Editorial: Welcome to the Show Battlecast, Hope you Survive the Experience
So its finally here, the first edition of the C&C Battlecast. EA’s attempt to get into the prime time televised TV market – except its on the internet. The new show adopts the Sportscenter format only with stilted and badly executed artificial banter. Battlecast offers fans of the Command & Conquer series a good amount of internal information and a premiere look at some interesting and competitive multiplayer action. I thought a bit about the whole concept of Battlecast and analyzed just what EA delivered in this first episode and this is what I came up with.
The biggest thing I’m left wondering while watching this feature is it sustainable? Is it limited to C&C? Will they expand this approach and possibly create the EA online network with Battlefield Battlecast, Maddencast and maybe even something new? I can easily imagine tuning in during the NCAA, NHL or NFL off season to watch my favorite teams battle it out on the pitch or the field. I know in past years, when you actually could, I’d sometimes set up Madden or NCAA to play itself so I could enjoy a game of football in the heat of July. The presentation was usually good enough that I could get that autumn football feeling anytime.
Moving outside the realm of sports though, what about broadcasting and editing competitive matches in games like Battlefield? In theory with all the new Pro Gaming leagues out there and the DirecTV coverage of the events I’m sure we’ll see more and more of this and now that Valve is publishing with EA is Half-Life TV an option? Who wouldn’t enjoy watching some Team Fortress 2 action once its launched?
The Battlecast format itself presents two anchors in all their caffeinated, overly dramatic glory pumped and primed for discussion of the C&C games. It offers some fan-centric content like Apoc’s corner, featuring news from the C&C 3 community manager as well as quick interviews an updates regarding game patches and tweaks. The broadcast is currently free so its no surprise that the limited commercial interruptions featured ads for three upcoming EA games.
Apoc’s corner and the developer announcement of the upcoming Command & Conquer 3 expansion: Kane’s Wrath was probably the highlight of the program for those who are into the game. Discussion of the new radial menu for the 360 version and the fact that 360 and PC SKU’s would ship together are enough to make any C&C 3 nut happy.
The biggest area where Battlecast didn’t work for me however was in the interview segments. This is a highly produced and highly edited show. It was obvious from the many cross-cuts that the interviews were not being done seemlesly. If EA wants to make this professional looking they should step up the game on editing integration a bit. The one interview that stood out was probably the one most fans tuned in to hear: Joe “Kane” Kugan. Joe offered interesting insight about the evolution of the game and the production itself. His personal insight into the silliness of the “real acting” in a video game – and his coined term of “Shoe box acting” worked to admit that no one should take the acting too seriously in these titles, after all they are filmed with the emotional keys turned all the way up to 11. As Joe says “it’s not Shakespeare in the park.” After the interview the anchors returned to the forced humor with the introduction of the Kane bobble head and a play on home shopping clubs. I’m sure this was funny to some folks but it just didn’t work for me. They tried too hard to be funny and irreverent.
The match itself was the last feature of the video and featured profiles of the two competitors along with heavily edited down footage of the actual match. The two developers form EA offered interesting pre-game analysis of the two players and it was nice to see them giving face time to real people, not just “professional” cyber-athletes.
The Play by play during the match overall was not bad either. The developers give some interesting insights into the play strategy but the match itself is so slickly edited to remove the downtime that while it makes for interesting conversation and good images there are no tips and strategies for newer/less experienced players to learn. The commentary is firmly aimed at those familiar with the game’s vernacular. No effort is really made to explain the terms to the uninitiated.
While this is not uncommon in televised sport events it is taking a lot for granted. The audience here is definitely dedicated C&C 3 players more than gamers in general. While C&C 3 has a vocal fan base I wonder just how large and involved they might be. I’m betting the idea is being piloted on a game with a name but nothing so big that a complete failure would sink EA’s public face more than it already is.
Lets speak a minute about the presentation. Obviously as the first there may be some changes coming in how you view it but the embedded player and frustrating inability to jump to the various segments was bad. If I just wanted to watch the match or the Kugan interview I’d have to surf through the entire piece. EA should leverage the power of modern video technology and offer chapters and possibly even a DVD-like menu for quick navigation through the entire Battlecast, also since C&C 3 is a cross platform game I think this needs to be put on Xbox Live as well – I wouldn’t mind watching on my big screen TV rather than my PC or laptop.
All in all a good first episode that plays to C&C3 players very strongly. It isn’t a general program with any real attraction to someone who is not a fan but the approach could be easily adapted to other games and audiences in the future.
I know that the humor really didn’t play well with me but what did everyone else out there think? Could this actually be the beginning of well produced entertainment for gamers that focuses not on mouthy long haired hosts and their well rehearsed opinions but instead on the gamers playing the games themselves?