Skydome we have a problem.
Last weekend was supposed to be a treat for pro Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive fans as they get to witness the Philippine culmination of the international tournament, the ROG Masters, in the flesh as as a live event was surprisingly revealed to be part of what was just an online qualifier. However, much to everyone’s disappointment, the event was peppered with terrible difficulties, which once again tested the capabilities of the handling body, the Philippine Esports Organization.
The ROG Masters is an international pro Dota 2 and CS:GO tournament organized and sponsored by ASUS Republic of Gamers and covers whole Asia, and as well as Oceanic countries (Australia, New Zealand). Divided into numerous online qualifier events, each participating country is categorized depending on their region, with the winners to have the chance to represent their turf in the upcoming LAN event this November 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Philippine Qualifier Finals, as well as coverage of the Philippine Qualifier series is organized and handled by the Philippine Esports Organization, also known as PeSO, a Philippine-based Electronic Sports group working as part of the International Esports Federation.
Pre-event: Playing the Waiting Game
Based on the official announcement which was made a day before the actual event date, the ROG Masters Philippine Finals was supposed to start by 12:00 Noon which we assume would have the gates open by 10:00 or 11:00 AM as to give time for attendees to register, take their seats or at least test out the exhibits which featured products from the main event sponsor and its other partners. Arriving at the venue at around 11:30, we witness the still long line of attendees outside the event’s gates, which one may think that perhaps the number of people arriving may actually fill the venue as there was still a long line outside, however upon reaching the entrance area, we have been met with a terrible surprise, no one was allowed to get in yet and attendees are forced endure the Manila heat as they wait for their lines, take note that there was a goody box to be given away for the first 500 attendees so being first in line really means a lot to the fans who chose to spend their Sunday afternoon enjoying pro gaming. So why aren’t the people being let in yet? Going back to the announcements, the event was supposed to start by 12 Noon, so perhaps they will start letting people in by 12 Noon, but once again, that was not the case as the attendees were not even let in until about 1:00 PM.
Inside the Venue: More waiting
As the crowd is just starting to fill up the venue, the players can also be seen starting to setup their gear on the stage while the attendees take their time to visit the different booths present on the event to test out the featured products. At this point, we expect for the opening ceremonies to start up soon but some still unknown delay seem to stall the event from officially starting, and one can notice personnel from the production crew still finalizing equipment setups, and performing tweaks both on-stage and on-ground, with nothing but a loop of ads being shown on stage, no info about what’s happening, and some occasional announcement from an unseen host. At this point it is almost 2:00 PM and we are seeing no sign of the games much less the any hint of the event officially starting with its opening ceremonies. Not everyone may have noticed this heavy delay, as the gates opened up at around 1:00 and everyone is still too busy going around the booths, and filling up their stubs for the raffles and giveaways later in the event.
Opening Salvo, officially starting the event…and more waiting
It was a little past 2:00 PM when the event officially began its opening ceremonies starting with a talk from the event’s major sponsors, and a few product features, which was immediately followed by the introduction of the first 2 teams that will be playing on-stage, Mineski and Rave, to commence the first match, the event promised to host 3 best of 3 matches, 2 for Dota 2 and 1 for CS:GO, giving it an estimated run-time of more than 7 hours, should all matches reach 3 games, with the Dota 2 games alone looking to average at least an hour each. The 1st game was well underway up until the end of the Hero Picking Phase which was then suddenly paused due to a still undisclosed technical difficulty, at this point it is already around 2:30 PM in the afternoon, which means that we have suffered a total delay of 2 and a half hours from the originally intended start time.
Trouble at the stage.
The game was suddenly put on hold right after the draft finished and the players can be seen leaving their spots and proceeding to the backstage due to a technical issue that sill remained undisclosed, at this point, as the games seem to be the only stage highlight, there was an obvious barren feel as attendees resort to just watching the endless loop of ads shown on the big screen. It was only minutes after when the production team started to utilize their “courtside reporter” to keep the crowd entertained with mini-games while waiting for the game to resume. The scenario lasted for more than an hour until someone finally dropped the bomb by saying that there was a problem with the Internet, which made it difficult not only to run the games but also to provide broadcast both onsite and online.
Dota 2’s LAN Limitations.
While Dota 2 does have LAN support for multiplayer matches, tournaments such as the ROG Masters need to be hosted online in order to count as an “official match” on the tournaments in-game event page, which makes replays accessible to virtual ticket holders. Other than that, Dota 2’s LAN mode does not fully support spectator broadcast and renders broadcaster slots worthless as the game needs to be run online should a broadcast needs to be provided.
Pushing through with the games
With the Internet issue still unresolved, the organizers decided to push through with the games on LAN in order to continue to tournament however, as it is played on LAN mode no one was able to provide proper spectator broadcast, worst is that the games continued with the attendees obviously not knowing that it is already being played on-stage as there are people who are still looking at the big screen hoping to witness their heroes duke it out on the Dota 2 arena. It is already around 5:00 PM at this point and some attendees are already claiming their Goody Boxes and heading out filled with disappointment.
The Internet Issue
Here in the Philippines, issues with the Internet have become a commonplace for consumers as everyone is experiencing bad or no service at all over the course of their subscription, as we are deemed as one of the worst in Asia when it comes to Internet Connectivity, it is really easy to point a finger at ISP issues as being the very bane of the ROG Masters Philippine Finals. However, in order for us to fully understand the trouble, one must take note that the Internet line present at the event is working albeit we are not sure as to how much bandwidth and speed was made available. Obviously, we do not have the exact details of any agreement between the Organizer and the ISP, although the ISP is one of the event’s sponsors, so it is hard to assume as to how much Bandwidth was agreed upon and how much was actually delivered, still the Skydome in SM North EDSA has already served as host to other Gamin events such as the Mineski Pro Gaming League South East Asian Finals and the CrossFire Stars Philippine National Finals which means that the internet lines are actually reliable enough to run multiple online games while providing online broadcast on multiple platforms at the same time.
Underestimating the presence of a stage host
Another concern regarding the ROG Masters Philippine Finals is its lack of an actual Stage host presence as it only relied on a “courtside reporter” and its booths to keep the audience entertained, even though it did have someone being introduced as a host, its presence can only be felt during Voice Over announcements, and when introducing players and that’s it. If you take a look at other gaming events here in the country, be it local or international, an entertaining host plays a huge part in diverting the people’s attention to whatever trouble an event is having while at the same time still keeping their focus on the stage instead of having them leave the venue and spend time somewhere else while waiting for the matches or any stage activity.
An obvious lack of Contingency
ROG Masters Philippine Finals may have also suffered from its very abrupt reveal as the event was announced a day before the actual event date. While it can still be praised for still being able to invite, more or less, a thousand spectators on such a short notice, we can still feel that the event was rushed, and there was no time to come up with back-up plans should problems pile up one after the other which was exactly what happened. For instance, as the internet line caused too much trouble, enough to delay the matches, one can assume that there was no back-up lines at the ready should the main line be not enough to run everything or suffer issues. Also, while the production team was able to come up with a few gimmicks to keep the people entertained, it was not ready for heavy delays as the segments are meant for short breaks or during those lull periods in between the games. Perhaps they were expecting for everything to go smoothly?
We left the event at around 5:30 in the afternoon with much disappointment after having witnessed enough. As it aims to become one of the biggest Esports events in Asia, the Philippine Leg of the ROG Masters ended up on a very bad note, starting late, peppered with trouble and also ending late (sources say the event ended at around 2 in the morning). As the Pinoy fans have already experienced top tier gaming spectacles such as ESL One Manila and the Manila Majors, many are expecting that, since the tournament is backed by a well known brand, the organizer may perhaps pull off something decent and reclaim themselves from the numerous shortcomings, the most notable perhaps being the Pinoy Gaming Festival 2014.
At this point, it is hard to ultimately point a finger to what happened as some details are still blurry, one might say that it’s because of the internet issue, others may point fingers at the organizing body, there are some whose backlash is targeted at the sponsors, but still, the mistakes stand out, and the negative reception, not only to its organizer but also to the major partners that are drawn from event hits everyone involved and it will not only reflect one event or organizing body but will also resonate to the rest of the community in the eyes of other potential partners and investors as far as gaming and/or Esports is concerned.