Summary: Pongky takes the day to cover Microsoft's international Halo for PC World Championship, where nineteen of the world's best players duke it out for great prizes. Check out this article for great coverage photos and see who comes out on top, will the US make it to the top three? Read on to find out!
Gardena, CA, February 18, 2004 - the world's best Halo PC players converge Gardena, California, a small city pinned between downtown Los Angeles and the coast. Nineteen players representing their home country battled to determine who will claim "World Champion" status. The Halo PC International Championship is organized by Microsoft and iGames, and is sponsored by AMD, ATI and Alienware. This finals event took place in a large cybercafe named Internet PC Cafe, or IPC located in a bustling shopping strip.
What's at stake? A very nice plaque stating "Halo World Champion" that will go nicely in the fireplace mantle, as well as an AMD-based Aurora Alienware gaming system for the top 3 players. In addition, the nineteen competitors who made it to this finals stage, receive an ATI Radeon 9800PRO video card, as well as a free trip to the city of angels (and smog).
The cafe was closed to walk-in customers for the whole day as the tournament proceeded. The day began with all nineteen participants representing the US, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Chile, Singapore, India, Brazil, Holland, Sweden and others having an equal chance at winning the big prize. These representatives are champions in their own home country, and have had to face stiff competition just by being here in the international finals. For example, the US champion, who is a Los Angeles native - has already won a Gateway 42" Plasma TV, and the Japanese champion has won the equivalent of US$6000 and other PC hardware prizes.
There were multiple rounds of competition in this final day, with battles of up to 6 vs 6 (free for all mode) to decide who advances to the next round. Each player has their own gaming station, pointed out by a small flag sitting on top of the sleek black desktop PC cases of the gaming center. The scores in each round (each round consists of up to 5 matches) are used to calculate who advances and who gets left behind. In the semi-finals, there were 2 brackets, each playing 4 matches in a 6 vs 6 battle. 2 Players in each bracket was eliminated and the remaining 4 advances to the finals, which was an 8 vs 8 shootout.
The battles themselves seem subdued, as there is no talking allowed between the players - and the spectators unallowed to speak, the room was quiet, the exact antithesis to what is happening in the headphones of the players, as explosions and bloodshed are depicted on-screen. It didn't seem to be such an exciting spectacle - as it felt more like an online exam in a college PC lab - especially with the organizers walking back and forth in the aisle seemingly acting like overzealous professors.
SIDEBAR: IPC sells Boba tea.
Pongky: Hi Jakub, thanks for taking the time to speak to FiringSquad. How long have you been playing Halo PC?
Jakub: No problem, I've been playing Halo PC since before it came out, in October 2003.
Pongky: Did you play Halo for the XBOX before the PC version came out?
Jakub: Not really, I didn't like using the controller on the XBOX, I prefer the mouse / keyboard.
Pongky: How tough was the competition back in Denmark? Was it a difficult task to get to this point (the finals) ?
Jakub: Not really, there aren't that many people playing in Denmark. It was quite difficult, as I only had to defeat [several] players in a few days of competition.
Pongky: Really? I would have thought PC gaming, though not necessarily Halo, is popular over there in Europe.
Jakub: No, not in Denmark.
Pongky: Who do you think are your fiercest competition here at this stage?
Jakub: I think, UK, Japan and the US.
Pongky: Are you in university?
Jakub: I'm not sure what to call it, it is after the equivalent of [the American] high school, but I am taking one year off
Pongky: That sounds nice to be able to do, thanks for your time and good luck in the finals!
Jakub: Thank you.
The second finalist we grill is Teppei Terabe, from Tokyo Japan. I had a Microsoft Japan employee help me translate back and forth my questions. Of course, I had to get my meager japanese language skills in there somehow, so I opened up with:
Pongky: Nama-e wa, nan desu-ka? (what's your name )
Teppei: *chuckles* Teppei Terabe
Pongky: Congratulations on getting this far, how would you say the competition was back in Japan?
Teppei (through translator): It was kind of difficult. We had multiple online sessions over several weeks, and there were some good players there. The whole event culminated with a LAN event in Tokyo, where I won.
Pongky: So, what prizes did you win in the Tokyo finals?
Teppei (through translator): I won the equivalent of US $6000, a Radeon video card, and an LCD monitors.
Pongky: What kind of work do you do? Or are you in university?
Teppei (through translator): I'm a telephone operator working in a telecommunication company.
Pongky: So that leaves you a lot of time to practice and play games?
Teppei (through translator): Yes
Pongky: Are you going to stay in LA for an extended visit? or will you go back tomorrow like the rest of the players?
Teppei (through translator): I'm leaving tomorrow.
Pongky: How do you like LA so far?
Teppei (through translator): It's very hot
Pongky: Yea, just wait 'til you feel the summertime. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, good luck in the finals!
SIDEBAR: The event concluded conveniently at 5pm, when downtown LA traffic was at its worst. Thanks Microsoft.
The last person we got to speak to was Jonathan Finglass, representing the UK, who lives in London. I knelt before him as he was doing some surfing on one of the PC stations in IPC. He was a quiet young man, somewhat withdrawn, and not outspoken at all. At times, I had trouble listening to his answers because of the ambient noise of the cafe.
Pongky: Hello, thanks for sitting down and talking with us.
Jonathan: No problem
Pongky: So, are you from London?
Pongky: Ah, I used to live there when I was smaller, in North-West 11.
Jonathan: *no response*
Pongky: Is this your first trip to the US?
Jonathan: Actually, when I was younger, I spent 6 months touring the US with my father. We went to Utah, drove to LA and San Diego.
Pongky: Who do you think is your toughest competition here in the finals?
Jonathan: USA and Sweden
Pongky: Alright, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, good luck in the final round!
Jonathan: Thank you.
With that, the players had about 10 more minutes of breaktime before the finals started. Though they all were loose and relaxed, I decided not to bother any more of them.
SIDEBAR: The players only had two nights to spend in LA. On the third day, they will all be shipped out back to their home countries. So much for a vacation, eh? It's all business.
The final round, consisted of 5 matches of 8 vs 8 combat on various maps. The first three matches concluded with Jonathan from the UK placing first in all three matches, all but clinching the world championship spot. It was more interesting to see who would place second and third, as there was at one time a three-way tie between the US, Sweden and Holland. After the conclusion of the battles, it was quite evident who the winner was, but the other two Alienware system winners were still in doubt.
So, extending the suspense, the organizers decided it was a good time to hand out the coupons for the Radeon 9800PRO video cards to the 19 contestants, one by one. Finally, at about 5pm, it was time to announce the winners. Called up first as the World Champion was Jonathan Finglass, and he walks up casually and takes the plaque. Then, the second place winner was called, it was the South Korea player, and we all know that PC gaming is all the rage there across the pacific. Thirdly, Holland was called up to claim third positiong. With the US player not seeding in the top three, we wonder if it was one of his off-days. Maybe next year, he'll be happy with his plasma anyway.
The top three winners will have the Alienware shipped to their homes, I just hope the prizes will survive their long trips to the UK, South Korea and Holland.
So, now we have a Halo for Windows World Champion, is the world a better place? The event itself was bustling with press, including people from G4TV and other various online media. I just felt that it could have been more exciting, maybe that it was the first of its kind for this game, but it definitely could have used more oomph (ie. techno music blasting from speakers, PC speakers turned up, a big display of one of the player's screen so spectators can get into the game, or I'll even settle for some trash-talking by the players).
SIDEBAR: I had a nice Kosher hotdog at IPC for $1.75
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