October 31, 2007

Everything creative changes. Hopefully, they’re evolutions; a step towards making a product (league, etc) better. Sometimes they’re not, and the Law of Unintended Consequences makes sure the process isn’t flawless. But for anybody that’s writing off the CGS as a failure, or bad for eSports: it’s time to realize that that the CGS isn’t a permanent condition; it’s a living thing.

Part of the problem that leads to people writing off the CGS is people have terrible memories. I mean that in the nicest way possible, because it applies to me, too. We remember things differently than they actually were, especially when change happens over a long period of time. When you’ve gradually moved between the first and second season of Scrubs, you don’t notice the different lighting, or the new camera angles. In your mind, you remember the first season with the same style as the second. The same goes for Star Trek episodes, or any TV show.

In Season 1, this would be slanted the other way with different lighting. And his lips wouldn't be purple.

For a clear picture, we can look at Penny Arcade. I’ve followed them for a few years, on and off, until I finally got hooked a few months ago. I check it religiously now. I can’t think of an easier way to show you the creative evolution.


The craziest thing is that, if you followed their comics from the start, you wouldn’t realize just how big the overhaul was. The differences are only clear when you juxtapose the comics.

Things aren’t that easy with eSports, unfortunately. It’s not just a lighting change, or drawing a character’s hair differently; leagues are trying to change whole thought processes and years of history. It takes a lot of time and effort to get people to change the way they think, and when you’re trying to broaden your appeal to a demographic you’ve never reached before, or bringing something into a new medium (e.g. television), it’s bound to be a rough process.

But the CGS has to make those changes. It’s absolutely essential. Competitive gaming, as it stands, has almost no appeal to anybody outside of the competitive community.  It’s such a niche market that even people that play video games don’t know how deep it runs; I have too many friends that played CoD, MechWarrior, or other games like that, and even joined clans, but would be floored to hear that there are leagues with player salaries.

CGS has to reach those people. It’s the closest market – the next logical step. And that means they have to make changes, because whatever we’ve done in the past clearly hasn’t worked. The sickest part is that everybody wants to label the CGS as a failure or bad for eSports because of all the changes they’ve made. In short, we’ve lost perspective.

People complained about how 1.6 was bad for competitive play, and now people are actually saying it’s a “perfect” game. They also complained about 1.5. And they especially complained about Source, but eSports hasn’t died since 1.6 started falling off the North American scene, has it? There’s still a $50k Source tournament at the CPL. The CGS started. CEVO is just as popular as it used to be. The only negative effect Source had on the scene, that I can think of, is splitting the community into two groups.

Or, in other words, you just can’t be sure how these things will turn out. The problem isn’t that the CGS is making all these rule changes or using Source. If 1.6 was a better option, they’d use it. If the rules end up being a hindrance, they’ll change. But if both of those things end up as positives, then isn’t that what everybody wants? We want eSports to go mainstream, and anything that helps us reach out to new places is a step in the right direction.

Luckily, you don’t have to take my word for any of this. Leagues have done exactly these changes before. I’m going to use the NBA as an example, but I’m sure you could find a huge list of changes for the NFL or MLB, as well. Here’s the full list, but I’ll hit the highlights – things that changed the way the game is played, or clearly show the evolution in progress.

• Zone defenses outlawed on January 11, 1947.

• Lane widened from six to 12 feet

• The 24-second shot clock is introduced.

• Lane widened from 12 to 16 feet

• The “force out” rule is clarified as incidental contact near a boundary line, which causes a player to commit a violation or go out of bounds, and neither team is responsible for the action. The offensive team retains possession.

• The “force out” rule is eliminated.

• Any field goal that, in the opinion of the officials is intentionally scored in the wrong basket shall be disallowed.
• The 24-second shot clock shall be reset to 24 seconds on all violations, as well as after a zone warning.
• Number of referees officiating game increased from two to three.

• Rolling the ball on the floor from out of bounds now allowed; penalty of loss of possession eliminated.
• The three-point field goal is tried in pre-season.

• Three-point line established 22 feet in the corners extending to 23 feet, nine inches at the top of the key.
• Number of referees officiating game reduced from three to two.

• After the ball is out-of-bounds, the team, not the official, shall designate a player to make the throw-in.

• Number of referees officiating game increased from two to three.

• Shortened the three-point line (22 feet in the corners extending to 23 feet, nine inches at the top of the key) to a uniform 22 feet around the basket.
• “Clear path” rule changed to include contact in the backcourt. If a defender, grabs a player when the player has a clear path to the basket on a breakaway, two foul shots will be awarded.

• The three-point line, 22 feet from the basket, lengthened to its original distance of 23 feet, nine inches, except in the corners, where the distance remained 22 feet.

Some highlights, in case you skimmed it: they played for three decades before the three-point line was used in the preseason, almost ten years before a shot clock was introduced, and made rule changes, then eliminated the whole rule a couple years later. I mean, can you imagine basketball without a shot clock? If you think Kobe dribbles too much now, just think if he didn't have to drive until he was totally ready. You think he'd ever pass to Kwame Brown?

I could go on, but I think you get the point – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

No, the problem isn’t that the CGS is going to be static. Even if you think the CGS is bad for eSports now, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. In fact, if history tells us anything, it won’t be that way, just like the NBA, MLB, the NFL, or anything else that has to evolve with time, looks completely different.

The problem is that the CGS might have lost too many supporters because they took one look and made up their minds.


October 30, 2007

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LD News


The community always blows things out of proportion, but there are two running themes that need to stop. The first are jokes about Warden’s weight. He’s a big guy, but he’s not breaking any records. If I see one more picture where he’s pretending to eat a giant hotdog, hamburger, or the Eiffel Tower, somebody is going to die, and it’s going to be me from a brain aneurysm. The comedy bandwagon hasn’t moved in over six months. It’s time for new material.

It's time. LD begs you: for the love of all that's funny, no more Warden jokes.

And even though I hate Warden jokes like PETA hates Vick’s Victory Kennels, they can’t hold a candle to the “Rector sucks” sentiment in the community. Just from the pure emotion on the forums, you’d think he single-handedly destroyed 3D, prevented eSports from going mainstream, and killed 1.6. And, if people believed he could shoot straight, I’m sure they would have accused him of being the second gunman on the Grassy Knoll.

Not everybody thinks that way, though. GotFrag published an article a while back that was a semi-defense of Rector. It didn’t avail him of blame as much as it pointed out he wasn’t the only problem; Method’s stats were just as bad, but he didn’t receive any of the criticism that Rector does. Naturally, the article was misconstrued by the community to mean a few different things:

A) GotFrag thinks Rector sucks
B) GotFrag thinks Method also sucks
C) LANDodger is awesome

Everybody knows that “C” isn’t true, so let’s look at the other two.


There are a few big problems with the “Rector sucks” mentality. One is that eSports statistics aren’t anywhere close to supporting it the way the community expresses it. All we can do is look at the stats and see he’s playing poorly. But we can’t answer why.  It could be a lack of talent (like the community believes), or it could be something totally different – burnout, the play of his teammates, his role on the team, etc. This isn’t a problem with the author of the GotFrag article, either. He clearly admitted the claims you can make based on stats are very limited. The community, however, isn’t that rational.

For statistics to back up the idea that Rector isn’t talented or skilled, you have to eliminate every single outside influence in the game. If Ksharp played against coL with four CAL-O guys, his stats would look a lot worse. It’s common knowledge that Warden from coL is “always” the first to enter the bombsite. It’s a team game, and Rector’s basic stats are influenced by things other than him. To make a case that he “sucks” based on statistics, you’d have to compare his performances when entering the bombsite first, when he’s the only one defending the site in a 1 v 2, how many times he gets outshot, etc, to the “league average”.
Obviously, that doesn’t exist. Nobody keeps those statistics. So, we have to do things the old fashioned way: watch him play. A lot.

It’s not enough to see him two or three times. Rector could have an unusually bad match or three. People go into small funks, or have bad maps. Somebody else on 3D could have a bad match or three, forcing Rector into difficult situations. The other team could be unusually hot, or 3D unusually disorganized. You need a large sample size.

This brings up a couple questions: how many people on the forums have studied every round of Rector’s play during a demo, and how many demos have they watched?

My answer, to both questions, is “very few, if any.” Most of them are like a trusty parrot, just repeating what they’ve heard other people say.

Rectors Sucks! Buck-caw! Rector Sucks! Buck-caw! Rector Sucks!

There is a group of people that gets to see him play a lot, though: his teammates and his opponents. Add all those matches together with the untold number of scrims, and judges that know every single trick of the game, and you’re bound to get a more accurate assessment from them than your average forum poster.

And, to be blunt, I’ve never heard of a professional player that speaks poorly of him. That includes my own conversations, private/public gossip, and public statements. In fact, what I’ve seen is just the opposite – his peers rushing to his defense, talking about his role on the team and criticizing the simplistic eSports statistics.

So, the public attacks his skill, his peers defend it, and the stats are the equivalent of the “check engine” light on your car. We know there’s some kind of problem, but we have no idea about what the cause is. Your car could blow up in thirty minutes, or you could drive for years with a faulty “check-engine” light. In Rector’s case, it could be his skill, or it could be something else showing up in the statistics, like bad luck, positioning, or the play of his teammates.

The final say comes from the demos, though. When you watch Rector play enough, you see him hit plenty of tough shots, and beat good players. The problem isn’t his skill, it’s something else.


Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Method. They don’t seem related, but Method’s poor play helps Rector’s case, because his stats are just as poor. Again, it’s clear something isn’t right, thought we don’t know the cause.

The problem with Method can’t be talent, though. He was a dominant player in 1.6, and arguably the best fragger on NoA during their 2004 CPL title run. Talent doesn’t just vanish. We’re left with a few possible explanations for his poor play.

He could have problems with the transition to Source. But that doesn’t make sense. How many 1.6 players are significantly worse in Source? coL made the transition in dominating form. The rest of 3D seems fine. The Venom and the Core are doing about what they did in 1.6. I can’t think of one professional Source player that came from 1.6 and simply collapsed, in terms of talent. Some had small upticks or slides, of course, but nothing like Method going from CPL champion to 50 damage per round.

His teammates could be “letting him down”, so to speak. But everybody outside of Rector has good stats, and I don’t think one player can have such a large effect on Method – especially when Ksharp, LiN, and Volcano, clearly aren’t suffering as much.

He could be burned-out. We’ve seen that with Sunman. Let’s not sugarcoat it: Sunman was terrible for a while. His aim was off, and I swear his reactions were so slow I thought my grandpa was playing. Alright, that's an exaggeration, but he definitely wasn't in top form. People would just run strats and dominate him. But he came out of it when the CGS rolled around, and he’s been downright good – he was +13 for the CGS season (June-July), according to GameSense, compared to -21 during EFG’s three-match run in the Intel Invitational (February). Method doesn’t have that problem. He still does all the crazy things he used to, and he looks good for certain stretches during the demos.

The Problem

The key phrase is “certain stretches”. The problem with Rector, with Method, and with 3D, is consistency.

They aren’t able to produce consistent results round-to-round, let alone during a whole match or tournament. One round they’ll completely shut a team down, and then the next their entire defense falls apart. People get flanked, teammates rotate to cover the same areas, and leave other areas exposed. Then they go right back to domination the next round.

The Newegg LANFest was a good microcosm, in terms of match results. They won the matches they were supposed to on the first day. It was a weak group, but they still took care of business. Then, in their first match the next day, they lost 1-13 to the CHImera. This prompted Trevor “Midway” Schmidt from GotFragTV to tell his co-broadcaster, “I could pick up three guys off the street and play with you and them and get more than 1 round against the Chimera.” And no, fRoD was not his broadcast partner.

They followed that with a 13-1 victory over a pug team, 1shot. Before you laugh, remember that 1shot tied the Dallas Venom the day before, and ended up eliminating them from the tournament. That started their good run, where they beat Carolina 13-7, Pandemic 13-10, and barely lost to coL 10-13 in the Consolation Finals. Where was that team in the first match of the day?

The skill, the talent, the potential – whatever you want to call it – is there. In fact, I think that’s the only thing keeping them afloat.

The Fix

What they’re missing is an Alpha Dog.

You can have JT, I'll take the girl.

Let’s get a couple things straight, first. This isn't a knock on their players. A-Rod might end up as the best player in baseball history, but he's not an Alpha Dog. And 3D can be the second best team in Source without an Alpha Dog, to boot. They might have that distinction already, anyway. But if they want to compete with coL, they need to find one. Every truly great team has one. They’re the teams that win championships, and you hear them immortalized in a specific way.

Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Brady’s Patriots. They own those teams, and everybody else falls in line. It doesn’t have to be the best player, and a lot of times it isn’t. The Yankees are Derek Jeter’s team, even though A-Rod is a better player, and their pitching (particularly Rivera) was more valuable during their championships. Even organizations that are lauded for spreading the wealth and playing a “team-oriented” game usually have a clear leader: the Piston’s Chauncy Billups, for example. Sometimes it isn’t even a player. The Tigers are Jim Leyland’s team, and the Chicago Bulls are Scott Skiles’ team.

At this point, I’d love to tell you the exact definition of an Alpha Dog, but it’s almost impossible to describe. It’s not just being a leader, calling strats, putting a team on your back during a clutch round, or even having what people call the “killer instinct”. It’s all of those things and more. It’s not something you know, it’s something you feel, and words can never truly capture a feeling. But the best teams in eSports have them, too.

Moto used to be that person for 3D, and after him it was Rambo, who’s now doing the same thing for coL. Pandemic is Juan’s team, despite the fact that n0it is (probably) the best player. Turmoil is Sasquatch’s team. Historically, NoA was Xeqtr’s team, and Heaton filled the role for SK.swe and NiP. Even guys like NightFall, Remix, and messiaH are Alpha Dogs, though they don’t have the same accomplishments as the other people on the list.

If you put me at gunpoint, I’d say the primary roles of an Alpha Dog are 1) making sure everybody’s not only on the same page, but the same line and word, and 2) making sure nobody lets up mentally, even for one second.

3D doesn’t have that guy, and it shows up in their inconsistency. They make too many small mistakes that end up costing them big rounds. You’ve heard the expression that a team is “greater than the sum of its parts”. Well, the opposite holds true, too. Sometimes talented teams are “lesser” than the sum of their parts. Think 2004 Red Sox, which overcame huge, seemingly unbeatable obstacles, versus the Chicago Cubs, who never seem to hit on all cylinders, even when they spend money on talented players. The lack of consistency doesn’t come from a lack of talent. If you stink, you stink. It comes from mental issues: putting yourself in difficult situations, poor communication, bad rotations, that kind of thing.

In short, it's time to stop bashing Rector. He's been the lightning rod for criticism, but replacing him with a more skilled player doesn’t solve 3D’s problems, because skill isn’t holding 3D back.

October 22, 2007

Baby Beta

I was excited for CSP. I really was. I couldn’t imagine myself personally switching, considering I don’t play professionally and my friends play Source, but who can argue with CSP’s goals? Developers that listen to the community? Sign me up. A “tweakable” (to use CSP’s buzz-word) game? Sounds good to me. I’ll even take the unified community, provided we’re still allowed to make fun of walking, talking (read: sitting, typing), internet clichés that can’t understand anything beyond their own ego-centric worldviews. I was looking forward to the whole shebang.

Then it actually came out.

This might have been the worst “beta” in history. I think a “beta” product is roughly akin to your average teenager – a beta person, if you will. They’re mostly functional, but a little rough around the edges. One chocolate bar gets translated into a hundred zits. Image is the most important thing in the world, even if it means being shady and stabbing your friends in the back. And your hormones act more like a cartoon divining rod, leading you wildly from place to place without any sort of control. Those aren’t features of being a teenager, they’re bugs of adulthood.

But through all that, we make it through and become “real” people. (Most of us, anyway.) To extend the analogy, the CSP beta was more like a baby – an alpha person. It craps all over the place (spawning in walls), it falls over randomly (crashes), can’t control its limbs (crouch bugs, grenade throwing), and it makes incomprehensible sounds. And worst of all, if you’ve become a new parent (or just tried CSP), any emotion that isn’t complete and utter bliss gets treated like you’re an ungrateful, greedy jerk. Even stating the obvious, like “man, I love my son, but I wish he would stop using my carpet as a bathroom” gets translated into, “I’m an unloving parent that hates my child, please call DCFS.”

LD Fact of Life: No matter how cute or lovable you are, nobody likes "cleaning up".

CSP shouldn’t get a free pass just because it’s a beta. There are specific reasons you enter a beta stage. You want the public to test it out, find all the bugs that the developers couldn’t, and generally stress-test and try the game before you release a final product. CSP wasn’t even playable, let alone ready for a stress-test.
There’s the blatantly horrible hitboxes that let a person crouch without their model crouching. Or, in other words, you get a headshot when you’re trying to shoot their kneecaps like you’re torturing somebody in a movie. The developers temporarily abandoned their thoughts on using 1.6 sounds for a quick fix using Source ones at high volume (the footsteps are clearer and louder in 1.6). Hitbox registration is spotty, although it’s hard to tell because you can’t see where bullets are hitting, anyway. The AWP quickscope only works some of the time. And the grenades. Oh the NADES. Let’s put it this way: they’re so messed up, I’ve heard them referred to as wiffle balls, bowling-balls, throwing in super-high gravity, and a retarded child in the Special Olympics. The scariest thing is those all make sense when you actually throw a grenade in CSP.

Then again, there were plenty of strange additions. The grenades are as bad as advertised, but the radar includes player names and it’s customizable (two new features). Models don’t crouch, but the scoreboard has new categories. Don’t get me wrong, I like both of those things, but why waste ten minutes coding them when crouching on a ladder still makes noise, or you can respawn indefinitely and keep the round alive?  The bugs aren’t even sticking out like a sore thumb. They’re sticking out like Yao Ming at a midget convention. It’s literally impossible to miss them, and the CSP developers didn’t, they just released it, anyway. They’ve already got an update coming – for problems they already knew about before the beta release.

Alex Garfield has done a phenomenal job rallying support from his fanbase and promoting CSP, but this was a huge misstep. Everybody that didn’t like the idea of CSP now has (in their minds) concrete evidence that it sucks. People that were waiting for the release to form an opinion about the actual game (including me) have knocked the quality down about five notches, and the timeline back another two years. Even people that supported it are forced to make concessions – “it’s only a beta”, “it has great potential”, etc. Those aren’t the same as “it’s good”.

In other words, all they got from the release was negative publicity. They didn’t need information about bugs. It’s not nearly ready for competitive play, so it’s not like they can sneak the game into CEVO, let alone the CGS, a season earlier. The whole thing seemed motivated for two reasons, which were included in the first line of the readme: “Yes, CSPromod is here... finally. No, this is not a hoax.” It’s obvious they’re aware of the community’s feelings towards the delays, and even the minority’s opinion that the whole thing is a scam for donation money. I’m sure those weren’t the only two reasons for the beta, but when that’s the first line of the readme file, it seems pretty important.

They can’t afford that publicity hit, either. The mod, like the XFL, needed to be a home-run. Both of them were going up against huge, entrenched, insanely popular games. You don’t break habit and loyalty with a decent game that gets better over time. People try it at “decent”, decide their old game is still better, and never look back.

People still tuned in after the first week of the XFL ... some weren't watching football.

People forget this, but the XFL wasn’t a complete failure from the start. There was a ton of hype leading up to the first XFL game, and people tuned in. They had a television rating of 9.5 for their first game (roughly nine to ten million viewers). For comparison, the 2006 NBA Finals had a 6.2 rating, ESPN’s first Monday Night Football brought a 12.8 rating, and the Super Bowl is somewhere around 40. The XFL didn’t set any records, but people were genuinely curious. The problem is that the product (except for the cheerleaders) didn't live up to the hype. Sound familiar?

And CSP’s job was even harder, considering they had to appeal to two communities. Or that was the plan, at least: bring everybody together under one version of CS, for the good of the community. The game could still be a home run, actually. They’ll need some help, but they could make it. Through updates and more effort, it’s entirely possible they’d end up close to the product everybody wanted, which would be an incredible effort worthy of “HR” status.

The only problem is that it might not matter, thanks to the early release. For comparison, how many people still think Source is the buggy, poorly coded, hitbox-laggy mess it was two years ago? Far too many – that pesky first impression thing, again. The biggest problem with Source as a competitive game, right now, isn’t that the hitboxes lag, or that it’s not fun to watch, it’s the perception of those things. It became common knowledge that Source sucked, and people didn’t go into it with an open mind. They go in expecting not to like it, and that’s probably what they get.

If Source was released too early, I think we can all agree Team Fortress got released too late. It got delayed for years. How many people refused to play TF2 because it came out too late? Or, if Duke Nukem Forever came out tomorrow, don’t you think all the old fans would come out of the woodwork? Then compare those reactions to Source. People would still try CSP it if the game came out two, six, or twelve months from now. But that first impression of a buggy, worthless game is set, and it’s going to take time to win back the disillusioned people.

If it’s even possible.

1.6, CSP, Source


It’s slim pickings this week. I don’t know what happened, but when I look down at the seven scheduled matches, there are only two or three that seem vaguely exciting. This must be how Mike Rowe feels about new job ideas – “Oh god, not another animal farm.”

Outside of the top four teams, every team seems to fit into two categories: teams with activity problems, or teams with record problems.  And this week, they’re all playing each other. We’re left with some 1-3 vs. 1-3 hotness, and a couple seemingly lopsided matchups, like Eximius vs. whoever Eximius plays from this week forward. Woo-hoo?

You pick up my poopz now, Mr. Rowe?

Let’s sum it up like this: removing forfeit wins, we have a 4-0 team, a 5-1 team, and three teams at 3-2. Those are the only teams with winning records. There are six teams with records of 1-3 or worse.

So, if you’re looking for oodles of gripping action, it doesn’t look good. But I bet I can still find things to make fun of.

CAL Invite: Week 4.1 (de_train)

LucK vs. eX – This is an interesting match. Both teams are 2-3, but they’re hard to get a read on, too. eX has played everybody, including Honolulu and five siNs, closely. LucK has been the opposite, swinging from blowout wins to crushing defeats.

This was actually in contention for the “Featured Match”. It’s hard to look at LucK’s roster and not be a little impressed, at least. AllbrooK is well known, and HoltzmaN has been part of the Invite community for a while. Plus, they have Michael “Hare” O’toole. Just thinking about that name brings back memories of United 5 with fRoD and tr1p. That was even pre-compLexity, when Bullseye was still part of 3D. Good times.

But I just can’t predict them to win. I’m really trying to convince myself, here. Look at the talent! The results just haven’t been there, though. Part of it is working in a couple new players. There could be a time when everything just clicks, and LucK rips off a couple big wins. If it’s this week, I’m going to look a little silly.

Train is a hard map for working in players, though. There are so many spots to hide as a CT, the communication and chemistry has to be perfect when attacking the sites. I’m not convinced that LucK can pull that off, despite the talent on the roster. Combine that with eX’s slightly better match results, and I’m going to give them a close win, here.

eX > LucK 13-11

Unhearof vs. Eximius Sports – Eximius is 6-0, and the only team that seriously pushed them was eGe (#6 in standings). They beat five siNs (3) and the Eruptors (2) handily. ajnin (5) forfeited to them. Who else is going to challenge them? eMg already has a 7-17 loss and a 6-18 loss. Somebody from the lower half of the standings will have to step up, which is about as likely as ESPN hiring me, at this point. LucK and GameFrog probably have the best chance, but they’re 3-6 combined. They’re talented, though, just not clicking.

After beating the Eruptors, the only question I have about Eximius the rest of the season is by how much they’re going to beat the rest of the field. I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re looking at an undefeated season.

(Wait a minute. I’d have more fun by actually jinxing them. You heard it here first: Eximius goes undefeated this season!)

(P.S. Sorry, Eximius. Had to do it.)

Eximius > ? 16-8

Featured Match

electronic Gaming evolution vs. five siNs from #team-nsF – Two teams come in. Each fight to the death for twenty-four rounds. Only the victor will remain, and they shall be crowned the CAL Canadian Champion.

If that doesn’t do it for you, it’s also a grudge match for longest-team-name supremacy. Unless you want to refer to the Honolulu Eruptors as their previous names, which would be something like: OneEyedZomblerz-rSports-Checksix-Zomblerz (part deux)-Gravitas-Devastation-Flow-Devastation (part deux)-Turmoil. It’s a mouthful, but it crushes all opponents in the longest-name competition.

And just in case you’re not satisfied by the Canadian subplot, the name subplot, or the possible playoff implications, five siNs has a player that was on eGe until late September. It’s going to be a good one.

It’s tempting to look at this match as the best of an uninspiring group, but it’s legitimately great. eGe is stronger than their 3-2 record indicates, and five siNs has far exceeded expectations this season. That might not be hard to do when everybody expects you to go 0-14, but still. They’re 4-2, and as it stands, I don’t see any way both of these teams miss the playoffs. They’re doing too well compared to the rest of the league right now.

This is five siNs’ first big test since their first match of the season against Eximius. They did poorly that time around, but they also rebounded with an 18-6 win over eMg. We should find out now whether they’re a contender to take down Eximius later in the season, or if they’ve just been off to a hot start.

Overall, I’m still not buying that they can pull off the victory. They’ve been steadily moving up the ranks, but I’m not convinced they’ve “arrived”, yet. If they beat eGe, they’re undoubtedly a top team. But for now, I think they’re just below that level.  

eGe > FSFT#NSF 14-10

Nothing like getting a good squeak/mouse reference in a pred. Here's a cute mouse, to celebrate.

Mug ‘n Mouse vs. PK
– Two teams. Death. But this time, the champion gets one step closer to a .500 record: 2-3. The loser will be mocked endlessly for their 1-4 failings, as they deserve.

Seriously, I’m finding it hard to get excited about the matchup of 1-3 teams.

Mug ‘n Mouse hasn’t looked good this season. They have three losses, all 8-16, and one win they squeaked (Mug ‘n Mouse always “squeaks” out wins) out 13-11 against Unheardof.  PK isn’t much better, but they’ve been keeping the matches a little closer, at least. They beat ajnin 13-11 early in the season, and only lost 10-14 to Cyber Phenom, another 1-3 team.

There just isn’t much to say about this one. I still have some hope for PK this season, and I think they’ve got a chance to turn it around. But right now, this feels a Chicago Bulls vs. LA Clippers game circa 1999. For any non-NBA fans, that’s the Bulls Apocalypse that followed Michael Jordan’s retirement. It was ugly.

PK > MnM 14-10

Honolulu Eruptors vs. ajnin – What the heck happened to ajnin? They went from a 3-1 team with playoff hopes to a 3-3 team with two forfeit losses and four people on the roster. I haven’t seen a drop-off like this since the Great Naruto Filler Plague of ’05-’06. Those were dark days, my friends. I barely escaped with my sanity.

In any event, I don’t know how ajnin will play this one, and even if they had a full roster, I’d still go with THE ERUPTORZ.

HE > ajnin 17-7 (if played)

Cyber Phenom vs. GameFrog
– I made a reference to CP’s lack of reported matches in the last set of predictions, but it’s not due to a lack of activity like I assumed. From what I understand, they’ve been keeping a good practice schedule, they just can’t get anybody to play them on match nights.

This brings up the question: why is everybody afraid to play Cyber Phenom?

Could it be their 1-3 record? Or perhaps it’s their intimidating handles – random capitalized letters are a requirement, please make a note, “bob” and “havoc”.

For the match, both teams are stuck at 1-3 with slight upside potential. If CP is practicing, that gives them a big advantage over most other teams. Then again, everybody that I think practices turns out to just be in it for the free ESEA that comes with being in Invite, like paying $5.95 per month would send them into abject poverty.

I’m going with GameFrog on this one, for nothing more than a hunch. They seem to have CP’s number, as I recall. If the Phenomena Cyber had been doing well this season, I might have reversed course, but they haven’t gotten off to a good start.

GF > CP 14-10

itsamassacre vs. eMazing Gaming
– itsamassacre is a very appropriate name, at this point. Unfortunately for them, they’re on the “getting shanked” end of the machete. Eight rounds in two matches. Yikes.

I’m not sure what’s happening at this point, because their 5-7 record for last season was just fine. It wasn’t filled with forfeit wins or wins over weak teams. But something changed, and it’s not for the better. I’m not ready to write them off yet for this season, but at this point, they need to show they have something left in the tank.

eMg > IAM 16-8

In a double-blind taste test, respondents preferred the taste of LANDodger Predictions over the taste of any competitor – this must be due to the high concentration of good luck to all teams, predicted winners losing, and predictors proving me wrong.


I’ve been catching up on some demos recently; I had a pretty big backlog. I try to watch matches live, but things always come up – work, playing Portal, disposing of dead bodies, that kind of thing. I even had to go back and watch some of the CGS matches that I missed the first time around. What I found was startling.

I’m not sure when, but sometime between now and when the CGS ended, I became a nine-round-hater. I didn’t mind it when the CGS was actually happening. I’d watch the matches and be perfectly content. But CAL switched to twelve rounds per half in the playoffs last season, and they used that format for CPL, as well. I forgot what it was like to watch a match with only nine rounds in a half. Now that my memory has been refreshed, it’s just not as entertaining as twelve rounds.

I know how you feel, little buddy. I was shocked about disliking the nine-round format, too.

I don’t want to say the nine-round format is worse, because I’m not the audience the CGS needs to reach. I’m going to watch their content, no matter what, because it’s the only game in town. They need to bring in the “casual” gamer, and if nine rounds helps keep people interested, or fits their TV format, then in the grand scheme, it might be better than having more rounds per half.

From an entertainment standpoint, though, those three rounds make a big difference. A “keeping hope alive” win on the last round can easily turn into a four-round full momentum swing. It keeps more options alive, and it gives teams a little more time to adjust ingame. That's exciting material.

I won’t be leading any CGS nine-round protests, even on the forums, but if they end up with twelve rounds next season, I’ll be a happier viewer.

o the preds!

CAL Predictions: Week 3.2 (de_contra)

electronic Gaming evolution vs. PK – I won’t be overloading you with new material this week. Only two matches have been reported since our last prediction (read: torture) session.

But one of those was a 17-7 win from eGe over LucK (imagine the coincidence that this was the first prediction). When you throw that in with their last win, an 18-6 defeat of GameFrog, they’ve convincingly beaten two talented teams. In other words, it looks like the CPL-quality eGe team is back.

Then again, maybe they never left.  They only had one disappointing result: the double-overtime loss to ajnin.  The loss to Eximius was a little unexpected, but it’s not shocking, either. Eximius is a top team this season, and a 13-11 loss is nothing to hang your head about. One lucky shot goes your way, and you’re going to OT.

PK, on the other hand, hasn’t shown a lot this season. I mean that literally; they only have two reported matches. One of those was a win against ajnin, so they did better than eGe there, but it’s not enough for me to predict a win. They’ll be a solid team this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them in the playoffs, but eGe is top-3 in my book.

eGe > PK 15-9

itsamassacre vs. Cyber Phenom – It’s been two and a half weeks since the season started. Cyber Phenom has played one match. At this rate, they’ll be finished with Season 9 around the time I’m writing for ESPN 10 and George Bush is finishing his eighth term as President. Just kidding, of course – I’d never write for anything less prestigious than ESPN 9.

On the serious side, they’re either in for a CS marathon or a forfeit bonanza. Matches from week 1 and week 2 have to be reported by this Wednesday, and they still have three matches from those week. Oops!

Normally, that lack of activity would be a plus for the other team. If you’re not playing matches, it’s likely you’re not scrimming much, either. Practice gets a little boring when there’s no reward at the end. However, itsamassacre is missing just as many matches. They’ve only played one this season, and they lost by nineteen rounds.
So, if you’re jonesing for some itasmassacre/Cyber Phenom action, there’s a high probability of postponement.

Still, a predictor cannot hide a trivial matter like matches not being played. Who cares about playing matches when we can predict them!?  Thankfully, I can hide behind arbitrary rules, like the 16-round loss-prediction. We went over this last week, and IAM still hasn’t played a match. No predicted wins until the 16-round loss is redeemed!

(And for pete’s sake, schedule some matches.)

CP > IAM 14-10

Unheardof vs. LucK – Unheardof is still winless on the season, but it’s been about as close as you can get. They have three losses: 14-10, 14-10, and 13-11. Yikes.

The close matches seem to be a common thing to new Invite teams, though. Cyber Phenom, ajnin, and itsamassacre had the same issues in Season 8. They rarely got blown out, but there was also a hump that they couldn’t seem to get over. They’d even play the top teams closely, losing by a couple rounds.

I’m not sure what causes this phenomenon. There’s obviously a change in gameplay for different levels of CAL, and it takes some time to adjust. But you figure with that adjustment and the superior skill of the top teams like Turmoil and Gravitas last season, there would be more blowouts. There aren’t. In fact, LucK, a veteran Invite team, has bigger losses than Unheardof. There was the 7-17 match against eGe, and a 9-15 loss to eMg early in the season.

If we look at some common opponents, eMg also beat Unheardof, as did GameFrog, but GF lost big to LucK. It’s not a clear indicator that LucK is a superior team, but I’m still rolling with them for now. I liked them early in the season, and I admit the ride has been a little bumpy so far. The 2-3 record out of the gate isn’t awe-inspiring, especially with a big loss on Contra earlier in the week.

But I’m a patient person, and the bandwagon hasn’t broken down. Yet.

LucK > ? 13-11

Featured Match

This is the angriest crystal ball you will ever see. At least, I hope so.

Eximius Sports vs. ajnin – If you thought this was a big matchup heading into the season, please raise your hand. Notice my hands remaining firmly on the keyboard, banging out text. And anybody that just raised their hand, besides the players on ajnin, is a liar. A LIAR. Even you, Ms. Cleo.

Eximius’ 3-0 start (and #1 rank in the standings) isn’t surprising, but ajnin in second place with a 3-1 record? Who knew? They were solid last season (6-6), but given the quality of their opponents, a 1-3 would have been just as likely. But they beat LucK. They beat eGe. And they dropped five siNs (#nsF), a team that’s been a surprise (18-6 win over eMg, included) this season. I would have predicted against them in at least two of those matches, and I humbly submit they should change their team slogan to “Proving LANDodger wrong in Season 9”.

The question now is whether it’s a mirage. Even the Atlanta Hawks played well to start the 2006 NBA season, and they still ended up in the basement. Personally, I think they’re here to stay, to an extent. I don’t see an 11-3 season in their future, but from their performance so far, a 9-5 record and a playoff berth seems reasonable. They’ve got some new talent on the roster, and the returning starters have more experience.

This is a big match for them, though, and they’ll need to be on top of their game. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if Eximius has been practicing Contra a lot for their other matchup: the Honolulu Eruptors. We know about the bad blood between Turmoil and Eximius, and grudge matches have a way of motivating people.

The key for ajnin here is going to be timing and coordination. I don’t think they’ve got the guns to outshoot Eximius. But if they can force the AWPers to rotate and make them retake sites, they could pick up enough rounds for a close win or an overtime match. It’s easy to say that, but a lot harder to do it.

Even though ajnin proved they can beat the top teams with the victory over eGe, but I’m not convinced they can do it consistently. Eximius is still the favorite, but props to ajnin for their start thus far, and we might be revisiting this match result when we talk about playoff teams.

Eximius > ajnin 15-9

Honolulu Eruptors vs. eMazing Gaming – You can extinguish the signal fires; Kluwe is gone. He didn’t actually play for eMg (thanks to the people who messaged me or responded on the forums for the heads-up), which is even more support for a roster warning system. But apparently a “yes” or “no” answer isn’t good enough. Sometimes people are just roster riding.

Therefore, I think we need to upgrade to a defcon-type system. We need levels. RosterCon 5 can be notification of a tryout. RosterCon 4 is serious consideration, and we scale it up. Level 1 is a player staging a full-on coup of the team. I’m counting on you, my dedication followers, to implement this system. Make it so.

As for eMg’s actual results, they’re solid. The last two matches, a 6-18 loss to five siNs and the 14-10 win over Unheardof, were a little curious, but one of their starters was gone for the Newegg LANFest. That’s obviously not good for the practice schedule.

I’m not sure they can take down the ERUPTORS, though. (Their name just seems right in all-caps, don’t you think?) Funshine and Brawwr AWPing? Where can you possibly go to avoid that? And even if you do, Contra fits Misty and Sasquatch well, I think. They have some similar plays styles on CT side of Train at ladder. Even when you know where they are, they’re using cover and flashes so well you’re still at a disadvantage. The sewers in Contra and all the flanking opportunities will value the same skill-set.

Truthfully, at this point, I’m not sure who’s on offense and who’s on defense. But I don’t think it matters. They go ten deep. If you’re not running into their primary AWPers, you’re running into some of the top riflers. And if you’re not running into either of those, you’re not attacking the bombsites, because they’re everywhere.

HE > eMg 15-9

eX vs. GameFrog – GameFrog has been decidedly underwhelming so far. They’ve had a pretty tough schedule, playing LucK, eGe, and HE so far, but they didn’t put up ten rounds against any of those teams. I’m tempted to give them a pass because of the quality opponents, but eX has better wins, and a closer loss against the ERUPTORS.

The only salvation for this match is that there are two eX players banned for incomplete or missing screenshots. If eX was at full strength, this is a predicted win for them. They just look like a better team so far. But it’s hard to play when you’ve lost (presumably) two starters, and GameFrog should be able to take advantage of that.

GameFrog > eX 13-11

Mug ‘n Mouse vs. five siNs from #team-nsF – ajnin has been a big surprise this season, but five siNs is right there with them. I can’t even remember how many comments there were about them not belonging in Invite, how they were going to get destroyed, etc, etc. But they went 12-4 in Main last season, they got into Invite through the placement tournament, and now they’re 3-2. One of those is a forfeit win, but a .500 record is not getting destroyed.

I’ve also been told that they’ve been scrimming contra well, and Mug ‘n Mouse hasn’t done much so far this season. It’s a predicted Canadian sweep for this week, with eGe over PK, and five siNs beating MnM.

FSFT#NSF > MnM 14-10

Remove plastic cover. Insert predictions into microwave on high for good luck to all teams. Remove product from microwave, and set power level to medium for predicted winners winning, and predicted losers proving me wrong. Let cool for two minutes.


October 14, 2007

If you haven’t played Portal yet, do it. It’s not the longest game; most players seem to finish around three hours of gameplay. But it’s three insanely fun, and sometimes hilarious, hours.

If you’re like me, you’re not looking for comedy in a game. And if you’re not like me, you’re still not looking for comedy, because nobody goes into a game thinking, “as long as there are funny songs and some good one-liners, I don’t care if the graphics or the gameplay sucks.” That’s like being a Bears fan your whole life, going to see them in the Superbowl, and only caring that the hot chocolate is scalding and the hot dogs are plump. The game comes first.

Then again, when you get a great game in addition to a delicious drink and tasty treats, it’s Christmas come early! I wish I could spoil the action for you, just so we could revel in the humor together, but that would be selfish. I’ll just leave it with a LANDodger-approved stamp, with one small caveat.

The only “disappointment” – I hesitate to even call it that, considering how fun the game was – had nothing to do with the actual play. I just wish it had more options. I’m sure the community will make a ton of interesting maps, so I’m not worried about that. What I really want to see is a multiplayer version. Just you, the enemy, a portal gun, and chunky bits when he chases you into a portal and you move the exit directly under a giant bone-crushing mechanism.

But really, I’m thinking Quake 4 with a portal gun: one guy running around with the machine gun, the ability to make portals, and (hopefully) enough wits to outmaneuver the three or four guys chasing after him. You could even make it a team game. Have one person for each team with that setup, except in a 3 v 3 game. The leader/portal guy has to make sure he keeps making escape routes for his teammates, without letting them get disorganized, chased, or saving his own skin when a rocket comes his way. Although, I think that's the funny option. Get your team in a pickle, and then escape alone with the portal gun. How long would a team like that stay alive? A week?

There are so many multiplayer implications with the portal gun, both for offense and defense. Make portals to shoot your enemy in the back with a rocket. Use it to gain speed and escape from an opponent with a clear health/weapon/position advantage. Lead your enemies into a trap. I could go on forever. The mental side of the game would have huge upside-potential.

In fact, if they announced a Portal Promod right now, I’d be more excited for that than the (more hyped) release of CSPromod. Until then, I’ll dream about the possibilities, and say one last thing about the game itself:

This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

(Seriously, play the game so you understand that line.)



Let’s see how my preseason thoughts are doing. Going into the action, I liked GameFrog, eGe, LucK as possible title contenders. They’re a combined 4-6. I didn’t consider ajnin a top team, and wondered how they’d do without n1x1n. They’re 3-1. And, just to top it off, I predicted against the Honolulu Eruptors in the first week because they couldn’t possibly be practicing for CAL. Even if that’s true, it turns out that doesn’t matter too much – they beat down GameFrog 15-9.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of season, already.

We hates him! Wicked Yankeeses! (Actually, we're just jealous of his fame, fortune, and talent.)

But, I remain upbeat! Even Derek Jeter, one of the most consistent players in baseball, sucked that one time. Before you know it, I’ll be back on my feet – hopefully without being viewed as a symbol for the Evil Empire and everything that’s wrong in baseball.

To the predictions!

Week 3:1 (de_contra)

Unheardof vs. Cyber Phenom – Unheardof is 0-2 so far, and in my first prediction thread, they posted about their inactivity. I can’t think of a faster way to lower your stock than posting about inactivity. On the other hand, Cyber Phenom is 0-1. That’s not confidence-inspiring, either.

(And, for good measure, all the losses have been by a score of 10-14. Would it have really hurt to have a 2-22 match so my prediction could be a little easier? I’d never ask for such a thing, I’m just sayin … )

At this point, we don’t know much about either team, but I’m going with CP. This is a huge break of procedure. I can’t remember the last time I predicted them to win. But I had them ranked a little bit higher going into the season, and nothing has changed that, yet.

CP > Unheardof 14-10

itsamassacre vs. PK – For my predictions last season, I had a 20-round rule: if you lost a match by more than twenty rounds, I couldn’t predict in your favor until you won a match. The only problem is the rule was made for max-rounds 15, not the new 12-round format. So, I think it’s to modify the rule.

To lose by twenty rounds, you had to be beaten 25-5. That means one team lost five out of every six rounds. Since we’ve taken away six rounds from the total (thirty last season, twenty-four this season), that means it’s pretty easy to adjust the numbers. We simply take the five rounds away from the winning team, and one away from the losing team, and we’re left with the same ratio.

New Prediction Rule: If your team loses 4-20 or worse, I can’t predict you to win.

Itsamassacre has a 3-21 loss to Eximius as their only played match (in addition to a forfeit loss).

Rules are rules.

(And I think PK is a little better, anyway.)

PK > IAM 15-9

Mug ‘n Mouse vs. GameFrog – After one Invite title and a decent season 8, Mug ‘n Mouse has started with two 8-16 losses. Wah happen!? Maybe they should consider changing their name back to Fever, or, at the very least, Mouse ‘n Mug.

He's green. He's fuzzy. He's cuddly. He never stood a chance.

Then again, GameFrog hasn’t set the league on fire. All I heard in the offseason was about how active they’d be. I predicted them to beat the Honolulu Eruptors. Yes, I predicted (game)frogs to beat lava. That’s how confident I was. The match result was the same as you’d get in a real fight between Kermit and Kilauea. Since then, they’ve had an 8-16 loss to LucK, and a 14-10 victory over the similarly-inactive Unheardof.

I’m sticking with GF on this one, but I’m definitely souring on their prospects this season. I thought they’d be going deep in the playoffs, and they still have the talent to do so, but we saw what happened last season when they don’t practice. They’ll get some wins, but Invite still has enough talent to punish the teams that aren’t as dedicated as the rest.

GF > MnM 14-10  

LucK vs. eGe – This would be the featured match almost any other week. But there’s a slightly better match coming up, and to be honest, both teams have been a little disappointing this season.

I thought eGe was going to carry their CPL success into CAL, but they’re only 1-2, including a double-OT loss to ajnin. Don’t get me wrong, ajnin is a solid team, but they didn’t show overwhelming talent last season, and eGe placed third at CPL. An eGe player made a post in the CAL forums that called his team “lazy bears”. Personally, I’m terrified of all kinds of bears, but the point is well taken.

LucK’s results have been slightly better, but inconsistent. They lost a close match to ajnin, as well, but they had a big win over GameFrog on the same map. That came after splitting their Dust2 matches with a 9-15 loss to eMg and a 14-10 win over CP. The jury is still out on their new pickups, and it could explain some of their inconsistencies. They’re probably learning and adjusting to every map as it comes along. If not, it sure seems like it.

I’m going to give eGe a small pass on their loss to ajnin because it was on Strike. Their other two matches were better: a close loss to Eximius and a big win over MnM. They should be used to Contra, and Contra is a map that requires teamwork and communication. There are a lot of opportunities for fakes, flanks, and general misdirection. That should favor eGe’s experience as a team.

eGe > LucK 13-11

eX vs. five siNs from #team-nsF – I wish everybody was as informative as the guys from FSF#TNSF. Check out these answers to my question about their team name:

E-Mail: “Obviously given the situation we decided that it would be best for us to join their organisation, none of us cared about the name really but one thing for sure, the reputation we forged under the name of nsF needed to stay. So in order to remain nsF in everyones mind and please our newly joined organisation we went 50/50 with the name. fsiNs from #team-nsF was born. “

CAL Forums: “We're part of the fiveSins organization but since we're known to be nsF for the past 5 seasons we didnt want to let go of our roots,”

And I got a PM on IRC with the same message as the CAL Forums. Now that, my friends, is a response! Normally, I can’t even get people to join the LANDodger Steam community group (which takes two seconds, so you should do it, you lazy jerks). If everybody was that diligent about responding, I’d never write anything because I’d be too busy responding to all the e-mails. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing – I love e-mail.

So, to everybody out there, the gauntlet has been firmly thrown down. The bar has been set, the dye has been cast. The [object] has been [verbed]. It’s up to you to outdo the response I got from nsF on my next question. Bring the “Best LANDodger Response” title to your home!

(There is an actual match happening, though, so I should probably get to the prediction.)

Five siNs had a surprising win over eMg, but I’m not reading too much into that (as you’ll see in the eMg pred). I’m more concerned with their first two matches: a 7-17 loss to Eximius and a 9-15 loss to ajnin. Those are two solid defeats, and I’m not confident that they’ve adjusted to Invite yet; it always takes teams a little time.

So, while I’m looking forward to better things, I don’t think they’ll pull out a win against a 2-1 eX team.

eX > FSFT#NSF 15-9

Kluwe is coming! Kluwe is coming!

ajnin vs. eMazing Gaming – It’s official: I need a signal system. There are a couple players that float around every season, letting the Internet winds guide them. I need a system like they had in Lord of the Rings: anytime one of those players joins a team, somebody lights a fire in the field. Then the mountain outpost will light their fire, on down the line until somebody sets a car on fire outside my Los Angeles apartment building. That’s reasonably sure to get my attention, just make sure it’s not my car, please.

Kluwe (“1337W4RR10R”, as he’s listed on the CAL page – a definite handle downgrade) is the player, this time. He popped up on EXTREMITY last season, and they got off to a quick start before inactivity strangled the life from their team. eMg has had a couple strange results, so far, despite Kluwe’s presence. They had a 15-9 win over LucK early in the season, but dropped their next match to five siNs (#nsf) 6-18. That’s a paddlin’, and their next match was a close win against an 0-2 Unheardof team.

I’m going to chalk those results up to the non-standard map. Strike isn’t very popular, and there are new faces on the roster besides Kluwe. They probably had some chemistry problems. If that’s not the cause, my prediction is going to be in trouble, because I think they’re more talented than ajnin. Both teams are 3-1 though, so it should be a close match, and it could be a playoff preview.

eMg > ajnin 14-10

Featured Match

Honolulu Eruptors vs. Eximius Sports – Looking at the schedule after my break and seeing this match feels wrong. Karma usually punishes me for missing deadlines. Now I’m being rewarded? If I was a cartoon mouse, I’d be looking for a piece of string attached to the cheese right about now.

What more could we ask for? Honolulu is only half Turmoil, half Gravitas, but there’s bad blood in the form of cheating accusations and a CEVO dispute that resulted in a match overturn. We have plenty of recent history: CAL matches, CEVO matches, and CPL action. And it’s not a one-way rivalry like when the Yankees would constantly beat the Red Sox; each team has won their share of matches.

Eximius has played well this season, going 3-0, including a win over eGe. They also played very well at the Newegg LANFest. If a couple shots went their way, they would have been in the second round instead of the CHImera. Vu played extremely well on Train there, but I think zero and zuH are more important to Eximius for this match. If they can control CT side with AWPs, they should be able to anchor the defense on a map that favors T side.

I predicted against the Eruptors in the first round, and I have to do it again. It’s almost physically painful to write that, because I could get burned again. They’ve got plenty of talent, but Eximius has been playing very well lately, and to be honest I think they have a bit of a mental advantage. The Turmoil players are convinced that Eximius is shady, and if there are lucky shots early in the match, who knows how they’ll react. They could focus even harder and pull out the win, but those emotions are a distraction, in my experience.

(Bonus Prediction: at least one person will play the match with a name like “[Eximius Player] cheats”. I consider this a mortal lock.)

(Second Bonus Prediction: if the Eruptors win, I predict I’ll never predict against them the rest of the season. And I predict I will apologize for my lack of faith. I’m spiritually weak.)

Eximius > HE 13-11

LANDodger Predictions: bringing you good luck to all teams, predicted winners winning, and predicted losers proving me wrong since 1907.

(Err, I mean 2007.)


I hate to harp on all the negative things about the LAN, but it seems like everything is moving so slowly that it's all I can focus on, anyway. There's only one good match per group; two good teams and two pugs. So it leaves plenty of time for criticism, but I'll try to keep it positive from here on out.

Speaking of time, that's my last complaint. Time, time, time. Group D isn’t even starting yet, and there are still four groups after that. The matches tomorrow are supposed to start at 10 AM and go until 5 PM – at this rate, that means some teams will get about three hours of sleep. It’s been seven hours since the first group started, and we’re not halfway through. I don’t know how they’re planning to handle the time constraints, because right now it’s not looking good.

I’ve already talked about this a bit, so I’ll leave it at that. The last thing I’m going to say is: the poor guys at GotFrag TV. If I were them, I’d think about asking for a raise, or at the very least, sponsored cases of Bawls and unlimited coffee access.

Mmmm … coffee …


I’m not sure who started the trend, but having concerts at major tournaments needs to do one of two things: stop or be moved.

People talk about the “integrity” of the game and preserving the game-play. You hear it in relation to CSPromod a lot. They want to keep what made Counter-Strike the most popular FPS in history. They don’t want to use Source, which has (in their mind) abandoned those things in favor of prettier graphics and cluttered maps.

Or, you hear it with regards to the CGS rules. Nine rounds per half isn’t enough. Starting with full money takes away from the game strategy, and eliminates part of what made 1.6 so unique. If you feel that way, fine. I’d argue those points as being necessary or desirable compromises, but I can’t argue with the fact that having money management as part of the game makes it more complicated, and thus allows for more strategy.

But please, oh please, I hope we can all agree that as bad as those things are, they aren’t more essential to Counter-Strike (and gaming, in general) than the ability to hear.

Right now, I’m typing in the hallway outside of the exhibition room. The music is still loud enough to be clearly heard, and if it wasn’t a rock band, I could probably understand a word or two. I abandoned the main room as soon as the music started playing. It was ear-splittingly loud, just like most concerts. This isn’t a bad thing when the crowd bought tickets to hear said music. But the gamers directly through the wall next to me have traveled from I don’t even know how many states, and they’re competing for thousands of dollars. I doubt that they’re catching all the subtle footsteps or even calls from a teammate down the table.

In fact, I know they’re not because I’ve watched demos from LANs that had noise problems. You hear things on the demo that the players clearly don’t, including calls that a teammate would have made. And we, as a community, choose to complain about the money system and graphics? Compared to the rock concert going on in the next room, those are trivialities.

It’s time to rethink what constitutes an attraction, what makes it a distraction, and where to put them so players and fans can appreciate the action.

(And since that rhymed, you know it has to be true.)

October 6, 2007

Eximius came thisclose to upsetting the Chicago Chimera in group play on Train. They got off to a great start on T side, with Vu leading the way on a couple key rounds. Their timing looked excellent, and quite frankly, the CHImera weren’t playing well at all.

Then Chicago bought AWPs, and the momentum changed.

The first few rounds, Eximius broke down Chicago’s defense outside using smokes and flashes. Vu took out three Chicago players after coming down ladder or out mid (GotFrag TV didn’t show which one). He started by taking out one guy watching his entry point. While blind, he ran towards the gap between the bomb train and #5 train, took out a blinded Chicago player that he snuck behind, and fragged another one under the sniper tower.

But once Chicago adjusted and played back a little bit more, it seemed like they were running into the AWP angles more often than not. Grt started AWPing inside, and his rotations to the back of bomb train outside were key in either preventing Eximius from reaching the bombsite, or at least delaying them until his teammates could rotate and apply more pressure. The CHImera ended up winning the first half 8-4, but four rounds on the offensive side of Train is usually enough to win. Usually.

And even though Train is a CT sided map, the second half started with momentum for the Terrorists, again. The CHImera came out strong and took a couple rounds, but Vu brought Eximius back with stellar play inside. He was playing close on the lower ramp, and every time they went inside he was getting two entry kills. It’s tough enough to win on Train 5v5, it’s almost impossible to get a single round when you’re losing two people on every entry. It wasn’t a one man effort on either side – Eximius had clutch frags from everybody, but Vu stood out, in my mind.

Eximius mounted a comeback to tie it, but the key round was something that everybody blasts the CGS for not having: a save round. Chicago was forced to save, which is almost a certain round loss on Train. But instead of their usual slow strats, they decided to do a full rush on Ivy. messiaH got caught in a bad position and was swarmed by five glocks, and the rushers went behind to the back of the bomb train and caught an AWPer off guard. With two guns and an advantage in numbers, the CHImera took the round, momentum, and, eventually, the match.

(As a side note, the match finished around 5:45 PM, Pacific Time. That’s two groups down, and way too many left to go. LANDodger might be pulling an all-nighter.)

October 6, 2007

There are really small things that events can do to make everything more organized. Here’s one I haven’t seen: put a master schedule and results somewhere other than the Internet.

I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve heard about scores, groups, brackets, and match times. And I only know like ten people at the event. Nobody really knows what’s going on. How hard would it be for a LAN organizer to throw up a projection screen with information, or even a whiteboard? Most people here aren’t checking the internet, and wouldn’t it be more practical for everybody here to know what’s going on first, and then post it on the web? Makes sense to me.

It’s just a simple way to keep everything running smoothly.

Of course, the only problem with that idea is that the event needs to be organized, and more often than not, they aren’t. At least, not enough. The teams I’ve talked to were barely told what group they were in. The event organizers could only tell them “when they might be playing”. This probably wouldn’t help much, considering they delayed the matches today. The first match from Group A finished around 1:45, Pacific Time. It’s 4 PM right now and the first matches from Group B are just finishing up. We still have Groups C, D, E, F, G, and H to go through.

We could be in for a long night, and a long day tomorrow if they don’t hurry up.

October 6, 2007

Despite the slow start against vANKSAP, Turmoil won their group to advance to the second round. They looked a lot more coordinated against their next two opponents: frailty and Socal’s Finest.  Sasquatch was up to his usual domination on Train at ladder-room, and they took the Train match 23-1, which is an absolute pounding.

Maybe they just got off to a slow start today, or it was just a bad matchup for them against vANK. Either way, harder matches are coming, and they’ll need to be on top of their game, even with a substitute 5th.


October 6, 2007

Turmoil came in with a lot of expectations. They won CAL-I, placed second at the CPL BYOC, and they placed second to coL at DigitalLife. Losing to coL is no big surprise; everybody does it.

Barely surviving a match with vANKSAP, on the other hand, is something most top teams don’t do.
That’s not to take anything away from their opponents. Even if you’re disorganized or not hitting shots, the other team still has to take advantage of the situation. When we look at the match and say Turmoil played poorly, we also have to recognize that vANK played well. Their defense at B side of Dust2 was rock-solid. What was most surprising to me was their aggressiveness on CT half, though, and Turmoil’s failure to adjust and take advantage of it.

vANK was pushing a lot. They’d sneak a guy into B tunnels from mid, straight through an area a T might be watching. If he gets spotted, there’s a 90% chance he dies without getting a frag. They pushed into B a few rounds, another risky proposition given the amount of cover from flashes for any waiting enemies. And they pushed catwalk. It seemed like Turmoil was caught off guard every single time.

By the time I was done watching the match, I thought Turmoil was a little lucky to escape with a tie, actually. If they played another ten rounds, five each side, it felt like vANK would have won about 7-3 or 8-2. They had all the momentum, and they were pumped. Turmoil seemed down on themselves. When that starts to happen, it’s almost impossible to come back. Gaming, like any sport, has a huge mental component. When you’re beating yourself up, it makes it that much easier for the other team to do it, too.

Other than that, there isn’t much to say. Funshine looked better than he did at CPL, but the other players just seemed off. I’m not sure if it’s a problem because they’re using a new 5th. Devour played for them at DigitalLife, but they had to use an old friend, “nME”, for this tournament, and from what I’ve heard, he’s been rusty. In any event, Turmoil didn’t look comfortable.

They still have the talent to come back and place. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened, even. Sometimes teams just start out a little slow, and maybe they can turn it around. But if they don’t beat the teams in the group by a wider margin than vANKSAP, they’re not making it out of group play. Going into the tournament, that certainly wasn’t what fans expected to be saying after the first match.

October 6, 2007

I found something better than watching Missy destroy people in Quake 4: watching Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel do it. The rules are a little different: Fatal1ty was there to just destroy people as fast as he can. First one to ten frags wins – Missy’s exhibition had prizes involved for the person that scored the most frags against her.

I don’t have anything to back this up, but at times I felt like Missy was toying with her prey. When it was six to negative three, with thirty seconds left, for all intents and purposes the match was over. It wasn’t exactly a pressure situation, and I’m sure on the second day of domination, the plot was starting to get a little old.Fatal1ty, on the other hand, took no prisoners. His goal was pure humiliation, in a fun, no hard feelings way. When people would fly over the edge, Missy would let them fall peacefully into nothingness. Fatal1ty hunted them down with a railgun and blew them to pieces.

I think each match took about thirty seconds, and each played about the same way: “Player” would die from about thirty machine-gun bullets, then Wendel would secure the +100 health, a rocket launcher, and the railgun. And that was the ballgame.

Of course, some people lasted long enough for quad damage to appear. That was great. It’s hard to move around when all the spawns are in open areas, and the guy you’re playing against is one of the best Q4 players in the world and he has a quad-rail. I’d say it was like shooting fish in a barrel, but that’s an insult to how easily he dispatched his opponents.

The last awesome thing about watching him was he clearly had a jonesing for the gauntlet. For anybody not familiar with the gauntlet, it’s akin to the knife in CS, or the impact hammer in Unreal Tournament. It’s the humiliation weapon. It’s a little saw that’s a one-shot kill with quad, providing you can get right next to the person to use it. That's usually difficult when your opponent is armed with lightning guns and rocket launchers.

Wendel pulled it out every once in a while when he was close enough to dodge and then (theoretically) close the gap and hack a guy to a pulp. It didn’t work most of the time. The players would get too intimidated, and they’d end up running when they realized he could just dodge all their shots. And if I’ve ever seen somebody reluctantly rail their opponent in the back, I saw it then. Even the normally bright slug from the gun seemed a little depressed. It was obvious he wanted that gauntlet, and the rail just wasn’t good enough.

Then, in one glorious moment, the two players collided. Literally. They used the forward boosts from opposite platforms. “Player” came from the left. Fatal1ty from the right, with quad damage. His gauntlet was out; his health and armor full. Destiny was fulfilled.

And it was a gory, satisfying destiny.

October 6, 2007

I'm within earshot of the PMS-Missy Quake4 challenge, just like yesterday, and there's a scoring update. Somebody finished the two minute exhibition with a point! He's the only person to do so thus far. I'm thinking about going over and getting my butt kicked in Quake 4, but I'm pretty intimidated at this point. That means she's already got the psychological advantage, like the massive difference in q4 skill wasn't enough.

We'll see what happens.

October 6, 2007

They just released about twenty inflatable beach balls with a soccer-ball scheme. This isn't important in and of itself. But given the community's love of hitting, smacking, tossing, kicking, spiking, and throwing things, I predict this post will be referenced at least once later today. Most likely as, "I wish they had never given out all those stupid inflatable beach balls."

Fair warning.

October 6, 2007

I don’t mean to alarm anybody, but I think I’m linked to fRoD from compLexity in some unknown dimension.I’m not sure if it’s a space-time continuum thing, or a flux capacitor dealie, or maybe even a whatchamacallit. All I know is that no matter where I go, if compLexity is at the tournament, I will see fRoD, and only fRoD. I'm not guaranteed to see anybody else, and in fact, I usually don't.

It doesn’t matter if I’m there for ten minutes or ten hours. Today, I’m driving in to the event, and I get off the freeway and onto the exit street. Guess who is standing outside of Wendy’s? Seriously, how many people stand outside of Wendy’s?!? And at the same time I happen to be driving by. From life experience, I can tell you that it’s not many.

And, on a side note, when you see coL at the tournament, that’s when you know it’s starting to get serious.



I was going to post this yesterday, but I got a little sidetracked. This is the last post about the activities on Day 1, even though the “big events” were the opening ceremonies, announcements, and a small DDR competition. Thankfully, they provided plenty of comedy.

Before I start poking fun at DDR, I have to give some props to Farouq. If you’re not familiar with Farouq, he does some announcing work in eSports, and he was one of the announcers/hosts during the CGS draft. Although, thanks to the quality of their inaugural draft, I remember it being hard to hear or understand him.

He came through loud and clear this time, but the most impressive thing was how comfortable he was. Maybe it’s just my perspective from being inside eSports, but I’m used to seeing people that have an idea of what they want to do, but not much experience in the field. I would link you to the LANDodger archives for an excellent example, but we lost the link in one of the homepage reshufflings, and quite frankly, I’m not that masochistic. But it was pretty ugly early on.

That’s an industry-wide condition, though. A lot of people in eSports are just making it up as they go along. In some ways, it’s great because you get ambitious people that love the sport and want to make a difference. But, for those same people, it can be an absolute curse. GotFrag can’t learn from somebody else’s mistakes, they have to make them first. They’re in uncharted waters. But a site like winAround, or Amped, or even LD  (to a certain extent) can learn from the things GotFrag does well and avoid things they do poorly. It’s just the nature of the beast.

So Farouq gets two thumbs up. I’m not sure if he just seems awesome by comparison to everything else, or if he’s really that good. I’m leaning towards the latter. I’m not sure what he costs, but if you’re looking for a charismatic person to host an event for you, and you want it done well, he’d be my first call. Even if he couldn’t say “stay safe” and mispronounced it “say stafe” four times in a row – he still had the presence to laugh at himself.

That laughter came in handy for DDR, too. They had a small competition on the main stage where ten random DDR fans/players were selected from the small crowd around the stage. The winners would get some swag, including a GeForce 8800 GTX for first place. (Why they were giving out a computer part for a console competition is beyond me.) The only problem is that the competitors were casual fans, at best. The original thought was to score the competition by the number of “perfects” a person gets during a song on Expert difficulty.

That lasted for two matches, and none of the four competitors made it through a whole song. I don’t know much about DDR, but apparently it has a built-in failure system. Maybe it’s so people don’t get too discouraged about how bad they’re doing. Which was a good thing, because Expert was clearly way too hard. The first four people lasted about thirty seconds. In real sports, those two matches would have been known as a pitcher’s duel. Nobody scored.

That lead to a quick rule change, and the difficulty was moved down a few notches. Personally, I think we need to adopt this policy in all walks of life. Going down in flames at your high-school dance? No worries, just start over with a different date. Maybe she’ll be more accommodating of your love for puns. It would have saved everybody a lot of embarrassment.

All in all, the first day was fun. The venue is a lot better than the CPL. The action was entertaining, and there are at least a dozen booths set up for different games, vendors, and (eventually) raffles. There’s even places to eat! And if you read any of my coverage on the CPL, you know how annoyed I was with the lack of food. There’s a café right next to the exhibition hall, and numerous fast-food choices within a couple minutes.

That sums it up for the first day. The only other interesting thing to report is that a bird almost pooped on me. But I don’t think you want to hear about how I gave the bird a taste of his own medicine.


Generally, I don’t like seeing people fail. I don’t watch American Idol. Dancing with the stars is for the birds.”Reality” TV just isn’t my thing, because I sympathize too much with the losers.

But man, watching Missy from PMS clan destroy people in Quake 4 was a lot of fun.

It was a small side exhibition before the opening ceremony, and I got hooked in despite my best efforts not to take pleasure in other people’s misery. It was a space map, which is even better because the n00bs get to shoot themselves off the map, fall off the sides, jump into nothingness, and on more than one occasion, get rocketed or railed into the void. The matches only lasted for two minutes a piece, but that was generally enough time for Missy to rack up eight kills, and the other guy to fall off about three or four times. I watched three people play, and listened to another one or two earlier while I was writing posts, and I didn’t hear about one positive score. I think somebody scored zero, which makes him the one-eyed man in the world of the blind.

So congratulations, zero-point-guy. You’re the winner!

On the serious side, I love spectating Quake. In fact, if I had to choose which game I think would translate better to television based on gameplay and action, I’d choose Quake ahead of CS. There’s no money management or strats that you need to understand. The variety of guns makes things interesting, without them being so foreign that they’re confusing. And the speed. The SPEED. It’s awesome to watch players glide around the map.

I'd much rather play Counter-Strike. It fits my style, and I like playing with other people. But when it comes down to watching matches and getting excited as a fan, something that's very important for eSports moving forward, Quake might be leading the competitors.

October 5, 2007

I hope you remember eGe from their 3rd place finish at CPL, because you won’t be seeing them at the Newegg LANFest.

It wasn’t their fault, though. They won the online qualifiers for the event, which awarded airline tickets to the event along with free lodging. For most teams, that’s really cool. For a team from Canada that had to spend $700 per plane ticket to get to the CPL, the free airfare is a divine gift.

If only they could have used it.

GotFrag has a small write-up about the issues in their LANFest preview, and I’ll post the eGe snippet here:

“The freshly crowned CEVO Main champions will not be in attendance despite winning Newegg's online qualifier and Jet Blue travel vouchers to attend the event. eGe was unable to redeem the flight coupons for flights out of Canada, because of restrictions on international travel. They also attempted to book a flight from Buffalo New York, but the travel vouchers were not valid for anything except a nonstop flight.”

This absolutely blows my mind. How is it in the best interest of LANFest to not have a great team attend? Especially when you consider their fan-base. eGe is one of the most popular Canadian teams, and having them at the tournament would certainly make it more appealing for our northern brethren. Isn’t it worth it for them to find some way to work around the issues? The vouchers weren’t even valid for a flight with a stop, which is less appealing than a non-stop flight. In other words, eGe wanted to inconvenience themselves and lower the overall value of the tickets, and they weren’t allowed to.

It’s stuff like this that drives me absolutely bonkers. It’s a very small thing for a company like Newegg to make sure that the best teams can attend. Out of all their revenues, the flight and lodging costs would be worth about a minute of profit from their website, and in return they reach a group of people that won’t pay as much attention to a LAN if one of their teams isn’t there. If there was a LAN hosted in Canada and 3D was the only American team to attend, but they couldn’t go due to some red tape, would anybody from the US pay attention? Maybe, but not nearly as many that would be interested if 3D did play.

Basically, it’s a lose-lose situation for eGe and Newegg. And, I think, one that could have been easily avoided.

October 5, 2007

The first day is going to be pretty slow, but I’ll try to make you feel at home in the venue.

First impressions are mixed. Compared to the CPL, the sponsors and game demos are a thousand times better. Not only in quantity, but quality. I just did a brief walkthrough, but people are playing Q4, Source, Unreal Tournament, Guitar Hero 2, and some other games that I don’t recognize. Even the first three would be enough to beat CPL’s feature exhibitions: World in Conflict and FEAR. Admittedly, FEAR was pretty fun, but all the CPL exhibitions were worn out by the end of the first couple hours. There just weren’t many options, and some of them weren’t very fun, anyway.

The BYOC area is really weird. I think the tables were built in 1940. I don’t know where a convention center like this (upscale, modern, sleek) finds tables that look like their best days came during the Reagan administration. Have they been storing them for all these decades? Did they run out to the Table Thrift Store and buy all their stock? Compared to the rest of the facility and the technology here, the tables feel like a 1982 El Camino mixed in with the BMWs. They stick out a little bit. The overall setup is strange, too, because the BYOC outlines the room in a U shape, instead of the traditional blocked-off squares. It’s very unsettling!

Thankfully, when I’m feeling a little disoriented, I can always count on scantily dressed women to anchor me. Not the competitors, mind you, but the attempts to sell products to the eSports masses. It makes me wonder if LAN advertisers have any other thoughts besides “sex sells”. I’m not ready to make any conclusions, but considering how omnipresent that kind advertising is, it doesn’t look good.

If you’re wondering about a schedule, you can find one on the LANFest website, although it’s not reader friendly. Somebody couldn’t have made that into an easy-to-read HTML page? Most of the tournaments start tomorrow, so if you’re not getting information on SourceTV or tournament brackets, you’re not missing anything.


First, let me say I apologize for the lack of content recently. I've been really busy with a project for work, and the deadline is approaching far too quickly. What makes matters worse is that I won't be able to use this weekend for any catch-up because I'm going to cover the Newegg LANFest 2k7. So it was a little bit of a trade-off; to make sure I could devote all my attention to the LAN this weekend, I haven't been able to post much in the past week or two while I race against the "FIRE LD" deadline.

In other news, I've just created a steam community page for LANDodger, and if you'd like to join, well, that'd be swell. I expect to surpass CSPromod, which has 20,000-ish members, within the millennium. They're shaking in their Promod boots.

The name of the community page is simply LANDodger, so feel free to join through the Steam website or via friends.

And stay tuned for the LANFest coverage. The reaction to the Summer CPL coverage was very positive, but it's going to be even better this time around. And if it's not, forget I ever said that.

October 2, 2007

The CPL didn’t have SourceTV. The XFX regional qualifiers didn’t have SourceTV. DigitalLife didn’t have SourceTV. I hope you’ve noticed the trend, because I’m out of examples. On the other hand, three examples are enough: too many fans didn’t get to see their favorite teams in action.

The CPL had technical problems with their network – the admins not technically affiliated with the CPL or CAL didn’t really care if SourceTV was technically working or not. And DigitalLife said that the SourceTV would take away from their VoD coverage, which a majority of the people won’t watch, anyway. As for XFX, I don’t know what their problem was, but anybody that can’t run an online vote or decide if online gaming is legal or illegal for residents of Arizona has bigger problems. Even people on the CAL forums can run a vote, and that’s saying something.

But the problem isn’t how smart or dedicated the event organizers are. The problem is there just isn’t enough incentive to make sure SourceTV is running.

I hesitate to use two pictures for the same line about being angry, but come on ... how could I resist?

What does a tournament gain by running it? There aren’t any advertisements during the feed. Fans that want to watch matches will be frustrated, but they’ll still check the websites for updates, statistics, and stories. Even if they’re really cheesed off, they’ll do the same thing next year when the LAN dates roll around. I haven’t heard of anybody that stopped supporting a tournament because they didn’t have live SourceTV feeds. As long as the event is well run, the sponsors good, and the matches fair, it’s hard to drive away eSports fans. We’re used to disappointment.

Sure, it makes the fans happy, but in terms of how much money the event is making, or how much exposure they’re getting, SourceTV doesn’t make that much of a difference. Anybody interested enough to hunt down the IP is going to be interested enough to check back for final scores.

There’s an easy solution to the problem of incentive: charge a small fee for SourceTV. I’m not proposing anything crazy here – I’m certainly not going to give up my Egg McMuffin breakfast combo so I can watch coL rip another team to pieces. But how about fifty cents? A dollar? I would have paid that to see some of those matches. And I’m guessing the 20,000 people that watched a 1.6 match between two European heavyweights would have been willing to pay a little bit, too.

 Once you turn SRCTV into a source of income for a tournament, team, or organization, it’s a completely different ballgame. Tired of not seeing matches played on time? Well, inconveniencing paying customers is totally different than delaying (or removing) a service you provide for free. Have a hard time even finding the information? I don’t think that would be a problem, anymore, since it’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure the information is readily available. You’d be surprised how far people would bend over to make sure their customers are happy, even if they’re only paying a dollar per person.

This isn’t a cure-all solution for anything, but it’s one of a thousand things eSports can do so much better. It doesn’t even require that much effort. We already have mods that look up SteamIDs on the CAL page or kick a player for command violations; how hard would it be to combine the two and get a mod that kicks a person for nothing have the right SteamID? Buy a ticket, and your ID gets added to the “accepted” list. I have limited knowledge in these fields, but given existing programs and the possibility of making money from SourceTV, I’m sure somebody could come up with some system that worked. And people would be willing to pay – I’m so sick and tired of delayed or cancelled matches I’d be willing to pay just to make sure they get played on time, even if I’m not around to see it.

Before I go, let me make one thing clear: I’m not a fan of paying for things that I used to get for free. But considering the benefits and how often that free service has been provided recently, I’m rethinking my position.

Sign me up for one ticket to the next coL/3D match.