I went, last Sunday (4/30/2017), to Dreamhack Austin, a huge gaming convention in downtown Austin which spans three days. The main attractions are Smash, CS:GO, Hearthstone, and Starcraft II, but it also features a LAN zone, a hackathon, some league, some Overwatch, a bunch of companies trying to sell you stuff, and an Oculus Rift VR esport. Here were my thoughts, in no particular order.
It was way bigger than I expected it to be. The Austin Convention Center is huge, there were so many people jam packed in there.
I don’t really follow any one esport religiously, so I spent time bouncing from esport to esport which I really enjoyed. There’s usually always lag in between one game and another, so I would watch a game, and then during the time they were taking to set up for the next one, I would bounce over to a different esport.
Watching all these games really makes me want to play them again, not good.
Walking past all the booths selling cool looking mice and keyboards and headphones makes me really want to buy them, not good.
I missed the final SCII game, where the Protoss won. I always root for Protoss, so I’m kinda sad about that.
I played the VR game that Oculus was there demoing. It was called ‘The Unspoken’. The basic premise was that you are a wizard, and you duel other wizards using a variety of spells. It sounds pretty sweet, like a perfect use of VR, but I felt that the execution was pretty lacking. In my opinion, the number one directive of VR should be ‘make the player feel awesome’. This game did not do that. The basic attacks, fireballs, involved holding down a button and chucking it in the general direction of the enemy. A shield just involved holding down a different button. More complicated spells involved holding down two buttons, and then crossing your hands or bringing them together. Movement was done through teleportation - but you could only teleport to designated pillars. This game had so much potential; wand style interactions would have been neat, free movement / teleportation in the world would have been far more dynamic, more complicated ways to unlock more powerful attacks would have lent gravitas, but when you play it becomes a rote matter of holding down buttons and flinging stuff vaguely in the direction of the enemy. My roommate, Jacob van Geffen also played, and he was wowed. Maybe he’ll post about it on his blog.
I had bad heartburn the whole time. It was not helped by the pretzel, pizza, and hot Cheetos I ate.
I watched some CS:GO with two friends of mine (Christopher Denny and Scott Zheng) despite having almost never played. They patiently walked me through it while we watched. Gambit ended up beating immortals 2-0. There definitely were some really cool bits, but overall I feel like it’s not a great spectator sport. The individual matches are so fast that the commentators don’t have a chance to do anything besides give a play by play, the metagame seems, to me as an outsider, to be pretty clearly decided, and the points system means that the whole thing will usually end rather anti-climatically. It definitely does generate opportunities for a lot of cool plays and highlights, but I feel like you don’t get as much out of watching the rest of the game as you can in other esports.
Plus, there were these really fucking annoying kids behind me smacking together these noisemakers every time Immortals won.
A lot of people in the hearthstone crowd were both watching and playing at the same time - I suppose they were the only crowd that even had that option.
One of the casters for the hearthstone tournament was female and the other two were male. The male casters, it seemed to me, had a kinda awkward time interacting with her. They would disagree with her, sometimes very aggressively, but other times just gloss over it. And they made much more eye contact with each other than they did with her.
I dunno that I really understand the point of going to the LAN portion of this event. Doesn’t that mean you miss everything else?
I was promised archery tag, but I was unable to find it :(
Overall, it was really fun and I’m glad I went. If I were more invested in an esport I probably would have had an even better time. I don’t think I would ever want to go for a whole weekend, unless I was really into a specific scene. Maybe one day my brother’s dreams will be realized and we’ll see Age of Empires II at Dreamhack as well!