Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Word on Independence

Something that's always amused me is the way that some people on the lower end of the esports ladder try to get up a few rungs.  Plenty have tried to criticise others in the impotent hope that someone will remove the criticised from their position (usually another writer, commentator or website) and replace them with the critic and plenty more will do it in future.  I have seen dozens of these in my time, and have probably been guilty of doing it myself.  Usually, they are around 18 years old and are the same kind of person who thinks that leaving "clever" comments on other people's articles or forums is a high calling in life.  Usually, they grow out of it and/or disappear into the ether.

And, so, by that token, we have esportsetc, a website which I had never heard of until they decided to attack ESFI World.  As targets go, ESFI is an interesting one.  We're not so big as to frighten off critics, but we're just about big enough to be seen as worth the effort.  We're definitely up-and-coming, though, and our place in the collective esports conciousness appears to be growing.

So what exactly has drawn the furore of this pair of angry young men?  ESFI's claim of independence, apparently, which is sort of vaguely mentioned on the 'about' page - hardly something we rub in people's faces.  Never the less, esportsetc took umbrage with this claim and decided it might boost their hits if they attacked us.

First up, they decided to go after the fact that we have an advert for Complexity on our home page.  Fair enough, it's pretty hard to be unbiased while advertising one of the major teams in esports.  Except, uh, wait... we don't have an advert for Complexity, we have an advert for Creative which happens to have a picture of Complexity's Jason Lake.  Independence in journalism is fairly important, but so is basic fact-checking.  On top of that, the fact that Cadred yesterday published an article with an advert to donate to a team IN THE ARTICLE was somehow overlooked by these guardians of proper journalism.

Alright, so that didn't quite work out.  How about the fact that a lot of ESFI's staff work elsewhere in esports as well?  Okay, you got us.  Well, you got us, and just about every single esports media outlet there.  Not only did esportsetc plainly ignore dozens of other such discrepancies, they didn't even get a complete list of the ones at ESFI.  I'm kinda miffed that my prior work at SK, ESL, GotFrag and Clanbase went unnoticed, for example.  And not just me, there are plenty of others on the ESFI staff who have worked for other esports entities that were strangely omitted.  That's some pretty excellent research - top notch journalism!

Also, this just in: esports writers don't suddenly appear from nowhere!  As amazing as it may seem, almost every esports writer I can name has worked for some team or league at one time or another.  On esports etc's own 'about' page, the head honcho is described as "working in e-sports," but he doesn't feel the need to disclose where exactly... meanwhile, he publishes a "news story" which decries the fact that ESFI doesn't diclose the same information.  Something about glass houses?

I could go on.  The fact is that even traditional media is not remotely objective.  Maybe we should do a bit more to make our other interests clear, but ESFI absolutely is not the only entity in this position.  Rakaka - the site that etc modelled themselves on - has staff from a variety of other places, and their big boss man is one of the main figures behind Dreamhack.  Hell, one of the heads of played as a standin for mTw; how can he write impartially about them ever again?  I guess that when you're so busy writing poorly thought-out attacks you probably don't have time to do any research or criticise more than one site.

And, look, even if ESFI is somewhat biased (actual evidence of this, in articles, is oddly absent from these attacks, by the way), it's surely better to have a somewhat objective news outlet than to rely on team sites and league sites, isn't it?  The way esports works, that is the only alternative.  SK did a pretty good job of being impartial, but it was never ideal - the same goes for Team Liquid.  I'm sure that esportsetc don't think that that alternative is better, so one can only assume that this is a cheap stunt to try and get hits by attacking a site which is actually relevant.  I wouldn't mind, but don't have the nerve to go harping on about standards of journalism if you're just going to attack another site with badly-researched, factually innaccurate nonsense.  Oh, and you spelt "truly" wrong on your 'about' page.

But then again, maybe we should be flattered that we're worthy of such an attack.

Friday, 2 December 2011

In Defense of Commentators

Any regular readers of my blog will automatically assume from this title that i'm about to embark on a sarcastic rant about how shitty esports casters are.  Well, sorry to disappoint you...

It's true, i do think that the vast, vast majoriy of esports commentators are overrated, talentless and noisy, but more and more i've realised that a lot of my disdain is based on things that aren't really their fault.  Watching the Casting Archon fall to pieces from exhaustion at Dreamhack made me almost feel sorry for people paid to talk about computer games for a living.  No, but seriously, 14 hours a day is as close to hard work as esports can be and I do have some sympathy.

More than that, though, I've realised that leagues just leave these guys out to dry all too often.  These guys aren't raconteurs, and they sure as hell aren't stand-up comedians, but MLG and GSL in particular just leave them to fill in the gaps between matches.  It's not really any surprise that their their pre/post-game banter is so infuriatingly tedious - as fascinating as Starcraft is, there is only so much you can say about an average game.

The opening ten minutes of the NASL finals (ignoring the HoN, because, really...) brought this home in the perfect way.  Gretorp is erm... (I'm trying to be generous to casters here, help me out) but watching him and Orb do Gollum impressions to fill the dead air was probably the nadir of esports commentary, and that's among some really stiff competition.  I couldn't believe what I was watching, and sure, you'd hope they could come up with something better, but the blame surely lies with NASL for putting them out there with no help.

NASL isn't the only league that puts its commentators in such a difficult position, it was merely the most recent and most horrific example.  These organisations have come on leaps and bounds in the past 18 months, but in terms of production value, they really need to step up their game.  Filling the between-game void is a problem that only IPL has really addressed.  GSL has tried in the past with the player bios they used to air, but more need to follow and improve upon IGN's lead.  Hearing about Catspajamas' gaming history - however highly I rate him as a caster - really only exacerbates the problem.  Still, it's better than nothing, and alongside the Top 10 countdowns, it's a decent platform for leagues to build on.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Why I Haven't Published an Article in Months

Dear ESFI,

It's not that I don't want to write articles for your site, it's just that the League of Legends desktop icon is so much prettier than the Word icon.

Sincerest apologies


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Why MLG's Flawed Format is Important

Slowly but surely, my blog roll is growing.  I find that a lot of the stuff you can't read about on Team Liquid or any other major esports site gets quietly discussed elsewhere.  They're so much more inspiring than the usual "Player X wins Tournament Y, wasn't everything amazing?!"  This particular entry in my blog was inspired Marc Onforio of FXO.  I'm a bit late to the party, but it seems he caught a bit of flak for criticising MLG's abomination of a tournament format.

Sometimes you wonder if people are beyond help; how anyone except MLG can defend the MLG format is beyond me.  But since I was thinking of writing a blog about why I'm so hard on MLG, this is actually perfect timing.

Ever since I got involved with esports, I wanted it to live up to its name and be an actual sport.  Legitimacy is everything, as far as I'm concerned.  But what MLG appears to want is a show.  Sporting integrity be damned if 200,000 people tune in to the livestream appears to be their modus operandi.  Now, all the little psuedo-economists that come out of the woodwork for this kind of debate will hasten to point out that stream numbers are necessary in order to turn a profit.  Well, that's alright then, is it?  If the only thing people are interested in is making money there is basically no argument to be had.  It's a bit like trying to debate  with staunch christians: if your only answer is "God did it" we aren't going to get anywhere.

I get it, okay.  Making money is necessary.  But if it comes at the cost of turning esports into WWE, the price is too high.

So how does all this affect the format?  I flip-flop between two stances on the MLG system.  Firstly, it could just be an honest mistake, poorly thought out.  Secondly, it could be a cynical effort to protect the stars.  Naniwa was a God-send for MLG earlier this year, when he won a tournament after coming all the way from the open bracket.  In the eys of someone with poor logic, he proved that the system worked, because the creme rose to the top.  Never mind the fact that he had to win more than twice the number of games that his opponent did in order tog et there.  But in a deliciously ironic twist, he finished 2nd at last week's seasonal finals with a so-so record of 7-6.  If the sytem worked, 7-6 would not net you $25,000.  As Marc pointed out, Nestea went 20-5 and made nothing.  I don't see how anyone can reasonably argue that the MLG system isn't flawed.

I don't want to talk too much about the extended series - I think everyone knows how dumb that is by now - but it's another brick in the imbalanced wall.  People argue that winning should give you an advantage later in the season/tournament.  Well, maybe, but isn't getting to the next round of the tournament advantageous enough?  Simply avoiding the lower bracket or straight up elimination has always been a big enough advantage for other sporting events; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" springs to mind.

MLG often appears obsessed with numbers: stream numbers, live attendance figures etc.  Well, take a look at the numbers Marc posted last weekend and try to defend them.  MLG's tournament format is undeniably imbalanced and unfair.  Even the vaguely sensible arguments attempt to justify the imbalance, rather than deny it ("it's what the fans want" - I did say vaguely sensible).

With all the positive changes in prize money expected next year, I sincerely hope that they have a real good look at the tournament structure.

Taking off the Kiddy Gloves

I woke up this morning to some interesting logs in the ESFI Skype chat.  You know when you get that feeling that the world is sort of revolving around you... For example, on the bus, yesterday, I was thinking about the frustration I feel towards esports and how much of that comes from the coverage.  Today, I woke up and found that some of the ESFI staff had been discussing something integral to that: are we too nice?

To anyone that's read this blog before, you'll immediately assume that my answer is yes.  Well, screw you, smartass.  But the reason you're right is because I almost feel like I have to overcompensate for the lack of introspection in the community at large.  Contrary to appearances, I don't actually hate everything, but I don't feel like anyone else is asking questions of people like MLG (why do Boxer's travel expenses cost more than the first prize at an MLG tournament?)

Every sport has its sacred cows, but esports seems like it has an inordinate amount.  More than once I've been "told off" for criticising commentators.  To be fair, I do write about them an awful lot, but "who are you to criticize Apollo?" speaks volumes about people's attitude towards these guys.  God forbid I ever slate Day9 or Tastosis (oh, wait...).  These people are placed on a pedestal and deemed untouchable by the masses.  Yet, actually, they're largely the best of a bad bunch.  I think that phrase could honestly be applied to a raft of things in esports.

People seem to tolerate and even celebrate medicority in esports.  A large part of esports is made up as we go along and so it's expected that things aren't perfect, I understand that.  But does that mean we should just accept that this is the way it will always be?  Should we accept commentators yelling incoherently because they lack the vocabulary to say something interesting?  Should we accept horrible tournament formats because, well... MLG wants to make sure the fan favourites make it to the final day, I guess?  Esports is constantly evolving and improving, but without criticism and questioning, that evolution will grind to a halt.

There has to be a middle ground between my cynical whinging and everyone else's head-burying.  What frustrates me even more is that I know that people are aware of these problems.  I'm not some kind of prophet who sees flaws that others don't, it's just that I'm one of the few who are too stupid/honest to ignore them.  I hate to sound so full of myself - there are others, like Keeker and Marc Onforio - but the dissenting voices are strictly limited to personal blogs like ours.

If you're not convinced, go back and look at Midway's interview with ESFI.  His biggest regret about GotFrag (an absolutely perfect example of my 'best of a bad bunch' theory, by the way) was that they didn't go after CPL when they started shafting people.  If there was another league doing similarly shady things, would anyone step up, or would the mistakes of history be repeated?  I look at the position MLG is currently in, and I wonder who would dare to risk being banned from their events if it came to it.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Better Living Through esports Music

It's a truism that music affects people's lives.  But for me, music goes hand-in-hand with esports for a whole host of reasons.  Firstly, I got into esports at the most important time in my music-listening "career," 16-18.  My earliest memories of Counter-Strike are soundtracked by music I was just discovering through friends at the time: Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Tool et al.

But in the early 2000's, there was an even more direct link: gaming movies.  I discovered what I'd consider more sophisticated music (Soundgarden being a perfect example) through social channels, but esports movies gave me Nightwish, Hammerfall and Pendulum.  Of course, I had to sift through an awful lot of shitty Nu Metal to get there, but I like to think it was worth it.

When I began watching CS movies, they featured almost solely Nu Metal and Symphonic/Fantasy Metal.  Anyone who doesn't know "Ice Queen" by Within Temptation is surely an esports noob.  Hell, i didn't even like the eoL movie, but it introduced me to a whole body of work I would never have come across otherwise.  In fact, it's quite an ironic trend that shitty movies introduced me to better music.  If anyone remembers the Ocrana multi-gaming movie, they probably also remember "My Secret People" by Dover - a Spanish band who are fairly obscure outside of their homeland.

Then, of course, there was the fantastic Annihilation series, which introduced me to Guano Apes - well, kinda.  I knew of them, but never bothered to listen to much of their stuff until I realised how fucking awesome "Open Your Eyes" is.

But alongside Within Temptation, Nightwish were probably the best find.  Their somewhat pretentious mix of operatic vocals and melodic metal, combined with 2nd-rate fantasy novel lyrics, is a lot better than the sum of its parts.  They were almost unavoidable in early 2000's CS movies, but, unlike the other, shittier mainstay (Linkin Park), I was actually glad of it.  Not only because I like the music, but it was very appropriate.  Go back and watch Neo - The One, or Art to Frag, and tell me the music doesn't work.

By the mid norties (eww, ewww, i can't believe I just wrote that "word"), I was playing WoW and my tastes were about ready to broaden again.  A lot of WoW pvp movies made use of the same fast rock and metal i was used to, but as editing skills evolved past flashing when something exciting happened, electronic music became a natural fit.  Good editing became a way to hide average skills and the music was a huge part of that.  Check out Eviscerape 2 for how I discovered Pendulum.  WoW players will probably recognise that he isn't even that good of a rogue, but that movie blew me away when I first saw it.

Of course, Pendulum is so big and popular now that I would probably have discovered them anyway.  But the remix on that movie led me down a long and winding road into trance - a genre I had always viewed with some disdain.

So where should I go with this blog now?  It was a fairly self-indulgent stream-of-conciousness, so I guess i'll just leave it here.  I would've been no good as a script writer for kids cartoons ("the moral of the story is, um..."), but I would've appreciated the theme music, at least.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

That Which we Call a Journalist...

...probably wouldn't smell very sweet since we're all nerds.

My fellow ESFI writer, Ted Ottey posted a column about the question of whether or not journalists exist inside esports.  I've been around long enough to see plenty of these articles (and write one or two myself) and opinions change alongside perception over time, but I'm inclined to think that we have largely missed the point.

Whatever way you choose to define "journalist" it's clear that the standards in esports are much lower than in other sports.  That goes for pretty much everything in esports, but journalism is especially vulnerable because it has generally been volunteer work, done by those who love the game.  Precious few stick around for more than a couple of years, and the reason is simple: the rewards aren't there.  It was another ESFI writer, Derek Staley, who hit the nail on the head with this one.  There are a handful of talented writers (and a large percentage of them write for ESFI) but they have no real reason to write except when they feel the need to.

My own most productive period was definitely at SK - the one time in my esports career where I was paid for my work.  There was a bit more to it than that, but the reality is that one simply cannot devote too much time to something that offers so little reward.  It's no surprise that so many esports writers (or journalists, whatever you prefer) are harsh on commentators: yes, a lot of them are fucking awful, but they also get paid for being awful.  The best esports writers in the business - at least outside of Korea - earn little-to-nothing.

Back to the topic; I think there are journalists out there but people treat that title with too much prestige.  They seem to confuse it with Investigative Journalism, of which there is a real lack.  But investigative journalism is something that relies even more on funding because it requires a lot more effort.  What came up in the twitter conversation about Ted's article is that in Korea things are a bit different... but, actually, they're very much the same.

Orangemilkis put forward the idea that Korean journalists are the real deal, but the evidence he presented didn't really support that idea.  They suffer from another of the problems that faces the West too, one that has plagued journalism since it first began.  Korean journalists are very close to the teams, which means they get the stories quickly, but this obviously makes for a massive conflict of interest.  How can you be expected to neutrally judge people who are relatively close friends? (Orange cited journalists going on holiday with teams).  Obviously that is a rhetorical question, and I'm sure many of us would love the opportunity to go on holiday with pro gamers.

But the flip side of that coin is that we can't expect to be kept in the know if we write negatively.  Imagine a situation where EG is running out of money and needs to cut some of its stars.  If ESFI broke that news before EG could spin it, they would likely never allow us to interview their players again.  In Korea, it seems the only difference is that the journalists are even more personally invested in this situation, since they literally profit from it.  Is that a fair price to pay for being a bit quicker with news than their Western counterparts?  That one's not so rhetorical and I'll leave it alone for now, but I lean towards "not really."

After that slightly meandering post, the point is that we have plenty of journalists of varying quality.  What we don't have are investigative journalists, and neither does Korea, apparently.  The risks are currently far greater than the rewards, and will remain so until someone works out a way to better monetise esports coverage.  The sad fact is that the press currently needs the teams a lot more than they need us.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sandwich of Happiness

A lot of my post on here are bitter, cynical and/or twisted.  To try and redress the balance and bring a little joy to the world, I thought I'd give the much-loved "Sandwich Method" a try.  For the uninducted, the idea is that you offer a compliment, then criticism in the middle, followed by another compliment - compliments being the bread, as it were.  So, lets give it a try, shall we?  I'll start with a list of things i don't like, and try to come up with good points to counteract all the negativity.


Good: Is named after a very obscure character in the Discwold novels
Bad: Is a very bad commentator who has practically no redeeming features as a figurehead in esports.
Good: Is unable to enter American soil, meaning he is effectively barred from 75% of major tournaments.

SK Gaming
Good: Has had some of the most successful esports teams in history.
Bad: Pretty much everything else.
Good: The coat they gave me at IEM 2010 is very warm.

Good: Puts on SC2 tournaments for fans to enjoy.
Bad: Pretty much everything else.
Good: Their stream adverts are a bit less annoying than they used to be.

Good: Know a lot about Starcraft
Bad: Talk an awful load of bollocks during GSL matches
Good: Erm... they like animals?

Ah, I can just feel my soul getting lighter already.  Is that a rainbow outside?  Not likely, since it's 21:40 in the middle of October, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Rounding up the Round-of-Eight

The GSL is probably the world's premiere SC2 tournament in terms of raw skill.  This season's round-of-eight taught us a lot about the current meta game, so instead of bitching about commentators and slagging of MLG, I decided to get back to some coverage writing.


Tuesday's matches taught us some fascinating lessons.  We found out that Tastless likes Lions more than Tigers and that he twisted his ankle a couple of weeks ago.  In the second match of the day we learned that Artosis doesn't really like chocolate.  Also, some marines got built.

Today we saw an incredible series which taught us an important SC2 lesson: Dark Side Jedis always have red light sabres.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to learn what Doa and Moletrap had for breakfast, but we were treated to that on the first day of IPL and not every game can be super exciting.

Seriously, does anyone from GomTV actually listen to Tastosis' commentary?  Or is that just normal?  Are the tourrettes-suffering Korean commentators actually yelling at the top of their voices about what kind of candy they like best and how hard it is to buy Doritos?  As a disclaimer, I generally enjoy Doa's commentary, and he is much less prone to talking irrelevant nonsense than Tasteless and Artosis.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Charity Starts at Home... BoxeR's Home

Following a little bit of back-and-forth between Sundance and Richard Lewis on Twitter tonight, I feel the urge to post on the subject of charity.  For those who missed it, Sundance was asking Twitter followers for charities in order to partner them with MLG.  It's pretty easy for a cynic like Lewis (and, frankly, myself) to wonder why he didn't just do some private research.  Whatever.

But what people don't know is that MLG already donates to a charity.  It's a little known Korean-based charity for past-his-prime SC2 player, BoxeR.  The Brood War legend has given up on his dream of winning prize money in SC2, but MLG has set up a unique charity fund to make sure that he won't fall into poverty.  They graciously donated around $22,000 USD, allowing him to fly to America and compete in an upcoming MLG tournament, all with the luxury of a hotel suite and a $500 a day allowance.

Lets not forget, the prize money for finishing first at an MLG SC2 tournament is $5,000 so that 22k is no small contribution.  It's good to see that despite MLG's burgeoning success they still have their priorities right.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Get Rich Quick Scheme

Here's an idea from the bitter, twisted genii (the correct pluralisation of genius, by the way, EG) at ESFI World's Skype chat.

Step one: Obtain a camera.  It doesn't have to be spectacular, just fit for purpose.

Step two: Attend an esports event and film stock footage of crowds and players in action.  A few minutes will be enough, but feel free to get more if you're feeling energetic.

Step three: Edit the footage together with a few random clips of in-game footage.  Visit if this is a problem. You will need to install the game in question, also.

Step four: Add a soundtrack of epic music and intersperse commentary throughout.

Step five: Launch a website, release a completed trailer on Team Liquid and open a PayPal account for donations.

Step six: Profit!

Monday, 19 September 2011

lol at LoL players

So, for those that don't know, I finally gave in and started playing LoL.  I hated DoTA back in the day, and i tried and hated HoN (i uninstalled it after a single game).  But LoL somehow has stuck, and i'm currently half way through level 19.  I still don't think MOBA/ARTS games are suitable for esports, but whatever, that's not the point of tonight's blog.

One thing that really, really pisses me off about LoL is its players.  Since the summer holidays ended, i don't have to deal with as many "noob," "lucker," and "lucker noob" comments (there was a point where i seriously thought that every LoL player only knew these two words).  But people still don't know when to fucking quit.  The surrender system in 3v3 is utterly flawed, because there will almost always be one moron who refuses to surrender, and for some reason a 2:1 vote isn't enough.

To be fair, my time isn't particularly precious, but i'd still rather not have an hour a day wasted in games that are BLATANTLY FUCKING FINISHED.  The trouble is that ending a LoL game can be pretty rough.  It's by design that you can't just run three heroes into the base and kill the Nexus, obviously.  But this allows the "noob" brigade to camp the last tower and make the game last ten minutes longer.  Any sane person can see that, when you've lost two towers to zero, their heroes are an average of a level higher than yours and the kill ratio is 2:10, the game is over.  But nope, these mongoloids refuse to surrender and continue in their inept attempts to somehow snatch victory, despite the fact that their efforts in the previous 20 minutes have done little but feed experience to the opponents.

Give me strength!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Immediate Reaction to the new Footy Demos

It's that time of year again.  The time when Konami and EA stop hiding behind glitzy trailers and let us get our hands on this year's £30 patch for last year's game.  I downloaded both of them overnight and got my teeth into them this morning.  So how do they taste?

Being a PES player for the past six years, I obviously opted to have that for my entreé.  Since this is a pretty informal review, i guess i'll go through my experience chronologically.  Firstly, the menu is almost identical to last year with a few new images and the like.  The menu sounds are cool, and the overall presentation is solid.  But who cares about that, right?

Getting into the game, you have a fairly confusing mixture of teams to choose from.  Obviously PES is limited by licensing, but having Spurs as the Premier League's sole representative feels very odd.  For a demo, it's not a massive deal, but it just felt very strange.  How Rangers got in there ahead of, well, any of 30 European teams is just plain baffling, however, but at least it gave me a good enemy to bash.

As for the game itself, well, it does feel somehow smoother.  I hate to use the cliché of it being "slick" but it does sum it up rather nicely.  Movement feels much more natural - so much so that it takes a bit of getting used to from the previous years.  Turning, with or without the ball, feels more responsive, but, importantly, the defenders keep up a lot better.  A simple change of direction has often been more effective than the Street Fighter-esque combo moves, but this year - at least from the demo - it seems that running rings round defenders to score your 5th solo goal of the game might be a thing of the past.  Good riddance.

The other 95% success rate option - the through ball - also seems to have been nerfed somewhat.  Actually, i have to admit that i found through balls very difficult to execute in the PES demo.  Neat passing in midfield was much better than last year, but the final ball seems much harder to pull off.  Despite outplaying Rangers completley, i still only won 3-1, thanks to a few fairly realistic goals.  Hell, my openener went in off Defoe's be continued.  If i were to pop in PES 2011 and play the same fixture, i can almost guarantee at least five goals.

So for PES, it's definitely a case of baby steps towards the big time.  But for the more popular FIFA, it's rather unfair for me to talk too much.  I haven't owned a FIFA game since 99, and it's hard to get to grips with the playstyle and controls during the space of half an hour's demo play.  Give me the rest of the week to play it and i could have a more accurate reflection, but, frankly, i just can't be bothered.  The demo is too restrictive for it to be worth that kind of commitment.  While the team choice is better, i just can't really get to grips with the game itself.

Dribbling seems difficult, even when i played as Barcelona and gave the ball to Messi as often as possible.  One of my biggest gripes with footy games is the lack of a passing game, but FIFA seems to have gone too far the other way.  For a passing game to work you need players to move off the ball, and it felt like they just weren't doing it.

Again, though, it's important for me to be honest and say that this could be my fault.  In PES, the game where i have truly mastered the controls, i found the off-the-ball movement almost impossible to use advantageously.  This is supposed to be the big new attraction for the Konami title, but I would usually just get the player on the ball tackled, or else the man moving off the ball would do nothing useful.  Maybe that is why the through ball seems so much harder; you have to control the movement yourself.  But, with it being so difficult to use both sticks at once, it just feels like a neat idea poorly executed.

Then again, maybe it just needs more time.  But for now, it seems like i'll be paying £30 for the PES update and feeling slightly ripped-off.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

MLG's Latest Title: Dead Horse Flogging

So, it seems that MLG will be bringing back GotFrag.

I have a theory about American TV (this is related, so bear with me).  Most of it is terrible, but often starts out quite well.  Take my column's inspiration, The X Files.  The first three-four series' were superb, but it took a pretty rapid downturn from series six onwards.  Basically, Americans don't know when to let something die.  Look at The Simpsons for an even better example: still going today, but basically unwatchable.  Compare this to the best British TV shows, which typically run for just two or three series and go off-air at their peak.

So, for those of you who know GotFrag's history, you can probably see where this is going.  Bringing back what used to be the best esports site in existence - it wasn't even close - will almost definitely end in failure.  Everyone that made GotFrag so great has moved onto other things: Midway is with ESL, Anomoloy is with Complexity (I think, I could be wrong) Scoots is with EG and Lee is with MLG itself.  The game that GotFrag was built on (CS) is not quite dead, but its place in the esports pantheon has massively changed.

Then there's the simple fact that we don't really need another esports site.  If you want to read a forum, you go to Team Liquid or Reddit; if you want high quality articles and coverage, you go to ESFI, and there are half a dozen other sites that fill in any gaps.  What could GotFrag do that the other sites don't already?  Advertise MLG's sponsors?  Maybe they could post exclusive replays, but it's the nature of the internet that they will stay exclusive for precisely the length of time it takes to download and upload a 200kb file.

But in case a new GotFrag is somehow more than a disaster, it is of the utmost importance that the SC2 bubble is educated about where GotFrag went in the first place.  Apparently Sundance has no sense of irony (or else he is actually a master troll) when he posts #neverforget in regards to a GotFrag logo.

For those who don't know, MLG bought GotFrag when it had pretty much reached its prime (pun intended).  GotFrag's management were semi-forced into a position where they had to choose between MLG and CGS - an awkward decision, to be sure.  They chose MLG, and almost immediately had their entire Counter-Strike budget cut.  It was around this time that I did my best rat-on-a-sinking-ship impression and left, just as GotFrag started to become a husk of its former self.  The original management started to leave soon thereafter, and the site carried on with a threadbare staff, covering MLG's WoW tournaments (ignoring ESL's), doing a worse and worse job of it.  The site was basically dead, but they gave SC2 when it first came into MLG.  If you visit the site now, the latest news is almost a year old.

With all of that in mind you'll forgive me for being less than excited about the prospect of an MLG-fueled  GotFrag making another return.  Lest we forget, Lee Chen - previously head honcho of GotFrag - still works for MLG, one guy who did pretty well out of the death of an entire community.  Together, they want to resurrect what they destroyed?  Excuse me while I choke to death on my own bitter laughter.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The E in esports Stands for ego

Who is the CEO of the Premier League?  If you're English, you may know.  If your a non-English football fan, there's a slim chance you might know.  I know, because a couple of years ago he had the stupid "39th game" idea.  He was in the news for floating a business idea which was badly received.  He then disappeared into the background, where CEO's belong, returning to the news only occassionaly to discuss important but tedious business stuff like club debt and league sponsorship.

Who is the CEO of MLG?  Yeah, that's a rhetorical question: of course you know that it's Sundance --  self-professed THAT guy.  His every tweet cries "look at me," every forum post scerams "look how similar we are; love me."  This is a guy who should be in the background making business decisions and dealing with sponsors but here he is making drunk forum posts and begging for our attention.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, it's all very undignified.

In fairness, most English men are brought up to automatically distrust authority figures like Sundance.  Maybe it's because we're used to the bungling figures that represent our sports, and our dishonest, money-grubbing politicians.  With that in mind, perhaps i'm being unkind - judging him on the basis of other people.  But on the other hand, he makes himself so easy to hate.  He would undoubtedly spin it as being a "love me or hate me, that's who I am" figure, but, realistically, he's just an irritating attention whore.   The face of a sports league should be its players, not its CEO.

This issue is much broader and deeper than just MLG, however.  My ESFI comrade keeker made a similar point about commentatorslast week.  The fact is that esports has become a huge dick-waving contest, played out via livestream by a bunch of egotistical bores.  I could quite happily live my entire without knowing what Day9's three-day stubble looks like but I will never have that opporunity, thanks to the "look at me" nature of the Day9 Daily.  Personal and intimate, sure, but that's not what I want from analysis.  I want, er, analysis.

To put it bluntly, esports should be about computer games.  I want to tune into a Starcraft stream and watch Stracraft matches, not listen to crappy jokes from a couple of guys in t-shirts and blazers.  Esports as a whole has its priorities all wrong and continues to show the real reason why the word "esport" is so inappropriate.  The focus has shifted away from any real sporting action and onto the supporting characters.

Oh, yeah, here's my inspiration for today's rant.

Monday, 29 August 2011


I don't usually do this kinda thing, but:

breathless, rambling, exhibiting a sharp fear of silences, one that would rather fill space where nothing is really happening with complete bullshit than nothing, one where words-per-minute is a valuable metric, one where it’s not customary but obligatory to choke yourself with excitement when anything remotely interesting happens, to throw diction out the window; the more incomprehensible you are, the better.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

#hypewatch becomes #credibilitywatch

The EG announcement will be so good. Is the best thing to happen in competitive thus far. Outside of MLG of course!
-Slasher, via Twitter.

To be fair, he could have been trolling, but EG have done way too much of this shit now.  Hopefully this latest in a long line of #hypewatch suspects will make esports fans wake the fuck up.  EG will hype ANYTHING to the moon and back, and it will never, ever live up to the bullshit.  Yes, Huk is the best non-Korean in the current SC2 scene, but the amount of buzz that EG manufactured would make you think that they would be buying the entire roster of GSL with funding from some kind of Middle East Sheikh, Man City style.

I can only pray that TL-goers and other community members treat future EG hype and announcements with the utter disdain that they deserve.  It's definitely come to something when I find myself agreeing with Totalbiscuit:

"Nonplussed by the HuK thing. I don't have time to care about anything other than awesome SC2 games. Doesn't matter which team they come from"

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Wait a second, i just remembered something!

It's a busy day at the Zechs Files office (which consists of my desk, which is missing two of its three drawers and has two empty ale bottles - yes, ale*).  We've published some softcore porn, and wrote an actual column for ESFI at last!

But while watching GSL VODs, a thought just struck me about an argument that happened two or three months ago.  That's the Zechs Files; always at the cutting edge of esports news!

You may remember the furore revolving around an article published on Team Liquid called The Elephant in the Room.  The basic, misguided premise of the article was that SC2 competition will never be valid until the Bonjwa's and their ilk move over Brood War.  There are obvious flaws with this argument, which i won't go into again, but one skipped my mind at the time.

The idea of the article was that MC dominating the game (as he was at the time) is laughable, because he had an awful record in professional BW.  Well, that kind of stands to reason at first glance.  Except... BW is a game with 10 years of knowledge, with a genuinely professional scene and players who have years of experience and practice.  The fact that MC even made it to the best-of-the best league means that he was one of the best players in the world.  So what if his record was 1-15 or something and his nickname was Suicide Toss (which doesn't technically make sense, by the way, but a nickname is a nickname)?

Losing every game in the best league in the world is still better than not making it there in the first place.  MC and the other SC2 heroes might not have been world-beaters in Brood War, but they were reasonably close.

Gaming and tits... again

MMO Champion posted some interesting statistics about character gender.  You can find the full data here.  The gist of it is that every playable race has more male characters than female - you probably expected that, right?  Well, there is one exception, and, somewhat surprinsingly, it's not Bloodelves.  They come 2nd, with 44.95% female characters.  No, number one, and the only race with over 50% representation for females is Draenei.  For those that don't play WoW, here's a clue as to why that might be the case:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

I could be your hero, baby!

Before I get into today's rant, i want to make clear that as a commentator, i have a lot of respect for djWHEAT.  If you've read my blogs about commentators in the past, you'll know that's high praise indeed.  However, as a self-professed knight in shining armor here to save esports, presumably via talking a lot, he is sorely lacking.

Esports history became, if not a hot topic this weekend, then at least a lukewarm one.  An excellent, if narrow in perspective, thread popped up on TL, giving a brief rundown of some of the salient points in the story of our fledgling sport.  One comment particularly piqued my interest:

On August 01 2011 18:27 djWHEAT wrote:
This is great. I would love to work with the OP to add some awesome detail to this.

It's a great start but even as I read it I realise so much is missing (not necessarily absolute have to have facts, but interesting things fans would lobe to know!!)

Now, lets be clear: djWHEAT has been around for an awfully long time.  I don't doubt the fact that he could contribute useful insight to this kind of thread.  But the question is, where to begin?  Maybe he could contribute some of his righteous fury about the CGS.  You know, the league he worked for and was handsomely paid by?  CGS is a very important lesson, and who better to tell us about it than one of its most important broadcasters?  He could tell us how awful it was getting paid tidy sums to talk about computer games.

Of course, the most important thing about history is to learn the lessons from it for the future.  Again, djWHEAT's esports crusade comes to the fore:

Throwing money at something does not yield guarantee success. This Valve DotA2 thing is marketing. Don't call it anything else.

Fellow historians and oldskoolers will remember some league or other a few years ago that tried to throw money at games to guarantee success.  In fact, those games were far less popular than DoTA.  What was it called?  Oh, yes... CGS.  And who was their main commentator?  It couldn't be djWHEAT could it?  It could!  Who better to lead us into the battle against throwing money at a problem than the public face of the biggest waste of money in esports history?

Now, lets just hire Fatal1ty to tirade against over-exposure and we're set.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Facts? Bah, i run a team, who needs facts?

Strap yourselves in kids, this is a long ride.  I make no promises about the quality or coherence of this, since i wrote it in about an hour this morning.  Still, i think the points are valid, and there is even more to criticise from the mentioned article but it was getting a bit long, even for my own self-indulgence.

It’s not often that I get annoyed about esports media but… okay, that’s a lie, but the latest piece from IGN’s esports division would make a saint swear.  At least, a saint who knew about esports.  So let’s break it down, quote by uninformed quote.

What prevents the publication of eSports contracts is the lack of collective bargaining between players unions, ownership and the leagues in which players play.

What is this collective bargaining supposed to be; a bunch of players going with their friend to the contract negotiations?  A player’s union would be great, but is probably a long way away and the leagues have no say in this whatsoever.  The likes of GSL and IPL could ban players or teams who renege on their contractual responsibilities, but the chances of that are slime.  Imagine if IPL were put in a position where Idra was breaking the terms of his contract with EG.  Can you really imagine IGN removing one of their star names from the league?  Ideally: yes, realistically: no.

There are many positives to publicizing team contracts. The greatest benefit is the resultant transparency. If the salary and duration of player contracts become public knowledge, it would change the landscape of competitive gaming completely.

This kind of happened in WC3, and basically caused the death of MYM and the shrinking of SK because players felt they deserved higher wages.  There isn’t enough money to go around to pay every half-decent player while the elite would be able to demand far more.  Of course, people so embedded in the SC2 bubble can’t be expected to know that things happen in other esports games, right?

Players violate the terms of their contract all the time, and the general public has no idea.

Yep, fine.  This is a reason for more transparency but lets not forget that teams do the same thing.  There is a noticeable bias in this article, ignoring the fact that teams are also culpable when they enter into a contract.  I suppose this is understandable coming from a team owner but it is important to remember the numerous historical examples of players complaining about not being paid or not receiving prize money.

The biggest benefit of publically accessible contracts would be a universal free agency period. If StarCraft II had a free agency period between December and January when contracts were set to expire and there were not many tournaments, it would be a great opportunity for new teams to form super teams and become power players in the scene. Currently, major paradigm shifts are not possible as teams have to wait throughout the year for numerous player contracts to expire and sign players one at a time.

Holy long sentence, Batman!

Firstly, “super teams” are notoriously bad for competition, as anyone who actually knows about sports would be able to tell you.  Look at Man United’s domination of the Premier League, or Barca and Real’s lockdown on the Spanish league.

Even more ignorance: players can be bought out of a contract.  I’m fairly sure this is true in any line of employment, but it is definitely true in sports and esports (SK bought Delpan’s contract from Fnatic, for example).  This is where transfer fees come from in the first place!  I can’t even believe this mind-boggling lack of knowledge was allowed past the editors: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

To clarify: “major paradigm shifts” are perfectly possible now.  It simply requires a new team with deep pockets to come along and buy the contracts of a bunch of star players – like MYM did in WC3.  The fact that a team owner isn’t aware of this is, frankly, baffling.

Now, granted, the idea of artificially levelling the playing field via a draft period is very American.  I can understand why a baseball fan would support the idea.  But putting every player’s contract up for bidding at an arbitrary point in time (esports leagues run year round, so there is no real “off season” like in traditional sports) would not solve the super team problem.  It would merely create a cycle where the most successful team would be able to outbid other teams for the best players, therefore becoming the most successful team for the new season, therefore having the most money by next season.

The issue of contracts has literally nothing to do with whether or not they are public.  It has everything to do with the ability to enforce them.  Sure, the more vain players might feel bad if his fans know he isn’t honouring his contract, but most players won’t give a shit.  I feel like the author is being unbelievably naïve if he thinks that players will fulfil their stipulated roles just because a bunch of nerds know about them.

Realistically, the problem is a lack of a central governing body.  The reason “free agency” wouldn’t work is because leagues view each other as competitors and there is no unified off-season.  Who is going to organise this draft, for starters?  It works in Baseball because of the MLB.  Similarly, the lack of a governing body means that contracts are very difficult to enforce.  Sure, a legally binding contract can be taken to court but it is usually only beneficial for a player who is seeking unpaid wages.  A team who take a player to court are unlikely to come out ahead unless they have been caused loss of earnings by a player – a pretty unlikely scenario.

Again, this ties into the lack of unification.  Imagine the hypothetical Idra/EG scenario from earlier.  Lets say that IPL does ban Idra from the current season for failing to fulfil his contracts.  NASL now sees a chance to one-up their competitor in terms of star power and allows him to continue playing.  Now IPL have taken the moral high ground but realistically they have just hurt themselves by losing one of their most famous players.

Only under a unified governing body can contracts really mean anything in sport.  The real reason contracts work in other sports is because player punishments are handed out by a body which controls every competition in that country, or even the world, in extreme cases.

Ironically, IGN staff should be well aware of a third option: leagues tying players into contracts directly.  Since CGS was basically a failed precursor to IPL, run by the same media empire, surely they should know about this alternative.  Of course, that league failed miserably, and when a couple of Brazilian players got banned for attending a CS 1.6 LAN that wasn’t run by CGS they simply returned to playing 1.6 in the multitude of other leagues.

This time around, IPL has tried to integrate itself into the community, rather than assimilate the community like CGS did.  But the fact that people who apparently have no idea about esports’ history are allowed to write articles like this for their website is deeply ironic.  Contracts are part of the “legitimizing esports” pie, but a larger part of it is hiring people who can actually do their job.  Or, at least, hiring people who have some idea what they’re talking about.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

This was posted on TL? REALLY?!

"Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here, now that we are facing ESPORTS growth in the west. Maybe. It is, at the very least, a good reminder of how fragile these scenes are. All of these men dreamed of making video games their career and none of them were able to do it, all becoming the boring kinds of middle aged men their teenage selves hated and feared."

Not only is this a fairly entertaining (if lengthy) read, but it's nice to see something other than blind, mindless optimism on Team Liquid for a change.  However, i'm fairly sure that's one of the harbingers of the apocolypse.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

EG in Staff Stealing Shock!

It became apparent today that the much respected Team EG has been stealing staff from other organisations.  In the Wild West era of esports in which we live, signing staff from another website is unregulated, which leads to what the football world calls "tapping up."  This refers to the concept of talking to someone who is currently working for another company, trying to convince him/her to join yours.

But Team EG overstepped the mark by finally recruiting Marcus  "DJWheat" Graham.  Rumours of him joining EG have been rife since he commentated on everything they have ever done.  He was also spotted alongside many of the Evil Geniuses staff  during events on countless occassions.

The other guy from One More Game, SirScoots (also of, er, EG) said "tune into LO3 where we'll announce which episode of Weapon of Choice we will use to make this news public."

Meanwhile, DJWheat felt betrayed by the move.  "You raise a caster from scratch, even before esports begun in 2010, and then he betrays you.  My move to EG feels like a slap in my own face." 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Esports Entertainment (TM)

I finally finished a column for ESFI World that should be going online within the next 24 hours.  Finally!  Writer's block is a bitch.  But being one of the few writers in esports who has actually studied journalism (toot, toot!), i like to keep my columns to a word limit.  That means there are things i have to trim, or just cut entirely, which was part of the reason i made this blog in the first place.  With that in mind, today we're going to talk about tits.

When i was ten or 11, i watched WWF, as it was still called, because i enjoyed it and because i didn't know any better.  By the time i was 13, i watched it because of Trish Stratus and Torrie Wilson and, especially, because of Chocolate Pudding matches and Gravy Bowl matches.  Now that i'm almost 26, i obviously don't watch it at all, but this weekend i did watch NASL.

It would be hypocritical of me to criticise NASL for using attractive women as interviewers.  I'm a guy, i like to look at attractive women, and yes, InControl's girlfriend is hot.  But the fact that Anna and her friend were the most useless interviewers i've ever seen (and i've seen a lot of terrible interviews) made the whole spectacle very unedifying.  At least that Korean woman from GSL appears to have a clue (not that I speak Korean, so i could be wrong).  I can't decide whether it's better or worse than just having half-dressed women standing around á la CGS.  On the one hand, at least Anna and Co. were contributing something, rather than being pure eye candy.  But on the other, someone with experience or a modicum of talent could have done the same thing with bimbos still fulfilling their main task.

Just to be clear, though.  I'm not implying that esports is going the way of WWF: a faux-sport for kids and mentally-backwards adults.  But the fact that NASL felt the need to bring along some T 'n' A is pretty worrying.  It gives me the impression that they lack confidence in their product - for want of a better term.  As if people wouldn't want to just watch some awesome SC2 action.  Or, worse still, maybe they roped-in InControl's girlfriend and her friend because they worked for free and NASL's supposed financial problems are worse than expected.  Either way, it was pretty cringe-worthy to watch Mrs. Excellent this weekend.  Cringe-worthy and slightly arousing.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Commentary Pro tips

Here are some pearls of wisdom for aspiring SC2 commentators, coming from a vastly experienced guy who casted two games with Special Endrey once.

WC3 players: If one of the players you are commenting on happens to be an ex-WC3 player, don't forget to mention that he has excellent mincro.  People on the internet are stupid and have very shorty memories, so they will likely have forgotten the last time you mentioned that a WC3 player has good micro.  Point it out even if they don't have particularly great micro, because how could they possibly be good at the game without having great micro, right?

All players are excellent: Never forget to mention that every player you commentate on is very good.  Just because you're commenting on the best league in the strongest esports country in the world doesn't mean that calling the players "very good" is redundant.  Even if you're discussing the first round of an open tournament, there's 50/50 chance that Meg@Sn!per.X is "very good," right?

Leery/Weary/Wary: Despite these words meaning completely different things, to a commentator they are 100% interchangable, especially if you are Day9.

Vocabulary: Are you the type of person who thinks long words are hard to say?  Do you not really know very many words to begin with?  Good news: esports commentary is definitely for you!  Long words take up too much time - precious time which could be spent yelling "ohhhhhhh!"  People can already see what's going on on-screen, why would they want you to talk about the game?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Independence day for you, International WTF day for me

Ever since last week's announcement by ESL that they will be swapping Quake for LoL in the upcoming IEM season, i've been struggling to put my thoughts into a word document.  It's a complicated situation from my perspective, and every time i tried to write it end up kinda schizophrenic and confused.

So after a week of frustrating confusion, I hoped for some nice simple news to try and get back into column-writing this week.  Then suddenly, the league that most intelligent people bitch about more than any other (MLG, in case you didn't catch the reference) is streaming Quake games today.  WTF IS HAPPENING?!

Next they'll be ditching the extended series and playing real games at their tournaments instead of Console shooters.  Okay, maybe not.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sometimes you just have to unfollow someone

In any other industry, Rinoa would probably be known as a "scenester."  As far as i know, she's never really won anything.  She doesn't write for any website (though she was at GotFrag for a while just before i left), and doesn't manage a team.  Yet she's pretty well known, as her 5,000 followers on Twitter can attest to.  Hell, i can't stand DoTA games and even i followed her until two minutes ago.

She's always been fairly friendly to me during the few interactions we've shared.  But honestly, her Twitter and Facebook feeds remind me of why a large part of me despises "Social Media."  I quote:

"Lots of people ask me what eyeliner I use! Maybelline Ultra Liner waterproof liquid on the top and MAC Powerpoint engraved pencil for bottom"

Yep, time to click that shiny red "unfollow" button.  I find it genuinely depressing that people actually want to read this shit.  I've generally avoided following "real" celebrities on Twitter, using it mostly for just esports and Magic.  If Rinoa is our version of Victoria Beckham (albeit, a much more likeable version) then i'm convinced that i am using Twitter correctly by avoiding those ego-maniacs.

Then again, at least she doesn't talk about fuckign smart phones 24/7.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Sneak Peek at The Zechs Dictionary

Tautology: The scientific study of Mexican cooking.

Firewall: Literally an asbestos wall inside your computer that protects the hottest parts from catching on fire.  When people tell you that it’s unhealthy to spend too long on a computer, this asbestos is what they are referring to.

Oxymoron: A person who doesn’t know how to breathe.

Exfoliate: A substance – often shampoo or shower gel – which removes leaves and twigs from skin.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Kicking back on memory lane

Nostalgia, eh?  If you never heard about the Deadman/Ownswitch situation back when both guys were in SK, you're in for a treat.  If you were around the scene back then, well... sit back and remember one of the most hillarious incidents in esports history...

"For those who are interested in the situation between me and ownitsch, I am writing the story. When we were driving to Hamburg from Cologne (ownitsch was the driver), I had to smoke a cigarette because it’s a bit annoying to be stuck on the road when no cars are moving and everyone is waiting. I even opened a window so I won’t disturb anyone but ownitsch told me to stop smoking.I told him, “no, I need to smoke that cigarette!” He then stopped the car like crazy, stepped out of the driver’s seat, walked to the other side of the car, opened my door, and took my cigarette out of my hand (in bad manner). I walked off from the car and asked him why he was doing this, and kicked him in the body (because I can’t accept those bad manners from him, which he commited by removing my cigarette from my hand).

After we had arrived at the hotel, gues what happened? Ownitsch told me that I will be flying home tomorrow and told me to stay here. I was like “wtf” ownitsch, why are you doing this? At the hotel I was taking another cigarette to smoke because I couldn’t believe what he told me, then after I smoked I came to him and asked him if I will be flying home tomorrow. Guess what happened? He just gave the room card. I was like “wtf” again and went to my room but I couldn’t sleep because tomorrow was going to be the wc3l finals but ownitsch didn’t tell me anything (what time it was going to be etc). So I was knocking on the other players’ doors but nobody opened them and then after some time ownitsch appeared. I was asking him “what happened, where have you been?” Guess what? He told me to go eat and didn’t even explain anything to me. After that I was really thinking about flying home and told him that, but he was acting bad manned again and I was like “wtf!” He just closed the door to my face.

I told myself “enough of this shit” and left to the reception. So they called ownitsch’s room and asked him to come downstairs. There I could ask him again if I will be playing or flying back the next day, but he was acting bad mannered again so I kicked him in the face. After that, inso kicked me in the face and said something about my mother so I in return kicked him (with my leg). After that we left to the rooms to go to sleep. The day after ownitsch told me that I will be flying back and called the police, the police took me away from the hotel and I had to be outside. And then I had to go to the PC club to look for the address of the wc3l finals. By the time I arrived there I was off the team. Then I had to give an interview and had to pay for a flight from Hamburg to to Kalinigrad to Moscow for 400 euro."

--Deadman, formerly of SK.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

2010: the year esports begun... fuck off

A quote from a recent article on the NASL site:

"I should preface my article by noting that despite being a writer for the NASL,  I am and have long been an E-sports fan, watching IGN, GSL, and TSL in addition to the NASL this last week and the weeks before."

I have somewhat warmed to the NASL over recent weeks.  Their obvious shortcomings are overcome by having the most interesting roster of players (I guess the insipid means were justified by the ends, even if they did invent a pseudo team just to get round their own rules and allow Grubby in).  But the sentence above is what pisses me off about esports right now... okay, one of the things that pisses me off.  Watching GSL does not make you 'long an e-sports fan' - GSL started like six fucking months ago.

This constant ignorance of Western esports before the advent of SC2 is as infuriating as it is depressing.  Now, maybe this Brandon Garrett character was at CPL Babbages in 2001 or something and he just didn't think that sentence through - in that case I apologise - but it's indicative of a wider trend.  I don't want to sound like one of Tasteless' much-maligned Hipster Nerds, but Western esports has been going for a long time.  Just because it wasn't on the level of Korea doesn't mean it never existed.  Is the NASL (you know, the other one) invalid because it isn't La Liga or the Premiership?

Yes, we've probably never had it better than we do right now on a lot of levels, but one should never forget one's roots.  Then again, maybe it just annoys me because i wasted 10 years of my life on CS, WC3, WoW, SC2 and so on, but the fact that i was able to waste eight of those years writing about it that proves that this shit about esports just beginning  is just that: shit.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

English lessons for commentators

Despite (okay, because of) the fact that most major Western esports commentators are American, they apparently can't speak English.  Good job they can shout "oh my god" and "I love this play" otherwise they'd just be noisy, irritating, wait... what?  Here are some simple lessons for any commentator, whether they're a budding upcomer or a veteran of yelling "ohhhhhhhh!"
  • One Colossus; many Colossi (pron. col-oss-eye).
  • "Wary of cheese" is not the same as "weary of cheese."
  • The Day9 Rule: you can't just put "of" in front of every word, e.g. "too good of shape."
  • "Casted" is not a word.  The past tense of cast is just cast.
  • There are no degrees of perfect.  Something is either perfect or it isn't; it cannot be "quite perfect."
  • Can Terran players pick up an opponent's base?  No?  Then they can't drop it either.
Probably more to come.  Many more.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Worst. MLG. Ever. And that's saying something

Esports writers and journalists can be a pretty cynical, bitter bunch - just like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  I totally include myself in that category, but it's interesting to see the newcomers go through their "slag off everything that isn't by me" period (Hi, PrimeTime).  It's ugly and immature but we've all been through it (maybe i'll tell you the Fams story some time).  Still, I like to think esports has room for some people who aren't just happy-go-lucky-ignore-the-problem-it'll-go-away assholes.

Why do i bring this up now, after weeks of inactivity?  Well, firstly there's the fact that i wrote a column for Rakaka again today and it never rains but it pours.  But mostly, it warmed my cold, lifeless heart to see the MLG feedback.  Where normally the SC2 community is about as happy-go-lucky as you can find on the internet, even the shallowest of Team Liquid posters had to take a minute out of their busy schedules of typing the word "amazing" to point out the many flaws of the Dallas event.

I'm no tech-head, so i don't want to go into networking problems.  Certainly, MLG weren't helped by Blizzard's ridiculous anti-LAN attitude, but that hasn't stopped GSL or ESL.  Yes, the fates did conspire against MLG to some extent this weekend, but a company that is so full of hype and self-promotion should surely have some kind of contingency plan to back up the hyperbole, shouldn't they?

Frankly, there were so many problems at MLG that i don't really feel like sitting down long enough to go into detail.  Hopefully, in the middle of this massive boom that esports is currently experiencing, MLG will serve as a warning to the rest - and to themselves.  Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Score one for the cynics!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Ranking the rankings: how to run a tournament

League: Like in most European sports.  This rewards teams for consistency.  A team that consistently beats opponents over the course of a season can surely be called deserved winners at the end of it,  moreso than knockout play where luck can play a much bigger part.  In terms of sporting legitimacy, the league simply offers a larger sample size from which to draw results.  The problem with a league is actually a problem with the prevailing trend in esports since its inception; esports is based too much around one-off events with very few genuine leagues being run at all.  It takes time, coordination and continuous effort to run a league, which most tournament organisers seem unwilling to invest.

Read the whole column over at Rakaka

Monday, 21 February 2011

NASL: The good, the bad, and the speculation

So the bomb has been dropped: NASL is upon us. But after the initial explosion, survivors are left squinting bleary-eyed into the dust. For a lot of people, myself included, the announcement of America's potential answer to GSL has raised more questions than it answered. So, while this blog is based on little solid information and a lot of speculation, i'll attempt to break down the good and bad of what we know so far...

GOOD: "$400,000 in prizes over the course of three seasons." - Enough prize money to attract the best players. I guess nobody's surprised about Idra's homeword journey by now.

GOOD: “Daily matches, commentated live from a full studio.” – GSL is currently the hottest thing in esports, based on this format. If it ain’t broke…

BAD: “With people like JP, hopefully DjWheat, perhaps Day9. These people haven't been contracted but that's the idea.” – while that sounds good on the surface, the lack of certainty is worrying. I’d hate to have to watch with the sound of because of TotalBiscuit or that lispy guy from RageQuit.

BAD: “Part of the reason why a guy like Husky or HD or TotalBiscuit is successful…” the rest of this sentence is irrelevant. Just mentioning those two names anywhere near an event like this is worrying.

GOOD: “But at the same time, I'm going to feed professional grade commentary in the sense that I understand the game at its deepest levels.” – PHEW. Thank God.

BAD: “Every player is going to turn in a profile including a picture, but also answer some questions. Basically we're going to have back story.” – Bleh… this seems a bit tacked-on. I like the idea of pre-match statements from ESL but they never really worked as intended and the best ones were usually the ones that took the piss. This will have to be really well done or else it’s a waste of time.

GOOD: “Every team is going to be maxed out at five players.” Great! Encouraging competition and openness; excellent.

GOOD: “Every player is supposed to be backed by a $250 refundable fee. Essentially what it is, is every time they're rude or they're late or any kind of unforeseeable problems occur they'll be penalized $25 or $50 and that comes out of the refundable fee.” – This sounds fantastic. Lack of professionalism is one of the biggest things that sets Western esports back and hitting players in the wallet is a great way to combat that.

GOOD: Five divisions of ten players, played over nine week seasons. – League style play is obviously the best way to define the best player, but groups leading into the finals are a close second. Two players will progress from each group, making a total of ten. Five more will qualify from a playoff, how this will work exactly is unknown at the time of writing. Five is an awkward number for brackets, though.

BAD: “…able to enter a 1,000 man open tournament and then the number one player from that is in the final sixteen.” – Holy what the fuck?! That seems like an awful mess. This definitely needs to be re-examined by NASL. Firstly, a thousand being reduced to one single slot seems… random. You obviously can’t do best-of-three double elimination with so many players, but the flaws of best-of-one series’ are well known. Secondly, after all the hullabaloo over the invite/vote system that determines who will be in the main league, it seems strange that a complete random could make it to the LAN finals without even playing in the weekly season.

BAD: Lack of clarity. – Maybe it’s just my reading comprehension failing at 2AM, but this seems very, very unclear. Reading back that last paragraph, it seems hard to believe that a spot in the finals could go to someone who didn’t even play in the regular season but that’s what seems to be implied.

GOOD: “We're already sold on three seasons. The money has been budgeted and secured.” Anyone who knows their esports history knows how important this is (Hi, Clikarena, Hi, CPL). Usually I don’t care too much about the financial side of things, but at least this is somewhat reassuring.

GOOD: “It's all insured and backed by Blizzard, that kind of stuff.” – Oh right, ‘that kind of stuff.’ That’s a bit less reassuring, but assuming the Blizzard part is true and ignoring the “whatever” attitude, this is definitely good news.

UNSURE: “But [the production is] definitely a grass roots effort in the sense that we're not hiring out.” – I want this to be cool, and be all indie hipster-cum-SC2. But after watching the Clash of The Titans stream tonight, I’m not 100% sure about this one. On the plus side, they can only improve on that.

GOOD: “A whole season we're looking at maybe $20 to $25. For about fourteen weeks of pure content from this league we think that's remarkably accessible.” – I’m inclined to agree with the latter statement. It seems pretty reasonable to me.

ALARM BELLS RINGING: “Excited business minded individuals that want to get involve.” – Could this be that dreaded ‘mainstream?’ Hopefully the vagueness of “all this stuff” means no.

BAD: “There would be people in their moms basements that would mumble otherwise perhaps, but that would be my take on it.” – Insulting potential fans aside, I’m not sure about this guy’s attitude. I get that he’s the community figurehead guy but he hasn’t impressed me in the way he presents himself on-stream. There’s a reason Day9 and DJWheat are so sought-after.

GOOD: “One of the core sentiments of the league is to be player driven and that would not be a true sentiment if we were in direct conflict with an already established organization like MLG.” - While I’m not MLG’s biggest fan, what InControl says here is obviously true. Having more competitions is a good thing.

BAD: “But I can with confidence say that from my perspective this is the biggest announcement in Western eSports.” – Hyperbole and bullshit detector is going crazy right now. This whole “esports in the West is just beginning” shit really pissed me off. Even if it turns out to be true, there’s such a thing as modesty. Imagine how dumb this will sound (it already does, but bare with me) if it all goes tits-up. I’m starting to hope the guys behind the scenes have a bit more about them than the guy out front doing all the talking. Oh right, yeah, this is American, where everything is LOUD AND EXCITING or no-one cares.

Overall, I make that ten goods to seven bads. Not a resounding victory, but definitely cause for optimism. I’m not so sure that InControl is the best frontman for this and the league/playoff/qualifier format needs looking at again, especially the open qualifier. But if this genuinely turns out to be America’s GSL then I guess I can forgive the hype. While esports has been alive and healthy in the West for ten years, despite what TLers seem to think, NASL coming to fruition could really be the best thing that has happened to it.

But please, fix the open qualification!

Source interview:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Ah, Koreans... you're fucking insane

With all the livestreaming and varying quality English language commentary SC2 fans are treated to nowadays, it's been a long time since i had to stay up till 4am to watch Grubby lose to Moon again. That's definitely for the better, but it also means i haven't listened to Korean commentary in months.

Having missed a lot of the GSTL, seeing a few VODs pop up on was awesome so i immediately opened a dozen or so tabs and settled in.

Ah, the ridiculous melodrama. It seems so surreal when you compare it to the mild-mannered shrinking violets that make up most of the professional player base in Korea. These commentators, i'm sure, are certafiably insane, and this is coming from someone whose mother works in an asylum, so i have some idea. Every remotely interesting event is met with rollercoaster-like wails and screams. It's amazing that these people don't lose the ability to speak after a best-of-three series.

Not that any of this is new, but after having it go missing from my life for so long it's kind of re-assuring to know that it still goes on. If all of Asia is like this, i think i finally understand anime. The whole continent must be sort of like the mirror-opposite universe of Victorian Britain.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Carmac talks about IEM Europe

So, the dust has settled on the IEM European finals. Sjow won the SC2 tournament in highly impressive fashion and I think people want to know what a Bronze league player thinks about his performance.

Carmac: Well, as a bronze league player I'm not completely sure how excellent he was, but it definitely looked erm... good from my perspective.

White-ra had been seeminly infallible in recent weeks and maintained that form right the way to the finals of IEM Europe. Did you see any faults in his play in the final, or was it all about Sjow's excellence?

Carmac: As a bronze league player it's difficult to criticize a player like White-ra. Certainly, erm... he's better than me. But i think you should come back tomorrow and ask a pro gamer because i'm only erm... only a bronze league player

What do you think was the difference between the two players?

Carmac: As you know, erm... I'm only a bronze league player, but I think it was Sjow's control of erm... the Mega, no... Medivacs. The way he kept coole- erm... White-ra on his toes was highly impressive, and certainly not something you see in the bronze league.

Apart from Sjow, which players impressed you the most in Kiev?

Well, as a bronze league player, I was hugely impressed by everyone. Cloud's commentary was particularly erm... good when he replaced me, since I'm just a bronze league stand-in.

Thanks for your time.