Shootmania as an e-sport: "we wanted people to feel the emotion."

Shootmania has laid its e-sports cards on the e-table early. The customisable FPS is still in beta stages, but developers Nadeo have attempted to cultivate a competitive community, running tournaments and presenting showmatches on the global scale during E3's Ubisoft press conference.

Nadeo's next Shootmania event will take place at Gamescom. The ' Op3n ' features 16 teams – including established e-sports names like Team Dignitas and Millenium – and will pay out three thousand euros to the winners.

I spoke to Nadeo Publishing's Managing Director, Anne Blondel, about making an e-sport, and how Shootmania will support the competitive community.

PC Gamer: How do you build a game into a competitive sport?

Anne Blondel: Well actually we're trying to do two approaches, what we called bottom up and the other one top down. The top down is more or less what Ubisoft is doing for launching a AAA title: a lot of marketing and a lot of PR. But we're not there yet because if we don't get the trust of the pro-gamers and the players there's no way us putting a lot of marketing money on the table, it would never work. So right we're on the bottom up approach, we're going to as many tournaments as possible, we're supporting people who are doing LANs, we try to be as close as possible to pro-gamers whether they are very small LANs or huge tournaments like the ones we implemented with ESL. We try to be everywhere, so we're not there to finance everything but we're trying to push things a bit further and support people who are willing to go onto Shootmania.

PC Gamer: How else do you gain the trust of a community that's been around for a long time with a new game?

AB: You make sure that those guys are taking part in the project development as much as possible. Right now we're in the beta stage, but before then we were in the alpha stage and we asked a lot of pro-gamers to be part of it, and we asked them to be as hard as possible on us and give us all the feedback they could. And I have to say they were incredibly helpful, giving us some very good suggestions on how we could be improving the game. And basically we listened a lot to them.

But we make sure we respect the creative director's vision because obviously Nadeo is making a game and it's selling it in the end. Gamers should have great content with a great vision but we're customising that vision due to the players feedback. We had already started to give the game away to pro gamers. And the gamers we had on stage at E3 for instance we didn't ask them to say what we wanted them to say about the game. We said “ok, you're on stage, journalists are going to ask you about your feelings on the game but feel free to say whatever you want”. That's how we feel it could work, the only way it could work in e-sports is to play it by trust. We feel we have a good game, but it's up to players to decide if they want to jump into it or not. So far in Europe I have to say we're very proud of what we've achieved. In the US as I said it's just started but we've had a lot of people come to us and ask “how can I help making Shootmania bigger in the US?”.

PC Gamer: Are there any parts of the game that has changed significantly because of pro and player feedback?

AB: Yes. The Elite mode, which is right now the mod which is most played by the players. It's three vs one, and the creative director thought about it last year when he discussed with pro-gamers about what they were missing in e-sports. They were saying that sometimes it's hard to have five vs. five games because when you have a team, what if one were sick, or one is being called by his mom for dinner. So we thought what if we reduced the teams a little bit, it would be easier to organise.

PC Gamer: Shootmania's game editor means you'll have different modes, different maps, where most competitive shooters have been played on the same few levels with the same rulesets for years. Do you see there being a set of professional maps and then another amateur community?

AB: We see that some pro gamers like not to know anything about the maps that are going to be played during a qualification for a tournament - but also pro-gamers who like the Counter-Strike way of doing things: rehearsing as much as possible on a map so that they know it by heart. So we see the two of them. That's what's good about Shootmania, it gives you a different taste whether you like something different or not. It's so easy to handle because it's only a four key game and a mouse which is two buttons and that's it, we feel like we will have a lot of amateurs coming to the pro-gaming scenes. Actually what we're very happy to hear about is that the pro-gamers are craving for amateurs to be joining them because they want to make sure that their sport is getting bigger and bigger. And they understand perfectly well that it's coming with, so to speak, noobs, rather than having all of the same 10 or 100 pro-gamers that they always see and know by heart. They want some challenge there.

PC Gamer: Do you see Shootmania as being a gateway game for players to become pros and then move on to other games, or do you think that most people will stay with Shootmania?

AB: Well I hope they'll stay with Shootmania for sure! Actually the game is 12+, we tried to make it as non-violent as possible. You don't kill anyone, the bodies are disappearing, there's no violence and we feel that we can make a lot of people come to the game – and a lot of spectators come to the game. And that's something very important to us, that's something at the core also of Shootmania is that we make sure we have all the spectating tools and instruments as top quality as possible so that people enjoy watching it as much as they enjoy playing it.

We have three focuses. First, having the great players who are already on the e-sports scene join us. Our second target is to have people who are not used to coming to FPS games on PC to come and try it and see if it's fun or not. Then our third target - the biggest one - is the spectators. We feel that in years to come we could have more people watching Shootmania than playing it.

PC Gamer: Other competitive FPSes have had problems with spectating. How will Shootmania handle it?

AB: Nadeo has been in e-sports for nearly five to six years now thanks to Trackmania. So we learnt a lot about spectators and commentators. For us commentators are very key also to what's happening. It's not enough to have a great game: if you don't have a good commentator I'm not sure of the entertainment. We talk about “sportainment” in Nadeo right now, it's more than watching e-sports it's total entertainment. So we're looking at obviously a spectator mode, so we have replay cameras, we have different replay cameras we have different camera angles so that the commentator can play with the cameras and show the action either from the top or the eyes of the opponents or the attacker for instance if it's elite mode.

We have editing tools so that you can easily put together videos. It's the same one as Trackmania, and all of the trailers and teasers for Shootmania were made thanks to those tools. We also have in game statistics so you can see who's winning the game. It's like in a soccer game actually you can see that that guy has 85% accuracy while the other guy only has 75% accuracy.

The HUD is very, very clear. You can see it, it's blue, it's red, you have the +1 appearing whenever someone is hit. We try and make it as simple to understand as a soccer game. We're looking at those soccer games, the way they're being broadcast on TV, and trying to adapt them to videogames.

PC Gamer: How are you guys handling matchmaking?

AB: That's one of the biggest points we're working on thanks to beta feedback from the players. It's not that easy to have perfect matchmaking where everyone feels happy about it. We're going to be showing different matchmaking options at Gamescom to see if we answered players' concerns about it, but an e-sports game, an online without good matchmaking, it's no good. II don't have a final answer yet, but we're working on it because it's key for us. And for players obviously.

PC Gamer: Nadeo have been hands-on with the community so far, sponsoring events like the Op3n at Gamescom. Will this continue, or will you be more hands-off in future?

AB: We want to at first push all the people wanting to do great things with Shootmania. But eventually we feel like it's going to be a true part of the game industry and we want every single participant to be able to have their own way of making money. So we don't want people to be expecting funding all the time from Nadeo, we want to make sure that we build a sane economic system where the money's coming out and coming in so that everyone gets to make money of out it.

We're not looking at doing any government body telling players how they should be playing and preventing players from playing what they want. We just want to do the ignition of the game, and when we feel that it's safe for people to put their own money on the table then we will go away step by step so it's making money by itself.

PC Gamer: Ubisoft put Nadeo on stage during their E3 press conference. You had some fairly heavyweight e-sports names up there. How did you lure those people in?

AB: We said “we're going to have an E3 show press conference, here is Shootmania, give it a try and tell us if you want to join us on stage or not”. And the six of them said “yes, no problem!”, right away. And that was the same for Joe Miller, the same as for Day[9], same as for TotalBiscuit. That's very reassuring for us, that they wanted to be part of it. Because they have such a credibility that they don't want to be tied to a game which has no potential so that was a great sign for us as well.

PC Gamer: Was it a deliberate decision to throw e-sports out on stage at E3 as a part of wider gaming culture without too much exposition?

AB: Yes. We wanted people to feel the emotion. If it was too much of a lecture people would get bored. The people knowing about e-sports would be like “not interested thank you very much”. You don't get anyone interested in soccer by trying to explain the rules and everything, you just put them in front of the TV and you bring some beers and then you see what's happening. That's the kind of emotion we wanted to bring in the conference.

PC Gamer: E-sports has a big focus on personality. Do you think Shootmania will help personalties emerge from the game?

AB: Oh we'd love to. We think there's no e-sports possible if you don't have personalities, stars who people can relate to or dream about. Talking about soccer, when you watch Rooney playing, you know you'll never make what he does but it makes you dream and then when you go to play with your kids at the weekend well you try to copy his moves. So that's where we want to start. There are great stories to tell and people love listening.