Community Q&A: Looking Back at QUAKE Wars with ET.TV

October 5, 2012

One of the pillars of Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars’ competitive community was the gang behind Enemy Territory TV. Originally started as a match commentary service, ET.TV soon turned into the go-to destination for tournament coverage, including live streaming, shoutcasting, and a healthy video on demand library.

With Quake Wars enjoying its 5th anniversary this week, we caught up with two of the guys behind ET.TV, Mattc0m and stlava, to reflect on their time in the QUAKE Wars community and to see what they’ve been up to since.

Great to have you with us for ETQW’s fifth anniversary. What are you up to these days?

Mattc0m: We launched a short-lived project called Brink TV a couple years ago. Slava and I oversee the team that broadcasts and creates the Quake Live Tournament coverage and media team videos from QuakeCon. Check our YouTube!

Personally, I just graduated college and started a job as a web designer that is, sadly, outside of the games industry. Still keeping my eyes open to hopefully get back into the games industry, though. I am trying to pick up broadcasting again, and potentially start a gaming community. I’ll post updates on those on my Twitter.

stlava: It’s been an interesting last few years. My involvement in ETTV and later QLTV helped me land a job at and I’ve been working there for the last two and a half years. Outside work and the eSports world I’m nearing graduating college with a degree in Computer Engineering and am starting work on a pretty awesome senior project involving the Oculus Rift VR goggles.

When did you first play Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars and what did you think of it at the time? Has your perception of the game changed over the years?

Mattc0m: I was obsessed with the demo. I played over 70 hours on a demo, which is fairly unheard of. Needless to say, I was hooked. The game was a bit rough and unbalanced at first… which was, honestly, really fun to take advantage of. I remember teams full of hyperblasters camping objectives. I was a medic at heart, and the game was very rewarding for my fast-paced, rambo, medic antics. I had come from the Battlefield 2 community, so there was a lot of new game mechanics I had to pick up. It was a great experience, though. Everything felt very tactical and rewarded good teamwork. And as a team leader, it was really fun creating some strategies that were very unique and kind of out there.

stlava: When I first heard about the game I was super excited as I had been playing BF2 for quite some time and wanted a refreshing reboot on the whole team class gametype which I grew to love. I had been following ETQW for a few months until in early April 2007 when I was invited into the private beta. Prior to playing in the beta my expectations of the game were fairly high and we all know expectations are often overly colorful. However, I was certainly not disappointed by the game once I got my hands on it. I would say when I formed a competitive team my love for the game grew more. You grow to understand the responsibility of each class and teammate when there are only five or six players per team. As the years pass I yearn more and more to get in a few hours of gameplay one of these days.

The ET.TV crew grabbing a bite at QuakeCon 2008

Most memorable ETQW-related moment for you?

Mattc0m: So many great memories, but I remember (this was fairly early on in the competitive scene) that we were trying to come up with some really unique stuff. My personal favorite was a force-respawn of our entire 6-man squad, everyone would be Field Ops or Oppressor, and everyone would toss an airstrike beacon on an objective, then respawn as medics / objective class. We would time them so we could get the airstrikes out before the next respawn timer, all toss in difference places, and his every corner of an objective area.

Something about an entire area just being obliterated was kind of epic.

stlava: One of my most memorable moments of my life has been the ETQW tournament at QuakeCon 2008. Let me set the stage. It’s the first day of QuakeCon day one at 11pm. My team, The United Force, and I were set to face off against the European powerhouse team, Kompaniet, in round one of the tournament. Even though Kompaniet had only gotten to the hotel a few hours prior, we had to play our match to prevent further delays. Both teams were fatigued, Ventrilo was down, most of the tournament staff had gone to sleep but for us there was ETQW to be played. Those few rounds were the most memorable rounds I have ever played and the other ETTV crew members stayed up to broadcast the match. The entire match was a blast to play. Without vent, my team was yelling out loud back and forth to communicate. Kompaniet, sitting across from us, was doing the same in their native tongue. I won’t spoil the match for anyone who wishes to watch it but sufficeth to say, it was epic, almost finals quality.

Slava’s most memorable Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars match

Why did you start ETQW TV and what was the idea behind the service?

stlava: We, the founding members of ETTV, had all been doing similar things prior to the team’s inception. If memory serves me right, Matt and Greased had been separately shoutcasting ETQW matches via audio only on USTREAM for a little while. Viewers had to tune in on the site and then launch the game’s spectator mode as well. At some point I started to help Greased with providing audio and video on USTREAM as I saw it as an opportunity for those who did not have the game to view the matches.
Matt initially created the ETTV website and brand where he hoped all ETQW shoutcasting could happen at. Naturally we all converged under that roof.

Mattc0m: I originally founded the site in 2008, and it started while I was still playing with my team. It was audio-only, people would tune in to my Ustream page (called “Live ETQW Shoutcasting”) and watch the game on the TV delay servers.

After my team retired, I developed the idea of Enemy Territory TV as a brand, launched an actual website, and then was joined by the loveable GreasedScotsman. From there, we eventually added video streaming as well, had a huge VOD library, and generally was taken to “the next level” by GreasedScotsman. It was a great combination, because I had a deep background in the competitive scene, and he had a deep background with the casual scene (especially with his introductory video series). It was really awesome that he believed in and supported my idea, because without him and his tremendous efforts, it never would have become the success that it was. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for taking it to the next level.

How did you end up doing live commentary for multiplayer matches?

Mattc0m: I was originally playing in the matches, but we as a team would watch other teams play in competitive matches after TV servers were introduced. Originally I just provided insight to my team over Teamspeak. Over time, more and more people would hop on Teamspeak while watching the games and we’d talk them over. I eventually started up a Ustream page to stream just the audio. Then Greased joined and a few months later we had figured out how to run video streams. This was very early on, long before the popularity of Twitch.TV and game streaming. Very few companies had the ability to stream video, we were definitely on the forefront of this movement.

stlava: If you remember sports commentary used to be on the radio exclusively.

It’s easy to talk about a game like baseball where the field doesn’t change and most listeners either know the game or know enough of it to infer what is going on. You can’t quite do that for a game as dynamic and complex as ETQW with audio only. If you are new listener it’s hard to get drawn into the game without visually seeing what is going on. So back in the day a lot of shoutcasting was audio only and viewers had to have the game to watch. I wanted to break that barrier and grow not only the viewer base but also the game’s player base. ETTV has been at the forefront of this movement.

In your opinion, what was the coolest achievement of ETQW TV and its community?

Mattc0m: Just the growth and support of the community I considered amazing. Having an entire game community get to know your name and your project is really exciting. I remember that big ETTV matches would have a buzz around the entire community. It was all a very exciting time, that even as the game was fizzling out, that people could get together and get excited for the upcoming matches. I have never seen anything like it in any other game community I have been a part of.

There was a real spirit and excitement for the game. It wasn’t about e-sports or money or fame, like it is today. It was about coming together as a community and enjoying the experience. Whether you were playing the game, or watching a game on ETTV and chatting with the same people that you played with.

stlava: The culmination of our efforts was QuakeCon 2008. I had never imagined all of us meeting and running production at an actual venue. Up to that point I considered us a ragtag group of shoutcasters who had been running broadcasts guerrilla style. We came, we saw and we concurred.

What needs to happen for match streaming and casting to really take off in the FPS community?

Mattc0m: Right now there’s just a real hole in terms of FPS games. Tribes: Ascend and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are starting to take off, however, and have a lot of potential. Nothing has really matured yet, though, and got to that same level as StarCraft and League of Leagues has. I am really excited with how livestreaming has grown and matured over the years, too. It’s a really exciting time to be involved with e-sports and streaming in general.

stlava: The goal of any shoutcaster is to provide insight into the game which goes beyond play by play commentary. A good deal of this insight comes from experience but this can also come from within the game. Allowing shoutcasters the ability to view historic information in real time can help a great deal. The caveat to this is raw stats are nice to hear but they are often used as a crutch when a caster doesn’t know what else to say. Having a variety of information available for the caster can help them draw conclusions and provide insights.

I know some studios want to provide integrated streaming built into the game but they often forget production quality is a big part of the broadcast. Having creative control over the broadcast is key. Running videos, music, overlays and lower thirds, sponsor logos, are all important aspects which should not be restricted by having an in game streaming module. Aside from that, it’s the little things that count such as location, colour, and size of HUD overlays that are often overlooked. Developers need to remember what looks good on a 1080p monitor may not be legible on a 480p stream for viewers.

What would you like to see from Splash Damage to help support the competitive community in the future?

Mattc0m: Get the community involved more! If you involved the competitive community, the streaming community, the map makers, the modders (such as the ETQWpro guys), the server owners, the long-time Splash Damage fans at an earlier stage… I feel you could create something truly special and all sorts of awesome.

stlava: I have a lengthy laundry list but I’ll name my top five.

  1. Realtime stats for matches available from the web.
  2. Pause / Rewind while viewing the match live.
  3. Fully (and easily) customizable spectator HUD.
  4. Fixed camera locations with hot keys.
  5. In game logos for teams.
  6. (Bonus) Trip notifications where spectator gets notified when a player passes a “trip” wire.

We’d like to thank Mattc0m and stlava for taking the time to answer our questions, and the rest of the ET.TV crew for their absolutely marvelous work over the years.

Over to you, community. What’s your favourite / most memorable Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars match of all time (need inspiration?)?