The status of spectators in video games

Jutst stumbled across this document: Supporting Spectators in Video-Games by Ashwin R. Bharambe (Carnegie Mellon University), Venkata N. Padmanabhan (Microsoft Research) Srinivasan Seshan (Carnegie Mellon University). It's about the technical feasibility of including spectators in multi-player games.

Spectator-mode gaming, or spectating, has emerged as a popular paradigm for online multiplayer gaming. Spectating allows users to watch the proceedings of an online game akin to how television allows people to watch real-world games and sports. be natural to deliver their cheers only to the players that they are viewing.

We examine network support for spectators in online multi-player games. We consider how the associated challenges are different from those in traditional audio/video streaming. Specifically, we consider two problems: spectating (distributing the gaming stream reliably to spectators, who may outnumber the players by several orders of magnitude) and cheering (delivering the spectators’ audio cheers to the players as well as to other spectators). We point out the many unique challenges and opportunities for optimization that arise in this context in terms of resilience, bandwidth adaptation, and dynamically varying user interest. We outline a solution based on overlay networking and quantify some of our design arguments with a preliminary evaluation of Quake III, a popular first-person shooting game.

Why do I blog this? I think we have an indicator of a new pattern here in video games: there is another video-game experience, that is to say watching what others do in the game world. For instance warcraftmovies or hacprod allows people to watch video of games (captured with software like fraps as reported here). There is also a relevant distinction between in-game spectators (as described in the paper quoted above) and people present in the same room of the player, sharing cues and tips (I've attended a talk about this at Playing with the future but I cannot find out who is the author)

Now the question is how will this be reflected into future game design? how game designers would take that into account?