Held in November 2022 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, GA, the BCX World Championship is the 7th annual event of its kind. It is also the biggest Brawlhalla esports tournament ever, and the first open, in-person event with attendees since 2019. Developed by Atlanta-based Blue Mammoth Games and published by Ubisoft, Brawlhalla is an immensely popular free platform fighting game with over 80 million players worldwide. Beyond the competition itself and the opportunity for fans to congregate and meet other like-minded individuals, the event was a full expo featuring a variety of activities and series of developer panels throughout the 3-day event.
Given the overall scope of the 2022 BCX World Championship, a substantial communications network consisting of a variety of systems and different manufacturers’ technology was necessary. And Clear-Com® was integral to ensuring all those elements played well together.
Designing and implementing comms systems in the esports space can be challenging, explains Dylen Roberts, Director of Production Operations for Skillshot Media, the company mounting the event. “It’s a space where many people don’t know how the systems interact. There are a lot of different systems that have to talk to each other that you wouldn’t normally use in traditional sports environments.”
As a longtime Clear-Com partner, Skillshot’s use of Clear-Com technology is “almost like beta-testing products” for the Esports environment, Roberts adds, citing the company’s early adoption of Clear-Com products, including HelixNet, FreeSpeak II, the recently released Arcadia platform, and Station and Agent IC.
For the BCX World Championship, Skillshot deployed a system comprising an Eclipse® HX-Median frame, two E-DANTE and one E-IPA interface card, five FreeSpeak II® transceivers, 20 FSII beltpacks, 12 V-Series Iris™ panels, and three Station-IC™ Virtual Desktop Client and Agent-IC® Mobile App licenses.
Coordinating the various systems and ensuring they’re working correctly and set up clearly requires “a lot of hands, brains, and voices,” Roberts notes, adding that the amount of traffic and conversation flow for an event like this goes well beyond everybody taking orders. “There’s a lot of two-way traffic in the communication workflow, so we always bring in a comms specialist to put the puzzle pieces together.” In this case, that was Clear-Com Product Manager Frank Linton, who worked closely with Skillshot on the system design and was pivotal in integrating the various communications technologies.
Prep work and pre-planning among multiple stakeholders (event organizers, executive producers, production crew, competitors, on-air talent, and game developers) took roughly six months. The three-day event involved two simultaneous live broadcasts, seven simultaneous transition feeds, and 30+ hours of broadcast captured by approximately 35 cameras. Moreover, it required rock-solid, reliable communication between roughly 200 crew members, 17 on-air talents, and over 600 active competitors.
Calling this an unusually comms-heavy event is an understatement. “These world championships are the biggest events for game developers for the entire year; the equivalent of a Super Bowl for esports,” Roberts says.
Although the technical requirements are different and the playing field is virtual, the pressure to perform is similar to traditional sporting events for gamers and everyone working behind the scenes. It’s a fast-paced gaming environment, even more so than a traditional sporting event, and one with fewer breaks in play. Then there’s the additional layer of capturing and transmitting audio from computers and game consoles that aren’t necessarily designed for broadcast.
On-site or not, for everyone involved, in any capacity, counting down to going live is intense. “There’s little room for error,” Roberts adds. “Live production is unforgiving; once it’s out there, it lives on the Internet. It doesn’t give you a chance to correct mistakes. So communications can make or break the show.”
“The Clear-Com system was invaluable,” he continues. “For us, the most important thing about Clear-Com is that with all the different products and features, we’re still able to integrate it with other systems and their mainframes. No event we’ve done has been the same, so we always have to have the ability to add, subtract or change the gear to mix and match technologies.”
Doing so fluidly and efficiently and helping others do the same continues to fuel the success of Skillshot’s ongoing work with Clear-Com. “I would say our partnership is built around education,” Roberts says. “We train people to use Clear-Com so they can go out and support others in the industry. We do workshops with Clear-Com covering how we integrate systems in esports — which, again, is very different from other broadcast applications.”
Ultimately, Clear-Com is a no-brainer for Skillshot for a multitude of reasons: the price point, quality, reliability, and the wide range of technology on offer. “They take a lot of pride in making sure people buying their product are offered training and support. That’s a big element for us,” Roberts says. “But, most importantly, it’s the audio quality. Even when people in-house open their mics in a loud environment, it’s clear and defined, and we can actually hear that (level of) definition through them. Clear-Com is a great provider.”