Vocal Energy Management with Hybrid Pairing Commentary

Highlight on Hybrid Pairing Commentary in Overwatch, Part 2/3

Hype is important. Here’s how the top Overwatch casters do it! (Image: from 2017 Overwatch World Cup | Sydney Group Stage Recap)

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Welcome back! If you’re just joining us, go back and read Part 1 first to see how building a story line and handing off in Hybrid Pairing compares to traditional Play by Play and Color commentary.

Part 2: Bringing the Hype and Managing Vocal Energy

We talked about the role of what a caster does in Part 1 — they must communicate what is important, justify why the ‘what’ it is important, and do so in an entertaining manner. While the story line is built over sentences, vocal energy is an instantaneous signal for the importance of the ongoing action or topic.

Vocal Energy with Play by Play and Color

We’ve already talked about how Play by Play and Color handle the story line. During team fights Doa is responsible for the rising action, climax, and start of the falling action, whereas Monte handles the resolution and exposition. In the same way, Doa and Monte are cognisant of how their vocal energy signals the importance of the current action in relation to the story line. Check out this clip below and listen for how the vocal energy signals importance:

Example of vocal energy management by PBP and Color (Doa and Monte, OWWC Sydney)
  1. Doa (PBP) 0:00 — recognizes that it is the last teamfight chance for Italy, so says that they need to force overtime (vocal energy rising). Two Italian players die (vocal energy climax) though the action continues and Italy gets return kills (vocal energy continues rising). Eventually the fight tips in Portugal’s favor (vocal energy falling) and Doa hands off
  2. Monte (Color) 0:30 — summarizes how Cerys’ early death was a major part of the fight (vocal energy climax) and summarizes what was given up by the defense for the next part of the match (vocal energy resolution)

Even though Carnifex on the Tracer lands a pulse bomb, Doa niether discusses it, nor raises his vocal energy. Instead he identifies the importance of Cerys’ death both in words and vocal energy. Monte’s vocal energy climax while discussing the early death from Cerys confirms its importance relative to the team fight.

Vocal Energy with Hybrid Pairing

Now listen to this clip of UberShouts and ZP listening again to how vocal energy signals importance:

Example of vocal energy management by Hybrid Pairing (UberShouts and ZP, OWWC Sydney)
  1. UberShouts (PBP) 0:00 — the fight is approaching the end and he discusses how Taimou needs to run away and starts to escape (vocal energy falling). However Deartn chases Taimou (vocal energy rising) and Taimou narrowly is staying alive (vocal energy climax) before getting swatted off the edge (vocal energy falling)
  2. ZP (Color) 0:14 — comments on the fancy footwork to wrap up the last action of the almost escape (vocal climax). Then suddenly his vocal energy falls as he discusses how Kynel’s de-mech of Jasper is important for the next fight. He then sets the stakes (vocal energy rising) of the next fight being the last chance for Finland.
  3. UberShouts (PBP) 0:27 — begins the play-by-play again (vocal energy rising)

In Hybrid Pairing the vocal energy is still used to signal importance, but of course sounds different due to the fluid roles. What is so great here is how UberShouts and ZP are able to have vocal energy continuity, which stems from their compatible interpretation of story line as discussed in Part 1.

When vocal energy has no rise or fall

I want to also point out that absolute vocal energy has not been a discussion point. This is intentional. Importance is signaled by the difference in vocal energy, not the absolute. In the above clips, UberShouts and ZP operate at a higher baseline versus Doa and Monte. This does not mean one is better than the other necessarily because both duos are able to use vocal energy variance to tell us what is important. But what happens when there is no variance? For this we’ll look at an example from OGN’s Apex Season 3 Finals. While you’re watching, listen to the vocal energy for what is important:

When there is no vocal energy variance (APEX S3 Finals, OGN)

Through the entire 45 seconds, there is not much variation other than all three casters yelling during Zunba’s double kill (which just sounds messy, but at least tells us the importance). For everything else, the play by play vocal energy remains the same for all of the following events:

  • Fissure’s double kill response
  • Rascal EMP
  • Void’s self destruct for one kill
  • Miro’s kill / zone control
  • Ryujehong’s Transcendence
  • Final kills by Esca and Gido

This lack of variation makes it really hard to tell which play is actually important. Even after the game is over, the color commentary continues at a similarly high vocal energy while the hype electronic music plays in the background. When do you take a breath even as a spectator?

While I do respect the production, crew, and casters for OGN’s Apex Overwatch tournament, the Season 3 finals felt exhausting to watch for this reason. In addition there are a couple production points that I don’t agree with (cannot tell how close the payload is to finishing visually, switching from attacking to defending team mid-fight) but we’ll save that for another time.

Part 3 of this Hybrid Pairing exploration, Speaking to Enhance Understanding, coming soon!

Written for Broadcast.gg, a community of esports broadcasters improving by iterating, sharing, and giving feedback on tools, resources, and methodologies. Join the discord!