February 27, 2007

Welcome to the first installment of the Week in Review!  There are a lot of things that never make it to GotFrag.  I’ll be posting news stories I come across that might have slipped through the cracks.  Sometimes they’re stories that get buried under other news, but usually they’re Source stories that are left to rot on the CAL forums.  (I don’t blame them.  As a general rule, you should never go there after dark.  If you absolutely, positively have to go after dark, make sure you have an admin with you.) Basically, I’ll be filtering news stories, bringing to light things that were left behind, and condensing team changes into one place.

CEVO-P Source is down to seven matches per round after x3o recently dropped out.every team faces each other once, so it makes sense to have two byes per week. It wouldn't be possible to reschedule all the matches and keep the schedules balanced.

x3o quit Source to focus on 1.6, but zEx is doing it the other way around.

If you can’t find your favorite team in the CEVO standings (and they haven’t died yet), they probably changed names.  Distinct 5 became the One Eyed Zomblerz. Then they left that name behind when they became the Counter-Strike: Source team for rSports. By the time playoffs roll around, I expect them to be named Distinct Zomblerz Revolution.

Devastation also joined an organization, and now they’re Flow Gaming’s Source team.

The Intel Invitational is over, and it was a great exhibition.  Congratulations to coL on the victory. Nightfall ended up winning the MVP despite Hyper’s loss in the Finals.  The last two teams, 3D and EFG, didn't make it out of the round robin play. 3D played well -- they only missed the Finals by a couple rounds -- but EFG did not.

EFG's play is understandable given their roster issues, though.  p0s didn't play due to some kind of argument with players or management. That came on the heels of the news of clowN's inactivity.  (Before I go any further, I want to wish clowN and his father the best of luck.  Family is much more important than eSports.  I only hope that his father has a full, speedy recovery and they can both go back to doing what they love.)  It’s not clear what happened with p0s or when (if) clowN will be back.  The thing that’s clear, especially after Saturday’s performance, is EFG’s need for new blood.


Retirement: if it's worth doing once, it's worth doing three times.

juked “called it quits” in this forum thread, and then added people to their CEVO roster. This is either a HIP (hijack in progress) or they’ve been watching Michael Jordan’s instructional retirement video.

An old member returned to a storied European team.

SHG Open ended on a bad note due to reports of missing equipment.  Players shouldn’t have to worry about their computer being stolen from a BYOC.

There’s some controversy about money in the 1.6 world.  I’m not going to speculate on something I know very little about, but it’s safe to say that stories like this are a sign of how much eSports needs to grow.

CEVO-P 1.6 is more lopsided than a seesaw with a fat kid.  The same thing happened last season. It's a shame that most of the matches late in the season don't end up mattering. Teams are already locked into their spot in the standings. In contrast, one of the most exciting things about professional sports is the end of the regular season. Teams are jockeying for position until the last game. Fan interest goes up, and it even makes the playoffs more exciting because it's an accomplishment just to get there. Right now CEVO just doesn't have those races.

Four Kings has a couple roster issues so they're using two ringers for the rest of the NGL tournament. I’ve always wondered who gets the shaft on 4Kings.  They have five players but only four kingly slots to fill.  Does the last one become a knight?  Is he demoted all the way to jester?  Or even worse … maybe he gets to be the Queen. 

Blizzard has created a monster. Competitive PvP for WoW is like daring a heroin addict to take another hit.  Neither will take much convincing, and both will be unresponsive for twelve hours a day.


That's it for now. I'll be posting these reviews periodically, although there isn't a set day for them. In the near future I'll be bringing you predictions for Round 12 of CEVO-P Source, and I'm looking forward to the slightly lower workload.


 

Welcome to my first running diary! The running diary’s a little thing where I watch an eSports event and provide commentary as it goes along. There are time stamps so you know when these things are happening, but the goal isn’t to report what’s happening. I want to make fun of it.

The event is the Intel Invitational. Four of the best Counter-Strike: Source teams are facing off in a one-day exhibition hosted by GotFrag and Intel. There’s a round-robin competition followed by the two best teams playing in the Finals. The winner is rewarded with hardware from Intel, and the tournament MVP will get an extra prize. I’ll be handing out match and tournament MVP awards as well, but the only thing you get from me is some publicity and a little respect.


Hyper/coL

1:21 - I don’t know what an octoshape plugin is, but I hope it doesn’t turn my processor into a stop sign.

1:23 - First impression: GotFrag TV is pretty good. It loaded smoothly and very quickly. Some of the other Counter-Strike streams I’ve seen have been just awful. They take five minutes to load. When you finally get it loaded you have a 90% chance of lagging out within five minutes. If you manage to stay connected, you can't see what's happening, anyway, because the picture's so small and blurry. This isn’t bad at all.

1:25 - I’m jumping into the first match already in progress because of some internet problems on my end. coL is playing Hyper on Dust2. Hyper is starting on terrorist side.

1:25 - fRoD picked Nightfall and I didn’t get to see it. Foerster died and I didn’t get to see that either. There needs to be a better system for switching to the action or places where action is likely to take place. You know Frod and Nightfall are going to be picking mid at this point, so why not spec them at the start instead of some guy holding a nade waiting for the strat to get set?

1:28 - Good commentary by Midway with the spawn point rotations and why coL might have stacked B because of it. (In CS your spawns cycle every four rounds, and the last time they were in that position Hyper rushed B as a team. On the last round coL decided to stack B because they knew the spawn points were the same.) He’s already a better broadcaster than Joe Morgan.

1:29 - A commercial break? What the hell?!

1:29 - Somebody is reading eSports Magazine on the toilet. I feel dirty.

1:29 - And apparently the magazine is attached to his ass. He should get that looked at.

1:30 - Dear GotFrag: I have decided to watch your live television stream of this tournament. I downloaded a plugin just so I could see it. The only place I saw the tournament announced was GotFrag. I don’t need to see advertisements telling me that you cover eSports. That is all.

1:31 - Hey look, a guy with a gun and a big head! It’s Nightfall! Oh wait, that’s a lego (I think).


Directions: only to be used as a toilet in emergencies, and only when you're alone.

1:33 - One good thing about the commercial breaks is that I’ll be able to go to the bathroom. I was prepared to use the old Diet Coke cans in my room just so I could keep typing. Glad it won’t come to that.

1:36 - zet is picking the door with a Glock on pistol round. At that distance, through the door, that’s good for a welt or two. Oh hey, Hyper won pistol and I didn’t see half the kills.

1:38 - The GotFrag banner is getting in the way of the kill graphics. That’s really annoying. It’s blocking the second kill completely, and most of the third. Combine that with not being able to see everybody at once, and half the time I don’t know what’s going on. I feel like George Bush.

1:39 - Wow, that’s going in a movie. Third round, Hyper decides to buy scouts and Nightfall gets a double headshot in mid. It’s a weird strat, but it certainly paid off here. That sound you hear is everybody in CAL-O immediately copying the strat.

1:41 - Octoshape down! Having some internet troubles here. More commentary when BellSouth stops sucking.

1:53 - Really nice save by Hyper, getting a couple Deagles and winning a key CT round. Again, more good commentary from the GFTV guys. I hope they do some work for the CGS.

1:55 - Storm team-killed Rambo. Ksharp never would’ve done that!

1:58 - Dunno what’s wrong with the rounds, but they aren’t being counted right by GFTV. Zet pulled off two insane Deagle headshots in round 28, but Hyper is making a huge comeback and it’s 15-14 coL right now.

2:00 - OVER-TIME!

2:01 - But not yet. Right now, we get another commercial break. That means more lego-ish things. One looked like a drug-runner and the other a nervous DEA agent. Number one sign your commercials were produced locally: they use legos and don’t have sound.

2:15 - GFTV technical problems.

2:21 - On Hyper’s T side Badapples walks right up the catwalk and gets three kills. He’s been very impressive this match. That was a huge round for Hyper. It gives them an early lead in OT and keeps them out of money trouble.

2:29 - Hyper manages to knock off coL in OT, 19-17. I believe it’s coL’s first loss in a Source match. Jason Lake just fired everyone within fifty yards, including his mother, his dog and the mailman.

My MVP for the coL/Hyper match: Nightfall. Badapples runs a close second place, he had a lot of key kills on terrorist side. But Nightfall kept getting picks in mid, and it really seemed to throw off coL’s strats. Storm was the most impressive player on coL and zet had some really good frags as well.



Don't give me that look. You're fired!
3D/EFG

2:31 - Due to some of their technical difficulties, the EFG/3D match is going to SRCTV, which means I get the remote! I hope you guys like Ksharp and sunman, because that’s who I’m watching. I’m happy about this, the missing action was getting annoying.

2:32 - 3D | LiN (rcspa)… Representing Canada’s Source Playing Association?

We have some bad pings here: Moe, Lin and Method are all pinging above 100. Not quite zet-in-Sweden territory, but not what you want for a premier match.

2:33 - SRCTV lags at the start of every round like it needs to be defibrillated. Next week on House: SRCTV goes into cardiac arrest. House makes a sarcastic comment and pisses off his coworkers. They figure out it’s not a heart problem, it’s constipation caused by eating six different types of cheese doodles in less than 24 hours. SourceTV is cured just before an untimely death.

2:34 - Still in pregame. Moe’s complaining about the ping and asking to move the match. You know, because that wouldn’t be inconvenient for all the broadcasters and the hundreds of spectators.

2:36 - Okay, enough already. A 110 ping is not THAT bad.

2:40 - Fifteen rounds of pregame. Hey, instead of playing a baseball game, let’s do bunting drills instead.

2:44 - Is Moe lagging? I can’t tell. His hints are too subtle.

2:49 - 28

2:50 - 29

2:51 - 30 … EFG > 3D 17-13 in pregame. gg.

2:53 - Finally going live after thirty rounds of pregame. Moe buys a p228? I really hope he meant to do that. Maybe it’s a non-violent protest against playing the match with such a high ping.

3:09 - I’ve just been watching Miller. He’s back. (Just use Ksharp’s.)

3:13 - Paradox looks like EFG’s best player, which probably isn’t a good sign considering he’s the ringer.

3:14 - Rector just gave Ksharp a grenade enema. Rector. Rectum. It doesn’t mean he should become a proctologist.

3:16 - EFG looks really disorganized, but they might have just been saved by a Ksharp illegal defuse. (In Source it’s illegal to defuse a bomb through a box or other obstruction, because in a “real” situation, you couldn’t reach around or through that object.) That’s a three-round overturn for EFG if they dispute. That could come back to haunt 3D.

3:28 - Ksharp GOOD.

3:35 - It’s hard to stay good for a long time, but the best players find new ways to motivate themselves. Sometimes it’s as simple as a name change. The sun has gone down; it’s time for Summy to reign once again … as MOONMAN.

3:38 - LiN takes two nades to the face like a man. Didn’t even flinch. He managed to survive long enough to get flashed, too. What a guy.

3:50 - 3D > EFT 12-3, 10-5 The dispute doesn’t matter, since 3D won big. EFG just didn’t look good. They’ve had a lot of roster issues lately. clowN’s father had a medical emergency and p0s wasn’t available for the tournament, and it showed.

MVP for 3D: Volcano. Ksharp was a close second -- he played great -- but Volcano had too many entry kills to deny him MVP. For EFG, clowN played really well and warmachine did okay.


3D/Hyper

4:04 - Oooh, my first knife round! 3D came out way too disorganized and Ksharp couldn’t clutch. Too bad.

4:08 - Nice pistol round by 3D. Nuke is a CT-sided map, so winning pistol as terrorists is huge. This also sets up Nightfall for a scout outside third round.

4:08 - 3D rushes upper and Hyper wins a save round. Ugh.


In Ksharp's hands, this could also kill Sauron.

4:13 - Ksharp saves an AWP (his preciousssssssssss), then promptly gets two kills. 3D had a really nice round. They pushed ramp and managed to kill the two ramp defenders and the person covering the ladder, then they used the ladder to secure a bomb plant in the upper site and win the round. Every round they can get as terrorists is huge.

4:18 - The commentators are surprised about some of the basic Nuke strats, like the skyflashes. I guess that they’re unfamiliar with Source. It’s not a bad thing; in fact, it’s probably good for 1.6 players and fans who aren’t familiar with the game either. It’s just surprising after so many weeks of CEVO-P.

4:21 - Rector gives up proctology and takes up dentistry, eliminating Ksharp’s teeth with a well-placed bullet. Five new “cut Rector” threads just appeared.

4:28 - Rector almost makes up for shooting Ksharp by clutching a round. It’s almost enough for to make up for the team-kill.

4:29 - Foerster gets a scout kill. Hyper has a huge lead on scout kills for the tournament. So they’ve got that going for them.

4:33 - First half 10-5 in favor of Hyper. 3D took ramp room easily several times, but they didn’t do much with it. That’s pretty much what happens on Nuke. With the faster vent rotations, teams even give up ramp completely because the lower bombsite is so much easier to hold.

4:35 - 3D wins the CT pistol, and that’s a bad start for Hyper. Losing both pistol rounds makes it almost impossible to win on the professional level.

4:40 - Hyper has been getting down the vents through the squeaky door, and 3D hasn’t covered it very well. They haven’t dropped any rounds because of it, but it’s been close. 10-10 now, 3D’s on a roll.

4:44 - Alright, Rectooor clutched again. Two clutches is definitely enough to make up for a team-kill. This and more scientific Counter-Strike equations are in my upcoming book, “Counter-Strike Math I Pulled Out of My Ass.”

4:47 - A couple more rounds for 3D, and Hyper is mailing it in now. 15-10 3D, and it looks like Hyper is out of strats. They just did an all-out ramp rush, which is basically an admission of defeat.

4:51 - Tuned saved Hyper by clutching a 1v2 round with some great play, but Hyper fell in the next round without even getting a frag.

MVP: Ksharp was excellent again and I’m giving him the nod here. Hyper: Tuned, but nobody dominated and getting that one round on T was the best play all match.

5:25 - There’s a big downtime between the last broadcast and the upcoming EFG/Hyper match, so I’ll take this time to address the GFTV announcers. They’re doing a great job. I know this because watching SourceTV was less exciting. (This isn’t always the case. I end up muting MLB broadcasts with awful announcers because it’s too painful to listen.) Even the forum commentary has been positive.

There were some technical problems though (and I don’t think they were on my end). The feed would lag for ten to fifteen seconds and then it would have to buffer again. The lagouts didn’t last very long, but it was annoying. By far the bigger problem was being able to follow the action. The banner getting in the way of frags and the lack of camera switches made the broadcast less fan-friendly. I don’t know what the solution is, but I wouldn’t mind a delay on the feed if it gave time for the broadcasters to make sure we were seeing the most exciting action.


EFG/Hyper

5:28 - Going live now. EFG won an uninspiring knife fight and chose to start as CTs on Train.

5:33 - Paradox with a clutch 1v2 round for EFG. They need to get some momentum. But I just don’t think EFG is going to be able to play well enough with all their roster problems.

5:35 - Tied up 3-3 now.

5:42 - Moe clutches a 1v2 then almost lags out before he can defuse the bomb. Thankfully it was just a burp in his connection and not a full-fledged outage. It’s a good thing most gamers are young. If Peyton Manning lagged out, obese Colts fans would die of a heart attack.

5:44 - Paradox ALMOST got the ninja defuse. For those who don’t know, it’s the most exciting play in eSports. It happens when the terrorist team takes a bombsite but one CT either sneaks in or hides so well that he completely avoids detection. It only qualifies as a ninja defuse if there’s no chance for him to win the round otherwise – there are two or more enemies alive and they have superior position and guns. The best ones (against five enemies in a popular match) are literally remembered years after they happen. A great effort from Paradox, but again, it’s bad that EFG’s best player is their ringer.

5:47 - Nice round for Sunman. It figures: Train’s always been good to him.


They think it's brilliant, but they've had too much Guinness.

5:50 - USPs are more accurate and more powerful than Glocks. USPs are better than Glocks? Let’s rush outside and get ourselves into a long range battle! Brilliant!

5:51 - Shredder picks up an ace on EFG’s first eco round.

6:00 - Hyper wins 16-9. I wish I could say more about EFG’s T side, but there just wasn’t anything there. Individually they were okay; they hit some good shots. But they couldn’t get organized when Hyper was retaking sites or getting entry kills. Their lack of stability has really showed in this tournament. I don’t want to rip them, because they would have beaten 99% of the teams out there. But when you’re playing coL, 3D and Hyper, there isn’t any room for error.

MVP: Shredder. Paradox was EFG’s best player, but they struggled the whole map.


coL/3D

6:25 - Knife fight woo! Volcano almost clutched a 1v2 knife before Rambo took him out. Having the knife round to determine sides is a European tradition, and I think they’re onto something here. It’s fun to watch and I’d love to see some advanced knife strats. Competitively it’s no worse than randomly picking sides, and it’s fun to watch. More tournaments should use it.

By the way, coL needs to win this match to advance to the finals. If 3D loses huge they could be knocked out due to rounds won, in which case Hyper would play coL.

6:30 - Rambo uses the train hitches really well to clutch the CT pistol against 3D. Nothing like going to prom and having your ex-girlfriend beat your current one for prom queen.

6:33 - coL takes the first gun round, but it was nothing too spectacular. 3D tried an outside split. coL got an entry kill and Ksharp turned away just before Warden came on the angle he was awping. Warden got the kill instead of the other way around, and that was pretty much it.

6:37 - Rambo pushes up ivy while four 3D players go down ladder. His push lets coL rotate and stop 3D easily.

6:40 - 3D gets some traction at the inner site and manages to get the bomb planted. It still looks like coL is going to retake the site easily until Ksharp puts them down with four kills. He’s been 3D’s best player in the tournament.

6:42 - Rambo aces 3D on one of their eco rounds. Not only does your ex-girlfriend become prom queen, she also scores a modeling job.

6:45 - Method almost clutches a 1v2 but he came out for a peek too slowly and coL defuses. It’s too bad -- he was set up well, but coL boosted onto the bomb train instead of peeking the angle Method was watching.

6:49 - 3D loses the first half 1-14. If you want to learn how to play CT side of Train, watch coL on this demo. There were two keys for them: Rambo at ivy, and zet at inner. 3D was able to get out mid and ladder but couldn’t do anything with it because of the way coL was playing inner (more on this in a minute).

6:55 - Second half goes live and 3D doesn’t lose a guy on pistol round. Maybe they have a little fight in them still. It’s only one round but that was impressive.

6:59 - OK, it was a very little fight. 3D was too aggressive, they pushed inner hard but left the site open as coL rushed outside to inner. coL got the bomb planted in that round, and they were able to do a full buy in the third round. After that, coL dropped 3D like the NBA dropped Tim Hardaway.

Overall, 3D just got outplayed here. Their offense was scattered, and letting coL plant on the second round was a “we’ll be greated as liberators”-sized mistake. Depending on how the rounds break down, that plant might have cost 3D an appearance in the finals.

MVP: Ksharp, zet. Miller was almost singlehandedly responsible for 3D’s lone T round. Zet was an absolute beast at inner, and he watched it alone. That allowed coL to play four people outside. When 3D split outside there wasn’t anywhere they could go because coL could watch so many angles. Ivy is usually the weak point of any outside defense, but Rambo didn’t let 3D get any traction there, either.


Finals Match: Hyper/coL

7:49 - Knife round for Hyper/coL match on Train! (As you can see, I’m getting more excited for every knife round.) Hyper comes out standing on top of the trains but coL only loses one guy. coL starts as CT.

7:50 - Huge, HUGE clutch by Tuned. He’s the last Hyper member alive on their T pistol, he has 20 hp and is hiding in the inner bombsite. He manages to kill fRoD, who was up top, and then peeks out from under the train to kill Warden. That’s an amazing play. He saved Hyper right there.

7:51 - Hyper promptly blows their advantage. coL picks up the eco round with Deagles on CT side. Rambo had a Deagle entry kill at ivy, and Warden had one in middle as well. The last thing I saw disappear so quickly was the Miami Heat championship hopes.

7:55 - Nightfall picks fRoD at the inner bombsite, and Hyper is able to flash zet and pick him as well. They take the round easily, but it’s 3-2 coL.

7:57 - Another big round for Nightfall. He picked up three kills after the bomb was planted. Things weren’t going well that round for Hyper, but he pulled it out for them. My only concern is that this might lead to even more GotFrag threads about him.

8:00 - fRoD is tearing it up at 19-5, and coL is out to a 5-4 lead. I’m impressed by Hyper’s players. Their guys aren’t huge names (especially among the 1.6 community) but Shredder, Tuned and Foerster have all been playing well.

8:10 - If you ever want to learn about positioning and advanced CS strategy, watch Rambo. I’ve never studied him before, but he puts himself in excellent positions. He’s always in a spot where he has the advantage. He’s not the most talented player. I don’t think he’d beat zet on an aim map. But watching him is like watching John Stockton play basketball; it’s an art form.

It’s been back and forth for the rest of the half, with coL holding an 8-7 lead due mostly to Rambo’s smarts and fRoD’s awp at the inner site. An 8-7 lead on Train is less secure than a server without VAC. Hyper has a good chance to beat coL again here.

8:15 - coL rushes inner for their T pistol, and Tuned gets a frag for Hyper. For some reason he peeks out into four guys and gets picked instead of falling back. That was probably a mistake.

After picking him, coL fell back to ivy. It was a slow strat and Hyper was still in good position at ivy because they had time to rotate back. But again, they got too aggressive and didn’t use the trains to their advantage on defense. coL picked them off with some good Glock shots and took the pistol round.

8:19 - Tuned is 10-3 after five rounds, and he had a huge round five. Hyper had picked up the first two gun rounds, forcing a coL save. They almost picked up the eco round with an ivy rush, actually, but Tuned and Shredder won a 2v2. coL has an 11-10 lead right now, but Hyper has momentum.

8:21 - Hyper has momentum until Nightfall misses two shots and gets himself stuck on a beam at the inner site. I wish there was some kind of plausible sports parallel here, but there really isn’t. It’d be like shooting two air balls, throwing the ball up in frustration, and having it go in your own basket while you trip on your own feet. It’s that painful to watch.

coL gets into the bombsite easily after picking him. They didn’t lose a single player, and Hyper wasn’t saving. This kind of defense has been perfected by the Washington Wizards.

8:24 - Nightfall gets too aggressive again on a peak. This time fRoD picks him from ladder room to the outside site. That sets up coL’s fake, and they take the inner site easily. Storm makes a good flank from ivy and picks of Badapples, who isn’t playing well this match. It’s 14-10 coL, and Hyper is fading faster than SNL.

8:27 - Hyper drops a close round, 15-10 coL. Complexity has been able to take the inner site too easily. Shredder is playing too conservatively and it is allowing coL to get the bomb down using flashes and smokes. Even though zet might have died more, he did a ton of damage when Hyper tried to enter the inner site. Shredder's playing passively.

8:28 - coL takes inner one more time for the win. They didn’t plant much outside, which is usually what happens on Train. Props to coL for exploiting a weakness in Hyper’s defense.


Warning: may not listen to reason.

If Nightfall doesn’t get picked two rounds in a row, this match ends up a lot differently. He had a great tournament, but he was a little too aggressive in the finals (as was the rest of the team). They needed to downshift their team setting from Charging Rhino to Jogging Wildebeest.

MVP: Rambo. Tuned was probably Hyper’s best player. Badapples had a really rough match, which was predictable after I talked him up before.

Tournament MVP: This goes to Rambo as well. His play on train was phenomenal, and coL never seems to be out of position. He's the brain behind coL's strats and positions. I don't know if they could have been better prepared.

Honorable Mention: Ksharp, zet, Nightfall (won the real MVP award).


Overall it was a really good experience. GFTV was much better than I thought it would be. With a little more experience the broadcasters and production will be ten times better. But considering the short time it’s been up I thought GotFrag did a great job with everything. (I read about octoshape during one of the breaks, and it’s a p2p streaming technology. Basically, it’s a live-feed version of bittorrent. Considering how well it worked, I hope major LANs incorporate this as part of their media.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been watching CS for seven hours. My bathroom's starting to look like a good place to plant the bomb (if you catch my drift).


 
February 23, 2007

A couple days ago I took a look at the five losers from the recent SHG Open event.   There was some great Counter-Strike played during the tournament as well, and here are my five winners.

Winners

5. Volt Gaming, Logitech.fi – Both of these organizations had pedestrian finishes in the 1.6 tournament and excellent Source results.  Volt won in Source and placed 9-12 in 1.6, and Logitech.fi placed second and 7-8, respectively.

I was a little surprised to see their finishes in Source.  Not just because they had to beat Insignia Cadre, arguably the best Source team in Europe, but also because I didn’t know Source was a popular LAN game.  Most American teams have only picked it up because of the CGS event.  There’s no motivation like that for the European teams (yet).  The prize pot of €6,000 (about $7,900) was modest by CS standards, but in line with other games like CoD2.

4. Begrip – Out of all the Swedish teams attending, who thought Begrip would finish the highest at fourth?  Looking back now, more people should have.  Fnatic was attending with a ringer and SK.swe needs e-roids just to sniff their former dominance.  Begrip has some talent on the roster, so it isn’t completely unexpected – Tentpole helped Fnatic rise to the top of CS last year.  They needed every bit of that talent, winning their last two games over the Fnatic mix and Logitech.fi 16-14.  MiBR was responsible for both of their losses, and Begrip only put up twelve rounds on them total, so that was disappointing.  But they still finished in fourth place, which is probably more than anybody expected.

3. PGS – At this point, who would be favored over PGS?  At best Fnatic and MiBR can hang with Pentagram, but I wouldn’t call any of the three a clear favorite over the others (though I’m sure fanboys would say otherwise).  Nobody put up more than seven rounds on them until MiBR beat them in the finals.  Among the teams they beat: NoA, the Fnatic mix team, and aTTaX.  Not too shabby. 

In all sports there’s a certain quality to teams at the top of their game, like Ichigo when he finds his resolve.  The name 3D doesn’t have the same sound as it did when they were dominating the American CS scene.  Same thing with SK.swe.  On the other hand, New England Patriots sounds a lot better than it did six or seven years ago.  With coL switching to Source, right now there are three teams with that quality: MiBR, Fnatic and Pentagram  (though Pentagram might be more like Hollow Ichigo).

2. NoA – Yes, PGS finished better but everybody expected a top finish for them.  I don’t think many people had NoA finishing in the top three. 

They didn’t do much at the major 2006 LANs, but lately they’ve been playing very well.  They’re 4-0-2 in NGL One.  For those of you not familiar with the NGL, it’s the top CS teams in Europe playing each other.  In terms of the level of competition, it’s basically CEVO-P on HGH, steroids, and amphetamines (if you took all three, you might speak as many languages, too).  NiP is one of the only omissions; they dropped the league along with all online competitions.

NoA seems to be meshing now, and their top-three finish here makes 2007 a better year for them already.


A drink, or the key to beating MiBR at CPL?

1. MiBR – I admit I was surprised that they won.  It takes most teams at least a month to adjust to new players, and MiBR just had major roster changes.  Kikoooo (arguably their best player) retired, and they picked up Bruno “bit” Lima to replace another member.  I thought that would be enough for a team like PGS or aTTaX to beat them easily -- just like I thought the Bears would win the Super Bowl. 

Lincoln “fnx” Lau seems to be the key player for MiBR.  When he’s playing they’re extremely hard to beat (see: SHGOpen, ESWC 2006).  He wasn’t able to attend CPL, and JMC beat them 16-4 and 16-5.  If I was facing MiBR, I’d start to anti-strat fnx.  In fact, I’d start before the LAN.  Find out his weaknesses.  Maybe he likes whiskey.  Send him some, compliments of a “secret admirer”.  If teams are really serious about beating MiBR, it’s time to take advantage of any available tactic.  He might even thank you for the free whiskey. 


It was a good week for European CS, and it was good to see Source getting some play over there.  Of course if you like Source you’ll want to tune into Intel Source Invitational this Saturday.  I’ll be covering that event as well with my reactions, so stay tuned for more Source action.


 
February 20, 2007

A major LAN just concluded over in Europe and I’m here to bring you the winners and losers.  Before we can appreciate the highs we have to hit the lows, so let’s start out with the losers from SHG.

Losers

5.  Against All Authority – They were probably hoping for a better sequel to their fourth place finish at CPL.  It’s a minor disappointment; I’m not sure that anybody really expected them to make a huge impact, but a Round 5 exit was still ugly.  They didn’t beat any of the top teams in their three wins.  Their most impressive match was probably the 16-14 loss to aTTaX.  The French team went quietly into the night with a 16-8 loss to Volt Gaming.  At least they didn’t surrender. 


More hype: XFL or WMDs?

4. mousesports – Remember when the XFL came out?  Vince McMahon was everywhere and created so much hype he almost had us believing the NFL would go bankrupt.   Then after a week people realized how much it sucked and never tuned in again.  The cheerleaders were nice eye candy, but their imitation football wasn’t any fun to watch.  Mouz has similar problems.  Their roster looks excellent.  The players have top finishes in major international LANs.  Then the actual matches come around and they never place that well.  There’s a lot of hype here, but not much substance.

3. SK Gaming – Another major LAN, another minor finish for Sk.swe.  They might be the most successful CS clan in history, but they’re clearly not even the best Swedish team right now (that honor goes to Fnatic).  They’ve been playing well in the NGL One tournament so I’ll give them a little slack for a poor showing here, but they haven’t had a top finish in some time and it’s sad to see one of the most famous teams struggle to finish in the top ten.

2. ALTERNATE aTTaX – Recent finishes:  first at WSVG Finals, second at WSVG Summer Championship, third at ESWC 2006.  I doubt they’re writing home about the 9-12 finish here.  They played one good team and barely pulled out a 16-14 win (aAa), then they got destroyed by PGS and MYM.  It’s only one tournament, but apparently they were better when their “stand-ins” were playing (and winning WSVG). 

If that wasn’t bad enough, their Source team was disqualified in the Consolation Finals for using a flash exploit. 

(Lowering the DirectX level and alt-tabbing severely limits or even eliminates the effects of flashes.  Apparently there weren’t enough admins around to stop them from doing it.  It should have been caught before the match went live; it’s pretty obvious when somebody is alt-tabbing and it’s a well known exploit.) 

So their 1.6 team got beat handily.  Their Source team got disqualified.  On the bright side, they didn’t enter a CoD team.


Britney's just preparing for GI Jane 2.

1. Security – The biggest story out of any major LAN should be the winning team, but at SHG it was theft.  Bald Britney could have shown up as SpawN’s girlfriend, and the biggest story still would have been the thefts.  People weren’t just stealing peripherals like a mouse or keyboard, they were making off with whole computers.

It’s unacceptable for a LAN to have such lax security.  People were let in without IDs, there were no entrance fees for spectators, and obviously the security wasn’t checking to make sure people were leaving with their own equipment.  WSVG had a simple but effective system.  After signing up players put stickers on their equipment and ID pass.  Security would check the ID and make sure the stickers matched when entering or leaving the BYOC.  Backpacks and bags were also searched, and I haven’t heard any complaints of theft from the WSVG events.  There are small, hard to track things like mice, headphones, and keyboards that might end up missing.  And yeah, it sucks to replace your stolen mouse, but you don’t have any passwords or personal information saved on your mx510. At least nobody is walking out with hundreds of dollars worth of somebody else’s stuff at WSVG. SHG needs to review their security policy and fire Chief Wiggum if they want to be regarded as a serious LAN.

The LAN wasn’t cancelled due to some poor finishes though.  There was a lot of good CS played, and I’ll have my five winners coming soon (hint: thieves with new equipment will not make the list).


 
February 14, 2007

Round 8 (de_nuke)

Bye team:  rSports

Match of the Week

3D vs. Flow – Where’s all the hate on Rector coming from?  His stats don’t look good at first glance, but they’re not that bad.  There's only three matches logged into Gamesense, and one of them is the 8-22 pounding 3D took from coL (there are actually six matches in the database, but for some reason the stats from three of them haven't been added to the team of player totals).  He went -19 in the coL match but only -1 in the other five.  The missing contest is 3D’s 25-5 win over JMC, which would certainly help his numbers.  So if you look at his overall results he had one really bad match (along with the rest of the team), he isn’t consistently dragging them down.

I watched Rector play in the x6 match and I think he’ll fit in eventually.  He had a few good rounds and his aim was fine, but he did put himself into some bad positions.  It’s not a lack of talent holding him back; it’s a question of learning the maps and chemistry with his new teammates.  Besides, if 3D was unhappy with his play, they could have found a replacement by now.

Flow has been playing well. They've won four of their last five matches, including a Round 6 win over EFG. I was worried about 3D’s adjustments to nuke, but they beat EFG on the map and that’s no small feat.  They should be able to beat Flow as well, but it will be another close match.

3D > Flow 17-13


JMC vs. verGe - After starting out 2-0 JMC dropped their next four matches.  As I mentioned before they’re still in CEVO-P 1.6, and judging by their records (2-4 in Source, 5-1 in 1.6) it’s their main focus.  They’ll pick up a few more wins this season based on talent alone, but that won’t be enough to get them past verGe on a map that changed a lot from its 1.6 counterpart.

verGe > JMC 20-10


Juked vs. coL - More thoughts on the coL house:  the sponsors are paying for the lease and I think they should get a little more publicity.  Major companies get their brand or corporate names on professional arenas all the time, even if it has nothing to do with sports (hello EnergySolutions Arena).  The Steel Series Mansion presented by Nation Voice (sponsored by Hi-Def) is a nice, memorable name.


Jack is all stocked up on crazy, maybe coL could borrow some.

The only thing I wouldn’t do is put a webcam in there.  It’s a popular forum suggestion, but to be really successful it needs something the coL team doesn’t have: crazy.  I’m sorry, but the coL players are too normal.  If they recruited Nightfall, Kluwe and remix then I’m watching.  But right now they’re too nice and they have one very important reason to get along: money.  Put those two things together and we have a live feed of five guys playing video games and eating junk food with no drama.  Or, in other words, my Friday nights minus four people.

As for the match, juked isn’t on coL’s level even with their new roster.  coL beat verGe on this map, and they should have an easier time against a winless juked squad.

coL > juked 19-11


1 shot vs. Eximius - After picking up their first two wins on the season, 1 shot dropped a close match to Forbidden.  They’re also looking for a couple starters.  On the other hand Eximius has a solid starting five and they just recently beat Forbidden.  Add those up and it results in a win for Brad Dick’s squad. 

Eximius > 1 shot 17-13


EG vs. x3o - x3o has one win this season, and it might end up as their only win.  Six of their next nine opponents are clear favorites: x6, 3D, coL, verGe, Flow and EG.  They have a small chance to upset Eximius in Round 11 or JMC in Round 10.  The only match they have a good chance of winning is Round 14 when they face the (so far) winless United 5 team.   A 2-14 record in CEVO-P is probably not what these guys had in mind when they made the switch.

EG already has two forfeit wins, I’m not sure what is happening there.  If this match gets played EG is going to take it easily, x3o just doesn’t have enough talent or dedication to challenge the Canadian team. 

EG > x3o 21-9


EFG vs. Frantic - Frantic has done well recently, winning three of their last four matches.  That being said, they’re playing without one of their impact players (Keven “AZK” Lariviere) and EFG is still the better team.  A couple weeks ago I would have given EFG 20+ rounds in this match, but I think it’s going to be closer now.

EFG > Frantic 18-12


U5 vs. x6 - As soon as I give some dap to x6 in a pred, they repay my love with an overturned match and a 6-24 loss to coL.  Thanks guys.  Their win against Hyper! was overturned due to a player “command/config exploiting”, which resulted in a one week suspension.  One week?  They’re playing to win a share of $10,000 in a professional league and CEVO suspends him for one week.  If I wanted to cheat, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

United 5 is winless on the year and even with one of their players banned, x6 will be too much for them to handle.  I don’t think KG will be torn up about missing this match.

x6 > u5 21-9


Forbidden vs. Hyper! – Hyper! was the team on the other side of the x6 suspension, and with the match overturn they are a spotless 7-0.  Forbidden has won three of their last four matches but I don’t see them hanging with Hyper! on nuke.  It won’t be a complete blow-out because nuke is so heavily CT sided, but Hyper! should keep their perfect record moving into Round 9.

Hyper! > Forbidden 18-12


Last Week: 9-5

Overall Record: 22-7

Perfect Predictions: 4


 
February 11, 2007

Last Week’s Predictions

eX changed their name to Money in CEVO, but they’re not on the schedule any more. So there are seventeen teams in CEVO, and one team will have to sit out every round. I’ll include that team next to the round name so there isn’t any confusion about a team being left out.

Of course, eX also had to forfeit their matches in Round 5 and Round 6, so those will be left off last week’s record. There are also two unreported matches left: coL vs. x6 (Round 5) and EG vs. OEZ (Round 6). I’ll make sure to add them in when they’re reported.

Devastation changed their name to Flow Gaming, so if you don’t see Dev on the predictions, that’s why.

CEVO Round 7 (de_nuke)

Bye: Jax Money Crew

Match of the Week

verGe vs. coL - I can’t stop thinking about the coL house. The possibilities are endless. If you want some advertising, how about a big “Nation Voice” mowed into the lawn? If you’re not interested in lawn manicuring, a nice Hi-Def tarp on the roof could attract a lot of attention. As long as it’s big enough to be seen on Google Earth, I’m fine with it.

I also think that we need to pull a prank on fRoD. Hire a hypnotist, tell him the porch is a bombsite and the banana he's holding is an AWP, and watch as he tries to shoot anything that steps on the lawn. This would be a YouTube hit in .0238 seconds.

As for the match, it’s a possible finals preview pitting a top Source team against a top 1.6 switch-over. The fanboys are going to hit the forums hard after this one, so if you’re ready for some classic Source vs 1.6 flaming, head over to GotFrag after the match.

Nuke is one of the maps that’s changed the most from its 1.6 version. In 1.6 there are almost always people playing in the ramp room, but in Source it’s common to give it up and just play people in the lower bombsite. Larger vents make the rotations much quicker; in 1.6 it was too slow and awkward to make it feasible. The different flashes and smokes also change how the upper bombsite is played, so I think verGe’s experience will give them the edge.

As a side note, this might not be played on time. coL hasn’t played the x6 match yet, and they might be a little disorganized from moving into their new house. If you’re interested in watching this on SRCTV, make sure you check the IRC channels and websites for current information.

verGe > coL 17-13


OEZ vs. x3o - x3o has been struggling with the switch to Source. I don’t know what their practice schedule is like, but I imagine it’s in Allen Iverson territory. They just came off a 6-24 loss to 1 shot, the whipping boys of weeks 1-4. Luckyted will need to be Superted for x3o to have any kind of chance.

Zomblerz > x3o 21-9


Flow vs. Hyper! - Flow beat EFG in Round 6, but I’m not sure what to make of it. EFG hasn’t been dominating like previous seasons, and Flow is still only 4-2. Hyper! had a loss to x6 in Round 6, which was the first time they gave up more than ten rounds to any opponent.

This would have been the match of the week for Round 5 or Round 6, but with coL/verGe, EFG/3D and EG/x6 on the schedule for this week, it takes a backseat. Flow has proven they can beat the top teams, but I think that Nightfall and Shredder will give Hyper! a slim victory.

Hyper! > Flow 16-14


x6 vs. EG - x6 needs some dap. They’re undefeated (their Round 2 loss against Frantic was changed because a Frantic member failed to upload complete demos) and they’ve beaten two of my top-seven teams so far this season (Hyper! and 3D). They have two huge matches coming up, with EG this week and the match from Round 5 against coL.

Right now they’re the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Their roster doesn’t jump off the page, only one of their players is a really big name (haqshot, Sheed for the Pistons), but they come out every week and win so nobody knows what to make of them. Are they a legit title contender, or are they just hot? The Pistons won the title in 2004, and I think x6 has a chance to do it this season.

x6 > EG 17-13


u5 vs. Frantic - Not sure what happened with the demo overturn, and I’m not going to bother speculating. I do know that Frantic will have to play this match without AZK, but they also have former verGe member Nick “n0it” Nowakowski on their roster, and that should still be enough to give them a win over a stuggling u5 team.

I hate to keep harping on it, but why do we still hear so many opinions about how Source is so easy while a good 1.6 team like u5 sits at 0-6?

Frantic > u5 19-11


Juked vs. Eximius - Eximius has eleven people on their CEVO roster. They should consider starting a rent-a-fifth company to pay for their LAN expenses. Your fifth has food poisoning? Eximius has a Moffa you can borrow. One of your starters had too much to drink, they’ll rent you a j1n. Get this started Brad.

Juked is still winless and they made a couple pick-ups to help increase their activity. If they’re playing it’ll be their first match together, and Eximius should exploit that lack of chemistry.

Eximius > juked 18-12


EFG vs. 3D - Both teams had an uninspiring week. 3D went 2-0 but barely managed to beat u5. EFG lost a close match to Flow and finished 1-1. It should be close, but I don’t think 3D has the experience or the chemistry to take down EFG yet.

I gave the nod to all the Source teams in the three big Source/1.6 matchups. When I look at the matchups, I’m not convinced the 1.6 teams have finished adjusting. By the time the playoffs come around and it’s their third or four time on a map, I think it'll be a different story. That won’t help them this week though.

EFG > 3D 18-12


Forbidden vs. 1 shot - 1 shot tarnished their perfect 0-4 record with two wins. Two wins! I guess some teams just don’t have enough courage or dedication to go 0-16. United 5 and juked are the last two winless teams, maybe one of them has enough marbles to go all the way.

As for 1 shot, they seem to have fixed whatever plagued them early in the season, but the same goes for Forbidden. Messiah’s crew lost an OT match to Eximius’ new lineup, but I think they’ll get back into the winner’s circle with this match.

Forbidden > 1 shot 18-12


Last Week: 9-5

Overall Record: 22-7

Perfect Predictions: 4


 
February 10, 2007

The recent forum fad – that Source is an easier game than 1.6 – continues, with bandwagons for each engine so full that axles are bending under the weight. Either we start chucking the fat kids, or it's time to take another look at both sides and see if we can't reach a compromise.


Ease up people, they're not THAT bad.

I covered the “Source is easier” debate in my inaugural post, but I want to respond to some specific arguments. Representing those arguments will be Alex “chibsquad” Garfield, chosen for two key reasons. He’s a developer for CSPromod, with extensive testing on both engines for recoil patterns, gun kick, movement speed and lord only knows what else. And unlike a lot of posters on GotFrag, he’s articulate and, gasp, actually attempts to support his arguments (even if I don’t agree with his conclusions).

Supporters argue that Source isn’t easier because the models are larger, since it’s also easier to die. He counters with:

“Source has 18% bigger models than 1.6, with 36% more hittable surface area and 76% larger heads. Source has up to 40% less recoil (depending on the gun) than 1.6, making the guns easier to control. Source has more powerful flashbangs than 1.6, increasing the number of player deaths while blind. Source has the exact same movement speed as 1.6, which means that proportionally, models move more slowly. Additionally, as proven time and time again, top 1.6 players are able to transition to Source and continue to compete on the highest level of competition, while the opposite is not possible.”

and:

“when a game is made easier overall, players at a lower skill level benefit much more from the change than players at a higher skill level.

Example:

If I were playing Kobe Bryant in horse, shooting jump shots, I would get absolutely destroyed. But let's say we played again, on a basketball hoop with the rim size doubled. Would I still lose? Probably. But I wouldn't lose by as much, because Kobe wouldn't really benefit from the larger rim size, since he could already hit his shots with the smaller rim size. I, on the other hand, would benefit greatly from the larger rim size, since I'm not as good at shooting baskets. So, would this change make shooting hoops easier for everyone? Yes, absolutely. That's not disputed. The relevant question is, who would benefit more from the change? Obviously, I (the lower skilled player) would benefit more, and the game would be much closer.”

(Read the full thread here.)


Michael Sweetney: doughnuts sold separately.

I don’t have a problem with his reasoning, but I’m not sure it applies to professional Counter-Strike either. We’re worried about CEVO-P results, not some pubber’s kill/death ratio. Or, in his terms, pro CS isn't about the huge difference between Alex Garfield and Kobe Bryant. Say Alex can hit a 3-pointer 40% of the time with the larger rim. That's great, except now, not only can Kobe shoot 80%, he can do it on a fadeaway 360. A better analogy is the small gap between Luke Walton and Kobe, but I don't see how you can prove Kobe won't benefit as much (or more) than Luke does. What's certain is this: unless you make the rim wide enough for Michael Sweetney to use it as a belt, Alex and Luke and Kobe aren't gonna make every shot. Skill wins out.

Players can adjust to the other differences he mentions. Yes, flashes are stronger, but it’s a two-way street. The flasher (the non-naked kind) might find the game a little bit easier, but the guy getting blind every round is ready to punch his monitor. It also means that shooting or navigating while blind, counter-flashing, and setups are all more important. Increasing the strength of the flashbangs only shifts the emphasis on the skills, it doesn’t make them disappear. Considering both sides of the flash and how it places more importance on other skills, the change in the easiness of the game, as a whole, is negligible.

Movement speed and gun control fall into the same two arguments. Players can change the way they peek angles and play positions. They’re not going to play a position if they know they can’t move fast enough to get away, just like they’re not going to sit in a spot where they’ll get blinded. Speed also has a hard side and an easy side; moving models might be easier to hit because of the slower speed, but at some point you’re going to be running away too.

Adjusting to the firing patterns of the guns also takes time, but again, once those changes are made, it’s the same for everybody. So Joe Pubber can learn gun control a little faster. How does that change anything on the professional level, where everybody is already doing it well?

In the last part of his quote, Mr. Garfield states, “Additionally, as proven time and time again, top 1.6 players are able to transition to Source and continue to compete on the highest level of competition, while the opposite is not possible.” 1.6 players have been able to switch and do well, but I don’t know of many Source players that have even tried to go the other way – they chose Source for a reason, and nothing has happened to make them change that decision. Since the sample size is so small, I don’t see any basis for saying it is “not possible”. It's like saying 1.6 players couldn’t switch to 1.5 – not likely, but it's hard to prove since nobody does it. I also think that he’s underestimating the talent level of the players in Source. Source has a smaller following, but there are still people that could hang with anybody in 1.6 if they wanted to switch. There are already players that compete at CAL-I on both engines, I don’t see any reason why more people couldn’t do the same.

Right now there are only a few match results and Gamesense statistics, but even that small sample size doesn’t back up the “Source is easier” argument. There have been plenty of blowouts in CEVO, and stars like fRoD have been putting up huge frag totals. If there was a significant change in the skill gap, lesser-skilled teams should have been able to put up more rounds against coL, especially considering they were still adjusting to the game.

A great scholar (okay, it was Yogi Berra) once said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” On a professional level, eSports doesn’t seem much different.


 
February 7, 2007

In eSports, rescheduled matches have become as common as Rex Grossman turnovers (sigh). Most of the time it doesn’t matter; not many people care if a CAL-M match gets changed without warning. But the “professional” leagues need to get a better scheduling policy, because right now it favors teams and leagues while the fans get crapped on.


Rex 'em? Damn near kills 'em!

Matches are usually rescheduled because of player obligations, most commonly appointments, family, school and girlfriends. (I like to think of these as the four horsemen of eSports scheduling. Family is war, school is pestilence, appointments are famine. Girlfriends, of course, are death.) From a team’s perspective, it makes sense to reschedule a match if they can’t field their starting five. The team’s goal is to win matches. Winning earns them get a higher playoff seed and a better chance of winning money. So if 3D has to reschedule to win money, then that’s what they’re going to do. If the Lakers could delay their games after Kobe gets injured, I’m sure they would.

But leagues should have the fan’s interests in mind. This is where professional leagues step in, and eSports leagues need to step up. The situation goes something like this: Team A has five members and can’t play on default day (either through an unexpected situation or a known absence), but team B has six members and can play during the week with a backup. The admin rules that the match should be rescheduled during the week because both teams can play, and team B just has to play with a backup. Team B gets punished for being on-time and having a backup player available.

It’s inevitable that admins will make errors in judgment and end up punishing teams haven’t done anything wrong. Instead of having it come down to an admin’s decision, just eliminate the possibility altogether. If CEVO instituted a no-rescheduling policy for CEVO-P, do you think any of the important teams would drop the league and go back to CAL? If a team can’t field five at the designated time, they forfeit. If a team member has some emergency, the team plays with a backup. (As I understand it, this is the purpose of having a backup.) It’s the easiest way, and it’s also the best thing for spectators, who otherwise must constantly check schedules, websites and IRC channels for rescheduling. Instead they can plan dinner around the 3D/coL match.

If a team does need to reschedule for some unforeseen reason (like three-four players losing their internet connection, the eSports equivalent of a rainout) then there needs to be a system for letting the fans know about it. It should be reported on the league website, and spammed in HLTV if it’s already running. NBA fans aren’t in seats watching Kwame Brown do a lay-up drill while the game is being cancelled and moved, but I’m sitting in HLTV with two hundred other people wondering when the match will start. It’s already twenty minutes late, there are only four members messing around in the pre-game and I’m waiting for information about why the match was delayed. None comes. The only way I find information is through the forums, where the message was passed down from Team A to fan, to another fan until somebody finally posted it on GotFrag (I call this phenomenon the Six Degrees of Kevin Wang). If it’s just one person that’s missing due to an emergency, then the show must go on.

The only major difference between eSports and professional sports is that the fans are directly paying for organizational expenses (read: salaries) through ticket sales. HLTV is free. But professional eSports organizations still rely on their fans as income, it just comes via sponsorships. Those big sponsors like Intel, nVidia, and AMD aren’t interested in your 8-0 CAL-M team. They’re interested in 3D and coL because their advertising exposure is much, much larger. Take away that fan base, and 3D looks a lot different. Without fans, the Lakers are just a bunch of guys getting some exercise.

Maybe I’ve become jaded, but I don’t even try to connect to HLTV unless I know the match is already live. I’ve been jerked around too many times and I don’t really care if I miss a couple rounds. I’d rather show up in the fourth round of a match I know is being played than wait twenty minutes for a match that never happens. I don’t bother to look at match times because I know they get changed without warning, and without notice. This problem isn’t going to destroy the foundation of eSports or prevent the DirecTV tournament; it’s just one more example of a small difference between professional sports and eSports.


 
February 3, 2007

Last Week's Predictions

I had two awful misses in my Round 4 predictions.  I predicted juked to edge out Forbidden 16-14, but Forbidden took the match easily by a score of 21-9.  Forbidden had roster problems but they  quickly found a fifth player in Kyle “mustang” Cummings.  Apparently that was enough.

In my other miss Frantic whooped x3o by a score of 24-6, but I had x3o winning that match 17-13.  I have no idea what happened there, except that schizo-Frantic has some strange match results.  In the first week they lost to EG 9-21 but destroyed x6 23-7.  It was on the same map, I don’t know how Frantic managed to lose to EG that badly but beat a strong x6 team by a more lopsided score.  They also split their other two matches with an 8-22 loss to Hyper! and a 24-6 win over x3o.  As a Bears fan, I hope the Super Bowl predictions are just as bad.

The Forbidden vs. clan eX match is still pending (I’ll add that in whenever it is played), and in the fifteen reported matches I was 13-2 with three perfect predictions: EFG’s matches , and verGe vs. EG in Round 4.  I only hope every week goes that well.


CEVO Predictions

Round 5 (de_dust2)

Match of the Week

coL vs. x6 - I’ll watch EFG’s match to see if my prediction streak lives (unlikely), but I think this will be the best match of the week.  Thankfully for coL, their hardest matchup yet comes on more familiar territory. If they were playing a nonstandard map, I think x6’s familiarity with Source would give them enough of an edge to overcome coL’s superior talent.  But on dust2, a team with coL’s practice schedule can learn the nuances quickly.  It should be just enough for them to eke out a win.

coL > x6   16-14


EFG vs. one eyed zomblerz - I’m watching this match for two reasons.  The first is that one eyed zomblerz currently sits at 3-1, and a match against EFG will let us know if they’re going to make noise in the postseason or fade away as they face harder teams.  But more importantly, I need to keep my streak of perfect EFG predictions alive!  Although the zomblerz put up the best fight against coL to date, they still lost 19-11 and EFG is in the same class as coL.  It’s a standard map against a top team, and it’s a loss for the newly-renamed squad.

EFG > Zomblerz   21-9


Clan eX vs. EG - This is a tough match to predict because eX’s starting five is unknown.   Players have already left the roster, and it leaves eX with two choices.  They can delay the matches until they get a new roster, or they can ask the former players to stay on and play until replacements are found.  Either way, the new players mean eX’s team will certainly be disorganized.  EG played very well in a loss to verGe and pulled out an OT win against JMC.  Their new guys seem to be fitting in well, so I think they’ll pull out the win.

EG > eX   19-11


1shot vs. Jax Money Crew - JMC is coming off a loss so bizarre that I have to check CEVO’s results page every time before I type it out.  They lost 25-5 to 3D.  JMC has too much talent to lose 25-5 to anybody (or so I thought).  It’s definitely true in 1.6, but maybe participating in three leagues caught up with them.  In any event, their opponent this week is 1shot, not 3D.  They’ve also dropped CAL-I Source, so that should help them focus a little more on CEVO.  1shot, meanwhile, is having a season to forget.  They haven’t put up more than six rounds on any opponent.  Six rounds!  They’re the Arizona Cardinals of CEVO, minus the pro football salaries. 

JMC  >  1shot   22-8


Eximius vs. 3D - At one point 3D was the only U.S. international threat.  They won the CPL Winter 2002 Event and got third at CPL Summer 2003, and everybody fell in love with Ksharp, Rambo, Steel, Bullseye and Moto.   They were the Dream Team, except nerdy (like us).  

Then compLexity came along and Bullseye left, Steel retired, and eventually Ksharp followed.  Somewhere in that time they morphed from the Dream Team into what USA Basketball is today: talented players that always seem to be missing something nobody can put a finger on.  Yet we still expect them to win every match despite tougher competition and a completely different roster.  When they lose they’re overrated, but the second they look like a contender, everybody jumps back on the bandwagon like it’s the last air-conditioned bus out of Mexico.

We shouldn’t judge 3D against their history.  It was a different team in a different era, and the team they have now is doing just fine.  Give them some time to get used to each other and 3D will be back on track before you can say, “Just use Ksharp’s.”

3D > Eximius   19-11


juked vs. Devastation - If 1shot is the Arizona Cardinals, juked is the Detroit Lions.  They’ve only put up more than ten rounds one time.  Unfortunately it was against an equally disappointing rSports team.  Since then they’ve lost 3-27 to JMC, and 9-21 to both x6 and Forbidden.  Devastation is pretty close to those teams, and I expect a similar score.

Dev > juked   23-7


verGe vs. U5 - My #1 team, verGe, against  an 0-4 U5 team?  Don’t see much hope for the U5 guys.  They don’t seem to be making the transition to Source very smoothly, and now they have to work in two new players.  If the saying “united we stand, divided we fall” is true, then the only time these five will be united is during freeze time.

verGe > U5   22-8


Frantic vs. Forbidden - It’s probably a bad thing when you look at the matchup and your mind goes blank for a little while.  I picked both of these teams to lose last week and they both won laughers.  I really have no idea what will happen here.  I could go into a coma for a week, wake up and be told that Forbidden won 36-6, scored four touchdowns and hit two grand slams, and it wouldn’t surprise me. 

Frantic won their Round 4 matchup 24-6, and Forbidden won 21-9.  Apparently it didn’t take either team very long to work in the new players.  I think Forbidden will win the match, but Frantic should be able to hold them without a touchdown at least.

Forbidden > Frantic   17-13


Yes John, we're sick of that song too.


x3o vs. Hyper! -
You know what I’m not looking forward to?  The days when eSports gets huge TV ratings and a company like Chevrolet comes up with some annoying jingle to promote their new pollution machines.  I’m sure you’ve heard the song, right?  This is ouuuur country.  (If you don’t know it yet, it should be on approximately three million times during the Super Bowl. Make sure you look for it: I want us to be able to use the pain as a bonding experience.)

The only thing worse than hearing that damn commercial is hearing it when the game is lopsided.  Which brings us to x3o vs. Hyper!  Hyper! has looked great so far with Nightfall and x3o struggled as rSports.  I expect them to keep struggling with another big loss.

Hyper! > x3o   24-6



Round 6 (de_dust2)

Juked vs. verGe – juked has a rough schedule: they have to face verGe after just playing against Devastation on Sunday.  Unfortunately I think they’re going to remain winless and drop to 0-6 after this match.

verGe > juked   24-6


Jax Money Crew vs. Frantic - Frantic loses big, wins big, loses big … so which team shows up in Round 6? Of course it will be the exact opposite of whatever I choose, so I might as well get it over with.  JMC should be more comfortable playing with aZn by this point, and that will give them a big edge.

JMC > Frantic   19-11


Devastation vs. EFG - This is the match of the week.  I want to see Dev play against one of the top teams in CEVO.  They definitely have enough talent to make it a close game, but I’m not sold that they have what it takes to win.  Their record is a modest 2-2, and their two losses have been in OT and a 13-17 squeaker … but I think Dev is going to come up a bit short again.

EFG > Dev   16-14


Clan eX vs. coL - eX has roster problems and, of course, that means they get to play coL (as clearly stated in the CEVO FAQ).  Only the best of the best are going to give coL a serious run for their money , so eX joins Goose and Maverick on the alternates plaque in the ladies rocker room.  (Sorry, got carried away there.  Is someone playing Kenny Loggins?)

coL > eX   21-9


Hyper! vs. x6 - I think this match will play out like the EFG/Devastation clash.  x6 is playing the role of Dev, and although they’re a good team, Hyper! is at the top of the class right now and should win.

Hyper! > x6   17-13


x3o vs. 1shot - If both teams lose in Round 5, you know what that means … somebody is getting their first win!  30 rounds, ten players, and one winner that gets some well-deserved respect around the clubhouse. X3o just isn’t getting it done, and 1shot seems to be taking their losses well from what I’ve read.   They’re not infighting or pointing fingers, and I think this is the week they break into the win column.

1shot > x3o   17-13


3D vs. U5 - A couple years ago this would’ve been a great match-up.  As it stands, not so much.  U5 hasn’t been doing well at all, and although 3D has been a little inconsistent, they shouldn’t have any problems on this match.  There are still some roster concerns for U5, and 3D destroyed another former 1.6 team in Round 4.  I expect similar results here.

3D > U5   20-10


Forbidden vs. Eximius - This feels like a close game.  Both teams are working in new players, but they’re playing on a familiar map.  It should be a good match to watch, but I don’t think Eximius has what it takes to beat Forbidden.  Maybe next season.

Forbidden > Eximius   18-12 


EG vs. one eyed zomblerz - Evil Geniuses and one eyed zomblerz both sound like villains from a Sci-Fi Original Movie.  I don’t know who would win in a real fight, but it would certainly be entertaining.  In fact, I think that Celebrity Boxing 2.0 should be an animated feature that pits incredibly popular fictional characters against each other.  Which would you rather see: Tonya Harding vs. Paula Jones, or a Luke Skywalker and Han Solo tag-team match against Professor Xavier and Wolverine?  Get Pixar on this right away.

EG has looked good so far and one eyed zomblerz is a surprising 3-1.  It’s close, but I think EG’s talent and a slightly harder schedule will help them take this match.

EG > zomblerz   18-12


Last Week: 13-2

Overall Record: 13-2

Perfect Predictions: 3

Have a good Sunday, go Bears!


 
February 1, 2007

We’re always concerned with the best.  Who’s the best (I am!), who’s the best AWPer (me > Ksharp lololol), and, if you have a girlfriend, which shoes go best with her dress?  (It’s a trick question.  Your girlfriend doesn’t need shoes to be beautiful, she’s perfect the way she is.)  But for all our obsession, human beings do a pretty crappy job of answering the question.  People that cover pro sports don’t even know the right answers, and they have companies dedicated to tracking players statistics and even an entire branch of mathematical analysis (sabermetrics).  Ask five people who the best basketball player in the world is, and you’ll probably get five different answers: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Jimmy Chitwood. All-Star voting doesn’t help because it’s just a popularity contest: the two front-runners for MVP (Dirk Nowitzki  and Steve Nash) lost out to Yao Ming (broken leg) and Tracy McGrady (not Steve Nash) in fan balloting, because Yao (and his teammate T-Mac) get internet votes from all of Asia. It’s OK if we can’t agree who the best individual player is, since there are such a wide range of talents, but the very least we could do is try to agree on the best teams – it’s a team game after all, and there aren’t that many choices.


Yao can't play in the All-Star game, but at least he is still very tall.

You might not think world rankings really matter that much, but they do.  When officials are seeding tournaments, they’re essentially doing the same thing: thinking about which teams are best.  If they don’t do a good job, we’re left with a lot of strange match-ups, especially in group play.  Case in point: CPL 2006, where Fnatic, coL, 3D and zEx were assigned to the same group after the first round and only two of them could advance.  The big three all had the potential to win the championship, and zEx even had an outside shot. Meanwhile, groups CC and DD had LaVega, Flow Gaming, x3o, Turmoil, rSports, Four Kings and eSreal – good teams, but only Hacker Gaming really had enough talent to make a title run.  If we want the best teams to compete for championships – if we want to give fans the best match-ups – we should probably make sure that they don’t get knocked out in group-play because the tournament seeds weren’t thought-out.

Look, I don’t have all the answers.  Rankings are fun to talk and argue about.  But if we’re going to keep arguing about them, we should at least agree on a method and some ground rules – we don’t want the Yao Ming of Counter-Strike riding popularity all the way to the top.

To get accurate seedings, first we need to understand what we’re trying to accomplish.  All too often, rankings hover between predictions of future success and rewarding previous results.  If predictions measure what we think will happen, rankings should largely reflect what’s happened so far.  When teams have a bad LAN or start the CEVO season poorly, they shouldn’t hold their spot just because they might turn it around.   When we start combining the two, we get something that doesn’t tell us which team is winning so far (like rankings should) or which team should win tomorrow (like predictions should).  Instead we’re left with teams that simply don’t deserve their rank based on their 2006 performances.  It doesn’t matter what your tag is: if the teams below you are consistently beating you, it’s time to take a step down.

To make sure we’re clear, let’s lay down some ground rules for ranking teams:

1.  Recent success takes precedence.
I don’t care who you are or what your name means: give me results, or give me death!  (I’d prefer results.)  The reasons for this are pretty obvious.  If we’re trying to figure out the best team right now, recent results are a better indicator.  That ESWC win was really impressive back in July, but it doesn’t mean much when half the teams have new players.  The NFL doesn’t give byes to teams that made the Super Bowl last year.

2.   Winning restricted tournaments is good, but not great.
Winning a restricted tournament is like your grandparents beating you at Trivial Pursuit, Old People Edition: if you’re a top team, it’s almost expected.  Don’t get me wrong, you get credit for taking care of business, but it’s just not on the same level as the major international LANs: WSVG, WCG, CPL, ESWC.  It’s rare for a team to win or place extremely well in more than one or two of those, because there are a lot of really good teams.  But when half of them aren’t present because of the location or setup of your LAN … you can do a little dance, but save the Dirty Bird for the big ones.

2a.  The exception to rule two is when you’ve gained entrance into a restricted tournament by sending everybody else packing.  LANs like WCG, WSVG and ESWC require you to beat every other team from your country, place top-two at a previous WSVG event, or win a qualifier.  You get full credit here, you’ve already earned it.

3.  Reward consistency
This is the Phil Mickelson rule.  Winning is very impressive and it’s nice to be #1, but given the volatility of professional Counter-Strike, I think it’s actually more impressive to finish fifth or better at three straight events.  If you keep getting top finishes, eventually you’re going to take home the trophy (unless you’re Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese).  Or, if you’re really in for the long haul, you can just hope everybody else gets tired of winning (which explains Halle Berry's Oscar).

Now that we’ve got some of the ground rules set, let’s take a look at some world rankings. 


GotFrag

Again, I’m not the God of Counter-Strike rankings … but coL at #8?  How does that make any sense?  They weren’t even close to being the best American team in 2006.  coL’s finishes were (most to least recent):  out in the second group play at CPL, eighth out of ten at WSVG, semifinals at ESWC, and second at WEG (a restricted tournament) all the way back in May of 2006.  So even their most impressive finish breaks two of our rules.  Not only that, but 3D beat them out for WCG and placed better at every major LAN.  3D’s finishes:  lost in the first best-of-three round after group play at CPL, second at WSVG, semifinals at WCG, fourth at ESWC.  Yet somehow 3D doesn’t make the list?  Don’t get me wrong, I think 2006 was the exception, and I expect coL to do well in their upcoming Source or 1.6 tournaments.  But these rankings only make sense if you assume Mel Gibson made them and thought 3D was Jewish. 

Of course this means their U.S. rankings are just as muddled.  coL is #1 despite their LAN record, and Pandemic somehow sneaks into two spot above 3D?  Umm, how about we just put the team with the best LAN results first, and the team with the worst LAN results third?  Then we’d be left with:

1. 3D
2. Pandemic
3. coL

Pandemic beats out coL and they deserve it.  They had the same finish at CPL, and Pandemic beat coL by placing fourth at WSVG.  I mean, it’s really close –  you couldn’t squeeze Mischa Barton through the gap between these two – but Dolven’s crew had a good run in December and they deserve some dap. My other complaint is Mouz; I couldn’t even remember their last good finish until I looked it up: they lost in the quarter finals at the WCG. They did have to beat aTTaX to get the German WCG invite, but they only put up eleven rounds in two matches against NoA when they got there.  Teams like NiP, SK and aAa not only have better finishes, but they’re also more recent.  Also, someone needs to explain how Pentagram got one vote for best team in the world, but no votes for best European team.   Clearly the person who voted for best team had to be removed before he bungled the European rankings too.

(Post Publish Edit: The above paragraphs are my original words, but there were some complaints so I feel the need to explain a little bit. First, I apologize if they offended anybody or make me seem ungrateful to GotFrag or the amount of work they have done. These paragraphs are NOT meant to bash GotFrag in general. There is no better eSports website for news reporting, interviews or features but at times their commentary seems to get left behind. The problem is that eSports is too wide of a river to be able to cut very deep into it. The amount of information is prohibitively large, especially when you can't afford to pay your staff as much as, say, ESPN just because eSports isn't that big yet. That said, I've visited GotFrag for years and quite frankly I've never felt the need to go anywhere else for eSports news. My only point here was that their world rankings don't seem to have a clear system, and if they do they get left behind sometimes, anyway. Before their January update, it had been months since they updated the page.

As it relates to my rankings, the Pwnage Rankings are more of a "who's hot" list than a true World Rankings page. I've intentionally weighted recent performances a lot more than previous finishes because I think it's more interesting and it provides a fresh angle on the same information. There was a major tournament I had forgotten about, and that was the WSVG Intel Summer Championship. I only remembered that it was officially a WSVG event, and had forgotten how many top international teams attended. Although I would have ranked coL ahead of Pandemic had I remembered, I still would have been a little miffed about mouz and I would have put 3D ahead of all of them based on the LAN results. I hope this clears up any misconceptions, and I'm sorry if I offended anybody; particularly the hardworking and talented people that cover eSports over at GotFrag. I have the utmost respect for what you have done and continue to do, you are the ESPN for eSports. I hope in the future you can be just as successful and as much of a household name as your counterpart.)



Amped


They did a much better job with their rankings, but they still fell into some of the same pitfalls as GotFrag.  They listed coL at seventh and Hacker Gaming at tenth despite the Chinese team finishing fifth at two consecutive tournaments and coL not having any top finishes.  3D was sixth but their second place finish at WCG is something the two teams above them lack; they could have gone higher.  But overall the rankings are respectable, and at the very least, if you disagree you can read the explanations included with their rankings (something GotFrag also lacks).



We don’t have a Super Bowl for eSports.  There is no tournament we can look at and say, “The team that wins this is the best team for 2006.”  Rankings are the best way to determine how well our teams are doing.  Despite the great work of the people at GotFrag in covering tournaments, it’s still hard to figure out who is attending what events.  Even after the tournaments, group finishes like 9-16 or 5-8 make it hard to say who really had a better tournament.  If we want people to follow teams -- if we want fans -- we should take ranking teams seriously.  Some people like to root for the top teams like the Kobe’s Lakers or Wade’s Miami Heat team; other people like to root for Jimmy Chitwood and the blue collar teams that exceed expectations.  It’s a shame if we don’t know which is which.



LANDodger