For the uninitiated, an international competition is currently being held in the competitive Call of Duty community in search of the best commentators or casters the world has to offer. Eight casters from three different regions have already been selected to face off against one another for the opportunity to cast at both the Stage 2 Finals and the 2016 Call of Duty Championship. All of the necessary information about this competition can be found here, but at this point in time, the second week of competition is already underway.
Representing the ANZ scene is James “MilBoss” Milburn who has been paired up with Landon “LandO” Sanders from North America. The deciding factor for who moves on and who gets eliminated will be based on who has the superior casting performance in a series between two CWL teams, Rise Gaming and Dream Team. The video of this performance has already been completed and can be found here, but the fate of these two men will not be decided until Thursday live during the CWL eSports Recap show.
One of the interesting things about this competition is that the community itself actually has a say in the decision of which casters will be moving on. Each week, a twitter poll will be conducted allowing for the fans to participate by voting for their favorite caster of the current week. This week’s poll can be found here and will last one more day prior to the start of the Recap show. The winner of the poll will receive one out the five total votes to move forward to the next round. The other four votes lie in the hands of the NA CWL casters Maven, MrX, Revan, and Courage.
This of course means that if the CWL casters are split on who should move on, the community itself literally has the deciding vote on who moves on in the competition. With such huge potential for the fans to influence not only an individual caster’s life, but also the talent lineup for the biggest event of the year, it is important that the voters make the most educated decision possible to push the correct man (or woman) for the job through. To help aid those who have yet to make this decision, I have provided a complete breakdown of the performances between MilBoss and LandO.
Things to Consider:
Outright, there are a few things that need to be taken into account when comparing the performances between the two casters. Being that the series was played between two NA teams, it is expected that LandO will have deeper knowledge of the players, teams, and playstyles that will be seen in the match. This is not to say MilBoss has an excuse if not prepared properly, but being much less familiar with the teams will obviously have at least a slight impact on his casting performance.
In the same line of thought, due to the nature of casting from two separate regions and the nature of communication software in general there are times where MilBoss appears to be at a slight disadvantage. During certain exciting plays throughout the series, MilBoss’ seems to fail to match the excitement through his play calling ability but in reality it seems to be a mic issue, not a MilBoss issue. This is most notably heard during Octane’s 1v3 clutch on round three of Fringe SnD. A clear tonal shift can be heard in the voice of MilBoss, but his shouting is not transferred through his mic clearly and he becomes a bit drowned out by both LandO and the game sound. Either that or somehow MilBoss manages to scream really quietly, which would be very peculiar. With those two things in mind, that MilBoss is an Australian casting over NA teams and the mic quality is lesser than mics at events would be, let’s take a look at the pair’s actual performance.
The Casting Pair
One of the most important traits for a caster to possess is the ability to mesh well with their co-caster. Commentating is often described as having a conversation with the person next to you, and if the two casters are not flowing well it can be quite disrupting to the viewer. Right off the bat though, MilBoss and LandO proved they were on the same page with their casting. When LandO provides context for dT vs. Rise prior to the games start, MilBoss was able to run with this idea and discuss the teams recent performances at ESWC and the CWL. Conversely, when MilBoss notes the strong start by dT in the hardpoint, LandO is able to match the storyline by recalling this theme as the game continued on.
Both casters consistently were able to bounce well off of each other and overall they were able to provide an entertaining cast. Perhaps my favorite example of the chemistry the pair were able to develop during their cast was in the game five Hunted SnD during some downtime in round two. After eliminating all four Rise players, dT spent 30 seconds doing absolutely nothing which LandO points out is to help build up their specialist meter. To lighten the mood during the stale gameplay, MilBoss makes a joke about the players being distracted by cushions on the couch which turns into a back and forth between him and LandO discussing the aesthetics of the map. Neither caster missed a beat in this situation and they were able to have a smooth and humorous exchange filling the downtime of a match with something that is actually entertaining to the viewer.
Matching storylines, fluid speaking transitions, and keeping up with each other’s wit all serve to exemplify the strength of the casting pair. Even the various roles of play by play commentating and analysis were bounced back and forth between the two. For it being the first time this pair has casted together, each of them was able to prove they are capable of adjusting themselves to fit their co-caster. If as a pair they were virtual equals we must take a look at their individual strengths and weaknesses to see who set themselves apart. Let’s start with LandO.
Landon “LandO” Sanders
Arguably the biggest strength of LandO’s casting ability stems from his knowledge of everything a caster needs to be well-versed in. From a single series, a single map even, LandO is able to show-off his knowledge of individual players, collective teams, the maps themselves, and even how the specialists operated, all within a single game of Breach Uplink. Briefly he discusses which side has the inherent advantage and why. He acknowledges the importance of the weapon specialists in comparison to the ability specialists after an in-game cue with the scythe. He recalls information about each of these teams past performances in uplink at both the start of the game in the middle, and he does the exact same with specific players. Fulfilling every avenue of CoD knowledge possible, LandO is constantly providing the viewer with relevant information.
Being able to provide an extensive amount of analysis and information is obviously important, however too much analysis can be a bad thing, especially if the information overshadows the plays that are happening in the moment. To his credit though, LandO does not hesitate to jump in to call plays when necessary and he is able to pull off a quality job. In the same game of Breach Uplink, MilBoss covers a play that ends with an active camo dunk putting two points on the board for dT. Rise though, quick on the counter, gives LandO zero time to analyze the last play but he does not miss a thing. Quick to recognize the situation, he effortlessly calls the pass play to the two man push that results in a one point toss for Rise. He follows up the play call with a score read ensuring that the viewer catches every bit of action on screen.
Unfortunately though, nobody is perfect, and while LandO shows exemplary game knowledge and is proven as a versatile caster he is not without his flaws. And not the nitpicky flaws of the occasional stumbling on his words or a momentary loss of train of thought because those happen to everyone. Rather one of the most standout flaws in his casting is his doubling up on phrases. Here are a few quotes for examples. “its what uplink comes down to, and in my opinion too what uplink comes down to is…” “dT is only two games away from tying their S1 overall record performance so in only three weeks they are now only two games from tying their S1 performance as far as wins go”. “So with that in mind kind of keep that in mind…”
Even writing these phrases feels weird and choppy. Doubling up on phrases like this and immediately repeating thoughts likely serves as a filler moment to help LandO take a second to process his thoughts but it’s also a moment that may serve to disrupt the flow of the cast for the viewer. Of course, the thoughts themselves are often relevant and worth mentioning so it is but a minor flaw. Overall in this series, LandO shows to be a very strong and multifaceted caster that is no doubt a strong candidate for the community castoff.
James “MilBoss” Milburn
Something that stood out immediately from MilBoss’ casting was his ability and motivation to put in the work to be at the top of his game. Being an ANZ caster, he is in somewhat unfamiliar territory casting Rise vs dT. Obviously everyone in the community knows the broad strokes like OpTic being the top team in the game or Rise being in contention with them having a great year so far. But far beyond the basics after LandO hits him with some analysis of dT’s record in S2, MilBoss is able to provide context for the viewer about the position dT has in the NA scene and rattles off a handful of other teams that share a similar record. Although this is something that can be easily researched, it still shows he can be comfortable in slightly foreign waters.
As for the actual casting of MilBoss, he describes himself as being able to match the pacing of the game whether it is a hype moment or a passive one, and this is something he proved. Recalling back to the 1v3 clutch of Octane we are on board with MilBoss through about 50 seconds of gameplay. Initially, MilBoss summarizes the position that Octane is in and begins to paint a bleak picture to the viewer. His pacing slows down as he highlights the difficulty of the situation, but he also takes the time to explain to the viewer what his initial game plan would be in trying to bait out the first player. Once Octane picks up his first kill, MilBoss turns the energy up a notch and mentions how talented of a player Octane is, and while clutching is unrealistic, it is not impossible. The quality of this play call really shines once MilBoss recognizes ahead of time that Octane has managed to sneak behind the remaining two players and now has a legitimate chance at pulling the clutch off. His voice continues to pile on with more and more energy as Octane picks up his next kill and upon completion of the 1v3, MilBoss ends with an excited scream of a cast with a quotable finish. Everything a good play-by-play caster looks to accomplish, MilBoss completed in a single successful call. Mixed pacing relating to the action, building excitement with the development of the play, and continuous context for the viewer about the situation at hand were all nailed perfectly.
Understandably though, not every play call from MilBoss was perfect. With the fast paced action of Call of Duty resulting in hundreds upon hundreds of plays, eventually every caster will get one wrong and make some sort of error. The important thing is how casters deal with these mistakes. Again with the fluidity of the cast being important to the enjoyment of the viewer, it is important to take the mistakes in stride, and correct them as smoothly as possible. Early on in the hardpoint game on the second hill, Rise was struggling to get any time on the board. Inadvertently, while MilBoss is saying how Rise filing in the hill individually is not enough to break in, Rise gets three down and immediately gets inside the hill. Caught in a rough moment of casting, MilBoss recovers nicely by stating how picking up the scrap time is not enough for the moment but is a good start to get some points on the board before focusing on rotations.
In a similar vain to LandO, one of the biggest criticisms of his overall cast is only a minor issue in the grand scheme of casting. Important nonetheless to consider though is his use of blanket statements. Towards the end of the Stronghold CTF game, MilBoss mentions how dT has had everything go their way in the game. Now this is a bit of an obvious statement as dT with 20 seconds left took the 2-0 lead. There is nothing wrong with making obvious statements like this on occasion, but with 20 seconds left a lot can be down to take a more thorough approach to explain what has gone the way of dT. MilBoss briefly mentions map control, but does not offer any actual insight that would help the viewer better understand the game. A second example of the blanket statement would be during the Fringe SnD, MilBoss says how Rise was set-up well defensively. This is a perfect phrase that opens up the possibility of diving into exactly what he meant by the set-up; how players covered all angles and traded kills perfectly. Instead, the viewer is simply left with the acknowledgement that a defensive round win means good defense. A minor flaw, but with some polishing could result in a much more involved experience for the viewer in understanding the game.
In the end, both casters proved they are capable as individuals and as co-casters. Each, in their own set of skills, showed strong characteristics that help supply their argument for being deserving of moving on in the competition. Likewise, both casters have flaws, albeit minor ones, that opens up the possibility of improvement. Perhaps you as a fan and viewer are convinced that either LandO or MilBoss is the superior caster, or maybe they are someone you want to see more of. If this is the case, let your voice be heard and vote for your pick here for round two of the castoff.