insomnia57: What needs to change?
Multiplay’s 57th iSeries, insomnia57, has drawn to a close and Rasta Gaming has finally claimed a first place spot. The tournament as a whole saw some amazing performances from some LAN new-comers causing upset after upset from the group stages, right through to the lower bracket semi-finals. Despite this nail-biting tournament through, there have been grumbles from attendees and home-viewers about certain points which really need to be addressed to help this event get the coverage it deserves.
I want to start off by saying, Battlefy is a great system. We use it for our own tournaments and it works. There are a couple of things I’d like to see changed, but for the most part it does the job for small cups/events. It doesn’t seem to handle large events like iSeries too well though. From a spectator and reporting side, having all scores go in as single digits, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 etc, makes it really hard to understand exactly what happened in each game, and leads to players getting bombarded with questions through social media and Steam conversations. It made our job harder too as we were trying to report on as many games as we could, but due to the tight scheduling, trying to find time to talk to players and get the scores for each game was tough. As much as we grumbled back in the ClanForge days, at least that gave out helpful information. In the ClanFroge days there was ClanForge and IRC, nothing else. At i57 admins were having to keep track of Battlefy chat, Discord, Facebook group messages, Facebook chat messages, and Steam chats. Discord is a great replacement for IRC and think that swap was needed, but the addition of all the other avenues of contact leaves the admins stretched thin.
If you were sitting at home waiting for an awesome weekend of UK CSGO action, you were probably a little upset due to the fact that there were no public GOTVs for you to tune into. There was, of course, the Multiplay stream, but viewers had no say over what matches would be shown on there, so if they didn’t want to follow most of the progress of FM-eSports, then you would be out of luck. The reason for the lack of public GOTVs was down to an oversight by Multiplay not setting up external proxies. This oversight hurts Multiplay because it means people couldn’t stream other games to promote other teams and the event to a different viewerbase. Hopefully this was just a last minute oversight which we will see rectified at i58.
Anyone that was at the event would have heard the noise bellowing out from the stage. We know the importance of having a stage to present show matches and finals, but when these games go on during the group stages of the CSGO tournament, you have to ask “could they not?!” With bass so powerful monitors were wobbling and mice were shaking all over the LAN hall, it is a disturbance that has the potential to cost rounds. Putting the powerful bass aside, even people with some of the best sound cancelling headsets on the market still couldn’t hear in game sounds or comms due to the shear volume of the stage. It adds a LAN tactic no one would have considered before the event, sit as far away from the stage as possible!
The cost of iSeries keeps growing, and the “perks” we used to take for granted are now purchasable extras. With the base ticket price now costing £99, then if you want to camp it’s an extra £15, parking for the weekend is another £5 and finally you now have to buy tickets for the “world famous” pub quiz. This means that an event that used to cost ~£80, all in, now costs £120 with the addition of the pub quiz costs, if you choose to go. This is partly down to iSeries choosing its venues based around the exhibition in my opinion. They are looking for a venue which can cope with the traffic the exhibition pulls in, and the BYOC event feels an afterthought. iSeries became what it is today because of their commitment to the BYOC event, but now they are able to charge tens of thousands of pounds for a space that would seat approximately 15 BYOC guests, they focus their efforts on the exhibition instead. The addition of Youtubers and Minecraft streamers attending for meet and greets launched the exhibition into overdrive and we started to see massive numbers of people turning up to look round the exhibition. With the growing success of the exhibition, it feels like they would run that as a separate entity and look at a smaller venue or rent less space at the NEC for a competitive tournament weekend. In theory this would increase venue for Multiplay because of the increase of events, and hopefully reduce the cost of the weekend.
The addition of paying for parking was added last summer LAN to try and reduce the number of cars parked at the venue. This was due to the addition of an outdoor gaming hall which took up a large portion of the car park. The NEC has an abundance of parking so the question is, why do we still have to pay for the luxury of parking at the event?
For the number of teams that attend an average iSeries, a £5,000 prize pool seems low, especially when you look back and see that all the way back at i29, which took place in 2009, also had a £5,000 prize pool. The event may have grown exponentially, but the prize pool has remained stagnant which seems odd as you would expect sponsors to be more willing to put in more money because of the increased footfall and exposure. The largest prize pool we have ever seen at an iSeries for CSGO is £10k, which for an event of this size is a good starting point for a prize pool. When GAME/Multiplay are willing to put $30,000 (aprox £21,100) of their own money behind Hearthstone, which they did at i56, you have to question why they don’t do this for other games? A bigger prize pool would draw in bigger teams from Europe, increasing exposure for the event making sponsors keener to put more money into the prize pool.
iSeries has been a great event for many years now and a big driving force in the UK competitive scenes for a wide range of games, but as time goes on they seem to be drifting more away from their roots, and focusing more on “the next thing”. No one can blame them for wanting to expand their business, and they have done an amazing job of doing it, but have they reached critical mass on the current iSeries format? If they were to split the exhibition and esports event into two separate occasions, would things improve? I still treasure the memories of the Newbury iSeries events where you could sit outside and have a beer between games, and not just be stuck in a large hall all weekend forgetting what natural light looked like.
We would love to hear back from Multiplay on any or all of these points and hope they do get in touch.