November 29, 2007

I’ve been getting some questions about whether or not I’ll be attending the CGS Finals, so I figured it would be easiest to clear things up here:

LANDodger’s full staff (read: one writer) will be attending the event.

This leaves me with two critical questions. First, who else is going to be there? And, more importantly, would it be a worthwhile investment to set up an LD kissing booth?

(I vote NO.)

I'll also be attending the Winter CPL, although I haven't been fielding many questions about that. It almost seems like people don't care much for the CPL right now. I wonder why that is ...

Lastly, there's going to be some server maintenance happening from Friday, November 30th 2007 9:30 PM (PST) to Saturday, December 1st 3:00AM (PST). If you have problems connecting to the site, I apologize in advance, but hopefully it won't be too disruptive.

LD News

November 27, 2007

My brother and I decided to drive to visit our family on Thanksgiving. I wanted to use my new site-to-site transporter. He wanted to walk. We met in the middle. The trip from Los Angeles to the Chicago-area is about 2,000 miles each way, and I can now confidently write about all kinds of things, like the serene, stark beauty of a Colorado sunrise, and the mountains and a starscape in Utah that make you realize feeling small and feeling unimportant don't have to go hand-in-hand. 

Unfortunately, nobody's made a star-powered wireless router yet. And even if they did, it wouldn't matter in Nebraska. I'd love to write something elegant and beautiful about that state, but it would be a lie. There's nothing in Nebraska except Omaha, Lincoln, and a bunch of (stinky) cows. I'm not even convinced that people live outside of the cities; I think they cull the animals and crops like the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis.

In other words, I haven't had much internet access. Ksharp could have turned into Jack the Ripper, and I wouldn't know about it. GotFrag could have been bought by ESPN, wouldn't have a clue. Or, least likely of all, the "#1 IS PHAM" craze could have stopped. (That's the top gift on my Christmas list, by the way. Come on, Santa, just one time.)

Santa Claus, as seen if Yoda had a love child with Grandma Claus.

So I'm a little out of the loop. There is one thing I'm absolutely sure has gone on in my absence, though: scrimming. Thousands of people have fired up counter-strike, dragged their teammates away from World of Warcraft, and played against another team.

(If this comes as a shock to you, you might also be surprised to learn that the forums sometimes contain illogical arguments.)

For a majority of CS players, there's nothing wrong with scrimming. Who cares if you practice against the same team you play in three weeks (on a different map), and the only thing on the line is a CAL-Main playoff berth? Nobody, that's who.

There is something weird about scrimming on the professional level, though. There are benefits, like practicing against the top teams, refining your strategy and timing, and occasionally getting a chance to knife fRoD and then post a screenshot of it on the forums. I'm not sure if those outweigh the cost of giving away information.

We like to think sports are about skill and talent. If you’re more dedicated, or flat out better, than the other team, you will vanquish your opponent, claim victory, and possibly win the heart of a fair maiden. Deep down, though, we know two things:

A) Fair maidens are most likely not in the picture.

B) As much as anything else, sports are about information.

I’m willing to admit the first claim might not be universal. I could be the only person that doesn’t have women-folk waiting to shower me with praise and feed me grapes after every CS match. But I can’t think of a sport where information doesn’t play a huge role.

That shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, but the real challenge is gauging how valuable it is. I wish I had some formula to break competition down into 60% skill, 30% information, 5% luck, and 5% force of will. If it was possible to make such a concise equation, the person who developed it would become very, very rich, and I would like that person to be me.

The fairest maiden in all the land. Wait, what?

We don't have that, obviously. One thing we can look at is the role information takes in professional sports, and the lengths teams go to keep their secrets safe while simultaneously digging around for information on the other team.

In baseball, Curt Schilling refused to pitch against teams from the American League. This was notable because he did it during spring training, the time when sliders don't slide, fastballs are decidedly pokey, and even the Royals have a chance of finishing in first place. He didn't want to give up any extra information even in a meaningless game that wouldn’t really resemble a “normal” start.

Greg Maddux had a different strategy with the same thought; he's told stories where he purposely hung a breaking ball during spring training, the baseball equivalent of giving somebody a para and five blind enemies in front of him. He did this so when the "real" season rolled around, the hitter would be completely unprepared for the "real" pitch. Result: Homerun in spring training, strikeout in the regular season.

There's also pitch-tracking. This doesn't sound complicated, and it's not. There's just a written record of every pitch a pitcher has ever thrown. This isn't so bad when you're Randy Johnson, the pitching star of your eight-games-a-year, beer-belly required softball league. But when you're The Big Unit, and you're throwing 3,000 pitches in a season for twenty years ... that's a pretty big binder, my friends. It’s all to figure out hitter tendencies, strengths, and your own patterns that need to be broken.

Of course, then there's the business of stealing signs. There are players/managers/team officials with the sole job of trying to crack the other team's codes, or trying to steal the signs the catcher gives to the pitcher. Some wild accusations even include the electronic scoreboard operators, or the camera-man in center field.

That's just baseball. Football is littered with the same stories and tactics. Just look at Spygate. The reaction from industry people wasn't shock, it was condemnation of “going over the line” so to speak. They weren't surprised about the idea of information gathering, because everybody tries to get the inside scoop on the other team, whether it's general strategy, specific signs, or player tendencies.

What's that noise? Oh, it's all the freshman in sex-ed class giggling at the nickname "Big Unit".

If we judge the importance of information by how hard teams try to keep that information secret, then it's clearly a top priority. There’s a good reason for this. Tom Brady could be the greatest quarterback in history, but if you know he’s going to throw to Randy Moss before the play happens, he’s not going to be Tom-Freakin-Brady. The secretive nature of sports isn’t just about protecting the specific plays, though, it’s about minimizing habits and tendencies. Or, at least limiting how many people know about them.

That’s where I think scrimming is strange, and might even need a change. In some ways, it’s half-serious practice. Teams work on timing, strats, try out new things, etc, so it’s hard to say how much of an advantage a team would gain by memorizing scrim strats.

But there’s still a ton of things to learn. How many times has Sunman played against Ksharp? During the course of those hundreds of scrims, you can’t help but learn about preferences. In a 1v2 on Dust2 with the bomb down, Sunman might like to throw a smoke fake and get a CT out of position. Storm might prefer waiting until the last moments to hit a site. And, if you’re a particularly naïve member of the community, you’d be sure that Rector would just sit there and find some way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

You could come up with a thousand examples like that, and it’s hard to say which, if any, are most likely. We all have a “game sense” when we play, though. How much of that sense is based on past experience against that team, or that particular strategy? How many times have you been in a scrim, and just “known” what was going to happen, and when? More importantly, how many times has that happened to Rambo, Juan, or Volcano, and they were able to call a “perfect” strat because of it?

There is a counter-argument, of course. Even though your opponent is learning about your tendencies, you’re doing the same for him. It’s a two-way street. That’s true, but if that was enough to justify the practice, why don’t we see it any of the major sports? Once the season starts, teams practice against their teammates, if they play a full “scrimmage” at all.

This is obviously speculation on my part, but I think it’s because, deep down inside, we do want the winner to be based on talent and skill, and not who had the better source of information.

When was the last time you heard a coach, player, or any competitor praise another team for winning because of they stole a sign, or a pitcher was tipping his pitches? I can’t remember even one instance. The same holds true for eSports. Teams that go around and ask for strats from the scrim opponents of the next team they play are just a couple notches above hackers on the “eSports Scum” list. Even a more benign practice like “anti-stratting” has always carried a derogatory undertone. We want teams to win on their own merit and strength.

Realistically, I don’t think we can take the argument far enough to say that scrimming is wrong, bad, or a waste of time. But I do think it’s possible for a team to win based on information they gained from scrimming that team earlier. Likely? Not sure. Possible? Yes. And as the stakes of winning get higher, is the experience you gain by practicing against coL worth the risk of losing to them for the same reason, when you could have a dedicated scrim-team, or working on site attacks against your own team?

Personally, I think the answer is “no”. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see eSports teams adopt the idea of not practicing against their future opponents during the season. It just doesn’t seem like a good risk, to me, especially when the prize isn’t a CAL-Invite spot or free ESEA, but hundreds of thousands of dollars, fame, and, if we’re so lucky, fair maidens.

(And if you happen to get any of those three, did you know that sharing is caring?)


November 23, 2007

Just wanted to say a quick "Happy Thanksgiving" to all you crazy cats out there in eSports. I hope you all found something to be thankful for, even if it something small, like the fact that your parents aren't binge-eating zombies. And if your kin do happen to be obese, well-fed creatures of the undead, let me know where you live so I can make vacation plans somewhere else. I don't ask for much.

As for the lack of posts recently, I've been traveling the last few days to visit family. I didn't plan for such a big break, but I also didn't plan on being born with a tail. Life just gets in the way.

(No, I wasn't really born with a tail.)

"Normal" posting should resume on Monday at the latest, but I might be able to bang something out on the road over the weekend. Until then, I hope you all had a safe, happy holiday, and came out of it with your gray matter intact.

LD News

November 15, 2007

I’ve heard that honesty is the best policy, so I’m going to be upfront with you: I used to think I was the worst kind of lazy person, a habitual procrastinator with just enough talent to save the day. I use “talent” with as much modesty as possible, because it’s not a good thing. You end up barely beating deadlines, only because you both pushed a project off far too long, and came through in the clutch. After it works once, it happens over and over again. The stress of the deadline is not worth the relief of beating it. Trust me, I know.

I know what you’re thinking, though. “Wait, LD, that doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t being lazy and talented infinitely better than being lazy and untalented?” Logically, you would think so. But lazy and untalented doesn’t equate to dumb. If somebody is both bad and unmotivated, they’re not going to stick around very long. They’ll find something they’re better at, or want to do more, and they’ll become talented, motivated people, thus surpassing me and my kindred spirits. I’ve come to grips with this fact.

Wow! The Hubble Telescope can take some really amazing pictures!

(LD’s Tip of the Day: by far the best option in life is to be talented and motivated. Those people go places, and I don’t mean Mexico or Canada. They go to space. Or the White House. Which, in terms of how connected they are to the actual world, are roughly analogous.)

I was sure that I had the worst combination of traits. And that might be true, but, through the miracle of the internet, I’ve discovered I’m not the worst kind of lazy person. Not even close. People are taking the word “lazy” to all new lows. They’ve dug so deep that, relatively speaking, what I used to think of as “lazy” would be like describing Rocky as “plucky”, or calling Wile E. Coyote “unlucky”. The scale is all out of whack.

Where are these people working to shatter our concepts of laziness, you ask? The GotFrag forums, of course. Where else?

There are two shining examples of this phenomenon. The first goes back to the “Should Rector be Cut?” article. Remember how the community responded to that title? If not, I don’t blame you; you probably have better things to worry about. Luckily for you, I don’t. A portion of the community didn’t seem to understand what the article was saying. In fact, it seemed like they didn’t read it, at all. They simple saw the title, went straight to the “comments” section, and aired their grievances. To me, this is like buying Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, then going straight to the Customer Reviews and complaining about the lack of small villages in the book.

“Silly community”, I thought, “you should have read more carefully! But, it’s okay, I understand that it’s a hot topic, and, as a commentary article, of course the title would be more inflammatory than your normal coverage headlines. I forgive you.”

Shame on me.

Fast-forward to the present, when the details for the CGS World Finals were announced. GotFrag put it under the headline, “coL to Attend CGS World Finals Details”. At which point the community, again, seemed to skip the important details, such as:

“To add to the excitement, CGS announced that, in addition to the CGS team-based World Final, it will hold the CGS Individual World Final. Top CGS players from each of the league's six regions will compete in their designated games to determine the individual champions for each official game category.”

I will grant one, small, consolidation: it never specifically stated that coL’s CS:S team was competing in the Individual World Finals. But it’s a VERY TINY (ironic I put that in all-caps, no?) consideration, considering the article ended with the complete list of franchises playing in the Team Finals. Even from that one paragraph, it should be clear where coL was invited. Does anybody really think they’d slip LA into the World Finals, and hope nobody noticed? That’d be like Barry Bonds talking about his steroid cycle and hoping those microphones in front of his face are turned off.

It comes down to this: if you disagree with something, I can understand that. If you think the CGS is awful, you’re entitled to your opinion. If you’ve watched the demos, and you’re still convinced Rector is killing 3D, I can accept that view, even if I disagree with it. But for pete’s sake, at least know what you’re disagreeing with before you fly off the proverbial handle.

And until I’m convinced that’s happened, you’ll be seeing a lot of titles like, “LANDodger Loves You”, “I’m the Best Writer Ever”, and “This Article is Logically Flawless”.

(What can I say? I’m an opportunist.)


November 13, 2007

I've completed the latest installment of the Pwnage Rankings for Source. I'll try to update them at least once a month from now on. Given my habits, that should translate to roughly twice a year.



If you missed the news, the CGS released the information for their World Finals. Most of the news fell into two categories: expected, and pleasantly surprising. I only had one small gripe.

The best thing has to be the schedule. Alright, that’s a lie; the best thing is the money and the caliber of the players. But those were thing things we knew about heading into the event.

The schedule is a nice departure from regular LANs, which try to pack four days worth of action, promotions, raffles, product demonstrations, and a concert into one weekend. Even though I understand the reasons, namely that most LANs aren’t important enough to take time off work or school, it doesn’t mean I find it any more enjoyable. The playing areas are noisy, chaotic, and a lot of times you’re forced to choose between watching the teams play or winning a new ViewSonic LCD (Note: you haven’t seen me write about my new ViewSonic LCD – aka, I chose poorly). Bad times all around.

Even if you don’t like the fact that the CGS uses Source, or think it’s the worst thing to happen to gaming since somebody decided that walls were optional, they’ve been good about small details. There are a lot of nagging issues in eSports, like delayed matches and cramped schedules, which are only fixed when competitive gaming is the first priority. Whenever the CGS has had the opportunity to use their stature, they’ve done so, and I’m certainly thankful for that. I’m looking forward to watching a match and then writing about it, instead of watching 3D, writing about the upset that just happened, and trying to stuff a pizza in my mouth while making sure I don’t turn my laptop into a Toshiba with Sausage.

Did you know that sausage grease does not improve processing power?

Another small detail that’s logical when you think about it is the bracket. The teams from each region are on opposite sides of the bracket – meaning right now, there’s a chance for a USA-only Finals match between the Core and the CHImera (this obviously means the same thing for the EU, UK, and Latin America). I’m not saying that any of those matchups are probable, but it’s a small detail that might be taken for granted, but is worth noting.

There's only one thing I would have changed. I'm hesitant to call it a complaint, or even disappointment, though. But in a perfect world, I'd have larger prizes for first place in the individual competitions. That doesn’t jive with the CGS’s team-first approach, which I assume is the reason for the $5,000 (per player) first-place prize.

But from a fan’s standpoint, this is the competition. There isn’t a collection of gamers of this caliber in any other league or LAN. We want to see which organization is best, don't get me wrong, but people really want to see which teams are the best in their field, too. I'm not advocating we reverse the prize amounts, because that would be ridiculous. I just think that when something this big rolls around, we expect the prizes to be just as extravagant. It's not satisfying to crown somebody the Super Bowl Champions, and then not give them insanely expensive bling and a parade. Or, in this case, it seems weird to call somebody the "Best Source Team in the World" or "Best DoA 4 Player" and then reward them like they won the CPL. The winning team will still be crowned as the King; it just feels like we’re giving them something closer to a Burger-King Crown than a jewel-studded, gold-plated, plantinum-trimmed grave-robber’s dream.

Again, it's not a huge deal. The competition should still be just as fierce, and I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere and see how everything unfolds.

November 13, 2007

The CGS released more information for the World Finals, taking place from December 6th to December 14th in Culver City, California. For everybody interested, here’s the raw information.


December 6th:

- Press Conference (woo-hoo?)
- Rio Sinistro vs. Birmingham Salvo (First Round, Match 1)
- Sydney Underground vs. Stockholm Magnetik (First Round, Match 2)

December 7th:

- Carolina Core vs. Seoul Jinwha (First Round, Match 1)
- Mexico City Furia vs. Wuhan Dragon (First Round, Match 2)

December 8th:

- WoW: Burning Crusade Tournament (webcast on
- Individual Competitions for CGS Games(webcast on

December 10th:

-Quarterfinals, Day 1

December 11th:

-Quarterfinals, Day 2

December 13th:


December 14th:


*Note – December 9th and December 12th appear to be off days.

Prize Breakdowns

Team World Finals (a.k.a The Big One)

1st: $500,000
2nd: $150,000
3rd-4th: $70,000
5th-8th: $30,000
9th-12th: $15,000

MVP: $25,000

Individual World Finals (Side Tournaments)

1st DoA 4 Female: $5,000
1st Doa 4 Male: $5,000
1st PGR: $10,000
1st FIFA 07: $5,000
1st Source: $25,000

(Note: this works out to $5,000 per player for all the individual competitions.)

WoW: BC (2v2)

1st: $30,000 ($15,000 per player)

They released the World Finals bracket, as well, which I’ve put up and added to the sidebar. I’ll be commenting on the release shortly, but I wanted to get the info out for everybody first.

November 10, 2007

This might be a little esoteric on my part, but I hope people remember the old PC game called “Theme Park”. You can figure out the basic idea from the title, but the beauty was in the little details. You could build a roller-coaster, except people will literally fly off if it was too jarring. Or they’d get sick and vomit all over the walkway. I assure you, searching frantically for the nearest janitor to clean up “the mess” (while all your other patrons walked by and kept saying “ewwwww”) never got old. Never.

(Plus, who wouldn’t fall in love a game with a facility named the “Boggy Crapper”?)

One of my most vivid memories of Theme Park was the worker strikes. If you were a dastardly owner looking to squeeze out every buck from your park, you could pay your mechanics, entertainers, and janitors like they were the newest group of indentured servants. Well, for a little while anyway, because the computer simply wouldn’t stand it for long. They’d marshal their forces and march their pixilated bodies right out of your park. And if you thought searching frantically for a janitor after one person vomited was bad, wait until one turns into ten and there’s nary a mop to be found.

This is the smug smile of a man that knows you'll come crawling back when the "ewww" hits the fan, so to speak.

During the “please come back to work, I can’t stand the ewwwww anymore” negotiations, each side was represented by a hand on either side of the screen. Offering more money would move your hand towards the center. They would reciprocate. If you moved too slowly, they’d retract their hand. I had way too many strikes where we could never meet in the middle, which meant the inflatable snake ride would have to stay on the verge of bursting into flames for at least another week.

Why am I talking about Theme Park so much? Because I can’t think of a better, more simplistic image for the CPL mess than two hands, one from the CPL, one from the CS community, slowly drawing away from each other.

Where they’ll stop is anybody’s guess. The G7 doesn’t need the CPL. The members are already established organizations, and they’re either in the CGS or doing just fine winning 1.6 LANs in Europe, along with events like WCG and ESWC. And the CPL doesn’t need the G7. In fact, it’d be stunning if they focused on Counter-Strike in the future, even if all the top teams attended. They still don’t have the broadcast rights for Source, and with the recent trend of smaller CS tournaments and a bigger focus on other games (F.E.A.R., World in Conflict, Halo 3), it seems like the traditional platform is on its way out.

But lost in the back-and-forth between the G7 and the CPL is, you, me, and everybody else. They're throwing thinly veiled insults at each other, and we're left out to dry. At least eSports has one thing in common with professional sports: the fans are real losers when teams and organizations don't get along.

It’s even worse in eSports because everything revolves around the top few teams. If they don’t show up, sponsors are less interested. They’re trying to reach the gamers, and the best way to do that is through the popular organizations. Top sponors and top teams go hand-in-hand, and when one is missing, so is the other. It shows in a variety of ways, from smaller prize pots and smaller venues to less swag and less media coverage. Or, in other words, when the G7 announces they’re boycotting the CPL, it’s not because they’re doing the community a favor. Their abscense makes the CPL worse for everybody else.

Which is weird, considering they’re not doing themselves any favors, either. Their goal is to get any outstanding money paid out, but does anybody think this is the way to do it? Boycotting the CPL, and doing so with a public announcement, is an attack. I don’t know about everybody else, but when somebody is attacking me, that’s the time I’m least likely to go out of my way to help them. As a general rule in life, when people feel like they’re being attacked, they get defensive. You can see that happening already in the CPL’s response, which is basically a defense of their policies/history, and a jab at the motivations of the G7. This wasn’t the best way to get the money paid out.

The easiest way to sum up the inconsistencies is to look at the G7’s own words, though. The third paragraph in their announcement started with “To grow eSports worldwide, all parties including leagues and tournaments shall need to work together.” I completely agree with this. I just don’t know where a boycott possibly fits into that sentence.

But wait, there’s more! There are two sides to this debacle, and the CPL has more than their fair share of blame.  I suppose it’s easiest to start with the blatant arrogance and sense of entitlement. Here’s part of the CPL’s reaction to the G7:

“We are saddened that two teams that were made famous and somewhat financially independent by competitions and cash prizes at the CPL have engaged in this type of action for reasons we are told are less honorable than “representing the community.”

For the CPL to say anything like that just blows my mind. The CPL didn’t make those teams famous, the teams did it themselves with hard work, talent, and dedication. If Einstein had studied under the CPL, I think we might have ended up with Munoz’s Theory of Relativity. And not only that, but it’s a two-way street. Any uptick in popularity those teams got was paid in full by lending that same popularity back to the CPL by attending events. I can't stress enough how patently ridiculous I think that statement is.

Munoz's Theory of Relativity states that the CPL is relatively more important than gamers.

The sad thing is the sentiment isn’t even that surprising. It’s not the first time comments of that ilk have popped up, and the higher up you go in the community (to pro players, media, league admins, etc), the more likely you are to find people that feel the CPL is arrogant and doesn’t care about gamers.

I can’t possibly fathom why people would think that. It’s not like the CPL cuts the prize money in half after people have already registered, or anything like that. And surely it can’t be the feeling that they aren’t acting in good faith with the payouts. I mean, who really cares about money, anyway? Gamers don’t routinely drop hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in travel, registration, and lodging with no hope of making all of it back.

(I hope you had your sarcasm detectors properly calibrated for that last paragraph. It should have read as “Dripping”, if you want to check.)

The CPL saw this coming. They knew the G7 was threatening to boycott, and I can’t believe they let it come to that. The one thing a tournament absolutely, positively, cannot have is questions about their integrity and payouts. There are a lot of roughly equivalent transgressions: getting caught using steroids in baseball, hacking in CAL-I/CEVO-P, or even the Patriots “Spy Gate” – basically, any event where you’re breaking the public’s trust. The backlash is so severe you have to avoid it at all costs. You can have a poorly run tournament, and people will come back. You can have crappy sponsors, and no swag. You can even have a twenty-degree BYOC, outrageously expensive hotel rooms, and no food within five miles. Those are all survivable. But you cannot, under any circumstances, become the Milli Vanilli of eSports. You don’t come back from that.

There’s only one question I have left for both the G7 and the CPL: who is missing what? This whole situation would be a lot clearer if somebody told us any specific details. All we know right now is that the G7 has had problems getting the CPL to pay out money, and it may be related to the G7’s program to help smaller teams get money they’re owed. But is the CPL missing a $1,500 payment to “Joe Blow’s Schmoes” from the 2003 Winter event? Or is SK.swe missing their first place winnings from 2005? Did {JBS} complete all the forms properly and on time? Was there “user” error that the CPL was aware of, but is now hiding behind some kind of technicality?

There are so many questions regarding the specific details, and that stuff matters. And quite frankly, given the current actions of both entities, I’m not sure I trust either to deliver an unbiased, blow-by-blow recap of exactly what’s happened up to this point.

Which brings me to the last point: to me, this is the latest example of eSports’ dire need for a player’s association. Somebody, anybody, has to look out for the players, and not just the elite players in the CGS, or the members of the G7, or top 1.6 teams. We need an organization that looks out for every e-Tom, cyber-Dick, and online-Harry, by making sure they’re paid prize money, that competitors know exactly what forms to fill out and when they have to be filed, and carrying out grievances when necessary.

The teams shouldn’t, and can’t, handle it themselves. When a competition doesn’t pay out money, or there’s some kind of miscommunication, people take it personally. They get frustrated, and it’s a perfectly normal reaction. But there needs to be a cool head at the negotiating table, because anger begets anger, and problems escalate instead of being diffused. I have to wonder how things would be different if there was a third party working between the CPL and the G7, relaying messages and making sure each side understood the exact positions, concerns, and goals of both parties.

We don’t have that, and it looks like both sides are getting more entrenched. And the players have a right to be angry. I’d feel the same way if I was in their position and not being paid fairly. Just like the Theme Park workers, it’s their right to strike/boycott. But now both sides are pulling their hands back from the negotiating table instead of meeting in the middle. The problem is that no matter what happens, they’re not the big losers. The big losers are the people that are waiting in line for a broken down ride, and being greeted by vomit on the way out.

Angel Munoz, CPL, G7

November 6, 2007

I’m a huge fan of Spider Solitaire. It’s one of those lame (but fun!) games that come with Windows, along with FreeCell, regular Solitaire, and the undisputed king of quick, mindless games: Minesweeper.

Even though the game is based heavily on luck, I’ve got talent. I’ve figured out all the tricks. I place the appropriate values on turning over new cards, and emptying one column to get card flexibility. I even have an uncanny ability to realize when the game is winnable despite looking hopeless. It’s safe to say that if CAL had a spider solitaire division, I’d be in Invite. In fact, I think you could call me the Ksharp of Spider Solitaire. Or KoSS, for short.

I'm not saying that minesweeper doesn't take talent ... but counting isn't exactly a high-level endeavor.

Sadly for me, this talent doesn’t do me a lot of good. Nobody is pushing me to get better. Even if there was, there isn’t really any point. There’s still no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if I find a new trick, or make better moves. The system (or lack of one) is holding me back.

Now that I think about it, it’s kinda funny – my Spider Solitaire career has the same problems as Vanessa’s CGS career.

One of those is a much bigger problem than the other, though, and I think you know which.

It’d be one thing if she couldn’t compete at the highest level. We’d have to accept that and move on. But it’s clear that she’s better than everybody else in the CGS’s DoA Female division. The 60-8 Rounds For/Rounds Against split is a good indicator. So is the 12-0 record, and the fact that only one person managed to get three rounds on her. For the mathematically disinclined, outside of that match, she had a 55-5 round split, which means she basically alternated between winning 5-0 and 5-1 (on average). And, like a good salesman, I’ll even give you some free, extra information: she’s already proven she can hang with the boys by beating Master (8-4, #2 in the DoA Male division) in the 2007 WCG Pan-American Championship.

In short, she doesn’t have to prove whether she’s one of the best DoA 4 players, regardless of gender. The only problem is figuring out how high she can go.

That’s part of the beauty of sports, too – have talent, will travel. In real life, talent and skill aren’t enough to get you most places. There has to be opportunity, too. Just ask anybody with a college degree that can’t get a job in their field. Talent doesn't create opportunity in the job market, but it does in competition. If you’re talented, and you’ve got the dedication, that’s all you need. Jackie Robinson did it, and so did Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka, on a smaller scale. They got noticed regardless of the color of their skin, where they played, or the fact that the Boston Red Sox had to pay $50 million just to talk to Daisuke about a contract. Talent is at a premium, and owners don’t care if you’re purple, worship the devil, and cross-dress in your free-time as long as you can hit .330 with runners in scoring position. Although, to be fair, if you do those things, Boston might only pay $40 million to talk to you.

Daisuke, showing the fans that, sadly, he doesn't have any money under his hat.

I don’t know if Vanessa will ever get that chance, because the gender separation is so accepted and institutionalized in eSports. The thought that girls are worse at games than guys is dogma to the point that tournament organizers and leagues have gender segregated competitions. That’s not a problem as long as the stereotype holds – which they never do. Sometime, somewhere, somebody will break the mold. And now that she’s here, what do we do with her? Let the system hold her back, and never find out if she can take home the title of “Best DoA Player”?

No, I think that’s the worst option. It completely betrays the spirit of competition. The whole point of playing these games is to figure out who the best players are and watch them perform. That goes double for the CGS, which is charged with revolutionizing the industry and taking it mainstream. It won’t happen without the best players.

The only other option besides holding her back is completely reworking the DoA portion of the CGS. They can’t just give the Optx the option to play her against the guys, because they’d be crazy to do it due to the scoring system. Why put her in the Men’s division and get an 8-4 record when she can go 12-0 in the Women’s division and get more points? The Optx shouldn’t move her voluntarily, because their goal is to win. The only other option for the CGS is to force San Francisco to move her, and that’s not going to happen. And if the CGS doesn’t force them, and the Optx won’t do it voluntarily, there aren’t many options left under the current system, which means the system might need to be changed.

That might not be a bad thing, considering that it’s better for the CGS if she’s playing with the guys. Michelle Wie was all over the sports news, and she couldn’t even make a cut on the PGA Tour. How big would the story be if Wie was in contention to win a title? Vanessa has already proven she can do that. And in competitive gaming, where publicity is like finding water in the desert, we could use as many big stories as we can get. In a sport dominated by males, with the stereotype being even worse than the reality, having a girl gamer be the #1 pick and competing against the guys for a title would be a huge story.

It's better for the fans, too. Watching her play against Master, OffbeatNinja, and Black Mamba would be infinitely more entertaining than watching her win 5-1 against opponents of the same caliber she faced this year. To be fair, I’m sure the other players will improve. They have talent. The problem is that Vanessa could just as easily improve, too, especially if she gets pushed by people that are better than her.

In essence, I don’t see any downside. And sadly, I still don't think that's enough to make it happen, because of the reasons mentioned above.

For me, it comes down to this: after the first season, we can safely call her the best female DoA 4 player. But that’s not a title, that’s a concession. It’s like calling Michael Jordan the best shooting guard the Bulls have ever had, or calling Steve Nash the best white point guard. They can all make bigger claims than that – for Vanessa, namely “Best DoA 4 player, regardless of gender”.

Could she do it? I have no idea. But I’d like to watch her try, and shouldn’t she at least have the chance?

November 1, 2007

I saw an article on GotFrag a week ago that I was excited to read. That’s noteworthy, because most of the time their coverage is excellent, but their commentary is lacking. This, however, was definitely commentary: it was a piece about whether compLexity made the right choice by joining the CGS.

Unfortunately, the article didn’t do it for me. It was a great idea, and one I had considered writing about before, but it wasn’t satisfying. Judging by the comments, a lot of people shared that opinion. I’m here to give it another shot:

Did coL make the right decision by joining the CGS?

The Benjamins? With coL's record, we should start calling them fRoDamins.

Let’s take a look at GotFrag’s original numbers (these are approximations): coL’s 2006 earnings, coL’s 2007 earnings while in the CGS, and their projected 2007 earnings if they didn’t join the CGS.

2006: $160,000
2007(CGS): $40,000
2007 (No CGS): $270,000

2007 Difference: $230,000

Issue One: Salary

Salary was mentioned in the article, but left out of the numbers. coL had a deal on the table for a “similar” salary from an unnamed company, providing they didn’t join the CGS. This leaves us with a couple issues.

First, we might as well add the salaries in. There’s no reason to leave them out other than to have the shock value of “$40,000” staring us in the face. But, to do that, we need to estimate how “similar” that offered salary would be. Is it $20,000-similar? $40,000-similar? The article didn’t provide any clues. I’ll place it at $22,500 per person – I can't seem them offering more than the CGS, and I’d guess "similar" qualifies for something between $20k-$25k. We'll split the difference.

Here are the numbers with salary:

2006: $160,000
2007 (CGS): $190,000
2007 (No CGS): $382,500

Difference: $192,500

Issue Two: The CGS Number

Unfortunately, the CGS number isn’t even accurate. There’s going to be an individual games section at the World Finals, and coL’s Source team is invited. coL fans will be relieved to note that they'll win money on their own merit, and not have to worry about Belle, sWooZie, or anybody else.

There isn’t much information available about the tournament, but we know the CGS likes to do things big. The CHImera got a $100,000 team bonus for winning Region 1. The World Finals are going to be a much bigger stage than the Regional Finals. For more reference, the CPL is giving out $50k for their Source tournament. I can’t see the CGS offering less than that, can you? I think a $100k tournament is more likely, but let’s split the difference, again, to be safe. A $75,000 tournament, with a $40,000/$20,000/$10,000/$5,000 split for first through fourth place.

So, how much do we give them?

The rest of the world hasn’t embraced Source like North America has. Some top teams like SK.swe, fnatic, and PGS haven’t switched, and the ones that have and joined the CGS (MiBR, for one) came late to the game. You have to like coL’s chances going in. I’m going to give them an expected return of $30,000. If they played the tournament 100 times, that would be their average prize winnings.

Difference: $162,500

Issue Three: The Non-CGS Number

Here’s where the article was really skewed, in my opinion. There wasn’t any consideration for the schedule or the prize money. The original number of $270,000 was reached by adding the first-place prizes for all the tournaments. That’s kind of GotFrag, but coL isn’t going to win every tournament. It’s just not going to happen. And more than that, they’re not even going to go to some of them.

Even though the original article was dependent on coL playing Source and 1.6, it’s time to drop the charade: they’re not playing Source. The only two Source tournaments listed in GotFrag’s article were the PNY March Madness and Digital Life. The PNY tournament pays $2,000 for first place, and it’s during Gamegune (1.6), which pays  $17,000 for first place and is hosted in Spain. Goodbye, PNY.

The other Source competition, Digital Life, is right before the WCG Finals, which is 1.6. You think they’re going to prepare for, and attend, a Source tournament that pays $10k for first place, when they have to turn around and play 1.6 for a $55k first place prize a week later? Me, neither. You can’t just juggle 1.6 and Source like that. United 5 tried and stunk at both. JMC did the same. The game are similar enough to have a short transition, but different enough that playing them both hurts you in both. coL wouldn’t risk heading into one of the biggest tournaments of the year at anything less than 100%.

So, let’s just drop the Source parts of the schedule, and the prize money. It wasn’t going to happen. That brings our difference to $150,500.

Sadly, even without those two tournaments, their schedule is unrealistic in October. Here’s a rundown of the tournaments coL would have entered (with their location), arranged by date.

February 16th-18th: SHGOpen (Denmark)
March 17th: Gamegune (Spain)
June 15th-18th: WSVG Louisville
July 5th-8th: ESWC (Paris)
August 12th: eStars (China)
October 3rd-7th: WCG Finals (Seattle)
October 18th-21st: ESL Extreme Masters (Los Angeles)
October 27th-28th: Kode5 (Holland)
November 29th-December 2nd: Dreamhack Winter (Sweden)

This is assuming, of course, that they don’t take any kind of break, and their sponsor covers all their travel expenses. The GotFrag article was unclear on expenses, as well; the sponsorship deal that coL was offered would have covered “travel to most if not all the events needed to win ~$270,000 in prizes this year.” When your trips include Denmark, Spain, Paris, China, Holland, and Sweden, “most” might not be good enough.

It's all fun and games until he rotates his head and starts drooling on your shoulder.

But we have literally no way of knowning what they'd cover, and I can't even begin to hazard a guess. S, leaving that alone, does anybody think they’d be able to keep the schedule listed above, while winning every tournament? I don't. There’s still way too much talent overseas to say that with confidence, and that schedule is absolutely brutal.

In the interest of playing devil’s advocate, I’m going to assume a month is enough time to recover from a trip. And when you’re making a trip every month, that’s a huge assumption. Burnout is going to become a factor, as are family obligations, birthdays, emergencies, time off, and a general hatred for tiny airplane seats with sweaty, stinky, drooling neighbors.

Basically, one of those October tournaments is getting knocked off. If they’re not in the CGS, they’re not living in LA, which means they’ll be flying to the west coast twice in the span of three weeks, and then leaving for Holland a couple days after they get back. Or, they could choose to not travel to Holland. Luckily, Kode5 and the ESL pay $25k for first place, so no matter which they choose, they’ll lose out on the same amount. This is assuming they won’t skip the WCG, which is a safe assumption considering the size of the event.

Difference: $125,500

Now, for the last change. It’s not enough to simply assume coL is going to win everything. I’m going to make a simple change in the prize money. I’m going to average first and second place for all the tournaments, just like I did before, and give that as coL’s “expected” earnings. There’s no way to accurately judge how they’d do, and this is a simple but fast way to get a better idea of how much money they might, realistically, win.

The adjusted (and rounded) prize money for the tournaments are as follows:

SHGOpen: $18,000
GameGune: $12,500
eStars: $17,500
ESWC: $32,000
WCG: $40,000
WSVG: $11,250
ESL Extreme Masters (or Kode5): $17,500
Dreamhack Winter: $12,500

That gives us a total of $161,250. Coincidentally, that’s almost exactly what they earned in 2006. Overall, this brings the numbers to:

2006: $160,000
2007 (CGS): $220,000 ($40k, CGS salary, $30k from the CGS individual games)
2007 (Non-CGS): $273,750 ($161k in earnings, $112k in salary, $0 in travel expenses)

Difference: $53,750

That’s down from the original difference of $230,000. It looks a lot different now, doesn’t it? And I think my numbers are still generous. Could coL finish top-2 at every event they entered? Everything in eSports history tells us “no”. There’s at least one disappointing tournament result every year for a big team, and a number of surprising finishes for “lesser” teams. coL finished 7-8th in the WSVG Finals in 2006, but 3D and Pandemic took second and fourth, respectively. Strange things happen all the time when you add international teams into the mix.

What if coL has a bad WCG, and don’t place top-3? Now the difference is only $13,750, with that brutal travel schedule.

Or, what if they get (gasp!) third place at WCG and ESWC? That would chop off $45k from my expected payouts, which leaves us only $8,750 ahead of the CGS money.

Or, conversely, if they end up winning $50k in the CGS, that would add $20,000 over my expected return, and if you combine that with a third place at WCG, it’s only $8,750 again.


There are two fatal flaws I see in all of this.

The first is somewhat obvious: when dealing with projected numbers, it’s easy to skew them to whatever purpose suits your argument. I’ve tried to be unbiased, but as a person, I’m sure that’s impossible.

In fact, I think I might have been too generous. If I really wanted to make coL look smart for choosing the CGS, I’d give them a less hectic schedule, mention the history of American teams vs. international teams (poor, at best), and note that they don’t have any experience playing against those teams with this lineup. Those are all perfectly valid arguments. We can’t just hand them the #1 spot in the world without seeing them play, right?

Basically, comparing possible results with actual results is just unfair. If you compared the potential earnings at the start of the CGS season, they would have been absolutely stupid not to join. The money they could have won in the CGS is still far, far higher than the money they could have won outside of it. That’s comparing potential vs. potential. And, obviously, we can’t compare results against results, unless you know of a way to look into alternate dimensions. (Which, if you did, you wouldn't waste on eSports.)

The second flaw is more subtle, but also more important: prize winnings aren’t enough to determine whether they made the right choice. Would they be happier with more money? With that schedule, maybe not. They might have more opportunities, like marketing chances, or meeting people in “high” places, with the CGS. Maybe they place more value on trying to help the CGS grow and advancing eSports than an extra $10,000 in their pockets – if they’re even convinced they could have mademore money outside the league.

For me, it comes down to this: the last sentence of the article says, “Ronald ‘Rambo’ Kim’s year instead has been sacrificed for the future success of CGS.” I’d respond to that with two questions:

Isn’t it up to him to decide where the grass is greener? And isn’t the future of the CGS worth sacrificing for?

CGS, coL