Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Sorry for the long hiatus everyone, just never found a solid hour to sit down and write. I tried writing some stuff in the airport on my various trips recently, but nothing really substantial came out of it. So here's an article on being an admin/referee/whatever for an international tournament.

I recently came back from the Electronic Sports World Cup grand finals in San Jose, California; it was a very fun experience, everything went pretty close to smoothly, and I think I learned a thing or two about what's needed to maintain and run a successful event. I think this will end up being a series of bullet point type thoughts, but I guess we'll see as this develops.

Firstly, the preparation is a big deal. I didn't talk to the players before they arrived, that was all on a level above me, but they were all given a copy of the rules, they were told their groups, and had a good idea of how the match was supposed to run. People came from all over the world, some of them speaking perfect English, some of them understanding only the words "You play [name]" and "5pm."

Now I can recognize most of the professional-level players, almost every European player speaks great English, the Koreans even had their names on the back of their shirts, but there's still a lot of people left after you check off those names. And here's where the God-send comes in. There was a pre-made seating chart. I believe the players got a copy of this before they showed up, but the important thing is that we got a copy of it the day before (and by we I mean the admins). So we went around the computers, set up the graphics options to max and put the player names into the computers. So you could walk around the room, and there was your alias staring you in the face. This was probably the single most important thing on our end that was done during this event. Seating arrangements that stare you in the face. Seriously useful.

Anyways, the players get to funnel in at 8:30am which gives them an hour and a half to set up. For all of this we are busy; a small part was pointing people to the correct seat (we played some games the night before and changed a few of the names), but the biggest chore by far was getting people set up according to their home specifications. We had widescreen monitors (I really don't know why tournaments still supply widescreen monitors; no one likes them, and they have to be more expensive than regular ones) and had to make them display the proper aspect ratio. Then some of them wanted a black box around the entire screen to make the actual size like they were used to at home. One of us (Joshua Keyes) figured this out very quickly and basically if someone gestured at his monitor, I just yelled, grabbed him, and let him do his thing. Life-saver.

10am (match time) rolled around really quickly. This was the second hardest part: the next 15-30 minutes of figuring out who was playing, who was warming up, and locating the right people. We had people in their allocated seats, so for the unknown players we could reference the seating chart, but it's still a matter of a lot of grunt work and miscommunication. One of us had the idea that we should divide up chores by groups (OK, you have groups A-B, you have C-D, etc), and I stupidly brushed that aside, "How hard can it be, just grab people and tell them to play?" Honestly, I think having any admin able to help any player is the right call, but for the first 15 minutes... yeah we could have used some organization.

So yeah, a little bit of work trying to grab the right people, point them in the right directions and (here's the fun part), finding coins to flip. I ended up flipping a bottle cap for half the tournament. Also, I'm not sure how many people understand "Heads" and "Tails" so it was a little awkward getting the map vetoes started. (The way the Warcraft tournament runs, there are 5 maps, but only three are played in a series, so each player gets to choose one to remove. The order that they are chosen is determined by a coin flip. Only once did I see a player react as to say "Hey, he just removed the map I was going to.") But really, while hectic, the amount of time spent getting the first few matches started was not that intensive.

One games got underway, only small issues popped up. Some players left their computers for too long: In one case we were waiting for SK.Lyn for about 45 minutes. His group only had three people so it didn't delay the tournament, but he was primed for a forfeit. There was an issue where two former clanmates were in the same group (ToD and SaSe), and a player (Paladyn) was concerned they would rig the matches to make sure the two of them would advance over him. After talking to the three of them, and also taking into account that ToD and SaSe played each other in between their matches against Paladyn, I didn't really see rigging as a strong possibility (and he lost to the two of them anyway).

Otherwise, the other important thing we managed to do was get all the games done ahead of schedule. Some of the groups were very big and some were small (some with 5, some with 3 basically). But we finished Group Stage 1 pretty quickly, (by 4pm; it was slated to end around 5) despite a couple hour-long games. We drew the new groups, set up the stage matches, and went about our business.

The rest of day 1 went well; we drew the brackets for the final, told the players when to show up, and went home. Really the only hard part was the initial set-up (made much easier by expressly naming the computers to their players), dealing with the hardware (please stop supplying widescreen monitors), assigning people to their matches (which is hard when people stand up and walk around if you don't know the players by sight).

Day two was pretty simple. We got WaaaghTV into all the games, we got the matches started promptly, we told the players specifically what time to be on for their games; the only scare was at the final match for Sky vs WhO because one page had it set for 7pm and another had it for 7:30, so we're all running around panicking trying to find him until he walks in from dinner or whatever and sets up.

So if this ends up being a lesson to anyone instead of just a mildly entertaining story, here goes:

If everyone speaks the same language, if there aren't many people, it's not a big deal. If there's a lot and it's hard to coordinate: Name the computers. Put a sign on them, put the player names in, put a big text document on the screen, I don't care. But it's just supremely useful when the spots are specifically named for the players.

Second, get a system for addressing the games made. The players won't have their schedules memorized. If you can get a screen to project the first round matches for all to see, great. We had a computer more or less dedicated to the purpose, but it was just a monitor in the middle of the room, not exactly easy to crowd around. It was not hard to just have someone ask "Who's my next opponent?" and supply him with the info, but you can save some time. To be honest, we needed the players to come up to us because we had to handle map vetoes, get them to sign match documents, so it was a lot of grunt work, but whatever. One small thing we could have done was walked around and said "OK it's 10, get out of your friendly matches and stay standing up around here until you've been given your match sheet and the OK from an admin." We had small troubles in figuring out who was playing and who was simply warming up, since we didn't exactly cross-check lists of who adminned whom.

Otherwise it was a pristine event, the other admins all worked very hard and I'm really glad we had them since there's no way in hell I could have managed all of it myself.

Thank you to Matt Kho, William Wang, and Joshua Keyes.