VGF, Pune – A New Low in the Indian eSports SceneFebruary 3, 2016
Before I begin expressing mine, and many of the participant’s shared views and opinions, I would like to state the fact that I personally went there as a DotA and Counter-Strike enthusiast and a well-wisher for the Indian eSports scene. While I am not sure how strongly the participants of the FIFA and Mortal Kombat tournaments would agree or disagree, or simply the casual console gamer who went to experience the latest game-line up offered by Ubisoft, what I am sure of is that these people would surely agree to few details of the event as a whole which went completely off-track.
Now, start off with, let us begin with the first impressions of ‘India’s Biggest Gaming Galore’. I was one of the first few people to have arrived at the mall, something which I regret doing. Gates for the event and on-site registration were scheduled to open up at 9 in the morning. This was however something that had finally happened at around 11. In the meantime, from whatever I could see going on inside the arena, other than the stalls, absolutely nothing was set up. I believe that the people of the management itself came after 9 and started setting up the event, adding to the frustration. The TVs and playstations started pouring in after 10 o’clock, and around 10:30 when entry was finally allowed, everything was still being set up and there was absolutely nothing to do till 11: 30 or so, at which point few indie developers started showcasing their latest products. Hence, a crowd of about 70 people who were waiting to get their hands on everything that was to be offered, were kept waiting for 3 long hours with no explanation at a time when almost nothing was open at the mall.
Delving a little deeper into the Arena and its layout in which the event was conducted, one simply cannot forgive the organizers of the event when they have come as an eSport enthusiast. Only about 10% of the area was ‘spared’ for the ‘eSport’ part of the event. Everyone was forced and stuffed into what could have been a nice console-focused event by Ubisoft, as the stage for Just Dance and the sofas for players to experience Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India was rather nicely done from what I could tell. And don’t get me started on the set-up for the gamers. Around 30 PCs were stuffed within a tiny ‘kurukshetra’ bordered area as if it were a dog’s pen, . There was hardly any space left for the spectators, who in turn had to stand behind and watch the amazing plays. Add in an ever-disappointing management crew who were simply pushing us out from there with no other viable option for the spectators as the LXGTV booth experienced problems to stream it to the huge display for us, and you get an event where you don’t feel welcome to begin with.
However, one of the milestones of Video Game Fest, Pune, would be of achieving new lows in the technical aspects of a tourney that we haven’t seen even during the days of DotA 1 and Counter-Strike 1.6. While the hardware clocked in 200 fps in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and around 80 fps in DotA in a few set-ups, here are a few points raised by one of the DotA participants who would like to maintain his anonymity:
1. Extremely small and square monitors that made playing on it very difficult.
2. Area around the place where the games were hosted was too noisy such as the Just Dance songs and telecast of cricket. This was to the disadvantage of the players when communication is of utmost importance in any team-based game.
3. Massive packet losses and disconnects in between the games that proved fatal during many moments of the game.
4. Since the games were hosted in a local lobby, teams were unable to receive the replays for analysis of their game.
Massive delays to get the ‘Video Game Fest’ started itself was just one of the many annoying things. The magnitude of delay is easily understood by the unaware masses with the fact that the DotA and Counter-Strike events were scheduled to start at 11 and wrap up by 9 at night. But the DotA matches started at 2 o’clock with a 2 hour gap between the next match with another 1 hour long gap for the next with the finals having ended at midnight itself. And Counter-Strike as an event started at 9 itself and from what I hear, ended at 9 in the next morning, but more on that below.
On what unanimously must have been THE most controversial part of the complete event, let me take you step by step into what transpired. The reason for the delay of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event was rather simple. The event which had attracted players from all the corners of India, with them traveling from Bangalore and Kolkata to compete for the coveted 50,000 prize pool was simply… dropped. Yes, organizers having finally realized their folly of ignoring the ‘eSport’ event and channeling their energies into everything other than that brought the ingenious idea to the foray of simply abandoning the Counter-Strike event and the players and leaving them without a tourney, without the prize. Of everything that went wrong, this simply was the highlight of the disarray that the event was in. The fact that they later did get on board with a Counter-Strike tourney around 7 PM or so absolutely does not compensate for the loss of time, energy and will to be around the arena. It is praise-worthy of those teams and players that stuck around till further confirmation too. Hence, to get the readers a better understanding of all that happened, here from a player’s perspective is what Siddhartha ‘G6’ Prasad whose team ‘Pune5’ stood 3rd place in the tournament had to say about the debacle:
1. Came at 10 am on 1st February and left on 2nd February 9 am. Nothing was on schedule with the organizing team. They didn’t know how to setup dedicated server for the same. So they were coming up with many excuses instead of a proper response.
2. When they came up with the solution to keep the tournament on for whole night, out of the registered teams only 7 teams vouched for that. So VGF asked Sarvesh to handle it. Then after Sarvesh asked my help to help him in setting up almost everything on technical terms (dedicated servers, config), we kicked off around 8-8.30 pm and then with Double Elimination rules we proceeded. Challonge was used to generate random seedings. We went according to that.
3. Regarding the prize money, what we have been told is that they will be clearing it within a week. This is not on paper, but instead has been told by the VGF Head who was there in the event.
Now, touching another controversial aspect namely the prize pool, this turns out to be a little more complicated. On their Facebook page, it was announced that VGF, Pune will boast a prize pool of INR 50,000 for DotA and Counter-Strike tournaments separately, with a prize split of INR 25,000 for the winners, INR 15,000 for the runner-up and the remaining INR 10,000 for the third runner-up. This seemingly failed to attract a larger crowd which would be ready to travel to Pune at their costs. Thus, only for DotA, people well known in the Indian circuit came to the knowledge that the prize pool has been increased to INR 80,000 during the online qualifiers. However, when they arrived to the scene they found out that the prize pool has been ‘reduced’ to INR 50,000. What to make of this mess, we are not aware. But surely, if this was the cheap publicity stunt that we think it is, the future for Video Game Fest and their eSport organiser who go by the name ‘Kurukshetra’ is bleak, if not completely gone.
At the end of the day, what matters most is how much of an improvement was VGF, Pune when compared to its earlier iteration. While we surely cannot directly compare VGF Pune, 2016 and VGF Bangalore, 2015 due to the sheer differences in the magnitude of both of these events, there still existed many similar problems that plagued the Bangalore event in that of its Pune counterpart. Some of them being:
1. It is reported that VGF Bangalore’s matches officially ended at 3 AM in the morning while the one in Pune saw the last Counter-Strike match being played at 9 AM, the next day.
2. VGF Bangalore had a massive set up with a huge stage set for the big matches to be telecasted and played on. At least for the first 3 days, the main dais was unused for any matches. Similar stuff happened at VGF Pune where LXGTV, the broadcasters were unable to telecast any game on the big screen rendering it obsolete and an enormous waste of investment.
3. A debatable topic, VGF Bangalore saw a number of cosplayers attending it while VGF Pune saw 3 or 4 if I missed any. However, in both the events big media houses such as the Bangalore Mirror and many others have ended up showcasing their complete coverage of the event focused ONLY on cosplayers, with none of them making even an effort to interact with the players. While I understand the pop-culture icon that cosplayers are and me myself being a huge fan on notable cosplayers in India, I simply wish to make it clear that it is not the cosplayers who I blame which seems rather obvious but still requires a mention.
But then, there were a few good moments that I really enjoyed at VGF, Pune. Me being an hardware enthusiast ended up having a great time at the Cezor and Cooler Master booth. With some innovative and creative ideas for holding their contests inside their really well set up booth accompanied with a showcase of their prime builds and mods, this surely was a treat for me, one in which I spent the greater time of the day. Within VGF also existed what in my opinion was the best tournament conducted in the arena, namely the Call of Duty: Black Ops III tourney organised by Havok Nation and Tranzeneca Gaming League. With absolutely no problems there even though it was conducted in a really small area, it was one of the highlights of the VGF, Pune. Speaking of Havok Nation, Pramod ‘Promod’ Hambir showcased his latest works and tinkers with the MasterCase 5 that he won last year in a competition. The ‘Deadpool’ mod of his swept away fans of the hero as well as the PC modding community alike.
In some final thoughts, if such lackluster events are to become mainstream in the future, then the Indian eSports scene, or whatever is and remains of it doesn’t look very optimistic, considering the rise in trend of similar low quality events by people who know nothing about the scene.