$350,000 is on the line in the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Invitational tournament at Gamescom this weekend.
To put that into perspective, the biggest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments in the world offered up $100,000 less than that until 2016. The biggest ever Overwatch tournament could only offer $300,000, and PUBG’s main competitor, H1Z1, could only offer up $300,000 when a tournament was organised by the CW TV Network. Simply put, this is a ludicrous amount of money for a game that has only been publicly available for a few months.
The best players in the world are fighting it out in four disciplines; solo, duos, first person perspective duos and squads. Each day of the event features at least 70 players landing on the now iconic PUBG map to fight it out for thousands of dollars. One kill can literally be the difference between taking home a few thousand for a day’s work and going home empty handed. The stakes are incredibly high.
During the first day of the competition Kyo-min “EVERMORE” Koo, a former pro Overwatch player in Korea and known as one of the best Roadhogs in the world, was someone that wasn’t on many people’s radar. But his early plays won him a few of fans and an awful lot of haters, who got very angry indeed.
In the first round of the competition he went back to the island where all players go to spawn into the game. This is a risky tactic, as the safe zone will quickly close in and you will certainly not be in it, meaning you have just a few minutes to make it there, grab some gear, and then make it back to safety. He eventually died to the tick damage when he had to fight against another player in the blue zone. He won the duel but didn’t have enough time to make it to safety. It did net him a solid placing though.
“Team Liquid and Luminosity decided to hide in the sea. When you’re underwater you cannot be killed by bullets, so swimming around out at sea is an easy way to get a good placing, which is the key to winning the competition.”
In the next matches he took a similar approach, he would stay in the blue zone, taking damage but crucially being out of the way of other players, and using healing items to stay alive while the numbers whittled down. He won the second round by waiting for almost everyone else to fall and then coming in at the last second to pick up the winning kills. Then in the final match he managed to get stuck in a rock, but had enough healing to stay alive long enough to get a top eight finish and win the tournament. He only ever died to the blue zone tick damage and only had a handful of kills.
Something similar, but not quite as prevalent happened in the duo competition the next day. Some of the big name pro teams, such as Team Liquid and Luminosity, decided to simply hide in the sea when the circle allowed. When you are underwater you cannot be killed by bullets, so swimming around out at sea is an easy way to get a good placing, which is the key to winning the competition.
As you might expect a lot of fans were very angry about this. They wanted to see their favorite players engage in all out gun battles and play in exciting ways. They didn’t want to see people swimming or intentionally staying out of everyone’s way in the blue zone. Reddit exploded with hate, every other Tweet about the competition was claiming it was boring and few people were happy.
What these people don’t seem to understand is that this is esports, and when thousands of dollars are on the line people play to win, not to entertain. Look back through the history of esports and there are countless examples of similar issues, and every time people have been annoyed about them, forgetting that the players are there to win. If it is within the rules, then why not take advantage?
Take the infamous Dota 2 Fountain Hook incident at The International 3. The biggest esports event at the time was in the closing stages, and fan favourites NaVi managed to devise a strategy where they could instantly take an opponent back to the NaVi base and guarantee a kill by combining Pudge and Chen, two signature heroes for the team. This strategy, which relied on the way in-game mechanics were programmed, caused outrage, as it pretty much won them the match alone.
Fans, and other pros, were incredibly angry that this could be used in tournament play, and even more angry that it got NaVi into the final stage of the competition. While some initial negativity was directed at the players, most of it went towards Valve asking why this was even possible. After a lot of community discussion, Valve changed the mechanics so the fountain hook would no longer work.
A similar situation occurred in CS:GO at the Krakow Major a few months ago. Players discovered an area of the map where they could jump and see over an object, but could not be seen from the other side. It allowed German team BIG to go on a great run and make the top eight, but eventually all the teams agreed not to use the exploit via a gentleman’s agreement. A few weeks later Valve patched the issue.
“This is esports, and when thousands of dollars are on the line people play to win, not to entertain.”
In Call of Duty pretty much the same issue occurred, and while Infinity Ward were a little slower than Valve at fixing it they eventually did. Previous versions of CoD have also seen pros use gentleman’s agreements to outlaw certain gear, but sooner or later one team always goes and breaks that in order to win a crucial game, forcing the CWL ruleset to be updated by the organisers.
Recently in League of Legends a high level team in public matchmaking managed to devise a strategy where they would just get so tanky and not take any fights that their opponents simply couldn’t win, and forced them to surrender. Riot initially banned the team, but conceded the issue was their fault and have vowed to change the game to make sure it isn’t viable.
Simply put, there is no issue with Evermore sitting in the blue zone and avoiding players to win the competition, and there is no issue with other teams hiding underwater where they can’t be shot. They are there to win and they are free to do that how they please, so long as it is in the rules. The spirit of fair competition, the idea of players trying to entertain fans and the ludicrous suggestion that they should play ‘properly’ all go out of the window when this much is on the line, and the fans need to accept that.
The responsibility eventually falls to developers Bluehole and tournament organisers ESL. If players find ways to circumvent their rules, or ideas for competition, then fair play to them. It is down to the organisers to fix this issue for next time, and moaning at the players literally solves nothing. Send constructive feedback to ESL and Bluehole, congratulate the winners, support your favorite players and hope that these issues are fixed for the next event.