Starladder late with CSGO talent payments; includes Valve’s Berlin Major - Dexerto
CS:GO

Starladder late with CSGO talent payments; includes Valve’s Berlin Major

Published: 3/Dec/2019 23:53 Updated: 4/Dec/2019 0:12

by Richard Lewis

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Following several cryptic tweets from various members of the CS:GO broadcast talent pool about tournament organizers not making payments on time, Dexerto has learned that one of the worst offenders for delayed payments is the Ukraine based company Starladder.

Starladder was selected by Valve to host the most recent CS:GO Major that was held in Berlin after a series of high profile tournaments. While the event itself was mostly hailed as a success, it has now become apparent that the majority of the on-air talent that worked the event, which took place back in August, has yet to be paid their fees at the time of writing.

It is often the case that broadcast talent does not often speak out publicly about delayed payments from tournament organizers as there is a worry that in doing so you guarantee the company will not hire you again in the future.

This is especially worrying if the company in question is responsible for organizing some of the most prestigious events on the calendar. However, many of those affected by the delayed payments feel they can no longer wait for the company to resolve the issue in their own time as the holiday season begins.

StarladderThe Berlin Major was one of the more exciting tournaments in recent times, but behind the camera, it was allegedly less than stellar.

One such affected person is Henry ‘HenryG’ Greer, who recently was recognized for his work when he won the Esports Awards commentator of the year. He was happy to go on record and explain that he would no longer be working with Starladder in any capacity until they settle their debts.

“From the outside you would assume that everything is just peachy within the esports ecosystem and it’s smiles all round. Sadly, if you take a look under the hood it reveals a grim outlook for everyone involved who isn’t directly on the payroll of the tournament organizers,” he said.

“If you’re a freelancer, and I can only comment on broadcast talent regarding this, working with Starladder means unfortunately you will have to pull out all the stops, commit to their events, deliver a world-class show only to be paid when they feel like it, which is usually about 3-4 months after the show at best.

“They are by far the worst offenders when it comes to this sort of thing and I can confirm that as of writing this, on December 3, I have not been paid for the Valve partnered Berlin Major that took place earlier this Summer even after being informed that the invoice had been taken care of in November.

“I find this disgraceful and I can’t imagine how bad it is for others who don’t have large platforms or regular work. I won’t be working any more of their events until they have cleared all their debts with all of my colleagues.”

Twitter: HenryGHenryG has been vocal about not working with Starladder again until their debts have been paid.

We reached out to several members of Counter-Strike broadcast workers that were employed at the Berlin Major and found that the vast majority were still awaiting payment for their contribution to the event.

The situation becomes more convoluted when Dexerto learned a couple of members of the broadcast talent had been paid, raising even further questions about the methods employed by the company when it comes to payment.

“There’s no mystery to it,” one told Dexerto off the record. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If they ever think you’re going to tweet about it or go public then they will put you at the front of the queue for payment. It just makes it awkward when you’ve been paid and your co-workers haven’t.”

 This was corroborated by another, who said that they were able to accelerate payment by threatening to go public on Twitter in regards to the matter.

“It took over three months to get paid after being ignored or told the classic ‘soon, it’ll be this week’” they added.

StarladderThe Berlin Major is apparently not the only event Starladder has been late to pay talent for.

 

Another source who has worked multiple events with Starladder and asked to remain anonymous, said that it wasn’t just payment for work at the CS:GO Major that was outstanding. Some, they said, were still chasing payment from the CS:GO Minor events cycle that took place as far back as July.

 “As someone who’s done events with Starladder over many years it has certainly got worse. It never used to be like this and sadly a lot of key staff keep leaving the company making things even more complicated,” they said.

“Now these payment issues that I’ve been involved in are three, four and even five months late. It is just not acceptable. You struggle to live and get by and then they just lie to you saying this week, this week and it’s like an endless battle where we waste so much energy just to get paid.”

Dexerto also understands that similar issues have been affecting the broadcast talent that has worked Starladder’s PUBG events.

 We have reached out to Starladder for comment and will update this report accordingly.

CS:GO

BLAST’s director of operations on maintaining integrity with online CSGO

Published: 24/Nov/2020 15:23 Updated: 24/Nov/2020 15:33

by Adam Fitch

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“This time last year our rulebook and our whole setup were based on LAN events,” BLAST’s director of operations and production Andrew Haworth told Dexerto. “We hadn’t really done a huge amount of work on how that would be replicated in an online world.”

Earlier this year, with the global health situation emerging, governments all around the world were forced to reduce the feasibility of hosting events, and thus, they were moved online — halfway through a tournament, in some cases.

Prior to the restrictions, tournament organizer BLAST managed to host their first big competition of the year in February, impressing many and unknowingly hosting what would be one of the only prominent offline events in the 2020 Counter-Strike calendar. They didn’t have the same privilege later in the year, however, as limitations had yet to be permanently relaxed in many locations. Nonetheless, they went on with their plans to host the BLAST Premier Fall Series, albeit online.

Another layer of absurdity was added as a factor of hosting an event, and that was the revelation of a spectating bug that spanned multiple years. With the Esports Integrity Commission — a body devised to maintain the integrity of competitive gaming — issuing bans to dozens of coaches, integrity questions were more prominent than ever during an online era, no less, where it’s harder to monitor the activity of teams and their coaches.

BLAST Premier Fall Series 1
BLAST
Commentators Scrawny and launders arrived at the production location early to accommodate local restrictions.

Haworth’s background working on major music festivals and the Olympics Games means he’s no stranger to crafting contingency plans to put in place in case of a problem arising. Prior to hosting the Fall Series, they went through sessions of scenario testing with key department leads to devise numerous methods of still getting the job done.

Considering BLAST have deployed everything at their disposal to maintain competitive integrity within their events, Dexerto spoke with Haworth to see how they adapted their processes to move to a remote production while monitoring the gameplay itself both in and out of the server.

Going back to esports’ roots

“We were fairly lucky in the timing of the outbreak, we just finished our Spring Series in February and didn’t have another live event till the end of May,” he said. “Other tournament organizers didn’t and were thrown into that halfway through a show. We had a bit of time, purely by luck, to have a look at what we need to do for our Spring Showdown and our Spring Final.”

While esports, like most other sports, is fundamentally an entertainment product, the need for competitive integrity is essential. Fans tune in to watch the best players in the world face off against each other, and that’s no different during an era of online competition.

“If the fans don’t have faith in what we’re putting on if our broadcasters and sponsors don’t have faith in what we’re putting on, and the teams ultimately lose faith in it, then none of us can stand behind it proudly,” Haworth said. “So competitive integrity is in integral to what we do, none of us are arrogant enough to think that we’re perfect in that.

“There may be things that we’re doing now that we’ll review and determine haven’t worked quite as well or are not effective. Some of the things that we have done we want to ensure, while maintaining competitive integrity at all times, doesn’t affect the performance of play. We don’t want to be taking up computer performance for the matches because that isn’t going to gain the right tone with anybody.”

BLAST Premier Fall Series 2
BLAST
The venue had no players in sight, with only production staff and broadcast talent being present.

With a change in circumstance comes a need to change the parameters in which events are run, and that filters all the way down to the gameplay itself. BLAST saw the need to adapt their guidelines early in the year, when LAN events no longer seemed possible, so all of the teams were on the same page.

“The rulebook gets issued at the start of every season, we generally review it and update it after every event,” Haworth said. “We did less of that last year — I think we only made one or two slight revisions from Spring Series into Spring Showdown because the former was very much for a LAN. We also have our competitive integrity policy, which is broadly drawn out of the rulebook and is a short, sharp summary to articulate to what we do. That’s on our website. We’ve worked with experienced tournament officials that have worked with other tournament organizers and in other settings, it’s important to us that they can see elsewhere what has worked, and equally what hasn’t worked, so we can pick up best practices.”

From bad to worse

All partners of ESIC — including the likes of ESL and DreamHack — vow to enforce rulings decided upon by the commission, and that was no different for BLAST. The spectating exploit utilized by at least 37 coaches rocked the CS:GO community and certainly begged the question as to what tournament organizers are doing to ensure fair play is had at all times.

Moving online adds another layer of difficulty to constantly and accurately monitoring the matches played, especially considering tournament officials can’t be present to see how teams are operating with their own two eyes. BLAST believes they’ve reached the pinnacle of monitoring at this precise moment.

“Some of the measures we put in place aren’t perfect but they’re the best available solution we’ve found so far,” Haworth told Dexerto. “There are methods that we’re developing and evolving. We are confident that the measures we have in place currently are giving the desired result in not allowing anybody to manipulate the system or take advantage of it.

“From a coaching bug point of view, the player cams that we’ve put in place have been a really useful feature. That’s something that we looked at, to start with, as a broadcast feature that had some great context and depth. It grew into something that we now utilize to ensure we can see what players are doing.

“We’ve worked with players on camera angles, we have down-the-line shots, coaches have cameras on them and we listen to TeamSpeak for both a broadcast feature and in terms of integrity,” he continued. “The MOss system is far from perfect but it allows us to know what’s open on someone’s computer, there’s a report sent to us post-match with that information.

Moving forward in the face of adversity

Despite having what they believe is a solid solution to both playing online and safeguarding the integrity of the tournament, it would be understandable if a tournament organizer decided to postpone an event due to the recent exploit revelation and subsequent disciplinary rulings. Haworth ensured Dexerto, however, that that wasn’t an eventuality BLAST considered.

BLAST Spike Nations
BLAST
BLAST have undergone plenty of growth in 2020 so far despite the difficulties, expanding into new titles like Valorant and Dota 2.

“We’ve never really moved our date around. We put our 21 days in the international calendar [that’s shared by all CS:GO tournament organizers] in April this year to try and provide full transparency,” he said. “We worked on this straight after the Spring Final, there were a couple of bits that we thought we could include like the coach cams but there were also a couple of things that weren’t ready for the Fall Series. We played around with them but wasn’t sure if it would cause performance issues on players’ PCs so we didn’t want to risk it.”

There’s not the only difficulty in providing a fair and stable environment for the players, BLAST have plenty of staff that are needed to execute a full production. Having staff at home using personal internet lines isn’t the most confidence-inducing prospect, but the company has managed to execute a means of working that allows for maximum efficiency given the circumstances.

While online play, and the copious amount of events that are taking place, may not be ideal, esports has proven to be resilient in the face of extreme and unpredictable challenge. The Fall Series was revered by industry professionals and Counter-Strike fans alike, but it’s clear that BLAST are not resting on their laurels leading up to the next phase of the competition.