Hi everyone.

This past weekend of CEO is one I will never forget. The entire staff and community that made it possible put it all out there to run a great event. Overall, I think we excelled and provided one heck of a memorable experience. Of course, as with any big event, it has grown faster than I’d like to admit. As a result, there were quite a few issues this year that my team and I are looking at very seriously to improve for next year’s CEO.

I have always been transparent with the FGC and worn my heart on my sleeve when organizing CEO every year. On Friday, the issues piled up together (such as lanyards not arriving on time and our main channel stream experiencing audio issues). I honestly would not have made it through the weekend and turned things around if it wasn’t for the incredible human beings by my side that sacrificed sleep to make sure everything got back on track late into the night on Friday.

On the plus side, being stopped nearly every minute on Sunday to be thanked for people’s amazing experiences they were having all weekend was a highlight and gave me the drive to immediately start working to make CEO 2017 an even better event.

I will stop at nothing to make sure as many people as possible have a positive experience when they attend one of our events. I’ve asked attendees to provide me honest and constructive criticism and I’ve spent the last few days reading everything very carefully.

Let’s start out by addressing some of the biggest complaints and issues about CEO 2016.

Venue Space

CEO has taken place at the Wyndham Orlando Resort for 6 years now. Many, including myself, believe this is one of the best venues in Orlando (and in many other cities) just for its vast selection of places to eat and things to do all within a short walking distance.

When I first signed a contract with the hotel in 2011, my closest friend told me that we’d never sell enough rooms to cover the cost or fill up a single ballroom, and for the first year that was true. So I booked the venue with a long term goal in mind to grow into the space over the course of a few years. Well, this year we definitely hit the max capacity and utilized every inch of space across every one of the 4 ballrooms that we could.

The biggest complaint with the venue, understandably, was the air conditioning. When you fill an entire venue with people and equipment, from wall to wall, and pair that up with the oppressive Florida heat, you really start feeling it when the air conditioning isn’t doing its job. In addition to that, there are so many access points into the venue, making it difficult to keep the hot air out and the cold air in. Any chance I could, I asked the hotel to crank the AC to which they did to its max capacity. It just could not keep up with the huge amount of traffic nor the heat generated by everything and everyone in attendance.

Moving into a bigger venue will definitely help curb this problem for next year. Stopping attendance sales is another possible solution, but it is, frankly, undesirable. I am working very hard on the former option as I still believe CEO can continue to grow into something even bigger in following years, and hope to have news on that as soon as I can.

I appreciate everyone that was able to handle the large amounts of people this weekend that attended and my staff that through thick and thin was there by each other’s side to run a smooth tournament from start to finish. Every penny that CEO has been able to make has always gone into improving the event and I hope that if we move into somewhere much larger the community will continue to support and grow the event even bigger.

CEOGaming Stream issues on Day One

Over the years of hosting CEO, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford giving the opportunity to up and coming community members a shot to work for the event to grow their passion and maybe one day turn it into a full time career in esports. For local CEO monthly events I have worked with the Overstreet Brothers from MVG_League. In my eyes, their hard work and passion earned them an opportunity that I was excited to give them: to be in charge of the Official CEOGaming main stage stream.

Through months of preparation, all of us were confident they would be able to handle the pressure of such a high stakes position for CEO. Unfortunately, they were just not quite ready yet to meet the difficult demands of production on the big stage due to not having all the right equipment. A late night Friday switch was made with the VGBootCamp team, with them taking on the production of the main CEOGaming stream for the rest of the weekend.

This was not an easy decision to make. I wholeheartedly believe that any other group of streamers that had been asked to move off the main channel would have packed up and went home, and I wouldn’t have blamed them. Instead, Diamond and Dominique Overstreet showed a remarkable amount of heart and passion, , swallowing their pride and moving their entire stream setup to the Smash room to take over the Smash VGBootcamp stream all weekend without issue. That alone is all the proof I need to know they will continue to improve and become an even better team for future events.

VGBootCamp should also be praised, sacrificing an entire night’s worth of sleep to move from a simple single game stream in the Smash hallway into the main ballroom on the massive CEO main stage overnight and finish the weekend without a hitch. This is arguably one of the biggest turnarounds and response to major issues that CEO has ever experienced. Both sides should be commended for pulling this off.

Unfortunately we had to cancel the extra stream planned for Smash due to complications at the event. Since we lost an entire stream, there were a lot of commentators that applied that no longer had a time slot to do what they were hoping to do to help the event and get their names out there. For that, I am truly sorry. I hope to get more people a chance on the mic next year.

Badge Pickup

This was the first time at CEO that we had to start pools as early as 10 am Friday to accommodate for the incredible Smash turnout. With that in mind, we made sure to have as many staff members as possible handing out badges and checking people in. We were all amazed at how massive the line was Thursday at 5pm, and the line was continuous all the way until Saturday morning. If anyone showed up shortly before their pools on Friday we had staff members call those people out to skip the line so they could make their pools in time. Next year, we’ll be sure to double down even more on people checking everyone in to ensure that the badge pickup process can be as fast and painless as possible so you can all enjoy the event.

Don’t get me started on the custom CEO lanyard shipping delay that I was feverishly checking tracking on. It was claimed to be delayed until Tuesday after the event, which is why we ordered generic lanyards with overnight shipping to get as many as we could in case they didn’t show. Once I saw the custom lanyards were on the truck for delivery at 7am Friday, I spent the entire day constantly checking until they finally arrived around 6pm, and a staff member (thank you,Rick O.) drove straight to my house to pick them up to pass them out at the venue. Lesson learned, order a month in advance and not 2 weeks before the event from overseas in case of delays.

Casual Setups

If you have attended CEO’s in the past, I have always prided the event on having casual setups as late as possible on Sunday so everyone could practice and levelup for EVO a few weeks later. This year, a call had to be made in the main ballroom to take out every row not against the wall as opposed to leaving 2 rows of setups in the middle still. We honestly did not expect the consistent finals day turnout we did this year either.

Additionally, since Gaming Generations supplies equipment all over the world and had to leave CEO Monday morning to prepare for another event, we had to pack up all of the Smash setups from the Smash room much earlier than we would have liked, as well. It’s not the worst problems to have — incredible turnout does mean incredible adjustments needed to be made. Last year we still had room for about 10 rows of seats in the very back.  A bigger venue next year should be as simple a fix as any, and you can rest assured that there will be no shortage of space for casuals and a bigger BYOC area setup if a new venue is acquired. With that said, please understand a lot of staff have day jobs to return to on Monday morning, and it’s unreasonable to expect setups to be there until midnight on Sunday, but you can at least expect setups to be available until the late afternoon at future events like usual.

One thing that was really cool was that there were a huge number of casual BYOC setups in all of the hallways which — so far as they blocked no important exits (which we did have to ask players to move for) — neither myself nor hotel staff saw any issues with. Thank you to all of those that brought their games and monitors and setup for players to get some extra games in.

Judges and inexperienced Staff

CEO would not be possible if it weren’t for the staff, volunteers and community always there to help anyone they can through the event. That being said, some people are helping for their first time. We all make mistakes and we do our best to teach everyone how to be approachable and courteous to attendees and I think that, for  the most part, we accomplished that. If there were any issues with staff in particular, feel free to bring it to my attention so I can communicate with them. Our staff continues to get better and better every year and there’s nobody else I would want by my side putting CEO together.

The Infamous Melee Chant during XRD finals

I take full responsibility for this one.

Being able to stand on stage in front of thousands of people with the power to incite excitement can get the best of us wanting to reach out to the crowd. While I did not try to get the crowd too crazy, I simply asked if the crowd waiting for Melee was excited to get it going and they excitedly responded. They also got quiet again when I politely asked them to calm down and not affect the other games going on. Their chant lasted only a few short seconds so I wouldn’t pick on their community too much for it.

First and foremost, I believe this was another issue with the size of the venue. Historically, trying to feature 3 different games at once, like in previous years, was never an issue. The energy of every single person in the main room all weekend was something special and I again apologize for any issues anyone may have experienced due to my inciting the crowd during play. The community was not at fault for that issue.

Also, running behind was a huge issue and, unfortunately, as much as I have tried to make many communities happy every year by offering Top 8’s with 3/5 games, it’s something I may not be able to do again with so many games happening in the same weekend without serious adjustment or rethinking. If everything else remains the same, it is likely that I will most likely revert to standard pool play sets (usually 2/3) until Winners/Losers/Grand Finals for the sake of time.

Both Smash games took over 3 and a half hours, with entrances added on. I think the same amount of excitement and upsets, victories and losses will remain the same no matter the number of wins needed to advance in the bracket.

Smash Doubles and Singles Scheduling

No doubt about it, the Smash community came out bigger and stronger than ever to CEO. I really appreciate the entire Smash community for always supporting us and our event. That being said, it was very difficult to manage both doubles and singles pools at the same time with the amount of setups we had, without requiring tournaments to run into the late hours of the night.

I’m very proud of the entire team for handling so many players and being able to get through all pools mostly on time as well. We try to cater to the largest community there but it can be seen as unfair when only certain games have team tournaments, as is the case with Smash doubles. In future events we will most likely not have official doubles tournaments and will try to schedule some time for the community to run their own doubles events if there is interest. We had a lot of players unable to match up and find partners that ended up being dropped from the event which was another setback.

If doubles is a factor on your attendance, then I am very sorry. However,  eliminating doubles from official scheduling will allow us more flexibility in singles scheduling and casuals throughout the weekend. CEO 2016 truly shines best during its main events, and both Smash Top 8s delivered with style! We want to allow more time for the main events to take the main stage, have more friendly setups so you can enjoy playing as much as possible, allow for community ran side events on your own accord and ensure more breathing room & rest for the Smash Bros community.

Lack of Wifi/Signal

Someone ought to tell the phone companies to put up towers on International Drive. That’s the first solution.

Because of the high capacity of streaming and having so many artists and vendors on site, in-venue WiFi is severely limited. The hotel does provide free WiFi in the rooms for all CEO guests though which is normally like $10 per day. Unfortunately, the wireless infrastructure for the venue simply isn’t robust enough to handle the incredibly high amount of attendance that CEO 2016 saw. Hopefully in a future venue, cell service will be much better and hopefully we can provide more WiFi in the venue so you can all share your experiences as they happen with all of your friends and family. Without your word of mouth, CEO wouldn’t be as big as it is today.

Payouts

In previous years I’ve done my best to spread the payouts as much as possible to Top 16’s and more, depending on the turnout. This always seemed to lead into players not being around after being eliminated to receive their small amount, even though it was always appreciated.

Either way, in the end, this is a tournament. The best of the best should be rewarded for their hard work. I do want to look into a bigger spread and drop from 60% to like 45% for first place but there has to be a balance when you don’t have any developer or other outside supported bonuses added to a game. This is something I will take to heart and really look into — whether it’s another attempt with a Teespring shirt drive to raise money for the pots, or a Smash.gg compendium. We will do what we can to reward more players for their hard work and time.

The Pool

This is something I try to tell the hotel every year. I want the pool open as late as possible, even if it involves paying extra for security. However, the hotel was under new management, and they were against it this year because of other families staying in the hotel the same weekend. Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to block the entire hotel so late night parties won’t be an issue.

Now for the good stuff and things that I feel good about CEO 2016

I wanted to get all of the negatives out of the way so you all know that we are reading everything and paying attention to making this an even better experience. The FGC has never really had a major blueprint for the perfect event and it’s not a full time job but CEO continues to try new things. and innovate the production and way things are fun. I am exceptionally proud of how a lot of amazing things came together and you’ll be reading more about these through attendee testimonies in a future post.

The Production

What we were able to pull of this year for entrances with players was nothing short of amazing. Thanks to Avyd’s presenting partnership and every other partner we had there supporting I was able to have a real lighting setup for everyone to enjoy and it did not disappoint. Working with Mike Hionis of Frosty Faustings was a huge pleasure and something we’ll only make better as years go on.

The players themselves really showed their personalities this weekend and I’m glad you all got your spotlight coming down to the ring throughout the weekend. You really helped spread awareness about how darn fun the event can be. I hope you enjoyed being a part of it.

Also a huge thank you to Astro for providing headsets everywhere and Cole for coming out to help with any issues setting them up.

First Time attendees

The biggest payoff for myself as the TO is hearing from new faces how much fun they are having. We had around 60% of attendees coming to CEO for their first time and to hear how much fun they had was nothing short of rewarding for myself and staff. Being able to see the enjoyment of friends and family coming out to support competitors was a real treat. I’ll never forget the constant energy during every single Top 8 over the weekend and enjoying the very reason why CEO exists, my love of fighting games. All of you made it memorable.

Memorabilia, We had a ton of cool swag to sell and keep for yourselves and I’m really glad they all went fast especially the ControllerChaos custom CEO Controllers. If you picked one of those up or a CEO shirt/tank/hoodie thank you for the support, that will help ensure CEO continues to grow.

Kenny Omega and Xavier Woods

I really have no words for how all of this came together and just to see how genuine both guys were among the community is something none of us will ever forget. These guys took time out of their insane schedules to kick it with the FGC and have fun. Thank You again for providing memories for attendees that will last a lifetime. If you’re reading this I hope to have you guys again.

Media Coverage

Having ESPN, Yahoo and many more media outlets at the event was an awesome treat. We’ll have stories for weeks to come reflecting on CEO and helping get the word out for future events.

Jebaileyland

People really seemed to enjoy themselves and every machine was in use the entire weekend. Thank you to Arcade Impact, Sorethumbs Gaming, Gamers on the Edge, Tekken Team, Anime and Lowry Parcade for making that room such a blast for attendees.

Vendors and Artist Alley

We had so many talented artists and great vendor booths this year that did really well. I hope to expand even more on that in future events.

Venue

While we have outgrown the venue this year it has been a good home to CEO for years now. We’ll still be there for CEOtaku which takes place on October 1-2 for as long we can grow with that community and event. If you need a WaWa and Popeye’s fix again stay tuned to ceogaming.org/ceotaku.

I appreciate everyone’s feedback and now that I have a genuine staff team I can always discuss things with more than just a really small handful, we’ll do everything we can to make next year just that much better. You have my word.

So what’s next?

We’ll have more posts including the Full results, official recap video, photo albums and more posted this upcoming weekend so be sure to keep an eye on ceogaming.org and as soon as I have any news such as venue or dates for CEO 2017 you can bet I’ll be sharing it.

Just one last time I want to say thank you to every single person that was a part of CEO 2016. Because of you I’m still motivated as much as ever to keep hosting CEO and bring people together from all over the world for the love of fighting games.

If you had any other issues with the event or want to let us know that you enjoyed it, please reach out to ceogaming@gmail.com.

 

Alex Jebailey

 

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