Valhalla II TO interview

Valhalla was a milestone moment for the Danish Smash scene having historically been one of the smaller scenes in Europe. Copenhagen’s brand new major was to fill the winter void last year that the Swedish Beast series had left after it was discontinued. Very big shoes to fill considering it was the series’s first instalment. While the turnout did not match the numbers of the last Beast event it ran well, still attracted 271 players and ended with a grand finals between TSM | Leffen and Alliance | Armada to be remembered. This gave enough confidence to the team to pursue Valhalla II and take it to the next level.

With 382 total players signed up for the next edition, Armada and Leffen’s highly anticipated first Smash Bros. Ultimate(Ultimate) tournament appearance since the game’s release and the majority of the European top players in both Melee and Ultimate in attendance the event is looking to give a smashing start to the new tournament year.

High time to sit down with one of Europe’s well known commentators and head tournament organiser(TO) of the Valhalla team, Julius “King Funk” Vissing, to learn more about the Danish Smash scene, what brought the series to life, how it has adapted itself to meet the expectations of a major Smash event in this day and age and what he recommends to fellow European TOs to focus on this year.

Julius 'King Funk' Vissing

How did you get involved with competitive Smash?
“I started playing Smash with Brawl in 2008, back when I still lived in Portugal. In 2010, I moved to Copenhagen to begin my studies. As the community in Denmark preferred Melee, it became my main game and I started attending European events in 2011. Since then, I have worked on developing the scene in Denmark by running tournaments and bringing communities together, including other fighting games.

My main character is Falco and I am generally seen as Denmark’s third best Melee  player. As a huge fan of fighting games in general, I have also played and still play Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom and a number of other titles competitively. Additionally, I used be an online Smash 64 player and one of Europe’s best players between 2010-2012.”

How long has the Danish Smash scene existed?
“The Danish Smash scene was around for a few years before I arrived in 2010 and was comprised of a small core group of around 15-20 friends. We regularly held small cosy events such as the Hey series in Eagle’s house or CGC & Smash Wars in the Abild brothers’ attic. We sometimes had larger events such as Nintendo Marathon, which was considered Denmark’s national tournament until its last iteration in 2012. We would occasionally travel to European tournaments in Scandinavia, in particular BEAST I & II and Smashers Reunion: Melee Grande. In 2012, I hosted my first few events, King Funk’s Castle I and II, the latter which was a stacked 34-man tournament featuring Armada, Leffen, Ice, Over, Fuzzyness and others.

How has the scene grown over the years?
“2013 & 2014 were a turning point for the Danish Smash community. Evo 2013, the Smash Documentary and the release of Smash 4 led to a dramatic growth of the scene until we were around 100 or so players country-wide. I took advantage of this momentum by running a monthly series called “The Hive” in Copenhagen between 2014 and 2016 which attracted progressively more players and helped integrate new players into our scene.

In 2016, I worked with fighting game players Kasper Kolding and John “P_C” Larsen of the Tekken and Street Fighter communities respectively to create a new association called “Copenhagen FGC”. We held meetups twice a week for Melee, Smash 4 and other fighting games for around a year at DSRack, an eSports cafe in Copenhagen. In 2017, we joined forces with another association, “Copenhagen Esport” and got our very own permanent room in Nørrebrohallen (a large sports and events complex) where we have been running meetups ever since.”

What’s the composition of the Valhalla II staff, how large was the team and what were the role distributions and responsibilities?
“The core Valhalla team has grown significantly from last year and is now comprised of over 20 individuals predominantly from Denmark and Sweden. We have our own private discord where we discuss all facets of the event on a daily basis. The two main TO’s are AwesomeBee and I and we work closely in planning, managing the crew and assigning tasks. We have also organised ourselves better this time around, with all members grouped up in different teams with more specific jobs:

Flexible (members can take any role)
  • Julius “King Funk” Vissing (main TO)
  • Viktor “VJ” Johansson Tournament administration
  • Gustav “AwesomeBee” Hagerberg
  • (co-main TO)Kennie “Lackluster” Hansen
  • Rasmus “DanishViking” Gjerding
  • Tristan “Reverb” Jakobsen
  • Kasper “Teroz” Kamateros
  • Simon “NorrlandXX” Lindström
Stream runners
  • Tue “DuffCity” Andersen
  • Tim “John” Andersson
Misc. crew (info, cleaning, logistics, sales, etc.)
  • Paul “JCMP” Krasemann
  • Benjamin “UncleBen” Jonsson
  • ZakrissonMias “Bird Person” Sommer
  • Thomas “midgeet” Roed
  • Benny “Pangu” Jamal Zaki

Working with us is our production crew, which is comprised of GeekyGoonSquad (Philipp “Liva” Bürkner and Hanna “Chirou” Stührk) and Serendipity. We also have some project managers, notably Hypest Team’s Zein “Electric” Alaouie who will be interviewing many players at the event and Robin “LifeIsCool” Pachot-Giroux, who will be making video highlights of the event.”

GeekyGoonSquad backstage stream setup
GeekyGoonSquad backstage production area

What got the ball rolling for the first Valhalla?
“In general, I have always kept my eyes wide open for opportunities to run a European major. So when we established the Copenhagen Esport club at Nørrebrohallen, I was impressed by the facilities in the venue and saw the chance to make it happen. I asked VJ if he was interested in the project, he simply replied: “You don’t even have to ask”. I got more people on board, notably AwesomeBee and Lukas “Laske” Hansen to discuss tournament name, structure and various ideas.”

Was it hard to strike a deal with the venue?
“I convinced a member of Copenhagen Esport who had a reputation for striking deals to ask the venue holders for the possibilities to run an event in April. Once he first established contact with them and they were on board, we announced the event in May for the original date of December 14-18. In September, we ran into some major problems. Poor communication led to a double-booking of the venue on those dates as well as the unfortunate news that a sleeping hall was never a plausible option to begin with. We therefore changed the dates to January 4-8, got a better deal for the venue and established firm and direct contact with the venue holders. All in all, I think this unpleasant episode only made our event stronger.”

Valhalla was Denmark’s first major, how important is that milestone for the Danish scene? What does it mean for the future of the Danish scene?
“Valhalla was definitely by far the largest tournament ever held on Danish soil. The highest numbers of entrants at any event in Denmark was perhaps around 60, so reaching over 250 attendees is something I am very proud of. I hope that Valhalla will boost activity in Denmark in both the Melee and Smash 4 scenes. I hope it will motivate Danish players to practice, attend their locals, attend out of country tournaments and maybe run their own tournaments in the future.
One thing I really wanted to do with Valhalla was bring all the fun and hype of European majors to Denmark so newer Danish players would not need to make the heavy commitment of travelling to experience it. And hopefully, on the long term, they will feel inspired enough to travel to other European tournaments.”

Reflecting on Valhalla from a TOing perspective a bit, what challenges were encountered with Valhalla I?
“Before the event, outside of the double-booking/sleeping hall fiasco in September 2017, there were a few challenges we encountered in planning Valhalla I:

  • No marketing material: with no past tournaments of this scale ever run in Denmark, there was next to no evidence to show that players would have a fun experience coming to our event.
  • Lack of equipment for Melee: we do not have many setups at all in Copenhagen but luckily fellow TO Howie from Norway contacted me and offered to bring 35 CRT’s to the event at a reasonable cost and I cannot thank him enough for it.

During the event, we had a few hiccups:

  • We had two separate power failures on Friday morning, one which was our fault and the other which affected the entire street. These were solved within a few hours and did not affect the tournament in any way. In fact, we held a small table tennis bracket so the attendees wouldn’t be too bored!
  • Doubles bracket for Melee went over time on Saturday. I think that was due to the fact that we put too many doubles bracket matches on stream and assigned too few matches to stations. “

Valhalla TO Table

How did you tackle these for Valhalla II?
“Well, marketing wise, a lot of people know how fun the event is which helps hugely on a word-of-mouth basis. We have former attendees to bring in new ones.

As for power and scheduling, we know what we did wrong and will be ready “

What went well during Valhalla I and are you hoping to repeat this weekend?
“Almost everything! I was actually amazed at how smooth the event ended up being despite it being my first experience running anything of this size. I was overwhelmed with happiness to the point of tears by the time the event ended and that is a feeling for which I would do everything to experience it again.”

What was your experience using Smash.GG for the event?
Smash.GG is a wonderful platform for tournament organisation. Valhalla I was my first time organising an event of this scale. I was pretty much learning new little features to use as the event was progressing. Almost every problem that came up I found a solution to. One thing I’d wish SmashGG implemented would be flags in attendee list, pools and brackets. It’d make our lives a lot easier if we could get an easy overview of the countries represented in each pool so we can reduce the chance of regional conflicts without needing to double check our data and sheets.”

You’ve chosen to include Ultimate in Valhalla II, a logical decisions given that the Smash 4 community has transitioned to the new title and the game has PR momentum. Was this a tough decision to make from a TOing perspective?
“Not at all. Ultimate is looking to be an extremely important title to the Smash (especially Smash 4) scene worldwide and it only makes sense for us to prefer a transition. But an even bigger reason for us to drop Smash 4 in favor of Ultimate was more of a logistics nature: no one wants to bring Wii U’s to events anymore or even keep them around. That console is no longer relevant for Smash events. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand is not only a better console but also far more practical to set up for tournaments.”

Where there any concerns with the game’s inclusion from a planning perspective?
“The only concern I had for the game was its potential reception. But as we have seen in the past month, the reception for the game has been pretty good and people have been very excited for it. This has shown in Valhalla II’s Ultimate singles numbers which grew dramatically in the last two weeks of registration.”

How important is Ultimate’s launch for the Danish smash scene as a whole? What opportunities does it open up and why do you find it important that Ultimate is given TOing support this early in the game’s lifetime?
“Ultimate’s launch is the Danish scene’s opportunity to attract a ton of new people to the scene and it’s not an opportunity we get very often. Many players see new games as a chance to try themselves out in the competitive sphere and we want to be able to provide a platform for them to do so. You never know if some of these new guys will be the next top players, tournament organizers or content creators. Too often do I see community leaders squander such opportunities.

One comparison I like to make for that is surfing. Generally, when you surf you have to wait for a set of waves before a really good one comes. And once that “really good” wave comes, you better catch it as you only have that one chance!

To all aspiring TO’s who read this, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to start developing and structuring your local scenes to accommodate new players. Creating bi-weeklies or monthlies for a region is a really good way to do so.”

Valhalla I was a Smash 4 qualifier for Midwest Mayhem 11 (MM11), the winner earned a flight to MM11. How did this international collaboration come to be?
“Smash 4 was decreasing in popularity in Europe and we were looking for ways to motivate higher level European players to attend our event. We got into contact with Joe from Events2Compete. He wanted to do a European circuit where the winners of various tournaments around Europe would be sent to Midwest Mayhem 11 and Valhalla I was to be the first of these tournaments. We would share expenses for the flight tickets. This was a pretty good collaboration and made us realise that we need to do more of these.”

Is there a similar international collaboration this time for Ultimate?
“Yes. This time around we are collaborating with 2GG in a very similar fashion in order to send the winner of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate singles to a future unannounced 2GG event. Hopefully it’ll be one of those Saga events, those look so amazing.

Another collaboration we have done is with the Dutch Melee scene, more specifically the TO’s JMYL and Seo, who created a “Road to Valhalla” circuit in the Netherlands where players could compete for points and get a shot at flight tickets and/or free entries to Valhalla II. I heard that the circuit ended up bolstering activity in the Dutch Melee scene which is great. There has also been a large increase of Dutch attendance for Valhalla since last year. This is definitely something we want to do more of next year. I believe collaborations like these really allow the different European scenes to support each other which can only be good for our continent as a whole.”

What can you advise other European TOs seeking similar collaborations with international events?
“Do not be afraid to insist as much as possible. If you want to collaborate with another event and the other party is being passive, keep pushing them to show them that you really care about it.”

Venue

Perhaps a bit early but are there any plans for a follow up?
“Of course. We are planning to run monthly tournaments in Copenhagen for both Smash games. While we already have weekly meetups in our club CPH Esport, the lack of space in the club makes it difficult for us to grow. But with a new game and the possibility to host events in a more spacious part of Nørrebrohallen, we might be able to create an environment that promotes rapid growth.”

What are your thoughts on the state of the current European Smash scene? What do you think should be the focus for the scene for 2019 following Ultimate’s release and Melee’s stagnated momentum in Europe?
“I believe the most important thing to do currently for TO’s around Europe is to host tournaments that feature both games if the possibility is there. Ultimate is of course the new game and deserves a lot of TO support but I am a firm believer of the trickle down effect of new players getting into Melee through Ultimate. Featuring both games at event is a great way to promote the new game while still supporting the older one.”

Any closing thoughts you would like to share?
“I would like to thank the European Smash scene for being a second family to me. I have been a part of it for almost 10 years and it has given so much to me. It is only natural for me to give back to it. I hope our attendees will enjoy Valhalla II as my team and I have been working constantly to make sure it is a great experience for everyone.”

Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Best of luck to you and your team running Valhalla II.

You can catch the event all weekend on two streams, both provided by GeekyGoonSquad which will feature the following commentators to guide you through the experience.

Venue



Photographs used are property of GeekyGoonSquad (find the originals here) and edited by myself, King Funk’s picture is from DreamHack Winter 2016. Smash Ultimate image is property of Nintendo Co., Ltd

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