WOTBB 61 – The Tournament

Original date of blog: October 21st, 2016

I’m fairly sure that all of the people that read this blog won’t have missed this – we’ve had our first official Blitz-tournament. We knew it would be coming quite a while in advance, even if it was only that WG was planning ‘something big in September/October’ at first. What it was became apparent when it became clear we would be getting a tournament system in the game.

This, of course, had to be tested. Eight clans connected to WG by Community Contributors from different language sections were invited for the test, Phoenix included. The test-tournament had to be postponed a week though, as the update had to be postponed because of “Metal” or “That which makes the tanks look shiny”.  We got told this like a day or so before we were supposed to have been testing it. So, a week later than originally planned, the test-tournament was held.

Phoenix’s team had been decided beforehand, and I wasn’t to be a part of it. Since I had had very few battles with the team during training, I wasn’t really surprised at that. But because it was postponed, some people couldn’t make it, and literally half an hour before it started, I was asked to be a reserve. This meant cancelling my plans for the day, but luckily, I could get away with that and be there while this whole test-tournament ran.

The 8 teams were divided into two groups of 4, and the principle was a ’round robin’, with best of three. The first hour literally nothing happened, and we had to wait for WG to get things sorted. By the time the battles actually started, we were actually quite fed up with waiting already. I was there on ts with my team, and together with Warbladex, I didn’t see a single battle, just listened to the guys as they fought, and did my best to be a good cheerleader between matches. Sometimes Doggykalhoon would listen in, and ask a few questions in between battles, and he talked to us some more when the test-tournament was officially over. Phoenix won the test-tournament without losing a single match.

Even though it was only a test-tournament against 7 other clans, I’m proud of that. Fighting in a tournament is quite something else than fighting while training, it’s more tense, and it’s more intense. We got a few days prem-time and a special medal for our troubles (which to me felt much like getting a crucial contribution whenever Filip gets a Ras when we toon – quite undeserved, but nice all the same). That, and we were told that we would have a slot reserved in the real tournament that would follow not that much later.

Shortly after, the Twister Cup was announced, and we knew things would be getting really serious now. But as the rule-set for it was set up, all the trouble began for me. I’m a really big busybody – I want things to be organised properly and that conditions and rules are clear from the start. And I really do not understand the way WG set this up so unclearly, with such vague statements. They have had massive tournaments in the PC-version of the game. It already started with the rules-post saying that those that would go to NYC would have to be ‘of age to travel alone’ and have a valid passport, while the news-post said that the whole team had to have a valid passport – and didn’t mention the age thing at all. Aside from that, ‘of age to travel alone’ can mean anything from 12 years old onwards, depending on the airline and the country the one travelling alone comes from. Yes, this had ‘vague’ written all over it and I hated it.

Since we had youngsters on our team too – and with Sten turning 18 in November – which would be either just in time or just too late for the offline event, I contacted the staff, wanting a clear answer. Did the whole team need a valid passport, or just the ones that would be going? What exactly was the age limit? And what of our reserved slot? Would that be for the team that fought the test-tournament, or could we put whoever we wanted in there? The answer I got back was that they would ask. Now, to explain a little how that goes, that means that our staff has to ask higher up, who then has to ask the legal department or the product specialist (depending on the question), those have to sort or figure it out, then get back to the higher up, who gets back to the staff, who then gets back to me. Bureaucracy at its finest.

Because we had to register a team within a few days – registration opened on September 27th, and ended September 30th -, and there were a limited number of slots, these were questions that I needed a reply to quickly, as the answers would determine who could be on our team or not. This would have been no problem, had we actually had a reserved slot. Only, and that was the first thing I got an answer back about, we suddenly didn’t after all. Now, when I say I asked the staff these things repeatedly to try and get an answer, it’d be an understatement. I’m fairly sure that what I did counts as harassing.

And to be honest, I really do not feel guilty about that. I feel slightly guilty about causing them so much work because I know these specific people and know they try their best, but I didn’t exactly ask them to do rocket-science, and in my opinion, the things I asked them about repeatedly were things that should have been thought through before the whole tournament was even posted up. I could have thought of quite a few better ways to spend my birthday than having to hammer them for information and not really getting anywhere (yes, thinking back on that, I -still- get frustrated).

Slot-thing ‘sorted’, next was the age. On September 29th, I finally got an answer regarding that. The age-limit was 18+. Now, I may work in the administration, but I still work at a legal firm, and I know a few things. There are ways to let people go to the offline event even if they’re not 18+ yet. Either with permission of their parent(s), with a parent accompanying them (even though they’d have to pay for it themselves), or by signing over a sort of temporary custody that would make someone else the adult that would accompany them (I don’t know the English term for it). Which can be easily legalised by any notary public (at least, here in the Netherlands it can).

WG would have a legally approved way of accepting people under 18 to join whichever team would go to the offline event. So, as soon as WG told me the hard age-limit, I started harassing them again to get them to lower it, with the abovementioned certain conditions. Considering the offline event hadn’t been announced, we didn’t know where and when it would be exactly still, and that did make it difficult to prepare and find exact information on what would be needed to go there. But the three terms I mentioned above go for any location, and any country.  A lot of the great players on EU server are not 18 yet, and it would just be a bloody shame if age would keep them from attending the offline event when they’re of perfect legal age to travel alone.

Now, while I was doing that, Sten had to register the team. The original team had five minors, with Sten being either just of age or just under age at the time of the offline event, but that still left four definite minors. So, in order to be able to make it to the offline event if the age-limit was 18+, he would have to switch someone out. When WG stated that the team going to the offline-event had to be 18+, it meant I was moved into the main team all of a sudden, because I was an adult, and I would get the number of definite adults to seven, if Sten would be counted as an adult as well. I knew that was a risk – like I said, I hadn’t had much training with the guys yet, and I’m not aware of all the tactics that we have – but I was grateful for the trust put in me all the same.

Later that day, I heard back more about the age-question, and what I had been nagging about had hit home enough apparently for WG to let up a little and get them to lower the age-limit to 16+ with specific conditions. So that was finally sorted and a load off my back.

The first day of the tournament was really just for shits and giggles. It was best of 1 (yes, -best- of -one-), and points would decide who would go through. I got to play every single battle (yay, so useful!). The first team we met didn’t even have a full team there – and used tier VIII in a tier X match. That explains just about how serious and hard that day was. Some clans didn’t even show up. Yes, it was amazing that we won all the matches that day. Now, after that was over and we had to see who we’d end up with the second day. I was quite shocked to learn that a few known clans were already knocked out – I really don’t understand how that happened. And pools where teams tied had both teams through to the next round.

Now, things had already started going wrong. For one thing, the battles were only 5 minutes instead of 7, and no one could tell us why. Second, there were maps people had to fight on that were said to not be in the map-pool for the tournament. But what was more than a little frustrating was the fact that some of the clans that hadn’t shown up at all were through to the next, and I’m not surprised that caused quite a stirring on the forum. How the heck can you expect people to take a tournament seriously if you’re letting afk clans (not to be mistaken for AFK or IRMA btw) through to the second round of a tournament? It’s one of the many things that I don’t understand about the way this whole tournament was set up and not thought through. Of course it’s their first Blitz-tournament, I get that, but WG has tons of experience with PC-tournaments. Why didn’t they look how that went, and build from there?

The second day of the tournament, things were more serious, with the only exception that José got to play all the games because it was his birthday. It was from thereon out that we agreed that the best would play the games. With the best, I mean those that were the best in the tanks they drove, on the maps they were needed in. We started taking things more seriously at that stage, and that was good. Battles were actually 7 minutes long this time, too. Since we didn’t lose a single match again, it was quite evident that we were through to the playoffs the next weekend.

Meanwhile, Slava, a fresh CC now too, asked the staff if someone was streaming the Playoffs the next weekend, and was in turn asked to do the streaming. Now this was tricky business, because the tinfoil-hat-brigade is out there, and it wasn’t for nothing that WG had stated that anyone that’d stream had to be without a clan since at least 2 weeks before the tournament. I don’t get why that rule wasn’t followed, but that’s not up to me to decide – if WG and Slava wanted to take that risk, then that’d be their problem. And their problem it became, sure enough.

For one, I know that I wouldn’t have been happy with Phoenix being streamed. It’s one thing to have people lose against you and have them have a vague idea of your tactics, quite something else for them to see you do it, and to be able to watch it time and again. I can imagine that being the same for most clans – except of course those that have plastered their trainings all over youtube anyway, by themselves or the teams they trained against.

The remaining clans were divided into two groups, with one group appearing heavier than the other. On the other hand, all the clans that had gotten to the playoffs got there by winning the previous rounds, so no one could be taken lightly anymore at that point. Now, when the playoffs started, Slava would get random invites to join a room to stream the battles there – which turned out to be synced to only one group – and it wasn’t the group Phoenix was in. This was precisely why the no-clan rule had been put into place before and exactly why it shouldn’t have been streamed at all imo. The tinfoil-hat-brigade made their way onto the forums immediately.

What surprised me most were the objections by the clans that have had quite a few of their training sessions streamed to youtube already, claiming that it would give us an unfair advantage over them, because we had seen their tactics now. Of the clans that have not been streamed to youtube by themselves or their enemies, I can get that, but not those that have been on their for a few months now. Just, wut? And despite watching the stream, they were quite sure that Slava hand-picked the battles and group himself, because when you get random invites to rooms, that is -so- what happens, of course… But this led to WG saying that the map in question – Dead Rail – would be not used in the map pool on Sunday.

The semi-finals would be where we’d finally leave the best of one behind and move on to best of three. That’s much more representative for a clan’s skill than a best of one, imo, because if you get an ammorack or an unlikely fire that kills you, your team would be behind one man already, and that’d put you at a very big disadvantage. That’s something I’ve heard back from quite a few people, too. I’m hoping WG will take that to heart and will actually do something with the feedback this time (I’m still waiting for a reply to the feedback I gave them right after Tankfest… in June… Or maybe it’s the fact that nothing was done with the feedback given by a bunch of clan-leaders when we were asked how the tournament system should work and we never heard back from them… For some reason, I just don’t have much hope there).

Anyway, they would be held on Sunday of the second weekend this tournament ran. So, when the time came, the whole team was ready, we were geared up and ready to go, put our team there 20 second before the start of the match and waited the last few second. I wished them good luck, muted my microphone, then got a loading screen like I always get, before being thrown back to the garage. With the difference that this time it wasn’t just me and the other reserves, but it did it to everyone. Yes. The tournament system was broken.

Of course, well prepared for anything that might possibly happen during their first official big tournament (#sarcasm), MrConway was the only staff member put on duty by WG, and had to figure out what the heck was going on. They at first seemed to think this was to do with the best of three system, but that had worked perfectly in the test-tournament. The only thing different now was the fact that it was set to a random map instead of a set map. It was agreed that one hour later, we’d try again. This wasn’t ideal, but there was no avoiding it.

So we waited not-so-patiently for an hour, got a new room, did the same thing, and the game did the same thing again too. The tournament-system was utterly broken. After that, MrConway asked us to come to a specific ts server with him to talk. With us, I mean me, and the team captains. He explained that it was unlikely to happen anymore that day – especially since teammembers had already had to leave by then – , and asked if we could reschedule. The original idea was for us to decide between ourselves when we’d be doing it. But while we were trying to see if we could do that, he discussed options on WG’s side too, and in the end said that we’d reschedule for next weekend, and that he’d posted up a time as soon as he could on the forum that the teams would have to agree or disagree with as soon as we could.

When that time was posted up on Monday, opting for Sunday at 15.00 CEST, Sten posted as quickly as he saw that that he would ask the team. We gathered information on who could play when exactly to see when we’d have a full team for the rest of the week. We found out that Sunday was quite impossible for us. Six out of our ten members couldn’t play on Sunday, as we had rescheduled what we would have had the previous two weekends to that weekend. I wouldn’t be able to attend either, already having had quite a bit of an argument in the family because of the time I had to make free for this whole tournament business, at the cost of some family business that urgently needed to happen too. This “bloody game” needing a third weekend, with a time in the middle of the day which rendered the whole day useless was a very definite no-no for me. Either way, Sten posted in the early evening that Sunday was a definite no-go for Phoenix, and proposed a different time.

Tuesday came and went – with nothing happening or being said or decided by WG. Come Wednesday, WG reacted in the Contributor chat. Basically the message was that they hoped we could sort it out ourselves. At that point, Sten and I took matters into our own hands. Sten contacted 60 and Legion and asked if they could make it Saturday for the semis and finals, while I contacted Gunes from M8 (who’s been a very dear friend since back in our LOCA days) to see what could be arranged.

Since it was already Wednesday, we didn’t have all that much time to try and do this. After discussing with Sten, I could offer Gunes Thursday evening, Friday evening or Saturday evening – Wargaming had agreed to make it happen at any point we could arrange this for, as long as we’d give them a time and date. At this point Pixhul from M8 contacted me as well and I ran two channels of communication with them. M8 couldn’t make anything happen either of those dates.

At that point, Gunes posted on the forum that he didn’t want to make things difficult and that if three out of four teams could play on Saturday, they’d play on Saturday too, even though they’d miss three players then (which would mean they’d have a full team, but no reserves whatsoever). That meant the world to me, and I was so grateful for that. Drizzell from 60 asked if it would be possible for M8 to get more reserves to help with that, and I poked the staff quickly about that. It was fine by them. Sten and I both felt so relieved at that, that it was finally settled. We gave WG the new date and times and sat back.

Until two hours later, M8 contacted me again and took back what they said. They didn’t want to exchange anyone, and wanted us to exchange members instead, and stick with the proposed time WG had given on Monday – only, that time was never official, but a proposal, even if the phrasing was unlucky, especially since there was never a reaction to us not being able to make the proposed time until Wednesday.

I can’t and won’t blame M8, mind you, but omg, I was so frustrated that we had to start all over again – and M8 still couldn’t/wouldn’t play the other evenings either. At this point, I gave up and put the ball back in WG’s court. I had tried everything I could to settle this for them, together with Sten, it didn’t work, and now WG would have to sort it themselves. With two teams that could make it both days, and with M8 and us being able to only make it one day, there wasn’t a majority ruling for either date either.

In the end, WG decided to put the semifinals on Saturday after all, partly because M8 should still have a full team, and because Phoenix was first in our group, and M8 second in theirs, making us the ‘better seed’, as WG put it. And of course, because they put everything on Saturday, it was all biased, WG was doing what Phoenix was telling them to, etc. It was exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I fully get why M8 was unhappy, frustrated, angry, all of that, I wouldn’t be happy in their spot either, but really, there’s no way WG would do what any one clan would tell them to, or any one person. I dislike the fact that The_honour placed it all at my feet, but it’s not the first time someone tried to blame me for things I didn’t do and it won’t be the last.

But then stories were changed again and suddenly M8 wouldn’t have a full team on Saturday either. M8 then said that they’d refuse to play on Saturday but would be ready to play on Sunday any time. Then they said they would play after all, with extra team members. Whether it was bad communication, miscommunication or something else, I don’t know, but all of that doesn’t sit well with me still, the way things just kept being changed. It was frustrating and exhausting. And when WG asked me about the reasons why so many of our team couldn’t play on Sunday I nearly had a fit, fearing the whole big pile of crap would start all over again and we were back at square one. Thank goodness that he just wanted to have a better understanding, and wasn’t asking with the idea to reschedule things -again-.

By now, Sten and I, and I’m fairly sure the rest of the team and the other teams were fairly done with it all. We just wanted things to be over and done with. Aside from all of that, WG had asked us to prepare our details and passports for the visa applications, so before we even knew if we’d be going, we had to decide who on the team would be going to NYC if we’d win. That just made things awkward, since people would have different things on their mind aside from the battles at hand.

We were still fairly sure the random map thing was what broke the tournament system, even though WG kept saying that that wasn’t it. But they did set a map for the matches on Saturday. The semifinals would start on Fort Despair and the finals would start on Mines, but the maps after that we’d only see when the rooms were made, which was just fine with us.

In between here, I contacted the US Embassy with a question with regards to what I had to fill in on my visa-application (things are complicated with me). I had a reply within an hour. And then it hit home with me. The US government was actually quicker to reply to questions than WG. I’ll just repeat that: the US -government- was faster than -WG-.

On Friday evening, we got together with Fanzone and played all the maps we would possibly be getting on Saturday. It was a great warming up, and they made great opponents, keeping us on our toes and constantly trying to counter our tactics. It was just lovely.

Then Saturday came and WG changed what they said -again-. The whole semi finals would now take place on Fort Despair and the whole finals would now take place on Mines. Five games on Mines is a lot – it’s not for nothing they’re re-doing that map. And we knew that our tactics are only really good the first match, and become a liability the next match. But first we had to reach the finals.

M8 had managed to get a team together after all, and we loaded into the game. Slava, noob that he was, forgot to press ready and didn’t stream the first battle. This had happened last week too, but now, according to the tinfoil-hat-brigade, it was because he didn’t want to stream us. Luckily he did manage it the second game. We won the semifinals quite convincingly.

But then came the finals. And everything went to hell. We don’t know what happened. I mean, it’s all on the stream, we saw what we did – we don’t know why. We didn’t play like ourselves, we were uncoordinated, we did things we normally didn’t do, stuck with things we knew wouldn’t work. I was there on ts with the guys as it happened. They weren’t overly nervous, they weren’t busy with who we were meeting, but it’s like there was a collective blackout in the team. We don’t know what happened, or why. But it happened. And it sucks.

We lost the finals.

But I couldn’t be any prouder of my guys. The fact that the whole of the team said Gg at the end to our enemies, made me so proud. They took it with such dignity. And on ts it was the same. There was no blaming, no cussing, nothing negative. Not towards ourselves as a team, not towards the Legion. We owned up to the fact we didn’t do well and to the way we lost. We were together, as a team, and we hated but accepted what happened – together.

As we did that, we were joined by our clansmen, and we were just -together-. We were reminded of how far we had come, how well we had fought overall, that shit happens, but that we should be so proud of what we’ve done. That these few battles were not representative for us as a clan. And we made jokes, got each other to laugh. It was heartwarming to see the Clan come together like that, to hear all that and to be a part of it. It’s one of the many reasons I am so happy to be in Phoenix, and why I’m so proud to be with this clan.

Part of me wants to end there, with the warm feeling in my heart just remembering that. But that’s not where the tournament-stuff ended.

On Sunday, I think we were all a little hungover. I was out almost all day and didn’t get to play or ts at all. And I didn’t like that. Now more than ever I wanted to be with my clan. But the break from it was good too. With everything that was going on, it felt weird to not have to stress anymore about the unclarity of the rules, the lack of clear answers, and the fact that they kept changing the conditions.

WG asked me to keep our information and passports at the ready, in case the Legion didn’t manage to get their things sorted. But because I had gotten wg to lower the age-limit and had them spell out crystal clear how it would work and what people would need, the Legion had had plenty of time to prepare and got their stuff sorted. And it’s good that they’re going to NYC themselves. They’ve earned it, and they should enjoy the prize they get for it.

As for the team, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened, why we weren’t ourselves. We still need to get together as a team and review what happened – then talk about how we can prevent it from happening in the future. But it’s been good to hear that back from clans we’ve fought before – the way we fought in the finals wasn’t like Phoenix at all. And I think it’s very good for us to have that confirmed, and know that it’s not just our own imagination to think that.

The amount of feedback and messages we got from all over the place has been amazing – I’m still getting messages, and it’s lovely. We may not have won the finals, but we’ve won a lot this tournament, in many more ways than one, and I feel we shouldn’t underestimate that. People are impressed with the way we’ve carried ourselves, both in victory and defeat, and quite frankly, so am I. Like I’ve mentioned before, we have quite a few youngsters in our clan, not to mention our hotheads, and their behaviour has been next to impeccable regarding this. I’m really impressed, and couldn’t be more proud.

Now, one last thing I want to come back to, is Wargaming. I have never been more frustrated with Wargaming, and because of that with the game itself, as I have been these last few weeks. I do not blame that on the people that I actually talk to there. The staff we have is very understaffed, and they have to manage the English-community things for the EU-server for all games Wargaming has with just a few people. They do their best, and as people, I really like and respect them. Not to mention the amount of channels things have to go through before they can actually reply to a question or request. That’s why I don’t refer to the staff as individuals in this blog, but at the frustrating points refer to the organisation instead.

Because of this whole thing, I have had a lot of contact with them, and basically harassed them quite a bit. They didn’t shut me out or up, they didn’t lose their temper with me, they were polite and tried hard to get me the answers I needed. On Saturday, right after the conclusion of the tournament, one of them went out of their way to thank me for all the effort I put into trying to make this thing run smoothly. That goes a long way towards easing my frustration.

But as an organisation, Wargaming has a lot to learn from this. And I mean a -lot-. I really hope that for once, they will heed the feedback they’ll be getting and that they’ll actually listen to the community/communities. The start would be to make clear rules for both Wargaming and the people participating (think of the age-limit, for one), and to actually stick to the rules (think of the streaming problems). And it’s not just EU. The fact that there were different sets of rules across all four servers is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Because, even if the staff between servers don’t coordinate together, by now, players from all servers do coordinate together, and that brought to light quite a few differences between the servers.

On RU server, they basically played the tournament twice, and a number of clans were invited to the playoffs, rather than earning their way their way there. On Asia server, 1024 entered the tournament, instead of the 512 we had. On NA server, teams existed of 7 players + 1 reserve only. Heck, we already had problems with just having 3 reserves, I can’t imagine how frustrating that must have been for them. But where we had to pick our teams based on who would be able to go to the offline event (even though we didn’t know when or where that was), NA’s winner got to exchange a number of members in their team with people from their clan so they had a team to go. And I’m fairly sure the lower age-limit was unique to EU.

We had a topic that started with a giant post that listed a ton of rules here on EU, where vague sentences made things very unclear and chaotic. On Asia server, the same topic exists, but then with much clearer formatting. Same vagueness though. On NA’s forum, I haven’t been able to find -any- topic regarding any rules or explanations, and nothing was linked in their newspost either, but all the rules were apparently shared in the game itself.

And that’s just the way things were broadcast. Then you get all the differences in other areas. On RU, the prize package works entirely different. First place gets 50k gold per team, second 25k, third 12k, fourth 7k. On Asia and NA, it’d be 10k per player for those not going to the offline event, second place gets 5k gold per player, third place gets 4k gold per player, and fourth place gets 3k gold per player. On EU, it’s also 10k gold per player that’s not going to the offline event, but second place gets 6k gold and third place and fourth both get 4k gold.

I’m very sure that if I dig deeper, I’ll find even more. When I originally asked the staff if the age-limit could be lowered, one of the reasons I thought it was taking so long to get a reply was because it’d have to be coordinated with all servers. But there was no coordination between any of the servers, and finding that out just frustrates me all the more. If you want to hold a proper world tournament, you can not have a different set of rules per server. Let alone a different prize-package for every server.

I’m someone that wants things to be organised properly, clearly, so that everyone knows what’s expected of them from the start and so that everyone is treated fairly. I fully understand that, this being the first ever Blitz-tournament, things wouldn’t be flawless. Technical difficulties happen, and that’s fine too – nothing that can be done about that, and nothing that can be done to prepare for it. But I wasn’t prepared for the number of things that were vague, chaotic, flawed and unfair, all things considered.

So please, Wargaming, the next time you want to do something like this, ask for help and actually listen. Coordinate across the servers. Make sure the rules are clear and then do not deviate from the rules set, or deviate across all servers. Only then will you end up with one tournament, instead of four different ones. And if you want it to be four different ones, fine, but then don’t broadcast it as if it’s one event, because it really isn’t.

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