I get up around nine in the morning, rubbing grit out of my eye. SS is finally here. Time to do work.
I pack my stuff up and make my way to the venue. I get to CQ around eleven thirty to check in early. First people I see are Bugs and Rossco, busy unloading their stuff from the car. Bugs motions for me to come and help, but I tell them to let me dump my stuff in the room first and then I’ll come and help them. I quickly check in, go upstairs and dump my stuff, but by the time I come down, they’re already gone. Later I discover that Bugs would be making several trips from his/Ali’s place to CQ. Ah, the life of a Shadowloo driver…
I head to the function room, and find the main door locked. Since we’ve run several majors at the CQ already I simply go back down to the car park and navigate my way through the back corridors, which always look like they’re straight out of a Saw movie, to the freight elevator, finally coming up into the function room from the side.
There’s a pile of stuff on the ground that presumably Bugs and Rossco left behind, but otherwise the venue is empty. I walk around for a bit, this is the first time that I’ve seen the extra two rooms that Shadowloo booked for this year. SS1 was held in the Rydges where there was ample space in a plush, classy interior, but the attendance that year wasn’t that good and the bill astronomical. SS2 was held in the CQ, and while the bill was more reasonable the attendance was astronomical, and it was quite stuffy and packed in there last year. I think it’s alright for a BAM, but for the five hundred man plus crowd we had for SS2 and expect more for SS3, I think it was a great decision to book the other rooms.
I was expecting just two small extensions but I was blown away. The other room is much bigger than I expected, it’s almost like the hall we had for SS2 last year is the side room, and this extra room is the main room! A vast floor space with ample room for rows and rows of spectator chairs, at least three times as much spectator space as SS2. Floor to ceiling windows lining one wall of the room, offering a beautiful view of the street, the room feels expansive and much more open than the narrower hallway we had last year…this is awesome.
The bar area is closed off for the moment and we’re only going to get access to it after 8PM, but I estimate we’re at the very least doubling the amount of space for this year’s SS. I stand around for a bit, letting all that empty space sink in for a bit.
I get a text message from Loki saying he’ll be there at twelve thirty and I open the door for Gabneto to come in through the bar entrance. We get cornered by the CQ staff who start asking us tons of questions which we have to helplessly decline and ask them to wait for Loki to show up. A lady asks me if I want linen on the tables, and I helplessly shrug. I ask them if there’s any additional charge, and they say nope and that she’s just worried about having enough linen. I say go for it, and she smoothes over the cloth over the table with one quick hand saying; “I just think it looks just that much better. For photographs and everything. I don’t know, that’s what I think, at least. A woman’s touch.”
I nod and wholeheartedly agree.
White linen! For Street Fighter? Who’d have thought.
The CQ staff start bustling around and I get to know the lady in charge a bit more. She’s really nice and helpful, she’s a real peach, she’s an absolute doll.
Though I think Street Pussy later comes up to me and says that he sees a little bit of strength in her jaw-line, that she’d have a certain ball-busting take no prisoners flavour to her strong womanliness. Gab sagely nods and says to me, but that’s what you like, isn’t it Muttons?
We go down and spot the elitist metal hipster himself, Andrew aka Vitriol on the bench outside. We talk a bit with him and some of the WA dudes who show up like Valk, Mr Chowda, Guillotine Fist and crew, and even Spoony who shows up abruptly until Loki arrives with his car and I grab the Melbourne dudes with me to go start hauling Loki’s stuff up to the venue.
Loki looks quite good considering he’s just had a gall bladder operation the Monday before SS. So much of SS being successful rides on Loki’s recuperating body making it through the weekend, and even though in the end things turned out a lot better than last year, I’m really grateful Loki soldiered through. You’re the best, Brendon.
We really don’t want him bending over and moving shit too much, so we get the stuff out of his car with as many hands as possible. Mooseking is also there to help, and I wonder silently to myself why one brother has a receding hairline when the other brother has the full flowing locks of Jesus going on.
Once Loki gets up there and starts talking to the CQ staff, things start moving a lot quicker. (Yes. Finally a person of Responsibility and Direction has shown up. Whew for little helper monkeys like Gab and me.)
With Loki directing shit, the layout starts to take shape and form. The snaking parallel lines of tables for the main tournament setups. The arena-like space with tables and boards that we set up for the casuals. We start daisy chaining power boards and taping cables down. Andrew discovers that the carpet does not much like the tape that we brought, and we end up padding all the cables with so much frickin’ tape…
More interstate help shows up. Felix from Canberra shows up just past one and he puts in a good hard shift of work. We’re really grateful for the help, and I tell him so. Felix tells me he’s actually moving to Melbourne, so we’re definitely glad to have you here man!
Jake shows up. Kevin rocks up. Berzerk and Alex arrive. The Tekken cabinet and guys show up. Somniac arrives sporting drinks! Igor arrives with his ST setup and starts setting up in between the two main tournament stations. James aka Muzz “I can show you the world” tech shows up much later in the day in a suit?
The AverMedia folks show up and I’m always glad to lend a hand to nice Asian women with moving their stuff from the car. The other vendors also show up, Qanba, the Mad Catz guys (HEC I think). Guys like Shadowfox arrive with their cars and dump stuff on the street which we quickly haul up to the venue before he drives off again to make another freight run.
We move boxes and boxes of shit around. Xboxes and cables flying everywhere. Luckily we have this big storage space right behind the main stage, and we dump everything there. It was really convenient, except for that damn pole they erected right behind the curtain in the middle of the stairs. I bumped my head multiple times on that damn thing.
For a while things were a little disorganized because Loki drew up a specific floor plan and layout with specific setups on specific tournament stations. This is because some setups might not have Third Strike downloaded, others might not have all the Soul Calibur V characters unlocked (grr what a pain in the ass) etc. So because we were missing a lot of Shadowloo setups because Ali wasn’t there, and quite a few individual setups like Pen’s and Phil’s because they couldn’t make Friday setup, our setup was incomplete at a lot of parts. And also because the bar area was going to be where we set up the Marvel stations, that contributed to us having a big mishmash of setups and tables that didn’t quite mesh with our original outline. When Chris showed up that helped a lot, (Chris basically owns a net cafe’s worth of consoles, monitors and sticks by himself), because we could ask him to identify stuff and to magically produce bits of equipment like missing monitor power cables, different Xbox brick power cables, missing AE copies, HDMI cables and things like that.
We struggle with the big sheets of paper with the tournament station numbers on them, like A1, H4, etc. We tried to tape them to the BenQ monitors and while they stick fine onto the regular BenQs we have which have a flat back, I especially hate the new bigger BenQ monitors we got from the BenQ sponsor. They all have this big shaft behind the monitor, which I very spitefully name the “enormous BenQ penis” and that makes it annoying to stick the tournament sheets on them. We have to stick them on the side, off center of the monitor…curve them to match the shaft…put shitloads on tape on them…such a pain! And of course they keep falling off anyway. Fucking penises.
Eventually things start falling into place. I barely saw Ali all day because he’s so busy moving around people and equipment, so he would be in the venue for barely two minutes before he had to drive off again. The place is starting to fill up with people and I have to start shooing people out because some of them have started wandering into our storage area and putting their bags there. We can’t really use that as a storage space for personal belongings because we store all our gear there. Prizes, sticks, monitors, game discs, consoles, headphones, USB splitters etc. We can’t have non-staff just wandering in there anytime they want; it’s a big security risk for us.
But that’s fine, we clear out the non-staff people and time is getting tight. It’s getting close to our six PM doors open time. Things are basically in place, well at least as much as we can make it with the incomplete list of gear that we have. Thank god that it’s Friday. The biggest thing that I am thankful for this year is the Friday VIP night as that gave us so much time to setup, and pretty much two tries to get it right. We definitely would not have been able to start the tournament on Friday itself, but having Friday setup and Saturday morning to touch up and reconfigure things really helped a lot. The other thing was that it got most of the pre-registrations out of the way, and that was massive.
Bugs notices that the glare from the windows will be a problem for his stream setup, so we build the “Great Wall of BenQ” with all the monitor boxes behind the computers to block the light. Bugs struck a pose before the boxes, saying: what a sponsor shot! Hilarious.
The other interesting of the day was when we moving stuff up and down the stairs, we would notice several tall, leggy bombshells on the staircases. And Rossco and I were exchanging several buttered looks about that. As I was moving stuff around in the storage room, a statuesque blond lady with spectacles and in a suit popped in to ask for the venue boss, for the function they were running in the other room (basically our bar area). I pointed out some vague directions for her, before I finally gave into my curiosity and asked her what function they were running in the other room.
She told me they were running the Miss World interviews there.
That explains all the beautiful tall women hanging around the area. Are you telling me while we’re setting up a Street Fighter event in this hall we have supermodels in the other room????
Mind completely blown.
I rushed off to spread the buttery information to everybody else, and I made sure to keep an eye out the rest of the day. Scouting. Yeaaahhhhh.
So it’s almost six now. Where’s Ali?
I get a call from Kevin asking me to ask Pyro to make sure registration desk is good and ready with Godly Effect and his friends. I ask Pyro and they set up the desk and everything. The only thing is that there’s no laptop for the rego desk! Loki has his laptop with him, but he needs it to update the pools as the on-the-day registrations come in. Pyro makes the call to his sister who was supposed to provide the netbook for the rego desk, but she can’t make it through traffic. We have no laptop for the rego desk. Fuck.
I panic a little, and start asking around for laptops. Igor’s using his for ST brackets. Bugs needs his for the stream. Kevin has a laptop in Ali’s car, but he’s currently stuck in the truck with Ali moving the cabinets to the venue. By the time he gets back and goes back to Ali’s car at Crown, it would be way past six already. We have twenty minutes left. I ask Bugs to drive me to my house to pick up my spare laptop. In a car, we can get there and back in fifteen minutes. As we get out of the venue, Bugs quietly swears, remembering that he has left his car on the street with no parking ticket for hours now and so we walk extremely quickly to his car. What a miracle! There’s no ticket on the car. Someone up there is looking out for Shadowloo.
We drive out of the alleyway and right smack into peak traffic. We sit there for three minutes not moving a single metre before Bugs says fuck it, and drives his car into the nearest parking lot. There’s no way we can get to my house in time, and he’ll just give up one of his stream laptops for the registration desk for now. That was going to be the stream chat laptop, but we’ll make do for now until Kevin makes it back with Ali and grabs his laptop. Okay crisis averted for now.
Six PM hits, and Ali and Kevin pull up in front with their truck. I go out to help them and discover that the freight elevator is busted and the repair guy will only be able to make it later at night. Fuck. What excellent timing. Actually, on Sunday I remember trying to use the freight elevator and it was still busted. Did that guy ever come?
So now we have to move the cabinets up the stairs by hand. And there’s now a massive line outside the venue, chomping at the bits to get in. We start to move the cabinet up, but the security guy stops me at the door. Apparently there’s been a miscommunication between the venue boss and security, and they were not informed that we would have non-staff in the venue. I quickly grab Ali and he starts talking to the guy. I hear the words; monitor foot traffic…staff passes… security liabilities while the other function is going on…
Basically we need to get people off the street and get them their passes, and that should take care of the security problems while Ali gets the chance to talk to the boss and clear things up. I immediately move to the registration desk, we have to start registration ASAP.
I get there and…there’s nobody there at the registration laptop! Godly and his buddy are doing cash box and passes. Loki can’t do it, he has to update pools.
For the past two years, when the clock struck the hour for the doors to be opened, I have gone over to the registration desk to discover nobody there. For the past two years I’ve had to do opening day registrations even though I have not been allocated that role. This year I’ve been in Ali’s ear to get it done right, because in my mind, and I know in Loki’s mind as well, registration is the one thing you cannot fuck up and is one of the most important parts of the tournament. If you fuck up registration, if things take forever, the first pools get affected and gets pushed back, and the whole tournament schedule snowballs. People in line start grumbling about waiting in line for forty minutes. Rego staff get stressed and start making mistakes. It’s a bad experience for everybody.
I got in Ali’s ear because, well, I didn’t want to have to jump in again three years in a row. I know registration desk is the shittiest job of all, because you basically have to sit there at the desk and miss out on all the action. At BAMs and CW events we have dedicated rego desk staff that sit there all day and man the desk. There’s cash boxes there, important stuff at the desk. You can’t leave it unmanned. And also because it is the most thankless job out there, you can’t have expect people to step up for it ad hoc. You have to have dedicated staff, in the case of CW, we have been blessed with guys like Zan and Onyx who were happy to make that sacrifice because they’re not that invested in the tournament itself. And Onyx is experienced enough to bring Civilisation V to BAM 2 to keep himself from going insane with boredom. Kudos to those guys, man.
But yeah. I ended up doing it again.
At least it was just Friday VIP night and not the hellacious two hours that was SS2K12 Saturday morning. But the line was still huge. Things were still better though with Loki, Godly, his buddy and me there at the desk, so it still went much smoother than last year. We started getting people through the door, with Muzztec standing all tall and tore in his suit at the door. And I started to calm down. Every name we got down on the list tonight basically was one less name we have to do on the all-important Saturday morning.
Eventually the line starts petering off and Pyro shows up to replace me. I see where he’s gone; he basically went and got suited up! Such a sharp looking Macedonian. Him and Fox both looked hella sharp in that commentator booth.
I get off the desk and finally have some time to walk around. I notice that the cabinets are set up and running, not sure how the hell they managed to muscle them into the hall. People are getting into things; every setup has people on it playing and crowds gathering around moneymatches.
The internationals start filtering in, and Filipino Champ comes and gives me a handshake. He looks real tired and red in the eyes. He was telling me that he wanted to get some eye drops at Box Hill yesterday, because he was getting some irritation in his eyes. I wonder if he ever got to buy some.
I get a chance to shake a couple of hands and talk to some people. One person that I got to meet for the first time is Tracey Lien, formerly of Kotaku, and now of the Verge. I know of Tracey because she did the profiles on Humanbomb and Tom on Kotaku, and that’s when she came onto my radar. She did the profile on Bomb right after we did our episode with him and I remember thinking, hey somebody from Kotaku AU’s actually interested in the fighting game community! I remember showing Igor the interview and he kinda grunted and made disparaging remarks about the interview. Heheh, methinks Igor has got some professional competitiveness in him.
So I got to talk with her a little bit. She’s also a real peach and nice as hell. What I was really interested in talking to her about was how she got into the industry, because it seems that could be something I could get into in the future. At the very least these days I seem to spending an inordinate amount of time writing about video games, or rather, a video game. She gave me a lot of good advice, but I remain pessimistic about my career prospects. I pretty much only play one video game, poorly at that, and I know nothing about the other titles on the market, the Call of Dutys and the Portals. I have no desire to do news aggregation or to play/write about other video games. From what Tracey tells me, I have to diversify, and I have to be both more proactive and wide-ranging. This Shadowloo Showdown would’ve been a good time to pitch an article to one of those sites, but with all my SS responsibilities I never even thought about it. Kind of a wasted opportunity, but oh well. I’m plenty happy in my community and niche, maybe one day I will try to chase my pipedream.
Shadowfox blew me up on Twitter later saying I was getting all Hollywood and interviewed by Tracey, but it was more me simply pointing out all the different internationals to her and telling her who to interview, and what their background, traits and history were, rather than me actually being interviewed!
Other than that, I just talked to people and continued setting up. The bar area was opened up later in the evening, so we started arranging tables and setups in there while the matches were going on.
Igor’s ST tournament was going strong, and I noticed later on that he was having a lot of problems when ST starting going over time. This is because he was running ST by himself, and he was calling for people with the microphone.
Now I’m sure as everyone knows, fighting game players are pretty much deaf to microphone announcements. You can make mic announcements for someone to report to the tournament station ten times on the mic, and the dude will be sitting there not five metres away from you, completely oblivious and hidden from your vision by a pillar or a large Samoan guy.
Basically Igor needed a runner. To run around hunting down dudes down for him. And I did that for him in the later part of his tournament, but I think he definitely needed extra staff for his ST tournament so that it wouldn’t have gone on as long as it did. I know I was hunting Justin Wong down and he basically asked to be DQed because it was taking so long and he was having fun moneymatching and sidebetting anyway.
All in all it was good. I watched some really hype matches in ST. (MOV plays Claw?) I watched Gizzle nearly take Tokido out, but just narrowly losing to him in the GF. Still, I was very impressed at Gizzle and Australia’s level in ST in general. (Those matches should’ve been all recorded!) I think we definitely have some great players, so kudos to Igor for bringing his supergun to SS, and thus causing the appearance of rare Pokémon like Gizzle.
I didn’t get to play any games, and later on after my ST duties I became busy wrangling together exhibition Marvel matches for the stream, taking over from Somniac, who was also suited up.
We got Momochi on stream, and he impressed me by beating Somniac. And I can’t remember the other matches…but we were very short on time and only did a few before we had to start kicking everyone out of the venue.
Once everyone was out, we started setting up for Saturday, and we moved around gear and cleaned up until around one thirty AM. We still were missing setups, and we definitely needed to get everything 100% ready by the morning, so we decided to get into the venue at 630 AM to start setting up. Guys like Loki and I stay in the CQ, so that’s a little easier for us, but big thanks to guys like Spoony who made the tram ride down at such an ungodly hour.
Afterwards, Igor, Vlade, Loki and I finally went to go get something to eat. It kind of sucks that the only choice available at that hour that is close enough is inevitably Mcdonald’s. Every major at the CQ we end up eating at that same dirty, grubby Mcdonald’s just down the street after setting up/packing up late into the night, and I’ve grown to really hate that place.
But it was still really good to get any kind of food into our bellies, so we sat there and just talked until about 2 AM, and then we went back to the hotel to sleep. I have to mention that it’s always a pleasure to talk to Vlade, because he’s such a gentleman, but he doesn’t even know that getting bodied by him in Ryu footsies years ago was one of the biggest wakeup calls for me to start working specifically on improving my footsies.
We really should have hit the sack immediately, but Loki, Igor and me actually talked for about an hour in the room before we fell asleep. I think part of the “after-hours Mcdonald’s experience” is that after you do all that shit as a TO, you just need to sit down somewhere, decompress, and commiserate about things. And that kind of gets things out of your system and gets you ready to go for the next day. So we had this long, hard talk about the community, how things are working right now, and the future. We talked about all kinds of things like sustainability, burnout, and budgeting.
Igor told me certain figures such as Final Round making more than…well maybe I shouldn’t say, but the figure had four zeroes behind it and so did Season’s Beating with very comparable attendance to Shadowloo Showdown…but why do we then… Well obviously we have various costs very specific to Shadowloo Showdown. But yeah, that’s a private discussion for later and I should shut the hell up now. It was just…I had also underestimated the toll on Loki or the frustration levels that he had, because he’s normally so Zen about shit when I’m already complaining like the world’s biggest asshole. So I could see that it was good for him to get it off his chest, and then we all decided, well with all this talk, we’re pretty much already here and in the middle of things, so let’s just get this done, get through the weekend and we can debrief later.
I set my alarm for six thirty, and I hit the sack. Man, Vlade was a smart dude by getting a room on the highest floor because I can hear the nightclub downstairs thumping away all night…