The Collegiate VR Esports League welcomed ten additional universities for CVRE Season 3, nearly tripling their collegiate representation. As a result of the increased participation, numerous changes had to be made in the way CVRE tournaments are organized.
Several college-age enthusiasts started CVRE as a project in January 2018 after they saw a need for a VR esports league that catered specifically to the needs of collegiate level players. They set out to build a community.
The CVRE inaugural season was held in fall 2018, but with cost and awareness barriers, there weren’t many universities with areas set aside for VR, much less VR esports. Over the past 20 months, interest in the technology has continued to grow and it has become more accessible with the introduction of headsets such as the Oculus Quest, a stand-alone VR system that doesn’t require a gaming computer. This saves money and space.
CVRE season two began in early 2019 with six participating universities and growing interest from others. As an increasing number of colleges began to inquire about participating, it became obvious that changes would be necessary in the league infrastructure to accommodate the needs of players, team leaders, and admins.
Five of the six veteran teams returned for another season of collegiate-level VR esports. Returning teams for season 3, which began in mid-September, are:
The veterans are joined by ten newcomers hoping to climb the ranks. New teams for season 3 are:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Olivet Nazarene University
- Stanford University
- Texas A & M
- Tennessee Tech University
- Texas Tech University
- University of Central Florida
- University of Michigan
- University of Texas, Austin
- University of Tennessee, Martin –
Ideas for potential changes to the website, the organization, and the overall tournament format were being developed during season 2. CVRE administrators had numerous discussions among each other and with participants at various colleges to determine which changes would create the best experience for colleges, players, spectators, etc..
“The admin team welcomed five new members to oversee tournament logistics groups focused on streaming, map pools, match lobbies, and social media,” stated Madi Hight, one of the Collegiate VR Esports League Coordinators, adding that universities are no longer expected to manage players for both Beat Saber and Echo Arena simultaneously.
“This allowed the game tournaments to be completely separated – with different schedules, rulesets, and casters,” explains Hight.
Additionally, the decision was made to split the Beat Saber tournament into two divisions for CVRE Season 3. This will keep the league inclusive by accommodating a wider variety of skill levels.
Division 2 will remain team-focused, according to Hight, while Division 1 is composed of the top 16 individuals from participating schools.
The Collegiate VR Esports League is once again featuring Beat Games’ Beat Saber and Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena.
Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game that rewards precision and timing. With adrenaline-pumping music in the background, players must try to slice blocks as accurately as possible as they fly at you with increasing speeds based on difficulty level. Competitors with good coordination, timing, and quick motor skills will earn more points and thus higher scores.
Echo Arena is a competitive VR game that requires players to work together on 3-person teams to score goals in a zero-gravity arena. The game is a bit like ultimate Frisbee in space and has been compared to Ender’s Game, a popular novel by Orson Scott Card set in a futuristic world.
Developed by Ready At Dawn and released in July 2017, Echo Arena is widely considered the first official VR esport and has been featured in numerous competitive scenes, including the Oculus and ESL-sponsored VR League. Echo Arena was recently added to the VR Master League as well.
Exponential growth is expected for CVRE, especially considering the fact that universities can now invest in portable headsets for a fraction of the cost of tethered HMDs. Additionally, some of the most popular competitive VR games are either already available or will be arriving soon. This includes Beat Saber, Echo Arena, and Downpour Interactive’s Onward. Other highly anticipated competitive titles such as BigBox VR’s Population One will also be released on the standalone Quest headset so there will be plenty of VR esports to choose from.
Accessibility and portability will make it possible for the collegiate league (and others) to take headsets with them to demos and even other athletic events if they should decide to feature VR esports competitions there.
Based on continued and growing interest, the outlook for CVRE is bright. Students enjoy the combination of technology and physicality required with VR esports and they’re incredibly supportive of their players, teams, casters, etc.
“We are incredibly thankful for all of the community support and for the dedication exhibited by our student volunteers,” states Hight. “Enthusiasts from a diverse set of backgrounds and interests have rallied to help us tackle the barriers that prevent new players from getting involved in the world of VR esports, and we are excited to continue keeping up the fight together.”
Despite all the excitement and dedication from players and others involved in making the league a reality, there are some barriers to entry at an individual level for students and at the collegiate level.
“Our biggest challenges as a league are providing equipment to (often low-income) players at universities that don’t have support for esports or VR programs, growing a strong social media presence, and improving the skill-sets of players that are new to games with a high learning curve (like Echo) that clash with their very limited schedules and headset access.”
Hight goes on to state that the Collegiate VR Esports League looks “forward to working with groups like the VR Community Builders and running outreach programs at events such as Comic-Con San Diego and Oculus Connect to continue growing the CVRE family and support students in virtual reality!”
As VR esports continues to evolve and more support becomes available, the CVRE will continue to overcome barriers and lay the groundwork for VR esports at the collegiate level.