Tags Posts tagged with "level up"

level up

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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.

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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.

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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?)


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.

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).


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.


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.

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.

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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.


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

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Only two days left until Level Up! Live 2013; a grand on-ground event hosted by Level Up annually for online gamers everywhere. The event culminates the tournaments of different online games published by Level Up such as Ragnarok Online, Grand Chase, Eligium, Perfect World, Rohan, Assault Fire, Point Blank, Cabal, and RAN.

According to the event website:

Level Up! Live is the biggest and most prestigious online gaming event in the Philippines. Every year, more than 20,000 gamers attend Level Up! Live to bond with their friends and online guild mates over exciting side events, activities, and the culminating tournaments of Level Up!’s biggest games.

Razorback will also be playing!

Since its creation in 2004, Level Up! Live has given away millions of pesos worth of prizes to its tournament champions, along with the chance to live out their dreams of making it to the big stage. Level Up! Live champions have gone on to compete in premier international tournaments like the Grand Chase World Championships and the Ragnarok World Championships, proving to the world that the Filipino online gamer has what it takes to go global.

Level Up! Live is held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

There are also plenty of side events this year such as fan art competition, guild rally, headgear contest, LU City and cosplay. I am managing this year’s cosplay side event so it would be great if you can come over to watch.

Level Up! Live 2013 is on July 6 (Saturday) so if you have no plans, please drop by! Find out more about Level Up! Live by clicking this link.

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Game services, online games specifically, shutting down is not a new thing in the history of online game publishers in the Philippines or in other countries. It’s easy to put blame on the game publishers and players are normally quick to do so but there are several factors that can affect the decision to keep a game service running. This however, is not a rant or a commentary about how “it’s not the game publisher’s fault” when an online game is closed nor is it about blaming somebody else. What I am writing about are the licensing terms and situations that would drive a game service to shut down be it the publisher’s fault, the game developer’s fault, all of the above, or external factors.

This is going to be one of those tl;dr posts but I do hope local online gamers do take the time to read this because I think it’s pretty informative.

Licensing Agreements:

Contracts are the foundations running a business between 2 or more parties. There are a ton of legalese items which need to be taken on and agreed upon before a game developer and publisher can and will pursue to do business with each. Unless a game developer self-publishes, it will be imperative for them to find a local publisher or someone to market and distribute a game for them. There is no legitimate game developer or publisher who would want to screw the other party over because it’s a quid pro quo situation where both organizations need each other to make some money. However, big companies like NCsoft (Korea) have certain standards to be met in terms of how much they expect to earn per territory also with consideration on how much they have invested in the development of a game so their terms may feel like a “screw job” for local publishers. However, the smartest thing to do is to walk away from such deals and not force the game onto the company and the market, because chances are, it’s a recipe for disaster like Lineage 2 SEA.

Publishing contract periods which normally run for 2 years at a minimum are basically a fixed period where a game publisher is required to operate a game up to the game developer’s standards. The summary of these standards are basically to ensure that client and server connectivity is optimized, game servers are online for public consumption all the time except for scheduled server maintenance times, and ensure that the game publisher hires enough personnel to operate the game (IT personnel and game masters). When a game publisher is unable to meet these standards, it is possible for a game developer to terminate their licensing agreement (if it is stipulated in the contract). However, I have never heard of such a case happening in the Philippine market.

Minimum Guarantees are not uncommon in publishing contracts but they may be implemented in different ways. This is important for developers to ensure that the publisher can actually turn a profit from a publisher’s operation they support with their game development team. There are no such things as “standard minimum guarantees” because these terms can be negotiated between both parties most of the time.

Royalty rates are factored into minimum guarantee terms but the ideal setup for a publisher. is a contract without a minimum guarantee only a revenue sharing agreement which will range from 80-20 percent or 70-30 percent cut where publishers get the lion share while developers receive the rest as royalties. This ensures the publisher that the game developer will be compelled to develop proper content of each local market in order to rake in more profits. However, should a product under perform in a certain market, the game developer certainly needs a way out of supporting an unprofitable territories especially if the publisher they went into business doesn’t perform up to par. This is why I say minimum guarantees aren’t a bad thing as long as it is not an exorbitant amount that no single game will actually be able to attain such figures.

However, should a game publisher be foolish enough to pad their forecasts in order to successfully strike up a deal with a big company, they are just asking to fail and the executive who actually pushed the padded figures or came up with a ridiculous forecast and ran with it should be fired and blacklisted from the entire industry.

It’s important to bump realistic forecasts with how much a developer is asking for from the licensing fee to the royalty rates because no matter how much you believe in a game you cannot guarantee that your game can meet a developer’s expectation if the actual numbers say otherwise.  If a publisher does not meet the minimum guaranteed royalties, the contract may be re-negotiated or even terminated by the developer as it is normally stipulated as such.

Contract Renewal clauses are important for a publisher to ensure that they can be guaranteed to operate a game continuously as long as they meet royalty agreements. I have encountered a contract which grants an automatic contract renewal when the minimum guarantee is met by the publisher. If it’s not an automatic renewal, there should at least be terms agreed upon by both parties to give incentive to meet or outperform minimum guarantee agreements. Fixed contract renewal terms are also good to avoid huge debacles (probably caused by greed) such as Sudden Attack’s high-profile publisher dispute in South Korea. The consumers are the ones who suffer in these cases and as far as I know, this issue caused the game (Sudden Attack) to lose a lot of paying users.

Breach of Contract is one of the worst things that can happen for a game service and while the legal details to me are vague in the case of Special Force, the reason for the game’s untimely loss of content support and ultimately closure of service in Gameclub was because of the raid discussed in a previous column, which became grounds for licensing contract termination. These types of disputes are really bad for the consumers because when these issues arise, both publisher and developer go into self-preservation mode, milking every single peso they can before the inevitable happens.

After having discussed the above terms, it becomes pretty obvious that poor figures will definitely get a license agreement cancelled or fail to be renewed for a new term. A lot of factors come into play here and are not always the fault of the game publisher. For instance, a game can be acquired for a very cheap licensing fee and revenue sharing scheme as a test to see if a game can prosper in uncharted waters. Even with adequate marketing, strong field roll-out, and a very good item pricing scheme, if the game is a bust, it is what it is.

Poor marketing (which includes overspending on inane and ill-conceived campaigns) can make or break a game because if you blow through your marketing budget within the first year without getting a good conversion rate from marketing spent versus acquired and paying  players you’re probably not going to get any more money to market the game because it will be considered a failed endeavor and the company will either try one last shot at it or switch gears to self-preservation mode and cut costs.

Game Developer Issues:

One clear sign for a game in peril is the lack of substantial updates from new zones/maps, new items to buy, game modes down the pipeline, etc. Players normally speculate that a game publisher doesn’t have enough money to buy new content from the developer but as far as I know, it isn’t the case. Licensing agreements also include provisions for providing regular game updates. While it does not specify exact content like number of items, or what kind of new map, it can include fixed time periods such as monthly content updates, quarterly new maps, etc.

The bad thing when content stops is the fact that publishers are at the mercy of the game developers since they do not own the source codes nor are they equipped with the personnel to develop new content. Publishers localize, market, and operate games. They go as far as suggesting new content but cannot implement it if the developer won’t make said proposed new content.

There are cases when internal issues within the game developer’s side causes a game to collapse. One such case is the hyper-marketed ROSE Online by Level-Up. Word is the entire studio (Triggersoft) walked-out/resigned/ or just basically refused to work on the project anymore. As a result, the “Rush on Seven Episodes” gimmick fell short to a three or four world game instead of seven worlds as promised. Locally, gamers would talk about how it shouldn’t have been pay to play to succeed but all those points of discussion are moot because the success of an online game would normally depend on it’s marketability in key regions such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, USA, hell, even Indonesia.

I’ve always stressed that online games in the Philippines is a pretty small market and I believe it still is in comparison to other markets and if you consider funding the development of a game based from revenue coming from the Philippines.

That’s about it for now. These aren’t really a thing for regular online gamers to consider when selecting an online game to play. But to patronize services where your money isn’t an investment in anything virtual and is treated as payment for “entertainment value”, you would want to play and pay for a game that is pretty much going to run for years to come so it will do them some good to at least make a background check on the game developer’s track record with other countries and perhaps even a glimpse of how they do business with publishers.

Comments, questions, and general violent reactions are appreciated in the comments section below. :D

Author’s Note:

I missed another flippin’ week. But no round of drinks will be bought this time because aliens.


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Assault Fire, the latest MMOFPS game developed by Tencent and published by Level Up! Inc. locally has now opened its beta doors to the public.  Assault Fire is a First-Person Shooter (FPS) game from Chinese developer Tencent Games, which boasts of next-gen 3D graphics, new and intense game modes like Mech and Mutant Matches, and a skill system that lets you build your soldier character the way you want to. Players can wage war as either the government-sanctioned unit G.S.D.U. or the renegade group Resistance, battling mutants, monsters and each other with high-tech weaponry and giant Mechs.


“We’re very excited to introduce Assault Fire to the local gaming community,” says Playweb Games General Manager Jake San Diego. “With its multitude of game modes, Assault Fire is THE game for every type of FPS player. Players are bound to spend countless hours piloting mechs, destroying mutants, or surviving cyborg zombies. It’s high time that Pinoy FPS gamers got to taste the future of firepower, today.”

In addition, FPS gamers and enthusiasts will also get to test their mettle in Assault Fire’s national e-sports tournament series, where they can get to win cash prizes, bragging rights, and the chance to represent the country in a special exhibition match at the prestigious World Cyber Games (WCG) in China.


“We’re really pulling out all the stops with Assault Fire in terms of competition. We’re giving out more than half a million in cash prizes when we do our nationwide quarterly pro-tournaments starting with our annual e-sports event, Level Up! Live, on July 6; and culminating with a three-way battle where the Philippine Champions will compete against China and Brazil’s best Assault Fire team. This will truly be Level Up!’s biggest tournament ever.” says Keith Morales, Assault Fire Business Unit Director at Playweb Games.

What’s great about this round of closed beta testing is that players can keep playing their accounts until commercial as there will be no account wipes. Players can keep racking up kills and their accounts will be kept intact even after the game goes commercial.

The servers opened to the public at 11:30 AM today.  There are also plenty of beta events happening now such as:

You can register for an account and download the game over at the Assault Fire website.

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Want to win Razer premium gear?  Join Assault Fire PH‘s registration raffle.  All registered accounts from March 6 to 24 will be eligible to win Razer goodies and Assault Fire merchandise.

Here’s the full list of prizes that can be won:

  • Three (3) winners of Razer Mamba 2012 WL Gaming Mouse AP
  • Three (3) winners  of Razer BlackWidow
  • Three (3) winners  of Razer Megalodon 7.1 Headset USL
  • Ten (10) winners of Assault Fire PH Limited Edition Jacket
  • Twenty (20) winners of Assault Fire PH Limited Edition Shirt

For the full mechanics, visit the official Level Up! announcement.

Assault Fire PH is the latest MMOFPS from Level Up!.  Accounts will not be wiped after open beta so players can keep playing without worries.

Source: Assault Fire PH website