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The NJ Halo Experience

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Yesterday, October 8th, was the day of what will be remembered as the quintessential beginning of East Coast Gears of War 3 LAN competition, as well as the site of many a . While the Devastation event was taking place the same weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, KOTC was hosting its own event in New Jersey for a multitude of games, including the new Gears of War 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Madden, Halo: Reach, and much, much more.

So I'll tell you about my day.

Around 11:30 am, I got picked up by my usual (as of late) carpool of Smash players D1, Alex Strife, Xivik, and Crismas. We enjoyed a fun ride into NJ from my dorm in New Rochelle, NY, blasting techno and game music, as usual. We mostly discussed the recent MK ban, which will go into full-effect at the beginning of next year. We also discussed my podcast, Directional Influence, as well as some other things that keep ourselves occupied by the time we arrived at the venue.

This was my first time at a KOTC event, so pulling up to a hotel to take part in it was somewhat surprising considering most events I go to take place in small gaming-related venues. Once we parked, we headed straight in and ran into some of our other Smash friends, including NJ brawler Gunblade, on the huge line that extended through the entire lobby of the hotel and out into some other room.

Needless to say, we cut the line.

The Venue

When I got into the main room of where the tournament was taking place, it was a cool sight to see. Off to the left were the smaller areas for Smash and Pokemon, while over in the middle and right, HD TVs were lined up for the sports titles, Call of Duty, Halo, and, of course, Gears 3. In a far corner was the commentary booth for the Gears 3 stream, which was a great touch to what would become a fun tournament for everyone. After I paid the venue fee, I made my way over to the Smash area to greet my friends and pay for my 1v1 event entry fee.

Now, at the time, I was planning on entering both Smash 1v1 and Gears 4v4. Problem was, I didn't have a set team. The team I was scrimming with was not attending this event, and I was unsure of the plans of another player I had been in talks with for a while. So, needless to say, I was desperate to play and even more desperate to find a team.

Eventually I ran into Topsyder and vVv TRod, an app and vVv CoD member, respectively. We had no idea what the team situation was, but because we had thought of teaming together for this event as a possibility, we decided it was a good idea. We then ran into vVv Toxicity and he became our fourth.

The Gears 4v4 event was a bit weird. When we signed up, they took our name and checked that all of us had Gears 4v4 wristbands, then went about making the bracket. By hand. No one could give us a definite answer as to when we would play (it would be another couple of hours before we got to play our round one match). I also found out at this time that the event was single elimination, but people could buy-back in. Seriously? But I'll comment more on this later.

When we finally played our first match, we were against Excellence Through Murder in a Best of 3, Execution-only set. Myself, TRod, TopSyder, and Tox, under the team name Leviathan, set up on our side of the table, going over our opening strategies and making sure all of our settings were correct.

Gears 4v4 - Round 1

Game 1 - Hotel Execution

Hotel Execution gave us a lot of hope because we pretty much played by-the-book. Everyone essentially did what they had to do and it worked well. Our main strategies focused on getting control of Torque during Digger rounds and locking down outside when it was Boomshot rounds. We ended up taking this map 4-1 with Tox and I impressing some of the spectators with some aggressive pushes on Torque and popping some skulls along the way. Considering we were off-host, this was a stellar accomplishment.

Game 2 - Dry Dock Execution

Then, we fell apart. We just could not get into our correct positioning for this map and we paid for it. We also couldn't make any attempt at abusing our host advantage and fell to getting crossed and not crossing ourselves, falling 1-4 on this map. It definitely killed our morale.

Game 3 - Checkout Execution

Back off-host, we played a back and forth match, doing well some rounds and playing awful the others. Our pushes didn't work all the time, but when they did, we solidly took the round. When it came down to a 3-3 tie in rounds, a few small mistakes cost us the round and the game. We were pretty devastated, considering that we were definitely skilled enough to take these guys down, but unfortunately we lost this set 2-1.

Overall, I hope the legacy of Leviathan continues. In particular, myself and Toxicity definitely played well. We did great on our 2-man pushes to Torque on Hotel and Tox himself pointed out that he was impressed at how well I did during the set. Unfortunately, not many others saw this, but I hope him and whoever else did can vouch for me. I'm good at this game, people!

Smash 1v1

At the same time, I was also playing Brawl. Because I entered Gears, I decided not to team with anyone for 2v2 and just stick to 1v1. Though Metaknight was still legal at this event, I decided against using him, instead pulling out my most used and comfortable character, Kirby, as well as a character I've been working on a lot with, Wario.

This event had pools for singles: 5 man pools, top 3 advance. I was able to take the 3rd seed in my pool, ousting some while somberly losing to Dark Pch. and Ebo. My set with Ebo in particular got to me a bit, considering I definitely think I could have taken the set if I hadn't made some key mistakes. Oh well, maybe next time.

Once I got into bracket, I faced my good friend Coontail, a Pokemon Trainer user. We had a close set, though he took it 2-0. He made a point of saying my Wario definitely surprised him, which kept my hopes high. After that, I faced WEDGE, a Sonic main, in loser's bracket and fell to him as well, thanks in part to my lack of knowledge of the Wario-Sonic match-up. This ultimately culminated in a 17th placing out of 40 something people. Not the best, but definitely one of my better placings.

Some Comments...

Now, the event was definitely enjoyable, but it wasn't the best I had come across. Considering the Smash event was ran fine, I really won't touch upon that. It was mainly the Gears event that bothered me. So I'll comment on that a bit.

Essentially, for future KOTC events, they definitely need to fix things. There are a huge array of problems that made this event not as good as it could have been, and that's a problem for a game that has a less-than-stellar local scene and relies heavily on online-play and the MLG circuit.

Some comments...:

1) KOTC needs to revamp it's bracket process

It's 2011. We have programs to run brackets. Doing it by hand "randomly" is absolutely ridiculous and it's very time consuming.

In the Smash community, we use a program called tio (free download here: http://allisbrawl.com/tio/). From the site itself:

"The gold standard in tournament production software. tio is a highly advanced application for managing every part of a competetive tournament, from entrant registration and seeding to bracket finalization and payout calculations. tio's major features include:

  • Three bracket types: single elimination, double elimination, and round-robin.
  • An intuitive bracket viewer for easily managing and updating brackets with the mouse or keyboard.
  • Manage money issues with entry fee tracking and customizable award amounts.
  • Integrated station manager for tracking which game stations are in use and where each match is being played.
  • Detailed results for each entrant, including overall placing and complete match history.
  • Power features like multi-monitor support, fast keyboard navigation, advanced seeding methods, and score reporting."

So, no more of this cheap, weird, by-hand bullshit. It takes literally five minutes to put together a full bracket and keep count of scores and money. It also allows you to seed teams based on skill, location, or in any manual way you please.

Gears tournament organizers, please use this program. It's free and it's more helpful than a piece of construction paper and a list of team names


This is so ridiculous that it's not even funny. Tournaments are about testing skill, not how much money you have. Teams got outplaced by people who bought back...like, come on, I don't even need to explain how uncompetitive that is.

Not only that, but it makes tournaments longer. I understand doing single-elimination because of time constraints, but because teams are constantly coming back into the bracket because of buy-backs, more time is being put into matches that never should have happened in the first place. Teams that had their matches happen very late couldn't even buy back into the event because of how late it was, though other teams constantly did it through-out the day. I didn't go to an event to lose to a team that only made it that far because they had more money to spend.

If you seriously think buying back is legitimate, I have no words for you.

3) Don't be shady with money and prizes

I've heard a lot of things about the money issues at these kinds of things. Simply put, here's how money should work for a successful tournament. Let's use Gears 3 for an example:

-All Gears 3 teams pay a venue fee to be present at the venue and an entry fee to actually compete in the event.

-Money that is collected through venue fees should go to paying off the bill for the venue. If there is extra, it should go into the prize pool for the players and to pay anyone that helped you run the event. The last thing you should worry about is making a profit for yourself; that is not what running a tournament is about.

-Money that is collected through entry fees should go directly to the prize pool for that event.

This means no prize caps, no shady money issues, none of that. It's really that simple. And everyone gets the money that they deserve.

4) Be organized

Gears 4v4 should not have ran as late as it should have. Yeah, players were playing the game slow, but because of how large 4v4 is, plus the size of other games, you have to be aware of this. This means you may need more set-ups for the tournament to run smoother or make sure that once a match is done, another follows. And I mean immediately. This includes the stream.

It's also a hassle when the venue is loud and it's hard to hear people even over a loud-speaker. Make information readily available to everyone at the venue at a table or something. Always make the bracket visible so people know who they are to play and at what time. Hell, start the event earlier - make games start up earlier in the morning so that the later games have more time to finish. Get people into the venue quicker...I mean, how big was that line outside?


So yeah, there's a lot that needs to be fixed. But overall I had a great time at this event both playing Smash and Gears. As for Gears, I wish it the best in the future. I'll be sticking with it and I hope everyone else does, too. But I what I saw this weekend was definitely not the best way any tournament can be ran, and I didn't even see how the games like CoD and Halo went, as well.

Next time, as always.

Also, some quick shout-outs to some people I met: CDN, Vero, Goldenboy. Had some great conversations with you guys, particularly with CDN on the man-up rule. He's a pretty chill dude. xD

And all my Smash dudes for being awesome!

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Good article. I've had a problem with tournaments running long as well in the past. I know they can't always expect the long game playing, but something should be in place to prevent it from going very late.

I agree with you about buy-backs. That makes no sense at all.

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team Leviathan FTW lmao. I agree the by-hand crap was annoying and definitely put a big gap in time. I couldnt figure it out, (maybe i didn't adjust my settings correctly? LAN n00b? still not sure) but it almost seemed as though I was lagging during the game, and the picture seemed very out of whack. I meant to try and fix this, but we went straight from sitting down to in game. thank god they gave me time to change my sensitivity haha. when i discussed what the problem may have been on the way home with TRod, he mentioned it may be because of the advanced visuals on the tv.. any thoughts?.. i would not want this to happen again

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Hmm great write up! I think maybe at points especially the last round we could have relaxed and not made a scramble for the power weapon and just had a rush for nades. We could have left the other 3 alone at checkout and waited it out.

Being my first LAN event. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging around with the vVv crew and I loved playing against some of the greats in cod.

In gow i think that being a pick up team and not even playing with each other for more then 1 time... We did rather well and I think Team Leviathan has a place in other tournaments :)

As for KOTC... Im Not very experienced with LAN, but it seemed very unorganized and very rushed imo.

Another thing i would just like to point out, is the random power loss during my cod ffa game... Instead of trying to fix the problem, they started yelling at the players to fix it for them...

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Great write-up Dakota! It seems like KOTC had its fair share of good and bad moments. It just needs to work out all of the kinks. I always enjoy reading your blogs about tournaments Dakota! It makes me feel like I actually attended myself!=)

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Thanks everyone!

@LJ: Unfortunately no, my phone died like once I got there because I'm braindead and didn't charge it, but the next one, I shall definitely do another write-up and provide that media!

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