Even if you haven’t been keeping up with the latest in local gaming news, it would have been impossible for you to have missed the Evetech Champions League. Six CS:GO teams, brand spanking new Evetech eSports studio, top-quality production and broadcasting by nAvTV, R150k prize pool, and players so close you could literally touch them. If you wanted.
There was an incredible energy building up around this first-of-its-kind event hosted in Centurion from the 2nd to the 4th of September. And it all seemed to go by far too quickly. So now it’s time to recap and talk about what went right and what went wrong with our old friend, Nathaneal ‘BurningRed’ Slabbert.
Let’s jump right in with the most pressing question of the day: was the Evetech studio everything the nAvTV team wanted it to be?
“Yes. Yes, and yes again. What we wanted out of it was to get a reaction from the players and people walking into that studio. And that’s exactly what we got. We got everyone going, ‘Wow, this place is crazy. This is amazing.'”
While this may seem like a great thing, it’s mildly upsetting to us as Capetonians to think that such an awesome studio is so far away in Centurion. Jokes, it is a phenomenal achievement, and something BurningRed and everyone involved should be very proud of. But seriously,Cape Town is a great place for a second studio.
So the team loved it, and they did a super ballsy thing on their first trip ‘round the block. They opened their doors to the harshest critics of the entertainment industry: the public. But it seems that everyone who walked through said open doors was beyond impressed.
“Essentially that studio is perfect for a weekend event. It’s definitely something that can expand a bit more, but if we start to look at grandstand kind of vibes, that would be a completely different set up. That would require a biiig venue, which is almost our next step.
I think what we want to do is run a couple more tournaments in this venue before we can substantially say, ‘Okay cool, there are a lot of spectators attending this, it’s filling up every single time, I think we can ramp it up now and actually start looking at a bigger venue with a grandstand kind of setup.'”
There’s something about the word “grandstand” that gives us the chills. The good kind of chills. The Intel Extreme Masters, ESL, and DreamHack kind of chills.
Naturally, as with any new venture, especially one as momentous as a shiny new eSports venue, there are going to be things that need improving.
“From our perspective, I think having people walking in front of players is something that we are going to discuss and possibly avoid next time. Maybe have a walkway behind the spectators instead of in front of them.
Minor tweaks, things like additional cameras, additional spectator cameras so people can see the chill lounge and see the spectators reactions a little bit more. Potentially a more subtle audio set up, so you don’t have these big speakers in the corners of the studio, it would be more roof mounted.”
Right, we’ve got the physical side of things out of the way. Now let’s get deep into the digital, starting with the most tangible measure of success: viewers.
“In total we probably hit around 25,000 unique viewers. So we hit a decent number. There were a number of international viewers and a lot of local viewers as well. Even from an international point of view, speaking to a couple of the international partners, they turned around and said, ‘This is amazing. You guys have done a phenomenal job with this.'”
Something that South African eSports production houses have been striving for lately is matching up with the international scene. And it’s all very well when you, as a local, look at the global scene and think, “Yeah, we’re nearly there, man.”
But it takes on a whole new level of “woah” when your international counterparts turn to you and tell you how well you’re doing. That is exactly what BurningRed and his team have been dreaming of.
And the next step is to get their broadcast onto that old chestnut, television. TV broadcasts have to adhere to a tight schedule though, so they would have to be convinced by a good track record.
“We were 20 minutes late here or there, or a game played a little bit longer than another game, but overall the scheduling was great.
The international guys would complain if your games are delayed or your event is delayed quite a bit. We didn’t have them worried in the slightest, they were very happy with what we were doing.
Overall I think that is something we can easily now take to a television broadcaster and say, ‘Look, this is what we’ve produced. We know how to manage these schedules.'”
And when games end earlier than expected?
“What I would like to try and see and develop is pre-production videos. Introducing teams a little bit more, making it a little bit more of a documentary style introduction.
I think adverts play a role in there as well.”
Somebody forward this article to SuperSport, because they need to see this. Adverts. That’s right, space for brand exposure. Space to make money from televising eSports.
And really, you should just be sharing our articles with every person you can think of anyway.
Back to BurningRed and the ECL, though. There are going to be things that stand out at any event, so what stood out most for BurningRed?
“When I was broadcasting and casting, our production team did a phenomenal job, specifically the observer, Thomas Reid, he was amazing. The players came in to congratulate him on his observing skills. He definitely upped the ballgame on that.
The biggest highlight for me was the replays.
Nick and Andrew, the guys running production and the replay system, did a phenomenal job. There was one stage when I was casting and it was konvict from Aperture who had an amazing ace on Ivy Side on Train against CarboN. Everyone went absolutely ballistic. And the best part was the fact that the replay and production team was setting up the replay already. And they were like, ‘Replay is coming in 30 seconds.’
As the replay comes out, everyone was just like, ‘Yes! They’ve done it, they got the replay.’ And it was just amazing. Everyone was waiting for that moment. That was one of the big things for me.
I also enjoyed being on the panel for a brief period of time, but I also loved the fact that players and MGO owners, all of them felt comfortable on the panel. Barry did an amazing job hosting the panel. He was definitely top, top, top class.
Sam was also a brilliant presenter as well. I think just overall the team did an amazing job over the weekend.”
As someone that we’ve spoken with personally, we’d like to give a shout out to Barry ‘Anthrax’ Louzada. He was a stellar panel host, and we’ll take a moment of self indulgence to say that we called it .
You might remember that we also sent two lucky winners to the ECL, so we quickly caught up with them to see what they thought of the event.
Rikus Strauss: “The event was an absolute blast and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It shows great growth in the local eSports scene, with both the production value and the level of play at the event being of the highest quality. The studio also gave it an amazing vibe which made you feel like you were at a world class event.”
Zybrand Lombaard: “The ECL shows parents around South Africa that to play games does not make your child lazy, but committed on a whole new level.”
We spoke earlier about the possible aspects of improvement for the studio, but with such high praise from basically everyone, how does BurningRed think they can take it to the next level?
“To improve the production side we would maybe just streamline it a little bit. Doing map fly-throughs would be great. Additional cameras and moving cameras more is something we’re going to be focusing on.
The replay overlays unfortunately had to be done on the fly, because we realised that people were not differentiating between the actual game and the replays properly. There’s obviously going to be changes to that. We’ll actually incorporate proper text and a proper overlay. These are just small little niggles that we’ll work on.
We got the basics right, the fundamental basics that we wanted for this event. It was something that was required to meet the international standard that we’ve been seeing. We achieved that. Now everything we’re going to add on top of this just going to improve it and make it even closer to a SuperSport show.”
Now that does sound good. The desire the guys at nAvTV have to improve the standard of local eSports broadcasting is something we’ll all be very thankful for one day. Well, we’re thankful for it right now, but one day we’ll be even more thankful.
Of course, BurningRed and nAvTV didn’t do everything themselves. There was a lot of hard work put into the ECL by a lot of concerned parties.
“From our side we just want to thank the spectators, the teams, the team we’ve been working with, guys from Evetech, MSI, all the partners involved, SteelSeries, Ballistix, Crucial. There are so many. Intel, Level-7 Wireless. Billosoft specifically. The guy from Billosoft, Casper, did a phenomenal job.”
As a publishing house that cares deeply about the growth of local eSports, we’d also like to thank each of the groups that BurningRed mentioned above. South African gaming is moving at a faster pace now thanks to their efforts and involvement.
But now, it is time to come to a very, very important question. A question which has been burning in our minds since our last article with Kyle ‘Congo’ Wolmarans. What is the next title that will get its own iteration of the ECL?
“There was a sneak peek released by Imran from Evetech. The next title seems to be Overwatch.”
Yep, you read that correctly. It seems that Overwatch, the FPS battle arena taking the gaming world by the horns, will be the next game featured in an ECL tournament. Who would have guessed? Probably Congo, but certainly not us.
To wrap up, we’ll leave you with a few words that highlight just how determined the nAvTV guys are about growing this industry. And why it’s definitely something to get excited about.
“If we’re packing out these venues every single event, then it justifies us to go do an auditorium event with bigger spectator value, and a grandstand where you can fit 500, 1,000 or even 2,000 people on. You build like that. And as you build that momentum, you will eventually get to a level where you’re filling out half of Ellis Park for an eSports event. That is what we’re trying to do.
Step by step it’s going to get there. It’s only a matter of time really.”