HQ Trivia

Thinking of making your own HQ Trivia? 5 things you should think about first

Update: since writing this we’ve launched our new solution. We’re partnering with the best content creators, brands and broadcasters to help them realise their live interactive ambitions with Gameshow Live! Check it out here.

Monterosa started its life creating one of the first interactive TV shows “Test The Nation” for the BBC (remember that?!). Since then we have made interactivity for countless TV formats, the most successful of which was Million Pound Drop — kindly providing us with a shiny BAFTA for the office.

Setting yourself up for success with live interactive formats — whether in the single-device format of HQ or in the realms of TV shows or live events, involves a combination of imagination, business-sense, technology and pure expertise. Not every attempt will be a hit, but by preparing the ground for a great audience experience and massive scale, you’re avoiding embarrassment and giving yourself a chance at the big time.

You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already familiar with the global phenomenon that is HQ Trivia., so I’ll jump straight in.

If you’re thinking about making your own version, there are a set of tech and creative considerations you should think about before you kick off. Here are five of them (we’ll leave business model and production teams for another time):

  1. Gameplay
  2. Platform choice
  3. Sync
  4. Security
  5. Live Workflow

Gameplay

Quiz questions are simple and everyone understands them. Usually 10 second timers make it hard to Google the answers, but you could use image questions which make it even harder eg “Who is in this picture?”

Other formats include numeric scales such as “What’s the capacity of Yankee Stadium to the nearest 10?”

Points for correct answers work well, even issuing points for the closest you get to the answer, but issuing points for speed (“Fastest Finger”) is a bad idea because of internet delays. Yes, there are solutions, but you should ask where you would prefer to invest your time.

If you want to be adventurous you might link points to other users’ performance. If you’re in the Top 10% you could win bonus points.

Some of the fun formats included in our FanKit product include Word Puzzles.

Word Puzzle — part of Monterosa FanKit

Quite clearly, most of these mechanics require control over the UI, making them more suited to apps and webapps than more controlled environments like Facebook Live or even Twitch.

A word of caution: although HQ is doing well now, there is a risk that people’s interests wane due to likelihood of winning being small. Without anything to engage people between live games, it does rely on continued buzz to drive “tune-in”. There is a creative challenge here that needs to be solved in order to avoid user fatigue.

Platform Choice (Native App v Web v Facebook Live)

By platform choice we mean the choice of native apps, web, or Facebook Live (of course there are others).

Native Apps: HQ could not exist without native app push notifications. How else would people remember to tune in? Native Apps offer slick user experience, push, and they sit on the home screen for convenience. They’re the natural choice, assuming you have enough fire-power to persuade an audience to install it.

Web Apps: In future web apps and native apps will be the same thing, but for now a web app requires a URL, and since nobody really adds them to the homescreen you’re asking people to remember that URL every time they play. That’s if they remember to play, because without access to push notifications you’ll need to use email and/or SMS. Maybe worth considering if you’re targeting people at work, or developing countries with low smartphone adoption.

Facebook Live: The benefits of using Facebook Live are significant — it’s now a well-established way to reach audiences via a notification which will hit your audience on all their devices and platforms. The video quality is good, and it’s within an environment that’s familiar. The restrictive factor is interactivity — essentially we have two methods: reactions and comments. Ideally Facebook Live would allow us to insert buttons and other UI that can be used to interact, but answering questions needs to be via reactions or comments for now.

Other platforms you might want to consider include Twitch, YouTube Live or even Facebook Messenger where we’ve had some success with gaming and progressive video

Sync

When a presenter asks a question and announces the start of the question “You have 10 seconds starting NOW”. It is essential that the user’s question appears at just the right time.

If the video comes late it creates a weird experience where the answer buttons appear too soon. If the buttons show up late, that’s very frustrating to the user.

Practically, in order to work out who got the answer correct, to allocate scores and create a leaderboard, there has to be a cut-off time whereby “all questions are in”. Without this you have to build in ‘editorial buffers’ with chit chat or other content, filling time until everyone has answered.

You also want to avoid giving away the answer while someone on a slower connection is still answering (they would have to be disqualified — if you’ve played HQ you’ll know how frustrating that is).

Minimising video streaming latency is one factor in this equation. Question sync is another: HLS streaming is slow but scalable, RTMP is quicker, WebRTC is the fastest but a little experimental for very high volume applications.

Question sync can be achieved in differing ways linked to the choice of video streaming. In second screen sports tracking applications like Channel 4 Horse Tracker we have pioneered an approach we call “Dynamic Data Buffering”.

Dynamic Data Buffering

This uses the device microphone to listen to either a watermark or fingerprint in the TV transmission. This detects the transmission time and allows us to apply a dynamic delay factor to the data received to make it waits for the video to arrive before showing the interactive content in the app. Here it is in action within a gameshow:

Audio Fingerprinting Sync

Within single-screen experiences we don’t need fingerprinting. Instead use two different approaches: meta-data injection and timecode referencing. All of these sync methods integrate with LViS Studio to align interactivity with live streaming video moments.

Security

In a crucial school exam it would be unusual to ask the pupil to mark their own paper. But in a classroom test you might trust them because the consequences of cheating are low.

Play-along games are similar — if it’s “just for fun”, that could reduce the demands on security, but if prize money is at stake you’ll need to ensure that the scoring of individuals’ answers is robust and secure.

Score Security: In the secure model, you never trust the app to do the marking. You send the answer chosen back to the server and check it against the correct one. For this, we build a sort of plug-in to LViS Studio, a special service designed to “mark” all answers quickly. Leaderboards and results in this architecture are populated by the scoring plug-in, not by the end-users’ apps.

Avoiding Automation: If your idea is popular, someone somewhere will try to game it. Like this guy who hacked HQ using character recognition and Google. There are ways to mitigate this, by creating questions that are hard to Google, or using images, videos or obscuring text to make OCR harder.

Personal Data Security: There are other areas of security to bear in mind, especially if you’re in the EU with GDPR coming into effect in May. All identifiable data must be secured and encrypted at rest and in transit, plus you must gain explicit consent for your form of usage, and allow users to change that consent. You must allow users to request full records of their data, to modify and to delete it.

Live Workflow

Setting up and managing live video streams has become simple, thanks to the numerous tools that help, such as Telestream’s excellent Wirecast.

However, there’s a lot more to running a live gameshow than streaming video. You also need ways to:

  • Create and setup questions
  • Rehearse
  • Trigger questions live
  • Correct mistakes
  • Feed results live to presenter teleprompter
  • Generate TV graphics
  • Moderate Leaderboards
  • Setup and configure the app’s behaviour (multi-lingual etc.)

Monterosa’s LViS interaction platform is designed for this purpose, and is used every day by content producers of interactive gameshows all around the world. Here’s a short screen recording showing how a simply Trivia question is created, stored for later triggering and then published live:

Conclusion

Live interactivity is a tough tech and creative challenge, with a relatively small number of companies and experts around the world that have the background to crack it. The HQ team’s experience in live video gave them a fantastic head-start. If you need one too, feel free to get in touch: