What went wrong at the VALORANT NA LCQ, from travel to tech issues
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VALORANT’s North American Last Chance Qualifier is the final opportunity for several teams to qualify for VALORANT Champions 2021, the largest and most anticipated VALORANT tournament of the year. But when the event ran into technical hiccups on Day 1, more problems kept cropping up.

Eventually, developer Riot Games confirmed this offline tournament was being played on an online server. Lag, frame-dropping and frequent pauses became the talk of the tournament until on Day 2 of the event, Riot announced it would postpone the VALORANT NA LCQ. But the problems with the event started well before Oct. 12, be it because of miscommunication between Riot and teams or the complexity of putting together an offline event during an ongoing pandemic.

Here’s the story of how what was supposed to be a highlight of the year for some North American VALORANT teams became a disaster.

A region ‘left in the dark’

On Jan. 31, Riot Games announced that the Oceanic region would send two teams to the North American LCQ for a chance to compete internationally.

“We know that VALORANT has been supported by Oceania players since beta, and we are thrilled to be offering pathways for the region,” said Chris Greeley, the Director of Esports at Riot Games, in the reveal.

Throughout the year, there were several stages of events where teams competed to earn a spot at the Oceanic Tour Championship, which culminated on Sept. 12, just one month prior to the North American LCQ. ORDER and Chiefs (previously known as PEACE), both hailing from Australia, finished in first and second place, respectively, to ensure qualification for their first big international event.

Prior to the Oceanic Tour Championship, Riot Games approached teams regarding travel to and from the LCQ. This allowed for around six to eight weeks of processing, as first reported by Dexerto.

After the event concluded, team managers worked with Riot Games to ensure their players could travel to the U.S. and meet COVID-19 restrictions present in Australia and the States. Unfortunately, Riot and the teams had a distinct lack of experience regarding the leaving exemptions necessary for Australian citizens, according to the report and confirmed by one player that spoke to Upcomer under the condition of anonymity.

One manager asked Riot if they would have to deal with the leaving exemption process, but the tournament organizer told them they would “handle it.” One team asked Riot an important question regarding travel to the event only to be ignored. This question was asked about “seven times,” a source said, and still went unanswered.

Riot eventually organized departure flights for the teams, but players still didn’t know how they would return home. The flights out of the U.S. couldn’t be booked until Nov. 15, which would’ve kept the players in a foreign country for an extended period of time during a global pandemic.

“We’re left in the dark until the end,” one player said.

With little time to sort out many complications organizers were unprepared for, Riot announced on Oct. 4 that both ORDER and Chiefs would not be able to attend the event due to “COVID-19 regulations, travel documentation issues and additional complex factors.” Both teams expressed their disappointment with the matter on social media and described the situation as “preventable.”

 

Riot said both teams would be “compensated” for the event, which would likely include some of the prize money being allocated to both teams. Almost a month later, one player told Upcomer that he is yet to receive any compensation. The communication between the manager and Riot Games has been “slow and unpromising,” they said. Riot also did not respond to a request for comment about payments to Oceanic teams at the time of publication.

“We don’t expect anything from Riot anymore.”

Following the removal of the two Oceanic teams, the event was changed to a new double-elimination format.

Instability takes many forms during NA LCQ

The NA LCQ began with eight teams instead of ten following the removal of ORDER and Chiefs. The first match began with Masters Berlin attendees 100 Thieves facing off against Gen.G.

Players realized something was off as soon as they entered the game. The event, which was promoted and labeled as a LAN event, was not using a local LAN server to host the tournament. Instead, the players were using an online server; Riot had not managed to secure LAN servers in time for the event.

The internet inside of the venue was a problem for the teams as a result. Players were glitching through walls and were not able to use utility at several points during their matches. In perhaps the most prominent example, Luminosity player Alex “aproto” Protopapas was in a clutch situation against two XSET members when the server crashed on stream. The round was not replayed.

The server issues persisted throughout the rest of the event, right up to the FaZe vs. Rise match.

The COVID-19 testing protocols produced several false positives at the event, also. Rise player Ryan “Shanks” Ngo tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the event while XSET in-game leader Rory “dephh” Jackson also tested positive.

Both of these results were ruled out, however, following negative PCR, or rapid COVD-19 tests. Regardless, Los Angeles County government told the players to remain in isolation, which meant they couldn’t play on stage. They could, however, still compete from the hotel.

But FaZe also had a false positive test on their team prior to their match against Rise, which led them to question whether they could compete from their facility. FaZe quickly got in contact with a Riot staff member who allowed the team to compete from their facility instead of playing at the hotel or the venue, according to one coach with knowledge of the situation.

Several coaches were opposed to this because of competitive integrity issues. The FaZe players would likely be playing unsupervised, while teams at the hotel were monitored. Following that final bit of drama, Riot Games postponed the event and the organizers began working with teams to find a solution that would benefit all parties.

This led to pushing the event online, with all teams being sent back home. On Wednesday, despite the effect the myriad of tech issues might have had on the initial LCQ, the matches will continue from where they left off online rather than using a LAN format.

Regardless of the outcome, players and coaches were mostly positive considering the technical and COVID-related issues that plagued the event.

“Overall I was happy with how things were handled, how players and staff were treated and with how open the communication was with us, most of the time,” one coach told Upcomer.

Rise will face off against FaZe in the first match of the day while Cloud9 will take on Version1 later in the day. The final match will see the winner of these two matches go head-to-head for a shot in the upper bracket finals alongside 100 Thieves.

The winner of the event will secure qualification to Champions, which begins on Dec. 1.

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