Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev details how organized fraud is destroying the Chinese gaming community and denounces the names behind it all.
E-sports is a big industry in China. Millions of people are members of this competitive community. Billions of dollars are poured into each year, typically MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2 have become extremely familiar playgrounds for players with a lot of money. And even in some ways, the Korean E-Sports Association can’t match it.
Unlike traditional games, Blizzard’s Hearthstone card game – officially launched in March 2014, has not yet reached the level of success of the “seniors”, but this name quickly caused a sensation. great attention. Although China is one of the weakest communities in Hearthstone, companies like NetEase, which represents Blizzard in China, are still working hard to find and nurture outstanding talent. While in the West there are many small open tournaments, sometimes big LAN tournaments, in China big offline tournaments with extremely attractive 5-digit prizes are common. That is what the “foreigners” are clearly jealous of.
Rumors are only really noticed when it comes to major tournaments. In 2014, WEC (World Esports Championship) and WCA (World Cyber Arena) offered huge rewards for a non-Blizzard tournament. In 2015, the CEO of NetEase gave a Ferrari – yes, that exorbitantly expensive sports car that makes you a young millionaire – to anyone who beat the European team in a team match. China vs Team Europe Season 2. No matter what you think, once it’s esport, it’s definitely big in China.
Beneath that glamor, however, the Chinese Hearthstone community is rife with problems. In a 2015 interview, Xieyu “TiddlerCelestial” Wang, world runner-up and a popular figure in the Hearthstone community, answered GosuGamers about the difficulties professional athletes often face. Even veterans like Invictus Gaming, World Elite or TongFu don’t appreciate Hearthstone and while they try to stay afloat, much of the focus is on the winners with huge prizes. of MOBA.
Such a large disparity between tournaments creates an obstacle large enough to quickly end the careers of many athletes. This led to a lack of motivation and especially a lack of professionalism to keep going, as Tiddler pointed out in a later interview: “China won’t be able to win a duel tournament anymore. ‘, he frankly admitted.
These major issues alone are not enough to make the situation irreversible, but even the things that the community doesn’t know about are more than that. With the Hearthstone Championship Tour’s change to focus on hierarchy, a large group of players in China have come together to manipulate their ranks with win-trade and pay-to-legend services. If it feels a bit familiar, it’s probably because this has a precedent in the west. In 2014, two players from the US Specialist and zRusher admitted to doing win trades to climb the ladder. Although this did not have a huge impact, it was enough for Ole “Naiman” Batyrbekov and Dan “Alchemixt” Walton to learn and follow in the following year. They are 2 out of 4 players banned from the 2015 World Championship for win trading. This incident has raised many questions about how Blizzard can control fairness and transparency in the competition – which most players hide – if unfortunately the incident happens on a large scale, is caused by unknown characters?
A prime example is the win trade culture in China. According to the information gathered, including chat logs, provided by GosuGamers, a group of at least 14 professional players and streamers are providing illegal services to anyone willing to pay. In fact, there are many other people involved, they often communicate via QQ Chat and conduct monthly exchanges. Of course the reward is very valuable. High ranks are equivalent to Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) scores, which are used to determine who will advance to the Seasonal Championships – the tournament that selects the seeds for the Blizzcon World Finals.
The team uses the phrase RenMai, which means “Human Networks” in Chinese, similar to “Yan” or “act” in English, instead of directly talking about the service. They also didn’t stop at ranking, but even cheated in the Gold Series Open, one of Blizzard’s biggest and most famous tournaments in China.
Faced with these difficulties, Blizzard in China has tried to come up with measures. In Europe and America, being in the top 100 equates to between 5 and 15 HCT scores. Winning the top spot at the end of each month would be like winning a major tournament with hundreds of participants, something only the most professional players in the world can achieve on a regular basis. However, to limit the win trade culture in China, the number of bonus points was reduced to only 1 to 3 points per month, equivalent to being in the top 4 of 1 in hundreds of tournaments going on during that time. in the West.
A name associated with this win trade service is BaoQian (抱歉#5501). BaoQian was banned in February from all Blizzard tournaments until December 31, 2016 for winning trades during the January tournament. BaoQian is also accused of changing his ID so he can attend the Gold Series Guangzhou event on March 12-13. That has caused many problems for the league. BaoQian is just a self-made nickname. He is not a professional player on any team. His Battle.net account also doesn’t use his real identity. He will probably never be able to compete in any of the Blizzard tournaments but he will most likely create a new account and start over, continuing his win trading career.
However, according to the article, BaoQian is just one of many links in a system that includes many members of different teams, including PanicToDeath, the team founded by Donten, and TongFu:
• FengFengFeng (风风风), TongFu team: #11 in January, #27 in February
• BaiZe (白泽), competes in China Season Championship, #31 in January, #29 in February
• HeMa (低调的河马), popular Hearthstone streamer, #11 in February
• ZhuGeiLiang (运气选手丨诸葛亮), top 8 Gold Series Guangzhou
• LingShen (慌得要死丨零神), PanicToDeath team, #8 in February
• WangZi (慌得要死丨王子), PanicToDeath team, #40 in February
• XiaoPangZi (慌得要死丨小胖子), PanicToDeath team, #56 in February
• QiGai (慌得要死丨乞丐), PanicToDeath team, #69 in February
• SiQi (慌得要死丨肆柒), PanicToDeath team, #85 in February
• DaMeiRen (大美人), #50 in January, violates regulations on account sharing
• BadKid, #35 in January, #1 in February
• FuNianWeiLaiFuJun (福年未来夫君), #34 in January
• YeZhuoYan (叶拙言), #39 in January, #17 in February, attended the Gold Series but asked someone else to play for him under his name
Below is a screenshot of evidence of team members doing win-trading for the sake of climbing ranks and trading.
1. Proof of win trade before the end of the February 2016 season (VC, badkid and analog)
Two gamers @badkid and @analog agree to win trade with each other. The two ranked #1 and #3 Legend respectively at the end of the season.
Image from Team VC’s chat group
A gamer was asked to concede and he obeyed.
Gamers also seem to take precautions when they actively play as usual to avoid detection.
Gamers reminded each other that Blizzard might be watching them.
Gamers are required to play the type of burning rope to buy time, not giving opponents not on their team the opportunity to climb to a high rank. Also in the settled match they still play as usual and then don’t make friends.
2. Match-fixing / buying tickets to the Gold Series Open
Gamers arranged to win tickets to the Gold Series Open, and they claim it is possible because someone has done it.
Gamers get to know the typical players they encounter, and offer to pay them to actively lose. Especially if the player is a student, it is easier to suggest a win trade.
Winning the qualifying round does not guarantee a place in the official tournament, so receiving money and doing a win trade seems to be a reasonable choice for casual players.
3. (Lingyishu) win trade to get #1 Legend on stream
Viewers noticed this gamer’s opponent concede 3-4 times and warned that such an obvious win trade on such a stream could be released to the island by Blizzard.
Image from the video provided by DouyuTV, Lingyishu explicitly acknowledges the win trade on the stream.
Viewers commented that Lingyishu’s opponent concede himself 4 times in a row.
4. Proof that FengFengFeng from TongFu participates in the win trade
Managing teams also allows members to make win trades.
@badkid find player #3243 to claim win trade.
The unlucky player who was the opponent received countless requests to lose the match from other accounts and eventually approved.
How it works, now comes the pricing. The price for RenMai is quite “cheap”, especially when the target is only students, namely winning a match in the Gold Series, only about 1,000 CNY or $155. To make it easier to judge, the total prize pool of Gold Series Open like Guangzhou is 107,000 CNY or $17,000, half of which belongs to the winner.
According to another source and a member of the RenMai team, getting an account to legend is even cheaper. Last year, this service cost about 400 CNY or $60. Because the supply is so abundant and the market is expanding, the price is now only half. An experienced individual can perform the service about 20 times per month, with the average player about 10 times.
Details of the fraud market in China have also been posted. The writer admits, a lot of professional players in China are involved, and RenMai is happening “anytime, anywhere”. Out of 30,000 Legends on the Chinese server, only about 10,000 are real. The remaining 2/3 is to use money.
“Everybody in Legend knows each other and knows who cheats and who doesn’t.”
While it’s possible that the matter has grown to where it is now is because Blizzard and NetEase were inadvertently negligent, it’s clearly not the root cause. The RenMai team are well aware that they are being monitored, and have taken measures to avoid detection and handling for as long as possible. According to a source, Blizzard discovered this problem quite early and has offered solutions. In 2014, a win trade investigation team, close to Blizzard and NetEase, faced many obstacles, in terms of money and personnel. In addition, many of the names under investigation are related to large esport organizations, so the investigation is very difficult.
The drop in bonus points for climbing ranks is just a workaround that probably causes more problems than it solves. When offline tournaments keep the same number of bonus points, it will lead to an imbalance between regions. With so much information to process for a full investigation, Hearthstone’s developers needed to come up with a different strategy. Pouring more money into organizing offline tournaments for effective monitoring, rather than continuing endless investigations, is part of a plan to completely eliminate cheating.
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