Hearthstats’ Champion’s League

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As mentioned previously, I’ve been helping out at the Hearthstats’ (then) Challenger’s League, and now, the Champion’s League. Despite not actually playing any Hearthstone, it’s still exciting to work with video games and understand how to run a eSports tournament.

It’s easy to sit back and complain when the games take forever to be broadcasted, or when there are problems with the stream itself (sound missing, wrong graphics, etc.)? It seems like it takes organizers forever to fix problems, to turn on audio even, or to just start the damn game. Here’s a peak on what actually happens behind the scenes when a tournament is run by a small company like Hearthstats, and not some massive giant like Blizzard.

BEFORE IT STARTS
So before anything even gets broadcasted, there are several (read: a million) things to get organized: schedules for players (and making sure the time zone works for all the players in different countries), finding casters, any art that needs to be commissioned, NA/EU accounts with the proper cards, creating a page on the website with the tournament information, setting up the stream, and creating overlays and graphics for the stream which include: introduction screen, company’s logo screen (sometimes an animation), waiting screen before players even start, waiting screen with the two players information and casters, the player’s decks screen, the actual game screen, and then the post winner/loser screen, to name a few.

On top of all of that, there needs to be graphics made to advertise the tournament, posting on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and all the other good social media things, finding sponsors for prize money, finding sponsors to advertise, getting famous players/casters to help boost the view counts, getting deck lists from players, setting up audio so that we can talk to the casters without the audience hearing us,  and making sure that the stream actually works. Keep in mind, all of this should be done early on in order for the tournament to run smoothly.

Still, there are problems even before the tournament starts. Players send in decks late, or we need to chase players for photos, bios, taglines. Graphics that seem to be completely ready are actually missing parts when push comes to shove, caster microphones are subpar quality, posts that were supposed to be formatted for Reddit have been forgotten about until the day of, people who were supposed to get back did not, and emails don’t get sent.

THE MORNING OF
Alright so let’s say most of the to-do list has been completed, and that it’s the day of. Morning of the first day of the tournament is the craziest, on the dock for today is: setting up all the different screens and making sure they work, setting up the audio so that there’s in-game music, caster audio, behind-the-scenes audio just for casters, waiting room music, extra audio sounds (Player 1 VS Player 2), posting on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, talking to various gaming sites to make sure they’re advertising the tournament and that they know it’s happening, and that’s just to actually run the tournament. Also important, that all of the players are online somewhere, that they know they have to play, that their deck lists have been submitted, and that their video cams are working. Don’t forget to check in with the casters to test out all the screens, run through the tournament set up and the different screens, tell them when they’ll be able to cast and when they will be muted, and all those fun things.

DURING 
We’ve made it to the actual tournament start time, congratulations. Fifteen minutes before each match, you need to contact the two players playing against each other, check that they’re both on the same server, ask for their deck lists, ask for bans, and get them ready to play. If they’re lucky enough to get streamed, you also need to check their cams, make sure they’re both muted, and befriend them on Battle.net in order to be able to spectate the game.

Game time – get ready for the most hectic part of the tournament.

  • Turn off waiting music, switch screens
  • Introduction/Company logo screen, turn on tournament screen audio
  • Switch to casters/upcoming game screen, turn on caster audio
    • In the background, make sure players are ready to play with their decks and bans
  • Show deck page
    • First ban
    • Second ban
  • Casters/upcoming game screen
    • Wait for players to start game
  • Game, game audio on, caster audio on
    • Wait for game to end
  • Caster/upcoming game screen, game audio off
    • Update score on game overlay
  • Deck page
  • Game! game audio on, caster audio on
    • Wait for game to end
  • Caster/upcoming game screen, game audio off
  • Waiting screen, waiting music on

In between all of that, you need to make sure that you’re showing the right screens, updating the casters with other games’ scores, and watching the live chat to see if any problems are cropping up that we don’t notice, or answering questions. Of course, there’s always the threat of players and casters being DDoS’d during the game, the internet cutting out, and god forbid if Xsplit (the program we use to broadcast) decides to crash – which has happened on stream.

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So after all of that, hopefully there are some more users, and some more viewers. Hopefully it wasn’t too much of a shit show that we retain viewers for the next day. In the end, we also get to watch professionals play video games, which is pretty sweet.

The tournament is still running until Saturday, February 28th, so if you’re interested, take a peak at the stream on Twitch here between 1PM EST and 5PM EST. Special thanks to Hearthstats for having me! 🙂

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