TeamLiquid: Final Edits
WCG is a disgrace. The self-proclaimed “International Olympics” of electronic gaming is characterized by values, principles and procedures that would make the original namesake cringe in horror. As Incontrol has implied more than once, the governing body of the event needs to look after itself with great urgency. We Broodwar fans and players care so dearly about WCG because it is the only event of any importance we can play for. With SC2, the whole dynamic will inevitably change – just look at the Warcraft 3 scene, where WCG just one of the many events the players compete in, and is not even the most prestigious of the bunch.
The ‘Olympics’ of eSports
WCG – 2. a rapidly growing international olympics in which nearly one million players complete against one another for the title of world champion in separate events.
Can you imagine an Olympics without the United States in track and field, without China in diving, or Canada in hockey? Even mentioning the possibility of such an event is preposterous to any of us. But that is precisely the kind of situation WCG presents to us, despite its grandiose claims. I’m not even talking about Kobe Bryant being MIA for basketball, or Liu Xiang being absent from the hurdles – I’m taking about entire nations being omitted from participation in an event.
In 2006, there was no WCG qualifier for Broodwar in the United Kingdom. Consequently Midian, one of the best zergs outside of Korea (don’t listen to him when he says he hasn’t played in half a year) was denied even the opportunity to try to make the grand finals. In 2008, we have seen the entire nation of Canada, one of the strongest countries in the game, being stymied. As a result Jianfei, Testie, Smuft and many others were abandoned. And with the players being denied the opportunity to compete, the fans have been denied the opportunity to see these players in action. It is one thing for these players to falter during the national qualifiers; it is an entirely different issue when the very opportunity to compete is taken away from them. How can an organization and event hold up the banner of the “Olympics” without giving the best players in the world the fundamental right to compete in the first place?
Justice Be Served
There is no Justice in WCG USA" - 88)Machine
There is never a year that goes by without some form of ridiculous controversy regarding the WCG qualification process. 2008 was no exception, as TL.net heard the fury of the players involved. I will surely overlook some of the controversy that has come up this year, so I urge you to fill in the holes as necessary – we all need to be reminded about how atrocious things have been this year.
Let’s look back at the USA qualifiers, which seemed to house more than the usual share of controversy in 2008. I imagine half of you are already facepalming yourselves at the very notion of talking about the USA qualifiers, but bear with me.
We’re back at the first weeks of the online qualifiers. Already we had major issues with the referees on b.net, who featured a violent combination of incompetence and a lack of fluency in English. The first of the many drama-bombs of the qualification process – the 15 minute wait time issue – could have been dealt with properly had the referees been competent. It was a difficult situation, one that I still have no idea what happened, but it was handled terribly by the officials who are supposed to ensure that proper guidelines are in place, are understood and are enforced.
The impact of inept referees was magnified with the first arrival of hackers/abusers – the most prominent of which were the LastShadow / Spades tandem. Recall that back in April, a combined effort from WGTour, Gosugamers, Iccup, SCLegacy and TeamLiquid exposed several hackers during TSL. Included in the list of players here was Spades, who had been allowed to participate in the regional qualifiers despite being barred from every other major facet of competitive Broodwar. How this was allowed in the first place is simply beyond me. It is the equivalent of the IOC banning a track runner for steroid use in April, and yet they are allowed to compete in Beijing'08 Olympics. It is unfathomable.
“I suggest that everyone hack for this wcg, because apparently it's completely okay to do so.” – Chill
The most prominent and visible instance of abuse during the qualification process was without a doubt the LastShadow vs Nesh series, feat. KawaiiRice. Nearly everyone examining the replays agreed – KawaiiRice (an observer in the games) was tipping off LastShadow. Why a friend of a player was allowed to referee a game in the first place, I have no idea. LS was seen attacking towards a starting location despite not having scouted him at all, and also stopped his dts before going up the ramp to check for a turret. The abuse was so blatantly obvious that most of the reactions were of disbelief and comic relief, rather than outrage.
How can spectators take e-'sport' seriously when the supposed flagship event for its legitimacy blatantly supports abuse and hacking? There is a fundamental disconnect between the World Cyber Games bureaucracy and the community which it serves. The organization is being incredibly naïve if it believes it can maintain its position as the preeminent event in international Starcraft competition while not improving upon its values, principals and procedures.
The money and corporate interest coming into SC2 is will be overwhelming, and WCG will be swept off its feet if it remains complacent. Whether the organization knows it or not, the players and fans are tired of the rampant abuse and inequality that has come to characterize the World Cyber Games. They will jump ship as soon as they see land as new events with money, legitimacy and integrity arrive.
The Nation and the World
The World Cyber Games is essentially a conglomeration of fundamentally disconnected entities. From the bureaucracy at the top, to the players, the fans, the sponsors, and the national level organizers, the entire enterprise seems to be characterized by a lack of communication and transparency.
The World Cyber Games is operated by a Korean firm, International Cyber Marketing. They obviously do not have the resources to conduct qualifiers for their event across 6 continents, so logically they hand out contracts to local entities to run the national qualification process. So far, so good; after all, this is essentially analogous to how the actual Olympics is run, with individual countries having entities in place for running their national qualification process. But as all of us know, this is where the favorable comparisons end.
While the Olympic committees do everything in their power to select the best of the best their country has to offer in the sport (with some exceptions, such as the US basketball team for Athens not having a pure shooter, etc), this is hardly the case for the WCG counterparts. In fact the vast majority of national WCG organizations are characterized by complacency, disinterest and ineptitude. The only exception I have heard of is the German WCG institution, which even sends their national squads to boot camp ordeals (don’t look at me, ask Mondragon et al). And honestly, can you blame them for not giving a dime about who ends up qualifying? These are contractors! They’re paid only to produce a semi-legitimate list of players who will be sent to the Grand Finals. Why should they care whether Spades or Nony represents our country – they’ve already made their dollars by the time the whole things is said and done.
If there is one thing that distinguishes the Olympics Committees to the WCG national organizations, it is the matter of national pride. The Olympic Committees need to get the best of the best out there and represent their countries. It probably entails further economic incentives, but honestly as fans and observers of the event we couldn’t care less. This obviously is not the case for the WCG entities. They’re given a lump sum from the parental organization, and whatever happens after that is irrelevant as long as things are somewhat recognizable as being legitimate.
So whose fault is it that the WCG qualification process is an absolute sham year after year? Why is it that the procedure, the bracketing, and everything else are riddled with problems that never get solved? Yes, it’s the fault of the local organizations for not ensuring that the best players come out on top. But if I’m the guy taking the contract from WCG, why would I spend an extra $10,000 to make things perfect when I can cut corners and put up the façade of legitimacy for $10,000 less? Why should I listen to community outrage when it doesn’t make me a penny in profits?
Whose responsibility is it then in the first place to guarantee that the World Cyber Games is a legitimate competition between the best players in the world? I believe that the blame lies with International Cyber Marketing and whoever sits at the top of the WCG food chain. If things are not being done properly at the bottom, it’s their job to detect the shortcomings and resolve the issues. Pushing responsibility onto the entry level employee instead of taking the heat himself is something your crappy boss would do, not something the top of an internationally respected institution can be permitted to do.
Thus it comes back to the fundamental divide between the various levels and interests that make up the beast that is WCG. I highly doubt that the higher ups of WCG even know of the travesties at the national level. And without them being proactive, the issues that have plagued WCG year after year are not going away – and this will lead to the demise of the integrity and reputation of the event in the long run. The event is only as strong as its players, and when all the players are crying foul, it is a matter of time until the next best thing runs them out of the market.
Blind, Deaf and Mute
So there is a clear disconnect and lack of responsibility within WCG between the national and international levels. But what about the relationship between the fans and the players as it relates to the WCG hierarchy? To answer this, I only have to point to one example: the map debacle of 2008.
Recall: The maps for WCG were originally set as Tau Cross, Shin Peaks, Blue Storm, Python, Gaia. However, in June we were hit with the news that Tau Cross, Shin Peaks, Python and Gaia were being removed, with Troy, Andromeda and Othello being added ( Source ). The vast majority of national qualifiers had already started, with several approaching the end already! Why were they doing this? Did they ask for any feedback from the players outside of Korea? Did they not even bother? Were they catering to the Korean professionals at the expense of 90+% of the participants? No one had any idea what was going on, why this decision was being made, nothing!
Then a good 3 months later, the map pool was changed again!! So now the maps would be Blue Storm, Python, Shin Peaks, Tau Cross, and Ride of Valkyries. They essentially reverted to the original map pool, swapping Gaia for RoV. Again, why? If the new map pool were an issue why did they wait three months to announce this change? Countless national qualifiers were affected, not to mention the players’ practice routines as well. Everything about this has been an absolute disaster, without any saving grace.
The map debacle of 2008 WCG Broodwar has been an utter joke and another instance of the ineptitude of the organization. It reaffirms how much discord and lack of communication there is between the players and the organizational body.
Operation Desert *cough*fail*cough* Storm
When I talk about the ineptitude of the local WCG organizations, there’s more to the story than the idealities of the qualification process. On certain levels they can be excused of not knowing what format is best, between ladder, regional tournaments, online/offline, single or double elimination, etc. They’re hired to conduct the logistics, and maintaining competitive integrity understandably may not be their strong suit. However, there are inexcusable shortcomings and oversights in their handling of logistics that they, along with the entire World Cyber Games hierarchy, deserve to be crucified for.
The most outrageous situation I can recall is how little notice is given to players to buy tickets and confirm that they are flying to their offline regional. This year, some players (Machine was one of them iirc) received their email notification TWO days before the offline event. Someone else on the forums said they were give three (woohoo!) days last year! What kind of monkey do they have running this thing? Even the event page on the WCG website has a date stamped 10 days before the offline event – still not nearly enough time to sort out plane tickets and lodging in a budget conscious manner.
What truly boggles my mind is that they knew well in advance who had qualified from the online portion. Why couldn’t they have notified the players right then and there? There’s just no excuses for this, and if they were a secretary in a proper company doing such logistics they would be instantly fired.
An even worse example is from my Warcraft 3 days (cue laughtrack). There was one player who made the Grand Finals who had absolutely no idea about even the most basic build orders. It was clear to everyone that this player had basically never played the game before, and there was a huge uproar in the community (2004 or 2005 WCG).
How did this complete newbie (in the truest sense of the word) make it this far? With the help of forum members from that country, it was found that the country qualifier page never went up for that country, and no one showed up to the LAN center. As a result, the organizer gave the first place prizes (free tickets, paid hotel, etc) to a friend of his. While this country did not have any “pro” players, it nevertheless had several level 40’ish ladder players who could show that hey, this unknown country has some alright players… but no, things didn’t exactly turn out that way.
How in the world did the national WCG page fail to go online? Why were the community sites not informed? Who were the contacts? Can you imagine an Olympic swimmer drowning in the pool? That’s basically what this was – a true disgrace. (sorry, I can’t recall the exact country, year, or player name for this incident)
I am sure I have missed many other examples of truly ridiculous logistical decisions made by the WCG organization. I encourage you to post them here so that maybe, just maybe we’ll see some improvement in the future.
We can hope, can’t we?
Let’s take a look back and look at the bottom line. WCG is a for profit organization that is by definition rife with conflicts of interest. To be frank, by proclaiming itself the Olympics of eSports, WCG has set the bar too high. The combination of these two factors makes it perhaps impossible to uphold the spirit of competition and maintain the legitimacy of its endeavors.
Recall the nonparticipation of countries in events in given years – particularly UK in 2007 and Canada in 2008 as previously mentioned. These countries were not omitted because the players didn’t meet some cutoff point, or because they committed some flagrant offense in past events. No, it is because they could not find a sponsor to fund the player’s journey and stay at the event. It was because of money.
Remember Draco and others funding themselves to go to WCG Grand Finals in the past? Notice how some countries have 1 representative while others have 3? This is unfathomable in the real deal Olympics – having nonparticipation of top athletes due to funding issues.
Monetary matters influence the entire essence of WCG, to the point where one cannot separate the event and money. Who, what, when, where, why, how, are all influenced and determined by the bottom line – and what is it that takes the hit? Oh, just that little thing over there in the corner called competitive integrity.
They Chose What!?
Some of the game choices WCG has made are simply incomprehensible, while others are driven by ulterior motives. Looking at the history of WCG game lineups, we can see how poor their selection has been. WCG game lineups are analogous to the sports included in the Olympic games, and ought to be determined with the utmost precision.
The game list looks completely normal from 2000-2002, with games such as BW, CS1.6 and Quake3, along with legitimately competitive and proven titles. However, with 2003 we see the paradigm shift. Halo makes its grand entrance, despite being largely unproven as a competitive game. Can we really take this inclusion at face value, when Halo then was hardly what it is now, in addition to Microsoft dollars? The situation worsens in 2004, which Project Gotham Racing and Need for Speed coming into the mix. Really? Racing games? Really? *cough*EA*cough*Microsoft*cough* Did I just hear a cash register? Must be getting old…
Then in 2005, Dead or Alive is included in the list. I could probably list at least 10 games past and present in the fighting game genre that deserved to be included instead of DoA, taking into account community support, popularity, along with competitive legitimacy. Three years later even today, DoA is still not considered a legitimate fighting game title no matter what PueroRican claims. The ONLY reason DoA was included was because of the dollars Microsoft provided to WCG. Oh, and it also looks pretty! There is simply no logical defense one can take to support DoA’s inclusion. And so a title that hadn’t even gone through the arcades, with a miniscule player base entered the fray while games such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, CvS, MvC, SSBM, etc etc stood on the sidelines despite a larger fan base, world wide player base, proven game play and balance at the highest levels… the list goes on.
Since then we have seen the situation worsen, with Tony Hawk 8 and Guitar Hero being listed. Excuse me, did I read that right?? You begin to wonder whether WCG even cares about its façade of “competitive” gaming. Honestly I don’t think I have to explain to you guys why these games are simply ludicrous. I wonder what Stork will think if he’s told that his 1st place from 2007 is equal in achievement to that guy spinning a skateboard over there…
Then there was Command and Conquer 3 in 2007. Let’s go down the list here. Pretty graphics (makes Samsung’s monitors look great)? Check. Made by EA? Check. The game isn’t even out on the market yet? Check… That’s right. CnC3 wasn’t even available when it was included in the WCG games list. How preposterous is that? (insert Chill voicetrack) How often are RTS games actually well balanced on launch? Basically never.
SBO (Tougeki) had an opportunity to include Street Fighter IV in its game list this year, by adding it in before the release date. Did they do so? Of course not! They would have never been able to conduct a proper qualifier for it, let alone ensure that it had the quality to properly make it into their lineup.
Perhaps the part of WCG that is influenced most heavily by money is what games are being played. With sponsors such as Samsung, Microsoft and EA, WCG has a prerogative to include certain games and exclude others. Every single one of these shady game inclusions I’ve mentioned here has been an EA or Microsoft affiliated title.
I can understand why WCG would make this decision, and I can’t fully blame them to be honest! But if they’re going to go down this path, they better stop pretending like they’re an organization that fosters pure competitive gaming with a strong adherence to integrity and what not, because it doesn’t take any more than the maturity of a 6th grader to see through it. There’s a serious credibility issue when an event that claims to uphold “competition” and “competitive eSports” includes games that are clearly not of competitive nature.
Either go all-out with the integrity of competition or go for the money – not both! It’s insulting to my intelligence and to the players in the legitimate titles to put the winners of Guitar Hero/PGR/CnC3/etc and BW/WC3/CS/etc on the same pedestal. Is anyone actually being fooled by this?
How is regular Joe Gamer supposed to take the legitimacy of competition and the significance of the achievements seriously when the games chosen exclude some of the most competitive, well-played titles that exist today, while including games that even the most casual of players would scoff at? This is like an Olympics without Track and Field that decided to include Arena Football – a complete joke.
I wonder if I can have competitive rolling down a hill blindfolded included in the 2012 Olympics if I give the IOC enough money…
I cannot think of a single organization in charge of a competitive event that is so poorly regarded by its players and fans than the World Cyber Games. Why is it that these players, clearly frustrated with the way the event is run, keep participating in it year after year? Because they have no alternatives. Why are the fans, despite the obvious foul play involved, continue to support WCG? Well maybe it won’t stay that way. WCG needs to figure out what it wants to be, because they’re fooling no one but themselves if they think that their reputation can be maintained if they continue on this path.
I have a great deal of respect for the players who endure the mess that WCG puts in front of them each and every year. They are the ones that strive to uphold the integrity of competition that the administration fails to establish.
Here’s to hoping, nay praying, that these players will no longer be subjected to the injustices and atrocities that they have long endured – in the era of Starcraft 2 and beyond. Cheers.
"WCG is truly beyond the game" - 88)Artosis
I encourage you to read the comments, where people have shared the WCG horror stories I wasn't able to cover.