E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 29 May 2015
Category: Features
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When the kombat is mortal there can be only one (after a series of polite Swiss meetups). What the hell are we talking about? Fatalities and brutalities, of course! Read on to find out what happened when 64 Capetonians gathered to smash each other's spines and rip out some (virtual) hearts (literally).

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

The Cape Town/Western Cape leg of the South African Mortal Kombat Cup qualifiers were held this past weekend at MWEB's MCave. Sixty-four people entered the event, which comprised a Mortal Kombat X tournament on PlayStation 4 consoles. So far 64 has been a record - the first Gauteng qualifier (a second is taking place this weekend) drew 41 participants and the Durban/KwaZulu-Natal qualifier drew 33. Even more people joined in just to spectate and cheer on the players through the rounds, proving that gaming and e-sports really are alive in Cape Town.

The event was organised by PlayStation South Africa/Ster Kinekor (MWEB helped by lending its premises to the cause but wasn't involved in the organisation) and officiated by a team led by head judge Brian Murdoch, who announced a very long list of rules and format guidelines to the audience and participants, as well as an explanation of the modified Swiss system that the tournament would be using. This system randomly matches players in the first round but then begins to match them in subsequent rounds based on their cumulative performance in the tournament, theoretically helping equally skilled players to face each other and the best to bubble up to the top in the rankings, as well as allowing all the players to be ranked accurately by the end of the tournament.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

The players then moved to the MCave while most of the audience remained in the auditorium at MWEB's headquarters to watch the live stream by nAvTV's DeWet "RidditZ" Lombard and Devin "HellbirD" Rigotti, who were linked to Console 16 and therefore could report on whatever match was taking place on that system.

Each round consisted of a best-of-three-games scenario (and each game itself is a best-of-three fight) and players were instructed to play all three games, even if there was a winner after the second, in order for the Swiss system to rank people more accurately. Gamers were also given a chance to practice for 90 seconds before the start of each round, with a rock-paper-scissors match then determining which player got to pick a fighter first. Besides the 16 PlayStation 4 consoles that had been set up, players had access to Razer Kraken Pro headsets if they wanted to listen to the audio as they played. It resulted in quite a strange experience for those of us in the room who could see the action but not hear anything, which was compounded by the head judge frequently telling people to be quiet.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

The limitations of the Swiss system soon became clear, with occasional matchups being made between people with wildly different skill levels. I was privy to a lot of grumbling on the floor about the controversial nature of the system and witnessed first hand some of these uneven matches. At some point (after the second round, I believe) one player disappeared, presumably either due to frustration at the system or his utter lack of ability to play. It was his loss, although it did upset AmonReSA, who had been aiming for 64th place, to everyone's amusement, and this, plus a bye during one round, upset his ambitions. (He eventually ranked 60th.)

The Swiss system did, however, allow for a very (very) long tournament, which, although great for competitive experience, was made worse by the lengthy delays between rounds as the judges inputted scores and did judgey things. (I don't know what they were up to half the time but it seemed tediously slow.)

[ Challonge link ]

Meanwhile, as the day wore on exhaustion began to set in as all the chairs had been removed from the room during the tournament setup and although everyone was briefly buoyed by a good meal at lunch time it's hard work standing for hours (even if you're not playing). In the final few rounds many players took to sitting on the floor while competing and leaning against walls while they weren't. The standing matches also made it more difficult for spectators in the room to see what was happening and, as anyone who's ever played or watched a fighting game will know, the matches can be swift and it's easy to miss crucial moments even when you do have a good view of the action.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

Nevertheless the atmosphere during the event was always positive, though a little subdued, and the spectators in the auditorium were very supportive with their loud cheering and appreciation of the gamers' skill through each match they were able to see. Everyone in the MCave perked up a bit, though, during another of the long lulls during rounds when an impromptu matchup took place that had the entire room gathered around to see the action and cheer the gamers. I was unable to see what was going on because the crowd was so dense but the difference in the room's atmosphere was almost physically tangible. There was an immense amount of excitement and cheering and it was disappointing to have to go back to being quiet after that.

After six rounds the top 16 players were collated and assigned spots in a single-elimination tournament to whittle them down to the final four and the semifinals. This single-elimination event resulted in much more intense matchups as there were now no longer any second chances - if you lost, that was it, you were out of the tournament. The 16 players were swiftly reduced to the final four, which ended up comprising three of the four top ranked players from the Swiss rounds plus an outlier who had ranked in 13th position.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

Perhaps I'd just seen too much of the game during the day as I was (not so) secretly hoping that it would be announced that the finals would comprise an actual physical mixed-martial-arts faceoff in the auditorium but, alas, that was not to be. Instead we were informed that the semifinals and final would be held in the MCave, which would be evacuated of non-essential personnel, media excepted (which was appreciated). Therefore the remaining gamers were relocated to the auditorium to join the spectators, who had to watch the live stream sans sound as the gamers needed it for their matches and it couldn't be diverted to both avenues at the same time. I'm pretty sure the A/V gods have invented devices for just such dilemmas but I am left to presume that no one thought to bring one on the day.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town

Meanwhile, the justification for the hermetically sealed finals environment was that it was to make it more comfortable for the gamers. It was a contentious issue for a lot of people as the counter argument was that in international competitions players have to compete live in front of thousands of people (nevermind a stream audience) and therefore it's crucial that they get to practice in that sort of loud, hyper-energetic, potentially distracting environment. It's also just plain fun to be able to see and hear people cheering you on and wishing you success as you execute good moves against your opponent, whether you win or lose (because we're all genteel sportspeople here).

[ Challonge link ]

(((The final matches [I have to whisper] took the form of a best-of-nine/first-to-five format and the first semifinal took place between Raaj23 and D1GamerKid, who were allowed to sit comfortably in real chairs as they played. Raaj23 took the first round with Ermac but was soon outclassed by D1GamerKid's multiple victories with Cassie Cage. Halfway through Raaj23 switched to Takeda, which got him one win but he still ended up losing 3-5 to D1GamerKid, who went through to the final.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town - Raaj23 and D1GamerKid talk to nAvTV
Above: Raaj23 and D1GamerKid talk to nAvTV.
The second semifinal featured :[ and Dr.Zol. As with the conundrum of the symbol utilised by the artist formerly known as Prince before he was once again formally known as Prince, ":[" proved to be a bit of a headache for everyone to pronounce and resulted in multiple pseudonyms, including "sadface" and "toothyface", that bordered on interpretive art. Luckily I don't have that problem with text and we can call him ":[" (without the quotes, which make him look like a depressed sideways vampire mime trying to mimic being trapped in a box).

I digress.

Dr.Zol favoured D'Vorah during the match and utilised both the Brood Mother and Swarm Queen variations to great success. :[, meanwhile, tried a few characters, including D'Vorah and Mileena, but was never able to gain the upper hand, managing, instead, only to equalise at 1-1 before Dr.Zol pulled ahead and eventually took the match 5-1. We were surprised to learn during the post-match interview with the nAvTV team that the two had first played against each other the day before at Kamimodo but in that case the fortunes had been reversed and :[ had won the match. Nevertheless both go through to the national finals so :[ might have another chance to face Dr.Zol so we can see who is ultimately the better player.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town - Dr.Zol and :[ talk to nAvTV
Above: Dr.Zol and :[ talk to nAvTV.
Next it was time for the third and fourth playoff between :[ and Raaj23. Both players had vacillated with fighter options during their previous matches so it was unsurprising to see it happen again with this one. The match was quick and intense and I missed some of what went on but :[ won the first round with D'Vorah against Raaj23's Takeda so Raaj23 switched to Ermac, which began to secure him wins. Later in the match :[ (I nearly called him ;{) switched to Mileena, and then Kano, to try to recover in the last few rounds but ultimately the match, and third-place position went to Raaj23 with a score of 5-2.

With that, the moment had arrived. Sixty-four players had been reduced to 16, then four, and now only two were left. Who would triumph in Cape Town - Dr.Zol or D1GamerKid? During the Swiss rounds the two had actually met in the fifth round, with Dr.Zol winning the match 2-0 (I don't know what happened to the third game there), so between that and Dr.Zol's number one ranking going into the single-elimination event he was the odds on favourite to win but, as we had just learnt after his successful win against :[, the semi-final outlier, the day before Dr.Zol had lost against :[ so anything could happen in his match against D1GamerKid.

It turned out to be an intense, even match with two very worthy and skilled opponents and a fitting end to the tournament. The first round went to D1GamerKid using his trusty favourite Cassie Cage with the Hollywood variation, while Dr.Zol had opted for the Brood Mother variation of D'Vorah. The next round went to Dr.Zol but D1GamerKid fought back in the third round. Dr.Zol then switched to the Swarm Queen variation of D'Vorah to secure a win. Soon the score was at 3-3 and it seemed as though it might remain a dead-even match but D1GamerKid then began to pull away, eventually securing a 5-3 win and becoming Cape Town's champion.)))

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town - D1GamerKid and Dr.Zol talk to nAvTV after the final
Above: D1GamerKid and Dr.Zol talk to nAvTV after the final.
We then all relocated to the auditorium [I don't have to whisper anymore] where a jubilant crowd, many of whom had stuck around through the long day to see the event's exciting conclusion, welcomed all four finalists, who received their prizes. They, along with the four finalists from each of the other qualifiers, will be going through to the finals on 6 June in Johannesburg, where they will battle it out for various prizes, including R15 000 in cash and a PlayStation 4 20th Anniversary Console for the winner, who will also be going to the international finals in Paris later this year.

E-Sports Report: Mortal Kombat Cup Qualifiers In Cape Town - all the winners
Above: Cape Town's four qualifiers who will be going through to the national finals in June.
For more coverage of the event, read the report by Clint O'Shea from Zombiegamer on MWEB GameZone and view the Zombiegamer Facebook album. Grant Hind's video from the day is below.

[ YouTube link ]

Tags: #cape_town, #games, #saesports

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