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Dwarf Fortress dev: ‘It’s kind of funny, we never achieved our original goals’

“This random side project suddenly becomes our fantasy game,” Dwarf Fortress co-creator Tarn Adams told PC Gamer, reflecting on the game’s development. “And it’s been strange to adapt to that.” …


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Dwarf Fortress dev: ‘It’s kind of funny, we never achieved our original goals’

“This random side project suddenly becomes our fantasy game,” Dwarf Fortress co-creator Tarn Adams told PC Gamer, reflecting on the game’s development. “And it’s been strange to adapt to that.” …


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Swedish politician streams Hearthstone because it’s ‘where the people are’

“Some politicians stand outside the supermarket discussing food prices,” Swedish politician (and now Hearthstone streamer) Rickard Nordin tells Glixel. “I’m on Twitch discussing eSports.” …


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It’s not all about Touch: Oculus’ Jason Rubin sees a future for gamepad VR games

“Right now it kind of seems like that’s old-school, but it’s old-school with 40 years of evolution to get the perfect gamepad…And I believe that over the long run, people will go back to that.” …


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What It’s Like To Be An eSports Commentator


Photo credit: Samantha Hancock and Jorien van der Heijden.

In this month’s issue of Game Informer we dove into the world of eSports, detailing how players, teams, and sponsors work with each other to make sure people who excel at games like Street Fighter, Halo, and more can make a living off their skills. Here at Gameinformer.com, we’re also taking a look at some of the peripheral aspects of eSports vital to understanding the world of competitive gaming.

Fans come to eSports for the players, but commentators can make them stick around. Good play-by-play commentators and analysts can contextualize exciting moments and help newer viewers learn the games, storylines, and rivalries that transform competitive scenes from a fleeting hobby to something worth investing in long-term. 

To learn more about eSports commentating, I spoke with Owen “ODPixel” Davies (a recent up-and-comer in the Dota 2 scene) and Samantha “Persia” Hancock (one of the world’s most prominent Marvel Vs. Capcom commentators) about what their respective scenes are like, what skills make for good casting, and how viable a career as a commentator really is.


Samantha Hancock. Photo credit: Samantha Hancock.

Amateur Hours
Davies got into Dota 2 in 2012 and discovered its competitive scene the following year, but he was skeptical about the idea of eSports at first. “I remember thinking, ‘Why would anyone watch this game? If you like the game, you play it. Why would I care to watch people play it?’” As he watched more matches and listened to other commentators hype up the action, however, it sparked his interest.

Davies and Hancock commentate two wildly different genres (MOBAs and fighting games, respectively), but have one thing in common: a love of broadcasting. “I remember doing projects in class where we had to pretend to report on Stonehenge and stuff like that, and thinking it was cool,” Hancock says. Davies, for his part, spent his college years studying music technology and found himself drawn to the broadcasting element, eventually working at a local radio station in the UK.

Both Davies and Hancock began their commentating careers by doing amateur tournaments, but the differences in their games made for slightly different trajectories. Davies started off volunteering to stream and talk over amateur online tournaments. Feeling that this would make their tournaments more exciting, most players agreed. “I’d do it and only get like 10 viewers, but it was really just a great start,” Davies says.

For Hancock, the grassroots, in-person nature of fighting-game events meant she sort of fell into it. A tournament organizer asked her and a friend (who had some commentating experience) to hop on a livestream and commentate. The two agreed, and Hancock quickly realized she liked doing it and that she and her friend had a great rapport.

After her friend became more interested in League of Legends, Hancock continued commentating games like Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. She found that not only was she fascinated by what watching top players could teach her about the game, but that she was good at filtering that knowledge down to the average user. “Being able to do that on stream, or at least explain what’s going on in easier terms helps me, so I hoped it helped somebody else out there,” she says.

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Commentator’s Curse
One of the most difficult parts of getting into commentating professionally is breaking into the tight-knit group of people who do it for a living. It can be hard to find a way in, and Davies says that early in his career, many assumed he wouldn’t make it because there were already too many commentators, most of who knew each other. “There are certain people who come to gigs and do gigs because other people know them,” he says. Although he currently enjoys being part of that in-group, he does note that it can often be a fickle one. “You’re in an industry where you make one bad move and suddenly people won’t want to work with you,” he says. 

Much of this fickleness has to do with the abundance of promising talent in the scene. “I think it’s harder now, to get into that circle,” Hancock says. In the fighting-game community, early livestreams were commentated by whoever happened to be in the room, which gave those who wanted to cultivate their skills and were near tournaments an advantage. As streaming became more prominent, tournaments began looking for more experienced personalities.

In both scenes, getting noticed can be a matter of catching a break. Davies got his when he commentated an infamous three-hour match between Cloud9 and ScaryFaceZ – the longest in Dota 2 history. “It was kind of the perfect scenario, because it was so long so many people tuned in, and I kind of managed to hold my own in it,” Davies says. “I was streaming from my bedroom and there were like 70,000 viewers.”

Hancock’s break came slowly but surely. As she continued commentating different tournaments, organizers reached out to her regularly and offered her more prominent roles, such as acting as a between-match correspondent at last year’s Street Fighter V ESL Brooklyn Beatdown event. In recent years, she’s commentated both Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Pokkén at Evo, the world’s biggest fighting-game tournament.

On page 2, learn how commentators do their jobs, find work, and think about their long-term prospects in the field.


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Heads up, devs: It’s Global Game Jam time this weekend

The eighth annual Global Game Jam is happening this weekend, and countless developers are expected to gather at locations around the world to jam on a game based on a secret (for the moment) theme. …


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Splatoon 2 Doesn’t Feel Like A Sequel Yet, But It’s Fun

Last night’s announcement of Splatoon 2 was a surprise. I, and the
collective Internet, thought Splatoon’s Switch presence would be a port
of the original game with some added bonuses, but Nintendo is going
full-on sequel for the follow-up. At Nintendo’s Switch event, I was able to play two rounds of the new game.

We didn't get a lot of detail about the game’s campaign. Even questions as simple as, “Will
there be a campaign?” went unanswered by Nintendo’s representatives,
but I was able to play two multiplayer matches using the Switch in in
its portable mode. Local multiplayer will be an option this way, so
wi-fi will not be required to play with friends nearby.

For the first match I use the new weapon, the Splat Dualies, which lets you dual-wield a pair of paint-pistols. After painting enough ground, I activate my special ability, which shot me up into the air with a Super Mario Sunshine-style paint-fueled jetpack. As I floated over the battlefield, I shot down giant globs of paint until the ability ran out.

For the second round, I went for a personal favorite, the roller. It felt basically the same with a special ability that let me slam down a giant circle of paint.

You still have the option to fly directly to your teammates after dying, but now you don't necessarily have to touch the screen as your teammates are assigned d-pad buttons, which you can use to zip to them without having to remove your fingers from the buttons.

Splatoon 2 feels very similar to its predecessor, and doesn't look dramatically different, but it is still a lot of fun, and the prospect of having a full Splatoon experience playable as a mobile game title is exciting. Splatoon 2 will be available on Nintendo Switch in the first half of 2017.

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Learn what it’s like to be a technical artist on Halo 5 today at 3PM EST

What’s it like to make things go “boom” in a Halo game? We’re interviewing technical artist Ben Laidlaw in advance of his GDC talk today at 3PM EST. …


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Samsung says it’s now shipped 5 million Gear VR headsets worldwide

CES is happening in Vegas this week, and as part of the proceedings Samsung confirmed during a press conference that it’s sold over 5 million of its Gear VR phone-powered virtual reality headsets. …


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Devs share real talk about why it’s a miracle most games ever ship

“The reality is, left to our own devices, we as developers would never ship a game,” Naughty Dog co-director Bruce Straley tells Vice in a new feature on why it’s so dang hard to make video games. …


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