State of the Game — September 17, 2008
Guild Wars Guru GvG Challenge 2008: Tournament Insights
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Earlier this year, after I was fortunate enough to participate on the tournament committee for the 2008 RAWR Cup, it occurred to me: We could do this. After the tournament ended and the committee wrapped up its work, I spoke with Inde, the head administrator for Guild Wars Guru where I am a senior moderator, and suggested that we host a GvG tournament of our own. Armed with my experience on the RAWR Cup committee and Inde's marketing connections, we went to work on building the Guru Challenge. We wanted as many participants as we could get, so we added two more divisions beyond what RAWR Cup had used — a Premier Division for elite level guilds and a Casual Division for players new to GvG. We also added a prediction contest where winners could win real-world prizes.
As long as we had substantial prizes to award, I knew we would get the same level of support as comparable RAWR Cups. That dictated our first step: securing sponsors to provide prizes. As a rule, sponsors love good promotional exposure, so I went to ArenaNet and floated the idea of a Guild Wars Guru-sponsored tournament. ArenaNet's willingness to provide tournament coverage gave us the hook we needed — our tournament would be on the front page of ArenaNet's website and in an in-game URL. Inde sent out 50+ emails to potential sponsors, and we lined up three who were very interested in sponsoring our tournament. The biggest was Electronics Extreme, a new division of a large online retailer, which was willing to provide over $10,000 worth of laptops, portable DVD players, and MP3 players as prizes. (If you would like more information on how to secure sponsors, what information and numbers a sponsor is looking for or have questions on how to start please feel free to email Inde).
With the top three division prizes in hand, we set our sites on the remaining two divisions. Inde provided Guild Wars Guru promotional merchandise for the fourth division, and my guild, Team Love [kiSu], sponsored t-shirts for the final division, since we are a PvP mentoring guild and this division was designed for people brand new to GvG.
Next we contacted ArenaNet to set a date and get an idea of the level of support we would be given for the tournament. We were promised use of the monthly AT system, an assortment of mini-pet keycodes, and the ability to distribute 5000 tournament reward points across our divisions. We invited select players to join our tournament committee: besides myself and Inde, we invited Divine Ambassador from [dR], Moko from [nogg], Mitch from [KMD], Yue from [dV], Chop Chop and Three Pounds from [rawr], Racthoh from [SMS], Evil Pt from [KISS] and Sinister Fantasy from [kiSu] to participate on the committee.
While the RAWR Cup held weekly meetings on Vent, we instead decided to conduct all committee work via a special forum at Guild Wars Guru. As details became available and issues came up, we posted them for other members to discuss. This established a steady flow of frequent and timely feedback, and thus most decisions were made in a couple of days. The forum structure also provided a nice record of all the deliberations, which will be informative for running future tournaments. Since the RAWR Cup is specifically focused on North America, we made a conscious decision to include European players on our committee, and the forum-based committee meetings worked especially well for them.
The committee was tasked with many key decisions for the tournament: team parameters for each of the five divisions, mini-pet allocations and reward points, tournament parameters for the mAT system, setting maps and start times. The finer points of map rotation sparked considerable discussion as we sought to include as many maps as possible while balancing the needs of high-level competitive play.
Once all of the mAT parameters were determined they had to be communicated to ArenaNet. We provided this information to ArenaNet a full month in advance, but I would recommend doing it even earlier to get the tournament information out on Tolkano as soon as possible.
The Guru Challenge had five divisions: Premier (for top 50 teams), Gold (for rank 50-200), Silver (for 200-700), Bronze (for 700+) and Casual (for teams new to GvG). We provided these rough guidelines for teams to self-select their own division. The committee also considered guild performance over the past several months, as well as current membership. We asked for members of the community to provide information concerning whether or not guilds were indeed signed up for appropriate divisions. Unlike with the previous RAWR Cup, our committee examined the division that each guild had signed up for. If conditions warranted, we asked teams to move to a different division. We received considerable input regarding dozens of teams, resulting in many being moved to higher divisions to ensure the competitiveness of lower divisions.
The Guru Challenge didn't use a special token for registering for the tournament with Tolkano, as previous RAWR tournaments had. We discussed this with ArenaNet and decided we wanted as many teams participating as possible. On the day of the tournament, 172 teams registered in-game on Tolkano — just under the number that registered at Guild Wars Guru and equal to the number that had registered for both RAWR Cups combined. It was a tremendous turnout, but not using a special tournament token did have some pitfalls. An Asian team that was ranked in the top 200 registered for the Casual Division, and several guilds registered for higher divisions — one playing through the tournament and one going AFK though the tournament for reward points. We were able to deal with these issues, but we do recommend using special tokens for future tournaments, even though it can be a logistical challenge to get the tokens distributed to team leaders.
We partnered with Online Gaming Radio to have radio broadcast coverage of the tournament, so we had Joe Hostile and Rusty as commentators. Joe and Rusty mixed discussion of guilds and guild drama with game observation, and also brought on guests from various guilds to provide additional commentary. These guests received mini-pets to encourage participation, and we utilized the IRC channel #gwp with permission from owner Black to garner even more PvP community involvement. Some players had issues with the colorful language used by the commentators and the guests, so we would suggest giving explicit content warnings at future events. The broadcast had a peak live listener audience of nearly 300, and to date the recording of it has been downloaded 200 times.
After the tournament committee had its final review and discussion, we went about distributing the prizes. We had required each member of each team provide valid email addresses, but it turned out that some teams took this less seriously than others. Inde began notifying winners and confirming their mail and email addresses, but tracking down some of the team leaders took a little more time and effort.
We also opened up threads on our forums for suggestions about how to improve future tournaments. The biggest concern was teams playing in lower divisions than were appropriate. While no consensus was reached for solving this problem, most posters would like ArenaNet to increase their support to include special tokens for each of the different divisions for future tournaments.
Overall, the Guru Challenge was a huge success. Over 1,000 players actively participated in the tournament, over 1,000 also participated in the prediction contest, and hundreds of others listened in on the broadcast. We had originally planned to make the Guru Challenge an annual summer event, but now we're looking to add another, perhaps smaller event in winter as well. We are also working with a European fansite to help them sponsor a tournament, and my guild is planning to sponsor a Limited Play tournament in the fall. Anyone interested in learning more about sponsoring and running a tournament should feel free to contact me for more information.
Billiard is a Senior Moderator at GuildWarsGuru.com and TeamQuitter.com, and leader of Team Love [kiSu], a PvP mentoring guild. Billiard can be reached in-game as Billiard The Bold, or by private message at www.teamlove.us.