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DoA on casting Overwatch and how he & Monte will improve: “It’s the hardest game I’ve ever casted.”

By Mark Register
May 25, 2017

How has casting Overwatch differed from the previous games that you've worked on?

It's hugely different. It's vastly different. First of all I mean it's the hardest game I've ever casted for sure, and I think the big difference is that you've got a much more limited vision on what's happening in the game than you do in like a Starcraft or League of Legends or Hearthstone. I mean because if you look at Starcraft and Hearthstone and League, as a commentator, 100 percent of the time you have perfect vision over everything in the game. Like you're able to look at every possible decision really that the teams can make based on what's happening in the game. Whereas with Overwatch, you have to rely on what you see on the screen because right now there's no mini map or anything like that. So that's the biggest challenge is because in a lot of those other games and if you look at like football is a great example. Before the play happens, the commentators are setting up what the teams want to accomplish, what is likely to happen. And that's a big part of then what they say during the action. And that applies to League of Legends and Starcraft as well. In Starcraft you're like "Well, he wants to position Hellions here and his Marines here and all that." So when the fight happens you can direct the attention to where--you can kind of continue that direction.

Whereas in Overwatch, you try to do that. And it's still important to but it's just much more difficult in the game right now. And I think having the first person view obviously is the thing that makes it the most difficult. And part of that difficulty is that observing in Overwatch hasn't really evolved to where it needs to be. And that's just going to take time and practice and full time, well-paid observers and the other thing is that the spectator mode isn't where it needs to be yet for a great esports experience. I think the games are still really fun to watch right now and I believe a lot in it obviously because I'm doing this but down the road when there are more spectating features that help us set those things up a lot better, it'll be a lot more easy for us to cast, and it'll be a lot easier for people to watch too. So you know I think as far as Overwatch goes I hope people enjoy what they have now and remain patient because it'll all be in there you know eventually. But we just kind of have to wait a little bit I guess.

So you've said every caster fumbles in team fights. How do you successfully call an Overwatch team fight?

Well I think the first step is not fumbling. So still working on that one. But you know a lot of that fumbling right now comes from things like the team colors being a little bit inconsistent. Part of it comes from you have the same heroes on the on each side, and they don't really have a lot of color specific designations. So you know again, it just goes back to Overwatch being a little bit trickier right now than other other games were to cast. And again I think that'll change. But what do you do to cast a proper team fight. You know it depends on the game really. But right now thinking mostly about Overwatch, I think the thing that you see a lot of which I think is the wrong way to do it is to be like a human kill feed. You've got the kill feed up there, so you don't need to be saying everything that people are seeing and the kill feed. You don't need to be narrating the action ability by ability, death by death. And this goes a little bit farther back to setting up the fight, setting up what the action will be. And what the important factors are, and so that when the fight happens you can build off of what you've set up rather than just like call out random abilities and things like that so. And that's hard. Like it was hard for me when I started casting too because the game is so frantic too. But you really have to like slow yourself down and pull yourself back and focus on it, but it creates a much more listen-able team fight. Because when you have someone just speaking as fast as they can and naming every ability then it becomes this sort of white noise where you start to just not hear it at all because they're speaking too quickly. You can already see what they're saying happening on the screen, only faster. And it just doesn't sound good.

So one thing Monte and I tried to do when we were starting to cast Overwatch. We thought about how do we want to cast this, especially the team fights. And we looked at fighting game commentators as like a big inspiration for how we wanted to approach Overwatch in that we wanted it to be mostly subdued for the most part, and just like in a fighting game like if you watch Street Fighter or Smash Bros, you acknowledge that there are going to be hits and there's going to be action that happens that doesn't require commentary on that exact action. And you need to really pick out what's important. So if you're watching a Street Fighter match, they're not going to talk about every punch that's thrown right. They're going to talk about like somebody failing to read like an important mix up or something like that--really important moments in the match. So in Overwatch people are going to die, ultimates are going to be used and those things are not always important. If a team is setting up for a crucial last fight, and the Anna gets out of position and gets picked. That's a death that's really important, and you absolutely call that out. But if it's like the team's skirmishing initially around like a point. Like say you're pushing Numbani, and the attacking team loses a couple of people. But it's early on and like everyone's just building their ultimates up. Then it's not really worth mentioning everything and not worth yelling and getting excited about. So we wanted to bring them more like subdued approach to it so that when the real action happens we can make people even more excited and really appreciate the biggest moments in the game. So that's that's the concept anyway. Execution wise I think we're doing pretty well but there's obviously always more to improve on and that's one of the fun things is that it never ends. You never really cap out. There's always something you can work on.

And the fun part is you guys are trailblazers. So of course you could mess up but that's part of you know discovering it for the first time.

Yeah absolutely and some people don't understand that as well. You get your mean reddit comments of course and all that.

Yeah believe it or not. Believe it or not when it when I miss a Zarya ultimate getting eaten by a D.Va. I hear about it. You know this may seem hard to believe but it's true. But you just can't let it bother you because I mean in any job anyone has on earth you're always going to make mistakes. Ideally this does not apply to like brain surgeons or airline pilots. But for all the rest of us we're still going to make mistakes in our jobs and stuff. So part of it, first of all is saying yes I made a mistake, and it's easy to say "Oh well no one would have seen that." And even if that is true to a certain extent that sometimes it is very difficult for people to see something happen. It is difficult to miss something. That doesn't change the fact that you missed it and you still have to acknowledge that and like take that in. Otherwise you're never going to improve. Otherwise you're going to just keep missing and just keep passing it off. Right.

The thing I don't think people realize is how upsetting it is to casters when they miss that stuff, and how you do usually notice right away. Like if like Genji reflects something, and I miss it--which has never happened of course--but in a hypothetical situation if it happened, you feel really bad about it because you're like "Oh that was an awesome moment and I totally messed it up, I totally botched it." And you get mad about it. Like I've always viewed casting as sort of like I'm competing with myself where I'm trying to do the best I can. And just like the players who are competing in the booth,I am on the desk and I'm going to have good days, and I'm going to have bad days too. Ideally more good days and bad. But you know at the end of some casts, I'm not happy. You know I'm not happy with how I performed. No matter how the games were even if they were good games. If I felt like I didn't do well, I'm going to be upset. And like I've like messed up fights and like broken pens in half on the desk and stuff like that. It's just you do get mad. But you know people don't see that right because they're not seeing the casters, they're seeing the game and that's a good thing right. That's a good thing that they don't see us. But we do notice. Like as casters we do notice when we make mistakes, and it does hurt, it hurts more than a Reddit comment ever could.

Louis C.K. talked about this. The difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional--you get to have your peaks as an amateur of like you perform at your best. But it's more about that floor that you raise up. And the fact is that of course we all make mistakes. But I think that over time your worst performance where you're breaking pens and so angry, other than the 2 people on Reddit who notice, no one else's is going to notice.

Well that's the thing right is that you have a cast where you think it's just absolutely terrible, and you think you mess up everything and then you go on Reddit and you read like "Oh wow. I love listening to DoA. He's so great, so insightful." I'm like "Was this person listening to what I was actually saying? Like I was terrible tonight." So hopefully it is that you know hopefully it is just that the floor is being raised. That's true you know. Yeah. Well, we'll do a bit both you know.

Welcome to my world. Now we're in a DoA interview.

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Mark Register
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief @ Blitz Esports. He was the creator of Esports in a Nutshell, led production @ the Young Turks for 5 years, and in his other lifetimes won an Oscar, recorded albums (on Spotify), and most importantly spent a summer as a SeaWorld performer.
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