eSports

21 February 2019
Presented by Chris Berrow, Georgia Mills.

ESPORTS, GAMER, GAMING, CHAIR

A gamer at a computer

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This month: eSports is on the rise, so we're looking at the history of competitive gaming. Plus, what do you have to do to make it as a professional gamer? Hear from the manager of Northampton Town FC eSports team. But it's not just playing games, what happens if you want to become a gaming commentator or "caster"? L0rinda of Hearthstone fame tells us how he got into it. As for new releases - we review Fallout 76 and A Way Out. And we’re going old school with “Retro Revival”... this time it's the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy! With Chris Berrow and Georgia Mills.

In this episode

A gamer at a computer

The history of eSports

eSports as a form of competition using video games most commonly taking the form of organized multiplayer video game competitions between professional players and teams. Fortnite, League of Legends, Counterstrike. They all have their own competitive matches their competitive scenes hundreds of thousands of viewers watch matches from the comfort of their own homes as well. So Georgia Mills has been looking at the history of eSports.

Georgia - The first recorded eSports event was for students and took place in Stanford University in America in 1972. In the game space war it's one you might recognize if you saw a picture you play as a ship represented by a basic white triangle outline and you fly around 2D space blasting asteroids. Eight years later and we have the first large scale competition which is held by Atari for the game space invaders and had over ten thousand participants. This popularity led to further tournament is being held and even televised in shows like Star Cade throughout the 80s. To win most of these games you simply had to beat the high score. But in the 90s with the development of better head to head games like Street Fighter 2. This all started to change. People can now take each other on directly with multiplayer death matches and several yearly fighting tournament was set up that still continue to this day. But in the late 90s we get the arrival of the Internet. Now loads of people can battle each other in massive online tournaments with games like Quake and World of Warcraft. And then we get to the 2000s where a new generation of consoles and better accessibility to the Internet again increased the popularity of competitive gaming. Since then esports have gotten bigger and bigger especially in South Korea. Generally considered the world capital of sports viewers flocked to tournament in the thousands. In 2014 a League of Legends tournament attracted 40000 fans to a stadium one which had previously hosted a football World Cup semi-final as well. Online views through services like twitch reach tens of millions. Competitors in the tournament's are professional full time gamers who can earn plenty through prize money and increasing levels of sponsorship and the prize money is staggering. In 2018 Epic Games announced they would provide 100 million dollars of prize money for competitions of the game fortnight previously the biggest prize pot was a mere 38 million from Valve's Dota 2. In fact the stakes are so high now that performance enhancing drugs like ritalin and adderall have become common in competitions. So if this kind of cash and that many people involved, eSports might be the most popular pastime that so many people have never heard of and it's only set to get bigger.
 

Foutball players in a see-through ball

05:39 - Making it as a pro gamer

How difficult is it to have a career playing FIFA?

Making it as a pro gamer
Jake Cave, Manager of Northampton Town eSports

What can you do if you’re a gamer and you want to turn professional? Jake Cave is the manager of Northampton towns eSports team. They compete in FIFA Pro clubs which is a specific kind of game mode. FIFA 19 is of course the latest in the football series and hundreds of thousands of players compete online. Chris Berrow wanted to know how it works...

Jake - So I've been playing competitive pro clubs for around three years now since the back end of 205. I just want to take it to the next level really. I've always been a fan of game and as most people are around my age and yeah I just sort of want to take to the next level see how good I was and take it to the competitive level.

Chris - What are the different kinds of modes?

Jake - So yeah. So you've got your different modes like Ultimate Team and all people know about. So if kickoff mode where you just control one player then you switch between the 11 players. This one's different in the fact that each play is controlled by someone else. So it's eleven vs. eleven of eleven real level real human players against 11 real human players. So it's a lot more realistic in terms of yeah it's a lot more teamwork involved than there would be normally.

Chris - And I suppose that means you have to get together in a group or you know you can play online obviously online you have to have quite a big team to play.

Jake - Yeah well yeah. Obviously people have commitments throughout the week we've like work family social life that sort of thing so you sort of have a fairly big squad just in case anyone some. Yeah pretty much yeah if someone steps in and plays well then they'll keep their spot.

Chris - Can I just ask you about the way because obviously there are different positions and therefore if you're a better you know playing defense than you're gonna play as a defender and other players who prefer playing on the left and therefore you could say they're the equivalent of an a left footed kind of gamer definitely.

Jake - Yeah I've I've come across that a lot even myself up until recently I would only play one side. What's your position on the striker right. I use only like pain on the left hand side because it means I could come in and finesse it round the keeper. But with the way the game is now so I've driven shots across goal a more effective so a lot planning.

Chris - Right now you sound like a captain. Captain the team would you say or you sort of manager?

Jake - I sort of organizing the sessions and getting the signings in and making sure people are turning up on time and that sort of thing. I feel like the coach basically pretty much yeah does it feel like you're a coach. Yeah. So it's a point I have to sort of give instructions I like my team supplying a sort of a certain way of playing out from the back and playing for the phases. But yeah I suppose you could call it like soccer halftime.

Chris - You've got to be competitive.

Jake - If they do well then obviously you say like keep this going. Let's not switch off here. But you know if things aren't going so well people need to be told there's a prize money at stake as well occasionally I know that this is quite a hard scene to make money in in particularly with pro clubs because not as much money as like you said some of the other kind of genres modes that are available.

Chris - What kind of prize pools are we talking when you get to compete for actual money.

Jake - So we were gonna go to a tournament in February where the prize fund depended on the amount teams would have been up to four Grand Slam is for pro clubs. That's a ridiculous amount of money because it's not really that well-known it's not that well back at the minute. So about would have been a lot of money and you split that between eleven people it covers your weekend covers your expenses and a bit more so you're not at the point obviously where you could give up other stuff and take this seriously as a career.

Chris -But I suppose that could be the aim eventually?

Jake - Definitely. And I think more more football clubs now are recognizing that there's clubs all over the place I think Manchester United got involved now and I've seen Ajax launch one last year so it's not just in this country across the globe as well.

Chris - People are recognizing it was like Premier League clubs like you say have signed up gamers to play for their sports teams and then they go and compete and people that you know thousands hundreds of thousands and sometimes even you can get towards the upper figures that people are watching it online.

Jake - Yeah and it's not just FIFA either, League is probably not one of the most popular ones. When you've got like League of Legends you get you know hundreds of thousands of people watching that. And the prize money them can go up to a half a million dollars. It's just incredible how big this is and how big it can make it still fairly new as well. And they're just talking about it recently about being potentially played at the Olympics at the Asian Games. So there's huge potential for it.

A gamer at a computer

10:06 - Managing a team of gamers

How easy is it manage a group of gamers professionally?

Managing a team of gamers
Jon Winkle, Managing Director of epic.LAN

What does it take to run a team that plays all kinds of different games professionally. Jon Winkle is the managing director of epic.LAN. They put on eSports events. Jon also manages players.

Jon - We’ve been organising LAN parties since my university days back in 2003. Yes I know ran the first little event Village Hall is a typical LAN party was back then played games since as soon as I could have a computer as soon as I was allowed on I think it was an Atari ST for anybody who remembers that as well as I can, then next console was the SEGA Master System. I've carried on playing since then. I'm no better than I was! I prefer to sit back and organise things now instead of playing now.

Chris - If people haven't heard of a LAN party before LAN stands for local area network which means that you basically in the old days which I think you're allowed to say now you'd sort of hook up your consoles together you would literally sit in the same room as people and you would game against them. Nowadays it's a little bit more complicated of course with the advent of the Internet and things like that you can do it on your own in your bedroom which I get I sometimes feel is a bit less social because it's nice to actually see people face to face. Don't you think.

Jon - Exactly. I think people thought when the Internet grew and capacities weren't opened up that LAN parties would die off. They're still growing even now despite people having huge internet speeds in their house ours is growing year on year. The UK the largest LAN party in the UK has about 3000 people worldwide. There are LAN parties up to about ten thousand people exactly like you say. You can’t substitute that play and face to face thing your opponents across the row having a bit of banter between between the opponents as well when you get a good kill you don't get that when you playing online from home.

Chris - What are some of the big games in the scene nowadays because you know people used to play things like Goldeneye multiplayer four controllers you know. That was almost seen as the definitive game that you had to play but what is it nowadays that people like to play either in a LAN setting or even just online from an eSports point of view.

Jon - You top titles that moment Counter-Strike is still going strong. It's now Counter-Strike Global Offensive. But that said many iterations in the past Dota 2 which is a mobile game is still huge from a viewer point of view. League of Legends is growing again in the UK and then there's the obvious current titles and we're trying to watch where they go from an eSports point of view you likes a Fortnite they've got an emerging sports scene so we're keeping our eye on those to see where they go in the future as well.

Chris - Have you seen a spurt in interest since the advent of games like Fortnite particularly because I've personally noticed playing quite a lot of games myself, there seemed to be before Fortnite where you had a lot of Starcraft 2, League even was quite big stuff like that but then you've sort of got post Fortnite where you've got like really quite young kids 12 13 14 really interested in this kind of thing now. Have you noticed a resurgence almost?

Jon - I think there was like footnotes that have made EA Sports a little bit more mainstream. I'd say FIFA is having a similar effect as well it's getting more eyes onto a sports in general and then once people are watching things like Twitch for their favourite Fortnite players they're then being exposed to other games that are perhaps more competitive from an esports perspective. Worldwide the biggest prize pool in 2018 was twenty five and a half million dollars for a pro tournament. There were two tournaments that took place in the UK last year. That each had a million dollars prize pool, one for Counter-Strike one for Dota 2 in London and Birmingham. So yes that eSports is a career as a player as an option but there are loads of other career options as well that people don't necessarily realize from commentators, stage hosts backstage stuff even people who are interested in gaming but who perhaps want to pursue careers in finance and marketing all of those traditional jobs exist in eSports as well for people looking for careers.
 

A handheld tablet with Hearthstone on the screen

14:35 - Becoming a professional gaming commentator

How easy is it to commentate on games as a job? The secrets of "casting".

Becoming a professional gaming commentator
Lorinda, Hearthstone Commentator/Caster

With thousands of viewers on platforms like Twitch watching players go head to head you need a commentator to explain what's going on and in gaming they're known as casters. Lorinda is a professional Hearthstone commentator, an online card game which is based on the characters from World of Warcraft. Chris Berrow found out where it started off for Lorinda...

Lorinda - So as a kid I used to be pretty good at computer games and obviously at my age I'm an old guy in late 40s. There was an amusement arcade with people gathering around so you sort of try and get like 12 people to watch you not be really exciting. I had a bit of an exodus from gaming for quite a few years while I was doing other things my life and about six or seven years ago just got back into it watching various sports on on Twitch which is the major platforms still yeah. And I just decided I want to do this always like like wrestling and stuff like that. I felt that the atmosphere was very similar with all the entertainment being provided and obviously I'm not gonna be wrestling at my age for the well that's getting to games again and I just decided to give it a stream one day to see how that went and I had one viewer. Then six months later I had ten viewers and I was treated as if I had a million viewers just as practice. Yeah and yeah then I saw Michael Callum Lesley - UK journalist, who set up casting Chinese HearthStone it was no money and it was good practice got to cast some good casters and then eventually got a call up saying hey do you fancy casting are slightly bigger event a few dollars and it just built from there.

Chris - When you kind of made that leap from just a few people watching when did it start to feel kind of real like hang on a second. There's quite a lot of people watching here. When was that kind of first moment we thought. There is actually like a million people

Lorinda -I think there was a day that I got I mean my first international view was a big deal. It wasn't just a friend who was watching to help me out or something. I still remember him dropping by my oh my goodness somebody from America is watching my stream is ridiculous. I got a host from one of the best of the industry must call ShadyBunny - host three or four hundred viewers and I was just about to go to bed. Well no sleep for me tonight. And the rush was sensational. Oh my goodness 300 viewers thinking to myself I'm getting 30 or 40 regulars that I recognized who are coming back for more. And that's when you start thinking okay this is just going somewhere.

Chris - And I suppose you're most kind of well known nowadays as a caster of HearthStone I mean actually that's that's where I came across you in the first instance anyway so I'm just a big fan of the game myself. What is it about HearthStone that you think has that kind of quite a general appeal because I know that lots of kids play it but also you know people who should know better like me and adults will love watching it so.

Lorinada -So what is it about that as a game that you think is so popular in terms of being the most watchable card game is just very watchable you can see what sort of health total each player is on when that goes to zero that player loses and even if you don't know what's going on you can see the numbers on the screen pretty big clear font and the health totals going down in and pretty animations good sound effects. So even if you don't understand it you still get a feeling of hearing that thing because eight damage that goes on eight health you're gonna die you got to do something. Yeah. And I think compared to other card games where on to the text on the cards it's like six lines. So those games are very good games. I definitely want to knock other games in my genre because everyone should help each other by half and just has a tall cartoony appeal with a very deep game behind it.

Chris - And in terms of eSports in general it's something that I think the mainstream is now becoming aware of I know it's been growing for years and years. But how do you see the scene now because you see as we kind of peaked or do you think there's still a lot more eSports action to be had.

Lorinda - I'm not just saying this because it's my job because by the time this matters it probably won't be my job anymore but I do feel that eSports is the future of competitive stuff. Yeah. And I think eventually it will open wide and you never lose the feeling of wanting to kick a ball into a net or it's a ball with a stick as far as you can. But I do feel that this will slowly but surely overtake regular sport in the next sort of 30 or 40 years. Is just so popular with people under 25 and you can live in your own home if it's cold and blustery outside you can still load up whatever game you love and beat people at it.
 

A playstation controller

19:25 - Review - A Way Out

A Way Out promises exciting co-op gameplay, but is it any good?

Review - A Way Out

Chris & Georgia review A Way Out.

Georgia - So I think I mentioned last time how much I love co-op games. I got this one for my birthday.

Chris - Happy birthday.

Georgia - Oh it was a long time ago. Thank you very much.

Chris - Still party.

Georgia - Yeah. Yeah. Still going till the next one. But my one of my best friends... we always play games together. So he got it for me. I think as a present for himself basically. So he'd get to play too. The idea is your two men in prison. Each of you chooses a character and you basically have to as the name suggests get out of the prison. So it's called A Way Out.

Voiceover - Stay the hell away from me. OK. So.

Georgia - It's quite fun because you know one of you will do one thing while the other one does something else. It's kind of like a puzzle. And then every now and then the excrement hits the fan as you have a bit of an action sequence.

Chris - I like you had to think about what word to say there. So I have actually heard of this you've reminded me because of the description now. So this game itself it's pure co-op you can't play single payer or can you.

Georgia - Yep pure co-op so you have to have at least one friend. It starts off great fun it's very and it's very sort of new if it's like a new thing like you're one of you sort of lying in the hospital bed and the other one's trying to sneak off and get a key and you have to sort of cause a distraction all the while staying in your hospital bed sort of thing. So it's quite fun like seeing the other person sneak around while you're trying to sort of help them out. And that is really really fun. But it's one of those games that really railroads you kind of have to do exactly what they they thinking. There's not much room for creativity and they kind of went very much like down the line if they wanted to be like a film so that the players have very strong characters. So again you don't really get that feeling of like immersion that you're in there playing it you feel like you're kind of watching it watching a film and every now and then you're doing stuff. So there were lots of like really nice touches but all in all it was like a bit easy a bit short and there were a few bits that felt like the characters were doing stuff he didn't want to do and that's quite frustrating when you're playing a game I feel that was worth a go maybe you want to rent.

Chris - So a way out then it's available on, well what did you play on PlayStation presumably.

Georgia -  On PlayStation.

Chris - You love the Playstation don't you. It's available in Xbox as well Microsoft Windows. What do you give it out of 10?

Georgia - To give it a rating maybe 6?

Chris Berrow - Not bad at all.

A playstation controller

22:25 - Review - Fallout 76

Fallout goes online... can it work as a game?

Review - Fallout 76

Chris & Georgia review Fallout 76.

Chris - I would like to say this was a game I was unbelievably excited for. It's the next and the latest in the series of Fallout games. It's called Fallout 76 which as we said earlier is online only. I mean I think it is slightly spoiled this review by saying that it's a terrible game. It's possibly the worst and most expensive game I've bought in terms of...

Georgia - Wow that bad.

Chris - The thing is you spend you know 50 60 quid and I preordered it so I could have access to the Beta which I've never done before. I'm not beta play. You know I like to play final versions of games.

Georgia - You're an Alpha right.

Chris - I'm an Alpha. Exactly. You know I'm pre-built. I don't even know what that means. But anyways I got it in the Beta. It didn't work at all. I could not log in to this on any of the servers except for on the final day of the Beta I managed to get in. And what you do is you walk around in true Fallout style except that there are no characters to talk to apart from other online characters.

Georgia - So I'm just stepping back what's the Fallout style for the fallout style?

Chris - It’s basically a first person shooter post apocalyptic you know there's been a nuclear explosion but some people are lucky enough to be in underground bunkers. Hooray they made the right life choice. So you know they stay in the underground bunker sometimes they go in to stay for 100 years or whatever then they come out of the lift and there's always this moment in every Fallout game where you you get out into the great outdoors and the kind of the blinding light starts to seep away and you can suddenly see into the distance and it's always an incredible moment in the games. But usually you've talked to a few human characters along the way or you go and meet your first person in the village. There's none of that in this game at all. It's online only.

Voiceover - Three hundred years after our great nation began we gathered together to honor the completion involved 76. This sprawling underground shelter may have been engineered by Vault Tech but it was built by you. So that if the bombs do come our way of life will endure.

Chris - You talk to computer consoles and they give you missions and those missions in the early days. Some of the most boring missions I've ever had like go and find some would so you go and find some wood and they go array go and build a camp. So you go and build a camp. Hooray. Go and kill a zombie. But it's just it was so boring and I just I really didn't like it at all so disappointed. And then they've released patches and they've tried to make it better and you know this there's all these missions in the end game. I'm never going to get that far because it's boring. It's just a boring game sadly. Definitely not worth the money for me. Is it is it wrong to give a game zero out of 10 that for.

Georgia - I love it. Go for it.

Chris - Okay I'm just going to go hard in here zero out and don't waste your money. But on the plus side I went back to playing Fallout 4 which is amazing. Go and get for that for much better than people say. And if you finally want to find anything that's actually good on the Xbox One X which I've managed to do you can get rich downloaded a recut version of Fallout New Vegas which is very very tasty to play so I recommend that.

Georgia - Question go what happened between Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 why so many missing games.

Chris - I couldn't tell you. But hopefully when they do eventually make them and fill in the gaps... some of them will be better than this one.
 

A group of retro game characters including Space Invaders

Retro Revival - Crash Bandicoot Trilogy

Chris Berrow and Georgia Mills review Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.

Chris - Let’s go to Retro Revival we're going to review Crash. Finally it's come crash bandicoot N Sane Trilogy something that Georgia and I've been excited for a lot. I have to confess to you as well that I never played the original Crash series. So for me this was kind of a the first I'd seen it. But I've never actually engaged in the game and it was quite difficult control wise, so maybe George's opinion might be slightly better because I think you played the original bit more than I did.

Georgia - So I'm coming at this with full light nostalgia tinted glasses and you know the sort of cool collected logic. Yeah. Know whether it's actually a good game.

Chris - Yeah. Well good, give me... I want to hear your insight first because I think it's kind of more interesting than mine.

Georgia - Oh I just loved it.

Chris - I'm so glad you said that.

Georgia - Hearing the theme song again.

Chris - Ooga Booga see I'm learning.

Georgia - Yeah. I dunno I didn't have the same problem with controls I had with Spyro maybe because it's simply a game you're just running in a line and everything just was was lovely. And yes I think I'm a hypocrite. Laughs I'm I'm like oh well they just made the same game again and that's bad. But this time I'm like pretty good. Maybe the same game make it again. My one criticism is that every single time you play it they make you watch the same ten minute animation, maybe not ten minutes yeah but it feels like yeah it feels like they show you that they've made Crash Bandicoot you know into the modern graphics. Yeah it's like well done. But let me let me go. Now. I know you made it good. That's why I bought it. Yes. Shut up. Let me play. What do you think?

Chris - Well I have to say that my fiancee is a huge fan of the series and played the originals and really loves it and she hasn't stopped playing it. You know she's been playing it for like a couple of months now and just thinks it's the best thing ever so clearly for the fans it's really really good. I find it... I've actually found it quite a difficult game having not played any of the originals at all but it doesn't you know it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I like actually finally kind of getting that childhood moment of jumping and collecting all the things but still I still can't get the hang of running towards the camera. That's one of the things that gets me is the boulder.

Georgia - Yeah the infamous Boulder, classic Boulder level.

Chris - I just couldn't get the hang of that but it was a lot of fun if you like the originals. It’s worth 100 percent of the money but yeah I'd say go for it what do you think would you reckon Georgia.

Georgia - Yeah absolutely and you get three games with it again. So it's pretty good pretty good value I guess. Yeah. If you're a nostalgic idiot like me hundred percent you'll love it.

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