Depending on who you ask, Heroes of the Dorm was either a huge success or a complete failure. Those players who only witnessed the initial grouping rounds are definitely entitled to complain about the tournament. International players also have some right to be bitter as they were completely excluded from both participating and watching the event. However, being personally involved in the tournament from beginning to end, as the substitute player for the Arizona State University Dream Team, I believe that Heroes of the Dorm accomplished what it set out to do and reached out to an audience generally unaware of eSports or Heroes of the Storm.
The early stages of the TeSPA hosted tournament were honestly a terrible mess. I don’t believe there was a single round that started on time and extending the grouping phase to the Easter weekend put many players in an awful spot. Having hosted large-scale tournaments before, TeSPA should have been prepared for the influx of traffic and tested the presumed bug-causing tie-breaker system beforehand. Furthermore, there was a last minute change to the ranking system that created more controversy than was necessary even though it probably wouldn’t have made much a difference in the end.
Initially, if there were teams with the same series record then ranking was supposed to be done according to match wins. Instead, they decided to change priority to the tie-breaker score, which was determined by the strength of each teams’ opponents. Unfortunately, this was skewed for two main reasons. The first being that many teams didn’t even show up for the tournament, and that unintentionally hurt the teams. Secondly, the way the grouping brackets were setup, there should have been one 7-0 team and three 6-1 teams, but due to matchmaking issues there were some groups with four or five 6-1 teams or no 7-0 team.
Heroes of the Dorm wasn’t created to identify diamond in the rough competitors. It was mainly designed to promote publicity for Heroes of the Storm and test the waters for eSports on national television. Because of this fact, and the way the tournament was designed, the chances for an underdog victory were pretty much nonexistent. Heroes of the Dorm was announced on March 6th and the first games began just three weeks later. Teams consisting of players who didn’t receive their beta keys until after the tournament was announced had virtually no chance when confronting teams full of veterans that had been playing for almost a year.
In actuality there were less than 8 teams out of the 889 registered that even stood a chance at winning; if the entire event, with the exact same teams, was run again the results would be similar. The reason behind this is that a few teams consisted of amateur and professional Heroes of the Storm players who have more individual experience than some of the entire teams that they faced. Even if a team formed specifically for Heroes of the Dorm had practiced for hours every day, for three weeks, they still wouldn’t have the same grasp on the game that players like Fan have.
Heroes of the Storm comes down to much more than simply understanding character builds, team compositions and when to use abilities. Dedicated players know exactly when and what to do with every objective in the game and if they can win a team fight before it even happens. Obviously, missteps do happen by even the best players, but that isn’t something that can be relied upon by an enemy team. Furthermore, not including bans completely changed the game and made certain characters much stronger than they should have been; Illidan is clearly one of those characters. In the finals every team that picked Illidan won their game. Ironically, Illidan isn’t that overpowered in the current competitive scene because strategic bans make him a weaker pick than other priority heroes. This was an oversight expressed to me by certain Blizzard staff, but by the time they realized it could be an issue it was too late for them to change the rules without receiving some sort of backlash.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Although the tournament itself was riddled with a number of issues, the setup for the finals at the Shrine Auditorium was handled remarkably. The staff at Blizzard Entertainment are honestly some of the best that I’ve met in the gaming industry. Not only did they treat the players in a very friendly manner, but everyone from their company treated colleagues with respect. Even though there was a major sense of urgency prior to the Heroes of the Dorm finals, there was also a cohesiveness and team like demonstration from the entire Blizzard and TeSPA roster.
Additionally, each team was provided with a manager to make sure they were taken care of and had all the necessary amenities. Instead of assigning an intern or secretary to fill this task, Blizzard employed excellent staff that were actually involved in the eSports scene. Our manager was Olivia Grace, associate eSports manager for Blizzard, and she did her job better than I would have ever expected. It’s definitely not easy to managed 7 college students, and there were plenty of tasks that we had to accomplish as well. Saturday, April 25, mostly consisted of makeup, interviews and testing our peripherals on the stage. Our team had strict deadlines to meet and Olivia always made sure we were exactly where we needed to be.
Not only was I impressed by how well everyone worked together to make this event happen, but I was also enthralled by how much planning went into setting up the finals. Due to how the initial stages of the tournament were handled I wasn’t sure what to expect, but before the players even landed in Los Angeles the Shrine Auditorium had already gone through an amazing transformation. Commentators, hosts and tech crews spent days adjusting sound quality, lighting and their scripts. Audiences might have only witnessed a few hours on ESPN2, but thousands of man-hours went into making it all happen.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, Heroes of the Dorm, Heroes of the Storm, MOBA, Tournament