The Summit was in November of 2013, where four prominent figures in eSports talked about the rapid growth of their sector of games. During the Q&A, Travis “SotLTravis” Gafford was asked what Riot Games can do to make League of Legends friendlier to spectators. While the Season 3 Worlds was unbelievably popular (8.5 million concurrent viewers), I thought the game was hard to follow, especially if you weren’t a LoL expert. Gafford admitted that is was a tough question, and that Riot was going to have to work hard to capture the audience not already well-versed in the game. It is a problem inherent to the MOBA genre; there are up to 10 players in a game, and all the action cannot be shown on one screen, there are so many elements to the game itself, and the strategy that goes into every player’s actions is hard to explain quickly. The games are not easy to follow.
Another panelist, Ryan ‘Gootecks’ Gutierrez, explained that fighting games do not have that problem. Fighting games are inherently watchable. There are 2 – 4 players and all the action is on one screen. It is very easy to tell who is winning, and it is usually very clear what viewers should focus on.
Lethal League not only has the advantage of being a fighting game, but also being seemingly crafted for an audience. Because there is essentially one thing to focus on, that being the ball, viewers have a much easier time understanding the flow of the game compared to a game like League of Legends. As the ball gets faster and faster, this would normally become increasingly difficult, especially with Lethal League’s insane ball speeds. However, as the ball speed increases, the time it takes to release the ball after a normal hit increases as well. At high speeds, this means the “freeze time” that occurs when a player strikes the ball can be a few whole seconds. This not only creates a dynamic pace to a match, but makes it easy for spectators to follow the rally and recognize a big hit. It also gives time for would-be commentators to provide insight without lagging behind the gameplay. The design creates simplified viewing, for both the experienced player and the person watching for the first time.
Lethal League may be too small of a game to garner the same kind of viewership as something like League of Legends, but competitive games of every genre should take notice.
You’re not just making a game for the player anymore. You’re making it for the spectators too.
Harry Rabinowitz is an intern here at the NYVGCC. He also works at the NYU Game Center Open Library where he sasses fellow game-players. You can follow him @HarryRabinowitz.