This year I covered a large portion of the WESG competition - starting with the online qualifiers for EU & Americas way back in October, through to the regional finals for EU & Americas offline as well as the APAC Regional Finals online. It was awesome to have the opportunity to wrap up this year of WESG in Haikou, China with some great games!
Travelling with Lowko - upon arriving at the airport in Haikou there was an entire WESG area to wait for transport to hotels.
I got to fly with Lowko, who was also casting the event alongside myself, Rotti and Rapid. It's actually a pretty unique casting line-up as Rapid mostly does events inside Korea and Lowko and myself are not the 'go-to' casters for big offline events, so alongside event veteran Rotti we made quite the fun line-up in my opinion, something different and fresh. I always personally felt for a long time the caster line-ups for events were becoming very predictable and stale, but over the last year bringing in new personalities to the larger stages has definitely helped to freshen events up in this regard.
The SC2 casters on our day off, exploring Haikou a little!
By the time I arrived the hotel issue had been sorted and we got put into a very nice hotel which was just a short drive from the venue (the biggest downside was that we were not in the same hotel as the players, which made evenings a bit less interesting!) The venue itself was pretty impressive, especially the main stage and opening ceremony. WESG definitely likes to put on a show and really create a unique feel to its event as they introduced participants of the tournament onto the stage country by country.
Players preparing to go on stage before the opening ceremony & the stage when most countries had come out.
Beyond the main stage the venue was pretty interesting - there were a few different things you could do for each game (you could write on a board about which race you thought was OP in SC2, or take photos as Hearthstone cards.) There were some stalls from the sponsors as well as multiple smaller stages for each game. Games were played from either the main stage, the stage for the game or from the player area depending on how many matches were happening and what was being streamed. Every game had a chance to rotate onto the main stage throughout the week.
The SC2 stage, getting to pose as a Hearthstone card and some of the graphics from when SC2 was on the main stage.
The tournament itself ran pretty smoothly, especially after Day 1 when the admins found a better system for transferring players & their PCs to the stage as well as getting vetoes done in advance. I think the biggest issue for stream viewers is that WESG does not put on an analysis desk, so where in WCS or IEM events the desk segments fill a lot of the downtime which is required to get players in the right places and give them set-up time, WESG just has a countdown timer. This is more difficult to add in reality than in theory though as there are a lot of extra costs, more space needed and so on.
Our little casting booth for the event as well as Dark and SpeCial doing vetoes for their series. Also a sneak peak at the caster attire tat goes on below the desk to help deal with the heat :D. There was also an SC2 branded car which we got to ride in back to the hotel one day!
The event was held in Haikou, which is a city on the island of Hainan. What was extremely weird is that the convention center we were in was in an area which seemed to be under development to become a major vacation/tourism area in the years to come. You could imagine the place being beautiful in 5 years, but right now it was extremely empty and somewhat surreal to see all these massive apartment buildings with so few people around, no cars on the road and so on. There is also construction happening everywhere you look as they continue to develop the area. This made it a bit uninteresting throughout our stay because we didn't have time to visit the main city apart from on the final day and so we were stuck without any bars to hang out in or restaurants to try out when we were done with our casting days.
Trying to find an ATM / Bank to withdraw cash was hard, made worse by the fact our cards didn't work anywhere! Lowko was also so important he got his own bus shuttle to the venue one day ;D. There was a beach right by the venue as well. Finally an image to show how built up the area is, but with more construction ongoing. The buildings really were extremely empty
The actual city was a lot more interesting and full of what you would expect, including some pretty fascinating buildings. We found a mall which had an open-roof garden on the 14th floor. We also got to have some hot pot, which is a typical way of going out to eat in China (you have flavored boiling water which you then cook meat in as you order it, similar to Korean BBQ.) We also got to walk around a garden area in the city which was quite beautiful!
Rooftop garden in the mall, our hot pot and the garden area we walked around in the city.
The event wrapped up with an epic grand final between Maru and Dark which went to all 7 games. I really feel this had everything a final needed, a great story line which unfolded and adapted as the matches went by. The games were exciting and the players played with everything on the line as the difference between first and second place was a whopping $120,000 (how do you even control your units at that point??) Maru emerged the victor and had a battle with a trophy that was about the same size as his upper body. A really great conclusion to a fantastic tournament.
Maru and Dark vetoing before the Grand Final, the trophy which Maru struggled to lift as well as the Terran god himself coming through for all his Terran brothers out there who needed some hope in this dark time.
Overall this was an extremely fun event! It was definitely unique because of where we were, but we still had a lot of fun due to the great set of people we were with (from event staff through to the players and the casters.) I think WESG put on a great show and I hope it keeps SC2 as a title going into the future as I heard some whispers that it may not be back for WESG 2018, which would be truly a shame. Thanks to everyone who made this event something to remember and I hope everyone had as great a time as I did!