The Future of Esports - Mount and Blade: Warband

The Future of Esports - Mount and Blade: Warband

About a month ago, a game developed by the Turkish development team known as TaleWorlds, Mount and Blade: Warband (a popular title on Steam), had their very first Esports tournament. We were left wondering: Why did it take so long?

Although the Mac and console versions are recent, Mount and Blade: Warband itself is by far not a recent game. An expansion of the original game, Warband, was released on March 30th of 2010. It took 17 years for a formal Esports tournament to recognize the potential of the game. Warband is by no means a dreadful game; in fact, there is a sequel in the near future named Mount and Blade: Bannerlord.

The Mount and Blade series itself is best known for its limitless replayability. You are a nameless nobody who must claw their way to success, becoming a trade mogul, a powerful mercenary warlord, a loyal vassal, or even King to your own kingdom. The series is also known for pioneering the directional combat. Basically, it’s a type of game mechanic that lets the player influence their weapon movement and the way it strikes at an opponent. There are usually four directions the weapon can go: overhead, left, right and a thrust right down the middle. Other games series such as Chivalry and For Honor have used similar mechanics.

More DLC for Mount and Blade: Warband were a little bizarre but welcome additions. They were 2012’s Napoleonic Wars and 2014’s Viking Invasion. Napoleonic Wars was focused on multiplayer, putting you on a battlefield as a commander or line infantry of that era against other players. Viking Invasion had a very vague single player, but that content introduced an exciting new feature to the series - Nordic ship-to-ship combat. Another interesting aspect about Viking Invasion was that it was a collaboration between the creators, TaleWorlds and fan mod team called Brytenwalda. We'll discuss more on the community later.

Let’s take a look into the very first Esports tournament itself to gain some answers. It is called the Battle of Bucharest 2017.

“...a tournament brought to you by the Lithuanian Esports Federation (LEF) in partnership with TaleWorlds Entertainment and PGL for the finals in Bucharest, Romania. This tournament will be fought in two categories, 'DUEL' (1vs1) and 'TEAM' (5vs5). Sign ups for the qualifiers are open right [now]”

The tournament was grand, but it did have some shortcomings. The $10,000 prize pool looked appetizing for some, but it was barred for NA participants. We will have our day, however, since we were promised an event or tournament in the future.

“Unfortunately, we cannot accept NA participants due to budgetary constraints... it's something I personally really pushed for but ultimately, the decision was taken that it was better to have a simple, successful event completed first and then attempt more later on. We're absolutely determined to offer an event that will cater to the NA community in future.”

Although on the small side of the tournaments we’re accustomed to, it was a huge success. It has room for great potential. The DUEL category is fierce and intense. Two men enter with the favored, large two-handed swords. The TEAM category is, of course, strategic and cunning. But how about a category that every Mound and Blade Player is hoping for?

How about an ARMY category where a full team of the console’s 32 vs 32 players play a full round? It may sound very impractical, but that is what most Mount and Blade players think of when playing the game. It can start off as, say, like the Dota 2 All-Star Match, where it’s a special occasion, though gradually it will be formally recognized.

Imagine it - a whole cohesive Warband team full of pro players desperately attacking or holding a castle, desperately trying to defend or raise the castle gate. A single arrow from a bow or bolt of a crossbow would be essential in the siege. Instead of a castle, perhaps the battlefield will be a large field battle where the two teams meet and a hidden cavalry placement clutches it for the team.

But why stop there? Remember that Viking Invasion expansion made by a modding team? There is still a thriving community literally putting out Mount and Blade: Warband content daily. In Napoleonic Wars, there are communities who arrange themselves in teams and give themselves a historical regiment. Then they make small leagues and play tournaments for fun, but it isn’t just a random game. Each player lines up and follows the orders of their commander with strict coordination, even giving them orders on when and not to shoot. Those guys play for fun, and they have so much commitment for the game. Now picture if they actually played for recognized titles?

If this were to become a thing, think of what it could bring to other games, to other tournaments. The possibilities are endless like the game was meant to be.