Sabine at The Manila Major 2016

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Just less than two months after ESL One came to Manila, we were already back in MOA Arena for another huge international tournament – The Manila Major! I already felt so lucky thanks to my ESL One Manila experience, but this tournament just spoiled me even further.

The incredible crowd, production value, matches, and food just made me wish that we’d see tournaments of this caliber in the Philippines more often! Read more about my behind-the-scenes experience at The Manila Major below. ♥

At Center Stage

In the days leading up to the event, I’d see constant updates on my Facebook feed from friends who were already setting up the stage in MOA Arena. Following the progress online was already pretty exciting, so I was just blown away when I walked into the arena myself for the first time. Everything about the setup was incredible. It looked exactly like the stages I’d always see online during live streams of international Dota 2 tournaments.

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The stage area took up the entire floor, including what was used as the VIP section during ESL One Manila. They needed a lot of space for the numerous host and caster tables as well.

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Seeing the screen up close for the first time was a breathtaking moment for me. It was MASSIVE. And the fact that it was suspended above the stage just made it even more cool.

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I love how they put screens on the booths so that the audience could see which heroes the players were using for each match.

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It didn’t just end with the screen and the stage – even the way they programmed the lights was amazing. My favorite would probably be how the lights would suddenly halt and slowly spiral upwards in sync with the sound of Roshan’s death.

Inside the VIP Lounge

This was easily my favorite spot in the entire arena. It offered the most amazing view of the tournament stage and the crowd, and we could enjoy all the games while spoiling ourselves silly with the sumptuous buffet food.

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Where we sat as we (and our rumbling tummies) waited for the lunch buffet to open.

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Definitely the best view of the stage (and the crowd) for me.

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Me attempting to take mirror selfies

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We got there too early so it was still pretty empty. But during the matches, the seats facing the screen would fill up instantly.

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The stuff they served at the lounge wasn’t just your regular buffet food. Their Herb Crusted Salmon and Veal Shank dishes were soooo good!

Hype hype hype!

It’s no secret that Pinoys love Dota 2. They’re some of the most passionate, dedicated, and (sometimes) notorious players you could ever encounter online, so seeing all these local Dota 2 fans gather in person was quite the experience.

They braved long lines just to meet their favorite teams, stayed way past most of their curfew hours to finish watching all the games, and roared with excitement during each and every match. Love it or hate it, this community really is something else, and I couldn’t have been happier to share this experience with everyone there.

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Hundreds of fans lining up to see Na’Vi.

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The fans were nice enough to smile whenever I’d point my camera in their direction.

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One of the biggest surprises on the last night was when Hodor from Game of Thrones suddenly walked onto the stage!

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He actually held the door for the two teams that would be competing in the finals!

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Do what you love, love what you do. ☺♥

What else is there to say? I hope we’ll get to enjoy more majors here in the Philippines soon!

THE MANILA MAJOR: ICYMI
Mineski.net coverage hub

 

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Sabine at ESL One Manila 2016

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Pinoy Dota 2 fans have long been famous online (for a number of reasons), but their incredible passion for esports took the whole world by surprise after the country hosted ESL One Manila. It was the first international event of its scale to ever land on Philippine shores, and I remember how ecstatic I felt when I first heard the news. I’ve already seen plenty of amazing events already in my years of working in esports, but the kind of experience this one offered was on a whole different level.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into it. The mere thought of working with some of the most renowned personalities and teams in the international Dota 2 scene, was pretty overwhelming at first. But then again, I’ve always loved the exhilaration I’d feel from jumping into these events. I enjoyed treating them as challenges since they’d always become the most rewarding experiences.

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The dream team, Mineski.net!

One of the most exciting things about the entire event was the fact that I’d be surrounded by a whole lot of friends and familiar faces. Mineski is the local partner of ESL here in the Philippines, so the entire Mineski crew was there – including the Mineski.net team of course! I’ve been through so many e-sports events with this team already, so it’s always so wonderful when we all get to cover an event together. A lot of the writers work online so events like these are also mini-reunions for us and the Mineski office peeps. ♥

From Where We Stood

The non-stop action from all the matches was already insane, but watching from the stage area itself just made the experience even more incredible.

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The stage area.

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Of course, we had to be extra careful since there was a lot of equipment (+ wires. SO MANY wires) near the stage.

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Casters’ table.

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We also got a pretty good view of the teams, which was great since it allowed us to see and capture all the raw emotions they showed while playing.

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Break time in between matches.

Inside the Media Room

One of my favorite spots was definitely the media room, where all the media teams could set up their laptops and watch the matches without any unnecessary disturbances. Aside from working (and goofing off with the team) in here, I also got to meet up with e-sports writers from other media organizations. I’d already met some of them personally before, but it was nice to finally meet the ones that added me online. I also felt pretty kilig when some writers I didn’t know recognized me and introduced themselves. ☺

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The Mineski.net coverage hub (table) haha.

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When the ESL Dota 2 match and the ongoing Presidential Debate are both too juicy (and lit af) that you can’t afford to miss out on either!

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Coffee, laptops, coffee, laptops… coffee.

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We also had access to the buffet room next door – the same one where the pro teams would eat! I actually ran into the members of Team Secret there while they were on break. ☺

Snaps On the Ground

When I wasn’t taking breaks or watching matches in the press room, I was usually on the ground with my cam on roaming duty. No coverage article would be complete without photos. I also personally enjoy snapping as many event and behind-the-scenes pics as possible since it gives me something to look back on afterwards. I’d usually capture at least 200 photos during events like this, but I picked out a few of my favorite sights for the blog.

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View from the VIP seating area, my second favorite spot after the Press/Stage area. ☺

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TBH I felt like I was drowning in confetti while taking these victory photos.

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Fellow media peeps scrambling to capture all the excitement during Wings Gaming’s victory.

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Pinoy fans going wild as the members of Wings Gaming finally got their hands on the coveted ESL One Manila championship trophy.

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The merch booth made my wallet cry. Plus, they didn’t even have the shirts in my size!

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Time to pack up! I honestly enjoy the cleaning up part too during e-sports events since it’s the time when everyone gets to celebrate, mingle, and have fun (minus the stress).

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Overall, ESL One Manila was one heck of an experience. The event’s production value was unlike anything I’d ever seen in a local event before, and it was pretty amazing to see (and mingle with) some of the world’s best Dota 2 players. The tournament was incredibly intense – so intense that the crowd would roar to no end during each match. I also appreciated how well they treated those from the media.

Due to the immense success of this event and the Manila Major (I’ll post about this too!), international organizations and communities are now taking notice. The players, casters, and organizers were incredibly delighted with all the love and excitement they felt from the Pinoy crowd. So, who knows, we might  just see even more international events of this scale in the Philippines very soon! Let’s all keep our fingers crossed! ☺

ESL ONE MANILA: ICYMI
Check out my Flipgeeks PH recap, my article on Wings Gaming,
and the coverage articles on Mineski.net!

Demo Thoughts: SC2VN – The Esports Visual Novel

[Update: Aside from the changes Team Eleven Eleven announced (mentioned below), I also came across an MIT – SC2VN event page where it looks like they also made changes to some character appearances and in-game interfaces.] 😀


A visual novel on StarCraft and eSports? Yup, you read that right!

While visual novels commonly revolve around themes like drama, family, adventure, science fiction, and horror, a small group of developers called Team Eleven Eleven has risen up to challenge the norm by creating the first-ever eSports visual novel.

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SC2VN demo game menu

Aptly named SC2VN, the game tells the story of Mach, an aspiring professional gamer who traveled alone to South Korea in the hopes of breaking into the fiercely competitive StarCraft II scene. While tirelessly striving to be recognized, Mach must also deal with trials real life professional gamers know all too well, including an uncertain career, finances, family acceptance, and the pressure to maintain one’s title.

The game focuses heavily on choice, allowing players to decide who their rivals, practice partners, and romantic interests will be. Players will also get to choose which team houses Mach will stay in and which in-game strategies to use during ladder and tournament matches.

Being a fan of StarCraft since those good old Brood War days, I was very excited when I first heard the news. The game had been successfully funded on Kickstarter last October 2013, amassing a total of $8000 in funding during its 30-day campaign. According to Kickstarter updates, it’s slated for release in August/ early September.

I recently gave the SC2VN demo a try myself. It was pretty short, but it showed just how promising the game was. The team put a great effort into creating a very cogent replica of the Korean StarCraft II scene back in 2011, and you could tell that the game was made by people who know the StarCraft and eSports world well (they even included and poked fun at a few real-life pros in the demo).

Team Eleven Eleven did reveal in an interview with eSports Max a few days ago that they’ve decided to stay away from portraying real-life people in the game, to avoid garnering negative reactions from players with regards to these pro characters’ portrayals. Other developments not included in the demo are the options to choose Mach’s StarCraft race and gender (yes, you can play as a girl in this game!). 5dec924eb4f371e6ef292ff34155af3f_large

The male & female versions of Mach

Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist writing on my SC2VN demo experience. Here are some of my thoughts on the demo, just remember to take note of the aforementioned changes. 😉 (I’ll be referring to Mach as a HE since you play a dude in the demo)

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The game opens with Mach’s devastating loss in a Code A qualifier match. The inner monologue takes a lot out of you, since we all know how painful it is to lose after putting tons of effort into hours of training.

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While most visual novels revolve primarily around dialogue and interaction choices, SC2VN also allows its players to decide the fate of Mach in-game. I love the fact that they came up with this idea. It wouldn’t be necessary in most VNs but in a StarCraft VN it makes the experience way more authentic (and stressful at times)!

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After a soul-searching walk around the streets of Seoul (heh heh.. heh), Mach winds up in an overcrowded PC gaming cafe. His confusion regarding the large amount of people quickly fades when he realizes that he’s chanced upon a weekly pro-gamer tournament/ gathering.

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Players also see the matches play out based on the strategic choices they’ve made. The authentic, panic-driven narration and fitting battle music make watching the in-game scenes so much more fun.

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Mach meets three pro-gamers at the cafe – Rae, MC, and MarineKing. Here’s a screenshot of MC being his classic Bosstoss self. There was another hilarious moment where his fellow pro-gamers teased him with his old “Suicidetoss” nickname.

You can only imagine my frustration when the demo ended right when the three pro-gamers agreed to practice with Mach!

There is definitely a lot to love about this demo. One of my favorite aspects of the game is the character art, especially because MarineKing’s laughing pose is simply adorable.

The music and sound effects also blend perfectly with every scene, creating a more immersive experience for the player. A favorite example of mine would be during the opening scene at the Code A qualifiers – where the sound of other players typing frantically around Mach accompany his depressing monologue.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game. Aside from it being free to download and play, Team Eleven Eleven also said that StarCraft commentator and personality Sean “Day[9]” Plott will be lending his voice to the game.

Overall, fans of StarCraft and eSports will definitely appreciate this initiative. While some aspects of the final game may differ substantially from the demo, there’s still no reason we can’t enjoy it. Unfortunately all I can give is a rough preview, and playing the demo yourself is way more fun.

So what are you waiting for? As Mach says, it’s time to “shake out all those LAN jitters” and try it out now! 🙂

Demo Download | SC2VN Kickstarter Page

Google rumored to acquire Twitch.tv for $1B

Reports of Google’s alleged plans to buy live video-streaming platform Twitch.tv for $1,000,000,000 spread across the internet like wildfire today, garnering mixed reactions from the gaming and eSports community worldwide.

TwitchTV

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is reportedly in early discussions to acquire the eSports and gaming-focused streaming site, although no deal is imminent yet. If the deal does go through, Twitch would become a potential boost to the company’s YouTube video service.

No official statement has yet been released from either two parties, but Twitch’s PR Director stated on Twitter that they do not comment on rumors.

Twitch.tv started out as a subsidiary of the Justin.tv live streaming service, after the site’s gaming category became the most popular content on the site. Justin.tv co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear launched Twitch in June 2011 as a live streaming site focused on gaming-related content, allowing users to watch and broadcast gameplay. The site also hosts tournament streams for League of Legends, StarCraft, Dota 2, and other eSports titles.

Last February, less than three years after its creation, Twitch had already accounted for 1.8% of United States peak internet traffic by companies and ranked fourth overall during peak hours, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Netflix took the number one spot, Google placed second, and Apple third. Below Twitch on the list sat long-running websites such as Facebook, Pandora, and Tumblr.

With all the success and attention Twitch has been getting, it comes as no surprise that tech giant companies would be interested in buying it out. Less than a month ago, Qwilt released a report stating that Twitch is now the most popular streaming site in the United States. Twitch has a 43% share of the total live streaming game, and streams more content than UStream, WWE, ESPN, and MLB.com combined.

Last year, YouTube announced an API at the Game Developers Conference, which would allow game developers to add live streaming capabilities to their games; a possible response to the overwhelming success and popularity of Twitch.

Twitch hosts more than a million streams per month and broadcasts gameplay 24 hours a day. It has an average of 45 miliion unique viewers each month, including one million people who create and stream video content on the site. Unlike YouTube where users spend an average of about 15 minutes per day on the site, Twitch users spend an average of 106 minutes a day watching its video content.


Personal thoughts!

The tech industry is no stranger to large company buyouts. Some of the more recent ones include Facebook buying the Oculus Rift, Apple buying Beats, and AT&T buying DirecTV. The question is, will Twitch become just another one of those independent, landmark successes eaten up and absorbed by the long-standing giants?

I think I’d much rather see Twitch grow on its own as a flagship company for the growing industry of eSports and video gaming. Given the company’s success and how promising the future looks for eSports, I think Twitch can actually become a giant itself without having to run under Google’s banner. For a standalone company focused on eSports and gaming to become as successful as it is now gives hope to the millions of people out there who are part of this industry.

ESL enters the Philippine eSports scene!

Following its recent expansion into Asia, global eSports league ESL (Electronic Sports League) unveiled last Thursday the ESL Philippines Opening Series, its first round of gaming tournaments here in the country.

photo from gamesinasia.com

photo from gamesinasia.com

Done in partnership with local gaming organization Mineski-Events Team, Smart GameX, and Garena, the opening league will feature monthly online and on-site competitions for Dota 2, League of Legends, and Hearthstone.

Each offline event boasts a P15,000 prize pool, while the online tournaments feature P5,000 prize pools. Along with cash prizes, winners will also receive “league points” with every tournament win. Players who accumulate the most league points will be eligible to enter the opening league’s Grand Final events at the end of 2014.

Online cups are open to all, while the offline cups are geared more towards rewarding top players with cash prizes and promoting competition in the local tournament area. ESL’s entry into the local scene aims to strengthen Filipino gamers and ultimately make them more globally competitive in the field of eSports.

ESL PH Opening League posters

ESL PH Opening League posters

Two of the three titles featured in the ESL PH Opening League – Dota 2 and League of Legends – are considered the biggest names in the local gaming and eSports scene today. Hearthstone, on the other hand, has rapidly grown in popularity as a competitive title worldwide since its release last March. The game has also been gaining a strong following within the Filipino gaming community.

ESL is the largest and oldest league of its kind in the world. Operated by German eSports company Turtle Entertainment, the league recently began expanding its operations in Asia this year.

ESL Asia’s first major project, the ESL ONE Frankfurt 2014 Dota 2 Asian Qualifier tournament, was held in cooperation with the Mineski-Events Team. According to the league, it is the first of many events they have in store for the Asian gaming community.

The first round of Hearthstone (online) and League of Legends (offline) tournaments are set for Sunday, May 18. All other inaugural tournaments, including League of Legends (online), Hearthstone (offline), and Dota 2 (online and offline), are scheduled for June.

Interested players may visit the official ESL PH website for tournament registration and information.