Observing 101 by Someone Who’s At Least Solid At It

Remember that APEX Blade from the Grand Finals of NA OD? Good times, goooooood times.

I’ve been officially in-game observing (IGO) for one year.

It’s actually insane to think that I’ve only been in esports production for only a year. I’ve met fantastic people, worked on awesome productions and learned so much. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be producing Contenders matches and observed OWL teams, I’d thought you were crazy. But the past year has been insane and I’m excited to see where it goes in another year’s time.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve been getting a lot of people who have asked for pointers on observing and producing. So many people want to start IGO-ing and producing but no one seems to really know how or where to start. We’ll cover that in this three-part series.

First part is this one, the in-game observing aspect. Next will be producing, then after that is “where do I start.” (Probably not the best order but I really want to talk about observing right now so that’s what I’m gonna do and there is no editor to stop me from doing so and also the second and third parts will be out tomorrow and the day after, respectively.)

This isn’t a bible by any means, and other people will have other opinions; this is just what I’ve learned thus far. It’ll be cool to come back to this in a year’s time and see if I can add anything new.

Cool? Cool. Here’s what I’ve learned in the year I’ve been doing this IGO thing.

TURN ON YOUR HEALTH BARS

This part is an edit a few hours after this post went live because I know for a FACT I will be flamed if particular people see this post but don’t see this tip in here: toggle the health bars of everyone in the lobby and toggle first person as soon as you get in game. It’s basic IGO-ing and adds so much to your observing, especially your wideshots.

Speaking of wideshots…

Wideshot is your safety shot

Wides are great for a plethora of reasons: it helps establish the scene, gives context, and gives you as much of the action as possible. It’s good for when there’s huge amounts of chaos, especially during Overtimes and major fights on the point / payload / etc that just seem to go on and on forever.

Self-Destructs and EMP’s are three of the Ultimate’s that are the most benefited by a wideshot while they occur. Others, like Earthshatters and Gravs, are ults whose immediate aftermath should be noted in a wideshot to get full context as to how many people it affected.

It’s also a really good backup in case you need to reset or get lost in the action. Wideshots shouldn’t be used all the time, obviously, but if you have no idea where to go, a wideshot on the point or payload is probably your safest shot.

Watch the Ultimate Economy

Ultimate’s are the, as expected, most valuable part of games; just one can make or break your match. A missed ult that goes huge is an instant TTours in chat; don’t give them the opportunity to spam it.

One of the things I’ve had to work on is looking at *all* of the ultimates, as my line of sight seems to just cut out the edges of the screen when I’m looking quickly. Make sure you recognize not only who has their ultimates, but who is close to it, with 80 or above. You should not only be thinking of the ult coming up, but the three after that, as many involve combo’s that will be rapid fire in the next fight.

Look for the standouts

Sometimes a player will completely pop off for the entirety of the game. That player can then turn into a safety shot for you, especially if they’re the ones actively racking up kills. While not always a good idea, players that you know are at least consistently part of the action (and aren’t dying while they’re part of the action) are always a good thing to cut to when you’re trying to figure out where your next action is.

Listen to your casters…

While you’re the eyes of the production, your casters are the voice. You two should be working together to ensure the best possible experience for your audience. Therefore, it’d be a little weird for the camera to be on the Winston when your casters are talking about the Torb on the field. Follow what your casters are saying, especially if they’re making a in-depth point about whatever it is. It’s better to follow the storyline than the action in a lot of respects because it’s all about what your VIEWER is experiencing, and at the moment they’re paying attention to what the caster is saying.

If you work with the same casters over and over, you’ll start to get a feel for your caster’s styles and learn to adapt to them: who they’re likely to focus, where they start fights / matches, etc. Remembering the different quirks certain casters have (especially ones you know you’ll work with again) is beneficial for the cast and can help make your observing that much stronger when paired up with them.

Sometimes, however, there’s a more pressing point to be made, which leads us to the next heading.

… but make sure they follow you, too

Casters have the very difficult job of decoding just what the heck is happening in this insane, no-down-time game. With everything going on at once — sometimes in completely separate parts of the map — they can sometimes miss weird movements or plays. If you happen to catch something weird — a flanking Reinhardt, for example, or a super sneaky Tracer with a Pulse Bomb — don’t be afraid to call it out as quickly as possible. What I generally do is say the name of the player (NOT of the hero, that gets confusing if there’s two on the field and in general it’s easier to connect the player to the spectating key rather than go from the hero, to the player and then to the spectating key) and that’s it. The casters will generally go to that player and figure it out themselves, making for a more natural cast as they explain what’s happening.

Don’t forget your supports

Supports, as their name suggests, generally don’t get observed, but more advance IGO’s will have a knack to find when they should be. Most of the time, it’s split second pops — a boop on Rialto here, a slept Genji Blade there — but catching these moments levels up your observing instantly (and probably gets you on Reddit if the match is high-profile enough). It’s important to be on the lookout for these, since they can make or break the true reason a fight ended up the way it did.

This involves a lot of general know-how of not only the game, but also of the players you’re observing. Get a feel for all the players in-game and you can generally figure out who will most likely do what for a set map or match.

Look out for what DIDN’T happen

One of my favorite calls as a producer is letting the talent know when a Grav gets eaten — it’s a high-stakes ultimate and it’s always impressive when a Dva can pull it off. For those times, just saying “Eaten, eaten, eaten!” is more than sufficient for your casters to figure out what you’re talking about, and also can sometimes hype up your casters even more for the play (though it depends on who’s casting).

Most of the time, you’ll happen across what doesn’t work by accident — mainly a whiffed Earthshatter or a Pulse Bomb that had the bestest of intentions. What matters is how you react *after* the ultimate is missed; who benefits the most? How do the teams react? Follow who takes advantage of the misplay and continue on from there.

That’s it for this section, but tomorrow we’ll be talking about Producing and everything that goes into that. I hope this is as useful for everyone as it was fun for me to write; been a while since my last article, after all.

In-Game Observer, mainly FPS. Overwatch League’s ObsMoira. Follow me on twitter: @MoiraiObs

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