The first thing I want to do is thank the people behind the Essentials production. I have no clue how bad it actually was and how much was within control/out of control. I do know they worked very hard to make sure that shit worked, and with whatever they were able to do while everything was on fire, they did their best and they made a show happen, and I bawled like a baby when the outro rolled. I can say lots of positive things about this LAN - the casters, the teams and players, the spectators and community, the Twitch connections so we got 12K views, the talent available - and I will later.
Production quality felt worse than i61. There was effort and good work put in by the volunteers that got downplayed due to how cheap and put together last minute everything seemed. I could sense their tension from all the disorganization from across the transatlantic. The only exception is the Grand Finals stage, which felt better than i61's. Crowd noise was hype and audible due to actually being near the casters, the stage was cool, and it helps that both teams played fantastically and so evenly. It was almost therapeutic how satisfying the grand finals stage production was, because of how rough Day 1 and 2 were, after hearing about production people who probably fought tooth and nail to get shit working.
Feel free to not answer me ever if something sounds presumptuous or entitled, or feel free to correct me if I don't know what I'm talking about.
This is a long bullet-pointed nerd essay of my gripes with details. Meanwhile, here's the condensed list:
- Multiplay fucked up and is frustrating to talk with e.g. main stage delayed 2 hours finals ended 2 AM, to smaller things like prod PCs apparently not being provided
- More visual stimulation during talking segments to supplement what they're talking about is needed, like stats or team photos or something
- More editing on variety segments during downtime, I like them but they drag on/are awkward due to no editing. Also bring other teams that might be free/were eliminated for more couch interviews
- Why was the marketing and advertising between February 22 (i63 confirmed tf2) and July 7th (prize pot confirmation) really bad? There needed to be more hype-building and there was so little hype done prior to 2nd week before LAN people told me "oh wait i63 is happening?"
- Sound issues are back again, they're as bad as they were last year, I'm sick of it
- Don't fucking bring the losing team on stage after they just lost, they are clearly upset after long games and don't want to be put out there like that to hold up a plastic toy cheque. Don't do it ever again, we never did this
- Did Essentials staff try to reach out to teams or just wait out to see if people would make up their minds if they wanted to be in invite?
- Why did it take so long to have qualifiers? Why was there no information about them until the last minute?
- Were showmatches to help the teams that were fundraising not considered or was everybody just too busy with monthlies to plan it + the above thing?
- How come teams in the invite brackets and the open brackets were asking questions about what they needed to do on certain lan days and when they needed to come in or register?
- There was a dude from an open team complaining about how apparently online mercenaries were being allowed?? When it was against the rules to allow online mercs?
- Why did it take so long to update brackets and scheduling or tweet that information out and make it accessible?
- Why were there periods where mods weren't around and not asked to be around to time out shit like harassment/racism/transphobia/etc? Is it just one of those "it's twitch chat, they'll always be awful" even when I kept seeing EssentialsTF's account do clapbacks at people instead of a timeout or ban?
- Why were people STILL shouting at production? Why does it feel like there's tension between Essentials and their volunteers?
Now here's the thing - some of these complaints might actually be just the budget TF2 can maintain. From what it seems like, and I could be wrong:
- There wasn't enough production equipment that people needed actually there like prod or social media PCs, limiting what the social media/photojournalism/video editing/admin team who needed them could do
- People spread themselves out too many roles and a lot of different things at once, which made it hard to keep track of things or stay on the ball
- Somebody didn't step up as much as they could have or got lazy, and if it's a repeat offender, should not come back next year to do their responsibilities if they under-performed so badly after feedback, that it affected the show
I was around Dashner's production team around i55 for 2 or so years, which was post-Lange and fairly similar in quality, hard work, and professionalism from talent. Dashner's era was fantastic-looking and high budget but it absolutely spoiled TF2. It was very micromanaged, and people who had specific roles were flown out rather than asked to multitask: the audio engie focused on audio, the live graphics operator controlled NodeCG, the roaming camera people focused on video, and the photojournalists took photos and edited them to post to social media and to TFTV's gallery. People like War and Sideshow both have stated that it wasn't sustainable to have that high quality of production. It exceeds the budget of what a small grassroots seed is capable of, let alone can sustain, without really generous sponsors.
Before i61, TFTV held open communication channels for people who wanted to volunteer and learn more about what was happening at the event, unlike what I've heard about Essentials. Additionally, TFTV would talk to dedicated Multiplay admins who were coordinating the TF2 tournament months, MONTHS earlier (not 2, not 3, a bit more than that) to talk to higher-ups to get what they needed. We're talking the moment the project is signed. Those admins are retired now. It might be a harder struggle. Thing is, whatever was not available was actually brought into the LAN's country or rented out - high-end video cameras, cables, mackey, industry standard commentator headsets. These things cost up to thousands of dollars.
Because Dashner and Lange used that stuff outside of TF2, it makes some sense that some of the shit that was really nice on-stream was due to that money in their own equipment they contributed, and completely optional - but we might perceive some of these things like player cams as mandatory when they are bonuses.
I don't doubt this is what some Essentials staff also had to do with whatever sponsor money or money they had available and bring some of their own stuff. I don't actually have a decent camera or equipment; my stuff is sponsor-rented or rented from somebody's pockets. There was an instance a camera lens and body was bought from a store, then returned after LAN. This sounds common, but it's money that can't be afforded to be spent when you need to consider which production people you're going to help pay for flights and hotels. There was already a saturation of fundraisers this year and production fundraisers don't make that much to send maybe more than one person out.
With this being considered, I'm not sure if I'm just spoiled based on being used to the old days, and expect more than what the budget provides due to these paragraphs above - or if I feel like Essentials with the equipment they had, could have helped their volunteers better in providing them what they needed, or have brought on people better suited for certain roles. Based on this thread as well as other places i63 feedback was left, I'm going to lean towards the latter opinion.