Overwatch League, DeepMind Starcraft, Echo Fox Performance | Esports in a Nutshell

Welcome to Esports in a Nutshell. Everything in the world of Esports in a video nutshell. I’m Mark Register. For our top stories this week.

  • 0:05 ESL’s IEM Oakland League of Legends tournament will be broadcast November 19 & 20th with your stage host Mark Register alongside Sjokz (shocks), Crumbzz, Zirene (zeye reen), Tsepha (see-fah), Froskurinn (froh-skur-in), Papasmithy, & Achilios (ah-kill-e-os).
  • 0:22 Blizzard announces their Overwatch League where each team will represent a city, team owners may bid for their team to represent a city, which could potentially cost owners a lot of money for a permanent league spot. Team owners must have clear contracts with all players.
    • Blizzard will hold an open tournament called a Combine for the best players to prove themselves and be scouted and recruited by city teams. The open Combine tournament will ensure a very active community and viewership base as many will watch intently to learn from top players.
    • The 2017 regular season will be played remotely online but Playoffs and Finals will be offline LANs at a live audience venue. Nate Nanzer Blizzard’s global Esports director says “We hope that by having these local teams that in a few years every team has home games. There’s millions of kids around the world that would love to go to an esports tournament and buy merch, but can’t because of travel costs. These localized teams will unlock lots of local revenue,” There will be an offseason that Nanzer says teams can use to rest or play in 3rd party tournaments. The Overwatch League website will be the comprehensive guide for players, teams, and tournaments.
    • Blizzard will create a new kind of fan with their mandatory city based teams… local fans. Most likely major city sports teams that are savvy to Esports will out bid independent teams to obtain a spot but not every major metropolitan city has an Esports savvy sports team owner or leader and this could be the perfect opportunity for new organizations in major cities to invest long term in a financially sustainable team. It’s unlikely but hey we all root for the underdog and it would make for a great story.
    • But a few questions ring out in the subreddits…
    • Once a team owner obtains a league slot will it be easier for that team to obtain a league spot for other Blizzard games when they adopt the structure of their Overwatch League to Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft, Warcraft, Hearthstone, and any other future titles?
    • Will Blizzard give a percentage of Broadcast rights and sponsorships to teams in the league?
    • Will the home matches, that Nanzer says will happen in the next few years, have each team playing in their respected hometown, playing each other remotely or will teams travel for each match? If they do it remotely, it would be nice that every game would be a home game.
    • What do you guys think?
  • 2:58 Blizzard and Google begin collaboration on using DeepMind to create an AI Starcraft II bot that will eventually be able to beat the best Starcraft players in the world using machine learning, as it has with so many games including most recently with beating the top Go player in the world.
    • A big wrench in the system includes the fog of war, not allowing the computer to know what the other player is doing without scouting.
    • Using inputs like the map, minimap, and others Deepmind will initially learn from watching years of top tier gameplay footage from Starcraft tournaments then move on to live human opponents.
    • In June I predicted the following “When will AI be able to learn how to play Esports games and school us all? In 5 Years. In the last few months Google DeepMind beats the top Go boardgame player in the world and learns curiosity and reward to complete the video game Montezuma’s Revenge. There are more variables in Esports titles than most of the simple games being played right now by DeepMind. Hearthstone could be the lowest hanging fruit and could be mastered in a year or two if focused on today given you plug in all the cards abilities and run the scenarios. A MOBA game like League of Legends will take much longer, there are so many variables that in order to run enough scenarios to effectively learn how to play it we would need to figure out a different approach or wait until quantum computing comes to fruition and badabing it would take a second to master not only any MOBA Esport but pretty much anything in the world.”
    • So 5 months not 5 years later DeepMind is already attacking its first Esports game. Because of that I will now adjust my estimate that DeepMind will defeat top players in MOBA games like League of Legends from June 2021 to March 2019.
  • 4:58 Ethan Gach reports Ninjas in Pyjamas Counter Strike player Xizt says in an interview, “We didn’t really care too much about the Echo Fox team, I mean come on.”
    • Echo Fox’s League of Legends team was also almost relegated in this year’s summer split.
    • Rick Fox addresses the issue that his teams are underperforming by saying “We’re not trying to run our business in the ground, but we’re also not owned by a conglomerate that’s treating Echo Fox like a small part of their board. To be successful in this business you need talented players, and that means you need to connect. You can pay guys money but that still doesn’t mean they’re going to pour in their heart and soul, so it’s definitely important.”
    • Building a winning team is a delicate balance of strengthening mechanics, adapting to changes in the metagame with regular patches, building new strategies against each team and player, hiring the right support staff and players and finding just the right configuration of all of them, providing downtime to recharge with a life outside of the game, and exercising for the body & mind.
    • South Korea’s SK Telecom T1 has mastered the balance but North American teams like Echo Fox have not been able to emulate their success.
    • However the real question is, will a team like Echo Fox find success in emulating a South Korean team like SKT then becoming the better version of them or will trying to be like SKT always keep them falling short and the only answer is a completely new approach?
  • 6:35 League of Legends player Deft says “I think I had good performances in China, but I’ve always been disappointed at worlds. I don’t think I have a lot of time in which I can continue to perform well. I wish to return to Korea where I have a higher chance of winning worlds. Since I want to return to Korea, I’m not expecting the level of pay like I had in China. I hope the fans still support me since I’ll be returning for the first time in a while.” Reaffirming that if you want to make money, go to China, if you want to win Worlds, go to South Korea.
  • 7:07 Josh Raven at Slingshot reports about a dozen European League of Legends players are in a Skype group chat that is arguably swaying roster acquisitions and maliciously hurting players’ careers.
    • Some players have accused the group with tampering in the transfer of players Zven & Mithy.
    • Slingshot says “One former LCS player described the process as targeting a player the group didn’t like and then repeatedly criticizing him to fellow teammates and coaching staff, hoping to eventually convince the team to drop him.”
  • 7:40 With funding from Jim Fowler – Happy Walters & Josh Swartz launch Catalyst Sports & Media an agency dealing in basketball, soccer, and Esports representation and investing. Esports lawyer Bryce Blum is hired as their Executive Vice President and will continue working as an Esports lawyer for his IME law firm on the side.
  • 8:04 The Next Level gives us a chart showing the 19 Pro Sports Teams that have started Esports teams across the world. On a side note, there are independant Amateur, Pro, and Collegiate Esports teams popping up regularly that I don’t mention, but for the sake of having it on the record… there’s a lot of new teams being formed every month and usually every week.
  • 8:27 Former Epsilon Esports League of Legends players are fighting to collect the $25k owed to them, which is one month’s salary for the whole team, from the team owners.
  • 8:38 The Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Dolphins say they are looking to enter Esports and that “We’re in the hunt right now. It’s insanity.” or as Jeremy Lin would say, Linsanity.
  • 8:51 Jason Lake tweets out “Elon Musk personally told me ‘before long, Esports will be the biggest sport in the world.’ Freaking visionary.” do you smell that… mmm validation from a widely successful long term visionary. Feels good.
  • 9:11 The Spanish Institute of Youth and the National Association for the Promotion of Digital Entertainment announce their creation of the Spanish Federation of Video Games and Esports.
  • 9:21 Crumbz launches Agency for Professional Esports, providing services such as contract negotiations, individual sponsorships, branding, and post-career management.
  • 9:32 Part of Diablo 1 is re-released using Diablo 3’s game engine so I can say – hello my friend, stay awhile and listen for the next two years of your free time.
  • 9:43 Former Daily Dot journalist Samuel Lingle moves to NRG as their Overwatch coach. Congratulations Sam on making the big move.
  • 9:52 ESL announces their 2017 Counter Strike Pro League prize pool will increase from $1.5M to $2M spread over two seasons in the year.
  • 10:02 Plays.tv now includes the ability to automatically capture, tag, and present Overwatch replays in their annotated timelines.
  • 10:12 UK Gaming Commission is in the process of analyzing the function of Bitcoins and skin betting in online gambling.
  • 10:20 YouTube Gaming hosts a Clash Royale with cheese tournament called the King’s Cup Live with a $100k prize pool.
  • 10:27 Reggie Miller says “I believe Jerebko has a team in the ELeague, the Renegades, that he currently owns. He’s trying to get a Call of Duty team. This guy has too much time on his hands. He needs to be in the gym.” Seriously Jonas, look at yourself, pull yourself together. That’s it have a great rest of your day.

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