This “last man standing” genre is fairly new to esports with only a handful of games attempting to break into the competitive scene. Developer, Daybreak Games, has been on the ground floor of turning its most popular game into the next big esports event, and it’s all thanks to its own community. Back in June developers Daybreak announced it would be hosting a pro circuit series for its massive shooter, H1Z1: King of the Kill.
The Elite Series will feature four stops including North and South America, Europe and Asia. The first stop, DreamHack: Atlanta.
Entering the hall on the opening day, we saw a massive crowd of over 200 players surrounding the H1Z1 area eager to register for their spot in the team and solo competition. The chaos dwindled down on day two and the preparation for the team finals began as H1Z1’s Senior Game Designer, Adam Clegg sat down with us to talk about the development of the “last man standing” genre, and what’s to come for H1Z1 esports.
Esports Insider: When you were in the production process did you ever think about H1Z1 forming into an esport?
Adam Clegg: In the beginning we just knew that the last man standing mode was a really fun mode to play.
It wasn’t until we started to see the ramp up on Twitch that there was something there. It wasn’t only competitive but it’s easy to watch and understand. You take something like the Hunger Games and you tell somebody that’s what it is and they instantly get that because it’s a pop culture reference. It’s a lot more watchable than what we’ve been used to in the past with esports where you sit your gamer friend down, explain the game to them and sometimes they’re not interested. This is very easy to understand: there are this many players remaining, the last person wins etc. It’s also set in the modern world, it’s not fantasy or sci-fi it’s in every day areas that you’re used to seeing in real life.
Esports Insider: What has the push into competitive really driven from?
Adam: The term that we like to use is it’s very “grassroots esports”. We started really early by giving communities their own servers to play on and that really helped build these competitive players, some of which are still here today. We’ve grown that to a great pro scene with these organisations supporting these players; it’s great to see.
Esports Insider: There’s not many other competitive games like this so you don’t have much to go off of when organizing the Elite Series, what was execution process like?
Adam: We have definitely been pioneering a lot of firsts for this “last man standing” game mode genre. It’s not bracketed, you can’t really have a 1v1, 5v5, best of something game like a normal bracket like every other esport does.
“It’s like trying to spectate a football team with all 32 teams playing at the same time.”
There’s a lot of third party developers that we talked to and once we started getting into the logistics of how they run a tournament they started to quickly realise this has never been done before. We’ve been going through that process of being first movers and trying to figure out what’s the best way to get 60 players all on a stage to broadcast it from the spectating side. You have a massive world with all the teams and players in the world at the same time. It’s like trying to spectate a football team with all 32 teams playing at the same time. We still have a lot to learn but I hope that we get to a point where we’ve figured out a really good process on how to spectate, broadcast and get the teams and players organized.
“The smoothest way you run a tournament is when you get both the digital and the physical combined in a nice marriage of equality, that’s been the biggest learning piece of this.”
With in-person tournaments there’s so much digitally to worry about with how well the game performs then once you get here there’s so much physical that has to happen: setting up 60 computers, getting 60 different players mice plugged in, for group A and group B, so 120 different mice, there’s a lot you have to deal with!
The smoothest way you run a tournament is when you get both the digital and the physical combined in a nice marriage of equality, that’s been the biggest learning piece of this.
Esports Insider: Needless to say, there were A LOT of people here Friday waiting to register. Is it safe to say this is probably one of the biggest events here? Did you guys expect that when you started the Elite Series?
Adam: I’ve been following DreamHack since I was a teenager and I’ve always dreamed about attending so being here and having a game that we work on here is pretty exciting.
It didn’t hit me how many people we were actually bringing to DreamHack until we actually got here. We’ve got almost 200 individual players that came just for H1Z1 which is a lot for an esports game on LAN. That’s when I started to talk to some of the other team and say, “We’re going to take over DreamHack with our fanbase”.
I would say it’s been pretty successful for the first stop of the Elite Series. There are things that we’ll learn from this and take on to the next stop and I think by the time we’ve run our course at DreamHack with all four stops we’ll emerge a much better and more solid franchise.
Esports Insider: As this is the first stop, what’s coming up next for the Elite Series?
Adam: The next stop is DreamHack: Winter in Sweden and then we have two more stops next year: a Latin America stop and an Asia Pacific stop. There’s a total of $1m (£760,861) in prize money given out between the four stops and hopefully the players will travel with us.
Esports Insider: Do you want to do anything different between each stop?
Adam: That’s a good question, I think that we have to figure out what we did here first and see how well it went.
“We have no shortage of hearing from the community about what they would like to see get put into the game. We’re definitely going to start doing a lot more transparency and involvement with that”
I think it’s really cool to have solo and team competitors and some people from both playing in both. It always feels bad when you come to a tournament and you’re out the first day and anyone that played the solo event the first day and got out felt like well they still have the team event. It feels good to have a backup thing to do.
Esports Insider: Have you gotten good feedback from players and organisations so far?
Adam: We get constant feedback. We have a Discord channel that helps out that has a lot of casual players all the way up to your hardcore pros. We also get feedback from Reddit, Twitter and Steam groups, so we have no shortage of hearing from the community about what they would like to see get put into the game.
We’re definitely going to start doing a lot more transparency and involvement with that.
Esports Insider: From more of a game specific aspect, what do you see moving forward? Do you have major patches planned for the future?
Adam: With our new patch cadence we have a milestone that patches big features once every six weeks and in between those six weeks we’ll have what we call a “patch train” that comes every two weeks with quality of life updates.
Ever since we’ve adopted that process the last couple of patches have been very smooth and great in terms of the community sentiment with players coming back to play. It’s been really good. I’m very excited about our next update, the combat update, it should be a big one!