Yevhen “Hitras” Shepeliev and Maksym Bilonogov share tips and information about planning a tournament in a title that isn't the more familiar CS:GO or Dota 2.
On July 2, 2020, after a closed beta testing with player volunteers, Riot Games released VALORANT — a competitive tactical shooter. The developer and publisher behind the new title also created the sensational esport, League of Legends.
Noticing the vast interest that beta participants and those that struggled to get into it had for the game, WePlay Esports got interested in it too. The company hosted its first tournament in the new esports discipline on July 13–19, 2020. The event marked the start of the official VALORANT IGNITION SERIES, a new tournament series.
Restrictions on offline events due to the pandemic meant no ticket sales, merchandise, and screaming spectators in the studio. But thanks to people like Lead Esports Manager Yevhen “Hitras” Shepeliev and Chief Visionary Officer and General Producer Maksym Bilonogov, WePlay Esports was still able to put on a great online event.
In this interview, Yevhen and Maksym explain how the organization prepared for the tournament and share their impressions of it.
Lead Esports Manager at WePlay Esports Yevhen “Hitras” Shepeliev
It’s been over two weeks since WePlay! VALORANT Invitational ended. How do you feel about the event?
Learning a new game and planning everything for a tournament is like trying a new hobby; you feel excited and nervous at the same time. I’m glad that we hosted the VALORANT competition and I think it’s a new path for the company.
Are there any differences in preparing for VALORANT compared to tournaments in other disciplines? Were there any challenges?
For this event, the tournament structure was the same as always. Just like you would in a sports tournament, announced a prize pool, approved event format and dates, created a tournament bracket, invited teams, set matches, planned the final, etc.
But if we’re talking about organizational aspects, we did change our approach this time. For example, one can organize a CS:GO tournament without discussing any details with the game publisher. It doesn't work like that with VALORANT. We carried out WePlay! VALORANT Invitational in partnership with Riot Games while strictly adhering to their standards in every area of the event.
You could say we worked hand-in-hand with their staff, ensuring our plans and tasks aligned with theirs. In developing the title, Riot Games had planned to have a different competitive ecosystem for it than what you find currently in League of Legends. By working closely with players and organizers, the developer hopes to create an inclusive esports environment that would meet the needs of fans, their favorite teams, tournament organizers, and sponsors.
As VALORANT is new, the developers haven’t implemented all of their ideas just yet. For example, one can’t choose a server for both teams when creating a lobby (organizing a match) in VALORANT, at least for now. The thing is, the closer a participant is to a server they are playing on, the smaller the latency (ping) between key presses and in-game actions, which greatly impacts match play. Sometimes players organize a match based on their location to ensure teams were on equal footing. Sadly, this also means players and teams from outside the region are unable to compete.
At the same time, it was also easier to prepare for VALORANT. Since it's a new discipline, there aren’t many other tournament organizers nor teams to pick through yet. It was easy for players too, as all they needed to do was develop the right amount of skill, form a squad, and pick a team name.
Did the event meet your expectations in terms of viewership numbers, peak viewership records, etc.?
I didn’t have huge expectations about the event since it was our debut in a new discipline that had very little background information. In general, I was satisfied with the tournament outcome. There isn't any area or items that I would change if I could.
According to statistics from the independent analytical agency Esports Charts, the tournament peaked at 54,021 viewers. The stats also show that we achieved a total of 689,945 hours watched.
How much success do you think the game will receive as an esport?
This is a game from the renowned developer that created League of Legends, which is probably the world’s most successful esports discipline right now. VALORANT is already popular and it only launched recently, so there are high chances of it finding its niche among shooters and becoming a quick success with youth and adults alike.
General Producer at WePlay Esports Maksym Bilonogov
What are your impressions of the tournament?
I feel great about it. It’s been an interesting experience of working with a new discipline for me, the tournament staff, and the broadcast team. It's like picking up a brand new sport for the first time.
Did studio team members use new storytelling techniques during the broadcast?
We meticulously prepared for the stream as it was the first tournament in a new discipline. The production team had to figure out how to use the observer client (an official VALORANT tool) and find the best angles to show all the action on the maps. We also had to make sure viewers understood all that was going on during every match.
We also used our best practices of broadcasting shooters and other esports during the event. Particularly in the pick & ban areas and maps that enrich the entire experience by providing fans with more fancy details.
We also used our best practices of broadcasting shooters, particularly, pick & bans and maps. Additionally, we adapted our AR Set Extension solution for the tournament to create the illusion that the venue was larger than it is and located in a night city.
What was your inspiration for the studio decor?
We were inspired by the fact that the game takes place in a dystopian future. We thought that references to movies Ready Player One and Back to the Future would work great for our on-site studio design. A blend of both would help create an awesome studio vibe. Judging by all the attention the event gained on social media, it seems we were right to do so.
The makeup and outfit choices were also inspired by the event theme, right?
Of course, our plan was to ensure every host looked like they belonged in the cyberpunk space we had created through intricate studio design.
Are you planning on hosting VALORANT tournaments in the future?
As always, our organization is always ready to collaborate with Riot Games. We look forward to working on many more VALORANT events in the future.
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