Both spectating and casting could be massively improved with the proper stats and breakdowns introduced in the game. This is definitely a delicate matter, one that I am probably not the most qualified to address, but I would like to share some thoughts because I feel it can help some people appreciate even more the role of pages like Winston’s Lab.
Overwatch as a game has many layers, whose order of importance has not been grasped entirely or at all, to be completely honest. There is the map level, the round level, the composition level and the Ultimate economy level. For me, these are the basic four layers, that one can easily understand when watching the game, even for his very first time.
The first one, the map level, is about the map design, the win conditions and how difficult is in general to progress through the map in a given meta. Note that maps are affected by metas, as well. “Full Holds” are probably the most intense and memorable moments. To be able to stop one’s opponents in their tracks, before they even cap the first point is something that in many cases is equivalent to a win condition. If a team achieves that, they have probably secured the win in 99% of the cases. However, a Full Hold’s impact can be acknowledged and fully celebrated only when it happens on the first round of the map, because when it happens in the second round, after a dominant performance from the eventual winners of the map, its impact is lessened. The audience almost perceives it as an expected outcome and they lose interest in it.
When one considers the next points (B & C), especially in Assault maps (2CP), it’s even harder to contextualize and say if you should hype a team not capping the second point or not. It’s very difficult, without stats, to remember what’s the average of capping points for teams. Therefore, as a caster, one must be very cautious whether he should hype it or not. Same goes for capping all three points in the first round of a map. One already sees the interconnection between the different levels. While discussing the map level, one simultaneously analyzes the round level. Apart from Control, where each round is independent from the previous one’s progress and every time teams start anew, the other game modes with their dynamic time banks have a series of potential outcomes. A Hybrid map can go to an extra set of rounds for both teams, while Assault maps can even reach a third set of rounds. Hyping the first completion of the map too much is no good in this occasion. On the other hand, as the action unfolds, it is very hard to visualize the end result, since everything can go awfully wrong for the seemingly winning team. Again, stats and performance breakdowns for teams would help tremendously casters to pace their casting and blow the excitement horn at the right time.
Once inside the round level of maps, the next step is the relative success of the compositions and the win conditions for each of them. This is the trickiest of territories to tread. Frodo entering Mordor can be considered a casual walk compared to that. Metas don’t stick around for too long in order to properly identify the strong and weak compositions, while the number of matches played and the data one can collect plays a tremendous role, as well. Not to mention the different styles of each region. Still, with Winston’s Lab’s metrics one can formulate a certain basis for evaluating how good a starting composition will do against another and so forth. This way, casters and observers (at this point) reach a level of delivering the action that is not about hyping every single play or every single push. Up until now, it was mostly the pushes without ultimates that one could relatively easily dismiss. For observers, especially, having a guide to lead them on which composition is likely to win a battle, they can adjust their camerawork to show the proper point of view, defenders’ or attackers’.
Finally, Ultimates and the Ultimate economy is the easiest focal point of all to understand, from a casual viewer’s perspective. The moment the ticks start flashing next to the hero icons, everyone’s attention is fixed on them. But, without the context the three levels mentioned before provide, it’s very easy to start raising the voice volume and the intensity of every move once in the “ultimates phase”. The pace then is lost. Especially for some compositions when facing specific other compositions, the ultimates’ charging times are low and once the first group of ultimates is activated, almost in every following fight one side will have some big move at hand. In order to appreciate the truly incredible plays, the craziest ones, knowledge is required so as to differentiate between them and the casual “explosive” plays.
Winston’s Lab has been focusing its work on providing this knowledge. Player leader boards and team rankings are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a variety of tools that allow someone to understand the flow of a game, patterns that teams have followed in their play and how successful a team has been on specific maps, with specific compositions among others. But this task of creating these tools is not easy at all. We are missing crucial pieces so as to evaluate the teams’ performances; pieces that are not visible on the broadcast. And more than that, a lot of time is wasted trying to collect the data in the first place, when they could have been provided all along.
Many would like to help Blizzard, casters and observers achieve the highest level possible as far as the broadcasting is concerned and deliver a stunning esports product. It is not a matter of whether Overwatch will achieve that level of analysis and pace that other esports possess currently, but when it will and I feel that the more people working on such tools, coming up with new ideas, the faster the process will go.
Featured image is courtesy of Peggy “Moirai” Forde.