The DreamHack Blog: Stockholm
I’m writing this DreamHack blog the day after the event, still somewhat recovering and nursing a strictly non-alcoholic drink with my lunch after another impressive DreamHack after-party.
The weekend was certainly tough work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being given the task of ‘creating as much content as I can’ gives me a wide remit, and I enjoyed trying to push the limits of what I could do in the time I spent in Stockholm.
However hard you work, though, we should always remember that there are so many people who have to endure a lot of crazy stress to pull things off. The Hearthstone commentators, players and production crew, for example, were awake until 5:30am the next day on ‘Day 1’ of the tournament (this really should be ‘Day 1.5’).
That was without a single technical hitch – the games were simply that competitive and went the distance often enough that it broke Artosis’ record for the largest number of hours he’s had to cast in a day – and he loved it. You can see what he had to say in my interview with him here. Spare a thought for the production crew and support staff as well who had to be on-the-ball for every overlay set-up, transition and other requests until the very end.
Content: More Challenging Than I Thought!
I had a loose ‘game plan’ in mind before I arrived at the Blizzard Streaming Zone. Write a DreamHack blog, record videos and interviews (asking some less traditional questions to keep things interesting and fresh – my preferred approach!), and record the atmosphere through photography. On paper this seemed like a good set of objectives, but I discovered that this was more difficult than I thought.
Happily, at the event we had some great support. The Blizzard guys in Albert and Lucas were instrumental in helping us get our content area set up and running (basically, without them we had no workstations!).
I also had the gracious help of several translators for interviews including Inuh (MMA’s lovely manager), the eventual champion Samsung’s Solar and the ever smiling CM Storm Polt (off camera), which was fantastic. The DreamHack staff helped us wherever they could – shoutout to Kim who helped us stop our section of the hall being taken down until last so that we could continue to record, edit and upload video on the final day. She also coordinated giveaways with us for the fans. We like giveaways. Mmm, loot.
We managed to sit down with the team after the event as well for a very deserved, very tasty Thai meal – here you see myself with Albert & Lucas, joined by Madals and DeadSet (one of the awesome Diablo III streamers at the Blizzard Streaming Zone this weekend).
Creating content was difficult because to get a single video uploaded, a large number of things had to go right. First, a person must be available (which at a weekend tournament is extremely hit and miss) and sometimes I had to locate the help of a translator who was available to help at the same time.
After walking to a quiet area and setting equipment up, the interview itself can take 15-20 minutes to complete. Everything must then get transferred to my laptop where editing and uploading can begin – this can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes per video. Finally, after uploading I need to make sure everything is tagged correctly, inserted into blog posts / forum posts and have them added to playlists as well as social media.
Because of this, a single 10 minute interview could end up taking as much as two hours to get online. This is why we had to work quickly, and stayed later at the end on Day 2. I loved every minute of it including the constant running around. It was a good chance to capture as many parts of the event as possible, and in the end I happily managed to gather content for all of Blizzard’s titles at the venue – StarCraft, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft & Diablo.
When people I wanted to interview were busy, I quickly walked around and said hello to the CM Storm folks (who I met in Copenhagen earlier this year) and looked at some of the cool stalls. I now have my very own potted fire flower, which I will be happily displaying on my desk back in London!
Planning and Set-Up for Entertainment Success
I don’t think anyone can deny that when it comes to delivering entertainment, DreamHack not only sets the bar high but consistently delivers. Stockholm 2014 was no exception. The final show on stage at the Globe Arena was amazing, with added special effects and pyrotechnics because, in the words of the set-up staff I spoke to during the event, “Why not?”
The fantastic set up was not something that happened by accident, and took a lot of planning. I was particularly impressed with the Hearthstone stage, where I genuinely feel they took production to the next level. The camera angles they achieved from the track around the elevated stage (or the choo-choo-train camera as I prefer to call it!) produced some amazing results for the stream.
Things also ran extremely smoothly – people were not only enjoying the quality of the production but visiting many of the stalls. There was even a tattoo stall and Blizzard’s own Marc Olbertz got involved, tattooing the word Passion (I was reminded “definitely without the hashtag!”) on his arm.
StarCraft was a constant crowd-gatherer throughout, with even the first group stages attracting many people to watch. We were stationed right next to the big screen so we could follow the progress as well as listen first hand to the crowd reactions.
It was awesome being able to interact so easily with people who played so many games. I even had a great conversation with Lothar (the Hearthstone player and commentator at this event) in the taxi from the airport when I arrived about competitive Counter-Strike back in version 1.5. That was a long time ago and it turns out we both played the game competitively back then! We spoke about how the eSport has evolved, hitboxes in version 1.6 (always a good talking point!), the automatic sniper rifle (much less powerful back then) that nobody used and how much fun public games were on de_prodigy and fy_iceworld. What great memories! :)
The Road to BlizzCon
A major talking point at DreamHack Stockholm was the road to BlizzCon (#RoadtoBlizzCon) – Blizzard’s end-of-year event where the finals of many tournaments such as the Hearthstone World Championship and StarCraft World Championship Series will be held. There were qualifying spots for several games available at DreamHack, and watching the journeys of some of these players through their successes and defeats definitely raised the atmosphere at the event to another level.
The StarCraft Tournament
My DreamHack blog wouldn’t be complete without talking about the StarCraft tournament. I play many games but StarCraft is understandably close to my heart as I’ve been commentating at events for several years now. It was great to be able to speak to a lot of the players before their group stage games started. It gave me a good idea of their form and confidence heading into the event.
Once the Round of 16 bracket was released, I was pleased with my prediction that soO would end up playing the winner of a JaeDong-Solar match. However, despite soO’s past results in tournament finals I confess I did not expect the final scoreline!
Something that also impressed me was ForGG’s run through the final bracket, taking out both Polt and MMA. ForGG’s playing standard has always been good, and taking out two of the fan favourites in his preferred TvT matchup reminded us all of how formiddable he can be.
I also saw that Liquid’s Ret had a quiet tournament with few of his games streamed, but produced some great games. He had solid 2-0’s against both Welmu (who is quickly being noted for his great WCS form) and Liquid HerO in Group Stage 2, and ended up falling to cJ’s herO and Liquid MaNa in Group Stage 3, where he also dropped his first map of the tournament. That’s a lot of ZvP as well as a lot of intra-team battling, but despite falling short of the final 16 his form looked really good. I’m eager to see what he will be showing us towards 2015. I also managed to interview him on the second day – you can see that video here.
The DreamHack Champion
Solar is a deserving champion, and the nature of his victory in the final should be enough to silence any doubters. He’s also great in an interview and wears his heart on his sleeve – you can watch my catch up with him here.
(Above photo courtesy Kim Phan of Blizzard)
He’s a very kind-hearted and sociable guy. Not only did he help translate for me in my interview with cJ herO and my interview with Alien Invasion’s Patience, he took time to say hello and be around as many members of the community as he could. Here is he posing with mYi’s young recruit Reynor after winning the DreamHack star – he said to Reynor, “Next year, this could be yours”. It was very sweet, and we should definitely keep an eye out for Reynor in the coming year. He’s only 12 years old and already mixing it up with some of the tournament veterans!
It was hard work but I thoroughly enjoyed Stockholm. Even as I sit finishing this DreamHack blog on the plane back to London I am anticipating the atmosphere at my next eSports event.
The tournament was fantastic, with its many interweaving stories including the Road to BlizzCon. The organisation and support we had from the ground staff made all our content production possible, and the celebrations and after-party weren’t bad either. ;-)
DreamHack is owed our thanks for another magnificent event, and I’m looking forward to seeing the great gameplay the season ending DreamHack Winter and BlizzCon will produce.
That’s it from me for now – I hope you’ve enjoyed my work over the weekend, and do leave me any comments you have to this blog post. It’s always great to hear from the fans! :)