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Vorpal

Hearthstone @ epic Lan

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Those of you who know me will probably be well aware that one of my major motivations in attending epic.LAN has become the Hearthstone tournament that takes place over the course of the event.

 

As far as epic.20 goes, I have had some concerns about Hearthstone and its representation at the event. The lack of updates to the tournament page since the event was being organised, and correct me if I am wrong, but the lack of a tournament administrator are major red flags for me from the off. I also watched the Facebook Live broadcast from last night this morning, and it did not fill me with confidence.

 

There are a "Big Five" esports mentioned in the video, and supported by the epic.LAN tournament website. These games being CS:GO, DOTA2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone and the new addition of Overwatch.

It feels like Hearthstone is held in nowhere near the same regard as the other four titles.

CS:GO is spoken about warmly, and quite rightly. It has been wildly sucessful at epic.LAN, as it deserves to be given the passion of those involved in making it a success.

DOTA2 has been a mainstay of epic.LAN for some time now, with its ups and downs. The community is incredibly tightknit and it is great that epic.LAN have continued to give them a place to compete, especially given the news in the video about the impending lack of support for DOTA2 at other UK events.

Starcraft 2 is a bit of a contraversial one, but again the relationship that epic.LAN has fostered with the community has seen it continue to be successful as a tournament always providing a healthy turnout.

Overwatch being the new kid on the block at epic.LAN I have no experience to draw on in terms of how it might fare at the event, but it was promising to hear Winbar talk about working with the community in order to make the tournament and support for it the best it can be.

 

I feel like the key point in the success of these games, and the plan for the success of Overwatch as a new game is very apparent. The relationship with the community for each of these games is integral in their success at epic.LAN, and I do not feel like this is there for Hearthstone.

 

During the Facebook Live broadcast Hearthstone was spoken about for 28 seconds to make the following points:

  • Some people come to epic.LAN to play "properly".
  • The tournament scheduling allows for people knocked out of other tournaments to take part.
  • Lots of casual players "give Hearthstone a go".
  • There is generally a decent number of signups for the Hearthstone tournaments and there is no reason to think that anything other will be the case going forward.

 

There was not a great deal of substance to the discussion. The other games were spoken about from the persepctive of their success, and high points of hosting the respective tournaments, or the hopes going foward for continued success.

The points made above are not indicative of a healthy tournament, or community at the event. I do regret that the community is not stronger. From my brief interactions with some there is a fair amount of passion for the game, but the ease of which one can begin playing hearthstone means there is something of a divide in terms of those playing the game from a competitive perspective, and those who are more casual, or just playing for fun. This is obviously something that we as a community need to work to remedy ourselves.

 

The two points I would most like to address is that of the tournament scheduling, and the number of signups seen at events.

 

Simply put the scheduling is abysmal. I am not sure if the tournament has ever started on time since I have been playing at epic.LAN. By starting the tournament on the Saturday there is something in the region of 30 hours for all rounds to be played and a victor determined. Time and again the situation has been that games have been put on hold following commencement, meaning that in order to have all games to at least the consolation final complete ready for Sunday morning players are in game well into the night. This detracts from both the enjoyment of the game, and the ability of the players who have made it to later rounds to compete effectively. This is something that affects me personally more than other players due to my health, and is a source of frustration but regardless of that it is impossible to take seriously a tournament which does not allow those participating a fair chance to compete at their best. There are enough RNG based effects in Hearthstone to leave a player feeling salty about the outcome of a game without adding the potential for misplays due to fatigue into the mix.

 

This leads into the point about players joining Hearthstone from other tournaments which they have been eliminated from, however this also includes fun tournaments. The schedule is not enforced strictly enough. Often players must sign up before they know that they have been eliminated from their main tournament, which causes delays. Players often arrange between themselves to wait for other things to be completed. There is no sense of urgency during the early rounds, and adherance to the round timings is not strictly enforced until the tournament is two hours behind and breaks between matches are an inconvenience. This all impacts more than just Hearthstone (see the origin of The Unit are pro asshat jerkoffs meme). epic.19 was perhaps an extreme example of this but I am confident that I have not yet taken part in a tournament that has run to schedule. Why is the game run only across the Saturday and Sunday to begin with? If the only justification is to allow people to play Hearthstone following their elimination from another tournament I say this is disrespectful to the tournament. Why are those who are at the event for Hearthstone subject to the issues which come as a result of running the tournament in the smallest amount of time possible due to this? Hearthstone is an epic.LAN competitive esports tournament. I do not believe it is right, nor fair to cater to those players who have chosen to compete in other esports tournaments over those who are at the event for Hearthstone primarily.

 

Regarding the player turnout; Hearthstone at epic.Lan sees the number of competitors that it does because of a few people in the tournament with a desire to play more games, and to hit prize triggers convincing other members of the community to join the tournament in order to shore up the numbers. A percentage of competitors do not have any intention of competing when they arrive, but do so as a favour to those who are passionate about this game, in order to keep it relevant at epic.Lan. As far as I see it, if we are able to consistently hit greater prize triggers then there is a greater incentive for additional players to actually come to epic.LAN and compete. With improvements to the tournament player numbers will certainly increase. I am pleased to see 10 players signed up already, and gives me hope that we may even hit the 24 player trigger at epic.20

 

Outside of this there are a number of additional issues I see with the Hearthstone tournament at epic.Lan.

Foremost it is clearly not valued as much as a tournament as other games. The other 1v1 esport hosted at epic, Starcraft 2, begins with more than double the prize pool of Hearthstone. This astounding difference continues all through the prize triggers to the top end, where Hearthstone requires twice as many competitors in order to achieve a prize pool half of that of Starcraft 2. I will not make any assumptions or accusations without knowledge as to why this might be, but it is not encouraging as an indicator of the value of the game which I am passionate about to epic.Lan.

The prize distribution is far too top heavy. First place with 8-15 competitors sees £169 value of prizes to the competitor who places first, £45 for second and nothing beyond that. I have spoken about this in the past, and one explanation I was offered was that the £100 prize is somewhat required in order for the first place competitor to feel as though they are winning something worth their time, and that the value of the free tickets and discounts are often overlooked by competitors. I do not feel this is a reasonable justification. Based on discussions at epic.LAN I beleive players would be happier with a greater investment, a wider disribution of prizes amongst competitors, or a combination of the two. If this is not correct I am happy to be told so.

 

The format is not particularly competitive. Hearthstone classically offers two formats for competitive play. Either Last Hero Standing, or Conquest. I fully understand and support the decision to run the epic.LAN tournament in a Conquest format however the lack of class bans makes it more difficult to strategise which heroes and deck archetypes a player wishes to bring to the competition, as suddenly a lineup needs to be incredibly general in order to deal with potentally anything from their opponents. The Shaman dominant meta of the last year makes this a greater issue, especially now where the class has very few weaknesses when run as a certain archetype. Although I will concede that the Conquest format helps a little in dealing with this, it almost means it is required to assume a 1 game disadvantage when your opponent has a Shaman in their class line-up.

 

There is also an easy way to grow the Hearthstone tournament when epic.Lan is ready. Offer world championship points. There is a whole range of players to whom these points are as valuable if not more than the event prizes. From speaking with ddanblack I understand that the only reason epic.Lan is not able to run a sanctioned tournament is due to the tournament system not allowing for the tracking of the battle.net battle tag of competitors. Again if I am misinformed I am happy to be corrected but if this is what is holding the tournament back, why? On the tournament site "my info" page there is a legacy and redundant entry for League of Legends Summoner name. Is this kind of provision not good enough for Blizzard?

A number of competitors see the tournament as fine as it is. This stems from their percieved ability to attend the tournament, roll over some "casuals" with minimal effort, and collect prizes. I do not think it is reasonable to say that there are not issues with a tournament that slightly more accomplished players feel operates within a system that they are able to abuse.

 

I am left in a position where I cannot help but wonder if Hearthstone's future with epic.Lan is to be eventually retired to the fun tournament schedule, rather than any issues resolved, and progress made on the tournament offering.

 

I would like to think that epic.LAN has the same aspirations as with its other tournaments to work with the communities for each game to continue to offer the best that they can at their events, so I ask, where is this with Hearthstone. Is it my fault? Have I somehow managed to exclude myself from the community and my frustrations come from a place of ignorance? I really hope so. Then I can fix my own position. If not, how can we work together to make the Hearthstone tournament the best experience it can be?

Edited by Vorpal
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Hello Vorpal,

 

Thank you for your lengthy feedback of our Esports tournaments. Funny you've made this thread as I've been seriously thinking about hosting a Esports Community Workshop of sorts to get and gather as much feedback as possible in regards to all our tournaments and how we can continue to develop them for our communities. This post may spur me on to do just that.

 

As to your feedback of Hearthstone, I'll try and answer some of it. If you feel personally aggrieved by whatever I have to say at this point, then I would suggest you sit down with me at LAN and we can go over it if you need.

 

Quote

It feels like Hearthstone is held in nowhere near the same regard as the other four titles.

 

This is a rather difficult thing to judge. We do value Hearthstone as a tournament, and as a title in it's own way, it is one of the most popular esport titles out there and has a direct link to the casual market, so from our viewpoint, we absolutely want to run Hearthstone and have as many people participate in it. I'm unsure how you feel that we don't value it in the same regard to our other titles, however I can see your frustration, when there are clear indications that we might not. (I hope that makes sense). It might sound contradictory but we as an event organiser should be offering a wide variety of titles to entice more people to come to our events and Hearthstone is part of that make up.

 

You mention all the other titles and then we get to this:

 

Quote

During the Facebook Live broadcast Hearthstone was spoken about for 28 seconds to make the following points:

Some people come to epic.LAN to play "properly".

The tournament scheduling allows for people knocked out of other tournaments to take part.

Lots of casual players "give Hearthstone a go".

There is generally a decent number of signups for the Hearthstone tournaments and there is no reason to think that anything other will be the case going forward.

 

What was said by Jon and Joe in the Facebook live was pretty spot on, some people do come to epic.LAN to play "properly", the tournament schedule has always aimed to incorporate the casual players that join in for some fun, and the competitive players that want to take part. If I could, I certainly would have it across the three days, but I just feel that it would have serious impact on the sign up numbers if we ran it as a structured esport title like we do with all our other main titles. As I said in my point above, Hearthstone has a direct link to the casual market, it is widely played by those who don't consider themselves as an esports player.

 

Don't take Joe & Jon's conversation as bible though, they touched upon Hearthstone, and then closed the book on it rather quickly for a fair few reasons. You shouldn't take it as much more than a friendly conversation over what is going on at epic.LAN throughout the weekend.

 

Quote

Simply put the scheduling is abysmal. I am not sure if the tournament has ever started on time since I have been playing at epic.LAN. By starting the tournament on the Saturday there is something in the region of 30 hours for all rounds to be played and a victor determined. Time and again the situation has been that games have been put on hold following commencement, meaning that in order to have all games to at least the consolation final complete ready for Sunday morning players are in game well into the night.

 

In the past, scheduling has certainly been a problem, and that I can completely agree with, I know Dan tried many methods to make it all work to everyone's benefit but sometimes with the wide variety of people we have entering in such a tournament, they either a) don't read the rules properly or b ) are not sure of where or how to find the schedule or who they are playing against. This is because they naturally aren't used to using our tournament system like the more natural esport players are.

 

In regards to other players from other tournaments, I'm unsure how those players have entered in the past or been allowed to enter. Last LAN we had a specific issue revolving around a player who was on our Stream Team at the time, and I called a decision which affected the schedule which put the schedule back a lot, but in my honest opinion, mistakes were made from various people, and I simply made a judgement call. Other than that issue in particular, epic.19's schedule ran mostly to plan through Dan's rigid timekeeping and handling of the tournament.

 

Again, a lot of this really does come down to the very nature of the game, there are casual players who play, and urgency isn't a thing when it only (they believe) affects them and their opponent. Perhaps this is something we should work on going forward  and go back to default wins if you aren't there at such and such time, however (and I will admit this is partly down to me), I am a very strong believer that everybody is here at a LAN event to play, so just play. Default wins aren't really my MO, and whilst I have put down the default hammer on a few teams in my time, I have always believed in rescheduling and making sure everyone gets their chance. It plays into my other value that I personally hold epic.LAN to, which is "value for money". Some people, and some admins don't agree with it, but I've always told those admins, whoever they are, whatever game they are there representing, to simply run their tournament how they want to run it, but to keep in mind what people pay when they come to our events.

 

Quote

Regarding the player turnout; Hearthstone at epic.Lan sees the number of competitors that it does because of a few people in the tournament with a desire to play more games, and to hit prize triggers convincing other members of the community to join the tournament in order to shore up the numbers. A percentage of competitors do not have any intention of competing when they arrive, but do so as a favour to those who are passionate about this game, in order to keep it relevant at epic.Lan.

 

Player turnout is a questionable one for me, and here is the biggest point, something Jon and I have both challenged Dan on when he has come to us around the prize money and other things.

 

There is a clear reason why we dropped League Of Legends when we did, for us to run these tournaments, unless we get direct sponsorship, it comes directly from the ticket sales, this is why we have a prize trigger system in the first place. The prize trigger system is a fair way for us to measure whether a tournament is financially viable for us to continue running. Without checking with Jon, I believe that he has stated that even four teams for LoL would not even be financially viable for us to keep afloat, and that has been our message to both the SC2 and Dota communities, considering SC2 was dropped from iSeries, and Dota has recently just been ditched. 

 

There is a very very different problem against Hearthstone though (this may sound disrespectful, and if it sounds like that, then I apologise), Hearthstone doesn't effectively bring us enough bums on seats. The majority of HS players that play are those who come to LAN on a consistent basis and continue to support the LAN because they do other things.

 

So when it comes to measuring the tournaments success, it is a very difficult thing for us to do with regards to Hearthstone, because of the problem you mentioned above, people sign up for others so that prize triggers are met etc. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm just saying how difficult it is for us to simply justify piling in the sort of money we do for something like SC2 into Hearthstone. The SC2 community for epic20 are now sitting in Bamburgh (16 of those 18), they also have 10 players in Fair Isle, which takes them to 26 players. Those people come to LAN mostly for SC2, but also to socialise and have fun. We don't see that in Hearthstone, because the people who already play in HS, have been long term community members.

 

Quote

The prize distribution is far too top heavy. First place with 8-15 competitors sees £169 value of prizes to the competitor who places first, £45 for second and nothing beyond that. I have spoken about this in the past, and one explanation I was offered was that the £100 prize is somewhat required in order for the first place competitor to feel as though they are winning something worth their time, and that the value of the free tickets and discounts are often overlooked by competitors. I do not feel this is a reasonable justification. Based on discussions at epic.LAN I beleive players would be happier with a greater investment, a wider disribution of prizes amongst competitors, or a combination of the two. If this is not correct I am happy to be told so.

 

Something else that I've spoken with Dan and Neil about. This is something I can absolutely agree on, and it was something we were looking at last year. If I remember correctly, I had tasked Dan with that particular task, and for him to give me the rough scale of what would suit the community better so that we could produce for Jon so he would effectively change. We will review that after this LAN and certainly get something sorted in terms of distributing better and fairly.

 

Quote

The format is not particularly competitive.

 

Interesting point to bring up, however I've always been a hands off type of person and have let my admins do what they feel is best for the community they handle, Dan particularly chose the format, but we can review going forward and if a new admin felt differently, it would be a decision solely on their shoulders with my blessing. I've always been open to change and will continue to work with our admin team in order to tweak our tournaments to best serve our customers.

 

Quote

There is also an easy way to grow the Hearthstone tournament when epic.Lan is ready. Offer world championship points. There is a whole range of players to whom these points are as valuable if not more than the event prizes. From speaking with ddanblack I understand that the only reason epic.Lan is not able to run a sanctioned tournament is due to the tournament system not allowing for the tracking of the battle.net battle tag of competitors. Again if I am misinformed I am happy to be corrected but if this is what is holding the tournament back, why? On the tournament site "my info" page there is a legacy and redundant entry for League of Legends Summoner name. Is this kind of provision not good enough for Blizzard?

 

I never personally knew that points could be awarded to any event, and it's never been openly discussed by Dan or I at events (my memory can be fuzzy though). Anything around the tournament system, @Mintopia has always been open for changes to be made if it's to make things easier in the long run, I believe we now have a field for Battle.Net tag's with the addition of Overwatch to our tournaments. (Just for reference; sneaky edit, it doesn't currently, but we did do a small change to our online tournament system, which might be in the pipeline for future).

 

I will personally look at getting Championship points, from a simple google I did after discussing your post with my team leader, I believe we can do something with that, but that won't be in time for epic20, and we will only be able to do that from epic21 onwards.

 

Quote

I am left in a position where I cannot help but wonder if Hearthstone's future with epic.Lan is to be eventually retired to the fun tournament schedule, rather than any issues resolved, and progress made on the tournament offering.

 

Unlikely at this stage. As I've said quite openly, we are always keen to change things if the community feel it's best, I wasn't aware of some of the points you made, but we will review after LAN and see if we can action any of the stuff that can only be done post event. With regards to all your other feedback, if I manage to get someone in to admin Hearthstone (which to my absolute hardest, I haven't been able to find anyone as of yet) then we will discuss with them at the event and see what we can do to make your event better for you.

 

For me, it is a personal goal to get all our esports tournaments to grow, with the event hand in hand. So I want to see Hearthstone bring in players, better prize money and more opportunities for casters. I have often tried getting the feelings of those who either participate or cast (Neil for example) to tell me what would be the best way of getting more players to LAN and helping Hearthstone grow here in the UK. It's my responsibility at LAN, and it's not particularly nice having to bin any esport. The LoL decision was incredibly difficult, but teams and players don't always see the other side of what we have to deal with in the run up to an event. It is why we pester players and teams to sign up as early as they can so it helps us build a better profile to get sponsors on board or even additional points for certain games. Judging by Blizzard they don't give you a criteria as such on how many players you need to get those points, but I know when we did the Riot Points for LoL, we needed to email them two weeks in advance of the event with rough numbers of how many teams we were going to attract. When you are staring at 1 team, and cannot see much on the seating planner, then it does put us in a bit of a position where we cannot ask for extra points etc.

 

I hope this helps in shedding some light, and I know that you feel that Hearthstone isn't a "valued" tournament at epic.LAN, but it is, and will continue to be. As I said, I'm always up for new ideas, or new things we can try to help the communities of each game enjoy our events more. Do I want to see 100 + HS players at future events, of course I do, without growth in our esports tournaments, we cannot grow our own event. So yes, it is very much valued to us.

Edited by Gumpster
Information change re: tournament system
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I totally understand what Vorpal is saying, in the past I have run hearthstone very lax at the request of epic.lan to allow a free flowing between casual timetable and in the past rocket league. I feel the points you have raised is nothing new and I have spoken to either Gump or Jon about in the past. The issues I see with hearthstone now is we have missed the boat. Last iseries we saw a total of 36 players for hearthstone playing for £2000. As I plan to return in June to run hearthstone again I will be happy to join in on the chat but my feeling is that epic.lan missed UK hearthstone at its height and now will have issues pulling in new players.  

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