LoL Worlds 2018 Viewing Party at UCI


by | Nov 10, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

As another exciting season of League of Legends finally came to a close, the event that players, fans, and spectators look forward to every year was also approaching: World Championship Finals. The top teams from regions around the world would once again fight for a chance to hoist up the Summoner’s Cup in a display of ultimate victory. This year, the final battle for the Cup was a showdown between European team Fnatic (FNC) and Chinese team Invictus Gaming (IG).

For five seasons straight, Korean teams SK Telecom T1 and Samsung White have dominated the international competitive scene, taking the Cup Worlds after Worlds. However, on November 3rd, 2018, a new victor of the League of Legends Championship Series was crowned: Invictus Gaming! For the first time in League of Legend’s history, a Chinese team won the Summoner’s Cup, nonetheless with a clean sweep 3-0 against worldwide fan-favorite team FNC. While IG isn’t new to the competitive League scene, they were inarguably the underdogs amongst their competitors, many of whom were considered giants in the LCS. In their seven years as a team, IG either had not made it to Worlds or failed entirely to make it past the first round. This year, however, they were able to turn it around,  paving their way straight to the Summoner’s Cup, a legendary victory indeed for the Chinese league.

Here at UC Irvine, The Association of Gamers (TAG) hosted a Worlds Viewing Party for fans to come together to witness live which team would emerge victorious. The event began around midnight Friday and was expected to last until the early morning the next day. Even in the late hours in the midst of the closing midterm season, TAG was intent on making it happen, and fans showed their dedication by attending regardless of the potential allnighter.

Legendary pro player Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and famous League Challenger-tier YouTuber Matthew “Pants are Dragon” Nguyen made an unexpected appearance at the Viewing Party during the opening ceremony, stunning fans and the board alike. They were kind enough to take the time to talk to fans with plenty of pictures to go around. As the games began, they took a seat among the crowd and watched along the whole night through.

The LCS opening ceremony was unanimously a highlight of the night with its hype lineup. POP/STARS by K/DA, a song crafted around Riot Games’ new K-pop inspired skin set, captured the hearts of many fans. The song featured an animated music video, with the K-pop style shining through its presentation. Beyond that, Riot stunned spectators further by extending the scenes from the music video to the live stage, animating the champions to perform along their singers, (G)I-DLE, Madison Beer, and Jaira Burns.

The next song to follow was a special one. Every year, Riot commissions a song specially made for Worlds from professional music artists; groups featured at past ceremonies include Imagine Dragons and Zedd. During the opening ceremony, a montage was shown of past World Championship Finals leading up to the present, a fitting transition in introduction to this years designated World’s song: Rise, featuring beloved artists The Glitch Mob, Mako, The Word Alive, and Bobby of iKON. The new hit has made trending charts all over the globe, and the live reception did not disappoint.

While watching the games unfold, viewers were encouraged to follow along with Taunt, an app that allows spectators to play a competitive game of predictions during LCS matches. Taunt worked in real-time during the match, keeping its players on the edge of their seat as they competed with each other for who could call the match the best. Will Rookie get first blood on Caps? Where will Ning gank next? Viewers anxiously waited for their predictions to come to life, and cheers erupted as plays were called. The use of Taunt as an additional layer of viewer engagement brought more excitement to the Viewing Party by giving them a platform to test their ability to call the match. Furthermore, those with the highest points at the end even won prizes!

TAG held raffles and distributed free merch all throughout the night. From freebies at the entrance, to brand new HyperX peripherals, limited edition Pulsefire Twisted Fate skins, a big poro plush, and vinyl figurines, the prizes were all valuable and the possibility of winning one was exciting. Even though they gave away a lot at this event, TAG will surely have have much more in store for future events as well. Consider coming to upcoming TAG events to snatch some prizes for yourself while supporting the gaming community here at UC Irvine!

 

Article by Gianeen Almaria

Editing by Nathan Dhami

Photography by Alice Lee

 

Video Game Industry Jobs and Careers: Resourcefully Breaking into Esports or Game Development


by | Dec 3, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

A few of us have known since we were little what we want to be when we grow-up, while some of us could graduate and still not know. One thing seems sure, that the sooner you set a destination, the sooner you will arrive there (barring GPS glitches or user error). So how does one go from not knowing to knowing? Exploration and introspection are two great ways! And if the headline brought you here, you have at least narrowed it down to an industry. An ocean is smaller than a nebula, so this is quest progress!

Exploration can be preliminarily broken down into reading, conversing, observing and experiencing. What does this mean? You can read up on the different parts of the industry (and the disciplines within them); talk to informed, veteran insiders; you can ask to job shadow someone; lastly, you can make games. These paths will serve you at all levels of your journey, whether a neophyte who enjoys gaming but doesn’t know QA Testing from Product Management, or a well-informed applicant who knows their exact dream job and already has done some business networking.

But you do not have to sail this ocean on a rickety self-made raft without a compass, map, nor companion, ye brave Wind Waker. Have you stepped into the UCI Career Center at least once, or even surfed their website? If not, DO IT! DO IT NOW! (“GET IN DA CHOPPAH!”) If you do not know the best ways to do job and career research, they are there to help you. Discover your options here.

Quest tip #1: Reading job postings on company websites can be educational. Sometimes their jargon might leave you not entirely sure what you read, but you can get help clarifying. Find a good source of information to get educated on this rich and diverse industry.

On-campus, the Video Game Developers Club at UCI and The Association of Gamers (TAG at UCI) are great clubs for making friends and networking. LinkedIn, Reddit, and Facebook Groups are some of the top ways to find recruiters whose job is to help answer your questions. You can also use them to find organizations like the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) (with chapters in OC, LA, and more) or SoCal Game Devs. Also, (watch Extra Credits.)

Quest tip #2: Companies will sometimes hire a candidate they know (plus trust and like) with most of the required skills over a total stranger who looks like a perfect candidate on paper.

Networking can be an art form, and like all major points above, the sooner the better. Companies want to hire people who can do the work and add value. As one favorite author has put it, your goal should be to increase the pleasure and reduce the pain of your employer and colleagues. Networking lets you get to know others and to be known. So be mindful of your image and reputation.

After you have completed your first major quest milestone and figured out what you want to do and where you want to go, it becomes clear what skills or degree you would need to best reach your destination. Much better to figure that out freshman year than senior year! (But there are still options for those in the final phases of their degree program.)

While applying with degree in-hand is one option, the strongest move is to apply for internships before then -or- to make your own games (including mods, characters, levels, et al). Blizzard Entertainment has one of the most developed and robust internship programs in this young industry. Sadly, this year’s application window just closed, but start planning for next year’s or search for others. If Los Angeles is not too far away, check out opportunities with Riot Games.

Quest tip #3: Think outside the box and be proactive–do not wait for things to come to you (or for them to happen in a preconceived conventional order).

Making your own games does not mean making your own AAA video game for all major platforms–although more power to you if you do that (mad respect). Making a rudimentary card game, board game, even word game, they all count; drawing characters, writing a backstory; playing with a level editor. The merits of this may or may not be obvious, but JUST DO IT. (Remember: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams! Yesterday, you said tomorrow! So just do it! Make your dreams come true. Just do it!”)

Once you apply for jobs, you will hopefully start having job interviews. If you have had none or few, tap back into the UCI Career Center for job interview tips and preparation! After working so hard to get so close to the goal, do not go in cold and raw. But that is a whole other chapter for another time.

TL;DR: Learn the various parts of the industry and how they all fit together to decide where you want to be within it. Acquire the skills for the job you want and also find allies to guide or support your journey to your goal. The more you know and do before you apply for a job, the easier it will be to get a job.

Orange County Settles it in Smash at UCI


by | Nov 21, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

Melee players from all over Orange County entered the OC Melee Arcadian held at UCI.

On November 7th, 2018, The Association of Gamers at UC Irvine (TAG @ UCI) hosted the Orange County Melee Arcadian, a tournament for popular Nintendo platform fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Emerald Bay rooms of the UCI Student Center hosted the 160-man event, a sequel to the Melee tournament that TAG @ UCI ran last fall. The tournament featured two main events, a two-on-two Doubles bracket and a Singles bracket. Since the tournament was an arcadian-style event exclusive to Orange County, any professional or ranked players were disallowed from entering the event, and players had to verify their OC residence upon registration using their smash.gg accounts. Without the competition from players ranked by the Melee It On Me (MIOM) or the Melee Panda Global Ranking (MPGR) stats, unranked amateur players had a chance to demonstrate their skill and prove that they, too, were Melee threats worthy of recognition.

The Doubles bracket, which opened the event, was a standard double-elimination bracket in which each team could only afford to lose once before their second loss would eject them from the tournament. Twelve teams of two players each competed in the bracket, and the winning team was comprised of players Adam “TurbotHot” Witkowski and Drake “Carrot” Cappi from UC Irvine. TurbotHot and Carrot, who played as Fox and Sheik respectively, defeated the double-Fox team consisting of fellow UCI students Jacob “Schmerv the Bird” F. and Eric “Woosh” Chagoya in order to win Doubles at the OC Melee Arcadian. TurbotHot/Carrot had fought Schmerv/Woosh twice in the same bracket- once in Winner’s Finals, and then once again in Grand Finals.

The event was streamed live at http://twitch.tv/ucimelee.

The main event of the OC Melee Arcadian was the Singles bracket, where players would compete against each other in a one-on-one format. The bracket was divided into two waves, with four pools of players each, and the pools bracket was conducted in a Round Robin format. All nine players in each pool would take turns playing against each other in a rotation, and the top three players with the best performances and most wins would move on from pools into the main Top 24 bracket. Much like the Doubles bracket, the Grand Finals of the Singles bracket also consisted of two players who had previously fought each other in Winner’s Finals. David “Commas” Park, a Sheik main from UC Santa Barbara, defeated CSU Fullerton’s Joshua “Pulse” Kim and his Marth three games to one. The set ended in a very close round, with Pulse ultimately losing due to an unfortunate mis-input in a high-pressure situation. In a brief interview after the tournament, Commas acknowledged that the set between him and Pulse in Grand Finals was more difficult than when they had played only moments before in Winner’s Finals, demonstrating just how quickly his opponent was able to adapt.

Friendly games were just as valuable to these players as their tournament matches.

Beyond the events of the tournament, there were also players whose attendance at the OC Melee Arcadian was simply another step in their continuing journey of improving at their game. Even though the main events were being streamed and projected in the venue, there were still many players who took the opportunity to play friendly matches with each other. By playing against people from outside of their local city or university’s Melee scene, these players were given the unique opportunity at the OC Melee Arcadian to expand upon their base of knowledge and skill.

The UCI Esports content team had the opportunity to interview Kavi Mathur and Alejandro Valdez, joint directors of the Melee subdivision of TAG @ UCI and main tournament organizers [TOs] for the OC Melee Arcadian. We asked Mathur and Valdez questions about their involvement in the Melee community, their history with TAG @ UCI and UCI Esports, and the role of esports on campus.

“I came into this school fall of 2016, and I got into competitive Melee junior year of high school,” Mathur said when recounting his first encounters with the Melee scene. “TAG has an internship program, and each subdivision, including Melee, hires interns. Griffin [Williams,] or Captain Faceroll, hired me and [Valdez] as interns and we’ve just worked our way up, learned different things such as TOing, streaming, and running tournaments in general.” Mathur’s perspective on the function of esports communities on campus was informed by both his time with TAG @UCI and his work as a UCI Esports staff member. “In terms of TAG, we’re really focused on players on campus and getting students engaged, and just creating a kind of community environment where people can meet weekly, at these different subdivisions and stuff like that. It’s really all about that student-community aspect with [TAG @ UCI.]” He went further in-depth about how UCI Esports provides resources and a level of professionalism to campus gaming communities: “With UCI Esports, [it’s about] getting esports recognized by the public eye, and that’s really important, especially because UCI Esports has access to certain resources that maybe clubs don’t. But I think both TAG and UCI Esports have an important role- TAG with the community aspect, and [UCI] Esports with the promotion, getting things more public, and making everything more professional.”

Valdez also discussed his storied history with the Smash scene, and how it led to him being a co-director of Melee for TAG @ UCI. “I remember going to my first tournament at UCI, and I saw everybody here, and […] it was all set up really nicely, and I thought, ‘wow, this is great!’ I actually ran my own club at my high school for Melee, so I had some experience with event organization, but on a really small scale, so to see things that were way bigger than that was amazing to me. I said to myself, ‘I definitely want to be a part of this.’” At the time of Valdez and Mathur’s application of internship, Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams was the president of the Melee subdivision of TAG @ UCI. When Williams graduated, the two of them stepped up to fulfill his duties. Valdez spoke on how the Melee tournaments he organized in high school were popular, but disorganized due to a lack of structure on campus. “To come [to UCI] and have a lot more structure and resources to help us out is definitely a step up.” Valdez also concurred with Mathur’s remarks about esports and its relationship with the student body. “If we didn’t have UCI Esports, if we didn’t have TAG, if we didn’t have the Melee club, people would still be playing video games. But I feel like having these organizations on campus, whether it’s really grassroots, casual, competitive, or organized, it helps people come together and find their niche at school. It’s really great that there’s a spectrum of players, and UCI Esports and TAG provides resources for gamers of all types to have fun and get what they want out of that experience.”

By far one of the most impressive aspects of the OC Melee Arcadian was that it attracted players from a community that reached far beyond the campus of UC Irvine. Players from different school and cities all entered the tournament to compete with each other, demonstrate their skill, and learn from one another. While the community of Melee players that TAG @ UCI had fostered was its own tight-knit group of students, the extensive outreach that drew in players from all over Orange County created a unique, spectacular experience.

Your article author lost every game he played in Wave 1 of pools.

A full link to the interview transcripts can be found at the author’s blog, here.

Esports Night with NASEF Kicks Off


by | Nov 20, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

Mark Deppe (left) stands with the La Quinta High School League of Legends team after an exciting exhibition match.

On Thursday, November 15th, 2018, the Orange County Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California proudly hosted Esports Night with NASEF (North America Scholastic Esports Federation,) a mixer dedicated to fostering community and interest in esports in Orange County. NASEF’s mission is to develop opportunities for students to utilize the esports environment as a tool to learn communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, and Esports Night with NASEF was one such opportunity. The mixer functioned as a chance, not only for players to network with educators and professional esports sponsors, but for educators to learn more about esports as a whole and develop an understanding of the growing industry as it relates to education.

Some of NASEF’s primary partners are the Samueli Foundation, UCI Esports, UCI Samueli School of Engineering, UCI Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, the Orange County Department of Education, and the OC STEM Initiative. In turn, many of the educators who were present at the event were UCI and Orange County professors and faculty members from various STEM fields. However, NASEF’s outreach and influence didn’t extend solely to local high school and university campuses- STEM faculty from all over the country could be found in attendance at the mixer. At one point during the night, our media team was informally approached by Barbara Brody from Oregon State University’s STEM extension program, who was interested in learning about esports and how it could foster team building and leadership skills in students. Brody was intrigued by the nature of the main event and wanted to learn more about both the titles that were considered esports and the players who played them.

La Quinta High School (red) and Fountain Valley High School (blue) face off against each other on the main stage of the Orange County Esports Arena.

The main event in question was the best-of-one League of Legends exhibition match played between La Quinta High School and Fountain Valley High School’s esports teams. Fountain Valley had previously won the inaugural championship season of NASEF’s high school League championships- the organization was known then as Orange County High School Esports League. This was also something of a grudge match for the two schools, as Fountain Valley had previously defeated the higher seeded La Quinta team in order to secure the championship. After a grueling match with several shifts in back-and-forth momentum, La Quinta’s team was able to score a victory in the runback at Esports Night with NASEF.

Before and after the League exhibition match, UCI Esports’ own Program Director and NASEF Commissioner Mark Deppe held interviews and introductions to several special guests involved with esports development. From La Quinta, assistant principal Adrian Lucero, Esports Club general manager Terry Nguyen, and Ryan McKernan spoke on how having an esports presence on campus developed a stronger sense of community between both students and staff. McKernan also thanked UC Irvine and the Samueli Foundation for fostering the growth of the esports program on campus. After La Quinta’s team was presented with their trophy for winning the show match, Deppe invited families from the high schools, as well as UCI Esports’ own League support-role player and former pro player Lyubomir “Bloodwater” Spasov, on stage to talk about esports and its role in education and curriculum.

Deppe (far right,) Spasov (right,) and families of high school esports players answered questions about the role competitive games play on campus.

As the discussion was centered on student-family interactions regarding esports, Spasov began with an anecdote about convincing his own parents of the validity of esports as a part of his education and career path. “My parents weren’t really supportive at first, because they didn’t really know what I was getting into- and I also didn’t know what I was getting into.” When Spasov decided to return to school after his pro League career, his go-to choice for higher education was UC Irvine. His parents became more supportive of him as he continued to play for UCI Esports’ League team once they learned of the scholarship opportunities available to him. “I had put in the work into League of Legends and becoming good before [playing for UCI Esports] and that’s pretty much one of the main reasons why my parents were convinced into letting me play League of Legends and becoming more supportive.” The families of the Fountain Valley high school students also echoed the sentiment with similar statements, noting that fostering their child’s interest in esports was able to develop the rest of their academic interests in turn. When Deppe asked the guests what advice they would give to faculty developing high school or collegiate esports programs, Spasov recommended establishing a business model that would start small and allow the existing on-campus esports community to thrive. The families also suggested that parents of high school and college players “keep an open mind” and remember that esports can develop the same team-building and strategizing skills that physical sports encourage.

An interview conducted with the members of the La Quinta High School League team was also centered around similar themes of the coexistence of school curriculum and esports. Randy “iFalse” Chung, the midlaner for the school’s team, spoke to our content team about his history with esports and how it related to his academic career. “I started off playing console games like Call of Duty,” Chung explained. “I realized I was pretty decent at that, and then when I got my first computer, I started playing first-person shooters like Combat Arms, and [Counter-Strike: Global Offensive] too. Then once I picked up League of Legends in the start of middle school, I started off Bronze IV and that was pretty demoralizing, but within one season I climbed all the way to Diamond I. So that’s when I realized I had potential in esports. I’ve always played sports too, so esports was a good combination of gaming and sports. I think it’s really awesome to able to play for a high school team.” Chung credited the fact that his existing academic career is already very excellent as a main reason why he is able to balance studying, athletic sports, and esports so well. This also plays into his own role as the midlaner and team captain of the La Quinta High League team: “Because of [my good GPA,] my parents didn’t really care if I played games or not as long as I did well in school. I guess that really translates into me being a shotcaller and the captain of the team. I’m really organized and make sure I do my work first, and then it’s gaming after.” Chung is currently a first year at California State University of Long Beach. When asked if he would continue his esports career beyond playing for La Quinta, Chung responded: “For now, I’m playing on the CSULB Fortnite team, and hopefully I can get somewhere with that. But if not, I can always return to League. I’m trying to focus more on League next season.”

Esports Night with NASEF was an entertaining and educational event that provided its attendees with insight into how this growing industry can be beneficial to both faculty and students. The talks and interactions at the mixer were a perfect environment to promote NASEF’s core values: learning, opportunity, community, diversity, and respect. By giving students a chance to develop real-world values and connect the skills they learn in gameplay to their education, it provides them with a deeper understanding of their curriculum. NASEF has succeeded in building a rich community of thoughtful, connected players and educators who have a place to interact with each other and develop a unique culture within esports.

Interview with Randy “iFalse” Chung: Gianeen Almaria
Photos: Riley Okumura, Jiawei Li
Further editing and photos: Alice Lee