Competitive Experience: Then and Now

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When somebody thinks about competitive League of Legends,they probably think about the extravagant Staples Center that hosted the 2013 World’s Championships. The overly massive cheering crowds at MLG. Or the weekly LCS matches where the studio is filled with tons of staff and equipment designed to help give the players and spectators a great product. The stages are well lit, the staff is ready to help, and everything is just so professional.  Competitive League of Legends is still growing, and with it the quality of production and care for its players. Rather than talk about how great the competitive environment is currently, I would like to take a step back and reflect on the harsher experiences I have had during League of Legends infancy.

The first event I ever attended was WCG 2010 Nationals. This holds a special place in my heart because there were many things that occurred during this event that were hilarious. At the live qualifiers, we played in an auditorium within Universal Studios. We were told that equipment was provided, so most of the players did not bring their own headsets/keyboards. This caused a mess as the venue lacked headsets and had a limited number of generic keyboards at their disposal. Not a huge deal, people moved on and eventually got situated. What made the situation more hilarious was the fact that somehow WCG ruled that no one was to play with voice communication. Our communication in game was dictated by turning our game volume incredibly low and yelling at eachother, to the dismay of the opposing team ten feet away who was doing the exact same thing. At first you may think this is terrible as both teams can ghost each other, but that was impossible. The crowd was also ten feet in front of us and cheering at the plays we made. This was our first live event, jitters were at an all time high and we were in an unfamiliar set-up and also couldn’t hear shit. I remember bigfatjiji making a play as Ashe and the crowd went wild. I had no idea what was happening so I tabbed to bigfatjiji’s screen and was killed in the process. Lag. Joking aside, lag was actually a huge deal. Somehow the servers were   completely unstable and every teamfight people would be teamfighting with 400+ ping. I recall a fight where I was playing Janna support and was 100-0’d by a Heimerdinger turret because I must have stood still for seven seconds. These technical issues could not be fixed as Riot wasn’t as competent back then and the client itself did not have the pause function. Despite these shortcomings, the tournament proceeded, although it took longer than expected. In fact, the auditorium was only rented out until 5:00PM. As this was Riot’s first event and the series made it to a game 3 past 5:00PM, the WCG staff became restless. I’m guessing the staff only got paid until 5:00PM or something because in the middle of our tournament game (probably twenty minutes into game 3) the tournament director walked up and asked each team if he could just call it game and end the tournament without actually playing it out based on gold advantage alone. All of this happened while the director also said that the power to the auditorium could go out at any minute as we had only rented the auditorium until 5:00PM. Needless to say, Riot did not agree with any of these ridiculous demands and we ended up finishing up the tournament without many more problems.

WCG 2010 Nationals was the epitomy of terrible tournament environments. Conditions improved by the time the official WCG 2010 tournament happened but things were still very shady. At MLG Raleigh, teams were playing against each other while sitting besides eachother. MLG staff put up a small tarp rolled around on wheels to block vision and hopefully block voice communications. Pause function was not introduced to the game yet. At IEM Guangzhou, Hotshot’s computer kept black screening (trademark HotshotGG specific bug) and we would have to pull back every time his monitor went out. We were able to get a free Baron because SK pulled out randomly from Baron. I later learned that this was because someone had DC’d and they didn’t want to risk a 4v5. Conditions were bad, but they continually improved. Recently, the biggest problems I have with the current LAN setups are that the sound booths are not even close to sound proof. You can always hear the crowd no matter what you do. Sometimes the caster’s voice can be heard talking about what the enemy team wants to accomplish and you can actually listen in. These issues have been addressed, so it isn’t a big deal anymore.

Playing conditions just three years ago were terrible. Riot learned from their mistakes and has improved the atmosphere to the quality that is being displayed today. Nowadays, pause function and technical staff are on standby ready to help solve any potential problems that arise. Tournaments are held under intense scrutiny as Riot is no longer taking their first step into E-sports, they are becoming the industry’s standard. Hopefully Riot can air out the remaining bugs in their client so the game can be without all of the random pauses or champion bans you see during the LCS.

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by Steve Chau, on December 13, 2013