LANDodger.com is officially one year old. Actually, it's one year and two days old. That's right, I missed my own birthday. Please, hold your applause until the end.

I can't believe it's been a year. I'd say the time flew by, but that would imply I was conscious of its passing. As in, "Holy crap, look at that Time go!" as it raced past my window, leaving nothing but a plastic bag (for American Beauty 2) in its turbulent wake. To me it was more like time's disappearance on a long driving trip. One minute you're thinking about how much longer you have to drive, then you're thinking about your next food stop, how McDonalds should pay their employees more so they can afford to not eat at McDonalds, thus helping solve the obesity epidemic, which would in turn alleviate a lot of playground teasing and depression in children, which are just two of a million pitfalls kids face when growing up in America today.

By the time you've solved obesity, poverty, depression, and are well on your way to developing energy independence for America using bio-diesel from used McDonald's cooking oil, you realize it's been about two-hundred miles since you last paid attention to the road, a somewhat important aspect of driving, and you hope you're not heading towards Topeka instead of Tampa.

(In case you're wondering, Topeka was lovely.)

So it's been a crazy trip. And thanks to everybody that's supported the site via visiting, feedback, or spreading the word, an insanely fun trip, as well. I've enjoyed almost every moment of it, and the only crappy parts haven't been your fault -- it's usually something I should have done better, like catching a typo. Publishing small errors is always a downer; it's the writing equivalent of having a fly in your soup. Even a world-class chef is no match for the dreaded Musca domestica.

When sites celebrate their anniversaries or certain holidays they usually have big announcements to go along with the occasion. Things like messages from Santa Chen, or the unveiling of new projects and site modifications, etc. I have no such treats to offer you, dear reader. In typical LANDodger style, I'm flying by the seat of my pants.

That's not because I'm not looking to make improvements, mind you. Quite the opposite. I still consider myself to be a mediocre writer on a good day. I'm pleased that some people disagree with me, but I'm going to get better. I'm going to bring more funny, more insight, and plain old more content so you have a better resource for eSports commentary than forums. You're formally invited to come along for the ride, provided you haven't gotten sick of my driving up to this point.

Truthfully, I think we've done well in the first year, and I thank everybody for that. Now it's up to me to make sure we do even better in the second year. No announcements, no timetables, just a promise. This is only the beginning.

(Actually, this is the ending -- here come the closing lines!)

One full year. Considering how long things last on the internet, I think this qualifies me for a mid-life crisis.

Tags:
LD News

 
January 23, 2008

GotFrag started a new prediction system about a week ago, and I’m a big fan. Detailed predictions are incredibly hard to do week-in and week-out. It takes more time than you might suspect, causing most predictions to slowly fade away like a five-alarm hangover. Believe me, I know from experience. About the predictions, not the hangover. I think the new, quick format is an upgrade, and hopefully it has some staying power.

And since they’re working hard at doing predictions, what better way to reward their effort than point out all their mistakes while enjoying the comforts of hindsight? That’s a joke; I won’t be seriously critiquing their performances. I might make a joke here and there or poke fun, but mostly I think it’d be interesting to keep track of their records as predictors. There’s also a guest predictor to complete the panel of five, and I’ll just compile their totals under “Guest”.

Here are the results from the first two weeks, broken up into Week 2.2 and Week 2.1 in parenthesis:

Singlecoil: 10-1 (5-1, 5-0)
SirScoots: 9-2 (5-1, 4-1)
Midway: 7-4 (4-2, 3-2)
Guest: 7-4 (3-3, 4-1)
jeSUIT: 5-6 (3-3, 2-3)

I’ll give more notes as the season progresses, but for now I’ll just say Singlecoil’s only loss from the first two sets of matches came when Carolina upset the LA compLexity. Only one person, SirScoots, dodged that bullet, and I honestly have no idea how he did. coL seems to lose once every season in CEVO, and somehow Scoots knew it was coming. Just a marvelous prediction.

I’ll add the Week 3.1 results once they’re in. It looks like most of the matches will be finished tonight with only one being rescheduled for a later date.

There’s another trend besides the records that I wanted to mention briefly. After an innocent first set of predictions, Midway’s broken out the exclamation points like it’s a buy-one, get-two free sale. It could be the predictor’s version of a poker tell. Zero exclamation points means he flipped a coin. One exclamation point means he’s bluffing or not confident in his prediction. Two means he’s got some gusto behind his words.And look out when he uses the four-exclamation ending, also known from here on out as the Midway Special. He’s holding a monster when he uses that.

And not for nothing, he’s also starting to corner the market on ALL-CAPS WORDS … !!!!

Stay tuned for more prediction action and reaction!!!!

Tags:
CEVO, Media, Source

 
January 23, 2008

This is ridiculously cool. I'm not sure how it relates to eSports other than perhaps a souped-up version of Duck Hunt in the near future. But it's worth watching, if only to let your mind wander about what technology might be coming in the next few years.

Tags:
General

 
January 23, 2008

If you’re like me, you probably missed most of the action from the CPL. In fact, given the amount of exposure, you might be surprised to know the CPL is already done. In the news cycle, it lasted about as long as the playoff hopes of the New York Knicks. And, in case you’re wondering: Yes, it’s a bad sign when a “major” tournament can’t displace a message from “Santa Chen” on the GotFrag main page.

The scary part is that it’s hard to say whether the CPL has bottomed out or if it’s still on the downswing. The boycott from the G7 was a huge blow, not only in terms of quality of the event, but for its public image, as well. There was the minor fiasco with the ONE MILLION DOLLAR Halo tournament that quietly became the $100,000 Halo tournament. I call it minor only because nobody made a big stink about it, which enforces the veracity of the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eight times, and we start to expect trickery.”

Most people don’t feel any empathy for the CPL in their darkest hour – “Good riddance to any tournament that doesn’t pay out its prizes in a timely (or helpful) manner, and keeps abusing the community”. I agree with that point of view. I’m just not ready to make the leap to “if it dies, it won’t be missed.”


Everybody loves money. Just looking at it makes my day a little brighter. And by that, I mean greener.

Simply put, eSports (as a whole) is healthier when the CPL is alive.

It’s partially a matter of redundancy. The CGS isn’t guaranteed to thrive. I believe (and hope) it will, but it’s also a revolutionary league, and who knows what could go wrong. New things have a way of backfiring sometimes. Just ask Will Smith in “I am Legend”.

If the CGS doesn’t stay financially viable, where does that leave competitive gaming in North America? WEG and ESWC? What are we going to do the other ten months of the year, besides obsess about the Spears family drama and watch reruns of the Daily Show? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see CAL-Invite be a top league again, but not because everybody ahead of them folds like the XFL.

On the other hand, even if the CGS is completely successful, the CPL can still play a role in eSports. It’s like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. It might lead us into the lair of a giant, man-eating spider. But it could also be part of the solution. Every good tournament helps eSports get over the hump and into the mainstream. More positive exposure is undoubtedly a good thing.

The key phrase is “positive exposure”. A well-run CPL is worth saving. Of course, what we have now is not a well-run CPL. We have what’s commonly known as a “stinker”.

We can’t keep the CPL alive in its current form. But I think it would be wasteful to cast it off, as well. That leaves only one question: how do we fix it?

(And by “we”, I mean Angel Munoz).

Repair The Trust

This is an unavoidable first step. This isn’t one of those “you’d be better off if you did it like this” deals, like having a really snappy pick-up line. No, this is like showering before you try your snappy pick-up line. It’s an absolute must. If the CPL wants to come close to approaching its former glory, it must win back the community and repair the broken trust.

The solution is logically simple, and practically difficult.

The most obvious rift between the CPL and the community is the missed payouts. But somewhere, there has to be a record of who won what money, and who hasn’t been paid yet. From what the G7 said, there have already been complaints and questions raised on behalf of most or all of the unpaid parties. Figuring out exactly what money is missing shouldn’t be a big deal.

So, what’s really stopping the CPL from paying out the money? Rules? Regulations? Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m looking at personal rules that no longer help me, I get rid of them. Like, say, the idea I had in second grade that girls should be avoided. Last week, I realized that idea was silly, and it’s no longer part of my personal code.

At this point, the CPL needs to pay up. Just do it. If somebody missed a deadline by two years, who cares? Didn’t fill out the form? Here’s what you need to do, with exact instructions. If they can’t pay all the gamers, they need to pay at least some of them. Make the effort, because everybody hasn’t gotten the message.

That would be a huge step forward, but it’s not everything. Honestly, it seems like the whole payout method is convoluted and needs to be redone.

I know this for one simple reason. People love money. They love it so much, they’ll do just about anything to get it, even if they lose a thousand dollars to win five hundred. Yet somehow, the CPL can offer (paraphrasing) “the players never filled out the proper forms” as a legitimate excuse for not paying out. When somebody is offering you a few hundred bucks (or more), paperwork isn’t much of a barrier. But somewhere, something is lost in translation. The CPL needs to clean up whatever process they use to pay out money, even if it means hunting people down a la Dog the Bounty Hunter. Every dollar or man-hour they spend making that effort is worth its weight in gold.


It takes a secure man to wear braids. We need him on our team.

With these two things, we’ve covered the missing payouts and hopefully prevented more instances of the same problem in the future. Now we just need to …

Pick a Game, Any Game

I’m down with experimenting. I don’t mind that the CPL is expanding into Halo, or that they tried to use World in Conflict and F.E.A.R. There is a problem, however, when those are title games instead of side tournaments.

Right now, it seems like they’re just swinging in the dark and hoping to hit a homerun. They’ve switched from Source to 1.6 to WiC/FEAR, back to Source/1.6/Halo as their “main” games. This means if you’re a fan of Source, you’re never really sure if your game is coming or going. Will the next CPL still have it? What about the one after that?

Basically, I think they’re breeding instability. They’re not developing a loyal fan-base, they’re making fair-weather, casual fans. That’s not good. It took the Atlanta Braves twelve years of winning the division before their fans became blasé about the whole “baseball” thing. The CPL has streamlined that process and done it in two years.

The way I see it, there are four legitimate options for major games: 1.6, Source, Halo, and a darkhorse candidate: Quake.

1.6 is probably the worst option for a main title. Despite being a great game, the American scene is a shadow of its former self, and that’s being kind. And let’s face it, I don’t think the top European teams are going to fight over plane tickets for the next CPL. Without the top teams, there isn’t going to be international interest, and I don’t think eMg and Turmoil are enough of a draw to make 1.6 the major title.

Source and Halo are both good options, providing you can attract the CGS or the MLG teams. They’re decent options without either, but if the CPL can secure attendance from the top teams, they’d have a much, much bigger turnout. Competitive gaming has always been a top-down model; wherever the top teams go, the fans and lower teams follow. Getting those teams isn’t out of the question, either, considering the CGS allowed teams to play at Newegg and DigitalLife.

The darkhorse, and I think a very interesting idea, is to use Quake. They’d instantly be the biggest Quake tournament around, and even though the community isn’t as big as Counter-Strike’s, it’s still large. Plus, the action translates well to CS fans. They’re familiar with the basic game mechanics, and honestly the game is fast and fun to watch. It wouldn’t hurt to get CS fans interested in Quake.

Personally, I think the best option is a Source/Quake combo. I have no idea what it would take to get the CGS teams there, but the more the CPL can ride the coattails of the CGS (for now), the better of they’ll be. And using Quake clearly fills a need for a large community. There’s a dearth of good Quake tournaments, and you’d be guaranteed to have a good turnout and media coverage.

Whatever they choose, they need to stick with one. They can’t hop back and forth every six months, they need to be a rock for the community.

The Final Step

This is the hardest part. There has to be a shift in philosophy.

For whatever reason, it seems like the CPL prefers short-term gains over long-term planning. If a tournament doesn’t have enough support, they just cut the prize money. How loyal do you expect teams and fans to be when they pay $1000 to win their piece of a $50,000 $25,000 prize? Sadly, the CPL hotel rate doesn’t get cut in half when the CPL prize money does.

In other words, there are promises, promises, and disappointments. The CPL shouldn’t have the same problems as your relationship with a pathological liar.

On some levels it’s understandable. The CPL is running a business, and it’s hard to absorb losses. The only problem is that it’s even worse to screw your customers. The underlying thought behind any change the CPL (hopefully) makes is sacrificing short-term damage control for long-term benefits. Money doesn’t grow on trees, it comes from the pockets of the same fans and teams that they’re constantly belittling.

Even with all this, the CPL is salvageable. The community is willing to forgive a lot. If they made the effort to ensure that everybody got paid regardless of technicalities and regulations, they could regain a large portion of trust. And picking a couple games would go a long way towards solidifying themselves in the gaming scene instead of riding on the chaotic winds of new games. Then, all they’d need to do is make sure to put the community first to have a more symbiotic relationship, instead of a one-way money funnel.

And from what I’ve seen the last couple years, the future of the CPL doesn’t look bright.

Tags:
CPL

 
January 19, 2008

As most of you have probably heard, Counter-Strike was banned in Brazil. There are some questions about the details, but here’s what I can figure out about what happened and what it means for eSports.

Just The Facts

People in the GotFrag thread were commenting that the law only applies to the Brazilian state of Goiás, but apparently that’s inaccurate. An article on UOL (in Portugese, you can find instructions for a quick translation using Word 2007 here), Brazil’s biggest web portal and owned by Brazil’s biggest newspaper, reports that the decision extends to the entire country. This is confirmed in another article. However, the UOL piece also says other states, notably Sao Paulo, are still analyzing the case.

In a weird twist, apparently the ban only applies to 1.6 – Source isn’t mentioned in any of the reports, and a Brazilian reader from Kotaku (in the comments) stated that Source is unaffected.

The reasons cited for the ban seem to rest primarily on the map cs_rio. As you can surmise from the name, it’s a hostage map based in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The press release describes the map as drug dealers from Rio de Janeiro capturing three members of the United Nations and holding them captive in the slums. The Police/Counter-Terrorists are then greeted by a hail of bullets when trying to rescue the UN representatives.


"How dare you make our slums look so pixelated!"

In response, Electronic Arts, the official distributor of Counter-Strike in Brazil, basically said that CS itself doesn’t have any of the qualities mentioned in the ban; cs_rio is user-generated content and has no official connection to CS or its vendors.

Reaction

First they came for our books, and I said nothing.

Then, they came for our free music, and still I said nothing.

But Heaven help any bastard that comes for our video games. Those people will Feel The Wrath.

Seriously though, I’m not sure I’ve seen this many people on GotFrag agree about anything. There was a 5 page thread about whether you wipe standing up or sitting down, and I’m pretty sure people were being called morons and idiots in that thread. If somebody calls you retarded for that, they’ll call you retarded for anything.

Yet somehow, they all managed to agree that this is absolutely crazy. In some ways, I’m surprised it didn’t get a full banner on GotFrag instead of being just a news post. Then again, what does it really mean?  The RIAA can’t stop people from downloading music, and movies get pirated all the time despite DRM. Does anybody think they can actually enforce a ban on Counter-Strike? You’d probably have a better chance getting NightFall to sing Kumbaya with … anybody, really. It’s completely unrealistic.

And it’s worth mentioning they’re about seven years behind the times. Everquest and Counter-Strike? I know it’s a different season in the Southern Hemisphere, but I didn’t know they were still in the summer of 1999. By the time they get around to banning Source, Iraq will have a stable government and Iran will be officially renamed the George W. Bush Nucular Crater.

If that wasn’t enough, the only aspect of Counter-Strike that’s mentioned is cs_rio. They didn’t seem to mind all the shooting and killing, provided it was done on cs_italy and not in a virtual depiction of the Rio slums. If the US followed their example the government would ban baseball to protect kids from amphetamines.

In other words, I don’t think the Brazilian Judicial System (as a whole) is really dedicated to banning violent video games. This doesn’t seem like the start of a trend, it seems more like one incident that gets huge publicity because it’s so shocking – like Bill O’Reilly saying something that isn’t inflammatory. Besides, it’s a bit of a double-standard to ban Everquest for reinforcing aggressive tendencies while hundreds of other games go completely unregulated, and I don’t see them actually banning all violent video games. It would cost too much, it would be too hard to enforce, and it would wildly unpopular, to put it lightly.

(Although, if they did … Viva la Pong!)

I almost feel like I should be taking this more seriously. I’m not a legal expert. This could be way off base, and Brazil could really be cracking down on all forms of violent entertainment, starting with video games.

Still, I think I have a decent grasp of reality and logic, and every part of me just screams this is totally impractical.  It has every reason, including years of history, to go away.

Plus, thanks to many years of watching The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and perusing various forums, I am an expert in Unsubstantiated Crazy. I can spot it from a mile away. It looks shaky, it smells fishy, and it tastes like chicken. And I call this three kinds of crazy. The whole thing seems completely ridiculous, and the ridiculocity (yes,  ridiculocity) is obvious enough that it can’t possibly gain that much traction. In fact, it’s so far from sanity that the word ridiculocity looks normal in comparison.

Best case scenario: The whole thing is resolved quickly, perhaps by overturning the decision on an appeal or banning just the map instead of the whole game. Save the baby, dump the bathwater.

Medium case scenario: It becomes one of those crazy laws you hear about in the US that don’t get enforced, like how women can be fined in Florida for falling asleep under a hair dryer.

Worst case scenario: Source has some new fans.

Until they get around to banning it in 2025.


 
January 16, 2008

I'm back with more content for the CGS team sites. This time, it's a look at Mark "Masternook" Torrez's career, from the very beginning and through all the highs and lows. Enjoy!


 
January 14, 2008

The second half of the Year in Review articles I did for the Dallas Venom is posted. Hopefully people find it as funny as the first one.

Enjoy!

Tags:
CGS, LD News

 
January 11, 2008

I always try to learn from other people’s mistakes. I think of them as gifts. Other people are kindly making idiots of themselves so that I don’t have to. The least I can do is pay attention, like a cursory glance through a Christmas card.

Despite my best efforts, I often fail.

For instance, take the story of my good friend Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor. He made a myriad of mistakes, many of which I’ve taken to heart. After watching his tragic death, I’ve made a personal vow never to fight against hobbits, wizards, or people that live to be three-hundred years old. I will also never trust the cowardly men of the north, or my own stupid orcish creations. And, most importantly, I will never, ever let somebody cut off the source of all my power conveniently left unguarded on one of my fingers.
I’m happy to report that I’ve upheld these ideals.


He's got a surprisingly good sense of humor. A little morbid, but not bad.

But, I didn’t learn the most important lesson. Sauron’s fatal error was the same one faced by many a prison inmate: his back-door was unguarded. I fell into the same trap. Two seasons ago, while the Great Eye of LANDodger was focused intently on CAL coverage, CEVO slipped one of the stupidest policies I’ve ever seen through the back door, completely unnoticed.

(Truthfully, I’m not sure how it happened. It’s hard coming up with new CAL predictions twice a week when the teams only bother logging off WoW to play a match every two weeks, but some sort of alarm should have gone off in my head. It was really a momentously stupid decision from CEVO. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to forgive myself.)

What’s the big deal, you ask? One word: Overtime.

CEVO currently uses the CGS format for Counter-Strike: Source matches. Nine rounds per half, and one round of overtime to determine the winner. The CGS has every reason to use that format. When every round is worth a point, a six-round overtime could compromise the competition. A franchise with a 9-8 lead in CS and a three point overall deficit should intentionally lose the last round so they can have a chance to win in overtime. Winning 10-8 does them no good, and you can’t have a format that rewards intentionally throwing rounds. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the time constraints for the CGS. It’s a small factor, but real nonetheless.

Now ask yourself one question: do either of those things apply to CEVO? I know it’s a faux-pas to answer a rhetorical question, but the answer is “no”.

In CEVO, winning the match is pretty much everything. The whole playoff system depends on it. Directly related to the playoff system is the money system. What happens if a team loses an overtime match on Nuke 9-10 because they had to play T side? Same thing with Inferno. In a twelve match season, even one victory is a huge swing. Think of all the NFL teams that missed the playoffs by one game, and could have made it if a single field-goal went their way, or a phantom penalty wasn’t called. The difference between being outside looking in and being in the playoffs is razor-thin at the last couple spots.

Basically, I think CEVO’s adopted the CGS rules without considering what’s best for their league. And worst of all, there’s money at stake. These people aren’t playing for free, and the sponsors shouldn’t be happy that the best teams might not be winning in overtime. Even though I’ve been referencing the regular season in my arguments, it’s by far a bigger deal in the playoffs. The maps aren’t balanced. Each team has to play rounds as offense and defense to negate the inherent lopsidedness.

And honestly, I’m at a complete loss as to why this isn’t a bigger deal in the community. People complain constantly about the CGS format and every little decision they make, but nobody says a word when CEVO compromises the integrity of their playoff system? One CAL admin goes on a forum power trip and everybody threatens to leave the league, but CEVO’s administrators keep an overtime policy that blatantly favors one team over another, and there’s no media coverage or public outcry?

Let me put it this way: I’m months late to the party, and I still feel like I’m the first one here.

CEVO’s overtime has to change. Now.

Tags:
CEVO

 
January 4, 2008

I wrote a two-part Year in Review for the Dallas Venom website. It's focused mainly on Source, but branches into the CGS, CSP, and other topics as well. If you enjoy humor, I think you'll love it. And if you're sourpuss, it might be funny enough to make you crack a smile. Or possibly chortle. A slight guffaw, at best.

Enjoy!

Tags:
LD News

 
January 3, 2008

As part of my ongoing (and possibly never-ending) quest to earn money for writing, I wrote a CEVO-P Preview for the Carolina Core website.

Also, as a side note, I'm in Florida and it's supposed to be thirty-four degrees tonight. That's Fahrenheit, too, none of that tricky Celsius crap. We need a federal law requiring Florida to never be colder than fifty degrees. It's the right thing to do.

And yes, I'm bitter. Bitter cold.


 
January 2, 2008

The title pretty much says it all. The holidays are over, but I hope everybody had a great couple weeks spending time with family and friends.

In the spirit of the season, there have been a ton of people that supported LD and myself over the months, and I want to thank everybody. It's been a fun ride, and hopefully as the site starts to bring in some money, I can spend even more time bringing you happiness, joy, and occasionally pain. Hey, every relationship has its ups and downs.

Although I'm going to contact as many people as I can personally, there's still far too many. So if you've been idling the IRC channel (#landodger on GameSurge), joined the LD Steam group (all 17 of you) e-mailed me, linked to LD, thought about LD, or even thought about linking or e-mailing me, you have my undying gratitude. That goes double for the couple of you that have actually hired me to do something.

Thanks, everybody. I couldn't have made it this long without you, and I think this is just the beginning.

Tags:
LD News


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