EPICENTER: "Watch the ceremony"
We caught up with EPICENTER's product director Alexander Zavoloka to discuss the new tournament organizer's plans for next week's $500,000 event in Moscow, possible conflicts of interest and more.
EPICENTER, a product of a new company called Epic Esports Events owned by ESforce, will take place next week in Moscow from October 17-23rd with $500,000 on the line and most of the world's elite teams in attendance.
We spoke to the tournament's product director Alexander Zavoloka, former journalist and once Editor-in-Chief at Fnatic.com, about how EPICENTER came to be, what the goals are for next week and the future, and also about the possible conflict of interest due to ownership structure of the teams and the event.
What is the idea behind starting EPICENTER and now entering CS:GO? What do you plan to provide to the CS:GO tournament circuit that others currently don't, or rather what do you think can be done better?
When I first joined Epic Esports Events it was still called Dreamz Media, and we only had D2CL and GOCL for Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. There were additional smaller online leagues for Hearthstone, League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. However it was nowhere near the magnitude of what was about to come. Our previous experience included two LAN finals for D2CL (one in Berlin and the other in Bucharest).
Sometime around January things changed, and our goal for 2016 was set in a rather simple way: create epic esports events. Obviously some rebranding had to be done, so from now on we are called Epic Esports Events and our flagship product is EPICENTER. There haven't been any truly big events in Moscow, and we wanted to prove that Russians can do far more than just spam and curse in pubs.
We've done extensive research about other events, surveyed teams and talents, and put a huge list of dos and don'ts. Later on we've used this feedback to make sure everyone gets the best experience out there.
We've learned a lot from our first Dota 2 event and now want to use these skills for CS:GO. Just like with Dota, we want our event to stand out from the crowd, be different in a good way, something memorable. There are so many events around, and it's an exciting goal that we want to achieve.
Once a journalist, now a tournament organizer – Alexander "Lexx" Zavoloka
It is no secret that there are connections between EPICENTER and three of the invited teams (Virtus.pro, SK as well as Na`Vi to an extent), as all are owned or partially owned by ESforce. Are any precautionary measures taken to ensure this doesn't affect the legitimacy of results, the treatment of other teams and how will you dissuade the community's fears about such potential issues?
Well, I think no matter what statement I can provide here, there will always be those who won't be satisfied with that. Let me describe you the way we work with teams, with any team for that matter. We reach out to their managers, invite them to the event, ask them to fill in forms, follow their requests.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is there are no special preferences whatsoever to any team out there. We have to ask each team to come, work out issues with their schedules, and so on. There was a great chance of SK-Gaming not coming due to scheduling conflicts, and ELEAGUE could have had one of the teams as well. Fortunately we've managed to find a compromise on all of that.
Finally, we are firmly committed to the basic principles of fair play in esports, we would never tolerate any deviation from this principle. It's all about fair competition and full commitment to showing your best and playing your heart out.
While this will be your first CS:GO event, you already ran a DotA2 tournament earlier this year and it received a lot of praise, especially for the stage setup - do you have any special plans along those lines or otherwise this time?
Well, I guess it is up to community to rate our event. We appreciate the fact that we've been nominated at eSports Awards 2016 alongside other amazing events. It's a big honor for us. Our stage will be radically different from other CS:GO events. That's for sure. Same goes for intro/outro and all of the other stuff. I don't want to spoil much, but I definitely encourage you to watch the opening ceremony on Saturday, when the play-off starts.
EPICENTER looking to awe the crowd with their stage setup once again
You decided to have an 8 team tournament, with no North American or Asian qualifiers and only SK representing the American continent, why is that exactly? Is this event WESA-sanctioned and does that have anything to do with it?
There's always a visa issue when you are doing event in Russia, that's why we've decided to invite the teams beforehand. Seeing how many events there are in Autumn, we wanted to play it safe instead of feeling sorry later. Cloud9 and Team Liquid are both amazing teams, and we hope to see them play their best at our next events. This time, due to scheduling, team standings at that very moment, and other things, we could only do this much. We are working with WESA for our event, and would like to continue doing so for our upcoming events.
According to the schedule and format, there will be a two day break between the group stage and the playoffs. What are the reasons for that and what is your idea behind the format?
There are couple of reasons for that, I can go on and tell you that we wanted the teams to enjoy their free time, put less stress with media day, and so on, but our decision came down to venue availability. There were reasons for this weird schedule, something we could not really avoid.
We'll do our best to fill the void on Thursday and Friday, after the group stage will finish. Group stage will be a two group / 4 teams / best of 2 structure, with top teams from each group advancing to semifinal on Sunday, meanwhile 2nd and 3rd ones will play the quarterfinal matches on Saturday.
What are your plans for the future regarding CS:GO? Should we expect EPICENTER to join the regular circuit of events for 2017? If so, will you stick to big international events or maybe do things locally in the CIS region or some other parts of the world?
2016 is our debut year with EPICENTER. We've learned a lot, and continue doing so. We wanted to do both titles (CS and Dota 2) to show both communities that we can do epic stuff. Hopefully we will be able to do more in 2017. We've got plans and ideas, but this will still take some planning and approval to get the ball rolling.
We love the CIS scene, and we would love the opportunity to host CIS Minor or maybe even a Major, but it doesn't depend only on us. In the end up it's all up to the community to decide. If they like our events, if people in Moscow will come to VTB Ice Hall arena, then it means that the community loves the show we put out for them, and we will do everything in our powers to make sure that the show goes on!
Epic Esports Events is a very small but extremely dedicated group of people. We are lucky enough to be doing what we love, even though at times it all seems way too much and hard. Fortunately we are not alone in this. We have exceptional partners such as RuHub and Zeppelin who simply nail everything related to production, that's why, in the end, I want to thank each and everyone of them for the love and dedication that they invest in our projects, as well as ESforce for having faith in us and allowing us to create EPIC ESPORTS EVENTS.
On a less serious note, I find it fascinating that the same people who were amazing journalists and editors back in the day, are now running such amazing events: Michal Blicharz with IEM, your very own Marc Winther Kristensen aka Nix0n aka pyos with Dreamhack, and Min-Sik with ELEAGUE. I hope one day me and Mark Averbukh, our CEO, will join their ranks. It's a personal goal of mine.