Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we speak with BanditB17, a MechWarrior Online Shoutcaster, MRBC league admin, and all around hyper-connected individual in the MechWarrior Online community. We ask him what it’s like to cast some of the biggest games in MechWarrior as well as help out with one of MWO’s biggest leagues. Enjoy!
Sean (Sarna): To start, who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.
BanditB17: I am BanditB17. I am a community shoutcaster and Official Shoutcaster for the Mechwarrior Online World Championship 2016 and, hopefully, 2017.
BanditB17: Hopefully, yeah. I am one of the administrators for the MRBC under Doyle. We are, of course, entering into our ninth season of competitive play. I started playing around season four and then became an admin around season six. I also do shoutcasting for MRBC, which actually got me started, and then I was able to move into more awesome things, of course. And I am drop-caller and leader, one of the leaders, of MarineMechs Divison B competitive-casual team.
Sean: And for someone who’s never heard of it before, what exactly is shoutcasting?
BanditB17: Shoutcasting is when you are in the spectator-slot, and you are watching over an entire match and doing play-by-play on what’s occurring in the match. And then doing a post-match analysis between drops or whatever, analyzing what was done, what could have been done better, really highlighting some of the key plays that decided the outcome of the match. And doing that all on stream, on a delay, for audience consumption.
Sean: So you’re basically like a sportscaster.
Sean: When did you start shoutcasting for MechWarrior Online?
BanditB17: MRBC put out a call for shoutcasters for season six, I believe it was. It was shortly after PGI officially released the spectator tool. There was always a spectator tool in the game, but you had to request special access for it from PGI for content creation and things like that. But when they actually put it into private lobbies, MRBC jumped on the bandwagon. Considering it was always really big into media and highlighting, you know, people uploading videos and just having that presence for media, they jumped right on a call asking for shoutcasters and I was one of the only people that was like, “I’ll give it a shot. I’ve never done this before. I have, like, social anxiety issues, but hey, let’s do it.”
The thing I enjoy about competitive play is the complexities
Sean: What made you want to start shoutcasting?
BanditB17: Well I really, really enjoy MechWarrior Online. I really enjoy playing competitively. And the thing I enjoy about competitive play is the complexities, the little complexities. It’s not always just run out there and shoot everybody – there’s a lot that goes into positioning, scouting. And I really liked talking about that, and it got me into drop calling. And doing shoutcasting is a little bit like drop calling from the back seat, you know what I mean? Like, you can see more than the other team, and you can kind of talk about what you think they’re thinking and stuff like that. And it was just really exciting to talk about, and a natural progression into talking about it on stream.
Sean: What do you think is the hardest part about shoutcasting?
BanditB17: Well, the hardest part about shoutcasting is essentially running the show yourself. You’ve got your shoutcaster and a co-caster, typically. One person is in charge of running the overlays and controlling the camera – you don’t really have a production crew behind you where all you have to do is talk. You have to be at the controls, which can be beneficial because you can go look where you wanna talk about, but there’s a lot to keep in mind.
It’s not just you looking around; there’s an audience behind you watching what you’re watching, and so you have to give them good camera angles. You don’t wanna move the camera too fast or it makes people dizzy. Really go for that cinematic feel while still showing a bulk of the action and not missing any of the side battles too.
It’s not just you looking around; there’s an audience behind you watching what you’re watching
Also, when you accidentally forget to bring your overlay down, and you call the entire match and all anybody can see is your splash screen covering the entire screen. That’s happened a few times. It hasn’t happened in a while, knock on wood. But one of the coolest things was one of the times where I did it, myself and my co-caster MDMzero, we were so enthusiastic about what was happening, and we were so on-point with our calls that people actually enjoyed hearing it – like they were gathered around the radio. It was a really high-tier, very important match, and everybody was listening to your every word trying to figure out what was going on, and we were able to pour out some of the detail.
This was, of course, before I realized that I left the overlay up, but I thought that was really cool because we got a lot of feedback about it saying, like, “Man, you guys did a really good job just explaining what was happening. We could pretty much watch it in our heads.” That was fantastic.
Sean: Well that may be already answering this question, but what’s the best part of shoutcasting?
BanditB17: The compliments are nice. When people say, “Hey, I really like what you do. I think you guys are doing something great for this community.” And that’s really been fuel for me. If everybody just sat there and said, “You sucked,” I probably wouldn’t be doing this. I understand, of course, that there’s a lot of growing that I still have to do, because I never did public speaking, and I never did any sort of sportscasting or anything prior to this. This is where I got my start, so I still feel like an amateur even though I’ve been paid to do this in the past. But if it weren’t for people saying, like, “Man, this is awesome. You should keep doing this. Keep it up. You’re doing great.” That’s what keeps me going, and I think that’s the best part of it.
Sean: I’ve definitely listened to you do a couple shoutcasts on the previous MechWarrior Online Championships, and yeah, you’re really good at this. You should keep doing it.
BanditB17: Oh, thank you!
BanditB17: I try to do as much community outreach as I possibly can. I’ve got, like, 75 TeamSpeak bookmarks, and then I’m in 35 Discord channels. And I frequently go in and just do drops with various teams that play competitive. I do tours and just talk with people. I get their opinions, and you can really start getting a good picture of what people don’t like, what people do like, what people would like to see, what their dreams are, and I can take that information and put it towards making changes in MRBC, or proposing changes to PGI for the competitive scene or the game in general. You make a lot of friends doing something like that too, so it’s really cool to be able to drop in a match and just have random people being like, “Oh, it’s Bandit! Hey, Bandit.”
But yeah, the biggest thing with that, though, is I try to leverage that connection to help. If PGI comes to me and says, “Hey, where’s this person? They said something and we wanted to ask them a few questions about it,” in terms of an idea they had, I can find that person and then make that connection. So I like being that, kind of a go-between.
Sean: And with respect to the MRBC, what work do you do within that organization?
BanditB17: Well, a lot of it is definitely the community outreach. I am constantly looking for teams that might be interested in playing competitive. I go in, I explain how MRBC works, and try and get them enthusiastic about it. And I feel like I can kinda see the results of that when we’re constantly breaking records bringing in new teams. North America has 42 teams this season, and the league as a whole, globally, is at 79 teams, which is a new record for sure. And a lot of those new teams that came in are ones that I went and talked to, and I was able to get them enthusiastic about giving it a shot. I take a lot of pride in that.
I am constantly looking for teams that might be interested in playing competitive.
On top of that, I did have a big part in rewriting the ruleset, recently. We all got together, we all talked about it, and we were able to format it a little bit more lawyer-y to avoid loopholes and things like that, and we laid it out so it’s a lot more easy to read. And I do work with our web developer, Shelle, who is Doyle’s girlfriend. She’s fantastic. I work with her on a lot more on the technical aspects. I’m not a programmer, myself – I’m a tinkerer – but I can kind of bounce things off of her and then she just works her magic. And we can troubleshoot it together, so a little bit more of the back end work as well.
Sean: Have you ever done any work with other leagues, or has it been strictly with the MRBC?
BanditB17: Well, I’d like to support as many comp leagues as possible. But as for actually doing back end work, I had a little bit of an interaction in MechWarrior Arena with Silken, where I would read over his ruleset and kind of give him some pointers on what I think would work and wouldn’t work, or ask some of the tough questions. I did have a little bit of influence in the World Championships where I was able to provide some feedback. So there was a little bit of work there, but really I know that when people come to, say, PGI in general or Bombadil or Tina and they say, “Hey, we would like some support for our tournament,” they typically will send them to someone like me to just kind of listen to what they have to say and then maybe give them some feedback. And I kind of enjoy that role too because this is what I did a lot in MRBC.
Sean: What do you know about MechWarrior Online Championship 2017, or are you allowed to say anything?
BanditB17: Well, during the competitive roundtable, which just happened last Friday [March 31], they did announce that there was going to be a World Championship 2017. For the qualifying rounds, instead of being a large round-robin like it was last season, they’re going to a competitive queue-style system where teams are going to be able to jump into the queue with an eight-man team. The roster has to be declared ahead of time. They can do their map-banning phase and then pick their ‘Mechs and then do the drop. They’re gonna be able to do this at their leisure.
Then they’re going to take the highest-ranked teams from each region – I don’t know how many or anything like that – but my understanding is they’re gonna take the highest-ranked teams from each region and then have them in a combined regional final of some sort to figure out the best. I’m not sure how many they’ll end up actually flying out to Vancouver, they took three last time. And with that said, instead of having the highest-ranked team from each region go to Vancouver, we’re gonna be looking at the top three teams in the world going to Vancouver. So that means the excitement around the World Championship at Vancouver is gonna be significantly higher because the skill gap between those three teams is gonna be minimized.
They need the opportunity to prove themselves and fight for it.
Sean: That’s cool, but at the same time does that seem like some European teams or some Pacific teams really just don’t have much of a chance?
BanditB17: Well, generally the community sees North America as being a powerhouse. So when you look at it from a distance they will typically say, “Oh, well there’s just gonna be NA teams at the finals.” That might not be the case. There are teams in EU and in Asia Pacific that have a lot of very good players and they’re practicing hard to try and become that good, to be able to stand up to them. In the European region, EON Synergy weren’t as far away from EMP as the scoreboard made it look. They need the opportunity to prove themselves and fight for it.
One big complaint with having one team from each region just scraped off the top — yes it was kind of more like an Olympics of MechWarrior, but generally the regional finals were significantly more entertaining than the actual World finals themselves. And I kind of felt that way too. A lot of people predicted the outcome of that before the World Championship even started. They wrote down on paper who the top three teams were gonna be, and more often than not were right. But when you take the three best teams in the world, no matter what region they’re from, all that goes out the window. Anything can happen, and I think that’s the excitement that people want when they go to MechCon.
Sean: Let’s get onto a little bit more general questions. When did you get into BattleTech?
BanditB17: I think my first exposure to BattleTech was MechWarrior 2 when I was a kid. I know some people are like, “What do you mean ‘kid’?” I’m in my thirties now, but I was a kid when those games came out, and I was enthralled from the very first time I saw that Timber Wolf walking through the canyon, and just the voice acting and the action from that cutscene, and then getting right into the gameplay, which looked nothing like the cutscene, but I loved every minute of it. And I played the Ghost Bear one, I played Mercenaries, I quote those videos constantly, which is hilarious. I did MechWarrior 3, and I’m probably one of the only people that liked the cutscene from MechWarrior 4 with the live-action, I actually enjoyed it.
Sean: I thought it was really well done, I mean, as far as ‘Mech games go.
BanditB17: Yeah, I’d like to see more of that. But, just in general, the concept of big stompy ‘Mechs and stuff just always really enthralled me. You know, I enjoyed it. They’re like walking tanks, you know? They’re not super-nimble. They’re not Gundams and stuff like that, and it just feels a lot more military to me, and I’ve always been a big fan of that.
Just in general, the concept of big stompy ‘Mechs and stuff just always really enthralled me.
Sean: And now the all-important question: what is your favorite ‘Mech?
BanditB17: It changes. Based on MechWarrior Online, right now my favorite ‘Mech is the Warhammer. I enjoy the look of it, I enjoyed seeing the Warhammer in the original MechWarrior trailer for what MechWarrior Online was supposed to be originally that was put out by Smith & Tinker. I just like how that ‘Mech looks, and then in MechWarrior Online I like how it feels. It’s agile, it has great hitboxes, it’s got really nice pinpoint, high-mounted weaponry, and it’s just my go-to ‘Mech right now.
But in terms of the overall series, I probably fall into a common mold for people who didn’t play tabletop. The Timber Wolf is so iconic, and that was always my favorite from the very start. Those big missile pods and arm-mounted weaponry, and that nose, that dome kind of cockpit, fighter jet kinda looking thing. I don’t know how you would describe that.
Sean: A mishmash of every single military thing you can think of and then add chicken legs.
BanditB17: Exactly. And so when you think of an iconic ‘Mech from MechWarrior for somebody who started in MechWarrior 2, basically, that is it and I wouldn’t doubt that I’m not alone.
Sean: Absolutely. All right, that’s all I had. Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self promote-y.
BanditB17: MRBC season nine has just started. Matches are being scheduled as we speak, and we’re gonna see the first matches start playing out the week of April 10th. We will be setting up some shoutcasts for that, so make sure you follow twitch.tv/MRBCLeague, and of course follow us on Twitter as well @MRBCLeague. We post up when the casts are, but we also post them up on Reddit on r/OutreachHPG. PGI just set up, for the first time, a competitive forum on MWOMercs, and we’re starting to populate that forum with information. There’s a hiring hall in there if you’re interested in playing competitive. Post up on the “looking for team” section of the hiring hall, otherwise browse through the many teams that are putting up their advertisements. And feel free to, of course, discuss competitive play in that forum as well.
Sean: Awesome. Alright, that’s it for me. Thanks so much, and look for this in the coming week!
BanditB17: I look forward to retweeting you.