The South African pro gamer’s dream: Qualifying for an international tournament and seizing the opportunity to compete on a global stage. An addition to that dream: Doing it from the relative comfort of South Africa against international opponents, and flying to the European venue for the LAN finals.
That dream was a few steps closer to reality for ViNCO Gaming’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds team, as they moved up to the round-of-32 in the IEM Katowice PUBG tournament open qualifiers held on the 28th and 29th of January. That is until it turned out the qualifiers weren’t all that open after all, and they got disqualified for living in South Africa, a country outside of the valid competition regions.
We caught up with ViNCO PUBG team member, James ‘Waxxie’ Tully, to find out what exactly happened and what they were hoping to gain by entering a tournament they were technically ineligible for.
“We had read through the rules and taken note of which countries were allowed to play in it. Four of the five members of our team have EU passports which would have been a requirement if they asked for proof of nationality, so in the end it was our physical location that was our downfall.
Having passports and being able to attend the LAN final was one of the reasons we decided to compete despite the rules. However when we started we knew that, should we make it fairly far in the qualifiers, we would probably be disqualified. So it came as no surprise to us.”
Even though this disqualification was probably about as surprising as rubber banding through a doorway after the latest patch, getting disqualified from an event is no doubt disappointing – especially once you seem to have found a winning rhythm.
“It felt quite surreal. We hadn’t expected to make it through round two of the qualifiers at first because of the skill level and the performance stats of some of the players we were up against. The best moment for us was during round three of the qualifiers when we won game two with 14 kills while Deadmau5 was casting our game.”
The ViNCO team was well on their way to putting South Africa on the map before their illegal nationality got flagged. They managed to eliminate Vexed Gaming, “the UK’s leading Professional Gaming Organisation”, along the way – before their locally-grown skills got called into question.
“One of the bigger teams accused one of our players, Ivan ‘GodPhey’ Boshoff, of trigger botting during one of the games. We had pushed their team and managed to kill them, Phey taking one kill for himself in the fight.
Later we discovered Vexed had not made it through that round of the qualifiers. They then posted a clip they had taken using the notoriously buggy and inaccurate replay system of Phey’s single kill on them and called him out for hacking.
We’re all honest players who have been putting in the hours to do better. The irony of the whole matter was that Phey, who was accused of cheating, had the least kills during round two of the qualifiers with only one kill. We were a bit stunned by their lack of professionalism during the whole thing.”
In an effort to draw some attention to their plight, Joshua ‘BLU3’ Weiss created a post on the PUBG subreddit, explaining their situation while acknowledging the fact that the team knew the rules before going in.
The post description and BLU3’s Reddit profile have since been deleted, probably in an attempt to find some cover from the shots being fired from the comments section.
“We wanted to gain some kind of awareness as well as support. We had hoped that some of the EU players and teams might support us because we were doing well. After making the Reddit post however it became quite apparent that this would not be the case.
The response we got was basically ‘you have an advantage because of 200 ping and client side hit registration therefore making top 32 teams was easy’, and ‘you don’t have a large enough player base to have your own servers’. Which I can neither agree nor disagree with since I don’t know the numbers.
It just felt like they did not want us involved in their esports scene at all.”
The top-rated reply to the post summarises the general feel of the comment section:
Reddit user Noblemen_16 does make a fair point, and it seems a few people agree with him. Our favourite point by far is this one though: “I’m sure y’all are solid enough to compete with the best, and it’s really a shame there aren’t closer servers to you.” Yes, we clearly are solid enough to compete with the best (GLHF: By “we” we mean ViNCO, not us specifically. We’re horrible at PUBG.), and we currently have no servers that allow us to pit our skills against theirs.
This game isn’t all about ‘peeker’s advantage’, or client-side hit registration. There’s so much more at play when it comes to having a successful run. Adaptability, strategy, cohesion, composure, patience, urgency, positioning, your ability to use a compass in the middle of a sticky situation – latency doesn’t affect any of these.
It does raise some hotly-debated questions, and ones which seem to not have empirically-proven answers: Does having higher latency put you at an advantage? Is ‘peeker’s advantage’ a real thing? What does interpolation even mean?
“While there may not be a solid answer on it, we understand it’s not great to play against players with our ping and they shouldn’t have to in an ideal world. So we apologised for our ping and any unfair advantage they thought we had.
Ideally we wouldn’t be playing on their servers at all, but since we don’t have any of our own, theirs are the servers we practice on daily.
If it provides such an advantage, why do teams not purposely play on bad internet to have higher ping and have this supposed advantage?”
It is quite possible that tournament hosts are trying to eliminate as many potential reasons for unfair advantage as possible, resulting in them only allowing players with reasonable ping to compete.
That does, sadly, put South Africa well outside the circle, with no way of getting there any time soon (GLHF: Classic PUBG reference.). So what’s the solution?
“It’s tough to say. I think it might be a good idea for them to hold qualifiers for excluded regions. For instance if we had South African qualifiers the top team or top two teams would be eligible to participate in the main event on LAN.
The problem with this would be that they don’t really know the skill level here so they might argue that it’s too weak to compete. It’s understandable they enforce a region lock because they don’t want the ping to have an impact, but this doesn’t really leave us with many options.
While local servers would be great, it remains to be seen if we have the player base to utilise them. One of our players, Christopher ‘Dex’ Van Ysendyk has organised a scrim night every Thursday evening with Orena, since they have their own custom server. So far there have been 40+ teams of 4 players looking to participate every Thursday, so there are definitely players out there trying to compete.
Staying local, however, does not help the fact that even if we wanted to compete in international tournaments, we cannot unless we physically go to the country in which it is being hosted.”
The argument of having low-latency, small-player-base local servers vs playing on international servers against a larger, more-skilful player pool is one that is often debated quite heatedly in the PUBG community, much like it was in the local Dota 2 community when SA ranked was taken away due to lack of interest.
It seems like every other day a petition is made to ask PUBG Corp to set up dedicated servers in Southern Africa, and every single time people comment in opposition. Currently we have no local servers. Is it fair we get excluded from EU competition when their servers are closest to us? Would it be fair if we got included?
The lack of clear solution to this continuing problem hasn’t stopped BLU3 and Stefano ‘Nianfo’ Batazzi from ViNCO appealing to both ESL and PUBG Corp to try and open up a line of communication on the matter. Whether they’ll get their wish remains to be seen.
@poopieQueen @PUBATTLEGROUNDS @PLAYERUNKNOWN
Please can discussion be opened about what can be done. We have shown that our region has the skill and are willing to compete. We have a weekly ladder with 40 teams that compete. We just want discussion.
— ViNCO BLU3 (@ViNCOBLU3) January 28, 2018
I hope this is strong message to go through. @ESLPUBG, @PLAYERUNKNOWN, @poopieQueen, @auzom_gg, #IEMKatowice, our country has strong players. Strong teams. Why are we not allowed to enter competitions, get custom servers, why are we being thrown in the gutter? https://t.co/HObtE8C0FN
— Nianfo (@NianfoZA) January 28, 2018
Even though the ViNCO guys didn’t get their chicken dinner at the end of it all, Waxxie and the rest of the team recognise the fact that they did achieve something at least, and are taking the positives out of the situation.
“We wanted to see how far we could get as proof to the larger PUBG community that South Africans have potential and should be included in future events. I think the whole experience was a learning curve, not only the experience of playing against high level teams but also that of interacting with the community.”
To end off we’ll leave you with a bit of high-value wisdom from the first local PUBG team to achieve any kind of international recognition: Which map is better?
“Erangel everyday, we actually leave Miramar games when we are grinding our rank. 😂”
Well, there you have it. Straight from the illegal immigrant’s mouth.