It's an exciting month for fans of DIGITAL SPORT. We're only a few days away from the start of The International's play-offs and exactly two weeks from the main event. Valve are preparing for the Dota 2 tournament's kick... er, creep-off with the launch of the official International mini-site. With it, they've announced the competition's prize-pool distribution, and the multitude of ways for fans—and newcomers—to watch.
Yesterday, I reported on the IeSF—the International e-Sports Federation—and how the gender segregation of their e-sports tournaments had led to a male-only Hearthstone qualifier at Finland's Assembly Summer 2014. Today, the IeSF released a statement announcing that they have removed the male-only restriction from their e-sports events. They also contacted us to explain their reasons for having one in the first place.
A user on Reddit's Hearthstone community yesterday shared this image—from an announcement page for a Hearthstone qualifier taking place during Finland's Assembly Summer 2014. What made "Karuta's" post notable was a single, highlighted sentence: "The participation is open only to Finnish male players."
That is, to state the obvious, a strange requirement for a Hearthstone tournament; and it makes the qualifier's organisers, the Finnish eSports Federation, seem like childish boys in a treehouse, hanging a "no girls allowed" sign on their front door. Only, the qualifier is for for the IeSF World Championship, and it's this global event that has stipulated the all-male line-up.
The Dreamhack Summer Hearthstone Championship final took place last night, proving (temporarily) who is the best at internet wizard cards. The tournament was ultimately won by Radu "Rdu" Dima, who walked away with $10,000—to date, the largest prize in professional Hearthstone. But the event wasn't without controversy. During the game, Rdu was informed of the contents of his opponent's hand by someone on his friend list. The moment was captured on the final's livestream, prompting accusations of cheating.
After a review of the incident by Dreakhack admins, it was decided that a rematch wasn't necessary, and Rdu went on to beat Jason 'Amaz' Chan by 3-0.
I don't think it would be controversial for me to state that robots are cool, human flesh is weak, and the sooner we can transcend our consciousness into non-corporeal clouds of data, the better off we'll be. (On a related note: I have a cold right now, and may be angrier at biology than usual.) Even so, I'm not sure I've ever heard a phrase as distinctly chilling as "Sentry Eye Tracker," which is the name of a commercial product that, hopefully, doesn't harvest and catalogue your eyes. Instead, makers SteelSeries say, it's designed to "analyse, train and improve competitive gameplay".
The Compendium is a magical tome filled with knowledge, riches, and small pictures of people who are absurdly good at Dota 2. No wonder then that the community has been snapping up copies in record numbers. The digital sticker-book-companion to The International 2014 has upped the tournament's prize pool to over $4 million—a more than $1.24 million increase over the last International. Impressively, it's done all this in under 5 days.
Wargaming.net has offices from Sydney to Singapore and a player base of 60 million, but their recent tournament in Poland was the biggest eSports event in their 16-year history. I speak, of course, of the Wargaming.net League Grand Finals. It was bloody massive.
From April 4-6, 14 teams waged war in World of Tanks for the chance to take home $300,000 and a safe-sized trophy carved from steel intimidatingly called ‘The Monolith’. These were the best of the best: Fnatic and SIMP from America, Energy Pacemaker and E-Sports Club from China, ARETE and NOA from South Korea, PVP Super Friends and UAD from Southeast Asia, Na’Vi and RR-UNITY from CIS region, and Lemming Train, Team WUSA, Virtus.pro and Synergy from Europe. These eight-man teams (and they were all men, late teens to twenty-somethings) qualified from a pool of over 300,000.
Riot Games Director of eSports Whalen Rozelle says the company will allow players under League of Legends Championship Series contracts to stream other games, reversing its previous policy.
Tonight, at the slightly absurd 4am BST (or the more sociable 8PM PDT), the League of Legends Series 3 World Championship final will take place between SK Telecom T1 and Royal Club. Not to undermine the achievement of the two teams who have battled their way to within sight of the Summoner's Cup, but, as someone who doesn't watch the DotA-like wing of e-sports, I'm more impressed by this: Riot's celebration of the competition. Taking some of the best players from the tournament, they've created anime counterparts imbued with the powers of their chosen champions.
Dota 2 tournament The International has released its prize pool breakdown for this year's event, with more than $2.7 million now on hand for the competition that begins August 7 in Seattle. While the competition is already well-funded, the prize pool continues to grow as more copies of developer Valve's Interactive Compendium are sold.
Collectors of Dota 2's virtual e-sports bible, The Compendium, have boosted the prize pool for the upcoming International tournament by an extra $1 million. That's not quite as much as Valve themselves have contributed - with them supplying the base $1.6 million that fans have built upon with their Compendium purchases. But then, most International fans don't have Steam's money hose continuously flooding their building.
I visited Valve early last month, and while I was there I was treated to a world-first, last-minute screening of the first part of ‘Free To Play’, the Dota 2 documentary that the devs have been working on since prior to the first International tournament.
The version I saw was so raw it was being shown directly from the editing software, and there were a lot of first-pass effects that undoubtedly be finished by the time the film comes out. That said, I’m in a position to provide a sense of where Valve are going with it, as well as a few of my concerns over things it might be missing. I’m going to run through my first impressions below, but bear in mind that I will talk about a few specifics of what the movie covers - if you’d like to go in completely spoiler-free, consider this your warning.
Lee Young Ho sits in the lobby of the Anaheim Hilton hotel. He’s five feet ten, wearing a black and white jacket, and armed with an easy, toothy smile. He flashes it at his friends as they chat among themselves. Around them swarm suited Japanese businessmen trailing wheeled suitcases; American families clad in various-sized versions of the same khaki-coloured shorts on their way to Disneyland; and transplanted Texans in stetsons and buttoned-up dress shirts, their faces pink and swollen from the Californian heat outside. Few eyes flick toward Lee Young Ho.
During the final beta weekends, players jumping into Guild Wars 2's structured PvP maps may have noticed the first signs of its broader e-sports aspirations, like the tournament tickets granted as rank-up rewards. The first Guild Wars had a booming competitive scene - it is, after all, an MMO named after its PvP mode - and according to systems designer Jonathan Sharp, the sequel is going to take things much further.
Shootmania has laid its e-sports cards on the e-table early. The customisable FPS is still in beta stages, but developers Nadeo have attempted to cultivate a competitive community, running tournaments and presenting showmatches on the global scale during E3's Ubisoft press conference.
Nadeo's next Shootmania event will take place at Gamescom. The 'Op3n' features 16 teams – including established e-sports names like Team Dignitas and Millenium – and will pay out three thousand euros to the winners.
I spoke to Nadeo Publishing's Managing Director, Anne Blondel, about making an e-sport, and how Shootmania will support the competitive community. Read on for her answers.
Blizzard have announced that the grand finale of the Battle.net StarCraft 2 World Championship will take place in China on Novemeber 17-18. Shanghai will host the event, which will also feature the finals of the global World of Warcraft Arena competition and give attendees the chance to sit down for some "hands-on play time with some of the latest Blizzard games."
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime says that Blizzard are "looking forward to seeing the best players in the World Championship Series face each other at the Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai this November," he adds that “the level of StarCraft II and World of Warcraft Arena competition we’ve already seen around the world has been amazing, so we’re anticipating a truly epic finale."
The internet detectives over at MP1st have spotted changes to Battlefield 3's Battlelog service that suggest that e-sports matches and spectator modes are on their way. Proper match viewing features could be a big deal for Battlefield 3, as they'd make the game's best moments accessible to commentators, and therefore the wider e-sports audience. There are so many different mechanics in play in a given match that you'd think it'd make for ideal viewing.
"AAAEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” A high-pitched sound was echoing through our Ventrilo server at 20:55 last Thursday. Rich was our sniper. Rich was nervous. Rich was making noises.
A few weeks ago we got a mail from Hi-Rez asking us if we’d like to participate in a Tribes Ascend showcase match against OnRPG and MMOHut. We accepted the challenge. The match was streamed live by LevelUpTV and commentated by top Tribes shoutcaster Ziggy Orzeszek and Hi-Rez eSports and Competitive manager Bart Koenigsberg.
To see Tribes: Ascend in its hyper-competitive e-sport glory, you’ll need to watch a set of pros in action. However, if you’re interested in watching the UK staff face off against some less experienced players, click away. Thanks to everyone involved for organising the match, and to OnRPG and MMOHut for being such good sports. As Graham (who fulfilled his infiltrator role admirably) mentioned on Twitter after the game, “We won via careful planning, hard work, and, um, having played it before, unlike our opponents.”
Don’t forget that Tribes is now in open beta. If you like what you see, visit the official site and download the client. You've got nothing to lose apart from your bandwidth.
Editorial: If SOPA passes in its current form, it will be a disaster for gamers and the games media worldwide
In the next week, the US congress will return to Washington for a bit of work. The first item on the agenda is to debate and pass the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. SOPA is intended to give media owners the tools to act against those who infringe their copyright in all forms of media, be it audio, video or text. Be it the movie industry, the music industry, the publishing industry, and yes, the games industry.
But the legislation is awful, and it affects gamers worldwide. Under SOPA, e-sports is under threat. Game streaming is under threat. In-game voice chat is under threat. In-game text chat could be turned off. Gaming forums are under threat. And the gaming media (us!) will no longer be able to exist in its current form.
The powers SOPA will grant if it passes are broad and troubling and spell doom for certain sections of gaming. Copyright holders will be allowed to seek court orders against infringing websites, and in its current form, against companies that provide services for them. That means that under a SOPA order, a copyright holder could demand restrictions from not just the site itself, but partner companies and clients such as the hosting domain, the advertising networks that provide ads, payment facilitators and search engines.