On-screen graphics play an incredibly important role when it comes to the creation of compelling esports production.
Each production needs to tell the story of the game, its players, teams and subsequent result. Fans, for their part, are often deeply embedded in the games and have an amazing understanding of the action taking place, but the passages of play are often rapid and programme producers have to consider the needs of broader audiences, not just hardcore fans.
It’s the responsibility of the producers to try and democratise these sometimes-esoteric games and make them accessible to the casual viewer as well as the seasoned game veteran.
It's not all about sports TV style graphics either. As well as using on-screen graphics and effects to explain what's happening in the game for viewers watching on a stream, there's often an in-venue experience to worry about too. Many esports tournaments are played out in front of live crowds, and it’s important to engage with them, get them pumped up, create anticipation and build atmosphere, giving the camera guys around the venue great content to grab.
One of the most immediate ways to engage with an audience is through the use of expert commentary, and while this is certainly a strong suit within the industry, we are often behind the curve when it comes to analysis and presentation. Many times, this is due to the nature of the games, and the speed with which things can happen.
There are also often limitations due the data that is available from the game itself. Many titles allow custom displays of data through observer software, but the really exciting stuff is increasingly happening when we can grab data straight from the game via an API. That's where smart use of data integration with live graphics can make all the difference. This style of presentation goes way beyond what we've often seen in traditional sports with a few stats and score updates.
Cameron Reed previously worked with ESL and is a veteran esports producer; he’s now Ross Video’s business development manager for esports and tells a great story about what got him hooked on the XPression real-time graphics platform from Ross. “I was directing the H1Z1 Pro League in early 2018. We had seventy five players at once in our tournament and our rules dictated that each kill was worth one point – this was designed to ensure that survival was not the only goal (because that would make for boring TV, wouldn’t it?).
“The game, however, had no way to track the score in this way, and there was no universe where their developers could accommodate us in time for air,” Reed said. “We therefore asked them for access to their game’s API and had a freelancer coder write a data parser to translate that gibberish into an RSS feed on a private server that XPression, via DataLinq could handshake with. Then, voila! We had a real time scoreboard on screen the whole game, automatically updated with every API call. I can’t imagine us pulling off that show by trying to update those scores manually - it would have been a disaster and most likely have needed us to just tabulate the scores at the end of the game. It would have left the audience (and me, the director) totally confused during the match, not knowing who was in the lead."
This is just one example of how production teams can get deeper into games - grabbing data directly and parsing it to a point where meaningful statistics can make their way into venues on big screens, and on to the produced streamed output.
We've tried to make this as easy as possible with DataLinq, which can connect to a myriad of data sources and present that data to XPression scenes in a super simple way. This enables your designers to create great looking graphics that react in real time to in-game events.
In addition, the level of control with an XPression scene is such that triggers can cause logical transitions and graphic events that can ripple through, making amazing on-screen effects that react to each other and never leave you with overlapping content or confusing visuals.
We often run freelancer training sessions across the EMEA region, offering graphic designers the chance to come and meet our experts and learn some of these tips and tricks to help take their graphics to the next level.
At Ross, we love to be open and work with other companies, and we're confident that we can find ways to get the data you need into XPression. We know how smart esports production teams are today and love to see some of the crazy tools being used to corral data into our graphics workflows.
Together we can go even further. Just recently we have been working with CardBoard.Live to create a workflow that gets content producers even closer to the communities that love to watch their games.
Using their custom designed Twitch plugin, CardBoard.Live allows us to take game data and run it through XPression. We create triggers when we run the graphics to the main broadcast output which signals the plugin to display customised graphics on the viewer’s Twitch feed. This is awesome from a technology point of view, but also has implications in terms of our ability to interact more directly with the community and individual users; that’s something that could truly change the game.
Usually broadcast or in-venue graphics are inserted, and the experience is the same for all viewers. By partnering with Cardboard.Live, we’re taking graphics beyond the broadcast insert and into a more bespoke and interactive realm.
It's just one example of the power of XPression graphics and the creativity and ingenuity of the esports community.