E-Sports

At the Kaihinmakuhari station
At the Kaihinmakuhari station

Major item in bucket list crossed, y’all. Finally got into Tokyo Game Show this year which is definitely one of the biggest events in all of gaming. All the giants in the video games industry were at the Makuhari Messe to showcase their latest games and titles under development that we should all look forward in the next few months. Notable attendees were Sony and Microsoft (Nintendo does not attend TGS for some reason but was still present through 3rd party devs), Konami, Sega, Capcom, Square Enix, Bandai Namco and more. We were super stoked to see the presentations by esteemed game directors, squealed loudly with more than 220,000 game fans, and shared some of the disappointments as well. Here are some of the pictures I took in the event (and some captioning for context). Enjoy!

More pictures and coverage on Alex’s post soon! I will also be posting about select games that we got to test on the floor as well.

4 4721
wtf
I’m a chink, therefore Jackie Chan.

Yesterday, I left you folks on a cliffhanger. I’ll simply fess up and say that my ravings went on for too long, so I had to make this a two-parter. While I can make a part three because I ended up rambling on even more, let’s just end it today. Now, to answer the question: why won’t local e-sports tournaments ever work out?

That’s because of our player base. The so-called “next generation” of cyber athletes  are a bunch of weak-willed cowards. Throughout my employment in promoting Crossfire, issues about small scale cafe tournaments refusing entry of prominent competitive teams was a thing. Nobody wanted to play against the top dogs because they wouldn’t stand a chance.I’m going off the chain here again to say what kind of bullshit reason is that?

FG.Wolves drank so many tears in Point Blank.
FG.Wolves drank so many tears.

I won’t lie to you. I haven’t been keeping up with the local competitive game circuits so feel free to correct me if everyone is out for the top team’s blood but I doubt anything has changed much since I dabbled in that world. The person being criticized is not even the “current generation” of cyber athletes. As far as I am concerned, if you are over 25 years old, you’re considered a veteran, yesterday’s news, an old guy in competitive gaming because of this thing called hand-eye coordination which deteriorates over time. I also am not familiar with the MOBA scene here but I’m positive that there are only a few top teams and boat load of people who provides them with endless tears to drink.

In a competitive environment such as e-Sports, everybody is aiming for the top. If you get a chance to fight the champs, you will jump on that opportunity, that’s how you get better. The top teams in my time were more vilified than they were beloved. It could have been because of the way the top teams carried themselves rubbing people the wrong way or how other people couldn’t stand how they couldn’t beat said top teams but I saw more bashing than I saw competition. It wasn’t “put up or shut up”, it was cry till’ you had no more tears, pause and drink water, then cry some more.

In the history of bad ideas in the world of online games one stood out the most and it wasn’t the P1 million rope-a-dope Operation 7 tournament that never happened by E-Games. The honor goes to a game publisher (also E-Games) sponsoring their own e-sport team and parading them around for all the country to see, be envious of, and start bashing them out of butt hurt. Despite being the team to beat, people despised them because they claimed that the team was given preferential treatment in tournaments. As far as participation in tournaments and in-game items, sure but everything else was fair game and yet they complained. This is why we can’t have nice things. Everyone but a select few want it easy… in a competitive environment.

Yes! This image again because it's hilarious!
Yes! This image again because it’s hilarious!

The local game publishing industry also shares the blame in killing its chances at making e-Sports work. Most of it is actually self-inflicted due to several bad eggs in the industry. As if petty shit like ripping competitor posters and uninstalling their games wasn’t enough you had greenhorns in the online games industry in charge marketing with big salaries and big budgets during the online games bubble. They were squandered on ineffective yet costly marketing attempts which more than anything, insults the intelligence of their intended audience, celebrity marketing. Just as you would market consumer products. It took them a while to actually learn from their mistakes and when it came down to crunch time, they had to blame someone for their poor performance.

It’s not surprising nobody wanted to owe up for being a colossal moron so let’s blame the competition. The “illegal aliens” who were “illegally” taking away their player base… by setting up a game publishing company in the Philippines and offering games the same way they do, minus the idiotic marketing. What’s wrong with this picture is our government being protective of idiots while companies who actually can do much better and actually generate jobs for Filipinos are harassed to no-end or are prevented from doing business in our country. Several foreign owned companies were issued cease and desist orders but only Gameclub was “raided” by questionable means because they posed the biggest threat. It didn’t even pan out for the raid’s instigators. Does the E-Games brand still exist? Not anymore, case and point.

The punch line is the fact that Level-Up has gone through several owners: a South-African IT comapny, China’s Tencent, and finally Asiasoft. It’s public knowledge that Asiasoft is not a local company and yet there are no cease and desist orders or raids on game severs. There are obviously loop holes which can be used to skirt the law and this is not sour grapes, okay. I’m not secretly wishing for the downfall of Asiasoft-owned Level-Up, I think it might be a good thing considering the huge list of games under Asiasoft’s belt. They can actually provide Filipino gamers more games than anyone could ever have offered. But you can see as clear as day how our laws and law enforcement agencies could be used as a satellite targeted ICBM to ruin things for everyone.

The Hounds of Justice!
The Hounds of Justice!

Compound all that dirt above and more undisclosed in this already long post and you get a loss of consumer trust. Sales are down across the board for all gaming companies? Maybe they were traumatized with all that crap and just moved on to globally published games or games on Steam, like DotA 2. RIP local gaming industry. I don’t really mean it and as dire as things look now, I have friends in the online gaming industry and I wholeheartedly hope that they will achieve success and do print a substantial amount of money. I salute them for still  trying to fight the good fight.

As if the original DotA wasn't already a problem for online game publishers...
As if the original DotA wasn’t already a problem for online game publishers…

Things would have been different if shitheads like Don “the bald fucking shit eater” Jocson got a brain aneurism before he put his plan in motion. Words aren’t enough to describe what a horrible person he is so let’s just go the potty mouth child route.

Players wanting bigger prize pools or complaining about the prize pools I had for my own tournaments annoyed me to no ends. Even the so-called money grubby behavior some of the top teams displayed popped my nerves from time to time but is it really about them or more on my frustration at not being able to afford a bigger prize pool? It’s a shitty feeling when you look at our neighboring countries coming up with huge prize pools that make your grand prize look like a consolation prize. But do you think these so-called “money-grubbing cyber athletes” got to where they are just by counting prize money? Then again, what prize money? I doubt anybody in this country could even subsist on the collective prize pools of all tournaments made versus their expenses for playing and training for each respective game.

The player in scrutiny is someone I know and have personally acted as their team’s handler for the 2011 World Cyber Games. Jupiter Mars “Elgee” Gaboy has been playing games competitively since the Philippines received its first invitation to the World Cyber Games. I believe it started around 2002 or 2003 so that would mean he probably has over a decade of experience in e-sports.

How many people would have dedicated that much time to playing games. Granted that he has not made a career out of it until recently, you would have to imagine what sacrifices he made to be the gamer he is. You can also question his sanity and priorities for sacrificing so much just in an attempt to make a career with playing games. He along with the other players during his era are still at fore front of the local FPS scene usually losing against each other in tournaments but almost always placing at the top. Why? I can only think of one reason. Because they are the ones willing to put in the most time and effort even if deep down, they know they’ll never make a career out of it and I can guess most of them are pretty burned out already. Call it whatever you will but that’s doing something “for the love of gaming” right there.

The guys from Cristal (now MSI Evo.GT or something I guess), Fairview GamingWolves, Loko, WaraPWND, among other teams  people were loud, very emotional, and blunt when it came to their opinions but they sure did their work when it came to preparing for tournaments. You cannot ever take that away from them no matter what people say or think about them. They have continued to raise the bar in competitive gaming for this country time and again by giving each other a run for their money and wowing everybody in international competitions by becoming fan favorites and placing in the top three at times.

There were more notable teams but I forgot their names because I am getting older already, for that I apologize.

It is stupid to call out one of them out for one outburst which isn’t even remotely damaging or derogatory to the tournament’s organizer. While I think this is a case of too much butt hurt from the community manager of Assault Fire and a couple of ignorant/flunkie bloggers, Elgee’s biggest mistake was to allow himself to come under scrutiny by opportunistic albeit idiotic people. Remember kids, when you’re a public figure, there will be a lot of people after your head, just because they can. How is it that some people can be so deluded as to be offended at a statement which reads to me as “the prize money is not attractive at all”? I believe the tournaments 101 already explained the role prize of money.

Here is my advice to future game operators: When someone complains about cash prizes and you know the deal behind why it is as such, just apologize that it didn’t meet their expectations and then assure them you will make one that is more attractive in the future as part of your planned events. It doesn’t matter if your game will actually not be around to see that time but we all have to keep our appearances. How hard is that?

As far as making a career out of e-sports in this country, I think it’s a bad idea but nothing I say or do will prevent people from trying anyway.

In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn't really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace z3r02! ,\/,,
In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn’t really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace, z3r02! ,\/,,

In the off chance (more like certainty) that people will be offended with the feature image, allow me to explain #Pinoize. It is basically the summation of what we believe is undesirable behavior in Filipino nationals which includes taking a studio/group pic with gang signs.

So I read about a “big issue” in the “e-sport world” of the Philippines from a phrase uttered by one of local e-Sport’s more prominent figures. The issue is apparently so big that it deserved coverage on some tech blogs; of course spouting the ever-so cliche feel-good ideas of “love of the game” and blatantly implying that the next generation of “cyber athletes” shouldn’t be “such money-grubbers”.

Excuse me while I laugh my ass off.

As offended I am at the sensibilities of the people who wrote that (blog post) garbage, I find it laughable that people still think that e-Sports is a thing in the Philippines or even in the world. Okay, maybe it is a thing with some local guys posing for MSI‘s gaming hardware, one of them being the subject of the other blog’s scrutiny. Or with the resurgence of Mineski and their brand of tournaments along with other emerging e-Sport promoters. More recently, there is a renewed interest in online games with Smart Telecom’s Game X platform for purchasing game credits for local game publishers. They also hosted a rather big tournament for Massive’s games with a more gratuitous prize pool in comparison with Assault Fire’s measly prize pool tournament which started this whole “debacle”. Mmm… maybe e-sports IS a thi—NOPE.

Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?
Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?

Still a big fat nope. E-sports is still not a thing in the Philippines, no matter how hard people try. It only appears to be a thing on the off-chance that people actually get with the program and make big money for e-sport promotions, game publishers, and sponsors. One of the key ingredients to making a successful e-Sport league is a big budget coming from a sustainable revenue stream. The lack of a sustainable revenue stream is something all online game publishers in the country have in common. I believe we have seen Level-Up, the country’s largest game publisher change hands more than three times in the past few years. It’s like passing a hot potato that nobody really wants.

If you actually follow e-sports, you will know that it goes with the game with the biggest player base and revenue stream. Back in the day it was Counter-Strike, and then Starcraft. There were many games they experimented in-between but it ultimately landed on massive online battle arenas (MOBAs), starting with that Warcraft III mod to League of Legends and then finally DotA 2. Most e-sport games in the spotlight are online games and there is no doubt as to why they are capable of having large prize pool tournaments continuously. That’s because they have a large base of players who buy their virtual items, merchandise and/or services regularly to the point that it has become the equivalent of printing money. It’s true, people go where the money goes both promoters and players and some people make it sound like a bad thing. As if these competitive e-sport types of games are the only games you can play “for-the-love-of-fucking-gaming.” By the way, I love how DotA 2 did their merchandise, that’s how I would have done League of Legends.

It really does print money.
It really does print money.

I’ve always told my colleagues that these e-sport events are necessary costs for the sole purpose of advertising your online game. They are glorious spectacles that cost a lot of money. You can hardly measure the results because there is a limited number of people you can accommodate in a day for a tournament so you won’t see a big spike in any measurable key performance indicators. But you know what, if you want to push your game into the mainstream, this is the road you have to take. You also need to keep your players interested in playing your game and spending money. Competitive games like first-person shooters and MOBAs thrive on competition so you need to conduct tournaments and the more newsworthy they are, the more advantageous it is to the game you are promoting.

Anybody remember this? It never materialized.
Anybody remember this? It never materialized.

The cost for logistics for a weekend tournament is already more than enough to make you shake your head in disbelief should you actually try to make money from these events; then there is the prize pool. What is the prize pool meant for? To reward players for their time and hard work? Hardly, it’s to make the tournament attractive enough to motivate people to take a crack at it and to make people talk about it. Then comes the hours of training, going through strategies, and even buying virtual items when needed. Preparation for these tournaments cost money too, if you’re serious about it. It’s an ersatz marketing tool, if anything.

Any spectator who comes into contact with staff or people in-the-know will scoff at a tournament with a small prize pool whereas their jaws will drop at disbelief at a fat prize pool. Big money tournaments are newsworthy, they can and will be talked about but that doesn’t equate an instant increase in your player base. A P1.5 million prize pool didn’t help Ragnarok Online keep it’s player base from bleeding to Ran Online. E-Game’s nationwide tournament for the now dead and buried Operation 7 which was also barking about a one million peso prize pool failed to garner enough interest and the tournament fizzled, never seeing the light of day.

I just contradicted myself. First they are a necessary spectacle and then they don’t really work. Why? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow, as I dissect the requisite evils of these tournaments. Then, I will address the issue made by ignorant peanut gallery bloggers and the butt hurt of Assault Fire’s Community Manager. Also, it’s two parts because we are in dire need of hits before we “go red” and unlock the “In-debt knowledge of blogging” achievement. That sentence before this was sarcasm because I know it has to be pointed out.

0 1357

Micro-Star International (MSI), an established manufacturer of PC hardware (motherboards, video cards, etc) and notebooks is inviting all gamers and pc enthusiasts to their celebration of all things gaming and more: “MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded“. This event will be held at the 4th floor annex event area in SM City North EDSA. This event will feature highly competitive tournaments, exclusive hands on previews of their latest gaming hardware, and a lot more activities listed below:

Feature Tournaments:

  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive will  be featured in a qualifying tournament brought to you by MSI and it’s pro-team partner: Fnatic where the winning team will be flown to Shanghai, China to compete in the global grand final where USD 10,000 will be awarded to the grand champion.
  • Mercenary Online (Massive Gaming) will culminate it’s Third Person Shooter League (TPSL) at MSI Beat It 2013 where the champion will walk away with PHP 50,000.
  • Dragon Nest (Cherry Credits) will feature its first King of the Arena PVP tournament where the last player standing will take home PHP 30,000.
  • Assault Fire (Level Up) will host a Pro Tour qualifying tournament c/o Mineski.

Official Tournaments:

  • Defense of the Ancients 2
  • Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
  • Avatar Star (Cherry Credits)

Other Events:

There will be a Dragon Nest/Avatar Star cosplay competition in MSI Beat It 2013 where the best cosplayer will be awarded PHP 10,000. Other cosplayers are still welcome to join in the festivities but you get no prizes.

MSI will also be showcasing exclusive hands on previews of their upcoming gaming notebook, the MSI GS70 Stealth. What is being claimed as the world’s thinnest and lightest gaming notebook. Looks like the big boys are starting to give the Razer Blade a run for its money.

Aside from lean and mean gaming machines, MSI will be colaborating with Simulation Racing Pilipinas and Techsim in a time-attack challenge featuring the MSI GX60, the only gaming notebook capable of handling Eyefinity (triple screen). Having said that, you’re going to experience simulation racing with an Eyefinity set-up.

MSI in celebration of this event will be selling gaming series motherboard and video card bundles that will be available in authorized MSI hardware retailers up to September 15, 2013 only.

Last but not the least, what is a PC gaming event without a LAN Party? On top of a rig modding competition, the participants will be making functional use of their pimped out computers for one big LAN party.

“MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded” is presented by MSI in partnership with Intel, SteelSeries, Aerocool, Plextor, Massive Gaming, Cherry Credits, myDSL and SM North EDSA.

About MSI

Founded in 1986, MSI designs, manufactures and markets technology solutions and products, including Tablets, Notebook PCs, All-in-One PCs, and PC components including IPCs, Servers, Motherboards and Video Cards. Committed to innovation and style, MSI products are available in more than 120 countries and employ more than 14,000 people worldwide. To learn more about MSI’s complete line of products, visit: www.msi.com; or follow them at www.facebook.com/MSI.Philippines.

0 1343

I suppose MOBAs are the new Pachinko machines in the “let’s take a popular videogame IP and urinate on its fanbase” milieu. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas—or MOBAs for short—are the hottest new thing to develop especially for developing markets like the SEA region, so it simply makes sense for a company venturing in the MMO space to develop one. You do have to ask though, why King of Fighters of all things? Sure, the series has seen its share of weird spinoffs but I’m not quite sure that there’s ever been a demand to play as Kyo, Iori and the crew in what appears to be a bog-standard DotA clone.

The King of Fighters Online is being developed by Dragonfly, with a closed beta starting September 4th, exclusively for lucky players in Thailand. Check back after the cut for some screens and revel in the weirdness.

0 983

We’ve already established that watching horribly-broken versions of popular videogame and anime characters battle it out in an equally-broken game makes for some compelling viewing. Now, take that same concept, amp it up to eleven by making the match-ups even more ridiculous (seriously, I’m watching Raditz lay the smack down on Barney the dinosaur right now), and add a seedy online gambling component and you get Salty Bet, the latest bit of absurdity the prolific FGC (Fighting Game Community) has spawned. Originally created as a betting site for larger-scale tournament matches (think EVO and the like), the site has found its niche thanks to its “Dream Cast Casino,” a 24/7 stream that features randomly-generated bouts powered by MUGEN, a freeware 2D fighting game engine where you can essentially make your own characters and stages.

No need to soil your pants, random agents of the DTI that happen to be reading this blog: all bets are done with Mickey Mouse money; no real cash is exchanged or gambled away. Users start off with 400 Salty Bucks to gamble away at whatever match is going on at the moment, of which odds are assigned and determined on the fly. If you win, great; if you lose, no biggie, it’s fake money anyway. Lose too much and you end up in the Salt Mines, sadly churning away with the rest of the poor losers, trying to catch a break on an upset. Fascinating stuff, and worth a look even just to gawk and laugh at what kind of weird matchups the virtual bookers put together.

Oh, and they aren’t kidding: always bet on DBZ.

2 1959
WC-TPA-Timeline
It comes with a million dollars too.

So Garena has finally broke silence about the issue. You can read all about it here. The statement claims that the SMX admin and even local police said that 30,000 to 40,000 people were lining up for the event which caused them to take over the operations and scheduling of the event. It doesn’t exactly explain why there were so many people were denied entry and yet the convention ground was extremely spacious. Let’s hope that the lessons learned for a second year in a row will bare fruit in the next event because: third time’s a charm and all.

League of Legends (LoL) is without a doubt one of the most popular and biggest MOBAs (Massive Online Battle Arena) in the world and in Asia, tightly competing against the king of pirates, the original Defense of the Ancients (come on guys, back me up here) and DotA 2 (that game on Steam). This game has run wild in South Korea (reaching the #1 spot of most played game), Taiwan (to the point their team became the world champion in 2012), and its pro-gamers even recognized as professional athletes in America. Like all popular games, the fandom of the game takes a life of its own in the form of mad demand for game merchandise and then you have cosplay (whoopteedoo).

Rampage 2013 is the gateway for Philippine competitive LoL teams to join in the regional qualifiers in Vietnam for a chance to win and compete in the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship to be held at the bleedin’ STAPLES CENTER. Aside from winning whatever division of P60,000 in cash prizes and in-game items Garena will provide for the local Champions, the winning team gets to make a run for the world championship where they can score a cool million dollars in cash. Aside from this, Cosplay Network Philippines organized a cosplay competition for all the people who’re good at making costumes and those who would love to emulate their favorite LoL characters on stage or within the event grounds as well and stand to win part of the P50,000 prize pool for the said competition. Last but not the least, event-goers will be given the opportunity to buy those sweet official Riot-produced League of Legends merchandise including the Blitzcrank Hoodie, Teemo Hat, and Rammus Hat. This an among other things (a passport which requires you to visit all exhibitor booths to join a raffle) sounds pretty sweet and even the P150 entrance fee would be matched with a lot of in-game items so one would expect a great day for League of Legends fans in the Philippines. Sadly, things turned sour pretty fast.

The event area was said to be able to accommodate 12,000 people but it seemed like only a little over 4,000 or-so people were actually accommodated at a time. When I arrived at the event venue, people were swarming the entrances of SMX and there was really no indicator where lines would begin and where they ultimately ended. Getting in was even taxing for myself who was supposedly invited by their media partners. To make matters worse, the merchandise selling caused so many problems (as announced during the event by the host) that they had to stop the selling event and would reschedule it at a different time.

As a simple event/con-goer, there isn’t a lot of things for people to do. There were no side activities except for lining up to get a stamp from sponsor booths such as free-play terminals or even simple gimmick games where people could kill time while they are waiting for their favorite team to compete on stage and there was a lot of unused space in the event grounds and people who were covering said event were left with absolutely nobody to talk to regarding the event or the company. I was lucky enough to know a few people from Garena who accommodated a few questions but everything was strictly off the record because nobody was out there in official capacity to talk to any sort of press or pseudo press outlets.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Things escalated outside the SMX where people who have been lining up since the wee-hours of Saturday (I’ve heard from people I know who are in touch with the LoL community that some of them lined up as early as 1:30 AM of Saturday) weren’t able to purchase a ticket to get into the SMX. The video below will summarize what happened below and just to point things out, there were no police barricades when I arrived at 1:00 PM.

There is no doubt that Garena is trying to produce a good show but due to several circumstances from possible poor planning, poor communications with the SMX admin, and underestimating themselves; the Philippine fans of League of Legends turned on Garena instead. The cruel irony of it all is the name of the event: Rampage (2013). After two years of failing to accommodate its fans, they might want to reconsider the branding of their event for an inevitable third major event next year. Please do a better job next time, you’ve got a good game on your hands.

Noteworthy Highlights:

League of Legends Rampage 2013 was presented by Smart Games a mobile payment gateway for online games where SMART pre-paid and post-paid subscribers can buy ePins for game publishers such as Garena (League of Legends) on the fly with a more modest mark-up this time around of 25% instead of the insanely high 100% back in the day when I was still working in the online games industry. The 100% mark-up WAS an industry standard where SMART and Globe were equally participating in said unreasonable pricing. Granted that it will still be cheaper to buy pre-paid cards, you can always save yourself a commute, a car ride, and all that unbearable traffic with Smart Games but only if you have a Smart mobile sim.

Garena has announced their next title for the Philippines: Elsword a side-scrolling arcade brawler closely followed by fans of a game from the same developer KOG, Grand Chase which is published by Level-Up.

Razer and Coolermaster where among the major sponsors who were showing of their wares for the League of Legends players and tech-enthusiasts alike. The Razer Naga Hex, a mouse specifically tailored for MOBAs with six programmable buttons place on the thumb area of mouse and Kraken gaming and music headset were being sold on site while Cooler Master had their cooling solutions (cases and CPU coolers) and power banks (external batteries) out on display. I was supposed to do a piece on Razer’s Hammerhead in-ear gaming and music headphones but alas, the whole product feature was done on-stage before the scheduled time (2-4 pm) so there’s another shot at the event’s organizer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

0 1172

Following a well received e-Sport tournament last year dubbed “MSI Overdrive 2012“, PC hardware manufacturer Micro-Star International (MSI) has announced the first title of their 2013 e-Sport festival’s (MSI Beat It! 2013): Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2). This DotA 2 tournament has a total prize pool of over PHP 100,000 which will feature eight teams coming from the following legs:

  1. Six (6) qualifying tournaments to be held in the following locations:
    1. TheNet.Com (P. Noval) – July 28 (Sunday)
    2. TheNet.Com (R. Papa) – August 4 (Sunday)
    3. Minesky Infinity (Las Pinas) – August 10 (Saturday)
    4. Live and Wired (Dapitan) – August 11 (Sunday)
    5. Minesky Infinity (Katipunan) – August 17 (Saturday)
    6. PAD Cyber Cafe (Morayta) – August 18 (Sunday)
  2. One (1) online tournament qualifier (details to be announced)
  3. and one (1) “wild card” entry (details to be announced)

The online tournament  and wild card competition is open to all countries in South-East Asia so it is possible to our neighboring countries to participate in the grand finals which will be held here in the Philippines. Details on the actual date and venue for the grand finals have yet to be disclosed. In line with that, those interested in the DotA 2 tournament or other possible game titles to appear in MSI Beat It 2013 can follow MSI.Philippines on Facebook for more details on their tournaments and side events.

About MSI

Founded in 1986, MSI designs, manufactures and markets technology solutions and products, including Tablets, Notebook PCs, All-in-One PCs, and PC components including IPCs, Servers, Motherboards and Video Cards. MSI products are available in more than 120 countries and employ more than 14,000 people worldwide. To learn more about MSI’s complete line of products, visit: the official site; or follow them on Facebook

0 1085

Believe it or not, the US government officially recognizes professional gamers as real, professional athletes, and in effect can be given visas (although the terms, such as if single or multiple entry are not specified, but I guess it’s assumed that whatever athletes are granted, gamers will be too). You guys can thank League of Legends for that, or specifically, its creator Riot Games. I don’t know how they did it, but they pulled off something that in my opinion Apple has done: made themselves somehow more universally relevant and created their own market through ingenious creativity.

imagesThis sets the precedent as to what things can now be considered as “sports” these days. After all, the game of Chess is a recognized sport by the International Olympics Committee, but yet millions still find themselves sitting down and watch two people with wooden pieces and doing boring shit like staring, thinking and looking smart. Chess is the real life sport equivalent of Dragon Ball Z at the premise that it takes several episodes for characters to stare at each other and smirk, whispering to themselves “this is getting interesting” before actually beating the crap out of each other. I don’t hate Chess, but I don’t necessarily love it. Then again, I still find myself playing Magic: The Gathering for hours, so who am I to judge? People dig these quiet, “boring” things, card game or otherwise. If you do insist on chess, may I interest you on a game of Star Wars Chess?

imagesAnyway, E-sports aren’t necessarily new. The World Cyber Games was inaugurated at South Korea at the dawn of the new millennium (2000) and is being participated by 17 countries, the Philippines amongst them. These “video game olympics” events are big hits in South Korea, and professional e-athletes (gamers) are at equal footing/tier to the country’s most popular celebrities. If once again, you don’t believe me, National Geographic made a documentary about it back in 2005, which can be conveniently watched online on Youtube. Starcraft is serious business.

JaceHall-Picture_193donothotlinkJace Hall Show writer Paul Nyhart (Jace’s the big buff guy on the left) wrote an article about it, and I can’t help but agree with a lot of his points, notwithstanding the fact that I myself am a gamer. The flak online is relentless and unforgiving, frequently bringing up all the idiotic stereotyping of gamers being obese, pimply, glasses-wearing, basement-prowling losers.  The main beef that people gamers and non-gamers alike have are that “video games aren’t a sport because it’s not physical“. This is their rallying call, and yes, it’s bare-bones simple in concept, common sense kumbaga.

Nyhart makes argues that the premise of sports being physical in nature was derived from the fact that past civilizations have primitive or perhaps non-existent technology, and hence the proving ground for anything “sport-like” would most likely be something physical in nature. We live in an advanced age, and hence we design our activities, heck, our daily lives, based on what we currently have. Ancient times don’t have computers, or even electricity, so it makes sense (to me at least) but one can be cynical enough to ask why writing isn’t a sport, but that’s a debate for another day.

He says that people are not looking at the right thing. Instead of re-classifying what “sports” are, we need to look at other elements, in this case the one performing the action… the athlete. Now think back as to why Chess is a recognized sport, despite the extremely minimal physical activity involved. Whatever the reason was for doing this, I certainly would like to know. Nyhart’s closing remark is, and I quote “Gamers aren’t suddenly more athletic; being an “athlete” has just grown to have a wider and more relevant meaning”. Whether you accept his statement or not is up to you.

imagesHowever, a quick search on Wikipedia will merit you a list of known recognized sports and surprisingly, if you scroll down you will get to see the term “Mind Sports”. Although I neither establish nor claim Wikipedia as the sole authority of correct, concise information, what makes an activity a sport in my opinion goes down to old fashioned marketing. In blunt terms, how well you’re good in BSing other people to agree with you that what you’re doing is a sport. Riot Games did it, Wizards of The Coast did it (Magic Grand Prix),  who knows what’s gonna follow. Regardless on whether you agree or not, gaming is now considered a sport (by them), and you can’t do squat about it.

Either way, I really hope I live long enough to witness the era of the sport of Raspberry Blowing.

 

0 1445

In my five (5) years working in online games publishing, I have always been fascinated by convention sized gaming events/tournaments and at the same time cannot help but raise an eyebrow at how much of a money sink these events are. But then again, as I observed Level Up! Live this year, things are really more than just about the money on the publisher and player side. It’s celebration of fandom and a way to “give back” to the community for their long-standing support for Level Up. This caliber of an event was the one thing I couldn’t pull off without riding on the monies of the developer (Smilegate’s Cross Fire). Although I was close to sealing a deal which would have enabled me to do such, I was met with the unfortunate end of working for an alleged illegal operator of online games in the Philippines. But enough about that, it’s all under the bridge now (or is it?)

While people at Level Up! MAY feel that all this is just status quo and regular operations, I’m pretty sure other game publishers would love to hold the same type of event or even of a higher caliber. However, lessons learned from E-Games’ now defunct “Domination” events really tell us that these events can’t make a company’s position better and it certainly could break them down in one way or another. Regardless, I sure am jealous that E-Games and Level Up! were able to organize events of such scale. Their players and fans sure are happy too. This year mark’s Level Up’s tenth year in online games publishing so in essence, Level Up! Live is a celebration of milestones, overcoming trials, and the people who made all this possible: the employees and fans alike (yeah, so let’s just say everyone, okay?)

Milestones:

Level Up! has been around for a decade (10 years) and their annual gaming festival dubbed Level Up! Live has run for over half a decade with no signs of slowing down. I was able to get a few comments from Level Up! (Playweb Games <– this name will probably never stick) General Manager Jake San Diego on the future direction of the company, new acquisitions, and of course on E-Sports.

lulive3
Jake San Diego, Level Up’s General Manager

Jake deferred to Game Boss’ (Ben Colayco) keynote speech during the opening of the event (which we missed) on the direction of furthering e-Sports through Level Up. There will be more focus on the line of promoting Philippine e-Sports and Mr. San Diego mentioned they will be looking into further “professionalizing” the way their respective game tournaments are implemented and promoted. What we can expect from this are possible partnerships with existing pro-gaming promotions such as Mineski for the Level Up! Live tournaments for 2014. While  Level Up! plans to increase the number of international tournaments for their existing games there are only two (2) games with confirmed international tournaments so far: Ragnarok Online’s RWC (Ragnarok World Championship) and then a tournament for Assault Fire (no working title yet). Jake also mentioned they would get into talks with other publishers of their games for other territories and the developers of their games to create or re-create international tournaments when an opportunity arises.

On the tournament front, the most notable milestone was the FG.CM*Storm team taking the Point Blank National Bakbakan crown for the third straight year in a row. They’re virtually untouchable in the realm of Point Blank and to take it to the next level, they also came out as the champions of the Assault Fire Masters Cup getting a one-up over the MSI.Evolution gaming team in a clash of pro-gaming teams. FG.CM*Storm bagged a total cash prize of P200,000 and hefty amount of Razer gaming peripherals. What’s ironic is most of these guys from respective CM*Storm and MSI.Evolution teams date back to the glory days of the WCG where the Philippines had a regular slot in the competition. These guys are not getting any younger but they are still the ones dominating the realm of FPS games. Seriously, what’s wrong with the FPS players these days?

Last but not the least Ragnarok Online is still live and kicking in it’s tenth year of service in the Philippines. That’s a decade of poring slaying which doesn’t seem to get old for people. Kidding aside, as cliche as it may sound: games are carried by its design and gameplay more than its graphics and then funded with micro-transactions (heh, I couldn’t help it).

Trials:

While a decade of game publishing really goes to show how successful Level Up! has been over the years, they are also the company which went through the most as recounted by Level Up’s General Manager. They have set a track record of constantly getting feedback from its player base and potential player base but had their lapses at times when they (Level Up!) did not listen to what the community wanted and paid the price for it. The only difference is Level Up! constantly learns from those mistakes. This is how they have become the most resilient online game publisher having undergone two major re-organizations (LU to PLDT and then PLDT – PlayWeb Games) while other companies just downsize to oblivion.poring

On the event side, there were a lot of technical problems (it was probably the internet connect, it always is) which caused matches and the entire program to be delayed. On that note, the championship for Grand Chase has been deferred to a later date  but thankfully all the other finals were finished on that day. I could suggest that they enlist the help of the developers to setup a private server for each game for tournament participants to play in a Local Area Network environment but the reality is it would be a logistics nightmare with that many games. Nothing can be done when you’re dealt a bad hand but that’s why I said earlier, it isn’t just about the tournaments and the money.

Fandom:

Level Up! Live is never complete without the side-events like the guild boothsonsite fan art contest, Ms. Level Up! Competition and cosplay and headgear competition. It wasn’t surprising to see that even after ten years, Ragnarok Online still has the biggest fan base in all the side events but I should also note that in spite of the recent closure of RF Online, there still cosplayers for the game. I’ve never played an MMO up to the brink of the server’s closure, I’m just wired that way. But if people still feel so strongly about a game that closed down in light of so many issues, I guess that means the company publishing it is doing something right. Kudos to Level Up! on that.

LUlive2
Ms. Level-Up Live 2013 (Representing Audtion)

As always, people brought their A-game to the cosplay competition for both the Level Up! games cosplay and the special Animax cosplay segment and you can check out the best of the competition here. The degree of craftsmanship on the costumes of most participants were great but more importantly, all the cosplayers when on stage, did their best to emulate and sell the characters they were portraying to the crowd. Its one thing when people emulate popular characters from comics or tv shows but when you see people copying the moves and mannerisms of video game characters from online games really shows off different level of fandom. I don’t like cosplay, but I can appreciate the craft and the show was surely entertaining to watch. If there is anything you must see in Level Up! Live, it’s got to be cosplay show and you can put in the Ms. Level Up! competition along side because instead of an outright beauty pageant, the contestants have to cosplay too. Very nice.

I’ll be frank: The venue (World Trade Center) is a costly one and I seriously doubt Level Up! is able to cover the cost of the event with all their sponsors or from sales of anything in the event. Regardless of that, they still keep making it happen in the same venue for all these years so I have to applaud them for that. If anything, it’s the biggest thing they can ever do to “give back to the fans of their games.” If a large venue to celebrate their love for their games isn’t enough, each champion team took home at least PHP 100,000 and with nine (9) games and runner-up prizes, that’s over a cool million of cash given out as tournament prizes.

We’ll definitely be back next year with a better game plan for coverage and hopefully, we’ll see an even bigger even next time around.

The full results of Level Up! Live 2013 can be viewed on their official site.

0 971
1044498_695128800503435_1057941099_n
CM*Storm.Expendables were the champions in both LU Live FPS events (Point Blank and Assault Fire)

It has been more than half a year since my leaving the online games industry but it seems like I can’t help but gravitate towards them given the fact that the mainstream gaming culture of our country still lies in online gaming (even though it started with console and retail PC games). Furthermore, there is a renewed vigor in the local e-sports scene. I saw FPS teams (Cristal and Fairview Gaming to mention a few) I had the privilege to work with back in my days in Cross Fire get tagged with sponsor names like MSI or CM Storm and sporting uniforms with various sponsor logos all over (the latest in Level-Up’s annual e-sports tournament Level-Up Live!) was something I could only have dreamed of back in the day.  This is certainly big news especially after the big hit our local e-sports community took with the IGN IPL Starcraft 2 Tournament fiasco. This second wind is certainly worth getting excited about again and it certainly feels good to see familiar faces in the forefront of local e-sports pro teams.

I was also fortunate to have interviewed Level-Up (Playweb Games) general manager Jake San Diego in Level-Up Live on the company’s stand and direction in the world of e-sports but more importantly on how Level-Up has remained relevant for over a decade while their competition back in the day downsized or folded-up.

I’ll be running a few stories on Level-Up Live and more in the following days but in the mean, let me just say this: I have mad respect for the people who are still in the business of online game publishing, at least those in legal game publishers and the good guys I’ve met along the way. Also, since I have no shame, here bomb: Rhianna Floresca (the newest Animax Ani-mate) posing with 30liv.es merchandise. We would have given her a shirt too but we obviously didn’t think that far.

Notes: 

The photo of CM*Storm.Expendables was lifted Arvin Agbisit’s Facebook page (the dude on the far right).