Some Thoughts on Improving Streams and Stream Commentary


#1

On the topic of fighting game streams

Commentators and stream presenters should do a better job of teaching those who don't necessarily know what to look out for...what to look out for. Commentators (the good ones anyway) do try to discuss match ups and tools, but often only in the short space of time between matches or in the few minutes during the match. It's not much time to effectively try to explain what's happening (as I found out when my friend and I commentated at Civil War VI), so good commentators like the James Chen/UltraDavid pair or Metaphysics/Hellpockets really are very valuable for engaging the spectator, and hopefully by extension, growing the player base.

From my short but illuminating experience at commentating, I have a few thoughts on what would help make better commentary, a better viewing experience, and to avoid mistakes. Maybe it might even help convince sponsors and game companies to increase their support. Also, a few suggestions to help inform viewers of what’s happening. Obviously I realize implementing a lot of this would require technical know-how along with cash for the necessary equipment.

  1. Commentators need information: A bracket that they can keep track of, players places of origin, what characters they use, who’s next on stream. A lot of this falls on the commentator to keep track of not just game information, but also its players. But in any tournament where people are coming from multiple states, no one’s going to remember or know everyone who appears on the stream. Even just saying “Player A came out from Colorado and Player B is from New York. Player B also uses this very uncommon character.” I believe, can increase a viewer’s interest in the outcome of a match between two players they haven’t heard of. Having the brackets and players main team listed in the information can also allow commentators to think about match ups before the players even step up to the station. When I was commentating, I basically had to wait until the players were at the character select screen before I could start explaining characters or how they might be used. Up to that point, me and my boy would just have to talk about random stuff, or just things we happened to have seen or known relating to the tournament. I was fortunate in that regard since my commentary partner Stophers is a Richmond native, and had a lot of interesting information on hand. Since I didn’t know who was going to come up next, again, I’d have to wait til they were at the station or when their names were called. Now I have player information and game information competing for very limited time, not to mention that it somewhat goes out the window once the match begins in earnest since now I have to explain players’ decision-making too. When commentators, and therefore viewers, don’t have information the viewing experience suffers.

  2. Information for the Viewers/Empty Time: Some streams, like LevelUpLive’s SCR stream (the main one anyway) did a good job of making sure there was usually something interesting or worth watching going on, even when the match hadn’t begun yet. A lot however, are just content with streaming the gameplay with commentary, and letting the commentators fill non-gameplay time however they want. As I stated above, when this is combined with a lack of info, it can lead to pretty uninteresting segments at the beginning of the stream and between matches, especially when there’s long button checks involved (Press button to assign, damn! At least SNK solved that one in Steam Edition). Good commentators who are also funny or interesting to listen to (like Yipes for example) can help minimize the problem, but more can be presented. I mean, how many times have you seen live tournament footage of some empty chairs, with a few people milling around in the background? Maybe match-up bullet point cards, that summarize general match up or character strategies before a game, could be displayed. Player cards, that show information about that person, what they’ve done, and what to look out for. (Daigo Umehara from Japan. Plays Ryu/Evil Ryu. SF4 Evo 2k9 Champion, SSF4 Evo 2k10 series. Incredibly gutsy reads - umeshoryu aka psychic uppercut, triple overheads, etc. Dieminion from New York City. Plays Guile. 1st Place NYC SF25th Anniversary Tournament, 2nd Place WCG 2013. Known for his impeccable defense and spacing. ) Little segments showing interesting community stuff, maybe a short video on everyone’s awesome sticks. The human element that draws people in and doesn’t rely solely on the game itself to engage the viewers is an important yet strangely missing element from a lot of grassroots tournaments and the streams covering them.

  3. No shitty commentators: I’m gonna be real. Some people just aren’t cut out to be on the mic, you feel me? Whether it’s because their voices are unpleasant to listen to for long periods, or maybe they can’t explain what’s happening in the game effectively (or accurately!), bad commentators cripple the viewing experience. Let’s just look at IGT 2014. CafeID threw a tournament on Korea’s tropical vacation hotspot Jeju Island, and it was one of the most deeply concentrated pools of fighting game talent to ever be assembled, and there was a lot of incredible gameplay. Yet, watching the stream could sometimes just be painful for english speakers.

KBR is a great player from Chile, who plays many games very well, and is a popular figure for his Ryu-like travels to fight great opponents. Zhi is a well-known fighting game player, commentator, and interviewer from Singapore. He is invaluable because of his ability to speak several different Asian languages and fluent English. KBR and Zhi was one of the most awkward, boring, and downright ineffective commentating pairs to ever be put on such a major tournament. It was like Kane didn’t want to talk, and Zhi just didn’t contribute much of anything. He didn’t know much about the game, went off into unrelated (sometimes embarassing) tangents, and said some pretty messed up stuff. He egregiously said that AE, not the tournament’s main game and CafeID’s preferred game KOF XIII, deserved the prize bonus instead. Not only is that slap in the face to the people who put the tournament together, as well as all the fans of the game that are watching the stream, but also a slap in the face to the very creator of the game itself. How much would Capcom support a tournament if someone, a well-known figure mind you, said that another game and not Street Fighter deserved a pot bonus provided by fans who loved the game? During Street Fighter’s own stream no less! That’s exactly what happened to KOF, and even if SNKP doesn’t take much of a role in competitions like this, insulting their game can’t help matters. I feel bad for CafeID, since their main game and the main game of the tournament suffered from that sort of presentation, but at the same time they couldn’t have rustled up two people who knew and loved KOF to commentate? I mean heck, they didn’t even have any Korean commentary at this Korean tournament.

This is devolving into a rant, but here's the point. Commentators need to be likable, they need to be able to communicate their thoughts concisely and effectively, they need to work well with other commentators, they need to be knowledgeable about the game and be passionate and excited for it, they need to not say or do stupid things on stream, and they need to be able to help viewers be engaged by what they're watching. Commentators should have as much information as they need readily available to them in order to be able to provide viewers with interesting information along with the time to put it out there, or to keep them hooked by being able to tell them what interesting things are coming up down the line. Streams should try to minimize empty time and display other interesting facets of the community. They should concisely provide information that'll help viewers who might not be as knowledgeable to understand the game. It'll also help those viewers understand the players' decision-making process, and that gets them excited for and during the matches.Those are my thoughts on the matter.

#2

Many things happened during that tournament. Circumstances forced me into doing roles that didn’t belong to me in that tournament (part TO, part streamer, part commentator). I’ll just say that Zhi singlehandedly saved commentary in that event, but we just didn’t work well together as I was kind of “the only man available” for the other side and I don’t really have experience or the skills to perform that role.


#3

The thing is, I don’t hate Zhi’s commentary. He can be pretty funny, and is a decent commentator for the games he knows. But maaaaan, his commentary for KOF at that tournament was just…bad. Really bad.