Three years in Splatoon: A Retrospective
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This retrospective will NOT cover everything that has happened in this community over the last three years, but will mention several things that are notable to me. I also cannot mention every person that I have met because I will forget someone, and I apologize for that. With that out of the way, let us begin!
As I am sure many of you are aware, we have hit the three year mark on Splatoon being released internationally. On its third birthday in Japan (May 28th), I got curious on what the Splatoon story was for different people in the community, so I posted the following tweet:
If you are curious about what responses I got, feel free to check out this tweet HERE.
But it got me to thinking. Twitter has a limit of 280 characters, and that is not enough for me to properly tell my own story. So here we go, my three years in the game of Splatoon and in the competitive Splatoon community!
How it all started
My story in Splatoon actually began about a year before the game released, in the late summer or early fall of 2014 on a site called PokéJungle, a Pokémon website. I talked with a few people on there, and they brought up the game of Splatoon releasing in late May of the following year. This encouraged me to look into the game around that time and I immediately thought it looked really cool, even though I had very little experience playing more traditional shooter games such as Call of Duty or Halo. Little did I know how this decision would completely change my life, because I was not much for looking into new gaming franchises back then.
Fast forward to the spring of 2015, still prior to launch, and I met someone on PokéJungle whom many of you probably know: Rocket. He and I became fast friends, he would help me get better at Smash (or try to, at least, as I was still bad), and I found out he was interested in playing Splatoon as well. We would talk about that, and one day, he came to me and asked if I would be interested in starting a Splatoon team together. That team, as many of you probably know, became Squids Next Door (SND), whose name is based off the popular Cartoon Network show Codename: Kids Next Door.
Starting SND and May 29th
In the early days of Splatoon, both before launch and the first few months after launch, we used Skype for both the team and any tournaments we would play in. And as you would probably guess, it was very chaotic especially since SND grew to have over 50 members in it. Many of these people were very excited for the launch of the game and would discuss many of the details that we knew by that point, but others were more there for a casual aspect or trying to meet new people and make new friends. All of this as a buildup towards the international release date of May 29th, 2015. We played the testfire sessions throughout the month of May (including the one that had difficulties to the point they extended it an extra hour in compensation), and with each one, a group within SND became even more excited for the game. Then, the day finally arrived, Splatoon was released for the Wii U internationally.
I am sure many of you remember first booting up this game, and I remember first getting it. Like many of the teammates I had at the time, and I am sure many others in the community, I hit the initial level cap of 20 that weekend, playing ONLY Turf War (because ranked modes had not been unlocked yet, because they "wanted to make sure enough people hit level 10 first"). In fact, enough people reached level 20 so quickly in the first game that the co-director of Splatoon, Tsubasa Sakaguchi, told Eurogamer later that summer they were surprised how quickly players accomplished it.
It was through SND, the only long term team I have ever been a part of, where I met many people that I would talk with and befriend over the next three years. Of all of those friendships, the one that has lasted the longest is my friendship with Secant of Scrivener, as we met prior to launch and remain friends to this day.
SND becomes truly competitive
Come the fall of 2015, SND was starting to rev up their Splatoon skills after hosting tryouts in October 2015. It was here where we picked up people that would become SND staples for much of the next year plus, such as Ryan, Boxerduke, Victini, and Biskit (who joined about a month before).
It was shortly after this that SND started really consolidating their roster, down to the dozen or so people that would stick around for most of the first half of 2016. Rocket, Ryan, Boxer, and Tini would become the main four, Biskit and others would play when they were around, and I would act as team coordinator to the rest of the Splatoon community, finding scrims, coordinating with other team captains in tournament settings, etc. And from here, SND would start to see their tournament placings improve, consistently placing top 8 and top 16 in events that easily had 40 plus teams.
Over the next several months, we would pick up a few other players, most notably Ackbar and ynnaD to help fill out SND's overall roster for most of 2016. It was also here where I started meeting other people and networking outside of my team, with one of the first people I met being Vera. And it was in part thanks to that networking, in addition to Vera being a friend of Rocket and the team as a whole, where he would join Rocket, Ackbar, and me on SND's team at the first ever Splatoon LAN, SquidStorm 2016 in Chicago!!!!
The first truly in-person Splatoon event, made for Splatoon competitive players by the wonderful people at EndGameTV and it was nothing short of a very memorable experience. Here, I met Splatoon players for the first time in person, competed in a LAN setting for the first time, and helped my team find a way to make it to top eight on day 2.
I also got a small taste of what a LAN setting was like, especially when it came to meeting new people, as this was the first time I met A.C., Eirik, 2dos, one of my closer friends in the community in Fate, and many more, a lot of this being through how I volunteered to help set up SquidStorm by being the unofficial, self-proclaimed secretary that took notes at every meeting prior to the event. It was also here that I first met another one of my better friends in this community to date (even though he could not go to the event in the end), that being my InkTV colleague Hermes. This also wound up being one of the last notable events I played in with SND, as I would switch to administration (aka tournament organizing (TOing)) less than a month after the event concluded.
A switch to administration
In late August, I started to realize that I did not have the drive to be a competitive player as much anymore. By sheer coincidence, it was around this time that a position for staff with Leagues Under The Ink (LUTI) became available as several members of season 2 staff were departing for other things. I had just left SND, was not ready to look for a new team, but felt that I could help out and improve LUTI for the upcoming season 3. So I applied, and in part because they needed more North American staff, I was brought on, and thus, my TOing journey began. I then decided that I wanted to help other tournaments and gain experience in this new field for me, so I eventually was able to join the staff for a couple one-off tournaments run by Specter as well as the long-running tournament series called Friday Night Splatdown, which is the series that I credit for really helping me take off as a TO.
Little did I know at the time, joining LUTI staff would actually have more positive consequences for me. Not only would I get to know some of the staff on a more personal level, but I would be able to become better friends with Fate, who joined staff soon after I did, as well as officially meet Bleck and Spoon, which would have a HUGE impact on some of the things that would happen later (that I will touch on in this retrospective).
I would continue to help with other tournaments (including running a one-off of my own, called Masters of Splatoon near Halloween 2016) and continue to gain experience. But in late 2016, I would take interest in an event that would really help shape who I was and am in the Splatoon community up through today, even though I wound up doing little to no actual TOing for it. That event was the original Bleck n Spoon (BnS) tournament.
Bleck n Spoon
A lot of people remember this event for how revolutionary it was back in the day. It was a tournament that took place at the height of the quick respawn/stealth jump meta, especially if you had multiple kraken or bubbler specials on your team. But this tournament would BAN quick respawn (starting the trend of other tournaments doing that, including a couple I ran/helped run) as well as limit each team to one kraken and one bubbler each. Should either of these rules be broken, the team would automatically lose a game. And if you would like a history on the BnS series (written prior to the current installment), feel free to check out this article by my good friend and InkTV colleague Hermes!
But I am not here to talk about playing in the event, as I never did. Not once. So why is it so special to me? Because for whatever reason, I honestly could not tell you why, I started taking an interest in this specific event. I would tune in almost every Thursday to Bleck's stream to watch things play out, listen to the laid back and fun commentary, and really enjoy the atmosphere that the tournament itself projected. I would get into the commentary so much that I actually created several Twitch accounts (including, for anyone who remembers it, "TheGhostOfCharlesBarkley" because Charles Barkley's head would appear on stream every time a Rainmaker was dunked) and attempt to create even more fun and hype for the event.
It was because of my efforts that, when BnS started to expand their staff and become a real production for the Splatoon community, Bleck and Spoon asked me to join their staff and become the official livetweeter and Twitch clipper for BnS. And this is where two of my passions that I share with this community were born, as I have expanded Twitch clipping to doing it for several friend streams because I enjoy capturing those hype moments so much. I wound up being able to do this for most of the final seven or eight BnS editions before the tournament series ended in late January 2017.
It was through this tournament series that I would wind up meeting some of the friends that I talk with more frequently today, specifically the members of Deep Blues as they would consistently enter this tournament and place well, to the point I became fascinated with the play-style of Taylor of Deep Blues. Thanks to getting to know him because of BnS, I was able to meet other members of the team, such as Dei, Mars, and one of my closer friends in the community, Marsh.
And yes, this eventually led to some of the duties I have for the organization that formed out of it: InkTV (but we will get to that in a bit).
Post BnS, pre-InkTV
After BnS wrapped up, I started taking on new challenges, including being the co-head TO (or official head TO) for a few fun events that happened towards the end of Splatoon 1: Torrent (created by Hermes) and Locked n Loaded (created by me).
Torrent (logo on top) was a biweekly Tuesday event similar to BnS, while Locked n Loaded (logo on bottom) was a monthly event on the weekends that limited teams to four predetermined weapons (the teams would choose which weapons they would be locked into during the registration process, as there were no requirements set up by the event itself). Both events gave me more experience in being the person ultimately in charge of tournament administration, such as advertising, setting up the rules and bracket, and being the one in charge of the final decision in case it was not clear how to handle a given situation.
While these events were fun to run, and I would not mind bringing back Locked n Loaded someday once Splatoon 2 starts getting less frequent updates, these were more smaller tournament series to help hold people over until the summer when Splatoon 2 would launch. And now, it is time to get to the part that everyone should have seen coming in this story: the formation and rise of InkTV.
Picture this: it is mid-March 2017 and Splatoon 2 is fast approaching, while Splatoon 1's glory days have wound down and players are biding their time until the sequel drops while frantically trying to find a Nintendo Switch so they can play Splatoon 2 on launch day. I am busy focusing on passing my third part of the Certified Public Accountant's exam and looking forward to the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (along with the Splatoon 2 testfire at the end of March and Splatoon 2 itself in the summer) for the Nintendo Switch, and I get a direct message from Spoon. It is an invite to the InkTV staff server, and the journey has begun.
For InkTV, I have performed many duties over the past year plus. Some of those are carryovers from when many of us worked on the original BnS series together (clipping the Twitch channel as well as tweeting during events on the InkTV Twitter). Others would include being the lead TO for events that InkTV would run moving forward, as well as hosting Beyond The Ink (as a side note, this series is coming back soon, with new overlays and a team article series to go along with it, written by the newest member of InkTV staff, Marsh!) and eventually becoming a writer (as evidenced by this retrospective, my tournament roundups, and other things on this site).
One of the first things that InkTV would be in charge of doing was casting the US Inkling Open, hosted by Nintendo of America, in late April 2017. So I helped the team prepare for that and performed my normal tweeting and Twitch duties for the qualifier (I was unable to attend the finals due to family obligations on the same day). This would eventually lead to the next part of this story, our invitation to E3 2017!!!!
Because Nintendo was impressed enough with our performance and coverage of the Inkling Open, Bill Trinen himself invited us to take part in the festivities of E3 2017, including being able to play the Splatoon 2 demos (for both normal gameplay and a Salmon Run demonstration) and watching the Splatoon World Championships! As you would expect, the experience was nothing short of magical, even with the insanely long waiting lines for everything we wanted to do (including Splatoon 2, Mario Rabbids, and Super Mario Odyssey).
We also went to the event to not only have fun, but network with others on the show floor as well as record footage, interviews, and other things to help produce content that could drum up more hype for the upcoming game. It was after this event that Splatoon 2 looked even cooler to me and I was ready for it to release so we could take the next step as a community.
I should also mention that, while away from the event itself, we did meet up with some of the local members of the community, such as Taylor (who I was personally really looking forward to meeting) as well as Bryan and Tetsu of Yami, the latter two I had met before when I was in Los Angeles with my family a few months prior.
To check out some of these interviews and other content, check out InkTV's YouTube channel!
The launch of Splatoon 2 and the rest of 2017
The day we had waited for finally arrived, Splatoon 2 dropped for the Nintendo Switch on July 21st, 2017. Immediately, I knew I would enjoy this game more than I did Splatoon 1, especially towards the end. There were no krakens or bubblers, and quick respawn/stealth jump had both been nerfed to the point they were not nearly as effective as they had been. I was disappointed that the wasabi splattershot was not in the game (as inkstrikes would be hard to use with no mini map to look at), but I found a few other weapons that I enjoyed using that were similar in performance and fit my playstyle well. But I knew that, while playing is fun, I best served this community in an administration role, and I was excited about a few new series that were on the horizon: G7 and the Squidboards Splat Series.
G7 was the first notable event in Splatoon 2, as it featured a prize pool and an entry fee along with production and casting by InkTV. Because both InkTV and SCL staff (of which I was helping with both at the time) were asked to help run the event, I was excited to really set the groundwork for what would hopefully become the standard for notable Splatoon 2 tournaments. This event was stressful to run, yet fun. The shame in it was they decided to go in a different direction and many of us decided to part ways (G7 had one more event in November of 2017, but has not hosted anything since).
With Squidboards, this is one that more people likely know and recognize, as there is a monthly free event that, with the exception of one event, typically gets a really solid turnout, better than most events this community sees. It also has casting by InkTV, and I have been able to take a center role in its development and administration, being responsible for maps and sharing a responsibility for seeding and format with Kbot and Rapture. Even though it does not advertise itself as such, it is the closest thing the community has had to a consistent major for most of Splatoon 2's lifespan to date. And, not to spoil anything, there are things in the works with the Squidboards community events as a whole down the line, so stay tuned for that!
Now we get into the current year, 2018, and what better way to start off talking about some of the things that have happened this year than G5? For those of you that missed it, I made a blog while at the event itself (titled "LIVE AT GENESIS FIVE"), which you can check out HERE, so I will not rehash what happened too much. But looking back, I will cover and talk about a few things that I did not mention in that blog, now that I have had ample time to process a more recent LAN experience and go a bit more in-depth than I did with SquidStorm 2016.
Having learned from my time at SquidStorm, I knew I wanted to go in with a more open mind and attempt to socialize with more people, seeing as how I knew many more people at this event than I did when I was in Chicago. I believe that I was more successful in doing this, in part thanks to the poster that I asked many, many different people to sign. I was also able to meet many people in person for the first time, some of whom I looked forward to meeting knowing that they were going, such as Mario and the majority of Deep Blues (I had only met Taylor before, during the E3 meetup the prior June).
I was also able to further expand my social circle and get to meet and play with new people, as I played on a team called InkSync and we were able to make it out of Swiss pools and into the Redemption Bracket. Playing with them was quite fun, as it gave me a chance to actually play the game I had been an administrator for over the past year plus, and showed me that I still have that competitive spirit and would love to return to playing the game competitively someday when I get tired of running tournaments.
For more information on what happened during the G5 Splatoon event, check out the Smash.gg page!!!
The Return of BnS
Even though I did not know it when making the tweet after the last BnS in the original series, we did indeed decide to bring back the event that helped bring together the staff who would form InkTV. It is our bread and butter tournament series, always has been and probably always will be. But this time, BnS is more focused on getting teams to grind out specific map/mode combinations, in order to help prepare them for bigger events where there would be more on the line. The teams would also play one mode throughout a given event, and see the mode change every week so teams interested in getting practice in one given gametype would be able to focus on that for the duration of the event. And THIS TIME, in addition to clipping and tweeting out cool moments during the stream, I would also be in charge of running the event with Aditya and Hermes (and later Marsh as well).
Through this event, we have been able to show off some of what InkTV is capable of on a weekly basis, and it has been fun to see teams develop their skills and see how each mode impacts who wins, because some teams are just better at one mode than they are others. But perhaps the biggest joy I have gotten out of helping run BnS 2.0 (for lack of a better way to differentiate it with the original BnS)? Seeing the development of Team Upgrade from a decent new team to one that can go toe to toe with the likes of some of the best in the North American scene.
And just like with me meeting Deep Blues officially through the first BnS, getting to see how Team Upgrade has evolved over the past several months has allowed me to befriend their leader, Lag, which, while a new friendship for me, could easily evolve into something special like I have with Secant, Hermes, Fate, Marsh, and others (and I will touch on this in a more general sense at the end of this article).
US/Canadian Inkling Open
The 2018 U.S./Canadian Inkling Open, an event that is still fresh in the minds of many, both InkTV and EndGameTV were asked to help broadcast this event, and this time, I was tasked with helping run it! And needless to say, it was a lot of work but perhaps the most fun I have had TOing to date. Easily the biggest event we have had so far for Splatoon 2 (in the Western scene anyway, essentially quadrupling the number of teams that appeared in the US Open in 2017), and it turned out to be a complete community effort, as despite nearly 600 teams playing, it ran very smoothly with little to no overarching or lasting issues. And it was because of this that Battlefy compensated me for my work, where I used the money to buy a new microphone setup (in large part to use with Beyond The Ink moving forward) as well as investing the rest of the money into a couple different things for InkTV (gifting a sub to InkTV's Twitch channel to Lag and donating the rest plus some of my own money to the BnS Season 3 Clam Blitz prize pool).
Wrapping up and looking ahead
And with that, we have reached the present day. This has been a very fun journey to reminisce on for me, and hopefully you have enjoyed going through the pages of my story. Now what do I expect moving forward? Hopefully, I can continue to build on the friendships that I have mentioned in this article (and many more that I have not, because as I said in the disclaimer at the top, I could not realistically mention everyone even though I wanted to) as well as continue to improve the events that I run in order to further the Splatoon community as a whole. This includes the ones I have mentioned above, Swift Second Saturdays, and possibly more (I do have things in the works privately, and only a handful of trusted individuals know about one thing I am planning). Maybe I will also get back into playing on a more competitive level, because the game itself is a TON of fun, especially when played with friends, but that likely will not happen any time soon as I continue my work with InkTV and other organizations.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Happy birthday to Splatoon, and may we all wish this insane game and franchise many, many more moving forward!!!!!
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