By Jeremy Say & Matt Liew

As the third and final day of AGES 2016 at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre drew to a close, many concerns came to mind. AGES 2016, with its RM 1,000,000 prize pool spread across FIFA 16, CS:GO, and DOTA2 should have been so much more than it was. Perhaps this writing is too critical of AGES 2016, but my personal encounters with the production value and organization of the tournament as a whole kept reminding me of the disaster that was the Dota 2 Shanghai Major – and how that negatively impacted the scene.

First, let’s go through what happened on the last day before wrapping up with some personal impressions.

Walking straight into the hall at 11am, when FIFA 16 ASEAN Round Grand Final was scheduled to start, turned out to be yet another case ofMalaysian Timeinstead. To paraphrase the reasons given by the tournament organizers and officials behinds the delays this time:

The matches were not finished yesterday and the CS:GO match is being played out. Until they finish the CS:GO match, we can’t start the FIFA 16 finals.

This is not an acceptable or valid excuse/reason. The CS:GO match being played (the “official reason” for the delay) was not being streamed or casted, as it was being played in the players’ area. Some of the things any competitive player – or human being – hates are delays and waiting, which can very easily throw people off mentally and cause them to underperform.

This is of course besides the obvious fact that CS:GO is not the same game as FIFA 16. Unless there’s something I’m missing, I really see no reason for the delay regardless of the extra CS:GO game – short of the fact that the hall was empty.

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Then there is the issue of professionalism at a RM 1 million prize pool event that is being broadcast LIVE on Twitch.tv to an INTERNATIONAL audience. Be it the caster who wore a suit, tie, and slippers onstage in full view of the camera (He did this three days in a row, by the way. People have been fired/banned from smaller events than this for less stupid reasons) or no dedicated space for any of the non-sponsored media (nods to Astro desperately trying to plug their eGG channel throughout the event) to the overall poor organization and untimeliness of the event, things looked very unprofessional.

*Editor’s note- The caster in question, Aiman Roshizam, very kindly informed us that he was actually suffering from a bad foot fracture and was not medically cleared to wear closed footwear. We hope it gets better soon, Aiman!

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Even the post-match interviews were awkward – and in some cases very demoralizing/humiliating – for the players. eSports – heck, sports – are considered very emotionally and mentally attached activities. Losing due to a split second mistake is extremely common, and triggers all sorts of emotions that take time to process. The hosts at AGES 2016, be it by their own volition or under orders of their superiors, decided that it was necessary to interview the losers of every Grand Final match played on Day 3. Yes, it’s showing respect to the loser to acknowledge that they put up a fight and tried their best, but there is absolutely no reason to have loser’s interviews immediately after the match like they were at AGES 2016.

What can be considered disrespectful and inconsiderate to the players is having the gall to force them to answer the question “So why did you think you lost?” Nothing says professionalism and entertainment like kicking someone when they’re down – fresh from a loss – then proceeding to the winner and cracking light-hearted jokes. While eSports shouldn’t be super serious and good humour is very much appreciated, there are many lines that shouldn’t still be crossed if eSports is to receive mainstream acceptance – both internationally and locally. One of the hosts – bless his heart – decided that it would a good idea to drag the losing team’s captain out of the booth for a loser’s interview, asking her “Why do you think you lost?” When she had the courage to specifically name one of her opponent’s players as the key factor due to him scoring important kills at key times, the host had the gall to summon the player (that she had just named as the key factor behind their loss) to join them for the interview.

It’s one thing to have a loser’s interview immediately after the game, but it’s another thing to directly humiliate and insult the loser in front of a live audience. If you absolutely, desperately have to conduct a loser’s interview for whatever reason, give the players some breathing room to process what just happened on their own time and in privacy before asking them – in private – if you can have an interview.

Put this in the perspective of physical sports. Do you think anyone would have dared to interview Cristiano Ronaldo immediately after the game if he had missed the penalty and lost the Champions League to Atletico Madrid last weekend? No. Did anyone rush onto the pitch to interview the crying John Terry in 2008 when he slipped and missed his penalty in Moscow – effectively losing the game for his team? No. Did anyone rush onto the pitch immediately after the referee blew the whistle to end Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil at the 2014 World Cup to interview the losing team? No.

Then why on earth did AGES 2016 keep forcing loser’s interviews? Forcing an immediate interview onstage mere seconds after the defeat is just pure disrespect to the losing team.

Moving on.

The production value of AGES 2016 became a meme – #productionvalue – on the first day of the event. If it isn’t one problem with the screen, then it’s another. On Day 1 we noticed a lot of screen tearing and frame drops for the main stage’s screen, and pointed it out to the organizers. They assured us that it was teething issues, and everything would be sorted out “by tomorrow”. Day 2 had flickers of a blue screen happening throughout the games, microphone failures, and poor camera handling (I don’t want to stare at a table’s leg for 10 seconds). Day 3 had a black screen in the middle of the FIFA 16 Grand Final and more microphone issues.

 

*SPOILERS*

 

The longest problem-free stretch of the event was during the Dota 2 Grand Final – the last matches of the entire event. It appears that it literally took them the entire event to figure everything out.

It was a shame that local team Orange.Taring were absolutely demolished by Signature.Trust in both matches, also losing to them during the Group Stages – their only loss in the Group Stage. The two matches – as one-sided as they were – turned out to be worth watching, thanks to the casting of Xyclopz and GoDz. These matches also drew the biggest audience – both on twitch and live in at the venue – creating a vibrant atmosphere as fans cheered on the players.

Is it ironic that Orange.Taring were the only team not to have an immediate post-match loser’s interview? They apparently were so emotional after the loss that they couldn’t get them on stage for a photo shoot until after they had calmed down – and after Astro eGG’s peculiar little event.

 

*END SPOILERS*

 

Astro made a peculiar appearance immediately after the Dota 2 Grand Finals ended, hosting a giveaway which was nothing more than a poorly planned plug for their new eGG network, and to unveil the hosts of eGG. Other than the nationalities and names of the hosts, not much info was given other than “eGG is launching soon” – which anyone could’ve discovered through some basic Google-fu. It is somewhat hard to believe that a plug for Astro’s new network couldn’t wait until after the prize-giving ceremony for the players who worked hard and who deserve it.

The plug itself was nothing more than just getting members of the audience to make fools of themselves in exchange for prizes. Something almost worth noting is the cringeworthy issues the hosts had trying to get any female members of the audience to participate. This also happened earlier in the day after the FIFA 16 Grand Finals, where the hosts had to verbally pester the runner-up Kickers.Shige’s girlfriend to join them onstage.

Even the closing ceremony was a bit odd. Instead of presenting the players their with their trophies and mock cheques after their respective Grand Final matches, the audience and players were forced to wait over an hour for VIPs to arrive before they could start. By this time, the majority of the crowd had left, while production slowly set up the stage and comfy leather chairs for the VIPs. There was also zero communication between the organizers and the audience – and even members of media. We had to go and find a staff member that actually knew what was going on and ask him what was the cause of the delay.

Sadly, not being able to stay any longer for the closing ceremony due to major lack of sleep in the last 72 hours, I decided to watch the VODs on Twitch for AGES 2016. The prize-giving ceremony was basically just a photo op for the politicians and bigwigs as the cheques were presented to all the players.

 

Read part 2 of the article here.