This is an opinion piece and does not represent the viewpoint of GAMURS.
When the $1 million Gears of War Pro Circuit was announced at the final Gears of War: Ultimate Edition LAN event, MLG Columbus, it sent shockwaves throughout the community. For a fan base that sustained itself for years with minimal to no developer support, this announcement was the reward those faithful to the franchise’s esports scene had been waiting for.
However, over time, that optimism has since receded several months after the release of Gears of War 4 due to a lack of attention from the developers in regards to both gameplay features and mechanics, as well as issues with the esports program itself. This will be a two-part editorial that will cover both the community’s and my own personal grievances regarding the game itself and the esports program.
The Problem: The Gnasher/Shotgun
The shotgun in Gears of War 4 is possibly the game’s most used weapon in multiplayer and though it’s never been perfect, the version we see in Gears 4 is one of the most inconsistent iterations ever. Pro players and casual fans alike have taken to Reddit, Twitter and the forums about the rampant point-blank range shots that result in only 70 percent or 83 percent damage output before being chunked by the opposing player. Whether or not you’re playing for thousands of dollars or for simple enjoyment, no one wants to feel as though they were cheated by the game, and though we’ve all experienced these moments in every Gears title, there’s no question we’re seeing a lot more cases in this particular title.
The shotgun is a complicated weapon to balance, but I do believe it can be made consistent if given the proper attention. Gears 4 already has a developer playlist and I’ve confirmed with the developers that they are able to update weapon changes virtually at will with server side updates. I’d propose using this playlist, along with pro player involvement, to test different damage variables, such as damage per second, damage drop off, or spread, until a “sweet spot” can be reached where the weapon behaves as expected.
The Problem: Matchmaking
The allure of multiplayer in a competitive game is the idea of playing against similarly skilled opponents in a competitive environment. We’ve all spent hours upon hours grinding for high skill 50s, Global Elite, Masters, or Challenger, and even if we weren’t capable of reaching those elite ranks, being placed within your own relative skill rank helped ensure you were in a balanced game.
Despite efforts to implement proper matchmaking in Gears of War 4, the product we have now just simply doesn’t measure up to the likes of Overwatch, CS:GO, League of Legends or even the titles of yesteryear, such as Halo 3 or Black Ops II.
Five months after release and we’re still dealing with unbalanced lobbies. What’s more alarming is that we’re also still in season 0, with no updates from the developers of new seasons, updates or changes. There isn’t even a playlist that runs the competitive maps used by the Gears of War Pro Circuit.
Provide a detailed breakdown of the ranking system’s components and measures of deciding players’ rank placement and rank mobility. This measure of transparency would provide insight to the players, as well as allow for a more open and relevant discussion between the ranking system’s functionality or potential flaws. Implementing new seasons to experiment with changes to not only the ranking system but also game mechanics will keep the community enthused about an ever-improving multiplayer environment, as well as fulfilling the competitive spirit amongst players by giving everyone a fresh start every month or so. There should also be a competitive playlist that uses only the maps used in the Gears of War Pro Circuit to help align the general user base with the competitive standards adopted by the esports program.
The Problem: Game Audio
Sound design is one of the most critical components to creating a competitive esport, as players rely on their ears just as much as their eyes to gather information, react and make call outs. Gamers, both professional and amateur, spend hundreds of dollars to afford the best headsets so that no shot, step or other sound cue goes unheard, but when the game itself has poorly designed audio, all of those dollars don’t mean a dime. In Gears of War 4, numerous complaints have been made about silent flanks due to poorly optimized sound design, with players often being able to hear their teammates footsteps louder than the enemies, resulting in missed calls or unexpected flanks they would have heard in previous titles.
Lower friendly footstep volume and increase enemy footsteps; that’s it.
These are just three of the major issues seen in Gears of War 4 by the community, as well as many of its pro players. There are many others, such as the netcode, as shown in this video. Improving the game in these areas would benefit the community as a whole, as well as prolong the success of the title and franchise by refining the areas fans are frustrated with and making the game more enjoyable, which should be the developer’s sole motivation and goal.