QC Tourney: behind the scenes

written by: gnnr

Alright Folks,

Pre-Con set up and Experience
So there were ups and downs at QuakeCon as there are with any event. I’m not going to get into that topic much. Rather I’m going to talk about one of the positives of QuakeCon and how despite anything that happens the veteran players and tourney staff make it a fun atmosphere. So without any further backstory here’s a look at what I was honored to see and partake in backstage and throughout the tournament.

I arrived Wednesday. I had a lay over in Vegas where I had some lovely scrambled eggs. Pro-tip, don’t eat in Vegas :) I got in to the convention center around 3:30pm on Wednesday. The day seemed to go smooth, exhibitors like Razer, Nvidia, Bethesda Software were setting up. Occasionally saw SyncError and some id suits roaming the floor. The two Mustang Shelby 500′s sat right in front of our booth. While I worked I was consistently reminded I drive a car from 1989, which to be honest I love.

NOC (Network Operations Center) staff came by the booth around 10 times to check the MAC Address on every single machine. The staff decided to manually enter every single hardware address into the routing tables.. Our allocated bandwidth was fixed 6mb/s. We set 5mb/s for the streaming and studio machines. The rest of our work computers had 1mb/s.

That’s about all I will say about our booth and the pre-setup. There’s an article about the exhibitors and the feel of the convention center. The rest of this article is about the pro tourney area.

I approached the area where the pros were playing behind the main stage in the exhibition hall. On Wednesday the mood was calm and some of the usual faces were there: Stermy, Spart1e, Cooller, Cypher and Rapha among others. However, for the pros Wednesday was more about relaxing and hanging out. There was an attempt to get practice in but network issues prevented any meaningful scrimmages. A few players scrambled to touch up their configs in QuakeLive practice mode and a number were playing bots for an hour or so. Most everyone was calm.

Tournament Day
Arrived around 9am on Thursday, the date and time competition was supposed to begin. All play was delayed at first for a “few hours” which turned into the entire day. The players had to wait most of the day in case things started. NOC staff scrambled around to fix DNS routing issues and the core LAN network problems so competitive play could begin. At this time it was impossible to run QuakeLive on the Lan or any computer at the event, even BYOC machines. Now there’s no person or particular reason I can say caused this, but issues for players persisted throughout the event

Stevo, the master of the tournament area, never stopped running. I think he probably walked the most of anyone at QuakeCon. He rocked a decent mohawk and a Johnny Depp gotee similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. Stevo is amazing, and a no non-sense kind of guy. He knows every player personally, takes care of their needs and pushes hard to get everything running smooth. He wasn’t in control of the overall network issues but if you ask a pro who really ran things Stevo was the guy. He’s also the life of the party so if you are looking for the after party or just want someone to hang with he’s your man. Being a former pro he has respect from most everyone. Also, Psyn was another main tech in the tourney area. He was very easy to work with and provided players with some amazing AlienWare computers. I appreciate how hands on he was with set-up and his willingness to help when free. If network issues weren’t a problem Psyn and Stevo would have held a very smooth tournament. Hats off to Stevo and Psyn in particular for navigating the issues which arose.

Cypher, the eventual winner of the tournament sat in his chair at the end of one of the rows. He was a little smaller than I had imagined about 5’8″ and skinny. I suppose that’s average size. Cypher was quiet, not shy but comfortable in saying only a few words. With his thick accent he spent most of his time speaking Russian with Cooller and Cooller’s “manager”. At one point Rapha leaned over Cypher’s shoulder and grabbed hold of the keyboard/mouse and proceeded to help configure his video settings. They laughed and smiled at each other while Rapha fixed his set up. It turns out Rapha and Cypher flew together to Gamescon immediately following the event. Cypher was set up with his Razer mouse, keyboard, and mouse pad as usual. He wore a Razer jersey with Cypher on his back. Cypher’s shots are amazing, always. He is consistent. This event meant a lot to him and he was tearing up when he won. I have a lot of respect for this player and his professional work ethic and training regiment. It was funny to stand behind him as he played stone keep. Many players did not know this map well so he was asking where is RA where is Mega or whatever. Funny thing is even without knowing the map I think he still played amazing and won. He did have some help from the others on the EURO pickup ctf team.

Rapha was smug and also a man of few words. He played in a far corner of the tourney computer area. Rapha was actually quite pleasant to interact with but his personality is one of very focused mental energy. Most all of his time was spent practicing duel and with quad gaming ctf. He also hung out with Cypher and the Euro’s quite a bit. He used his SK qck pad, and what looked to be a special version of a microsoft intelli-mouse however Rapha specifically did not want to talk about his mouse. So, I honestly did not try to take a close look at his set up, he could be using something completely different. As far as these claims that he carries a bible everywhere, there was none to be seen. He never brought up the subject and although I’m sure he is a religious person he wasn’t this fanatic that some people try to portray. Very easy going type of person.

Now on to my favorite player to watch of the tournament, the one, the only… Cooller!!!. He is literally one of the most focused and intense people I have ever met. People wonder how he is so consistently good. He logged easily 3 hours more practice than any other player. On Thursday night around 11:30pm QuakeLive came up. Cooller was the first player to have the game up and immediately began scrimmaging anyone and everyone. I stood behind him a couple times. At one point he was playing Draven who seemed to be a close friend. Cooller was up by 5 frags or so and draven landed a rocket rail combo for a frag. Even with this huge lead Cooller re-spawns and yells in his thick accent, “NO!! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY WOULD YOU BE THERE.” This was pretty consistent throughout. Cooller take this game so seriously every second every play he re-analyzes, and he lives up to the title of “quake mastermind”. The out bursts were more about him reminding himself of what mistake he made so he could correct it. He played on an Artisan mousepad he bought on the fly in the exhibitor area. He sat sideways taking up the room of two stations and could literally be found practicing and playing 10 hours a day there. I spoke to him, and got to do an interview which I hope is posted soon. He’s a real cool guy, mellow and no bs kind of personality. At first, he was not too keen on an interview but after our quick session he said “Good job, You stuck to your time.” I interacted with his manager after and they were always very respectful but you could see Cooller needed his space to do his work. During the finals vs. Cypher I was near the stage and his manager shouted at a stage tech “EXCUSE ME. I need you to…” the tech walked off. I came up and said “What’s the problem.” He said, “I don’t know if you can help.” I said, “I don’t care you tell me what you need, I’ll do it.” The manager said, “These lights they are shinning in Cooller’s eyes and flashing we need them off.” I nodded and had the light tech turn them off. His manager nodded thank you, and Cooller’s eyes never left his screen. Cypher was across the stage seeming calm and relaxed jumping around a few maps, and positioning his body for the finals.

Stermy was quite laid back, with his perfect hair, and intense blue eyes. I got to talk to him a couple times. He is quite smart and has strong opinions about maps and the future of quake. He was obviously frustrated at times with the amount of times staff asked players to just wait around. Thursday players waited 5+ hours for things to resume and as Stermy said calmly, “It’s not a big deal, there are always issues. It’s just with the time difference I am tired and would like some sleep.” Later in the tournament he attempted to take naps between matches because Friday and Saturday were marathon sessions. Most every pro played duel and ctf so not only were they constantly in duel matches they had to switch to ctf during almost all of their breaks. Despite all the bs about Stermy this guy is an intense and focused player. When it comes to practice and gaming he works harder then almost everyone, except maybe Cooller :) . I never saw him party or mess around. His videographer was there though, capturing footage for Life of a Pro-Gamer Stermy. I commend all the players for being sober and on-time and I was disappointed with the delays they encountered.

Spart1e was relaxed and of course a man of few words. One of my best friends is from Sweden, and he did have a similar personality. A very nice guy, and as Stermy said in our interview, “… Spart1e is the one with the better hair.” He’s definitely a confident guy, and keeps things professional. Some might take his personality as off putting but it’s mainly a cultural thing. In Sweden, from what I have learned, the language is to the point and you can be forward about your opinions. So, although he seems very opinionated he’s quite respectful. Like the rest of his pros he just needed his corner with the computer and to be left alone. Fnatic hung out all together in one corner. Cypher, Cooller, Draven and some other hung out across the tourney section

Deus from fnatic, who is also their CTF captain was a real pleasure to meet. I didn’t know much about this player but he was one of the CTF stars of the tournament. Even though fnatic finished second they were extremely close to first. At the end I didn’t know who to root for. fnatic guys were so cool to meet and such fun guys I felt I was torn between EG and fnatic at the end. Either could have won and I would have been happy. EG’s win though was epic and cemented their position as one of the best CTF teams in the world. If YYT and LLL* were there I could easily say they are the best, but unfortunately those two strong Euro teams couldn’t make it. During some of the CTF matches players got connection interrupted about ever 2 minutes. It was pretty bad and I saw fnatic and other teams just hang their heads.

Dahang was pretty mellow, not over excited. He’s a very relaxed guy it seems 24/7 even during games. He does get animated in CTF but I think one of the main reason he is so good, is his patience. He’s patient in life like he is in game from what I can tell. I also spoke to Viju and ClampOK. I did see Chance but he was not very much of a talker. Viju was real cool to meet, a business man now with a high-powered investment firm. Unfortunately he has almost no time to practice anymore and said after QuakeCon he might take 2-3 months to focus on his regular job. ClampOK always had ear buds around his neck, was texting and always chill. He liked to hang outside joke around, and have a few cigarettes. I didn’t see the Euros outside smoking as much as I’ve heard. I’d say it was pretty common among players to smoke cigarettes.

Jones, Br1ck, sdahaghi and the rest of the QUAD gaming ctf team were interesting. It’s unfortunate they didn’t get a top 2 finished but put up a strong showing. Jones and Br1ck rocked green player jersey’s with their gamer tags on them. One guy mentioned, “do you think we have room for sponsors on here??”. Although they are sponsored by the QUAD gaming website they’re still looking for main sponsors. Jones was tall so I think he was uncomfortable with the desk size. Rapha brought a cool and calm energy to their team, and their area was relatively quiet on the far side of the tourney area.

kgb and the Load team sat in the middle area of the computers. There was a lot of drama surrounding the Load team before they showed up, as kgb has gained a negative following online. Rapha and other players sat behind kgb for much of their matches just observing his skills, and trying to check if he is legit. Whatever anyone says, kgb played well on lan, and wasn’t the reason for their loss, although there were a few infamous mistakes he made which were costly. Sparks, whaz, flysher were fun to watch but Load fell flat in the end of the tournament. You could hear kgb yelling out commands, and complaints. He said things like, “QUAD!!! QUAD!!! Get the f’ing QUAD!!! C’mon!!” When he wasn’t playing he kind of disappeared and didn’t ever say much to anyone. He didn’t seem angry just focused on the game. He played damn good as well. Sparks was explosive, flysher solid and well rounded and whaz brought some veteran skill and knowledge to round out their team. If they stick together and practice hard I think Load may dominate online competition like DFM did.

dkt was tall and looked buff. You could easily spot him standing and talking with the other gamers. He has a physique similar to a pro athlete. He was polite and calm, contrary to all the online rage which I’ve heard about and seen. Honestly he just cares more about this game then anyone else and can’t handle to make mistakes. I don’t think he has issues with rage, he just likes to mess with people online because he’s played for so many years and gets annoyed. When he lost to DanDaking from Australia though he raged for a bit and yelled something like “I OUTPLAYED HIM, AND HE STILL WON!! ARGHH” After a little while he spoke to Dan and everything was good. dkt’s very serious about his game.

So the suprise of the tournament Austrailian player DanDaking. He won an online tourney sponsored by Archaic-MSI and got a trip paid in full to QuakeCon. I heard from a pro player I won’t name, that he would finish 16th or so. This was a fair assessment as Dan is new to competition and has not competed against the top players before. Never the less he beat Draven, Vamp1re and dkt. WOW!! I was stunned. I thought he might go further but he was pleased with the dkt victory. I must say, mick05, from 4seasonsgaming, and DanDaking were a pleasure to meet and kept things calm Aussie style throughout the tournament. As fatigue set in though Dan crashed and went to sleep on 3 chairs.

The epic climax of the tournament was Cooller vs. Cypher two seemingly close friends. The game came down to the wire and you should watch vods when they are available. Cypher sat in his chair at the end stunned. Cooller had let him through his fingers. His eyes teared up and I think he felt he no longer had to stand in Avek’s shadow. He has been wildly popular but tournaments have been his Achilles Heel. This tournament meant a lot to him. The CTF tournament was close, and the players were quiet but focused. Looking over the two teams you could occasionally hear a few words shouted about a power up. It was too close for comfort but EG pulled it out. The EG guys were excited but more relaxed to get this burden off their shoulders as I think sponsors and management demanded a victory. fnatic was visibly disappointed but they didn’t take it too seriously. Honestly, 2nd place was still a great finish. The team looked frustrated but also happy that they could relax and maybe enjoy some adult beverages. :)

The Craziness
To my surprise many of the pro players were happy with delays because it gave extra time to hang out, test equipment and indulge. However, almost every single player stayed sober during the tournament and had an intense focus. That is except for Prozac. Now, I don’t know what Prozac consumed if anything. Many people assured me this was his normal personality. Well things got progressively worse. Thursday and Friday he was aggravated and appeared intoxicated, which ultimately resulted in him being ejected… Why? Well he changed his shorts in the back of the convention and someone saw him exposed. Honestly, in his country it probably wasn’t as big of a deal, and I guess whoever saw it was extremely offended. Prozac is Prozac many said. He’s a cool guy, refreshing and funny. He makes things exciting and ridiculous. I think many of the players loved his company because he made countless events seem interesting again. I got a few chances to talk to him one on one and although he’s not always coherent he’s an amazingly funny and creative person. I sincerely hope I get to meet him again. It’s unfortunate he got ejected but from what I heard he got to chill out near the pool and slam back some adult beverages. Big props to Prozac!!!! I wanted to duck the stress a few times too.

Post Tourney
By the end of the tourney players were exhausted and stress levels were high. Most everyone went either to get wasted or relax in their rooms. Things went on throughout Saturday night, checks were handed out, cars were given out. As I walked through the BYOC I saw rapha and cypher walking and talking together. They carried their accessories on large QuakeCon posters as they headed off to their next tourney. For the newer players it was time to go home, and relax. For the veterans, off to the next thing, and over and over and over. Always chasing the next check.

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