An interview with the Tournament Casters
I had an opportunity to chat with the three Casters from the Artifact Preview Tournament, hosted by BTSArtifact, Fwosh, Swim, and LuminousInverse! In our conversation, we take a look back at the tournament and get their thoughts on how it all went, as well as some day one controversy, and what challenges lie ahead for Casting Artifact.
What was your favorite series to cast or watch during the event?
Fwosh - I loved watching all of Joel’s games, it just felt like he was just playing on another level. I think we can all learn something from his decision-making throughout the tournament. My favorite play of his was shifting focus to killing his opponent’s stranded heroes, all in order to buy the he held from the Secret Shop!
I also enjoyed the Lifecoach vs. Dane match, I think that Game 2 was one of the most hype matches of the tournament since it got to showcase the oh-so-controversial card, . I know there’s a bit of hate on RNG, but this was a case where the 50/50 made for a really intense game to watch.
Swim - Lifecoach vs. Dane is the answer everybody will give, and there's a reason for that: it was just the closest and most nail biting ending of two games within the same series, with a huge comeback on the part of each player in different games.
Lumi - My favorite series of the tournament was Lifecoach vs. Dane series, since it really featured what Artifact was all about: a lot of mind games, daring plays and excitement in the late game. A lot of viewers will focus on the RNG aspect that the game provided, and I won't deny that Lifecoach got pretty lucky, but after re-watching the game several times, Lifecoach made several plays that allowed him to benefit from the great luck he got from the game. It was awesome to watch him to make an insane comeback off of individual gambles that he took in the game.
What was something you learned during this event?
Fwosh - Oh man, there’s too much to list! I learned very quickly that quad-casts are quite different from duo-casts, instead of the back-and-forth rapport I’d gotten used to at PAX, it was a juggling act to make sure everyone could contribute, all while the game was progressing very quickly. I knew I had to adapt and interject more aggressively than usual if there were moments I wanted to highlight or if someone on the panel could use a prompt to lend some fresh perspective. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement and experimenting with my style so I’m looking forward to practicing by casting a lot more games.
Swim - I learned that lumi's definition of "smart business casual" is very different from what google search results would indicate.
Lumi - I definitely underestimated the amount of first time viewers to Artifact. In hindsight, this was such a boneheaded mistake, since Valve’s name alone will draw a lot of curiosity and interest. We had to shift the tone of the show to be more new player focus. I wished I was able to start the show this way, but you live and you learn.
The games seemed to move very fast, because of the in-game timer on players, did this make it challenging to cast or was it a positive thing?
Fwosh - I think the speed was particularly challenging for this tournament since most viewers were new and we were casting to keep pace with participants who were familiar with the game. I’m confident that as more people play and build a solid foundation of game knowledge, they’ll be able to follow and have a much more enjoyable viewing experience.
Swim - From a casting perspective I think the game moving fast was fine, but it definitely made it a bit harder to follow for most viewers. Moving forward, I think this play speed is actually quite perfect, but will take a few months for viewers to be comfortable with the game enough to make the speed not a bit jarring.
Lumi - The players executed their moves very quickly, and since a lot of the viewers weren't familiar with the cards, we weren't able to delve too much into strategies or tactics during the cast. In a game of Artifact there are so many things going on that it is probably not a good idea to talk about everything, anyways. This event forced me to cast slow and focused on the most important details, which is probably the best way to cast Artifact, at least until viewers have more experiences playing the game.
The tournament was a very grueling, two 12 hour days, back-to-back, do you think this tournament format is healthy for players and for casters?
Fwosh - Phew, Day 1 was definitely tiresome since it was mostly just Swim, Lumi and I rotating while everyone else was playing in the games and chippin’ in when they could. I had to learn the valuable lesson of never casting hungry! Keeping your energy up is very important and it really shows in your voice. I think this format is great for viewers (so many games!) but could potentially be mentally draining for players and casters. It’d be good to find that sweet spot of number of total rounds per day as well as adhering to a healthy rotation in the casts.
Swim - 7 round Swiss definitely makes for a very long broadcast, great for a preview tournament where you're trying to show off as much gameplay as possible, and I don't mind it as a caster at all, but in the future we'll probably see more smaller, invitational level events.
Lumi - I am not a big fan when I was playing in the events. They were very long and draining, and it took the entire day. I'd like to see the tournaments to either take 1 day so you can just get it over with, or spread out into shorter chunks over several days. From a broadcasting stand point though, it is a great format. The hours are long so there's a lot of broadcasting time, although I can tell the talents were getting a bit tired towards the end of the day.
Now that the tournament is over, do you think this past weekend will have a positive outcome on potential players of Artifact?
Fwosh - Overall, yes! I think viewers that stuck through our rocky start or watched Kripp/Toast go through the basics may have had their curiosity piqued to try it out on release. It’s definitely a game that needs some initial commitment to learn, but after the first time you outplay your opponent, it’s easy to become addicted. Maybe after playing awhile, players can look back on the earlier casts of the tournament and appreciate the more complex parts. :P
Swim - I think we, the casters, definitely messed up at the start of day 1 making the cast too complex and not explaining basic mechanics, there's no getting around that. All the practice-casting we did ended up working against us, and all the directions given had us very under prepared as well. That being said I think most potential Artifact players are ones that see the complex ruleset as more of a challenge than a turn-off. It's a daunting game to get into but VERY satisfying once you fully understand it, much like DotA.
Lumi - Definitely. A lot of people saw what Artifact was able to offer and were intrigue by it. Whether viewers enjoyed the tournament or not, at least there are more information out there for them to make a more informed decision about Artifact.
What are your thoughts about the viewer's concerns on Day One? Do you think their complaints (That the casters aren't explaining enough) were justified?
Fwosh - I think the complaints about our earlier casts were justified. We were just so excited to share our passion for the game, that we hit the ground running and got deep into details wayyy too early. Despite having limited content, I do think that we did a good job quickly pivoting to be casual-friendly though (with newbie interruptions and a 45-minute tutorial on day 2). All in all, it was a valuable reminder for us to take a step back and always consider our audience; I hope we achieved a decent balance of education and analysis as the event continued!
Lumi - It is hard for a broadcasting studio and casters to cater to everyone. Some of the viewers that followed the PAX game plays were happy with the more in-depth casting towards the beginning of the broadcast, but a majority of the viewers wanted a more beginner friendly one preferred what we did towards the end. I do think the complaints are quite valid, and I was quite happy that we were able to go towards a more beginner friendly vibe as the broadcast went on.
What strategies did the casters employ to adjust their casting style to accommodate a more casual audience? Do you think this was effective?
Fwosh - I think the most important thing was that we started hovering over the relevant cards and concepts as we talked about them. Even though we were also adjusting to speak slower and verbally explain a lot of rules, I think it's absolutely crucial to have the corresponding visuals shown in order for Artifact to really sink in for the casual viewer. Seeing the card-art alone kickstarts your memory so that you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on as the game is progressing.
Lumi - We were very adamant about showing cards on screen as we were talking about it. Hovering over the many boxes on screens or cards in hands were super important since a lot of the viewers haven't seen many of the cards. As the broadcast went on, it was easier to simply to refer to more iconic cards like . Overall I was able that we were able to adjust so quickly, but I wished we started off in a more beginner friendly way so a lot of the viewers were able to properly follow the games.
What challenges are ahead for casting Artifact? How might you deal with these issues?
Fwosh - Personally, I feel my challenge will be keeping tabs on the meta and advanced strategy as it develops. I think being a good caster means doing your research (at minimum) and so I’m somewhat intimidated by all the “next-level” strats that will soon be flooding in. I might not be a GALAXY BRAIN player, but I’ll be doing my due diligence by and trolling around the Artifact Discord channels as always to keep up!
Swim - Artifact is a very hard game to cast for! Just because there's so many potential things to look at or talk about. It will be easier in the future when the community is more familiar with mechanics, but will still be a very demanding process; almost closer to how it felt casting DotA games rather than other card games in this regard.
Thanks for your time, any shoutouts, and where can readers follow you?
Fwosh - Shoutout to the Beyond the Summit and everyone involved! I think the event turned out fantastic and all aspects improved as the tourney went on. The production crew was also outstanding for never droppin’ the ball and always making sure we were on track for the next thing. BIG shoutout to Lumi and Swim for being great co-casters that I can learn from and much love to the players and new friends I’ve made from the event (everyone’s so nice!) And of course, shoutout to the community for providing valuable feedback for us to act on. You can follow me on twitter @fwoshy or on Twitch at twitch.tv/fwoshy. I plan on casting some Discord/Reddit tourneys when I’m back from Japan on Nov 26th. :)
Swim - Yeah man. It's always good to do these interviews with you. Looking forward to the next few weeks now that streams are going to start going up and people are going to be able to play. If you guys want to find me I'll be streaming and making youtube content at twitch.tv/swimstrim and youtube.com/swimstrim.
Lumi - Shoutout to all the involved talents and players at the event, especially the BTS production team. They do a lot of the background work that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, and we won't even have a show to broadcast if it weren't for these guys pushing the buttons.