Friday, May 4, 2012

Stream Commentary + toi_yet's Kumite

Commentary is hard :/
I've been wanting to talk about stream commentating for a while because it has been a relevant problem for our stream for a while.  This sort of problem has been an issue for not just our stream, but for the fighting game scene in general.

So commentary has a couple purposes in my opinion.  It's there to allow those who don't know enough to be able to begin to parse what is happening on screen and to provide insight into each player's actions, their intent throughout the game and what they're aiming for in a match.  To be able to describe what is happening on the screen is the absolute minimum for a commentator.  They should be able to recognize what is going on, properties moves such as overheads, unblockables, and other basic setups that the game has to offer.  This honestly is pretty hard to screw up, because at the very least you can get hype when someone is getting blown up.  But at the same time, doing this well is much harder.  This is something that I recognize that I need to improve, but things that should be noted when commentating and while playing for that matter is the not as obvious stuff that's going on currently.  By this I mean things like character's move sets, how they fare against current opposition (matchup knowledge), space control, and screen positioning.  The more we talk about the more abstract things, we begin to approach the second half of what makes good commentary.

After being able to parse what's going on screen, good commentary will look into the insight of each player and what they're intent between all of their moves.  Because of this, good commentary in a way requires the commentator to have a good knowledge of the game, and more importantly each character's/player's intent and be able describe how that player intends to execute his or her game plan.  The commentator also needs to be able to pick up on the smaller details that your average fighting game player might not think of as much, such as screen positioning, footsies, and options that each player has to them at key moments.  Because of this, a good commentator needs to have a good grasp on fundamentals especially for that certain game whether it be more focused on ground footsies, air footsies, or whatever the hell KOF is.

Also, don't kill your co-commentator.
Currently most fighting game streams have generally two people on the microphone commentating on the action.  This is probably where it becomes much more of a pain.  With two people, obvious complications arise when commentating.  For example, avoiding one person dominating the mic is probably the main issue.  Being able to both talk and listen when commentating is important because you want to allow your partner to comment on things that you might have not noticed or to add on to what you have said.  This kind of cooperation causes some sort of synergy necessary in order for smooth commentating to go.  Unfortunately there's no concrete way to go about doing this, but I know a friend and I have been throwing around the basic combination of one person who is hype on the mic and the other person who tends to be more of the informative type.  There's a whole bunch of other combinations that work, but finding out one's that work with you is pretty hard.

I hope commentary evolves to the point where
we play instruments and people start cheering for us.

Wait that's not what commentary is?  I didn't sign up for this :<
I know something that Guiseppe has talked about is commentary evolving to the point that you can have someone relay all of the action so that you can just listen to it and be able to parse what's happening and give you the core details so that you can follow along without actually having to watch it just like in sports.  If commentary is going to go this distance, some sort of jargon has to be developed that becomes a standard for the fighting game community for this to happen.  Even then, I think this still might be an issue because at least for sports, there are often a decent amount of dead times between important or key moments that a commentator has time to talk about what's happening, but for fighting games, these periods are generally when someone is being combo'ed which can be very long or short depending on the game making it much harder to commentate on some.  I don't know how exactly this would be approached, but I think it would be something interesting if this was able to take off.  Also, from what I can tell, this is the kind of thing that you have to do alone because you just continually rattle off what's going on basically just focusing on the primary thing that makes a commentator.

EDIT - One of our usual commentator's SickSided gave a little input on good commentary that I felt that it probably should be seen.
 Figured I'd give a bit of my input since I do a good amount of commentary for us. I think the first and foremost important thing for a person doing commentary (on an individual level) is a genuine love for the game, for instance, a player who knows a decent amount about a game but loves the game will always sound better on the mic than a person who knows everything and loathes the game.
Another important thing for someone wanting to do commentary is to REVIEW YOUR WORK, just like players should be reviewing their matches to find out what they could have done better. Every Friday after we stream I re-watch all of our footage in the archives and take note of what I like about what I was doing on the mic, and what didn't play well. Commentators HAVE to work at what they're doing to improve.
My last point is commentary on a pair level. This is the trickiest and most difficult thing about getting good commentary out of a group, because my first two points still hold true, but not everyone plays every game, so you MUST have commentators ready for each game to really have an excellent stream production. For instance, if I am on the mic and we're playing KoF, the result is going to be lackluster commentary from me due to a lack of interest and knowledge, however put me on for 2012 or Marvel and I'll talk for days (as you guys know). So within those people who have a love for the game you have to find 2 who bounce off of each other and know when to jump in/out on the mic to create those natural transitions. It's something I'm still trying to figure out, like who I work best with on Marvel and who works well with me in Super4.
OH, and one last thing, whoever is on the mic has to have a general understanding of how mics work, as in GET ON THE MIC, half of our people who are newer to getting on the mic sit too far back or talk too low, making it impossible to hear what they have to say. We might want to do commentary 101 one of these days >_>.

In other news, yesterday we had our kumite with toi_yet or Jake.  Since toi_yet is going to be leaving us soon, we ran a kumite in all the games that he plays.  In order to get this all prepared, Bonkler and I had to prepare everything super early.  And we used his HTPC as the streaming setup as to my laptop.  I'm very happy with the stream and how it turned out.  Everything went pretty smoothly when we transitioned between consoles to other games.  The games that we played with toi_yet were pretty much all super hype and pretty awesome.  I'm kinda disappointed with my play because I dropped key combos (MAGNETOOO).  But it was all great fun, had an even better time at CMUken than usual.  We then went to watch the Avengers which was pretty damn awesome.  Hulk is pretty OP I've learned and the Hulk vs Loki matchup is 10-0 easy.  You can find the stream archive below
Starts at 15:04

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