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To what extent has the changes in the rules and format systems of CSGO tournaments influenced how the game is played in the professional scene?
The main topic of my EE is about the pro scene of CSGO, which is something I follow as a hardcore fan, and am very passionate about. CSGO is short for Counter Strike Global Offensive, which is the 4th and newest instalment of the counter strike franchise that is developed by the company Valve. (Valve, 2012) It is a first-person shooter, which is a popular video game genre centered around gun and weapon-based combat in a first-person perspective. (William, 2009) CSGO has been nominated the eSports industry game of the year for 2017, because of its very diverse and highly entertaining competitive events, surrounded by its large community. (Esports Awards, 2017) The game was first released in 2012, and its competitive scene has only grown from there. Throughout the years, CSGO esports have evolved not only in terms of the game but in terms of many specific aspects such as competitive formats and rules as well.
Events such as the olofmeister boosting incident led to tournament organizers setting stricter rules and regulations on the use of glitching or map abuse in game, while the iBuyPower scandal shook the whole industry and reminded them how important integrity is.
There are several different format systems that are being used in the many tournaments hosted for CSGO, such as the swiss-system format, the GSL double elimination format, and the round robin system. (Esports Betting Tips, 2017) Tournament organizers always have a lot of pressure when choosing the tournament system to use, because the community always has huge debates on which is the fairest. Although throughout the years the community is leaning more towards the use of the swiss-system format, the other format systems are still relevant to the game and is still being used by several tournaments. (HLTV, 2018)
In this essay I will try to answer the question “to what extent has the changes in the rules and format systems of CSGO tournaments influenced how the game is played in the professional scene?”
Olofmeister Boosting Incident
A boost in CSGO terms is when a teammate stands on top another teammate to reach higher positions that would usually be unreachable. (Ayuub, 2018) The olofmeister boosting incident, also known as the boostmeister is one of the most controversial events that has happened in the CSGO competitive scene till this date. Olofmeister, a Swedish player that was playing under team Fnatic at that time, is the core of the whole issue.
The incident happened in tournament Dreamhack Winter 2014, when team Fnatic had to play team LDLC in the quarterfinals. But what made that one quarterfinal matchup so special from all the other games were that team Fnatic, used such a dominant and unprecedented boost that basically won them the game single-handedly. (Bury 2018) The boost however, was not just any boost. It was a boost on an invisible map edge that fnatic found and abused, and they gained a huge advantage over the enemy team because of the boost. It allowed the player olofmeister, to watch over a very crucial part of the map, which has been proven dominant through the amount of information he gathered for his team and the amount of kills he gotten. (Massonnat, 2017) After the game, players from team LDLC complained that the boost was unfair and illegal, and should not be allowed in a game like CSGO, where it is very skill-based and such an advantage will be too overpowered.
After the match, the community on social media quickly pointed out a rule from the rulebook Dreamhack made back in 2013, stating that the use of pixelwalking, which was standing on invisible map edges, was illegal. (Dreamhack, 2013) Although the rule doesn’t apply anymore in 2014, it still caught the admins’ attention and they started investigating into the issue and reviewing all the game footage. (Paul, 2014) But, they found out that team LDLC also used a boost in the same match that exploited pixelwalking, although it wasn’t as dominant. The admins then came to the final decision stating that both teams were at fault, so the whole match should be fully replayed. (Massonnat, 2017) But at the end, fnatic decided to forfeit the match and LDLC advanced into the semi-finals.
The iBuyPower scandal was based around a meaningless match between team iBuyPower and team NetcodeGuides.com on August 20, 2014. It was a minor match that wasn’t really impactful to both team’s rankings and therefore was not paid a lot of attention to. Despite team iBuyPower being the heavy favorites to win the game, they lost the game horribly by a huge margin. (Liquipedia, 2017) After the game, there were speculations stating that team iBuyPower could have deliberately thrown the match, because the way they played were not up to their normal standards. But the case was quickly dismissed as there were no concrete evidence that had directly proven the throwing of the match. After a few months, allegations were still thrown at the players of iBuyPower but it seemed like the scandal was behind them. (Debets, 2018)
But in January 2015, the case resurfaced after new evidence has been found on the players. The evidence were screenshots from player dboorn to his former girlfriend stating clearly that team iBuyPower was going to throw the match. (Mira, 2015) Player DaZeD, the leader of iBuyPower at that time, had told dboorn that they were going to throw the match. And as dboorn was a heavy gambler, they had used the site CSGOLounge.com to place bets, against themselves. The way the site works was that winnings of bets are based on odds, which will change according to the amount of people that has betted for the team. (Lahti, 2016) So if more people bet for the team against you, and if your team wins, your winnings will be a lot, compared to if a lot of people betted for your team and you won. (Alek, 2015) And since they were the heavy favorites to win the matchup, the majority of the people betted for team iBuyPower. And from what seemed an insignificant lost, dboorn and team iBuyPower had made more than $10,000 in earnings. (Mira, 2015)
But of course, as evidence showed that the players have pulled off such a huge scandal, they will not be able to just secretly sweep it under the carpet like they did before. 10 days after the case resurfaced, the developer of CSGO, Valve, has issued indefinite bans on 4 of the 5 players from iBuyPower. (Valve, 2015) The bans stated that the players will not be able to play in any of the Valve sponsored events ever, and those events, also known as the Majors, are the most prestigious tournaments in CSGO. 1 year later, Valve posted a blog post titled “A Follow Up to Integrity and Fair Play”. (Valve, 2016) In there, it is made clear that the bans to the players are permanent, and they emphasized on how important it is to have integrity in the pro scene and anyone who shows willingness to take advantage of the community will receive a ban as well. (Valve, 2016)
As listed above, many different format systems are still being used in CSGO professional tournaments. Although a lot of the players still prefer the swiss system, the other tournament systems are still fairer in certain aspects and many players still like it more than the swiss system. (Fusco, 2018)
The swiss system, possibly the most famous tournament format, is a tournament format that sees teams play multiple matches to see if they advance or get disqualified. Out of the 16 teams that will compete in the swiss system, 8 of them will advance into playoffs while 8 of them will get disqualified. (Duncan, 2016) To reach the playoffs you will need to get a total of 3 wins out of the possible 5 games you may play. The swiss format is designed to place teams to play each other with the same record so teams will be playing opponents of somewhat the same caliber. (Duncan, 2016) Although it could seem very fair on paper, there are still certain aspects that make the system quite unfair. Most of the swiss system tournaments play best of ones instead of best of threes, which makes it very easy for an underdog team to surprise a much stronger team. The swiss system could also be very unpredictable and random, as multiple teams who have the same records will be chosen randomly to play each other, instead of careful thought out matchups. It is shown in the tournament FACEIT Major London 2018, where 2 of the tournament favorites had to play each other in the elimination game, while the other elimination game were the 2 weakest teams. (Chiu, 2018) So as 1 of the weaker teams will hold on to their tournament life, a tournament favorite is sent packing.
Another very famous format that many tournament organizers are using is the GSL format. The GSL format is intended so that all teams play their matches to their full potential, as the matches will be impacting their seeding in playoffs if they get there. (Kelemen, 2018) The GSL system has 2 brackets, the upper bracket and the lower bracket. 4 teams will compete in a GSL system, and the winners of their first matchups will face each other in the upper bracket, while the losers will face off in the lower bracket. The winner of the upper bracket will then immediately advance to the semifinals, while the loser will have to face the winner of the lower bracket for quarterfinals. (Kelemen, 2018) Although the GSL system could give the viewers a better experience in a competitive stand point because all the games have high-stakes, the GSL format still has its weaknesses. Not all the teams will face each other in the group, and it is possible that a team will reach playoffs by playing the same opponent twice. (Kelemen, 2018)
The last tournament system that is still quite relevant to tournaments hosted these days is the round robin system. The round robin system is quite simple, with all the teams playing everyone and the teams with the highest points will advance. Although this seems like the fairest system, it is the least used system out of the three stated. (HLTV, 2018) That is because there is a lot of downside to this system. With all the teams needing to play each other, there will be a lot of matches that will need to be played and therefore be very time consuming. And in this day and age where there is almost a tournament every week, teams might not come to this event because it is not worth it. Also, teams could purposely lose a game in the bracket to avoid a hard matchup on the next game. (HLTV, 2018) The games could then be very anti-climatic and it will not be as good a viewing experience as the other systems.
As you can see from the many instances above, CSGO has evolved a lot as an esport since its first release in 2012. The way the pros perceive the game has also changed from when they first played the game. The boostmeister incident outlines how the use of bugs and glitches to gain a competitive edge over your opponents is unfair and not allowed. This could influence the players to instead of figuring out tactics that would be very controversial, they should work on how they can improve their skills and win fairly. Also, the amount of backlash fnatic had to face after the incident was immeasurable, and this would further push the pro scene to play more fairly. The iBuyPower scandal is a reminder to the whole professional scene that fair play is a very important aspect in professional gaming, and match-fixing and other actions that will damage the community will not be tolerated by Valve.
There will always be debates on which tournament system is the fairest and there will never be one single tournament system that all tournaments will use. Therefore, players will be forced to always adapt to the different tournament systems they are required to play with.
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