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Thanks for your feedback about this year’s event. We realise there were problems and in order to fully address everyone’s feedback, we’re going to go over these problems one by one, and leave the bigger picture and upcoming events mostly for a later time. It’s a lengthy read, but needs to be to address everything.
This post was co-written by the organising team, consisting of:
Bangerra, Edenal, flicky, oasiz and Planks
We figured out why tech issues happened during the marathon: inadequate pre-marathon setup time and making compromises with the hardware we use. While everything was tested and ready, even more than last year, some vital functions in the setup started to actively work against us and many of the delays could have been avoided if the issues and workarounds would have been found in advance instead of during a run setup and these snowballed to cause major issues. A very similar situation actually happened during last ESA where a lot of things were built on the fly, that time however we had luck on our side and no major new surprises appeared.
We’d like to take this opportunity to once again offer a sincere and profound apology to all of the runners and tech volunteers for your unbelievable patience. It willl be better next year.
Since we feel that this is an important point to address, below is a small breakdown on this with more details.
In an effort to keep event cost down, we’ve always tried to keep setup days to a minimum. This is because hiring the venue for a day that the event is not ‘happening’ has a very high cost. Next year however, we absolutely need two-three days of ‘setup time’ in order to make sure the early issues with the stream aren’t repeated. This will allow for setup, experimentation, learning and a 12-24 hour rehearsal stream to allow any initial setup issues to be worked out.
Our ambition was to go all digital for capture (Whole chain, unlike ESA15). We learned the hard way how one glitch can break the entire chain and make it very time consuming to debug. With an analogue chain we’d maybe introduce noise in the picture with a glitch, but not break it completely. This is where the above mentioned compromise comes into play, Digital equipment with the features that we need is still being actively used in broadcasting environments and the similar quality (not cheaper chinese) stuff that was using during ESA15 can cost up to 10x more than the ‘obsolete by broadcasting standards’ analogue version. Since we want to keep entrance fees reasonable while still trying to make the best possible outcome, we decided to take a risk here, which didn’t pay off.
Adding to the heap of technical issues, XSplit starting to become very unresponsive after prolonged streaming sessions. It’s safe to say that the unresponsive front end added several minutes per game, and in certain instances 10+ minutes, after everything else was setup. We have never experienced issues with XSplit in this magnitude before, not during any of the previous events nor during Dreamhack Summer where we used the exact same capture PC and hardware as ESA16. Outwards, the encoding was running smoothly and the local recordings are without errors, these facts added to the runners and viewers frustration because issues with Xsplit were isolated to that one choke point. This was especially visible during times when the tech had to prolong the setup as the capture cards kept getting locked after switching from hosting to the run in question. If the 10 player SWAT was anything to go by, this wasn’t actually that far away, except that this lasted for days.
For reference, the capture PC including any of its components never came close to high or even moderate load over the course if the event.
The PCs we had this year were the same hire stock that has come from Dreamhack since 2014. While back then they were adequate, they are now clearly showing their age. They also cost a lot to collect - both in time and money - because they come from Stockholm and the current arrangements seem to be more hassle than they’re worth, and thus we won’t continue to borrow equipment from Dreamhack for 2017.
Next year we are going to explore other options, primarily beginning to build our own stock of practice PCs in addition to the three machines already in our possession. This is because we recognise the value PC gaming brings to the event. This will need to be weighed up against other costs, as even a small stock annually will be a significant part of the budget. These decisions will be made in due course.
Big screen being unused
There was a ~600x200 pixel scoreboard which required a proprietary media server to turn on.
While it could be argued that it would have potential use cases aside from showing the stream, the equipment that was needed to even use it wasn’t there as it doesn’t use standard inputs.
Lack of projector
Last year’s arrangement with the projectors was fantastic, and in retrospect it was a big let down to not have a big screen you could see from almost anywhere in the venue. We decided to trial using just the TVs which we were loaned free of charge this year, this decision was taken as renting a ‘big screen’ capable projector for two weeks is very expensive. In the past, the stream rooms were already fitted with projector screens (and at Nyeport, also projectors) with a smaller audience in mind. In the planning meetings to come, we will review options to bring a projector back.
Day 1 lack of equipment
On day one most of the ‘borrowed’ equipment was yet to arrive from Dreamhack. This fed into the feeling of unreadiness and chaos of the first couple of days. This was due to a failure of logistics on multiple occasions even with all possible precautions taken by the organisers. As addressed above, a solution is being sought to deal with as little Dreamhack equipment as possible.
Lack of chairs
Yes! Our chair stock was not flexible enough and we’ve already made arrangements for increasing the amount of chairs available next year. We’ve had an offer of more effective floor planning for next year, and now have a much better idea of what we need in a venue of that size. This will likely involve redistributing the sofas to some of the console area, a stack or two of folding chairs (think Dreamhack) so that there’s always spares (even if they’re not as comfortable) and rearranging the console gaming area to be less ‘rows’ and more ‘u shaped’ to give more room for everyone to huddle round.
Växjö is far
Here is the first point we’ll substantially reserve judgement on. Yes, Växjö is 2½ hours from the nearest international airport, but there are many more variables to consider here. For one, the journey is about the same as that from Gothenburg to Skövde when you consider the transfer times to the city center etc, and Växjö is far closer to Copenhagen Airport than Skövde is. We’re committed to stay in Växjö for the upcoming two events. It’s convenient for the organisers to host the event where there are several local personnel and communities. We’ve made great progress with local connections that will be essential for coping with the rapid growth and assure long term sustainability, both personally and financially.
Fortnox arena is far
Mixed opinions on this from attendees - the major shop was close and there was quite a number of fast food options close by. Several groups made daily trips into town.
Next year we are going to explore local options to enhance the ease of leaving the area. We would like to see the reception kiosk act as a concierge, providing better local info of places to eat, making restaurant bookings, etc. We are also going to explore a bicycle hire option that can be available to everyone at the time of booking (following great feedback from those that had them available at their hotel), and maybe even a minibus option to transport people between the venue, hotels and town easily, especially at night time when the buses have stopped running.
Mass housing had some complaints this year, mostly regarding the condition of the building on day one (lights). This we can fix next year easily now that we know the mass housing venue.
The remainder of the points regarded what are intrinsic problems with mass housing - it being cold and people snoring. We’ll provide better information next year going into the event on what to bring - sleeping bags, extra sheets and earplugs are absolutely key.
We’re going to be reworking and simplify the stream layouts for Dreamhack Winter and try to keep them uniform from there on out for all ESA-related events.
Interviews and hosting
This was the first time we organised a rota for the host desk, and the first year we tried to break out of the format of the past. It had problems that are being discussed and learned from. We hope to have some ‘long distance hosting’ during the Dreamhack marathon for people to further practice their skills talking
At the end of the day, we don’t consider this a totally failed experiment. We will continue to fine tune the hosting format as it continues to bring a lot of memorable moments to the stream. We have a lot of information to work with for next year and feedback can be easily implemented.
The B-hall wasn’t planned for, and it showed. We’d like to apologise for the unexpected arrival of the LAN party on the final weekend. Edenal takes full responsibility that it wasn’t properly communicated.
We’ve realised that empty areas will not be spontaneously populated, and need to be prepared from the outset. Together with the better floorplanning, we’ll make sure there are tables, chairs and power in there next year.
Cleaning of the venue was kept to a much higher standard than ever before. It was noted that Tompa did a lot of that, and our thanks to him are in order. His feedback will be taken on board next year.
The mass housing toilets were not cleaned nor were the paper dispensers refilled over the course of the week. This will be kept in mind for next year.
The mass housing floor was itself left in a less than satisfactory condition. If attendees themselves don’t prefer to keep it clean, a paid cleaning crew will be brought in after the event.
There are plenty of food options in both in the immediate area (admittedly, mostly fast food) and in town. We hope with the concierge and/or bicycle service (as discussed above ↑), we can remedy most of the concern which appears to boil down to lack of local knowledge and restaurants not being used to a sudden influx of larger groups.
This is something that will of course improve as repeat attendees will get to know Växjö better and better information is provided.
The in-venue catering situation will be discussed in depth before next year, so that the catering better suits the needs of our attendees. Northern Sky intends to widen the selection of hot food that will be available during the night.
The final days went to the plan we set before the event, but this wasn’t communicated clearly enough. We would anticipate the same programme next year, 1 to 1 ½ days of bonus stream followed by a rapid intensive tidy up and a final night for those who want to continue to hang out. We understand that while this may not be a massive amount of time difference in the grand scheme of things, closing the venue ever a few hours early can affect the final attendees massively.
It was noted some personalities were detrimental to the stream. From Planks’ point of view however, it ran perfectly - he wasn’t involved at all beyond re-rigging the stream PC to the simpler setup. We can set some guidelines but we need any bonus stream to be self moderating. We won’t ever set a schedule or tech crew to look after it, that day is cool down time for the volunteers and organisers.
We didn’t have time to do our briefing because of the setup issues, and even after the stream started, it took a day or two for all the tech to be worked out. It’s very hard to explain what’s going on when the situation changes every hour, and for that, we apologise. This feeds back into the time problems at the start of the event and something we will be working on hard to avoid in the future.
Many people didn’t like the three rounds of cuts this year - we’d like to explain that the decision regarding a single or double stream was still to be made during cuts, so we had to keep our options open. The feedback seems to be that as a group the attendees want stricter first and second round cuts so people know where they’re at from an earlier date.
We will endeavour to do this but need to balance the fact that by and large we take submissions from people who’ve never run a game (so long as they show sufficient progress before Summer) and people who only practice in the run up to the event. These people benefit from late cuts.
Less relaxed event
A part of this is just what happens when an event gets big. Next year we’ll be addressing this as much as possible by revising the layout. We were by and large very relaxed with what people did with the layout this year though perhaps it didn’t show. We’ll be talking about this in the coming months. We think a lack of perceived freedom has affected this so more information about what you’re allowed to do may help.
Wound up being not as popular as we thought, and significant work in administering. If they return next year, they’ll be printed graphical cards that can be written on in permanent marker rather than individual.
In hindsight, not sticking to deadlines was a major mistake. Even though the intentions were good.
We’ll be taking the following feedback to the Scandic:
• Please put the ESA group in a block together.
• Please price per room and not per person, to reflect the much inferior nature of the rooms when the bunks are used
The Scandic will still be an option and we’ll be completely upfront next year about the nature of their offering. We will make sure we have accurate reports of the hotels so that you guys will know what’s up and be able to book accordingly!
From Dreamhack onwards, we’ll have a firm audio design for the digital mixer that will allow the tech to talk to the hosts. This will mean a limited amount of distracting chatter in their headsets, but will solve the awkward situations of this year.
Lack of second stream
We’re still split as an organising group about if the second stream was worthwhile. At this point, it’s impossible to brand a community driven stream as a ‘main stream’, as we discovered with the bonus stream this year.
We’re not closing the door for the return of the second stream as we have most of the hardware to make it possible, however we do not have the manpower. If we can find an independent second crew to run a second stream under the same standards as the main stream, we will consider. However, we also want to prevent the second stream from cannibalising volunteers from the first stream which is a big risk.
Hosting area / Camera work
We’ll try and cut back on the complexity of the hosting area next year. We also need to, through the hosting organisers, communicate better that the hosting area is somewhat independent and doesn’t need tech’s approval to change things up for the better.
Food services (Fridges, microwave)
We set expectations low regarding the availability of fridges in the upstairs room because two fridges simply isn’t enough to satisfy the demands of 400 attendees. Nonetheless, the facilities were used and left in a broadly OK standard. It’s better for everyone if we keep the fridges to drinks only as one person can quickly fill an entire shelf for their own bread, cold cuts, cheese, milk and drinks. However it should be mentioned that the possibility to use them at all was unexpected and it should come as a no surprise that if any need to clean up stuff pops up, stuff will be thrown out with/without notice.
The quality was low this year, and the hookup is being revamped to remove this problem. The headsets are here to stay, it was conspicuous that this year we had no feedback that ‘the runners couldn’t hear the hosts’ or ‘couldn’t hear those they were running with’
No on-site mods
This might change if next year there’s a dedicated on-site area for modding, as this would help with communication in general. On balance we’re happy that not having random attendees as mods was advantageous to the organisation within the mod group itself.
Intermission screen / No music
The intermission screen was the direct result of unfinished tech setup and done as a quick placeholder for actual intermission screens that happened later on.
Should have been seldom seen, but the hosting area wasn’t ready from the first run. It was a mistake to have a “dead scene”, this won’t happen again and was fixed after the first day. We will have an idiot proof solution to music next year too.
Donation light too flashy
The light was fully configurable but was not adjusted during the event as no one complained on site. The alternative to the light is someone telling you that there’s a donation waiting to be read.
Overall, based on feedback it was welcomed. Flash patterns will be re-evaluated.
We were happy for you to lock yourself in to shower and change, but many people were unaware that they had to latch the door after they left, leaving rooms out of order for hours until someone told the kiosk. We will put a warning up on every door next year to make sure people don’t do this again.
Attendee <-> Organisation communication
Will be improved with some form of mailing list and discord group for attendees.
Changing of mass housing location
The move was necessary to a literally adjacent building to accommodate everyone who selected mass housing. We think that the distance between venue and mass house was incredibly reasonable.
Stream separate from practice?
We feel like the ‘all together room’ is now a part of the unique atmosphere of the event and on balance gives more benefits than it takes away.
Entry security (lack of)
This should have been tighter and will be briefed to whoever does security next year.
Big red button
Cut to save on disrupting the stream any more to enable it mid event. Returns at Dreamhack.
No practice consoles
We have never and will never provide practice consoles.
24/7 emergency contact
It could have been more clearly stated, but there was always someone responsible at/near tech and most of the time one of the Northern Sky leaders at the kiosk.
Too many changes to maintain. With working wifi, this is not a concern.
Price of ticket
For the first time this year ESA didn’t lose money. We try to keep costs as low as possible but €30 for a week is not sustainable, not even with all members of the staff being unpaid volunteers.
We understand that a raise in price may be upsetting, but it’s a requirement for us to be able to comfortably run the event and we hope that you can see that it still remains great value for a 7+ day event.
This a topic that will be discussed in more detail at a later time.
We don’t moderate restreams, it is their content. The additional setup time should help mitigate their concerns about testing streams. We’d like to apologise to the restreamers for the rocky start and being hard to contact. We will make it a point to have a person on contact on site whose only responsibility is communication with the outside world.
Needed more and better tvs
We had more TVs than ever and the vast majority were good. Any ones marked as bad, broken or not working have been quarantined and won’t be re-used.
LCDs we got from Dreamhack were the wrong batch, where a majority were missing stands and a couple had cracked displays. See above section about Dreamhack equipment / Runner PC’s.
Gaming4good / G2A / Donation tracker
The alternatives we had for donation trackers were to host the open source GDQ tracker ourselves or use an existing solution like Twitch Alerts or Gaming4Good. We’re not capable of building our own in-house tracker. For reference, the Pre-ESA online marathon used Twitch Alerts and a manually updated spreadsheet.
Gaming4Good offered to develop a tracker tailored to our needs free of charge. They also offered support throughout the entire event. Which is the main reason why we went with this solution.
The criticism of the tracker seems to be mainly with G2A and not Gaming4Good. They’re exploring options of payment processors other than G2APay who performed unsatisfactorily during the event due to the repeated blocking of the venue’s IP addresses.
We want to make it clear that we understand the heavy criticism of G2A and their practices, but for this event using the Gaming4Good tracker was our only viable option.
Pac has expressed enthusiasm about developing the marathon section of speedrun.com to have a built-in donation tracker system for the next marathon, so if that’s ready by then, we’ll definitely be using that instead.
Give it a month or two, it’ll be posted once the bills are paid and the accounts are settled for the year.
|Tompa, BubbleBobbler, MLSTRM, Monojira, mobiusman, Snerck_, Zet, crazycharlieh, pitpo, Lighnat0r, SevenS1ns, Fatzke, JustShanz, Darazanjoll, Arctice, Drast, Hennejoe, Shirdel, Hi_its_Zero, Baunsgaard, Famarok, ryedawg, ricyosma, Melis, Nord, DarK_, Riekelt, JohnUK89, Noz, Trollbear666, etholon, Sphere, Tezur0, OneginIII, Mergy, PreFiXAUT, Flobberworm4, Cereth, AlfredoSalza, Alko, legrandgrand, Pottoww, AMVX, JangBang, Babyhuehnchen, Heinki, Baffan and maral like this.|
"The remainder of the points regarded what are intrinsic problems with mass housing - it being cold "
I've been in mass housing for all 4 events I've attended, and this was more than just an intrinsic problem. It wasn't just cold, it was freezing. The previous two mass housings were not nearly as cold.
Yeah the only time I was this cold in Mass Housing was when, last year, I set up my mattress next to the giant industrial fan in the corner.
I think there were just crazy draughts coming in from the metal doors or something and I guess they couldn't be budget insulated?
Seems to me like it would be a good idea to post the proposed stream layouts on the forums before the event. Much like the shirt, changes can be suggested and hopefully improve them if need be. Pretty sure I recall this happening in 2015 (although I don't think changes were made because most were happy)
|flicky and AMVX like this.|
What Sphere said.
Also, I challenge the assumption of '[w]ith working wifi'. I was basically internetless for something like four days because the Wifi wouldn't let me back in. I was then told that the trick is to be online at midnight and/or when people leave the venue. So I spent an entire night attempting to connect and it worked at like 5 a.m.
> For the first time this year ESA didn’t lose money.
This is a massive win. If these events are to continue, and to grow effective, this is really great news. Good work guys.
If I am able to attend next year, I will be available to solely work on audio and on-site communications. Similarly, if I can weasel a "low energy" solution for a secondary stream/bonus stream, I will be happy to accomodate for that.
|tyriounet, SeductiveSpatula, Heinki and Alko like this.|
Regarding the wi-fi Issue, I have a theory that it simply ran out of IP addresses, typically you allocate a /24 block for such venues and that gives you a bit over 250 IPs for hosts.
Leaving wi-fi open on a phone would keep the IP reserved for a long time, pretty much until you leave the range since there are so many background tasks these days that keep the connection afloat.
This theory was further reinforced when I assigned my laptop a manual IP & gateway / etc.. and suddenly I had traffic flowing like no problem at all. I tried this only after loads of waiting / reboot cycle without any luck. This is of course not a solution.
However, the main issue was that the connected system didn't get an IP, wireless worked just fine once you had one.
Having simultaneous +250 users connected in wi-fi is something new to think about. It's simply an oversight.
I have a feeling that we could have ran in to this issue with multiple other venues too, often having /25 blocks (128 IPs) or even /26 (64 IPs) due to less expected demand.
IIRC, we had a /24 block allocated for the WIRED along with some spare public IPs but I didn't get any specs for the WIRELESS one so I can't be 100% sure.
|Baffan likes this.|
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