This coming weekend (August 20-21) Sydney will see an influx of professional gamers from across the country. Why? This weekend marks not just one, but two, playoff finals for competitors in Australia’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO, as it’s commonly referred to as) and SMITE competitive leagues. The event will see Australia’s best, who have already been tested during the regular season of their leagues, clash heads and take the prize: a $25,000 prize pool for SMITE, and a $10,000 one for CS:GO.
CS:GO and SMITE for Dummies
Counter-Strike and SMITE, despite being played at the same event, are very different games!
Counter-Strike is a first-person shooter. Either team can win the round by eliminating the other team completely, or completing their objective. For the ‘Terrorists’, their objective is to attack and plant a bomb on a specific part of the map, and hope it detonates. For the Counter-Terrorists, they must defuse the bomb once it is planted. The first team to win 16 rounds is the winner. Each team plays a side for 15 rounds and then swaps roles, similar to swapping the side of the field at the halftime of a footy game.
SMITE is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (referred to as a MOBA), where teams of five players each chose a specific character and try to destroy the other team’s base. Each player usually specialises in a specific role. They may play a character who “carries” the team, much like a point guard in Basketball, or a forward in AFL. They may also specialise in a “support” role, which ensures that the team can function as best as possible. The key to victory in MOBAs is teamwork and cohesiveness.
SMITEing all those who oppose them
SMITE has grown exponentially on a global level as an eSport this past year. The executive manager of the team behind the game told fans they plan to continue developing and nurturing the eSports scene, and 2016 has been proof of that promise. This year has seen SMITE eSports leagues spurt up in not only North America and Europe, but also Latin America, China, and, you guessed it, Oceania. This weekend marks for SMITE the conclusion of Season 2 of the Oceanic Pro League, and a $25,000 prize pool looms over the four finalists who will battle for the best cut of the pot.
The SMITE teams competing for victory are some of the most established not only in the Australian scene, but worldwide. Pandamonium Gaming, who won the last season of the OPL and attended the SMITE World Championships in January, will be looking to chalk up another first place finish. Four of their five members have been together since 2015, and I got to speak to their captain, Daniel Rowe, on how this teamwork has carried them forward to success:
“We were the first team to approach practice seriously and to set long term goals… we never slowed down, and even while we’ve had some bumps like anyone does [this teamwork] has carried us through 2016.”
With Daniel and the team’s successes throughout 2015 and 2016, even with the adversity of some in-game role swapping and a new teammate, it is clear that Pandamonium is a team which plans extensively for its big tournament moments and seizes victory because of it.
They do, however, face some stiff competition - particularly from Legacy eSports, made up of veteran players who finished this regular season with an almost flawless eight wins, one loss and one draw. Also challenging Pandamonium’s repeat chances are Team Incite, a recently reformed squad, and Avant Garde, a household name not only in SMITE, but across Australian eSports.
Finishing in third during the regular season, Pandamonium have a tough road ahead of them if they plan to take back-to-back championships. However, in the words of Rowe, “For once, we’re the underdogs in Oceania, so I can't wait to prove what this new roster is capable of.”
While the SMITE teams battle it out earlier in the day, the Counter-Strike boys will be gunning for the best share of a $10,000 prize pool as they wrap up the 8th Season of the CyberGamer Pro League. CS:GO, alongside DotA and League of Legends, is seen as one of the ‘giants’ of eSports and commands a humongous fan base worldwide. Teams have even been transferred to other organisations for as much as $700,000!
Similar to the SMITE finals, the CS:GO playoffs will be made up of the top four teams from the regular season. Leading the way with perfect 5-0 records are Team ASDF and Athletico, followed closely behind by Avant Garde. To round out the final spot we have Parallax, who finished just ahead of the rest with a tie-breaker to sneak into the top four.
A Brewing Rivalry?
The looming storyline of this weekend, however, is a potential repeat clash between ASDF and Athletico who recently faced off in the ESEA Australia semi-finals. In a close match ASDF, led by veteran Michael ‘Lightstep’ Hall, took it with a game score of 2-1. While ASDF is a fairly new team in the Australian Counter-Strike scene, Athletico might be described as the giant of it.
Having been around since 2005, Athletico was on the cusp of entering the big leagues earlier this month. They finished fourth in the StarSeries i-League Season 2 Qualifiers in Shanghai, China - narrowly losing to Chinese team Tyloo and South Korea’s MVP both 2-1. They took the loss in stride, however, with Athletico CEO Matthew ‘Sheep’ Woolley telling me:
“[Shanghai] was a great learning experience for the team, and has allowed us to find holes in our gameplay which we have been working hard to rectify.”
In regards to their potential rematch with ASDF ‘Sheep’ told me they are “looking forward to seeing and hopefully playing against our friends and rivals at ASDF”, setting the stage of what could be a thrilling final between the two top squads of this season.
Want to experience the hype first hand?
If all of this sounds fantastic to you, and you have the time to check it out, head over to the Australian Technology Park in Sydney and catch the action! The schedule of the event can be found here on the CyberGamer website, to make sure you don’t miss any of the action. If you do make it out, make sure to say hi to the Shine+ team. As sponsors of the event, and big fans of eSports ourselves, we’ll be there watching every moment alongside you.
WORDS BY HAYDEN FITZGERALD