Improving The Spectator Experience

19/10/2004

BY KYLE “NOG” TOWLE

GUEST WRITER

To introduce myself, my name is Kyle Towle and I have been following competitive Counter-Strike as a fan since winter 2002, when I watched 3D beat goL in a thrilling finals match at the CPL. I do not have the time to play competitively myself, but that has not deterred me from my interest or my loyal following of what I consider to be my favorite sport. I have seen every major Counter-Strike event since then and I have several things I would like to bring to light, that may or may not already be under consideration from those that drive the e-sports machine.

My view is that of a non-player spectator, which makes my view inherently more valuable then most. I am a desirable demographic statistic to those that are laying out and planning the future of e-sports. I am 24 years old, have a career as a database administrator, married and a college graduate. Through my influence on my friends there are many more non-player spectators who have come to enjoy following competitive Counter-Strike with me.

This article is not about me, however. It is about improving the spectator experience, which will be addressed in the sections to follow. I do not think it should be necessary for me to justify why having satisfied spectators is vital for e-sports to continue moving forward, but having non-player spectators will be even more vital. The following article proves that there is some inherent quality to the sport that is understandable and relatable to those who do not compete in it. Gotfrag has done an outstanding job at making the spectator experience better and I constantly refer my friends here. Those of you who flame the prime level subscription to Gotfrag do not understand that it is your money that sends people like Midway and Bootman to different corners of the world to give excellent, reliable coverage of e-sports events.

The first thing I will address is geared towards the CAL-I league. First of all, in the past the HLTV coverage of CAL-I has been absolutely awful. Gotfrag has done a great job of providing HLTV coverage for spectators to enjoy twice a week. Something I have noticed from watching a lot of CAL-I is that many of the top teams do not play as hard as some of the lower tier teams in CAL-I or as hard as teams in the lower leagues do. And some of these teams, out of sheer talent, remain in CAL-I even though it is obvious they have been inactive for months. The “enjoyability” factor of a Counter-Strike game from the spectator point of view is based on how intense a particular match is. If both teams are not giving it their best, it is obvious. While players do have lives and it is only online with no money attached to winning, there are plenty of comparably talented teams who would give it their best if they were in CAL-I. The words reschedule and forfeit describe the current CAL-I season best. The quality of the highest Counter-Strike league in North America can improve immensely by changing to a pay-to-play system. Just like Gotfrag quality has improved, so will CAL improve for those that stick around to play in it.

Secondly, the players themselves need to adjust to the sport having fans. I know this is a controversial issue, which has gone back and forth many times. Is Counter-Strike a sport and is it worthy of a fan base that takes spectating Counter-Strike matches as seriously as some people take the Super Bowl? My answer to both of those issues is, yes it is a sport, and yes it does have real fans. The only players that seem to respect this aspect of the game are those who have gone pro and are making money off of it. I cannot count how many times I have seen somebody flamed for being a “random” or a “nobody” in the e-sports world by a high ranking player or manager, for trying to comment on a certain aspect of the game, or who their favorite player is, or who they think is better. Or how about this one, “Team X really sucks.” To which the response is, “If you could not do any better then shut it.” I am a fan, and I have the right to say a player or team that is much better than me at Counter-Strike or any game for that matter sucks. Like it or not, Counter-Strike has fans, and has people who will make comments like this simply because they are following it as a sport. How many people get into trouble for saying the Arizona Cardinals suck? Bootman, while not being any kind of famous Counter-Strike player, has made a dramatic impact on the sport with his playbook articles, and yet even he will get flamed for not playing the game, often by unprofessional individuals who do not have any concern for the ultimate success of e-sports.

The last issue is one that I believe can be fixed in the very immediate future: the issue of player and team stats. Being the talented programmer that I am, I developed a solution that would take scorebot, or server logs and convert them into player and team stats. I still have all of that code sitting around and I am still itching to see a solution for this.

The fantasy league is a great thing, but because it relies on players’ voluntary involvement as well as screen shots of the final scores it is not a complete solution. Screen shots are plagued with bomb frags, throwing off their accuracy. Ask just about anybody who follows a sport actively and they have favorite teams and favorite players that they frequently check stats for to follow how their season is going and how they stack up against the rest of the league. It is very difficult to do this in the world of Counter-Strike, because the best we have to go by is the opinions of other players. How many times has an argument broke out about who is the weak link on 3D or SK? Having player and team statistics is a very easy thing to implement. It only requires the cooperation of the people who run the servers that these matches are being played on, a piece of software that will convert server logs to statistics (which I have written), and a great website like Gotfrag to make the data data accessable to the masses. All of the pieces are in place; with some cooperation and a little time, we can dramatically improve the spectator experience.

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