Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Road of a League of Legends Crowd

Behind the crows at Riot's SoCal Studio
Well, well, it looks like I'm back to discussing League of Legends on PopMatters this week.

This is actually more of an exploratory piece about the feeling of a live competitive eSports event. I have never been to EVO or a Dota 2 live match, but based on video I've seen, I suspect they all sharply contrast with the game-show like atmosphere in Riot's Manhattan Beach studio.

When I try to imagine what eSports might look like in ten years, I don't really know what to compare it to. Will it be the scrappy DIY aesthetic in a massive scale like EVO does in Vegas? Will it mirror the respectful tone of a golf or tennis match? Or will it become a reckless screaming match more akin to wresting? In some ways, each of these are already represented at live League of Legends matches.

My biggest concern by far is whether or not live eSports can become a welcoming and diverse atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. Fighting game tournaments, while often more racially diverse than other gaming cultural events, are notorious for their unwelcoming atmosphere, particularly for women. In the same way you might not bring children to a late night Oakland Raiders game, competitive gaming as a spectator sport may become an exclusive adults-only haven for rowdy sub-culture.

Right now, Riot has put in a lot of effort into making their League of Legends events accessible, but its fate is far some sealed. Likewise, League will not always be the game brings in the crowds. A healthy life eSports scene needs to be welcoming and safe with all venues and, ideally, all games. There are still plenty of growth opportunities for the growing sub-culture.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on the subject after checking out the North American Regionals at PAX later this weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

EXP Podcast #291: Digital Catharsis

"After I no-scoped that noob I broke down and cried."
Can games inspire catharsis?  If you mean expel bodily fluids, then yes, I suppose it's an inevitability.  For the sake of your couch, I wouldn't recommend it.  Instead, why not look to games for emotional catharsis?  It's a question posed by Critical Distance in this month's Blogs of the Round Table.  We decided to join the conversation and discuss the types of games that let us build up and then vent emotions.  Competitive games, meditative headstands, and the lasting legacy of Greeks (even ones that have twin chain blades) all come up over the course of the chat.  As always, we're looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes
- Find the show on Stitcher
- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trine 2: Advanced Wizarding

Gather round witches and warlocks. It's time to learn a few spells we picked up from the school of hard knocks.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

On the Frontier's Edge with 'Titanfall'

"There!  There is where I accidentally fragged myself."
This week at PopMatters I stand on the precipice in Titanfall.

The second DLC, Frontier’s Edge, recently came out and it’s done a good job of drawing me back in. I’m still having an excellent time with the game, but things are starting to get dicey. I think I may be reaching a crucial juncture: in the face of my opponents ever increasing skill, do I redouble my efforts and blaze my way into new territory or do I settle down to a quiet life and reminisce about the times I was able to score top spots on the leader board? The spirit is willing, but the pesky demands of life makes it hard.

The frontier is a fitting metaphor in a broader sense, as Titanfall is starting to strain against some of the challenges that have grown around it for some time now. What is the place of a traditionally priced FPS in a world dominated by free to play MOBAs and other social games? I don’t envy Respawn’s challenge of having to fight for time with Call of Duty on one side and Dota 2 on the other. There’s also in gaming growing pains highlighted by the game’s updates. I made a quick video outlining how the most dedicated players will also have the most cumbersome UI/UX experiences. The problems are all manageable, but they to make the overall experience clunkier.


I bought the season pass, so I’m in it for the long haul. I don’t regret it, both because I very much enjoy the game and because it’s given me a chance to see it evolve over the course of six months. I don’t know if I’ll be able to compete as Titanfall transitions into the next frontier and it’s unclear how it will address some of its growing pains, but it will be entertaining to watch.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

EXP Podcast #290: Cinematic Concerns

Did you see that amazing and gorgeous looking trailer from Gamescom!? It was a fully rendered marvel! I can't wait to see how it will look in the much more limited and realistic setting of the actual game, you know, we can finally know what it is, right? This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I discuss cinematics in games, what they can offer games before and after release, and more. Have some thoughts on CG trailers or cut scenes? Let us know in the comments below, especially if you have a favorite! And if you actually do want to see a cool trailer, check out the one for Rime below.

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes
- Find the show on Stitcher
- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Runtime: 35 mins 05 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Titanfall: Touching a New Frontier

The frontier map pack is out for Titanfall, and Scott has a new opportunity to show off his sweet pilot skills. Check out our latest video below.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Understanding "OP" in League of Legends

This week on PopMatters, I discuss all those OP champs we love to hate.

Once again, League of Legends shows up on my radar for one reason or another and I feel compelled to talk about it. In this case, the article that spurned me on was "Don't monetize like League of Legends, consultant says." This piece stirred up a lot of discussion around the net, which shouldn't really be a surprise. A man who makes a living improving a game company's money per player ratio thinks folks should charge more for their content. He is right, League of Legends gets away with a lot because they have such an enormous user base, but he is still preaching the wrong lessons. For a thorough take down of his argument, I leave you with Ben Kuchera who wrote an excellent Polygon retort:

"Counting heads purely as conversions into paid customers is a great way to show how little you understand about creating long-term, sustainable value in your games, a trait that in which Riot, along with Valve, has excelled."

In other news, the League of Legends regionals, the tournaments that lead up to the world championship, have already begun. The issue of balance in games is a particularly interesting one in light such a large eSports spectacle. For your uninitiated viewer, relative champion balance isn't even on their mind. They are not familiar enough with each player's kit to know. Those deeply familiar with the game know the professional teams enough to understand how they play around the shifting sands of game balance. It's the swath in the middle that matter in this regard. If they sense that some characters have an unfair advantage, does it undermine their perceived legitimacy of the tournament?

It's an interesting question because real world athletics have no concept of balance, at least not one integrated into the sport on a day to day basis. In the world of sports, balance is more about fairness, and fairness is only questioned when one side is considered cheating. Recruiting underage women to compete in gymnastics or steroid use, for example, could create an "unbalanced" competitive event, in which case the entire event's credibility is called into question. If we really believe in the concept of balance in videogames, shouldn't eSports fairness be a more important issue?