The UK scene has been crying out for more structure in its tournaments for the longest time, and finally their prayers have been answered. The UKIC recently set up a league structure with multiple divisions which also, for the first time, interweaves collegiate CS with the main UK CS scene. One of the main men behind the construction of the new circuit is TJ “FFACT” Caffrey, who is Endpoint’s Head of Events and is overseeing the UKIC LAN which is underway at the organisation’s HQ in Sheffield.
The Beyond the Summit inspired LAN has been a huge success thus far, and has had an incredible mix of great CS and incredible content, a perfect combination for any esports tournament. Taking a break from the chaos of running an event, FFACT sat down with UKCSGO to discuss what the vision for the LAN is and what his current goals for the future look like.
What is your vision for this LAN?
The vision has always been to have, obviously, a competitive environment and tournament for the top end of the UK scene. But also to have that chill, relaxed vibe that we had for the Beyond the Summit events that I think we are actually missing in this scene, and even in the tier one space.
But I also feel like having something like Beyond the Summit which is also kind of content heavy in terms of the product and then the broadcast itself. It gives the players a personality, which I think they lack and I think it’s ever so important if they want to progress and grow their brand. For UK CS to grow and for players to progress, I think brand is ever so important and something like this is going to bring out their personalities and [allow them] to show themselves more so than just their gameplay.
What should we expect from this weekend?
Hopefully some great CS and just some UK and Irish banter really. That’s what I want. I said to the casters yesterday when they arrived, dweg, retr00 and Zola, “just have fun with it, get as much as you kind of a players, get them laughing and get them excited. Just have fun with it.”
And how have things been running so far?
We initially announced this LAN back at March and we were always going to have a LAN and then a random summer player break happened just as Endpoint were just kind of looking at our options going forward. We’ve always had this vision of doing a proper league structure with divisions and leading into something bigger such as the LAN. Finn [Mischief] had something in place, so I always wanted to leave structure, but Finn had an idea in place which would see the likes of the collegiate scene move into the typical UKCS scene.
Finn’s been a part of UKIC for God knows how long now, but that’s when Endpoint brought him properly on board part time to properly come in and flesh this idea out. The whole structure from going from collegiate to varsity, into Division 2 to playoffs and getting those collegiate players, which there is a heck of a lot, there’s about a thousand plus UK CS collegiate players between NSE, NUEL and now UKIC. Just to get them more involved in proper UK CS because they tend to leave Uni and then stop playing. But there’s a lot of good players that could potentially get on big rosters if we can get them involved more. That was the main goal.
I think for me I’ve been part of the old UK Circuit, now UKIC, since 2018 and to go from just running hubs, to small cash cups, to the invitationals, and now to a proper league structure with LAN finals that’s the goal that I always wanted since I started doing this. I just want it to grow and progress even further.
How smoothly have things been running this weekend? So far…
Set up was long as we’ve had so much going on outside of UKIC, just Endpoint related as well that is has been hard to get everything sorted at once. It was a bit of a rush come Thursday and Friday getting set up between staging the PCs and production coming in and getting all that sorted. So we were here until half 12, quarter to one, one last night getting things done.
I think it looks really really good, no players have complained in terms of the actual PCs and equipment. We have both Adam [Jessop, Endpoint CEO] and Evan, who is a developer working with us, have been great in terms of getting the servers ready – as well as Finn who has been great with all the nitty gritty configs and everything we need to get that 100% ready.
I know we had a few issues obviously this morning, but it’s our first LAN and we’re going to get issues. Once those were ironed out, everything’s been running really smoothly.
How do you ensure that there is no bias between the Endpoint side and the UKIC side?
The Endpoint team will never be able to play the events, that’s something I’ve said from the get go. People have dubbed UKIC as, not a hunting ground, but a place for Endpoint to possibly pick up new players.
But at the end of the day, anyone can watch these events and look at the players playing. I don’t see any bias. If something in the future comes along where we’re able to get qualifiers to certain events we would need to make sure their competitive integrity is maintained.
But at the moment, I don’t think there’s any bias or anything like that involved, and Pete and Adam, they want what’s best for the scene. I think that they’ve showed that over the years, 100%.
You’ve spoken here about the aims of UKIC, but what are your personal aims?
Within Endpoint, it has been to put on big, proper events. The league structure – we started season zero with 81 teams across open divisions and collegiate. For season one, my goal is 100 teams and then to always improve each and every season, be it from a broadcast perspective, a community broadcast perspective where we can give tools to them to make things a lot easier and better.
Everything’s run on Google Sheets at the moment, so it is a bit primitive in that respect compared to other leagues out there, so we want to build upon that and just have a great product overall that people can enjoy and hopefully more and more will come. In terms of myself, in terms of goals, keep building on this to see how big it can get and hopefully progress my career in a sense where I can move on to the big TOs and hopefully run events for them.
If you had the budget of the big TOs, what would be the one thing you would implement into UKIC?
Obviously you’d love a massive stadium and event, but I don’t think with UKCS you’d fill it. You kind of see that from the viewership. We have access to a 2000 seater indoor stadium here in Sheffield if we wanted to run an event, but we don’t feel like we would be able to fill it for the likes of UKCS. Maybe Rocket League, if we’re doing like an invitational for some of the top Rocket League teams, kind of like we did with Quake, maybe something like that would get a lot of viewership.
If the viewership was there, something like that, 100%. I would probably love to have, even though we’re with FACEIT and it’s been absolutely brilliant, but if we could have everything run ourselves, our own servers, our own anti-cheat, just to kind of make it solely UK. We’re not relying on anyone else then if there’s issues and we have to kind of go to them and hopefully they fix it and if not, it’s really, really annoying.
On that topic, we had the update to Ancient dropped on the Friday, and then we were starting the Invitational on the Saturday and we couldn’t revert that patch, it was the patch where they made the spawns larger. I think it was CT sided, then it became evidently T sided. So, stuff like that where we can make sure players are 100 percent happy with the product we’re giving them.