Here’s an open letter to all competitive game developers, stop trying to make your game an esport, support the competitive scene for your game
Hearing that a game is “designed to be esports-worthy” or “designed for high level competitive play” almost always means the opposite thing to me. None of the best competitive games were designed to be competitive in any sense other than “some players win, some players lose”, none of them were designed for the
Design for fun, create accessibility where it is absolutely necessary. Any time accessibility is brought up as a reasoning for removing a feature, it’s always a bad thing. Leave hard things in the game, some people are drawn to things like that. Consider whether any given thing in question is too easy, too hard, or not hard enough, basically whether that thing should be as hard as it is relative to how useful it is.
Move for a design that creates balance across options, but don’t consider balance a be all and end all. A balanced game isn’t necessarily a fun one.
Try to design the game to have a lot of options open, the idea is predictable uncertainty. Players have to be uncertain about whether they will succeed or not, but everything they attempt should have predictable results. what they see on the screen should make sense on the basis of what they did, so that even if they fail, they know why. Consider how options counter other options, and what sort of unorthodox tools you can provide to your players. Try to make options that have a variety of outcomes and interact with other options to create more permutations of outcomes.
Don’t crush or shackle the fans with your attempts to market the game. Don’t just see esports as a huge viral marketing/astroturf campaign, leave it up to the players to make your game a success or not, and allow them
Try making it so there is an easy way to get people into the game without compromising it, meaning good tutorials, a simpler beginner character that focuses on the fundamentals and does well with just fundamental play, or generally designing so the way the system works is evident and players can derive conclusions about how everything looks from just seeing it so people can feel like they have a grasp on the game without much investment, but give people skills to master so the dedicated players can move up. If the base game happens to be complicated, don’t strip it down for the sake of accessibility, just make sure you have good teaching methods for players and a simple base point for them to get into the game and expand on from there.
Don’t design the game so that it is centralized on your continued operation as a company.
Note: This essay is less than half baked, I’d like to expand on everything in here if possible.