As Season 4 of Guild Wars 2’s structured Player versus Player (sPvP) league begins, the integrity of the ESL Pro League organization is being called into question.
ESL Pro League is the eSports arm of the ESL Gaming Network, and organizes the professional sPvP tournaments in ArenaNet’s MMORPG Guild Wars 2.
Take the most recent sPvP ESL Pro League-run tournament. Among rampant community complaints that the matchup system for ranked play is not balanced, the ESL was under fire for purportedly incorrectly calling a tournament match in favor of a player associated with the ESL admin calling the match. It was brought to the community’s attention via Reddit, by user yarpoo in which he details the match in which the incorrect call was made.
Florian Schiekel, Senior Community Manager for ESL Gaming, eventually responded to the post, stating that after review, “the fault was on our side. There was no clear rule set on how a draw is handled nor was the decision taken according to our rules. This will change for the future as it only makes sense to run a tournament, if there is a clear rule book which covers the normal cases.“
However, it remains to be seen if this particular situation will be rectified or any real steps will be taken to ensure matches are called correctly and without any appearance of favoritism, as the Guild Wars 2 professional sPvP community is small and intertwined with the ESL Gaming community.
During the sPvP league season this past January, tournament participants were not alerted to the need to download and install an anti-cheat program called ESL Wire until less than 7 hours before the tournament was set to begin. Usually the tournament participants are given ample time before to prepare, but this was not so in this particular case. Additionally, the ESL Wire software was not compatible with some Windows 8 users, causing more technical problems for participants prior to the tournament match.
Although it cannot be confirmed, the Reddit user SpectralDagger claims that ESL Gaming’s tournament administrators told him and other participants that it “seems like it’s a technical issue on the player’s end. Teams were given a lot of notice to prepare and have this program installed and running.” Less than 7 hours is not ample time to prepare because, as Reddit user SpectralDagger pointed out, many participants were at work or school when the ESL Wire software was made available to the participants.
It was also reported that some participants were unable to run Guild Wars 2 with the ESL Wire program because it caused their game client to repeatedly crash, not allowing them to participate. In one instance, a team’s backup had to be called in due to technical difficulties with the software. This, at the minimum, significantly calls into question ESL Pro Gaming’s ability to run a Guild Wars 2 professional sPvP tournament effectively, efficiently, and–most importantly–ethically.
If ArenaNet cannot establish a professional working relationship with ESL to ensure the legitimacy of their sPvP tournaments and the questioning of ESL Pro Gaming’s practices in Guild Wars 2 tournaments continues, the sPvP community may turn to other outlets to satiate their competitive eSports needs.