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Turtle Rock Lays The Groundwork For Evolve’s eSports Future

by Mike Futter on Apr 02, 2015 at 08:45 AM

At PAX East, during the Evolve PRO-AM tournament, I had the chance to speak with producers Anna Coulter and Jon Bloch about the game. The duo was instrumental in creating Evolve’s eSports-friendly Observer mode, which launched earlier this week.

While I was at PAX, I wandered past the PRO-AM tournament stage a number of times. The seating area was packed and fans were cheering. With the Observer mode in the hands of players, Turtle Rock and 2K hope to see fans organizing their own live-streamed competitions.

One of the features that will help viewers keep track of the match is the informational HUD. Included in the data are projected survival chances for the monster and the hunters.

“Those are based on an algorithm,” Coulter told us. “It takes a lot of factors, including hunter health, monster health, strikes on hunters, and it now includes game mode objectives. These include power relay health, how many survivors are still alive, etc. There’s a lot that goes into the algorithm, and we’ll be watching streams to fine tune it as time goes on.”

The observer view also shows which of the players has active perks, status (down and incapacitated), and pet cameras for those hunters that have them. “We want to see what people want and how people react to it,” Bloch says. “This is our initial offering, and the idea is to get community feedback and see how people are using it.”

Observer mode includes some additional data that can be used in post-match recaps. If you’ve ever watched any sporting event (or eSports event), the after-action analysis is an important discussion.

“We’ve set observer mode up with a whole new post-round,” Coulter says. “We wanted to give more tools to livestreamers for round analysis, so we include on the timeline people’s health, the first time hunters encounter the monster, when players were incapacitated.”

The timeline will be useful as streamers become more accustomed to broadcasting matches. “You’ll notice after the round, you’ll notice this line that looks like a heartbeat,” Bloch explains. “It’ll show icons for everything that happens, and there’s the map replay that gives you similar information, but presented differently. There’s lots of ways to look at the same data.”

Included is a statistics panel that casters can use for their analysis, also. These provide a deeper dive, letting teams know how successful they were at confining the monster, for instance. Here, players and casters can see where they excelled and where the match fell apart.

The final match of the PAX East PRO-AM

While these resources help create a framework for Evolve’s eSports presence, the game has one logistical hurdle to overcome. Its inherent asymmetrical nature created some challenge when determining how competitions would work. For the PRO-AM each team consisted of four players, with one serving double duty as the monster. That doesn’t mean it will always be that way, though.

“It’s an interesting problem,” Block says. “Similar to how we’re releasing observer mode as an initial offering, we want to see what gets adopted. We want to see what the community drives forward. We can come up with some ideas, but it’s got to grow organically, or else it’s not going to work.”

As we spoke, the crowd noise from the ongoing match roared behind us. “We’re doing stuff like this,” Bloch said as he motioned toward the crowd. “It’s proof that people want to watch the game. It’s the reason we made observer mode in the first place.”

For more on Evolve, check out our recent interview with Zaq "Maddcow" Hildreth following Pushing Daisies’ victory at the PAX East PRO-AM. Observer mode is available now at no cost.