April 29, 2007

By now you’ve heard about all the changes in the Source scene, both inside and outside of CAL. We’ve already gotten opinions from two CAL admins, Barry and Daniel, and now it’s time to finish off the trifecta. Today we have CAL|Gancorz, the Counter-Strike: Source Game Manager for CAL, and let’s get straight to the questions and his answers.



Don't worry, large groups of people are always calm and rational when they hear bad news.

1) Thanks for taking the time to do an interview. You're the Counter-Strike: Source Game Manager. It sounds very important and official - does it come with a bigger office, and could you give us some details about your duties within CAL?

CAL|Gancorz: A bigger Office? No

A bigger audience? Yes

Some responsibilities I am still struggling through is the hiring process. As everyone knows we have lost a lot of very good and admins lately. My first large task will be putting current experienced admins into those positions and hiring some new blood to fill the gaps. I am currently looking for 8 general admins for open and we are always looking for ac admins. Staffing has always been a challenge and that will most likely be my biggest one.
I still do disputes, answer support questions, and help out where ever needed.

As soon as I figure out all my duties I will let you know. I am still the division manager for open and will finish my duties there when season 7 is complete.


2) Of course the big news from the last week was the changes to the CAL-Invite division.  How did those come about? What's your outlook on Season 8?

CAL|Gancorz: Those changes where brought about by CAL|Shawn. I give him full credit for coming up with some great ideas and getting them implemented by the management of CAL. Let's face it. without change everything gets boring, and CAL needed to do something to get the interest of the community back. The change is here and I hope that a lot of teams embrace this as a positive thing for the community. These changes are a huge step away from the status quo that cal has had for many years.

Season 8 will be interesting to say the least. The placement tournament will be great and I hope a lot of top teams will apply to play in it. The community will have input in the things we do at all playing levels. We do read your posts, answer your questions and try to implement what we can. Some things take longer then others and this is only the beginning.


3) Your promotion comes at a time with a lot of changes to CAL. Have you gotten used to your new position, and how's your relationship with CAL Operations?

CAL|Gancorz: I can definately say that operations have been helpful in this transition. Barry, Daniel, Allen, Hickman, Kitto are there most the time to answer my questions. They seem open to change and are willing to work together to put CAL on top.


4) As part of the changes, it was announced that a lot of admins were leaving CAL. Those positions need to be filled. Are there people ready to fill them, and are you worried there might be a little lack of experience in the ranks?

CAL|Gancorz: We have a lot of good staff still left. They are now training the newer admins. The lack of exp is only a small factor. The senior admins do check on disputes and such to make sure they are being handled properly. I also keep an eye on things to make sure everyone is doing well. I am always in ventrilo for anyone to ask questions If they are unsure.


5) Why did you approach Shawn about coming back to be the CAL-Invite manager? Did it have anything to do with the admin turnover?

CAL|Gancorz: All the people that have left I still keep in touch with. When I heard that shawn was still interested in CAL I just plain out asked him about invite. He proposed some really great things to promote interest back in to the invite division. It just blossomed from there. He is a great admin, he knows his facts and he is a do'er. He is pro community and wants to hear what people want. This in my opinion is exactly what tht division needs to be successful again.


6) How long have you been with CAL, and what are some other positions you've held? Have you ever been paid in anything other than gratitude and FFs (forum flames)?

CAL|Gancorz: I have played in CAL since season 1 of source.

Positions held: General Admin Open, Senior Admin Open, Division Manager Open, Game Manager CSS Source.

Paid? I have been offered bribes, (not taken) but no admins are paid.

One person saying "thanks you where very helpfull" makes up for the other ten that are total a-holes.



Ask him all the questions you want about CS ... just don't ask about calculus.
7) About how much of your time do you spend on CAL-related activities, and what are some of your interests outside of gaming (do you go to school, have a family, play sports, etc)?

CAL|Gancorz: I spend roughly 3-4 hours per day on CAL related work. I try to take weekends off to spend time with family and friends.

Sports: I currently coach 2 teams in my home town. Major league and minor league girls softball. I have 3 little girls that all love to play. (Yes they play cs1.6 and css also) I enjoy hunting, fishing, riding my 4 wheeler and most outdoor activities.

And before you say it YES I am an older individual. Umm I think I am the oldest CAL admin yet. How old? Old enough to know age has nothing to do with enjoying a good game.

School: I have not done that for over 20 years.


8) Do you feel like the lack of Source at CPL has created some problems for CAL, specifically in the Invite division?

CAL|Gancorz: Without a doubt yes. The purpose of teams playing invite was to get a better seed at the CPL along with getting some practice in. With no source support at CPL what would be a reason for any team to stick with CAL? Hopefully with this new rule set we will see top teams using the CAL invite div as their testing/practice ground for a lot of upcoming events within the source community.


9) What event are you most looking forward to in 2007 (CGS, CAL-I ss8, WSVG, etc)?

CAL|Gancorz: I am paying close attention to CGS, More from a "lets see what happens" perspective. The most excitement I have is too witness how this new rule set effects the invite division and the excitement that comes with trying something completely different.


10) How long have you been gaming, and what are your favorite games (current or otherwise)?

CAL|Gancorz: Hehe I will show my age again here. I have been Gaming for 30+ years. Not competitively obviously. My first gaming console I ever had was pong by Atari (1975). I went through the 2600, Nintendo, PS2 stage. I have played cs since 1.3 using dialup.

Favorite games: Counter Strike Source, Day of Defeat Source, Tm Nations, The command and conquer series, UT2004, Still occasionally play cs 1.6, Grand Theft Auto Series, Guitar Hero II, Far cry,

Waiting now for Crysis!!


11) I'm sure you have a lot of good stories from your gaming/admin career. What's one of the funniest or just one that sticks out from the pack?

CAL|Gancorz: The funniest thing that I have seen and I still chuckle about today is the movie that zmorris made a while back. "CAL Admin Meeting". I may not agree with the way that Chris reports rumor as fact but that movie clip was the funiest damn thing I have seen in a long time.



Everybody wants a piece of you when you're a global icon. But I'm still not buying a Bowflex.
12) Out of anybody in the world, who would you like to knife in a friendly scrim or match? (As inspiration, my pick would be Chuck Norris. I could do nothing else with my life, and I'd still be able to say, "I beat Chuck Norris in a knife fight," and I wouldn't be a complete liar.)



CAL|Gancorz: Hmm, Fatal1ty just to be able to say I did.


13) I like your avatar on the CAL forums because I'm a big fan of pirates. Who was a better pirate: Captain Morgan or Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean? From the way he walked and talked, do you think Sparrow had a little Captain in him?

CAL|Gancorz: Well the avatar came from the influence of Mike Sek (LD note: Mike Sek was a CAL admin for a long time, although he isn't currently with the league). He liked to reference pirate lingo a lot and the picture seemed fitting. Not to mention I do enjoy a bit of the captain with a splash of Coke on occasion.

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are great entertainment and Captain Jack Sparrow was definitely enjoying something more than life with that character.


14) Last question. Who would win in a fight: Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, or Captain Morgan?

CAL|Gancorz: Kirk of course.

I like picard but have you ever seen him get in a real fight on next gen?

Captain morgan is to busy wenching and stealing booty to hang out with those other two.


Recap

I would love to write a lot here, but how do you beat an ending that features wenching and stealing booty? You don't. You just accept defeat and move on.

Tomorrow we’re back with the regular barrage of eSports commentary, jokes, and silly pictures.  Thanks again to the CAL admins for lending their time, and I hope you (the community) enjoyed the interviews as much as I did. 


 
April 28, 2007

As Stephen Colbert might say, it’s time for the second part in our three part series, “Better Know a CAL Admin.” I hope you didn’t miss yesterday’s interview with CAL|Barry, and tomorrow I’ll release the final installment: an interview with CAL|Gancorz, the new Counter-Strike: Source Game Manager. But for now we have an Operations Manager and a QC Admin answering some questions. So without further ado, here's the interview with CAL|Daniel.


1)Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. As I understand it, you have two duties in CAL.  You’re an Operations Manager, and you’re a QC admin. Let’s handle the Operations aspect first. I think the only thing most people know is that it has something to do with managing some kind of operations, which may or may not be medical in nature. So, if we had your job for a week, what are some things we could look forward to? What do you do?

CAL|Daniel: No problem, always happy to converse with the communities I serve! Really, the term “operations manager” is quite vague even to me. It encompasses QC as sub-responsibility among many other sub-responsibilities; QC is not a separate duty. To be fair, I did a lot of QC work before I became Operations so it is just something I tend to on a regular basis. My job for a week… do you know these so-called volunteers don’t even get paid! Heh, that was my cue that doing my “job” requires a good sense of humor because we are not, paid which means we can pick our own hours of operations and time schedule to get things done. However, this means that my daily and even weekly schedule for what I do for CAL varies by my real life.

A large part of what I do involves training, firing and hiring admins. Experienced admins will come to me for advice on a regular basis because I have been here for so long. Another part of my operations position involves making sure long term projects succeed as well as the games are getting what they need out of the present resources we can provide. I spend a lot of time conversing with the admins to see if there is something more I should be providing to them. For QC, I take complaints very seriously. Users will not always get what they desire out of a QC ticket, but the one promise I make to anyone that files one or contacts me is my full attention and investigation of the issues.


2) The list of games you preside over is impressive. ETQW, Warcraft 3, Warsow, Call of Duty, Dawn of War, Day of Defeat: 1.3, Day of Defeat: Source, Admin of Busy. (Okay, I made that last one up, but that’s how I’d feel.) Do you think seven games is enough, or are you looking to add a couple more just for fun?

CAL|Daniel: Well, seven games is a lot especially since it means I spend a lot of my time reading forums to make sure people are satisfied with our leagues. As far as more games, I am always willing to take on more responsibility if it helps CAL and another eager community. Operations divides responsibility; the other Operations Managers are just as busy as I am.


3) As for the QC portion of your duties, most people are familiar with that department. For anybody who isn’t, what is your job description there, and how big is the department?

CAL|Daniel: Right now the department is being reformed so we can better service the complaints and make sure there is less of a wait time. My job description more or less is to investigate any issues of consequence to their fullest extent. However, there are limits. For example, AC review matters have their own review process and forum stuff is less important than the normal complaints that come in so they have their own email for those issues (calforums@caleague.com). Basically, my job description when it comes to QC is to make sure everyone gets answered and heard because the goal of our QC department is to make sure you feel like your side has been thoroughly listened to. We want you to know that someone cares. QC serves as another check and balance for the league.


I'd rather have one police ticket than 500 QC tickets. A one-time charge is better than $0/hour for years.


4) I think it’d help the community to have a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Could you describe the process of handling a dispute? How you get notified, how long each one usually takes, how many you get per day, that kind of thing.

CAL|Daniel: Boy that is a loaded question, but they all have been! How long a dispute takes and its’ process are largely determined by what kind of dispute it is. If the user has included everything I need in the first place in the QC ticket then the ticket will be done quite fast. Sometimes, I need to contact some users or admins for more information / their side of the events. We have a ticket handling system that assigns a QC number chronologically so the tickets are handled by the order in which they come in unless the ticket has some timestamp urgency on it (for instances a playoff match). The amount we receive varies by what point of the season it is in each game.


5) Are most of the tickets you handle straightforward, or do you sift through a lot of arguments and emotions to get to the facts?

CAL|Daniel: Sometimes there is a lot of emotion in the tickets, which makes it hard to sift out the facts of the situation. In general, we do not see many straightforward tickets. We very much appreciate the tickets that are straightforward though, proofread and organized. Imagine it just like your high school or college English paper! Having six fragments and a run on sentence (such as my responses in this interview) makes it hard for us to follow you!


6) In every league there are allegations of admin abuse and corruption. Without getting into too much detail, do you think that the QC department has helped CAL cut back on those things?

CAL|Daniel: Without getting into too much detail, there is not much admin abuse because QC and Operations deal with it swiftly and severely. Anything out of line is brought almost immediately to our attention.


7) Although CS isn’t listed under your long list of games, you’ve dropped by the forums before (and handled yourself very well, I might add).  Do you play CS? What are some of the games you do play, and how long have you been a gamer?

CAL|Daniel: I have proudly/sadly (day dependant!) been a gamer since 1995. I regularly pub a lot of games but have to a large extent dropped and minimized my competitive play to give that kind of time to CAL instead. I can be found pubbing most any game. Lately, I have been playing CoH & C&C3 but sometimes I can be found playing dods, wc3, ET, rtcw, guildwars, dow, aoe3, fear. I have not played cs since 1.3 or css since release (shadowids and awp make me a sad panda).


8) I’m sure you’ve heard about the changes in the CAL-Invite CS:Source division. What do you think about the changes that were made, and what’s your outlook on the upcoming season?

CAL|Daniel: I think that Shawn has done an amazing job looking out for the communities best interest and I think that because of that Shawn will bring the community what it deserves. The changes look promising but only time will tell of their success.


9) What are some of your interests outside of gaming? (Do you have a family, go to school, play sports, etc.)

CAL|Daniel: I am just a regular old Joe! I spend time with my family, friends, finishing off college. I have a wide variety of interests that eat at my time (and I am looking for work that will encompass them!)


10) The only CAL with a longer tenure than the online league is Ripken Jr. What does CAL need to do in order to stay on top of online gaming , and what are some of the biggest obstacles towards online leagues (admin abuse, hacking, lack of prize money, etc)? (I’m sure a lot of people would debate whether CAL is the premier online league, but considering the huge amount of games they offer and the massive player base, I think it’s fair to say they’re still the most popular league, by far.)

CAL|Daniel: Well I will try to answer that question in two parts, one I think leagues in general biggest problem will always be hacking. We all know the reasons why and we all wish we could wave a magic wand that will fix it. However, it just does not work that way. When it comes down to it, I think a league’s biggest worry is losing touch with the communities that it serves to the point that we can no longer service the community. As far as CAL’s specific problems go, it is hard to continue to service all these communities adequately without acquiring ways to compensate the admins and prize packages for teams participating in the long seasons. We are hoping the tournaments that are slowly coming to CAL will help alleviate these problems.


11) What are your thoughts on the recent news about Sierra becoming the lead sponsor for CPL and the World Tour featuring two non-traditional titles? Do you think it will have a big impact on the games played during the LAN as well, or do you expect it to stay with time-tested games?

CAL|Daniel: Fear has had several tournaments in the past, and has also been in a previous CPL and has also been in CAL before. Fear has the potential to go very far with teams like the Doctors showing interest, but the problem will be making sure that potential is realized.


12) You’ve been around CAL for a long time, I assume.  What is one of your best memories of being an admin or gaming in general?

CAL|Daniel: 3 years! My best memories include just the diversity of people I have encountered and their different senses of humors. There are so many inside jokes between past and present staff that it makes me happy to know we share a hobby! As far as a specific memory, I love the way CAL does not mind playing April fools jokes on itself, the admins and the players.


It doesn't look like much now, but after somebody dies, it's the tea bag's time to shine.


13) If you had to pick, what’s the most humiliating way for a player to die in a game (not limited to CS)? Personally, I’d go with cratering. It’s pretty bad if you: a) can’t figure out how to work the ladder, or b) are in such a bad situation that you might as well take the plunge. What’s your take?

CAL|Daniel: Well I personally always loved a bug found in certain games that said “death by leaving map-clipping limits.” However, there is always the ever popular teabag death, knife death or of course the ‘goomba death.’


14) If there was one thing you could bring from professional sports in eSports, what would it be? (Some examples, but not limited to: farm systems, coaches, paid attendance, player unions, agents, drafts, hall of fame, all-star games/league awards, sabermetrics, designated “offseason”)

CAL|Daniel: We’ve attempted to bring, all star games, league awards, hall of fame, drafts before, and they’ve never worked but these are definitely things I would love to see happen.


Recap

If you have any questions spawned by the interview, you can e-mail Daniel at daniel.parmet@caleague.com.

Also, the CAL forums have an e-mail account? Why didn't I know this!? I could have been e-mailing them all kinds of ridiculous questions like, "how many offers for sexual enhancement do you get every day?", or, "Would you like free sexual enhancement?! It's free!"

On a more serious note, it seems like the Quality Control department is in good hands. It's sad to admit, but I was expecting all the admins to be a little brief with their answers. The last thing I would want to do after volunteering that many hours a day is sit down for another two or three to answer fifteen questions from some crazy eSports blogger. But to a man, they've all taken the extra step to not only provide excellent answers, but also offer advice and the opportunity for follow-up questions. I've been totally blown away, and I want to thank all three of them for not only the work they do with CAL, but for being so professional and thorough with the interviews.

And as a last reminder, up tomorrow is CAL|Gancorz. I hope you've enjoyed the first two, and have a good Sunday!


 
April 27, 2007

The title speaks for itself. I'll have a little recap afterwards, but for now let's get straight to the interview!

1) Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. In your CAL signature it says you’re the “Network Operations Manager”. What exactly does that mean, and what are your responsibilities within CAL?

I think my first thought was "wow, someone really wants to know what I do?" :)

Basically, I keep the CAL (and related) infrastructure going. We currently have several dozen servers, 4-5 web sites, 3 forums, 10 mysql databases, about 3-4 Terrabytes of disk space, and various custom applications that need care and attention from time to time, and that responsibility falls to me. I couldn't do it all without help, of course, so I have a small staff that helps me with forum maintenance, server monitoring, and other items. We're all volunteers, so it takes a lot of patience, geekiness, and knowledge.

It's a lot of behind the scenes work, so the only time most people probably see us is when something breaks :)


2) There’s been a rumor floating around that CAL is going to sever ties with the CPL. Is there any truth behind that?

I doubt it. CAL and CPL staff are pretty tightly integrated, so there's a lot we do for each other.


3) There were some big changes announced for Season 8 of CAL-Invite. What are your feelings about the changes themselves and the upcoming season?

Well, I'm guessing you mean the tourney and the return of some of our staff - it's great to see that people are working hard to continually improve the community's enjoyment of gaming, and that people are willing to put in that time. I think people tend to only focus on the top 5 teams in a game and forget that there are thousands of other people that enjoy gaming just as much (but aren't as recognized). CAL's biggest strength as a free league has always been as the center of these communities.


4) How long have you been a CAL admin, and what are some of the other positions you’ve held?

I was hired around November 2002, but it's a bit of a gray area. I initially started working for a server admin association called UnitedAdmins as their "League Liason", which meant I had to socialize with CAL and other leagues to get UA products working in their divisions. When UA started to fade a bit, I was asked to join the initial CAL AC team to help process the growing number of disputes in the league. As my active gaming hours faded with work, I started helping out our development team on the web site overhaul (if anyone remembers, we released this in July 2004!) This was a lot more up my alley since being a system administrator was part of the my day job responsibilities, and eventually through various staff changes and revisions, I arrived at the position where I am today. CAL's grown a LOT in that time, and it's been my goal to get the infrastructure to grow with it.



Good thing Barry only hunts virtual campers, because this person doesn't look too coherent.
5) What games do you play, if any?

My first classic love has always been Counter-Strike. It started with a "borrowed" version of Half-life 1.0 in college in 1998, and eventually once someone on our floor said "hey, look at this new mod", I've been with it ever since. I even ran a server for 2-3 years back when running your own CS server made you one of only about 1000 or so people with a stable broadband connection. I don't really play it much anymore, but it reminds me of how communities start.

Currently, I'm a bit more into the BF series of games. I've been playing Dcon, the recreation of the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield, usually just to see how many things I can make explode at once. I also hunt campers :)

Other than that, I dabble a bit in everything. I'm pretty bad at RTS games, but that doesn't stop me from playing C&C3.


6) If there was one realistic change you could make to CAL as a league, or one game division specifically, what would it be?

I'd love to reduce staff turnover. I know that sounds like consultant-speak, but it's true. CAL staff are some of the hardest working people I've ever seen, even more so than paid staff in the business world sometimes. I'm constantly amazed by the amount of time and effort that goes into managing and running a division - handling disputes, answering questions, and finding new ways to make playing the same game exciting every time. Makes my job look easy by comparison!

The problem is, it's easy to get burned out. After a while some staff just find they don't have the time or enthusiasm anymore, and they disappear or quit outright. It's very frustrating, because we've lost some very good people this way. New admins have to be trained, they have to learn how to handle new situations, and it results in less than optimal service (especially since CAL is such a large league).

With that in mind, it would be nice to find a way to retain staff. Keep them coming back, keep them interested, and it results in a better league for everyone. Being a CAL staff member used to make you part of your own little sub-community (3 AM Monopoly, late night Ventrilo chats about random amusements, etc), and it's sad that it's not that way anymore.


7) If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one game (console or PC) to play until you were rescued, what would it be?  (And, on a side note, who do you think would be most likely to rescue you?)

I think I'd have to pick the original Tecmo Bowl. That game was the least realistic adaptation of football ever, but you can pick it up every time and be entertained. The person to eventually rescue me would be either Andrew or Picc (CPL Developer and Assistant Network admin, respectively) since they'ved saved my butt so many times in the past.


8) I’ve been informed that you’re quite the joker. Do you have a favorite joke or a funny story to share with us from your gaming career or your admin experiences?

Well, I think one of the fun things about the Internet is the ability for people to take you seriously when you're pulling a prank on them. For example, in the past we've had a slightly undercover tradition in CAL to create some sort of April Fools' joke every year. It hasn't been quite the scene it used to be (sadly it seems most people offend a bit too easily these days, causing us to be a bit less ambitious in our plans), but we do try to do something each year.

For example, a couple years ago amid the turmoil of the initial switch from 1.6 to Source we decided to create a fake "WoW" division and say that all the remaining 1.6 teams were being forced to switch to it and compete using their World of Warcraft characters. We even registered an IRC channel! (#caleague-wow) Since some of our admins were serious WoW addicts, this gave us an internal joke as well (we made a fake team with all the known admin addicts on it).

Long story short, since everyone was a little up in arms already about being told to switch games, they fell for it - hook, line, sinker. I've never seen so many emails and PMs asking if they could see the rules for the WoW-I league, how it would run, and why couldn't people just play 1.6. The real kicker is that now WoW is apparently going to be an actual competitive event elsewhere - who saw that coming?


9) What are some of your interests outside of gaming (do you go to school, have a family, play sports, etc.)?

Now that I'm out of grad school, I think I'm done with education for now. I've always thought about teaching, so a PhD is a possibility, but I don't think I'm ready just yet. For now I'm content to be a corporate drone and pay the bills, since it's a pretty flexible gig that allows me to help out with CAL items occasionally during the day.

As far as sports, it's on my list for the year. Rec sports are the way to go for most big cities - I've been in flag football/softball/street hockey/etc leagues and had a lot of fun (and minimal injuries) doing it. Being on the west coast now, I think it's actually a crime not to get out there and enjoy the weather!

I'm also definitely a "foodie", as my friends put it. One of the easiest nights out with friends is trying some random unusual type of food - sushi, Ethiopian, etc For a kid from the midwest who hated his greens growing up, I think I've tried just about every type of cuisine there is.


I'd stick with the INT -- the Manning Face is less painful than a Harrison tackle.


10) If you could:

a) Hit a homerun off Roger Clemens
b) Intercept a pass from Peyton Manning
c) Beat Michael Jordan in a game of HORSE
d) Deagle ace compLexity
e) Beat Ryu in an arm-wrestling contest

Which one would you pick, and why?

I think intercepting Manning would be interesting, though I think technically I'm supposed to be a well wisher for the Colts. How about a touchdown pass from him? Especially if I got to flatten Rodney Harrison in the process - I'm not much of a Patriots fan!

I did scout Ksharp once at a LAN 5 years ago, does that count? :)


11) What event are you looking forward to the most in 2007 (CGS, CAL-I ss8, WSVG, etc)?

I'm curious to see how the whole year plays out. I think the CGS will be entertaining, but I'm always skeptical about people throwing big money into things - they want big results, and if they don't get them they'll move on to "the next big thing". I think the new game makeup of the other events will be interesting - I think it will allow for a more diverse group of newcomers and shake up the status quo. I think the same game every single year gets a bit stagnant, but that's just me.


12) Counter-Strike has been the primary game for CPL for as long as I can remember. Their recent announcement about the 2007 World Tour says they're leaving off traditional titles in favor of two games from their new lead sponsor, Sierra. What kind of effect do you think this will have on the CPL LANs, specifically with their game choices and attendance/popularity?

From what I've seen of WIC, it actually looks pretty cool. I think it might attract a newer/less "set in their ways" audience who has previously been disinterested in older titles. I think if it plays as well as it looks (and those lucky folks who have a pre-release copy insist it does), I think it will be an enjoyable tournament. Plus, I'm always a firm believer in the externals of the event - getting to see the latest gadgets, winning prizes, and hanging out with people I don't see very often.


13) Now that DirecTV has the exclusive broadcast rights for CS there's been an emphasis on other titles, specifically from the WSVG and now the CPL World Tour. Do you think it's possible for these events to flourish and grow despite focusing less on the most popular multiplayer game in history?

I think there's space for everyone. Video games have a large, large audience and I think history has shown that if a game is supported well by its developers that a community will develop around it.  As long as there's a chance to have fun and win prizes and/or "swag", you'll see people there.



I dunno, he looks a little shifty to me. Maybe it's the tie.
14) One of the first things I noticed about your CAL profile was your avatar and description: banned by the Space Pope. Do you feel like the Space Pope has a personal vendetta against you, and if so what are you doing to combat it?

My sense of humor is pretty Simpsons-Futurama oriented. The Space Pope is a side joke from the Futurama series (if you haven't seen it, shame on you!). I tend to pull out a Simpsons joke on the forums if it applies to the current situation, so it fits with the theme.

For example, thinking of CAL as working for Hank Scorpio makes it a bit more thematic.

Clearly everyone should go and watch a few seasons so they can keep up!


15) Lastly, of course we would all mourn if the Space Pope were to pass away, but who in the community do you think would make a good Space Pope II?

I would nominate the benevolent General Krug. All Hail Krug!


Recap

If I’m camping in a Battlefield server and some guy seems like he has a personal vendetta against me, I should say, “Hi Barry” just in case.

I need to brush up on my Futurama, because I have no idea who General Krug is, but neither does Google. I figured Krug was the kind of name that would make a good picture, and I couldn’t find a single pic on a GIS or any references in a regular search. It’s pretty impressive when you can stump Google.

On a general note, this is the first interview in a set of three.  Check back here the next two days for interviews with a CAL Operations member and the Counter-Strike: Source Game Manager. There’ll be more insights into the CPL announcement, the QC department, CAL-Invite, and some more bizarre questions about things like Space Popes. 


 

GotFrag posted a satirical piece about how the CPL is dead, and even though it was meant in jest the wording definitely hit home with readers. Replacing AMD and ATi with Sierra as the lead sponsor was shocking enough – but kicking Counter-Strike and Quake out the door in the process? They might as well have clubbed some baby seals while they were at it. At least they could add a rap song and make it into a YouTube clip. Nothing goes better with seal clubbin’ than a beat from Kanye.


Pimpin' ain't easy, and neither is matching your outfit with an alligator skin bag. Thuggin'.

Of course, CPL’s lead sponsor promptly put their stamp on the 2007 CPL World Tour. Exit CS and Quake 4, enter F.E.A.R. and World in Conflict. I haven’t played either game, and I have no idea how good they are for competitive gaming. F.E.A.R. has had some small success in eSports, but it’s not even on the level of CoD2 yet in terms of coverage. The one thing I am absolutely sure about is how pathetic those names are. World in Conflict? I believe we call that “reality”. I’m looking forward to their next games: “Panic!”, “Planet at War”, and "Shoot First, Die Last" 

But believe it or not, the changes CPL made are a good sign for eSports. It’s like the moment in Bleach when Ichigo meets Kenpachi for the first time.  Ichigo could whoop up on any of his friends, but he had nobody to push him to a new level. Kenpachi just dominated him. Ichigo needed a new strategy, Zangetsu, and he had to get better moves. The CPL was in a similar situation, just with a smaller chance of bodily harm. It wasn’t in direct competition with the WCG or the ESWC, and it never had to change. It was the king of eSports. They would never have made this three years ago because they would have never been in this position. Even if they did, people would have still shown up for the same reasons Canada Bill sat down at a card game he knew was crooked: it was the only game in town.

Thankfully that’s not the case anymore. eSports is growing, and anything that doesn’t grow with it is going to get left behind. The WSVG knows this. That’s why they switched their primary games, as well. But it would have been easy for them to pick the same, safe games. It’s the security blanket nobody wants to leave behind. Teams would have shown up to play CS even if there wasn’t the possibility of being on TV. It would have been a safe pick. And, at this point, a stupid one for any organizer looking to be at the forefront of the industry. The CGS has the exclusive broadcasting right for CS, and TV is obviously the next step. If you can’t get your product into the mainstream media, you have a better chance of getting growth out of that bottle of Rogaine.

So I think it’s premature to call the CPL dead. It’s changing, that’s for sure. But change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and they have more room for growth with their new games than they did with CS. Whether they can turn that potential into reality is another thing entirely – just ask Mark Prior and Kerry Wood if hype equals results. I will say this for the CPL, though … I like their chances of dominating the LAN scene more than I like the chances of the Cubs winning the World Series. And that means they at least have a little hope.


 
April 25, 2007

What do you get when you take the graphics of Source, add the gameplay of 1.6, and try to put the whole thing on television? You get pancakes and sausage on a stick. That might not be obvious, so let me explain.


C'mon, Jimmy. Nobody will take you seriously until the stick is made of bacon.

First, there are the people that like pancakes. It’s an iconic breakfast food. No breakfast could possibly be ruined by adding pancakes. They’re tasty, fluffy, classic. At the very least, you could trade them for part of somebody else’s breakfast. And really, they’ve been around for so long that they’re almost perfected. You can add things on top of them, but the pancake itself can’t be improved on much.

Then, we have the sausage lovers. (Not to be confused with a sausage fest. That's something else entirely.) It’s a little newer, and people are experimenting with it. Sometimes companies come out with new flavors – maple syrup or hickory smoked, for instance. Done wrong, they’re hard as rocks and greasier than the Fonz’s hair. Done right, they're a tasty breakfast.

And lastly, we have the stick people. They want to bring both of those camps together into the limelight to dominate the breakfast market. With the classic nature of pancakes added to the modern sausage, all the other breakfast foods will have no choice but to bow down and accept their new master. It will please both pancake and sausage lovers because it’s a combination of both products. And it’s on a stick! It’s convenient!

So where does that leave us? With something good in theory, but bad in practice. Some pancake people don’t like sausage, so they won’t buy it. Some sausage people don’t like that particular flavor of sausage, so they won’t buy it. Everybody is a little wary of the stick, because gourmet food doesn’t usually come on a stick. Plus, you’re altering the texture and flavor of the pancakes by adding things to it. Before this gets any more complicated, let’s get back to CS.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which version of CS lines up with each product. 1.6 is the pancakes, Source is sausage, and the people at CSP represent the stick. 

1.6 players love the feel, the texture of their game. CSP is trying to add that to the Source engine, but it might not even be possible. The Source engine is so much newer, any port is bound to feel a little bit different, just like pancakes on a stick. I’m not a mod developer so I can’t say for sure, but it seems logical. In the end, there are going to be people that don’t switch from 1.6 for a myriad of reasons. The feel. Some won’t switch because it’s new. (People are still playing 1.5, for Pete’s sake. In terms of relative age, that’s like playing basketball without a three point line.) Some won’t switch because they don’t see any reason to. What does CSP have to offer over 1.6, especially at the start? Not much, if anything. It’s going to take at least a little bit of time for the mod to gain support.

In the end I think a majority of 1.6 players will at least try CSP. With Valve refusing to hand out TV licenses for the game there isn’t room for growth, and we’re already seeing the impact of that. WSVG is featuring other games at their events, with CS taking a smaller role. And in the CPL World Tour for 2007, they’re dropping CS as well, although admittedly this has as much to do with picking up Sierra as the lead sponsor. Still, two years ago these moves would’ve been like picking Dwayne Wade over Lebrun: absolute insanity. Now, not so much.


Smiling through a $100,000,000 bounty: insanity, or huevos grandes?

The bigger problem with CSP’s hope of uniting the two communities is Source. I don’t want to start debating the merits of Source gameplay, so I’ll try to keep this simple. Source players like their game. They don’t want to play 1.6 maps, they want to play Source maps. They don’t want 1.6 recoil, they want Source recoil. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of Source players try CSP and never pick it up again.

The player base isn’t the only problem. What tournaments are going to use CSP? I could see all the 1.6 LANs making the switch, but the goal of eSports is to get more media exposure, and right now that means the CGS has a leg up on the competition as big as Gear Three Luffy. By far the biggest tournament that could pick up CSP is the World Series of Video Games. They decided to limit their emphasis on CS this season because of DirecTV’s exclusive broadcast rights, but that wouldn’t be a problem with the mod. Unfortunately, WSVG’s other main concern would still be there: the lack of competition. No matter what, if the top six American teams are still playing Source in the CGS, CSP isn’t going to supplant it. Even if CSP took over every LANs, when the mod finally comes out they’re going to start from the bottom in terms of media coverage. There isn’t a DirecTV waiting to broadcast, and that’s a huge disadvantage.


This is the face of a man in rectal distress.

Which means the biggest problem for CSP is the CGS. There are four outcomes there: huge failure, small failure, small success, huge success. The only real hope for CSP is small failure. If the CGS blows up like Zap Branigan dodging asteroids, switching versions of the same game won’t appeal to the CGS. A huge failure means that the whole platform failed to translate to TV. On the other end, if it’s a huge success they’ll just stick with Source. Even with a mild success I think they’d stick with the same version. Maybe if CSP is great and the developers make an extraordinary pitch they could convince the CGS to pick it up, but it’d be tough. Remember, the goal here is to attract people outside of gaming, and if they’re doing that with Source they probably wouldn’t see much value in changing to what is, essentially, a completely different game. It would throw off the whole league. Teams would change, players would be worse or better. It’d be chaos. So, if you’re a fan of promod, you should be hoping that the broadcast is a small failure. Just enough that they want to shake things up, but not enough that they want to pack up and go home. Even then, they’d have to determine that the reason it failed was that the gameplay of Source prohibited viewers from enjoying the broadcast. And of all the reasons they might not get viewers, the different in gameplay between 1.6 and Source is pretty far down on the list. 

When it’s all said and done, I think CSP is a great idea that has two fatal flaws: lack of a market (as discussed above), and it came about two years too late. If they had these screenshots released two years ago, LANs would’ve been falling over themselves like frat boys at the Playboy Mansion. There was no WSVG, no CGS. Source was basically a nonentity. That was the window. They could have come in with the improved graphics (good for sponsors) and the larger player base (good for competition/fans/LANs) and basically dominated the LAN scene. But now there’s a league with salaried players and TV coverage. Changing the game is tantamount to changing everything, and once they’ve done a season I don’t think a radical course like that has much merit. The theory is good, just like pancakes and sausage on a stick. And in practice, they’re going to be the same thing, too: nothing more than a novelty.


 
April 22, 2007

If you haven’t heard the news, Check-Six released their Counter-Strike: Source squad earlier today.  It’s a little surprising, although considering the amount of player movement in eSports maybe it shouldn’t be.  The big issue this raises is about who owns the CGS spot.

From the thread on the CAL forums, it sounds like the team is staying together and they’re keeping the spot, not the organization. The players earned the spot, so that makes sense. The problem is whether a specific person (team leader) owns the spot, or if it’s given to the group. If it’s given to the group, how many players can be replaced before they lose it?

If the team replaces even one player, it’s technically not the same group that earned the spt. Do they still get to compete? What if they replace two players, or three? Most of us are familiar with CAL’s hijacking rule, which draws the line at two new players. (This season of Invite will be different, as mentioned, but the rule will stand at three returning players for the rest of the league.) But for the purposes of CGS, I don’t know if even that’s acceptable.


If this dog was Chuck Norris, he would have kicked your ass hours ago.

Let’s illustrate with a hypothetical. Say Check-Six’s old team decides they’re done with gaming.  Two players do some soul-searching and find their true passion is making designer dog clothes. The other three become so jaded with professional gaming they feel it’s not worth the effort to continue. What’s to stop those three players from, say, contacting GoldenPalace.com and arranging to play at the qualifier with two bikini clad models.  Would it be entertaining?  Probably, but it would also prevent a team that actually wanted to be there from having the spot. And considering the CGS is working hard to be the first worldwide, professional eSports league, having a gag like that at your inaugural qualifiers probably isn’t their idea of a good joke.

I’m not trying to insinuate that the old Check-Six squad would do anything like this, because I don’t think they would. And, like I said, it looks like the team is going to stay together. But I also think the CGS needs to come out and make a specific rule for this kind of situation. The rest of their games are all single-player, and Source already has a couple special considerations (such as the drafting of teams, not players). 

Personally, I think the CGS should take the hardest stance: don’t let any team play if they don’t have the original five qualifying members. Don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions – a team shouldn’t be penalized if a player has a personal tragedy or some other extenuating circumstance. To that end there should be a way for a team to contact the league to get approval for a new player. But there isn’t any incentive for them, as a league, to allow teams into the tournament after replacing players. The teams that become CGS franchises will be able to do that anyway, and it just adds the potential for confusion (who’s playing with who), or disappointing performances by teams that had a recent roster problem. Since the CGS has so much power in this situation (guaranteed salaries), it’s probably in their best interest to just put the smackdown on player movement before the qualifiers.

I’ll try to contact CGS about the issue. If I get a response I’ll add it to the end of this post and make a new post about it to make sure everybody sees it. Until then, good luck to Check-Six and their former team, and I’ll have some more CGS related posts coming up along with a recap of the CEVO playoffs.

Tags:
CGS, Check-Six

 
April 21, 2007

Say what you will about CAL and the people working there, but they’ve been around a loooong time. It’s pretty impressive considering they live on the Internet – a place where a new product, site, or game comes out every time someone brainstorms on the toilet. (Coincidentally, that’s where most of the ideas should stay. Except my ideas. Those are brilliant.) You have to adapt to stay around that long.


Shower cap on the rack. Thinking cap sold separately.

Before I even get into the actual changes to the league, it’s worth mentioning that Shawn Davis is returning this season to manage the CAL-Invite division. I’m sure he’s made his fair share of enemies in his last stint as a CAL admin, but he really seems to care about the league and that’s the best trait an admin can have. When admins don’t care, they make bad decisions, if they’re around to make one at all. Nobody gets every decision right, but if admins care about the league, it at least makes them open to new ideas, outside help, and the community’s feelings. The only thing worse than a stubborn admin is playing with a stubborn teammate. (I know he's picked me five times, but I'll get him this time, I swear!)

As for the league, let’s face it, the top teams have left for greener pastures, and they’re probably not coming back (and I do mean green, as in the color of money). It all depends on the CGS schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams drop CEVO as well, although that’s purely speculation on my part. It’s hard to predict how the schedules will all fit together. The one thing I do know is that if CGS is the white whale, Captain Ahab is going to need a bigger ship. 

But even though the top teams are gone, it doesn't mean CAL doesn't have talent or isn't fun to watch. Teams just aren't around long enough to reach their full potential. There’s ten teams in Invite right now, down from sixteen, and that's par for the course. Hence the changes. Like a good dinner, we'll have the small stuff first, and the tasty things last. (Note: I’ll include the gist of the original statements, along with their numbering, from the CAL announcement. It should make everything a little easier to follow.)


Appetizers (small potatoes)


1) Only LAN maps will be used in the rotation.

Personally, I think there should be more maps used in LANs (as I’ve discussed before), but it's not a bad decision Sticking to a rotation with LAN maps in it should be a little more attractive to the competitive teams, and that’s definitely a good thing.


7+8) The scheduling of matches will remain flexible, however some deadlines will be enforced so that the division can become more organized and professional. Teams with unavoidable forfeit wins will be rescheduled when possible but allowed to play it at their convenience until the regular season ends.

Remember when teams used to forfeit all the time? Well, I've discovered a way to actually play all the matches on schedule! Play all the matches on schedule?! Brilliant!

They've had similar rules in CAL-Main, and it's been good for competition at that level. I don’t think there are many things worse than having your featured teams not playing their matches. Even though there’s been a shift towards parity in leagues like the MLB, NBA, and NFL, the teams that drew the most interest, and the ones we remember the most fondly, are the dynasties. The Bronx Bombers, the dominant Boston Celtics teams with Bird, McHale, and Parrish, the Dallas Cowboys with Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt – fans can appreciate it when every teams has a chance to win, but nothing draws interest like a good Goliath. Even David would be disappointed if his match was forfeited because Goliath couldn’t be there one day.


The Meat (tastier things on the way)


9) Teams may have until the end of Week 4 to request a move down to CAL-Main.

For whatever reason teams get to CAL-Invite and die. It's like a mountain climber finally getting within sight of the peak, and then just heading back down without actually reaching the summit? Wouldn’t we ask what the hell was wrong with that guy? Instead of dying, teams can request a movedown. It’s definitely easier to solve problems in CAL-Main, where you don’t have to worry about getting pounded by rSports or Devastation.


6) The "3 returning starters" rule will be lowered to 2.

Same thing here: CAL wants to help teams stay alive (whether they should have to is another question.) You can't build a dynasty (much less a stable team) if you can't stay together for more than one season. Under the old rules, even 3D would have been marked "hijacked": Volcano and Method returned from their old team, but they added Ksharp, liN, and Rector. Even though I don’t think CAL would have done that to a team of their stature, if roster turmoil can happen to 3D, it can happen to anybody.


4) There will be 2 matches a week for the duration of the season, for a total of 16 matches.  

They'd better manage to keep teams alive, because there's going to be a lot more action. To put it simply, more matches = more opportunities to see your favorite team. It’s a little more of a burden on the scheduling for teams, but combined with a slightly relaxed scheduling policy, forfeits shouldn’t see any kind of dramatic increase. I don't know why CAL-I only had one match a week in the first place, but I really like this change.


5) Teams that are attending any major LAN event with at least 3 players from their CAL roster may be excused (and not scheduled) for up to 2 matches per event if requested in advance.  

Common sense prevails. It's easy to verify if a team was actually at a LAN, and as a league it’s silly to penalize LAN-caliber teams with forfeit losses. Especially when you're trying to attract the professional teams. If a team takes off a Sunday and a Wednesday to attend a LAN, they have a week and a half in between CAL responsibilities. Considering most LANs don’t last longer than two or three days, that's plenty of time to travel and play in a CAL match while not suffering from jet lag (or "I just spent twelve hours in a small car with three overweight, sweaty, loud teenagers" lag).


10) All general disputes that do not involve forfeits or trivial reporting errors will be reviewed and discussed by no fewer than 3 senior admins, and the names of the admins will be noted the dispute log, so that in the event that a team wishes to appeal the outcome of the dispute, the QC or appeal admin will know who to contact for additional information.


If you look closely you can see he's playing World of Warcraft.

This is the best change of the group, in my mind. There are always complaints about forum threads being deleted, which admins handle disputes, who is making decisions for the league, that kind of thing. Even the Wizard of Oz was less mysterious. Anything CAL does to demystify those processes and keep the community informed is a good change. When a decisions is made on a dispute, sometimes teams involved just want to know why that decision was made. There’s honest curiosity and the desire to learn, but they don’t know who made the decisions. Getting answers this upcoming season should be easier, and it might help the relationship between competitors and the league.


Fine Wine (the good stuff)


1) There will be a placement tournament to determine some of the teams invited to CAL-Invite.

The community lusted after it, and CAL finally delivered. There won’t be any more questions and flames about which Pacific, Central, or Atlantic teams got shafted, or which conference deserved three move-ups instead of two. It’s put up or shut up time.


13) There will be player stats, similar to GameSense, for every Season 8 match and will likely be held on the site that is doing the coverage of CAL-Invite.

The stats pretty much speak for themselves. I love stats. Who doesn’t love stats? Crazy people, that’s who.


2) Matches will be played with a modified CAL match config.

The modified CGS rules are another community-driven change. The CGS is the future of gaming right now. Period. Whether you agree with their format is irrelevant at this point. It’s here, and adopting a modified version should be a draw for teams that want to practice. The money and round times change the gameplay, but I actually like the fact that they’re keeping max rounds at 15 (instead of 9) and using the standard CAL overtime config. If there was one complaint about the Buy.com LAN, it’s that a lot of teams and fans felt like a one round OT wasn’t fair, especially on maps that may be CT or T sided. In a poll a slight majority of people voted for CGS rules with a modified OT, so hopefully including the regular amount of rounds will be a happy medium.


Dessert (an indulgence)

CEVO has two advantages over CAL: an AC client and a prize pool. I'm thinking CAL will have an answer for both next season. Do I have any direct evidence? No. But hear me out.

The AC client makes sense. Look at it this way: by Shawn’s own admission two AC managers are leaving, and they’re already expanding the schedule to sixteen matches. That’s going to mean more disputes, and not as many qualified people to handle them. We already know that CAL-AC is overworked and underpaid (read: not paid), why would they bother increasing the dispute limit if they’d have to dedicate more time with less resources? There’s been plenty of speculation about the creation of a client, and a lot of complaints that it hasn’t arrived yet. It might be the biggest reason teams have left CAL - the opportunity to play an online match without having to worry about hackers is a big draw for all teams, not just professional ones. The changes are great, don’t get me wrong. But there are two trump cards that CEVO holds, and until CAL competes with those, a majority of the teams don’t have enough incentive to come back. And CAL knows this, they aren’t stupid. Add that to the rumors, and there’s too much smoke to have no fire.

The other big advantage for CEVO monetary prizes/incentives to play. Why didn’t CAL announce it now? It’s too big of an announcement to lump in with the others because they’d seem insignificant, and it’s also the wrong time. News like that would take away from the playoffs, which isn't in CAL’s best interest. All these changes are good, but I don’t think anybody is naïve enough to think the top professional teams are going to pass up $10,000 in CEVO for CGS rules in CAL. If they’re really dedicated to bringing back the top teams, which I think they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if they announce some kind of incentive for the top finishers in Invite. Whether it’s hardware or a million dollars, I don’t know. But the league is certainly big enough to attract sponsors. If I had as many hits as their website, I’d be a Adsense-in’, sponsorship-lookin’, advertising-sellin’ fiend.


An Introduction, A Sign-Off

Phew. Congrats if you've made it this far! CAL’s last piece of news was about getting more coverage for CAL-Invite. As I’m sure you know by now, that’s me, and hopefully we’ll have those stats coming for the next CAL-Invite season. The only thing I didn’t like about CAL’s announcement is describing me as “Outstanding and professional”. Puh-lease. I’m going to be providing predictions, news commentary, and team updates that are only slightly better than the nothing currently out there. But, if you happen to like those kinds of things (and you can tolerate my writing), then hopefully you stop by. 

Whatever happens here, it’s clear that CAL is intent on changing the image of their top league, and they’re listening to the community as much as possible to do it. As an eSports fan I’m excited to see the final product. As an eSports writer I hope I can cover it coherently. And as a Counter-Strike: Source player, I just wish they would fix that damn crashing bug when you switch teams.

(Seriously. Somebody needs to get on that.)


 
April 18, 2007

I was struggling a little bit with whether to write about this or not, but in the end I felt like it was too important to just ignore – even though it’s well out of the realm of my normal topics, and I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add. It just feels like the right thing to do. At the very least, it feels more right than just pretending nothing happened.

One of the reasons I want to address the Virginia Tech shootings is that the target audience for the blog is right around college-age. If I was writing about crocheting or shuffleboard, I wouldn’t be as worried. But chances are somebody knows somebody that goes to Virginia Tech, and if any of the people affected by this tragedy do read LANDodger, you have my deepest sympathies. It feels so insignificant for me to say anything, because words are so small in the shadow of such a huge event. But they’re also all I have to offer, and for that too, I’m sorry. I honestly wish there was more I, or somebody else, could do to take back what happened or ease the pain.

One of the worst after-effects of something like this is that it gives people an excuse to hate. (For those of you that haven’t heard, the shooter was South Korean.)   If you’ve been conscious at any point in the last ten years, you know one thing people don’t need is another reason to be angry. There’s plenty of that going around already. And here we are: forum threads are made about the tragedy, and people throwing the word “gook” around. People say hateful things on the forums, which leads other people to hate them, which makes the original haters even more hateful … even Paris Hilton can see the cycle here.


An American hero.

Really, I could write about 3,000 pages on hate and racism in American (and eSports, specifically). But instead of preaching that boring sermon, I’d rather cut this off now and just leave you with two things. The first is a plea: don’t use these deaths as an excuse to spread racist feelings and emotions. It’s easy to do, but it’s not going to solve any problems. I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if I was judged by the actions of Adolf Hitler because we share the same color skin, or Jeffrey Dahmer because we’re both American. The actions of the shooters were his, and the blame falls on him, not on the color of his skin or the nation of his birth. Hopefully, with time, people can move past the pain, hurt, and anger to not only mourn the deaths of the Virginia Tech students, but celebrate their lives. (A plea like this sounds pathetic and naïve, I know. But if one person stops to think about it instead of just following blind emotion, in my eyes it’s worth it.)

The other thing I want to end on is a quote from a person much smarter than myself. He had every reason to hate, and also had the strength not to.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate it too great a burden to bear.” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rest in Peace.

Tags:

 
April 16, 2007

There was a roster move a little while ago that didn’t get the publicity it deserved. EFG parted ways with Josh “Dominator” Sievers, as he joined JMC to replace Shawn “Des1re” Khan. There are two quick things I want to mention before I get to EFG. (Please don't mind the smoke, it's just their team burning to the ground.)


Doc knows a thing or two about failure, and even he would feel sorry for EFG.

1) Why is this under Counter-Strike 1.6 news on GotFrag? EFG is a Source team. JMC is splitting their time between the two engines, but the article says they’re going to be focusing more on Source in the coming weeks because there aren’t any major 1.6 tournaments coming up. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason for this to be filed under 1.6.  It’s just a small thing, this isn’t some issue that’s going to rot GotFrag from the inside … I just don’t understand the reasons behind their actions, especially with regards to news posts and headlines.

2) My pet peeves aside, it’s a good pickup for JMC. Dominator is underrated despite being a former starter for 3D. JMC’s owner, Alex Conroy, mentioned in the GotFrag article that the team felt Khan’s leadership style wasn’t meshing with the team, so hopefully Dominator can provide them with a little boost as they prepare for CGS. Dominator’s certainly got the talent, and they have a little over a month to find out if he meshes with his new teammates. 

With those out of the way, the biggest story about the roster move is actually about EFG. I only have one question for them: wha' happened?! Five months ago (before coL, 3D, and the other teams switched from 1.6 to Source) they were one of the two best teams (along with verGe). They won or placed second in all the major LANs. They consistently played well in CEVO and CAL.  And now they finish 8-5 in CEVO and can’t keep a stable roster? It would have been crazy to say this before, but EFG might be the eighth best Source team, and in real danger of not making the cut for the CGS.

coL and 3D are clearly better. rSports and verGe both placed better in CEVO and have better recent results. The new Forbidden team looks great, I don’t think EFG would be favored against them. Hyper was already a good team (second place in CEVO for a couple seasons) before NightFall joined, so there’s no reason to think they’re going be pushovers now that he’s gone. Of course, we have to mention the new team NightFall is creating as a possible contender.  That’s already seven teams, and I haven’t even mentioned EG, JMC, or Check-Six. All three of them could give EFG a run for their money, at the very least.

All of that is assuming this EFG team even survives. Right now they have four players and a fill-in, I believe, and NightFall is making another team, Heroic, under the EFG management. (The whole situation is a little bit strange. Basically the owners/management of EFG are creating another organization with NightFall leading the CS team. But it’s going to be completely separate from EFG … somehow.  Not only is that situation a little confusing, but I don’t know if they could have picked a dopier name.  Heroic?  What, Valiant and Brave were already taken?) With the shakiness of EFG’s roster and NightFall building a new team, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the current EFG players ended up on the new team.

There isn’t some light on the horizon, either. At least a team like the Boston Celtics can pray for some ping-pong balls to grant them Oden or Durant in this year’s draft – EFG just has to hope they can find a starter from another team or the free agent pool. The CGS regional tournament and player draft is in May. But judging from recent results, one of the best teams in the short history of Source might not make the cut.


 
April 12, 2007

About a week ago, the Championship Gaming Series announced their new commissioner for the upcoming 2007 season. Everybody please give a warm welcome to Stephen Colbert!


A hand mullet: business (finger-point) on the left, party (thumbs-up) on the right.

WE DID IT STEPHEN! WOOOOOO! U-S-A, U-S-A!

(I really need to stop watching Comedy Central.)

Alright, I’m not really that excited about the announcement. Even people in “real” sports don’t get worked up over a new commissioner. But I think the hiring was a step in the right direction. Colbert certainly would’ve helped the exposure, but their real hiring was a much more prudent choice even if nobody has heard of him (he doesn't even have a wikipedia entry I can link to!). The CGS decided to go with Andy Reif, formerly of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. (Yes, there are many hot, athletic women in his former league. No, Mr. Reif will not give you their contact information in exchange for a personal CS hack.)

Although it’s definitely a minor sport, the volleyball had a lot of growth during his tenure, including tournaments on ESPN – the holy grail of sports coverage. There’s some more information in the announcement GotFrag made about it, and he seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity to help build competitive gaming. I don’t expect him to turn eSports into a recognized, accepted sport, but his experience is sorely needed. Not only because of what he knows, but who he knows. 

Let’s face it, pretty much everything in eSports has been built from the ground up. (Minus, of course, the internet. Al Gore for President!) And that’s great – it gives a lot of people opportunities to make money through their vision of a new GSP, a new league, a new website, etc. Then again, what happens when the server company that a 25 year old started gets sued? What’s the best way to bring new sponsors or reach a new audience? I’m a fan of trial-and-error, but at some point there are jobs and opportunities that have serious consequences, personally and professionally, if they’re not done right. Experience could be the difference between getting a sponsorship from Nuclear Fallout or not getting one at all.

Enter the new commissioner. It’s a huge bonus for eSports when somebody from an already established professional league joins up.  Right now there aren’t many sponsors outside of the technology/gaming world. Subway is probably the only major exception. New sponsors would help bring in extra exposure and money (obviously), but they’d also give something less tangible: credibility. It’s a lot more impressive when you can list Gatorade as a sponsor instead of Bawls – although, as a side consideration, any health benefits by switching from Bawls to Gatorade (your heart is less likely to explode) might be negated by adding McDonalds instead of Subway (your heart is more likely to seize). 

I’m not expecting him to come in and change the landscape of gaming because sports don’t become popular overnight. It took MLB over a century (and one industrial revolution) to become the juggernaut it is today, and who knows how many decades before that when the competitions weren’t as organized. But every step, however small, is an important one. Let’s just hope that the culture shock from gaming doesn’t make him leave. After all, I think the competitors in the AVP were probably a little, uh … easier on the eyes.

(Crap. Anybody got the number for the PBA’s commissioner?)


 
April 11, 2007

WSVG Games

I’m a big Counter-Strike fan, so naturally I was a little disappointed when I read the World Series of Video Games wasn’t going to be use 1.6 or Source as a main title in their 2007 events. It wasn’t quite on the “Bartman derails the playoffs” level, it was more like your average Cubs season. But the more you look at the goals of the WSVG and the CS scene, the more their choices make sense – just like any Cubs fan will admit that even though they’re disappointed, they aren’t surprised at losing.

For those of you that haven’t read the announcement and the subsequent interview with the President of WSVG, that’s a good place to start.  It covers the basics of their decision and the interview addresses the issues in more depth. (Side Note: I found out about the news via the CAL forums. There was a “WSVG drops 1.6!” post in the Source area, which was basically a huge invitation for all the fanboys to come out and play. Everybody was so happy they were picking up Source – except nobody bothered to pay attention to the article, which clearly said they were still planning to play 1.6 as a smaller game and were not replacing it with Source.)

It’s time to just come out and face the music. The WSVG couldn’t have CS be one of their main titles because there just aren’t enough exciting teams playing 1.6 right now. coL, 3D, EG, and JMC are all trying to get into CGS. coL and 3D are virtual locks, and the other two definitely have the talent to get in. What happens if WSVG makes 1.6 one of their premier games and four of the top five or six teams can’t attend? They’re left with Pandemic and … Turmoil, I guess. Not to take anything away from those guys, Pandemic is a great team and Turmoil is very good, but there’s clearly a lack of depth. Tournaments aren’t very fun if the only real battle is to see who can finish in third. 


The Knicks are so bad they sucked the color out of this picture.

Unfortunately, WSVG would run into the same problems if they picked Source, despite the extra focus on that engine from the top teams. No matter who gets into CGS, it’s essentially going to be the six best teams. They won’t be able to reschedule or miss anything CGS-related to play in the WSVG events … why would an organization support a game when the best six teams are virtually guaranteed to be absent? You can’t even get away with that in regular sports where there’s a much bigger talent pool. Well, you could do it, but if the Knicks are your #4 seed in the playoffs, I don’t think the quality of basketball is going to be very high – although you’d make Spike Lee a very happy man.

I think those were two reasons they couldn’t choose CS as a primary game, but they’re small compared to the TV consideration. WSVG wants to broadcast their events, and Valve wasn’t going to give them broadcast rights for 1.6. CGS already has the broadcast rights for the best teams in Source. So WSVG can’t televise 1.6, and if they focus on Source they’re basically going to be televising an inferior product. That’s usually not a good business plan. And, just to totally kill any chance CS has of being televised now, there’s the fact that the only people that can really appreciate CS are the players. I’d be hard, if not impossible, for the average person to watch a match and appreciate the action. There just isn’t enough background knowledge yet. (Eventually I think that’s going to change, but right now I think it’s safe to say that Grandma and Grandpa won’t have much fun watching CS, which is not only confusing but violent as well.)

When you look at their game selections based on maximizing the potential TV audience they make a lot more sense. Even though I think CS is a better game, the most successful games on television have been the ones based on established sports. ESPN had the Madden Nation series, and they also did a similar show (with less coverage) using an NBA console game. Although I don’t think video games based on sports are the future of competitive gaming, it’s clear they have the biggest market right now because the content is so familiar to the average viewer. When you consider that, games like Fight Night 3 and Guitar Hero 2 become a lot more appealing, even if their names are uninspiring, to say the least. They’re both able to attract an audience other than competitive gamers, which is a huge bonus considering how relatively small the gaming community is. It’d be an Enron sized mistake for WSVG to limit their exposure to such a small demographic.

Quake 4 and WoW: Arena break that thinking, but it’d also be a mistake to completely ignore the gaming community. Quake’s action translates better to television because the game is easier to understand. It's 1v1 and on the most basic level it's just seek and destroy. Once you follow it a bit you can appreciate controlling a map and items, but it doesn't take a genius to understand the basic levels of the game. And even though a layman would have problems following WoW, the already established fanbase is so big that it doesn’t really matter. Even if WoW players are the only people interested, that’s still a significant audience. I think the balance those two titles provide help smooth over their other two choices in the eyes of the gaming community. 

If the WSVG is successful,  it’s going to be a good thing for eSports as a whole. As soon as one game breaks through into mainstream entertainment it’s going to pave the way for all the other games, just like No Limit Hold ‘Em did for Omaha Hold 'Em, Razz, stud games, and Lord only knows how many other versions of poker and gambling. This doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. I would love to see coL, 3D and all the other top teams face off as many times as possible. But considering the position they were in, I think WSVG absolutely made the right decision. At the very least, they saved us the pain of more threads complaining about the flaws of Source, extolling the virtues of 1.6, and flaming any organization or person that chooses to use Source. And that’s something we should all be thankful for.


 
April 9, 2007

Most of you have probably heard, but coL is suing one of their sponsors, Velocity Servers, for a breach of contract. For those of you that haven’t seen it yet, I’m glad to see you’ve come out from your cave to once again interact with the world. Welcome!

The GotFrag post is really straightforward, as is the official complaint. There’s a little legalese there, but not enough to make the document confusing. The only thing we don’t have any specific details on is the contract itself. All we know is that Velocity was supposed to pay coL $6,000 a month plus provide them with an unspecified amount of servers worth $10,600 (the time period is unspecified – that could be a yearly total or just the worth of servers they’ve failed to provide thus far).

In the end it doesn’t really matter (from the public’s point of view) what’s in the contract, for one simple reason. Jason Lake is a lawyer, and if he didn’t have a case, he wouldn’t have bothered with the lawsuit. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out whether that contract was breached or not, especially considering the portion that’s being disputed. coL clearly didn’t get the stipulated money – at least, not yet. I have a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case much longer. 


Hugh Hefner has a few supermodel girlfriends and one shit-eating grin.

I mean, could Velocity have possibly picked a worse organization to piss off? coL is arguably the highest profile, most stable team in America, and they might have the best financial backing. (3D is the other team in the running.) And on top of all that, their owner is a lawyer. Let’s face it, that’s about as bad as it could get. As an encore, I they might as well pick a fight outside a dojo, whine about luck to Phil Hellmuth, and brag to Hugh Hefner about their sexual partners.

Joking aside, I just don’t see this being a long, drawn-out story. They either breached the contract or they didn’t. It’d be surprising if Velocity has enough of a defense for the claim to actually see the inside of a courtroom. 

I do think it’ll be a good thing for eSports that this happened, though. The big server providers (Velocity, Hi-Def, Nuclear Fallout, etc) are all established, credible companies. Outside of the recent dispute, there haven’t been any big stories about them doing bad business. 

But for every big GSP, there are three or four small ones, and I’ve seen plenty of stories about them ripping people off. Servers get shut down before the paid time is up, people aren’t refunded for any money they might be owed upon cancellation, and sometimes customer service is more like a self-checkout grocery line than a department within a company. (I’ve seen some logs and screenshots of conversations with some of the bad companies. Let’s just say it reflects poorly if your customer service rep says something like, “dude, wtf r u stupid? we’re not gunna give u $$$ we don’t owe u. fkin retard.”)

The list of complaints against some of the small GSPs could go on – let’s just say it gets even worse when sponsorships are involved. Hopefully this will open some eyes not only for GSPs, but for their customers as well. Up until now, word-of-mouth and self-policing have been the most popular options for the community. After a server company has ripped off a couple people, somebody gets angry enough to make a forum post about it and ten more horror stories flood in. The lack of any real action come out of ignorance, I think  – most of the people buying the servers don’t know enough about the law or contracts to feel confident taking any legal action. If you throw that in with the company having just enough knowledge to bully them and the prospect of legal fees, you get an effective deterrent (especially considering a lot of people renting servers couldn’t afford to pay for their own legal advice/action).

Don’t get me wrong, I think self-policing is good for the community. It helps limit the damage a company can do, but it only happens after a certain number of people get screwed (kind of like the “morning after” pill). Even with that, I’ve heard of companies changing names but keeping the same shady business scruples, and an Enron by any other name would smell as crappy. It’d be a lot better if the disease is cured (holding server companies responsible for bad business practices) instead of just treating the symptoms (warning other potential customers). So hopefully this adventure helps the community realize what companies can and can’t legally do both legally and practically. If a $16,000 dispute doesn’t get to court, the threat of legal action on an $80 refund doesn’t hold much weight. And good luck to Velocity with keeping the sponsorship. Something tells me they’re gonna need it.


 
April 6, 2007

Another event, another set of predictions down the drain. And you know your predictions aren’t doing well when only one of your top three teams finishes in the top five. Oy. .200 is a batting average even Adam Dunn can laugh at. I could sit here and write many pages about how stupid I am, but instead I’m going to focus on the positives: how some teams just exceeded expectations. And with that, here are the Buy.com LAN winners.


It's a bad day when you're looking up at the person everybody looks down on.


Winners

3. PandemicThey won, but everybody expected them to win (even I got that one right). The Counter-Strike 1.6 field was shallower than a celebrity marriage. There were a couple decent teams like Turmoil, x3o, and immiNent Demise, but nobody on Pandemic’s level. JMC, Pandemic’s only rival, didn’t attend. 

So they get a pat on the back for taking care of business, but they didn’t set the world on fire.  Their matches against Turmoil were pretty close – 16-12 in the Grand Finals and 22-18 in the Upper Finals, which was a little bit unexpected. I haven’t been giving a lot of credit to Turmoil because of the lack of 1.6 depth (it’s pretty easy to beat up on worst teams), but they took Pandemic into OT in CEVO as well, along with finishing 1-1 against JMC. This is my official “give dap to Turmoil” paragraph, which guarantees a tank job in the next two weeks.

 2. Eric “brawwr” Neer – There’s nothing like carrying your Counter-Strike: Source team at a LAN to make a person a little more e-popular. If you’re like me, you knew next to nothing about brawwr before the LAN. And, if you’re like me, you still know next to nothing about him except that he can carry a team with his AWP when he gets hot. He was the main reason my prediction for rSports went so terribly wrong. 

I don’t have any statistics to back up how well he played, but there are other methods. Namely, the amount a player carries a team is directly proportional to the number of forums posts and threads about him. And judging by all the “brawwr for MVP!” and “where can I DL brawwr’s .cfg?!” posts … he was just short of being accused of hacking (in a good way). 

(Speaking of statistics, whatever happened to Gamesense? It seems like one out of every four matches are reported, at best.  For a sport that’s so rooted in technology, you’d think there’d at least be a box score for most matches. Right now Gamesense is still technically listed as being a beta version. I think GotFrag and the CSPromod developers are having an anti-race – who can release their new product the slowest.)

1c. Check-Six
1b. rSports
1a. Forbidden

I couldn’t really choose between the three of them, so I’m cheating and giving them all the top spot.  They all have an auto-berth into the CGS qualifier, the team make-ups are all similar (more on this near the end), and they all exceeded expectations by about the same amount. Every time I picked one over the other, I’d argue myself out of it. So this spot is like a good hacking movie: the hacker feels good about his skillz, the moviemaker feels good for making fun of him, and the viewers have a good time watching it … everybody wins.

Check-Six’s tournament was a little less impressive than the others. They didn’t have to play Hyper, a good team even during an off tournament.  They didn’t quite blow people out of the water like rSports and Forbidden did. Don’t get me wrong, they earned the third place finish. I just don’t think they dominated the way rSports and Forbidden did. They did manage to give rSports one of their two losses (a 10-9 overtime victory, which rSports later repaid with a 10-4 whoopin’). Overall it was a good showing for them, and I’m sure they’re thrilled with the spot in the CGS Qualifying tournament.

rSports, official team of Eric “brawwr” Neer, had an excellent tournament. They lost two matches by a total of three rounds and they were the only team to beat Forbidden before losing 8-10 in the Grand Finals. (If you’re wondering about the weird round scores and you’ve having been following CGS, rules have been changed for the eventual TV coverage. Instead of having two 15-round halves, there are only 9 rounds in a half. Basically, losing 10-8 is the equivalent of losing 16-14 in the old round system.) In the new Source Pwnage Rankings I mentioned that rSports lost 4-26 to 3D in CEVO, and of course that factored into my prediction for them. What I didn’t know was that there were a lot of strange circumstances for that match – their stratcaller couldn’t play, and a couple roster situations were coming to a head, as well. They’ve been a little overlooked (especially by Yours Truly), but I guarantee that’s not going to happen anymore. The only thing missing from their coming out party at the LAN was a banner and a cake. 

As for Forbidden, they were clearly the class of the LAN. They only lost once and they spanked Hyper 10-4. The core of the team is basically the core of the old verGe team that was the Red Sox to EFG’s Yankees. I only wish that the team was competing in the CEVO playoffs, it’s a shame for the fans that we don’t get to see them play against 3D and coL until … uh … I don’t even know when. For now we’ll just have to live off the memory of them running through the competition at this LAN. This was the one team that lived up to the hype, although based on their finish they still might have been underestimated. Of course, not everybody did so well, and there were three teams in particular that had a disappointing tournament.


Losers

3. verGe – This ties into Forbidden, as mentioned. Think they want a do-over on their roster changes? I wouldn’t dare call the players they have now bad, but it’s clear there’s something missing. It might be chemistry, it might be ingame leadership, but I don’t think it’s skill.  The pieces are all there, but they’re not fitting.

So that, of course, leads to more roster changes, which only exacerbates their team chemistry problems.  What’s one of the biggest things the best teams have in common (most notably coL and 3D, but also Pandemic and JMC in 1.6)? Stability.  Not just as organizations, but in their rosters. They pick up players that fit together. They don’t try to create an all-star lineup based solely on talent. 3D probably could have convinced at least a dozen top players to replace rectOOOOr when he was struggling early in the CEVO season.  But instead of switching up the rosters, they stuck with him. His play has improved, and 3D’s patience is being rewarded with a lot of wins.

It takes time to build a team. You can’t just throw five players together and have them all work out. Well, you can, but you’d need Ms. Cleo to help with the predictions. Otherwise it's just luck if a team of five (basically random) players all fit in well together. Hopefully this incarnation of verGe lasts a little longer, because they have the potential to be a great team – they just need to stick around long enough to be called that.

2. Hyper – Which leads me to another team: Hyper. I don’t understand what was wrong with the old lineup. They beat coL once in the Intel Invitational and in CEVO, and they barely lost in the Intel Finals … and all of a sudden that team isn’t good enough?  Players need to be replaced?

Make no mistake, the guys they picked up are good players. But why even take the risk of things going south when it’s clear the team you have can compete with, and win against, the dominant team in Source?  It’s one thing to be proactive about a known deficiency that teams are starting to exploit. In that case, you make some changes. It’s another thing to imagine a weakness and move to fix it when everything is running smoothly. 

Of course, it’s just one tournament. It’s certainly possible this is just a small bump while they get used to the small roster adjustments. But I have a hard time imagining the team I saw in the Intel exhibition being beaten 10-4 by anybody, under any format, on any map. In this case, I don’t think any upgrade in their personnel was worth the risk of it all going south.

1. EG – Excuse me, waiter, I’d like one large helping of crow, please. Thanks. You know, can I get a large order of crow to go, as well? I think I might need it once I get home.

I hyped EG up as a CEVO darkhorse. I jumped on any success they had as a sign of things to come, and tried to ignore them playing two games and not doing particularly well. I was blinded by the talent. But at some point, if something fails to meet your expectations over and over again, it’s time to rethink your expectations. (Unless you’re George W. Bush, in which case you just hire people that agree with you.) EG hasn’t been horrible, but they certainly haven’t played up to my lofty opinions. 

They have the talent to beat anybody, but they just don’t. They could tie Eximius or they could beat Hyper (both of which happened in the last week). At this point, I’m treating them like a Battlestar Galactica episode. Everything could turn out fine, or half the crew could end up being cylons. (Those crazy Battlestar writers will do anything … ANYTHING. I’m half-expecting them to write in Captain Picard and the Enterprise on the basis of it being an alternate reality.) The only thing I know about EG is that I can’t consider them an elite team until they choose a CS platform and stick with it.


Better shot: Fudd or Dick Cheney? At least Cheney hit something.


If you noticed one thing about the results of this LAN, it should be the difference between the hyped, talented teams, and the solid, chemistry-driven teams. rSports, Check-Six, and Forbidden are teams that work well together. The first two have had a core of stable players, and Forbidden has the aforementioned members of the old verGe team in addition to two players that have played together before. Of course they’re all highly skilled players as well … you can’t just throw together a team of guys that aim like Elmer Fudd on drugs and expect to win. But I think the edge both of those teams have on most of their competition is their familiarity and organized play.

In other words, it’s like the difference between the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks. The Knicks have the most famous arena, play in the biggest city, and got the biggest names they could find in free agency.  Then there’s the Pistons. They have a couple stars, they built their roster up slowly over time, and they win a lot of games based on the fundamentals: good defense, hustle, setting up teammates, etc. The winning teams from the Buy.com LAN aren’t going to blow you away with the name value of their players. There isn’t a person as famous as fRoD or notorious as Nightfall. But they’re going to show up to play, and now they have a chance to do it in the CGS Qualifier. That’s all that matters.


 

I love GotFrag, I really do. They provide a lot of content, coverage, and statistics that just can’t be found anywhere else. I can’t imagine all the work they have to put in to cover not only Counter-Strike 1.6 and Source, but Quake 4, DoTA, WoW Arena, Call of Duty, Day of Defeat, and any other games that pop up in the competitive gaming landscape (and there are plenty of those, I didn't even mention all the console games). I appreciate all of that, but there are two things they do that drive me absolutely insane.


"If you want to test a new taser, Jar Jar is raising his hand to volunteer."

First, they’ll have a headline that doesn’t correspond at all with where the link sends a user. Their breaking news/biggest story link is usually an egregious example of this (like it currently is). Headline: Forbidden, Pandemic win Buy. Link: sends you to the Buy.com Preview. If the headline is about them winning, shouldn’t the content follow suit? ESPN would never have a headline that said, “Florida wins the NCAA Tournament” and have the link send you to the NCAA Tournament bracket. They already have the final scores on a different page – they could at least link to those instead of the preview. It’s like going to a showing of the original Star Wars movie and being shown Episode I (which I think should be called Revenge of the Jar-Jar) instead. It’s something different than what you signed up for, and the difference is so bad you’ll never trust a Star Wars movie (or a GotFrag title link) ever again.

The other pet peeve of mine is connected to, but slightly different than, the first one: the lack of commentary on some events. Honestly, I can forgive them for not having the full recap even if they should have some content there . Recaps are time consuming to write, even moreso to edit, and sometimes there just isn’t much to say about a 16-5 victory. Not only that, but considering the amount of coverage they have to provide over so many different games, a recap for every match is completely unrealistic.

That being said, there are a lot of stories that are bigger than simple match results. I’m expecting a real story when I see this Q4 headline:  “OoZe makes Ztrider quit in SNL Q4 PD1.” It’s an attention grabbing headline – professional players usually don’t quit mid-match. Naturally, I click on the “Full Story” link under the picture. Where does it send me? If you guessed that it sent me to a story about OoZe making Ztrider quit ingame, clearly you’ve skipped the previous three paragraphs.

There isn’t a single mention in the “full story” about what happened during the match, commentary on the demo, any report on the words or actions from either of the players. It’s a few paragraphs of text that clearly haven’t been updated since the matches started being played – another tournament preview. The only mention of anything that happened in the match is in the score, which states, “Torment: 12: -1 (Ztrider quits after 6 minutes).” (Torment is the map they played on, although it apparently doubled as Ztrider’s mental state.) Why even make it a story by giving it a headline if there isn’t going to be anything written about it?

It’s a good story, too. Ztrider is a prominent figure in the Q4 community. In fact, he’s the defending champion of that event – OoZe didn’t make just anybody leave, he made the champ quit mid-match. Clearly that has some kind of impact on the tournament predictions, and at the very least leaving before the competition is unprofessional. If you remember, LeBron James had a huge public backlash when he left the basketball court before the game was over, and he left after the outcome was guaranteed. Ztrider still had time to make a comeback (although it was improbable). There was plenty of opportunity to put a story (or any kind of content) there, and they just didn’t do it. Basically, it comes down to this: if it’s worth a headline, it’s worth a story. And if it’s not worth a story, it has no business being a headline.

Again, just so we’re clear: this isn’t a “GOTFRAG SUX” post, because they do a great job of reporting the eSports news in a variety of gaming genres. I just wish they did a better job of synching their content and their headline links, or didn’t bother at all with updating the headlines if they’re just going to link to something else. Hopefully in the coming days there’ll be a full Buy.com LAN recap and a story about Ztrider leaving. It’d be great to get the input from people that know so much about gaming and the community.



LANDodger