Before joining this project the battle royal genre was foreign to me, but was something that was always spoken about. Personally, I had played games with friends and understood what it meant to play PUBG, but knowing how to play the game and knowing what the PUBG brand stands for are two very different things. Thankfully, I had been brought on to help with PUBG Online just months before this league began, giving me a leg up on how a PUBG league operated, what the pitfalls are, and what gear is required to run a solid show.
BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH PUBG
Wonderful spectator tools with up to 10 spectators and custom game support a rarity in Battle Royals.
Established game with a new esports scene, plenty of room to improve and iterate.
Public API Support for post game analysis and stats.
Clear winner and easy to understand game flow.
No licensing fees or broadcast bans.
DIFFICULTIES WORKING WITH PUBG
No public live API makes tracking who is alive, who is dead, and who killed who unreliable.
With up to 100 players it was nearly impossible to cover every storyline/player.
Without developer support, translating which team is what school hurts viewer experience.
Technologically demanding game requiring high-end computers for observers.
Requires technological work-arounds to effectively render portions of the map.
Casters can be telling other narratives while observers are showcasing another one.
SO MUCH DATA TO PROCESS. Simplifying who is good can is difficult.
Coming into a new organization is always difficult, especially when that organization has been around for multiple years before you join it. Collegiate Battlegrounds Association was an organization that had its traditions, its cliques, and its established production team. It was my job to take everything CBA was doing and improve it. Below are the key features that I noted after speaking with many of the head staff and after researching their product.
Collegiate PUBG was divided into three tiers: Premiere, Challenger, and Open. Production Lacked consistency and was different among all tiers for seemingly no reason.
Supporting content was created via Caster’s Countdown, a weekly talk show.
The branding was dated, but recognizable.
Below are some examples of the branding and concepts they used for the stream before this season.
Part of Space Productions’ job when they came onto the CBA was to assist with the unification of CBA and Collegiate Rainbow Six. The established branding of Collegiate Rainbow Six had to seamlessly mesh with the theme of PUBG while still differentiating it as a new title. New colors, characters, and style guides were born.
With any emerging esport the ways that organizations layout their preshow, gameplay, and post show vary widely. At its core every preshow should at least include the following: Welcome to the show, Introduction of talent, teams and team placement, what the stakes are, and a brief recap of the previous week. With limited tech and staff, automating as many things as possible and finding what has the most impact is a necessity. The basic run of show (standings, settings, leaderboard, and schedule) stays the same, but it is necessity to add PUBG-specific features, such as the following:
Map Overlay: Show which team correlates to which number and how many members of each team are alive.
Game Recap: Where did teams place? Who had the most kills?
Damage Leaders: Showcase which team or players did the most damage last game.
Kill Leaders: Showcase which team or players got the most kills.
Drop Hotspots: Using the API, who dropped where, when, and how often?
Saying you can do a feature and implementing that feature are two very different things. Our studio is operated off of four to five computers laid out as two Observers, one Director and one general use computer for QA, Graphics, and Chat moderation. As an assurance and backup, there are two reserve computers dedicated to transitioning to being a Director or Observer if the show takes a hit.
A key part of this setup is the Director PC. Without it, the entire show fails. With more funding and support a backup system would be possible; however, without an additional computer or VMIX license this is impossible.
The two observer feeds and the map feed from the QA computer are fed into the Director PC via HDMI to allow for stable 1080p60fps feeds. To further relieve the burden from the observer PCs instead of digitally mirroring the HDMI feed the central feed from the Observer PC is split using an HDMI splitter. For audio, the observers are able to control their audio feeds digitally via Voicemeter. They are able to maintain a clean feed with game audio going to the director while listening to an NDI feed with the caster’s voices and the game audio. All this time they are able to communicate via Discord between the observer team and the director.
Graphics are a two part position. To avoid the expenses of investing in a system such as vizrt or xpression, our studio uses a mixture of google sheets, after effects automation, and VMIX Titles. For still graphics, such as the schedule or scoreboard, the QA & Technical Director pulls stats using the API and translates them to the Google sheet for the post game recap. This is also used for lower thirds, stats, and just about any graphic on the broadcast. For the motion graphics, an entire computer is dedicated to rapid rendering of previews of graphics using data pulled and synced from the Google sheet and copied into a local excel document to sync with after effects. The director then preps the graphic in part with the graphics operator to match when the scene transitions. The scene contains the basic backdrop with an NDI Adobe Plugin showcasing the graphic operator’s after effect preview. This is not the most elegant, but it works.
All casters for the Collegiate Battlegrounds Association are sourced from our vast collegiate network. We focus on training and preparing staff, production crew, and casters for esports production and as such we welcome all skill levels of staff and casters. In an effort to stick to these values, we’ve attempted to make the caster to director process as simple as possible. Using a mixture of VMIX’s VMIX Call feature and Discord’s call feature we’ve managed to create a live feed for the casters to view with minimal delay. The casters send their video and audio via the VMIX while the studio sends back out the live program feed. Due to VMIX call’s slight delay the casters can have difficulties if they’re listening to one another purely over VMIX Call. Here’s where the Discord call steps in. Setup in a private call the two casters can speak freely to one another with minimal delay a while we capture the audio via vmix call. No need for a private youtube feed or the casters casting on a twitch delay.
To probably quote a pirate somewhere in the world, “A ship is only as good as its crew.” With production this statement is equally true. Within our studio we have high turnover due to many roles being required to be volunteer or part of a student work study. Each new member that comes onto the crew has to be rapidly trained in not just one or two games but up to six games.
To help reduce the training time we have created bootcamps to rapidly train observers, directors, technical directors, and graphics operators. With this PUBG broadcast there was no exception to this. Our studio went from a crew with minimal knowledge of PUBG as a game to full in-depth knowledge of what to look for, how the teams fight, and rotations. Through procedure implementation, patience and practice the crew learned and iterated on what they did poorly and how to improve on it.
Having everyone on the same page can be tough, especially as the crew expands and grows to include people not in the studio. To help create a consistent user experience scripts and runs of show were quickly implemented and distributed to everyone on crew. Members of the crew were required to show up an hour before hand minimum and hash through the run of show. Habits were formed, routines masters, and a league with a consistent user experience was created.
Managing and creating graphics before and during a show are two very different things. We aim to prep as many graphics as possible, but some cannot be prepped and are required to be done live. For example, the PUBG Death Tracker requires careful observation from our Technical Director. Without API live graphics are difficult but not impossible. To alleviate as much stress as possible, spreadsheets are simplified down as much as possible.