December 31, 2007

A couple weeks ago, the GGL Wire’s Michal “Carmac” Blicharz wrote about his disappointment in the CGS World Finals, comparing it (unfavorably) to Pamela Anderson's, uh ... assets. I had the unfortunate luck of finding the article through the GotFrag forums, which means I was reading yet another “CGS SUX” thread. They seem to breed on GotFrag like some kind of antibiotic-resistant staph infection. Sadly, there’s no cure for hyperbole and overreactions.

(Note: I don’t know about anybody else, but the Spam/Fragged system they implemented just isn’t getting it done. I’m clicking “SPAM” forty-nine times on every page of fifty comments, just to get rid of all the stupidity, and I’d like to get paid if I’m going to be a GotFrag moderator. Plus, every time I turn an eight page thread into five useful comments, my faith in humanity dies a little more.)

Thankfully, the article was better than the forum posts.


"Pam this, Pam that. Don't you know I'm a huge star in Germany? It's true! Look it up!"

Carmac’s main complaint about the CGS World Finals was the artificial nature of the production.  He mentioned the cheering rehearsals, orchestrated player movements, and multiple takes for some of the opening shots. I was there, and I can verify that these things do happen. The directors do tell the audience when to cheer, they do tell players where to stand, and there were some mistakes during the pre-recorded intros.

He’s got a valid point, because I can see how people would be put off the any of the rehearsed aspects. But, I’m going to disagree with the urgency in his tone, and if we look a little deeper, I don’t think the situation is as bad as it seems.

For instance, the audience had cheering rehearsals, but it wasn’t for the games. It was for the intro before they “tossed it up” to ReDeYe and Fatal1ty in the booth. That was pre-recorded every night, about 30 minutes before the show actually went live. But it’s important to know the audience wasn’t a bunch of robots. When something exciting was happening, they didn’t need a director to tell them to get louder. Every time a DoA round came down to the last piece of health, the crowd noise swelled on its own. Same goes for big goals in FIFA, or a down-to-the-wire race in PGR.

Did they need instructing at the start? Yes, and once the cameras started rolling and the action was live, they knew what to do intuitively.

The second point was about the players becoming props, but I want to take a step back and analyze the situation in general (we’ll get back to the players in a bit). He’s certainly not the only person in the community that feels the CGS isn’t genuine enough.

So, is the CGS too fake?

In a word: No.

Let me illustrate with a quick story. I’m a huge fan of the West Wing, and one of the early episodes dealt with the drama of a producer notorious for gratuitous sex and violence. The President was supposed to attend one of his fund-raisers, which would obviously raise political problems while there are people, essentially, picketing outside the evil director’s house.

It led to a great exchange (one of many in the series) where they essentially concluded that the problem with the movies wasn’t the sex or the violence, it’s that the movies themselves were terrible. They flat-out stunk. The counter-example they used was The Godfather; how many complaints do you hear about the violence in that movie? It’s lauded as one of the best movies in history.

Basically, the problem isn’t that parts of the CGS are produced or staged. The problem is that you can tell they’re forced, sometimes. If it was seamless and blended into the action, it wouldn’t be a problem.

There’s a lot of evidence for that thought, because we see “fake” things have huge success: Reality television, for instance. I’m sure we’d all love to believe that people are really that crazy. It makes me feel more secure about my own sanity and worth as a human being.  Sadly, I’m sure producers have a heavy hand in artificially creating drama through selecting material and even making suggestions to cast members, and I think you’re fooling yourself if you think anything else.

Getting back to the players, let’s look at poker. Phil Hellmuth’s image was cultivated, just like Peekay’s. Ditto for Mike Matusow. All of them play the “bad guy” that everybody loves to hate. It’s no secret that the producers or creators of the shows like the drama and defiance that each person brings to the table. They’re not going to turn an angel into a demon, but they might take a demonic quality or two and make sure to emphasize it. “Real” sports don’t have the same problems, but the CGS is also creating a show, just like ESPN did with the World Series of Poker.

None of this means that I like the produced aspects. I’d prefer competitive gaming to be popular enough to have real fans that have season tickets, and don't need coaching.Who wouldn’t want to go to a stadium (or at least a gym) filled with screaming eSports nuts and six shirtless guys each with a letter of "KSHARP" on their chest in blue body paint? Well, Ksharp might not want to see that, but everybody else probably wouldn't mind.

I just don’t think the forced aspects of the production are the hole in the hull that will let the seawater in. As a culture, I think we want the villains to be larger than life – Evil personified, like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. And our heroes have to get the girl at the end, even though real life doesn’t work that way.  The only problem comes when it’s done poorly and we see the hands that pull the strings; the image is shattered and people get upset. For the most part, there are fake things all around us (especially in entertainment), and people don’t mind as long as they get lost in the illusion.

The perfect example of that is a continuation of Carmac’s analogy. He said that the CGS equals Pamela Anderson’s chest. But her inhuman curves were part of what made her, not to mention Baywatch, so popular. Anderson played a regular role in adolescent fantasies for a whole generation of young men, and they didn’t care that her breasts were fake. It didn’t take away from people’s enjoyment of the show, it enhanced it.

Given the state of eSports, if the CGS trades cheer rehearsals and three-take team huddles for increased popularity and intrigue, all while keeping the action 100% clean and true, is that such a bad thing?


 

Originally, I wanted to make this list ten spots, just like the previous entry about Surprising Performances. I soon realized there was a big problem: not many people qualified for both “unsung” and “hero”. Unless you expand “unsung” to literally mean nobody has immortalized you in song. Even then, I think I caught some media members composing a love ballad about MonkeyKong.

Still, it had to be done, so I soldiered on. But the task was difficult. A “hero” has to have some semblance of a success, and moral victories don’t count. Thanks to the small number of matches, most teams went 1-1 or 0-1. It’s hard to pick out a hero from those teams.

For the teams that did excel, most of the good players had their praises constantly sung. Britney Spears would kill for all the positive press that Sam “RattlesnK” Gawn got. As a general rule, if you get more airtime and goodwill than Santa on Christmas Eve, you don’t qualify as “Unsung”.

And, naturally, that was hampered by my own article. Perhaps I should have released the Unsung Heroes before I started talking about all the surprising performances. Unfortunately, I’m not a good planner. And, even if I was, I’m not that smart.

So I had that working against me, too. And now that I’ve built up the difficulty of the task so it looks like a miracle if it’s more than two spots long, let’s get on with the show.

Honorable Mentions

Mirlet “Hitomi1” Delgadillo, DoA Female, Mexico City – Thanks to a first-round forfeit win over the Visa-less Wuhan Dragon, Mexico City only played one match. That ended up as a crushing 21-25 come-from-ahead loss, but Hitomi1 gets points in “unsung”. Lost in the near-miraculous Berlin victory was Hitomi1’s 5-0 win in DoA Female for Mexico City, which was a large reason they had a commanding lead heading into the final game.

Birmingham PGR -- They were 2-1, and their one loss was a 3-6 defeat to Chicago. Sadly, that’s the most points Chicago gave up during the whole tournament. Yeah, those guys are scary good. The Salvo’s PGR duo got a little publicity, but I’m not sure if it was enough. They raced well all tournament.

Everybody not named Devour or sOnNy on Carolina Source -- The community makes a huge deal out of individual players like fRoD, Ksharp, devour, etc, and rightly so. They’re incredibly talented players. At the same time, Source is still a team game. You don’t need to look any farther than the difference between the records of fRoD’s LA squad and Ksharp’s New York team to realize that.

For Carolina, we know what devour brings to the table, and I praised sOnNy in my “Surprising Performances” article, but the other members deserve mention, too. Elusive, Daffsta, and Torrez weren’t chum for the sharks, they were predators themselves. I don’t think they played as consistently as sOnNy or were as dominating as devour, but two players can’t carry a team to a 4-0 record.

The List

5. Rostyslav “Manyna” Nedoviz, Berlin Allianz, FIFA

Manyna had three things working against him:

A) He competes in FIFA. Soccer seems to translate well from real-life into pixels. Considering how exciting soccer is to Americans, that might not be a good thing. Of the four games used in the CGS, it’s probably the least talked about.

B) Anomaly and Peekay were huge surprises in FIFA, so they got most of the press allotted to FIFA. They both went from Region 1 punchlines to leading a snappy CGS headline.

C) Berlin’s CS:Source team made the huge comeback against Mexico City, and everybody sort of forgot all the other games.

He has huge “unsung” points. I don’t remember anybody saying a single word about his performance during the tournament. That’s partly the fault of FIFA, considering it’s hard to accumulate points for your franchise. Pierce Brosnan would have an easier time scoring at a nunnery than these guys have playing FIFA.


Here's a gratuitous picture of a good-looking guy for all my female readers (both of you). Enjoy it while you can, it may be the last to appear on LD.

That’s probably an exaggeration, but it sure seems that way.

4. Jonas “nordQvist” Nordqvist, Berlin Allianz, CS:Source

We’re going straight from a person overlooked because of Berlin’s CS:S team to somebody that got overlooked on that same team.

I gave some props to Olander in the surprising performances, but nordQvist was absolutely huge in Berlin’s comeback win against the Mexico City Furia. His AWP was devastating at the start of the rounds when Berlin played CT side on Inferno. My notes for the match all started out the same way: “Pick by nord”. And no, I didn’t have time to add the Qvist in. I was typing very quickly.

Basically, he was single-handedly destroying whole strats. It’s hard to play Inferno’s T side, and it’s almost impossible to win round 4v5.

3. Everybody not named RattlesnK or Harriman on Birmingham Source

It’s not a coincidence that three of the entries are CS-related. It’s a lot easier to overlook somebody’s contribution when there are four other people playing the same game. You have to ignore a whole category to miss, say, Blackmamba. You only need to miss one aspect of a game to undervalue somebody like Mangiacapra, pT, or aDy.

Birmingham’s CS team was 3-0 in the tournament, and they accounted for twelve of the seventeen points in the Salvo’s loss to the Chicago Chimera. And, just like Carolina, two people don’t make a team. With RattlesnK and Harriman, it just seems like it.

2. Kat “Mystik” Gunn, Carolina Core, DoA Female

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Carolina’s most valuable DoA player during the World Finals. Offbeat’s struggles are well chronicled, but not many people outside the Carolina locker room seemed to pick up on Mystik’s dominating play. Providing, of course, Carolina actually had a locker room ... and their team was in it … and their fans … alright, that metaphor didn’t work out too well. Let’s move on.

I’m surprised she didn’t get more publicity. Through the Semi-Finals she was 3-0 with a +10 round difference. That included a huge 5-2 win after THE TACTICAL defeated Offbeat Ninja by the same score. It was a big lift for a team that saw their star go down hard, and obviously every round in Carolina's eventual 22-21 win was absolutely crucial.

The only thing missing from her resume was a championship. If Carolina had pulled out the last match, she probably would have taken the #1 spot on this list, providing she didn’t win the MVP (which wouldn’t have been out of the question). Of course, that didn’t happen, which left the door open for …

1. Marj “Kasumichan” Bartell, Chicago Chimera, DoA Female

How’s this for overlooked? Jeremy “Blackmamba” Florence was the MVP. Andrew “Anomaly” Brock’s surprising play was one of the most talked-about storylines from the CGS World Finals. And it’s humanly impossible to mention Chicago’s dominance without bringing up the PGR duo of JasonX and ch0mpr (see, I did it again). Collectively, they form the Three-Headed Obscurity Monster.

With three legitimately dominating players, it’s understandable that a fourth would get lost in the shuffle. Who cares about Rajon Rondo when you have KG, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen?

But still, you don’t want the seven-footer dribbling the ball up the court, if only to save him from the humiliation as a five-ten guy makes him look like he’s in slow-motion. The craziest thing about Kasumichan is that she wasn’t a role player, she was a legitimate star. Let’s take a look at the basic numbers:

Kasumichan: 15-3 (+4 points/game)
Blackmamba: 15-1 (+4.67 points/game)
Anomaly: 9-3 (+3 points/game)
PGR Duo: 22-5 (+5.67 point/game)

She slots in nicely ahead of Anomaly and behind JasonX/ch0mpr. And really, the difference between her and Blackmamba wasn’t that big in terms of points. Two points separated the MVP from LD’s Unsung Hero of the CGS World Finals. That’s not an indictment on the MVP choice, because Blackmamba was a great choice. It’s a comment on just how far Kasumichan’s performance flew under the radar.

And don’t worry Chicago fans, we’ve got more commentary on your players coming up in the Dominating Performances.


 

It is with great shame that I admit you're seeing the second iteration of this post. The first is sitting, nearly completed, on my computer. In my infinite wisdom, I decided not to transfer that file to my laptop, which I took with me for my holiday travels. My attention to detail is stunning.

It's even worse because there’s so much to talk about! I’m recapping my most Surprising Performances from the CGS World Finals, but I’ve also got Most Dominating and Unsung Heroes coming up. There's also this small tournament called the CPL going on. (Two years ago, "small" would have been obvious sarcasm. Now? Even I'm not sure if I was being sarcastic.) And of course, I'm sure somebody said something stupid on a forum and it will drive me into a posting frenzy (aZn, I’m looking at you).

I’ll probably even post on Christmas day in a desperate attempt to avoid interacting with my extended family. If my words sound strained in the next couple days, you know why.

But that’s all in the future. For now, we have the most surprising players and matches from the CGS World Finals.


Come back later, fatty, I have to finish my next post for LANDodger!

Honorable Mentions (No Particular Order):

Birmingham CS:S – For their utter domination (3-0, +4.67 rounds per match). The only thing holding them back from the top-10 is that their players have a history of being on top teams.

Carolina CS:S –They were 4-0, and got Carolina an average of 5.25 rounds per match. That means a DoA player could get shut-out 5-0, and Carolina (on average) would still win. That’s impressive.

Vanessa in the Itagaki Challenge – She looked tentative during the match, and most people expected a closer win for Offbeat, or even a Vanessa victory. The 2-5 result was pretty unexpected.

THE TACTICAL beating Offbeat Ninja – We’ll have more on Offbeat coming up, but by the time THE TACTICAL from the Berlin Allianz beat him, Offbeat was already proven mortal by losing to Tetra during the Individual Finals. It’s hard to be shocked by something when it happens twice in two days.

The List

10. XFX vs. coL Exhibition Match

Did this match remind anybody else of the Pro Bowl?

You have the established veterans that have nothing to gain by winning (compLexity). There’s no monetary reward, and there isn’t even pride on the line because the match means absolutely nothing. It’s a microscopic step above losing in practice.

Then you have the first-timers trying to make their mark (XFX). They have everything to prove, most notably that they belong. Who cares if Tom Brady and Randy Moss aren’t really trying? If you’re a first-time Pro Bowl Cornerback that can pick off a pass and return it for a TD on national television, it’s a huge boost in exposure. People remember your name, and when the popularity contest (aka the voting process) comes around next year, guess whose name sticks out a bit more?

It was pretty obvious from the start that coL didn’t really care, and XFX was going all-out. XFX players and managers were yelling and screaming after every round they won. The CGS could have recorded their reactions and broadcast it as the last match of the World Finals, and they would have fit right in. In fact, they were probably more vocal than Chicago during their Finals victory.

Meanwhile, for coL, I’m not sure anybody talked the whole match. The normally motivational Jason Lake wore a small path on the stage from pacing back and forth, but didn’t try too hard to pump up the troops. There was none of the screaming or cheering after big rounds. It was the polar opposite of XFX.

Don’t get me wrong, I think they were still trying, but there was no sense of urgency. It’s not that surprising that XFX won.

Then again, they’re still complexity, and I don’t think many people were betting on XFX to win. So it deserves a spot on the list, even if the game itself had nothing on the line.


In their defense, I'd have a hard time getting fired up for the game, too.

9. David “Olander” Olander-Presson, Berlin Allianz, Source

This could be a case of “the pond” interfering with a player’s recognition. I find it hard to believe that people in the UK Source scene, who see Olander play on a consistent basis, would find his play at the CGS World Finals surprising. It’d be like somebody that follows the US Source scene being shocked that Devour was pretty good. It’s obvious that both players are stars when you see them once or twice.

Still, I felt he was worth mentioning because his play was so dominant at times. On offense he struggled a little bit from what I remember, but that could be due to the fact that Inferno was played half the time, and everybody struggles on T side of Inferno.

When he was on defense, though, the only word that comes to mind is “wow”. He was a beast, to put it simply. If he got one kill in a round, it was a bad performance. He usually got two or three frags bunched together, totally destroying the opponent’s strat. It was a great performance, and one of the reasons Berlin’s Source team was able to make a huge comeback against the Mexico City Furia.

8. Chris “ChrisyB” Bullard, London Mint, FIFA

He certainly wasn’t the first victim of the changing face of eSports, but he might be the most prominent. As eSports becomes more popular, each win becomes more valuable. On a stage like the World Finals, you simply have to be prepared for your opponent.

In his match against Nicholas “Peekay” DePalmer (more on him later), it was obvious who was more prepared. Peekay won the information game, and it wasn’t even close. He studied his opponent’s play in earlier matches, learned his tendencies, and developed a strategy designed specifically to beat him. Anybody else think that’s a large reason why a player that amassed a 1-11 record during the regular season of Region 1 could beat the #1 pick of the European Draft, a highly regarded FIFA player?

The times are changing. Don’t get left behind.

7. Wilson “Tetra” Chia, Singapore Sword, DoA Male

Some players struggled in the spotlight, but Tetra wasn’t one of them. He took down Ryan “Offbeat Ninja” Ward, who is apparently good enough to have two nicknames – the second being “Mr. CGS”. Offbeat was heavily favored going into the DoA Male Individual Tournament, but Tetra came away with the trophy.

From watching the match, it seemed like his strategy had two key components: launches and humility. He continually threw Offbeat into the air, which allowed him to score combos as Ward slowly came back to Earth. I only hope that Offbeat got some frequent flier miles for his troubles.

Of course, after every round win, his manager would go progressively more nuts, while Tetra would just smile sheepishly like it was all luck. He was the only one that felt that way, though. He simply outplayed Offbeat during the match. I don’t know if I’d take him over Ward in a best-of-five series, but he got it done against a heavily-favored opponent, and he did it in style.

6. Sonny “sOnNy” Tran, Carolina Core, CS:Source

Ask ten people who Carolina’s best Source player is, and you’ll hear “Devour” nine times out of ten. The last person will say something snarky like “Samdemic” or “Chammalina Core”, which mean the same thing.

But he wasn’t their best player during the CGS World Finals. Sonny was just as dominating in his best moments, and he was more consistent. Devour disappeared during the Semi-Finals match, which didn't kill the Core thanks (in part) to Sonny’s play. The rest of the team did well in spurts, but Tran was a huge reason why Carolina’s team played as well as it did, and I don’t think anybody outside of Carolina expected them to play well if Devour wasn’t carrying them.

5. Volodymyr “Chud1k” Nedoviz, Stockholm Magnetik, FIFA

He’s one of my new favorite players, if only for the ridiculously cool name. You don't meet many people named Volodymyr, but it would be even better if he was royalty so we could call him Lord Volodymyr. Even without that, think of the other possibilities! We could call him V-ned (like A-Rod), Volo, Lody, Nedo, Voloviz. You don’t see many people with two v’s and a z in their name. We need to get somebody on this. Chud1k just doesn't do it for me.

Unfortunately, his play in the World Finals didn’t do much for me, either. He looked excellent in his first match against Sydney, but he promptly ran into Andrew “Anomaly” Brock, who we’ll be talking about a little later. His 1-4 loss to Brock was stunning. There’s no way a 4-1 victory is fluky. He just got outplayed, and considering Brock’s record during the Region 1 regular season (1-8 against people other than Peekay), it was a shocking upset.


This is the first-person view of Offbeat Ninja as he played Tetra. Soon, he will return back to Earth from a launch.

4. Ryan “Offbeat Ninja” Ward, Carolina Core, DoA Male

Here’s what Offbeat did during his biggest matches in the CGS:

Itagaki Challenge: 5-2 Win over Vanessa
Individual Finals: 3-5 Loss to Tetra
Semi-Finals: 2-5 Loss to THE TACTICAL
Finals: 1-5 Loss to Blackmamba

For those of you scoring at home, that’s one round in the Semi-Finals and Finals for every hit that A-Rod gets in his yearly postseason appearance. Not good.

When we call a player the “anchor” of a team, we mean that when the seas get rough, that person keeps you stabilized. Unfortunately, sometimes a player can just be deadweight like an anchor. Your team is moving along swimmingly, and all of a sudden the anchor is sabotaging your forward movement. For instance, we could call Jamie Lynn Spears the anchor for abstinence.

Offbeat was the good kind of anchor for the Region 1 regular season and the start of the CGS World Finals. And he’ll probably get back to that next season. But during some of the most important matches, he was the bad kind of anchor.

3. Stockholm Magnetik losing 9-34 to Chicago

When you set a record for the most feeble offense in history, you’re going to end up on a list or two like this. It’s not totally their fault considering Chicago looks like a combination of the New England Patriots and the 1985 Chicago Bears. And the only difference between Stockholm’s performance and Carolina’s respectable showing in the Finals was Source. The Core’s team won big, and Stockholm’s Source team got rolled. The rest of the games were equally lopsided.

Still, nine points! Nine Freakin Points! And one of those was guaranteed, because you can’t get shut out in PGR.

Eight points!

That’s all I have to say about that.

2. Berlin’s Comeback against Mexico City

Mexico City was up 17-11 going into the last game in their match against the Berlin Allianz. All they need to do was escape CS:Source with a 7-11 loss and they’d advance to the next round. A 6-12 loss would result in a tie. And after a 4-14 debacle, they were heading home.

What makes it worse is the match was on Inferno, which is so CT-sided that you can usually bank on 5 rounds on defense. It’s like betting on Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or Britney Spears to do something crazy on New Year’s Eve. It’s a mortal lock. 

But somehow, Mexico City just couldn’t hold it together. They’d get a pick, and lose the round. Olander would destroy their whole strats at the B site. nordQvist was picking them with ease. It was a complete disaster. You could feel the game slipping away from Mexico City, and nobody stepped up.

The whole audience was in shock, to say nothing of the players and managers. When you completely surprise the people rooting for you, including your GM, you get a guaranteed spot on the “Most Surprising” list.

1. US FIFA Players

I mentioned Andrew “Anomaly” Brock and Nicholas “Peekay” DePalmer in the earlier FIFA matches, and they have to be the clear number one. Nobody else even came close.

If you exclude matches against each other, they were 2-16 during the Regular Season. I’m a big fan of looking at numbers and trying to see a counter-argument, like “Team A wasn’t that bad, despite their record, because … “. I’m pretty sure that no matter how you look at 2-16, you end up with “bad”. You might end up with various shades of it, but you can only sugarcoat it so much.

Thankfully, “bad” isn’t a permanent condition. People learn and get better. Or they take performance enhancing drugs. And although Anomaly was wearing a size ten hat and got into a fight with a mirror because he thought somebody was looking at him funny, they obviously worked hard to improve.

Of the two, Anomaly was the better player. He was 3-0 with a 9-3 Goals For/Against split, and he defeated Peekay 2-1 in the Finals. That was actually his closest match, even though he was up 2-0 for a large portion of the game.

Peekay wasn’t quite as good. He went 1-2 in matches, excluding the loss to Anomaly. One of those was an overtime loss, and one was the overtime win against ChrisyB. Given his record and reputation, it was still a huge shock despite the less than sterling record. Let’s face it, most people viewed Peekay’s unfailing confidence the same way you’d view a third grade classmate’s promise of becoming President someday – provided that classmate ate paste, was considered mildly retarded, and had a tenuous grasp on the English language. Now imagine your surprise when that came true.

(For democrats, that might hit a little close to home.)

The only thing more improbable than Anomaly and Peekay playing well would have been Peekay and Carolina being cheered. Actually, the only thing more improbable would be me posting more than twice a week.

Prepare yourselves for more surprises!


 
December 17, 2007

I took notes during every match for the CGS World Finals, and I never thought of doing a running diary. It was a serious oversight on my part, especially considering it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Thankfully, I rectified it before everything was over. I only wish it was a little longer – a true running diary goes until my fingers fall off. But, sadly, the World Finals match didn’t last that long.

Enjoy!

6:10: – The stage announcer just told the audience “You’re going to applaud like Sanjaya was singing you a love song.” So, they’re not going to applaud at all? They’re going to run away, screaming in horror?

6:11 – Bowling for Soup’s song “1985” just came on over the speakers. Does that mean we’re playing Pong tonight?

6:15 – Seriously though, I think we’ve heard one song that didn’t go out of style at least four years ago.

6:19 – One of the guys took over the running diary while I was getting a drink. I'm comforted by the fact that we don't have internet, and any damage will be contained.

6:19 – On second thought, the lack of internet is also a continuing source of anger. Much anger.

6:21 – You'll be relieved to know the 1980's hip–hop mix continues, providing us with constant amusement.

6:22 – Is "Hey Ya" officially the most overplayed song, now? It has to be the second most popular song in history, trailing only "Happy Birthday"

6:23 – How long does it take for a song to fade out of consciousness? Twenty years? Thirty? Ever?

6:29 – The CGS brings up Carolina’s 1–point loss during the Region 1 Finals for the 8,323,892 time. That’s gotta be a little annoying. Isn’t that like breaking up with an extremely hot girl, and having your buddies ask where she is every two days? Talk about reopening the wound.

6:34 – One of the media guys is suggestively dancing next to me. I can't focus.

6:42 – I've solicited predictions from the people sitting around me, and we've got two votes for Chicago, one for Carolina, and the British guy voted for Birmingham. He heard a rumor that ch0mpr and Andy Pettitte have the same conditioning coach, and he’s hoping for a PED bust.

6:45 – Heaton enters the crowd looking like he just got back from killing old Yeller. That’s what a 9–point effort will do to you, I guess.

6:50 – They had some kids doing a dance contest on stage before the game started. Is it a bad sign for society that a 10 year old knows how to grind?

6:57 – I'm getting nervous. Why am I getting nervous? All I have to do is sit up here and make fun of people. At this rate, I'll be having a heart attack by the second game. Not good.

7:04 – We’ve added the predictions from various eSports luminaries; Chicago leads 5–4.

7:13 – Mystik is getting a beatdown. That’s a horrible sign for Carolina; she’s been their most consistent player so far.

7:15 – One thing I don't understand about DoA: How can one player pull off a perfect round in the middle of losing the match 5–1?  It’s completely bizarre. It's like driving, the engine falling out of the car, and then promptly reinserting itself sixty seconds later.

7:18 – Peekay gets booed during his introduction, as usual. If eSports continues to succeed, he might surpass Barry Bonds’ All–Time Jeers record.

7:22 – By the way, how appropriate is it to have a guy named "peekay" playing soccer? PK? Penalty kick? It’s like Ichiro calling himself “Batting Average” when he was five years old and hadn’t played a single game of baseball.

7:24 – I don't understand this offsides thing works in FIFA. They even have helpful diagrams with lines and everything. Doesn’t do any good. It seems random to me.

7:28 – After more questionable calls, I'm beginning to think even virtual referees are crooked.

7:34 – Hey everybody, it’s Andy Reif! Good to see he’s fulfilling his contractual obligation to Pepsi by holding a can during his interview.

7:35 – Do you think the PepsiCo people are upset that the commissioner’s fingers are in the way of the Pepsi logo on the can? I think somebody’s sending an angry e–mail as I type this.

7:36 – Seriously though, the product placement is ridiculous. The only thing we haven’t seen is Reif coming out with a Pepsi flag draped over his shoulders. It’s everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was required to trim his hedges into the Mountain Dew logo.

7:40 – We just made CGS history –– somebody (Blackmamba) actually admitted they got outplayed in the interview for their CGS profile. It’s a Christmas Miracle!

7:41 – That was immediately followed a derisive "he might be able to take down a girl" comment, referring to the Itagaki Challenge. Who's more insulted: Offbeat, or Vanessa?

7:49 – Dead or Alive 4 Male is a train wreck for Carolina. Blackmamba is just tearing apart Offbeat Ninja. DoA was supposed to be a strong point for Carolina. If they can’t win at least one DoA match, it’s going to be hard to make up the difference in PGR, where Chicago is a mortal lock to dominate.

7:50 – Fatality's dulcet tones lead us into another CS:S match. I’m still not sold on him as an announcer. On one hand, he provides us with great “what did he just say” lines, a la John Madden. On the other hand, John Madden stinks. I still have hope for Fatality, though.

7:52 – Phantom, one of Carolina’s PGR players, is just chillin’ on the bench while his team is trying desperately to close the gap. I think he’s already worried about ch0mpr and JasonX.

7:53 – This exchange just happened in the media area:

Guy: "What do you think of brawwwr?"
Me: "I love him."
Guy: "Jeez louise."
(Pause while I replay the tone of my voice in my head.)

(Oh crap!)

Some things just come out wrong.

7:57 – Shag picks up two kills with a USP on successive bullets. He should send Carolina a thank–you card for running into those.

7:58 – Devour gets three kills. Good to see he showed up today. The semi–finals were a disaster for him. It was so bad I thought he watched some of my demos as preparation.

8:07 – I didn’t think anybody could look more depressed than Heaton, but the Core GM, Mark Dolven, is closing the gap.
 
8:10 – My lord, Carolina looks defeated. I mean, it’s been a bad night, but they’re not out of it yet.

8:25 – I got lost in the CS match, sorry. I’m not even sure why, it looks like it’s over. The Carolina PGR duo needs to take first and second, and from their expressions, I’d rather bet on Joker and Twoface against Batman and Robin.

8:28 – Well, at this point, one thing is clear: If Carolina does manage to pull out the win, Rex and Phantom are getting the MVP.

8:30 – Yeah, that didn’t turn out so well. It's hard to tell from up here, but I think Dolven's so disappointed he went into a coma.

8:33 – They never really had a chance. 27–15 CHI > CAR

8:40 – More proof that the CGS is on another level: the Chicago GM, Brian Flander, is crying, and so are some Carolina members. They have different reasons, obviously, but I don’t think that happens at CPL, even back in the glory days.

8:44 – Dear Amazon Rainforest,

Thanks for giving us full access! We know you like the trees and everything, but we really needed all this confetti! Hooray, confetti!

Best Wishes,
America

8:45 – There are people in the framework for the ceiling. At this point, they’re just dropping confetti. Because we really need more confetti; there’s still some floor showing over there.

8:45 – Does it make the commissioner look less distinguished when he colored paper in his hair?

8:47 – Blackmamba was named the MVP, which gave us a great interview. He was completely overwhelmed. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, though.

8:48 – Full disclosure: if somebody handed me an MVP and a check for $25,000, I wouldn’t do any better. In fact, I’d probably sound like an interview with the old Simon game, except with words instead of notes. It’d probably go something like this:

I, man, just, wow. Wow. Just. Wow. I. I, I. Man, wow.

I’m really good with words like that.

8:50 – It’s crazy how fast they’re striking the set. At this point, I think the President could walk in, and they’d either ask him to move or just take the next piece of floor out from beneath him.

8:55 – It’s the end of the CGS. I’m pretty bummed. On the other hand, I’m incredibly excited for next season. I was amazed at how exciting the games were when I watched them live. It was better than most sports experiences I’ve had, even attending Cubs games at Wrigley Field – and I’m a huge Cubs fan.

Yes, I was more excited for DoA and FIFA than some “real” sports. I think that’s some of the best praise I can give the CGS.

Until next season!


 
December 17, 2007

The CGS World Finals were a complete rush, and the whole experience was incredible. I’m going to be writing about it in the coming days, but something leaped ahead in the queue. If I don’t write about this now, I’m going to self-combust. Although, even if I did, I imagine my fingers would still be angrily clacking away on the keyboard out of momentum and habit.

I touched on this tangentially in an earlier post, but it’s time to meet the topic head on. It’s time to write about the ongoing drama between Kevin “aZn” Wang and the CGS.
We can break the story down into a few key incidents.

1) aZn gets fined $5,000 for attending a small 1.6 LAN
2) This results in a big brouhaha about the CGS not allowing players to play in 1.6 tournaments
3) aZn gets fired, his contract gets terminated, or whatever you want to call it.
4) CGS announces that their online league, planned for Season 2, will have a 1.6 division.
5) More fuss on the forums about 1.6 and the CGS
6) LANDodger’s breaking point

1) The Fine

First of all, the fine was completely ridiculous. It was one-sixth of his salary. How long would it take the MLB’s player association to file a grievance if Alex Rodriguez got fined $4,000,000, which is one-sixth of his salary? A couple nanoseconds? And A-Rod would still have uncounted millions left to “fall back” on. $25,000 is a lot less, in terms of quality of living, than $30,000.

Basically, the CGS was completely out of line regarding the amount of the fine. At the same time, aZn knew he was going to be punished (post #193, which also includes an incredibly weak acceptance of blame, before promptly shifting it to the CGS for over-reacting) and went to the LAN, anyway. He knowingly broke the rules. The community conveniently glosses over that when they talk about the fine being unjust.

Here’s a fun thought: what if the CGS suspended him for a game, instead of fining him? That would have gone over really well with the Dallas Venom, I’m sure. I don’t understand how anybody can look at this situation objectively and say he’s completely blameless. The CGS went overboard, yes, but aZn knew the rules, he knew he was doing something wrong, and he did it anyway. He deserves his share of the blame.


The MLB Player's Association probably has a special red phone for severe punishments in need of immediate appeal.

2) The Community Reaction

After it happened, people were attacking the fairness of the rule. They said Stermy was allowed to play Quake at a different tournament without punishment, so why can’t aZn play 1.6? And players like Offbeat Ninja and Blackmamba were able to play DoA4 in the WCG, why weren’t they punished?

I don’t think the CGS did a very good job of explaining their thinking.

Once you cut away the self-promotion and fluff, their press release had three important ideas. Aurli Bokovza, PR representative for CGS, explained the DoA 4 situation by saying, “In general, we look at other tournaments as an opportunity for CGS players to compete and have fun.” They’ve stuck by that. The CGS Source teams played in Newegg and DigitalLife. The more exposure the players get in their games, the more the exposure the CGS gets, too. It makes sense to allow them to play at other tournaments.

The same thinking applies to Stermy, as well. Bokovza said, “As for Quakecon, that's an example of a tournament which does not compete with our games, and we support our players attending these types of events.” Stermy plays FIFA in the CGS. If he goes to Quakecon, and people learn that he plays for the Optx, isn’t that a good thing for the league?

There’s a huge difference between those games and 1.6/Source, though. It’s fairly obvious when you think about it: FIFA, Quake, and DoA aren’t fighting for the same fans. But in the CS community, there’s conflict between the Source and 1.6 communities. You can love FIFA, Quake, and DoA. You can’t love Source and 1.6. You must choose.

Technically, that’s not true. You can enjoy both games. Unfortunately, most of the community doesn’t feel that way, and it makes Counter-Strike akin to a zero-sum situation. The more support 1.6 has, the less support Source has, and vice versa. And we know through experience that the 1.6 community is more than willing to take an offhand comment, or attendance at an event, and turn that into another reason why 1.6 is superior, and the CGS should adopt it. Simply by going to the 1.6 tournament, aZn could really hurt support for the CGS and Source.

How much does one tournament matter? I have no idea. But if they let anybody play in any 1.6 tournament, you can be sure it’d have a huge impact. I imagine that’s why the rule is there in the first place.

3) You’re Fired!

The whole story is back in the forefront for two reasons. One is aZn getting canned from the Dallas Venom. I’m not sure the specifics of what happened; you can say he got cut, or fired, or had his contract terminated. It doesn’t really matter. The important part is that he’s no longer with the organization, despite the lack of an official announcement (which should be coming soon, I imagine).

4) CGS Online

The other reason was the announcement of the CGS-Online, which would include a 1.6 division. Finally, the CGS was listening to 1.6 fans and incorporating their game into the league, even if it was just online. And, like all people who get what they want, the 1.6 community was excited came out in full support of the league.

5) More Fuss

Just kidding. They hated it, and people are already talking about boycotting the league. They thought it was hypocritical for the league to fine a player for attending a 1.6 competition a few months ago, and then incorporate that game into the league.

This is strange to me. How is the CGS adopting 1.6 bad for the game in any way, shape, or form? You figure there will be some kind of prize money available, considering the people that are running it. They’re not going to put it on TV, so they’re not going to mess with the rules. From the community’s perspective, I can’t see any downside to the CGS offering an online 1.6 league.

Of course, the topic was brought up by aZn, who cast himself as the victim. And the community is only too happy to oblige him and shower him with praise and sympathy.

6) LD Goes Bananas

To me, all that was bad enough. The CGS reacted too severely, but at the same time, it seemed like aZn was looking to blame anybody, as long as the party wasn’t named Kevin Wang. I think he has a legitimate beef with the league, but I also think he needed to take more responsibility for his own actions.

Then I read his latest post (#33) , and any sympathy I had flew out the window. This is from a GotFrag thread discussing aZn’s relative lack of success on an international level.

aZn: “i haven't really been "successful" because i've never really had the opportunity to do so.”

I did a triple-take. I made sure it wasn’t a thread from 2003. I reread it to confirm that I wasn’t having a dyslexic moment. Everything seemed right. He actually said that he never really had the opportunity to be successful.

This creates some questions. He’s gone to CPL, he’s played against the top international teams, and he’s played for some of the best American organizations. In addition to that, he had a $30,000 guaranteed salary and paid travel expenses from the CGS at the same time he was playing with Dominator, exodus, kam, and zid, players with experience on 3D, coL, Rival, United5, and JMC, among others. None of this was enough opportunity to be successful?

Just in the CGS, he was given the chance to play with first-class teammates and not have to worry about juggling another job to afford eating three meals a day. He could focus totally on gaming, if he chose. Was he waiting for the gold-plated, platinum-trimmed, diamond-encrusted invitation to fame and fortune, as well? Seriously, what more could aZn possibly want?

In short, he had everything that thousands of gamers dream about. Anybody that has a chance like that and throws it away doesn’t get to complain, or even mention, their supposed lack of opportunity.

He had the chance, he just didn’t take it.

Tags:
1.6, aZn, CGS, Source

 

Take it to e-mail. Take it to the forums. Write to your congressmen.

It's the grt dance from opening night.

You simply have to watch it. I don't insist on much. If you don't follow some of my links, I'm fine with that. If you consider it annoying or troublesome, I'd rather you be happy. This, though, you must do. For me. For humor. For the good of all humanity. It's too funny to miss.

Tags:
CGS, grt

 
December 13, 2007

There's been a running theme for the World Finals, and it gets me chuckling every time. Whenever the Carolina Core are announced, and in particular Peekay, half the crowd boos. This is the same crowd that has to be prompted to applause sometimes, but for whatever reason, the negative cheers come naturally and quickly.

It's probably because of Peekay. I'm fairly confident in that assessment, seeing how they're loudest whenever he's announced. He's the first CGS villian. It's only the first season, and he's already Barry Bonds. It's incredible. Bonds was beloved for years, or at the very least tolerated and showered with mild applause. It took him over a decade to become reviled. Peekay's did it in a few weeks.

It's obvious he's got some talent for getting under people's skin. I wonder if this happens in all aspects of his life. He's crossing the street, and passing cars boo. Maybe sitting on a flight to LA, people in the back are heckling him and throwing peanuts. At this point, I can't rule anything out.

And I'm pretty sure they're not saying Cooooooooooooooooore, either.

I'll have some real action updates later tonight, with my reactions to all the action so far. All be providing links to all the material I wrote for Carolina up to this point, as well, which has taken up a lot of my time. Stay tuned!


 
December 13, 2007

I don't consider myself a good barometer of a game's value for the CGS. I'm far too biased, and for most games, I'm not the target demographic. We need to branch away from the competitive community, into the general public. My support is already in the bag.

Of course, if you manage to take my support out of the bag, you’re in serious trouble.

Sorry, World of Warcraft fans. It's not looking good.

Let me put it very bluntly. I trained for years to become an ordained monk in the Watching Paint Dry Temple, located high in the Himalayans. I’m the Simon Cowell of the annual Watching Grass Grow competition, located deep in the manicured lawns of suburban America. I think turtles need to slow down and enjoy life, and Ben Stein talks with too much emphasis. And I’m telling you, WoW is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen.


Watching a WoW match? You'll need some of these. Snarling Orcs are much scarier in person, or cinematic trailers.

The format runs at a snail's pace, if that. There's a five minute break between rounds. You can run a whole PGR race during that time, if you wanted to, and it kills attention spans faster than logic kills forum threads.  The action isn’t fast enough, either. There’s no sense of urgency during 90% of each round, when people are leaking health. And leaking is the right term, considering how long it takes to kill a player that has a half-competent healer.

But more than that, there are too many gameplay issues. The action is muted and distant. Even CS has trouble translating to the public, and it deals with guns and blood. WoW isn’t dramatic or pressing, it’s clinical and cold. Even if you changed the format to speed things up, it wouldn't be enough. It has too many fatal flaws.

That doesn't mean it's not going to be part of the CGS. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep it around as a smaller exhibition tournament, just like they did this season. Believe me, I’m aware it has a zillion subscribers. At this point, the Pope might be the only person in the world that hasn't played, and I'm not even sure about him. If you run into somebody named the P4p4l Paladin, just stop and wonder for a second.

The actual number is ten million subscribers, of course, but that can be pared down significantly. Just like CS, there are uncounted numbers of inactive players, and people just not interested in the competitive aspect of the game. Even when we do that, WoW still has a big competitive following, which is why I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

I mean that literally; I don’t see it going away, because it does have that huge fanbase. I just don’t see the potential for growth, either, due to the format, and moreso the gameplay.

(I will now prepare for the onslaught of e-mail that only ten million subscribers can bring, and I will carefully comb through them for the address yourholiness@vatican.gov.)

Tags:
CGS, WoW

 
December 11, 2007

I brought up some thoughts on the Counter-Strike broadcasts earlier, and it's time for two quick additions.

The Core's match featured some Picture-in-Picture (PiP) shots, and they used first person and third person views in the two windows. It didn't work as well as I hoped. The two viewpoints were a little confusing, and it was hard to focus on one.

The first-person view as the small window, so maybe it was just me trying to focus on the smaller picture and failing miserably. But it could just be flat-out confusing, no matter which window is larger. You might adjust to it over time, but I doubt that's what the CGS wants to say about their production techniques.

In my opinion, the easiest solution is to use the map overview more. They seem to limit using it to the beginning of each round, but it's the most comprehensive and easily explainable viewpoint. Literally all the action is right in front of the viewer. And it's a more static view, so it wouldn't be as hard to focus on one viewpoint.

Of course, that would also work best with the telestrator, but one step at a time.

The second idea is a more radical solution to the problem of figuring out where to point the camera. I briefly mentioned putting the CS:S teams in a different room, but I only threw it out as a quick example. I think the idea has merit as one of my crazy suggestions, actually.

If you put the Source teams in a different room, you could set up some kind of delay that both the audience and viewers could watch. Basically, they'd be watching a SourceTV feed, and broadcasting like it was live. Only somebody (a director?) would know where to direct the camera. To expand the analogy, he'd be watching the SourceTV (with a delay) and a live scorebot. He'd know exactly what players to watch.

The announcing would be in sync with the audience reaction, and the action would be better, hopefully. I'm not sure if the idea of having the Source teams in a separate area would sell, though. Although it would be nice if they could actually hear footsteps, which is a concern in any live setting, it's still really foreign. But, just like the original ideas, it might spark something worthwhile.

Tags:
CGS

 
December 11, 2007

Sometimes I’m a little slow in the head, so bear with me while I make sure I have this story straight.

People in competitive gaming have been working for years to build the industry with the hope that players (and eSports bloggers) will, someday, somehow, be able to make a living off gaming. And not a “staying in your parent’s basement” living, because that “barrier” was broken a long time ago, but a self-sufficient existence. We’ve been trying to turn our amateur reindeer games, or reindeer-shooting games, to be more precise, into a professional league, or even a sport.

Then the CGS comes along, offering the closest thing we’ve ever seen to that dream, and all of the sudden people are “sellouts” for joining up? Is this not what we’ve been hoping for all this time? A league that has the financial backing, and (seemingly) the motivation to grow eSports?

And, worse than that, the community is turning Kevin “aZn” Wang into some kind of cult hero for throwing away the same opportunity that thousands of gamers would kill to have.

Am I getting this right?


It wasn't a worthwhile style, even if it gave us one disturbingly humorous photo.

I understand the complaints about the bastardized Counter-Strike rules. They’re killing the game. It’s not fun to watch anymore. Max Rounds 9 with $16,000 startmoney is the worst thing to happen to a sports league since daisy dukes were standard NBA apparel. Source is so bad for competitive play that people are still excited for Promod – spawning in a wall one time out of ten isn’t that bad. I get it. I really do.

I just don’t care.

Let me put it this way: can you imagine this conversation ever happening?

League Official: “We’d like to offer you $30,000 a year to play video games, with the possibility of making over $100,000 alone from your salary and bonuses.”

CS Player: “Hey, that sounds really great. You’re offering me more money than I can possibly make going to individual tournaments, and you’re going to pay for all my expenses. But, your ruleset sucks. Sorry, I’m going to pass on the chance to make a living doing what I love. I’ve got principles, you know.”

I can see it happening. The only problem is that, in my imagination, the CS Player is already a millionaire, is married to a supermodel, and has a signed guarantee from God that he’ll be happy the rest of his life.

Anybody that truly wants to be a professional gamer, and will do whatever it takes to achieve that dream, would be insane to turn down an offer from the CGS. If it goes bottom-up, you’re no worse for wear. You’ve banked the guaranteed salary, and you can go to whatever the best remaining option is.

More importantly, if the CGS does succeed, and gaming becomes something like the X-Games, you’ll be living your dream. The ratio of risk to reward for joining the CGS is so ridiculously steeped towards “reward” that it’s like a seesaw with Mini-Me on one end and an elephant on the other.

For me, it comes down to this: how many times does a chance come around that can turn all your dreams into a reality?

Probably not even once in a lifetime. Some people, through social or economic circumstances, are forced into a job they hate, but can’t quit because they need the money. Gamers are being offered the chance to do what they love. It might be a slim chance. It might be a great chance. And we have no idea how it’ll turn out, but you have to at least give it a shot.

Kathy "Snuggles" Zablotzky is a Dead or Alive player for the London Mint. She’s 52 years old. By that age, you’re bound to gain some wisdom, even if it’s just through dumb luck. Although, judging by what she said, I doubt that was the case, here.

This isn’t an exact quote, but it should be very close. She was talking about how she got into gaming, and she had this to say at the very end:

“If you’ve got a passion for something, you can do it. And if you’ve got a passion for something, you should do it.”

The players aren’t sellouts. They’re following their dream, wherever it may take them. We should all be so lucky to have the opportunity.

Tags:
CGS, General

 
December 9, 2007

I’m a depressed Counter-Strike fan.

Heading into the CGS World Finals, I was upbeat, or even happy-go-lucky (can somebody be depressed-go-unlucky?). The moment we’ve all been waiting for had finally arrived. Well, everybody that isn’t a 1.6 fan has been waiting for it, anyway. Life was good.

Still, after the first day, I was a little unnerved. The action was great, the production was excellent, and the whole atmosphere was simply mind-blowing. But a dark cloud had inhabited the darkest depths of my mind – nay, my very soul.

Alright, that’s a bit melodramatic. I was a little uneasy, though, for some reason. Then, when I found the cause of my concern on the third day, I was in a full-blown mental panic.

Counter-Strike, the game I love, that’s been closest to my heart for six years, was utterly, irrefutably boring. So boring that when the matches were about to start, I was actually disappointed, and I wished DoA 4 was coming up, instead.


LD wasn't looking forward to DoA just because of scantily clad women -- the action is gripping and fast.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, Andy Reif didn’t spike my Mountain Dew. No drugs of any kind were involved. The game, right now, is flat-out bad.
Before my CS fans start marching towards SoCal with a guillotine in tow, let me re-profess my love for the game. I’m still head-over-heels for it. Done right, I think CS could be the Cadillac of eSports, much like No-Limit Hold ‘em is the Cadillac of Poker.

The problem, of course, is “doing it right”. The CGS has to balance boring gamers to tears, and losing a TV audience that can’t understand the big picture unless they’re literally staring at the big picture in the map overview. I don’t think the current solution is good for either group, though.

It’s obvious that gamers don’t like the production. But I don’t think the TV audience will understand the action even in third-person view. The maps are incredibly complex. There’s still a lot of cover in the bombsites; players can simply disappear off screen and never come back. You can’t tell when people are flashed, which means that players (occasionally) just run into things, and fire wildly. And even though third-person view provides a wider angle, I don’t think any single angle can provide a complete picture. You lose rotations, flankers, and deep sniper shots (from, say, A site on Inferno to CT spawn, or from the A site on Dust 2 into the pit at Long), to name a couple.

It comes down to this: gamers love the small things in CS. But you need a background in CS to appreciate those things, and most people don’t have that. We need to find a way to focus on the details, without losing sight of the big picture. We need to examine the Mona Lisa’s smile and still see the whole painting.

This is normally the part of the article where I present a solution. Unfortunately, I have no solutions. If the problem was easy enough to fix in an hour of thought and a six-hundred words, somebody would have done it already. The people working at the CGS aren’t idiots.

Plus, I don’t have the necessary background in broadcasting to really know what I’m talking about. I could present a meritorious idea, and DirecTV might have already tested and blown holes in it.

That’s not going to stop me from trying, though. The easiest way to have a brilliant idea is to have a thousand really bad ones. For every Thomas Edison invention that’s still alive today, there’s an untold number that never made it past the bottom of the garbage bin. And every Stephen King story has a counterpart that never made it past the Windows Recycling Bin, where banal plot twists and flat characters go to die.

Basically, I’m going to present every idea I can think of to solve these problems. More than that, I’m not going to let myself be burdened by common sense. No idea is too ridiculous, although I tried to stay within the confines of what the CGS wants to do (e.g. live broadcasts). Hopefully, like a failed Edison brain-child, these might spark a discussion that gets us on the right path, or give somebody else an idea that withstands the test of time and logic.

(Feel free to laugh at these ideas, because I did when I thought of them. Thankfully, I already consider myself an idiot, so I’ve got nothing to lose. If you think that way after reading this, well, the more, the merrier.)


I made sure to put on my thinking cap for this article.

1) Lengthen Freezetime

After that introduction, I might as well propose a crazy idea first, to show I’m serious.

This has obvious problems. It goes completely against the CGS’s standard operating procedure, which is making the games shorter and faster. I’m not sure it’s good for the players, either, because more freezetime is horribly boring.

But, from what I’ve seen, this is often wasted time. Instead of sitting around for ten seconds, what if you show key plays from the round before in fifteen? Even an extra second or two might help. It would give the announcers some time to explain confusing rounds for non-CS players, or replay a particularly sick shot from the last round for the gaming audience. It could be useful, especially if combined with the next idea.

2) Use a Telestrator

The announcers do a fantastic job of explaining all the action, but wouldn’t it be a thousand times better (and easier) if they could point things out in the map overview, or third-person view? Instead of trying to describe every detail with words, which can be awkward at best when describing a completely foreign map, they could show exactly what’s happening (and why) as it’s occurring.

Or, in the recap of last round’s action, we could return to the map overview while the action is explained with more than just words. Gamers are bored during freezetime, anyway, and it would go a long way towards educating other viewers. On a site take, AWPers and rotation patterns can be pointed out, along with where and when players get blinded. Even if a viewer is confused during the round, there’d be an explanation on the way.

3) Picture-in-Picture Viewing (PiP)

This would probably be the hardest thing to do from a technical perspective, but if you could combine it with third-person view, you can, literally, appease the educated and inexperienced audience groups at the same time. Even if it’s a very small first-person view in the corner, it’s better than nothing.

There were also times during the broadcast when we were watching the bomb get planted, with no enemies in sight. Why? Why waste those five seconds, which have about as much drama as the tenth viewing of a Brady Bunch episode? If you put that in a small window, and enlarge the map view, it gives us a chance to see defensive rotations. Announcers can explain it to ignorant viewers, and it’s a small detail that gamers appreciate. The same idea applies when a team is just setting up a strat when there isn’t any action going on, which happens fairly often.

PiP viewing has a lot of different uses, too. You could do two first-person views in a 1v1, or you could do a first-person view and the map overview. There are so many combinations that can give different kinds of information, it’s worth exploring.

4) Use Wallhacks

This is one of the crazier ideas, which means it’s also one of my favorites. Remember, we’re just trying to throw anything out there that gets people thinking. It helps to think outside the box, considering we’re stuck in the box right now, and we’re not liking it very much.

When they go to first-person view, the CGS is worried about losing the general audience because the information is too limited. What if they loaded a wallhack? As a gamer, I’d find it interesting. And the audience would know where to look for the action, since they’d be able to easily see the players.

Again, if you combine this with the other ideas, we have some interesting possibilities. If we put everything together, we can have a split-screen (or PiP) with a wall-hacking first person view, and the map overview.

An example: during the Birmingham/Rio match, Birmingham was hitting Top A, and Rio would fall back to Long A to watch as Salvo players tried to enter the site.
On the map view, we could have a telestrated view of which angles Rio is watching, while in the wall-hacked view of the attacking Birmingham team, the audience can know exactly where to expect the action to happen.

A wallhack could be confusing to the audience, as well, but I don’t think it’s hard to explain, especially if it comes with a specific graphic like “CGS X-Ray Cam”, or something like that. The walls are still partially visible, and although “X-ray” is obviously the wrong term, it would convey the necessary information to the general public.

5) Listen to (and use) Player Calls

During the first round of the Carolina/Seoul match, Carolina planted at B without losing a single player. It was a really good strat.

At least, I think it was. It was hard to tell, considering I didn’t see a single player die. I’m pretty sure Carolina faked A, first, but managed to kill the defenders, which drew a rotation. I have no idea if that happened, though, which is inexcusable, in my mind.

I understand using third-person view, and the map overview, but can’t we at least see some action?  

Listening to the player calls tries to address that in a less dramatic way than some crazy idea like using a wallhack. I mean, using a wallhack? You’d have to be totally insane to suggest something like that.

Counter-Strike is incredibly decentralized. There’s no ball to follow, and there are too many players spread out to follow them, instead. If you listened to strat calls, and mid-round adjustments, though, you’d have an idea of what was about to happen, and could go to the right camera/angle.

6) Delayed Broadcast

I don’t mean delayed like the MLG broadcast, because the CGS is committed to broadcasting live. But, what if there was a five-second gap between the live action, and what the announcers were broadcasting, similar to a SourceTV delay?

This would give a “director”, or somebody similar, the ability of foresight. If somebody got picked early in the round, they’d know exactly which player to spectate, or they’d know ahead of time where players were moving, or strats, and pick the appropriate camera angle, etc.

I’m not sure how something like this would work, technically speaking. The announcers would have to watch the delayed version. And the audience would have to do the same, or the audio feed would have to be delayed by the same amount of time as the video feed, or else the crowd noise wouldn’t sync. But they’re all in the same room, right now, and I don’t know if you can solve the problem while that holds true.

Other than moving the players into a separate room, and then streaming the delayed broadcast for the audience/announcers, I don’t have any suggestions. It’s a tough problem to solve, but, again, hopefully my lack of common sense will provide a spark for somebody that knows what they’re talking about.

The Future

The CGS is fond of patting themselves on the back for what they’ve accomplished and seven months, and it’s well deserved. Establishing the franchises, broadcasting the games live, and creating a league from scratch are absolutely huge accomplishments.

At the same time, there are still huge problems to solve, and I don’t see any reason why the next seven months can’t be just as revolutionary. CS doesn’t fit right now, but there’s a place for it in the CGS, and I think we can help it fit. Take these ideas, and make them better. Make your own ideas. Steal ideas from your friends. Do whatever it takes.

Just don’t e-mail me. I’ve got better things to do than listen to your cracked-out ideas on how to fix the CGS.

(Just kidding, please e-mail me. I’d love to hear them. mike@landodger.com)


 
December 8, 2007

The CGS provided media guides at the press conference, and it’s been extremely helpful during the coverage. Considering how many teams here speak completely different languages (i.e. the Birmingham Salvo), I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked up player handles and names to make sure I got the spelling and quirks correct. I pride myself on remembering those things, but it’s nice to have a resource where I can check exactly how many exclamation points are in Oliver Johnson-Barrett’s handle (four; Huk_!!!!).

(As a side note, growing up in America means you're force-fed everything Thomas Jefferson ever did, but learning the basics of language so you can communicate with other, real human beings? Not so much.)


It's sad when Taco Bell teaches Spanish more effectively than most school systems.

But, I think I’ve discovered something even better use for the guide. I think it’s really a treasure map. Just follow its directions, and you’re sure to find gold nuggets of humor.

For instance, every player has a small, descriptive blurb. Sam “Devour” Chamma’s is “Carolina’s up-and-coming superstar sniper.”

If you follow the trail, though, you’ll end up at Daniel “Berzerk!” Chlebowczyk’s blurb, which says, simply, “Great team player.” It’s a legitimate compliment. In fact, “team players” are necessary on any championship-calibur team. The New York Knicks are paying over a hundred million dollars in salary (and lord only knows how much in the luxury tax) for a completely dysfunctional team full of “me-first” players. You need glue guys that are willing to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team.

There’s only one problem: Berzerk! plays by himself. He’s a DoA player, which is 1v1 game.

Now, if I’m playing a game by myself, and somebody walks by and calls me a great team player … I mean, I’m pretty slow on the uptake, but I’m not exactly basking in the praise.

It’s still better than Beom Jun “Zbz” Ji’s blurb, though, which simply states “Always sacrifices himself for the team; short fuse and explosive personality.”

I imagine somebody that busts his butt to help every teammate, even using himself as a meat-shield, only to promptly blow up about getting killed all the time and yell at his teammates for not helping him.

Then, there’s a whole group that are extremely funny if you put them in a different context. For instance, imagine your reaction if you ran across a person with these descriptions in any other walk of life:

Ruthless maniac” (Jorge “SnaKejorge” Gudino – the half-sneer in his picture doesn’t help, either)
Impossible to predict; vast arsenal of attacks” (Sophie “Miss” Breton)
Brilliant and deadly sniper” (Fredrik “Sparkle” Jurek)
Aggressive and relentless” (David “Davisso” Garcia)
Focused and deadly” (David “SPAYDER” Douglas)
Unpredictable and dangerous” (Arash “soulJah” Orami)

I don’t know about you guys, but if I ever met somebody like that, I hope I’m on a team with Zbz at the time and he’s feeling especially sacrificial that day.

Then we have the pictures. I’m not sure what happened, but the American teams aren’t wearing their jerseys like the other organizations. Maybe they weren’t available, or maybe they weren’t required, but I’m definitely surprised they haven’t been redone, for a couple reasons.

The first is that it just looks weird, given that the other ten organizations are all coordinated. The second, more important reason is that Chad “daffsta” White (the Core's "strategic mastermind") is sporting a wife-beater. I’m all about comfort, don’t get me wrong. I’d rather show up to the CGS events wearing my pajama pants and a hoodie. But at the same time, I think it might send the wrong message. (Then again, since it’s 6:00, and I have to be at the event at 9:00, maybe I’d get a free pass.)

The funniest picture to think about is Griffin “shaGuar” Benger’s, though. I have no idea why, but they cut his picture off just below the chin, while every other picture went down to mid-chest.

I have three possible explanations for cutting his picture off.

1) The photographer messed up, and they didn’t get around to changing it.

2) He found an evil genie, and when he wished to be the tallest man on Earth, the genie made him thirty feet tall. Or, in other words, the camera isn’t zoomed in farther than the other pictures, shaGuar is just that much bigger, and now wears a size 56 fitted hat.

3) He really wanted to outdo daffsta, and he insisted on taking his picture naked. The half-bemused, yet strangely confident, look on his face is disturbingly supportive of that thought.

I could go on, but I don’t want to make the CGS question the virtue of giving me a media guide, at all. That would be bad for everybody. I’d be deprived of future humor, and you’d be stuck with my version of player names, which, equated to English, would be like referring to Brian Flander, GM of the Chicago Chimera, as Ned Flanders.

I’m quitting while I’m (hopefully) still ahead.


 
December 8, 2007

My gaming experience is very limited. The only game I’ve played competitively is Counter-Strike (1.6 and Source). I haven’t owned a console since Super Nintendo. And my one regret from childhood was never playing spin-the-bottle.

(Strike that last one. I’m actually okay with that.)

I like to think the eSports Gods look upon my monogamy with magnanimity. Like the only creature that mates for life, the swan, I stick to my partner no matter what, and I’ll angrily flap my wings and peck at any perceived threat.


The mute swan: serene, graceful, beautiful. And ready to attack anything that even thinks about entering its territory.

Even if my faithful nature gets me in good graces with higher powers, though, it’s definitely not a good thing while I’m covering the CGS. I’ve already had to go through intensive mental training for DoA, FIFA, and PGR. Despite my best efforts, Paul Chaloner (who, by the way, is cool enough to have a wikipedia page) could still run knowledge circles around me with one lobe tied behind his back. I’ve been trying to develop a Matrix-like chair where I can upload data directly into my brain, but I haven’t found anybody to experiment on, no matter how much I insist they’ll receive a lollipop afterwards.

So, in approximately five hours, the CGS’s World of Warcraft 2v2 competition is going to start, and I will be looking at the Jumbotron with a mixture of horror and confusion.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I actually hold a grudge against the game. Before my team made the switch to Source, WoW turned some of my favorite online friends into ghosts. I still miss playing with them, and, if WoW was a physical entity, you can rest assured I’d be furiously pecking at it right now.

What does this add up to? An interesting day of coverage, that’s for sure. I could turn into the scared, newbie broadcaster in Major League after Bob Uecker passes out, who has no idea how to talk about the game. If forced to broadcast live, I could easily see myself saying something like:

“People are running around. Something’s happening. Bars are moving – could be mana, could be health, could be stamina – but bar movement is confirmed. I see a fireball. Somebody is on fire. I repeat, somebody is on fire.”

On the other hand, there’s a chance I’ll rise to the occasion and deliver a performance way above my head, like the “Miracle on Ice” hockey team, or William Shatner in “Common People”. There’s also a possibility of connecting with the readers that hate WoW for killing their CS clans (a common experience for many), or those that haven’t played the game (all five of them).

And to show you how confident I am in that, I’m upgrading my offer from a lollipop to a cake I just made. It's so delicious and moist.

Look at me, still talking when there’s science to do.

(The cake is a lie!)


 
December 7, 2007

Oh my.

That's the only way I can really describe it. As part of the pre-game festivities, they called CGS players down and did a little dance competition. I recorded some of it, and I'll try to put it up somewhere after the event.

I will say this: I'll never look at Chicago's CS player, Grt, in the same way ever again.

And, when one of the guys came back to sit by his teammates, they pummeled him with the thunder-sticks.


 
December 7, 2007

As I was leaving the CGS World Finals last night, I passed two young women (both probably about twenty years old) that attended the event as part of the audience. I overheard part of their conversation, which went like this:

Girl 1: "Man, they really think they big stars or sumthin'"
Girl 2: "[laugher] Yea, let 'em have their fun now, it ain't gonna last."
[Both laughing]

It made me wonder if we even watched the same event. Yes, there are production aspects during the filming that make it seem like eSports is just trying to build itself up and make itself seem more popular than it is. But I was surprised that they didn't recognize the passion inside all the competitors. They care about become stars, but they care more about beating the snot out of the team sitting directly across from them.

If stardom comes as a part of that, the more, the merrier. Over the years, though, after attending event after event, with a majority of the teams paying out of their own pocket, I think it's safe to say that money isn't everything, and that goes from a player like fRoD all the way to people that never had a chance to be a has-been, like, say, myself.

Those feelings are transparent when you watch them play. Take away the cameras, the lights, and even the money, and you'd still have people jumping out of their chairs for every goal.

It's part of what makes eSports great, in the first place.


 
December 7, 2007

You can't possibly have hundreds of fans, gamers, suits, and nerds in the same building without some humor involved. With that in mind, here are some stories and happenings I found amusing.

The Seven Dollar Diet Pepsi

The CGS Press Conference was held at the Radisson hotel in Culver City. I never thought a hotel would try to one-up an airport on outrageous parking prices. I was wrong.

Parking at the Radisson was $5 for the first hour, and an extra $2 every half-hour after that. Two dollars for thirty minutes of parking! I can only assume there's a newly discovered, huge oil field under the parking lot, and they're trying to force all the cars away so they can tear the whole thing up and erect a nice Radisson-themed derrick.

On the plus side, the Press Conference had free drinks. This resulted in me pilfering a Diet Pepsi. (Pilfering has the wrong connotation, but I like that word, and it's my blog.)

But the concept of free drinks is just as weird to me as $7 parking. So, instead of having two weird thoughts, I prefer to think of it as a $7 Diet Pepsi. I'm used to getting gouged on soda, anyway, considering a can costs about $0.25 to make.

I'm debating about autographing the can and selling it on E-bay. I'll start the bidding at $8. Any takers?

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! ...... I SAID, AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!

During the Sydney/Stockholm match, one of the media members was cheering on the Australian team. There was a big momentum shift in the CS:S match, which resulted in him starting the now-familiar cheer.

The only problem was that nobody really cared. The first cheer got an audible "oy oy oy". And "audible" is being fairly generous.

Of course, you can't let something like that slide when you're starting a cheer. When the audience doesn't respond, you get louder to compensate.

This backfired spectacularly, as I don't think anybody in the crowd even gave a half-hearted "oy" on the second run. Not a single one. It was like they only had 100 decibels to use on the cheer. If he took 70, the whole group only had 30. I'm convinced that if he whispered, in the quietest voice he could possibly muster, a little "aussie aussie aussie", the crowd would have blown the roof off the sound studio.

(I must note that I have the utmost respect for fans like that. I don't have the stones to start a cheer. I'm too afraid I'll slip up and say something like, "Aussie, Ozzie, Assh***!", and everybody will just laugh at me. So, anonymous media guy, I admire your pluck. If the audience had half of it, everything would have been fine.)

Griffin Benger's CS For Dummies, Now on Sale!

Since the World Finals are being broadcast live on DirecTV's channel 101 (free plug!), there's a need for commercial breaks. There's a mini-Jumbotron that hangs above the competition area, and during those breaks, they'd show player bios or other filmed, prepared clips.

Some of these were little tips/tricks of the trade for the various games. The problem with CS one was that a large contingent of the audience is made up of CS players. They account for half of each franchise's roster.

So, imagine the reaction when Griffin "shaGuar" Benger shows up on screen, talking about how to strafe and fire at the same time. I wouldn't say the laughter was "loud", but it was noticeable, and it was definitely louder than the weak "oy oy oy" chant.

I might even offer a small reward if somebody can come up with a sarcastic nickname, poking fun at the clip. It would have to be tasteful, but if it's good, you might receive an expensive, signed can of Diet Pepsi in the mail.


 
December 6, 2007

In the entry about the CGS's press conference, I referred to the DirecTV representative as Eric Shanks. Upon further review, it was actually Steven Roberts, the Senior Vice President of New Media and Business Development for DirecTV.

There was either confusion on my end, or a change. Personally, I blame me.

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December 6, 2007

Rio just never had it going in CS:S. I don't know if their teamwork was hurting because "bit", a longtime member of Made in Brazil, couldn't compete in the CGS, but they looked overmatched from the start.

As for the individual players, Harriman played incredibly well for Birmingham, but RattlesnK was just even more impressive. His AWP was crucial on the Salvo's T side attack, and he picked up kills in bunches.

For Rio, cogu, bruno, nak, and Jorinho all played well at times, but never together. Cogu would get 2-3 kills in a round, but nobody else did much. Then nak would have a good round, and bruno would get three kills the next round. They just couldn't put it all together.


 

The Birmingham Salvo eliminated the Rio Sinistro, and only needed three titles to do so. Bazza brought home a 3-0 victory in FIFA, Neo Jake took home first in PGR and his teammate came in third for a 6-3 victory, and the Birmingham CS:S team won 12-6 over Rio (formerly known as MiBR).

The total score is 21-9, Birmingham, and the only titles left are DoA Male and Female. Victories in both those games would only result in 10 points for Rio, and even if they held the Salvo scoreless, Birmingham would walk away with a 21-19 victory.


 
December 6, 2007

We're at halftime of the Source match, and I have two realizations to pass along.

The first is that Source really is a slow game compared to the others. It doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, it sticks out like a sore brain, even with the modified rules. Considering the CGS is all about making sure their product is entertaining and fast-paced, I'm happy CS is there at all after what I just saw.

The other thought was about Rio's Source team. One half does not a team make, but they did not look good. Harriman and Rattlsnke for Birmingham almost single-handedly destroyed them at mid and top-A as CTs on Dust2. It's way too early to call them bad, but they need to get these rounds considering they're in a big hole as an organization (down 3-9 entering CS:S, and they lost 2-7 first half.)

(P.S. As I'm typing this, Cogu had a nasty, nasty round with the AWP from Long A.


 

I don't mean to alarm anybody, but there's quite a bit of motion in the ocean on this media platform. This is one of the times when motion in the ocean is definitely, unequivocally, irrefutably a bad thing.

(It's not that bad, I'm just kidding.)

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December 6, 2007

The most shocking news (to this rumor-ignorant blogger, anyway), was the announcement of a CGS Online project, which would feature web-based content, and, far more importantly, games that aren’t tailor-made for television, or are particularly popular in one region.

Hmmm … I wonder if 1.6 might be one of those games?

The short answer is, I believe, “DUH”.

More interesting, to me, is the mention of having games tailored to each region. These games obviously wouldn’t affect the Region in the World Finals, but imagine the Asian CGS region with a huge Starcraft tournament, and of course some kind of 1.6 competition in various regions. It’s obviously a huge publicity (and popularity) bump for them.
The online league raises other possibilities, too. It could be a testing ground for fringe games to gauge interest and compatibility with the CGS format and television.

 Or, we could even be seeing the alpha build of a CGS player development system. Once you have the online league, all you need is different divisions, and affiliated CGS teams in those divisions. It’s easier said than done, of course, but you have to admit the idea is intriguing.

The details about the online project weren’t extensive, but considering the possibilities and the CGS’s commitment to testing other game titles, people that support 1.6, Quake, F.E.A.R., CoD, or anything else have to be excited. I don’t even love those games, and I know I am.


 
December 6, 2007

Note: I originally wrote this under the impression that it was Eric Shanks attending the press conference, but it was actually Steven Roberts, the director of New Media and Business Development for DirecTV. This has no practical change to the article, and I decided to make this note instead of editing the original post.

The press conference wrapped up about two hours ago , and I wish every person could have been there. On second thought, it was a pretty small room. I know gamers, and I’ve come to learn they can be “thrifty” regarding their deodorant use. Maybe it’s a good thing everybody wasn’t there.

But, I do wish you could hear the messages from the conference. If only there were some way I could relay them to the masses.


LD is drinkin' the yellow-ish Kool-Aid provided by the CGS. I believe!

Oh, hello there, Mr. Blog.

Before we get to specifics, I have to mention the tone, because it was, to put it simply, encouraging and inspiring. If you look at the concerns from the community, we can safely condense them into two thoughts:

1) The CGS will fold after a season or two
2) They’re more concerned with how a game looks on TV than how a game plays.

The “guests of honor” at the conference were Andy Reif, the Commissioner of the CGS, and Eric Shanks, the Executive Vice President of Entertainment for DirecTV.  They made a concerted effort to address both of those points in their original speeches, and during the question-and-answer session that followed.

I'm going to make this as clear as I can. If you distill their message down to its most basic components, it would be, “We’re in this for the long haul, and we’re going to keep making changes that balance the integrity of the competition and making a viewable, exciting product for television.”

Shanks, in particular, emphasized those. He mentioned that the CGI (Championship Gaming Invitational) was a “proof of concept” for the CGS. If you’ve watched enough Mythbusters, you’re familiar with the term. In this instance, the CGI proved to them that they could, in fact, turn gaming into a television program.

When you think about it, the connection is fairly obvious. The sneaky part was the CGS Qualifier at the Bridge. They tested the concept of broadcasting live there, and they found out it was, in fact, possible. I don’t remember making that connection at the time, but he talked briefly about the crowd reaction, and the quality of the experience, and said it proved to the CGS that they could broadcast games live.

I don’t know about you, but I take heart knowing how seriously they’re taking this. I’m not sure why these things aren’t already common knowledge. I think they’re great indicators that they’re going into this with their eyes open. They’re doing the research, testing the product, and they’re not going to be completely surprised if they lose some money for the first season.

They made that last point abundantly clear, as well. They stopped just short of directly saying, “We expected to lose money for a couple seasons, and we don’t care. We did our homework, we did the research, and this is a long-term commitment and investment that we’re willing to make.”

In some ways, their media background helped fuel that viewpoint. The entertainment industry is always looking for the next big thing, and it’s financially prudent to invest in a long term project that could turn into something like ESPN has in the X-games (which is a comparison they made).

That’s in stark contrast to the venture-backed leagues and competitions eSports. (They didn’t state it specifically, but it seemed like this was a reference to the CPL, given their recent problems.) Those organizations typically feel pressure to produce profits quickly, within twelve to thirty-six months. But the CGS isn't trying to build a one-hit wonder. They really want to build a sport that they can market, and broadcast, for years to come.

The other part of the equation is, “How far will they go to make a game exciting on television?”

There can’t be an exact answer, obviously, but they’re highly aware of the community’s reaction to their products. Believe it or not, when you post on the forums, even during the live broadcast, they’re reading it. And, they even mentioned that they changed their programming during the broadcast after reading feedback.

Basically, the message regarding games is that they’re going to try everything to see what works. Counter-Strike is the perfect example, actually. The original plan was to broadcast CS exclusively in the first-person perspective. They junked that idea as too difficult for non-cs players to follow. But they freely admitted they went too far in the other direction, and included too much third-person view.

I mean, what more can we really ask for? They’re not going to get it right the first time around. It’s completely impossible. Barring that, isn’t the next best thing “trying to get it right, and admitting when they’re wrong”? I certainly think so.

There’s more to come about other things mentioned during the conference, but I want to emphasize this point one more time. If you don’t support the CGS because you think they’re going to run at the first sign of trouble, or they’re going to completely ignore the community and listen only to the Benjamins, I can accept that view, even though I disagree with it.

And, more importantly, if you had been at the press conference with an open mind, I think you’d disagree with it, too.


 
December 6, 2007

Before attending the CGS press conference, I had to get directions to the Playa Vista Meeting Room. I was told it was on the second floor, if I take the stairs.

However, it was the third floor by elevator.

I don't know about anybody else, but I found this news disconcerting. Where does the elevator’s second floor stop? Smack in the middle of the divide between the lobby and the second floor? Maybe there’s some kind of strange portal there, and you need a special key to access “LEVEL 2”.

If you’re ever in the Culver City Radisson hotel, beware the mysterious "second floor".


 

After what seems like a decade of waiting, the CGS Finals are here. I'm not sure that's even an overstatement. Some people in the community probably have been waiting ten years for a league like this to come along.

Just as a reminder, I will be covering the biggest event in recent eSports history. This probably goes without saying, but I wanted to say it anyway, just to make sure.

What you don't know is that I'll be doing work for the Carolina Core during the event, as well. I'll make a note of it here when something gets posted on their site, and I'm looking forward to working with them. Rest assured, there will be plenty of material for both sites.

This afternoon, we kick off with the CGS Press Conference. (I know, it sucks that the best thing goes first.) Then, tonight at 7 pm PST (10 PM Eastern), we have the first of the two matches scheduled for today, the Birmingham Salvo vs. Rio Sinistro. Following that is Stockholm Magnetik vs. Sydney Underground.

I can't wait for everything to start.


 
December 4, 2007

Long-Term Planning

I came across this quote in an article by the ESPN ombudsman, talking about a new program called E:60 that debuted a month earlier.

“So how committed is ESPN to giving E:60 a long run?

"I can guarantee you it is coming back, and my intention is to get it to a weekly show as soon as possible," said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president of content. "We have trouble finding a consistent window year-round, but if we can refine this a little bit, I think it is a great showcase for some of our reportorial talent, and I like having another signature journalism show along with Outside the Lines. So we are completely committed to it."

What if ratings don't measure up?

"The measure of the show, certainly for a couple of years," Skipper said, "is going to be quality, not the ratings."

While the specific reasoning from ESPN doesn’t apply to eSports, the overall message is one we should pay attention to: sometimes quality comes before the bottom line.

Or, in other words, it’s not all about the short-term. CGS detractors point to low ratings as a sign the league will be cancelled within a year or two. But what if they already planned for low ratings? What if they knew that getting into eSports, and bringing it to television, was a long-term project?

It makes sense when you think about it. Considering the size (read: cost) of the league, you know they did their homework. Even a huge company like DirecTV can’t afford to throw away money on every hare-brained scheme that comes onto their radar.

I find it much more likely they’re in a situation similar to ESPN with E:60, placing a higher value on the quality of the league, and acceptance/support from within the gaming community, than the cold, hard, ratings number of an obscure channel. That doesn’t mean they’re not concerned with ratings at all, but I think they’re aware they’re getting in on the ground floor – a place with a lot of potential, and not many results.

Long-term planning. What a concept.

Tags:
CGS

 
December 1, 2007

I mentioned a couple trends (bashing Rector, making fun of Warden’s weight) that I absolutely despise in an earlier post, but there are more that weren’t topical. The problem behind all of them is that people only see what they already believe. Rector could play 29 rounds of smart CS, do everything right, and still get crucified on the forums for missing one easy shot on the 30th round, the same way Warden could work out six days a week and still be made fun of for the one day he went to McDonalds for breakfast.

The latest example is contained in this link.

If you’ve been a part of the community at all the last few years, you know the drill. Click on the link, then view detailed statistics by game, and watch as 1.6 TOTALLY DOMINATES SOURCE, LAWLZ, PZPZPZPZPZ. (Sorry about that, my inner fanboy came out for a second. Let me beat him back down with a sledgehammer, like he deserves.)

Every time this link is posted, I click on it. Not because I like the pain of seeing Source, the game I play, lose horribly, but because the numbers are lying. Or, more accurately, they’re only telling half-truths, and as a support, they’re weaker than Calista Flockhart when she’s trying to give a piggyback ride to Chouji from Naruto.


Chouji is clearly unhappy with life as a keychain.

The argument goes something like this: 1.6 has more servers, more players, and more player minutes per month, and therefore it is a better game.

By extension, I can only assume they think Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Tic-Tac-Toe are the best games in history.

The disconnect is the leap from “popular” to “good”. You can’t infer anything from popularity except that a lot of people think a game is fun to play. We can’t even compare games and come to a concrete conclusion about which game is more fun. It seems counter-intuitive to say that, but think about all the other factors. One game could be more popular because of simple habit – people start playing, and they never bother to upgrade or switch. Or it could be access to technology. There are still people that can't run Source on their computer, even though it's years old. Combining the two, how many people didn’t play Source because their computers couldn’t run it at first? And if the game we have now came out then, without laggy hitboxes and other huge glitches, how much more popular would Source be? Bad reviews also help determine how popular a game is. There are more factors I could list, but you get the point. Enjoyment is still a massive part of the equation, but it’s not everything.

Even though the connection between “popular” and “good” isn’t as strong as you might think, but it’s nothing compared to the quantum leap to “good for competitive play”. Not only are there all the factors above, but a good game for competitive play has to be entertaining for spectators, as well. Which means you have to take into account how fun the game is to play and watch, how convenient it is to watch (HLTV was revolutionary in this area), and any number of other things like the size of the fanbase, learning curve for people outside gaming, etc.

There are a ton of examples, from Chess to Civilization to the aforementioned trio of games, that can’t make that leap. Chess is an excellent game. The sheer depth of the strategies is mind-bending, and if you have any appreciation for mental acuity, you’d enjoy watching a game of chess. If, that is, you could figure out what the hell is going on and manage to stay awake, which is pretty difficult for somebody not versed in the game. Civilization, like any turn-based computer game, is simply too slow. And of course a Solitaire league would fall somewhere between “Plucking Nose Hairs” and “Having Uncontrollable Bodily Functions on a First Date with a Supermodel” on the “Things I’d Like to Do” list.

Basically, the correlation between a game’s popularity and its value as a competitive platform is very, very shaky.

That might not be the worst part. I mean, what do those numbers really tell us? Take a look at the two-day graph. There are huge spikes around 5:30 AM Pacific Time (8:30 AM Eastern Time). I’ve been around the community a long time, and I’m very familiar with the sleeping habits of your average gamer, but I find it hard to believe that a hundred thousand extra Americans are signing on at 5:30 AM.

The spikes make much more sense when you consider 5:30 AM Pacific Time is early afternoon in England, and evening around Asia. I think it’s safe to say the traffic spikes are caused when the American population is going to sleep, and the much larger fanbases in Europe and Asia are waking up and signing on.

Another thing we know about those regions: they heavily favor 1.6. Source caught on more in the US when the CGS was announced, and that happened in other regions as well, but to a much lesser extent. The top American teams switched almost immediately. MiBR, Art of War, fNatic, SK.swe, wNv, NiP, mouz, PGS, MYM, and pretty much any other non-US team switched much later, if they made the jump at all. The money in those areas was still in 1.6, and it never made sense for them to switch, so they didn't.

If you happen to catch that link during the times when the other regions are heading to sleep, and it’s prime gaming time in America, the player numbers are much closer. From when I’ve looked, the Source numbers are close to half of 1.6. When you still consider that South America is gaming at the same time, how much of 1.6’s lead is made up from that? I don't have a specific answer, since the numbers aren't that detailed, but it's not hard to imagine an even smaller gap between Source and 1.6.

A quick summary: we can’t reliably talk about how good a game is based on its popularity, especially when we want the definition of “good” to include the game’s potential as a competitive platform. We also can’t make more than elementary guesses why one game is more popular than another, because there are dozens of factors that play into popularity besides the quality of the game. If we can’t say those two things, what can we infer from the numbers?

Well, in my opinion, we can confidently say that 1.6 is more popular than Source, especially in Europe and Asia, when the numbers spike severely in 1.6’s favor. Which isn't saying much of anything. Even Ric Romero would hang his head in shame if he reported something so blatantly obvious, and so accepted as common knowledge.

Not that any of this will matter to most of the people that post that link. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the numbers and ask some simple questions. The problem isn’t their mental capacity, it’s that they’re looking so hard for any kind of support for their opinions that they’re willing to take any nugget of information, however shallow or flaky, and present it as indisputable proof of The Truth.

In other words, they’re seeing exactly what they want to see. They go in looking to find that 1.6 is ten times more popular than Source, and by extension ten times better as a game, and that’s exactly what they come out with. To borrow a term from Scott Adams, they’re nothing more than moist robots, doing what they’ve been programmed to do.

Everybody does that from time to time, including myself. There are two differences, though, in this instance. The first is that I’ve at least tried to think it through. But, more importantly, I’m well aware I could still be falling prey to the same mentality. Even though I’m presenting this as an argument that my way of thinking is more rational, or more accurate (and thus “better”), if somebody came along and refuted my points, I would be happy to discuss, and even eventually accept that way of thinking. Being right all the time isn’t as important as realizing that you’re never going to be right all the time.

Call me crazy, but I’m not going to wait with bated breath for the forums to adopt that mentality.  

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