The 2018 VR League esports season concluded with grand finals last month at Oculus Connect 5. The world’s best players and teams came together at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose to compete for the $120,000 USD in prizes.
Day one featured Onward and The Unspoken. Day two featured Echo Arena and Sprint Vector. As to be expected, the competitors were well-matched and this made for some exciting moments in the season 2 finals.
In addition to players, nearly 200 spectators came to show support for their favorite teams. One couple, who actually became friends in VR, met up in Washington the week before OC5 and then traveled down the Pacific coastline, camping along the way until they reached San Jose. Some fans drove from Texas, picking up others on the route who needed a ride. And of course many flew in from all areas of the United States and as far away as Germany.
Onward grand finals were thrilling as teams came prepared with strategy and motivation, ready to take on opponents (and friends) they had been competing against for most of the past two years. In the end, the winner was decided in the final moments where either team could've claimed victory.
Teams that qualified to compete in the VR League grand finals were Globochem, Beginners, BossFight and SMC Tactical. Onward teams compete through the VR Master League, which collaborated with the VR League to bring Dante Buckley's military tactical simulator game to the grand finals stage at Oculus Connect.
Competition began early in the day and SMC Tactical nearly caused an upset when they took the first map away from Globochem. They almost had an uplink on the third map, but ultimately Globochem was the first to advance to the grand finals stage after they defeated SMC Tactical in the semi-finals.
BossFight and Beginners faced each other next. In an exemplary performance, Beginners played like the pros they are and secured their position on the main stage later that evening.
With the exception of season 2, when BossFight took the title from them, Globochem has claimed every season title, including the season 5 title earlier this year in June. Beginners was right behind them, however, so many anticipated a great show at grand finals and that's exactly what they got. Although Globochem was the more well-established team with a proven track record, either team could’ve taken the championship title and the largest chunk of the $60,000 Onward prize pool.
In an interview with Sean Charles prior to grand finals, Beginner’s team captain Dr. Killinger stated that their plan was simply to “play our game.” Like any great leader, he took the focus off the $25,000 first prize, the championship title, the main stage and the thousands of spectators watching live and via stream. He told his team to “Be chill. Be happy that we’re here.”
Apparently his advice worked and the mighty champions Globochem were brought down by the team that called themselves “Beginners” as sort of a joke. It's sure to go down in VR esports history as one of the more iconic moments.
In the final rounds, Globochem put up a good fight and brought the map score from 0-2 to 2-3 as Beginners struggled with offense. Globochem’s last win, however, put Beginners back on defense. This was an advantage for them as they had been sweeping the defensive rounds with little difficulty and they were able to do so once again, claiming the victory and the grand championship title.
Insomniac Games’ The Unspoken and Ready at Dawn’s Echo Arena were the two games featured in season one of the VR League (then called VR Challenger League). The grand finals at Oculus Connect 5 had an eerie familiarity to them since three of the four finalists were also top four season 1 finalists.
The only difference for season 2 was the fact that Getsu had been bumped into the lower bracket by Reukifellth during The Unspoken World Qualifier for North America earlier this summer. Getsu was never able to climb back up to the upper bracket and Reukifellth ended up claiming the fourth spot in San Jose.
With Getsu out, Reukifellth and Charizard ended up representing North America in the finals while Flushgogo and Yawning Soldier traveled halfway around the world to represent Europe.
In the upper bracket semi-finals, Charizard bumped Yawning Soldier to the lower bracket and Flushgogo bumped Reukifellth down to the lower bracket. Yawning Soldier then defeated Reukifellth and had the opportunity to move back to the upper bracket if he defeated Flushgogo, but he couldn’t do it so Flushgogo had one more opportunity to defeat the reigning world champion, Charizard.
During the final matches, Flushgogo and Charizard were both expecting the other to choose a different class so they both ended up choosing drifter for most of the matches, to the chagrin of many of their fans in the audience who wanted to see them doing wizard duels with some different classes.
In the end, Charizard was able to conjure the most elaborate spells and defeat his rival, claiming the second grand championship title for The Unspoken.
One of the most highly anticipated VR League finals was Ready at Dawn’s Echo Arena. There were barely enough seats for the spectators who crowded in to watch the world’s best teams jump, duck, dodge, punch and boost their way to victory.
Blast! and Team Gravity represented Europe while MetaMercs and Eclipse were the North American teams. All the teams were well-matched so the bulk of the $38,000 prize pool could’ve gone to any of them, but there were losses that always come as a shock.
In the first round of games, top-ranked Eclipse defeated Blast!, sending them to the lower bracket. Based on performance throughout the season, it seemed likely that Blast! would work their way back into the upper bracket, but that wasn’t meant to be. MetaMercs, who were bumped into the lower bracket by Team Gravity, were determined to show that they were belonged in these finals. They managed to defeat Blast!, the top-ranked European team, but then MetaMercs had to go up against the mighty Eclipse, who had been bumped into the lower bracket by Team Gravity. MetaMercs lost in a worthy battle with the season 1 grand champions, sending Eclipse back to battle Team Gravity once again.
The final games in the upper bracket demonstrate what makes VR esports so fantastic. Team Gravity knew they could defeat Eclipse, but they struggled to regain momentum after a lengthy break due to some technical issues. Eclipse came on strong, Eclipse scored a goal only seven seconds into the match.
In the best of five format, Eclipse only needed to win that game to take the series, but Team Gravity was having none of that. When Eclipse scored, Team Gravity matched it with a goal of their own. With only 18 seconds on the clock, however, they were down 10-11. In an amazing play on the next launch, VR Jersey passed it to Viatrex, who sunk it with exactly 5 seconds left on the clock.
As well as Team Gravity played, they ran out of time in the fifth and final match. Eclipse was able to come back from the lower bracket and assert their dominance as the Echo Arena world champions.
The last game to be featured in the VR League grand finals was Survios’ Sprint Vector. Since the other competitions had run a little over schedule, Oculus Connect 5 was coming to an end and people were being shuffled out the door of the conference center. VR esports fans are not to be messed with, however, and so they pretty much just stayed put on their bean bags, stools and plastic flamingo.
Fortunately, with some gracious behind-the-scenes negotiating on behalf of Oculus Studios and ESL, competitors remained on stage and fans were ultimately blocked in with barriers and security personnel so the final Sprint Vector races could be finished.
It had been anticipated that European player Stoaty would take home the first place prize at finals, but as it turned out he wasn’t able to make the trip. This put Kazznazz, the top-ranked North American player and youngest competitor at the season 2 finals, in a prime position to take that championship title and that’s just what he did, taking first place in all but three of the eight races.
The VR League grand finals were powered by ESL, Oculus and Intel.
- About the author
Sonya Haskins is better known among the gaming community by the username "hasko7." Although her version of "flat gaming" consists of cards and board games, she has extensive knowledge of VR esports and is an avid evangelist for virtual reality in general. Sonya lives with her husband and five children in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in Northeast Tennessee.