Tuesday, April 23, 2013

CEO of S2 Games Confirms: Two Will Lose Their Jobs


Nathan Garcia: Director of Operations for Heroes of Newerth
Laura Baker: Director of Marketing for S2 Games

According to my sources within S2 Games, both employees were terminated earlier this afternoon and a post on the forums by Maliken helps to confirm this bit of gossip:

Laura aka S2LuLu has been a part of HoN since the very beginning. LuLu has made appearances and been the leader of HoN's eSports events since all the way back to Dreamhack Summer 2010, and probably prior to that. She was the first person I ever interacted with from S2 Games and was one of the major people involved in the acquisition of Honcast. I would like to thank her for everything she taught me while I was with the company, and for being a true friend.

Nathan, better known as Zero_MnotW was at one time the marketing assistant to LuLu and having shown great promise he was promoted to Director of Operations after Brad Bower aka Konran departed to lead the iGames division. His Facebook page confirmed his departure from the company stating that "S2 Games no longer has any future for me." Nate was an integral part of the eSports scene and my right hand man when I was the Director of eSports, even though he did not answer directly to me he was always the person who I knew would get things done. The successes of Dreamhack Winter 2011 and 2012 can be partially attributed to his willingness to get shit done.

Both of these figures I considered friends at S2 Games and it is sad to see them go, especially because there is someone else who should be accountable as well, but he's one of the favorite pets around the office, so he wont be. And no, I don't mean Milkfat.

Friday, April 19, 2013

tdM Team Manager "AvuKamu" Talks About Dropping HoN and x-tdM disbanding

So apparently, Trademark eSports is officially done with Heroes of Newerth. Tonight in Tralf's TwitchTV stream chat the following was posted:

According to the Team Manager of Trademark eSports, not only was the split between tdM and their HoN squad "mutual" but the organization itself will disband. Avukamu went on to say that CEO of Trademark eSports, John Jenkinson, has decided to call it quits. Avukamu and noted Trademark eSports writer "Showtime" will continue on with the goals set down by Mr Jenkinson originally but this time with "better management."

Avukamu also made the statement that he believe that noobG and possibly Limmp will continue to play HoN, while Fittske and Zai` may test their mettle in DOTA 2. He speculates that Mynuts will simply retire.

With the future of Heroes of Newerth competitive scene still somewhat cloudy after the HoN Tour Finals, and a massive balance patch on the way, what kind of shake ups will we see?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pew Breaks Newest HoN Drama Involving Killerorange

As most people know, Pew is about half a chromosome short of actually being a human being. But while this turd is often a waste of internet and oxygen, occasionally he posts something of value.

You can head on over to Pew's blog to get all the info:


I didn't post the image here because Pew discovered it and he deserves to get a few blog hits, since I already get about 5000x as many.

Edit: KillerOrange responds (click for full size)

I really respect KillerOrange. Always have and always will. When we worked together, there were times when we didn't agree with each other, but we always aired things out and made sure we tried to do what is best for the community. He deserves all the credit for what Honcast became during HoN Tour, and the lack of his presence in Thailand and in Vegas was not only miss, but VERY VERY noted. We spoke briefly after he put his two weeks notice in and I pasted him part of the XanderK article I didn't publish, which resonates in the post he removed from the forums. I don't know exactly what Matt will do in the future but I hope I run into him again at some point so we can play some Euchre and drink a few beers and laugh at everything that happened while we were S2 employees.

Here is the excerpt from the XanderK article I never published:

"S2 Games is an indie company, as much as they want to believe differently. They have three games under their belt, two of which were relatively unknown and Heroes of Newerth. There's nothing wrong with being an indie company, some of the most loved games have come from or were inspired by concepts that were initially from indie companies. The negative stigma however, is that indie companies are "supposed to make mistakes, because they are just indie companies." This is the stigma which S2 has tried to distance itself from moving into the future. Needless to say, nepotism runs rampant in many indie companies, and S2 is no different. While some of these hires have paid nearly literal dividends, others have either continued to be illogically coddled at the breast of S2 Games executive members or dismissed due to consistent failure to achieve results which were either unobtainable or undefined."

HT Finals Day 1 - I Laughed, I Cried, I Came..hngggg

Like most HoN lovers, I have been waiting for the HoN Tour Finals since October. Having been one of the major persons involved with the planning (I was the person who suggested the Hardwood Suite once upper management decided on Vegas, though I lobbied for Orlando, FL for the Finals since Vegas offers more for the 21+ crowd than say a trip to Disney World or Universal Studios or something along those lines) I wanted to see what was going to happen when S2 had over half a year to plan and execute their first ever official LAN tournament.

Now, the first thing I'm about to say is going to make me look stupid, but in the interest of fairness I should disclose it: I wasn't sure exactly what time the first game was supposed to start. Sure, I should have checked Hontour.com or even /r/heroesofnewerth but instead at around 12:30 I went to Honcast.com at which point I read that the next upcoming match was scheduled for 6:00PM EST. Luckily, I was going to watch some FPV streaming of HoN for a bit while getting ready for the day when I went to the main Twitch page and saw that Honcast was live. While this isn't directly the point of this post, why is the Honcast site still a pile of shit? I mean, Tralf hasn't been with the company for what.. over 2 months now? Yet he's still listed on the Staff section of Honcast and his name is all over the descriptions of stuff. That's not even that important, but why is it when I go to Honcast.com and Honcast is live is the "Featured Video" section not automatically replaced with the Honcast Live Stream? Am I blind? But I didn't notice a "Honcast is Live" message either. Even the old balls python Honcast.com site had a Honcast Live button that you could click on.


I Laughed:

So I tuned into the Live stream and watched Breaky and Emperor chatting back and forth about the upcoming matches. First thing I noticed is that the step-and-repeat was really wrinkled. I mean it looks like it was sloppily packed, and then it was the last thing they unwrapped before going live and just hung it up as a backdrop. A similar thing happened at Dreamhack Summer 2012 when we wanted to reuse this big ass Monkey King backdrop and it looked like complete shit so we hung it on the back of our booth in a dark room to avoid total embarrassment. Then they said the words I was waiting for "The game is underway, let's jump on in" at which point I asked myself  "what's going to be fucked up this time."

I must have laughed for a solid 30 seconds without stopping. It was a genuine laugh, not because I was happy that Honcast's production crew has screwed up for the 5th event in a row, but because S2's employees had spent the previous two weeks talking about how the production was going to be top notch:


And it reminded me of the shit I used to talk about when I was the Director of eSports. The truth is Milkfat knows about as much as I did when it comes to streaming/production/etc: Absolutely fuck-all. We're coordinators, event planners, and tournament organizers. When we make plans, we plan for the people put into their positions to execute their jobs properly. The issue with this is we always waiting until the last minute to start testing the streams. So I figured this time, having heard that certain members of the Honcast team were in Vegas a few days prior to the event, that the stream would be mostly flawless, at least the in-game portion. Man was I wrong.

How does this keep happening? I was in the competitors skype sharing a good laugh with the rest of the players who didn't get to go to Vegas and Beefpotpie said:

[4/17/2013 1:00:57 PM] Kyle "Beef" Bautista: they did test it
[4/17/2013 1:01:04 PM] Kyle "Beef" Bautista: theyve been in here for 40 hours straight
[4/17/2013 1:01:09 PM] Kyle "Beef" Bautista: but mistakes are happening =/

How is it that after 40 hours straight they were unable to reliably say "This looks good." What kind of "mistakes" happen that make a game look like this:

While the Garena stream looks like this:

Just awful.

I Cried:

So what else went wrong?

1. AceJR 

- I don't know why they chose to let this guy host the Finals. I see some people saying they should have hired a professional, but that's also pretty stupid considering whoever hosts this event needs to have an intimate understanding of this specific game. My problem with AceJR is he has absolutely nothing prepared for his interviews, he seems extremely nervous on camera, and is in general an awful public speaker. I would have rather seen S2 bring in someone like Tralfamadore or Zyori to host the Finals. Hell, I would have done it for free (although S2 would never let that happen) if they paid for the plane ticket and hotel.

2. Opening Ceremony

- I have seen Iraqi prison cells with better lightning. They called in the players and teams who came in through a fog machine but there was no one around them to welcome them in or anything like that. On top of this, they played VTZ music during the intro. Just what I wanted to hear, the same shit that Honcast plays nonstop already. This cherry on the top of this awkward ceremony was AceJR's horrendous announcing.

3. Interviews

- A good interview is done with the interviewer facing the interviewee at a slight angle in two separate chairs. See any talk show ever for confirmation of this. Having two dudes sit awkwardly next to one another on a couch that was no doubt used in a budget pornographic casting couch film with all the lights turned out was terrible. Again, AceJR showed his speaking prowess in these interview sessions. I mean, why would get you someone who very obviously understands little to nothing about competitive HoN to interview competitive players? Again, having someone like Tralf or hell, even Beefpotpie (who was already there) would have been a major improvement.

4. Delays Between Games

- It goes without saying that you have to plan for 5-6 hours between scheduled series when you have a Best of Five planned. But you also have to take into consideration that there's a possibility, especially between the #1 and #4 seed game, that a game is going to end early. So why not have content, or at least planned content, ready for the longer breaks. I don't have an issue with Honcast sticking to their schedule because that means reliability, but going to a screen with VTZ Beats music on for nearly 2 hours is just plain unacceptable, especially when you have 20 of the worlds best HoN players at your disposal. You should be asking questions, having [intelligent] interviews, and showing off what is supposed to be an amazing venue. Bringing me to my final point...

5. No Venue Cameras

- I supported HoN having a private/VIP event for the HoN Tour Season 1 Finals. But at least make me jealous that I'm not there. Aside from seeing half of the half court in the Opening Ceremony and the rape couch in the interviews, where are the other shots? I know there's a sweet social area in the Hardwood Suite with TV's and a full bar and all kinds of seating... so why aren't we getting to see that? Especially during downtime I would like to see people mingling with each other, pro players having a good time and the S2 staff that is in attendance enjoying themselves. Instead I get to see a motion version of the background graphic from Hontour.com and listen to VTZ Beats! WOOOOOO!

I guess it's to be expected though. No matter how hard people seem to be working, something is always fucked up with Honcast. It's kind of sad because I know people who were planning on tuning in for these matches who are DOTA 2 players just to watch a game they used to play (like SUNSfan, DetonatR and others) to support how far they've come and messaged me with a simple "LOL" and "How have things actually gotten worse?" It's gotta be embarrassing for S2 that hundred of thousands of dollars in production gear, employee salaries and event costs over the past year has yielded this result. Sure, the production of the HoN Tour online events was decent, but if you can't pull off a live event, you're never going to garner the respect of any third party who is invested in eSports (team sponsors, event sponsors, tournament organizers, etc).

I Came:

I do want to say there were some things that went well. Emperor looks much better wearing his blazer and button up than he did with a wife beater on during the GSL stream. Breaky continues to be as energetic as always and actually seems to be genuinely having a good time casting these games. I feel bad for Breaky because when we used to do shit like Dreamhack Summer 2010, DYA and Dreamhack Summer 2011 we had the time of our lives sitting there with a webcam and casting off two laptops, and he was so obviously frustrated at the technical difficulties his production team caused him once again. I thought the games themselves were extremely entertaining and even the games with few hero kills were intense all throughout. I bet the will to win is palpable in that Suite from the teams who are there, especially Stay Green who are on their way to winning the first ever Triple Crown in HoN (GSL, HoN Tour Finals, Dreamhack Summer 2013) and shattering any questions on whether or not they are the undisputed world champions of Heroes of Newerth.

I'm looking forward to Day Two.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Is Stay Green better than Fnatic?

I haven't been on HoN in a little while, but I was able to catch most of the GSL matches live and figured the community was going to have plenty to say about Stay Green and Trademark eSports following the finals. Most of the posts were either congratulatory or "so and so is the best" and of course there was the "sG is the best team of all time" posts that were immediately counter argued by those who were around during the dominance of  Fnatic. While most of the time I find these posts to be pretty much unintelligent or otherwise boring, I wanted to give my input. So here goes.


Fnatic had two things that set them apart from other teams:

1. Fly's drafting and ability to innovate strategies was for a long time something top teams could only emulate.
2. Fnatic as a team was terrifying to most of its opponents.

A lot of people today look at the top drafters and compare them to Fly, he's basically the go-to guy when discussing drafting and "meta" innovation. Fnatic/Fly was responsible in some part for three of the most popular shifts during their reign: They brought the tri-lane to HoN which included Pandamonium, Gladiator, and many other popular heroes at the time. This same shift also introduced HoN to the suicide role, of which during that specific time, Freshpro was probably one of the most dominant players (completely underrated  imo as far as that role is concerned). This was followed by the tank meta and included heroes like Zephyr, Kraken, Moraxus, and others as first pick material. Despite many people claiming that they brought dual mid to the table, there were many other teams who had already been using it that were lower tier like unZ and Wahlin. I give Fly about half credit for the jungle strategy because they were probably the first to perfect it. The other half of the credit would go to Swindlemelonzz and perhaps a small split to Tralf as well. Fly constantly threw new heroes into his lineups and Fnatic wasn't afraid to lose games in online tournaments or scrims. While there are many stronger singular examples of hero/players combos (fuji/balph, emp+loda/elec, phe`v/nh+keeper, korok/dr+chipper, and many many more) Fnatic had players who could, and often times did, play a vast myriad of heroes and showcased many times the strength of lineups which took teams off guard.

This feeds into my second point:

Teams were afraid of Fnatic.

No matter what any player or team might say or think, Fnatic had a huge mental edge on the competition. When you checked your schedule for a tournament and saw you were gonna be playing Fnatic in the first or second round I guarantee your heart would sink a little bit. It didn't matter that Fnatic proved to be much more vulnerable online, they were the best team and everyone knew it. Something about Fnatic just made you play differently. Teams played a little more passive, they tried to make a few less mistakes. And if you were at Dreamhack? Forget it. Fnatic owned Dreamhack. It wasn't the consecutive titles, it wasn't the European fanbase, it wasn't the sleeping schedules or jet lag... When Fnatic came to Dreamhack it was like the entire event came to life, all 5 players wearing their fnatic clothing, setting up their fnatic mousepads, using the fnatic headsets... despite what people say about sponsors like SK, EG, Dignitas or whatever.. Fnatic does it right and always has. They were a real professional team and they had stupid amounts of swagger. Yea. If you were at Dreamhack, you were shitting your pants when it came time to go one on one with the great ones.

So what merits Stay Green being compared to the mighty champions of HoN? I think the first thing is just where the game is at. HoN has always been a faster paced game, requires quick thinking and the ability for your fingers  to sometimes act before your brain knows exactly what just happened. If I had to label HoN like people label shooters, it would be the "twitch MOBA." LoL is TF2, DOTA2 is CS, and HoN is Quake (my opinion of course, not really something I want to debate) but unlike those shooters, each game releases a new Hero into the mix every so often. Let's take TF2 as an example just because it works best. If you took a group of 8 guys and gave them vanilla only weapons and made them play against 8 guys who had access to all content that has been released for TF2 thus far, both groups being similarly mechanically skilled, who would win? Another example, in TFC it took about 4 years before bunnyhopping was common place,  ~6 years before ramp sliding was discovered and even after that new ways to play the game developed. Now, what I'm comparing here is not sG to Fnatic, but sG's competition to Fnatics. People are always making arguments over which era was stronger in a competitive sense, but I can't help but wonder if people are actually thinking or just spouting off at the mouth (or fingertips) ready to defend their favorite team or player.

Let's be real about this:

Just because HoN doesn't have sponsors like SK, Fnatic, EG and others who either left HoN or never got involved; just because HoN doesn't have players like Chu, Fujiapples, Tarano, Phe`V, Scandal, Loda, Akke, H4nn1, Trixi, Era or the dozens of others who left to chase other games or move on with life; just because those entities are gone does not mean the scene and stood still. Players didn't stop getting better. Teams didn't stop getting better. Tournaments didn't stop getting better.

HoN didn't stop getting better.

It's not about watch you like or dislike about the game, its balance, its staff, its community. It's about progress, and we've ALL made it. From the 1200 player who learned after 500 games that Stun > Chuck is the correct way to do Pebbles combo, to the 2050 MMR competitive player who realized that an early Astrolabe and a Barrier Idol can trump that Portal Key rush on Tempest.

So where am I going with this? I read earlier in this very post that the level of competition just isn't on part with what Fnatic had to deal with and to that I say... are you kidding me? I know it's usual for me to say things to get a rise out or people or just be inflammatory for no reason but... are you kidding me? Even back in the day when all the greats were playing we still only had three real super teams. EG, SK, MSI was the chant for seemingly forever. DWi got thrown in the mix more often than others and of course there were teams who hit the limelight for periods of time. Teams like LIONS, DM, Reason, and Fray were all great teams who met with good success during Fnatics reign, but never before in HoN has it been like it is now. sG, coL, tdM, QsQ, LIONS (this time a different one), and TteS are all super strong contenders for being the "#1 team in HoN" and you follow that closely with teams like aL and EXCL who are all right on the cusp of being in that group. This isn't like it was with Fnatic where you had one or two superteams and some new challenger arise randomly. All of these teams exist at the same time. Never before in the history of HoN has it been as tight as it is right now. And certainly not with the calibre of players that these teams are comprised of.

Yet still, sG looks to have risen to the top of this group.

Now, this post isn't here to serve as a huge blowjob for Stay Green, because frankly Stay Green needs more than just wins to prove they're the team who will replaces Fnatic as the "best" HoN team of all time. But they have the ability to do it. They have 5 guys who are dedicated to winning, but that's the easy part. The hard part is staying dedicated to each other when winning doesn't seem to be an option. The hard part is continuing to innovate new strategies and integrate new heroes and items into the game as HoN and HoN Tour continues to mature. The hard part is winning the matches that matter when the competition runs deep, and in 2013, it's deep.

Is Stay Green better than Fnatic? Not yet. But I believe 4 Dreamhack titles can be overcome in a short period by continuing to stay dominant during this time, which is unquestionably the most competitive Heroes of Newerth has ever been.