A lot of esports are team-based affairs, with two teams going up against each other with one common objective – whether that’s destroying a bombsite in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, toppling your opposing team’s base in League of Legends, or acquiring 250 points in Call of Duty’s Hardpoint gamemode.
While these titles – among many others – share that common trait, they all differ massively when it comes to observational demands. Observing is a huge component of the spectating experience and good observation is essential in capturing the action and allowing the story of a match to translate to those watching. What happens when you throw in anywhere up to 100 players in a single match, though?
Battle Royale as a genre exploded into popular culture in 2018 with the boom of PUBG and Fortnite, though that success is yet to fully translate into esports acceptance. A whole host of esports fans – for better or for worse – continue to question the validity of such games for a few factors, one of which being that it’s hard to capture exactly what’s going on in a 16-team match of PUBG, for example.
“One of the bigger challenges in PUBG observing - and the Battle Royale genre as a whole - is to be there with the action on time,” said Emil "Ansvar" Nachtweij, an observer that has worked with , ESL, DreamHack, FACEIT, and PUBG itself. “You have to see what's about to happen before it happens essentially. Communication is also a vital part of this, due to coordination being so important for the quality of the broadcast.”
What makes the genre even more complicated is that each title within it has its own set of challenges. Fortnite currently welcomes both solo and duo matches in its competitive circuit, and that obviously changes the meta of the game and how the action goes down. PUBG welcomes anywhere up to 16 teams in a single game – all comprising of four players – and they typically have their own favoured drops on a map. This means in-game knowledge of where teams drop and where they could intersect is essential in capturing the action. Apex Legends, while hard pressed to call it a competitive title in its current state, is comprised of teams of three players in which each character has unique abilities – a completely different build to other Battle Royale titles.
What could be done to make spectating easier when it comes to Battle Royale? Again, each title has its own set of unique demands and needs evaluating separately. What’s imperative though its that observers find their way to the action before it actually kicks off, and that’s seemingly beyond something a developer could accommodate for. This means it’s mostly down to observers knowing the game, as well as the players & teams that are competing at any given time.
“I think the only real way to make it easier to observe matches is to polish the observing tools that are in the game,” added Ansvar. “As of now, no other game has as good observer tools as PUBG, they've really come a long way with it. If they keep tweaking and throw in a few more tools, I think PUBG observing will be in a very good place in not too long, but apart from the actual stability and quality of the observing tool, nothing other than knowledge helps you observe PUBG.”
Allowing observers to swiftly identify and hone in on the action should be a priority for observers, and therefore also a priority for game developers. Otherwise, spectators will be forced to watch the looting process, potentially-slow rotations, and other mundane elements of the genre – something that is holding back these titles from mainstream esports acceptance.