Dota 2 | Shoutcasting in South Africa

The lesser-spotted casters... Hellbird, Noxville and Congo

The lesser-spotted casters… Hellbird, Noxville and Congo

While South African competitive gaming on all platforms appears to be on an upward trajectory currently, it almost always appears to focus on the teams and players who are achieving success.  However, behind the scenes, there are a group who make the competition happen, and keep you informed as they happen.

Then there are a few who are the voices in your head.  The commentators and opinion givers who can turn a sequence of moving images into as gripping and entertaining an event as any major sport’s cup final.  They are the shoutcasters.  And if you don’t quite know what that means, and where it all comes from, we asked Ben Steenhuisen (better known as ‘Noxville’) to educate you a little.

Talk us through the history of shoutcasting in South Africa.

Whilst South African internet has improved quite a lot in recent years, the internet has only recently, and only for a few lucky people, been sufficient to stream video and audio commentary. Before that people used to do impromptu commentary on live games using Teamspeak, Mumble or the Winamp “Shoutcast” plugin. People would be responsible for joining a game as a spectator and trying to manage their own camera. It didn’t really make for fun times when you had to do half the work yourself :). Nothing was really consistent, and generally coverage hovered around the larger events, which were often quite spaced out over a year.

I first started casting DotA a few years back, and providing coverage of the Twilight Cup where I met Cold_blooded, who was a DotaCommentaries caster, and had a few hundred thousand YouTube views (very daunting first conversation). I learnt quite a bit about some of the nuances of casting since then, and it’s been great to watch how Dota 2 has been developed with so much consideration for casting and coverage.

What are the main differences between “traditional” sports commentary and shoutcasting?

There’s a lot of very significant differences between traditional sports and eSports, and this makes the commentary for both very different.

Most ordinary people understand the majority of the main rules of commonly played “traditional sports” (except American Football – nobody really knows those rules), and if they don’t it’s quite easy to work out what’s going on. In eSports, the objectives of each game is not necessarily obvious and considering games like Dota, League of Legends & Heroes of Newerth – there’s ~100 playable characters in each of those games, each with about 4 spells each. It’s very hard to convey whats happening to someone who might not have any idea about what the spells do, how they interact, what runes are, what the big scary monster on the map does, and all the various mechanics. In Starcraft and CS:GO, there’s loads of different maps, strategies, guns, races and builds – it’s just so many orders of magnitude more complex. As a shoutcaster, you also aim to add entertainment value to the sport, on a level a lot more significant than for example, rugby, cricket or football. One final difference is that you’re also generally controlling the camera as the shoutcaster – which is both more work, but also more rewarding. You’re able to focus on whatever bit of the action you want to, observe otherwise hidden information, follow a certain player and then skip around as you need to.

How many casters are in the Dota 2 scene currently?  Do any do cross-title coverage? 

In Dota 2 we have currently have a crew of HellbirD (intentionally bad capitalization of the “D”), Congo, Hari, Dracogus, CottonEyeJoe and myself; and we generally cast within the crew or we’ll grab an experienced player to join us as a co-caster (including scant, xXxplic8, Doppl3r, Fancy, and sometimes we stoop really low and get xeRa :D). We’ve recently brought two League of Legends casters (Gargablegar and VinTaco) into the mix, and always looking for a more suitable candidates across all titles (but especially for the currently vacant casting spots in Black Ops 2, Quake Live and CS:GO).

Currently nobody does cross-title coverage, although I do have some CS 1.6 casting experience that could translate into a backup CS:GO caster if we need (read: desperately need).

Will you be casting on all the games in this year’s DGL?  

In the Dota 2 section there’s going to be 1032 individual games in this leg alone. That’s a lot. Also, given that DGL provides players with a lot of flexibility in scheduling matches over a week-long period, there is often multiple good matches on at the same time. We’ll be hoping to provide at least 8 matches (best-of-two games) per week, with an emphasis on Premier and First Divisions, but also with some Second Division matches. The playoffs (between the end of Leg 1 and beginning of Leg 2) will be very exciting to watch as teams battle to be promoted to a higher division, or struggle to avoid being relegated to a lower division.

Where can the games be watched?

As of the writing of this article, I’ll be the only one streaming coverage (http://www.twitch.tv/noxvilleza) for the Dota 2, but this might change as more and more of the casters get faster internet lines and VDSL. The LoL guys will mostly be doing VODs of the matches and sharing on Youtube, and occasionally coming and doing live matches at my house.

We’ll also be tweeting from @NoxvilleZA and @CongoKyle with upcoming matches & streams, we’re working on fixing up some technical issues with http://www.dotaportal.co.za so we can post a daily “Today’s Matches” article; and there’s definitely going to be some great articles coming out from DoGaming crew with upcoming and exciting matches and match reports.

What about the DoGaming Championships, any goals for that?

That’s still a long way away. I’m hoping we can provide some great coverage for the two legs of DGL that justify us coming to the LAN finals and carrying on with live coverage there. We’re all relatively new to casting, ranging from 0 to 2 years of experience. That said, I remember watching TobiWan casting South-East Asian Dota (1) which only had 90 live viewers around 4 years ago, and now his casts generally get over ten thousand viewers. It just shows that with consistency and hard work, you can definitely make things work out for the best.

Can anyone get in to to shoutcasting?

Sure, casting is very easy to get involved in. There’s various tournaments throughout the year, each with their own casting requirements. For example in the DGL you have to just fill in a form, book games on a forum post and then cast away. Obviously, if you can stream your games you can get more viewers, and in turn more publicity for the league and for eSports. As a casting community, we always aim to improve and offer advice to other casters within our community that we watch.

What are you guys hoping to achieve in the future for casting?

All of the casters are casting for free. eSports are awesome, and the best way to grow local eSports is with exposure. Any sort of environment where the casters are more significant than the underlying players is a big mistake. We just aim to provide as much good quality coverage as we can, and get more people watching and playing eSports. All of the casters would like to develop and improve as casters, maybe move onto casting LAN events and international events – but for now SA casting is a really great start.

With over 600 South Africans (and 116 teams) registered for the DGL Dota 2 league, the team of casters will be a busy bunch.  We hope you’ve warmed up your vocal chords chaps.

About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.