I’m Danderlyon, and this year I was lucky enough to get my hands on tickets for All-Star 2014 in Paris! I’m from London, England and I have worked for Cloth5 since launch, as head of Cloth5’s art department. Normally I manage the graphic design for the site, so you’ve most likely seen my input in the form of header graphics for articles and the logo for the site.
I left my house in London on Thursday at 4:45 am. It turns out that staying up all night to pack after working all day, possibly playing one ARAM too many, and then leaving the house before dawn definitely made me question my commitment. Having now been here for a day, I can safely say I’ll take eSports over sleep any day of the week!
I managed to catch my flight from Heathrow without falling asleep on the London Underground, and indeed got through security in under 10 minutes. I’m so tired by the time I get on the plane (9:20am) that I actually fall asleep as the plane taxi’s to the runway. I wake up briefly for take off….and then go straight back to sleep.
I arrived in Paris at 12:00 am. Feeling slightly more alive after my few hours sleep, I bounce down to the baggage area to fetch my luggage – or so I thought. After waiting around for an hour (and getting worried because time is ticking before All-Star starts at 3 pm), we get told that there will be no luggage delivered as the French staff are on strike.
“Welcome to France,” I think to myself as I abandon hopes of getting my luggage and instead choose to actually make it to All-Star in time for the start of the event. I grab myself a taxi, and after some language barrier issues (my level of French is roughly comparable to Doublelift’s URF-Jaycing abilities), I’m zooming off to the Zenith arena.
He drops me at the start of an area of buildings and tells me I’m here. There’s no initial indication of where I should be going – I can see a giant fountain, and some buildings of no immediate obvious function. However, the rather distinctive trail of young 20-something’s all heading in the same direction gives me some inkling that I might be in the right place.
Eventually, League of Legends related things begin to show up; a Teemo hat makes it obvious I’m in the right place. I have some people behind me talking in French about what I believe to be Kassadin, and I walk past a guy who is holding up an Ahri shirt at the passers-by with the caption, “Can I charm you,” which gets some chuckles from the people walking past. The overall atmosphere is heavy with excitement and anticipation!
The Zenith Arena
Soon, the arena itself comes into view. There are fences marking a layout to funnel us into generally the right direction, all covered with the All-Star logo. There are a lot of people in general still moving around – even though the event is due to start in 10 – 15 minutes.
I’m looking for my friends – I’m due to meet Basile (Lucian in Paris), another person who works for Cloth5, and Shakarez (also known as Kayle Bot) who has come from Portugal. I eventually get spotted by them and they shout at me – and I proceed to crush Shakarez with a giant hug.
We decide to enter the building now that we’ve all arrived. We walk through the metal barriers (clearly the queue must have been much longer before I arrived), and a man inspects my ticket before waving me through.
Next – security. I’ve come straight from the airport and I still have my hand luggage with me, complete with laptop, DSLR, travel documents, and everything else. I embarrassingly cause a giant hold up as a lady goes through my bag, and there is a lot of stuff for her to go through. They wind up pouring my can of (at this point desperately needed) Monster energy drink into a plastic cup, and I have to hand in my DSLR at a stand to be looked after – no DSLR cameras are allowed in the arena without a special pass.
At this point we’re still outside – all of this is done in a white tent outside the doors. We’re now let into, what I can only describe as an “inner pen,” which is an open area that also gives access to the entrance of the arena. We walk over to the doors; my ticket is scanned, and I’m allowed in.
Entering the arena, the first thing I notice is NOISE. Many people are seated already, and they must be doing things to rile up the crowd, as every now and again I hear thunderous screaming and stamping from the stadium above my head. The area I’m currently within is an open area containing a bar and some shops. There are various entrances to the arena area depending on your ticket letter. I’m sat in area “O” today. I’m handed a small bundle by a woman at the door – it contains a T-Shirt (in blue or red), a random skin code, and 2 inflatable long sticks that light up when you shake them. I get a red t-shirt and a code for Arcade Hecarim.
There are Rioters walking around everywhere, as well as a fair amount of cosplayers. I see a LeBlanc, Sejuani and Nidalee as I walk up to the bar and buy a baguette to eat (as my stomach was complaining strongly by this point). The drinks and food are a little expensive, but as I learned at security – they don’t prevent you from bringing your own in. I also pick up a radio that they are selling so I can tune into the English broadcast.
Ready to sit down, I head towards the main arena entrances – I’m lead to my seat by a small French lady. I’m sat in the middle of the row and everyone else is already there – they all have to stand up every time I need to move anywhere – which is often! I’ve been separated from Basile and Shakarez at this point – their tickets were a different category than mine. I’m placed between two French people. Which basically means we smile and nod awkwardly, and that’s the extent of our communication for the day.
They start trying to excite the crowd now. All of the players are brought out onstage to large amounts of cheering and stamping on the floor – soon most people are yelling; everyone is excited and it’s contagious. The stage is really well designed – it’s easy to see who is playing what, and no matter where you’re sat in the room you have a clear view of what’s going on. They have one big camera on a large crane taking most of the pan shots that you see on screen.
The room is full, everyone’s excited, and if I were actually able to talk to French Guy next to me, I wouldn’t be able to hear him.
We’re deemed suitably ready for the event to begin, and out come Team Ice and Fire to even more cheers; I wasn’t sure it could get louder, but some how it did. The crowd starts shouting a countdown to the start of the game (in French so it took me a moment to realize what they were shouting) and the game begins.
First blood may have been nerfed in-game but the audience doesn’t care. The yelling as the two teams engage in early skirmishes is intense, and when first blood finally happens – the crowd goes nuts. I can only describe it as being a giant, excitable child. The more kills Bjergsen picks up, the louder everyone gets. I find myself rooting for him even though I’m an Alliance fan!
All too soon, the game is over. Post-game we see the same things you do on screen at the front – the analyst desk in LA, and the post game interview are all shown. I’m not going to summarize the games here as you can watch the VODs later on.
At the end of each game, the players tend to gather around the press area in the arena. It’s not particularly noticed by the crowd initially, but as the day progresses, the cluster of fans gradually get bigger until I give up wandering down there at the end of every game.
The Rioters entertain the crowds between the game by sending them out into the crowd with buckets filled to the brim with foam Ziggs bombs. They will move around gaining attention and then as a special sound track is played they will throw them into the crowd, resulting in a bit of a free-for-all to get hold of them. I get lucky towards the end of the day as I happen to be standing in a relatively uncrowded area, and a nearby bomb bounces off someone’s hand and lands at my feet. It’ll make a great stress ball next time I find myself making a Cloth5 Infographic, that’s for sure!
The radio I bought from outside the main arena room doesn’t really work too well – the crowd is so loud it gets drowned out! Today has been a pretty manic crash course in French for me, though to be honest, I like the English cast for the jokes and banter. I play my fair amount of Solo Queue and have a solid understanding of what’s happening in front of me, understandable commentary or not. A Rioter briefly comes on stage and offers refunds for the radios, suggesting we use a radio app on our mobiles to tune in to the correct radio frequency.
I’m not the most observant of people and by the third game I finally realize I have a celebrity sat two seats directly behind me – SivHD himself! More and more people begin to spot him, and a crowd eventually begins to form around us in-between games. He looks like he’d rather focus on the event, but he still graciously poses for photos and signs papers for the lucky few that beat the crowds.
During the last couple of games, me and Shakarez decide it’s a lot more fun to walk around rather than stay in our seats – no one enforces where you go once you’ve been initially seated. We make our way down to outside the press area mid game to stand and watch for a while. It’s also nice to stretch our legs!
We meet two other Londoners with the same idea in mind. Our new friend (We swapped summoner names and everything, that counts right?) had a large sign showing the Fnatic team, captioned with the amazingly elegant “Prepare your Nexus.” At one point, a Rioter comes up and takes it away backstage – she returns with it signed by the whole Fnatic crew, he’s ecstatic and can’t stop looking at it!
Shakarez and I eventually walk outside to the bar during the TPA match – and run into Dan Dinh for the second time that day. He recognizes us from the first encounter, comes over and we have a little chat – Shakarez about his work for LolPro and me about my work for Cloth5.
SivHD is also taking a break from the masses in the same area. We talk briefly and I ask him for a quick picture devoid of enormous crowds and he kindly obliges. He’s incredibly tall and has to bend down to fit in the same camera frame as me!
After the last match, we watch the closing analytics and then everyone starts to leave – no official announcement is made, everyone just starts meandering away. We have plans to go eat with some of Basile’s friends,we are staying with him and some people who work for Millenium.
We eventually get to the apartment at around midnight – and can finally close my eyes properly for the first time in around 30 hours! I’m shattered, but today was completely worth every cent I spent on energy drinks. Cannot wait for tomorrow!