Blizzard Entertainment has maintained its eSports fan base over the years with its mano-a-mano StarCraft II gameplay, but has faced stiffer competition of late from the likes of Riot Games League of Legends and Valve s Dota 2. With the upcoming launch of the new expansion, Legacy of the Void, Blizzard has a brand new multiplayer gameplay dynamic for eSports fans with Archon. Red Bull gave fans a taste of what multiplayer Archon gameplay would be like with professional gamers in control at the Red Bull Battle Grounds Playoffs in Los Angeles.
Pro gamers Aleksandar “Beastyqt” Krstić and Kevin “qxc” Riley teamed up to represent North America in the competition, which was held at Red Bull s Santa Monica, CA headquarters Aug. 28-30. They were one of eight teams that qualified over the course of previous competitions throughout the summer, which Red Bull has hosted, produced, and livestreamed to the world. The Grand Finals will be held in Washington D.C. on September 19.
“This is a first big real Legacy tournament and the first Archon tournament, so it s a big milestone for two different aspects of StarCraft’s emerging gameplay,” Riley said. “We’ve been playing a lot online and in smaller weekly tournaments, but nothing on this scale.”
Krstić said “StarCraft is known as a loner game because with MOBA’s (multiplayer online battle arena) games you can play with friends. StarCraft is all about one on one.”
“Legacy of the Void and Archon makes StarCraft more like MOBA games, so you can play with your friends,”Krstić said. “I think it will bring a lot more people into it, simply because you don t need to log in for yourself. You can play with your friends. And Archon is not just two people. You can play up to six friends at the same time. You can be on Skype and communicate and there’s a lot of changes in Legacy that s an extremely good step for StarCraft. Archon is probably the most important part of StarCraft becoming more and more popular.”
Krstić hopes Archon eventually replaces the current one versus one StarCraft II eSports game completely one day soon.
“StarCraft is a difficult game that has a high skill ceiling, which is one of the things our fans love about it,” Krstić said. “When you watch two people play together it opens up strategies that a single person couldn’t do. I’m hoping Archon will become the main thing. As a player and as a viewer, it’s a lot more enjoyable to play and watch it.”
Riley and Krstić said having Red Bull hosting events like this brings legitimacy to eSports.
“Anybody who’s been around eSports for awhile knows that there are a lot of shady people that have come in and tried to sponsor things and you don’t really know where the money is coming from,” Riley said. “Red Bull putting its brand on eSports means that people are more likely to open their eyes to it. They might like surfing or some other sport and they might check eSports out because if Red Bull is interested in eSports and this video game thing then maybe I should be interested in it.”
Red Bull is also offering eSports pros the same access to nutritionists, scientists, and new technology through its Red Bull High Performance eSports Lab as extreme and traditional sports athletes. There are some differences, including new eye-tracking technology designed to help gamers.
“I was here a few years ago when we did the eye-tracking and I got a lot of information that I had no idea what to do with and I didn’t find a way to apply it,” Riley said. “That doesn’t mean that there s not a use for it sometime in the future, but I don t think the general eSports is at the point where something like eye-tracking is making a difference. But there are other areas of exploration like ergonomics or posture or repetitive motions or watching what the players are doing. I m sure there’s room for the lab and the science to be applied in a particular way. I’m just not sure what it is yet.
Riley added that areas that Red Bull focuses on for eSports athletes is in helping to find their peak mental performance for a specific set of time.
“People will think there s an event coming up and I ll just sleep and then go and do my best, but that s not really how it works,” Riley said. ESports hasn’t evolved to the point where other sports offer trainers and specialists that can help pros with what to eat and when to exercise, so it s nice to see Red Bull offering this today. In the future, when there’s sufficient money to justify those sorts of cost, more people will do this.
Right now, Red Bull is paving its own way in eSports and connecting with fans outside of the crowded league circuit.