Every sport has its practice drills and exercises to help players hone skills between games. Why would esports be any different?
Gwoop, a startup out of Minnesota, wants to be the place where gamers go to train between matches. They’re building up a collection of free browser-based training tools meant to help you measure and improve vital stats like reaction time, mouse control, and aim, and see how your stats compare to the best.
Some of the training games currently up and running:
- Reaction Training: Wait for it … click! As soon as the screen changes from grey to orange, you click the mouse button. The lower your reaction time (measured in milliseconds), the better. Harder levels throw in more colors to fake you out and give you a bit of pause.
- Visual Speed: Targets spawn one-at-a-time all around a 2D plane. Click one and another appears. The more targets you click before time runs out, the higher your score.
- Keyboard speed: Straightforward keyboard key-finding practice, because any time spent looking at your keyboard is time not spent dodging shots.
- Mouse control: If you can’t get your mouse to go where you want it, you can’t aim. Gwoop’s mouse control exercise has you drag a ball through a curved track. If your cursor strays outside the track, the ball returns to the beginning. The more tracks you successfully complete before time is up, the higher your score.
- FPS Training Arena: Strafe around a 3D arena (pictured up top), scanning for randomly generated targets and clicking them as they appear. Bonus points for hitting the dead center of a target.
All of the tools are linked back to an analytics dashboard, allowing you to gauge your performance metrics over time. Each skill gets its own leaderboard so you can see, for example, how your average reaction time compares to others worldwide and amongst your friends.
Even in its 3D exercises, Gwoop’s graphics are pretty simple — and that’s intentional. They want it to work for as many players as possible. They’ve got no reason to try to look like a AAA title; the more graphically intense a game is, the more powerful your computer would have to be to run it smoothly. Co-founder Gavin Lee tells me that their goal is to keep it so that “all you need is a computer and the internet. It doesn’t matter if your device is 10 years old.” Even its 2D exercises have switches you can flip to further simplify the graphics and improve performance.
It’s the same reason they’ve built everything to work in the browser: not requiring any downloads means more people can train, with the added benefit for the Gwoop team of not having to worry about maintaining separate Mac/PC clients.
While the existing exercises might seem focused around improving first-person shooter skills, Lee tells me that they’re aiming to be “genre-agnostic” and are planning expansions tailored to other kinds of games. He mentions a “MOBA Arena” in the works meant to help polish skills required for games like League of Legends or DOTA, and another exercise in progress that’s “very Rocket League-centric.” Their training tools seem mostly focused on keyboard/mouse users right now, but they’re working on more functionality for players who prefer controllers.
Gwoop is entirely free to players — so how will they make money? Lee tells me they’ve got two different strategies there: They’ll sell additional advanced analytics tools to teams, and, once they’ve got enough players clicking around, hopefully be able to serve as a platform for esports recruiters. Lee says players should be able to opt-in to having their data shared with potential sponsors and esports teams, with Gwoop getting paid to connect the dots. “All these division one schools have these platforms where you can upload football films and get recruited,” says Lee “we want to become that platform [for esports].”
Why the name “Gwoop”? Is it a bit of super cool gaming lingo, or some sort of acronym? Nope! It was just a quick, memorable domain Lee had been holding onto for decades. “I wish I had a better story for you,” he says, “but I bought the domain in 2002 just because I wanted a five-letter domain that you could pronounce and was available.” It’s okay, Gavin: Most people don’t care why Google is called Google, after all.
The team’s timing is pretty good here. With most people being stuck at home, more people are getting into gaming than ever before. Battle Royale games like Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends are blowing up … but it’s hard to get better in a game where you spend the first 10 minutes looting only to get shredded in 10 seconds when a skilled team rotates through. While many titles have dedicated training areas or firing ranges to practice in, they’re usually meant more for quick pre-game warmups and don’t do things like help you track metrics and improvements over time.
The Minneapolis-based team is currently comprised of its three co-founders. It’s self-funded to date, but I’m told a seed round is underway.
Gwoop is currently in semi-closed beta and generally requires an invite to signup, but Lee tells me that the code #TC2021# should let our readers past the signup gate.