Part two of my series is mostly going to be recommendations and criticisms on how Overwatch as an esport is being displayed to viewers. Some of these will have to do with how the game relays information to the viewers and some of them have to do with the production of events and how the producers and camera workers choose specific angles. Check out Part One if you are interested on other criticisms.
It's something not every Overwatch fan likes to admit, but the game is not exactly the easiest to watch and follow as a spectator. First person shooters in general, have always been a bit tough to watch through one controlled screen. Over the years other games like Halo and Counter Strike have had a slow refinement of what camera angles are selected for certain situations making their matches as easy to follow as possible. I'm definitely not saying those games and their communities/production companies have figured it out one hundred percent, but their competitive scenes have been around for such a long time that camera workers know what to look for and when to switch camera angles. Overwatch is still very young and I think it would be healthy for the growth of the game if there was some criticism towards how matches are being covered. I'll talk a bit more about this in Part 3 of this series, but today we will be focusing on the spectator overlay.
From the second any match of Overwatch starts, it's constant chaos. Twelve players are constantly moving around, shooting, and changing their targets. Maybe the Reinhardts on each team aren't exactly bouncing around like the Genjis or Pharahs but they are still another ball that the camera workers need to juggle. Often times this leads to actions taking place off screen and all we have to account for it is the spectator overlay. So between following the actions of whoever is on screen, viewers are also tracking player's health, ultimate percentage, and the extremely volatile kill feed. No matter how good the camera workers get for Overwatch, spectators will still miss a few things no matter what. The only way we could always see everything happen would be to constantly use the flying cameras over the maps, but fans do not always want that. They want to see their favorite player's first person perspective while they are performing at an exceptionally high level, and so things will be missed.
This is why I have come up with a few recommendations for how the spectator overlay can help everyone stay informed with what is going on regardless of where it happens. These will help viewers follow along, and casters to stay on top of things thereby helping the viewers follow along. It's all about the viewers. Just as a reminder these recommendations are strictly for spectating and not for in game.
1. Move the Kill feed to the center of the screen just below the character portraits and make it bigger.
The newly upgraded killfeed is fantastic, it relays so much more information as to what's going on and how players are achieving kills. But when you are spectating, the killfeed is one of the most important displays of information for viewers and currently the killfeed sits in the top right of the screen and is particularly small. There are a couple of reasons I think this change would help but the simplest is that it's closer to what the camera is focusing on. Regardless of what size screen you are watching these matches on your eyes will most likely be focused towards the center. Overwatch is a first person shooter which means viewers are most interested in where the player's aiming reticle is focused. This doesn't really carry over to when the camera shifts to the sky angles, but usually when the camera switches it is because they want to show you as many players positions as possible. Sometimes it's because a player is doing something out of the ordinary in terms of their positioning and we are being shown their position in relation to their team. So while your eyes might be focusing elsewhere on the screen, the killfeed could still be updating very quickly. If the Killfeed was made, let's say twice the size and was placed where I think it should be it would look something like in the mock below.
2. Have the character portraits display status effects.
Currently the character portraits at the top of the spectator overlay provide only three types of information to viewers other than the heroes each player is playing. These are whether a player is alive or dead, player's ultimate percentage, and player's current hit points (health pool). What I am recommending would require a lot of work from Blizzard to make this happen but I think it's something every viewer and caster would appreciate. One of the most obvious abilities that should be included in this is Ana's Biotic Grenade, it is an extremely powerful ability that puts a four second healing buff on allies (yellow) and a four second anti-healing debuff on enemies (purple). For this ability I think the character portraits could resemble the in game health bars, when players are effected. So player's portraits that are hit with the grenade would be circled with either yellow or purple.
Other abilities that could be displayed on character portraits in some way could be, nano-boosted by Ana, frozen by Mei, damage boosted by Mercy, and hacked by Sombra. I'm sure Blizzard's art team could come up very elegant ways of displaying these status' in fairly minimalistic ways that are immediately recognizable from how these statuses appear to players in game. I've mocked all that I have mentioned here just so you can get the idea of how helpful this could be.
I really think Overwatch has the potential to become a very popular esport for viewers to watch and engage with, but I think there are still some problems with how the game is being displayed. I'm going to be continuing this series for as long as I can think of things that will make the viewers experience as seamless as possible.