From homestands to home: the trials of a remote Overwatch League
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Jessica DiPaola working on an Overwatch League remote broadcast

From homestands to home: the trials of a remote Overwatch League

How OWL pivoted in the face of a global pandemic
This article is over 3 years old and may contain outdated information

Adam Mierzejewski, the Overwatch League’s Senior Manager of Competition Operations, was preparing for his next flight to Florida. It was his sixth consecutive weekend of travel.

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That was in March of 2020. The Overwatch League had already completed the opening five weeks of its first season of weekly homestands across the globe. But that was the moment Mierzejewski got the call: the league wasn’t traveling anymore. The COVID-19 pandemic, which already forced the Overwatch League to cancel its homestands in Asia to start that season, was pervasive enough around the world that the league could no longer hold homestands anywhere.

Activision-Blizzard’s ambitious dream of hosting esports matches in a different global venue each week had been put on hold. But, while the scale of the league — its broadcast and its operations — certainly made going remote a challenge, it wasn’t impossible. After all, esports is no stranger to online competitions.

“We were fortunate in that we started the legwork on planning what a work-from-home solution could look like before shutdown orders were implemented or anything like that,” Frank LaSpina, the Overwatch League’s Senior Director of Broadcast, said. “It was an all-out engineering and product spring to sort of identify what each person needed to really do their job. And not just at the minimum level, but at a high level.”

LaSpina said the team needed to go out and order a bunch of new equipment to keep broadcast running on the remote setup at the same quality it ran while live. In just a few weeks, the Overwatch League production team began amassing ring lights and cameras for on-air talent and equipment for broadcast team members to keep the show running.

Isaac Jimenez and his work from home set up
Isaac Jimenez and his work from home set up. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

But the Overwatch League didn’t just need equipment for talent and production crew members. They needed to make equipment available for teams and players in the interest of fairness. The league now allows players to rent PCs when they’re signed by a team and cameras are provided to teams both for player cameras and for team cameras.

Additionally, all of this new equipment had to be put to use as part of brand new setups in places that weren’t intended to become broadcast studios.

“At the start, it was a lot of cabling and wiring. It was anything to keep the show on the air,” LaSpina said.

So much of the 2020 season became a learning process for everyone in the Overwatch League, according to Mierzejewski and LaSpina. The league and its production team experimented with what worked and what didn’t, hoping to land on the most exciting presentation possible for online matches taking the place of live events.

“We weren’t sure what was coming next with the pandemic, so we had to play everything by ear,” Mierzejewski said. “We were taking lessons learned week-by-week; from our fans, from our players, our teams…even internally.”

The teams were taking lessons learned week-by-week and applying those lessons to run matches more smoothly and create a better broadcast. However, only so much progress can be made while everyone on staff is preparing for a new slate of matches every week.

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Emery Winter
Emery has been writing about Overwatch since 2017 and about VALORANT since the game's beta in 2020. Outside of their interest in esports and video games, they're a fan of sports, anime, Godzilla, dragons and maps. But probably not all at once.