For a person who has been a keen follower of the ‘Indian eSports scene’, rarely had I ever felt such optimism and hope for it when ESL announced it’s plans for India. And when it was later revealed that the setting of the first Challenger Cup was in Pune, as someone who always has hoped for the best for this city, my joy knew no bounds. For having a LAN event in your very city with it carrying the ‘ESL’ name is something that an Indian gamer could’ve simply dreamed of. However, it was either me having exceedingly high expectations from the organizers, or they not conducting their event with quality.
Coming purely from the point of a spectator in this write-up, I walked in the ‘arena’ with the simple idea of having hours of fun watching my favorite players face-off and cheer for them in the crowd. First things first, the entire set-up had me in awe. While we are talking about impressions, you should know that the main stage was an eye candy, and that was the first thing that caught my attention. And for that, you would have to give NODWIN Gaming a perfect 10/10 for the entire arrangement. Whether it be the swell PC’s and the lighting above it, or the display showcasing player profiles and their logo, they just had it all sorted. And for a moment, it truly looked like India was going to have an event worthy of carrying the ‘ESL’ tag. For a moment.
Then, having arrived way later than the scheduled time for the start, I eagerly dashed into the main stage to catch Team Brutality in action as I had seen their update on Facebook. Little was I to know that the scheduled match would begin just a casual 2 hours later. Yep, the main stage was completely empty for an entirety of 2 hours or more as eager fans, on the stream and at the LAN event waited in despair. It pretty much went all downhill then.
The issue of mass delays is something that is not at all new to literally any tourney in India, however this time it was the organizers at fault here. With frequent disconnects plaguing every game with one of them witnessing their local servers crashing itself, almost every game on the stage witnessed a technical pause of around 10-20 minutes, and if I’m not wrong, with teams going down the stage and coming back up also every time. While the DotA 2 matches seemed to be going on smoother comparatively on the side, it still was nowhere near the schedule on which they were supposed to run, courtesy the Counter-Strike schedule which made the semi-finals pushed back that were supposed to happen on the stage. I found myself simply sitting at one place doing absolutely nothing for almost 3-4 hours there, after finishing the VR and checking out ASUS‘s and Kingston‘s booths.
Technical difficulties were rampant throughout the first day as EVERY SINGLE GAME saw a technical pause taking up half their time. Whether it be massive packet losses even during the coveted finals or everyone disconnecting at a crucial game-changing moment that would later on set the pace of the finals moments, they existed even in Day 2. For it being a LAN event in India, it sadly enough lived up to its name. The question comes, whom to hold responsible? Packet loss is experienced due to issues in the ISP, and in a comment by LordNod on a post in Facebook, he clarified on what happened:
Packet loss is an Internet issue and not server side. Server side is normally chokes (but not always). The ISP network in Pune is inherently badly designed where you have packet drops on even fiber connections. We took 2 leased lines for the event and still got into heaps of trouble. And it sucked for us and the players and the viewers. It has to become better before we decide to come back to Pune for an offline event.
NODWIN Gaming was however, relentless in earning back the name for what they have been in all these years when it comes to executing events, and for a while in Day 2 it seemed like the event was finally back on track. The players themselves openly expressed their frustration with the restarts that they faced on Day 1, however they significantly reduced on Day 2. And while we did witness fewer technical difficulties and the time in between games reducing to quite an extent, technical issues were still persistent as players kept pausing every 5-10 mins complaining about the massive packet loss that they were experiencing. In fact, during a game-changing fight in the DotA finals between IW and BI, everyone disconnected from the server which stayed like that for almost 8-10 minutes. And probably any gamer can agree how such an incidence can prove to set the pace later on too.
The bigger evil however, definitely was the absolutely sub-par marketing. Seating for almost a crowd for 200 went empty NOT because the community did not turn up, but because of literally no marketing being done of the event. Why I say that with such confidence? Because for a guy living in Pune and a regular to tons of cafes too, there was literally no marketing that had been done. At one point, I even began asking people whether they were even aware that such an event was going down, and they simply had no idea. Were they living under the rock? Probably. But was there any great advertisement being done on social media or on the internet? No, there wasn’t.
Like many offline events in India, this one failed to tap into the gaming community that is not seen online in post discussions or in the hype what we see on Facebook. Being from Pune, I can assure you that there is absolutely no dearth of DotA 2 and Counter-Strike fans. One might argue that you cannot simply spoon-feed each and everyone. So what you would be saying is is that it is too much of me to ask one poster in a cafe, or one boosted post on Facebook, or inviting major media houses who would cover this event like how VGF Bangalore saw its coverage being done in mainstream media?
Credit is due where it is, and the production team pulled off everything neatly. As I have been told, the stream’s quality was really good, and keeping the FPS drops aside, the twitch channel hit 3000 viewers during the exciting CS: GO finals! Even for us spectators, the screen where we saw our games live was amazing, and it was a fantastic experience. In hindsight, it probably was this aspect and the main stage that made me feel that I was at an ESL event. Unlike the ones that we see on twitch, the event lacked a frenzied crowd.
Looking towards the future as I end this write-up, this event while definitely could’ve been way better in quite a few ways for someone who went there as an eSports enthusiast and for the players themselves who did not shy form expressing their frustration on Day 1, it still was nowhere near to be a bad or below average event. While I do not intend to lower the bar and expectations, I again certainly don’t mean to neglect the obvious positives of the event too. That being said, here is hoping that we see a much better event at Challenger Cup #2, scheduled at Bangalore!
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