extremely visual game that a lot of points there’s a lot of visual cues and stuff happens so fast that it just feels kind of difficult to be able to encapsulate it in just audio. Moving on from that, what do you think of the new patch so far? We talked a little bit that you’re going to you know dive into it, I’ve played if I play a bunch of it too. I just kind of want to pick your brain. What do you think’s going on right now?

Lyrical: I still don’t have much of an idea. I don’t think you can take much from the Dotapit results. Or rather that the Dotapit meta that was formed because it was literally like the day before. And so teams didn’t have fully fleshed out ideas. I don’t think of what was happening and what the what should be happening. But I do think that if you get towards probably the Perfect World Masters I think is going to be the next big tournament that’s going to be where a lot of the meta evolves. You’ll be able to get to see some of it during the qualifier events. And I’ve got to see some but it’s still team specific what everybody is doing. So as far as which specific heroes are important it’s kind of hard to tell. Also the teams that are playing in the qualifiers that surely aren’t going to be as good as the top tier teams.

The meta that evolves there’s going to be different anyways. So the biggest thing to me is what I’ve seen hasn’t looked that different from what we are seeing at the end of the last patch. But that’s also because teams haven’t developed their own strategy yet. There are a couple of heroes that feel very strong to me. I saw Chen today looked really really good. What he was doing was they ran Chen/Sand King dual-lane and then Chen would send back the ranged creep in the Sand King offlane that way the wave would naturally push because you can send back a level one with Holy Persuasion and Chen’s not doing anything during that period anyways. And then what would happen is Sand King would naturally get towards about level 2.  

He could basically expend his whole health and mana pool onto the safe lane, bringing him down very low. And then Chen would send back the Sand King and then Sand King can TP back to lane his free TP. He would basically be really far ahead in the lane. I think that’s possible with a lot of other heroes. I think that maneuver might need to be nerfed in some way but I’m not exactly sure how you can do it. But the big thing there is that it feels like it enables your offlane to get a good start and then he can roam mid.

Chen feels like a very strong hero to me. And also I’ve seen other times where Chen feels completely terrible. So it’s like which specific heroes are actually good in which instances. I think it’s going to be like a really long time before we get a clear picture. Maybe the end of Perfect World Masters. Even after that there’s going to be new stuff being discovered

Eli: You have Chen 2.0 with the level 4 Call of the wild on Beastmaster you just get a random creep now.

Lyrical: Oh yeah. I mean he’s he’s actually the best hero in the patch right now. Beastmaster. And I don’t think we’re going to be seeing him at all. I think he’s going to be first banned every time.

Eli: What do you think adding another ban to both sides is going to do for the meta?

Lyrical: It just means the teams have to be more versatile. That’s the biggest thing. And for specific teams that’s really important. You think about Liquid, they had three heroes and you had to ban or pick them and get them away from Liquid and you just couldn’t do that every game. Or else they would be able to run strategies that were just so strong that it didn’t matter. So to me it feels like it’s making sure that teams have to be able to beat you with more than just you know the things that they’re very comfortable with.

Eli: Right it just takes a lot of that comfort picking out of the game and makes you kind of adapt in-game. It seems like in Dotapit a lot of the series kind of formulated into these micrometas almost depending on how they played each other.

Lyrical: Yeah definitely. It’s just sort of to be expected but I think that Perfect World is probably going to be the big instance where we see a lot of the top teams getting together and these metas have been resolved and some issues have been figured out. Like people understanding a little bit better what’s happening. I was looking I’ve only played 23 matches so far on this patch and most of those are Turbo Mode so I don’t have a ton of familiarity with it yet. I have been casting more DotA than I’ve been playing. But it’s been it’s been good. I’m excited to see what it brings. I think that there’s a lot of cool changes.  

Eli: Turbo Mode is interesting. I’ve only played one Turbo Mode game and I’m not going to lie, I hated it. I thought it was terrible. DotA is already so hard for me that a Turbo Mode game, there is just way too much going on.

Lyrical: It’s a lot going on but I think that that’s what’s cool about it. It is a game mode that’s different and it’s for people that have trouble getting into DotA. You’re not going to be able to come at the game as tactically as like sort of you know; you go here, you take down this tower, then this tower, then go for Roshan. It’s too chaotic for that and that chaos also means that everybody is kind of on the same level of “What the hell is happening? What do I do?” Because you’re not used to those timings that are sort of built into your brain.

It means that it’s an environment where you can get people into the game more easily. I really like the mode a lot because it it feels like it’s an answer for casual fans that want to enjoy pro DotA like they can watch pro DotA themselves. They don’t have to invest like an hour into the game if they’re like not going to have fun with it. And you know sometimes games suck and it’s cool to be able to have turbo mode where you sort of have that out.

Eli: I do see a lot of utility there for having the casual DotA 2 pro fan come in and just being able to interact with the game in some form where they don’t have to worry about their positioning or going to what shop. And it just seems like a lot of quality-of-life stuff for the casual player base.

Lyrical: Yeah and it doesn’t take anything away from people that enjoy a more hardcore experience.

Eli: Very true, very true. So do you enjoy the more hardcore DotA experience? What is your role in pubs? What do you like to play?

Lyrical: I have switched off a lot. When I first started I was like strictly a hard support. Then I switched over to playing a lot of mid. Then I became an offlaner. I would say right now probably my most comfortable role is either offlane or carry. As far as like more casual/more hardcore, the main reason I’m playing turbo mode is because I’ve been playing a lot of the new heroes and I’m playing a lot of heroes that have been changed really heavily. Because I want to get a feel for what those heroes are like. And that’s really sort of the crux of it is as a caster you got to be able to understand. I don’t have to understand the intricacies of like high level DotA. But I do need to be able to understand DotA enough to make a call in the middle of a teamfight saying this fight is going well for this team and if I say that and it’s wrong and it’s actually not going well for them that’s not as good. That’s pretty bad.

Eli: What do you what do you think of the new heroes? Because I hear a lot of “Oh, Dark Willow is super OP right now and then I hear a lot of why isn’t Pangolier as good as it should be?”

Lyrical: I think it’s just getting used to the vector targeting. Pangolier feels very strong to me. People aren’t  either playing him right like understanding the potential from him. I think that his “Q”, I need to learn all the spell names still, is quite good. Swashbuckler? I think?

Eli: It’s Swashbuckler or Swahbuckle. But yeah I would agree with you I think Pangolin is very strong played correctly.

Lyrical: Yeah ad his ulti is quite good as well. I think that [Shield Crash] moving forward now is a pretty good answer for some of the problems that he was having before. Just gives him more maneuverability. He can use swashbuckle now and then afterwards jump out with his “W” and then he’s like in a little bit of a better spot. So I think he’s fine. I think Dark Willow is very very good. And it’s not surprising. It feels a lot like Puck when I play her. Just not as maneuverable. Illusory Orb. You really miss a spell like that on Dark Willow, but it still feels like it’s a pretty frickin good hero.

Eli: Touching back on Pangolier since people are kind of split on him. What do you think the right way to play him is?

Lyrical: I am not entirely sure about that. I think you can’t play him offlane. He’s got some escape. And if you get levels on him that ultimately becomes really really strong especially with how low the cooldown is. So probably offlane right now is where I put him as the best role. You don’t need to get a ton of farm on him although you can and it becomes quite strong. But, you can use them as more of like him fight hero and maybe pair him together with a Lifestealer or something and do some Lifestealer bombs. Who knows.

Eli: Yeah that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been getting a Diffusal Blade, getting a Skull Basher, and “Q” my way straight into a fight. Pressing “W” getting all that damage reduction. Then just kind of being a pain after that is good. Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about TI7. You were there as a caster. What was that like?

Lyrical: It was awesome. You know everything that I wanted. It was really cool like being a part of the event and being able to do so many things. Obviously casting at it was the was the very very fun part of it because you know it’s casting TI. But I was only casting in the group stage so it was very low key. Actually I brought four suits with me and I brought like maybe 15 different shirts and maybe like 20 different ties before I found out that I was never going to be on camera the entire time. I did like casts in my sweatpants when we were in the hotel because that’s all we had to do. We were like in a hotel room just chilling during the group stages which works well I think. The group stage casting was fine.

I did the newbie stream during the main event which was also really cool. I was working with Torte De Lini and I would switch off where he would take like the first two games of the day and I’d take the next two and then he’d take the next two and I would take the next two and we just sort of run it back and forth that way. Then I also got to work with a couple of people from Valve that I got to work with pretty closely and they’re really cool. That was probably the coolest thing about TI, outside of being able to cast it, was meeting the people behind the game. Like everybody from Valve is very very competent and really really cool. I don’t know. Sort of you build them up in your head as the sort of this mythical faceless thing, but they’re actually people. Which is sort of a strange realization to have.

Eli: What do you mean when you say they’re competent? Like in their knowledge of the game or just kind of in general?

Lyrical: In everything. I mean I don’t want to reveal too much about any one person in particular, but in talking with people they have very interesting backstories, places that they came from, things that they’ve done. If you look at valve and some of the stats behind it there’s some of the most productive people monetarily in the world. I think that the dollar that they make per person or something is like the highest in the world or something. Might be talking out of my butt here but I feel like that’s the stat that I read somewhere. But they’re there. They know what they’re doing and they do it well.

Eli: You said before you don’t really think that you’re that big time of a caster yet. Getting to go to all these events like TI7 and StarLadder that you’ve done. I remember even listening to you cast a lot of like Mineski games and stuff. I had no idea who they were and then I come in and listen to you because I see you’re on the cast. What do you think your name brings to some of these tournaments? Do you think you have that power yet of “Oh, Lyrical is casting this game. I want to go listen to this”?

Lyrical: I think I might have some fan base that feels that way. I have always gotten pretty positive perception. There’s some people that don’t like my cast. I think that, if anything, is more indicative to me that I’m sort of making it. The worst thing that you can have is somebody that’s indifferent. If they actually know you and then they hate you. That means that you must be doing something right because there’s probably an equal number of people if not more that really like what you’re doing as long as you sort of get a variety it means that your overall numbers are going to be increasing.

I think that there are some people that definitely tune in because it’s me casting but I think for anything it’s just…there is the thing that’s been cool it’s that I think that there are people that know the scene and people that understand the industry then are starting to recognize that I have something of value to offer. I think that’s the coolest thing that’s happened over the last year for me.

Eli: How would you classify that? What do you think your style as a caster is? What do you think you bring to the table specifically?

Lyrical: Authenticity. I feel like I’m very authentic and when I get excited about stuff I think you can hear it and feel it. When the cast happens I would I would agree with that as somebody who is partial to your cast. I would agree.

Eli: Yeah. So I wanted to kind of ask for some of your favorite players some of your favorite teams to cast is there a certain style that you find better suited to kind of the way you like to cast teams players.

Lyrical: I always get into trouble with those because I feel like I think that the natural implication of biased caster’s something like that that always gets thrown around. It’s so frustrating to hear it right. I don’t think any caster has a stake in any team. There might be a couple here and there but it’s really very very rare that a team with B or a cast would be like really rooting for one team or another to win to the point where it would affect the way that they cast. It’s like subconscious. But that would only happen if like they really eat somebody or really dislike somebody and even then I think that I’ve tended to notice that caster’s who really like certain players would tend to be more harsh towards them than they would be otherwise. But I would say that for me I tend to just really enjoy action packed though.

Lyrical: I think that that’s you know the normal you look at it. See I don’t know that was a classic. I’ve really come to love SEA DotA throughout the past year or so since I started casting like one of my first tournaments was the BTSA Series Number Two and it was like it’s just there’s so much action that happens particularly like one of the things that always feels like it comes around is as a puck played in the offlane where they play these off winners in a one 1-v-1 matchup. So you basically have to one of the ones that are happening the off lane. And then 1-v-1 in the middle lane and then it’s like a 3-v-3 bottom and that always feels like very cool.

Eli: Yeah there is that period of games where you were casting a lot of like Raging Potato on Puck and that was just wild.

Lyrical: There are definitely I think probably one of my favorite players is KuKu. I really like him a lot from TNC just because he’s always he’s either like he’s either going to win the game or he’s going to lose the game but he’s definitely going to do one of those too. He is not going to be a neutral party in any game.

Eli: Yeah he’s a very he’s very high impact guy on well otherwise man that’s really all I had for you. I think this went very well this was a lot of fun definitely for sure.

Lyrical: Thanks for the interview!

Eli: Of course, man. I really appreciate you and all you do and I’m going to enjoy watching you this year and I just want to say again thanks for coming in taking the time out of your day to do this.

Lyrical: Yeah definitely hope that it all goes well for you.


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Amazing potential for training camps in the NBA 2K League

Coming next year, 85 talented players will be drafted into their respected markets with 17 NBA teams entering the fray of esports in March. Scheduled for April is training camp in the NBA 2K League where the newly drafted break into their newfound careers. Players can develop their team chemistry by getting a feel of how everyone plays together within the system. Although there isn’t any information on training camp or personnel it’s fun to theorize the potential possibilities for player and team development.

Emulating NBA training camps

Cleveland Cavaliers’ first week of Training Camp. Courtesy of Cavs.

Is there any translation between traditional basketball coaching and training camps that can operate in the NBA 2K League? In a recent podcast by BBALLBREAKDOWN, Coach Nick talks about how NBA teams run their practice with Chris Oliver, head coach at the University of Windsor, and shared his thoughts on attending 4 different NBA teams practices during training camp.

In Oliver’s observation basically there are pre-practice, scrimmages and post-practice routines that players do for individual and team development. Each coach has a philosophy about giving feedback and a certain attention to detail from their own experiences. There’s no doubt that there’s structure for the NBA 2K League training camps made by their managers.

Even though the sport of basketball and the esport of NBA 2K18 are vastly different but similar in areas. Both are the game of basketball and even NBA players admit that playing NBA 2K18 gives them a better understanding of the game including their teammates and it can be a likewise tune for NBA 2K League players as well.

Should the NBA 2K League have coaches?

Anthony Muraco, esports Manager for the Dallas Mavericks, opened a question on Twitter whether the NBA 2K League should have coaches. 58% say Yes and 42% say No out of 1,764 votes which suggests the unknown certainty for NBA 2K18 coaching. Some esports managers would elect themselves to handle both managerial and coaching positions while others may differentiate the two.

Another set of eyes that can view the game outside the perspective of a player is one benefit to coaching. Coaches point out adjustments and nuances in the game that the players didn’t realize. Other benefits include another voice of leadership and empowerment for the team in a multitude of situations. Bringing players back up on their feet mentally and give them the belief to rise to the occasion.

Most of us can agree with Cody Parrent, Director of Esports Operations for the Indiana Pacers, on his thoughts on coaching in the NBA 2K League, “If their role is clearly defined and the team can see how it gives them a competitive advantage over opponents – I’m all for it.”

Team Practice Facility

You know what would be fun idea? If Take-Two developed a team practice facility similar to MyCareer that can have unlimited drills and powerful tools to create in-game situations. Similarly to the Situation mode introduced in NBA 2K11 where there’s a setup for creating in-game situations and scenarios. Introducing different tools to improve their in-game skills almost instantaneously through a team practice facility mode is an innovative idea.

There’s an amazing opportunity to emulate NBA team practices and training camps for players. Whether or not teams decide to hire more personnel still doesn’t hide the fact that 85 players will be given the best resources needed to be the best. There’s no better time to be a 2K fan and future prospect than it is right now.

 

Featured image courtesy of Tito Sar.

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A hypothetical Switch port of Smash 4: Character balance

When the Nintendo Switch was announced in October of last year, many anticipated the announcement of a port Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. After all, in the Switch’s teaser trailer, we saw what eventually became Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Imagining a port for Smash 4 didn’t feel out of the question. Over a year later, we still have no confirmation on whether or not a Switch port of Smash 4 will come to fruition.

While we’re in the limbo of waiting for a Smash-related announcement, whether it’s a Smash 4 port or an eventual Smash 5, we might as well take this time to talk about how the foundations of Smash 4 could be improved. For now, I want to imagine what Smash 4’s balance could evolve if it were ported to the Switch. I will primarily look at Smash 4’s balance regarding its roster of characters.

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In the Switch’s reveal trailer, many thought this part of the trailer would reveal Smash 4. Image: Nintendo

I think every corner of the Smash community can agree that Smash 4 has the best balance in the series. Smash 64 and Melee only see a select portion of the roster prevalent in competitive play. These games don’t have awful balance, but it’s clear that high-level players can only seriously compete by using certain characters. Brawl’s balance was notoriously bad, with Meta Knight being played in most competitive matches. This poor balance led to Brawl being modded so much. Smash 4 is considered to be the most balanced game in the series. The variety of characters that are played in tournaments, big or small, reflect this. So how exactly can Smash 4’s balance be improved from where it is now?

Resuming Balance Updates

As balanced as I think Smash 4 is, it obviously hasn’t always been that way. When Smash 4 was first released, there were many characters and certain combos that were unfairly good. Diddy Kong’s infamous down-throw into up-air “hoo-hah” combo comes to mind This combo was relatively easy to pull off and killed fairly early, making many people frustrated with Diddy Kong as a character. Nevertheless, Diddy Kong was picked up by many high-level players due to the ease of getting KOs. This made Diddy Kong quite a prevalent character in tournaments in the early months of Smash 4’s life. There were other balance issues that were quickly fixed, such as Fox’s jab-lock and Bowser’s down special that could easily break shields, among many other fixes.

As time went on, things such percent damage, shield damage, throw angles and more were tweaked through balance patches/updates. To me, each patch throughout Smash 4’s life has been an exciting event. Looking at all the changes made to the game, and seeing how the competitive community adapts is interesting. Moreover, the frequent patches made competitive players more engaged with the game. The patches also encouraged certain characters to become played more. Marth is a great example of a character that has benefited from patches. He was arguably mediocre at launch, but thanks to the buffs he has received through patches, he is now considered by many to be either high-tier or top-tier.

In a hypothetical Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4, I would like to see balance patches return. The last significant patch to the game was released shortly after Bayonetta was released, over 18 months ago. This port of Smash 4 could recapture the excitement of seeing characters get buffed or nerfed and seeing the competitive community adapt to all the changes made.

Empowering the weaker characters

Okay, so we will continue having patches, but what will those patches change? Many would like stronger characters such as Bayonetta and Cloud to get nerfed in addition to having weaker characters such as Jigglypuff and Zelda to get significantly buffed. Ideally, I think it’d be best to see both of these happen to some extent. However, I would give more focus on buffing characters that are considered bottom, low and middle-tier.

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Should balance patches focus on making non-top-tier characters better? Duck Hunt and Mega Man are just two characters that can be made better. Image: Nintendo Life

The thing about Smash 4’s roster is that no character is fundamentally flawed. Almost every character’s moveset is unique, entertaining to play as and can be played well given enough practice. The only things about the lower-tier characters that need to be improved are the likes of what we have seen previous patches do. These include improving frame data, the strength of moves and even movement speed. I’m convinced Jigglypuff can be a great character in Smash 4 if her damage and knockback output was increased on all of her moves. In Smash 4, she ultimately plays quite similarly to her high-tier Melee counterpart. Smash 4’s iteration of Jigglypuff just needs a lot more oomph. Making her Rest nearly as powerful as, say, Little Mac’s KO Punch would be a proper start.

There are many mid-tier characters in Smash 4 that I’m convinced are quite good in the right hands. Link, Duck Hunt and Pac-Man are three characters that I really admire watching. Their focus on resource management makes them unique to play and watch. It’s a joy to see these characters played in tournament, and I’d love to see them become more common in high-level play. A way to do this, of course, is improving parts of their movesets here and there.

Other characters like Shulk, Luigi, Ike, Lucario and so many others are all fun to play and watch. I don’t feel that any character needs to be entirely reworked. We just need to keep seeing small improvements to these characters’ frame data, damage output and knockback output.

Moving forward

While I share some of the irritation of seeing certain characters more often in high-level play (Bayonetta, Cloud, Rosalina, etc.), I don’t feel like the solution is to make those characters much worse. What I love so much about Smash 4 is the diversity that we see in competitive play. Buffing non-top tier characters will encourage players to pick up characters that may not have played before. If more characters improve through balance patches, the competitive scene can become significantly more diverse than it is now.

And who benefits from more diversity in competitive play? We all do. For players, they get more experience with different kinds of character matchups. For viewers, the inclusion of more characters being played at tournaments makes every match feel different to watch. Seeing a greater variety of matchups is entertaining to viewers. Improving the weaker characters in the roster will only make the variety of characters that we see in tournaments become greater.

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A more balanced roster leads to more character diversity. More diverse matches make watching and playing the game more interesting and varied. Image: VGBootcamp

This isn’t to say that there will still be some characters that are played more than others. I’m not sure that it’s possible for a game to be perfectly balanced and have every character be equally good. With a character roster as large as Smash 4’s, I don’t think anyone can expect that. What I would like to see in regards to the roster’s balance is for the floor to be raised; I would like to see Smash 4 balanced to the point that no character can be considered “bad” or “not usable if you want to actually win a tournament”. Smash 4 as it is is close to that, but there are still many improvements that still need to be made.

Improvements to the game’s balance are one of the biggest reasons why I would love to see Smash 4 get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Of course, there are many other reasons to want a Smash 4 port, which I plan on delving into in the coming weeks.

For the game’s balance, do you agree or disagree? What characters would you like to see get rebalanced, and how so? Join the conversation and let us know!


Featured image courtesy of Nosolo Gamer.

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dlc

The free DLC model: The future of competitive games

This past weekend, Blizzard unveiled Overwatch’s next hero: Moira. Blizzard confirmed that this new support hero will be releasing soon.

Moira will be one of the multiple new heroes that have been added into Overwatch since launch. Even though the game released almost 18 months ago, Blizzard still keeps the game fresh by continually delivering free updates and downloadable content (DLC). The DLC offerings for Overwatch mainly add new characters and stages. However, the more significant DLC releases that add new characters are spaced out between each other. Beyond keeping the game feel fresh, the addition of new DLC characters requires players to reassess how they play the game. Thus, the addition of new characters via free DLC keeps players on their toes. They also encourage players to learn new characters and/or how to play against them.

dlc

Street Fighter V uses the free update and DLC model to much success. Menat is one of many characters that have been added post-launch. Image: Shoryuken.

This approach to DLC isn’t exclusive to Overwatch. The practice of free DLC over time has been done with other games, such as the likes of Splatoon and Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Street Fighter V. All of these games use free DLC character and stage releases over time as a means of keeping players coming back to the game. If a Street Fighter V player dropped the game, they may want to come back when they hear about a new character being added.

All of these games have received ranging extents of praise for using the free update model. While the model concerns some, others find it to be a positive thing. I ultimately think that the free update model is great for competitive games. Could we see more games adopt this approach to releasing additional content? Let’s talk about it.

The Worries caused by weak launches

I think the greatest concern of the free update model is that it may serve as an excuse for weak launches. The launch of Street Fighter V is likely the best example of this. The game featured only 16 characters, with few modes available outside of standard matches. Many believe that Capcom was only able to get away with releasing a $60 game with such a little amount of content because they promised to add free updates and DLC throughout the game’s life. Almost two years after release, Street Fighter V has received various new characters, stages, and modes. Many believe the updates to the game have made Street Fighter V finally be worth its $60 price tag.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that Street Fighter V is one of the worst launches for a competitive fighting game. Moreover, I understand why the game’s approach to free updates and DLC has worried many people. The thing about Street Fighter V is that it sets a dangerous precedent – a precedent that developers can quickly release a game and develop it afterward.

ARMS is another example of this, though to a lesser extent. The game launched in June with ten characters, and has added two additional characters as of writing. However, ARMS and Street Fighter V are quite different cases. The issue people had with ARMS was a lack of additional modes, making the gameplay start to feel stale to some. Street Fighter V, unlike ARMS, has previous iterations to work off of. The exclusion of additional modes and lack of character roster at launch made Street Fighter V feel like a product of laziness. Most people in opposition to the free update and DLC model voice don’t want launches of competitive games to feel lazy.

While the model possibly allowing developers to offer mediocre experiences at launch is an understandable concern, I think the pros of the model certainly outweigh the cons.

Why the free DLC model works

While there are some concerning factors, I feel that the free update and DLC model is beneficial for competitive gaming. With the case of Moira being added into Overwatch, the greater community of the game will be reignited, in a sense. Tons of, if not, all players will be trying out Moira, and learning how to properly use her and how to play against her. It preserves the experience of playing the game for the first time. The first time anyone plays a game, a lot of the fun and competitive nature comes from learning about the nuances of each character. In the case of Overwatch, learning the game comes with learning how to play as each hero, and learning which heroes are best for countering the other team’s heroes. Having a new character added to the roster shakes up how one approaches how they play the game.

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When Ana got added into Overwatch, it certainly reinvigorated and strengthened the game’s community. Image: PlayOverwatch

In addition, the new content gives the community something to talk about. This naturally causes more and more people to hear about the game and can go on to pull in new players and viewers. The new content being added for free is a key part of this. If Overwatch’s new characters were paid DLC, I think the response we would see from the game’s community wouldn’t be as bombastic. I have no doubt that people would still be excited, but part of paid DLC is that it splits the userbase. Making new characters and other content free to download keeps the community – competitive or otherwise – from becoming segmented.

If the player base isn’t segmented, then neither will the viewer base. Free updates and DLC are great in that they keep the game as all-inclusive as possible. No player or viewer gets prohibited from playing or watching a certain character because of a paywall for a certain character or mode. In addition, it keeps things exciting for the casual esports viewer as well. New characters or modes can go on to make an indifferent viewer into an invested one. New content keeps things interesting not only for the players, but for viewers as well.

The future of free dlc and updates

Free DLC and updates are part of what makes esports so fascinating and entertaining. Unlike traditional sports, esports can constantly throw in new components to existing games which can make the community for that game become even larger. These additions can create a greater player base and viewer base.

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For years competitive games, including Smash 4, have used paid DLC. Could this model be on its way out? Image: Gematsu

I don’t think this model will be going anywhere soon. The games that have employed this model of free updates have only benefited from the model. The metagames for Overwatch, Street Fighter V, and even ARMS have only become more complex and entertaining for players and viewers thanks to the addition of new, free content. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this model become incorporated into more and more competitive games throughout the next few years. The games that have used the free DLC and update model have all flourished because of it. Therefore, it isn’t difficult to see future games wanting to do the same.

Agree or disagree about the future of free DLC and updates? Feel free to join in on the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!


 

Featured image courtesy of Polygon.

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