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Lawbreakers: The Next Big eSport?

It’s a question we’re always asking: what is the next big eSport? It might be asked by us here at Ginx, gamers looking for the next fad or even the publishers themselves - who have undoubtedly seen the popularity of eSports in recent years and want to capitalise on that. So when we see a new game we like to ask the question, and look into what that game does and whether it can survive in a pretty cutthroat industry. This time around we’re asking: can Lawbreakers, the new FPS from Boss Key and Cliff Bleszinski, make it as an eSport? To understand the answer to this we need to look into the game itself in more intricate detail, at how it plays, what Lawbreakers might need to change to stand out in a noisy crowd or simply whether it’s entertaining enough to watch.

Lawbreakers Minute-To-Minute

Every eSport is built on how exciting a game can be at any given minute. League Of Legends is about the slow build, with moments early on giving important advantages that can make each initial skirmish intense to watch. CS:GO, on the other hand, is much quicker pace, meaning it’s the skill of the players that creates the thrills: 1v5 survival rounds, pinpoint accurate shots or multi-round turnarounds all help to make CS:GO as fun to watch as it is. As for Lawbreakers, well it’s an FPS so it’s certainly more in tune - in terms of pace - with the genre. It’s perhaps more akin to Call Of Duty than CS:GO (which often favours a more tactical, deliberate pace), but at the same time can be pretty hectic. This means there’s constant action to keep track of, and a single death in the game isn’t quite the setback you might expect. This constant action might make the game fun to play, but it could cause the game to be difficult to watch as an eSport. lawbreakers-01

Lawbreakers: Fun To Watch?

The problem with watching an FPS as an eSport - as we’ve seen with Overwatch - is that it can be difficult to keep track of all of the action at once. Halo 5 is an example of this problem, where it’s up to the casters to pick the best camera to commentate over. But in Halo and even Call Of Duty every player counts, and positioning is integral to the pacing and outcome of the game. Being able to see all that at once would be preferable, but thanks to caster experience and the pace of these games it’s not such an issue. Lawbreakers looks to offer a similar pace to that of classic Unreal Tournament or Quake, but the issue is that is this a team game. Rarely does Quake feature big teams, and Lawbreakers 5v5 could suffer if the pace is too quick. Admittedly we’ve only really seen promotional videos and gameplay from hands-on events, situations that aren’t perhaps the most natural for displaying how the game will be played competitive. All the same, if the pace is as quick as we’re seeing then there ought to be a wider view of the map to better view the game as it unravels, with casters able to switch between first-person and map view as and when needed.

Lawbreakers: Skill Cap

The problem with a game like Lawbreakers is that it is hard to tell just how high the skill level of the best players are from one another. CS:GO games are won or lost by individual skill levels, and the very best pro players are clearly much better than any of us feeble gamers. With a bigger focus on classes rather than the guns themselves, Lawbreakers could fall into a trap of making it visually entertaining and fun to play ourselves but perhaps at the expense of a higher skill level for pro players. That could make it rather shallow, and it’s rare that any game that lacked depth of play made it as an eSport - just look at the failed attempt at eSports that was Evolve. So it comes down to the teamwork, and since the modes highlighted so far are team-based we can perhaps expect this to be the selling point of the game and really the key factor that will make it or break it as an eSport. lawbreakers-02

Lawbreakers: Originality

As an FPS it is hard for Lawbreakers to seem truly original, but there are some aspects that help it stand out. The MOBA-styled, class-based combat means that there’s an element of strategy involved in team composition (though we’re yet to see just how much that will truly affect the overall play of the game). These need to be distinctive enough that a decision to play one character over another will really alter the way a team plays, and if it doesn’t manage to do that then it’ll sadly remain little more than a gimmick. The addition of zero gravity sections is definitely unique, but does it really alter the way the game is played? It harkens back to low gravity maps in Unreal Tournament, but whether the strategy of how these areas are approached changes it’s not yet possible to figure out. We can only assume that these zero gravity sections will be like impressive jetpack manoeuvers in Halo, and if so then it will introduce an important element of skill that won’t feature in any other game. In addition to this there is the battery capture objective mode, which is a lot like capture the flag except the flag must first be held in a certain place to be charged to 100% before being captured. This allows for some interesting strategies as one team charges the battery only for it to be taken and captured by the opposing side. It offers something a little bit original, but could be too derivative to stand out.

Lawbreakers: Could It Be An eSport?

Cliff Bleszinski has already talked about the potential of Lawbreakers as an eSport and while it might not necessarily be the development team’s biggest focus, it’s definitely something they are thinking about. They want something that is constantly fun to watch, but that doesn’t mean it’ll end up a game that could be an eSport. The focus on entertainment is one thing, but there needs to be a better emphasis on long-term viewer interest. Though it’s a skill-based game, it could suffer in that a lot of action happens at once, and it would be tricky to keep an eye on that. In this regard there needs to be an effort from the development side to ensure the watchability of the game remains high, but how that is handled will affect the eSport in the long run. Ultimately it doesn’t look like Lawbreakers could make it as an eSport from what we’ve seen. It’s doing too much, really. 1v1 the fast pace action could work, but with 5v5 there’s just far too much happening at any one time. Time will tell, of course, but Lawbreakers might just be too difficult to track to make it as an eSport.