Wow, what an adventure. MLG Atlanta – 50k3 couldn’t have gone any better. We served up Halo goodness to over 1000 guests during the entire weekend and hundreds more that were viewing online. There were booth babes clad in what could barely be referred to as fatigues, Nightmare Armor showing off their wares, and probably the most exciting final match in history. I am getting a little ahead of myself so I’ll start from the beginning.
The weekend from a production standpoint actually started around 11:00 AM on Thursday. I had to run to Kinko’s to pick up a promotional poster and run it to Atlanta for the Zyos in-store appearance at a Gamestop in Atlanta. I then had to go to the airport and meet Anakin and take him to the hotel. He had about 500 lbs of camo netting in a duffle bag that we were using to cover the pavilion tents in ballroom. Luckily Anakin is about three times bigger than the Star Wars version and could crush that Hayden kid’s head with his bicep using minimal effort.
On Friday pretty much all hell broke loose. First we had to prepare for the in-store appearance before we could setup for the event itself. Gamestop wanted to fill the store to the brim and with only a few days to plan we had to get a little guerrilla with our promotion methods. Lennox Mall is probably one of the fanciest malls in America and we knew security wasn’t going to take kindly to Mohawk-wearing gamers running around promoting a in-store pro gamer while Usher was trying on his new kicks. So, about 20 of my most loyal subjects grabbed a few hundred flyers and spread out to the far ends of the mall. Once in position they worked their way back to the store as instructed; calmly, yet briskly handing out flyers as they walked. As in all types of war some must be sacrificed to the cause. Liquid, probably the most knowledgeable and hard core gamer I know, was captured by the Lennox Mall Security. Fortunately he was released after he bribed the guard with promises of adding in 2k5 to the MLG 2005 season and a Venti Orange-Mocha Frappuccino from the local Starbucks.
The fliers were hardly needed. Passer bys of the in-store were amazed to see a gamer playing their favorite video game, Halo. They were even more shocked when they learned that the line to get in would take 20 minutes and that nobody had scored better than 15-1 against the professional. So what did they do? They grabbed their free t-shirt, stood in line, talked smack all the way up to the controller, and got schooled by the #1 ranked player in the country. (They were much quieter walking out of the store than in). The in-store was a complete success and ended up being much more fun than previously anticipated.
Ok, enough, on to the show. So, while the in-store was going on at Lennox Mall, Clap used the understaffed crew that he had and setup all 50 Sony WEGA televisions, four projectors, three pavilion tents, and roughly 300 chairs in record time so that gamers could get some free play in Friday night. We closed the doors for free play around 2:30 and had some awesome warm-up games. By the time we hit the sack you could see that several of the floors were overwhelmed by gamers that were moved in for the weekend. You could tell from the strands of CAT 5 lining the hallway that MLG Atlanta would be a success.
Saturday started off well. The Free for All tournament flew by quick as can be. Cooperation between gamers and judges was phenomenal. Halo was being projected onto two large projectors on the main stage and onto 40 televisions in the crowd; It was really a sight to see. The only major upset in the Free for All was Zyos getting dropped in the round of 64. In an interview later that day he said that he simply couldn’t finish any of his kills and that he felt ganged up on. The biggest surprise of the weekend was Strangepurple winning the Free for All. This was his first tournament not playing with StK, a team that he co-founded and built into a dynasty that has dominated Halo since 50k2.
Next was the 2 vs. 2’s where, much to the dismay of the competition, the Ogres of StK would team up for the first time at a national tournament since 50k2. If you know one thing about competitive Halo you know this tandem is next to impossible to defeat. The Ogres are twin brothers who have been playing together since the game was released. They have been accused of using precognition and other psychic abilities to take down their opponents. Their legend really took off at 50k1 where they made their national tournament debut and Chill Out was nicknamed Ogre City after their flawless, seemingly easy victory over then TDT members Zyos and Alex in the Finals. 50k3 only amplified their legend as the Ogres easily dispatched of their opponents en route to another title and they were happy to talk about it after.
It was during the 2 vs. 2’s that we had a chance to start interviewing teams live via web cast. We had a chance to feed all the games live to 350 simultaneous users and then switch the feed during downtime and interview the teams after their match. It really gave everyone at home a chance to see what MLG is all about if they couldn’t make it to the event. Sillybean, one of MLG’s newest staffers, ran a chat room where users could ask the players questions at the end of the interview. All-in-all the video feed and the chat room were an unbelievable success and something that we will be doing at all future events.
The Free for All and 2 vs. 2 tournaments are used conjunctively to seed all of the 4 vs. 4 teams for the main event. A team’s seed stays with them from the start of the 4 vs. 4 bracket until they are eliminated and determines what teams they play along the way. Doing well in the FFA and 2 vs. 2 tournaments earns the team a higher ranking for the 4 vs. 4 and an easier road to the championship.
As the 2 vs. 2 tournament started to wind down, the 4 vs. 4 double elimination bracket began. Two rounds of the winners and losers brackets were played to leave 32 teams for the start of play on Sunday morning. The winners bracket didn’t see a single upset as the top 16 seeds all advanced to Round 3 of the winners bracket.
Day One closed with the State vs. State tournament. Gamers put together a roster of seven-to-eight players from their home state to put to rest the long debated issue of what state has the best halo players. Each game was 4 vs. 4 and each player on a state’s roster could only play three out of the five games in a series, so teams had to choose the four players for each game wisely. The finals was a battle of pre-tournament favorites Michigan and Ohio. Michigan, led by Walshy, Tupac, and Clockwork outlasted Ohio in four games to take the title.
Competition heated up again bright and early Sunday morning. Through three more rounds of the winners bracket there wasn’t a single upset, which brought us to the winners bracket finals. This was the match everyone was waiting to see. #1 seeded StK would finally get a chance to respond to their shocking defeat at the hands of #2 seeded FFA in Chicago. For Clockwork, who was returning to play for StK for the first time since Halo Nationals in February, it would be a chance to prove that despite post-carnage report statistics his team-first style of play and mere presence might in fact be the key to victory. For FFA it would be a chance to prove that Chicago wasn’t a fluke and that their team of all-stars could take down an StK team hungry for revenge. The winners bracket finals saw StK return to form and send FFA packing for the losers bracket in three straight games (CTF Damnation, Team Slayer Hang ‘Em High, and Team Ball Wizard).
FFA fought all the way back through the Losers Bracket winning hard-fought series against PS and Dug & His Buddies. This set the stage for yet another rematch with StK. The odds were stacked against FFA however. They had been demoralized on the main stage only a few short hours before by StK and now they would have to defeat them in a best three out of five series as well as a tiebreaker game at Ogre City.
The first game of the Championship match (CTF Pro Hang ‘Em High) had all the makings for a marathon. Each team would get 20 minutes at each base and total flags would determine the winner. With two teams of incredible players playing on a large map with not to hide behind except a few tombstones this would be a bloodbath, a stalemate, right? Wrong!. StK played from the blue base first scoring three flags in less than 15 minutes, but allowed FFA to capture 1 flag. That would prove to be the difference as FFA punished StK from the blue base winning three flags to zero and taking the mini-series four flags to three. The last capture by FFA will go down as one of the most incredible flag captures in tournament history as Walshy heaved the flag from the top of the red base and saw it skip all the way to the bottom of blue’s covered ramp.
The second game of the Championship match (Team Slayer Damnation) would be a nail biter from start to finish. This game type always lends itself to conservative, sweaty-palm game play as one team will hold the higher ground and the other will try to covertly take it back. The game stayed close throughout with FFA coming away with the razor thin 50-46 victory and a two games to zero lead in the series.
The third game (Team King Derelict) could make for a lopsided game as one team controls the high ground and the powerups and the other respawns at the mercy of a barrage of gunfire and explosions. FFA jumped out to a sizeable lead and the crowd could sense the tournament going to the tiebreaker game. Then StK overcame incredible odds to take back the advantage and win by more than a minute.
The fourth game of the series (CTF Pro Wizard) is a dogfight. There’s always someone shooting at you and there’s nowhere to run. FFA played a flawless game, winning 5-0. They played CTF Wizard like every team dreams of playing it. They gained control and were able to capture flags one after the other without ever having to relinquish control in the process. This gave FFA the championship series victory, but their job wasn’t finished. With each team now having one series loss the tiebreaker at Ogre City would now be played.
Everyone at event and the hundreds watching online sat on the edge of their seats as 50k3 would be decided by one final game. StK jumped out of the gates and took an early lead. FFA could do nothing to close the gap. The score stood at 44-36 StK. They needed just 6 more kills to win the tournament. I sat back in my chair a second and realized I hadn’t been breathing for 5 minutes. That very second FFA started to storm back, but the deficit seemed too great. The score reached 49-47 StK. A valiant effort for FFA…….49-48……..wait a second………49-49 and the entire crowd gasped in unison. Complete chaos broke loose with shieldless players flying in al directions doing everything they could to avoid death. Then Zyos put the finishing touches on the greatest comeback in tournament history and the most amazing finish in tournament history by killing Clockwork for the 50-49 victory. The crowd erupted and the smiles have yet to leave the FFA player’s faces. You could even see them through the face shield of their brand new Nightmare Armor Master Chief helmets.
After having two very successful tournaments under the 50k name I really thought that we couldn’t top what Anakin and I had done before. I could have never been further from the truth. Major League Gaming brought a group of people together that were just as excited and motivated as the two of us are and helped to create probably the most exciting event of 2004. On to Seattle!
~Dolbex and Anakin