NASL: A lesson in live vs. streaming

While I’m hoping to do a post about each event that I attend, I hope that you’ll indulge me if I don’t want to do a straight recap of the action. I feel that e-sports writers are already more than able to cover that, as you can see by visiting ESFI, G4, or Team Liquid. If you want to know the exact action of the first NASL final, please visit there. As a bonus, the Team Liquid post has a mention (with picture!) of yours truly. So, what was a film about Evil Geniuses doing at a tournament where no members of the team were competing? Well, there’s the obvious answer that we were there to talk with and film Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson. While we’re interested in the tournament play of the team members, I also want to know what else they do, both in the Starcraft community and outside of it. This event was the culmination of several months worth of hard work for Geoff, and that was important to the story. It’s also the start of a new chapter, as he leaves NASL to focus on his own competitive play.

But I also was interested in seeing a new organization during it’s very first live event. How would it go? What would go wrong? What would go right? What lessons would the organizers learn, and how would the fans react? What goes into an event like this? I’m already attending MLG events, where they have years of experience under their belts. They’re the established franchise, so how are things for the new kids on the block?

Attending the NASL was eye-opening on a lot of levels. I learned a lot, I got a lot of great footage. But one thing that I found that I don’t know if I can fit into the film was an appreciation for the difference between being AT an event and watching it online.

The SC2 community has been very vocal about what they didn’t like about NASL. To say that there was a rocky start is an understatement. But most of their technical problems were hammered out after the end of day one, so only one complaint seemed to remain: the wait times between matches.

Online viewers, despite having exclusive content to enjoy that live audience members weren’t privy to, were generally unhappy about the wait. The common complaint was that they couldn’t believe an 8-hour Starcraft event would only have 2 hours of Starcraft. Now, that’s an exaggeration (not from me, but a paraphrase from a viewer) but there was usually at least 20-30 minutes between each set of games. There was also a built in hour break in the middle of each day.

For the online audience, that was irritating and boring. Even with extra content, they probably ended up staring at a static screen a lot. Since some of those people paid for the stream, they were upset. But sitting in the actual room, I usually appreciated the down time. I was able to reposition the camera and get more shots of the fans and audience when the lights came up. I could talk to people in between matches, and the fans were able to interact with the players and casters as they signed autographs and posed for pictures. There were booths with activities, similar to MLG, but attendees didn’t have to choose to miss a match (or five) to enjoy what the sponsors had brought with them. And most importantly, I was able to get food. Not even just the overpriced convention center food, but walk to somewhere else if I wanted.

Did the downtime ever get excessive, even for the live audience? Yes, and I think that’s something the NASL will address in the future. Do I want every event to change their format? No. MLG is a different animal, and they are dealing with hundreds of matches in three days. While I would love for them to at least have a dinner break, I can’t imagine how they would do it. The universal truth all event organizers face is the fact that there’s no way to predict the length of a match.

Obviously, there were things that NASL could have done better. But what I really learned this past weekend was that they do WANT to do better. Like anyone, they made mistakes. But unlike some people, they’re learning from those mistakes and implementing changes. But I would say that before someone complains about a particular decision they made, they should consider, “What was it like for the people watching it live? Could this have been for their benefit?”

*I do realize that another frequent complaint was the audio issues on the stream. Since I didn’t notice any audio problems live at the event, I can’t speak to that other than to say it’s another instance where the two different groups were experiencing very different things.

Next stop for Good Game: MLG Anaheim!

Twitter Questions/Responses no. 1

Today I decided that I was in the mood to tell people more about the project, so I posted on my twitter (@ninehourfilms that I was open to questions.

For now we only had one taker, but the question was one that I couldn’t easily respond to in 140 characters or less, so I brought it here to the blog.

asked:

What will separate #ggmovie from the other sc2 documentaries currently in production?

Leave it to the SC2 community to go ahead and get right to the point, huh?

For people who might be outside the Starcraft world, there were recent announcements of two other documentaries that are currently filming. By a coincidence and because we were all talking about MLG Columbus, the three projects all ended up coming to the public’s attention around the same time. Naturally, this has lead to everyone to comparing and contrasting the projects and there’s been a bit of an erroneous belief that they’re all the same.

In the course of my filming I have spent time talking with the director one of those films, specifically about our projects and how they may or may not differ from each other and what we can do to help each other rather than get in each other’s way. So I don’t want people to think we’re in competition with each other or that we’re rivals in any way.

However, I don’t think that it’s productive or professional for me to play compare and contrast. So what I will do is tell you about MY film and what I’m trying to do.

The thing about Good Game is that I don’t actually consider it a Starcraft movie. The comparison I’ve made to my crew and my producer is that the movie is about Starcraft the same way a film about the Redskins would be about football. Obviously it’s a part of the story, and it’s integral to the audience’s understanding of the film. But it’s what I would consider the B story, it’s the underpinning and the foundation of the film.

But the A story, the real focus of my efforts, is on the Evil Geniuses. Not just the seven players, but the managers, the administrative staff, the website content creators…everybody that makes the team run.

When I first got interested in the world of professional gaming, like most people I started talking about it with anybody that would listen. The moment I finished saying the words “professional video game tournaments” or “e-sports” the first question that every person had was “how does that work?”

That was part of how this project was born way back in October of 2010. I wanted to find the way to explain to people “how that works.” Since I’m a filmmaker, the answer to that was “make a film.” The way I chose to break down that question to explore it was to take a specific team, and figure out how THEY made it work.

So I’ll follow EG for the rest of the year. I’ll see how their players practice and train, how they interact with the community and each other, how they balance their life with their work. I’ll ask the management team those questions everybody has about sponsorship and the business of e-sports. I’ll ask the staff what they do, how they contribute to the workings of the team, how they found this job in the first place and why they work in professional gaming.

I want to show the outside world how our world of gaming is full of talented professionals, with skills and dedication. I want to explore why they should take Starcraft 2 seriously as a sport, and why they should be paying attention. To do that, I’ll also be talking to commentators, tournament organizers, and everybody else who has a hand in how we make this dream a reality.

But at the heart of everything will be the struggles and the triumphs of one team.

As an aside, what is also interesting to think about is that as three different filmmakers with different backgrounds, interests, and lives even if you handed all of us the exact same footage, I believe we would come away with three different films. Filmmaking is about storytelling, and everybody tells stories in different ways. My voice and my take on a subject is automatically going to diverge from what other people would have to say. And that’s why I’m excited to see all of our finished products.

I hope that this helps people understand what I’m doing, and I hope that makes you even more excited about the film. And please, if you have any questions about the film or what I’m doing, comment here or ask me on twitter! I’m always open for questions.

What happens in Vegas… Goes in the Movie

I’m a little late updating on our last shoot, but I’ve been so busy preparing for the NASL finals and MLG Anaheim that time got away from me.

First off, thanks to everybody for checking out our teaser! Don’t forget to leave comments on the video, or check out our contact form to ask us questions or offer suggestions for the film.

Now, our last shoot involved this slightly jet-lagged director flying out to Vegas. What was in Vegas?

Miss USA!

One thing you might not know about Good Game is that we’re focused not just on the players that make up Evil Geniuses, but the staff and management for the team as well. So I was off to Vegas to talk to Anna Prosser (or UnControllable) as she followed her own competitive dreams as Miss Oregon USA.

Anna has become a very visible part of e-sports over the last year, providing interviews and videos from various events through a partnership with Evil Geniuses and Kingston, one of their sponsors.

I filmed at the pageant, and did a few interviews while I was there, including a quick talk with Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson about what it’s like to be in the audience instead of on the main stage. My favorite by far was when I sat down with Anna at a media event for the pageant. I admit I hogged her time, but I got to ask a lot of questions that had been on my mind, about the pageant, about esports, and about Anna’s future with Starcraft 2. We even talked a bit about our common experiences playing team matches on Battle.net during the Brood War days.

I’m thrilled to have Anna as part of the film, and I’m happy to see her determination to make an impact on the world of e-sports.

I want to send a special thanks to the members of the Media Relations crew at Miss USA. They were all a huge help to me during my stay, and I appreciated everything they did for me.

Looking ahead: filming at the NASL finals, and a new video coming in July!

The teaser is released!

We’ve now officially released our first short video teaser for the film!  It’s just a quick nugget of footage showing off the seven fabulous guys that are going to form the core of the project, using the footage that we shot at MLG Columbus.

Enjoy, and tell us what you think in the comments!

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/25064919?portrait=0″ width=”400″ height=”225″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

Press Mention: ESFI World

Patrick “Chobopeon” O’Neill wrote up his experience at MLG Columbus for a post on ESFI World, and he gave “Good Game” a shout-out in the article!

I’ve sat in on about half a dozen interviews. “Good Game” is an independent film that will follow the Evil Geniuses StarCraft team over the course of a year. EG is one of the older institutions in American gaming and it’s easy to see the symptoms of that when their players sit down to talk. Instead of nervous inexperience, the EG players are hyperarticulate, calm and extremely self-aware.

An Idiot Goes to MLG Columbus

We completely agree with Patrick’s assessment, the members of Team EG were all very good to talk to, and we got several hours of great interview material out of the event. I’ve been transcribing them all week (with some help from a few wonderful friends) and every single interview has several of those moments where you just know, “that’s going in the movie.”

I can’t wait to show everybody.

Columbus

We left DC on Thursday to take the long drive to Columbus, OH for a Major League Gaming Pro Circuit tournament. The equipment took up the entirety of my car’s trunk and then our luggage took over the back seat, leaving only just enough room for my camera operator. But despite a few significant events on the drive (there was a goat, I’m not kidding) we made it unscathed.

While I had done some preliminary filming at PAX East, this was the start of our principle photography for the film, and I couldn’t have asked for a better event to begin. The crowd was huge, they were pumped, and the weekend started off with an epic 2-0 win. We spent Friday on the event floor, filming the team as they played their matches. While both of my crew members were gamers, this was their first real experience with a large scale tournament like this, and I enjoyed introducing them to it.

On Saturday, we were able to interview each member of Evil Geniuses. I could not ask for better interview subjects, they were all intelligent, articulate, and funny. Each interview gave me new places to start and new inspiration for the film.

The last day we were back to tournament play, as we follow the team’s run through the competition. The crowd just continued to grow, and their excitement continued to build. It became difficult to even find a place to fit our camera crew. I was able to go backstage for a few minutes, seeing the elaborate and professional set up that MLG was using to broadcast the event.

We had so many great people that helped us out throughout the weekend. The hotel staff was wonderful, the event staff were all helpful. And I have to give a special thank you to my crew of Jeremiah Horan and Kevin Sampson, who were thrust into an new world and not only adjusted quickly but gave me some fabulous footage to work with.

All in all, it was a wonderful event and I cannot wait for the next one. I’ve already booked my hotel, it’s going to be fantastic.

Keep an eye out, we should have some footage for you within the week!

© Nine Hour Films 2013 - site by Tim Chow