Something was unfolding over the course of last weekend on a grand scale with plans of changing the face of eSports as they’re known. Hosted by the infamous Twin Galaxies (Billy Mitchell scrubbed away), Daybreak Game Company saw the launch of the first ever battle royale Pro League with H1Z1 at the helm. Over the course of twenty weeks broken up into to two-month periods with a ten-week bye period, the best of the best of H1Z1 are battling it out in an arena that is as epic as the battles that will happen on and off the field. If one thing was made clear last weekend above all else, though, it’s that H1Z1 doesn’t want this to be about the game, but the players themselves.
This is where the adage it can’t be stressed enough comes in handy as it’s exactly the mindset that Twin Galaxies is putting forth to everyone right out of the gate. More than anything, H1Z1 Pro League absolutely will be focused on the players and telling their stories as the weeks go on. During our time at opening weekend with Pro League Co-founder of Twin Galaxies Jace Hall, he repeatedly stated that the players must come first, because people first think of players when thinking of sports. While everyone, of course, roots for a team, it doesn’t just stop there. People end up automatically being drawn towards certain players and this is exactly what Twin Galaxies is hoping to get out of H1Z1 Pro League. They are so dedicated to this mindset that they are bringing certain tools to the game to help translate eSport to any other sport so that those familiar and unfamiliar will be drawn in.
The video game sphere as it’s known can be an extremely exclusive thing and even when those outside might want to dip their toes in, it can be intimidating just voicing anything anywhere, especially with certain toxicities or cliques always around. Anyone who uses platforms such as Twitch where they can watch their favorite streamers or stream themselves knows that Twitch’s bubble isn’t all that big, being in fact so crammed and bloated it’s the same fish — for the most part — swimming from game to game without any real growth. YouTube is a hotbed of controversy, confusion and general scratching of the head, but still makes for good entertainment if knowing where to look. Twin Galaxies is throwing all that aside, though, in favor of Facebook where it is guaranteed a new audience can be reeled in when casting a wide net. Using Facebook Live, Twin Galaxies hopes to reach as many viewers as possible without the hassle of having to manage a Twitch account or congregating on YouTube. It means anyone can watch and it’s easy to do.
eSports strictly remain a gamers thing where they remain now and inviting anyone from the outside to sit down to watch some OWL or EVO is not only a hassle, but not fun for either party. Most of the time spent will be explaining everything about the game to the other person, meaning missing out on crucial moments. This is a wall that eSports has been having trouble getting over for some time. With OWL the needle started moving in the direction of outside understanding but even then, stories of those who aren’t familiar with games struggling to understand just what was going on and who to pay attention to began making the rounds. H1Z1 Pro League plans on averting much of this stress by conveying in a simple way as much information as possible without over complicating it. In fact, the reason H1Z1 was picked up by Twin Galaxies for a Pro League was because of the type of game it was. Battle royale has seen a massive surge in popularity over 2017 and through 2018, it’s easy to follow, it’s grounded in reality (for the most part) and anyone can pick it up.
It’s not hard for anyone to understand a group battling it out until the last person standing win condition, which in Twin Galaxies’ mind makes for the perfect game to kick off — as they are calling it — “eSports 2.0.” Aside from using Facebook as a viewing platform, this means using those new tools mentioned earlier. One of the coolest features and something I found myself generally getting excited for during the matches was seeing each player’s heart monitor. Among the 75 players competing broken up into teams of fifteen, each player was hooked up to a heart monitor to convey information that is otherwise out of mind when watching eSports. It’s easy to see where players are at in other sports due to physical cues or verbal cues, but player state/mentality can be tough to read in eSports because players are sitting down the entire time without making much facial expression. The heart monitor immediately conveys feelings of intensity when watching the battle unfold. Seeing it jump from player to player with numbers hitting 98, 145 or 124 brought on an excitement I generally have never felt watching eSports. It also allows to begin immediately understanding a little bit more about the players and where their nerves sit before, during and after a game; already pushing that player narrative.
Everything about how H1Z1 Pro League presents itself is meant to be easily read without any of the hassle. Battle royale as an eSport already has a leg up on how it can be viewed. While the camera can jump from player-to-player, that’s not how it works in battle royale. Instead a free-floating camera being controlled by the commentators is the main viewing source to get the best possible experience. H1Z1 also makes reading the map(field) easy to understand thanks to the grid system and clearly seeing each of the teams’ logos above each player. Much of the UI has been cut out to avoid confusion while viewing, instead being replaced by scores and team members while the match unfolds resembling something akin to more familiar sports. There is sure to be some tweaking as the season goes on and during the match even I found myself commenting on where it would be better to place certain menus for a better viewing experience, but already H1Z1 Pro League is on the right track.
One of the more important things when watching sports is the commentary. Having good commentary not only helps explain what is happening on the field, but adds that color that is needed during down moments in any sport. This translation in eSports much like everything else has been tough. Commentators usually end up talking in slang that is easy for anyone who games to understand, but not an outside viewer. Let it be absolutely known that this is not a problem while watching H1Z1 Pro League. The commentators made it fun to watch, easy to understand and did a fantastic job carrying the game in those slower moments. Not once did it feel like they were talking in gaming jargon and they would immediately course correct if they did begin to slip. Watching the matches unfold never felt confusing with the commentators keeping excellent focus on what has happening in game, following the action at a pace that is hard to pull off, especially in battle royale games.
Everything Twin Galaxies is presenting with H1Z1 Pro League is pushing in the right direction, with a mindset that is determined to come out on top as an eSport, showing the world what gaming arenas have to offer. Twin Galaxies is hoping to create something special; not just another eSport having a tournament over the course of a weekend, but creating a space for sport and spectacle. H1Z1 Pro League is pushing the player narrative with team break downs, interviews with players on and off the stage and anything else one might expect from any sport outside of video games. It’s a fantastic time for eSports. They are gaining more traction than ever and with battle royale’s explosion in popularity, Twin Galaxies putting on H1Z1 Pro League is getting ahead of the game in hopes of carving out a legacy for eSports. Over the course of the year, H1Z1 Pro League will be going live every Wednesday at 7 PM PST from its epic stage put on by Cesar’s Entertainment; what better city to blow it out in than Vegas? If not sure where to start head to the H1Z1 Pro League Facebook page or the website; both are great resources and will point in the right direction for fans new and old.
As a brief reminder, it was announced that H1Z1 will be coming to PS4 as a free-to-play title later this year, so if itching to check out a battle royale that isn’t PUBG or Fortnite, this might be the one. Just be sure to watch the Pro League before diving in and see what it’s all about. You never know when it might be your time to shine.