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!