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First-person shooters are far and away one of the most popular competitive video games out there. Every year when a new Call of Duty game hits the scene, it sets some kind of record for fastest selling entertainment property. In spite of this, first-person shooters can’t even approach RTS and MOBAs in terms of popularity for being watched on sites like Twitch.
Sure, FPS games have big tournaments, but they barely make a blip on the radar compared to events like the International and League Of Legends championships. Why? Simply because FPS games are not the most watchable games. The perspective and type of battles that happen don’t work as well as watching a squad of units in an RTS or a team in a MOBA. Can this be fixed? Maybe.
In a MOBA or strategy game, the view the players sees is identical to that of the spectator. The top down view lets spectators see what is happening across the battlefield, which is perfect for watching. In a shooter, each players sees only what his on-screen character sees, which greatly limits the view to spectators. Not being able to see the battlefield as a whole means the viewer is missing a lot of the action.
I saw a great analogy on Reddit that describes this problem perfectly. Imagine trying to watch an American football game (or any sports match for that matter) from only the perspective of a single player. This would be terrible, and that’s exactly the situation faced in FPS games.
Game developers who want their shooter to take off in the eSports scene need to develop a broadcast/spectator mode that works like a MOBA. This would allow viewers to see the whole battlefield, and of course, broadcasters could zoom in to individual player perspectives when the timing is right. It would require practice and skill to broadcast a shooter, but it could certainly be done if the game’s creator takes the time to build it as a key part of their game.
The Speed and Twitch Nature of the Games
Generally, a good FPS player does things at an incredibly high rate of speed. From the aforementioned first-person view, this can be hard to watch, as it can actually be nauseating. Changing the camera angle as I mentioned above would help solve that, as it would prevent you from seeing the players twitch movements, but at the same time, that raises another problem where you are actually missing a great deal of the skill in a shooter. Outside of the tactics, the main skill in a shooter is actually how fast you can point and aim, and this is really hard to capture in a way that feels comfortable to the viewer.
The fact is, you cannot fundamentally change the way a shooter plays just to accommodate viewers. A convenient side effect of games like MOBAs, RTS, and fighters is that they lend themselves well to viewing, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to make shooters work, it just means no one has thought of it yet.
This solution might be sort of a catch all, but it could help: adding a delay. This allows broadcasters to be slightly behind, and if controlled automatically, it could know when a kill is going to happen and zoom into the killers perspective at the right time. This would allow viewers to see the skill from the players view without sticking there long enough to be nauseating. It’s not a perfect solution, but it just might help.
Map Knowledge Too Important
In order to follow the action in a shooter, you really need to understand the map. Not knowing the map makes it nearly impossible to understand what is happening. There’s a reason every soccer field looks the same, because the viewer always knows what to expect. In American football, the 50 yard line is always halfway up the field. In shooters, that goes away, which makes it hard for players to follow the game.
The solution to this is simple: simplify the maps, or only include one map. The obvious problem is a shooter with one map would not be very fun to play. A single map works fine in a MOBA because the action is not dictated by the map, but by the characters.
A game developer will certainly figure out how to make a shooter work well as a spectator event, but it just hasn’t happened yet. There is too much money floating around out there in the eSports world for someone not to, but it will take time. As someone who watches more Dota than he cares to admit, and plays even more shooters than that, I really hope it happens, as a shooter tailor-made for spectating would be awesome.
Do you think I am wrong, and that shooters make great spectators games as they are? Feel free to explain why in the comments, or sound off with your thoughts on the issue overall.
Image Credits: Joshua Livingston Via Flickr