[Guest Article] Seattle Red Bull LAN: Retrospective
Guest article by David "DrZealot" Echols
The Seattle Red Bull LAN: Trial of the Xel'Naga was a unique event in the Red Bull LAN StarCraft II circuit. While other Red Bull LANs have served as a training camp for eSports professionals, the Trial of the Xel'Naga was an even less formal event that allowed the viewers to impact the game live as it was being played. The online audience was presented with a poll that could influence the game, and the live audience could either vote or simply yell what they wanted to happen next. The result was an event that featured the personalities of professional StarCraft 2 players and the community together in a unique mix of wacky eSports entertainment.
Originally, the Seattle Red Bull LAN was going to be at a much larger venue, but it couldn't be booked because PAX Prime was happening at the same time. PAX Prime completely took over Seattle on Labor Day weekend, so the goal of having a Red Bull Battlegrounds in Seattle couldn't be reached. Instead, a 150 person room was booked in the Hyatt hotel for the event. Despite the last minute changes to the event, the Seattle StarCraft II community recognized the Trial of the Xel'Naga for its innovation. Organizers reached out to Day's production team and offered their assistance with the event, which was accepted and welcomed.
Shortly after Day and his crew arrived, it had been discovered that the truck containing equipment for the event had broken down. Without knowing if their truck was going to arrive in time for the event, members of the Seattle StarCraft II community volunteered to help the production team procure the equipment needed to make sure the event would happen. They bought large-screen TVs, computers, monitors and other equipment. The event was in the process of setting up when the repaired truck containing the equipment for the LAN arrived. Relieved, the production team, with the help of the community, was able to complete prepping for the event with time to spare. Even though things looked grim for the event at first, it went on without any problems and was soon hailed by the StarCraft community as a fun and innovative event.
Some of the purchased equipment was repurposed, including one of the event's most popular pieces of equipment: a flat-panel TV monitor for the casters that allowed them to view the audience. The TV became popular because the crowd would bang on the desks in the LAN so hard that the it would bow and flicker. After that, it became a sort of game for the crowd to try to bang the tables hard enough to make the TV flicker throughout the event.
The Seattle Red Bull LAN was designed to be a fun, non-competitive event including pro players and viewer interaction. Each map was created with special blessings and curses that could be placed on the players by spectators. Some players received gold minerals for a limited period of time, while other players had huge swarms of banelings dropped in their bases. The live and online audiences were able to decide how these blessings and curses were used. The online audience was able to vote in a poll every four minutes to determine what would happen next. For example, how many sets of destructible rocks should be created and randomly placed on the map? How many planet crackers should be created to wreak havoc on the map? Live audience members were also able to vote, either by shouting or by voting with red or blue braclets. Day encouraged the live audience to go "totally apeshit" and crowd happily obliged.
Some audience members had the opportunity to play with their favorite StarCraft II professionals. Audience member 'Sastopher' on Team iNcontroL was particularly heroic, holding out for over an hour by himself against two competitors. By the end of game two between Team iNcontroL vs Team SeleCT the crowd was actively cheering for 'Sastopher'. The Platinum-league Terran player had won the hearts of spectators with his fuzzy bear hat and inspired StarCraft II play.
Innovative audience participation made the Seattle Red Bull LAN the biggest eSport event to actively involve it's viewers. While it featured both popular casting personalities and professional players, the success of the event is the result the committment of the organizers to make the community the star of the show.
Tom Ng, a masters Terran player was one of the audience members who got to play with the pros on day 2 of the Seattle Red Bull LAN. I was able to talk to him about his experience.
DrZealot: How did you hear about the Red Bull LAN: Trial of the Xel'Naga?
Tom: I went to PAX and the Kingston booth had a number of EG pro gamers, like InControL, idRa, and Machine. I was wondering, "Why are these guys here?" so I went home and did some research online. I found out that Day and Huskey were going to be at the Red Bull LAN, so I went to see them and get their autograph. I had no idea that people could participate in the event!
DrZealot: So you ended up particpating in the event. How did you get picked to play with one of the pros?
Tom: Well, Day gave out a number of playing cards. He was asking people's league, and so I raised my hand for being Masters. He asked me what race I play. I said Random, and he gave me a card.
DrZealot: How did you feel when he called your card and picked you?
Tom: I was happy, but I was nervous. When I saw the first game with NoNi and Illusion I didn't know what to expect. I was nervous because I was very rusty at the game.
DrZealot: What pro player did you play with, and which map did you play on?
Tom: I played with Bling and I played on the Storm map.
DrZealot: What was your favorite aspect of the map?
Tom: My favorite was the seeker missle dodge. It was tons of fun to try to move my units and dodge all the seeker missles. I remember once that BlinG sent a probe with a seeker missle towards my marines and marauders. I didn't know what he was trying to do. I tried to stim away, but it was already too late!
DrZealot: ...and your least favorite?
Tom: The planet cracker was definitely my least favorite. I was Terran so I could just lift off my buildings. I feel so sorry for FireZerg. (FireZerg was the other audience pick and almost every planet cracker went directly to his base during the match.)
DrZealot: How did you and BlinG work together? Did you talk to each other?
Tom: No, we kept on our headphones. We talked to each other through ally chat and by pinging the map.
DrZealot: How did you do in the games?
Tom: We lost. :(
DrZealot: How did you feel about playing with the pros?
Tom: It was tons of fun. I didn't mind losing. I really enjoyed the custom maps and I hope the Red Bull LAN comes again next year.
DrZealot: Anything else you'd like to say?
Tom: I hope the StarCraft community continues to grow and kicks League of Legend's butt! I really hope more events come to the Pacific Northwest that we can attend.
The Red Bull LAN circuit will continue in 2012 with events in Chicago and Boston. The events in Orlando, Austin, and now Seattle prove that the Red Bull LAN has an innovative format that is fun and entertaining. When these events are announced, mark your calendars because you won't want to miss it.