Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson is the syrup drinking, not even blinking and
In this interview he talks about the progress on his visa, the broadcast changes of Overwatch League season 2 and current team performances.
The most important thing Overwatch League fans will likely want to know is if there
There was promising progress on my visa within the last week and I hope to be back working on OWL shortly. As ever though it’s hard to tell exactly when; I should be conducting the final portion of my process in the next week or so and hopefully I’ll be there in Stage 2 to get some real work done.
To bridge you over till you can get back to Burbank, you’ve started streaming and providing live commentary of the OWL matches and with decent success. Will those completely die when you are back in the states?
Yes, unfortunately those will have to completely end when I get back to working on Overwatch League, as the format requires me to be working Watchpoint and Halftimes every day we are live. I’m glad that so many people have enjoyed those streams, and the response has certainly persuaded me to do more VOD review or analysis streams in general. Something I’ve discussed with my stream is the idea of doing regular “post-post-match” streams chatting with Reinforce or Bren after the games finish for a day, or casual analysis streams on non-broadcast days where I’d sit a few people down on a couch and banter with them while we VOD review a match from the week.
Honestly I think half the people are there for the live commentary, as I can walk them through some of the deeper mind-games in the match without having to worry about packaging it well or presenting a narrative. I’d expect those people to generally not tune in to VOD review streams, but the other half are there for the humour and insight in a more general sense—the replacement streams in LA might be interesting to them.
The “desk segments” have changed a lot since season 1. Most notably, there is no more actual desk and because of a squished schedule, analysts seem to have a bit less time to elaborate upon their points than last season. How will your work adapt to these new requirements? What are the important stories to tell in the current meta under those new challenges?
Having not worked on the new broadcast myself, there’s only so much I can say with authority about how I’ll adapt to the format. In theory though, when this format was proposed, I liked that we would have more time to tackle cool concepts in the pre- and post-day Watchpoint shows.
I don’t believe halftimes have much value either way personally, in 2018 or in 2019—as an analyst on the desk you’re required to tell the story of the game and try to boil down a bunch of separate errors or successes into one fluid narrative. It’s rarely an accurate or insightful narrative, and it almost always changes a lot just before the half (which makes it hard to grab the necessary assets) or in the second half (rendering the halftime discussions fairly useless), but a more detailed look into the mistakes or playstyles of the two teams tends to take too long and not be topical.
I do love the idea of using the video wall during halftimes; I think it’s a fantastic asset. There’s a lot of experimentation open to us throughout the season and I’m confident we’ll find a good way of using those halftimes to deliver quality snippets to viewers. I’m going to try and work a lot of “looking ahead” into the halftimes; if the next map is Volskaya and I can prepare Volskaya strategies that these teams have previously used for the half, it should give the viewers a good idea of what to expect coming up and appreciate the clash of styles a bit more.
As for the pre- and post-day shows, I can see so much potential with those. We have the time to incorporate some Blizzcon-esque skits and comedy bits, deep dive into the failures or strengths of teams throughout the day, highlight awesome moments that didn’t really affect a match but deserve admiration, and host some interesting debates. I was really, really, reaaally excited to work on the Watchpoint show at the start of the year and once we have a set cast on the show I think we can make it incredible.
Once we get comfortable with the new format and unleash some of these ideas, I think it’ll be far more entertaining than the previous format in 2018.
Speaking of Watchpoint. The format went through a facelift and puts a bracket around the broadcast now. Your co-talent Montecristo mentioned that he’d welcome it if fans embraced analytical content more. Do you have ideas in order to make such content and Watchpoint in particular more appealing to a wider audience?
Other esports games definitely have a more appreciative audience for deep, analytical content. If you look at viewer numbers for podcasts, analysis videos, etc. they do tend to be very low in Overwatch comparatively. It seems to be a natural consequence of OWL appealing to a ‘new’ audience in esports who tend to be more interested in the match storylines and the players rather than the level of play itself. It’s not a bad thing, it opens up other avenues to explore and entertain, but it does make analysis more complex to deliver.
I’ve always believed that analytical content will appeal to a wide audience if you can make it seem “cool” rather than like you’re educating people. There are plenty of cool moments in Overwatch League matches, but often they don’t get into the halftimes because they just didn’t make much difference to the overall score. They weren’t important but they were cool as fuck. I wanna highlight some of those moments to draw people in and also focus on explaining the mind-games happening between the two teams in any match.
I think another way of doing this is just to create regular, quality analytical content with humour or banter to sweeten the medicine. I think it’s fair to say that none of us involved in OWL have been producing anything like that up until recently. I don’t really believe in “if you build it, they will come” but we can certainly do more to advertise ourselves as sources of quality content and attract the fans who are open or interested in it.
Last season the broadcast embraced all kinds of shenanigans coming especially from you and Bren but also Goldenboy and Reinforce. This season, the talent seems to be also focusing on the trash talk coming from players and coaches too. Could this work as a sweetener to tell team and player narratives too?
Sure, absolutely. When people were complaining about the lack of it in the inaugural season, I always reminded people that this was the first time these players had been in these situations and needed to be personalities as well as players. They’re starting to learn that there are ways of increasing interest in your matches and increase the value of your band other than just winning. Trash talk from players, more insightful interviews, coming onto the desk for post-day Watchpoint segments—all of these are going to make their brands bigger and create more interest in the matches and narratives.
I want to get your opinion on some of the things that happen on the servers too, since you’ve spent a lot of time hitting the VoDs. Are you surprised that expansion teams are doing this well so far? Did any of them surprise you in particular?
I did expect expansion teams to be a little slower out of the gate, but one of the main reasons I’ve put the expansions teams generally lower on my end-of-season rankings is that they have all their mistakes still to make. Even with a successful Stage 1, adapting to patches and dealing with player burnout or internal conflicts could ruin an expansion team that hasn’t got the experience of how to deal with it.
The expansion teams’ successes haven’t been simple too. I didn’t catch the match this week as I was away, but it seems Paris completely flopped against Atlanta after looking hot and Spark have been a standard of inconsistency throughout the first three weeks. I’m intrigued to go and look at Paris vs Atlanta in particular because Paris seemed very solid and comfortable in this meta compared to Atlanta’s sloppy but talented play.
Atlanta is probably the team I’m most surprised with. Their players didn’t have much experience playing GOATs and the strength of Dafran and Erster has been minimalised by playing Zarya and Brigitte, but Masaa and Daco have been real stars for the roster. They looked sloppy with many mistakes when they played against Philadelphia—Dafran’s Bubbles and Gravs all over the place and Pokpo getting caught out a lot—but seem to have been improving massively since then. I thought communication would be a real issue for them early on in the season, especially in such a teamwork-based meta, but they seem to have solved that incredibly quickly.
Titans have been entirely unsurprising in their level of play, though I must say I’m surprised none of the other teams have been able to match them. Likewise on the other end with Justice and Chengdu.
As for a closing question, I have to put a gun to your head. Who wins stage 1?
I think you’d have to be a fool or an NYXL fan to go against the Vancouver Titans at this point. They’ve had proven success against a range of styles and decent teams, and look to be the strongest and fastest team in Stage 1. Bumper is an incredibly aggressive and instinctive main tank, Twilight is a beast on Zenyatta or Ana, and the whole of their team has amazing teamwork and knowledge of the meta even when the tempo is increased to max.
A number of people, myself included, had questions about how Titans played against Charge’s Sombra GOATs composition, but when you go back and look over the VOD, it’s just because they invested too much into trying to win the fights when they were fighting against EMP. They had four or five fights where they invested more ultimates to try to overcome the EMP advantage and still lost, crippling their ult economy. It’s not a mistake of playing around the Sombra per se and does seem very fixable.
NYXL are really the only other valid answer to this question in my opinion but their slower, controlled pace of play could crumble against other aggressive teams. They highly
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment