(Long post incoming.)
Cologne, Guangzhou and New York City went just fine (as esports events go). We had problems at this event. There's only so much you can do to prepare for an event like this. There will always be issues to solve that are beyond your control. Here's what happened:
The venue in Kiev is a huge PC bang with a built-in stage to host esports matches. It has two synchronous 100Mbit lines which are independent from each other - one for the gaming, one for the streaming. It runs dozens of bigger and smaller tournaments all year round.
We ran a very successful event here last year - the Intel Extreme Masters European Championship. Despite knowing the venue well, we visited it in December again to perform our due dilligence and plan the event anew. Our only worry was whether or not we can set up our streaming and video on time.
I can honestly say that we have covered all the areas which we know to be critical. Sometimes that is simply not good enough.
While the Counter-Strike 1.6 and League of Legends tournaments were running completely fine and without any issues (technical or ping-related), the SC2 tournament was plagued with difficulties:
- Players had lag that affected gameplay and sometimes the result (naniwa and, to a lesser degree, Strelok);
- Naniwa voiced concerns to the referee that he had lag issues (other players also). As it turned out their lag spikes were not at all as bad as naniwa's. One of the players intervened and convinced naniwa that by changing some network settings and shutting off some software the connection would be fixed. Naniwa got talked into playing - as it turned out it was a mistake not to put him on another PC (the reasoning being that all players claimed to have some spikes).
- The situation with naniwa happened later on (naniwa having lag issues that affected the outcome of his game). His instant emotional reaction was to want to discontinue playing, but he came back to finish his games on another PC and won the group. Throughout the entire situation - from the start until after all of his games, he was considerate and understanding and his behaviour was very professional. No bullshit.
- Meanwhile, I spent almost the entire day investigating the root of the problem. I spent a lot of the time on the phone with Blizzard's employees, talking to the local IT masterminds who called the local ISP (100Mbit line for gaming only, remember). I asked for the group play to be halted because that time could have allowed us to find the solution.
- The players have avoided PCs where the bad lag occured and continued play. No players have had anything major since then, except for Grubby where it seemed like a commentator lagging out was the problem (he had no other lags - I don't think it was related to the naniwa issue).
Here is what we did in order to fix this issue:
- call Blizzard countless times to make sure it's not a routing issue;
- call the local ISP countless times to do the same;
- test other PCs in the gaming center to see if the same issues occur (they are the same configuration - some lagged, others did not);
- the Arena IT have set up completely fresh Windows PCs with SC2 only on them - those will be the machines used in the remainder of the tournament;
There were no issues whatsoever with League of Legends or Counter-Strike 1.6. At the end of the day it seems like there still might be a minor routing issue (which is not ideal but playable) and the PCs were totally wiped and cleaned up.
To whomever was disappointed with today: I am obviously very sorry that you did not receive the kind of entertainment that we always want to deliver. I can say with all honesty that we did our very best to fix the issues and make sure that the rest of the tournament is flawless.
Please give us some credit and save the pitchforks for after the finals.
I would like to enclose a statement from White Ra who knows the venue very well and participated in last year's Intel Extreme Masters tournament as well (obviously if you're one of the players in Kiev, feel free to chip in with a comment - good or bad, I don't mind):
"Today it was not normal but playable. All of the players have the same conditions. Sometimes there's a lag spike, other times it is all smooth. I experienced one lag issue myself in the game vs. Strelok but the game was decided by then.
I have never seen this before in the Arena. I have played a best of 7 show match vs. Dimaga a couple of months ago on stage and we did not have any problems. At last year's Intel Extreme Masters event here there were no such problems either. There was one problem with electricity but that was because it went down in the entire area of Kiev."
Can we control everything? No.
Did we fuck up? Could we have done better? Yes.
Will we do better? Yes.