BLAST.tv Paris Major Asia and Americas RMRs suffer from wealth of competitive integrity issues
The events in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Monterrey, Mexico have failed to meet standards expected for top-tier events and those set by Valve's rulebook.
Delays and technical issues plagued the first day of the BLAST.tv Paris Major Americas and Asia RMR events, but larger problems that compromise the competitive integrity of both tournaments have since come to light, according to information obtained by HLTV. BLAST partnered with local tournament organizer MESA in Asia to handle production and operations, and with Liga ACE for the same at the Americas RMR in Mexico, and neither event has abided by standards expected of a Major-qualifying event.
Players had internet access during Asia RMR
HLTV was informed that the Asia RMR had some significant breaches of competitive integrity and rule violations, the most egregious being that player PCs had internet access enabled while matches were live. One source informed HLTV that players allegedly needed to ask to have it turned off, but even after that, they were still able to access Steam friends and access the internet via Steam friends. A team attending the Asia RMR also independently confirmed to HLTV that there was internet access and that Steam was online for them.
It should go without saying, but access to the internet during a professional match is a massive breach of integrity as players can receive or look up information from external sources, as well as gain access to more nefarious means of impacting matches. Valve has stringent and specific guidelines pertaining to player areas and the setup of servers in their rulebook that instructs tournament organizers on exactly what they need to do to avoid these issues, but it appears that many of the rules — listed under the Anti-tampering subsection that includes network restrictions, PC restrictions, and windows auditing — have either been inconsistently applied or not followed at the Asia RMR.
When contacted by HLTV for comment on the issue, BLAST seemed unaware that players still had internet access at the event in Mongolia, initially offering the following statement: "There hasn't been any internet access during the games. There was an issue during SSD setup their the network was not setup correct allowing full access, because of this all teams where [sic] made to re-do their setup on new SSDs the following day."
Sources at the Americas RMR informed HLTV that a similar situation occurred before play began in Monterrey, but that it was caught by one of the teams towards the end of the SSD setup and was resolved before the event started. However, HLTV is aware that players still had internet access at the Asia RMR even after BLAST provided this statement — as late as the third day of the event —, and when pressed further on the issue, they replied with the following nearly three hours later. "The on-going server issues that postponed most of day one had a domino affect on other areas of the tournament. We have now rectified this with players unable to access internet and will continue to monitor closely."
Stage violations in Ulaanbaatar
HLTV also understands that the Asia RMR has had breaches of the "stage integrity" subsection of the Valve rulebook, primarily in regard to coaches reacting and interacting during games outside of tactical timeouts (for example by fist-bumping players, patting them on the back, or shouting after wins). Valve has been extremely strict on the matter since PGL Major Stockholm.
"We are looking into this," BLAST said in regard to coaches interacting with players. "If this did occur we will investigate and give the coach a final warning for this interaction not to happen again during the RMRs."
Incorrect rulesets applied for live matches
The Asia RMR also suffered from incorrect in-game rulesets applying different timeout standards and post-round time, again not in line with a section of Valve's rulebook regarding server configurations. Timeouts were initially 60 seconds instead of 30, and post-round time was set to seven seconds instead of five, making it possible for players to die in situations where they otherwise would have safely survived to the following round. You can find evidence of extended timeouts here and here.
BLAST said they addressed the timeout error shortly after it was noticed. It is unclear when exactly the post-round time was fixed, but it is now also in line with the standard set by Valve. "[The timeout issue] initially occurred due to the server issues but was instantly flagged by our admins," BLAST said in a statement to HLTV. "The settings were amended to 30 seconds and dealt with to avoid any further similar issues recurring."
Coaches suffer from malfunctioning headsets at Americas RMR
The Americas RMR has suffered from its own set of competitive integrity breaches. Power outages on the first day of the event led to network connectivity issues delaying the start of matches by nearly two hours, and from there, the situation only spiraled.
A massive worker's strike in Germany led to shipping delays for the soundproof headsets and servers that Liga ACE planned to use for the event, causing them to scramble for a solution with local servers, HyperX headsets, and changing the player area to account for a lack of soundproof headphones.
Multiple coaches informed HLTV and Dust2.com.br that their headsets and microphones were not functional and they were instead forced to talk through their players' headsets, or had players relay messages to the rest of the team after they took off their headsets to listen to their coaches. This remained an issue even on Friday, as evidenced below.
On other occasions, coaches were entirely unable to communicate with their players at all, and on at least one occasion an admin prevented a coach from talking to their team due to thinking that it was a technical timeout, wasting the majority of the coach's time to talk. Multiple coaches also informed HLTV that they believed to have free control of the mute and unmute function of their microphones through their headsets on the first day of the tournament.
The reason for at least part of the above issues, according to BLAST, was because the "TeamSpeak on Thursday had to be manually managed by our League Ops Team on the ground due to some issues," something which they state was resolved by Friday. "On the Americas headsets, this is news to us. Those headsets are brand new and we have an automated mic system that allows coaches to speak to players during timeouts ect, but will look into this further."
As the TeamSpeak had to be manually managed on the first day of the tournament, it is possible that coaches could have communicated with players outside of tactical timeouts if they indeed had full control of the mute and unmute functions of their microphones. However, HLTV has not had any confirmation whether any communication of that sort took place.
Miscommunication from BLAST allows unregistered coaches to stand behind teams
Shortly after the first matches at the Americas RMR, Dust2.us reported that TeamOne CEO, Alexandre "kakaveL" Peres, was not registered on his team's roster and therefore ineligible to stand behind them as their coach. The Brazilian team had parted ways with coach Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu ahead of the tournament and announced their intention to field their CEO as his replacement during the tournament, and did so in their opening match.
Paquetá also opted for a last-minute replacement by asking Bruno "Rivas" Rivetti to stand behind them after their coach, João "righi" Righi, was sidelined due to a medical emergency before the event, and again were able to field him for their first match. Both teams received emails from BLAST that authorized the purchase of tickets and accommodations for the two members, but were ambiguous in their language as to whether they had officially been registered as substitutes in the lineup. The tournament organizer later ruled that both members were ineligible to stand behind their teams, but that they would not be penalized as it was not "an intentional breach of the rules."
Even with this issue coming to light in the Americas, it appears BLAST and MESA made an identical error at the Asia RMR by allowing Eruption to use Khurts "BestronG" Artssed as their coach despite Bold "ncl" Batsuh being registered on their official roster.
All in all, the compounded issues across the two regions has given teams, players, and fans an extremely sub-par experience for the qualifying stage of the last CS:GO Major, and discontent with the situation overall has been clearly visible among teams at the Americas RMR. Prolonged tech delays at both the Americas and Asia RMRs have also added to that frustration, with the most recent day in Mongolia not concluding until almost 3AM after a six-hour match between TYLOO and Rare Atom.
The first Europe RMR, taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark and operated by BLAST has been running better for the most part, although some players have complained of lag on LAN, and more recently, there was confusion about how seeding is applied for the final Legends stage spot.