An important aspect of being a business professional in the sport industry is ensuring that nothing cheapens the competition. This is vital if you want to keep integrity within the sport.
In the big four professional sports there is always a time in the off-season where the owners and player unions battle it out over rule changes. If the way the game is played is going to change, it will happen at that time. For example, one off-season the NFL changed rules to protect defenseless wide receivers; the rule completely changed the way defenses had to approach defending the pass.
Imagine this rule being changed during week 8 of the regular season. All of a sudden your star linebackers and safeties, who made a career out of laying out wide receivers that run into their domain, are no longer as valuable and your team has a gaping hole in the defense.
This is basically what just happened when Valve released the 6.82 patch during the day yesterday. The patch was so big and game changing that it was named and got a nice micro-site. The major objective, Roshan, was completely moved. The map got new pathways that would change certain aspects of the game. Some heroes had major changes done to them. Basically it was a completely different game, especially at the highest levels of play.
The problem here is that it came out right in the middle of a couple very important competitive events: Starladder X Qualifiers and i-league. In the Starladder X American Qualifiers (CAUTION SPOILERS) Na’Vi US and Sneaky Nyx Assassins were in their first game of a best-of-3 when the patch dropped. The match decided which team went on to face Evil Geniuses for a chance to go to Kiev and fight for a prize pool totaling $250k and still growing.
So after the series started out on patch 6.81, the second game had to be played on patch 6.82 which no one had played on. Since the patch introduced such sweeping changes it meant that players were basically playing a very important match in a completely different game.
The game between Na’Vi US and SNA where they had no clue what they were playing.
Here is the thing, if Starladder were paying attention to the community, which they probably were, they would have known the patch was coming out that day. No one was sure exactly when it would drop other than it would be soon.
After looking at schedules, it would have been wise for Starladder to push back every game a couple days so teams could learn the patch. The admins could say they needed to stay on schedule but the last thing you want is for fans to discredit victories because a team got “lucky” by beating a better team that didn’t respond to the patch as well as they did. The competition loses integrity when teams are forced to play in an atmosphere (a new patch) in which they aren’t comfortable.
IMBA TV’s i-league LAN is also currently going on in China. First place will go home with close to $100k, meaning that it is a big deal for the Chinese teams. Of course, there was nothing i-league could do here because they were tied to a venue and players living in hotels. So this catastrophe is actually on Valve. If Valve, or any developer, cares about the integrity of their competitive scene then they wouldn’t make major changes in the middle of a big competition. Valve could have pushed the patch to Monday.
Developers and tournament organizers need to be cognizant of what is going on in their game. Developers need to respect major events. Tournament organizers need better crisis management and to space out schedules to account for things not in their control like patches or DDoS attacks.
How do you feel about major patches happening during or right before major competitions?