I’ve spent the last two Friday nights sitting at my computer talking about other people competing in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Don’t pity me. I don’t go out on Friday nights anymore, so this is quite exciting by my typical standards. As part of GamesBeat’s PUBG Family Dinners, I have taken on the role of camera person and play-by-play commentator using the last-person-standing shooter’s custom game and observer tools. And I’ve come to some realizations about the nature of Battlegrounds that make me worry about its future as a digestible esport.
The production teams that take on broadcasting tournaments and competitions for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds should take pointers from professional golf.
Unlike baseball or football, where you can point a bunch of cameras at small plot of land that contains all the action, golf happens in small pockets across acres. That’s why broadcasters have cameras posted all over a course with teams of commentators posted at individual holes. Golf tournaments on TV also use a lot of instant replay. That enables the production team to air one player’s shot live and then immediately show another important shot even if both happened at the exact same time.
Battlegrounds has many of the same problems as golf. It’s far too expansive and complex for a single commentator unit. A play-by-play and a color person is enough for Dota 2 or Street Fighter V, where you have one team or player taking on one other team or player. In Battlegrounds, however, dozens of people and teams are fighting at the same time all across a mammoth play space.
When I was broadcasting, depending on the match settings, I had my attention split between 100 players or 12-or-so teams on a 64-square-kilometer island. Considering I’ve never done anything like this before two weeks ago, I am pretty happy with my ability to keep up with the action and catch some spicy moments as part of our livestream.
But I also missed so much.
During my multiple-hour streams, I always felt like every time I captured an amazing moment, I missed something else equally as thrilling. But even worse than that, I would hover my third-person camera in a part of the map with a lot of teams waiting for something to happen, and then I would see the kill-alert pop up and tell me that a car exploded somewhere else and took out six people. It really stinks to miss something like that and know that I can’t go back and capture that moment.
But not all Battlegrounds pros and commentators agree with my assessment.
“I think a two-person team could hand it if there was a better spectator mode,” Battlegrounds pro Bahawaka explained to me in a note.
Matt “Matrym” Oates, who’s a commenter on Battlegrounds matches for the unofficial PUBGOnline league agreed with Bahawaka.
“[Bluehole needs to add] team tags, to remove desync between the spectator and the players, and it needs to turn off punching showing up as a player shooting,” Matrym said.
Either way, we’ll get a better idea of what the official Battlegrounds esports events look like today. Bluehole is holding its Gamescom Invitational tournament at that fan gathering in Germany this week, and I’m excited to see how the broadcast team handles it. But I’ll tell you now that I’ll be disappointed if ESL, the esports organization that is handling the details of the event, don’t have multiple observers watching all of the teams and no capability ot bring in instant replays to show what happened on the other side of the map while the primary feed was busy somewhere else.
If the Gamescom event doesn’t look like a golf broadcast, Bluehole should do everything it can to make that happen by the time it’s ready for its next esports tournament.