“What does eSports need to take the next step?”

GamesIndustry.Biz editorial writer Rob Fahey recently wrote a great article about the problems with eSports today. In the opinion piece, he said:

“What does eSports need to take the next step? Some of the challenges are technical – streaming video from games is easy, but streaming really interesting, easy to follow video of competitive matches, dynamically edited in real-time, is hard and will require new tools and approaches to get right.”

I completely agree. Today’s eSports streams are getting better by virtue of the fact that professionals are getting more involved in their production, but from a technical perspective, these streams are light years away from their potential.

First, let’s look at the problem with broadcast. Player camera is the limiting factor, by far. We’re mostly stuck with the focus being provided for us by players rather than the best angle for the shot. During tournaments, a spectator mode build is turned on, but it’s a far cry from the plethora of cameras that sports producers normally have access to during a live match, and it’s a lot of work to weave that all together. We need better virtual cameras, we need to scale the number of those potential cameras, and we need to be able to composite those cameras in a way that’s native to video games as a medium, rather than as pure video.

What do I mean by the latter point? Games are interactive, but the way we watch on Twitch is inherently passive. We should be able to click on the streams itself– after all, the data is there in the engine that’s generating the scene- and engage directly with the stream based on what we want to see. Why can’t I see more data about a card you’re playing in a Hearthstone tournament just by clicking it? The game has the data. We just need to extrapolate it.

Furthermore, if we have all the data from a match, why are we limited by what we’ve filmed? Why not be able to go back in time and see a cool kill from a new angle?

Finally, we have realtime data telling us what viewers want to see. We know who they’re interested in. Why aren’t we feeding that back into the camera?

There’s a lot of potential to make eSports broadcasts more amazing than sports broadcasts. Games have the data already. We just need to unlock it.

-Jacob Navok