Shootmania: the future of FPS eSports?
Will Shootmania take the eSports world by Storm?
I’m not sure if it was the fact that esteemed shoutcaster Joe Miller was present or if it was SK Gaming’s legendary CS 1.6 player SpawN showcasing some clutch play, but when Ubisoft demonstrated Nadeo’s new game Shootmania everything about it screamed eSports when it was shown at E3 this year.
Nadeo are known for catering to the community, from impressive map/track editors to being present in force at tournaments, it’s a studio that has a pedigree for competitive titles. As any Trackmania fan will tell you, there a host of different modes to play with as well as thousands of tracks and great spectating tools. All essentials when it comes to competitive titles were present; tweaking gameplay/modes, creation of great competitive maps and the ability to spectate matches.
So does Shootmania carry on the competitive flag that Nadeo has worked so hard to keep aloft? Well from the perspective of world champions and professional eSports gamers, it certainly seemed that way. When Ubisoft first showed this title off back in June at E3, it was immediate to me that the CoD generation were not going to be interested, but I knew that this was going to be an eSports title from the ground up.
Once I finally got my hands on a beta key, courtesy of Nadeo, I fired up the game for a quick play. That quick play turned into 3 hours of non-stop fragging goodness. The title menu itself presents eSports friendly options such as LAN Local multiplayer to ensure those tournaments are lag free and leaderboards to see who’s beating who. The leader board system itself is very interesting. Once a profile has been created, the game prompts you to select a “region”, a locale if you like. I selected United Kingdom and to my surprise, I was then asked to pick between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, picking England led me to another set locales, this time areas within England, and within seconds I was representing London in a worldwide leaderboard. Well not me by myself of course, that would end worse than England at Euro 2012.
The actual game screams out eSports, it played a lot like arena shooters of old, such as Quake III but with a layer of polish and gloss, it wasn’t going to blow you away but that wasn’t the point of this game. The core gameplay was pretty simple and it was what you’d expect from a skill based FPS, plenty of airy jumps and twitchy yet extremely accurate representation of shots. Arena FPS shooter players will understand the decision Nadeo took to make the projectiles very bright and easy to see; if you shoot you’re giving away your position, so landing those cross map railgun shots are going to be that much more satisfying and missing them will be that much more punishing.
This all adds to the eSports spectacle, the game showcases skill with brightly coloured characters so that spectators can easily see that guy someone just vapourized. Nothing in this game detracts from the player vs player engagement. There are no weapons on the map, everyone has the same skill based weapon for most gametypes. The gun that I used the most was a sort of plasma launcher that had the same mechanics of a rocket launcher, however other gametypes offered the instagibbing rail gun which was a one shot one kill that demanded surgically precise shots. The kind that spectators would want to see.
The presentation of the game was a bit off, the HUD, the fonts and the spectator interface all looked like they belonged in a Quake 4 Mod, then again this was the beta and I was having far too much fun fragging to care. I will stress this again, this game is aiming for the hardcore gamers, the type of gamers who have stuck to blocky textures and low resolutions of 10 year old games such as Counter-Strike and Quake. These gamers couldn’t care less about how pretty the game looks, all they want is a platform on which they can engage each other as cyber-athletes and that’s where Nadeo has delivered.
Shootmania: Storm has already had a multitude of tournaments, including one that took place during it’s alpha stage! But what this game is bringing that so many games nowadays miss out on is the spectator experience, allowing commentators and spectators alike to watch players in an arena like it was a sport and at the end of the day that’s what eSports should be all about.
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