March 31, 2007

First of all, it’s pretty cool that Buy.com is hosting a LAN. People can say what they want about gaming never becoming mainstream, but it’s clear a lot of major corporations don’t feel the same way. To some people it's just a game, but there's definitely a growing interest from corporate sponsors. They feel it's worth the time, effort, and money to host an event, just like they would have something like "The NBA Draft presented by LANDodger". Hopefully that trend continues, but for now, onto the LAN predictions!


1.6 Recap

There’s a $20,000 Counter-Strike 1.6 tournament, but it’s not very interesting. I’d do a more in-depth analysis of the 1.6 action, but there isn’t any need. The 1.6 tournament can be summed up in three words: Pandemic will win. There just aren’t any other teams in attendance that can hang with them. (If you’re interested, here's the seeding. It’s a pretty good indicator of who should win. I give Pandemic a 75% chance of winning, Turmoil 10%, and the other three teams in the top five a 5% chance. It’s pretty lopsided.)

But, since we’re so close to the baseball season (which I’m totally geeked for), here’s a baseball analogy. There are five teams in the AL East. If you swapped out Boston with the Kansas City Royals, that’s what this tournament is like. Pandemic is the Yankees – just far and away the best team. Turmoil is the Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve got a decent team, you wouldn’t be surprised enough to have a coronary if they won, but you’d still wonder who lagged out. x3o would be the Baltimore Orioles: if this happens, and if that happens, and if the other team TKs enough … they could win. The last two teams need major miracles.

Basically, if you bet on Turmoil of x3o to win, it’s time to start thinking of ways to sabotage tournament computers. And if you bet on NetFragz or Check-Six, I wish you had been betting against me.


Source Recap

What’s far more interesting is the Counter-Strike: Source tournament. It’s the first official CGS national qualifier-qualifier. (That would be a tournament to get into the CGS qualifier … a qualifier-qualifier.) If the 1.6 tournament is the AL East, this is the AL Central. It’s deep, the competition is going to be tighter than Joan Rivers face after a botox treatment, and there are four or five teams with a legitimate chance of finishing in the top three. 

There are some notable teams absent from the LAN. compLexity and 3D both have auto-berths to the CGS qualifier based on their performance in last year’s CGI event, so they didn’t make the trip to California.  EFG is also absent, but for unknown reasons.  (I’ve read that they also have an auto-berth into the CGS qualifiers, but as far as I know an EFG member hasn’t confirmed that. Trevor “p0s” Randolph did say that two of their members were going as part of a pug, but didn’t say why the rest of the team wasn’t attending.) Without those three, there are basically seven teams in contention for the spots. 

Instead of doing seedings for the Source tournament, they went with group play in the first round. There isn’t going to be much competition in group play, so rather than predict all the 16-1 wins, I’m going to skip straight to the good stuff. The seven contenders, with my predictions on the order of their finish:


"I'm the uber-man, and even I think 1.6 is the harder version of CS."


7. United 5
– They’re here pretty much as a courtesy. I don’t think they have a real chance of doing much. They’re not bad – far from it – the other teams are just better. They improved in CEVO after they stopped trying to play 1.6 and Source, but they’re not ready to make any noise yet. I think they’ll get into the CGS qualifiers eventually, but not until other teams have already qualified. 

Although they’re a former 1.6 team, and (if you listen to the fanboys) even Chuck Norris would think 1.6 is a challenge, I don’t see them finishing higher than seventh.


6. rSports
– They were the closest thing to a Cinderella team of the CEVO-P season, finishing with a 9-5 record. I don’t think anybody expected them to finish with the same record as verGe, and ahead of EFG and Check-Six (among others). 

So why are they ranked so low here, including beneath Check-Six? They didn’t beat any of the top teams in CEVO, and I don’t see any reason for that to change. I think they’re a good bit ahead of u5, but still that same distance behind the five teams in front of them. They’ve got a solid roster, and, like u5, I think they’ve got a chance to make it into the CGS qualifier. It just won’t happen here.


5. verGe
– Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Now, I’ve heard of curses and jinxes before, but as soon as I put them as the #1 team on my Source Pwnage Rankings, they dropped like a stone. They managed to go from legit CEVO title contenders to fighting hard just to stay at the fourth seed. If he followed eSports, even John Madden would have been impressed with that fall from grace. And yes, I think I’m totally responsible for it, and I apologize to the verGe organization and all their fans.

They beat Check-Six in Round 16, but that was with a different roster. After the roster lock they picked up two new players but had to finish out the season, including the x6 match, with their old squad. Sometimes you can overcome new players online – the extra comfort of playing from home makes players more relaxed and confident. With a CGS qualifier spot on the line and playing on LAN, I don’t think those two new guys are going to play as well, and the really good teams should be able to take advantage of it. 

This spot is where things start to get interesting. verGe is fighting with the next two teams for that last spot. I could see them squeaking into the top three because the other teams have questions, too, but I think it’s more likely their new roster will take some time to jell.   


4. Check-Six
–Check-Six’s question is their roster isn’t overwhelmingly talented. But they’ve had the same roster all season in CEVO, and if you’ve followed CEVO-P Source at all you know that’s a pretty big accomplishment. It should be enough of a leg up on verGe at the LAN. I could see them sneaking into the third spot, but I don’t think it’s likely.

On a side note, this was another team done in by my props. As soon as I praised them, they went straight to the toilet, did not pass muster, did not collect $200. They even had a win overturned in the process, which is like landing on Boardwalk and then rolling a -1 and having to mortgage it to pay the $75.00 luxury tax. (Yes, I played a little too much monopoly as a kid.)


3. Forbidden
– They have some of the same roster concerns as verGe, but they had the benefit of nuking their team a little earlier in the season. So they’ve had a little more time to get it together, and all of their members have experience playing with at least one person on the roster. That might not seem like a big deal, but in this case CS:S follows third grade logic: the buddy system works. Sometimes you only need a few guys on the team to be really comfortable with each other, and that’s enough.

Really, I’m banking on the play of the old verGe members: Paradox, juan, and n0it. Paradox really impressed me during the Intel Invitational (as EFG’s ringer), and n0it is one of the best AWPers in Source. Juan is one of the best ingame leaders, and throw in their past experiences playing together and I think that should be enough to carry them.
They’re the only real candidate for a darkhorse team, too. EG and Hyper are already expected to do well, and everybody else doesn’t have much of a chance to win even if they outperform the predictions. So, that leaves Forbidden: the official LANDodger Buy.com darkhorse.


2. EG
– They finished much worse in CEVO than I expected, but part of that can be blamed on trying to play 1.6 and Source. I’d look at that like trying to play in the NBA and the Olympics at the same time. First you have to worry about burnout. If you manage to keep yourself pumped up for both versions, the games are similar enough that you feel like you should play just as well in both.  And you do, the problem is that they’re different enough that you’re constantly adjusting to both. You play at the same level in both games. It’s just at a lower level than if you stuck to one version.


Dwyane Wade wishes scoring was this easy all the time. At least waitresses know him.

If you don’t believe me, look at EG’s record in Source. All of u5’s wins came after they dropped 1.6. JMC juggled both and didn’t do well in Source. And the basketball reference holds true, as well. NBA players are so used to playing NBA ball that it takes time to adjust to the international rules, which is obvious from the USA basketball results. The struggles of the USA players was well documented early in the NBA season, as well – a lot of the guys that played in the international competition just didn’t play well early in the season. If you don’t prioritize one version over the other, the results for both end up suffering. 

That being said EG should have fully committed to Source recently, for obvious reasons. CGS is the first priority. They did have a recent win over Hyper in the X-Fire Stride Cup. (I don’t think they announced the event until the day it happened, either. One day I had never heard of it, and the next day EG was upsetting Hyper.) Despite that, I think Hyper is still the better team. Even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beat the Yankees once in a while. I don’t see much chance of EG slipping out of the top three. They should get their CGS berth early.


1. Hyper
– Alright, so everybody saw that coming. They finished #2 in CEVO, and they’ve beaten the other top teams consistently all season and in the Intel Invitational. The only thing I could see preventing them from winning is Warmachine – not because he’s a bad player, but because he’s still relatively new to the team. They’re going home with a CGS berth, though, and that’s what really matters.

Without coL and 3D there, they’re clearly at the top of the class. The most interesting subplot of the LAN will happen if Hyper has to play x6. There’s some bad blood between Nightfall and KG from x6, starting with the CEVO dispute. Not that I’m rooting for an aneurism or anything like that, but it would be interesting to see the massive conniption Nightfall has if x6 could somehow upset and/or eliminate them. Unfortunately (from an entertainment standpoint), that probably won’t happen.


So, as a quick recap: in Source, Hyper, EG and Forbidden should get the CGS berths, and in 1.6 I expect Pandemic to pretty much run away with the tournament. The deciding matches should come on Sunday. I’ll make sure to catch some of the matches live as teams fight to finish in the top three. Early next week I’ll have a breakdown of what happened, so stay tuned for more CGS-related commentary. Have a good weekend!


 
March 29, 2007

I saw this topic pop up on the forums again recently, and it’s something that’s been in my head for a while now, anyway. So I figured it was time to take a stand on a medium more permanent than the forums. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that competitive gaming is a sport. Of course, not everybody agrees, which is good. Considering how much logic there is on the forums, it's a little scary if everybody agrees with you.

The first problem for most people is the lack of physical activity. It’s the first argument they bring up – and for a lot of people it’s the last argument they need to hear from either side. The question nobody pays attention to is: if physical activity is required for an activity to become a sport, exactly how much physical activity is enough?

If you look at what we consider to be sports right now, apparently not much. Shooting and archery are in the Olympic Games, and so are bobsledding and the luge (not to be confused with the loogie). Polo is considered a sport, but it seems to me like the horse is doing most of the work there. Hell, even horseback riding has been an Olympic sport since 1900. A gold medal for riding a horse seems like a good deal to me. (On a side note, that would be my Olympic sport of choice. I’d rather ride a horse than try to qualify in wrestling – where large, sweaty, hairy men are trying to turn you into their horse.) So apparently our standards on physical activity are pretty low. I don’t think any of those sports require much more physical activity than competitive gaming. It’s certainly not a big enough difference to show a clear gap in exertion between a sport and a game.

Even if we could draw a line, there wouldn’t be any rhyme or reason for it. It would all be based on feel. “Well, football is definitely a sport. So is baseball. I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like table tennis (another Olympic event) should really count. It seems like a game to me.” Of course, if you take out ping-pong (as normal people call it), we’d have to take out most of the sports I mentioned above even though nobody questions whether they’re sports or not. That's the problem. There’s no way to put a line somewhere that says, “Any more exertion than this, and the event is a sport. Any less exertion, and it’s a game." For any line you try to put in, there are accepted sports that wouldn't fit the definition anymore.

The problem in these forum discussions on games vs. sports comes come down to our preconceived notions of what sports, and the people playing them, look like. We want them to be physical, fast, or violent, but preferably all three. That’s the one thing all the games mentioned above have in common. Even though rifling doesn’t require much physical exertion, the sheer force of the bullets on our psyche is enough to make us convinced it’s a sport.


I think it's obvious why he was called The Walrus. Though the facial hair didn't help.

In that case, we’re willing to overlook the fact that you don’t have to be in good shape to win a shooting competition. But for the most part, we also want people that play sports to be athletes: supreme physical specimens that can sprint a marathon, lift a house, and (most importantly) do a little jig with their pecs. But that isn't true even in “real” sports. It helps to be in great physical shape, but it’s not a prerequisite. We all agree golf is a sport. I’d like to see some of the guys on the PGA tour run a mile. Tiger wouldn’t have a problem, but I bet more than a couple would finish looking like Ted from Heroes. Craig Stadler, a well known golfer on the PGA tour (and now the Champions Tour – the PGA for old people), is nicknamed the Walrus. And I don’t think he got it because he had two foot tusks. Golf is an easy sport to pick an example from because physical conditioning isn’t as much of a priority, but there are examples in other sports as well. I don’t think many people would consider Matt Stairs athletic. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’d blend in well at a bar – just another 5’9” guy with a beer gut and a beard.  He played in the MLB for 14 seasons. If you haven’t watched Michael Sweetney play basketball for the Chicago Bulls, you’ve probably felt the small tremors he creates from running. He’s an excellent basketball player, but not so much with the agility or the quickness. The point is: you don’t have to be an athlete to play a sport.

The thing that defines something as a sport isn’t the competitors or the amount of sweat stains on their jersey, it’s the competition and the fanbase. Every sport is also a game; you can play it for fun. I’m sure that’s how all sports got started. In the very beginning (version 1.0 for the hopelessly nerdy) golf was just some guy with a stick, a pinecone, and a gopher hole. (Probably not, but you get the point). He was tired of doing chores, and did what any man would do in that situation. He played a game. It didn’t turn into a sport until his neighbor challenged him to a game and got the whole block to pay $.10 to watch it. If we define sports based on organized competition (league or tournament based) and popularity instead of some arbitrary barometer of physical activity, everything becomes a lot clearer. 

Counter-Strike is a game that’s in the infancy of becoming a sport. We hear a lot of talk about “...” needs to be done before eSports can get big.  “…” is holding back eSports, sponsors will never respond to that. Getting video games on ESPN, in the news, getting sponsorships … isn’t that just trying to change Counter-Strike (I say CS because it’s the most popular game, but other games fit as well) from a game into a sport? The first steps have been taken, but gaming as a source of fun is still much more popular so I think it’s necessary to break it into separate thoughts. Counter-Strike is a game, but professional Counter-Strike is a sport. I don’t think even playing in CAL would be considered playing a sport because there’s nothing involved except fun and pride. But in the professional realm, people are making money off of it, dedicating years of their life to it, and the fanbase is growing. It’s a very small group of people at this point, but that’s going to change as gaming becomes more commonplace. In a couple years, I don’t think this is going to be a debate at all. Competitive/professional gaming will be recognized as a sport. It has all the qualities necessary except for a lack of support. Based on what we already have as Olympic Games, it can’t be a lack of physical activity holding competitive gaming back. 

There’s only one more thing I want to mention. The International Olympic Committee, along with selecting the sports that are actually played in the Olympics, has a list of games that are recognized as sports but not played in the competition. (Golf is actually one of them, along with rugby, to name a couple.) Out of everybody they’re probably the most qualified people to say what is or isn’t a sport. Two interesting games the IOC recognize as sports: chess and bridge. Yes, that would be bridge the card game. If those two are sports, clearly they don’t think a sport has to be physical in nature. It’s far more likely they’re basing it on the competitive nature of the game and the huge support structure it has. (I’m pretty sure bridge carried the 70+ age demographic.) If that’s the case, the only thing stopping competitive gaming from being recognized as a sport is exposure. And if eSports continues to grow as it has in the past, that shouldn’t be a problem for very long. I don’t know if Ksharp is ever going to win a gold medal in CS, but Ksharp Jr. might have a chance. 


 

Yes, you read that right. compLexity actually played in a little 1.6 tournament. Before all the chunky fanboys have a heart attack, no, they’re not quitting Source. They were just playing for fun, as stated in their announcement.


This is not a LANDodger-approved napping position, but it gets the job done.

This by itself is pretty interesting. If other 1.6 events don’t interfere with CGS (or practice for it), I guess we can expect to see coL play some good, old-fashioned Counter-Strike 1.6. (Note: emphasis on old.)  I have no idea what the CGS schedule will look like. They might have no time to play 1.6 at all. Or it could be like your first week of college: you’re finally not in high school from 8am – 3pm and you have so much free time it feels like every day is thirty hours long (which, by the way, is why man invented the nap).

What makes this little tournament worthwhile to mention is that coL actually won the damn thing! Granted, it wasn’t exactly a major LAN, but Pandemic and some other good teams played. (Technically it wasn’t a LAN at all. All the teams competed from LAN centers across North America. Here’s a rundown of the finalists, prizes, and all that good stuff.) In case you didn’t know, Pandemic’s basically the best 1.6 team (JMC is a close second) since 3D and coL switched to Source. coL ended up beating them pretty handily, 16-11.

I got a chance to watch the match, and the score definitely wasn’t a fluke. They played the match on Train, a map that favors teams with good communication and teamwork. You can’t pug Train and beat a team 16-11. Clearly coL still has some good chemistry, and plenty of skill to give any American 1.6 team a run for their money.

So, the results beg two questions, one of which is a guilty pleasure. We’ll take care of that one first: if Counter-Strike: Source is so easy, and Counter-Strike 1.6 is so much harder, why can coL come into this tournament with almost no practice and beat Pandemic like that? Fanboys! Stop drooling over that spam kill and pay attention, I’m talking to you! If they did something like this in Source, the 1.6 community would be screaming bloody murder about how Source is easy and CGS and Valve are the bane of life itself.  And if I was a bigger jerk, I’d post something like this on GotFrag, but I don’t need that kind of drama. 

Onto the serious question: if coL does this well with such little practice, what’s to stop them from doing it at other tournaments? How many teams can really beat coL consistently, even with little preparation? They did lose in overtime to rSports, so it’s clear they’re not invincible. But at this point only Pandemic and JMC would be favorites over them, and it’s obvious coL can still win. Outside of those two, I can’t name a single team that would be clearly favored over coL. 

Let’s say they decide to attend WSVG Kentucky. Last year, I don’t think a single international team attended that LAN. So their competition would be limited to American teams (and possibly Evil Geniuses, depending on what happens with CGS). Assuming they prepare a little bit more than they did for this (much smaller) tournament, you have to figure they have at least a 50/50 shot against JMC and Pandemic, which means they'd be able to beat one of them for that second WSVG Finals entry. The only question is if they'll take the opportunity.

Of course, it all depends on their CGS schedule. It's clearly their first priority, and at this point there are more questions than answers about what the CGS schedule will look like. There might be weekly matches, there might be a match every day. All I know is that judging by their play, I don’t think coL is going to decline a LAN because they’re afraid they’ll lose. If you’re a coL fan and you love seeing them play 1.6, 2007 is already less depressing than you thought it would be, and there might be more 1.6 prizes in the future.

Tags:
1.6, CGS, coL, EG, JMC, Pandemic, Source

 

On February 15th the World of Warcraft: Arena Tournament went live.  A couple well-known organizations, Check-Six and Pandemic, have already picked up teams.  That trend will probably continue considering the huge fan base WoW has – any competent organization would love to tap into the eight million registered accounts (how many players that equates to is something only Miss Cleo knows).  But I’m not convinced it’s a good platform for eSports or that it’ll ever capture the attention of a broader fan base.


I'll huff! And I'll puff! And I'll still go nowhere fast.

(First of all, if you’re like me, you know nothing about WoW.  Sorry, but that means you’ve missed the train.  GotFrag released a moderately helpful article, but it’s like one of those old-timey self-pumped rail cars.  You have to do most of the heavy lifting, it’s slower than a Valve bug fix, and eventually you just give up as the train you’re trying to catch disappears in the distance.  The article was supposed to be tailored to people who have never played before or people returning after a long break, but it doesn’t really achieve that goal.  One example:  the “Class Rundown” says Warriors can use Mortal Strike, Fear, Pummel, Intercept and Intervene.  These are apparently important skills to have for a Warrior and I’d like to know what these skills do.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t explained at all.  The first three are fairly self-explanatory, but Intercept and Intervene sound like something you do to get a buddy out of a bad date.  None of the spells are explained, passing references to what makes a good PvP fighter are left unexplained, and I don’t even know the basics about what classes would work well together.  Anyway …)

Why isn’t it the next big thing in eSports?  The simplest way I can put it is that competitive WoW is the eSports equivalent of chess.  You need an insider’s knowledge of the game to appreciate the action.  Even if you’ve never played Counter-Strike, you’d be able to tell when something pretty incredible just happened.  Flick shots are graceful, 1v5 clutches are dramatic and exciting no matter how much knowledge of the game you have.  You can appreciate those things on some basic level no matter how much you know, just like you can appreciate a big, booming home run or a ninety yard touchdown run.  I don’t think you can say the same thing for WoW (or chess).  A new, brilliant, improvised attack against a common chess setup looks the same as any other moves because an ignorant spectator can’t appreciate it without having background knowledge.   Just like if somebody watched WoW Arena, they wouldn’t know if using Mortal Strike instead of Fear was a brilliant move or a fatal flaw.  Although the people with accounts will be able to appreciate the game and the nuances, anybody outside of that group will have a hard time learning enough to appreciate it.

I’m not convinced it’s a good platform in terms of game play, either.  There’s a complete lack of physical action.  There’s plenty of gore and action in the animations, but the gameplay itself doesn’t have any physical aspect – unless you consider chugging a case of Bawls and not puking a talent necessary to winning.  Even in CS you need hand-eye coordination to aim, and that’s one of the most basic skills in any physical sport.  In WoW: Arena, a player is trying to outsmart or outmaneuver his opponents.  Let’s take a look at a similar game: Starcraft.   Obviously they’re different, but they have the same lack of physical activity and have the basic goal of outsmarting your opponent.  The problem is games like that don’t usually get a huge fanbase in America.  Starcraft is a huge game in Korea and the top players are treated like celebrities.  I can’t even name one famous American Starcraft player or organization, and I’ve been following eSports for years.  They’re playing the same game, why hasn’t it caught on here?  I think the lack of popularity is directly tied to the lack of physicality and the need for playing experience to really appreciate the game.  As a culture, we like the crack of the bat, the rim-rattling dunk, the thud of a collision in football.  Starcraft (and WoW: Arena) simply doesn’t have enough of a physical aspect to thrive.

With these two criteria, there is one notable exception.  Poker had a huge boom, but there’s no physical talent required (which is obvious if you’ve ever watched the WSOP), and you need an insider’s knowledge to really appreciate the game.  The thing about poker is that everybody has that knowledge.  We all grew up playing card games, even if it wasn’t No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em.  We’re familiar with the rankings of the cards, the different suits, and even if you can’t remember if a flush beats a straight, you know that a pair sucks and a Royal Flush is a gift from the Heavens (that never pays off).  Maybe in fifteen or twenty, when the generation of MMO players is grown up, a game like WoW: Arena will really catch on.  For now I don’t see it being much more popular than a CoD2 or a DoTA, but that shouldn’t stop organizations from picking up teams.  The game is insanely popular – I’m just not sold on the competitive aspect of it.  But, Lord knows that won’t stop me from commenting on the action.  (I’m not greedy.  I don’t really need eight million fans … but a couple more wouldn’t hurt.)  Until next time, may your consumables be never ending, and may your gear be ever upgrading.


 

In the past I’ve written about broad issues facing eSports: scheduling, the Counter-Strike: Source vs. Counter-Strike 1.6 debate, and competitive maps.  Today I want to focus more on an issue that faces every team individually.  Is it time for teams to get coaches? 


It's hard to be kingly when you have no arms.

Right now there’s a small amount of coaching going on, but only in the form of lessons given by professional players.  Most of those lessons are about very basic skills: using angles, flashes, and controlling recoil.  In other words, things you already know if you’re playing in CEVO-P or CAL-I.  But there isn’t any person or system in place to teach professional teams.  From a coaching perspective, eSports is on the level of a YMCA basketball team that tries too hard – there are five players, and one of them calls plays.  Even having a player-coach would be a step up, and the last time one of those was in professional sports all the crazy fads in “That 70’s Show” were actual fads.  There’s no person or system in place for professional players to get better or have a consistent outside opinion on their play.

As far as I know, there have only been two attempts at having the coach be a separate position within an organization (he’s not also a player or manager).  Both of these were from Team 3D.  Their first attempt was an ill-fated hiring of Chris “Bootman” Boutte, a Counter-Strike analyst that did a lot of work for GotFrag.  After trying it out the team didn’t feel like it was helping, and he wasn’t meshing well with them ingame or with their personalities.  They’re trying again with Dave “moto” Geffon, a longtime 3D member.  He isn’t playing anymore and is officially listed as their coach, but I’m not sure what he’s actually doing.  That is, I’m not sure if he’s just helping devise strats, if he’s reviewing their match demos and specing the match, or if it’s an honorary title like King of Town.  Outside of Moto, the only things teams have are strat-callers.  The extent of their coaching duties ends at calling the play.  They don’t spend their time helping other players become better.  (And believe me, there are ways to get better.  The perfect Counter-Strike player would know where every opponent was and never miss a shot.  It’s the ideal player, just like the ideal batter hits 1.000 and the ideal passer completes every pass for a touchdown.  Of course all three are practically impossible – unless you’re a member of myg0t.)  I don’t blame them, though.  I know I wouldn’t want to spend an extra four hours a night looking at the demos from my teammates. 

I understand that a lot of people think you should be able to get better by yourself – any player worth his weight in Mountain Dew could figure out what’s going wrong and fix it.  I’m not going to dispute that, because I think that given enough time any player could figure out what’s wrong.  The key phrase is “enough time”.  Having a coach look at team demos would be much more efficient.  Players already have to play, and some of these teams are scrimming four or five times a night.  Imagine if, as a player, not only did you have to play for five hours, but you had to spend another five hours reviewing all your scrim demos to figure out exactly what went wrong and why.  That’s ten hours a day of Counter-Strike; enough to drive a man to Solitaire.  Of course, you’d have to review your teammates’ demos, as well.  No man is an island, and sometimes a player dies simply because a teammate made an error.  If you want to find the true cause of everything that went wrong, you’d have to watch a round from every important angle, and there’s so much going on it would probably take seeing it from three or four perspectives.

Even from an organizational standpoint, the current setup has flaws.  Running a team is hard, and having the manager take on some of the coaching duties is asking too much.  If the manager gets attached to the personnel, it’s easy to give a player too much leeway even though he’s clearly not up to snuff.  Right now, most managers travel, encourage, and interact with the team.  Basically, the manager is friends with most or all of the players.  This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it can be a problem when the manager has to make roster decisions.  Even if you know a player hasn’t been playing well and is over the hill, it’s hard to drop him when all you can think about is how important he was to the organization and to yourself.  You’ve heard the phrase before, especially in the NFL, but on some levels it’s a business.  Personal feelings usually don’t lead to good business decisions.

If there was a separate person as a coach, it’d ease the burden on everybody.  For an organization, having the same person as a coach and a manager has been tried before with limited success.  The biggest example I can think of is Mike Holmgren.  He was a renowned coach with the Green Bay Packers but left them to become the coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks in 1999.  He relinquished his GM duties in 2002, and in the four years he held both positions the team was 9-7, 6-10, 9-7, and 7-9 with zero playoff appearances.  In the four years he’s only been coaching, 9-7 was their worst record, they made the playoffs all four years, and in 2005 they had a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance.   Separating the two jobs allows an extra degree of separation between players and management, which in turn makes roster decisions less personal.  There have been plenty of bad contracts handed out in professional sports, but I can’t think of any that were done because a team felt loyalty to a player.  If you need an example, look at Bernie Williams of the Yankees.  He’d given them years of excellent play, but they only offered him a minor-league contract in the offseason because that’s what was best for the organization.  On the other hand, I think eSports teams tend to hold onto players for too long out of loyalty.  The most recent example is Sunman.  He’d been in a slump long before he was released from coL, and there just isn’t any evidence to the contrary.  He was playing poorly, why didn’t they replace him sooner?  Considering he made the coL house and he brought in zet from Sweden, I don’t think Jason Lake is hesitant to take chances or change things up. 

As for the players, I briefly mentioned player-coaches earlier, but given the problems it’s clear they’re not the answer.  There’s a reason there haven’t been any player-coaches in professional sports the last three decades: they’d fall into the same pitfalls of time management and it’s impossible for one person to know everything that’s going on ingame while playing.  At least a player-coach in basketball or baseball can see all the action on the field at all times.  In Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, or any kind of team video game, your vision is extremely limited.  Was a teammate picked because of a stupid push, a missed shot, or because the other team made a ridiculous shot.  Each problem has a different solution: push less, work on your aim, or just chalk that ridiculous shot up to luck and try again.  A player-coach would either have to find that out from the player or from watching the demo, but both would be after the contest.  And, as mentioned earlier, sometimes a player dies because somebody else made a mistake.  That means a LOT of demo reviewing to find out exactly what went wrong, and it’s too much for a person to handle while trying not to get shot in the head.  A coach wouldn’t have the same problem.  He could be working on solutions while the other players are playing, and have a change ready by the time the round ended.  (Or, if you hire Art Shell, you’d get a man wondering what that funny thing in front of his mouth is.)  It’d be better for demo reviews as well, because he’d already have an idea of what to look for from watching scrims. If, for some weird reason, the coach isn't watching them play live, at least he has enough time to go through a bunch of demos. Either way it would severely reduce the workload out of game and allow for quicker changes ingame. 


Art Shell is so stoic this is actually a video of him coaching.

(On a side note, it’s weird how other sports place such a high value on videotape while eSports has a built in taping function and doesn’t use it.  Some baseball players review their own at bats during the game.  Others have notes on every pitch from every pitcher they’ve ever faced.  The reason most CS players look at demos is to make hack movies.)

 The biggest problem would be how a coach fits in with the team.  Bootman didn’t last long, but that’s not something limited to eSports and I don’t think it’s a reason to give up on the idea of having a coaching position.  Let’s face it, when things go south in professional sports they’re the first ones to get fired – unless you’re Isiah Thomas in which case you get promoted.  Certainly there’d be a lot of adjustments to make.  One of the biggest changes would be allowing the coach to spectate matches live – the delay in an HLTV feed would make it virtually useless.  I don’t know if there are any specific rules against allowing coaches to watch the matches, but it certainly flies in the face of most traditions.  Teams don’t even allow team spectators in scrims, let alone matches.  There’d be a period of adjustment ingame as well, but I think with the right person those problems would be minor.  Sometimes a team and a coach just don’t mesh, but you can always get another person to do the job.

Think of it this way: if a team takes a risk on a coach and it doesn’t work out, what does it matter?  It’s not like the players are going to be any worse.  There’s probably a little salary that’d have to be paid, but as long as the coach doesn’t literally rob them it wouldn’t be that much money.  But if it does work out, imagine how good Ksharp could be if he had a person dedicated to analyzing every demo, looking for subtle things to change to make him even better.  We might have to call him Super K, and I can guarantee nobody would want to face his team on LAN.


 

Well, the last week of the regular season is finally here.  The season ends with five less teams than it started with, and there’s still the possibility of a winless team.  As for the teams that have done well, 3D, Hyper, and compLexity have clearly been the best teams.  They only have four total losses (three of those being from 3D), and they all have double digit wins. 

I’m not sure how CEVO plans to do their playoffs, but they take six teams in CEVO-P 1.6.  If they follow the same format here, the top two seeds (Hyper and coL) would receive byes in the first round, and right now the other playoff teams are 3D, verGe, rSports and x6.  The only team in danger of losing their spot is x6.  They’re 7-7 with all their matches completed, but EFG is nipping at their heels with two matches left to play.  I think EFG is going to sneak in, but once we know for sure I’ll run down my predictions for the playoffs.  For now three of the four matches this week should be entertaining, and that’s enough for me. 


CEVO Predictions: Round 17 (de_dust2)

Bye Teams: Devastation, United 5, verGe, rSports, x6

Match of the Week


Hope springs eternal, but only if you don't support juked or the Cubs.

3D vs. Hyper – So, 3D played verGe and rSports on Contra.  They lost 10-20 to verGe (9-5), but won 26-4 against rSports (9-4).  26-4!  That’s a Yankees/Royals sized pasting.  (This marks the official start of the baseball references.  Football is over.  My fantasy baseball teams have been drafted and all the Cubs pitchers are getting hurt.  It’s spring training as usual, and I look forward to another 90 loss season filled with bitter references in this blog.)  3D had some inconsistency problems early in the season, and it seems like that hasn’t changed. 

Meanwhile, Hyper is the definition of consistency: they haven’t lost yet.  They recently picked up Warmachine and clowN, so it’ll be interesting to see if those two guys play or if they stick with a more familiar roster.  In the end it’ll be a close match but Hyper should be able to pull out a win and keep their perfect season intact – you know they don’t want that first loss. 

Hyper > 3D  17-13


EG vs. coL – The most disappointing thing about coL’s season has been the lack of crazy rumors from their house.  Nothing about Rambo singing K-Fed songs in the shower with fRoD taking Britney’s part in a duet.  Warden hasn’t tried to eat anybody.  Zet hasn’t been deported.  What do we have to do to get some entertainment around here?!

EG was my early darkhorse to make some noise in the playoffs – just like the Bengals and the Falcons were going to make noise in the playoffs.  My only explanation is that trying to balance 1.6 and Source hurt them.  On the other hand, coL has focused solely on Source and they’ve only dropped one match all season.  I think EG has enough talent to beat coL, but right now they don’t have the dedication to the Source engine to pull it off. 

coL > EG 19-11


JMC vs. EFG – JMC is another team that’s balancing 1.6 and Source, and they’re right next to EG in the standings.  They aren’t playing for anything except for pride at this point, even with a win they wouldn’t move up enough to sneak into the playoffs.  I’m sure they’d like to be in the postseason, but I think their main goal was to get familiar with Source for CGS.  If that was the case, then it’s mission accomplished.

EFG could still make the cut.  They’re the seventh seed right now, but with a win they should be able to move up a spot.  The fact that they’re replaying a map (Dust2 was also the Round5/6 map) hurts them a little bit because JMC will be more familiar with it, but EFG should still be able to win with a playoff berth on the line. 

EFG > JMC  18-12


NoPression vs. juked – This is juked’s last chance to avoid a winless season.  Their Round 16 match against EFG hasn’t been reported yet, but I don’t think they’ll pick up a win there.  If that’s true, it comes down to this.

Sadly, I just don’t think they have it in them.  I’m not sure if they’re active or not.  They picked up remix to play for them, but he’s been trying to make a new team.  Their record and previous forum posts certainly indicate a lack of practice. That being said, I do give them some props for sticking out the season.  I poke fun at their record, but a lot of teams would have just forfeited and not bothered with even trying to play.  So kudos to them for seeing it through. I hope they find new teams, come back better than ever next season, or enjoy their retirement from Counter-Strike.

NoPression > juked 18-12


Last Time: 0-2

Season Record: 31-13

Perfect Predictions: 5


 
March 16, 2007

There have been so many roster changes in the last two weeks that they almost deserve a separate post. I’ll try to keep it as clear as possible. I don’t want to link to a new roster before I let you know where all the new players are coming from. Here goes nothin’.


– ForbiddeN didn’t die as an organization, but they parted ways with most of their roster. If you want to learn how to become a respected player, read messiaH’s post about his parting with the team. It reeks of maturity and professionalism.


If it's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, Tool Time must have been Hell.

– verGe didn’t dynamite their whole roster like ForbiddeN, but they did replace two players. The changes won’t take place until after the CEVO season is over because verGe would forfeit if they removed them from the roster.

Talent can’t overcome bad chemistry. They brought in all-star caliber players, and now they’ve had to make more roster moves. It’s a classic example of fixing something that isn’t broken. Or, as it was known in the 90’s, Tim Taylor disease.

– EFG solved their roster issues, temporarily at least. To replace clowN (inactive) and Sunman (8<), they picked up Josh “Dominator” Sievers of 3D fame and Ryan “pham” Pham of LANDodger article fame. There’s a great quote about Pham in the GotFrag article from his former team, United 5. This might be a celebrity marriage: short with a bitter divorce.

– As part of the EFG shake-up they also parted ways with Laurent "Warmach1ne" Keoula. He joined Hyper along with clowN, who had a good interview with GotFrag. The comments from his father were awesome to read. The only way eSports is going to grow is if people believe in it, and it’s good to see clowN’s father encourage his son to follow his dreams. 

VisualGaming died. It was a sad, sad day when I read this. They were LANDodger’s biggest fans. (This is judged, of course, by the number of e-mails they sent me – two. That’s at least twice as much as anybody else. Although I had them fifth on the Pwnage Rankings, they were #1 in my heart.)

– The parting of their old team, combined with other roster moves, allowed VisualGaming to pick up a new team. They picked up the old TeOS squad, which includes Cory “BadappleS” Branagan. Branagan wasn’t going to get much playing time with Hyper after their new additions. MessiaH also joined after leaving Forbidden, and that completes the new VG roster. 

– Of course ForbiddeN didn’t sit idly by after parting with their team. They ended up picking up three former verGe players, including the recently released Mike “paradox” Stanowksi. Their lineup looks very impressive on paper, and Jon “Juan” Mumm is an excellent leader. They’re officially one of my darkhorse CGS teams.

– zEx was involved in the roster scramble as well, and they picked up an EFG castoff along with another player. Welcome home, Sunman.

– It’s a new month since I last posted the Week In Review, which means Eximius made more roster moves. At this point, their roster changes are more regular than full moons and PMS.

– Two interesting pickups in the European Source community. Check-six picked up a Swedish team, and H2k Gaming picked up Real-Life Rejects (4th at SHG Open). Although the DirecTV CGS event is thought of as exclusively North American, it’s not. There are plans for CGS events across the globe, and after the regular season the best teams from each region would play each other in the postseason. Before long, we might see more European 1.6 teams switching to Source, or more established Source teams become part of major organizations.

– A little closer to home, Frantic joined a Canadian organization known as NoPression. Originally, I was going to make a joke about French Canadians learning English because pression wasn't a word. Then I found out pression was, in fact, a real word. I have been defeated. Well played, Frantic. Well played.

– Speaking of CGS, they’ve announced that the Buy.com LAN will be their first official qualifier. If you do get the auto-berth entry, you’re entered into the qualifiers for CGS, not the 6-team main event. So it’s a CGS qualifier qualifier. Or something like that. Their FAQ is not very helpful.

Oh yeah, they also have $20,000 in prizes for their Counter-Strike 1.6 tournament. Say what you will about Source and CGS, but it’s clearly a huge news story. The CGS qualifier got the most press. The $20k seemed like an afterthought.

– WSVG released a schedule for their 2007 events. It's not clear what games they're going to be playing yet (read: whether they've chosen 1.6, Source, or both). The events were well done last year, and as mentioned in the article there will be over $750,000 worth of prizes given out -- at least. Sign me up for some of that!

– GotFrag has launched the maiden issue of eSports Magazine. I don’t have much to say about the content, but the nature of the medium is a little strange. Generally print media like newspapers and magazines have been adding online content to combat falling readership numbers. It’s interesting that GotFrag decided to do it the other way, although I don’t think it’s a bad step. ESPN added a magazine after they were well-established online and on TV, and that’s not a bad model to follow.

– NiP released a couple players and replaced them with two Begrip members. When Tentpole originally left Fnatic, he cited their LAN schedule as being too hectic for him. So his decision to join NiP makes sense how?

Confusing as his decision is, the bigger news is the contract dispute over the other member. He signed a contract with Begrip but is now breaking that deal to join NiP. After consulting their lawyers the Begrip organization felt they had a good case against the player. I don’t want to speculate on any of the consequences, but some of the most important steps for eSports center around this dispute. To truly become a professional sport, gaming needs to add agents (or any kind of representation for players when signing a contract), a player’s union, and unified representation for owners, as well. Some early attempts have been made to that effect, but nothing very substantial. 

– And finally, the most important news of all. There was a huge Source update. No, they didn’t fix SourceTV. Or the bug that causes a crash when you switch teams. Or the grenade throwing/shooting animation. But rest easy, because we have new text boxes! This update is a little like worrying about the paint job on your sinking ship. For Valve, it’s par for the course.


Have a good weekend everybody. I’ll be back early Sunday to do some predictions for the last round of CEVO-P.


 
March 13, 2007

I mentioned Terrell Owens in my last round of CEVO predictions.  Apparently, you only have to say his name once to summon his spirit (suck it, Beetlejuice), because an Owens-ish story broke on the GotFrag forums.  The thread was about Ryan “phamtast1k” Pham, a CAL-I/CEVO-P player in both Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike Source.  To preserve your sanity I’m going to summarize it here – eight pages of GotFrag thread are too much for any mere mortal to handle.  If you don’t value your sanity, dig in!


Saying your name once should be enough. Three times is too much hassle.

Basically, the creator accused Pham of having multiple forum accounts on GotFrag.  That’s fine, a lot of pros probably do that so they can post without being hassled or recognized.  The problem was how he decided to use the accounts – to boast about his own statistics and say things like “pham > exodus.”  There were multiple posts where he bashed his current and former teammates, which is completely unacceptable. At least when Owens bashes his teammates, everybody knows who is doing it.

In the next seven pages there were a lot of posts from other professional players, but nothing from Pham.  (I think he didn’t post, anyway.  Lord only knows how many forum accounts he actually has.  He could be some kind of hoarder.  Other people live with seventy cats, maybe he has seventy accounts.  Personally, I think cats would be the way to go.  Less shit.)  Most of the reactions were what you’d expect: surprise, disbelief, a couple half-hearted attempts at giving him the benefit of the doubt.  There was one post claiming that the whole thing was a joke, but nobody backed that up.  The players seemed genuinely surprised and angered, so I doubt it was a prank.

A lot of his former teammates said they felt backstabbed, and I understand that.  If Pham only built himself up, he could have come onto the forums or released a statement apologizing for his actions and that would have gone a long way towards rehabilitating his image.  Instead he disparaged former teammates and organizations.  That’s a much harder pill to swallow.  One of the best things about team sports is the camaraderie.  The highs are higher and the lows are less painful.  For lack of a better word, teammates are your nakama.  They’re friends and ingame family.  Going behind their backs is the antithesis to the foundation of a team: trust.  No man is more important than the squad, and a problem should either be significant enough to confront them or trivial enough to keep your mouth shut.

The anger I can understand, but I don’t think we should be surprised something like this happened.  (His former teammates seemed to know what was going on.  A few of them didn’t seem to think very highly of his teamwork skills.  Judging from their posts, if this was Office Space, Pham would have been the printer.)  One thing all professional players have in common is confidence in their abilities.  This holds true in the NBA, the NFL or the NJJA (National Jumping Jack Association … okay I made that one up).  It’s a very thin line between confidence and arrogance; believing in your abilities and believing you’re better than everybody else.  The only line crossed more is the USA/Mexico border.  Does this excuse or justify what Pham did?  Of course not.  But given the nature of using aliases on the forums and the confidence necessary to be a professional gamer, I don’t think we should be shocked and appalled when somebody crosses the line.  Disappointed, sure.  Surprised, not so much

While this particular problem hopefully won’t happen too often, the things that cause it are always just beneath the surface.  Players are always looking out for #1 (as opposed to looking out for #2, which only happens to people with a fear of poop).  From an organization’s perspective it’s a trade-off.  If the goal is winning at all costs, sometimes the arrogance that comes along with a player is an unavoidable evil.  When those people are brought onto a team, chemistry and ego problems shouldn’t be a surprise.  You roll the dice and eventually you’re going to end up with snake-eyes.  That’s just the way it is.

Tags:
EFG, GotFrag, Pham

 

Here’s something you don’t see every day: more forfeit wins than matches.   EG, Frantic, u5, coL and JMC all have forfeit wins in Round 15.  Somehow CEVO-P turned into the NFL schedule; every team only has to play once a week.  Presumably this is because, like the NFL, players need extra time to recover from injuries.  Sprained fingers, carpal tunnel, eye strain … it’s a man’s league.


You have much to learn about breaking up teams, young padawan.

(On a side note, I’m amazed at how many teams have died.  It takes a special kind of asshole to kill a whole team.  If the ass just comes in and pisses (shits?) everybody off, he’ll just get cut.  It has to be more like a marriage.  First comes the honeymoon period when everything is great.  The player makes a special effort to fit in and get along.  Eventually something happens and his true colors come out, but everybody still likes him.  It was only one incident, right?  Then, slowly but surely he must infect the whole team with anger.  It’s not enough to just be a bitch —again, he’ll just get cut.  If he does it properly, even if the original asshole leaves (is plugged), the other players are so emotionally and mentally damaged by the backstabbing that they can’t play with each other.  Judging by how many teams have died, even Terrell Owens could learn a thing or two from some Counter-Strike:Source players.)


CEVO Predictions: Round 15 (de_contra)

Bye Teams: EG, Frantic, u5, coL, JMC

Match of the Week

rSports vs. Hyper – Down goes coL!  Down goes coL!  Down goes coL! 

Okay, maybe it wasn’t as big a deal as George Foreman (pre-cookware edition) taking down Joe Frazier, but it was still unexpected.  coL had just beaten them on the same map during the Intel Invitational and boasted a perfect record in CEVO.  Apparently Hyper learned from their loss and made the necessary adjustments, which is encouraging to see.  The biggest difference between the former 1.6 teams and the top Source teams isn’t the skill level, it’s the dedication and practice schedule.  Consequently the biggest question was whether the Source teams could make the necessary adjustments, and Hyper made a good first step.

Their opponents, rSports, have been surprisingly good.  I don’t think anybody expected them to be 9-2 at this point.  Despite that, I’m a little cool on them still.  They lost big to EFG and coL early in the season, and they still haven’t played 3D or Hyper.  Their only big win against a good team was a 21-9 pasting of verGe.  They had close wins against x6 and Devastation.  If my favorite team was playing them in the playoffs, I’d be scared to death.  They have enough talent to hang with anybody. I just don’t think they can get over the hump and win against the top teams yet. 

Hyper > rSports  17-13


verGe vs. Team 3D – Oh, verGe.  How naughty to tease Source fans like this.  After a 6-0 start, fanboys everywhere hailed verGe as a team that could hang with all the big, bad 1.6 teams.  The loss to coL was disappointing, but 6-1 was still excellent.  The four losses in their next five matches – not so excellent.  Their record sits at 7-5, and I think the bandwagon just careened into a tree.  If you look closely you can see all the passengers running for safety.

The safe haven they’re heading for is 3D.  After starting off 1-2 they’ve rolled off nine straight wins.  They’re so hot even the “rector sux!” threads have stopped.  Their chemistry has definitely improved.  I don’t think verGe can beat them right now, especially after losing Paradox to the new Forbidden squad.

3D > verGe  18-12


juked vs. EFG – EFG moved quickly to fix their roster problems by picking up Dominator and pham. They've also had extra time to practice because of a Round 14 forfeit win.  Their roster is just flat-out better than juked’s, and they should take the match fairly easily.

Speaking of which, juked sits at 0-12, the only winless team in CEVO -- including the dead teams.  Has any CEVO-P team gone 0-fer during a whole season while playing all the matches?  If not, I suggest we treat this as a record.  The 1972 Dolphins celebrate their perfect season by drinking champagne when every NFL team has one loss (guaranteeing one more year in the history books).  Since juked might achieve the opposite (a winless season), I suggest that every season when the last winless team is victorious they drink whatever the opposite of champagne is.  I recommend Tang, but I’m open to suggestions.

EFG > juked  20-10


Devastation vs. x6 – x6 is alternating three game streaks.  They started off with a three game winning streak followed by a three game losing streak.  Rinse, repeat and here they sit at 6-6.  This, as fate would have it, is Devastation’s record as well.

Looking at the two teams, I’m going to give the edge to Devastation here.  x6 just doesn’t impress me right now.  I gave them some dap earlier, and I think they’re a decent team, but they’re 2-5 against top-10 teams so far.  Both of those wins came in the first week when they played 3D and Frantic.  Unfortunately both teams were dealing with roster issues at the time.  Devastation has been a little better against the top teams, and they have recent wins over EG and verGe.  I’m going to give them the nod in a close match.

Devastation > x6  17-13


Last Time: 3-3 (ugh!)

Season Record: 31-11

Perfect Predictions:  5


 
March 7, 2007

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  I’ve been on a family vacation to one of the most storied, prestigious places in America.  That’s right, I’ve been at Disney World hitting up Princess Jasmine.


Jasmine, seen here daydreaming about a LANDodger writer.

While I was there I came to one conclusion about the hotel I stayed at: the only thing less reliable than the internet is the tech support.  I know that most of my readers are technologically savvy, so if any of you are hard up for a job … I know of a place where you’d be the resident genius.

(One random note about Disney: I’ve never seen so many people 6’6” or taller.  I don’t know what’s going on, but after they’re done investigating baseball we might want to raid Mickey’s house for HGH.  At least when you pay five dollars for a bottle of water, you're getting your monies worth.)

An unexpected bonus on the trip was the ESPN weekend event at MGM Studios.  (It seems like a strange marriage, but Disney and ESPN are owned by the same parent company.  As long as they don’t replace Peter Gammons with Donald Duck, I’m fine with it.)  They had the standard player/coach interviews and some behind-the-scenes action with ESPN personalities (the Baseball Tonight crew, Sportscenter, etc).  But the most fun I had was in a little sports section they had set up where you could just goof around for a while.  They had a mound with a radar gun, a golf cage, some basketball hoops, things like that.  Nothing too fancy, but what made it worthwhile was an appearance by John Smoltz

The Atlanta Braves have their spring training games at Disney, so he was in the area.  What surprised me was how genuinely happy he seemed to be there.  He watched some people throw at the baseball area, and he even took some hacks in the golf cage and shot some hoops (he looks pretty good at golf and basketball, by the way).  He always smiled when he was signing autographs – which he did extremely quickly.  It wasn’t sloppy, just efficient.  (I suppose after twenty years of signing your name you get pretty good at it.)  He posed for all the pictures taken with camera phones.  I love the Cubs, and even I felt compelled to root for the Braves this season.  Smoltz made a lot of fans in the short time he was there.

What does this have to do with eSports?  Basically, professional gaming organizations have the best medium to interact with fans, but they don’t take advantage of it enough.  There isn't a sport or game that has more potential for pro/fan interaction. That’s not only an obvious bonus for the fans, but it’s also a good marketing point.  One of the big selling points in the poker boom was that anybody could play online or in tournaments against the pros. (Full Tilt Poker even made it their motto. They didn't mention how quickly and happily the pros would take your money, but at least you get a story out of it. Or, if you're lucky enough to suck out against Phill Hellmuth, you get a whole song and dance.)  That was something the other major sports couldn’t offer.


Sorry, Phil isn't interested in winning money that slowly.

The opportunities are even bigger in eSports.  In poker you could play against the professionals -- if you have the money.  Phil Ivey isn’t going to sit down at your $.10/$.25 No Limit table.  fRoD might join your deathmatch server though.  You can play in a pug with Ksharp (among others) on ESEA.  Add that to the already established forums, and it should be easy to interact with people.  Instead the community is segregated.  When professionals do join pugs or public servers they’re withdrawn.  I’m sure many of them have text and ingame voice chat turned off just to stave off fanboys.   (I don’t blame them for this.  I think fanboys are made of a combination of Kryptonite and Stupid.  Even Superman is powerless to stop them.)  The forums, which are the easiest way to interact with fans, are probably the least used.  Players don’t even have to worry about annoying people bothering them on the forums.  A person can check or ignore the thread as he pleases. 

The most discouraging thing is that when professionals do post on the forums, it’s for one of two reasons. There's an inside joke they're telling with other pros, or there has been some huge controversy. Inside jokes only serve to distance the community even more. As for the controveries, both sides end up looking manipulative and immature, at best.  Take the recent Flow Gaming/Devastation argument.  It’s been plastered all over the CAL, GotFrag, and coL forums, just to name a couple.  Peekay was trying to defend the Flow organization, but when the former members come on and give their side of the story it’s clear he left certain things out.  I don’t believe he did it maliciously, but it still makes him look biased.   The same can be said about the players that left.  When you reread Peekay’s post, it’s clear they’ve left things out as well.  Throwing around that much shit on the forums means neither party ends up smelling like Chanel – it’s the opposite of a Smoltzian recruiting drive.  Fans are the support base, the lifeblood of any professional player or organization.  More fans will generate more income, more publicity, and consequently more marketing/advertising/sponsorship opportunities as well.  Did Flow or Devastation gain any fans?  I think Ron Artest won more fans for the Pacers/Pistons brawl (video) – at least he got the UFC vote.

The benefits of pubbing for thirty minutes or posting on the forums far outweigh the negatives (read: dealing with stupid people).  The team that does this the best is going to have a huge leg up on the competition – revenue sharing won’t be coming around until 2080, if other sports are an indicator.   They can use their extra cash to outbid other organizations for top players.

The outlets for gaining fans are already out there, they’re just like self-restraint on the forums: seldom used.  Clearly John Smoltz thinks it’s worth his time to interact with fans in a public setting.  If it’s important for the Atlanta Braves, an established, financially sound organization with an average attendance of almost 32,000 fans a game in 2006 … it should be important for eSports teams as well. 


 

Sorry these are so late. I know some of the matches have already been played.  I didn’t look at the scores (with one exception), so they’re still predictions … kindof.  I’ll be more prompt in the future. 

I also updated the Pwnage Rankings for Source recently, so take a look at those if you haven’t already.  They reflect the current CEVO standings and the results from the Intel Invitational on Saturday.  On with the predictions!


CEVO Predictions: Round 12 (de_train)

Bye Teams: verGe, 3D

Match of the Week

coL vs. Hyper – Both teams are undefeated right now in CEVO, and judging by the way they’ve been playing it might be the only loss either team gets.  It’s also a Source vs. 1.6 matchup, if those distinctions still apply.  (I, for one, don’t.  We need to accept the fact that coL, 3D, zEx, etc are now Source teams.  It’s over.  If they change back to 1.6, then we can reopen negotiations.  But until then, they’re Source teams and Source players.  At this point, calling them 1.6 teams is like saying Britney Spears has really nice hair.  No.  She has somebody else’s really nice hair, and coL is a Source team.)

This match is the third time these two teams have faced each other in a week.  The last two times were part of the Intel Invitational.  They split those matches.  Hyper won in OT on Dust2, and coL won 16-10 on Train in the Finals.  The bad news for Hyper is this match is on Train, as well.  I think they’ll make some adjustments, but it won’t be quite enough to beat coL.  If you didn’t get a chance to watch the Intel Invitational, watch Rambo on CT side of this match.  I don’t know if there’s a smarter player in the game today.  He’s one of those rare players that seem to have an innate feel for the game, like a Larry Bird or a Peyton Manning. (Alright, I might have a little man-crush on Rambo.  But no worse than MVP voters do for Steve Nash.)

coL > Hyper 16-14


Forbidden vs. JMC – Whoops!  I’m a little late on this one.  I just checked the schedule and the match was already reported.  Good thing I already wrote down my predicted score.  Well, good for keeping the predictions honest, anyway.  Bad for my record.  No more peeking for me. 

JMC > Forbidden  16-14


Eximius vs. u5 – u5 recently announced they’re dropping 1.6 to focus on Source.  I have to admit I’m surprised.  CGS is only going to be six organizations to start, and there simply isn’t enough room for all the Source players.  (The members from Hyper, verGe, 3D, coL, EFG, EG, and JMC are all talented enough to participate.  There are plenty of other people who could compete on that level as well:  guys from x6, rSports, Flow among other teams.)  So are teams dropping 1.6 because they believe they have a chance to participate in CGS, or do they just feel that Source has a better outlook in general?  Either way, I think it’s good for the game.  Hopefully the extra exposure will lead to greater acceptance in the community and more pressure on Valve to fix SourceTV and the remaining bugs.

As for the match, u5 has been playing well lately.  They’ve pulled out three straight wins after starting out 0-8, and with the extra focus on Source I think they’ll be able to pull out the win.

u5 > Eximius 17-13


x6 vs. EFG – EFG’s roster problems are going to cost them this round.  Train is a map that requires excellent communication and teamwork, but right now EFG doesn’t have that.  Not only that, but their opponent, x6, is one of the best Source teams.

x6 > EFG  18-12


rS vs. juked – rSports, formerly known as one eyed zomblerz, has been one of the surprises this season.  How many people thought they’d be ahead of JMC, EG, verGe, EFG and Flow at this point? They’re sitting at 6-2 and have a good chance of making the playoffs. 

juked, on the other hand, is the only winless team this season.  (And they toyed with us by announcing they were calling it quits and still playing.   Well played, juked.  You honor your name.  I just hope teams don’t turn this into a trend.  Flow gaming would need catheters, and Check-six might get arrested for sexual harassment.)  Despite getting some new blood for juked, rS should get the win.

rS > juked  19-11

1 shot vs. Frantic – Frantic almost took down coL, losing 13-17.  (That’s pretty impressive.  I had a chance to watch coL on Train during the weekend exhibition, and they looked very good on Train.)  n0it’s one of the best awpers in Source, and having a dominant awper on train is a huge advantage.  They should be able to knock of 1 shot easily.

Frantic > 1 shot  19-11


Flow vs. EG – Flow had an impressive win over verGe on Train.  I really didn’t expect that.  Flow has been treading water this season, while verGe has been one of the best teams.  I don’t know what to make of it except that they must play well on Train.  EG hasn’t played their first match on Train yet so I’m not sure what to expect, but I think not focusing completely on Source will hurt them a little bit here.  The changes in gameplay are huge from 1.6, so I’m giving the edge to the team formerly known as Devastation. 

Flow > EG  18-12


Last Time: 6-1

Overall Record: 28-8

Perfect Predictions: 4



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