Arena FPS: The Final Death of the Genre
I am a new player and person in the arena fps scene and have been playing at the top level in the team modes. So my perspective of the scene is different to most who are in the same place.
The new release of Diabotical by the GD studio is claimed to be the saviour of this old genre, to be a new quake and to be the next big flagship esports title. But this time was 15 years too late.
Well not entirely the start and release of this game has been relatively smooth with only minor bugs and issues mostly around the netcode and hit registration but the small dev team at the good studio have been working day in and day out fixing these and adding new features every day with their goal of 100 patches in 100 days already underway. Even the release esports scene is thriving with two hundred thousand dollars being put into the first esports season, within that they are supporting both duel and 3v3 team modes for small regional tournaments across the world.
So the free advertising out of the way that sounds is amazing, right so the game and content around it should be thriving. Well not quite. The game averages around 30–300 viewers on twitch and only like 1 video a week for youtube as well the queues extending up to almost 2 hours (with most of the game modes selected right before peak time).
So that by itself is not so fantastic, especially with my content around the game not performing compared to my other video but that’s just a different audience. So why is this the case for the game not doing well even with the amazing support from the devs and the esports community?
Well, first we need to see what makes a game popular. To make a game popular you need people so you need to get people playing then retain them. While this sounds simple enough it goes against the designs of arena fps. You can ask anyone what they know about quake and why they are not interested in playing it, and weirdly enough they have the same reasoning being “it’s too hard” and this is just the killer of every game in this genre. This just leads to a repeating cycle of people not playing because it’s too hard to start which then is further pushed by that the only new players is if they are curious which is a small amount compared to the veterans so they are always against them. This just loops and thins the new players out.
Now, why is this game so hard compared to other games? The 3 major things are the mechanics, gamesense aspects and then the modes. Let’s start first with the mechanics; to even start having a chance to enjoy the game you need to learn the basics of strafe jumping, circle jumping, dodging, weapon selection, how to use each weapon, item timing, map control which are a lot and take like around 30hours just to learn them which are made harder by the fact that they are not really intuitive or well documented that are available to the new player and they raise the skill ceiling so players with a tiny bit more experience are much better. Now for modes that are even more ludicrous cause, there are so many modes and so many different mechanics that are specifically tied to a single mode. Now for diabotical specifically you have to learn 3–4 separate modes if you want to get into the major esports circuit and for the casual player base, there are over 10 different modes to choose from. This in itself is good so you can play the game you want to play in the mode that you want but to figure that out you need to learn and play the modes which are even harder cause it just splits the player base more between these modes because people play the modes they like and nothing else so the proportion of players is too thin for even the main modes. This leads to long time and makes a lot of new players avoid the game modes that they enjoy because they cant play them and are forced into modes where veterans have so much more of an advantage. So from this, it takes so long to start to play the game and when you do you just get stomped by vets who have mastered the mechanics and the modes. This is especially apparent in the extreme modes of TDM and duel where people have been playing this for hundreds of hours and the skill limit has never been reached and they have never significantly been changed and will deny the proper change in the genre.
Now no one wants to play a game like that but there still exist games that can exist with a high skill ceiling/ highly competitive and still succeed. Let’s look at something like counter strike which has many mechanics you have to learn to enjoy the game but they are mechanics which are intuitive and are very common among all games like the guns(even if they act slightly different), the basic movement and that’s pretty much it’s simple and provides depth just within its mode which is a single-mode which has been exclusively tweaked over many years. As well there is only one major mode that is very intuitive. So compared to AFPS it is simple and intuitive to pick up and enjoy at all levels with its depth in the single-mode.
Now that is good for the comp scene for the mode side, the way we can create a game with a casual player base is to provide enjoyment even if it’s a loss in a mode which is simple like what I said above. Look at something super popular like Fortnite and its mode while it’s straightforward it can harbour all levels by providing something for everyone to do from just exploring the map to do challenges with your friends to fragging out to get 30-bombs in the same mode and that’s the depth you need. But this is pretty hard for the arena fps platform as it’s stuck to this mould and within a small area and the current modes you can’t achieve that kind of depth.
So what is the future of arena fps and diabotical? Well, it will never be back to its peak in the early 2000s as these new games like cs, and now BR’s exist but we can try and make the best things from this and redefine the genre. While that is my opinion to bring enjoyment to parts that I enjoy it’s hard to make work and we have to work with what we have and what that is right now is diabotical so it has to be simplified and create depth that is intuitive so change things like the modes to have max 4 or so which are the main modes for both esports and casual which again can be still enjoyed even if you are not winning through learning things, making a fun gameplay loop and other things. Then to change things like the movement to make it like all of the other games like CSGO, Valorant, COD and stuff, so it’s much easier to be picked up because of peoples previous knowledge and because it’s intuitive or holds value in playing with friends.
While these changes will help the game it’s unlikely to happen because the development is stuck in this mentality to be just like quake 3 arena but then somehow be better and still achieve which never works and never will without fundamental changes. And this will upset a lot of fans of the Quake franchise and style who have played for 15+ years but it’s dead. Quake was popular when there was nothing better to play so it was a monopoly on games and LAN parties were popular so it’s the only thing people knew about which had nothing to do with how the game was played and how good it was in terms of that so we need to let go and take the best bits like the weapon play and parts of the modes and redefine a genre built for the current times.
Polished games can hold a player base but a good game can create a player base.
Diabotical is polished and to an extent but the popularity will never come. I will probably stop playing which is unfortunate, but the fundamental genre is dead and is too hard for people to pick up. (hint. I did pretty quickly after the initial release of this article)
Another great article by esports earnings covers more of how influencers can help