Jan 11 2017 - 3:21 pm

The '80s competitive arcade show STARCADE! is getting a reboot

The precursor to esports broadcasts is making a return.
Connor Smith
Dot Esports
Screenshot via WTBS

STARCADE!—the zany ‘80s WTBS game show that pitted contestants against each other in timed arcade game competitions—is making a comeback.  

Shout! Factory, a classic American home video and music company, has purchased worldwide television format and ancillary rights to to the show. STARCADE! creators James Caruso and Mavis E. Arthur and the JM Production company retained these rights since the show’s cancellation in 1984, and will work with Shout! Factory to produce a “retro-boot” of the original series.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this Starcade revival,” Caruso and Arthur said in a joint statement. “We look forward to bringing the show back for all those avid Starcaders who have been waiting for years, as well as a new class of gaming heroes.”

The original STARCADE!, with its blocky old arcade machines for games Burger Time and Super Zaxxon was arguably the first televised esports competition. The time constraints of a 30-minute television show limited the range of the competition, however, and most of the competitions were centered around time trials—think of it as ‘80s era speedrunning. Even using the word “esports” to describe the show is a little anachronistic, as the term hadn’t really been invented yet.

The new STARCADE! looks to bring celebrities and esports professionals into the mix, as they compete for prizes and accolades in front of a televised audience. Having well-known esports pros would help the show to connect with a modern audience, as the excitement around Elementary is a testament to how these personalities engage an esports audience.

Dot Esports originally reported on a possible reunion in an Oct. 2014 story, which reflected the show’s impact on the lives of those involved with the original project. Several former contestants and employees described a shared bond that survived the 30 years since the show’s cancellation.

“It was just fun,” former-contestant Leo Schwab told Dot Esports. “There’s a certain cachet to being on this unique game show that hasn’t been replicated before or since. It’s like how people keep going to their high school reunion.”

STARCADE! wasn’t the prettiest show, and the outdated quirks might fall short with a modern-day audience. Still, there’s no doubt a new-look STARCADE! will include the same love devotion that Arthur and Caruso held onto throughout the years.

Today - 12:27 am

University of Toronto students can now apply for an esports scholarship

Who said gaming was a waste of time?
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Image via CC 3.0

Canada's top-rated university will begin taking applications for an esports scholarship to be awarded next year.

University of Toronto alumnus Victor Xin started the scholarship program as a way of providing extra support to students who want to hone their skills in competitive gaming. While this is the first such scholarship to be introduced in Canada, several U.S.-based universities such as University of California, Irvine began offering esports scholarships in 2016.

Xin works at Toronto-based wealth management firm Athena Capital Partners, which also funds the scholarship. He told the university that students that display competitive drive through computer games shouldn't be distracted from trying achieving success in the world of esports.

"There are trailblazers on campus who are rallying a different set of students to build campus organizations focused on an alternative way of learning to lead and succeed in life," Xin told the university. The former student, who graduated in 2008 after studying at its Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, began following StarCraft during his tenure at the institution and also founded the University of Toronto eSports Club. For Xin, the fund is aimed at making sure that students who show drive and leadership through esports won't "fall through the cracks."

Are you thinking of applying for the Victor Xin scholarship? The requirements are: That you're an undergraduate at the university's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, you've got a 3.5 GPA, and participate regularly in gaming-related extra-curricular activities. If it means we get to play League of Legends during school hours, we're totally in.

Jan 19 2017 - 7:32 pm

The future of Echo Fox: Using stats to change the esports recruiting game

Echo Fox has big plans for its teams and the way it recruits players.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Echo Fox player Radek | Photo via Twitch Interactive

For Echo Fox, TwitchCon 2016 was a test—a very important one. The H1Z1 Invitational at the streaming giant's annual convention was the final stage of a long process it hopes to use to shake up its esports recruiting process.

It paid off. For months Echo Fox scoured the Twin Galaxies leaderboard to help find exceptional H1Z1 players for its new roster. Twin Galaxies, acquired by Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall last year, is a site that tracks video game world records and great plays. That new roster was then to compete in the H1Z1 Invitational, a test of sorts to see if the recruiting process worked. And it did. Echo Fox’s Czech player Radek Pozler took first in the tournament’s first match, earning more than $40,000 in prize money. Clement "JerkChicken" Graham took fourth place for Echo Fox, earning more than $13,000, in match one as well. Not bad for Echo Fox’s first move into H1Z1.

Its success convinced the organization the Twin Galaxies model of recruiting actually worked. Now Echo Fox has a whole new way to scout potential players.

“There’s a certain amount of vindication that exists because of the process we used to pull our team together,” Hall told Dot Esports. “You can, like the movie Moneyball, statistically build a team, draft, and then have results.” Those results aren’t limited just to H1Z1, either. “I think we’re on to something that could potentially change not only H1Z1, but everything,” Hall added. After all, it gave Echo Fox its first official win—its first championship.

“It’s nice to actually hold the trophy,” Echo Fox owner Rick Fox added.

Photo via Daybreak Games

Using the organization’s unconventional Twin Galaxies model, Echo Fox expects to win more. The process operates similarly to the NFL’s scouting combine, where player skill is determined by testing measurable skills, like the 40 yard dash and bench press exercises. Because these are video games, Twin Galaxies doesn’t measure player’s physical prowess, but instead tracks statistics of player scores. Though it won’t guarantee a team that actually works together, it does ensure a minimum skill criteria for each player, Hall said.

“That’s a big difference than a group of friends that happen to find each other, they get ‘good,’ and then they play in some tournament and they beat other groups of friends that found each other,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of a group of friends finding each other and playing football and then they beat the other group.”

It’s just not an accurate way to measure skill. But analyzing statistics is—and Echo Fox expects the process to work outside of H1Z1. Previously, scouting for Echo Fox meant picking and choosing from the best of the best (who has the most followers) on a streaming service like Twitch. Word of mouth, too, only went so far. Scientific analysis changes this.

“Now that we’ve discovered some science, there’s a whole bunch of thinking now that can take place because if you’re not a personality with a big Twitch following, how do we find you?” Hall said. “I think we’ve started a little shift in esports.”

Echo Fox hasn’t announced exactly what games they’ll use the Twin Galaxies model of scouting for in the future, just that it definitely will use it. “In other cases, we may acquire a team that we think is good and then create a combine around the game itself and start to take in applications and start drafting,” Hall said. “Then [we’ll] reshape the team over time on the basis of what we see coming in there.”

Since TwitchCon 2016, Echo Fox has expanded into new titles, like Gears of War, but more investment is on the horizon. Picking up a fifth and final H1Z1 player is part of that plan. “Technically, we almost have a five-man H1Z1 team,” Hall said. “H1Z1 has fives built into it, there’s team play.”

The survival massively multiplayer game has competitive modes for individual players, groups of two, and teams of five. With four on the Echo Fox H1Z1 team so far, a fifth is inevitable, Hall said. But right now, there just aren’t many major tournaments for the game, but that could change. H1Z1 developer Daybreak has plans for more, though it hasn’t specified what.

Fox’s traditional sports influence is apparent when considering the way he and Hall are looking to scout players for their esports organization. It worked for Echo Fox in the H1Z1 Invitational. Will it work in other titles? If it can, it could esports recruiting forever.

Image source: Daybreak Games | Additional reporting by Saira Mueller