Grand Championship Series
was the first of its type - it was the first tournament to attempt to make Company of Heroes into a living breathing e-sports spectacle.
For the most part it was a huge success, something for this community to be proud of and to be looked back on fondly. On the other hand there were challenges and lessons learnt.
What is for certain is it made the community feel alive and passionate and gave the players the burning desire to compete at their highest level and achieve their full potential.
(Author note: sorry it's been so long since the tournament finished 7 months ago - but it's always fun to look back.)
The best way to reacquaint yourselves with the tournament as a whole is to have a quick browse of
It tells an epic tale from humble beginnings with a Kickstarter expecting £1,400 and a small internet tournament, to a dramatic finale with this awesome picture forever etched into our minds:
Firstly let us talk to six of the most notable players and catch up with them to discuss their thoughts about the events.
(1st place) Luvnest DE Show Spoiler A_E: Mr. Nest, one of your most impressive achievements in GCS was surprising Helping Hans and us all with USF as your choice of Allied play in the Semi-Finals - what went behind this choice in the build up? Luvnest: It was a combination of several factors like analyzing my opponent, identifying my own weakspots and choosing an allied faction that I have fun playing with.
For GCS, I chose to #adapt my faction choice based on these factors. For example, Aimstrong had a pretty strong pattern going for himself while playing Wehrmacht (heavy T1 build, skipping T2, going straight for T3) so I felt really confident with a Sniper-Penal opening without worrying about anti tank at all, which worked out great. Hans on the other side, has a way more flexible and diverse set of strategies. After seeing him annihilate Barton and having in mind my past experience in the ESL Cup Series I chose to play USF. I messed around with the smoke-heavy play in practice matches and I really liked it (especially against Ostheer which is vulnerable against line of sight blockers). This and the element of suprise among other things where good indicators that this approach might just work out for me. A_E: Are there any insights into preparing to play against against DevM in the final, anything you did to prepare for this particular opponent? Luvnest: DevM has a similar Wehmacht pattern like Aimstrong so going back to my trusty Soviets was almost a no brainer for me. I also had a rough experience with USF against his Wehrmacht sniper in custom games, so I was uncomfortable with going USF once again. Prior to the tourney games I focused more on OKW since they seemed to do well against USF with their hilarious vet 5 system, which thankfully got toned down in DBP. I wanted to secure as many Axis wins as possible, since I felt more comfortable with them compared to my Allies. A_E: On the day you managed to beat DevM 4-0, what stands out to you about your own play looking back, do you have any particular memories of the games and moments where you out-performed your opponent? Luvnest: I was surprised how well I was able to focus during those games, since this was my only playing experience on stage (maybe the PC Gamer weekeder match, but that one doesnt really count). I usually play in my favourite pyjama in a dark room with the curtains closed and with yesterday's noodlebox scent in the air so the change of scenery went better than expected.
My favourite moments from the games were all the countersnipes (with the delayed response from the audience) like in the third match on Crossing in the Woods or the insane second match of the day with OKW on Crossroads. I'm just glad that I was able to perform and stay in the zone that day. A_E: Looking back on the final now, what were the best parts of winning in front of a live audience and the event itself? Luvnest: The whole event was a blast. From the occasional winks to the audience after winning a game, the glitter shower in the end, holding up the trophy, going out in Leicester for drinks and meet all the cool people from the stream, spending a few extra days in Manchester with my girlfriend to almost getting arrested at the airport for trying to get the trophy through security.
Playing in front of an live audience is awesome. I played 10 years of handball in front of decent crowd but I never felt the same rush playing video games and getting a red face in front of people who all share the same passion for the franchise as you. A_E: in a crazy hypothetical world where there was a GCS2, would you defend your title for a second year for the chance to add another trophy to your collection? Luvnest: Absolutely. I took a break after GCS to focus on other things in life, but with the new patch about to release any day now and the mysterious Relic surveys breathing new life into the franchise I feel eager to get back into competitive playing. As long as I'm having fun and I'm having a nice balance of things going on in my life is all the motivation I need to defend my throne. This and the fact that the trophy might be made of PURE gold this time. (2nd Place) DevM PT Show Spoiler A_E: SeÃ±or M, you were on a quest to absolutely underline perceptions that you are the greatest overall tournament player over the entire CoH series, on the day this didn't go to plan, how much do you put this to your own performance or that of your opponent? DevM: I would probably say a 60%/40% split where 60% because my opponent played well that day and 40% due to my underperformance. A_E: In the build up to the games against Luvnest you faced VonAsten and VonIvan, and unfortunately received the dreaded 'bugsplat' issue. Then in the final you had a strange cursor bug that locked it into the corner of the screen. If CoH2 is to continue as a competitive format, in your opinion what must be done to overcome issues like these? DevM: Honestly there is not much that can be done to overcome these issues , it's up to the Developers to optimize the game and offer the proper tools to deal with these situations (features like going back to a certain match point that some games have). CoH is a game that has a lot of potential for a player to comeback into the game so if a player bugsplats even if slightly ahead it would be hard to tell who would end up winning. A_E: You've often been seen as a great CoH1 player that only plays CoH2 tournaments for money, not that I see anything wrong with that - however I must ask have you seen improvements in CoH2 over the years? How do you rate the game now in 2017 compared to its release state? DevM: The game is definitely much better than it was at release, in the early stages of the game even if there was a big tournament coming back I couldn't drag myself to practice at all. So I would give the release a 3/10 and the state at which the game is now a 7/10. A_E: Relic are possibly considering making a future CoH title, what would you like to see done differently to improve the game competitively? DevM: My main concern first of all competitive wise for the next game is how well it will run or stable it will be since I believe that to be the first important pillar for the players and even the people casting it. The second pillar would be the tools offered to the community to be able to make this game flourish competitive wise, so that would be things like these but improved:
1) Spectator Mode
2) Reconnect option
3) In-game Leaderboards
4) High level games showcased in-game A_E: If the conditions were right, would you come back and train hard for a future tournament, and stamp your authority down once more and attempt to prove your dominance? DevM: If the conditions were right yes I would like to prove that the last tournament was a fluke or at least go down to the best bo5/bo7 series in CoH history which I think failed to accomplish last time! (3rd Place) VonIvan amis Show Spoiler A_E: VonIvan congratulations, you had a hell of a ride in GCS. In beating Theodosios 3-0 in the quarter final in particular you look set to possibly be the underdog winner of the whole tournament, how do you rate your own performances in the build up to the finals, did you see yourself as an improved tournament player? VonIvan: I thought my performance was on par with the practice I undertook before the final rounds in GCS. I'm proud of the quality of the games I played, except for one which was a miscalculation on my part. A_E: Bad luck struck against DevM's armour company with the dreaded 240mm howitzer barrage, do you believe abilities like this one in particular should be part of a competitive game or not? VonIvan: I underestimated the range and AOE of the bombs that occurred during my game vs DevM. I am totally fine with abilities such as that one because it makes the game more challenging for the players and much more entertaining for the viewers, as was the case. At the end of the day, as much as horrible RNG can destroy people's initiatives, it can also actually be prevented. Had I decided to retreat my units, instead of risk them to the bombs AOE I would have had a much better situation afterward. It all comes down to risk and reward in CoH2. A_E: Congratulations on showing good sportsmanship against DevM with his bugsplat and against HelpingHans with his er.. brainsplat(?), how was it going from internet bedroom play, to playing live in front of an audience? VonIvan: I never dreamed that CoH2 would actually have an official ESL e-sports live event, full with quality casters and players in a serious setting, on an international stage. It was one of my bucket list wishes before I pass away. Thank you to those involved in making the dream happen. I hope Relic is inspired by this event to perhaps try and do the same. A_E: On the day you seemed in your element and resoundingly beat Helping Hans in the Third place playoff, after the laggy game 1, how did you rate your own performance in game 2 did you feel like you were playing at your true potential. VonIvan: Yes, I studied Hans's Brit and Ost gameplay to the best of my ability before playing him, and practiced strats that were most effective against him in the past. Hans is a brilliant CoH2 player and one of the best strategists there is in the world, so defeating him was not easy, even though the games went above my expectations. I must credit Luvnest for some of the strats that helped me win in the end. A_E: Where does VonIvan go from here, have we seen the best of you as a competitive player, or do you forsee yourself going from strength to strength in the future? VonIvan: Well, depending on the patches to come, which I think will be good overall, I shall be trying to better myself in each serious tournament setting in the future. I don't think I've reached my climax, as I've been playing CoH2 since beta and everything changes from time to time. It really depends on how prepared, focused, and calculated you are before a tournament game begins. I've been trying to improve myself in every tournament since the start of CoH2's competitive scene, and I think the best is yet to come. brits HelpingHans (4th place) Show Spoiler
A_E: Hans, you and Luvnest have had possibly the strongest rivalry in CoH2 from a purely competitive standpoint, on this occasion he beat you in the semi-finals looking back what would you have done differently?
Hard to remember those games to be honest. Only remember the second game because I had no way of countering US rifle smoke. I still believe that to be true and the patch does not fix this.
Talking of rivalries you settled an old and far more bitter one on the fields of GCS by beating Barton 3-0 in the quarter finals, how did it feel to settle this old score, and was it personal?
Beating Barton was very satisfying. He and I have had our history so having beat him clearly in a top tourney was great!
Bad luck struck in the Live Streamer battle for third place against VonIvan you had an excruciating migraine, it was nice to see VonIvan be so sportsmanlike, what was it like in the moment, and were you happy with the resolution?
. Thank you to Von for being a top sportsman. I and others helped chip in to get him to the UK afterwards for his actions. I believe Ishtari started the donation pool.
More bad luck struck in the Third place play-off during the live event when the first game was played under laggy conditions, (apologies on behalf of the venue for that), did this start you off on a bad foot, or is there anything you could have done on the battlefield differently to overcome your opponent after game one of the live best-of-three?
Both Devs and I had the same computer which was of poor spec sadly, not much you can do to dodge grenades when your units donât respond to your commands. Very frustrating and Iâd rather forget the those games. The people at the event made it great fun though.
A_E note on above
: DevM and Hans PC was not of poor spec, it was mid-range 980 GTX i5 etc. Han's lag was due to ESL's internet at that time and affected both players. They fixed it after game 1. However Lessons have been learnt for the future on both counts and I understand Hans in principle.
If GCS II was to take a new and improved format, with a full weekend long live event, and tested and proven equipment would you be interested in bringing the Helping Hans machine back up to full fighting fitness and going to war once more?
Most certainly. Iâd definitely would ask that a live finals would have even conditions for all players though
A_E note on above II:
again perceptions of one PC being lacklustre are overstated by Hans here, one was of a higher spec which shouldn't happen. However his 'lag' was due to the internet and affected both him and Von. However again I agree in principle and it must be said that I did ask these questions 6 months down the line.
NL Hooligan486 (best newcomer) Show Spoiler A_E:
Hi GB Hooligan, let's get straight into things, congratulations on the best defeat in CoH competitive history. As rank outsider and a last minute substitution you took a former CoH number one player in the world to the absolute limits. That must feel pretty cool right?
It does feel good haha. It was the first tournament in which i really played competitive (i played one or two 2v2 tournaments with my brother in the past) and it was my first taste ofreal competitive coh2 in the interpetation of a player. If you then almost defeat Aimstrong in a BO5 is pretty awesome ^^
Assessing the series now, why do you feel you took this tourney veteran to the limits what did you do differently that took him by surprise?
I think it was my agression that surprised him. I think he didn't expect a player that was playing really agressive, just like him kind of. And I still think it was more his mistakes that cost him the game then my "amazing" plays haha. And the fact that he wasn't up to date with all the things that were in the game at that moment, like for example the OKW howizter that I used against him in one of the few practice games we played before his series with Luvnest, helped as well. I still think it's one of the best games, in terms of how good I play. The tournament scene braught the best up in me apperantly!
Looking back is there anything you could have done differently to clinch the series?
In my game 1-3, I wouldn't change anything big. Maybe USE MY FUCKING TIGER a bit more
In Game 4 i would have played more seriously and probably again go for the luchs-puma combination, instead of something kind of non meta (double leig with falms). In game 4 I was so surprsied that I won 2 games already that I thought, "why not try something cool"? I was a little bit too confident
That might have cost me the series.... And ofcourse the famous moment that i went for a sniper in game 5, while i should have gone for a t34 as Aimstrong had no at on the field AT ALL. That was my pure lack of experience of teching in 1v1. I still lose to players, because I make the wrong teching decisions because I am to unexperienced. If I went for a t34 in game 5 that day, I am confident enough to say that i would have won the series that day ^^
You organise tournaments, after GCS have you started to perhaps feel you might want to instead win tournaments one day?
Yeah I was astonished by my performance in GCS and didn't expect that all. Especially after I saw Luvnest getting rekt by Aimstrong in a short stream of Luvnest haha. The adrenaline you get during tournaments is great and the BO5 serie against Aimstrong are definitely one of the most fun games I have played in CoH2. I would love to get more tournament experiences as a player, but at the moment the situation is that me and Currahee are the only real active tournament organisers... If I had to chose between reffing and playing I would choose playing, but I would still advise the tournament organisers
Who knows in the future I can play in more tournaments
What are your plans in the coming year with your Company of Heroes hobby, where do you see things going?
Well I have like 8-9 months left until I got to university and move out of my parents' house. In these months I'll try to get my ranks higher (when dbp comes out
) and advise as many tournament organisers as I can and help out everybody on COH2.ORG wherever I can and enjoy my time here! I don't know if I will organise another tournament alone, maybe not as tournament organising isn't an easy thing. People really underestimate how much it drains your energy and how much time you put into it. I have organised a nice serie of tournaments now and I might rather sit back and advise other organisers than host another one myself, or with somebody else. But we will see what happens in those months!
In September next year I assume I will go silent on tournament organising forever, I'll still try to advise people but I'll be way less active
DK Aimstrong (his opponent) Show Spoiler A_E: Congratulations on your comeback to CoH2 competitive, how was the journey from complete ring rust to battle ready - were there moments of doubt? Aimstrong: Definitely. While practicing it didn't take long for me to realise that I wouldn't be able to utilize my preferred playstyles of old. That is why I decided to go for a very aggressive style, so that I could take out my opponents before they managed to use their experience in the game against me. Everyone that I played has many more hours in the game than I have; even Hooligan has many more hundreds of hours in CoH2 than I do.
With this in mind, I went for the most stupidly aggresively playstyle. It was a great success I feel. Ironically, part of it is beacuse I absolutely cannot stand how the AT guns work in CoH2 compared to CoH1. So I had to develop a play that worked really well with rushing a tank - and this resulted in the birth of the aggressive g43 to T3 that I used. A_E: Against GB Hooligan in the first round you had a historic best of five series, what were your surprises coming up against the Dutchman in his first tournament? Aimstrong: I had honestly expected a quick and easy 3-0. I had mistaken the time zones, so I thought the match was supposed to be played one hour earlier. With this in mind, I had made arrangements for the evening. So as I played him and realised this wasn't going to be a stomp, the time pressure added to the already hectic situation.
When playing at a high level it's not only about strategies. There's also the personal element involved, and some high tier players may have trouble with other high tier players that others might not. It didn't help that Hooligan seems to have a nice counter to my playstyle built into his. He played really well and I got traumatic flashbacks to playing against Symbiosis in CoH1. Symbiosis also had a playstyle that was very efficieny against me personally. A_E: After that you resoundingly crushed fan favourite Jesulin in the following round, was this the Aimstrong of old starting to emerge, how were you feeling during that? Aimstrong: The Aimstrong of old would never have played as reckless as I eventually did in this tourney. I would have preferred to play in a more cautious way. But it was very fun to utilize an ultra aggressive playstyle, and it seemed to catch Jesulin off guard.
The better you do and the more you win, the harder you get to stop. And I felt very much omniscient when playing against Jes. Unfortunately for him, he played right into my hands. I wonder if he wanted to save energy when we played or if he tilted. He told me that he didn't play much in preparation for the tourney, and I think it is very possible he didn't participate with the goal of getting the #1 spot. Regardless, it was very interesting to play against such a renowned CoH2 player.
My matches against Jesulin were the zenith of the strategy. At that point, it felt like it was invincible. While it wasn't the Aimstrong of old at all, it was a reinvention of him. Unfortunately, as I learned in my next series, the strategy had a fatal flaw. A_E: Luvnest then beat you 3-0 in the quarter finals, what wrong in this series, what could you have done differently? Aimstrong: Luvnest is very deserving of winning the tournament. He has very good micro and decision making. Most importantly, he had realised how to tame the beast. While my allied matches against him were a great fluke, I felt confident that my WM would do him in. He managed to one up my before the battles were even played, though.
The thing about my strategy was that you neglected teching to get an advantage over your opponent. You would completely forego t2 as WM and use a big T1 to gain the map advantage. It will give you more tools to handle them, but they will also be at a disadvantage when they have to tech themselves. Luvnest must have realised this and went for a no tech strategy as the soviets. The thing is, you eventually have to tech for the panzer 4 as WM, whereas you don't have to tech to gain tanks as the soviets. So he turned my strategy around on me and used that resource advantage he gained that way. Very impressive play.
I had been told to expect mines and demos against him, and I admit that I died a little inside when playing those matches. I can still remember actually seeing my minesweeper pios walk over the demolition and die before I ordered them to retreat... It was a difficult series not to tilt in. A_E: Have we seen the last of Aimstrong in a large scale tournament, or does the old war horse have one last hurrah left in him? Aimstrong: It's fun to play in a tournament. People come with different playstyles and strategies and all get to see who has the better product. It's also interesting to see if there are new dark horses arising. It's definitely more intense than automatch. And it's very nostalgic to feel a sliver of the ambition of old, where you absolutely wanted to win the tournament. Where you could almost feel the killing intent ooze out of the screen.
Whether I will play or not depends on the timing. There's nothing to prove for me in the series anymore, and it is all just for fun. A lot of my performance depends on whether I have a good day or not, since I don't play the game anymore. So if the tournament has a good timing and fits my schedule, I might participate. Will I do well? Depends on whether or not the few weeks a year I actually play the game are close to the event.
Again immensely proud of everything we accomplished, forever thankful for the funds and trust placed into the project. However if ever we were to approach something so big in the future in my opinion these are the main areas we could improve upon:
Secure a venue and prepare far in advance to guarantee production and player equipment quality. Miscommunication with venue holders affected live event.
Make tournament rules more specific and expansive, to protect against situations such as bug-splats.
Have more referees to ensure impartiality and to separate casters from authority.
Save money by planning far in advance and networking with community.
Have a larger and more involved team to spread work load.
I'd like to present the event's financial budget of how the money was spent to show transparency. This was always available on request to anyone that asked but after GCS finished I was burnt out and not in the mood to write articles such as this one.
In short every single penny was spent on the tournament in one way or another.
Here is a condensed version of the budget, but for the full version with notes this
can be seen here
All figures in £.
REVENUE Total funds from Kickstarter: 5,478 (original - fees) Money from Relic/ SEGA: 1,000 Money from paypal donations after kickstarter: 447 Total funds: 6,924 EXPENSES Cash Prizepool: 2,950 (42%) Live event costs: 1,340 (19%) Player travel and accommodation: 1,085 (16%) Casters PC upgrades: 800 (12%) Benefactor/ Community rewards: 534 (8%) Stream Expenses: (Battleplanner and video assets) 260 (4%) Total expenses: 6,968 BUDGET REMAINING Original overspend (loss): -44 ESL Rebate after request: 200 Carried forward to future projects: 156
Again I'd like to reiterate my thanks for funding GCS. If ever in the future a similar situation arised - ways would be found to be more efficient due to better experience and thrift.