A lack of effective regulation, technical fumbling, buy-ins to the first Major event... Please, someone send help, I don't understand...
To be clear, I'm no esports expert, and I'll not pretend like I have a keen interest in it, or even the game itself - but the Apex Legends Global Series came up in a conversation here in the office yesterday, and we thought it'd be worth giving it some coverage. So, I did my usual when starting a new blog - research. And plenty of it...
But upon looking into the EA sponsored Tournament, which boasts a $3M prize pool, I couldn't help noticing what a messy run of affairs this event was turning out to be - and for something so high-profile, I couldn't understand how or why it had turned out like it had.
As of writing, there has only been a single event so far, the first of ten potential qualifying rounds, which saw teams from around the world competing for the top spots in order to proceed to the first live event, Major #1. But according to a number of contenders, the event was plagued by technical issues, ranging from laggy servers and constant crashes, to some players being completely unable to join, for failing to meet requirements which they did in fact meet.
What's more, a number of esports regulars such as @TSM_ImperialHal and @CryptiKOCE, made a point about the poor qualifier format on Twitter, saying:
In tournament feedback, besides pointing out the decision made to score players who didn't crash, whilst not scoring those that did, it was also noted by players in the summary that:
"a major problem with this previous qualifier was teams not needing to 'play to win' on game 2 or 3 if they got enough points during game 1. Essentially you could purposely target/grief another team to stop them from qualifying into the next round by landing on them or focusing them mid/late game regardless of whether it gets you killed or not."
Now, as I mentioned before, I'm no expert in these matters, but that doesn't sound far from the ALGS Official Rules' definition of match-fixing, as is detailed in section A.3:
"Collusion and Match-fixing Policy...
Examples of prohibited conduct include, but are not limited to:
Intentionally losing a match for any reason at any time during the ALGS
Any form of match-fixing
Soft play, defined as a Competitor or Team not taking reasonable and fair actions to gain advantages against their opponent(s) in a match
Allowing an opponent to score more or less points than they normally would in order to impact the rankings."
Perhaps this is up for debate though, and could be argued that teams playing in that way, are in fact using tactics and strategy to ensure the win. But seeing as a Battle Royale is meant to be played as a sort of Arena Survival, a hypothetical Hunger Games or Blood Sport (which IRL you wouldn't be coming back from if you lost), I can understand why people would be pleading the case for unfair play and griefing - in theory, players should be 'fighting for their lives,' rather than suiciding to stifle rival point gains.
But possibly even more distressing, after teams finally qualified for the Major, many soon realised the problem with only the top 20 qualifying teams receiving paid-for travel and accommodation to the live events - namely the fact that the other 53 qualifying teams would have to pay their $150 registration fee, plus their travel costs to get all the way to Arlington in Texas. Since the tournament was opened up to players beyond the standard esports teams and competitors, it seems reasonable to assume that many of your every-day players, with no sponsors or dedicated tournament funds, might not be able to afford those kinds of expenses. So how exactly would they then attend the event they'd worked so hard to qualify for? Seems like a slight oversight if you ask me...
And for those of you paying close attention, yes you read that right.
So after a gruelling, 10-hour straight fight for the qualifying places at Major #1, a total of 27 slots were released separately as buy-ins - 22 of which were invite-only for Predator level teams sourced from (public?) Ranked matches, and 5 that were open to whoever had the fastest internet speed and sharpest reaction times.
Now I don't profess to know how many teams actually ended up competing in this first qualifier, but seeing as the ALGS Official Rules said that 'Each online tournament will consist of at least 160 teams... [where] Teams will progress or be eliminated based on points accumulated through placement and kills,' I'd say that those buy-ins are a tad on the cheaty side, and offers a lucky few the opportunity to straight up by-pass 159 other teams who could have potentially beat them in the arena.
And of course, suffice to say, people weren't best pleased about it:
Perhaps the strangest part of it all, is that, for such a large-scale tournament with such big companies behind it, it seems to be torn between being an open tournament for anyone of any level, but also targets the esports scene with live events and huge cash prizes up for grabs. Why not just do two separate tournaments? Or accept that non-esports players are not your target player-base when running high-stake events. It'd be like letting anyone compete in the qualifying rounds of the Olympics, wouldn't it?
Imagine, you have all these regulations in place, designed for people who spend their every day training for this event (people with sponsors and funding and managers etc.), and everyone and everything is ready, all gearing to go, and then you introduce a whole group of people that have just walked in off of the street, signing a piece of paper on the way in that simply says, 'I'll behave because I like sports too and I'd like to try and win Gold.' Even if that played out smoothly, you'd just end up watching the actual Olympians thrash them.
It seems to me that, in an attempt to try and include all of their player-base, the organisers have pointlessly opened up the tournament to random players - some of whom, if they were quick enough, could just pay to skip the first qualifier - on the off chance there might be some unsung hero. But then, somehow, those same organisers forgot that they made it mandatory to attend the live events to compete, essentially creating an unintentional paywall (i.e travel costs to those live events), which weasels out those same players they were trying to include, because they didn't, and never would have the same financial support that actual esports teams and organisations have.
But to top off the whole thing, and returning to the Olympics comparison I drew a moment ago - unlike the Olympics, or any other traditional sport for that matter, those regulations we would expect to see apparently weren't in place within the ALGS to begin with - or at least not implemented properly. In a Tweet from @BattalionApex, players saw a call for feedback on this first tournament.
If you're interested, then have a read of the full spreadsheet, it's certainly interesting... but one thing that cropped up a number of times was, unbelievably, unchecked cheating.
If you look up any number of tweets talking about Apex Legends, one thing you'll find a lot of (and I mean a lot), is players drawing attention to the blatant and prolific cheating that takes place in games, due to an ineffective anti-cheat system. Couple that with the already consistent crashes players have been tortured by for the last few months, and especially since the recent drop of the Season 4 update, and you have an experience which is hellish to say the least.
Regardless of whether Respawn have commented on these call-outs, they must surely be aware of the situation, so you would think they'd create a tournament specific server that was definitely protected from anything of the likes - especially with the kind of money they've got on the table. But apparently not - the tournament servers were, from what I can tell, the same old servers they've neglected to address for the everyday player-base. Which when you see tweets like this, is quite concerning:
And that's just a handful of the tweets complaining about Apex's servers...
Honestly I'm not sure what to think of all this - it's possible I'm only seeing one-side of things, there may be something I've missed? In fact, I would love for someone to tell me I'm wrong and point me in the direction of everything that went well and how this is all just a series of coincidental tweets and feedback. I really would. But the trouble is, I can't seem to get over how little coverage there is on everything that went wrong with this first event - I mean, I couldn't even find anything on the official Apex Legends social accounts following the event; everything was just Season 4 and Revenant hype. And to me that seems a little suspect, like they didn't actually want coverage because they knew what a disaster it really was. As I said, I could be wrong, it could all be coincidence.
But as it currently stands, and from everything I have read up on, it seems undeniable to me that the Apex Legends Global Series is, quite frankly, a mess...
Here's hoping the upcoming Major does better, for the competitors' sake...
Have you heard anything similar regarding this situation with the ALGS? Perhaps you were a competitor in this qualifier? Maybe you wanted to be but were denied access? Or you might know someone else involved with the events? Whichever the case, let us know your thoughts down in the comments - I'd be really interested to see what other people know/think about the situation.
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