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5 quick tips for eSports games, from the devs behind Lethal League Exclusive
5 quick tips for eSports games, from the devs behind  Lethal League
September 2, 2014 | By Mike Rose

September 2, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



When Team Reptile was putting together its fighting-slash-Pong game Lethal League, the team knew that one of its main goals was to have the game picked up by the professional competitive gaming leagues.

Part of this push was always going to be about marketing, of course, and on what sort of scale they could get the word out about their game to the competitive scene. But just as important was the game's design, and how it was shaped to provide maximum competitive play potential.

Dion Koster of Reptile Games tells me that, as a small-scale studio with zero publisher backing, his team aimed to keep as true to the following goals as possible:

1. The most fun way to play and to watch should be the most effective way to win
2. Have the core, the 'verb' of the game, be easy to do and understand to gain new players
3. Expand on the core in hidden ways to keep players constantly trying to improve
4. Consider the highest level of play and make sure it ends on predicting your opponent
5. Include mechanics that have or build tension, huge risks with huge rewards

Having said that, Koster notes that building a game for competitive play is not only great for eSports, but also has the knock-on effect of making it better for regular audiences too.

Echoing comments from the Call of Duty team, Koster notes that, "Regular audiences can still be reached by having surprising and simple interactions in your game. Much in the same way most sports are fun to play, but also to win, which requires it to be fair. The drawback of scaring worse players off because they lose is overshadowed by players training and talking to improve one and another."

With these goals in mind, the dev says that with Lethal League, the team is aiming for the Smash Brothers audience -- that perfect combination of competitive, casual and somewhere-inbetween players.

"The bias is towards new players because competitive players tolerate the (fake) simplicity," he notes, "but the new players won't tolerate too much complexity at once."

Lethal League is available to purchase from Steam.


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Comments


David Klingler
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Definitely agree with these ideas as both a competitive gamer and a game developer.

Michael O'Hair
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"1. The most fun way to play and to watch should be the most effective way to win"
In other words, flashy Super Comeback Moves (for some characters) that throw risk-reward out of the window.

"2. Have the core, the 'verb' of the game, be easy to do and understand to gain new players"
The complexity of games is always a descending tree; "win" or "survive" at the top, and the complex methods of achieving the goal should branch out to accommodate multiple solutions. It's why chess is a bit more popular than checkers.

"3. Expand on the core in hidden ways to keep players constantly trying to improve"
Should the path to improvement be hidden? It all comes down to a cause-effect analysis and learning from past mistakes. How can that be hidden?

"4. Consider the highest level of play and make sure it ends on predicting your opponent"
Barring extra-sensory perception, there's a delicate balance of being able to anticipate actions and execute fast reactions. Having the enemy's entire playbook is worthless when the player demonstrates the initiative of a snail.

"5. Include mechanics that have or build tension, huge risks with huge rewards"
Tension in competitive games automatically increases as vitality and other limited resources dwindle. It's a kind of built-in thing...

The problems with competitive games stem from newer players wanting an instant-win button rather than having to work for it through practice. Things can only be simplified so much.


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