Esports Spectator Display Rule
How to calculate display sizes for esports tournament spaces
Planning your esports display
When planning out a space for esports tournaments, many overlook the importance of good audiovisual design to accommodate spectators. Unlike traditional sports where coaches and audiences can watch from the sidelines, esports gameplay must use image magnification with large screens for viewers to watch and follow along with the tournament from a distance. The challenge for most esports event spaces is to produce a video stream that can simultaneously be viewed on large screens for people sitting in the crowd and small screens for people watching the live stream with mobile devices. Luckily, esports game developers have recognized the need to provide “observers” with an entertaining spectator experience; in fact, most modern game developers are designing games with the hope that large audiences will be watching online. And even though game designers are thinking about the viewability of online gameplay, they are also primarily designing experiences to be viewed on screens from roughly 12-24” away. As esports becomes more popular, spectators that attend events in person need to be able to view displays that are large enough to represent important details in the gameplay legibly from a distance.
Choosing Spectator Displays for Esports
While the actual footprint esports players take up inside an event space may be small, thinking about what spectators will need is important in esports areas of any size. In the largest esports stadiums, crowds generally surround large displays that are above or beside the esports players. For that reason, spectators are able to view the gameplay on these large screens that magnify the video broadcast being produced with live video game screens and camera sources. Most large screens are powered by a video production computer that can output a mix of video cameras, capture devices (gaming computers) and live broadcast graphics.
Most game developers offer an “Observer Mode” that can be used to display an intelligent mix of important views of the games being played. In comparison, smaller esports areas, a simple projector or large screen LCD connected to a computer running the video game client in “Observer Mode” may be all you need for spectators to watch. Either way, it’s important to have a foundational understanding of the audiovisual elements involved with properly displaying an esports tournament for spectators.
Designing for esports spectators
To provide the most engaging experience for the audience, spectators should be able to clearly see all the important elements of the game the same way that players can see them in front of their screens. Every game is different, but most video games today use 8-12-point font for detailed inventory items and 12-24 point font for major titles, clocks, and announcements. Font of any size can be hard to read if the viewer is too far away from a screen that is not large enough: as a reference, a 12-24 point font is generally recommended for PowerPoint slides and 10-12 point font is the default size for word processing software such as Microsoft Word.
While you can easily live-stream video of esports to other computers and smartphones that people can focus on with screen directly in front of them, people in a room with a projector or television need the size of the display to accommodate the distance they are viewing from. Game developers use small fonts to save space for other visual elements important to competitive gameplay. Even more, spectators of an esports tournament are not viewing screens the same way they would a PowerPoint slide deck.
Big displays for big tournaments
Furthermore, you may have noticed that this is a very large screen. Over 9’ tall and almost 17’ wide. Given today’s available displays, this means either a flat panel video wall or a projector and screen. When you begin to install such a large screen, you will discover that you need a very high ceiling to accommodate not just the screen height but the mounting height above the floor as well, so that all viewers can clearly see the screen without obstruction. So, if you have the ceiling height and the budget, you can install a beautiful 220” LED video wall or an ultra-bright projector and screen to accommodate spectators as far back as 30’.
Another way to calculate
Consequently, you can also look at this another way by considering that the farthest spectators can sit from a more reasonably sized (and “relatively” more affordably priced) 110” single panel LCD display? A 110” diagonal LCD has about a 54” high image. Using the factor of 3.2, you can sit spectators about 173” (or 14’5”) away from the display. At 54” high and a mounting height of 48” to the bottom of the image, you can likely fit this smaller (though still huge) display under a 9’ ceiling.
Drawing from industry experience
Understanding Arc Minutes
Esports Spectator Display Sizing
Bigger Displays are Better Right?
“Well, how big does text really need to be?” might be your next question. How would anyone know that? Luckily, decades ago, a group of university and corporate researchers collaborated to discover how big textual information needed to be when presented to groups for it to be easily ingested, processed, and recalled. While you do not expect to be tested on the current contents of a player’s health stats or inventory, you can use these results for any application where readable text is the goal. What researchers discovered is that humans need the height of text to take up a minimum of about 10 arcminutes (or ⅙ of a degree) of our vision to be readable.
Applying the standard
|Display Resolution||Display Scaling||Game Setting||Full Screen||Small Menu ~H%||Maximum Viewing Distance to Display Height Ratio*|
*max ratios presented are approximate and are based upon 15 arcminutes of text height of the ‘small’ menu text in LoL specifically. Other games and other text within the game (if smaller) may not follow this recommendation. A strong contrast between text and its background can have a significant effect on results.