katy-good-gaming

This is a follow-up to my article The Tournament That Should Never Have Happened concerning the Good Gaming Inc. hearthstone $10k Amateur Open held on 19th-21st December 2014. The opinions presented in this article are my own and may not necessarily be those of HearthstonePlayers or its staff, representatives or affiliates.

It’s January 2015. Many knives have been juggled, many Annoy-o-Trons have been annoying and the arcane dust has now settled on the hearthstone tournament that both Blizzard and its organizers – Good Gaming Inc. – surely hope they can draw a thick black line under, the Good Gaming $10k Amateur Open. If you were on vacation on Mars and missed it, this was the tournament that was a complete catastrophe from start to end – I’ll spare you a repeat of the gruesome details and refer you to the original article above instead.

So what’s new? Well, I think it’s not unfair to say that once the tournament was over, everything unraveled on Reddit like a baby in a blender. People wanted answers, and those companies and organizations connected with the event were fielded for responses in the public forums – primarily Blizzard and Good Gaming Inc. itself.

Was there fiscal wrongdoing?

There was some confusion over a couple of points in my last article so I just want to clear them up first:

  • The tournament did finish and there were winners. Some pointed out I had not written about how the tournament ended; that is because it was still ongoing when I wrote the article. As I had been banned from the event, there was no legitimate way to follow its progress.
  • Good Gaming Inc. had not committed any kind of financial fraud or other fiscal wrongdoing (to the best of my knowledge). Some people think I expressed or implied this. In fact, I explicitly stated that I believe GGI had good intentions and operated in good faith, and I still believe this to be the case. When I wrote the article, the prize payouts were not yet due and there was no specific reason to think they might not pay out.

Don’t forget that making and selling a product that completely sucks is not a scam or fraud. Misrepresenting the product before the point of sale is fraud if you do it deliberately, but GGI seems to have acted in good faith: they advertised the product they had intended to provide but just couldn’t deliver it to the expected standard. Note that nowhere in their advertising of the product (the tournament) does it state anywhere that the tournament will be well-run, well-organized, have rules that can’t be changed or start on time, for example. On paper, GGI have essentially delivered the product they promised, however I believe that having a tournament that requires a monetary buy-in and thousands of participants implies to the gaming community a certain minimum quality standard in the way the event will be conducted. Having the event advertised on the Blizzard launcher further reinforces this implication. Because the delivery was so sub-standard, I think this is why people feel cheated. None of this makes it a scam.

There have been claims that GGI staff offered to pay off some of the remaining players in the final day single-elimination bracket to keep quiet about the problems in a form of petty bribery. I have no TeamSpeak logs of this and without any evidence at this time, this is pure conjecture until proven otherwise.

Official Statements

Blizzard

I wrote to Lyndsi Achucarro – Blizzard’s hearthstone Global PR Manager – on 21st December but she was out of the office until 5th January, so I then also wrote to Blizzard’s general PR Director Emil Rodriguez. Very disappointingly, neither have been forthcoming with a reply.

User daytoend86 came the closest to provoking any kind of response at all from a Blizzard customer service representative on Twitter, after sending them a link to my original article:

@daytoend86 Thank you for the link, we will continue to review and monitor tournaments into the future.

— Zeriyah (@CM_Zeriyah) December 23, 2014

The full text of the conversation can be found on this Twitter post.

Good Gaming, Inc.

Good Gaming themselves posted a quite incredible attempt at PR on Reddit and Battle.net which didn’t do them any favours. Here’s the text:

Lovely: Hi there,
“First off, I want to thank you for giving us amateurs such an awesome experience. Despite the hiccups in last night’s qualifier, I had a blast and I will definitely keep competing in any tournament you guys put on! You guys stood up to the challenge and it went off very well. Don’t listen to the whiners!”

Good Gaming, Inc. would like to thank Lovely and the more than 1,300 gamers who participated in our online hearthstone tournament, one of the biggest ever. We are also excited to announce our top four winners:
● Phenomenon – $5,000
● Phonetap – $1,800
● Wonderware – $600
● Rupyness – $200
Other prizes will be paid to our top 256 winners over the next ten days.
Good Gaming’s main goal is to provide a format for amateur gamers to compete in e-Sport tournaments. These tournaments provide gamers an opportunity to sharpen their skills against a wider community of players, and provide them a chance to win more than just bragging rights if they prevail. Of course, accomplishing this goal is not without challenges, and during the hearthstone tournament we encountered a few unforeseen issues – like a hacked Teamspeak server and people impersonating the Good Gaming administrator on social media sites to post negative and confusing statements.
Good Gaming Inc. has made a number of adjustments to resolve and mitigate these issues, and is proud to announce that by the end of January our web platform will provide a more automated system that should eliminate the manual entry process, significantly reducing user error and frustration. The founders of Good Gaming Inc. would like to thank those members of our community who appreciate the challenges of serving a group as diverse and demanding as ours, by offering input that we can use in constructive ways.
Khanthiilas: I know you guys had a momentous job and some of those ppl were impatient and nasty, i guess prize pools attract all sorts, i have had fun amongst the stress and some new buddies so thanks. now im going to rub my wives nose in the fact i qualified, we will just keep the details quiet though lol, nite and thanks again.

In addition to eliminating the manual entry process, which Khanthiilasi and other users found cumbersome and time consuming, Good Gaming has increased staffing and streamlined the rules and regulations into a more concise format.

We understood that holding the one of the largest online HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft tournaments was going to pose challenging hurdles. As service providers, the founders of Good Gaming Inc. would like to apologize to anyone believes that they didn’t receive the experience that they were hoping for, and thank the majority of tournament players who, despite some frustrations, appreciate our commitment to the gaming community and cheer us on as we continue to improve our web platform.
Zero: “First of all I’d like to apologize again for a sort of rude email I sent earlier I over reacted thinking I wouldn’t get to play in the tournament I take it all back and I’d like to thank you for running this tournament I’m having a lot of fun and it was worth every penny of the $5 I spent.

Good Gaming, Inc. would like to assure Zero, and all our members that our continuing goal is to enhance member experience. We welcome community feedback, and will to refine our process to deliver even better tournaments in the future. We wish a Happy Holiday to all Good Gaming Members and e-Sports enthusiasts watching us, with a special shout out to R34p3r:

“I know you guys are doing your best. It has been a struggle, but growing the community is difficult. No matter what anyone says, I appreciate your efforts..

”Believe me, there are many people who appreciate it. They’re just drowned out by twitch chat style antics. Everyone suffers from it, even blizzcon. Just stay strong, stay professional and put on a good show and good gaming can get through this. People don’t need any special restitution, they just need to see that you’re capable of something of amazing, which you are. Make it through this hatestorm and what could stop you guys? That’s how I feel when playing some times. When you win the psychological battle, the card game becomes the easy part.”

We hear you. And we’re grinding, but you deserve no less.

The Good Gaming Team

(you can thank me for half-fixing the formatting later; the original had no line spacing or paragraphs on Reddit)

This was posted on 23rd December 2014. Quite how they could have acquired extra staff and streamline the entire process in the course of 2 days right before Christmas is anyone’s guess, but at least – among all the deflecting, testimonials, blaming circumstances outside their control and other excuses – they did manage to passive-aggressively swallow their pride and apologize in a sort of defensive nonchalant way. It would appear that they were not just lacking event staff; their PR department could use a bit of a dusting off too.

A few hours later – and once everyone had berated the testimonials (the legitimacy of which remains unknown) – the text mysteriously changed as follows (it appears they accidentally left “First,” from the first testimonial at the beginning):

First,Good Gaming, Inc. is proud to announce the completion of one of the largest online hearthstone tournaments. A tournament held by gamers for gamers. We are also excited to announce our top four winners, and they are: Phenomenon – $5,000 Phonetap – $1,800 Wonderware – $600 Rupyness – $200 Other prizes for 5th all the way to 256th will be paid out as indicated by Good Gaming, Inc. in our original statements released previously.

Secondly, In response to multiple articles posted on various blogs and hearthstone specific websites, we are addressing the issues that have arisen and would like to communicate the following:

Good Gaming’s main goal is to provide a way for amateur gamers to become involved in eSports via tournaments and partake in the opportunities that they would ordinarily not be able to find elsewhere. We believe wholeheartedly that we accomplished that goal, but of course not without challenges outside of our control, i.e.: 1. Teamspeak Server being hacked 2. People impersonating GG admins and posting negative statements to confuse and upset the community 3. Themiscommunication issues between Good Gaming and participants.

We can definitively state that there were issues present that were certainly within our control as well, namely: Our Email delivery system was unsuccessful on many occasions. We underestimated the staffing required for a tournament of this size. The Rules and regulations were worded a bit ambiguously.

We understood that holding the one of the largest online HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft tournament was going to pose challenging hurdles that we would need to manage. As a community platform, we can only hope to improve ourselves and our community by providing the opportunity for both us, as service providers, and players as members to interact under real life conditions.

After a long weekend with our community, the founders of Good Gaming Inc. would like to apologize to any and all of the participants we failed this weekend . Over the course of the tournament, we have been enlightened exponentially about processes that can and need to be executed more precisely. We are grateful that the community has and continues to respond with such resounding resolve both positively, negatively, and even in a conciliatory manner because is shows to us that they care about the gaming community and we share that passion with them. Every bit of feedback is useful to us given that we are a community platform, and all that we receive is an opportunity for improvement in our eyes.

We know have a lot of work to do to get our tournament processes and features up to the standards we would like to see and be proud of. We at Good Gaming are by no means tournament experts, but we are veteran gamers and every single one of us would love to run a tournament that goes off flawlessly.

While we will not address any single particular criticism at this point in time as we have not completed our extensive internal after action review and we still have a few loose ends to tie up concerning this tournament, namely awarding prizes. We will state, categorically, that every single prize winner will be awarded as promised. For our tournament last month, every single prize winner to include the $5,000 grand prize winner was paid within approximately 10 days.

We recognize that there were issues with the tournament that were within our control and we genuinely apologize for our lack of preemptive thinking in that respect. Some things went wrong, we attempted to adapt, some of the adaptations failed. We intend to give a much more descriptive overview of the tournament, known issues, the reasons for some of the confusion, as well as reasoning for implementations.

Good Gaming, Inc. will continue improve our web platform and team to enhance member experience, as well as take all of the community’s feedback to further refine our process and better deliver smoother running tournaments in the future. We wish a Happy Holiday to all Good Gaming Members and eSports enthusiasts watching us.

I’m not going to pick this entire thing apart – the hearthstone community can do that far more voraciously than I could, and besides they do seem to be making a genuine apology on their 2nd go – however I will raise a few points briefly.

  • I think it is entirely plausible that problems 1 and 2 (TeamSpeak server being hacked, GG admin impersonator(s) on Reddit) would not have happened if the tournament had been well-run to start with. The real issue of those was problem 3: “the miscommunication issues between Good Gaming and participants” – why is this outside their control, though?
  • Their “Email delivery system” was presumably Challonge’s email delivery system. I can’t confirm this, but at the times we were being repeatedly told to check our email addresses it was always our Challonge addresses we were asked to check. Had they done a little research in advance, they would know that Challonge brackets are limited to 256 players and there was no possible way to accommodate them all or email them all simultaneously. In the end, the admins sitting on their PCs hurriedly made new email accounts with which to send out emails during the tournament. Nice email delivery system.

There is talk of a web platform, and I have heard those sympathizing with Good Gaming using phrases like, “their web platform isn’t ready yet”. What is this magical web platform? The Good Gaming web site was a bunch of static pages. The primary communication medium was outsourced to TeamSpeak, bracket management was outsourced to Challonge and later Xfire, even forms and instructions were outsourced to Google Docs, and email was outsourced to God knows where. Ironically, the only thing that wasn’t outsourced was the content of the communication between Good Gaming and participants, which by their own admission was one of the main problems. The only thing we can be sure of here is that if there was a web platform in place for the tournament, it was extremely well hidden.

(For those of you not following along, a web platform in this context means an integrated system to manage the event, with a single consistent front-end for users and a mostly automated back-end for the staff; the situation here is a bit like me saying I have a remote coffee-making platform, writing no software myself, but instead telling you to use service A to fill the kettle with water, service B to press the power button, service C to get the coffee granules and so on, all with different web sites, then when one of them breaks or they fire in the wrong order, claiming that my coffee-making platform is still being improved)

Good Gaming state that they do not want to address individual concerns at the moment until their internal review of the tournament is complete. Yet they already say they have hired more staff and streamlined the process for future tournaments. Last time I was a project manager, I was pretty sure the flow of events was:

Review -> Statement -> Action

So far we have seen:

Action -> Statement -> Review

One of these two workflows is logical. See if you can figure out which one.

Over on the Battle.Net forums, Good Gaming’s “BonePony” made this post in response to user criticism of the above statement:

I cannot begin to personify how apologetic the GG team is for all the complications, individually, they would have been minimally troublesome, but aggregated the way that they were proved to be very problematic. It is in no way our intention to blame the participants, where there was some user error present, it is safe to assume that some, if not a majority of it, was a result of confusing instructions and only exacerbated by the fact that there were not enough staff to field the questions we were receiving in a timely manner, so again, I would like to apologize for the organizational issues experienced during the tournament. I would also like to apologize for any unprofessional conduct displayed by the individual GG administrators in the TS channel, where the qualifiers and tournament posed many stressful challenges, it does not excuse the manner in which the participants are describing they were spoken to. Moving forward, we will be taking all of the collective critique, and implementing changes to future practices to try and run a smoother tournament. I know that no one owes us anything, but I hope that eventually, this past tournament will be forgotten, and you will allow us to prove to you that we truly intend only to improve and provide oppurtunities for the little guy, not to scam, or steal.

It is a shame it took so long for some humble pie to be eaten but at least it found its way out of the freezer eventually.

CMG Holdings Group

Finally, I wrote to the information desk at CMG Holdings Group – the owners of Good Gaming Inc. CMG did not return the email.

Refunds and payouts

It would appear that those who filed dispute cases with PayPal did indeed receive their $5 refunds, including myself, without any further action required.

Furthermore, confirmation was given from some players that they received their payouts on time with no problems, including 2nd and 4th place finishers PhoneTap ($1,800) and Rupyness ($200) respectively. Further evidence that no financial scam was ever intended. This is very good news.

Community response

It’s worth mentioning the way the community has reacted to this whole debacle.

While I am obviously of the opinion that exposing the facts, successes and failures of companies and events in our industry is of paramount importance – right up there with general freedom of speech – I do take exception to the level of viscerality displayed by some users. While it is perfectly reasonable to be dissatisfied and be vocal about it – I mean, I sure as heck have – I also think that ripping companies or individuals apart as a whimsical knee-jerk reaction as many are so apt to do is extremely unhealthy and it should also be remembered that while Good Gaming may be utterly useless at even organizing a pub crawl in a brewery, they are still human beings with feelings who evidently tried their best. By all means criticize them for their professional failures, but don’t make it personal. Some of the stuff that has been written on public forums is quite disturbing, and I’m afraid that it’s just a microcosm of how the vocal minority of online gamers react to more or less everything. If you can’t write a considered response, it’s probably best not to write one at all.

Conclusions

With notable mentions on popular hearthstone podcast The Angry Chicken #59 (with Brian Kibler), eSports magazine Daily Dot, and my previous report for HearthstonePlayers hitting the front page of Reddit, Good Gaming have certainly made a name for themselves in December, although the disparity between their brand name and actual reputation just became wider than the Grand Canyon overnight. Several people have pointed out that after the first single elimination round on the final day that everything seemed to go off without a hitch. Let us hope that valuable lessons have been learned by GGI from this experience, because at the end of the day they are currently the only organization putting on well-paid open hearthstone tournaments, therefore it is for the good of all of us if they pull things together and succeed. The worry is, judging from their response in the aftermath, it doesn’t seem like they’ve learned much at all.


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