Two Israeli startups, Rounds and Overwolf, are launching a new kind of video chat for gamers in the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title Heroes of Newerth. Open beta begins today for the video chat feature, which allows five players to communicate with each other via video at the same time in the same game match.
The companies say they can offer the transparent communication layer Live Rounds on top of popular PC games that are already on the market. Live Rounds adds “floating videos” to Overwolf’s in-game overlay. That enables gamers to connect, interact, and chat with teammates while playing. That’s not easy to do at a high level of quality, considering how much Internet bandwidth video streams use.
More games will debut with the service at the beginning of 2015, according to Tel Aviv, Israel-based Overwolf and Rounds.
“Live Rounds allows gamers to have a more engaging experience when playing Heroes of Newerth,” said Sam Braithwaite, the marketing director for Heroes of Newerth, in a statement. “By using Live Rounds concurrently with Heroes of Newerth, players will add another layer of communication to their experience — the application is going to be an invaluable tool, especially in the competitive scene.”
The companies are offering a giveaway. To participate, players and their party members will need to use Live Rounds while playing Heroes of Newerth. This will unlock a code, giving you and your friends the Black Legion avatar set, valued at $50 in the game.
Rounds uses high-definition video chat, and it is already used by more than 30 million people.
“We’re thrilled that our mission to combine live communication with entertaining games, activities, and content will help shape the way gamers play games online,” said Dany Fishel, the co-founder and CEO of Rounds, in a statement. “By partnering with Overwolf, we feel we can add something new and edgy to an otherwise everyday activity.”
Live Rounds actively identifies players on each team based on unique identifiers in order to create team-specific conference rooms. Users can mute the audio, turn off the video, and opt out of the experience. They can resize the individual video feeds. Broadcasting and text-chatting capabilities will be included in upcoming releases.
“Heroes of Newerth’s intense, team-oriented gameplay is ideal for using Live Rounds’ video chat technology,” said Uri Marchand, the co-founder and CEO of Overwolf, in a statement. “Games that require a high level of teamwork will benefit greatly from the ability to easily communicate.”
Marchand said that the number of chat users will be increased over time. He said there are no bandwidth issues, as it’s akin to running Skype in the background.
“It really is something new,” he said in an in email. “With Skype, I can’t play League of Legends and see my mates at the same time. This is the true innovation here.”