Last time we left off by introducing the concept of eSports. Its ever growing popularity is undeniable, just take a look at how many people are streaming League of Legends, Dota 2 and StarCraft 2 on Twitch.tv right now. It’s also a topic that is quite close to my heart at the moment, having spent nearly a year now playing LoL nearly every day. It wasn’t until around September or October last year that I really started watching pros play, which is a shame as I missed a big opportunity to watch some games when I was at Gamescom in August last year.
I said last time that there were some pretty crazy prize pools for eSports tournaments (and in particular LoL), but the players also need a steady revenue stream when they’re not competing. In order to do this, the majority of them live stream (prior pun intended) on the aforementioned Twitch.tv or Azubu.tv. They get money from advertising on the stream, sponsorship deals and subscriptions. It may sound like playing a video game for a living might be an easy life, but in essence they do as much work as anyone else. In order to keep up with the ever changing metagame, a vague term to describe how people play the game within the given rule set, they must be constantly playing and researching new strategies.
The top teams will scrim (scrimmage), that is, play practice matches against each other in private before the main tournament begins. This gives them valuable experience playing as a team against the best players in their region. To get more general practice, the players will usually participate in solo queue, soloq for short, where the game will attempt to find equally skilled teammates and opponents for a match. This gives them a chance to practice their core gameplay mechanics.
One of the most important skills required in a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena – League of Legends and Dota fall under this genre of game, see here for an explanation of the gameplay) is the ability to last hit. The minions, small weak enemies which run down each lane, are worth gold when you kill them, but only if you perform the killing blow. The general tactic is to allow the minions to fight each other until you can get that all important last hit. The amount of minions that you have killed is your creep score, abbreviated to CS. If you have a low CS, then you are a noob (see previous parts of this series).
Once each champion, the player controlled characters, has leveled up enough then it usually time to start team fighting. This is where all or the majority of each team groups up and squares off against each other. Team fights will generally take place in and around the most strategic areas of the map. Killing all the members of the enemy team will result in an ace, and it is probably likely that some multi kills have occurred, meaning that a single player has performed the killing blow on more than one enemy. The most prestigious multi kill is of course the pentakill, and the Greek scholars among you will have already figured out that this is the result of the demise of five enemies due to one player. Pentakills also get casters really excited. The casters are the guys who commentate on the match, and are certainly needed, as for the uninitiated, MOBA matches can be a very confusing affair.
There are of course, other types of eSport, for example the fallen king, StarCraft, which is a real time strategy (RTS) game. In reality it controls much the same way as a MOBA, except you control multiple groups of units (different types of controlled character) rather than just one. This is because the original MOBA, Dota, originated as a Warcraft 3 mod. If you are observant and deductive, then you probably recognised that StarCraft and Warcraft are related in some way (they are). As an aside, can someone tell me why StarCraft uses camel case while Warcraft doesn’t?
Where was I? Ah well, as you can guess, a real time strategy game is one where you control units strategically in real time. The genre is related to, but differs from turn based strategy games, where you control units strategically while taking it in turns with your opponent. I know these terms are confusing, but stick with me here. The most common other type of strategy game is the 4X, which probably does need some explaining. Of course, the four Xs are shorthand for four words which begin with E: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. These are games where you build an empire using a combination of the four, the most important example of which being Sid Meier’s Civilization series.
One of those Xs is a word relating to all areas of video games however. Next time we’ll talk about exploits as we explore the expanding world of video game language…exterminate.
Thanks for reading.