There’s a lot to take from this weekends Gfinity CSGO event at the Copperbox Arena in London. Some of it positive, some of it not so positive, and some of it downright terrible. In this article I take a look at those things and what we can take from the first large international CSGO event hosted by us Brits.
Its a large international tournament held in the UK! Despite unquestionable growth in recent years thanks to Twitch’s exponential growth and Youtube stars such as Pewdiepie, gaming and especially competitive eSports still remains relatively non-mainstream in the UK, compared to other countries such as Sweden. So for a tournament of this calibre with a $20,000 first place cheque that attracted all of the best teams in the world, it’s a good step toward involving the UK more in eSports. We haven’t attracted the European CS powerhouses to the UK since the Madcatz Birmingham Invitational last year, and before that since the days of CSS when Verygames snatched up every available CSS title this side of the Atlantic.
Analysts and casters. Nobody can fault the casting and analysis staff at this event and if you do, well you’re wrong. To cast the games themselves, we were treated to people such as ‘the face of CSGO’ Anders Blume, veteren CS play-by-play commentator Stuart ‘Tosspot’ Saw, colour commentator and ex-CSS professional player Henry ‘HenryG’ Greer, former CoD caster Chewy (who did a fine job considering he is new to the game) and new to large international scale events, Karam ‘Kyanite’ Kabbara, known for his eccentric commentary on events such as Epic LAN, the Insomnia LAN series and UK ESL online. Anders and Tosspot gave their usual high-quality and exciting commentary while HenryG filled viewers in on the tactics and mid-game analysis. Kyanite did a great job for his first large international event with some amusing and witty wordplay (Aizy-peezy lemon-squeezy comes quickly to mind) and I look forward to seeing him develop into an experienced and quality casting talent. Despite being new to the game Chewy took to it like a fish to water, offering fast paced talking, a different perspective on the game and fit in well with the other casters. Hopefully we will be seeing more of Chewy in the recent LANs to come and he has the potential to be the next Anders, the next Tosspot as well as the passion to learn.
For analysis we were happy to have none other than Scott ‘SirScoots’ Smith, Duncan ‘Thoorin’ Shields, and UK CSS coverage veteran Richard Lewis. Despite some terrible and persistent production flops this trio consistently kept things upbeat and funny and listening to their jokes, puns and post-game wrap-ups was almost (almost!) as entertaining as the matches themselves. It’s also great to see Mr Lewis making a return to CS after a brief foray into the SC2 scene and I hope to see more of him and his CS coverage because frankly, nobody does video interviews (or brews) better. Also, honourable mention to Sliggy who did a great job spectating the matches, a lot better than that other Auto Director guy.
The UK team(s?) didn’t completely embarrass us! Going into this event nobody expected Infused and fm eSports to get out of groups. And they were correct. But Infused did a hell of a lot better than expected with a tie to iBUYPOWER who took victory at ESEA LAN over NiP, as well as Infused taking 12 rounds from that latter team aswell after their initial heavy loss to London Conspiracy. Good job Infused!
Upsets! Everybody loves an upset, but the format adopted by Gfinity for this event allowed specifically for them to occur. Any team can come out on top of a BO1 game on the day if their players are on form. But who would have expected Mousesports to beat Virtus.Pro? London Conspiracy to beat iBUYPOWER and Epsilon, NiP to hang on to a playoffs spot by the skin of their teeth thanks to round difference before going out in the Quarter-finals to Dignitas. If anything it shows that the lower tier teams can really hold their own and the competition in CSGO is getting more and more fierce by the day.
The format. The tournament format used for Gfinity was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand having 2 large groups worked out really well and allowed every team in attendance to play their fair share of matches before going through to playoffs or exiting the event. On the other hand the total round difference technicality resulted in a bit of a mess for some teams due to several tie games meaning NiP had to sit on the sidelines and hope for a specific result before they knew whether or not they would progress or have to pack up their gear. iBP drew with both fnatic and Infused, while NiP lost 16-14 to fnatic, lost to iBUYPOWER and Epsilon convincingly, and dropped more than 10 rounds in their victories over Infused and London Conspiracy. Their progression from the group stage relied solely on a specific result, with the loser of LC vs Epsilon dropping out of groups along with the UK squad. I felt like this format, if it is to be used again, needs some tweaks such as at the very least allowing for games to run overtime and not finish on a tie.
NiP’s absence. It was made fairly clear before the event that NiP had just returned from their summer vacation period, which is fair enough. They are only human like the rest of us and need a break from the game and time with family and friends during the nicer time of the year. But their performance here (if you can even call it any sort of performance) was absolutely dreadful by their standards and this was not the NiP we are used to seeing. Everything from their opening thrashing at the hands of Epsilon to giving out 12 rounds to Infused. It was all a shambles from the Swedish veterans. I take nothing away from those teams as Epsilon are a feared opponent and Infused made a solid showing of themselves in London, but NiP are better than this and a vacation period does not justify such a brutal hammering throughout this event. Dignitas have also been on vacation, yet they absolutely dominated everyone before their narrow 2-1 defeat to Virtus.Pro in the semi-final. We saw a similar situation at Dreamhack Summer for NiP, where the swedes lost to the then Western Wolves team on Nuke without breaking into double digit rounds and then almost going out of the tournament before Xizt pulled off his ninja defuse vs Pronax’ old Publiclir.se mix. These sorts of individual plays define NiP and have been known to bring them back into games on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, none of these plays occurred at G3.
Throughout the event there was poor organisation for the CSGO tournament especially. What topped this off was the fact that spectators watching the final were asked to leave after the first map. The crowd saved only after Richard Lewis piped up and stopped the event staff kicking spectators out. Poor organisation, poor management and again, poor communication from the Gfinity team.
The off-stage playing conditions. On Saturday a Facebook Post by Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas from VP showed him wandering around the lower regions of the Copperbox Arena venue as he bumped into fellow players and event staff and was just well … being Taz. What was surprising was the incredibly cramped and basement-esque conditions that the off-stage group games had to be played in. This looked like something you would expect at a CPL 2001 event in an American car park or something. Not conditions set for a $45,000 LAN event in 2014 UK. Was this the best you could arrange Gfinity? Was there not a warm conference hall in this great London arena that would have been better suited? Maybe next time.
Production. Okay, where do I even begin about the production. From being up bright and early at home on Saturday morning to actually being in London for the playoffs on Sunday, all I witnessed was none-stop production fails. To make this easier for myself and for you to read, how about I just list them in no particular order:
- No stream up until around mid-day on Saturday despite the first games scheduled for 9am. When the stream went live the channel went live, this isn’t the best way to do things, please next time add a placeholder and countdown until the stream begins to get people watching and reduce the time for people to find the stream once it has started.
- Transition fails with production not shifting from caster’s desk to analyst desk and vice-versa, repeatedly.
- Consistent sound issues with microphone feedback and interference or just no working microphone’s at all.
- Camera crew fails despite repeated verbal hints from Anders to focus the camera on Ex6tenZ during the Titan vs Fnatic matchup where he was AFK in spawn talking to his team. No communication was present between camera crew and production at any time during the event so the camera crew were just improvising when to pick up their rigs and focus on the player booths or the crowd.
- Again, more camera fails with objects, such as coke bottles, visible in shots and people walking infront of the camera, being visible at the sides (this may not be as big a deal as other issues but it reiterates how haphazard and careless the crew was).
- The curtain which hid the section for the players to walk behind the casters or to the basement did not cover the whole of the camera shot and quite frankly, was ugly. A sponsor board would have looked 100x better.
- In game overlay issues with the overlay not covering all unnecessary centered spectator text as well as displaying a 1-1 map score between VP and Dignitas, despite VP not having yet secured a victory.
- Communication again, between production and casters/analysis desks. Games would go live while the screens and Twitch stream sat in standby. Music would continue to play for an entire minute at one point after being returned to the analysis desk while Richard Lewis and SirScoots were forced to talk over it. We would also go from analysis desk to caster desk without them being warned of the transition, catching our casters in the middle of off-topic discussions. I think we only saw 20% of all knife rounds and about 80% of all pistol rounds.
So yes there was a number of fails on the part of the production team and we can only hope things will go more smoothly and professionally come G4. Some of the fails can come down to this being Gfinity’s first venture into CSGO but the majority comes down to just poor handling and under management. Every time I got up on Sunday to leave the spectator area I would see production staff staring into their mobile phone, so it’s no surprise that transitions were slow and errors were in abundance throughout the weekend if the staff care more about Facebook than doing their job.
All-in-all there was plenty of good to take away from Gfinity 3 and plenty of bad. We saw that the UK is a place that international eSports, specifically CS:GO can be held, which we need to try and improve the UK scene and get new players in to the game. We saw that a UK team can hold its own against some of the worlds top teams and we had some great people covering some great Counter-Strike over an action-packed weekend. There are bound to be problems at an event of this size but hopefully Gfinity can learn from their blunders and provide a more professional and well-planned event next time.
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