Bloodline Champions was built to be an esport, but it failed to reach the level of success it was aiming for. On the one hand, it made too many fatal mistakes, and on the other hand, it wasn’t daring enough to innovate as much as it needed to.
Going forward, Battlerite will need to carry over everything that worked well in Bloodline Champions, dump the stuff that didn’t work so well, and then seek out new ways to further encourage an esport environment.
1. Observer Mode
At the end of the day, spectators are the core of esports. Players, coaches, venues, competition rules and formats, and fairness in game design — all of these things definitely matter, but they all exist to drive up spectator engagement and viewership numbers. An esport without spectators is ultimately bunk.
Which means that Battlerite needs a top-notch observer mode that allows anyone to watch any live game at any time. Bloodline Champions actually had a pretty good spectator system, and though it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t amazing either.
One of the most important things is that there cannot be a cap on the number of observers that can watch a given match. I don’t remember if it was ever fixed, but I distinctly remember that Bloodline Champions had an observer cap at some point, and it was a real problem. A player who wants to engage with the game should never be prevented from doing so, even if it’s just spectating.
The observer interface must also be clear and minimal while showing as much information as possible — and that information must be discernable by any newbie with just a simple glance. Based on the alpha screenshots, it seems like Stunlock knows what they’re doing in the interface department, so I won’t say much more.
I really liked the Smart camera in Bloodline Champions and I hope it gets carried over to Battlerite. Not only did it keep all of the players on screen while minimizing wasted space, its transitions were quite smooth. It was perfect for newbies. (I also really enjoyed the Follow Player camera and hope it stays, too.)
Another important element is spectator engagement. There’s nothing wrong with passively watching a match, but every little boost to engagement is always welcome. For example, some games have experimented with things like item drops. I’m not sure if that’d work in Battlerite, but ideas like that are worth pursuing.
And it seems like Stunlock is thinking about this, considering the rumor that spectators in Battlerite will play some kind of active role. The extent of spectator involvement is still unknown though:
The game also features a unique mechanic in which the combantants play to the crowd and win their favor. If that weren’t enough, the game takes the usual Observer mode and makes it a part of the action where players can sit in the seats and interact directly with the combatants. “You do not always have to win the battle in order to win the hearts of the crowd.”
2. Broadcaster Mode
Another big shortcoming of Bloodline Champions — and esports as a whole, at least back when Bloodline Champions was at its peak — is that there was no way to tune into match commentary from within the game client itself. If you wanted to watch a match with a commentator, you’d have to do so through Twitch.
One solution would be to allow the streaming of Twitch channels from within the client, but I think Stunlock has the expertise to take it a bit further and follow in the footsteps of Dota 2 and CS:GO: allow commentators to shoutcast a match directly to spectators in the game.
For those unfamiliar, here’s how it works in Dota2: Private player-hosted games have six broadcaster slots that can be taken in the lobby. Broadcasters are basically the same as regular spectators, except they can also: speak to the audience, move the game camera, draw on the minimap, and ping the minimap.
A similar system for Battlerite would be invaluable. Each broadcaster would cast on a specific channel and multiple broadcasters could co-cast on the same channel if they want. Spectators would be able to tune into whichever channel they want, or none if they just want to watch on their own.
The only issue is that I’m not sure how such a system would work with in-game automated tournaments (more on that below) as who would designate the broadcaster slots? Then again, maybe in-game tournaments are too fast-paced for this kind of broadcasting anyway.
3. Tournament System
Looking back, I think everyone can agree that BLC’s tournament system was absolutely fantastic. I’ve already raved about it in that post, but I’ll rave about it some more here: Battlerite absolutely needs a similar tournament system!
Queues are okay, but they aren’t reliable enough to truly determine which teams are the best. For example, queue dodgers were rampant in the early days of BLC, and while a lot of the holes have been fixed, there are still people who can steal wins by gaming the system.
Other issues — like trolls, network problems, time of day when you queue, number of games played, flaws in the ratings formula itself — can lead to unreliable results. But the biggest downside is that queues are 24/7, so you never really know when “big matches” are happening.
When a tournament is scheduled, all of the best teams and top talent end up gathered in one spot at one time to determine which team will come out on top. You simply can’t get that kind of hype or results with a regular queue system, and that’s why a tournament system is so valuable.
It’s also important that the tournament system is automated. The system is entirely impartial and there aren’t any hosts to get in the way or swing decisions due to bias. And since the tournament schedule is known ahead of time, everyone can plan ahead and make sure they’re available for it.
An automated tournament system gives players something to look forward to on a regular basis. For competitors, it’s a chance at fame. For spectators, it’s an opportunity to watch the best of the best and ride the hype wave all the way to the grand finals. Battlerite needs this.
4. Hall of Fame
Up above, I made the claim that esports can’t exist without spectators. Well, the opposite is true too — esports can’t exist without players! So if there’s one thing that Battlerite must absolutely do, it’s this: pinpoint the core reason why players compete in the first place, and then feed that desire as much as possible.
A lot of people assume that this core reason is “to win big prize pots”, but that’s far from the truth. Yes, prize pots are important, and yes, bigger prize pots are always better than smaller prize pots. But if money was the core reason why people compete, then most esports never would’ve taken off.
At the most fundamental level, players compete for fame and respect. Winning feels good, but recognition feels great. Money is just icing on top of the cake. That’s why millions of people play Dota 2, CS:GO, Smash Bros, Quake, and all kinds of games even though they have no realistic chance of ever winning big money.
So in that light, I think Battlerite needs to have some kind of “Hall of Fame” where players can be showcased, acknowledged, and validated. BLC’s seasonal rankings were pretty good about this and special user titles were also a step in the right direction, but how about ramping it up a few more notches?
I don’t have a specific mechanism in mind, but one idea could be a “Player of the Week” spotlight that’s prominently displayed in the Bloodgate (or whatever Battlerite’s equivalent is). A more obvious way to view and appreciate past tournament winners and tournament stats would be awesome as well.
Another idea could be a real-time list of live matches involving top ranking players. This would make it easy for spectators to jump into high-stakes games and watch skilled players battle it out, whether those games are from the queue, a tournament, or a public player-hosted lobby.
The rumored “crowd mechanic” seems like it plays into this as well.
It was a glorious day when Bloodline Champions implemented the ability to save and view replays. It was even better when I realized tournament matches could be saved and watched later. Every serious esports game needs replay functionality.
For one thing, replays are indispensable when it comes to skill improvement. Watching your own replays is an effective way to catch bad habits and find areas that you need to work on. Watching the replays of others is an effective way to learn tactics, evolve your thought processes, and pick up on new combos.
Replays are also crucial for good frag videos and event highlights.
I really like how Bloodline Champions handled them: replays were stored on Stunlock’s servers, but you could download them to your account and view them locally. I think this is how it should be in Battlerite as well, with one big addition…
A central replay repository that you can browse within the client. Since replays would be stored on Stunlock’s servers anyway, the infrastructure would already be in place. Replays could be voted on by players, but more importantly, replays should be filterable by player names, champions involved, whether it was a queue/tournament/lobby game, etc.
Such a system could spawn an entire meta-community around replays, like the ones that existed back during CS 1.6 days.
What Do You Think?
To be honest, it’s totally possible for Battlerite to succeed in esports even without some of the stuff discussed above, but I think each one plays an important role in boosting the overall chance of success as high as possible.
Which of these do you disagree with? Are there other features that would be equally important for esports? What is the one MOST important thing that Battlerite can’t afford to skip? Post a comment down below.