Heir 3 was a landmark event for the United Kingdom(UK) and the European scene in general. The staff successfully managed to strike a balance between an old school atmosphere and the positive aspects of eSports that we see in the scene today. Not only did each of its individual competitions break European attendance records, but the event also offered dorm accommodation, a marque and numerous other events besides the usual offering of tournaments.
After its successful conclusion it received countless of praise from various prominent community members and the majority of those that were in attendance. I had a chance to interview Team Heir to learn what “more than a tournament” really means to them, how they approach an event of this scale and to ask for their perspective on the UK scene as it grew over the years and the state that it exist today.
First some introductions. Team Heir is made up of a few core members. I sat down with three of them.
Kone (often referred to as Ed)
I’ve been in the scene since 2003. I’m the lead TO for Team Heir. Probably the main element of my job is promotion and organisation. I’ve been a community leader since 2003 and probably one of the main TOs who’s established the UK community. I main Peach and somewhat Sheik.
Callum ‘Calzumn’ Jenney – TOing, Social Media
Been in the scene since 2009-2010. My general job at Team Heir is TOing and stuff. I do a lot of social media as well, like the Team Heir twitter @teamheir. I main Peach.
Dan Soup – Graphic Design, Social Media, TOing
I’m the graphics designer of Team Heir. I joined the scene since 2014 so I’m very very young compared to the rest of them. And everything you see I did. 99% of what you see promotion wise or on the social media, even some of the videos as well, that was me. I play Captain Falcon and a bit of MewTwo.
To understand what drives Team Heir it’s important to take a step back and look at the role its predecessor events have played in the changes that the UK community has gone through the past years. Ed was one of the main drivers of these developments and gives a brief recap.
Ed: “Six years ago I ran Smash Needs You (SNY) which was the first European tournament in the UK. I think at the time we had about 110 to 120 attendees. For the EU scene at that time that was quite a large event. After that I retired and took about a three year hiatus. When I came back into the scene I found that tournament numbers and frequency had really dwindled. You were thinking for a UK national 20 to 30 people on average, 40 people max at the time. There was a complete lack of any sort of organisation and collaboration in the UK. So three years ago myself and Tom Scott (G~P) created a Smash back room in which we brought the established TOs and any TO who wanted to be part of building the UK scene together. From that point onwards there was a greater amount of sharing ideas and knowledge sharing on how to TO. We made sure that events were given enough time for promotion and as events became larger we weren’t crossing over much. As a result we did the first ever Heir 1 ( Heir to the Throne) a few years ago. The concept behind that was that we did a UK Smash league, TOs signed up their event and people got points according to how well they placed at the event and Heir 1 was then to find out who was going to claim the throne of the UK.
Callum: “The top 12 players in the league already got into the top 16 pro bracket and then we had an amateur bracket which was everyone else and it was top 4 from the amateurs that went through into the pro one. “
Ed: “The emphasis was also placed on the fact that at the time it wasn’t quite clear who number one was because Fuzzy was starting to become inactive at that time after a long dominance. Prof was starting to show that he was going to take over. And Vanity Angel (VA) was always sniffing about, he actually beat Prof that tournament. So Heir 1 was a community effort actually where the community ran the event. Then we’ve kinda taken the success of the event and continued growing it. “
As JJLinyard pointed out in an article released on MeleeItOnMe, the above efforts resulted in a flourishing scene with many regional events. This resulted in 300 of Heir 3’s attendants coming from the UK. At what state would you consider the UK scene is in now?
Ed: “An absolute mess! In all honesty the scene has grown massively. If you look at the Heir numbers the amount of UK attendants is great. But now we’ve gone from being very organised to their being very little collaboration between TOs. That’s my personal opinion.
In the past we had less TOs, it was easier to coordinate. Now we have a lot of TOs, a lot of new TOs and there’s a massive clash between events. “
So now you have to find ways to facilitate and streamline communication?
Ed: “I think we went from super regionals and the odd national to now just this. You’re probably lucky if there isn’t a UK event happening in the same weekend or on the same day. There’s a lot more local/ regional events so it’s actually at a point now that it’s limiting travel and attendance.
So even where we are now in the midlands we’ve got lots of midlands events. I try to get midland TOs to talk to each other but it hasn’t really payed off. It means players think “Well I don’t really have to travel so far because I know next month there’s going to be a local event”. So in a sense I would say the scene is really healthy in the UK, it is growing, there’s more players coming into it and new TOs is great but I think it is stagnating the professionalism of UK events. There’s to many of them, they happen to rapidly and TOs aren’t taking enough time to reflect on what they’ve done and think about how they can actually grow their events.”
On to Team Heir and the event itself.
Heir 3 has the tag “more than a tournament”. What does this tag mean to Team Heir, how would you describe the identity of Team Heir and how would you like the the Heir brand to resonate with players?
Callum: One of our main goals was to make sure everybody had the best experience, not just by playing tournament games but by socialising outside, having a few drinks with people and just having the best time they could. “
Ed: “I’ve been in the scene since 2003 and I guess Team Heir initially is just a group of friends. I guess Dan is kind of a friend now. But the likes of myself, Callum, Bloodbowler are all friends from a local area. Also a lot of those people were at my wedding when I got married a couple of years ago and they’ve become real people who matter to me a lot. A lot of Smashers were at my wedding but to me they aren’t just Smashers, they are friends from all over the UK.
So this is something that we wanted to continue. I don’t want to lose why I’m still here after 13 years. After 13 years I’m not just coming back to play the game, I come back because I made friends and so I can make new friends. And that is what we want Heir to be. We want people to think, “Ok I’m gonna have a good experience, I’m gonna make connections that will last a lifetime”. “
Taking this into account how would you describe Heir’s visual identity?
Dan: “We use black white and crimson and Time New Roman and everything else just sort of falls into place. A lot is straight lines, high contrast, a lot of black and white imagery. I did the logo for Heir II. I wasn’t in Team Heir back then. It was sort of a competition but you didn’t win anything apart from publicity. I was just getting into vector graphics at that point so I focussed a lot on that.”
Ed: “It’s very clean isn’t it?”
Yeah it also has a bit of a campus feeling, a bit scholarly like a student club or something. Also because of the usage of the Times New Roman font.
Dan: “Yeah looking at it now you could imagine it as a university logo or something like that. Obviously the Heraldry theme runs through it. “
Ed: “We’ve kinda tried to dilute that a little bit because we felt it was pidgeon holing us a bit. I’d rather have it have the club or university feeling instead of a monarchy or heraldry type.”
Callum: “Which would make sense as we are currently in a university.”
How are the team roles distributed in Team Heir and how do you divide the tasks.
Ed: “We’ve probably got a staff of fifteen together, that’s people we associate themselves with Team Heir. I call it core and everyone else. Core are myself, Callum, Dan, Brad and Carlton.
The main roles would be: Dan – Graphics, Callum – Social Media and Brad – Social Media as well, I do some social media and my main role is promoting the event through what Dan gives me and chasing players to sign up. And the other two is a bit of social media and TOing which we can all do. Everyone else is Team Heir because at Heir events they help with it.
Tomorrow we’ve got five waves and there will be two to three members of Team Heir overseeing each space. We’ve got Cripps Hall for Melee singles, Hugh Stewart hall for Melee doubles and friendlies, The Conference Room for Project M and the library for Project M. There will be two to three members overseeing the pools and trying to keep the wave moving. “
When I interviewed the Helix staff they mentioned a lack of delegation as one of the main thing to improve. Are tasks delegated properly at Heir 3?
Ed: “We’ve basically taken the five waves, worked out what members of staff are actually playing in those waves themselves and then through that it allows us to find out which members of Team Heir are available for TOing purposes. We’ve then allocated them to certain spaces throughout the day. We also do that for the Team Heir shop as well as registration. So members of staff are aware what time they need to be where.
We sat here this morning as part of our team meeting which consisted of Dan clarifying the sheets he’s created for pools. Me clarifying a few rules and going through and allocating staff and their roles. They all have access to this document but they also took notes. We’ve got Walkie Talkies to communicate between rooms with ourselves. That way we can get pool sheets input as soon as possible when pools complete and we can just check how waves are progressing.”
Logistically how is it going right now?
Ed: “We’re good, registration will begin at 2 o’clock and we’re well on time. We had some logistic issues yesterday and a bit of stress but this always happens. I’ve never run an event where something didn’t go quite as we planned it.
The problem is that unless you own the venue there’s always going to be things that by looking at the venue will come up. We dealt with it and we’re on time for the moment. “
Given an event of this scale requires a lot of preparation when did plans for Heir 3 start? Can you talk us through the overall road map from it’s start till now?
Ed: “I’d say after Heir II we created a document and wrote down what did not go particularly well straight away so it was fresh in our minds. We came back to that in January. January was early planning which was mainly looking at what didn’t go well last time and we had to prioritise this time.“
I came up with two things I wasn’t particularly happy with.
1. Electrical issues, because we aren’t using a conference facility, it’s not designed to supply all this power. So we employed electricians this year to ensure that the power mapped to what we needed.
2. Another major priority was just branding. That’s where Dan has done an absolute load this year. Between Heir II and Heir 3 our visual branding, our online presence especially through social media, is a lot stronger. Everything looks very similar. That was a major thing I wanted to change from previous year.
Securing a venue suitable for a Major can prove a challenge for TOs, how did you find this venue and how long did it take?
Ed: “I guess it’s going back to the idea of, why do we continue to be part of Smash Europe. Why do I continue TOing? It’s because of friendships that I’ve made and memories that I’ve made. And that is all because if I think back we all started with tournaments in people their houses, someone’s back room etc. That forced you to get to know people and we wanted a venue where we could do that but on a massive scale. So we went for a large convention centre but we couldn’t do that because people couldn’t stay there during the night. So we wanted a venue that would allow us to have the space we needed but also give us the ability to house everyone on site. Hotels do that but there’s certain restrictions with that. So we said a university would be great. On my laptop I’ve got about 140 universities that we emailed and then we started to color code them in terms of their responses, the color amber meant it was getting somewhere, green meant it was starting to look good in terms of pricing and what they could offer us. All in all to get this venue the first time it probably took about 6 months worth of emailing. They’ve never run gaming events in here before.”
How did you determine the total cost of Heir 3?
Ed: “The attendees pay three costs, tournament costs (fees for singles and doubles which prize matches other European events, we basically price matched BEAST on that), event fee (costing of what we need spread out from the venue fee to what else we need to run a good event and that divided between attendees) and lastly accommodation.
We kind of looked at the numbers between Heir II and Heir 3 and I thought we’d get 500. The venue runs like a hotel so basically a budget hotel rooms are 28 pound a night.”
Was it a hard thing to sell to the community?
Ed:“For Heir 3 no, I think for Heir II we actually dropped our fees a lot. So our event fee was tiny and our tournament fee was 3 pound a game. We took a lot of feedback, criticism from top players like Armada, Leffen, Prof because they weren’t very happy because they wouldn’t make as much money I guess *laughs*
So from a top player perspective it looks less intense and enticing but we knew that we were doing something that hadn’t been done in the UK before. To give an comparison, whenever a sweets company or chocolate company starts a new line or product you get taste trials, if you like it you go back to buy more. So the idea behind Heir II was because it is new to the community we’d probably have an issue with getting attendees so the idea was that if we dropped the prize and everyone enjoyed the taste of it they would come back and pay more because that was worth their money.
I think between Heir II to Heir 3 we’ve proved that because we haven’t had awkward issues with people seeing is as too expensive or pricey, which we did have for Heir II. So obviously after sampling it people were more than happy to pay it.
We also worked very hard to show that it was worth their money, I guess if people are paying as much for these events I want to show that we give a damn and we will do awesome. Between Heir II and Heir 3 we are at the same site but we’ve added a friendlies hall, we’ve added a Marque so we can do side events like the open-mic night, we’ve got a guy to do a big scaffolding projector screen stage. It’s just to show that if you’re going to come back and you’re going to pay that extra we’re going to top last year to show it’s worth it.”
What was your PR approach towards generating a large UK turnout?
Ed: “So for Heir 2 we started assigning regional ambassadors for the first time. What basically did is we listed all the regions in the UK from the midlands to Southampton, the North East and so on. We created lists of the main players and community leaders there. Then we assigned one of the 15 members of Team Heir as a rep for that region. The idea being that they would contact that region, talk to those players directly, talk to the community leaders. Because if you can move the community leaders (the most important in my opinion) and the top players then everyone else will follow.”
We continued that with Heir 3 but now had less need to allocate it as we’d already gotten through and they knew what we were doing. But we also went down new routes this year of finding Power Rankings (PRs). The UK has kinda gone PR mad a bit where every region has got a top 10. We did a lot of early stuff where I asked Dan to basically take the PR and change it in some way to show who was signed up from that region for Heir. This allowed us I guess to kinda praise the players who had signed up.”
Dan: “Celebrate the regions that had put in the effort and shame the ones that didn’t. We did one for Blackpool. They had a Power Ranking (PR) with every member of their scene on it and only one of them was going. “
Ed:“The north-east was a great example of a scene that signed up quickly. So it was saying out of the top honorable mentions early on we had all of them signed up but one.
So it was a way to visually show how well a scene was doing and maybe at the same time allow them to jostle members of their scene whom hadn’t yet signed up. It’s also more visual awareness through graphics of the event. “
And out of country attendance, are you satisfied with the turnout?
Edd: “I am, we did the same for Heir II where we start with the local scene, as you get them moving that gives you the numbers to allow you to then advertise it in Europe because then they already know it’s going to be big which results in a snowball effect. I very much do the same thing when talking to community leaders and top players within the European scenes. Interesting this year we got a lack of Scandinavian turnout but we have a great French turnout which we had at Heir II as well, the Netherlands are a lot better this year but I did put time in talking to the Dutch scene. German turnout is also much bigger this time.
We’ve grown but where we’ve lost numbers from Scandinavia we’ve gained a lot more from mainland Europe. Maybe I put more effort in there.”
Is crews also an important factor?
Ed: “I think crews will have helped but I think the Scandinavian thing is that they are a bit spoiled because they have DreamHack Winter and Summer, Beast and Eclipse now growing in Norway. They also already have two of the best players in the world residing within Sweden. So it’s harder to move them on mass compared to other scenes who don’t have those players and events. They probably reason “Well it’s not going to be too long till the Scandinavian events…”. “
Do you think crews should play a more prominent role at European events?
Ed: “No so that only we do it * everyone laughs*
No I love crews if crews happened more often that would be great. I think a lot the times it can be a bit of a side event while we run double elimination and it’s the main event on the Friday. I don’t even know if that happens on this scale at any other event. I think because we are making it important and we put priority on it it has the impact on players to take it more seriously. So it’s not just perceived as a side event but something people really care about.”
Like many TOs these days you’ve chosen to utilize Smash.GG for registration, reward shop and running the brackets. Can you talk a bit about your experience with their tools? What features do you like and what are your encountering that isn’t working that well?
Callum: “ For TOs I think it’s really powerful and every TO should use it. It made the whole signups a lot easier than last year. Last year we had a spreadsheet with the prices of different combinations of venue fees and tournament fees and you’d complete a google doc with what you wanted, this year thats all done and done a lot easier and simpler with Smash.GG ”
Ed: ”It automates a lot of things. In comparison Challonge isn’t very powerful, if you use that then you’ve got to use a lot of your own systems as well while Smash.GG kinda puts it all in one place.
There are issues with the tournament software though. Seeding is a bit awkward. A lot of it creates wave conflicts and it doesn’t automatically distribute players into waves. For a small tournament that’s not a big issue, but for Heir 3 we probably spent about 4 days dealing with wave conflicts. We got 5 waves of Project M(PM) singles, Melee singles and Melee doubles and which makes it even more of an issue as you end up with players in multiple waves, in the same waves you have to deal with those conflicts and those can then have a domino effect where they create new conflicts. Once you’ve dealt with all that, you have regional conflicts as it doesn’t seed or assign players by region either. So you’ve got to go through it again and if you see an issue you’ve got to move that person which creates new conflicts. So it’s this constant battling to try to get wave conflicts solved. My one thing that would make me super happy is if Smash.GG did that.
Outside of tournament software, and I don’t know how they do this or if there’s a threshold on Smash.GG or if your event reaches a certain size they will then start to contact you. But we hit somewhere around 300 attendees when a Smash chat was created on Facebook(FB) with myself, Dan and members of Smash.GG as a way to communicate with them and where they asked what we needed from them and how they could support us for the event. Zhu works for Smash.GG now and he was allocated as our main rep at Smash.GG. The early days we did weekly Skype meetings with him in which we would go through what we wanted. So it’s good tournament software but it’s mainly good because we got support to run our own ideas.
As an example when we created the donation drive/ compendium, the shop but also with The Contract. They didn’t just say no but it was like we got an idea and how do we make this into reality. So that was really cool.
I observed The Contract as an important element to build hype towards the event. What was its role in the Heir 3 PR strategy?
Ed: “This is the result of another weakness from Heir 1 and 2 though less of an issue with Heir 2. It’s also a general weakness in all tournaments in Europe in my opinion. There’s very little hype between players. I don’t know if that is because players get to play each other less often compared to the USA or it’s maybe language barriers which I don’t think really exist like they did in the past between the scenes when there was less cross over between the scenes. But you don’t really have the ability to create a proper Salty Suite as there’s no real top player rivalries in Europe. Maybe we are just too nice. ”
So to tackle that last year you came up with crews?
Edd: “Yeah crews was a way to try to create that hype and have that rivalry and this year we asked ourselves what else we can do to bring a bit of interest and hype. I guess in a way The Contract is our version of a Salty Suite. Because we’re creating that intense competition between a select few players.
But the other idea of course was, as working with Dan a lot, Team Heir loves the promotion that we did. How can we engage with more people, how can we raise awareness for our event and for Team Heir and we obviously knew that this would kickstart a lot of online interest and it would create video’s. These video’s are then connected to Heir again and the The Contract so we know that they are benefitting and it’s creating interest in the event and we benefit from that increased awareness beforehand.”
Are you happy how it’s turning out?
Callum: “It’s been more than we ever thought it was going to be. We never really thought people were going to make videos for it in this quantity and to this scale. Even the jokey ones with jokey names in there, memes etc. “
Visually how did you approach The Contract
Dan: “Ed said: “I’ve got this idea again and I need this done by tonight” *everyone laughs*.
Edd:“ I don’t give Dan very long deadlines. I wake up at night and send an email to Dan saying what I’ll need in a couple of hours.”
Dan: “For the reward shop I had a day to do pretty much everything, like T-Shirt designs and everything else.
Edd: We actually did improve that process a bit where he now has a priority list which says high, medium and low level and we kinda allocate it on that now.
Dan: “The Contract though. It was sketched out by Ed when we sat in a pub (*verify*) on a piece of paper and he was like make that.
I was very surprised that I did a little contract and it’s a now used in the middle of most promotion for it. That was just something that I put in when I felt it needed something at the end of the bracket. So I made that and then Smash.GG just cropped it out and put it as a logo and then everybody was using it while I thought why is everyone using this I just threw it together. Then we did the ones that had everyone’s name and nations flag and their rank, that was all done manually.
How is Team Heir able to sponsor players and how do you get the funds for that?
Ed: “By and large a lot if it is actually just my own finances at the moment. Long term I want to get into the event industry myself, I currently teach and if I could move from teaching into just event organisation that’s great. So I guess it’s anything at the moment to raise the awareness of Team Heir as a brand but also for me to build the skill set that i can take elsewhere. A lot of that is the reason why we do sponsorship.
To be honest our sponsorship is by and large flights and these don’t actually cost much if booked early which a lot of smashers don’t do. So by being organised myself in that sense. I’m not going to say we are a large sponsor or pretend that we are but if reaper said I’m thinking of going to Beast or Heir, I’ll ask early and find the flights are like 30 pounds or something. That’s because I’m on top of it and purchase early enough.
So it helps them travel but at the same time I’m not going to say we’re throwing loads of money at it. The way that I’d like to be seen, especially with The Contract, is that hopefully we are a launching pad for these players to move on to something bigger.”
So when would you consider Heir 3 an succes?
Ed: “Heir 2 was a success when on monday morning last year we were putting the tv’s into the van and Armada tweeted and even said it on the main stage when he got his trophy. He tweeted out “Team Heir are as good as Crimson Blur and Juggleguy and that we were the best TO team in Europe”. It didn’t just have to be Armada, other people came up the following day to share their appreciation. I guess we consider it a success if people enjoyed themselves and appreciate what we did.
What we obviously want to avoid is not running on time. We’re planning to be done by half 9 on Sunday. If we make that that is the cherry on top of the cake. If people enjoy it and we finished on time I don’t think you can ask for more.”
So how would you describe the next important focus points for the European scene now that we have these large Majors in place and how do you see Team Heirs role in that?
Ed: “I think because I put a lot into Heir and I’m kind of a competitive person and quite outspoken and not very tactful, I might blame it on where I’m from *laughs*. I can rub people up the wrong way I guess and I might have done that with a few people like Marc.
So a year ago it was all like let’s all work together to form Smash Europe which I think was all very cool and we needed that. I think it’s kinda gone a little bit, I don’t think we need an united circuit or anything like that but I’m aware that Heir is now at a point where I don’t need to feel overly competitive, I can kinda allow itself to grow more now without so much investment from myself and the team personally as it’s already established. Now I think I need to start working again with other TOs like collaboration.
I’ve never not advertised other events but I could now say more when exact dates happend like Syndicate at this point and Heir at this point. I work very well with Lolex from Beast series, we’re sharing ideas between us. I think maybe it’s just establishing it so that European players know when events are coming up. Even if you don’t have a circuit you can still work together and help each other out with attendance and maybe that will also help more north americans to come across because they know that if they come across for a month I can attend 2 or 3 majors. ”
You’re becoming a father and you’re a very important part of Team Heir and how it operates. How will that affect thing because you’re going to have to delegate more for example?
Ed: “Yeah uh…”
Dan: ”He’s giving the job of Team Heir of raising his child *everyone laughs* “
Ed: “I’ve already spoken with my wife regarding the future of Heir and she has said that she is happy for me to continue to do it in terms of hosting it on a yearly basis. To be honest in terms of TOing I don’t really do much else now other than Heir as I work full time as a teacher and now family responsibilities will be kicking in. So I can’t be dealing with TOing on a monthly basis.
So for Heir 4 we’ll still be holding it but I will probably be delegating more. Dan always needs more jobs so it’s fine.”
Thanks for the interview, any closing comments?
Callum: “Come to Heir 4? It’s more than a tournament.”
Dan: “We’ve said this many times in our promotional thing and it might sound a bit like we don’t mean it anymore but we genuinely do love every single person that comes to this tournament.”
Callum: “We appreciate everyone that looks at the page, gives us a follow on twitter or like on facebook.”
Ed: “It’s so stressful for an event this size but we only do it because we genuinely enjoy doing it for people. “
Dan: ”Yeah the community is so good. We love the community.”
Thanks goes out to Zein of hypest team for lending audio recording equipment and taking photographs, other photographs used were taken by myself. Find the whole batch at our flickr, Heir III graphic designs by Dan Soup. Matches of the event can be found at GeekyGoonSquad and Smash House.