Question: How would you think about that question from the audience’s point of view?

Avallone: Well, it’s the same thing. If you see a top player making an interesting decision because something crazy happened, what happens then? How do you adapt? How do you change your game plan? That’s exciting to watch. It’s fascinating to watch. It makes the show that much better.

Chong: The element of chance makes a more fun game. Within simulation racing, and the same goes for real professional race drivers, they’re always trying to develop this thing called “racecraft.” That’s your ability to respond to different situations as they arise. In our game, we can have night races. We have a complete dynamic weather system. Sometimes, at tournaments, we’ll have the race start at night. We won’t tell the players. They just have to deal with it. Or it may start raining halfway through an event, and the track gets slippery. Any good sim racer or real race driver will be able to deal with that.

Avallone: But in that case, everyone’s going to be on the same playing field. When you’re playing one-on-one or in a team game, some big random event happening at a particular time can completely change the course of the game in one side’s favor. As long as that chance is still slim and the game is very much skill-based, it can work. Some big event that happens once in a hundred games, that creates a storyline, a big wow moment, especially for the people watching. But from a player’s perspective, there shouldn’t be too much random chance, especially if the skill cap isn’t too high.


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Soldier is so hot that the servers melted.

Above: Soldier is so hot that the servers melted.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

Question: Overwatch has a particular barrier to entry, costing $40 on PC and $60 on console. When developing an esports game, is there a concern moving forward about — if a new generation of consoles comes out, how will developers adapt that kind of game? Do you take the Call of Duty tack with making a new game every year or the League of Legends route and somehow find a technical solution?

Avallone: I still feel like Overwatch is very PC focused, even if it launched on console as well. The esports scene is very PC focused. I can’t say exactly what will happen when new consoles come out in two or three years, but one thing I can say is that usually, when someone pays $60 for a game and then one or two years pass, there’s a good chance that they might not touch the game anymore. One thing that Blizzard is doing right is keeping the community very entertained. A lot of things are going on around the game itself. Sombra, the new character they just introduced, is going to change the metagame completely. That kind of thing keeps people interested.

If they’re going to update the game or release a new version for new consoles, that could be a problem. But the strategy they’re taking right now seems to be that they want to keep the same game running for many years. They’re keeping the main game fresh with different content. It’s an interesting approach.

Question: When it comes to more realistic games, simulations, especially a racing game that involves a lot of people on the same track, how important is it to sharpen the realism to a point where players are immersed in the game? Sim games can be harder to get into depending on how deep you want to go. Things like wheels and pedals carry a price tag. Is that necessary for esports players?

Chong: It’s a tricky one. If you invest in equipment like a high-end steering wheel that costs you $5,000 or a VR setup that gives you the advantage of depth perception and presence over a flat screen — I can’t drive on monitors anymore. But that’s a challenge associated with sim racing. If you have a steering wheel, you will be faster. If you have an expensive steering wheel, you’ll feel a lot more of what’s happening than if you have an entry-level model.

The immersion is extremely important. For us, we’re always trying to push boundaries to develop that further. That’s why we have a lot of racing drivers working on our title. It’s a tricky one because you do need more equipment, and the better your equipment, the faster you are. We’re trying to make the game accessible and fun if you have a console and a controller, but for the really serious sim racers running in competitions, you do have to invest in gear.

I compare them to people who race R/C cars for a living. It’s a bit like a hobby, esports sim racing. It’s another way to look at any of these titles. You have to design a game that could potentially become a hobby for someone or even a profession. That’s a slightly different mindset from traditional game design.

(Left to right) Michael Blicharz, vice president of pro gaming at ESL; Allesandro Avallone, cofounder of Faceit; Rod Chong, Slightly Mad Studios.

Above: (Left to right) Michael Blicharz, vice president of pro gaming at ESL; Alessandro Avallone, cofounder of Faceit;
Rod Chong, Slightly Mad Studios.

Image Credit: Intel

Question: How do you feel about dealing with cheating and hacking? Counter-Strike has often been plagued with different software applications that help players cheat. Among developers and organizers and players, who needs to deal with that?

Blicharz: At ESL, we have anti-cheat software. Multiple companies have their own solutions for esports. Publishers also take care of that a lot of the time. We’ve seen many big ban stories over the years.

Obviously, this kind of software is like a virus. It’s always going to be one step ahead of your anti-cheat software. It’s inevitable. It’s definitely a big problem when it comes to how difficult it is to minimize. No one’s found an ideal response. It’s practically the same as the ongoing problem with malware in the larger computing world. You’re always a bit behind the cutting edge of cheating, as much as that sucks.

We track accounts at ESL. We have players who not only use hacks but sometimes trade accounts among each other. Even one of the top superstars in Counter-Strike, s1mple, was banned from ESL for a couple of years for trading accounts with another player and standing in, playing under someone else’s account. It’s a big issue, but it’s being fought very actively by the esports industry.

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