ONOG Invitational in Review

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by liquidmonk, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. liquidmonk

    liquidmonk Well-Known Member

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    Now that the ONOG Pokemon Invitational: Presented by GEICO is over, I’d like to give a bit of my own personal review on the event. First, some stats. We broadcasted 14.3 hours of Pokemon over two days. Our peak viewership was over 11,000 on day 2. Per $ spent, the invitational viewership was comparable to that of our Hearthstone live events. However, the social engagement per $ was quite a bit higher. (Go community!) Remember to keep in mind that the expenses for the event consist of much much more than the prize money. Overall, the event was probably a net positive.

    Going into the Invitational
    With this invitational, I tried to address many problems I perceived and wrote about within the Pokemon community in my articles about storytelling and growth. These problems included:
    • Lack of storylines or more accurately, the lack of communication of existing storylines to fans
    • Poor promotion of streams
    • High downtime between games
    • Lack of Twitch chat
    • Varying quality of commentators
    To alleviate some of thse perceived problems, we were able to promote the event in the following ways:
    • Centralized microsite
    • Constant Twitter updates
    • 8 Player Profiles
    • 3 Previews/Recaps
    • 4 Player-made promotional Youtube videos
    • Stickied Survival guide on /r/Pokemon
    • Social media support from Bulbapedia and Smogon
    • Twitch Embed on Bulbapedia
    • Twitch Front Page (on Sunday)
    • Kotaku Coverage
    • Hearthstone streamer /hosts
    Due to all these methods of promotion, we managed to hold a steady viewership of about 8,000 viewers during the entirety of the Cybertron vs Enosh set. Our rebroadcasts held consistently for about ~500 viewers, which is more than many Regional streams get for their live broadcasts.

    I think overall, we were very successful in our goals. We had a few people who were against the Invitational when it was first announced, but I haven’t heard any overwhelming negativity regarding the event overall since we aired on Day 1. We had amazing games, amazing casters, and amazing storylines. And not only did we communicate previous storylines, but we created many as well.

    The most amazing storyline was, of course, aDrive’s run. Though many doubted his battling skills and questioned the decision to invite a “Shiny Hunter”, he unquestionably proved all his haters wrong by defeating both Wolfe and Aaron. With his wins, he brought a ton of exposure to VGC from outside the community. Even Twins pitcher, Phil Hughes, had something to say:

    https://twitter.com/PJHughes45/status/836365441291403264

    Speaking of outside exposure, we received a lot of it from outside communities such as League of Legends and Hearthstone. Suffice it to say, I think we spread a lot of awareness of competitive Pokemon to the outside world.

    Firsts
    We also hit a lot of firsts this tournament:
    • First VGC-only event with a corporate sponsor
    • First huge broadcasted invitational
    • First broadcasted all-star match
    • First VGC bo5
    • First tournament played in a double elimination pools format
    • First time aDrive has played in a bo3
    Major Hiccups
    Of course, this tournament was far from perfect. Here are some of the biggest issues I identified for this event:
    • Starting Too Late: We originally planned out our times to not conflict as much with an MSS going on in NJ. However, the first day especially dragged on, so we lost viewers watching from the EU.
    • Internet Outages: The stream was briefly taken down twice due to internet outages in the production studio. The studio is in DC where a large storm had just passed. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we can account for with the budget and resources we have for such an event.
    • Delays on Day 1: We had a large delay on day 1 before the first match. Part of this was due to our planned 20 minutes of intro and educational content about Pokemon. Right now I feel that this is only slightly too long, but it was a bigger problem due to two reasons.
      • In addition to the intro, there were issues on the players’ side for match 1, which delayed the stream for an additional 10 minutes.
      • We mistimed our first Hearthstone host, and had the /host come in around 5:10 EST where many jumped ship after not seeing a game for 20 minutes. We fixed this on day 2 by having all the /hosts come in during games.
    • Lack of Twitch Front Page on Day 1: Due to unfortunate circumstances we didn’t get the front page listing on Saturday, but this was amended on Sunday.
    Production Issues
    There were what I considered minor production hiccups during the stream. Keep in mind that this is the first time the production crew has done such an event and they’re not especially familiar with the game and definitely not familiar with the players. In addition, I’d like to note that we only had about ~1 week to design and program the overlays. I originally had a lot more in mind, but we were forced to work with more bare bones overlays this time. You can expect major improvements and features if we run another event in the future. I’ll summarize the production issues I noticed below:
    • Face Cameras were not Always Correct: This was mostly due to a faulty capture card. A few other times is was due to players’ internet issues.
    • Lower Third Transitions were Slow: Something to be worked on in the future. As casters and the production crew get more familiarized with each other, this issue will get a bit better.
    • Vs Scenes’ Font Sizes were too Large: The Gameplay and Head-to-Head Overlays looked a bit awkward when players with longer names played. Most notably, Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng and Shoma “SHADEviera” Honami. Easy fix here.
    • Inconsistent Music During Games: We played around with the audio during games and figured out something we liked by the semi-finals.
    • Inconsistent Audio/Video Quality from Casters: This is mostly due to the equipment and internet casters were working with. Professional commentators from other esports always have HQ microphones/webcams/internet to work with, so this is a new challenge for us.
    Hearthstone Hosts
    In total, we received 5 large hosts from members of the Hearthstone community. The three largest hosts were for 10,000 viewers, 10,000 viewers, and 13,000 viewers. We also received two smaller hosts of 600 viewers each. Note that we never expected all all these viewers to stay on the stream. People questioned on social media why we kept losing viewers and this is by far the primary reason.

    However, I estimate that approximately half of these people stayed to watch at least one match. And maybe 10% of them stayed on for the long haul. Still, that’s almost 30,000 unique viewers from the Hearthstone scene who were exposed to VGC.

    Feedback
    Let us know what you thought about the event. Please provide any feedback for the future. Some specific things I’m looking for are:

    Face Cams
    To be honest, I thought there would be universal support for this. It gave us great moments like the Z dances, Aaron’s reaction to Guardian of Aola, and general relatability to the players.
    However, it turns out that some people didn’t like them. I’m curious as to your thoughts and arguments for/against each position.

    http://www.strawpoll.me/12434690

    HP Bars
    Hiding HP Bars made the game more fair and competitive. At the same time, however, the 2nd line of text in the game was made unreadable. The information we lost on that 2nd line mostly included
    • What berry each Pokemon ate
    • What item was knocked off
    The casters did a good job filling in these information gaps, especially as the game went on.

    We also tried adding small black bars to the bottom instead of cutting off the screen. However, this still blocked a lot of text and we made a judgement call that this looked worse.

    Do you think hiding HP bars is a net positive or negative?

    http://www.strawpoll.me/12434693

    Best of 5

    I was a bit disappointed on how the Bo5 went down (3x 3-0’s) , but it’s something I want to explore more for at least one more tournament. Even though the games didn’t seem close, you could clearly see the losing player trying to adapt in each game, which at least to me, brought a new depth into the game. Let me know what your thoughts on Bo5 both with feedback and by voting in this poll.

    http://www.strawpoll.me/12435015

    Skipping Team Preview

    Not many people noticed this, but we skipped team preview each game in favor of having the viewers see the casters talk. There’s an argument to be made that Team Preview gives insight to the players’ thought processes. However, we initially decided against it because it’s not the most attractive screen to look at. I didn’t think Team Preview was that important since in traditional Pokemon commentary, the order of the picks is very rarely brought up while they’re picking.

    http://www.strawpoll.me/12446020

    Commentators
    I thought the commentators were great, especially since it was the first time most of them had commentated VGC on such a large stage. Feel free to give feedback and criticism here as well.

    What Up Next?
    Assuming ONOG can push out more content, I’m looking for what kind of content the community would like to see next. Keep in mind of the following restrictions:
    • Everyone in the tournament has to have a capture card-enabled DS.
    • From now on, you’ll also need a webcam and a microphone.
    • For the most part, we have to stream everything.
    Feel free to spitball ideas whether modest or extravagant. Would you like more invitationals? A Circuit? A League? Be creative.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2017
  2. FootstoolVGC

    FootstoolVGC New Member

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    First of all, thank you to everyone who worked to make this happen, I thought it was a joy to watch, despite the hiccups, and was great for the VGC scene as a whole. Next, I feel that while hiding the HP bars were a good thought, they in the end didn't make much sense. My first reaction to the decision was positive, after realizing that the teams were going to be posted after the tournament, hiding the sets didn't seem to have much of a point. If the decision was about the players in the tournament not gaining an advantage against each other, knowing moves and items is much more beneficial than the HP number. However, I don't think that the players shouldn't be allowed to watch, as that is counter-productive to the message, and encourages people to try to send players information.

    In the future, I would like to see more invitationals, and maybe much later on (as I understand this is very expensive), something along the lines of what is being done for Smash Summit would be fantastic. The issue there is then funding international travel, getting a house, etc, but the result would build storylines, show player interaction, be easier to ensure stream quality, and I think everyone would love to see people like Wolfe joking around for a weekend with other players. Separately, having a slot or two designated to a qualifying tournament would also be beneficial to the community effort, especially if new players are inspired by say, aDrive, and want to try their shot at an easy to participate in tournament (regarding the qualifier).
     
  3. lucariojr

    lucariojr New Member

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    Hi, don't have much time to write up a long post, so I'll just say a quick point about facecams that stuck out in my mind. Also, I really appreciate what you guys did here. Hopefully more cool stuff like this happens in the future!

    Facecams: I don't really like the facecams for online tournaments. Players' internet issues are the main thing: I would rather have the players say 'hi' before the match, maybe some trash talk/shoutouts could go there too.

    Thanks again for this! Where will these matches be posted on YouTube? I didn't stay for the whole stream unfortunately.
     
  4. Giovanni Costa

    Giovanni Costa Active Member

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    I think it would be cool to do more invitationals like this where the winners all get placed in a bracket where they'll face off against each other (I guess it's a circuit at that point) but each invitational have new people to play in, so that we can highlight more people in the community.
     
  5. dtrain

    dtrain New Member

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    I enjoyed the invitational but wanted to point out a couple of things.

    -Commentary was good but I wasn't a fan of how some Pokemon names were purposefully mispronounced.

    -Perhaps create a poll for some other mid/ high tier players to be invited to future invitationals. Maybe even keep the top 2 or top 4 from an invitational and invite them to the next one? Just a suggestion.

    -At the NJ MSS, during battles we had player cams alternate with the players team every 30 seconds. It's one option for not taking up another window on the screen.

    I look forward to seeing what changes you implement in the next one!
     
  6. bottlecaps

    bottlecaps Member

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    I think that a dedicated casting crew outside of the competitors would be a positive thing. This community has a strong group of people in both NA and EU that I bet would love to contribute.
     
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  7. Metronomical

    Metronomical New Member

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    Thanks to all that made this event possible! I feel this was definitely a success!

    Just a small thing; I was away for the weekend so I had to find the matches on the saved videos on Twitch....and gosh those are a mess (this may have been due to the hiccups, I don't know). If we could have the streams saved and labelled correctly I'm sure the hundreds of us that were watching retroactivevy would really appreciate that!
     
  8. Khione

    Khione New Member

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    Overall I really enjoyed the event. I am a pretty casual VGC player/fan I watched the US Nationals and World Stream last year but I have never watched a regional stream. I liked the small player pool since I recognized most of the names and was able to remember the few that I did not. The structure of the tournament helped me remember who everyone was, what teams they were using, and what happened in their last match. This was much more enjoyable for me then watching swiss at Worlds where there is a new person on stream every match and I never knew what was going on in the big picture. Almost every match I had a player to root for so I think you did a good job communicating some story lines.

    Face Cams

    If you asked me before the tournament I would have told you that I did not care one way or the other about face cams. But now I am a huge fan. We don't need a giant window to see the game itself in so I don't think we lose anything by giving up the screen real estate. I enjoyed watching the players reactions and during Shoma's sets I kept looking up to see his face and I was disappointed that he wasn't there. Definitely try your best to make sure everyone has one if you are going to use face cams.

    HP Bars

    I found the cut off at the bottom of the screen to be very annoying. I think I would have preferred a black box over just the hp values but I'm not sure how that would have looked. Maybe a possible solution is to record the match from both perspectives and upload the second perspective after the match? As the production budget for these events increase you could also look in to switching the streams during the match. Maybe even something simple like game 1 from Aaron's perspective then switch sides like in tennis and show game 2 from Shoma's perspective.

    Commentators

    When you are trying to draw in a larger audience who has never seen a VGC match before I think that its important to avoid too many inside jokes or memes. I'm not sure if I missed some joke about Aracanine's pronunciation but I found it fairly annoying. Keep in mind that there were some new players watching the stream who don't know all the Pokemon's names and something like this does not help them learn faster.

    Also why don't the commentators take notes during the matches? Surely when you guys are playing you aren't wondering if you have seen a fourth move or an item yet. These kinds of questions were asked a lot by the commentators. This isn't specific for this tournament. It has been true of every VGC stream I have seen. It was just worse in this tournament since there was only 8 players so it seems pretty easy to make team sheets for each and fill them in as the match goes on. You could have a google doc shared between all the commentators since no one did every match.

    Posting Results

    I fell asleep before the matches finished on day 1 and when I woke up the next morning I tried to figure out who was moving on from the B group. I checked the official website, trainertower and reddit but I could not quickly figure out who had won. I eventually found it by poking around in the player's twitter account. Having an updated bracket on the official website with links in a few other places would have been great. A lot of time twitter seems to be the main VGC information headquarters but its a really awkward place to find specific information. TrainerTower had a recap but that wasn't posted until the evening which is fine but a morning score summary would have been great.

    Once again I really enjoyed watching the tournament and hope to see more in the future.
     
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  9. TapuKimo

    TapuKimo Member

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    Just really quick:

    -Facecams:
    I think they make sense because they probably do create a greater sense of relatability but I've never really been a huge fan personally, I just don't see the appeal. While there may have been some stand-out moments I felt that most of the time I was staring either at the top of people's heads or looking at blank faces. I think there's enough legitimate argument to keep player cam around but maybe try it more similar to the Fighting Game Community where you see them in between games which also works with the idea of keeping Team Preview off screen for the commentators.

    -Commentary:
    I thought Justin did a pretty good job overall but I dislike the use of players within the tournament to commentate. This seemingly suggests, to those unfamiliar with VGC which was a large point of the tour, either:
    A) We don't think the official commentators are good
    B) We don't have enough people to actually commentate this event
    C) We have people both commentating and playing because these players matter most
    Having another dedicated caster, VGC has a solid number of good commentators, in addition to Justin would be a strong step in further legitimizing tours like this imo. If you want more player exposure you can always interview one of the players after their game. Furthermore, there were moments where commentators attempted to generate hype that just didn't sit well with me and ended up just killing immersion/being awkward. The example that stands out to me atm is during Shoma v Aaron when the former brought Magnezone game 1. There was at least a solid 3 minutes of "WOW HE BROUGHT MAGNEZONE" that just felt over-exaggerated and silly.
     
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  10. Nostrom

    Nostrom Member

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    A little weird for me to comment on this sort of thing, but I want to note a couple of things as a former community leader and a fan of VGC that I think might be helpful. I really enjoyed the event overall, and that it happened at all was a nice moment for VGC, so thank you for that.

    Skipping Team Preview

    I aggressively disagree with this decision. Turn 0 is the most important turn in any Pokémon VGC match. I spent a lot of time trying to get the official streams to put team preview on screen longer when I was commentating. It is less of a factor when the full teams are always part of the slide on stream, but team preview is a very important time for commentators to build the story of the match and to preview what viewers are likely to be seeing. I think not doing much with team preview contributed to this stream sometimes feeling more like some bros streaming some matches and less like the prestigious invitational tournament it was intended to be. It's not totally analogous, but can you imagine a LoL stream that skipped pick ban to show more of the analyst desk?

    Commentary

    I thought the commentary was frustratingly inconsistent. Sometimes commentary was extremely insightful, showing off the knowledge of some of the greatest players to ever play VGC. At other times, it felt like the commentators thought they were broing out on their personal streams instead of trying to commentate tournament matches and help increase the profile of their game. I ended up muting the stream completely during a couple of round because the commentary was distracting me from the matches instead of contributing to them.

    There's a lot of symptoms that have been pointed out in both positive and negative lights already. I think there is an easy explanation for most of the more controversial commentary moments: many of the commentators don't seem to view their job as a commentator in the same way I think most full-time sports and esports broadcasters do.

    What I mean by this is pretty simple: as a commentator, I think your job is fundamentally to help build the story of the matches and of the players in the match, and to help the audience better understand and enjoy the game in front of them. I don't much like current players on the mic conceptually, in large part because it is natural for a current player (especially a player playing in the event!) to want to make the story about them instead of about the players who are actually competing. The intentional mispronunciations that keep getting brought up are kind of a symptom of this--it might be appropriate when entertaining a personal stream and audience, but in this event it definitely took away from the matches on stream. Some obviously deliberate overreactions had a similar effect. Frequently, it felt like commentators were unintentionally upstaging the matches in front of them instead of highlighting the players in the match because they were joking around a little too much. I don't think the constant jokes about the commentators getting eliminated by the competitors was a great look, either. Frankly, I am a little surprised the people running this event didn't reel them the commentary in a bit on their own. If the goal of this event was to help promote VGC and get a good show in front of a wider esports audience, I think some of the commentary did more harm than good. This was a big opportunity that I'm not sure was fully realized.

    With that said, there was also plenty of good. All of the current players who commentated have strong game knowledge, and when they chose to use that knowledge to inform the audience they added a lot to the match. Adrive was a really exceptional PBP commentator that brought great energy to the stream, and the stream was dramatically better when he was commentating than when he wasn't. Frankly, I feel like the strengths of the commentators made the shortcomings of the stream that much more frustrating--it's not that the commentators weren't capable of putting on a good show, they just seemed to vary in their understanding of what they needed to do in order to make that happen. Again, it felt like some failure on the management end. None of these guys are professional commentators, and they could have really benefited from some coaching.

    Facecams

    I don't love facecams in general, but if you're going to use them, I think they'd look a lot better if they were zoomed out a little further. The camera is probably too zoomed if it is clipping parts of the players' heads. Almost everyone's camera could have benefited from a little adjustment. Again, I was surprised there wasn't some coaching given to the talent there.

    Pacing

    The biggest advantage of this tournament compared to streaming an official event was that the double elimination group format allows for shorter breaks than Swiss. I thought this tournament struggled to fully take advantage of that edge. There was a huge amount of time kill by the casters before and after most matches, followed by a break (which at least had a timer), followed by an interview (which was usually a little long), followed by ANOTHER break, and then the cycle repeated. When top cut matches have been streamed consecutively at official events, we've normally skipped interviews and kept breaks as short as possible. I don't think dragging this out improved the quality of the stream experience at all, and it probably hurt the viewer count. There's no reason to kill so much time in a tournament formatted like this. I would strongly suggest cutting to the games quicker and reducing the break and interview times. This stream seemed to be as much about people talking as it was about playing Pokémon by choice instead of by necessity.


    Most of this post is kinda negative because I don't think it's going to help much to point out things that went well, so I want to emphasize that I thought that it was overall a fun event to watch despite some areas that could be improved. Thanks again for putting it together.
     
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  11. liquidmonk

    liquidmonk Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.I'll address each of these points

    Skipping Team Preview
    Noted

    Commentary
    Originally the plan was to use two dedicated commentators with players coming on to make surprise guest appearances on the caster desk. However, most of the commentators I approached were not available, so I went with the decision to have Justin anchor and a rotating lineup of 5 of the players to cast. Two of the these players have commentated in TPCi events before and all five were experienced in making video content, so I felt very comfortable with this decision. Unfortunately, Alex fell ill a few days before the event, so we were forced to have Justin and Markus take the first four matches of day 1. In addition, Justin found himself with a stomach virus, so he was unable to continue after the first half of each day. I trained Justin and to some extent, Markus, but we didn't have the time to fully brief/train all the remaining commentators.

    With regards to commentary inconsistency, I also found it inconsistent, but that isn't going to change overnight no matter how much direction is given. In addition, I was probably less bothered by it because I never saw this event as one that was strictly defined as "super professional". Although I agree that it sometimes went overboard, I welcomed the casual atmosphere, one that you often get with players commentating (HSC from starcraft, SSC from Hearthstone, BTS from DOTA, Smash Summit from Smash).

    Obviously most of this criticism is going towards Wolfe. I think out of the group Wolfe is the most unrefined commentator, but at the same time, I also think he has the most potential with his combination of hype and game analysis.

    Facecams
    There was direction given and I saw clear improvements from day 1 to day 2. However, without much practice, both players and casters are going to default to old habits.

    Pacing
    The intros were definitely longer than I would have liked. After the first few matches, we designed the intros before each match to last 3-4 minutes, which is fairly standard in other esports. However, a lot of random things were happening behind the scenes that we didn't specifically anticipate. For instances, Sejun's discord stopped sending alerts before match 1. There were also multiple instances where players forgot to leave the IC going on during the weekend before accepting their matches. Incorporating Team Preview would reduce the intro time as well.

    The breaks were never longer than 5 minutes, which is pretty good even for other esports. This was mostly designed to give casters breaks and we tried to keep them to 3 minutes whenever possible.

    Cutting interviews (or at least cutting some of the interviews) is something I will consider in the future.
     

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