Monday, October 25, 2010

Their law.

So yes, Artisan Elitist's BlizzCon coverage 2010:

- Metzen making me feel older than I actually am
- some stuff about a female Illidan with a crossbow fighting the devil
- some other stuff about SC2 being boring already and needing a new map
- THE e-sports scandal of the year

Yes, you heard me. Payce blogs about PvP. No, seriously, I mean it. This post will, in fact, be centered around the theme of competitive arena. Gasp.

So the thing is, the competing finalists ComplexityRed and aAa were tied what we call "closely". We are shown a display of intense teamwork through controlled bursts, insane mana management, kiting so clever you could brush your teeth with it and extraordinary survivability. ComplexityRed, with a priest/warlock/mage-setup built for massive burst and tactical control display an amazing offensive game, while aAa are more centered about defensive safety, sustained damage over time and the occasional burst to force cooldowns. The games are intensely tight and close, and as the 20 minute mark of game four is sounded, ComplexityRed is awarded the victory, giving them an overall 3-1 series win. The crowd obviously rejoice, and a lot of the home viewers (admittedly, myself included) is happy for them. It's always fun to see an offensive, solid team playing amazingly and achieveing through their A game what is conceived as a well earned victory.

Except while they are celebrated on stage, handed their $75,000 cheque, something is amiss in the background. aAa have launched an appeal for a rematch, and the admins are investigating the matter. It appears as though the decicive death of aAa's warlock came AFTER the time limit, and that due to the time limit, their resto druid had stopped playing at the 20 minute mark. Logs show that this is in fact the case, and that at the time limit, all players are still alive - a draw. And due to Blizzard's current arena competition rules, draws are to be decided by overall damage done, where aAa does indeed beat ComplexityRed by around 10,000 damage. The tie is awarded to aAa and with the score now being 2-2, rather than 3-1, a fifth and final match is played.

Without going into too much detail: the grand final is an insane display of skill. ComplexityRed's captain Sodah plays with a skill level beyond anything I've ever seen, the adrenaline pumping and blood bruising with every global cooldown. As a spectator, this is e-sports at the abslute highest level. It's not really worth describing - take the time instead to see for yourself. After an airtight 11 minute fight, aAa draws the longest straw, and wins the tie as ComplexityRed's warlock eventually goes down to the sustained pressure on ComplexityRed's resources. The new award ceremoney displays a smug aAa receving their prize money, and a ComplexityRed-team too gutted for words accepting their second prize.

I don't want to be judgemental towards either team. I've admitted I enjoyed ComplexityRed's strategy and composition more - their offensive philosophy to the game is a pleasure to watch, and as a spectator, that is really what I'm after. While not going as far as saying they turtled, I will call countercomping on aAa. It's a legitimate strategy, and in the face of a potential $75,000 dollars, I understand all to well that countercomping is both effective and strategically smart. My gripe isn't with either team at all - they both chose their paths of action within every legal parameter there is. There were no cheating, and no bad sportsmanship at play.

My gripe is with Blizzard.

It's their game, and it's also their rules and their decicive judgement. Allowing themselves to not only announce a winner, but doing do without a full overview of the details in a game that went to the 20 minute mark, is not only sloppy, but reckless and disrespectful to those paying to watch the games, as well as the competitors themselves. Had this game been investigated further before the announcing of victors, we would have had 2-2 prior to any celebratory announcements, and an adrenaline-fuelled fifth final on equal grounds - and not one where one team had to fight back from the feeling of being literally gutted, while the other team have been given a boon of mercy with absolutely nothing to lose. I respect and understand aAa's posting a protest - it's within the rules, and it's the right, fair and honest thing to do when they'd been wronged. I only wish they weren't cheated of their victory in their first place.

Eventually, this will come back to bite Blizzard's own arse. ComlpexityRed displeyed to the entire world what they're capable of, and with a the strong backing of SK Gaming, they have every potential to fight back. The problem is that when these things happen, the credibility of the arranging party is drawn into doubt, and when said party in none other than the creator of the game itself - at their own convention, no less - I can't but wonder if Blizzard-hosted tournaments are ever going to be as good as sponsored, private leagues. More importantly, it posts doubt in the minds of the spectators, and most important of all, the performers, as to the validity of their results.

This might prove to be a big problem for Blizzard in the long run, unless a swift and decicive reworking of their competitive arena rules are being issued to ensure nothing like this happens again.

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