||10-10-2012 08:00 AM
Forbes Article on the Internet Meltdown
Internet Meltdown at LoL World Championships Shows eSports Has a Problem
It was a frustrating weekend for fans of League of Legends, the most popular game in the world, and subsequently most popular professionally played eSport. Thursday, Friday and Saturday marked the playoffs for the World Championships, and teams from all over the world were assembled to compete for a first prize of a million dollars, the largest by far in pro gaming history.
Technical glitches are nothing new in the medium, as any professional gaming event reliant on technology is bound to have a few hiccups. But this weekend? Thereís never been an event this important utterly decimated by tech issues like what we saw on day three of the World Championships.
The third day was supposed to have a quarterfinal match between Chinaís World Elite and Europeís CLG teams, along with the two semi-final matches afterward, while the finals are the following weekend. In over nine hours of streaming, exactly two full games were played, with game three of the series being interrupted multiple times as the entire venue lost internet connectivity.
This is a big deal particularly for League of Legends, because itís not like the game simply pauses if the internet goes down. Rather, the entire game ends as everyone disconnects, as players are connected to each other and the game via the internet. In this case, two variants of game three were interrupted, one where World Elite had an early lead 15 minutes in, the other during the exact moment of a climactic team fight in an hour long game that CLG was dominating. In my past few years of watching professional eSports, that disconnect right at the climax of an hourís worth of build-up was probably the most heartbreaking thing Iíve ever witnessed at an event. Fans were literally screaming in agony at the venue.
As of now, thereís still an underabundance of facts as to what actually happened. Many said it was not Riotís fault, rather it was the venueís crappy internet and problems with the ISP. That may be true, but the fact that Riot throws a multi-million dollar tournament and has to rely on the whim of the venueís internet connectivity or their ISPís capability is incredibly unfortunate.
The problem here is the complete and utter reliance on the internet to play these games, even at events where the players are sitting literally ten feet from each other. There are a myriad of solutions here, none of them particularly easy to implement, but Riot should have employed at least one of them before throwing a tournament this big.
A LAN server is an obvious choice, and though the game is not built for LAN play due to cost and piracy concerns, for tournaments, itís almost a must. Nearly every internet issue could be fixed with the inclusion of LAN, but it would take a lot of work to set up in a game that wasnít built for it.
Another idea is that the game could save ďsnapshotsĒ of the games being played, where even if the internet did go down, a record of the game in its original state would be preserved. Also hard to build, but if it avoids situations like with what happened this weekend, it would be worth it.
Finally, Major League Gaming suffered such disastrous issues with the internet at their events, they spent a huge amount of money on a satellite truck that was meant to broadcast constant internet at all times without interruption. Costly, but itís mostly fixed their issues.
This is not a problem exclusive to Riot or League of Legends. Many high profile events have been interrupted by internet connectivity problems, including a number of high level Starcraft matches Iíve seen over the past few years. Rather, the internet is a hurdle all of eSports needs to overcome, or it canít be taken seriously as a spectator sport. Despite the millions of dollars poured into production for these events, it still feels like amateur hour if the internet goes down and negates games or trashes the schedule for an entire day.
When designing a game meant to be played professionally, developers are going to have to start keeping these issues in mind. LAN does not have to be available for public consumption, but for private events like these? It should definitely be put in place to ensure disasters like this donít happen. If thatís not possible, other solutions must be formulated to ensure that an ISP crapping out (as theyíre prone to do) doesnít ruin an entire event.
As for the World Championships, the games missed this weekend are going to be played this week sometime ahead of the finals, though no specifics of dates and times have been given yet. Riot has been extremely apologetic, and though itís not helpful to point fingers, something has to be done so something like this never happens again to interrupt a major tournament, much less the largest, most important one in eSports history.