League of Legends is incredibly popular these days, both from a casual standpoint, and for core eSports fans. Finding big eSports competitions in Australia however, is pretty difficult.. so when we heard about an $11,000 Australian tournament, we were naturally intrigued. We got to sit down and have a chat with Mark Carter from Guf, who is the organiser of the Guf Tt-eSports $11,000 League of Legends eSports Ladder.
Me: Hey there Mark, organising a tournament of this calibre is no mean feat! Did you have any help setting it up?
Mark: Sure did, quite frankly it wouldn't have even been possible to get this off the ground without the support of people like Thermaltake, Cybergamer, and my co-tournament organiser, Yons.
Me: And such a large prize pool? $11,000 isn't just some petty cash, after all.
Mark: It's not just the cash though. In addition there is over $1,000 of Thermaltake gear to be competed over! All of the money is coming from various game centres around the country
Me: Why game centres, though?
Mark: Game centres are some of the strongest supporters of eSports teams via sponsorship, but in Australia at least, haven't found the right format to contribute to. We feel that a multi-week ladder style competition will allow us to take a look at the great teams up close and personally, as well as let people wanting to enter into eSports competitively do so. It also promotes game centres, naturally.
Me: So it's all about getting players in store then?
Mark: Players have to realise that this is a two way street. No one puts up this kind of cash without some expectation of return. Sponsors find it frequently difficult to support purely online competition, and hardware manufacturers want physical competitions so they can showcase their products. And for game centres it's about getting new people experiencing them for the first time. It's about supporting players as best we can, but also making it viable for more frequent competitions to go ahead... it's a hard juggling act.
Me: Some people in the competitive scene are causing a stir about the limitations in the Ladder. Why is it necessary that teams play together at a single game centre?
Mark: There are many reasons for this. First is that we want to build a regular middle tier of eSports competitions across Australia, something everyone can appreciate. Having a few dominant teams is great for International tournaments, but how do we get them, and how do we ensure they can compete on an International level? How do we get the best players from Australia representing us on the world stage?
You take a look at the competitive scene in various parts of Asia, and there is a common trait amongst most of the biggest teams. All the players in a team are local to each other, some of the time they even live together! The common fact is that when these teams play, they are all in the same room... and almost all have the same gear. We need teams like these to compete, and we also need a feeder program for those teams... a way for newer players to build a rep and demonstrate their skill. What better way to do so than in a central, localised place?
Me: You mentioned middle tier. $11,000 in Australia isn't exactly that, is it?
Mark: For Australia, no. We are hoping that in a few years time, with the right sorts of investment, even larger eSports events will be held with the best of the best flying around the country playing for huge prizes. However, this isn't going to happen unless the community supports live events, whether it is located at a game centre, a LAN, or even specialised eSports conventions.
The Intels, Razers, Thermaltakes of the world have got to see that there are a lot of regional teams out there playing, willing to get out of their houses, willing to support their products and events. Without that, it's just not going to be possible. So many teams want sponsorship from the big boys, and this is exactly how you go about getting it. You need to create venues where people can watch, and people can play, and we hope that this will encourage both.
Me: There has been some suggestion that a 10 week ladder simply isn't the right format, and that many won't be able to play. What are your thoughts on that?
Mark: We understand that some players won't be able to enter because they don't have a local game centre to play at. We'd like to have more game centres involved but we are pretty selective about who we work with. They have to be willing to commit resources, not just in money, but in time and staff. Co-ordinating an event like this is going to require dedicated and enthusiastic staff as well.
Not to mention the reason why we use the term 'Game Centre' We don't want to be seen as the same sorts of venues as the Net Cafe's of old... Those places were aimed at people without gaming pcs. Game Centres on the other hand are targeting gamers who want to get out in a social environment, with good gear, and an all around good environment.
Me: One of the main reasons players are concerned about the 10 week ladder is that getting all of their players in every week for 10 weeks is pretty much impossible.
Mark: I think it's important to state that teams don't have to compete every week. While the ladder will go for 10 weeks, the requirement is for 10 games to be played over the 10 weeks. If teams are organised they should easily be able to play multiple games in a week. It's true that for a lot of existing teams it will be hard to get involved. When you are used to playing at home it takes co-ordination to get into a store. This is one of the reasons we are allowing 10 players on the team roster. We understand that not all players are available every night.
Organising such a large event across Australia requires a heck of a lot of effort, and we are looking for Team Captains that are willing to make the same sort of effort. Many of the established LoL teams will not be able to enter, so it's going to be up to dedicated Captains or Team Managers to make new teams that live in the same rough area.
Me: Wait, you're expecting players to make new teams?
Mark: This isn't about killing the big established teams. These teams are made up of the best players from around Australia. What we are looking for is players to form new regional teams, made up of the best players in their local area. This will allow newer players to quickly build a reputation and break into those big established teams. It will also make for a lot more competition, both of which are good things.
For instance, Sequential will only be able to field 3 of their regular players. For their regional team they are going to be looking to recruit a lot of new Brisbane players that will then have the opportunity to get to know them and show off their skills, opening up potential recruitment to their regular lineup.
Me: $4,000 for 1st in Division 1 seems a lot for one team. Why put so much of the prize pool into one winner?
Mark: I'm a big fan of flat prize pools, where the money is shared over the top 8 teams. However, for this event we knew we would have to encourage people to make the effort required to compete, and hoped a large first place prize would do just that. We know it's going to take a lot of effort to make new teams, recruit new players, and go into their local game centre... and we really wanted to make certain the team that goes out of their way to do this is rewarded for that effort. That way they will have the funds to take the team to the next level of professionalism: Flying around Australia, maybe entering an international event and attracting some big sponsors.
Me: So why spread it over 2 seasons?
Mark: Whenever you work with new people in a new team it is going to take time for them to develop. Over the first few weeks we will no doubt see a lot of roster changes as Captains tweak their teams. We also looked at the way sports such as Soccer use relegation and promotion to add more interest. At the moment, the bottom 3 teams from Div1 will get relegated for Season 2, and the top 3 teams from Div2 will get promoted. Of course if there is minimal interest from players we will have to review Season 2, but the prize money is sitting in the bank, so why not commit to 2 seasons?
Me: So to me it seems having 2 divisions is all about promoting teams and keeping interest up?
Mark: Not entirely. We really wanted a way for teams in Div 2 that have shown a lot of improvement to have a way to move up, we wanted to take a long term view. I think it is important to encourage new players and new teams also, so Division 2 will be open to enter anytime so it ensures anyone that wants to participate can. I also like the idea of having a more casual league with a bit more focus on fun. This will be ideal for a lot of our regular customers who want to play but don't think they can compete against the top players. Of course having a $1,000 first prize also makes Division 2 very interesting!
Me: That about winds it up, but who do you peg to win the LoL Ladder?
Mark: I can't honestly say. There will be some familiar names in that top 8 final, but I think it will be a real surprise in the end. We are definitely shaking up the LoL scene here in Australia and a lot of unknown players and unknown teams are going to make a name for themselves in this event. At the end of the 10 weeks I think it is going to be really obvious who has the professionalism, and the dedication to make it in eSports.
Me: Thankyou for your time Mark. For those that are interested, how do you go about signing up?
That depends on your choice really. If your team would like to try out for Div 1, you must enter a one-day qualifier on April 22nd. The top 16 teams will earn a spot in Div 1. You can apply to join the qualifier at http://www.cybergamer.com.au/pc/guflol/league/
Whereas if you want to join just Division 2, which is open anytime, you can join over at
by Bane Williams