Name: James C
Location: Nashville
Posts: 15
tl;dr --- 3Stacks puts perhaps too much faith in our collective maturity and proposes a serious discussion focusing on the community and what we can actually do to improve it; likely in 3 parts. Compares/contrasts to Starcraft and Fighting game communities. Types a lot, asks some questions, and saves most of the actual ideas for next time. He also abandons use of first person and sicks ducks.

Currently being unemployed, single and out of school for another month has made me wealthy in thought (it also provides plenty of material if anyone cares to do some hating). As an Entrepreneurship student who has been tinkering away at a business plan for a self-sustaining competitive gaming organization for a couple years, it is only natural that I think about this stuff a lot. Combined with this and as a dude who happens to love Quake (in any iteration), I have been trying to work out what exactly we, the community, can do to foster what community there is left, as well as be more inviting to the very few who are trickling in at this point.

Regardless, I don't imagine anyone is going to be opposed to having a serious discussion to what the community can do to better the present situation. Recent events, such as the announcement of IEM dropping Quake, seem to have stirred the community up a little bit, so even if it is more arguing than discussion, at least there is something going on. My goal for this is to prompt a discussion focused solely on the community. Yes, I understand that a lot of our options are limited by how much support the actual game can/dpes get from id, but to focus only on that will detract from our ability to figure out what the community can do to better itself. It is almost like we have an identity crisis and don’t want to accept that we actually are a community. We might be the deformed mutant of the competitive communities right now, but if we are lucky and also decide to put some work into it, we could at least turn out to be the Cinderella of the scene.

What I propose here is this: first off, I am going to write a lot of words. Sorry, when I write, that is what happens, I was not gifted with brevity. Most of you will not read these words and instead will piss your pants seeing the length and blame me, thus continuing your pissing fest. That’s fine, but for anyone who does read it, I plan on having at least a couple parts to this. I initially planned on doing this all in one, but realized that I had written so much on the large scope of things that if I had gotten into specific ideas on anything that it’d be far too long. At least this way, we can hopefully get more discussion going, specifically on our community, that way I will have more to work with than just my own ideas. Ideally, it will work out into something like, prompt for discussion, discussion, presentation and analysis of ideas, discussion (on how to implement ideas into the community/reality/whatever needs to be done) then perhaps a presentation and analysis of changes, additions and so on to the community and so on.

Even if nothing ever comes of this specifically, I hope that at least the effort will help continue a trend in making an effort to improve the community (in a fairy tale world, we can lead id by example). With that said, here goes nothing.

First off, I have to apologize, because as someone newer to the scene, I am likely not nearly as disillusioned with the state of things when it comes to those of you who have been around for 5, 10 or however many years. I believe that we have tendency to look externally when it comes to our shortcomings as a community/fanbase. For instance, there is always so much talk about numbers; "QUAKE'S STREAM NUMBERS SUCK, NOBODY WATCHES THIS SHIT COMPARED TO SC2 OR LOL," etc. Anyone who understands math on the level a 6 year old does can obviously see that 2000 is less than 10,000, which is less than 30,000 and so on. Clearly, Quake Live is not as popular as plenty of games-- not casually or competitively, but that number isn't a hex placed on our heads. It shouldn’t be interpreted that we are damned and the end is coming, but rather that there is something substantial to start from. Numbers can be deceiving, especially if we put too much stock in them, or decide to interpret them the wrong way. To state the obvious, the numbers can go down, stay the same or go up, but the point is we have at least some influence on that.

I'd expect just about anyone who frequents this site or plays QL with any sort of regularity would prefer to see that number rise, so let's just ignore the select few who would revel in the thought of doom being brought to what we currently have; Quake Live. When I was younger and wasting my time playing other games, I always remembered snooping in on what was going on with Quake and being confused by OSPthis, CPMthat, and all sorts of other talk that, as an outsider, made absolutely no sense tp me while also fragmenting the community. The community has to decide to unite with our best option. Right now that option is Quake Live, if Quake 5 came out tomorrow, it’d be that, but the point is, we have to support what is more practical.

Secondly, I’d like to continue on this concept of looking externally, but I don’t want to do it in a negative fashion. Let’s just look at what is and isn’t working in some other communities across the gaming sphere for the sake of ideas on a possible course of action. The point isn’t to argue over who is better, just to analyze. My observations will likely differ from many of yours, but the differences and similarities will only serve to sharpen our direction.

I think that Starcraft is always a good place to start, they are the Knights Templar right now, parading the eSports world on their high horses in a mighty and merry fashion. One could say that Starcraft 2 was a perfect storm of opportunity, but the community has been through a lot and likely deserves the success that has come. With that said, it does help when the franchise has a legitimate professional scene, lightyears beyond anything else, but hey, that never would have happened if Brood War wasn’t an amazing game, either.

My experience with Starcraft only dates back a couple years, but for me it has always been synonymous with the infamous (around these parts) Teamliquid. For the foreigner community, I’d wager that is more true than ever. Every community needs a hub, is an incredible foundation despite its suffering from what some would argue is over moderation and development of what I would consider a cult of personality. With that said, it is the SC counterpart to ESR, as you could say is to CS or Shoryuken and EventHubs are to the fighting games community.

Once again, I assert that I believe the Starcraft community was heavily supported by the existence of the Korean professional scene, but before SC2, TeamLiquid was a website that incubated a strong, fanatical community, provided some really high quality content and articles, became a hub for all the intricacies of the actual game (Liquipedia), and with the advent of the TSL provided something for top foreigner players to aspire to. In that sense, you really have the end-all-be-all for Starcraft in one location. You could argue that if weren’t the complete package that it was when SC2 arrived, that it would have had a significant impact on the scene’s development (not that I would dare to say that it still wouldn’t be huge, just that it might not have caught on in the same eruption of flames that it has).

One must ask the question, what kind of impact would the further development of our ‘hub/ESR’ have on the community-- with both the current playerbase and any potential newcomers? Obviously, this is kind of a trickier subject to handle, for one, ESR was founded on the concept of community. Even back when Sujoy actually existed and this place was still called XSreality, it was just this sort of amorphous, organic community with little oversight and development. To see any changes or overhauling of this actual website is effectively as guaranteed as it is that if I tar and feather myself, jump out of a plane a high altitudes and try and fly, I will plummet to the ground and crater. So we know that things around here really aren’t going to change cosmetically or functionally, which I’d wager is a good thing, but that still leaves a holes to be filled when it comes to providing all areas of the community.  One of the biggest is the lack of a place which caters to all sects of the playerbase, newbie to pro.

For instance, anytime someone posts a link to the Quakelive forums it is a given that every comment will be bloated with ridicule . Why? Because that is where the new players, bad players and other unscrupulous types dwell. Face it, even though most of us suck compared to the ‘pros’, yet virtually everyone who merely visits ESReality occasionally is a vastly superior player to the ‘average’ player-- especially if you forget the fact that due to the playerbase’s size and number of infrequent players, we are a very top heavy community as far as skill goes.

Now, I’m not throwing out the idea that we need to turn this into the noobfest headache that the Quakelive forums tend to be, but we need a place in the community where both the new players and the skilled/competitive can congregate, interact for the sake of reuniting the two sects. As far as the communal infrastructure goes, it is broken. We have our elitist little hangout here, which has stagnated because there is hardly any infusion of young blood. I know that there is not much young blood entering the playerbase, but the point is that there is no bridge anyway. The new player’s experience needs to be connected to the veteran’s Quake experience, or else you get two separate islands of an already small landmass. If you’ve kept up with recent discussions ( a lot of the talk has mentions how harsh of an experience Quake is to the newcomer-- just on a gameplay level. The more cushion we can place around this, the better. In essence, we can’t be the ones cracking the eggs before they hatch, it is our duty as a community to try and nest them.

I also want to take a quick glance at the FCG (Fighting Games Community) and excavate a few thoughts and ideas from there before I tie things back to our community. Compared to all the different communities I’ve followed in the eSports world, I feel like these guys, especially where they are at today, have the best overall community. That’s personal opinion, of course, but it is hard for me to imagine the scene NOT making exponential leaps forward in terms of their tournament and competition opportunities (at least in the States).

They have a strong backbone with SRK and Eventhubs, both sites do a great job of gathering and amalgamating every relevant crumb within the scene. There are a lot of other guys putting out a lot of great content: from entertainment (CrosscounterTV is the best channel on YouTube and I’ll play you in Chess--to the death-- to defend my belief) to valuable insight (Option-Select, Crosscounter’s website, Desk’s combo videos, other top players starting to put out guides to their characters, etc.). In addition, the community has plenty of identifiable faces and personalities, many of whom are the ones providing content to the community. Developer support continues to improve as companies recognize that they only stand to make more money by helping to build the scene, and there are notable tournaments on a weekly basis, from majors to smaller yet significant ones such as Wednesday Night Fights or Guard Crush, which bring in a plethora of top players on each coast every week. There are even popular online tournaments such as Peaceful Jay’s Salty Conflict in which the tournament host fronts $100 of his own money to the winner.

These are all components that you could also say that Starcraft has, but I think that the FCG has benefited more than any other community has by how much closer-knit it comes off as. Let me note that this is probably slightly more exclusive to the North American scene than in Europe where things are significantly closer together (as far as gaming in general goes), but still relevant. You can kind of see it happening to Starcraft now, as there are so many tournaments popping up everywhere, the bigger ones bringing hundreds of players who also double as spectators. If you omit possibly the very beginning, contrary to PC gaming arcades dictated the requirement for a personal connection between players. You always saw and interacted with the people you played against in real life. Of course, today the concept of an arcade here in the U.S. is on the verge of extinction, but because it was part of the foundation, the core players have long been connected. It is funny to watch the development work backwards from what we are used to seeing, as their community has been figuring out the whole concept of integrating the online aspect into the rest. What you get is a community that has plenty of rough, hostile edges like any other game does (it is the nature of being online), but it also is much more regionalized and personal.

I won’t touch much on the concept of regionalization, though I believe looking far forward it is something of great importance in the development of ‘eSports’ as we know it, as well as an important business dilemma juxtaposed with the entire equation (once again, at least in North America). The fact is, with Quake especially, you’re not going to have small weekly LANs (fight nights being the FCG equivalent) where all sorts of players can actually get together and interact with players in a meaningful way that isn’t going to avail itself to the harshness of the emotionless, guiltless amd faceless blackhole of the impersonal online realm, but there needs to be some way to steer the community into a more personal mindset. Because face it, all gaming communities suffer from lack of being personable, and we might very well be the worst. Who the hell really wants to endure that?

Thus with SC2/TL I’m sensing that perhaps the greatest advantage they have over us as far as a community goes is how streamlined and connected their community is in every aspect, while the FCG has in the human element. Not to say either of these communities are really lacking much of anything these days (except the money, as far as the FCG goes). It is just stuff that stands out to me the most. I know I can decide to not follow Broodwar or SC2 for a couple months and come back, hit up Liquipedia and find what went down in every major tournament or see the match logs for IdrA or some new dude who came out of nowhere and is winning in the GSL, or read every build order I can until the text permanently burns into my retinas. Likewise, I can watch Wednesday Night Fights and genuinely feel like I have some sort of personal connection, as a spectator, when I watch a guy like Mike Ross play because he is a guy that not only genuinely loves Street Fighter, but also is just another dude like the rest of us, you know, like an actual 4 legged human thing with thoughts, feelings and shit. Plus he’s entertaining.

With Quake, we get hints of that. We tend to take so much interest in cheaters, blatant and suspected, because those guys bring another personality to the scene; notorious figures. Guys like Yuka who keep reincarnating and trying to get away with it, make me wonder what makes someone like that tick? What is the point of playing a game if you’re not really playing it, and why keep coming back only to get exposed 5 minutes later-- over and over and over? People are weird, but weird people are interesting.

A player like Rapha is already a legend solely on his Quake Live career and skills, not that it hurts that he is clearly a really nice guy who does an excellent job at sharing his knowledge of the game when he helps out on streams, but a guy like Cooller is infinitely more legendary because he not only also has that skill, but because of his personality-- that larger than the game persona and level of badassery that makes an Internet created god such as Chuck Norris look like a character off of Sesame Street.

We have big chunks of these elements covered already, I think that the biggest thing lacking is the unity of effort from the community, or perhaps just the unity of the community. This raises the question, what is it going to take to give the community some direction? Or, assuming we have most of the pieces of the puzzle at our disposal, how do we put them in place?

This is where it breaks down even further from the community level to the individual. I’ve  kind of touched on this before in a post I made about how pillars of a community are important-- even if they are polarizing figures. Teamliquid had guys who decided to pick up the torch and carry them as far as they could go. The Quake community doesn’t have as many as I gather it did in the past, but even so, look at some of the bigger figures in the overarching community: Carmac has one of the most influential roles in one of the largest tournament organizations in the industry and at the core, he bleeds Quake. Wheat is the ultimate chameleon of the industry, and look at his roots. A handful of team managers and owners have roots in Quake (which is probably a large part of why there almost always is support for players from someone). Then you have the current class, guys like 2gd or someone like Slasher, who is probably the latest example of a guy who formed his passion as one of us and has been given an opportunity to bring that influence and vision into the grand scheme of things-- and let’s be real, there are fewer guys who are more polarizing than Slasher (I don’t see how you can honestly hate on the guy though, you can not care for someone and still respect them. Passion has always bred respect, in my eyes).

We’ve had plenty of people who have done a lot to serve the community through the various eras of Quake and still do, the question here is: are we lacking some direction in this area? One xou can only do so much, just as we’ve seen 2gd toy around with doing video tutorials, but he’s a busy guy and can only do so much (speaking of which, I always liked the stuff HELL.. err forgot what he changed his nick to was putting on his website before he dropped off).

There has to come a point where those of us who love Quake in any form, or just any decent deathmatch game are going to have to realize there isn’t any point focusing on the negative of the situation or the doomsday preachers and instead resolve to refine what we have control over. We know what we don’t have control over, and we mostly agree on what isn’t working, so it is time to turn the corner and start focusing on what we, us, this charming, yet slightly dysfunctional community can do to improve itself.

Final thoughts before handing it off: what do we have going for ourselves currently? What are we lacking that other communities are doing right? What should our priorities be in terms of fixing that? What is it going to take to actually get the community on the same page? What are some practical ideas to make the barriers of entry into the community easier? Finally, why the hell am I awake at 7:30 am?