Free To Play: A Look Into the World of eSports

Back in March of this year, VALVe Corporation has released a documentary featuring three professional players of their hit MOBA, Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2), and their road to the first ever world championship that is The International.  In 2011, a lot of world championships for professional gaming didn’t pay out a whole lot of money.  Even the StarCraft World Championship Series paid out a sum of roughly $250,000.  Unexpectedly, the prize pool for The International reached $1.6 million, with $1 million going to the Grand Champions.

Free to Play is a documentary following the lives of Clinton “Fear” Loomis from Medford, Oregon, who’s currently the coach for Evil Geniuses, Benedict Lim “hyhy” Han Yong of Singapore, currently inactive, and Danil “Dendi” Ishutin of L’viv, Ukraine, currently a member of Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), who most recently appeared at The International 2014 that concluded on Monday earlier this week.  The documentary shows the lives of all three players and how they were introduced to the world of Dota 2.  They each had their own reasons for wanting to work hard at what they wanted to be good at as all three went to The International 2011 in Cologne, Germany, with their respective teams.  Fear’s team at the time, Online Kingdom, fell in seventh place, while hyhy’s team, Scythe, took a gamble and lost against Chinese favorites EHOME later in the playoffs, and exited the tournament in third place (taking $150,000).  Dendi’s team, Na’Vi, moved on to become the first ever world champions of Dota 2, securing the $1 million prize and having their names forever written into Dota 2 history.

Free to Play does more than just show us the famous people in pro gaming, it also exposes the growing world of eSports.  In fact, during the earlier segments of the film, they interviewed Jeremy Lin, a star basketball player currently playing for the NBA team Los Angeles Lakers and a Dota 2 enthusiast, who suggested that pro gaming may be as big as, if not more popular than, physical sports like basketball or soccer (football, if you’re outside of the US) in the near future.  This film is for everyone to see, not just gamers or the casual viewer.  It’s a great look into the changing world of eSports and how it may soon become accepted in modern society.

The movie is free on iTunes, Amazon, Steam (especially), YouTube, and VHX.

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On Trolling Little Kids

Today as I hang in my room, still feeling sick from yesterday and the day before, I decided to poke around YouTube this afternoon to rewatch some funny videos from Adam “SeaNanners” Montoya.  I noticed some trolling videos that some community channel puts up from Minecraft (Xbox 360 Edition) and the stuff I see on there, although they’re originally meant to be funny, are actually quite shocking.  Personally, I think trolling is best done with your friends if they can laugh it off and probably get you back later for it (as most friends do).  However, these videos were done by guys who pull crap like this on total strangers (or friends of friends…pretty much close enough).  Trolling isn’t trolling if nobody else is laughing.  It just shows that you’re a douche bag.  There’s also another thing to consider when you find out who the victim is: a little kid.

One such trolling video involving a little kid was between a guy (apparently named Willie), who was recording the video for the channel videogames, and a six-year-old boy (who apparently knows Willie, as he calls the guy by his RL name).  The kid is struggling with the controls of the 360 game pad and his frustration shows throughout the video while Willie pulls all manner of pranks on the kid, most of them involving lighting the kid on fire or drowning him in lava.  The kid begs Willie to stop (even yelling at him several times) but the guy keeps right on “trolling” him.  The video ends when the mom is heard on the kid’s end saying “Okay, that’s it. We’re done.”  It’s clear that all the six-year-old wanted to do was learn how to play the game but Willie had other ideas.  He gave the kid a hard time in the name of “trolling,” but as far as anyone who knows kids is concerned, this is practically bullying, as Willie was doing it purely for his own enjoyment.  To top it all off, he posts the recorded footage to YouTube as a comedic video!  This is despicable!

As I read through the comments section of the video, a lot of people (I assume all are guys) said that the kid was “a retard,” “stupid,” “an idiot,” etc.  You can tell those dudes are gonna have kids of their own, right? [/sarcasm]  That channel (videogames) is filled with Minecraft videos where grown guys (assumed to be teens or young adults) bully little kids by pulling all manner of pranks just to grief them in-game.  They’re only little kids so they aren’t at the point to understand that kind of humor yet!  Do you seriously think this is the way to teach them how to develop a sense of humor, being a dick to younger players?  Every time I watch these sorts of videos, I have to give ’em all a downvote.  It’s not comedy, it’s bullying in it’s near-purest form.

Why “The International” Tournament Works Well For MOBAs

I am keeping tabs on The International, VALVe Corporation’s world championship event for their mega-hit MOBA, Defense of the Ancients 2 (commonly known as Dota 2).  I noticed that their playoff style works in a series of phases.  First off, eleven teams are invited to the event after giving outstanding performances in events around the world.  After regional qualifiers are held, the regional winners go to the tournament while the runners-up have a small playoff for the Wildcard spot.  This is known as Phase One.

Phase Two of The International is the playoff stage where the fifteen teams play in a round robin setting in a single “mini-league,” if you will.  The top two teams at the end of fourteen played matches advance to what is known as the Upper Bracket and are guaranteed a chance to play for a spot in the Grand Final. The middle eight teams advance to the next stage of the competition, while the bottom six go home empty-handed.

Phase Three is the playoff stage for the middle eight teams from Phase Two.  They’re seeded and placed in the bracket according to their playoff placement from the previous phase.  In two separate brackets, the eight teams fight for the final two spots in the Upper Bracket to play against the leaders from Phase Two.  The first two teams to lose in both halves are eliminated and awarded cash prizes for their placement in the tournament.  The other four are dropped to the Lower Bracket, where the rest of the teams play

In the Main Event, the Phase Two leaders and the playoff winners in Phase Three have a small playoff in the Upper Bracket.  The winner of the Upper Bracket moves on to the Grand Final while the other three are dropped into the Lower Bracket.  The first two teams eliminated from the Upper Bracket are inserted into Round Two of the Lower Bracket, while the loser of the final game in the Upper Bracket earns a second chance at the Grand Final by securing one of two berths in Round Four.  The Lower Bracket is where most of the Main Event happens. The remaining seven teams play in four rounds to determine the second challenger at the Grand Final.

 

This playoff format looks and sounds complicated, but I personally think it’s brilliant. This is probably one of the fairest tournament setups I’ve seen.  I like how VALVe gives the regional runners-up a second chance to fight for the right to enter the tournament and see how they fare against the world’s best players.  This year, Team Liquid won the Wildcard race and fared well in Phase Two, joining seven other teams in Phase Three, where they were eliminated together with Titan in the first round of Phase Three.  The amazing thing about Liquid is that they advanced where veterans failed, including defending champions Alliance, who got eliminated at the end of Phase Two after being found among the bottom six teams.

Probably the most surprising performance at this year’s International comes from Newbee.  After splitting even in Phase Two with a record of 7-7 and a seed of eighth place with Titan, Newbee headed into Phase Three with a vengeance.  They swept their Phase Three bracket, eliminating Titan and sending Invictus Gaming into the Lower Bracket with 2012 champions Natus Vincere (also known as Na’Vi).  Newbee continued their dominating performance, rolling past Phase Two leaders ViCi Gaming and Evil Geniuses (EG) in the Upper Bracket to secure their chance at the world title, playing on Monday against the eventual winner of the Lower Bracket after tomorrow’s conclusion of the Lower Bracket playoffs.  Being the runner-up of the Upper Bracket, EG guaranteed a second chance at the Grand Final by getting placed as an automatic finalist of the Lower Bracket.

 

This is an excellent playoff model in the professional gaming scene, one that I believe other MOBAs ought to follow (yes, this includes the World Championship of League of Legends).  As an additional marketing move, VALVe has also partnered with ESPN to broadcast the Main Event games on ESPN3 while the preview show for the Grand Final will be broadcast on ESPN2.  This brings eSports more into the mainstream light, closer to being shown alongside physical sports like soccer (or football, if you’re outside of North America) and basketball.  I firmly believe that The International sets a playoff standard that best gives pro teams the chance to earn that world champion title.  Way to go, VALVe!

A Cold-Blooded Welcome and Infinite Crisis Woes

First off I want to say that this blog is just a jumble of thoughts and other crap about games across the ages that I’ve played or heard about.  As such, I want to welcome you, the reader, to the Scaly Burrow.  Mainly, the stuff I write about is just what I think regarding certain games that I’ve been (luckily) able to get my hands on, mainly through Steam (because VALVe is an awesome company).

I’ll be writing reviews and previews about some upcoming games (I won’t be covering all of them…sorry, but I’m not looking to go pro with gaming news, that’s what major sites like IGN are for 😀 ) as well as mainly opinionated posts about industry news and games I’ve recently played.  Thus far my preview ratings are Hide (as in Hide Under a Rock), Use Caution, and Bask (in the Light).  My review ratings go on the usual 1-10 scale, but I’ve also given them some appropriate labels that I’ll reveal in a later post.

 

And now to some fairly recent news.

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I decided to go poking around the forums on a MOBA I’ve been with since the very beginning of the closed beta (Infinite Crisis…think League of Legends with DC Comics characters), and I stopped by the Announcements page.  Evidently, the development team at Turbine (same company behind Asheron’s Call and Lord of the Rings Online) has decided to not release any new champions for the next two months, focusing instead on patches and balancing, along with an updated UI.

The response to this news has been overwhelmingly negative.  Evidently, as pointed out on the forums by pro player Chris “Supreme” Beam of Kelevra Gaming’s Syndicate team, the game’s been on a decline due to the overall clunkiness of the game.  The champion releases have been going one at a time for the last few months at an interval of roughly six weeks apart, almost all of the pro teams have backed out of the competitive scene, and it seems like the lack of interest has driven many players back to the more popular MOBAs that are dominating the industry.  This is especially the case for Defense of the Ancients 2, which is currently in the middle of The International, VALVe’s World Championship event held in Seattle, WA, for their globally known title.

Personally, I haven’t been able to play IC at all in the past few months and I’ll explain why.  In the beginning, the game’s build was totally fine on my laptop.  I could run the game on good graphics with the rare hiccup in connectivity.  Now, after all the updates (so far), that I’ve downloaded, I’m forced to resort to dropping the graphics level all the way down to keep the game’s choppiness under control.  I don’t really care too much about the state of the game right now because I’m not able to play it as much as I want to, but in spite of all the fire the dev team is taking from the general player community, taking a breather for two months (as far as champion development goes) is at best a crap shoot, and a total flop at worst.  I love IC, especially after naming Atomic Green Lantern my favorite champion to play as (Green Lantern is my all-time favorite superhero), so if the game does go permanently under, it probably will leave a hole in my gaming heart, much like what happened to my favorite superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes.  The difference here, if it happens, will be that CoH was forced to close by the publisher (I still think it was because they wanted to rush Guild Wars II out the door), whereas IC may shut down due to a failing player base.  I certainly hope the latter won’t be the case over the next two months, but we’ll see what happens.