Not So Massively: E-sports are serious business

Welcome to Not So Massively, our weekly roundup of the top news from popular multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) and other multiplayer online games that aren't quite MMOs. Published every Saturday, the column covers games such as League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, Defense of the Ancients, Bloodline Champions, and more.

E-sports are becoming increasingly popular in the West, with top teams receiving corporate sponsorship deals and tournament organisers fielding prize funds worth thousands of dollars. Last week saw the start of Dreamhack 2011 in Sweden, featuring competitive tournaments for MOBAs like LoL, HoN, Bloodline Champions and more. Last week we also checked out Aida Arenas' Arena Hustle mode and got the first information on new online World War II RTS Operation Gamma 41.

In this week's Not So Massively, the Dreamhack tournaments come to a close as their winners carry giant sacks with dollar signs on them to the nearest bank. For those of you who have always wanted to know what high-end competitive play looks like in League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth or Bloodline Champions, videos of the tournament action are now available. This week we also check out League of Legends' new champion spotlight on Yorick to gravedigger and Realm of the Titans' hero spotlight on HaZ'zard. Finally, we get a look at a new dev interview with Rise of Immortals' lead designer Amanda Flock and more server troubles for Heroes of Newerth.

This week was huge for League of Legends fans, with live streaming from the massive competitive tournament at Dreamhack attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers. Riot Games teamed up with own3D.tv to bring live coverage of the tournament matches worldwide. During the event, League of Legends dethroned World of Warcraft to take the #1 most played game spot on Xfire each day. This is likely due to a combination of LoL's ever-increasing playerbase, the interest drawn in by the Dreamhack tournament, and the expected activity lull preceding WoW's next major patch.

North American group Team SoloMid took the third place prize of $10,000 US, pushing its way all the way from the lower qualifying bracket to the semi finals. A massive second place prize of $25,000 went to European group aAa, which made it all the way to the finals but was just edged out for the victory. European team FnaticMSI took the first place prize of a whopping $50,000 and was crowned as the official Season One League of Legends champions.

If you're interested in competitive LoL play but missed the action this week, full wrap-up videos of all three competition days are available online as well as a video of the final. If you'd just like to see what high-end competitive gameplay in LoL looks like, check out the day three highlights, embedded below in HD:


In this week's Summoner Spotlight, Nikasaur uses the secret power of adorable hair buns to present the latest creative efforts by League of Legends fans. This week's shorter than usual spotlight shows off some extremely impressive papercraft champion art, a felt Mundo plushie, and the latest fanart from the forums. Keeping up with the release schedule on the three new champions announced at E3, Riot released a champion spotlight on Yorick the gravedigger. We got a sneak peek at Yorick's abilities last week, and this week's spotlight really fleshes those concepts out. For gameplay tips and some interesting tactical plays, watch the Yorick champion spotlight, embedded below in HD. Interestingly, the video has accumulated a large number of dislikes on YouTube and has sparked a heated debate over game balance.


Aeria Games' upcoming MOBA Realm of the Titans is still under development, with no beta in sight. The developers released a new Hero Spotlight this week on the obtusely named HaZ'zard. This flame-wreathed hero is intended as a high-damage nuker to deliver extreme burst damage, but he also fills the role of disabler with some ridiculous stun and slow effects. Despite the game not yet being playable, the spotlight also contains gameplay tips on how HaZ'zard should be played. If you're interested in Realm of the Titans, check out the hero spotlight, embedded below in HD:


Stunlock Studios was at Dreamhack this year with its own competitive tournament. The event was streamed live, but those of you who missed it can catch the final match on justin.tv. American team Orz decimated its Swedish counterpart Public Transportation in the grand final and took home $6,000 of prize money. If you've ever wanted to see what competitive Bloodline Champions gameplay looks like, check out the video of the grand final, embedded below in HD. Note that the tournament coverage starts around nine minutes into the video and the gameplay itself starts at around 24 minutes.


The Heroes of Newerth Dreamhack tournament took place this week, and fansite Honcast was there with live commentary. Recordings of all the matches up to and including the final have been posted up for players who weren't able to tune into the event live. If you're interested in seeing what HoN competitive gameplay looks like, head over to Honcast to watch replays of the tournament matches or the finals.

HoN player Linkness wrote to us this week to point out an important piece of news we had missed. In a recent patch, the secret shop was removed and replaced with a new building called the Observatory that sells only wards. The items previously sold in the secret shop are now available at the main shop next to the well. In a forum post, HoN developer DOGkaiser explained that the secret shop lost much of its tactical element with the introduction of flying couriers and served only as a minor annoyance to players. The Outpost still provides the same quick laneside access to homecoming stones and common laning equipment, and the new observatory makes buying wards while in a lane a little easier.

As if the recent attacks and server downtime hasn't been enough both, S2 Games hit another brick wall this week as a server upgrade gone wrong resulted in catastrophic failure of both the main and backup game servers. The database was recovered and the game is now back online, but some data on purchases may need to be recovered manually. Players who notice missing items are urged to use the new recovery service to reclaim them. By way of an apology, S2 has given all players 2,000 free silver coins to spend on custom skins, voice packs, and other cosmetic items. All items have also been unlocked on all accounts until Wednesday the 29th to help players decide what to spend their coins on.

Game Replays secured an exclusive interview this week with Amanda Flock, the lead designer on Rise of Immortals. You may remember her forceful voice from previous editions of the Rise of Immortals developer podcast. The interview covers some core questions, from the reasons Petroglyph decided to develop a MOBA to persistent gameplay and the current state of closed beta. Head over to Game Replays to get an MP3 of the full podcast or watch it in the video embedded below:


Join us every Saturday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.