Orena OCS & Prem Ladder | 7th Time’s the Charm?

We wrote an article some months ago discussing both the launch of the Orena Championship Series (OCS) as well as the Premier Ladders for CSGO and Dota2. While OCS boasted over R1 million in prizes for both titles, the Prem Ladder consisted of mostly tier 2 teams competing for roughly R50,000 and a chance to earn a wildcard seed into OCS sometime this year. We covered this as well, if you’re interested to know more. Since those articles teams have completed the majority of the OCS group stage and Prem Ladder in its entirety some weeks back. Despite this, Orena has released a controversial post-event change to the seeding format and prize payments of both OCS and the completed Prem Ladder.

Orena | Prem Ladder CSGO and Dota2 Results

In the Dota2 Prem Ladder 17 teams actively participated through the season (played at least 1 game). In the CSGO Prem Ladder 31 teams were active (played at least 1 game). Teams who played less than 3 games were not considered for leaderboard positions and should be discounted.

For Dota2 Goliath Gaming (11 wins-0 losses), The Goon Squad (5-2), and Gevaalik Dota (5-3) came top 3.

In CSGO Orgless Gaming (19-1), Aperture Gaming (13-1), and Flipsid3 Africa (13-7) came top 3. Remember, Orena advertised that the top 8 in each Prem Ladder would split R50,000 prize money while the top 2 would also progress to OCS.

Orena | #PayBackTheMoney

After the conclusion of the Prem Ladder for CSGO and Dota2, Orena announced massive changes to the ladder seeding. Orena also announced that the prizes they had advertised for months were no longer valid. They instead shifted the R50,000 prize pool from the Prem Ladder into the OCS pot. You can read the announcement here if you’d like. The reasons given is that “we have made the decision with the idea of trying to keep the tournament as fair as possible due to the fact that we faced critical issues with our ladder ranking system which is currently being rectified.”

Teams competing in the ladder very early on informed Orena that there were serious problems, particularly with teams being able to decline matches (or some teams only challenging the same other teams and avoiding the “big fish”). Despite these problems, and no fix being offered at the time, the ladder continued until it ultimately reached its conclusion. Only after teams had participated and done everything required of them, did Orena pull their prize money. Although, for some reason, Orena is still using the seeding for the top placing ladder teams for them to qualify for further OCS stages in some capacity.

Why is this a problem? I’ll step by step my thoughts on this.

  1. The R50k prize pool was advertised prior to sign up. Teams then completed in the ladder. Only once the ladder reached its conclusion is the prize money pulled.
  2. Orena are still using the seeding from the ladder for further OCS stages, even though they claim the ladder suffered critical issues.
  3. Using seeds, but not paying teams, is a huge inconsistency. I’m also pretty sure tournament operators are not allowed to pull prize money after an event has been completed.
  4. Teams are not at blame for these problems. Orena and their mismanagement of a poorly developed ladder system are at fault. #PayBackTheMoney

Ultimately it’s my opinion Orena must honor the winnings they had advertised to teams. It seems a very slippery slope to me if we start letting these tournament operators start pulling prizes after the fact. What is next? An event does poorly and suffers no foot traffic, so the next tournament operator halves the prize pools at a LAN? Streams do badly for an online tournament, so a tournament operator withholds prize pools to absorb costs? This isn’t a place we should allow things to go.

Orena | Dates Shifted Again

In addition to all this you might have also noticed that the OCS dates have shifted once again. This time they’ve shifted into January 2018, while there is still no date for the ESWC Orena cancelled at EGE earlier in the year. This instability is a critical problem the tournament operator needs to rectify as quickly as possible as teams and fans alike are losing faith quickly. More on this in our Q&A with Luca below.

Q&A with Luca Tucconi

To make sure we give Orena a chance to address some of these criticisms, we spoke to Luca directly. Please read the questions and answers below to get their take on events.

Sargon: Dates for Orena events have moved multiple times now. Will the current OCS date in Jan 2k18 also change? With all this inconsistency recently, along with pulling agreed upon/marketed/advertised prize pools, what confidence can we have in any of your events? 

Luca: The current dates set for our Final Seed Qualifier are the 19th and 20th of January for Dota2 with CSGO Final Seed Qualifier taking place on the 26th and 27th of January. This is where we will re-seed the “final 10” teams before the grand finals. We are still in the process of picking out the weekends for the Grand Final events. We want to make sure we do not run into any clashes with other local or international tournaments or any other key events that may inhibit player attendance. Once we have finalized the dates I will gladly send them to you. As a “broad” idea, the finals will be hosted no later than the end of Quarter 2 – 2018.

What about the confidence issue specifically?

I do understand with all the changes it makes it hard for the players to have confidence. The only way for that confidence to be re-instated is for us to deliver on our future dates. I have no doubt this will be the case as it always has been in last past 4 years, despite the issues we have been dealing with in the last 4-5 months.

ESWC CSGO teams have not been paid money back for Orena bailing on EGE last minute. Orena promised to cover expenses some teams incurred in future ESWC events. The ESWC make-up event has also been pushed multiple times now. Any actual dates here? What happens if no event materializes?

We made a clear statement that teams would be remunerated in the form of having their full flights and accommodation paid for the next ESWC at EGE (we have not committed to EGE as of yet as that would restrict our schedule. It could happen outside of EGE but in Cape Town definitely). If in some case the teams (or various players) that were planning to attend ESWC at EGE this year are now not interested in attending the event next year, we will remunerate them at an equal amount to the cost of flights and accommodation at the time of booking for the qualifier we will host next year.

You advertised cash prizes for your ladder system for CSGO and Dota2. It’s now completed and you’ve just let teams know that you are now giving no one in ladder prizes, and redoing how you sort seeds for OCS main event. How do you justify pulling prize money after the event is done and dusted?

This year we had new functions implemented to restrict teams from declining matches, as-well as inputting a “Multi booking” calendar system for teams to plan matches far ahead of time. Unfortunately the development team unsuccessfully implemented these functions. We have since moved on to new developers to rectify these problems for our upcoming seasons. To any teams or players that have contacted me privately, I made it very clear that we were attempting to rectify the issues by searching for a new development team and that we would be implementing a playoff at the end of the season to re-seed teams below the “TOP2” of the ladder. The reason being is that the “TOP 2” teams (besides Goon Squad) had already played a substantial amount of matches before the first half of the season.

Issues were only brought up when more teams joined up and realised they were running out of time to climb the ladder. They then tried to play as much games as possible but couldn’t do so due to our system issues (which is completely our problem, not the players). The reason for the removal of the prizepool. Is that I believe it would not be fair to give prizes to teams who might have abused the system by not accepting challenges. I am not passing blame to teams as I understand that teams would obviously abuse it if they could, but that doesn’t change the fact that the seeding might not be completely accurate.

But if teams aren’t to blame, I don’t think it’s fair to refuse to pay them the prizes, but still use the seeding for later OCS stages. It really is a point of contention for me that you’re using it but not honoring it.

The teams that were entered into the ladder playoffs all had a very similar amount of games played despite Villianz who just met the minimum requirements. The issue lies where the top teams might have purposefully played less games to avoid dropping down the ladder out of the 1st to 8th positions. My belief is that were offering the best solution for our systems errors and the major team reshuffles. With regards to when the errors began to occur, I can only reference it from the first time we received a complaint which was in August from the Ventus manager (Eds: Please see comment below the article by Pieter “Cyrus” Venter for context on this point). Since then we have tried to sort out the issues with the old and now a new development team. At this stage the Top 2 teams were already far ahead.

Next could you please explain how the reseeding works, with a focus on Dota2.

With regards to the re-seeding point, we have only required teams who have made 3 or more core changes to their lineup to be re-seeded. The reason for sinister 5 not needing to be re-seeded is because they made a lineup change during the very early periods (within the first half of the season) of our OCS online season. If I have missed teams then that is purely due to the fact that I didn’t receive the requested information or I missed an email. If this is the case, I have no issue making corrections. Another reason why I humbly ask to be queried in private if possible so these issues can be rectified without causing an unnecessary fuss.

Which international tournaments have you modelled your ladder on, if any?

Back in the day, I used to compete in the DGL Championships for Call of Duty 4, my team won the 2010 and 2012 championships. With that in mind, we decided to compete in the European based “Cybergamer” ladder for added experience, this was an elo based ladder system which I personally loved competing in and have wanted to implement locally since 2012. This is what I used as an example, although I can admit the functionality hasn’t been mirrored successfully.

What other alternative solutions, if any, have you considered (instead of taking away the promise prize money)?

The only alternative was to pay out to teams without any form of “re-seeding”. Any other options regarding restructuring the prize pot (as we have done) or the event entirely (More postponed dates) would have resulted in the same queries we are getting now as the only answer I think some of the teams want is to be awarded the prize, regardless of the issues we had with the system.

How is this restructuring the pot?

Even if the qualified teams place last in OCS, they will receive equal to coming first in the ladder. The teams essentially are playing for more than they would have because of the extra “wildcard type” seeds that have been created due to the reshuffles.

Thanks for your time Luca. Any closing thoughts?

As you might know, I recently moved myself and the entire business from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the 4th of June. The reasoning being that our current home (Orena Gaming Lounge / Studio) was scheduled to be complete on the 5th of June with the start of the #OCS with the idea being to broadcast and host legs of the online season in our space. Unfortunately we ran into severe structural issues with the building which needed to be attended to before any major construction could take place. We were only made aware of this by the surveyors during the week leading up to #OCS. This meant we could only open our doors, as-well as receive our extensive production kit from out of country, towards the end of August when construction and security facilities were put in place.This meant we missed out on an entire season of live streams.

I claim full responsibility for this due to my inexperience in construction, it is my first time dealing with a full scale construction site as I ran the company out of my bedroom since mid 2013 up until mid this year when our new partners came onboard. On top of the issues faced in our “physical space” (Gaming Lounge), we ran into problems with our “online space” (orena.com) as discussed above. We were made aware of the issues with our ladder in late august. If i’m not mistaken, the first team to contact me was Ventus. Since that point, we have been searching for a solution through our previous developers followed by a new development team to fix the issues. We have recently (as of beginning October) found a new development team which has an extensive background in esports, to do a full overhaul of our system which we hope will finally put the issues to rest.

The above is not an attempt to make any excuses, but rather to make it clear that this is still a very personal (small team) operation. The errors have been human errors and errors I have learnt from. What I and the Orena team is attempting to do now is to make sure we rectify the mistakes in the most fair way possible. I have been in contact with captains and managers personally and have always put their interests first, no matter what the public perception is. Some may not agree, but I believe the above decisions are the most “fair”.

About @SargonDotA2

Chris "@SargonDotA2" House started writing about competitive local esports in 2016, focused primarily on DotA2 since he played competitively around that time as well. Since then we keep him locked up, churning out DotA2 articles as often as we can make him do it. @SargonDotA2 is sometimes referred to as the Batpanda...