We were fortunate enough to spend the weekend at rAge, thanks to the guys at MSI Notebook South Africa, watching some of South Africa’s finest Counter-Strike and Dota in the Telkom DGL Masters. Now it’s time to take stock and talk about the good, the bad and the laggy.
Ever since the R1million Telkom DGL Masters event was announced 265 days ago every gaming enthusiast has used it as justification that eSports have arrived in South Africa. A lump of money hasn’t been talked about this much since Jacob Zuma thought it’d be a cool idea to get a pool.
And when you first lay eyes on the DGL stage, with its impressive booths and massive screen, you realise that Telkom isn’t messing around with this event. It isn’t some half-hearted effort to convince gamers that Telkom isn’t that bad, it’s an international level production.
We watched the various hosts, casters and production team rehearse for hours on Thursday while the event was being set up. It was probably a hell of a lot longer than any of them wanted to actually be there, but still they discussed every little detail, occasionally clashing, but all it did was show their dedication and passion for what they were doing.
And like all professionals, they shot each other with Nerf guns.
Obviously the prize pool for the event was impressive. One million rand for playing video games. It’s the kind of thing you want to tell people. Like your parents, to stop them complaining about you playing games all the time.
But despite this impressive chunk of cash up for grabs, the technical issues plaguing the event and clearly frustrating the players show that there’s still a lot of work to be done to get our events to the international standard we aspire to.
For instance, the Aperture Gaming Counter-Strike guys started their first game of the weekend at 10am on Friday. It finished at 3pm. Five hours for three maps. That’s crazy.
We’re reminded of what Anthony ‘scant’ Hodgson said to us earlier this year after the first Telkom DGL Masters event in Cape Town.
“Absolutely everything should be tested well in advance. And then tested again, and again, and again. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a South African LAN which didn’t have problems which could have been avoided if more time was put into testing equipment, internet, etc. beforehand.”
Unfortunately, he still hasn’t.
Once again, just like in Cape Town 265 days ago, the support in the stands was excellent, more than the DGL guys anticipated. It was probably double the size of the Cape Town DGL Masters seating area and still it filled up. People were crowding around the sides and sitting on the floor in front. Even on Friday afternoon, when most people would still be at work, the stands, sides and floor were packed.
Having said that, the crowd that rAge draws does a lot to help fill up the DGL stage and get people watching eSports. We love the idea of pure eSports events with stadiums packed with fans, but leaving the comfort of events like rAge is going to be tough.
Paul ‘Redeye’ Chaloner, yeah we talked to him, no big deal, just changed our lives. Ahem. Sorry about that. We’ll bring you that full interview next week, but he did compare the DGL at rAge to the Intel Extreme Masters.
“You can’t compare it to things like TI or big events in stadiums, it’s not the same thing. But it’s very comparable to some of the early times that we were taking Intel Extreme Masters around expos. We would travel off to China to ChinaJoy, and it would be an expo similar to the way that rAge is. And we would build a stand within that which had 200, 300 seats sometimes, and then a small stage and booths. It’s very comparable to some of the earlier IEMs, and in fact some of the IEMs that happen now happen very much the same way – in expo’s.
It’s a good start. And I think it’s a far bigger start for this league than many leagues in the world would have on a national basis, they wouldn’t have started quite as big as this. They probably would’ve done online for a year, or done a small LAN or something in a cafe or hired a hotel room or whatever, and done it that way. So it’s impressive from that point of view. But still a long way to go, you know, to match the likes of an ESL One New York on a big stage in the Barclays Centre, or TI in Seattle. It’ll come if we keep doing it and we do it well.”
As for the players themselves, it’s amazing to see the camaraderie between them all. Players of different teams supporting each other, giving advice, talking about what they did right and wrong, cheering each other on. It reminds you that even when there’s so much at stake, this is still just a group of people who love playing games.
That being said, they still work their asses off, because part of playing games is the need to be the best. When the Aperture Gaming’s CS:GO players were told they had to leave the venue at 9pm the night before the DGL Masters kicked-off, we overheard them telling their MGO owner, Thuens Louw, that 9pm was too early for them to stop training.
It’s hard work. And it was clear to us that a full day of competing took it out of them. After just beating Bravado Gaming in Dota 2, the Aperture team celebrated like they had just won the whole event, but when we asked them how they were feeling afterwards, Chad ‘acg’ Simpson said, “I just want to go home and sleep”.
There might be a case for extending our events over longer periods of time so teams never have to play too much in one day.
If we want to see the best eSports South Africa has to offer, then we need the teams to be performing at their peak. Which means rested and focused. Something the Evetech Champion’s’ League team discovered at their inaugural event earlier in the year and want to improve for next time.
The Telkom DGL Masters was a very impressive event, but there was one thing in particular that let it down massively. Scheduling. It’s like the kryptonite of South African eSports events.
We heard numerous players, team owners and sponsors complaining about games being moved around. And not just by a few minutes or hours, sometimes brought forward an entire day. When your team thinks they’re done for the day and then have to play another game, it’s going to be tough both physically and mentally. Not to mention the fact that they haven’t actually prepared to play that team yet.
Sticking to a schedule is event hosting 101 and something we just can’t seem to get right in South Africa. Can you imagine if a The International or Intel Extreme Masters just changed their schedules throughout the day? People would lose their minds.
If we want to ever have any hope of hosting events on that level we need to do something to sort out our scheduling issues. It makes it harder for the players and also the spectators, because they never know when to tune in.
On that note, promotion and marketing of local events, so fans know when to tune in to watch, is something that needs more attention. We seem to think we can get away with advertising on social media alone. There are around 150,000 South African Twitch users. The combined number of eSports enthusiasts that are part of South African eSports groups on Facebook is around 10,000. Without even considering that most people are in multiple groups. Why are we not trying to communicate with the other 140,000 gamers?
The average number of people watching the stream on YouTube was about 200 people. For the biggest eSports event South Africa has ever had, that’s terrible.
But all things considered, we had an amazing time. Aesthetically, the whole event was outstanding. We could happily have sat ogling the incredible stage set up the entire weekend. Getting the chance to watch South Africa’s finest eSports stars in action on it just made it even better.
We do have to remind ourselves that this is the first year of the Telkom DGL Masters, so we can’t expect it to be perfect first time around. We’re comparing the event to the best in the world. If we rather compare it to where we were this time last year, it’s unrecognizable, in the best way possible.
To end off with we’d like to give a shout out to South African eSports’ newest superstar, Tufah1337. Now you’re probably thinking, who the hell is that?
Tufah was one of the tech guys involved with running the Telkom DGL stream. He was instantly responsive to reports of problems in the stream chat. His in-chat banter was so good that by the end of the stream on Sunday people were demanding he run for president. And to top it all off, he even managed a cheeky cut to himself winking at the camera in the lead up to the third match of the Dota 2 final, which caused an absolute riot in the chat section of the Youtube channel. Tufah1337, we salute you.
To really end off we want to give a massive congratulations from us at Good Luck Have Fun to Bravado Gaming’s CS:GO team and White Rabbit Gaming’s Dota 2 team. Don’t blow it all at once.