Feb 5 2014 - 7:33 pm

The Olympics of esports shuts down, partners say CEO was 'impossible to work with'

A 15-year-old Olympic-style esports competition is shutting down
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

A 15-year-old Olympic-style esports competition is shutting down.

In an email obtained by OnGamers yesterday, World Cyber Games CEO Brad Lee states the company “will not organize tournaments and events, including the World Cyber Games finals."

Lee skirted around specifics as to why, blaming the closure on "the current global trend as well as the business environment.” But the CEO has been on the receiving end of sharp criticism from his former partners around the globe.

In a conversation with the Daily Dot, Silviu Stroie, CEO of ComputerGames.ro, the Romanian national partner for WCG from 1999 to 2011, described Lee as “impossible to work with." Stroie was WCG’s longest-lasting international partner. Now he views the company as a failure, largely thanks to Brad Lee. 

The WCG “stopped to be an esport event years ago,” Stroie said, “and became just a marketing tool.”

Han Park, a spokesman for the WCG’s chief American organizing partner, ESS Agency, elaborated: "[The WCG] lost the relationships they previously had with publishers. Lots of publishers are doing their own world championships and working with other established groups like Major League Gaming."

“The CEO ... never understood what gaming is and what esport actually is,” Stroie said.

“I was keep going back to the event hoping that things will change and improve, but every year was worse than the previous one.”

Stroie pointed to several specific reasons for WCG’s failure. From a business perspective, Lee increased the WCG national licensing fee 300 percent from 2011 to 2012, causing many of its established partners to leave. As a result, the quality of the competition plummeted.

There was no real reasoning given for the licensing price spike, Stroie said, “just some marketing words.”

Lee and the WCG did not respond to multiple requests to comment on this article.

The World Cyber Games began in 1999 with a relatively small $20,000 competition between 174 competitors from 17 countries. The tournament featured five of the all-time classic esports franchises: Age of Empires 2FIFA 2000Quake 3 ArenaStarCraft: Brood War, and Unreal Tournament.

In 2001, the league expanded greatly. Thanks to backing from Samsung, it was able to host a $200,000 tournament concluding in Seoul, already the world’s greatest esports city. In 2001 and 2002, Lim "BoxeR" Yo Hwan cemented his place as the world’s most famous esports player with two WCG championships.

Games like Counter-Strike and Warcraft 3 looked to WCG even as other international tournaments entered the industry. The Olympic-style competition was fueled by national pride and the ability for small countries to annually compete with esports heavyweights.

Fans were glued to their computer screens watching matches even during lower-rung matches.

In 2009, WCG hosted a $500,000 tournament with competitors from 70 countries featured some of the best matches of the year in games like Counter-Strike and Brood War. It was easily the biggest moment in the competition's history.

In the email to WCG partners, Lee wrote that the news was "shocking."

“We know, the entire staff of the WCG was surprised,” he wrote.

But for people who've followed esports closely, the news isn't surprising at all. For the past five years, the WCG has been falling in a downward spiral, ceding ground to international tournaments like DreamHack and Intel Extreme Masters. Players and viewers have paid less attention as other tournaments long ago surpassed WCG in quality.

“One of their worst ever decisions was when WCG decided to drop Counter-Strike,” Stroie said. Counter-Strike is one of the longest-lasting, most popular esports franchises of all time. “One of the main games that made WCG so popular was Counter-Strike. Instead, they decided to focus on games that are popular only in a very specific region of the world, where very few national teams could have competed.”

The reasons were simple. Counter-Strike is a five versus five game, meaning that it costs a considerable amount to send so many players from around the world to compete. Instead, WCG replaced it with games popular in narrow corridors in Asia such as “Counter-Strike Online,” a free-to-play knock-off available only in Asia. By contrast, Counter-Strike has a worldwide following, making it ideal for an Olympic-style event.

The WCG shrunk fast. From a peak of nearly 70 countries participating, only 40 were competing in 2012. Always a promotional tool for Samsung, the WCG even considered switching from PC games to mobile games in 2012, but backed out of the idea following community backlash.

Correction:  This article originally misidentified the ESS Agency spokesman as Edward Tomasi. It was actually Han Park. We regret the error. ESS also took issue with the context in which Park's quotes were used, and issued the following statement:

An article on Wednesday about the shutting down of the 15-year-old World Cyber Games (WCG) incorrectly associated the ESS Agency’s spokesman quote as though WCG or its CEO was difficult to work with or shut down due to lost publisher relationships. The statement made by the spokesman was intended to define the overall broader global market environment and challenges surrounding all competitive leagues, and should not have been associated with the direct cause of WCG’s shutdown.

It also included the following statement from Park:

“It was a pleasure working with World Cyber Games, their global partners and their CEO Brad Lee. ESS Agency enjoyed a long and positive relationship with WCG over the years, and it will be greatly missed by our agency and the community of competitive gamers here in the United States”.

Photo via SamsungTomorrow/Flickr | H/T OnGamers

Today - 9:19 pm

Overwatch players honor friend with heartfelt send-off

The tribute was organized by a Philippines-based gaming collective.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Processing the death of a friend is never easy. But it can help to grieve where you spent time together—even if that happens to be the battlegrounds of Overwatch.

When the team at games website Too Much Gaming lost their beloved colleague Willem Den Toom, they took to Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch to express their pain. Using Toom's favorite Overwatch heroes—Pharah, Reinhardt, Symmetra, Zarya, and Lúcio—and Hanzo, the group of friends coordinated rocket launcher and fire strike sendoffs toward Overwatch map Eichenwalde's moon as a gun salute for their friend.

"Wherever you are, may the payload be always moving, the point always contested, no one trickles out, and may there always [be] a healer on your team," Toom's friends posted to YouTube. "We miss you, big guy. This Play of the Game is for you."

Toom suffered a heart attack and died at 35 on Jan. 16, Too Much Gaming editor Carlos Herdandez told Mic. "He was loved by many and his loss pretty much struck waves in various communities in the gaming community here in the Philippines," Hernandez said. "Overwatch was the one game that we play together regularly after a long day. It's one of his favorite games." Honoring Toom in Overwatch was an obvious choice for the group.

The video ends with each player sending off Hanzo's dragonstrike ultimate, unleashing a continuous stream of swirling dragons toward the moon.

H/t Mic

Today - 9:07 pm

After pre-season updates made the Jungle worse, Riot says ‘oops’ and promises to fix it

Riot’s dev team explains why the state of the jungle is so broken and how they plan on dealing with it.
Aaron Mickunas
League of Legends Writer
Image via Riot Games

During the League of Legends pre-season, Riot made big changes to address some glaring issues within the Jungle. But it only made the situation worse.

In somewhat of a “My bad!” moment, Lead Champion Designer Andrei 'Meddler' van Roon explained what backfired with the jungler role. In his post, he comprehensively lists all of the reasons that the jungler might just be the most broken role in the game (sorry ADCs!).

The community has been complaining about the state of the jungler for a while now, but this is the first official answer we’ve seen from Riot on the matter. Riot said it very simply, and very directly in the Nexus post.

“We believe jungler influence over game outcome is too high.”

So what exactly is wrong with the jungler?

Impact

Perhaps the most significant issue with junglers before the pre-season was that farm-obsessed junglers became much too powerful. Monsters were too easy to kill relative to how great the rewards of gold and experience were. The dominant tactic for junglers became out-farming the enemy jungler, and whoever fell behind ended up hindering their team dramatically.

Back then, the rest of the team would attempt to help their jungler get ahead by getting an early kill on the enemy jungler, setting back their progress considerably. The team began to revolve around the jungler. This was a contradiction to how the jungler had been perceived in earlier seasons—as a supporting role designed to gank and help their teammates in lanes do well.

Riot wanted to fix that, so it lengthened spawn times on monster camps and made them harder to kill (but increased the rewards the camps give to compensate). The idea to push junglers to gank more than they farmed worked a little too well.

Not only are junglers ganking too much, but they also survive way too long. With new tools like the Honeyfruit plant and gaining health back with every smite, junglers just won’t die. They are able to farm more camps for more rewards and gank more lanes without losing enough health to warrant going back to base. This led to junglers gaining too much experience—with level advantages on lanes that they’ve never had before.

Game agency

The term “game agency” has been tossed around a lot lately. First, with the current feelings that ADCs are going through, and now, with junglers.

In a basic sense, the term “game agency” in this case is just another term for a role’s identity within the game. What purpose do they serve, and is it unique enough to feel important? The issue with ADCs right now is that they don’t feel important enough to the state of the game to have a unique identity (aside from being Lee Sin’s punching bag).

Junglers, however, have the opposite issue. Junglers and jungle champions have an identity, but it’s such a strong, outstanding identity that it overshadows the unique strengths and weaknesses of the other roles. They have too much raw power. It’s to the point that laners have become afraid of making moves on their lane opponents unless their jungler is preparing to gank, when normally they would only hold back if they knew they were outmatched.

This has something to do with the extreme rate at which junglers gank now, but combining that with the high sustainability, high damage items, and high level scaling makes for a frightening amount of power for one role to have.

Plans to reduce the overall power of the jungle have yet to be announced, but Riot did confirm that the plan is to knock the role down a few pegs.


So what can be done?

Well, Riot is taking responsibility for all the power it’s given the jungle role.

It is administering some short-term solutions, including lowering jungle experience rewards, cutting sustain across the board, and increasing the damage that jungle monsters deal.

Junglers won’t be able to live in the jungle for the first 10 minutes of the game without heading back to base, they won’t hit a huge power spike by leveling harder than laners can on jungle camps alone, and they won’t be able to gank quite as much.

These solutions likely aren’t the long-term solution. There will still be junglers that can clear the jungle faster, and we may just end up where we were before the pre-season—Farming Simulator: Jungle Edition. Farm-frenzy junglers could rise to the top, but luckily, it likely wouldn’t be quite as bad this time.

A long-term plan is in the works, and hopefully Riot maintains its clear and open communication as the situation progresses.