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Gaming Bugs That Ruined Esports Tournaments

Bugs and glitches are part and parcel of video games, and try as they might, developers have yet to create a program that doesn't screw up from time to time. Usually, issues are nothing more than hilarious, harmless gaffes that make for entertaining YouTube videos. But more than a few are rage-inducing, game-breaking problems that can wreck everything from one evening to an entire career.

For the most part, bugs occur within a vacuum and only affect solo gamers, or game streams where nothing is at stake except viewership. When a bug strikes during an esports tournament, however, a shoddy line of code can spiral into a million-dollar mistake. It's all fun and games until someone loses a competition because the physics engine reversed gravity for five seconds, so let's look at some prominent examples of game bugs that ruined esports tournaments.

Blizzard's botched remaster struck again

According to Metacritic, Warcraft 3: Reforged is one of the worst games ever. Complaints include the game not living up to promotional material promises and Blizzard owning all fan-made game modes. Reforged also apparently suffers from multiplayer connectivity issues, which is a death knell for esports competitions.

One month after the game launched, Blizzard held a Reforged tournament at DreamHack Anaheim 2020, which attracted the biggest names in the RTS scene. Unfortunately, the tournament earned the ire of many fans since competitions that feature games with connection issues are — quite understandably — usually plagued with connection issues.

Desyncs and disconnects ran rampant throughout the Warcraft 3: Reforged tournament. Some of the most prominent examples occurred during the match between Marcus "ThorZaIn" Eklӧf and Jang "Moon" Jae-ho. The two were neck and neck, but the game disconnected when ThorZaIN was on the cusp of victory. A rematch was held, and ThorZain again took the lead when, surprise, the game disconnected. Reforged finally held steady during the second rematch, but plot twist time, Moon pulled ahead and won.

Moon is the best Warcraft 3 player out there, and ThorZaIN almost beat him. Twice. Connection issues robbed him of those victories.

Fortnite buried a reboot card

Tyler "Ninja" Blevins is about as famous as you can get at Fortnite. He is to the game what Tiger Woods is to golf. But even Ninja can fall prey to glitches that almost destroy his momentum.

One of Ninja's glitchy predicaments occurred during a Friday Fortnite tournament, which is a small recurring competition run by Daniel "KEEMSTAR" Keem where players and audience members compete for fabulous prizes. During one fateful Friday Fortnite match, Ninja paired with longtime partner in crime Malachi "Reverse2k" Greiner. The duo split up to cover more ground, and Reverse2k was eventually killed. Normally, this would mean the end for him, but Epic Games had recently patched Reboot Cards into Fortnite. All Ninja had to do was take Reverse2k's card to a Reboot Van, and Reverse2k could rejoin the game. Just one problem: Reverse2k's card spawned under the ground, making it impossible to retrieve. Ninja had to fend for himself.

While Ninja and Reverse2k placed third, they might have placed higher if not for the odd placement glitch. Who knows, maybe they could have won the match had it not been for Reverse2k's premature burial.

The FIFA goal that wasn't

Hit detection is a fickle mistress in video games. Some games are coded to require pinpoint accuracy so players can git gud dodging enemies by mere micrometers, but other titles feature temperamental hit detection that tends to argue with the physics engine. When this battle of zeroes and ones begins, you could hit the broad side of a barn with a nuke and the game will still think you missed.

One of the worst examples of hit detection brawling with the physics engine popped up during qualifiers for the FIFA 20 FUT Champions Cup. Guiseppe Guastella, the legendary five-time FIFA world finalist for LA Galaxy, took a penalty kick that bounced off the goal post and ricocheted into the corner of the net. In the real world, that would have counted as a goal and catapulted Guastella into the tournament proper, but FIFA 20's game engine decided it knew better than reality.

The game called Guastella's obvious goal a miss, which prevented him from continuing onto the championships. It's one thing for a glitch to prevent a person from winning a tournament, but preventing them from even entering? That's just low.

A League loss caused by a legendary crash

Since glitches don't exist in real-life, sports organizations don't need to make rules that account for physics going on strike or reality shutting down. Video games, however, are not reality, and glitches are a matter of when, not if. When glitches strike during esports tournaments, judges have to make decisions that inevitably displease many people.

A prominent example of one such ruling occurred in the 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series. During a match between Echo Fox and Clutch Gaming, the game crashed and booted the players. Normally, the Chronobreak tool would recover the server and let the match continue, but on that fateful day, Chronobreak broke. Riot Games was left with two options: issue a rematch or hand one team the win. Since Echo Fox was ahead at the time in terms of towers and gold, Riot declared Echo Fox the winner.

This decision angered many many fans, even though Clutch Gaming was unlikely to clutch the game, pun intended. However, many teams have come back from worse to win the match (just ask Cloud9 from the 2019 LCS), so nobody can say whether or not Riot made the right call, just that the crash ruined the tournament.

PUBG's physics struck back

The physics engine in PUBG is infamously finicky, but that doesn't stop legions of gamers from enjoying the title. It also doesn't stop PUBG Corp. from running tournaments, which usually progress without a problem. But on occasion, the glitchy side of the physics engine will rear its ugly head.

Enter Alex "CherryPoppins" Penner, who participated in the 2019 PUBG Global Championship. He was driving a car, trying to run down opponents when he hit a building. In most video games, the car would either stop dead in its tracks, catch on fire, catch on fire then explode, or total the building. Instead, PUBG's physics engine flipped out, sending CherryPoppins and his car spinning into the stratosphere. The gamer and his car came down eventually, but the car was totaled — and exploded for good measure — while CherryPoppins was knocked out on impact, The fall didn't kill him, but the ensuing swarm of opportunistic players and their bullets sure did, ending his tournament participation prematurely.

CherryPoppins' high-flying experience will live on as a demonstration that even the best laid plans of esports pros are no match for a rageaholic physics engine that doesn't know how gravity works.

Fortnite's Winter Royale event was easily cheesed

The number one rule of game development is players will always find ways to abuse game systems. Epic Games learned this the hard way late last year during its Fortnite Winter Royale event.

Unlike standard tournaments, the Fortnite Winter Royale was designed to let players of all skill levels participate for big cash prizes. The tournament relied on a points system that awarded players for eliminations and victory royales. Cash rewards were doled out depending on how many points players received, but some unscrupulous players used a bug to cheat the system and farm easy wins — and points.

The Fortnite Winter Royale featured cross-region gameplay, so players could change regions to fight gamers in foreign countries. However, players who changed regions after completing games found their points reduced to zero, which let them fight actual low-point players. This "point bug" as it was called allowed expert players to trick Fortnite into thinking they had no points, thus letting them compete against unskilled players and rack up unfair wins and points totals.

Thanks to the point bug, Epic Games unintentionally gave dishonest Fortnite pros the keys to ruin the Fortnite Winter Royale for other players.

Apex Legends had it out for Team Liquid

Out of all the bugs that can ruin a player's chances of competing in a tournament, nothing spells doom quite like a game crash. Annoying at the best of times (e.g., when playing a game solo for fun), crashes can take players out of action at crucial moments. This is a reality Team Liquid knows all too well.

Earlier this year, EA held the Apex Legends Global Series, and Team Liquid progressed to the final qualifiers round. However, either due to a string of bad luck or because the team somehow insulted the gods of the Internet, Team Liquid drowned under game crashes during this crucial period. At least one member of Team Liquid disconnected during every match except for one. And during the do-or-die final game, two members disconnected, which left only one member free to participate. As expected, Team Liquid's remaining player melted under the pressure and didn't make the cut.

Team Liquid believes it could have passed the qualifiers had it not suffered those fatal game crashes. Then again, Apex Legends has a bad reputation regarding client crashes, so maybe the game needs some more time in the oven before it's ready for the esports big leagues.

One Fortnite streamer was immune to the storm

Fortnite players don't only have opponents to worry about in their matches — they also have remain inside an ever-shrinking circle surrounding by a damage-dealing storm. Many a competitor has lost his or her life in this storm, but what if you were somehow incapable of taking damage from it? One fortunate streamer experienced this firsthand during a Twitch Rivals tournament.

What is Twitch Rivals, you may ask? Simply put, it is a small tournament for Twitch streamers to join, win prizes, and have fun. That's exactly what happened during a Twitch Rivals Fortnite match, at least until Rachell "Valkyrae" Hofstetter discovered she was immune to Fortnite's usually-fatal storm cloud. This strange glitch let her run around the storm freely, shotgunning opponents and building blockades to fence off their hasty retreats, all while taking zero damage. As expected, Valkyrae won her match quite handily.

On the bright side, this story has a bittersweet and encouraging ending since Valkyrae disqualified herself afterwards. Whether or not you believe the glitch gave her an unfair advantage, nobody can say Valkyrae is a sore winner.

Apex Legends wouldn't let this pro rejoin

Game glitches aren't enough to ruin an esports tournament, since you have to take into account what rules say about these bugs. For example, can players start a match over because a character inexplicably folded up like origami? Probably not. Unfortunately, esports rules tend to be unforgiving, and quite often rub salt in the fresh, glitch-induced wounds of those competing.

Take for example what happened to Eric "Snip3Down" Wrona during the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational. Snip3Down has a long and illustrious history playing Halo, so he had a good chance of going far with his Apex Legends team. But, disaster struck shortly into the final round of the Loser's bracket: His game crashed and disconnected. This ultimately cost his team the match because he wasn't allowed to rejoin.

According to Snip3Down, the tournament's rules state, "As soon as your feet touch the ground, if you crash, regardless of anyone being dead, no restart." Had he been allowed to rejoin the match, Snip3Down could have helped the rest of his team gain victory (or at least place better), but the rules forbade it. Because of an issue that was out of his hands, Snip3Down's entire team suffered. You would fume, too, if this happened to you.

A huge For Honor exploit was used by a tournament champ

Several years ago, Ubisoft held a tournament to celebrate the For Honor Season 3 update. Unfortunately, the tournament was plagued with some horrendous balancing issues that highlighted numerous glaring glitches.

Tournament highlights — for lack of a better term — included players spamming the heck out of the Raider's Stampede Charge ability to cheese competition with its unfair nature, as well as using a bug that made parried players fall down while on uneven terrain. However, the icing on the medieval cake was the "unlock tech," a trick where players could attack while locked onto an opponent and, before the attack landed, stop locking on. If performed correctly, the bug made certain character attacks faster or completely unblockable. Since For Honor is all about properly blocking incoming attacks and trading blows, you can imagine how unfair attacks that phase through guards for free damage are.

SB.Alernakin won the For Honor tournament by abusing the unlock tech, and the game's creative director even called him out for using the glitch while presenting the tournament trophy. On the bright side, though, Ubisoft patched unlock tech out of the game shortly after the tournament concluded.

FACEIT TV scared viewers with a Blue Screen of Death

In esports tournaments, participants are only half of the equation. What's the point of competing for prizes without an audience cheering you on? With the spread of streaming services like YouTube and Twitch, there's no such thing as an audience-less competition. Well, at least until a glitch interrupts the stream.

The Esports Championship Series Season 7 featured quite a few big-name teams such as Team Liquid and MiBR going at it in games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Thousands of viewers tuned in to FACEIT TV's Twitch channel to watch these titans of competitive gaming go head-to-head in nail-biting matches. All was going smoothly as Team Liquid won a match, and the next one started to load. Then the stream turned a terrifying shade of Blue Screen of Death.

Audience members panicked. Which team suffered the fatal system crash? Nobody, apparently. The problem was solely on FACEIT TV's end. Team Liquid and MiBR were safe and sound, and none the wiser. They continued playing as normal while FACEIT TV staff struggled to get things up and running again.

Sometimes, a tournament is ruined not because a bug destroys a participant's chances but because it majorly inconveniences viewers.

A disconnected controller decided a pro Halo bout

Esports tournaments are like timed chess matches where decks of Uno cards determine which pieces move. Skill and reflexes play as much a part as dumb luck, and one momentary — and involuntary — lapse of inaction can result in a tiny mistake that snowballs into crushing defeat. When this is the result of random hardware error, the loss is even more crushing.

During the 2018 Halo World Championships, Team Reciprocity was paired against Team Envy. Things started out badly for Team Reciprocity, but they eventually turned the game around. The final match came down to the wire. Team Reciprocity was on a roll and racking up kills when the unthinkable happened — Tyler "Spartan" Ganza's controller disconnected.

Spartan was out of commission for a few seconds, which was more than enough time for Team Envy to grab the camo powerup and eventually win the match. Had Spartan's untimely disconnect never occurred, Team Envy might have never grabbed the camo, and Team Reciprocity would have won instead. Just goes to show that tournament-ending bugs can strike from the most unlikely of places.

This Hearthstone pro drew the 'desync' card

Usually when a glitch derails a tournament, almost anyone with even cursory video game knowledge can immediately identify the bug. However, every now and then, the glitch is sneaky and invisible to everyone but the players.

During the 2015 DreamHack Winter's Hearthstone Grand Prix, Borsss was in a match with Zetalot. Everything ran smoothly until just before the eight minute mark of the stream, when Borsss indicated something was amiss. At first, the hosts believed he simply forgot that one of his minions was silenced and couldn't use its special ability. But, after a few seconds, the hosts finally got the message that Borsss' game desynced, even though the stream looked perfectly normal.

When Polygon contacted DreamHack regarding the issue, a representative stated that Borsss' Hearthstone client had indeed crashed, so he was allowed to start his match over with Zetalot. While Zetalot had a slight lead over Borsss at the time of the desync, Borsss eventually won the rematch. Perhaps that was karma's way of apologizing for messing with his Hearthstone client?

This glitchy Smash stage cost someone a win

Many gamers still play Super Smash Bros. Melee, and it remains the Smash Bros. tournament game of choice. However, Melee features several glitches that will never be patched, and while these bugs rarely crop up during competitive play, they can easily devastate a tournament.

During a small Boston-based Smash Bros. tournament known as Shine 2018, Justin "Plup" McGrath fought Johnny "S2J" Kim on the transforming Pokémon Stadium stage. Plup took an early lead over S2J. While S2J eventually evened out the stocks, he was still behind in terms of damage. However, everything changed when S2J grabbed Plup and down threw him. Normally, characters would bounce off the stage, but Melee's Pokémon Stadium has one hard-to-find area a handful of characters can clip through under the right circumstances. Surprise, surprise — Plup plummeted through that very gap. Plup tried to recover, but S2J didn't squander his unfair fortune and spiked him, sending Plup careening to an early death and a sudden defeat.

This glitch was fixed when the stage returned in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. All things being equal, the outcome of Plup and S2J's match might have ended differently had they not played in Melee.

The Runescape Deadman Mode tournament killed just about everyone

Jagex has run the Old School Runescape Deadman Mode Tournament for five years, which usually finishes swimmingly. Players participate in PvP, end with a battle royale, and survivors earn cash prizes. However, even though tournaments were relatively bug-free in the past, that doesn't mean they always will be.

Last year, Jagex held the Spring 2019 Deadman Mode Tournament, but unlike other Deadman Mode Tournaments, the event was buggier than a roach motel. The battle royale portion weeded out weaker players while a cloud of death closed around them, and the remaining participants were teleported to arenas so they could duke it out in 1v1 matches. However, the deadly cloud unintentionally blanketed the arenas, and everyone who made it to the final round teleported to their doom.

The insanity didn't end there. Everyone who died during the final hours of the tournament lost everything, including their items, stats, characters, and accounts. Jagex reimbursed players who encountered this glitch with new accounts, characters, and items, but many players lost stats and equipment vastly superior to what they received as compensation.

The list of bugs that plagued last year's Deadman Mode Tournament goes on, which is mind-boggling, since Jagex's past tournaments were relatively glitch-free.