WOTBB – Where are we at? Part 2 – Twister

WOTBB – Where are we at?
Part 2 – Twister

This entry, I’ll be focusing on tournaments and all that’s connected to it – except the ATGM part.

For quite some time, I’ve massively enjoyed commentating on the tournaments in the game – especially the Professionals in both Spring and Twister Season. The level of gameplay is just something else altogether, and that, with the communication within the team and the movements you see, makes for some very enjoyable and hardcore games. You don’t see anything like that in regular battles, and to me, it’s like a showcasing of the full potential of the game, if people actually worked together and had a high skill-level to boot.

For both tournaments seasons, there used to be like two days of qualifiers and then a whole series of Round Robin battles where each team met the other teams twice, before we got to the finals. It usually equalled three days of playing tournaments in a week. This made a nice pace, and people could have a bit of a life between tournament battles and trainings. Because don’t mistake that – three days of tournaments does not equal only three days of playing. The big teams generally train almost every day, but the training itself is a little less serious than a tournament, of course.

This changed last year, where we had very extensive qualifiers and a Professionals tournament that basically took everything out of everyone. In nine days time, there were exactly two days where teams would not be playing, and the qualifiers actually lasted longer than the Professionals, time-wise. And there’d only be one Round Robin, instead of the two of the previous seasons.

We (and with we, I mean myself, Brian (RollingSwarm) and the competitive players) raised our concern with the time-table, as it basically meant people couldn’t work, couldn’t have any form of a life for the duration of the tournament and could get into serious trouble with school, work, etc. Wargaming’s response was that if they wanted to win big money, they’d basically have to make the sacrifice.

And yes, at the end of the Twister Season, there’s some gigantic prizes to be won at the offline. But, only one team (two, if your server is lucky with the Wild Card Tournament), gets to actually try for it. And though the top four fo the Professionals also win some money per team, I earn way more at my work for a week than I would playing and winning that. So the question is, when you know your team is good, but not epic, and might reach top eight, but is very unlikely to reach top four and especially not top one, is it worth all the time, effort and sacrifice? I can’t judge that, of course, as I don’t play, but it doesn’t sound like it.

Meanwhile, while that’s something for the teams to figure out, Brian and I had a whole different set of issues. We tend to try and stream as much as we can. Not for us, but for the community. Every server, every team, deserves showcasing, and we do massively enjoy doing it. But, if the teams have to play seven days out of nine, and we stream servers Asia, EU and NA.. Yeah..

I ended up streaming 16 times over the span of 9 days, across a number of timezones. Brian streamed even more. Our weekends only existed of eating, sleeping and streaming, basically. Though I understand WG wants to make the format more compact and more action-packed, it’s not healthy, and I very much doubt I’ll be able to pull it off again. So I sincerely hope that WG will go back to the old format, or at the very least a more relaxed format, so that it’s do-able for both players and streamers. Brian and I were not the only streamers, mind, but we were the ones that streamed the most.

That’s not the only problem though, with tournaments. December 2018, we got to see two new tanks in the game. Tier X. T95E6 (my new great love since WG removed the E5’s cupola) and the T22 medium. It’s the latter that’s the problem. It’s a very versatile and troll tank, and though that in itself isn’t a problem, the fact that it’s behind a paywall is. Even now, the tank has never been available in the game outside of crates, so while some people got it for just 8 euro-ish, getting very lucky on their first crate, others can spend hundreds, if not thousands, and still not get anything. And the crates generally don’t give you something that makes you feel you got anywhere near your money’s worth, at that.

Now, with the changes made to the tiers over time, the T22 has become less OP in comparison and has some proper opponents, but when it first came at Christmas, and was later sold in crates again right before Twister season, it was still very much OP. Now, WG will disagree with that. But I’m not talking about pub-battles here, I’m talking about tournament battles, where people know what angling and positioning is, and effective wiggling and all of that. Whereas in pub-battles, the tank generally is only as effective as the player behind it, with some added troll-ness, in tournament battles, it’s quite different.

More than that, people that can’t afford to gamble their life’s savings away, will be less effective in tournaments. This means that there’s a paywall in tournaments, that, because of that, are no longer fair to all players. T22 is only the beginning, as more tier X vehicles have made their way into the game through crates or other forms of gambling only. Another example of it was the Badger (I say -was-, because it’s been sold for ‘normal’ gold since, and it’s not that competitive), and the VK 90.01 (P). The latter has only been in the Christmas event, and even if, like the Badger, it doesn’t look as tournament worthy as the T22 does, it doesn’t change the principle of the fact that good high tier tanks are put behind a pay-wall that the general tournament player can’t afford, unless they get really really lucky. It’s a trend that seems to grow though, and that’s the worrisome part.

But it’s not all bad. The EU server has never had as many teams that could potentially win as last Twister, and I loved it. NA produced the first team I’ve ever seen that I felt would likely take it all home, though of course as EU player I had to root for the home-team as well, which was equally epic.

End Game, however, the team to represent EU at the offline, that won the online finals beautifully, had a big set-back though. One of the rules of the online tournaments is that the players that participate, that want to go to the offline, have to come from a country belonging to the server. This, in a nutshell, means that someone from Europe can’t go to an offline for an NA team. This has been int he rules for a very long time, but it’s never been enforced.

However, this time, WG decided to enforce it. So aside from EG not having a full team of offliners because of parental issues, also had the setback of missing one of its callers – Whoopz. He lives in Russia, but has been playing on EU since the beginning of the game. Having been competitive since the start, this was the first time Whoopz actually won and could go to an offline – only to hear that his geographic location was suddenly a problem.

I still find this very unfair, and I will continue to bring it up with Wargaming in the hopes that it’ll change. I don’t understand why that rule has to be there to begin with. It didn’t just hit Whoopz – there’s a whole Chinese team on the Asia server that, had they won, would not have been able to go to the offline, because they live in China. Thing is though, that when they started playing and building their accounts, China server didn’t even exist yet.

Not to mention the fact that WG actually wanted to keep a few players from Feast (the team to represent Asia) that were from Hongkong from coming as well – but that was luckily diverted, as the China appstore isn’t available in Hongkong, all China accounts are linked to real life identities, and it doesn’t support Hongkong there, and the accounts were created before the China server even existed.

As for the China server itself, that’s something else altogether. All accounts made there are linked to real life identities. This has the added problem that if you buy someone else’s account (which was the case with some of the players), it’s registered to someone else’s identity. So whereas they could compete with it, they couldn’t go to the offline with it. This meant that it was actually China’s second team that ended up being able to go.

And after all of that, there was, of course, the offline itself. It needed commentators. Now, Brian had been asked early on to go there to commentate, which was great. Previous editions, it’d be Bushka or Bushka and Sk8. And though I adore both them, they’ve little to no experience when it comes to competitive gameplay, and generally don’t follow the tournament seasons at all, so have no clue what’s been happening. So with Brian going, that part was at least set – there’d be someone there that had invested a lot of time into the season and that knew what he was talking about.

But this time around, Bushka couldn’t, Sk8 couldn’t, Meadsy wouldn’t, Martin couldn’t. Long story short, quite a long list of people later, I was asked to go to the offline as well. This was of course, incredibly cool, even though knowing you’re 6th choice isn’t exactly good for your confidence. It’d be my second offline, and though my health was a definite issue, I figured that with extra time to rest beforehand and extra time after the trip to recover, I’d manage. With how things had gone, it took some time to get over myself and to actually get hyped for it.

This became easier when I focussed on who all I’d be meeting. Players from EU I’ve a chance to meet at tankfest, but when it comes to NA and Asia, that’s quite different. I’ve friends there, and meeting them could well be a once in a lifetime thing, so I was very glad for that opportunity of meeting them (and giving them stroopwafels or kruidnoten – Dutch goodies).

In the end, all teams worked out their troubles and with some substitutes here and there, they made it to the offline event, along with Brian and myself. I say Brian, but his first flight was cancelled, because there was a strike, and he had to come a day later through a very special roundabout route – right in time for rehearsals (his way back didn’t go well either, mind. I don’t envy him there at all).

At the airport, everyone was picked up with an actual Wargaming van, which was pretty cool, it had Wargaming stitched into the seats and everything, and upon arrival at the hotel, we got a goodiesbag and a shirt to wear while streaming. Now, the hotel itself was okay, nothing extraordinary, but over the days I was there, it was transformed into a Twister Hotel and that was incredibly awesome. Lights, banners, posters, everything. There was a main hall where the players would be if they didn’t play, where they could watch the stream, the rooms used as studios were coloured in Twister colours and everything, the rooms in which the players would play had a blue or a red ambience. It was quite the experience, and the fact that it was so customisable was grand.

We got to hang out with the players, and I hung out mostly with the Asia team. It was great to see all the preparation. Most of the teams would train vs the teams they would not be playing against, and on maps they wouldn’t meet those teams on. They had gotten plasticized maps, that they could draw on with markers, and after breakfast, teams would sit together to talk over tactics and such – far enough away to not let each other hear their tactics. It was great fun to see that side of things, because even though I follow the competitive scene and make tactics for my own clan, it’s quite something else to witness that at this level.

On the morning of the event, Wargaming told us that Brian would be the main commentator, and I would basically be there for show. I wasn’t exactly happy with that, because back when Sk8 and I did an offline, it went great when we did it together, and this made me feel rather obsolete. Brian wasn’t too chuffed with it either, as our intention had always been to make this a team effort. As a commentator though, I can tell you, it’s really not fun to take a backseat. Brian and I both see some different things, even when we look at the same screen and I feel that had we been made equal commentators, we would have worked together much better and would have upped the quality of the stream and commentary itself, as well.

The weirdest thing about commentating on an offline though, is having to look at the camera. I’m used to looking at the person speaking, or the person I’m speaking with, which is exactly what you’re not supposed to do much on an offline. It’s weird.

During the stream we also had some people come by to talk about the game, things we’d get later on (like the Japanese TD’s that are coming next update, and the Hellas map we’ve gotten last update), and ATGM’s (which will get its own entry, as I said). I did use the opportunity of being there and having one of Blitz’ bosses, Thaine Lyman, there on stream with us to ask about the not being able to go to an offline if you’re from a country that belongs to another server. I didn’t really get a straight answer, but I sincerely hope that WG will look into it and reverse that rule when it comes to accounts that have been on server x since the very beginning.

The gameplay we got to commentate on though, which was of course what we were there for, was absolutely beautiful. EG unfortunately didn’t perform as I’d hoped, but then, with substitutes and then having had only a really short amount of time to build their team for the offline, along with some lag issues that were, unfortunately, frequent throughout the offline, it’s not something that I feel is their fault.

For me, the highlight of the offline was the finals though. You might think ‘well duh’, but that’s not really a given. The amount of times where I find that matches before the finals are much better are plentiful. Now though, we had Ufpnjh vs Moe, as callers. RU vs NA. NA, the team that we’ve witnessed doing incredible counters. Ufpnjh that I really hadn’t seen much of before that day, because RU is the one server I don’t really follow.

But it was spectacular and beautiful. You could basically see the minds of the callers working as the teams played and followed their direction. Very close calls, often, and whereas the whole meta was pretty set with the FV215B, the T22, the Foch and the Progetto, it led to beautiful tactical gameplay, flowing, gorgeous pushes and grand, absorbing holds. After all these seasons that I’ve followed, the gameplay I’ve seen, I can honestly say those were the best games I’ve ever seen. I loved every minute of it.

I did, however, regret that Reign didn’t win it, and 7Star took it home. It was very well deserved, mind, but I have to admit that I was rooting for Reign, as they’re the first NA team that made it this far in Twister. Overall though, it was definitely an adventure, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Meeting everyone was fantastic, Minsk looks beautiful (I’ll definitely have to go back there and be a proper tourist at some point, as I only drove through it now),  the trip was immense fun, if immensely exhausting as well.

I honestly don’t know how things will go this year around. Spring Season is relatively close, Twister still quite far off, but both Brian and I have been extremely critical of Wargaming’s actions – especially regarding the ATGM’s. Though I’ve no doubt they’ll ask us to stream again, I’m not so sure they’ll want either of us back for an offline – and quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to myself, unless Wargaming changes some things and inequalities.

We’ll see.

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