iGames Winter Team Tournament
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2002, 10:47 AM
If you look at things simply from a logistical perspective, the Halo National Championship tournament was a success in many ways: thousands of people from all over the country competed, and the finals were recorded and televised, and there were none of the catastrophes that usually accompany such a large undertaking. But for all the satisfaction we took in the National Championship, it wasn't an unmitigated triumph. The decision to make the tournament open only to players 18 and older, the emphasis on every-man-for-himself play, and the chosen game types left some players dissatisfied. In the aftermath of the Tournament, a group of dedicated Halo players coalesced with one aim: create another tournament that would allow a wider spectrum of players to participate and reward team effort. Together with iGames, the coalition of gaming centers that had acted as the base for the Halo National Championship, this "Player's Council" spent several months hammering out the rules for what is now known as the Halo Winter Season tournament.
The Halo Winter Season is simple on its surface; the press release describes it as "a series of four-man, single-elimination tournaments held at iGames-affiliated game centers across North America." It's not until you peruse the rules page that you realize the depth of thought and planning that has gone into this tournament. Much of that planning came from a small group of Halo players whose only reward is the satisfaction of a well-organized tournament. It didn't surprise me at all to learn that one of these players is Jesse Tribby, perhaps better known to some of you as Jester (or Jesteribby of The Psyjnir Complex. Jester graciously took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions about the tournament.
How did the Players Council begin?
The Players Council was actually iGames' idea. After the last minute changes, the game center screw-ups, and the general community backlash that accompanied the first Halo National Tournament, iGames sought to make drastic improvements. Their hope was to have a knowledgable group of players who could come up with the structure, concept, and rules for the next national-scale Halo event ... AND who they could blame for everything that goes wrong. ;-)
What's it been like working with them?
The best part about working with iGames is that they respected the Players Council, not only as advisors, but as an executive body. They recognize that their business is serving players and thus give us freedom to create, defend, and negotiate what we see fit. Having said that, the Players Council still fights an uphill battle. It comes down to a group of volunteer game players trying to convince game centers, sponsors, and businesses to give us what we want.
Why a team tournament?
Mostly, we just like team tournaments better. Some people will read that and cry, "That's just your opinion! You aren't representing the players!" But if you look at the kind of large scale events the Halo community is organizing right now (e.g. Halo50k, Halo: Running Riot Invitational, etc.), it's obvious that team is what people want to play. And while Halo may not be the huge squad-based multiplayer experience that Bungie first envisioned, it's still a damn good team game.
However, there is another reason as well. The painful reality is that free-for-all Halo is extremely susceptible to random factors. If you spawn far away from the action, whether it be in a Race, King, Oddball, or Slayer game, you are going to be at a disadvantage. As a tournament director, my first concern is to advance the player or team with the best skills and strategy by minimizing these random factors. In my opinion, the first Halo National Tournament failed to do that. It became most obvious when I watched the best players at my venue warm-up for their "Snipers Sidewinder" game. Almost every game there was a different winner. The guy who took first place in one game would take last in the next... it was insane. While the Players Council recognizes that it is impossible to completely eliminate random factors, we feel that a team tournament, by design, is less susceptable to randumbness and more open to strategy.
Was it easy to settle on rules and game types, or was there a lot of heated debate? Was putting this tournament together easier or more difficult than you originally anticipated?
Within the Players Council, we established a very orderly, efficient method of brainstorming and settling disputes. We created the original concept for this tournament in less than a week. Near the end of the process, we had a short, heated debate concerning "Radar vs No Radar" and ended up making 1/3 of the games No Radar. (Following later discussion, we decided that the next series of events would be closer to half Radar and half No Radar.) It was hard work, but the initial process was easier than I expected.
BUT THEN we handed it to iGames. The game centers immediately had some problems with our proposal, especially with the third Qualifying Tournament (CTF tournament). The Players Council was forced to defend, explain, and alter our original concept in order to make this series of events actually happen. The power struggle between what the businesses wanted (game centers and iGames) and what the players wanted became extremely frustrating at times. For example, the Qualifying Tournament registration fees are double what the Players Council thought was appropriate. But it was a compromise that had to be made in order to pull off this series of events. In the end, I'm happy with the product, but I'll be the first to admit that it still isn't perfect. (Just so everyone knows, the Players Council will continue fighting to get the costs down for future events.)
Are there any specific examples of pitfalls that other tournaments have fallen into that you managed to avoid?
All of us have run Halo events and about half of us have run regional/interstate Halo events before. Just from running those events, our collective knowledge of what works and what does NOT work is pretty vast. Add to that our participation in Battle of the Bay, the E3 2002 Bungie Fanfest Tournament, Myth World Cup, Halo National Tournament, and regional tournaments in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and New York... just to name a few...
I won't be so arrogant as to point out other tournament's pitfalls before we see the pitfalls of the Winter Halo Season ... but I will say that the I am pretty confident that the Players Council knows what it's doing.
Is this a one-off tournament or will you do it again?
With the Halo Winter Season, we are hoping to lay down the blue-prints for a full blown, corporate-sponsored, ranked Halo League next year... and then a worldwide 2004 Halo 2 league... and now I'm starting to get goosebumps again... :D
The Halo Winter Season is a rare bird: a collaborative effort between a business devoted to LAN gaming and a group of passionate gamers, with both parties struggling to create a positive experience. Not only that, they're hoping to make this an ongoing project. Want to be part of the first wave? Register your team today!