Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spectator mode and community casters

When I read about spectator mode I said it is great if you want to watch your friends mess around in solo queue or see whichever pro wants to make their games watchable at that very moment. But it sort of hits a wall. 

My second thought was will this addition hurt streamer numbers if a player wants to stream at the same time, as spectator mode provides a much higher quality of information? But most likely not. Viewers want the connection to the player, nothing quite brings the fanboys to the yard like Dyrus sleeping on cam, something Riot cannot match. They're safe, no need to worry. 

I do however have a few open questions that the preview left me wondering. 

1. Will you be able to turn the ability to be spectated by your friends off? Pretty straight forward, not everyone wants everyone on their friends list to be able to watch them. Minor issue, don't really care. 

2. Is this a prelude to replays? Everyone wants them, I'm sure Riot do too. I'm hoping this isn't throwing us a bone so we'll get off their backs and more preparation for replays.

3. Will this open up more opportunities for community casters? I think this is the most important point. Riot does so much in terms of advertising for their e-sport and making it accessible to the masses but their delay from day one to have replay is hurting their growth. Another resource rather than LoLReplay. 

The second and third points both could improve the possibility of community casters greatly. E-sports needs to be shown off to the world, and what is the biggest online media platform? YouTube. There are many casters within other e-sports communities that survive off of YouTube and replay casting alone, it is a whole source of income for many employees of e-sports, and yet Riot leaves League of Legends behind by making it as difficult as possible to capture game play. Hell, even casters like IPL's Kevin Knocke dabbled in YouTube casting and got a job in California as a result. YouTube casting is essentially a money making talent agency, showing the big tournaments the possibilities for good casters out there - because holy hell we need more options. 

I have a feeling at about this point, you sighed and figured I am criticizing a good thing. Well, I am and I am not. I think this is a huge leap forward for Riot, but it isn't enough yet.  I could be very committed and follow top players and fraps and livecast their games and upload them to YouTube and become a community caster with that method but it is flawed because it makes gameplay footage too hard to obtain, especially as community casting will 9 times out of 10 start out as a hobby. 

With lots of other games I can download a replay pack of a player, a team, even an entire tournament and cast games at my leisure and in my own time. People like Studio will be able to be more in depth with their educational videos when they aren't restricted to buggy LoLReplay and fraps recordings of games. Those formats simply don't work. You are restricted to player view or camera view live. 

Let me highlight a possibility: HuskyStarcraft. Not my favorite SC2 caster, but a successful one nonetheless. His latest video as of this post is a 14 minute game with nearly 60,000 views after a single day. He exposed his e-sport of choice to 60,000 people with a simple replay and 14 minutes of casting. That video alone will probably double in views in a weeks time as well. A LoL community caster would have to work much harder to create the same content, but the viewership is there. 

YouTube casters like HuskyStarcraft and HDStarcraft are what I would call 'gateway' casters. Think marijuana propaganda but with e-sports. They are a non-commitment viewing experience. It isn't like sitting down to watch a tournament for an audience that is already a part of the community, you are eased in on your own time, with easy accessibility. If you are going to have an interest in e-sports, including LoL, then you will be hooked in when exposed to a beginner-friendly cast. That is what League of Legends needs. It needs to be able to be made available and interesting to view without already having played, because right now we rely too much on Riot's advertisement for the game itself, and not enough for the e-sport factor. 

I think I'll make it a habit to recap my posts, just so my main idea is made clear as I can go off on tangents at times. Overall, LoL needs a larger pool of potential casters. There are thousands of high level players out there with the knowledge and ability to expand the overall content of League, provided they are given the resources to do so. Riot aren't stupid, they want it - they just need to get on it ASAP to ride their current momentum. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

You're not in ELO Hell, your mechanics just suck.

This is my first post, so I'll preface the entire blog with this one statement: 90% of every post will be me ranting. I usually rant on Skype to whoever will pretend to listen well enough to appease me, but the main problem is I'll wake up the next morning and have no idea what I actually said. Blog posts are just my way of ranting while having the added bonus of it being archives for future use. 

So, on to the good stuff.

For me, streams replace television. It is as simple as that, my love for e-sports (specifically RTS/ARTS) cannot be sated by simply playing because dealing with people within games exhausts me too much after 6+ hours. So when I'm not playing I'm talking about playing or talking about someone else playing. That is me specifically, I play as much as I can before I am at the point of mental exhaustion and then take a break by watching instead. I think that is the best way to better yourself as a player, but I am obviously biased. Don't take what I say at face value, let me explain why. 

I highlight the way I watch streams because it segues at least semi-decently into my next point - people who only watch streams and barely play. I know lots of people who do this, and their reasoning varies but always circles back to having no drive to play. I shouldn't care what other people do, but alas I do. A big pet peeve of mine is ELO Hell complaints. I think we are all sick and tired of that term to the point where it is only used as a joke unless, ironically, you want to be laughed at. But people being bad at a game is fine, people are bad at games there is nothing new about that. What irks the shit out of me is complaining that their ELO is not rising, when it shouldn't be.

I know far too many people who watch streams all day and then lose the two games they actually play and ragequit back to their favorite stream. You see, the people I am referring to will watch streams in order to learn more about the game which sounds like a great way to improve. You know what is a better way to improve? Playing. Lots of these avid stream watchers can probably recite the best matchups/bans/picks and maybe even ways to beat all the champions in their lane of choice, if they have the memory for it, but they still suck.  They don't just suck because they got counterpicked, but they suck because they can't control their champion. 

But Mr. Sqsing, what are you talking about? 

I'm glad you ask. I am talking about mechanics. Mechanics in gaming, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is essentially your ability to make the game do what you want. Mechanics are your speed, your precision, and pretty much anything that isn't the strategy aspect of the game. Some specific examples of very basic mechanics are creep scores, landing abilities, use of summoner abilities and more. In short: mechanics, or there lack of, are why most people suck.

Have you ever seen a high-ELO player smurf? I'm sure you have, it is hilarious to watch. Do you know why they win? I can tell you right now, and almost every top player would agree, solo queue is not the place for strategy. When SV is playing at 1200 ELO with a KDA of 20:0 he isn't applying the theorycrafting him and his team have spent weeks coming up with for the upcoming LAN event, he just lands everything. Every. Fucking. Thing. He controls his champion exactly the way he wants to. He knows his opponents ability to react sucks, so he capitalizes on it. 

I'd like to step back for a moment away from LoL and compare the community to StarCraft 2. I do this a lot, some people think it is impossible to compare an RTS to an ARTS but they are wrong. The thing about SC2 is the amount of people who complain about their placement on the ladder is minimal in comparison to LoL. That comes down to two primary factors: when you lose in SC2 it is your fault and your fault alone and  anyone below Diamond (and some might argue higher) are there because of their mechanics. SC2 is a game of mechanics first and foremost just like LoL, so it is very easy to know how to improve at the game. Play the game. If I have perfect mechanics I can make almost any attacking unit, have no idea what counters what, and beat an opponent with bad mechanics simply because I will outproduce, outmicro, and overall outplay them. The same goes for LoL. Counterpicking and other 'meta' concepts matter very little at low-ELO, it helps but not as much as people think. If you don't land your abilities, and dodge none of theirs you will lose your lane. If your creep score sucks, guess what? You're going to lose your lane. There is a phrase that almost always follows up the sentence "x champion beats y" and that is "depending on how you play". The reason for that is simple, you can be outplayed by any champion if the disparity between mechanics is high enough. 

To recap, I feel the overall community focus on solo queue is too much on the strategy side of things. Everyone below roughly 1900 to 2000 ELO is arguably there because their mechanics are not up to par with their goal ELO. People's reasons for sucking will vary, but 9 times out 10 it will come back to mechanics. So just play the goddamn game a lot, develop insane muscle memory and reflexes at the same time as worshiping the "amazing new counter pick table that will make me never lose my lane".