I’d never been to a major gaming event before that wasn’t directly related to competitive gaming in some way. I went to a trade show once where tournaments were being played, but it was overseas and didn’t have that unique mix of humour and style that Australians like to bring to the table.
So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect upon arriving at Homebush, but after touching base with the players who took part on the first day, I quickly learnt that things had fallen into their usual groove: slowly.
There was an awful amount of action, with the full list of games including StarCraft 2; Gears of War 3; Shootmania Storm; FIFA 13; League of Legends; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3; Halo Reach [4v4 and FFA]; Super Street Fighter 4 AE; Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3; Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown; Dead or Alive 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
12 different disciplines over the course of two days, with Sunday being used strictly to show off the finals for various titles. That won’t include StarCraft 2, with Andrew “mOOnGlaDe” Pender already taking out the finals and winning a ticket to France later this year for his troubles. Speculation has been mounting well before the event that Pender won’t be attending though, since the Queenslander is boarding a plane with the rest of his team to take part in the Dallas leg of Major League Gaming’s annual pro circuit.
But Pender and the GameCom boys weren’t the only ones attending Dallas; Immunity were going too, creating a bizarre scenario where a trip to Paris got turned into a hot potato. It got passed down as far as fourth before the “winner” of the real prize was found: Mack “Petraeus” Smith, who will fly the New Zealand flag, funnily enough, in Europe next month.
StarCraft wasn’t the only game to crown a champion yesterday, with Apex sweeping the Modern Warfare 3 finals 6-0 against Unite. Out of the three screens available to the eSports section, MW3 provided the most action and looked the most suitable given the situation – there was a large amount of natural light flooding in from the top of the pavilion which added a lot of glare to the stage and made it difficult to view matches earlier in the day.
Once things got darker, however, the triple-screen setup was perfect for spectators. Once a lull developed in one part of the game - say, the beginning of a League of Legends match – viewers could easily switch focus to Marvel vs Capcom or FIFA or Call of Duty. It worked extremely well and it was just unfortunate that the admins weren’t given an area that was more secluded or more central.
But like I alluded to earlier, not everything ran without a hitch. Despite being scheduled to start at 10am on Friday, things didn’t kick off in earnest until the afternoon after resolving the various internet and power outages that occurred, with the funniest (or most miserable) incident stemming from the fact that the chief electrician hadn’t been informed about the use of PCs beforehand.
A quick reconfiguration and some 4G dongles later (which don’t come cheap) and everything was ready to go. When I arrived on Saturday, everything was well and truly running like clockwork. It then became a case of just enjoying the tournaments, something the League of Legends players managed to do more than most. LoL player tend to be the most divisive; it’s a lot like watching kids play Counter-Strike back in the day, with that blend of youth and passion that sometimes delves into obnoxiousness. But their enthusiasm also added a surge of noise and colour to the area, which helped tide things over when other tournaments started to wind down.
In fairness, there were a lot of distractions for the public, even from within competitive gaming. The ESGN admins established (or activated, which seems to be the key phrase of the expo) a simple but effective set of stand-mounted TVs for FIFA matches, complete with a couple of oversized bean bags for true comfort.
That played off well with a stack of computers dedicated towards Shootmania. The core mechanics and blistering pace was perfect for the event, acting like a booster shot of energy for spectators who only had a few minutes to spare rather than waiting in line for an hour or so to kick things off with a slow, plodding cinematic.
Professional gaming also got some love from GON’s rivals, Gamespot, who hosted a 45-minute panel on eSports. There was a good mix of console and PC gaming on the panel and plenty of behind-the-scenes experience. The video wasn’t available at the time of writing, but it’ll be added to this post once it becomes viewable.
There’ll be plenty more action today as the rest of the tournaments finish up. If you can’t make it to Homebush, you can watch a tournament or ten over at twitch.tv/ACLpro.