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343 Industries pulls back the curtain on this year's Halo World Championships

Last month we reported that Microsoft and ESPN had teamed up to bring the Halo World Championships to the X Games in Aspen, Colorado. This marked the first inclusion of Halo 5 (or any Halo game) in the prestigious athletic competition. X Games has wrapped up, with a number of Esports athletes taking home medals for their Halo skills.

With the competition over, we took the opportunity to speak with Andy "Bravo" Dudynsky, Community Manager of 343 Industries. Read on for his insights about Halo 5's place in the X Games and Esports in general!

Esports rises towards the mainstream

Andy "Bravo" Dudynsky

Andy "Bravo" Dudynsky, Community Manager of 343 Industries

Everyone is familiar with the concept of sports, but the concept of Esports is still mysterious to many people. Simply put, Esports can be defined organized competitions involving video games. You might call it another form of athleticism. Professional gamers train for hours every day to become better at particular games, all in the hopes of winning competitions, building their reputations, and increasing their incomes.

Andy Dudnsky, who we'll refer to as just Andy, sees the integration of the Halo World Championships with the X Games (and particularly ESPN's coverage of that event) as a pivotal moment in Esports history.

Esports have been a lucrative industry for some time now, drawing major sponsors from across the world. Some notable sponsors include Microsoft, Riot, Activision, and Red Bull. With their help, countless Esports athletes have had successful careers playing video games at a professional level.

Even with millions of dollars being thrown around and untold quantities of money to be made, Esports have faced a major barrier in breaking through to the mainstream. For Joe Sixpack to hear about professional video game competitions, they need televised coverage. And major networks in the US have been very hesitant to take the plunge with that coverage, Andy tells us.

Not to say that Esports haven't had any TV coverage at all over the years, but the going has been slow. Video games share the competitive aspect of mainstream sports, but they still differ dramatically in how they are played. Traditional sports fans are sometimes confused by seeing Esports on television, according to Andy. But with time and exposure, anyone can get used to change.

Watching the Halo 5 broadcast

Halo World Championships on ESPN

That's what makes the inclusion of the Halo World Championships during a major event like the X Games so exciting. For four straight days during the X Games, anyone tuning in to catch the latest sports coverage was greeted by professional Halo 5 competitions. This was the first time many viewers saw Esports on television.

Watching the Halo World Championships on ESPN was clearly a treat for many gamers who happen to be sports fans. But the Halo broadcasts shouldn't have been too alien for viewers who were unfamiliar with competitive gaming, either. At any given moment during the competition, the broadcast followed a single player's viewpoint. A picture-in-picture view showed the player's face and gaming pseudonym, allowing people at home to identify the individual athletes and experience their personalities.

Meanwhile, a pair of "casters" – short for broadcasters – provided play-by-play color commentary and analysis. These casters helped tell the story of the match with their commentary and by switching between the views of the various players during heated moments. Andy describes their job as helping the audience understand what makes the X Games players the best in the world.

Eight teams entered, one left with the gold

Photo by Dave Camara / ESPN Images

Photo by Dave Camara / ESPN Images

The competition involved eight teams of four players each. Six hailed from North America. The remaining two teams traveled all the way to Aspen from Europe: Penta Sports from Germany and Epsilon Esports from the UK. One of the Halo World Championship's goals is to identify talented international players and pit them against North American teams.

These teams faced off in Halo 5's Arena multiplayer mode. Although Halo games have been involved in Esports for 15 years, 343 worked hard to make Halo 5 the most suitable Esports entry yet. For the first time, all Halo 5 Arena matches follow the same ruleset featured in the Halo World Championship Tour. People who catch Halo competitions on TV can jump into the same kind of game at home without having to tweak rules and settings. This should also help cut down on the learning curve for anyone who first sees Halo 5 on TV before trying the game out.

After four days of heated competitions, only one team could emerge with the gold medal. The Evil Geniuses were the overall winners, but every team fought bravely. All eight teams will go down in Esports history as having participated in the first Halo World Championships to receive a full ESPN broadcast.

Thanks to Andy "Bravo" Dudynsky for his insights into the Halo World Championships at the X Games!

Did you catch the Halo World Championships on ESPN?

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Ha athletes always makes me chuckle
  • Why exactly?
  • I picture athlete's pounding the track running,in the gym,etc not sitting with an Xbox controller
  • Like Curling athletes, Golfers, and Pro Poker players?
  • This is gonna be good.
  • I didn't watch. On to of that, I haven't played the game in almost a week because I'm so sick of some if its worst aspects--almost every map is an atrocity, frag grenades are overpowered,and Warzone is a sleep-inducing flop. Great movement and gunplay are ruined by the little things, as with Destiny.
  • The Gold Medal match between Evil Geniuses and CLG is definitely worth a watch (the ones before that match were less competitive). It was really exciting, not only because of the rivalry between the two teams (one of EG's best players defected to CLG like a week before the X-Games), but because of how close the matches were. It went all the way to Game 7. I think you can view it on Twitch as a 'past broadcast', on the Halo Channel, or via that YouTube thing. It is very interesting to watch the best players in the world play, as many of the things that the non-professional Halo players complain about are essentially non-issues for the pros. But, that's why they're the pros.
  • Such things do not interest me. Watching someone play video games is pretty boring to me, unless it is something like the WC Twitch streams, where you can have conversations. Plus, watching that might give an idea of strategy, but it does nothing to fix the fundamentally broken Warzone or the all-time worst Arena maps. Seriously, those maps are embarrassing.
  •  "watching that might give an idea of strategy, but it does nothing to fix the...all-time worst Arena maps" The former is why I find watching HCS to be interesting: seeing the high-level strategies and gambits that the teams use. Very interesting stuff. As for the maps, I found HCS intriguing to watch because the pros play at such a high level that the things we non-pros complain about (such as map design) aren't an issue for the pros. Having said that, personally, while I acknowledge that there are a few maps that could use some tweaks (Pegasus, Fathom, Riptide, Overgrowth, and Truth), some of them are excellent (Plaza, Coliseum, Empire / Eden).  And those are the ones that tend to be used in HCS.
  • Starting spawns aren't balanced at all on Plaza. Coliseum has way too many grenades, and is too easy to control. Eden is decent becaus it isn't ruled by power weapons like Empire, though I like the actual map design of Empire more. It's generally a problem of too small (meaning spawn killing is rampant) and too many grenades. Size makes power weapons too strong. Consider Complex from Halo 4, which was probably 2-3 times larger than Halo 5's maps. In 4, it was 5v5 to 60, and I would die 5-8 times in many matches. In 5, it is 4v4, and I probably take 10-12 deaths/game. I'd love for Halo 5 to get its predecessor's average length of life stat. Where it was 45+ seconds in 4, its probably under 30 seconds in 5 because people are on top of you ALL THE TIME.
  • Except 4 was the worst game in the series for multiplayer. Halo 5 has pretty well balanced gameplay and I don't see a need for them to change the gameplay just because you can't survive as long as you want to.
  • It's not a matter of survival. I'ts a matter of core design, which is ruined by the maps and grenades. Spawning with 2 guys jumping on you and dying 10-20 after every life isn't fun. It's Call of Duty. The negative aspects of Halo 4 (Ordinance, excessive Loadout optionsm Killcam) were removed. However, so were some good aspects (replacing quitting players, decent maps, game mode variety). You can't HONESTLY think that a ranking system that ignores skill is good, can you?
  • I'd be curious to hear who you think has the spawn advantage on Plaza. You'd say one team, and I'm sure others would think you're crazy and say it's the other team. In reality, though, any such differences are very likely to be statistically non-significant. We only have anecdotes. In contrast, 343i has millions of data on everything, and they constantly work to make the infinitesimal tweaks needed to eradicate advantages. Have you read some of the Halo Waypoint posts on this from 343i? They have statisticians poring over the data, noticing obscure things like choke points or advantages based on team color (there is a reason why the Blue team is a new shade of blue), and constantly improving things. Is everything absolutely perfect? No. But it's getting there. It's also a problem of Halo 5 just being different from prior Halos, with all of the new Spartan abilities, and some Halo veterans having a hard-time ditching the nostalgia goggles, which are obscuring just how well thought-out Halo 5 is. There is a reason why grenades have a slightly larger blast radius: because we can now thrust and sprint to evade. And this is why I said it was interesting watching HCS: because everything I hear as a complaint from non-pro Halo players is a total non-issue for the pros, which suggests to me that the problems lie not with the game design but with the gamers. Yes, and Halo 4's maps were larger because it was 5-vs-5; now it's back to 4-vs-4. That life spans in Halo 5 are shorter and that people are on top of you "all the time" is typical of arena-based FPS games. Halo 4 departed from that. Frankly, I find Halo 5 more exciting and action-packed.
  • Well said! I prefer Halo 5 over 4. My only gripe is with Pegasus. The spawns are too quick in SWAT and they're not evenly spaced out. It's like the only map in which I can actually get spawn killed in.
  • I prefer the core of Halo 5, but Halo 4's maps were so much better. The guns weren't as balanced in 4, but I felt like there was an advantage to being able to shoot a gun. Sniping in Halo 5 is a LOT easier, and too much of the game relies on frag grenades and bad spawns. Fathom is the worst map I've ever played on in a shooter that I can recall. I played Snipers on it once, just once, and it's got too many vnatage points and too little room, so it was constantly spawning with a round in your head or over your shoulder. Truth allows for beign spawn killed by the sword a lot, and Regret is similar (though not as bad, as it has more cover) with the Fuel Rod. Coliseum gives snipers too much access, as the secondary spawns are in terrible holes that are ripe for being smashed by grenades off the spawn.
  • Plaza's just bad in general. It's not that it necessarily favors one team heavily, but it doesn't feel set up well. Getting to the Hydra is basically even. I can't remember which color spawns on which wide, but the Overshield and Sniper spawns aren't balanced. The team that spawns low can get to the sniper with much more cover and an SMG. The Overshield, the high spawn has the advantage because while you can get to the thing in about the same time from either spot, the low spawn has to mantle up to it, and that just means being defenseless in the open. So, the high spawn seems to get the Overshield quite a lot. Just becuase 343 has data, doesn't mean it's being leveraged properly, either. They pulled Orion becuase they said it wasn't balanced, but I'm still not sure why. I could see potential pinning, but not in a way that gave no means of escape, if your team could use an SMG and/or DMR. Plus, it was a map I plain liked. Fathom, on the other hand, equates to a giant circle with a million grenades and Railgun overwatch. Whoever controls that Railgun (if the user isn't a bum) has sight lines to every part of the map, except the corners that can be bombarded with the plentiful grenades. Frags are just too bouncy for that map, and it's definitely the gold medal winner, if we're rewarding horrendous map design. Really, the rset are just a matter of scale. They've made players SO MUCH FASTER, and the maps weren't changed to match it. I like Truth and Regret, the designs are good, but there's no breathing room, in a way that makes fair play hard. Since you mentioned it, no, it's not nostalgia. I've actually gotten worse at Halo 5 as time's gone on, and it's almost entirely due to spawn killing, and grenades. At one point, I started timing lives, and 17 seconds was a LONG life, with the shortest at 6 seconds (again, my survival time in Halo 4 averaged 45+ seconds, with some games as high as 90). I'm not on here crying for Halo 2, I'm saying Halo 4 had better maps--the second-newest game, the one people abhor (and there are aspects I disliked as well). The problem with grenades (and this is vs. Halo 4, which both had sprinting and more means of escape) isn't about blast radius. It's a combination of narrowing the maps (think the Rail ramps on Fathom, the Sniper ramps on Coliseum, and all of the short-walled corners on maps like Truth, Regret, and Pegasus), the increased player speed (meaning someone can get to you off a spawnwith a grenade faster than ever on these smaller maps), and the fuse time (meaning the grenades can hit on 4 walls, around 2 corners, and be impossible to escape). If the game design is only acceptable to the top of the top players, that's not a point in your favor of whether it's a problem. What, out of a few million people, the game is well-balanced for a couple thousand? That's a niche game, not a balanced one. As for map size, you're only considering one aspect of the game. Yes, it's only 4v4, but you have WAY more freedom of movement than before. Mantling, sprint-sliding, infinite sprint, longer jumping (because of the sprint attached), it all makes you much faster. I'd also say that many maps on Halo 4 were too small for 5v5 (Haven being the #1 example), and these seem to be even smaller, so you've gone from too small for 5v5 to too small for 4v4, then made the game much faster and thrown out a bunch more weapon pickups. Calling Halo 5 an arena shooter, and saying its characteristics are commonplace in the subgenre, can be somewhat generous, too. I grew up watching my dad play Quake and Unreal. Unreal Championship was the first game I got for Xbox LIVE, almost 13 years ago now. Quake 4 was the first game I got on Xbox 360. Halo 5 is nowher close to the same experience. There's much more room to move in games like Quake and Unreal, and you are given a means to fight stronger weapons pretty quickly off the spawn. You also weren't mantling, carrying/throwing grenades, or limited to only a couple of strong weapons in those franchises. Halo 5 might have more excitement and action, but action doesn't always equate to fun (see: I think football's a really bad sport next to baseball). Losing a game of Halo 5 in 7 minutes where balance is nowhere to be found isn't more fun than losing in Halo 4 in 10 minutes. Action can be fun, but when it's reactionless, that's not.
  • So much focus on the multiplayer, so little on the campaign. For me to care about multiplayer the game needs the single player story to ground me and make me care about that game. Halo 5 was the first Halo game where I didn't like the story.
  • What the hell does it have to do with the multiplayer?
  • Gives the multiplayer meaning like your doing it for a reason rather than mindless killing for hours. I dunno just my option :)
  • IMO the best MP fps for console.
  • These aren't sports. They are competitive games. The whole process of trying to get them seen as sports is ridiculous, and as long as it keeps being referred to that way there will be push back. Heck, still call them esports. But don't mix them up with real sports. Having them at the X-games seems out of place. There isn't much "extreme" about sitting in place holding a controller. With that said, I would like to see more coverage and I think there is potential for a market.
  • Sports are competitive games
  • I would have checked this out if it was actually on TV. It must have been only available from the app since I couldn't find it on my channel guide.
  • Man i didnt even have time playing Halo 5 yet, Esports is just too hardcore for me.
  • i did not watch it at all wasnt all that interested unlike last year