Esports are on the rise. There's big money involved and counter to what the nay-sayers have always said, a lot of viewers now too. Millions of people watched professionals duke it out in tournaments of League of Legends, StarCraft 2, DotA 2 among others last year and that's great for professional gamers and Esports as a whole. But recently they've hit a snag with DDOS attacks.
In the real world, if there's danger of a pitch invasion from the crowd, security is beefed up. You add more rent-a-cops or police officers to help keep things in check and they rarely happen any more anyway. Not so in the case of digital pitch invasions.
Case in point, a DDOS attack recently hit the G-1 DotA 2 league that actually brought a temporary halt to the league's activity. But it wasn't just a general sweeping attack on the network, but individual players being targeted. This led to some people winning games they might otherwise have not and leaving the organisers in a position of either restarting a portion of them, or awarding the win to a player that seemed ahead at the time.
Fortunately a few days later service was resumed and it all seems to have gone well since then, but the fact that games were affected this much raises a few problems for Esports that the industry will need to figure out a way to address or it will struggle with legitimacy. Here's a few of the biggest problems.
1: It messes with the schedule
Online gaming is a lot more stable and easier to setup than it used to be, but getting everyone together at the right time is important and that's hard to do if people are disconnecting at different times. This not only inconveniences the event holders as they have to factor in delays to the entire schedule, but it messes with the viewers too, as how can they organise their viewing habits if games aren't at a set time?
2: Betting becomes problematic
Betting on sports is as old as the sports themselves, so it's understandable that people want to put a bit of money on their favourite Esports team. However, it's never going to be a big money earner for anyone if people can't plcey bets without fear that the game simply won't take place or a result will be determined by a judge's ruling instead of the actual outcome of a game. If that happens too, you not only risk people not betting again in future, but demanding their money back too.
3: It makes Esports look amateur
We know that DDOS attacks affect a lot of online sites, companies and entities. Hell, even Reddit gets slowed to a crawl by them and that's perhaps the most accessed site in the world right now, after Facebook.
But casual itnernet users – which means most of them – don't know that. If you're a normal sports fan, used to your Saturday game or whatever it is you watch, if you decide to give Esports a go and the first time it gets hit by “hackers,” you'll assume the organisers don't know what they're doing. After all, if every other sporting event had a risk that it might be postponed because of some 'nerds,' you wouldn't watch.
So what can they do?
Unfortunately at the moment, DDOS attacks cause problems for everyone. It doesn't really matter who you are, if those behind a DDOS want to disrupt service they can do it. In the case of the G-1 league, not using Skype (which apparently was behind the exploit that exposed gamers' IP addresses) would be a good start.
The best option though would be to start doing more face to face gaming. It's difficult to imagine every organisation being able to afford flights for everyone but hey, you want to be a pro gamer, stump up some cash or get sponsorship. LAN gaming is also the only way to alleviate that other online gaming problem, lag. That should never be part of a pro-league setup.
In the mean time, perhaps we'll get to a stage where DDOS defences are good enough to stop anyone blocking services of any particular online entity. Until then, other solutions will need to be found.
What do you guys think groups like G-1 could do to help prevent this in future?