The Worldwide Invitational is all about spectating. Watching live Starcraft, Warcraft III and WoW arena tournaments brings fast-paced action to anyone who cares to drop by, and even if you don't play the games themselves, it's fascinating to watch the experts at work. But does the same apply to raiding?
Yesterday Nihilum took part in a Kil'Jaeden raid live, over two 30-minute sessions. Kungen, Hath and Sniffy were raiding on stage, with Marilyn providing commentary. We never saw the raiders' screens; instead, three cameras inside the room provided multiple views of the encounter to give a cinematic feel. With commentary pointing out various aspects of the fight, the raid was a rare glimpse at a boss many players are unlikely to see.
However, the excitement of watching a live raid pales somewhat in comparison with watching live PvP, especially when you can't see the raiders' screens. From what little side-on glimpses we saw, we could tell that the players were raiding with a default UI and none had headsets (Nihilum raid without voice chat); Kungen's raid warnings rang over the sound system and we could occasionally see him typing furiously to the raid.
While non-raiders may be entranced by the pretty graphics and scale of the encounter, raiders watching may have felt something was missing. Without being able to get a feel for what was going on, seeing the raid suddenly wipe after hearing "Everyone's alive, this is going well" was incongruous; we had no idea what percentage the boss was at or how close a call the wipes were. When told by Kungen that they had needed 1% more DPS to save one particular wipe, did anyone watching really understand why?
A better question, perhaps, is whether they care. However, raiding is very much a first-person pastime, and watching it from a third-person perspective just takes a lot of the intensity away from one of the toughest encounters in the game. The audience reacted to events they understood -- Nihilum wiping, for the most part, and whenever every member of the raid managed to get inside the shield. Outside of the wipes it was fairly repetitive to watch, although Marilyn and the camera operators did their best to try and make it interesting. Perhaps if we could have seen the raiders' screens things would be more entertaining, but the cinematics alone of raiding don't make for a good spectator sport. Zooming in on someone's hand pressing 3 repeatedly, or the female member of the team (wait, what?) chain-casting Flash of Light, isn't really gripping television.
But, fundamentally, raiding can just boil down to performing a simple series of tasks (pressing 3) in a dynamic environment, reacting to events and hazards, and making many decisions on the fly (what to DPS, what to heal, controlling threat, debuffing the boss). None of this is really apparent from a third-person view of the fight, so perhaps these live raids are simply there to show off the visuals of the encounter and let everyone know just how scary the boss is and how complex the fight is, without really meaning to appeal to raiders at all.
Would raiders watch a famous player raiding using their normal UI? In many ways, we already do when we watch kill videos -- a video without a UI would hardly convey any of the information we need to gather about the fight. However, opening up one's UI, custom boss mods, raid chat, officer/guild chat, ventrilo conversations and specific strategy can really expose your guild's methods to others -- and for the top guilds in the world, keeping secretive is how they retain their edge. So live raids will likely remain more cinematic than involved, allowing people to get a glimpse of the encounter but providing little appeal to those who have already beaten it and want more specific insights from the event.