After all the drama that has gone on with the Gaming Paradise event, I want to be transparent and clear about what went on, at least from the team’s side of things. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kyle ‘Beef’ Bautista, and I’m the General Manager of compLexity Gaming, as well as the primary manager of the coL.DOTA team. As with most things of this nature, I can only provide one perspective of the situation, though mine is corroborated by many of the other managers and teams, but ultimately I am not able to see exactly what went on behind the organizer’s closed doors.
My first contact with The Gaming Resorts was on August 20th. I reached out to a guy named Marko (Baja) about invites to the event, as my team was interested in attending. Marko responded to me near immediately and let me know that they had been full, but Empire had cancelled that morning, so we were in luck. I was let know immediately that since we were an American team they would not be able to book flights for us, but they would be able to provide a stipend that would be able to help. They would be able to provide accommodation (one “luxury” apartment), travel to and from the airport (we would fly into Venice and take a 90 minute drive), meals throughout the event, and a €2,000 travel stipend.
Now, prior to reaching out I had my doubts about this event, going as far as to tell my team that it was a scam, and wasn’t worth looking into. However, they really wanted to attend and Marko had been helpful enough. I reached out to some of the other managers that should have been attending to get their experience, and see if flights had been booked. Unanimously they all came back that flights had not yet been booked, but they were supposed to be very soon. Kelly (Alliance) remarked that they were not committed and were concerned about the legitimacy of the event. I reached out to Flipside Tactics, who had a CSGO team participate in The Gaming Resorts CS:GO Qualifier in June. Their manager remarked that despite a power outage causing some event delays, the players and management had a wonderful experience with the staff, and would instantly participate again if given the opportunity – a big boost in confidence.
I talked with Marko again and was provided a personalized video of the residences where we would be staying, as well as pictures of the resort area and venue. Ultimately after discussing with my team, owners, and Marko, we accepted conditionally based upon a number of factors. We would be provided a €3,000 travel stipend, we would not announce our participation until we had received the stipend, we would not book flights until we received the stipend, we would receive the stipend by Monday the 24th, we would be allotted two apartments instead of one, and we would be granted the right to change our roster if needed. This was quickly agreed to, and I was introduced to a man named Sasa (Bulic) – AKA John Smith.
Now Marko was warm, friendly, responsive (even at 3am for him). Sasa was cold, difficult, and at times rude. Sasa is the man in charge. The one that cuts the checks and runs bookings. He confirmed they would pay the invoice for our stipend by Monday. When I asked about flights for the other teams I was told that they were doing them day by day as their Visa had a €3,000 daily limit. CS:GO teams were being taken care of first, but DOTA teams were going to be taken care of soon after. Now that was a bit unusual, but frankly there were quite a few unusual things going on. Ultimately, if they were going to pay a €3,000 stipend to have our team at the event and there were other teams with flights being booked, I was convinced that things were legit enough to make it work. We moved forward.
We finally got the invoice paid on Wednesday the 26th and booked flights immediately, totalling around $5,800, so around $2,400 out of pocket. I let the other teams know that our stipend had been paid, and that helped to quell some apprehension. I checked repeatedly with other teams as well as Marko about flights, and day after day there was no progress. Marko and I talked frequently about team suggestions for invites as 4CL and 4ASC had their invites revoked due to roster changes and Alliance had dropped out. Marko was always willing to help, stating that all flights would be done soon, but Sasa was the man with the money, and he was what was holding things back.
With the event quickly approaching, I joked with my team that the CS:GO teams would be our guinea pigs. They would be at the event two days prior to our arrival (Sept 8th), so we would know if things were good or not. Unfortunately, we really ended up needing them for that testing. Just 24 hours before the event the CS:GO teams Hellraisers and CPH Wolves dropped out, seemingly unrelated, but once the teams arrived the problems started. Teams like VP were promised three hotel rooms, instead getting one bungalow, resulting in players sleeping on the floor. Mouz relayed a similar story, adding food that was anything but first class in appearance. Despite the mishaps, we were told that things would be fixed and the event would go off without a hitch.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. 24 hours before my team is scheduled to board flights computers arrived without graphics cards (reported as a missing car with stolen computers), the internet had issues, and a fuse blew, causing the entire venue to lose power. I can’t comment on all the errors in that first day, but ultimately a 12 hour delay caused just one of the four Bo3 matches to be played. Concern was at an all time high. I began talking with CyborgMatt (Secret), who relayed some of the concerns from teams like VP and Na’VI CSGO. Teams were preparing to drop out if something wasn’t done.
We gathered the team managers in a Skype chat where we confirmed information with one another, finding out that there were eight flights booked. Six for coL (now 18 hours away), and two for VP. With teams ready to drop out I expressed that we needed to be united and decisive. My team wasn’t going to travel around the world to a tournament that wasn’t going to happen. We contacted Marko, who got back to us about an hour later (he was fixing the graphics cards for PCs at the time). We informed him that the teams were not happy about the situation, and that unless all flights were booked by 1700 CEST (11am EDT) the following day, my team would not be boarding our flight, and all teams would be withdrawing from the event.
Sasa was added to the chat and he read over the conversation, concluding that they had a few crazy days, but flights would be booked Monday, though flights would be “as normal as possible, considering budget constraints”. The delay was because the agency they use for flights is not available on the weekend. He agreed to the timeline. Later Marko confirmed that all flights would be taken care of by 17 CEST, or the event would be cancelled.
Matt was ready to drop out at that point, but he was willing to wait to see if they would somehow recover. He knew that if Secret dropped out the event would likely be cancelled, and wanted the other teams to have an opportunity at least. Unfortunately six hours later, at 0414 CEST, Sasa posted this in our Skype chat:
Dear DOTA2 Teams,
We are very sorry to announce that the DOTA 2 tournament has been cancelled. A full statement and explanation as to why this decision was made is being prepared and will be sent out by the end of Monday the 9th September. It is in our hopes that a full statement and explanation will help resolve some of the issues created and provide a basis for transparent communication and a good collaboration.
Please accept our sincerest apologies,
The event was cancelled. We all expected it at this point, but it was still a bit unreal that an event would just be cancelled like this. Fans were on the way, press had made expenditures, my players were supposed to be flying in 12 hours, and just like that, the event is cancelled. I was quickly on the phone to attempt to cancel shuttles and flights, as well as attempt to find a way to participate in the NanYang Championship Qualifiers, an event that we were previously unable to participate in due to our travel schedule.
Since then Marko has been apologetic, distancing himself from Sasa (Marko confirmed Sasa cancelled the event without even letting Marko know), while Sasa confirmed that fans would receive a refund for purchased tickets. The official statement from Gamers Paradise provided no new information, but the CS:GO event is ongoing. There continue to be delays, but reports from teams like VP CS:GO indicate the players accommodations are at least better. Top teams need to leave tomorrow for another event (ESL Dubai), and there are concerns not only about the event’s ability to finish in time, but also about paying any prizing. But, hey, they’re trying.
As far as coL.DOTA. The team is disappointed, and will be more disappointed if we’re not able to participate in the NanYang Championship. We’re back to scrimming today, and putting this behind us. Marko has asked us to invoice The Gaming Resorts for any difference in ticket cost, though I’m not especially confident that Sasa will pay that. I doubt that we’ll be attending any events put on by this organizer in the future. I hope this helps to provide some clarity as to the whole situation.