In the first few weeks after TFT's beta launch on the PBE, TFT was a huge hit on Twitch. The game was often found in Twitch's top 5 games with over 100,000 concurrent viewers. Because ranked wasn't available, streamers would play sub matches with each other to tens of thousands of viewers. A sub match is where everyone gifts subs to the winner's community.
The first large TFT tournament was the Twitch Rivals tournament in July featuring 64 invited streamers. This was a huge event with a ton of viewership. According to EsportsObserver, the event gave "TFT its 2 most-watched days on Twitch ever". Anyone remember JoshOG destroying lobbies with his Volibear carry build?
The second large TFT tournament was the TwitchCon Twitch Rivals tournament in September. This tournament had lower viewership than the first Twitch Rivals tournament and could not reproduce its success. This was partly because there were fewer big name personalities participating (no Reckful, no Yassuo, no Forsen) and partly because the tournament came right after an exciting League of Legends tournament between Team Yassuo and Team Tyler1. Juxtaposed against a Team Yassuo and Team Tyler1 brawl on Summoner's Rift, TFT felt slow and methodical. This was especially true as a live spectator... I was there for both tournaments in the TwitchCon arena.
The third large TFT tournament was the Red Bull Rise of the Elements Invitational. This tournament also couldn't live up to the success of the first Twitch Rivals tournament. The production value was just a little scuffed and the tournament didn't feel competitive at all. There were weird rules and the casters were walking around talking to players while games were ongoing. Sometimes, players would even leave an ongoing game and let a caster play in their stead. It also didn't help that many of the players and most of the viewers were unfamiliar with the new season's content.
Due to the middling success of the recent large TFT tournaments, there's a perception that it's tough to make a live viewing experience work for TFT; a successful tournament format and viewing experience still needs to be figured out. Riot Mortdog, the lead game designer for TFT, even stated on stream that he believes TFT esports is better consumed through well edited VODs as opposed to live streams.
My humble opinion is that a live viewing experience for TFT esports can work. Here's how.
Nobody wants to watch a tournament where no one's trying hard and everyone's having fun (cough cough Red Bull Invitational cough cough). The more competitive a tournament is, the better the storylines get, and the more entertaining the show is.
Circuit points earned through frequent tournament games
TFT games are designed to have randomness (or RNG, as it's colloquially known). A healthy amount of RNG is good since it adds novelty to each match and tests the ability for players to adapt. Even though a highly skilled player could "low roll" and come in 6th in a match while a lesser skilled player could "high roll" and come in 1st in the same match, in the span of 100 matches, the highly skilled player should have a much higher win rate than the lesser skilled player. Think DeliciousMilkGG and how he stayed at the top of NA's ranked ladder for weeks on end.
What does TFT's RNG mean for its competitive scene? In my opinion, there should be frequent low-cost (i.e. online) tournaments where players can earn circuit points. In between these tournaments are high stakes LAN Majors where players can earn much more circuit points. The end of the season should be marked by a high stakes LAN Final.
A high tournament frequency reduces the effect intra-game RNG has on a player's standings. It also fosters deep player storylines. Any esports organizer worth their weight knows that deep player storylines significantly adds to the entertainment factor of a tournament.
High stakes Majors and Finals
As mentioned iabove, each season should be highlighted by high stakes Majors and a Final. These events are the cummulation of all the player storylines built up during the season. The competitiveness of the season, the convergence of player storylines, and the high stakes of the event come together to create a highly entertaining event.
Sophisticated spectator client
Not much needs to be said here, everyone knows that TFT urgently needs a spectator client and Riot is working on one as we speak.
TFT games start out slow and gradually build up hype as team comps become more powerful and each player's HP decreases. To keep spectators entertained during a game's dull moments, data should be extensively used. TFT is an inherently data-driven game and data is not only interesting to spectators, it also helps spectators understand how the game is progressing.
Here're some examples of data that could be shown during a broadcast:
- Gold earned and spent by each player
- Total cost of each player's board and bench
- Comps that each player appears to be building towards
- Number of units left in the pool
- Player stats (historical comps played, econ style, average health at each stage of the game)
Communal and personal
Even though a tournament is a centralized event, players should be able to stream their tournament games and provide commentary to their viewers. Viewers can jump between individual player streams and the main event stream. TFT lends itself to streaming and its competitive scene should lean in to TFT's vibrant streaming communities.
As an avid TFT player, viewer, and wholly-unqualified esports tournament designer, these are just my humble opinions on what makes a great TFT esports experience for both players and spectators. I could be wrong on many points and encourage feedback and discussion. Thanks for reading and let's collectively create a great TFT esports experience.