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 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 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.


 
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.


 

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.


 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


 
November 13, 2007

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


Schedule

December 6th:

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

December 7th:

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

December 8th:

- WoW: Burning Crusade Tournament (webcast on thecgs.com)
- Individual Competitions for CGS Games(webcast on thecgs.com)

December 10th:

-Quarterfinals, Day 1

December 11th:

-Quarterfinals, Day 2

December 13th:

-Semifinals

December 14th:

-Finals

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


Prize Breakdowns

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

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

MVP: $25,000


Individual World Finals (Side Tournaments)

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

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


WoW: BC (2v2)

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

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


 
November 6, 2007

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
October 31, 2007

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

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


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

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

1998
2000
2002
2004
2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1946-47
• Zone defenses outlawed on January 11, 1947.

1951-52
• Lane widened from six to 12 feet

1954-55
• The 24-second shot clock is introduced.

1964-65
• Lane widened from 12 to 16 feet

1974-75
• The “force out” rule is clarified as incidental contact near a boundary line, which causes a player to commit a violation or go out of bounds, and neither team is responsible for the action. The offensive team retains possession.

1976-77
• The “force out” rule is eliminated.

1977-78
• Any field goal that, in the opinion of the officials is intentionally scored in the wrong basket shall be disallowed.
• The 24-second shot clock shall be reset to 24 seconds on all violations, as well as after a zone warning.
• Number of referees officiating game increased from two to three.

1978-79
• Rolling the ball on the floor from out of bounds now allowed; penalty of loss of possession eliminated.
• The three-point field goal is tried in pre-season.

1979-80
• Three-point line established 22 feet in the corners extending to 23 feet, nine inches at the top of the key.
• Number of referees officiating game reduced from three to two.

1982-83
• After the ball is out-of-bounds, the team, not the official, shall designate a player to make the throw-in.

1988-89
• Number of referees officiating game increased from two to three.

1994-95
• Shortened the three-point line (22 feet in the corners extending to 23 feet, nine inches at the top of the key) to a uniform 22 feet around the basket.
• “Clear path” rule changed to include contact in the backcourt. If a defender, grabs a player when the player has a clear path to the basket on a breakaway, two foul shots will be awarded.

1997-98
• The three-point line, 22 feet from the basket, lengthened to its original distance of 23 feet, nine inches, except in the corners, where the distance remained 22 feet.

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

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

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

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

Tags:
CGS

 

I have a lot of respect for all different kinds of people. I respect Stephen King because my brain looks a lollipop compared to his. I respect Chuck Norris because of his internet fame.

(Just kidding, I respect him because he could beat me to a pulp using nothing but a fingernail clipping.)

But, there are a couple traits I respect more than others, and one of those is being able to take criticism and not instantly hate the person that criticizes you. I admire this because I often have problems with it, myself. It’s hard not to take comments personally.

With that in mind, you can imagine my surprise when Mark Dolven from the Carolina Core contacted me about an interview. Although I’ve tried very hard to differentiate between calling an action stupid (letting Johan Santana become a free agent is stupid), and insulting the person (the Twins GM would be stupid to let Johan Santana become a free agent), it’s a thin line to walk and I wouldn’t be surprised if I crossed it a few times either through specific words or the “tone” of an article. Like, say, during my writings about the Carolina Core drafting Pandemic.


Melts under heat or pressure: it's not a lollipop, it's my brain!

So, I’d just like to give a big “thanks” to Mark for the interview. Not only for the reasons stated above, but because it was a pleasure to work with him on the interview and read his responses. I’ve always been a fan of 3D, so I’m not sure I can switch to the Carolina franchise. But now, at the very least, I’m a Mark Dolven fan. That doesn't mean I'll always agree with his decisions, but you can be sure that any problems I have will always start with: "I respectfully disagree".

On to the good stuff!


1) Let's get right to it. You draft Pandemic. Source fans take to the virtual streets with torches and pitchforks. You explain the reasoning on the Core website, and also in a GotFrag interview, but I thought parts of those were at odds (http://www.landodger.com/archives/20070729-174838.php). Third time's a charm, once and for all, playing for keeps (please feel free to insult and debunk my previous article): Why Pandemic?

Mark Dolven: My opinion on why I really drafted them has changed and evolved since the draft completed, but it has stayed pretty true to the original reasons. Did they have a better chance than some of the other teams because I had built that team? Of course they did. Were they drafted only because of that? Heck no. Coming into the Draft, I had analyzed a few things from the combine and one of them was that the Counter-Strike Source results had been nothing but inconsistent and extremely tight to say the least. Even the undisputed #1 team in the land, Complexity, didn't win the combine. There was no consistency across the board at all in the CS:S results from the challenges to the actual combine. Because of this, I dropped CS:S to my very last priority and draft pick. With that in mind, I knew that my options would be Pandemic, United 5 or a source based team. I knew that JMC and EG would go early and while I may have liked to have one of those two teams on my franchise, it wasn't worth giving away a higher draft pick to do so. 

So the decision came down to one of the two 1.6 teams that I really had grown fond of or a Source team. At the time (my opinion has evolved since), I wanted nothing to do with a Source team just because the CGS was going to be a new breed of pressure and stress, so I needed an experienced group of players. None of the source teams lacked skill, they were all very good and still are, but I didn't think I had time to lose matches simply due to cracking under the pressure or stress. So the choice came down to Pandemic and United 5. The world revolted when I went with Pandemic, but there's nothing I can do about that. At the end of the day, I went with my gut feeling and it said take Pandemic. Each team had their respective strengths and weaknesses, so I was forced to draft by instinct. United 5 really interviewed well and showed a lot of character throughout the whole process, but I decided to go with Pandemic mostly because of their untapped potential in Source, combined with their world class experience. I also thought they would be easier to manage than a new team, but my opinion has since changed and it has been quite the opposite. The CGS is a whole new ball game and I've had to change my management style to evolve with it and this hasn't been received as well as I would have liked it to be. I think if I had the decision, I would still choose Pandemic, but one of the hungry Source teams that was on the board would have gotten a better look.


2) The Core's Source team went 5-7 during the season, and the community latched onto the thought that Sam "devour" Chamma was carrying the team. How important was he to the team's success?

MD: Sam played well almost all season in Los Angeles, but more importantly he was the most consistent player. We ended up losing because of our inconsistency as a team (13-5 blowout in this format? Common), but I wouldn't attribute this too much to Sam. Of all of the gamers that were apart of CGS, Sam was one of the few that kept to his normal daily routine of sleeping normal, working out and not falling susceptible to all of the distractions that the Players' Village created. Inside the game, Sam was very important to the team's success because he is one main AWPer. Sam is one of the best in the game, but in Source no matter who your #1 AWPer is, they are the most important player in the game. If you have a poor game from the person that should be leading in frags, you'll lose. Fortunately for us, Sam took his professionalism serious and he put in the time he needed to in order to dominate the CGS. He almost single handily dominated Complexity and won a 1v2 to defeat 3D New York, so you can't negate his important on those facts alone. He wasn't the only reason for our success, but definitely a huge one.  The fans should gravitate to him, he's a great personality and player.


3) The Finals didn't go well for the Core CS:S team, but they're off to a 7-3 start in CEVO including a couple wins over fellow CGS teams. Did the team do anything special to stay focused on CEVO after what I'm sure was a bitter end to the CGS season?

MD: The success we're having in CEVO is a product of having more time with the game. We are one of the more active teams in the community and didn't waste much time after the CGS was over to get back on the horse. We have the World Championships to prepare for and finishing well in CEVO is a great start to this. I've had the guys take it very seriously and it has paid dividends as we currently sit in third place. We really didn't do anything special, just took it serious. That's not something I can say for the league as a whole.


4) Unlike the other franchises, the Core had their own practice room. It seemed like that was a definite advantage; who came up with that idea, and would you be surprised to see other franchises copy it?

MD: We were very lucky to have our own practice room and it was mostly because Peekay called in some favors to some former sponsors. This room was a huge asset to our team and really helped the team push their skill week in and week out. I think that things like this are definitely the future of the CGS and professional gaming. I would not be surprised to see us build a full training facility in Charlotte in the next couple years because this is the big time and we need to treat it as such. I think a lot of franchises will do something similar in the future, but I don't claim it to be an original idea, so I expect them to do so.


5) In the big picture, the Core's first season was a success; you finished second in Region 1, and earned a berth in the World Championships. Are there definitive dates out for that, and have the Core players already started (or continued) practicing?

MD: The World Championships will be in December with 12 total franchises in attendance. The specific dates haven't been locked down, but it should be after Thanksgiving, but before Christmas. The Core players really never stopped practicing after the season was over. Offbeat Ninja and Mystik have been extremely active and will actually be heading to a tournament this weekend to compete. The CS team has obviously been having some good success in CEVO due to their practicing and the PGR duo has been putting in time daily to keep up their speed. The wild card of our team has definitely been Peekay. After a rough first season, he could have rolled over and just collected his check, but he has actually done the opposite and become the most active member of the team. He puts in hours and hours of practice into FIFA and is determined to not let us down at the World Championships. He knows that the International players are incredible at FIFA and our success and championships run starts with him competing and sneaking in some victories.


The key to the Core's success might be peekay, but I think we all know the key to success for a different pk -- a penalty kick.


6) The CGS scoring system has come under fire as being unfair. The championship game is actually a good example: the Core won three of the games by wide margins (including a convincing win by the much-maligned peekay), and only suffered one big loss, but the Chimera took home the title. Is there a feeling among the GMs that the scoring system needs to be reworked?

MD: When I joined up with the CGS and they told me how they were going to work the four games together for a franchise match, I was shocked in excitement. This really is a great format and I never imagined this is how it would be put together. With that being said, it is a new format which will mean that there's no way it can be perfect in the first season. We are committed to this points system and setup for the duration of the this season because if it were changed it would lopside people's draft strategies and direction. I think the PGR scoring system needs to be reworked to 4-2-1 (instead of 5-3-1) to make it a maximum +5 to fall in line with the DOA games. Overall as a whole though, I really like the system and the new fans from TV definitely liked it. I don't think there is a problem with losing 3 games out of 5 and still winning the franchise match. It definitely puts emphasis on every point, every goal and every round which is nothing but great for the sport.

In the finals, it hurt that we lost even though we won three games, but in the first CGS match ever we won by only winning two games and then also did the same thing to knock the Optx out in the first round. Being on the wrong end of it in the finals sucked, but what goes around, comes around.


7) There isn't much information out about next season. Can you confirm the rumor that CS:Source will be an individual draft? Will all the players (not just Source) from this season re-enter the draft pool, or is there a way for the franchises to retain their stars?

MD: I'm not 100% sure on what the format for the next season is and we just started entering our planning stage for the 2008 season. The rumor is it will be some sort of individual draft, but we haven't actually sat down and ironed out the details yet because we are still in the middle of the current season. So I can't confirm the rumor, nor deny it because we haven't decided yet. :)


8) It was announced that a WoW 2v2 division will be added for the second CGS season. The WSVG uses a 3v3 format, and still other tournaments use 5v5. How do you gauge talent between the different formats, and have you started scouting teams/players yet?

MD: Well, it will be no secret that finding talent in WoW will be a difficult task indeed. Right before I left Pandemic, I recruited the WoW division for them and they ended their WSVG run this season undefeated with Four World Championships, so I think I did alright there. I may have gotten lucky, but I think when it comes time to draft WoW for the CGS, I'll use my instincts and get it right again. With that being said, it will be extremely difficult though with no strong 2v2 community currently on the tournament scene.


9) What player (or group of players) impressed you the most during the season?

MD: I could rant and rave about my own players, but I think you're asking me to pick someone outside my own franchise, so I will. The only player that surprised everyone was Coolsvilla of New York. She was drafted second to last in DOA Female and she was indefinitely the second best female by the end of the season. She practiced extremely hard and I would always see her in the practice room doing her thing. She had some inexperience and pressure issues to deal with from what I saw, but she overcame them and really played strong to close out the season. She was the steal of the draft for Geffon and I expect to see more great things out of her in the future. Other than her though, there were a lot of impressive people, but I expected them to impress, so what's the fun in that.


10) What exactly are the rules regarding CGS players/teams playing in other events – is there some kind of application or notification process? Will the Core's Source team be able to play at the Winter CPL?

MD: There is a set rules structure for CGS players to compete outside of the CGS. I don't want to go into it in full detail, but basically it's in place to make sure we know where our athletes are at all times. Pending a time conflict, our athletes are usually free to participate in any tournament they want. It just has to go through a formal application process to the General Manager who checks out the sponsors of the event, the organization holding it, etc. We want our athletes to play and game as much as they want, but sometimes we have to protect our investments and not allow them to play in competing leagues or events with competing sponsors. We have not made a ruling on Winter CPL yet and are in discussions now, so I can't give you a definitive at this time.


11) In the first season, a taxi player was only used if one of the starters was physically unable to be there (a player couldn't be "benched" or "demoted" so to speak), and all the contracts were for the same amount of money. Do you think that the GMs will have more autonomy in the future?

MD: The General Managers will grow in responsibility and power in the future, but in year 1 we were limited in what kind of rosters moves we could make. Heading into the draft, it was my understanding that I could move players down and bring players up at will, but as the season progressed, I was advised otherwise and totally understood why it was that way. It did screw up my plan to have Pandemic and United 5 play a midseason set of matches for the spot on the team if Pandemic wasn't playing well, but it is what it is. In the future I can't wait to be able to trade, cut, develop and manage salary cap. This will really add a new dynamic to the sport, but we're not quite there and ready for it just yet. Soon though, soon!


That's it for me, if you'd like to leave any other thoughts or comments, feel free to do so!

Thanks for the interview Mike, I really appreciate it. You do a great job here at Landodger and it is really one of those hidden gems of a website. To our fans, stay tuned to www.CarolinaCore.com in the next few months as we have lots of great promotions coming out in our preparation for the World Championships. Go Core!


 

It seems counter-intuitive to call the closure of the WSVG a good sign for eSports. It was the second-biggest league (for PC gamers). Now their events and prize money have been taken away from the collective pool, and that seems like an obvious step back in terms of exposure and opportunity. No more WSVG-run events, and (this might be the worst part) no action scheduled for CBS, a network channel which is much more inclusive than the cable-only CGS broadcasts. If you want a good recap of the events leading up to the cancellation, check out Midway’s work on GotFrag. It sums up where the WSVG started, where they ended up, and a little bit of how it happened.

So, the second biggest league closing its doors has to be bad, right?


Midway, seen here on a football field.

I’m not so sure. Their departure is certainly a shock, but it might be a sign that eSports is heading in the right direction. Basically, when you read Midway’s article and the official WSVG press release, it seems more like they got forced out of eSports. That's a sign of better competition winning out, not incompetent leadership costing players and teams more opportunities.

There might be lessons that eSports organizers need to learn here, but doesn’t it seem more like something bigger and better came along? Some of the crucial staff left for the CGS. The CGS got broadcasting rights for Counter-Strike. And they were going to add a WoW division, which means they’d be taking players from the same pool as the WSVG – and let’s face it, people were going to take the guaranteed salaries. Not to mention that WoW is huge, but Arena, the competitive aspect, isn’t there yet; it’s still very young. Guitar Hero II and Fight Night 3 are minor titles.The WSVG couldn’t feature the biggest game, and, more importantly, they didn’t have the best players and were about to lose more of them to the CGS.

I can’t stress that last part enough. Name me one league that has thrived without the best players in any sport. Nobody watches the MLS. Arena football is actually exciting to watch, but nobody cares about it. XFL? NFL Europe? WNBA? When you're talking about the talent level in a league, second best just isn’t good enough. For an example closer to home, think about the hit that CAL took in popularity when the premier CS teams went to CEVO.

With all that taken into consideration, it’s not surprising that the WSVG couldn’t maintain its previous success. But I don’t think it was because they were mismanaged, per se. I don’t have the inside scoop or anything, but to me it seems more like the CGS came along and did everything the WSVG did, except better.

Isn't that really the goal of competitive gaming? To be united under one league? We’re all looking for one major league to take the spotlight, give out player salaries, have totally autonomous GMs that can give out any contracts they want, call up players from a player-development system, and have an All-Star game, a World Series, and e-Super Bowl. Those things just aren’t possible when two entities are fighting for the same space and the same players.

So even though I have extremely fond memories of WSVG Kentucky in 2006, and the Summer Invitational, which were both extremely well run and exciting, I think the WSVG’s closure might be a sign that eSports is heading in the right direction.

(And only time will tell.)

Tags:
CAL, CEVO, CGS, CPL, WSVG

 
August 14, 2007

Even though I’m not a hockey fan, there are two things I love about the NHL: mullets, and the Stanley Cup.

The first doesn’t need much explanation. Best of both worlds, party, business, you know the drill. What you might not know is I modeled this blog after the mullet. The writing is all business. But man, if you could see the wild coding parties we have in the back-end, you’d be amazed. We do lines of PHP.

(How many nerd points was that worth?)

But enough with the mullet. The real prize of the NHL is Lord Stanley’s Cup, and not the sweaty one that goes in Lord Stanley’s Jock Strap. It’s the big one that the players drink champagne out of after winning the playoffs.

The concept is fantastic. It’s probably the most tangible reward in sports, and people like tangible rewards. You can train a dog with nothing but encouragement, but if you do it with food it’s much faster, and you get a whole psychological effect named after you. Do you think the World Series of Poker would be more or less exciting if they used a giant check or didn’t bring the money out when it gets down to the last two players? Or, for that matter, if they didn’t hand out bracelets (rings, in other sports) for titles?


How many times do I have to tell you the Stanley Cup is NOT a shotglass?

Those are all good things, but they don’t hold a candle to the Stanley Cup because the Cup has a life of its own. Nobody cares what happens to the trophies in baseball, basketball, or football, but how many containers do you know that have held champagne, baptismal water, and dog food? It’s one of the running stories that never lets me down. I love seeing where it goes, pictures of people drinking out of it, and just thinking about how cool it would be to have a day with the Stanley Cup. It’s one of a kind.

So, I’m here to make a modest proposal: the CGS needs a Stanley Cup.

It’s not too late; we’re still months away from the first World Finals, or whatever they’re going to call the championship. I’m on the case, so hop on board if you want a fun ride.

First, we’ll need a catchy name that doubles as an homage to somebody in eSports. And of course, it has to be named after a real object so it’s a tangible reward. My first instinct was to name it after the first commissioner of the CGS, Andy Reif, and something near and dear to most gamers’ hearts. Hence, version 1.0 of this idea was named “The Reifer’s Bong”. There could even be a whole subplot where the gamers try to take pictures with it, but also not leave any evidence that could get them imprisoned for illegal drug use. They’d need to leave enough hints so we could verify who was actually in the picture, but still have enough plausible deniability to not get sent to the pokey.

Unfortunately, I had to scrap this idea due to concerns about the gaming community’s collective intelligence. Somebody would take an incriminating photo, post it on Myspace, Facebook, the CAL forums, GotFrag, FARK, Digg, or Imageshack, and then we’d have one less gaming fan. I thought that, more often than not, The Reifer’s Bong would end up as Exhibit A instead of a big reward.

Out with The Reifer’s Bong. In with version 2.0 of the CGS trophy: the Angel Ball.

This would be named after Angel Munoz, the founder of the CPL, and it would be a bowling ball. You could still put alcohol in it, a la the Simpsons, and it would be much more inconspicuous. Plus, it’s practical. You could take it to various bowling alleys, have famous bowlers take pictures with it, and do, uh … other bowling-related activities.

Problem: not many people like Angel Munoz anymore, he has nothing to do with the CGS, and a fifteen pound bowling ball would be pretty annoying to haul around. Plus, you know somebody would end up using it as a weapon in some pointless LAN fight*. Now our prize is Exhibit A in an assault and battery case. Not an upgrade.

(*- I use the term “fight” very loosely here, as they’re usually nothing more than a shoving match that happens every time you have more than ten immature, materialistic, ego-centric gamers all trying to prove they’re “hard” and impress the one really hot booth-girl that’s already got a boyfriend.)

Out with the Angel Ball. So to went the Ksharp Krown, The Torbull Torch, The Midway Shotglass, SirScoot’s Scooter, and the LANDodger Golden Boxers.

Most of these ideas were scratched because, well, they’re ridiculous. Except the LANDodger Golden Boxers -- that was scrapped because I don’t want to give up my favorite pair of underwear. But there are realistic options.


No, I don't really have a pair of golden boxers. (Or am I just trying to save face?)

I think you need something that separates you from the rest of the games; it’d be weird to have bracelets (WSOP) or rings (NFL, MLB) simply because they’ve been done before. Necklaces could work, especially because they’re unisex, and that’s more important in eSports than it is in the NFL.  It’s different than the Stanley Cup because each player would get one to keep, but it’s something.

As for the trophy, it could be anything as long as there’s only one. The reason the Cup is so interesting is that teams have to give it back instead of every team getting a new one. It makes the physical item more special, and the CGS would be wise to take the best aspects of all the different professional leagues. They’re all sitting out there for us to take and adapt, we just have to recognize what makes each of them special so we can preserve it and not end up with a bastardized version that looks a lot like the real thing but doesn’t mean anything because it’s a transparent knockoff.

Here’s a fun idea that I think could work: Championship Controllers. Make a special set of usable, ornate keyboards and controllers (for PGR, DoA, etc). There would be one for each game, and the winners could take it with them to various LANs, take pictures with it in their home setups, and, hopefully, be comfortable enough with them to use it during the actual CGS competitions. Personally, I think seeing a PGR team use them during the CGS Finals match, or seeing Rambo sitting behind the CS:S keyboard during the Finals match would be awesome. There would even be room for engraving names on the back.

I’d love to hear any community suggestions on this, so send them in. What kind of reward would you guys like to see, or have, if you won the CGS championship? Something to show off to your friends, that would also end up with stories attached to it. All submissions are welcome, and if I get any really good ones, I’d be more than happy to post them.

Just make sure they’re less ridiculous than the LANDodger Golden Boxers.


 

The first season(for Region 1 is over, and like any good sports fan, I’m already looking forward to next season. Will the CHImera repeat? Can Belle and sWooZie learn new moves in the offseason like Naruto, or will they still be suffering from a Thousand Years of Pain? Is it too much to ask that the Core franchise loses by one point, and their CS:S team loses 5-13 in every match?

That would be great comedy, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we can find out answers to any of those questions, we need to look at next season’s draft. It’s gonna be a doozie.

I came across this thread on the CAL forums. It has two lines of easily fake-able text, so, like any good blogger, I’m treating it as indisputable fact. To save you from going across the internet and then having to come all the way back, I’ll paraphrase the thread here:

CGS ADMIN*: CS:S will be drafting individual players, not teams.
Reply: “THE SKY IS FALLING, CGS IS KILLINGZ US!”
Reply: “The sky isn’t falling, idiot! The ground is rising!”
Reply: “Ur both dumb I don’t feel nething”

*- As quoted by a person I don’t know, have no reason to trust, and couldn’t pick out of a lineup if the other nine people were all Orcs.

It didn’t quite go like that, but the first part is accurate. And it got me thinking about the draft, which lead to a flood of other concerns, questions, and thoughts (most of which I won’t get to in this article, to make sure it’s under 4,000 words).

The immediate question that popped into my head was about the current players: are they under contract for more than one season, or will the franchises be drafting totally new teams?


Front: In Dusty We Trusty. Back: Until he Sucksy, then we Cutsy.

On one hand, I can’t imagine them drafting new teams. The whole idea behind the franchises is to inspire loyalty to the organizations (or at least that’s what I thought). How can that possibly reconcile with a totally new draft? Most of the players would end up on different teams, and I don’t know about everybody else, but I was far more interested in individual stories (the PGR duo, coL, 3D, Vanessa, Belle, Peekay, etc) than the organizations during the first season. Plus, it’s pretty silly to name two franchises the LA compLexity and 3D.NY if those teams aren’t going to be with the franchise for more than a season. The Chicago Dusty Bakers might have sounded really good in 2003 when the Cubs were in the playoffs, but now … not so much. Viva la Lou!

On the other hand, the only information about contracts (that I can find) leads me to believe it’s a one-year quickie. There’s this article, and a separate piece about a Dallas PGR player which has this nugget: “His gaming contract is for two years; the second year is contingent upon him being drafted again.”

(Thanks for playing, now get back in line.)

So it seems like they’re going to draft everybody all over again, and the worst part is they have to do it that way, even though it’s going to blow up the franchises as we know them (and that’s not even taking into account a player-by-player CS:S draft).

They have to do it because they’re adding a totally new game (surprise, it’s WoW! … more on this in a future post). You could have a separate expansion draft for WoW, but that only makes sense if you're letting teams keep some players. If the franchises can't keep anybody, you might as well combine them both. And they can't keep everybody, because there would be no way to improve the franchise -- to my knowledge, the only reason a drafted player can be replaced is if they're physically unable to play.

But right now, it doesn't look like keeping some players is an option for any of the franchises. We’re not at the point where CGS contracts are being negotiated by Scott Boras; there’s no free agency, no farm system, no team-negotiated contracts (coL couldn’t offer Vanessa $50,000 to replace Belle). What’s more, it would throw off the draft if they could keep her. If there are six rounds in the draft and SF only needs five players, where does that extra draft pick go? The minor leagues? Purgatory?

(Even the NBA has the NBDL, which somewhat resembles a trash can – you just chuck in things you don’t want, and occasionally there’s something on top that still looks fresh and you pick it up. But at least it’s something. )

So, at this point, all signs point to a redraft. How does that work with CS:S? Will 3D and coL still have to draft their CS:S teams in the first round if they’re done by team? Or are they actually going to be drafted individually, which will make the fanbases even more scattered?

The sad part about this whole situation is that it’s a microcosm for the whole league. All we have are questions. The harder you look at the league, the more moves they make, the more problems you see. That’s scary, and so far, none of those questions have been answered or even addressed.


1) Why isn’t the scoring system balanced?

2) How will next season’s draft work, and the drafts beyond that?

3) Will there be more games added in the future? If so, how will they be scored, and how will WoW be balanced with the other games, for that matter?

4) Why can't teams resign their "star" players? Instead of giving each player $30,000, why can’t Vanessa make $50,000 and Belle $10,000. You could impose a hard salary cap to make sure nobody exceeds their salary allotment. Why can’t a team sign anybody they want to replace an underperforming player, if they manage their salaries wisely?

5) Will teams be redrafted every season? If not, how will organizations keep players, and why can’t they do that now? If they can do it now, why doesn’t anybody know about it? If so, what’s the point of having organizations in the first place if you’re actually adding player instability?


Sadly, these are just a short sample of the questions I came up when I was thinking about the next draft because it's a close cousin to many different aspects of a league: finances, standings, player evaluation (farm system), how much power each general manager has (trades? Contracts? Staff hiring?). All those things I listed are just the beginning, but they lead up to one very important question:

Will the CGS end up as a league like we see in professional sports, or will it be another eSports imitation that answers small questions and leaves the big ones unanswered? The next draft may tell us more than anybody expected.


 
July 30, 2007

There was a post a couple days ago that I want to look at from a different angle. A while ago, I wrote that somebody should go backwards to cause a collision, thus helping his/her teammate to move up. Skittles, a PGR player for the San Francisco Optx, did just that, and in the GotFrag article I linked to, it said that admins stepped in and ruled on the “play”.  They decided to penalize her and have a restart. Here’s the referenced quote from the article:

In one instance during another PGR 3 race, a small dispute arose over a move by Skittles to reverse course and interfere with the competition. After a few seconds of surprised looks and chatter around the room, Levine stepped in and paused the match. A decision was quickly made amongst Levine and admins with a penalty being given and a restart. Although there was not a specific rule for this incident, Levine and company made a quick fair decision. Not only did the CGS resolve the issue quickly, they also revised the rules for the game to include the infraction as illegal. The next night franchises signed off on the revision to that rule in the nightly pre-match meeting.

After the shock from my idea coming to pass wore off, the Official Brother of LANDodger posed an interesting thought: was the CGS right in pausing the match and assessing a penalty?


I'd rather not taste the rainbow if I end up like this guy.

Surprisingly, I found out my reaction was, “no”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making an argument that the maneuver should be legal. And really, I think it’s good that the CGS is organized and involved enough that they can pause a match and come to a conclusion on a ruling on the spot. That’s something that usually leads to a delay at LAN tournaments. That being said, assessing a penalty on the spot is unfair to the players, and, in some ways, dangerous for competition.

Admins will always be needed for matches because there will always be ruling on whether things violate the rules of the game. The problem is there wasn’t anything in the rules that said going backwards was illegal. When the PGR match started, that was a completely legit move. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

You can be sure other leagues have run into the same problems, and to my knowledge, they’ve been handled after the game, or even after the season. “Boosting” in the NFL comes to mind. Players used to be able to jump off other players, or get boosted, etc, to help block field goals or punts. But they didn’t change that rule in the middle of the game, the NFL has competitions committees and things like that to assess rules after the season is over.

MLB, of course, has had similar problems. The “spitball” was legal for whole seasons. Here’s the real kicker: even after they made it illegal, seventeen pitchers were still allowed to use it. How’s that for a curveball?

(On a pun scale of 1-10, I believe that rates as “LARGE GROAN”)

Why would they do that? Because it’s incredibly important. The teams tacitly agree to play by those specific rules before each match; when you’re playing, something is either illegal or it isn’t. Changing a rule in the middle of a competition changes the whole game. You’re no longer playing the game you were when you started, and that’s a problem because the new game emphasizes different skills and strategies.

A quick example: changing the rules in a fantasy league. In fantasy baseball, some leagues decide not to have a limit on how many innings a pitcher’s spot can earn. That means you can pick up a new pitcher every day and pitch him to gain extra wins and strikeouts, if you wanted (this is called “streaming”). Sometimes, the players aren’t aware of that strategy, and after the league starts and one manager is streaming, they decide to outlaw it.

Well, guess what? The streaming guy usually gets pretty ticked off, considering he built his whole team around that strategy, and now he won’t be able to brag around the water-cooler about beating his fellow nerds in fantasy sports.

In PGR, forbidding what Skittles did might mean a player shouldn’t get into a collision at the start, because you’re just as likely to end up in fourth, after a thirty-point turn-a-round, as you are in first. Even such a small, and maybe even obvious, change results in drastic changes in strategy and emphasis on different skills.

The last thing that I just want to mention, briefly, is that altering the rules like that makes it easier for a corrupted admin, or easily influenced admin, to have a huge impact on a match. What if that happened in the Finals, in front of thousands booing people? People are influenced by crowds, and sometimes the decisions we make are, too. And to be honest, I don’t think you want to open that door, even just a crack.

(By the way, I don’t want to insinuate that the admins on hand were biased, because I don’t think that’s true at all. But when you set this precedent, I think you’re raising the chance of something like that happening. It’s still incredibly small, but worth nothing, in my opinion.)

So, if I was Lou Piniella, this is where I’d be throwing my cap and kicking dirt on the umpire. Of course, if I was Lou Piniella, I’d have enough money to hire somebody to kick dirt on the umpire for me. I’m going to end it much more mildly: I appreciate that the CGS had the wherewithal to make a prompt ruling, but in the interest of competitive fairness, I think they should make changes to competitive rules in the offseason.

Just like the other professional leagues.


 
July 29, 2007

Now that the first CGS season is over, we can look back and start to see some team identities forming.  NY, for instance, is probably still defined by their Source team, even though Wizakor was undoubtedly their star player.

I’d say the same thing for LA, but compLexity actually didn’t create that much noise during the season. We expected them to win, and they did. The bigger story, by far, was their DoA 4 players. Belle and sWooZie went a combined 2-22 on the season. Ouch.

When I think of the Optx, I think of Vanessa dominating DoA 4, and their Source team placing second in “Rounds For”, despite being the last CS:S team picked. Chicago has their PGR duo, and they’ve been the frontrunners all season in the CGS, and in my opinion they’re probably favored to win the championship for Region 1. Dallas was the biggest disappointment this season. They finished in last place, and their Source team also finished there despite being the third team picked. They just never seemed to create much buzz, as a franchise.

That leaves us with Carolina, which I can sum up in one word: controversy. Say what you will about their draft picks, players, and general manager, but they’ve probably received more attention and coverage than any other franchise.

Here we go again.

First of all, I have to point this out. If you haven’t read Dolven’s most recent interview on GotFrag, do it. Do it now, or else you go to bed without dinner.

I’ll get to the rest of the interview later, but when I read it, the last sentence of the first answer jumped out at me.

... Number Two because while I wanted Pandemic, but I knew that whatever Source team I drafted, I could manage the proper way to get the most out of them, so it didn’t matter which team I got. 

Keep that in mind while I refresh your memory of something he said just after the CGS draft.

One of the biggest factors in managing a Counter-Strike team is learning what makes a team tick and how to maximize their results. With such a limited amount of time before the start of the season, the team that I already knew how to manage was Pandemic. Dave, Jason, and Alex had all chosen their respective previous teams, so by not having to focus on learning how to manage my Counter-Strike division, I didn't fall behind these guys early on.

So, he drafted Pandemic, in part, because he knew what made them tick, and he could get the most out of them. But he knew that whatever Source team he drafted, he could manage them properly so it didn’t matter which team he got. Is this really Mark Dolven speaking, or did he hire Tony Snow to do these interviews for him?

That being said, his team is in the Region 1 Finals, and they’ve got a berth in the World Championship. Overall, he did a pretty good job. I think their strategy is something like: cream everybody in DoA 4 Male, hang tight in PGR and DoA Female, scrape by in CS:S, and get blasted in FIFA, which isn’t worth as many points as the other games. Seems to be working.

And honestly, Dolven deserves some credit for that. Obviously, the players are the ones driving the team now, but he did a good job assembling the right parts. Could they have been better? Yes, absolutely, and I’ll cover this a little bit later. But at the same time, it’s not fair to rip him for the bad picks and ignore the good ones.

Even though it might be fun.


 
July 28, 2007

Don’t believe me?

This is what I wrote about PGR a few weeks ago.

Now, check out this article on GotFrag. It’s a good article in general, but I recommend you focus on the last paragraph on the first page.

First, it’s a penalty. Then, it’ll be new CGS rules.

And after that, I’ll rule the world!


 

Get out your clothespins, some duct tape, or maybe some little sticks; if you blink, you’re going to miss the CGS playoffs. I blinked, and the semi-finals were already gone like a hot girl that didn’t want to talk to me. For reasons known only to the people working at the CGS, it’s a single elimination, best-of-one format. Which means if you started the CGS playoffs the same day I started hosting Man vs. Wild, I’d still be plugging along when the whole thing was over.

(Granted, I might have a parasite for every inch of intestine, nausea, heartburn, upset stomach, indigestion, and diarrhea, all from one ill-fated attempt to drink water. And if I was Bear Grylls, I could probably fashion some Pepto-Bismol out of a flower, a rock, and a boa constrictor (or I could have the camera guy pick some up at the motel). I might be crippled, but I’d still be going, at least.)


Oh dear.

You can’t say the same thing for the CGS playoffs. Two days, and they’re done. The first “round” happened after a one-day break from the end of the regular season. That, I don’t mind so much. I think they could have done a better job building it up if they gave it an extra day or two, but the pure brevity of the competition is a much bigger concern. Is there any major sport that voluntarily chooses having fewer games like eSports?

Don’t give me football. If football players were physically able to play more than once a week, they would do it. Anybody that thinks the sponsors wouldn’t push for it, and teams wouldn’t happily oblige having more games (and selling more tickets) is, in my opinion, just plain wrong. But the physical nature of the sport is too much to endure more than once a week. Especially at the top levels when a 6’5”, 300 pound guy that runs a 4.4 forty-yard dash is trying his best to turn your skeleton into a ten-thousand piece jigsaw, and will probably get a salary bonus and an ESPN interview if he does it.

No, if there’s been one constant, it’s that leagues add more games to the playoffs. Basketball added two games to the first round, which used to be a best-of-five series until 2002-2003. MLB has expanded their playoffs continually as their league grew, adding whole rounds and expanding the number of games played in each round. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an organized league cutting down their playoffs because they were too long.

The reason for this is pretty simple: the more games you play, the more the best team will rise to the top. If you had the Royals play the Red Sox in a best-of-one series for the MLB championship, we’d have to say, “and here they are, your World Series Champions, the Kansas City Royals” two out of every five years. It hurts just thinking about it. Does anybody not living in 1980 think the Royals are actually better than the Sox? I hope not, but when you’re just playing one game, funny things can happen. Luck becomes a much bigger factor in determining the outcome. One pitcher could get hot and throw a shutout for the Royals. A hitter could have a big game and drive in five or six runs. But over the course of time, the Sox would prove themselves to be the better team.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the recent NBA playoffs, and the criticism for them, it’s that you absolutely, positively, MUST have the best teams advancing. If you don’t, the level of play decreases instead of increases, fans get angry, and Bill Simmons has an aneurysm.

In the NBA, part of the problem is a convoluted playoff system that stems from the large number of teams in the league and the playoffs. The CGS doesn’t have that problem, and it’s easy to ensure that the better team is moving on: make it at least a best-of-three series. It’s the standard at every LANs, what is there to gain by changing the format? Hell, even CAL and CEVO use best-of-three, and there’s comparatively little on the line in those leagues.

But, instead of increasing the number of games and ensuring that the best team advances in one of the most ambitious undertakings in eSports history, we’re left with “who’s hot today” playing a major role in determining the champion because the CGS decided to buck tradition, and, I think, common sense.

There's one thing I want to stop short of saying, and it's that either team that moved on is undeserving, because I simply don’t know. If they played a best-of-999 series, the same teams might have won. In that case, I’d accept the winner as the better team. But one player hot player can change one game far too much for me to be anything but disappointed and, quite frankly, dumbfounded that the CGS only had a best-of-one semi-finals, with a best-of-one Finals on the schedule.

This doesn’t need to be changed next season. This needs to be changed yesterday, or at the very least, before the Finals. I have a feeling that it won’t, though, so whatever you do, don’t blink.

Tags:
CGS

 
July 24, 2007

In an earlier article, I went through and figured out the average margin of victory in the five CGS categories to point out how inherently unbalanced the scoring system was. One of the interesting side effects is that it gives us some insight into a difficult question: who’s the best player in the CGS?

Before we go any farther, I need to distinguish between the best and “most valuable” player. Everybody will probably have different definitions, but to me, the best player is the most talented. The most valuable player is one that helps your team win most often. 


Best pitcher: probably. MVP: hard to say. Killer of mojo: definitely.

These aren’t necessarily the same thing. Johan Santana might be more talented, proportionally to the average pitcher, than Albert Pujols is to the average hitter. But Pujols plays every day and affects the outcome of more games than Santana does, which is one of the reasons why pitchers don’t get many votes for “Most Valuable Player” in baseball.

“Best” is very hard to judge because people don’t play the same position. It’d be a lot easier to figure out if Santana is more talented than Pujols if they were both hitters that destroyed Brad Lidge’s mojo. They’re in the same sport and it’s still difficult, but with all the different games in the CGS, it’s like figuring out if Albert Pujols is better than Peyton Manning. No matter how many statistics you use, there’s never going to be a consensus.

With that in mind, it’s still fun to talk about and think about. I want to find the best player in the CGS because I think the MVP is somewhat obvious; PGR has an inherent edge in points per match, and Jason X/Ch0mpr have dominated the game. The organization they play for, the CHImera, is also the #1 seed heading into the playoffs. That's pretty much case closed, in my mind.

First, to have any kind of baseline to compare the best players against their peers, I went back through and updated the margin of victory statistics to reflect the completed regular season. Here are the final numbers:


DoA Female: 3.29 points per match
DoA Male: 2.91
Source: 2.78 (3.20, 2.35)
PGR: 4.22
FIFA: 2.28


I need to explain two of the numbers. For DoA Female, I threw out Belle’s scores because I think she’s a statistical anomaly. With her scores in, the margin of victory jumps to 3.75 points, and that means all the other performances are devalued. Since I’m trying to figure out the difference between the first and second ranked players across multiple games, having one game dragged down by numbers that are clearly abnormal didn’t seem to be right. You may disagree, so I included the original number, and I’ll give two values for DoA.

Source ran into some of the same pitfalls. Out of all the matches, five of them finished by a margin of eight rounds or more. Those matches brought the margin of victory up to 3.20 points, even though in twenty-four of the thirty-six matches, the match was decided by two points or less. Or, in other words, two out of every three matches finished as 10-8 or 10-9. A margin of victory of 3.20 seemed too high. The worst part about those five scores was that the best team, compLexity, didn’t account for any of them. The high scores seemed to be more random than based on the skill of the two teams. Instead of throwing them out I decided to use an average between the margin of victory with and without them. Hence, 2.78 points per match, and in parenthesis the numbers with and without the high-end scores. I think that fits in pretty well with the expected outcome.

So, now that we have the (new) average margin of victory (MoV) for every game, we can compare that to how the players actually did and get a ratio of their performance to the average performance in that game.

Basically, we’ll be taking a player’s point differential per game(how good they were during the season) and dividing that by the MoV to account for any inherent differences between the games. I’ll call this statistic “Domination Factor” (DF).

One quick example: Vanessa. She had a Points For/Points Against of 60/8. She outscored her opponents by 52 points, or 4.33 points per match. When we divide this by the average margin of victory in DoA Female, we get a DF of 1.32 (1.16 if we don’t use the Belle-adjusted number). I’ll list some DFs here, including their rank in the game and which organization they play for.


DoA Female

Vanessa (#1, SF):  1.32 (1.16 with Belle’s scores)
coolsvilla (#2, NY): 0.18 (0.16)
Belle (#6, LA): -1.42 (-1.24)


DoA Male

OffbeatNinja (1, CAR): 0.92
Master (2, DAL): 0.37
sWooZie (6, LA): -0.74


CS: Source

compLexity (1, LA): 0.87 (1.03)
Optx (3, SF): 0.45 (0.53)
Venom (6, DAL): -0.84 (-1.00)


Project Gotham Racing

Jason X/Ch0mpr (1, CHI): 1.18
Phantom/Rex (3, CAR): 0.27
IndigoFerret/chaos (6, DAL): -0.63


FIFA ‘07

Wizakor (NY): 0.84
KreeganBG (LA): 0.58
Novusnaim (DAL): 0.66
Anomaly (CHI): -0.55
Stermy (SF): -0.58
peekay (CAR): -0.95


I listed all of the FIFA players because there was such a sharp drop after the #3 player, Novusnaim. All the other games had at least two players/teams grouped in the middle, but in FIFA you either stunk or you were really good, apparently. In Source and PGR, I included the third place teams because they had the second best point differential despite being in third.

I’ll be referencing these numbers more in a future article as I look back at the draft, so I don’t want to get too much into surprises/disappointments yet. For now, let’s just focus on the best players: Vanessa, Wizakor, compLexity, Jason X/Ch0mpr, and OffbeatNinja.


This is the opposite of the Pouty Manning Face. This face belongs in a Levitra ad.

Wizakor doesn’t have much of a case because of how close FIFA is. Comparing him to the other top players, it doesn’t seem like he’s that much better than KreeganBG or Novusnaim, and that, in my mind, is important in determining who the best player is. You could make good cases for compLexity and OffbeatNinja, but their DF numbers don’t hold up the rest. They’ve both been excellent, but they aren’t dominating the competition like the other top players.

That leaves us with Chicago’s PGR duo, and Vanessa, which isn’t surprising considering they’re also top candidates for most valuable player. Personally, I think Vanessa is the best player in the CGS. She’s the only undefeated player, she has the second best point differential (to Jason x/Ch0mpr), and she’s got the best Domination Factor. The gap between her and second place seems to be the biggest despite being limited to how many points you can beat your opponent by. I think that’s impressive, and I’d give her the title of “best” player, even though I think PGR is more valuable to the franchise.

In the end, anything like this is subjective, as well. Even though DF gives us a little bit of insight into who the best player might be, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, statistically speaking, and it’s incredibly hard to compare gamers across the genres. I’m not telling you who the best player is, but merely making the case for Vanessa. 

I’d love to hear what you guys think. E-mail me or leave a comment in the box: who’s the best player in the CGS?


 

Got a couple points of interesting feedback regarding the CGS scoring article that I wrote, and I figured they were worth addressing in a post.

First, thanks for the feedback, even the person that just said “hi” through the comment box. I don’t know who you are, what you want, or if you’re stalking me, but you didn’t leave a way to contact you. So, “hello”, mystery person. I look forward to continuing our deep philosophical conversation at a later date.


A friendly "hello" from LANDodger. Now put your name on the message, coward!

As for the scoring, there were two points I wanted to address. The first was the math for the margin of victory. In the example I used, coL played 3D and went 2-1 by scores of 13-5, 10-8, and 8-10. The average margin of victory I used was to add the margin from each match, regardless of who won. So, eight plus two plus two (8 + 2 + 2). Then, of course, divide by the number of matches to find the average. So 12 divided by 3, which, of course, equals four.

The point of some contention was the last number. It’s important to keep the numbers all positive, because when we add in the negative numbers it implies we’re looking at it from the perspective of one team. For instance, if we looked at those numbers from the perspective of 3D, they’d be -8, -2, and 2. But that wouldn’t be the margin of victory, that would be 3D’s margin of victory. I wanted to figure out the expected point differential of a CS match for any team. If anything, I should have used more examples to make that point clear.

As a quick example, using the suggested method, imagine if they played four matches, and split them 2-2 by a score of 10-8, 10-8, and 8-10, 8-10. If we used negative numbers, that would be 2 + 2 – 2 – 2. Of course, that leaves us with a margin of victory of zero, when I think it’s clear the average margin of victory for those matches was, in fact, potato.

Just making sure you’re still paying attention. In those four matches, I think it's clear the average margin of victory was two rounds.

The other idea I wanted to address was another solution to balance the scoring: awarding points per victory in each game. For instance, an organization that won PGR, DoA Female, and CS:S and lost DoA Male and FIFA would win the matchup 3-2. There could be variations on this idea, such as awarding two points per win, and one point for every overtime win, but the basic idea remains the same.

I consider that a step forward over a clear imbalance in the games, but it still leaves the problem of a player going 0-fer getting into the playoffs based on the strength of his/her/their teammates. It wouldn’t be as bad as, say, the best PGR team making up for three below-average players simply because PGR players earn more points, but I still think separating the games is the best solution. If the CGS is looking for a compromise, though, a point(s)-per-win system might be the way to go. I'm hoping for more, but I wouldn't be surprised if it never happens.

Thanks again to everybody that provided feedback, and don’t hesitate to use the comment box or e-mail me. I’m always up for a good discussion, new ideas, or even just a friendly hello.

But, if you’re only going to say “hi”, at least give me a name. That way, just in case you are a stalker, I know what to put on the restraining order.

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CGS

 
July 19, 2007

CGS Scoring System

There’s an article on the CGS website that brings up an interesting debate: is the CGS scoring system working? Apparently, there’s been “a lot of bad press bashing the CGS scoring system.” I know I’ve written about it twice. Is the criticism justified?

Redeye, the writer, argues that it’s not.

To that, I say this: I accept your challenge, sir. Let us meet on the field of battle, where the winner may impale the loser with a virtual pen. (But only if I win. Even virtual pen-stabbing sounds painful.)


I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Just so there isn’t any confusion, I think the CGS scoring system is brutal. Just awful. Mike Rowe "stuck cleaning a rat infested sewer in 120 degree heat while being bit by hyper-aggressive monkeys" awful. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s incredibly easy to fix, and I’ve got that covered, too.
First, the bad: the system they use now doesn’t weigh all the games evenly.

In fact, I don’t know if it’s even possible to do such a thing. Imagine starting a New York franchise across all sports under the CGS rules. The Knicks, Yankees, Jets, Giants, and Rangers would comprise the organization, and the points would work as they currently do for all the games, and the organizational totals would determine the winner. How could you possibly balance all the games?

The point differential is too much to overcome. Even if the Yankees could dominate baseball, the margin of victory is much smaller than, say, a football game. Same thing for hockey. If you use a point system similar to what the CGS has, the game with the biggest margin of victory is artificially important to a franchise. There’s no competitive reason for football or basketball to be more important in our fictitious league. We could add tiddlywinks, make a victory worth pi points, and it would make just as much sense. The only reason the imbalance is there is because of the rules we created.

The CGS is running into the same problems. I went through all the games and figured out the average margin of victory for every match (through nine matches for each franchise). A quick example: if coL and 3D played three CS matches, with coL going 2-1 with scores of 13-5, 10-8, and 8-10, the average margin of victory would be four rounds ( (8 + 2 + 2) / 3).  Even though I think it’s obvious the games could never be balanced, I was curious to see exactly how they stacked up to each other. Here’s what I found:


PGR: 4.26 Points
DoA 4 (Female) : 3.67 Points
CS: Source : 2.96 Points
DoA 4 (Male) : 2.78 Points
FIFA: 2.30 Points


It got even worse if you threw out a few strange matches. For instance, I don’t think Belle’s performance is indicative of the expected point differential between two DoA female players. If you take her matches out of the question, it bumps the average margin of victory down to 3.06 points per match.

Source had some of the same problems. There were three matches that had round differentials of 8, 8, and 10. Those weren’t the norm. Out of the 27 CS matches played, only eight matches were decided by more than two rounds. Or, in other words, a whopping nineteen out of twenty-seven matches finished with a score of 10-8 or 10-9. Basically, the 2.96 margin of victory might be too high. When I took out the “abnormal” Source scores, the margin of victory got bumped all the way down to 2.25 points.

What that means is you could have the best Source team, and the best FIFA player (total margin of victory: 4.55 points), and you’d barely have an advantage over the organization that has JasonX/ch0mpr.  Even if you don’t take out Belle and the high Source scores (which is probably mathematically dubious, anyway), PGR is still waaaay in front of everybody else. I don’t see how that system can be considered fair. There isn’t any competitive reason to value PGR over any of the other games, just like there isn’t a reason to value football over baseball in our fictional league.

Or, look at it this way. If Organization A wins PGR 7-1, there’s absolutely no way their DoA Male or Female player can make up for that deficit. Same goes for a large FIFA score, because it doesn’t have a scoring cap. Why? Why can’t Vanessa have a chance to lead her team to victory? It doesn’t make any sense. If my organization is down six points, I’d rather have the worst FIFA player in the history of gaming than Vanessa, because it’s technically impossible for Vanessa to win that match for me. It'd be like pulling Kobe from the game while you're down two points because the NBA said only players shooting under 50% from the free-throw line can make three pointers. Now you're passing the rock to Kwame Brown, and praying that the jet engines you put in the air conditioning system, just in case this situation arose, can properly funnel the ball into the basket.


It's good to see that season after season of disappointing results hasn't diminished his stink-eye.

Sadly, that isn’t the worst part. The worst thing is yet to come, and the prime example is the LA compLexity. They’re teetering on the edge of the playoffs. If they make it in, the fans lose. If they miss the playoffs, well, the fans still lose.

LA’s Source team is 8-1, KreeganBG is 8-1 in FIFA, and Chavisan/GeeTeeOh are 7-2 in PGR. I’m not sure if Jason Lake was abducted by aliens while his body double was ranking DoA players, but that portion of his draft didn’t go so well. sWooZie, their DoA male, is 1-8, and it’s been well documented that Belle is 0-9. There are two options under the CGS rules: coL advances into the playoffs as a whole organization, or everybody clicks their ruby red shoes and goes home.

If coL makes the playoffs, Belle gets to play over more deserving candidates.

If they don’t make the playoffs, the #1 CS team, the #1 FIFA player, and the #2 PGR team (through nine matches) get left out.

Seriously, what happens if Belle gets into the playoffs because the rest of the organization is so strong? I don’t mean this as an attack on her, and I think she would admit that, based on her performance, there were more deserving DoA 4 candidates. Then again, if she’s out of the playoffs, that means coL (Source) doesn’t make it either. Whatever CS team ended up making the Finals would always have an asterisk attached – sure, they went the distance, but the best CS team in North America didn’t play.

In either situation, the CGS is compromising the quality of play in the playoffs for the benefit of the “organizations”. But, it doesn’t have to be that way, and I think there’s an easy solution that makes sure the best players are competing in the postseason and the league is still promoting loyalty to the franchises and not their individual components.

First, you separate all the games. Take the best finishers from each game and send them to the playoffs. Separating the games is the best thing for fans and for competition. Now you don’t have to worry about undeserving players being on the biggest stage any more than the NFL or NBA, etc. That makes fans happy, and there are better ways to incorporate the organizations.

The CGS has made a conspicuous effort to promote the franchises, so based on where they finish in the playoffs, award the organization points. A championship is worth 4 points, a second place finish is worth three points, etc, for the organization those teams/players are associated with. Then, at the end of the playoffs, you can crown a CGS champion, award bonus money, a free trip to Kazakhstan, or whatever prizes they’re planning on offering.

(This system should have an added bonus: they can schedule the matches at specific times. I’m already tired of a match being scheduled between two franchises and not knowing who is playing when. I think they did this specifically to trick CS fans into watching PGR, DoA, and FIFA. Jerks!)

If you separate the games and award points based on finishes, you’re getting the best of both worlds. The level of play is going to be the best it can be, and there’s still a focus on the whole organization, but it’s in the background instead of being more important than the individual components.

It all boils down to one simple thought: leagues are about competition. And I don’t know about you guys, but I find the natural competition between players in the same game infinitely more entertaining than the artificial competition between two franchises.  The level of competition in the playoffs is going to be sacrificed in favor of organization loyalty, and that, more than any statistic about margin of victory or player dominance, is why the CGS scoring system needs to be fixed.


 
July 16, 2007

I’ve been looking at the scoring systems for the CGS (as you’ll see later, in depth). The more I think about it, the need, and market, for extra statistics becomes clearer. I've been thinking specifically about DoA, so I'll roll with that for now.

Let me illustrate the need with an example. I’m from Illinois, the only state in the U.S. where physical education (gym) is a mandatory class. To avoid it affecting your GPA, you could take it as pass/fail, which is exactly what it sounds like. If you scored 61%, you passed. If you scored 59%, you failed. This was especially helpful if you were a 5’0”, 300 lb. brainiac with a peg leg that wanted to go to Harvard. You could just do your best and pass, basically.


He would have failed gym because of that leg. Or because he was always drunk.

The problem is that it doesn’t score things very well. The difference between barely passing and barely failing is wafer thin, but the difference between a "P" and "F" is a lot more than a little curve connecting two lines. A person that works their tail-fat off gets the same “P” on the report card as everybody else that passes. This isn’t a big deal when it’s gym class, but when we’re trying to figure out who the best players are, and the best way for ranking them, I think we need a little more.

Bringing it back to eSports, right now, a perfect round in DoA is scored the same as a close victory. You either pass (win the round) or you fail (lose the round). Vanessa could score five perfect rounds on Belle, and it’s the same as Mystik beating Rasberry Tea 5-0 with a sliver of health each round. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don't think we need to change the scoring system itself. The best players are, presumably, still winning. But if you look at Belle and Vanessa, I’m not sure what we have now does their scores justice. Belle only has one round, but does anybody know how many perfect rounds she’s given up? Has Vanessa been giving up half-bars to her opponents, or quarter-bars? Let’s face it, the more information we have, the more precisely we can gauge performances. 

I used DoA as a quick example here, but you could say the same thing for CS:S and Project Gotham Racing, too. How far ahead of his opponents is JasonX, on average? We’re used to stats for Source, and GotFrag has some of them, but their list is far from complete and it’s on a completely different website. Get some stats, CGS!  People love stats! There’s so many cool things you could keep track of, and, to my knowledge, nobody’s doing it.

So, if you’re a 5’0”, 300 pound peg-legged braniac with a love for math, and you want to build a statistics empire that would make John Hollinger or Bill James envious, now is the time. You don’t need in-depth, crazy statistics, like those guys, because there’s a huge market and virtually no competition. You’d be the only drink of water in a scorching desert; even if you’re murky, muddy, and smell like sulfur, people will still love you because they’re tired of drinking sand.

All I ask is when you’re raking in millions of dollars as the eSports Stats Guru, you give me a shout-out … and a small finder’s fee.


 

I’m not sure how many PGR matches you’ve seen, but they’re not too bad. Personally, I’m a fan of the collisions. Never liked 'em in real racing, but it adds a little spice (not to be confused with Baby Spice) to the online competitions. Having them on ensures that the beginning of the races look like a cross between auto-racing and bumper cars. 

To be fair, position is incredibly important because of the point system. There are four racers in each match, two per team. First place is awarded five points, second place gets three points, third place gets one point, and whoever finishes four gets a blue participation ribbon. Basically, you can beat your opponents 8-1 if your team captures the first two spots, and that’s a huge margin. In CS, that’d be beating somebody 12-6 or 13-5. DoA can’t even have a seven point differential because the match stops (mercifully for some players) at five. Even a 1st/3rd place finish nets a team a 6-3 advantage, which is pretty good. 

So, with the disparity in points per finish and collisions on, here’s an interesting question: should a person stuck hopelessly in fourth intentionally stop/wait so he can get in a collision with the other team, giving his teammate a chance to take the lead?


Third place is just over that hill, if I can just ... screw it, I'll just turn around and smash somebody.

The thinking goes something like this: if you’re in fourth place and you’re closer to Never Never Land than 3rd place, it doesn’t matter if you finish ten seconds behind somebody or twenty. You’re still getting as many points as I’ve scored in my NBA career. If you help your teammate by crashing into his opponents on purpose, he could go from third to first. Essentially, if that happens, you’ve turned a seven point defeat into a one point victory. 

Granted, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to take advantage of the collision, or not get caught in it himself. And the whole thing sounds dastardly, I know. But I looked in the rules, and I couldn’t find anything preventing it. That doesn’t mean it’s not prohibited, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s part of the “unwritten rules” of PGR, just like A-Rod got blasted for distracting an opponent trying to catch a pop-up. 

At the same time, these guys are competing for thousands of dollars in prize money. If it’s not in the rule book and it gives your team a chance to move on in the playoffs, or even win the championship, would, and should, a competitor do it? Going strictly by points, sure. But, the other competitors might be ticked when you cost them a bunch of prize money, so it’d probably help if you’re the only 6’6” PGR player with muay thai, jujitsu, and extreme nerd-kick training competing in the CGS.

If you're wondering: yes, you should add this whole idea to the list of reasons why I’m not playing PGR in the CGS. Although, if somebody wants to draft me to run into other cars, I’d be more than happy to accept a smaller salary. I’ll be the PGR version of a defensive specialist.

Then I just need some MMA training and I'll be ready to go.


 

Sunman

Can somebody verify that Justin “sunman” Summy is alive? I don’t want anyone to panic, but this clearly isn’t the same person I saw on EFG or coL. If he is alive, please make sure he’s not some alien replica or on performance enhancing drugs.

When I watched him during the Intel Invitational as part of EFG, it looked like he could still hear Jason Lake’s voice yelling in his ear. He wasn’t hitting shots, his positioning wasn’t good, and if it’s possible to sense a lack of passion through an online avatar, he would have been exhibit A. 

It goes all the way back to his return from a temporary retirement. He was decent right after coming back, and I think we all assumed he would shake off the rust and become the old sunman. We assumed incorrectly. In fact, it seemed like he went the opposite direction: gaining rust and losing skill as time went on. It was like he was burned out two scrims after he unretired. 

One of those pesky intangibles (like desire) was missing. coL ended up replacing him, and EFG did the same after a short stint. During the Intel Invitational Running Diary, I even joked that he should rename himself “moonman” to get a fresh start because the sun was clearly tired.


The sun rose. The sun went down. All is right in the world: the sun is rising again.

I doubt he did that, but whatever he did, the old version of Sunman, the zEx player dominating SK on Train, is back. He was awesome during the combine, and he’s been playing well as a fill-in for grt/shaGuar (as they get visa issues resolved). Personally, I think the chance to make a living as a professional gamer might have brought back some of his old enthusiasm. I think that's a pretty safe opinion.

Whatever the reason, on behalf of all the CS fans out there: welcome back, and happy deaging.


Belle

Things haven’t gone as well for Belle. Earlier I compared her to an anchor. That might be a small understatement. She’s not so much a dead weight as she is the gaping hole that’s letting all the water into the sinking ship. 

I don’t blame her for being drafted. If the LA CompLexity offered me $30,000 to play DoA4, I’d ask if they already had a flight booked, or if I should hop on my bicycle and head for LA. I don’t even doubt her talent after these results. Randy Johnson kinda stunk for three years, too. I do doubt two things: her current skill-level, and how she’s doing mentally.

If you watched the CGS stream, she looked overwhelmed on and off the playing field. She seemed hesitant during the match, and when the camera cut away from the action, it looked like she just Old Yeller-ed her dog. I don’t know about you guys, but if I was losing matches and getting ripped to shreds in all the forums, I wouldn’t have much competitive fire or confidence left, either.

To the community: please, don’t regurgitate that tired thought about how she’s taking comfort in the money. It’s hard to lose like that and stay upbeat no matter how much money you’re making. I guarantee you Carl Pavano wasn’t laughing all the way to the bank while he was hurt and collecting millions of dollars. Competitors play for the competition. It’s hard enough to let yourself down, let alone ten other people. When you’re costing your organization a chance to win, money is a small, small comfort.

What does that add up to? Jason Lake needs to get her out of there. The regular season almost half over and LA’s in danger of not making the playoffs. Belle doesn’t look like she’s ready to be the player the organization needs right now. What do they gain from leaving her in? Confidence is a funny thing: once it’s gone, it can take a long, long time to get it back. I think you’re only damaging her, as a player, and your playoff chances. 

The worst thing that could happen is that the backup doesn’t do any better.  But you can’t lose by more than 0-5, so what’s the big deal? The best thing that could happen is you start getting 2-3 points a match from your DoA4 female player and you get Belle out of the spotlight. Let her regroup, focus on what’s been going wrong, and work to fix it. Maybe Belle can do all those things during the season, but after going 1-25 so far, I don’t think it’s likely.

Either way, I wish her the best of luck. She did what any of us would have done in her situation, and hopefully she can pull a Sunman: come through a down period and show everybody exactly how much talent she has. 


djWheat

On a lighter note, I’ve been enjoying the CGS streams. djWheat does a good job with the broadcasting. (Don't call it shoutcasting, or else SirScoots will politely correct you.) My litmus test is simple: will I miss the commentary when he’s not there? The answer, for me, is a resounding “yes”. There are still kinks, little slip-ups, idiosyncrasies. But overall, he does a great job, and he makes the streams more enjoyable to watch. Keep up the good work.

(I say that like he, or anybody else at the CGS, actually reads this. Chances of that: unknown, but probably not as good as the chances it'll rain in Florida tomorrow. Yes, I'm still bitter about losing power for four hours during a small storm.)


I'm not above conspicuous product placement. Call me, Pepsi!

One last note about the CGS stream: the product placement is, maybe, a little too blunt. Mountain Dew sponsors the CGS. Apparently, this means one lucky pop-can will get more air time than the Diet Pepsi can in those commercials with Jay Mohr, because it’s sitting (very conspicuously) right next to djWheat’s keyboard. 

However, if Pepsi wants to get more bang for their buck, I suggest forcing the CGS to broadcast in black and white. Either that, or you could have djWheat whisper “Do the Dew!” at random points. He’s been whispering during the CS matches anyway, I’m sure he could slip it in. 

“And coL is walking up catwalk, setting up their strat. Do the Dew. Here comes Warden with one, two … THREE ENTRY KILLS! What a huge round for Warden! HE DID THE DEW!”

Add that to the list of reasons why I’ll never be a CGS broadcaster.


More CGS-related thoughts coming up tomorrow, but for now have a good night.

Tags:
Belle, CGS, Sunman

 
July 2, 2007

Let’s face facts: coL isn’t doing well this season. They’re 1-2, they’ve scored the least amount of points this season (through the weekend), and Belle has been an anchor. I’m not sure if “anchor” does her score (1-15) justice, but that’s a different story. Because as far as I’m concerned, they actually got a leg up on the competition with a small, largely unpublicized move: hiring Alex Garfield as their assistant general manager.

It probably won’t have an immediate impact unless he gets a sex change and takes up DoA4, but it’s part of a larger thought: the organization that uses the CGS setup to their advantage is setting themselves up for years of success.

The CGS allows for a lot of new things. Trades, drafts, taxi-teams, and scouting across four different games are pretty much new features in eSports. They’ve been done on a small scale before, but never as part of a professional gaming league. Hiring Garfield (no word on Odie, yet) lets coL do more things. They can scout better, evaluate more talent, handle more decisions, and be familiar with more people and games. When you’re building a franchise, those things are absolutely necessary.


Jim Davis does the Garfield cartoons, but I think Tony Snow wrote that text.

Let’s illustrate with an obvious example: statistics. Baseball has all kind of crazy statistics and systems for evaluating players. They keep track of everything except who eats the most amount of sunflower seeds. Just look at what’s available to the general public through Yahoo. Here are some basic statistics for Alex Rodriguez. (Thanks for making me #1 in my fantasy league, buddy!) They’re sitting right there on his player card. Of course there are whole websites dedicated to keeping even more ridiculous statistics.

It’s way too much to break down individually, but basically, a player or team in a slump has 100 different tools to help them evaluate exactly what’s going wrong and how to fix it.

So, tell me, who’s the best clutch player in eSports? Who hits the highest percentage of flick-shots? Let’s go back to Belle for a concrete example. Why is she 1-15? Are her moves being blocked or avoided too easily? Is she not blocking or counter-attacking well enough? When you’re 1-15, it’s probably a little of both, but I don’t think anybody can give concrete evidence about which it is or how much of each.

Instead, we have anecdotal evidence. I saw a player do “x”. This guy owned at “y” LAN. “Z” has one of the best rifles/AWPs in Source. In other words, we are where baseball was in the early 1900s. It’s not hard to imagine an organization becoming a dynasty back then if they had the information we have now. They could evaluate talent more accurately, and thus make better trades and draft picks. Drafting and trading translates pretty well to eSports, now that the CGS is here, and that’s where Alex Garfield comes in.

He might not have those statistics, but his hiring is an indicator that coL has the right mindset. More people can do more work. I’m not sure what Jason Lake, their GM, has in mind, but personally I’d split up the four games. Let Garfield handle the majority of DoA4 and PGR scouting, for example. That way, he can focus on those two games and get a better feel for upcoming talent, freeing up Lake to do the same for CS:S and FIFA ’07. At the very least, coL has another opinion on player talent across the board, and that could be a big advantage. I don't expect them to dominate for thirty years just because they hired one guy. But for right now, two guys is double what the other organizations have.

It comes down to two questions: for LA, would it be worth trading Storm and Belle to Dallas for Rasberry Tea (DoA4 Female) and brawwwr (CS:S taxi-team)? Would Storm’s impact make that worthwhile for Dallas? The first organization to figure that out will be in great shape, and in my opinion, Garfield’s hiring is a sign of good things to come for LA.


 

Quick update: I pointed out that GotFrag posted the regular season schedule for the CGS with an error.  Here’s the correct schedule, from the CGS site.

I’ll save you the trouble of comparing them; the problem is on July 22nd. GotFrag has New York playing Dallas, while the CGS schedule says the real matchup is San Francisco vs. Carolina. That puts everybody at twelve matches, which is probably a good thing.

Although, I’m sure some people will complain about having to see Carolina twelve times instead of eleven.


 

A lot of people have been wondering what the CGS schedule would look like. Wonder no more.

One problem: the schedule is wrong. Using my mega-uber-super reasoning and counting skills, I instantly noticed that the San Francisco and Carolina franchises were only scheduled for eleven matches, and New York and Dallas were scheduled for thirteen. 

(I don’t really have mega-uber-super counting skills, just a lot of time on my hands.)

Despite that, I’m sure it’s close. Which brings up the question: what’s the rush? There’s only twelve matches in the regular season. The Cubs play that many games in two weeks, and there’s another twenty weeks of pure misery after that. Basically, professional teams play as many games as physically possible. In football, that means once a week. In basketball, it’s a game every other day (approximately). Why not do the same thing for the CGS?

I can understand leagues like CAL and CEVO having a relaxed schedule. They’re not offering enough compensation for gaming to be a full time job, and having three or four matches a week would be ridiculous. People go to school, they have jobs, they go out at night; the vast majority of teams play in online leagues for fun. Even on the professional level, there isn’t enough compensation in CEVO to make CS a full time job.

The CGS doesn’t have that problem. The teams are totally committed, and if they’re not, they should be. I can’t think of anything the CGS gains by having such a short schedule except saving on production costs. But there’s nothing forcing them to televise all the matches, either. People outside the community won’t care, and people inside the community will still follow it online or watch on SourceTV. 


Note: your dog doesn't like broccoli any more than you do. He just loves you enough to take the bullet.

I know they have other scheduling concerns, namely what comes after the U.S. playoffs (remember, this is just Region 1 of 6). There’ve got the postseason, finals, an international tournament, and I think a “Gamers of CGS” swimsuit calendar shoot (unconfirmed).  It seems like they’re rushing through the regular season to get to the good stuff, like some kid feeding his dog broccoli so he can stuff his face with Ben & Jerry’s.  Personally, I’d prefer the regular season to have a little more emphasis. It builds rivalries and it shows which teams are versatile. Making adjustments is a huge part of professional sports. Just ask any pitcher that came up to the majors for a month and then started getting hammered. You’re not going to win doing the same thing week after week, except when there's only three or four weeks in the season.

The only good thing about this is the Carolina Core. Dolven said they’d be fine with four to five weeks of absolute bootcamping. I hope they had more luck with their Delorean's plutonium supply than I did, because it's only been a couple weeks since the draft. By the time they're done bootcamping, the regular season will be over.

Bottom line: these are the best teams in the country. They’re going to provide the most exciting series of matches in the history of Counter-Strike. (I’m not counting LANs because there are usually a lot of duds thrown in with a dozen really good games.) Why aren’t we seeing them play each other more often? coL and 3D will play each other twice. I don't think I'll be the only one disappointed by that. It's arguably the best rivalry in Counter-Strike, and they're playing as many times as LucK played EXTREMITY in the Central CAL-Main playoffs last season. No disrespect to those teams, I'm a big fan. But they don't exactly carry the excitment of a coL/3D matchup.

Thankfully, as a Cubs fan, I'm used to disappointment. I'll just apply our Fan Motto: there's always next season.

(And hopefully next season is a little longer.)


 
June 23, 2007

I wrote about this earlier as part of a larger article on the different overtime policies, but it’s time to revisit the CGS OT setup. There’s a very good for doing this: I was wrong. (My only consolation is that it’s not all my fault.)

First, a brief recap of the timeline. The overtime issue came up during the Buy.com LAN, which was in early April. They used the CGS round format: first team to 10 rounds wins, and OT is a one round sudden death. It’s a horrible, stupid policy for LANs because the overtime didn’t necessarily reward the best team. If you draw CT side on Nuke, you’re far more likely to win because the map favors that side. That’s not good.

The problem, and the reason why I was wrong, is that the CGS is a completely different beast. I had no way of knowing it at the time because the CGS didn’t announce their scoring system until June, and I wrote the article in April. (Curses! If only I had enough plutonium for my Delorean!) But basically, instead of rewarding wins and losses, the CGS implemented a point system to reward dominance. In CS, the scoring is one point per round. If you shut somebody out 10-0 (you suck, newbies!), you’ve got a 10-0 lead in the standings. A 10-9, overtime victory and a 0-10 loss to the same team doesn’t mean you’re tied in the standings at 1-1. One team is winning 19-10.

The point system completely changes the fairness of the overtime.


"I can throw a match 300 yards ... as soon as I put this pebble down."

If the CGS used the overtime format from CAL or CEVO (6 or 10 rounds per overtime), it’d be horribly imbalanced and inherently unfair to the other teams. A simple example: there are two teams fighting for a spot in the postseason. The leading team has an 11 point advantage on the second team, but the second team has one more match to play. Let’s say their last match is against the worst team in the league, and it’s a team they’re going to blow out 10-5 or so. 

Unfortunately, a 10-5 win doesn’t get them into the playoffs. They fall one point short. So the smartest thing for them to do would be to throw the match after they get 9 rounds, force overtime, and then get four more rounds (points) from a close overtime victory. I think we all see the problem there. You just can’t use the round/point system, as it is, and have two teams playing 18 rounds, and another two teams playing 24 or more.

So, upon further review, the CGS overtime isn’t as horrible as I thought. Was it still horribly stupid for the Buy.com LAN? Definitely. The LAN rewards wins, not rounds. But the league itself is going to be completely different, and I’m actually relieved that the competition won’t be compromised because of a silly overtime policy.

So relieved, in fact, that I don’t mind looking a little foolish for jumping the gun.

Tags:
CGS

 

I’m hopping back aboard the Pandemic train for one more stop.  Choo-choo!

I thought everything regarding the selection was over. He made the pick, people were outraged and took to the streets (read: forums) to complain, and some people, including your resident eSports blogger, wrote about it. That’s usually the end of it. eSports “stories” have a way of dying due to a lack of coverage and follow-up. I don’t know if it was the CGS influence, but this story evolved and grew some legs! 

The legs comparison is apt because there were two follow-ups. One was a question in a GotFrag interview, the other was part of a draft recap that Mark Dolven wrote and posted on the Carolina Core website. (For the uninitiated, Mark Dolven is the manager for the Carolina Core. He picked his old team, Pandemic, over some more deserving choices during the CGS draft. This made him the “Bane of the Week” on eSports forums, displacing acne, last week’s title holder.) 

Here’s the GotFrag interview, I’ll cut out the interesting portions for reference, but I suggest you read the whole thing. Same thing for the Carolina Core post. To really get the context, read it; I’ll be referencing it heavily. The two important paragraphs are near the end, next to the picture of the five CS:S players holding up their jerseys.


GotFrag Interview

Give them another two weeks, and then 4-5 weeks of absolute bootcamping, and I think that there's no way they're not going to be one of the best teams.


You WILL one deag that DEFUSER, SON! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!
They don’t have 6-7 weeks to get ready. The regular season, aka the smack-down, gets started in July. There’s no 4-5 weeks of absolute bootcamping available.

Shouldn’t they have been prepared for this event? Was this not the biggest opportunity for any gamer hoping to make a salary? They shouldn’t need to bootcamp for 4-5 weeks after being drafted, because that should have been done before the Combine, in my opinion. It worked for United 5 and Devastation, who both had amazing tournaments after practicing for four or five hours a day. 

I do have an open challenge to Pandemic, the guys that I just drafted who are now the Carolina Core, that if they aren't having a winning record by the end of the season, I will cut them and bring United 5 up.

The open challenge is good, but in the end, I don’t think it should be necessary. It should be understood that if the team isn’t performing, and somebody else is doing a better job, the underperformers won’t have a job for very long.


Carolina Core Post

Before I get to the CS:S portion, I want to give some props for the actual article. It was by far the most interesting post-draft reaction to read. His player rankings for the games were great. The draft commentators did a good job of laying out some of the questionable picks during the live stream, but this was the first list I’ve seen that really tried to rank the top ten players. Kudos to that, and if you’re interested in finding out more about how all the players might fare against one another, I suggest you take a look.

Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.  Regarding Pandemic:

It got to the point where I knew that I would have to throw the combine results out the window in my selection process.”

I think the chances of that being true are lower than the chances of me becoming a billionaire in the next ten seconds, and then being hit by a meteor five seconds later. First of all, we all know even the best CS teams won’t win all the time. Just like the Yankees, the Patriots, the Spurs, etc, don’t win all the time. It just doesn’t happen. 

If he really threw out the Combine results, Pandemic wouldn’t be ranked because they’ve never played Source at a major LAN before. They didn’t even qualify for the Combine officially, they kindof “walked on”, so to speak. Evil Geniuses would not have been fourth, because the large portion of their Source experience came from a disappointing CEVO-P season. Check-Six wouldn’t be seventh. They had a great Combine that bumped them up. Forbidden would be higher than eighth, because they’re basically the verGe team that dominated the Source scene before the 1.6 teams came.

I could even go on. He might believe what he said, but I think the Combine results definitely played a big role in at least some of his rankings.  

One of the biggest factors in managing a Counter-Strike team is learning what makes a team tick and how to maximize their results. With such a limited amount of time before the start of the season, the team that I already knew how to manage was Pandemic. Dave, Jason, and Alex had all chosen their respective previous teams, so by not having to focus on learning how to manage my Counter-Strike division, I didn't fall behind these guys early on.

I thought this was a really interesting comment. It struck me as odd because the comment isn't about the team, it's about himself. But the bottom line is the the pick isn’t about well he can manage, it’s about how well they can play. There's a disconnect somewhere. Personally, I don’t care if you can get a CAL-Open Public Clan to reach their full potential by pushing their buttons, or making them tick. I’ll still take compLexity, thanks.

Even if we give him that,, what takes more time: finding out how to motivate a team, or having that team reach their full potential? If we go back to his comment in the GotFrag interview, he said 4-5 weeks of absolute bootcamping. I think it’d take a lot less time to get used to a new team. 

Another factor in my choice of Pandemic is that I know these guys will play hard for me because they already respect and trust me. In the back of their minds, they did not expect to be drafted. By picking them up and giving them a second chance, their motivation and desire only increased.

The counter-argument to this is pretty obvious: United 5, Check-Six, or EFG wouldn’t have played hard because they didn’t know the General Manager as well as their old managers? Somehow, I doubt it. In fact, on some level, they’d probably realize that he just passed over his former team to pick them, and they’d probably be thankful for it and want to justify that faith. It goes both ways.

If it's one thing I've learned over the years about these guys, it is that when their backs are against the wall and they have something to prove, they step up.

How can we explain the Combine performance, then? I think they had something to prove there as well, considering they didn’t play Source before and didn’t qualify for the Combine. 

You know what makes this whole thing really fun? All of the things I just pointed out are exactly what we would say in his situation. We’d point to Pandemic’s 1.6 history, their potential, the familiarity with the team and knowing what they’re capable of. So in a sense, all of these things are expected, too.

And they’re expected for a reason: Dolven isn’t stupid. A lot of the flames against him have called him that, but I don’t think that’s fair. He just made a bad pick (in my opinion). That’s a huge distinction to make. Danny Ainge isn’t dumb, he just made a bad decision to give Doc Rivers an extension. The Atlanta Hawks aren’t dumb, they just passed over two point guardss when they have nobody else to play the position. I’m not dumb, I just … okay, I confess, I’m pretty dense. But one decision doesn’t make somebody an idiot or a genius. You need a long track record, longer than one CGS draft.

In fact, it’s possible we could look back on it as a great pick. Pandemic could turn their performance around. I don’t know how likely it is (my guess: not very), but there’s certainly a chance. I’ll repeat what I said in the first post: in the end, he made a bad business decision. 

The risk in taking Pandemic is that they won’t get that much better, and that you’ve alienated a large portion of your potential fanbase. The reward is they might contend for the title. 

The risk in taking x6, United 5, or EFG is that they’ve reached their potential, and you’ll have a very good team (maybe not up to coL’s standard), and you might have alienated some of your potential fanbase. (It’s harder to gauge how upset the 1.6 community would be because the stats back you up in this case. I don’t think many people would blame Dolven if he didn’t draft Pandemic because of their 1-4-1 record.) The reward is that x6, u5, EFg, etc do have enough potential to challenge for a title, they just haven’t reached it yet. 

I know which one I’d choose, and it's not the team they have now.


 
June 15, 2007

I covered the Pandemic storyline already, but there are certainly other things worth noting from draft night. 


Ben Stein on his happy day. Wait, that might be a wax statue. Hard to tell.

They was a big surprise on their broadcasting team: Ben Stein! I didn’t know he was so knowledgeable about gaming. Wait, that was Fatality? Well, I guess he came off as a little stiff. I’d call it a case of the Mondays if it was Monday, but for now I'm calling it early jitters. I really hope that's it, anyway, because if it’s an accurate portrayal of things to come … we, as listeners, are in trouble. I think he’ll come around though, he’s definitely got enough knowledge to be a good broadcaster. 

His best moment came when he was honest with the viewers – as he was distracted by the Playboy Bunnies that were hanging around the pool. He was more relaxed, and spoke with confidence. Of course, everybody without that view probably didn’t notice that change because they were too busy being jealous. Luckily, after three decades of training with lunar monks, I’m impervious to such petty emotions. 

There were some small production issues that got sorted out as the draft went on. The announcement for the first pick had to be delayed because the booth guys were too busy talking, but they did a much better job of interrupting the discussion to announce the players in the later rounds. Overall, I think they did a good job with the stream. The announcers weren’t bad, the production was enjoyable, and the woman that interviewed the players after they got drafted was acceptable. Her English was good, she didn’t speak poorly even though she didn’t seem totally comfortable speaking the language (she’s asian). Her speech was actually too formal, a little stiff, but everything was clear so I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was good work for a first broadcast, where there are bound to be some kinks. I give it one thumb up, and one thumb sideways.

Which is one more thumb up than the GMs get. It was downright ugly up there, and I'm not talking about physical appearance. I’m not sure which was worse: the failed draft strategy, or the failed draft picks. To put it another way, they did a worse job drafting than the Yahoo! autodraft option, which is guaranteed to draft three hopeless backups, two injured players, and at least one player guaranteed to halve his statistics from last season. What was so bad? Two GMs drafted players that were already drafted, and another couple picks were used to fill spots nobody else needed during the draft, while possibly missing out on a better player in another game.

If you need to fill a Project Gotham Racing and a FIFA ’07 spot, it doesn’t make sense to draft a PGR player when all the other teams are set. Nobody is going to steal your player. You draft a FIFA player, and then grab whichever PGR person tickles your fancy. But no! There were one or two times when the teams didn’t follow that logic. And, kudos to the announcers, they picked up on it and pointed it out.

Then there was the drafting of drafted players, which even Yahoo! would consider a bad move. How can that happen? All the spots are accounted for before the draft; the GMs knew going in exactly how many players from each game were going to be picked. It’s not like they only ranked their top ten DOA4 players, and then had two teams draft nothing but DOA4. There were laptops sitting right in front of them, for pete’s sake. In the end, I don’t think it cost the teams that much due to the depth of the talent, but it seems like a silly mistake that could have been prevented with a little more preparation.


This picture is here purely for eye candy. Drink it in boys, drink it in.

My other big impression from the draft was how small Counter-Strike was. The CS community is insular, and we all knew other games were going to fill a large portion of the draft, but it was still shocking when it happened, somehow. Like seeing a really bad movie on TV. The movie got ripped to shreds in the reviews, everybody told you it’s bad, and you’re stuck watching in on TNT a month later because the only things on TV are reruns of The Golden Girls and VH1’s new series, “The 50 Most Disgusting Piles of Vomit.”  And even thought you’re totally prepared for the suckage, it’s still appalling. There are just some things you can’t mentally prepare for, and being part of the CS community, having the teams I’ve come to know and write about take a back seat was a little strange.

It’s going to be interesting to see how they blend all the action together. There’s generally been a huge rift between PC gamers and console gamers. Each platform has their own games, their own news sites, their own shows/plans, and that’s only starting to change recently (GotFrag/MLG, and now CGS using both platforms). Is there going to be any way for PC gamers to watch the console action if they don’t have DirecTV? Highlights? Replays? Obviously, the same questions apply in reverse. How will console gamers be able to appreciate a game played on the PC if they don’t have it installed? 

Basically, it’s a problem of making sure fans follow the franchise, not the individual players or teams. Even if the Chicago Bulls literally traded all their players, I’d still follow the Bulls because I’m a fan. But if coLAngeles (I'm sticking to my guns!) traded the CS:S to the Carolina Core, I don’t think fans of the compLexity CS:S squad would follow the LA franchise anymore. Ditto for NY3D. Over time things might change as we get used to the idea of franchises, but I think it’s a concern in the meantime.

I don’t know about you guys, but after months of waiting and thinking about the CGS, I’m finally getting excited to see the teams in action. The draft is over, the league’s gearing up for action, and it’s time to think about which of the six CS:S teams is going to represent the US in the CGS Finals. Life is good.

Unless you’re just getting back from the Playboy Mansion. In that case, you probably miss the view.


 
June 13, 2007

So much happened tonight, I feel like I need some blogging minions to help sort it all out. I’m thinking something less creepy than Oompa-Loompas, but more helpful than the workers at Planet Express. Send in your applications!

Disclaimer: I’ll probably just hire some of my old friends that don’t care about the job, aren’t as good as you are, and proved both of those within the last three days. Can you tell I’ve been taking lessons from Mark Dolven?

If you missed the news, there was a big controversy when Dolven, the General Manager for the Carolina Core CGS franchise, selected Pandemic to become their Counter-Strike: Source team. Why is it controversial? I'm glad you asked! Let me summarize the argument for picking Pandemic, and then the argument against them.


Pick Pandemic, They’re Grrrrrreat!

1) They were arguably the second or third best team in the US 1.6 scene.
2) They’re good guys, they don’t run their mouths. (Post-Publish Note: both of the first two points are under contention. I think the first one is still applicable. The other teams in contention are 3D/coL/JMC, and I'd probably rank Pandemic third, above JMC, but some people considered 3D over-rated and might have put them second. As for the second point, considering the backlash, it's safe to say they run their mouths more than I thought. Thanks for the correction, chalk up another point (or two) for the "Don't Pick Pandemic" side.)
3) Loyalty – he was Pandemic’s owner before becoming a GM for the CGS.

Don’t Take Pandemic, Stupid!

1) They were the last major team to switch to pick up Source.
2) They didn’t play in CEVO-P last season, unlike JMC, united 5, 3D, coL, x6, Devastation, and verGe.
3) In possibly the single most important stretch of their CS careers, they went 1-4-1.
4) Their roster has changed since their 1.6 dominance.
5) The Source community will hate you.

I don’t want to rag on Dolven too much because I think he’s a good guy. In fact, I think he pretty much proved that by staying loyal to his former team. The problem: it’s a business. If you follow professional sports, you’ve probably heard that enough to wish it wasn’t a business just so you could stop hearing about it. But it’s repeated because it’s true, and Dolven made a bad business decision. 


This is the expression of a man that, even if he cures cancer, know's he'll always be "the guy who played Harry Potter".

First, he ticked off everybody in the Source community. It wouldn’t be an issue if Pandemic played well at the combine, but they didn’t. Period. Even Harry Potter couldn’t put a positive light on their performance. They finished at 1-4-1, tying a team that went 0-3 against everybody not named Pandemic, and beating, arguably, the most disappointing team at the Combine (Forbidden). For comparison, here are the records of three other choices at his position: x6 (6-2 with a win over Pandemic), EFG (8-2, and still available at that pick), Devastation (5-3 with a win over 3D, the tournament winner). Insert here: snarky comment about winning being the most important thing in sports.

(Quick note about team performance: Alex Conroy picked his former team, JMC, and nobody cares because they’ve been playing really well. It doesn’t matter that Dolven picked his old team, it’s that he passed up so many deserving players to do it.)

Dolven even acknowledged Pandemic’s uninspiring play, supposedly, by telling them they were in danger of not being drafted. (This tidbit came from one of the CGS commentators after the pick.) Which, in the end, had as much truth behind it as telling your children their faces will freeze that way if they keep making funny faces, or if they eat too many cupcakes they’ll turn into one.

The way I see it, there are three outcomes from this:

1) Pandemic continues their poor play, and Dolven sticks with them.
2) Pandemic continues their poor play, and United 5 (the taxi team) replaces the underperforming players, or even the team as a whole. 
3) Pandemic turns things around, and finishes with a respectable (or good) record.

In the first two situations, the Source community still hates Dolven for picking them over Source teams (and hate is not too strong of a word). And in the third example, they still hate Dolven for the same reason, because the majority of the people won’t go back and change their initial impressions based on Pandemic’s performance. When they remember the draft, they’re going to remember their own shock, the silence of the crowd, and the vitriol of the forum reaction. It’s not right, because we should take Pandemic’s CGS record into account, but it just doesn’t work that way.

So basically, to use a poker term, he didn't leave himself any outs. If he picked a different team (EFG), and then took Pandemic with the first taxi choice, there’s no issue. He’s still supporting Pandemic by giving them a shot despite their record, and the Source community doesn’t hate you because you took EFG. And you’re in a better situation, anyway. If Pandemic picks up their play, your loyalty is rewarded. If they don’t, nobody blames you for taking them because it was a pick based on potential, and you still have EFG, a very good team. The problem comes when you’re picking Pandemic based on potential and other teams have at least similar potential and a better record. 

I don’t blame Dolven for wanting to take his team. It’s hard to part with people you’ve been with for so long, especially when you’ve seen the amazing play they’re capable of. But separating business from your personal relations might be the most important skill a GM can have. You can find a job if you have horrible fiscal management (Isiah Thomas, CBA), and you can find a job even if you have bad talent evaluation (too many bad contracts for me to list). You can’t have both, and letting your emotions get in the way of running the franchise leads down that road. In short, if an Oompa-Loompa sent in a better resume, had better references, and wanted less money than my brother … sorry bro, you’re fired.

(Please don’t punch me on Christmas.)


 
May 27, 2007

The CGS is slowing progressing, and before we get into the excitement of things like the combine and the Playboy Mansion, we have to go through some no-so-exciting announcements. The list of cities and General Managers is one of them, although there were a couple curious choices.

I think we all agree Jason Lake (compLexity), Mark Dolven (Pandemic), and Alex Conroy (Jax Money Crew) were shoo-ins for three of the General Manager spots. When you build a team from the ground up into one of the biggest names in American eSports, you’re in pretty select company. Not choosing them would be a “demand a recount” offense.


eSportsidoodily isadidilly gettatoddily ... screw it. eSports is getting bigger.

After those three guys, everybody else is pretty much in a pack. I’m a little surprised Alex Garfield wasn’t chosen as a GM, since Evil Geniuses has been a stable name in eSports for years. But at the same time, Brian Flander was a fine choice. He’s a gamer, and he’s been managing a Quake 4 team for a while, so he’s well qualified for the job. And he’s really patient with his dumb neighbor, Homer Simpson, although maybe I’m thinking of somebody else.

If you’re like me, you know next to nothing about Kat Hunter. First, she’s quite obviously a girl, and I think that means eSports now has more female GMs than MLB, the NFL, and the NBA combined. (Suck it, professional sports!) The other thing that struck me about her description in the CGS press release was the phrase “pro gaming evangelist”. I never thought I’d see those three words together, and quite frankly the mental images are a little overwhelming. Preaching about the divinity of fRoD’s AWP, converting to compLexianity, and Four Kings instead of three kings all have potential for two things: a good joke and lightning bolt from the heavens. Since I like my skin pasty, and not fried, let’s move on.

The only question I had about the GMs was Dave “moto” Geffon. I’m NOT questioning his credentials, I think he’ll do a great job as a GM, but why not Craig “Torbull” Levine? He’s been leading 3D for around five years, and he announced that he was stepping down from 3D about an hour after moto was announced as the GM for the New York franchise. From the news post it seems like Torbull is going to be busy with other projects in eSports, so maybe he just didn’t have the time? Whatever the reason, it just seemed strange after working so hard to get competitive gaming into the realm of professional sports that he’d quit just as it was about to happen. (Although, I’m sure if I was in his shoes it wouldn’t see quite so out of the blue.) Good luck to both guys in their new roles, I don’t think either one should have trouble succeeding in their endeavors.

Overall, you can’t really find a fault with the choices the CGS made, and I’m excited to see who turns into Jerry West or Isiah Thomas. Or maybe, if we’re really lucky, Isiah will take over a team and we’ll get to see firsthand the horrendously overpriced contracts, the disillusionment of a whole fan base, and (somehow) excellent draft picks. The possibilities are endless!

The cities were pretty much like the General Mangers: good except for one curious (not necessarily bad) choice. New York? Check. LA? ... (sorry, the answer got stuck in traffic) … check. Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco? No doubt. Charlotte? Can't have a professional league without Charlotte in it.


Their meow is worse than their bite.

Wait a minute, Charlotte?! Where did that come from? We went from the four biggest metropolitan populations, San Francisco (twelfth), all the way down to Charlotte at thirty-sixth. Charlotte over Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami, or Boston? Heck, even Orlando, Kansas City, and Columbus feel slighted! Alright, Columbus probably doesn’t care either way, but you get the point. I’m sure there were other considerations besides population, I’m just wondering what the heck they were. Maybe there’s a high concentration of colleges in that area. Or maybe there’s a high concentration of LAN Centers and Pizza Huts. I really have no idea. I suppose there isn’t much competition: the only relevant sports team is the Carolina Panthers. (Apologies to Bobcats fans, but let’s face it, they’re still on a rebuilding plan.) 

Other than the chance of being more prominent in the local scene, I don’t really see much that Charlotte would have over, say, Atlanta. Again, I don’t think it’s a bad choice, per se, because Green Bay and Kansas City, two smaller markets, have supported professional sports teams for years. And then there plenty of examples of teams in bigger markets that don’t draw as well (Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays to name two), so clearly population isn’t the only factor in whether an organization is successful. But still, when you compare Charlotte to the other five cities they chose, it seems a few million people out of place. 

Of course, if they really wanted to be daring, they could have put a franchise in Las Vegas. The over/under on matches played while hungover for that franchise would have been half, and I might have taken the over. In any event, the start of the combine is only about two weeks away, and once all these small issues get taken care of, we’ll finally be able to see a professional eSports league. I can’t wait to see who steps up their practice time to try and make a run at compLexity. And nobody can beat Jason Lake’s crew, well … compLexianity might not be a bad option after all.

Tags:
3D, CGS, coL

 
April 22, 2007

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tags:
CGS, Check-Six

 
April 12, 2007

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


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

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

(I really need to stop watching Comedy Central.)

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

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

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

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

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

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



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