H1Z1 Pro League: An Interview with Jace Hall, Twin Galaxies Chairman

Ford James,

April 21, 2018 5:36 PM

Jace Hall has had a notable and varied career in gaming and esports, but he has his mind set on one thing right now; the H1Z1 Pro League in Las Vegas. Tonight is the premiere, and we got a chance to sit down with Jace to talk about everything from the Facebook exclusivity deal to players being equipped with heart rate monitors.

The H1Z1 Pro League has been long awaited by fans of the game and the battle royale genre, and it’s finally here. 75 players making up 15 teams are descending upon the Caesars Entertainment Studios in Las Vegas, and we’re at the event to cover and report on all the happenings. There’s still an hour or two until it starts, so we got the chance to sit down with Jace Hall, chairman of Twin Galaxies, the organisers of the league along with Daybreak Games.

Battle royale is a genre that has exploded in recent times, and H1Z1 was one of the first titles to make the concept popular. Plenty of games have done it since, some more successfully than others, so we spoke to Jace about what he hopes this pro league can do for the battle royale genre. “I hope that what we do here establishes a minimum standard and expectation,” Jace explained. “From an audience perspective as to how to depict a battle royale tournament or league, in a way that a mainstream audience can digest and appreciate. So I’m really hoping that’s one of the impacts of what we’re doing here today and with our league matches. I hope that comes across and people demand this type of level of commitment from any league operator or even a publisher. If you’re going to put something up let’s do it right, let’s treat the players right and let’s let the players be front and centre.

That’s something Jace says is key for this league; the accessibility for people who may not be familiar with the game, or consider themselves a ‘hardcore gamer’. Facebook is the most popular social media platform, with over 2 billion users across the world, so having the pro league streamed exclusively on Facebook was a decision in line with the vision for Twin Galaxies and Daybreak. “The basic logic that we have for the league is to make this digestible for everybody and to reach as wide of an audience as possible,” Jace told us earlier on today. “So when you’re looking at your distribution options for where you can put something so it can be as wide as possible, we looked at Facebook because obviously they have a user base of over 2 billion people. And they have a built in system of promotion into news feeds, by trending, by sharing. And when you look at something like Twitch, which is a very informed audience, right? But that audience has seen H1Z1, they’ve played it, it’s already been there and so there’s not a growth opportunity for new people to introduce. More people don’t know about battle royale, about H1Z1, than do.

Twin Galaxies Editorial senior editor Jesse Collins (left) with Jace Hall after yesterday's press conference.

We’re interested in creating something and presenting something to a much wider audience that has never heard of who has never even heard of these things, but would be interested. Facebook has something like 800 million people with a demonstrated affinity towards gaming in general. But they may have never even heard of H1Z1. They may have never even heard of Twitch! It’s important to get in front of them, so our deal with Facebook, by giving them an exclusive period which is a few days, and then the content can go out to everywhere else. Our deal with Facebook, it gave Facebook the opportunity to use their systems to reach a lot of different people. And we just wanted to jump on that opportunity and work in close partnership with them to try to introduce esports 2.0 to a new and broader audience, and not intimidate the audience, which is what a lot of esports broadcasts do to people that aren’t as informed.”

Facebook is going to be the home for the avid H1Z1 fans too, as each individual VOD from the game will be uploaded to the specific player’s Facebook page, completely unedited. Jace wanted to stress that fact; each VOD will be untouched and will be straight from the player’s point of view: “It’s whatever happened and went through that player’s computer at the time that he played. Whatever audio’s there, whatever video’s there, that’s getting captured and then that will be immediately - not edited, raw - brought forth so that the public can access and get that information. We just felt that by having these 75 POVs, that answers 100% of the hardest of the hardcore interest in the league and in watching the league. All the information they want is contained in those 75. And nothing’s edited away, nothing’s cut away, it’s all there for them. I don’t think any other league has done anything like this. So with that off the table, now we can focus our entire broadcast, the way that we edit, the way that we present it, we can focus that for the casual, more mainstream audience so it’s not intimidating and it’s very inviting.

When you look at coverage for other esports like Overwatch, CS:GO and Call of Duty, they have so much more than just the matches being shown. And H1Z1 is going to do the same. “There’s a ton of content planned around the pro league. You have the pro league itself, the matches, but then beyond that we’re producing a magazine show, that can give you more insight into the players, there’s going to be highlight shows, like you know, top 10 best moves, there’s going to be short clips, interviews, there’s going to be challenge shows. There’s going to be a ton, which is the point. Here’s the thing, it’s not rocket science; all you have to do is look at what traditional sports content is and what they do. You look at something like ESPN, you look at these places and you just realise it’s already been figured out. Those have been telling the stories for a long time and they do a really good job of it, why isn’t that being applied to esports and the video game culture? It just hasn’t, not in the same way. So that’s what we’re doing.

Part of the innovation is coming in the form of heartbeat monitors too, something that isn’t often seen in esports. The ELeague introduced eye tracking, but H1 is going down a different route, with the aim to provide a narrative and a story behind the player experience. “The eye tracking technology I saw was interesting, but not additive. When we started looking at things like the heart monitors, we realised that heart monitors on pro athletes is not additive because we already know that a pro athlete in a physical sport is exerting themselves - we know their heart is going to be moving. When you put it on a pro esports player, you’re actually gaining insight into their emotional state. That’s additional information, that’s narrative, that’s telling their story as it’s happening, that’s interesting. So a technology like heart rate monitor is something that can help. It can help people understand what they’re looking at, and where the intensity can be. To the extent that we can find new technologies that help to do that, we will do that as it helps the narrative. We’re not going to be particularly interested in technologies that are just sensationalist for the sake of sensationalising, it really needs to play into the storytelling of what these players are about, how they’re feeling, where they’re going and their journey.

The final aspect we touched on with Jace Hall is the strategies the pro players may utilise. The points system has been revamped to encourage engagements and entertainment and hopefully do away with camping, but he said “That remains to be seen. We’ll see what the teams do and learn from there. It’s all new.”

The H1 Pro League kicks off in under an hour, and you can find all the times and where to watch here in our schedule article. Who will come out on top? Find out tonight.



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