What is a VOD Review?
VOD is short for “Video On Demand”. A VOD Review is when a coach and a player or team sit down and watch a VOD of a match together in order to improve their understanding of the game. Running an effective VOD review is a crucial skill in the toolbox of any League of Legends coach.
VOD reviews are useful because they let you and your team look at what the player did and figure out whether or not it was optimal. They are an especially concrete tool to use with players because they show you exactly what happened. Also, the ability to pause allows for more in-depth discussion. This is because it gives you the time to fully explore the game state and review player decisions in detail. They allow the player to become their own critic, which can be much harder to do objectively without a replay tool.
Coaching is a relatively new phenomenon in eSports, so there isn’t much documentation on how to do it well. In this article, I will outline the complete process that I follow in my own VOD reviews, and then present some points for consideration. The emphasis is on running sessions with high-level teams, but I will note any differences that would be appropriate to an individual player. There is more than one way to run a successful VOD review, so please read with a critical mind.
Before The VOD Review – Preparation
Getting ready for a VOD review is the most important part of the process. Being prepared will help keep things focused, effective, and efficient.
Know your Audience
VOD reviewing is a little bit different depending on whether you’re working with an individual or a team. If your audience is one person, then you’ll primarily be giving feedback that is relevant to them. You can comment on the rest of their team for context (they probably will if it’s a solo queue loss), but keep the focus on what they can improve for next time. Context is a factor, but it’s not a controllable one so don’t waste much time on it.
Working with a team you’ll probably be giving a mixture of individual and team feedback. It’s important to make sure that your split between the two is balanced. If you focus too much on individual feedback during team sessions, the other players will get bored and lose focus. If you focus too much on full-team feedback, you may not be addressing important issues with the individual players. Different teams will need feedback in different ratios, so experiment and see what your team benefits from the most. I try to limit myself to three concepts per VOD review for each player to remember.
Different Types of VOD Reviews
When the focus of a review is mostly tactical, I prefer to use a player perspective (Local recording) VOD and do the session immediately. This allows me to get maximum insight into how the player felt about parts of the game, or where their attention was. In addition, it gives you insight into their camera and mouse control.
If the focus is going to be mostly strategic I find it easier to use a spectator recording to get a better feel for the state of the whole map. This can be a local recording from a spectator client, replay file, or a VOD from a streamed competitive game. These kind of reviews are more suited to asking deeper, more theoretical questions that require the player to be really objective. These tend to work better if you have a delay between the game and the review. This is to allow the player to get their head out of the game, while also giving you more time to prepare.
Identify a Skill to Focus on
Before you can start preparing for a review, you need to know what the focus will be. If you’ve worked with them before, you’ll already have a decent idea of what needs to be worked on next. Ideally, you also have a long-term plan. If you don’t have one, we’ll cover your options in the next section. Limit yourself to planning around the three concepts that are most important. Much more and you risk leaving them with a “full bucket”.
Humans can only focus on a limited number of things at once. The average “working memory” can hold seven (+/- two) pieces of information at once. These spaces make up what I call a player’s “Bucket”. Playing the gamein real time usually takes up most of your bucket, so only a small space remains for actively improving a skill. Trying to improve multiple skills at once will usually end up overloading the player.
Pre-Watch your VOD and Take Notes
Take time-stamped notes on the game before you start going through it with your players. You can take down anything you notice, but your top priority is to review anything relevant to your three chosen concepts.
/ 1700 We trade top for the dragon. It’s fine now but will cause problems later.
? 2140 Can we stall them at baron?
+ 2350 Great target calling
! 2405 “Baron or Mid?” – Player. I think we should actually shove mid and go top.
I take paper notes and use symbols in the margin to keep track of my overall feeling about the decision. This makes for an easy reference system.
I usually watch VODs at x4 speed, pausing whenever I take a big note so I don’t miss anything. Take it slow to start with, make sure you are being effective before you try to be efficient.
Familiar Vs. Unfamiliar Teams
With my team, I start with the concepts I want to cover based on previous sessions and find moments in the game which exemplify them. However, if it’s your first time working together, you’ll need to go about things a little differently than usual. The way you approach the previous two steps should change slightly.
If you’ve never worked with your team before, then you don’t know what concepts they need to work on. Talk with your team beforehand and find out if they have a skill they’d like to work on. If they don’t, instead look for moments in the VOD which reveal areas the players can improve on. Once you’ve gone through the whole replay choose the three concepts that the team will benefit the most from learning. Knowing which to choose is a skill that comes with practice, so pay attention to what works and what doesn’t with each player.
Get the Players Involved
If the review is not immediately after the game, you can encourage the players to watch it in their own time. This way they can bring their own questions or comments on the game. When I am in a team and suggest this, it quickly becomes evident who the most dedicated players are. Encourage participation, because the whole team will benefit. Also, when players have questions it gives you opportunities to grow as a coach.
During The VOD Review – Execution
When actually doing the review, the best practice is to focus on your chosen concepts and really dedicate the time to discussing them properly.
Often a player has a few gaps even after you’ve explained a concept. Taking the time to work through a topic thoroughly is often more effective in the long run than dumping as much information as possible on the player. When you think about giving feedback my way, you might feel like every topic is a precious resource. That’s great because it will force you to become a better coach.
Give Effective Feedback
I was once working with a challenger series team who needed to improve their ward structure. I wanted them to place wards in layers, with pink wards closest to their base, green wards further out, and blue wards further still. So I said to them that I wanted their wards to have layers like an onion (Or an ogre). 12 months on, I recently was told that players who I’ve never talked to before are using the term. Clearly, it stuck.
Giving feedback to a single player is relatively simple. All the feedback is relevant to them so they should be consistently interested. If you stop and ask regular questions so you know if they understand the concept. If they aren’t confident talking about it, then explain it again in a different way. Relating the concepts to a different game or a food metaphor/simile can be helpful.
Try to avoid picking on anyone because it can ruin the team environment. On the other hand, if you don’t have much to say to an individual player because they played really well, that can feel unsatisfying for them. In that situation, I make sure to note that they are playing well and additionally encourage them to help their teammates with the new concepts.
Once you have a whole team, it’s a little trickier. Try to keep them on their toes by asking open questions. Occasionally check with a specific player if you think they might be able to add some insight, or if it is really important for that player in particular to understand the concept.
Sometimes a question or comment from a player will signal that you might need to talk about a concept you hadn’t planned for. Knowing whether this is more important than the original plan can be quite difficult. In order to aid you, here are some things to consider when making a tough decision:
If it’s really hard to decide, then don’t stress. It’s likely both concepts have similar value, and any decision is a good one. The main priority is to make sure that the player benefits from the session.
After The VOD Review – Review
Once you finish, you can evaluate how you did and start preparing for the next session!
Leave Time for Questions
Hopefully, the players have been making comments and asking questions throughout the VOD review. However, sometimes the players don’t have an opportunity because the discussion you planned gets in the way. Give them a chance to at the end. If you’ve got time, go back to the moment they want to look at and discuss it with as much attention and effort as your own points.
Set Actionable Goals
Restate the key learnings from the VOD, and decide which ones you want to set training objectives for. A training objective is a specific, measurable skill. You might ask a player to:
- “Solo kill your opponent before level six in this matchup”
- “Communicate your teleport cooldown at least once every two minutes”
- “Grow an onion of wards in the enemy jungle, twice”
Anything you want to work on can be turned into an objective for next time. Remember that objectives should be relevant to the development plan, be referenced from in game examples, and simple for the player to remember and focus on. Remind them of your metaphors. Have them write down the key points for their next play session.
Assign Extracurricular Activities
If any of the skills or concepts you’ve covered require additional playtime, drills, readings, or even more VODs, then talk about them now. Make sure the players understand why these things are important by linking them back to the player’s personal goals. Repeated exposure to concepts or skills is a great way to solidify new learning.
Get Feedback on your Feedback
The person on the receiving end of your feedback is often the person best placed to let you know if something felt like it worked or if it didn’t. They might not know what the specific improvement should have been, and that’s fine. Or, they could have a great idea for what you could do differently, and that’s even better! Remember, just like you expect the players to hone their craft every day, they have a right to expect the same from you.
Give yourself five minutes right after you’re done with the player to think through how you did. Make a list of questions to prompt self-critique. Try to keep away from any self-flagellation, focus on what could be better next time. Here are some the questions I start with:
- Did they have questions you couldn’t answer?
- Was the VOD review ran smoothly?
- Did you meet your personal standards for your process and knowledge?
- Do you have any further work to do before the next review?
- Did you bring the right kind of energy to the interaction?
- Were the points you covered the most useful to the student?
By now you should be well on your way to preparing VODs like a pro. Keeping the discussion focused and thorough will result in your players learning more in less time. I’ve covered a lot of skills and ideas in this article, so please, use it as reference material. Do a few VOD reviews, and come back to read it again, focusing on the parts that feel relevant. With practice, you will develop your own process, and leave players wowed by how smoothly things run.