It would have been easy to miss the best new esport at the annual PAX East video game festival. Tucked away in a small booth, Project Cyber hardly would have stood out—if not for the delighted shouts coming from anyone who sat down to try it out.
The indie game, described by the developers as “three on three co-op soccer with super-powers,” has been building a small but dedicated fanbase since it began public development in January.
The game’s creators took a unique approach to developing the game, both streaming the process on Twitch and soliciting viewer and player feedback. That collaborative process yielded something really special.
The game caught my attention as I walked around the convention floor thanks to its eye-catching, neon-bright graphics. I sat down at an open computer next to two teammates who were already frantically fighting a losing battle. They’d been at a two-on-three disadvantage and had given up two early goals. In the first minute of my play, I gave up two more as I learned to play.
But Project Cyber (working title) is very easy to learn. Another minute in, I was playing goalie with as much skill as the other newbies in the game. However, unlike any goalie I had seen before, I had weapons and super powers. One button dashed, another projected a wall in front of me, and a third input launched the ball away like a rocket. There was more—I think I dropped a bomb at some point—but it only took those fundamentals necessary to compete with other novices. My team began to crawl back into the game.
Without realizing it, we’d all been cheering with every kick and goal, lost in the game. A loud buzzer sounded, ominous red lights flashed and sudden death overtime began. It took another 60 second struggle to force the ball into the opposing net. My teammates and I jumped up off our seats in celebration.
The game is inherently competitive, like soccer. But it has other things in common with the beautiful game as well: Speed, coordination, snowballing excitement, and the deep satisfaction of doing something right.
This is an esport not in the vein of StarCraft or FIFA. Instead, its peers are indie sports games like Hokra and Frozen Endzone, titles that stretch sport into a fantastic future. And I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to Nintendo’s long history of great competitive party games like Mario Strikers: Clean, smart, and deep.
Project Cyber is still a young title with a small community. But there’s already enough polish and fun in the game that has the potential for a bright esports future.
You can sign up to get the game for free here.