GankStars Esports

Damn it feels good to be a GankStar

Home for the best esports players & community contributors.

 

Exceptional skill

Inspiring sportsmanship

Great personalities

Vainglory Summer 2017: What Happened?

Hello GankStars! 

Let's talk about Vainglory. We're kicking ass on almost every front where we're involved: from Critical Ops to Paladins to H1Z1. When we enter a game title, we dominate faster and more consistently than almost any other organization out there. 

However, we stumbled in VG this summer season and for the first time in GankStars history, we're not attending the seasonal live event. We had a crazy run of being a top 3 org for 2 years straight in either NA or EU, so losing that claim for a season isn't that big of a deal in perspective. Nevertheless, many of you reached out wanting to know what happened and what plans we have to correct course. Note that I cannot disclose too many details in order to protect player privacy, but there are a few things I can talk about.

First - I take 100% responsibility. I had to make some decisions behind the scenes that were distracting to the team during key periods of the season. On top of it, I made the decision that the whole team should be at the team house near Los Angeles, which meant saying goodbye to R3cKeD, who is undoubtedly one of the best captains in Vainglory. Had R3cKeD stayed with us, I am confident that we would have qualified for the end-of-season Championships regardless of other things that went on. Finally, we should have started MackDaddyB earlier; we reacted fast, but not fast enough.

We are not yet sure what Fall season will look like, but we're certainly looking to make changes. From bringing on additional analyst and coaching resources to adjusting the roster a little, we're evaluating all options. GankStars is a household brand in Vainglory and we intend to keep it that way. At the very minimum, our goal for Fall is to stay in Vainglory8. On the optimistic side, our goal is to qualify for World Championships. Of course, that may be difficult due to the majority of players being signed until the end of the year.

So while we're working hard to prepare for Fall, we are also focusing on the coming year and I am really excited about our 2018 roadmap! If the changes we're working on go through, I feel very, very confident about our chances of winning Worlds in 2018. We're focusing on building a support system for the best talent out there. Once we secure said talent, we will have all the tools that they need to grow and succeed. From analytics to in-game coaching to nutrition plans, we will be helping our pro players become true e-athletes. 

The partnership with R/GA and Verizon Ventures is the first step. A month ago, nobody would have thought that these two titans of their respective industries would pick GankStars out of all other teams out there. And yet, here we are. Now we are working around the clock on other initiatives that I hope will pleasantly surprise you in a similar fashion! 

Stay tuned and thank you for the best support system an esports org can ask for! #GSFAMOP

Vainglory Dispatch #1: Improving Together

For a few months now, Skillz4Killz had been working on gathering feedback about Vainglory. Ever since Skillz joined GS about a month and a half ago, a few GS Galaxy members as well as non-members have joined in to help him. Special thanks to sean and BrianGlory for their contributions. Some ideas in this document were taken from others' forums posts and they should have been credited at the end - please let Skillz know if he missed anyone.

The project is not being published under GankStars' brand; it is owned by Skillz and I do think it's best for it to be a neutral ground where actual authors take all the credit. We do want to help spread the word about it, however; we think it's a great project in general and one that brings value to the community. I spent at least a full dozen hours editing the document myself. 

Please - read and participate, either on Reddit or the official Forums, whichever is easiest for you. We can't wait to see how amazing Dispatch #2 will be!

GankStars Vainglory Prize Winnings, Payouts 2015 - 2016

Almost a year ago, we were the first Vainglory organization (and among the first in any esport) to go public about how much we paid players at the time. We believe that transparency fuels positive change in the long-term and is the bedrock upon which communities can be built. Today, we are continuing that tradition by publishing our 2015 and 2016 prize winnings and how much of them we paid out to players. While prize winnings are technically publicly known, player payouts are not. However, even public information on winnings is hard to put together - there's not one web site that lists all competitions an organization or team participated in, or even prize categories for each competition. 

Note: this does not yet include Autumn Split 2 or Vainglory World Championship. I'll update the table after split 2 and, if we go to Worlds, after that. 

2015

We only started tracking winnings for 2015 since the Vainglory World Invitational in July. Frankly, there was nothing to keep track of prior to that... The only competition that successfully finished and paid out prizes before VWI was VGL Season 1, where GankStars Sirius placed 1st and won $100 total.

It was a good year for us thanks to GSS winning 1st in VIPL. Outside of that, prize winnings were quite low as Vainglory pro scene was just in its beginnings. 

2015 Vainglory Winnings Distribution

Total: $42k

Note: player payouts do not include salaries, bonuses, etc. - only prize winnings share

2016

We didn't place 1st in a VIPL, and we certainly had our number of struggles in North America up until now. However, we still managed to come close to the total amount of prize winnings, which speaks to the growth of Vainglory as an esport. By the time Autumn Split 2 is finished, we should just barely cross 40k total for the year.

2016 Vainglory Winnings Distribution

Total: $37k

Note: player payouts do not include salaries, bonuses, etc. - only prize winnings share

Notes & Observations

1. Korea dropped from being 93% of our prize winnings in 2015 to 27% in 2016, as other SEMC-sanctioned competitions picked up the tab. Even if we had won one of the VIPLs in 2016, like we did in 2015, winnings from Korea-based competitions would have accounted for 50% of total, down from 93%. This diversification of income is definitely a good sign.

2. The winnings do not include non-prize income such as sponsorships, streaming deals, and stipends. Player payouts also do not include salaries, performance bonuses, food stipends, etc. Had we included performance bonuses alone in 2016, the player payouts would have reached 98% of total prize winnings. (That number goes to far north of 100% if you also account for salaries; i.e., GankStars had not made a single dollar on prize winnings in 2016.) Showing that in the tables would pollute the data; the goal was to show what prize earnings are possible and how much is left after a typical player payout. 

3. The numbers above are for a consistent top 3 team. We didn't place top 3 in every competition we participated in, however, we did place top 3 in every competitive season of Vainglory so far. Off the top of my head, I think TSM is the only team with similar or higher prize earnings in Vainglory in 2016.

If you're not in the top 3, your earnings will be dramatically different from those shown above, perhaps surprisingly so. The distance between 3rd and 4th places is quite large still.

Conclusion

Wow, GankStars won a lot of money! Well, not really. With 9 pro paid players in Vainglory, in 2016 our monthly expenses exceeded our annual share of prize earnings. Let that sink in. The industry right now is 90% about sponsors and other sources of income, or finding players willing to play for free.

A substantial increase in the amount of prize winnings has been made available in Vainglory between 2015 and 2016. In 2015 we were the highest-earning Vainglory organization with a distant 2nd making less than half; in 2016 we've seen at least two other organizations earn similar amounts, one of them perhaps even more. A few others have earned less, but not by that long of a shot. Hooray! Here's to 2017 continuing, if not accelerating this trend.

FooJee: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Hi everyone, this is Pwnt. 

FooJee is currently a co-owner of GankStars Esports, and he is casting a competition for Twitch in which GankStars participates. Here is what we're doing about it and what to expect in the near future.

1. FooJee hasn't been a part of any GS decisions since the moment he announced that he's stepping down from leadership. IraqiZorro, BFDM_MEXI, and myself made a separate iMessage chat and we've been making all the decisions on our own since. For example, FooJee wasn't informed about Oldskool et al joining us until after the decision had been made and player contracts were sent out for signatures.

2. FooJee asked both SEMC and Twitch to make a decision about this very situation: is it a conflict of interest or not? And if it is, what should we do about it? We hope to hear back from them this week, though of course they may have a lot on their plate, we don't know. Note that other casters have publicly been members of competitive guilds for a long time now, so that part isn't new; however, FooJee is the first caster to have a financial interest in an org.

3. I have recently sent out an e-mail to SEMC and Twitch executives also recognizing a potential conflict of interest, informing them of our intent to solve it by October 15th, and requesting their guidance/stance on the issue. Perhaps they'll just have FooJee sign a binding document that puts on specific restrictions and we end it on that - we don't know.

Now, the reason it's taking awhile to make a decision on this is two-fold:

a) it wasn't clear at first what FooJee would choose to do after GankStars, as he had many options. His trip to NA and EU finals was a test, and it wasn't until close to Split 1 beginning that we learned he chose to continue casting for Vainglory.

b) Awarding ownership is an easy processes; changing it, however, is much more complicated. How does GankStars buy ownership back, if at all? For how much? On what terms? There are attorneys involved, government forms, and frankly a lot of learning about related laws and processes, all while we're bringing new players onboard, expanding to Critical Ops, and handling some other cool projects that we hope you hear about soon. Not the best of excuses, but... honest ones nonetheless.

We hope to have a resolution to this before Split 2 begins. There was never a doubt that FooJee would behave himself in the utmost professional way, just like he has so far. I don't believe any of his casting has had any bias, and his posts on Tumblr had as much critique of GSS as of any other team. I think we would all agree that Vainglory benefited from having him behind the analyst desk. Still, this isn't about trust, but rather about principle. We need to either establish clear boundaries that all parties agree to and perhaps even sign some legally-binding document, or figure out how to transfer ownership interest. That's what's being decided now and we hope to update you on it soon.

Thank you for your support and patience!

Spring and Summer of 2016 - Why, What, and What's Next

Hey Everyone! 

Some time ago Cull departed, then gabevizzle and Oldskool, and recently R3cKeD, and many of you started wondering what's going on. We mostly abstained from comment because we are always very careful about releasing any player information; even if that player parts with us on bad terms, privacy is something we do not take lightly. But unanswered questions lead to rumors, and rumors lead to misconceptions. Misconceptions become perception, and lingering perception becomes reality. 

So it's time to address this; I believe we can do it while keeping key private details private. If a player has a family matter, a health condition, a love interest, or personality issues that affect performance - we believe that should stay private. Other things, especially behavior that's already public, can be disclosed.

First, some background.

Who Am I?

You know me as PwntByUkrainian, but outside of VG I go by Alex. I am a senior iOS engineer at Intel, Inc., which means that I write apps for Apple devices. I grew up sheltered because my dad said "no games all summer unless you bring home straight A's". So I did little outside of studying & playing video games, and I grew up a geek with a passion for gaming. I wanted to be a pro player but never had the opportunity. This is why today I am passionate about helping as many people as possible to be pro players instead. 

GankStars was born a year and a half ago, but so far I have had zero financial interest in it - the law doesn't allow me to. I'm working in the USA on a worker visa, which means I can only be employed by Intel and no one else. I can help and advise a business and even make decisions, but I cannot be employed as a CEO, a manager, or any other paid staff until I get my 'green card' (which may or may not happen this year). I've made $0 from GS so far (I'm in the negative, actually, since I invested some of my savings), and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. I work 40 hours a week at Intel and when I come home I do GankStars for one reason only: passion. I have plenty of opportunity in life whether GS fails or succeeds, so there's simply no motivation for any sort of greed, power grab, or anything of sorts. 

As a side note, FooJee and IraqiZorro have also made $0 as co-owners so far. They're paid as competitive players & streamers, but in the same amounts we have compensated some of our other best players. Our new co-owners BFDMMEXI and Owens will not see any money anytime soon, either: eSports simply takes years of investment before it bears any fruit. 

Who Are GankStars?

Same people we've always been: champions of community, competitive spirits, and naive defenders of sportsmanship and good relationships. We are sirius about building a great community and a place where players can flourish. Vainglory isn't just another game on our quest to expand to a mega-eSports org. No - Vainglory is home, Vainglory is fam. A home we've helped build - from the first streamed Vainglory LAN parties, to the famous pictures of VIPL I took that you saw in early articles by Red Bull, etc., to hero design somewhat shaped by our (and many others') feedback, to a lot of current Evil 8 players being GS, ex-GS, or from a team that at one point or another we helped in a significant way.

There's history tied to GankStars everywhere you look because we want to make history. There are other guilds and orgs that love VG as much as we do and have contributed greatly, no doubt about it, but there's perhaps nobody aside from SEMC itself who loves the game more. We are here to help VG grow, to inspire players in being positive, and to increase the overall pie so that VG eSports is actually sustainable for many participants, not just the top one or two. I am proud to say that we have made several decisions that hurt us in the short-term, but decisions that we thought had to be made to keep our integrity and to benefit Vainglory at large. Whether GS succeeds or fails, at least we know we can sleep well at night.

Yeah, Sure, but Why Did Some People Leave?

First, we've had a long relationship with most everyone on this list. As of the time of writing, none of players who left have stayed longer at their next org. 

Cull 

During the month of December 2015, you may have noticed Cull streaming a lot from Korea during VIPL S2... you can go to Mobcrush archives and see that he streamed over 100 hours that month. This naturally negatively impacted his practices and tournament performance, so we requested him to limit streaming hours. Myself and IraqiZorro, gabevizzle discussed this with Cull at a coffee shop in Seoul on our last day there during that trip. Cull was of a different opinion, plus he was presented with the TSM offer, so shortly after our discussion he left for TSM. It's hard to blame him here - TSM undoubtedly looked like a big opportunity back then, and the conversation about streaming perhaps rubbed him the wrong way. We supported his decision in the sense of it being an opportunity for him - Cull is well-loved in GS and if he wants to focus more on streaming or try out what seemed great, he should do that. 

Gabe

To fill Cull's spot, we first looked at Statusbaked. Problem is, we had a great relationship with LibX (we helped them during Autumn Finals with advice/practices), and they seemed to be the next big upcoming team. As I said above, we believe that having multiple strong teams helps all of Vainglory. If we took Status, we would have put a big hole in LibX and break our word about caring for the overall health of the scene. No matter how hard we looked, the choice was between gutting another team by stealing their jungler, or recruiting a very green free agent. Note: we're not saying Status wanted to leave; I don't remember if we even ended up approaching him. I'm just using him as an example of players we looked at and why we didn't make them offers.

So the best option at the time was to move FooJee to Sirius. Iraqi and Foo played successfully on Kollab before, so we had reasons to believe this would work. We also knew that both were leaders and shot-callers by heart, and that this move could result in a collision of personalities. Alas, there was only one way to find out which would come true. You know the rest: the team was able to perform at top 3 level, but couldn't win 1st. The synergy between FooJee and gabe just wasn't the same as between Cull and gabe, and the dynamic between Iraqi and FooJee was good but not the best. This situation upset gabevizzle after 3rd place placement in Winter season, Hammers sold him on Kinetic, and he decided to leave. Gabevizzle expressed exactly zero concerns with the team until the day of Winter Finals, so there was absolutely nothing we could do to even react to this. At the same time, I failed as a manager to bring out the opinions. Sure, I asked gabe regularly if everything was okay and he always said "yes", but some people have quieter personalities and it's a team manager's job to recognize that and provide an atmosphere where everyone feels they can express themselves fully. 

Oldskool

Moving FooJee to Sirius had ripple effects; Oldskool was left on Vega with R3cKeD, but without a great replacement for FooJee. Him and the team tried his best, but eventually he left on good terms. This was more of a "we can't find you a perfect teammate" situation rather than anyone having any bad feelings. Oldskool maintains a great relationship with GS and is well-loved amidst all GS members; we're very happy to see him doing great. Go Skool! 

R3cKeD

Once gabe left, we needed a solid support. R3cKeD was a natural choice because he worked quite well with FooJee. However, the dynamic between Iraqi and Foo remained at 70-80%, and other failures occurred (which I'll keep private to respect player privacy). In the end, R3cKeD wanted Iraqi to stay on Sirius, but we wanted Iraqi for Cerberus. We knew the EU team would benefit from Iraqi's experience and leadership, and we hoped we could find a laner for Sirius. Frankly, we underestimated the importance of Iraqi being on Sirius for R3cKeD, so when opportunity presented itself to jump ship, R3cKeD took it. R3cKeD - I love you man, and I'm sorry this was mishandled, but honestly not much choice was available.

Other

We do not plan on selling. This stance cost us some players, and we wish them their best, but it's a stance that we nevertheless currently have. Some players see Cloud 9 or TSM or FNATIC and want to play for them - I don't blame them. But all of those top dogs were our size once upon a time, and I see absolutely no reason why we cant be as good if not better. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Cloud 9 - patience and hard work is key. Best teams aren't ones that can have a win streak, but ones that can grow stronger from their losing streaks. There's nothing more awesome than building something from ground up and being able to say, "I was a part of this!" If you're the kind of person who loves that idea - join us :) We're here until we succeed or die. 

Now, no team makes zero mistakes. No org is perfect. I can probably write another blog post about lessons I've learned, and I'm sure Iraqi and FooJee can add a list of their own. But the above captures the specific departures we've had, or at least according to the information we have. There may be other reasons players simply haven't told us about. 

Why Wasn't Sirius at NA Spring Live Finals?

The absence of GankStars at the Spring Live finals was a pure miscommunication. When we were invited to VIPL, it was our strong understanding that Sirius will be able to come back to NA in time for Spring Finals. They placed 2nd in qualifier 1, which gave them enough points to be seeded for the Finals. So we thought, sure - we can go and defend NA's title in VIPL and then come back and fight in the Finals. 

Well, 2 days before leaving for Korea we were told that VIPL finals were on the same day as NA Live Finals. Plane tickets were booked, apartment rented - not an ideal situation. We also had zero information about the importance of Spring season as it leads into Summer - there was no info about the new format, etc. So we tossed a coin and went to Korea. Looking backwards, had we had full information, we'd likely skip Korea due to conflicting schedules. And this isn't to blame anyone for it - as far as we know, some key information simply wasn't available at the time. 

We didn't get 1st in VIPL, but going 3-0 and then placing 3rd isn't exactly a failure either. 

By the way, I'm On 2nd Bag of Popcorn Now, Continue...

This brings us to Summer Split 1, where we had 4 new members on the team - zhyno, PajamaDrama, LoneDelphi, and MackDaddyB. zhyno broke his iPad during week 2 and couldn't play for awhile (the split was half-way done before zhyno told us what happened). Pajama, Delphi, and MackDaddyB have great attitudes but aren't nearly as experienced as most of the Evil 8 when it comes to competitions. They're good people, but they simply need more time together than what they were able to have so far. Our NA team Sirius was knocked out of Evil 8 as a result, and we're looking forward to claiming back our spot. 

So what's next? When we looked at the Summer season, we were once again careful when approaching players who were already on other teams - we really didn't want to gut any team out there. But frankly it seems nobody else cares about this, so perhaps we should just accept it as a reality of eSports. In both EU and NA, we have so far only recruited players that reached out to us first or were free agents. 

Sirius?

Our teams have always been meritocracies. FooJee isn't on a team because he's a co-owner; he's on it because he's a good player, a good captain, the best shot caller we currently have in NA, and because we really didn't want to gut another team. We're quite mature so having a co-owner on the team doesn't have a big effect; however, we realize it's still not ideal. I currently serve as a remedy to that - I'm not on any team and so have an unbiased perspective re: team's performance, health, etc. It is my job to give honest feedback to both FooJee and IraqiZorro when it's needed.

Will FooJee remain captain after Summer? Not likely. FooJee is great at business, and we have a lot of business work to be done behind the scenes. His ability to fulfill co-owner duties are very limited while he's competing, so it's not ideal to have him play long-term. So if not FooJee, who will lead Sirius (assuming Iraqi is still in EU)? Hell, if you're that person - step up and message us :)

Cerberus?

Cerberus is doing great. To answer the question we get a lot - L3oN isn't currently playing for one reason only: he can't travel to Summer Live Championships. Thus, the team that is able to go must get as much live experience as possible. L3oN is amazing (both as a person and a player) and we are looking forward to the day when he steps on stage at an event to a roaring cheer of the crowd. Vainglory is very young; there are many years ahead and many opportunities.

We don't want Iraqi to be on EU permanently; he's there to pass on experience and help the team mature into a scary, scary three-headed beast to be reckoned with. I don't know if it will be one season or two seasons, but ideally he comes back to NA sooner than later. Iraqi is flexible and can fill the role of a captain just as well as he can be an excellent laner with someone else being a captain. If Iraqi can perform well with all the extra responsibility, I can only imagine that he will perform even better if he isn't distracted by shot-calling. But first there would need to be someone who's is a better shot-caller - and that's a high bar to reach.

Hokay, I Guess That All Makes Sense. What's Next?

One thing we as GankStars can proudly point to is our track record: no unsportsmanlike moves, respect for all teams out there, directly helping many teams & people, and doing our best to push VG forward while of course still trying our best to be one of the best. We've given money to other teams so they can travel, we've advised at least a dozen other teams on starting up/organizing, and we even helped our direct competitors get sponsors. This will never change - it's simply our ethos. Call us stupid, but doing anything else simply makes no long-term sense. We need Hammers, Phoenix, Nemesis, Team Secret, TSM, SK, etc. If the scene isn't healthy, then "success" means very little. 

in the coming months, we're doing some cool moves starting with the addition of BFDMMEXI and Owens as co-owners. SaffireSky joins us as the social media queen. Steven Wong joins us as PR & Marketing. We're looking to expand the leadership/management team even more - if you have the attitude, work ethic, and time, you know what to do! Especially if you'd like to manage the expansion to Overwatch.

Our next big task is a gaming house, and we've spent months so far filing the required forms with US Immigration to enable IraqiZorro to live in the US - it's a long, arduous process. Meanwhile, Owens is building up our support staff - analysts, coaches, etc. We're looking to put processes and best practices in place that a truly professional team should have: from diet and exercise to training specific to reaction time to a system that measures progress via tests. We're looking for players who are as serious about VG and eSports as we are.

Of course, we'll continue to help grow the community in general, not just the pro players. We're doubling down on GS Academy and it's now in two languages: English and Russian. We're looking to add Chinese soon. I just want to say THANK YOU to GankStars Galaxy members! We're also growing our EU and NA guilds and looking for fun, active, awesome people to join us

As a side note, we want to thank you guys for the support. Yes you, the one reading this. It's pretty awesome to go to Twitter to read all kinds of amazing messages no matter if we win or lose that day. It's just.. great. Cheers!

Sirius Spring Roster Changes

The North American competitive scene is experiencing many roster changes as Winter Season comes to an end and players have time to evaluate their professional opportunities. This is no different for GankStars as we have recently announced the departure of long-time Roam gabevizzle from team Sirius. So that leaves the question! Who will help lead Sirius to victory in Spring 2016?

Welcome R3cKeD

GankStars is proud to announce that R3cKeD will be joining the
existing lineup of IraqiZorro and FooJee for the upcoming season.

R3cKeD has been active in Vainglory for over a year, specializing as a Roam player and showing great prowess on many heroes this position has required individuals to master. He is a strategist, opportunist, and mature/focused player always working on his personal skills. As a member of ‘Fusion’ in July of 2015, he played on the international stage in Seoul, Korea alongside FooJee and Oldskool for the Vainglory World Invitationals. R3cKeD would soon after join GankStars Vega to qualify and compete in the North American Autumn Championships. His domestic, international, and live-performance experience gives us great confidence in R3cKeD’s addition to the Sirius team and we can now set our sights towards the Spring Championships. 

Thank You

Whether you have been an avid long-time GankStars enthusiast or you are a new fan to the brand, we look forward to making you proud in the coming months and thank you ahead of time for your support.

The organization feels it, the players feel it. 

Cheers to an exciting future,
The GankStars Family

GankStars: Lessons Learned, Next Steps

Cull, gabe, Oldskool

With the loss of CullTheMeek, gabevizzle, and Oldskool we started seeing negative comments from some people online. They never come from people who know how hard it is to build something (those usually come offering help/advice instead), and we all know how everyone's a keyboard warrior on the Internet. Still, perception is reality, and it's our responsibility at GankStars to take public perception seriously and do our best to address it. 

First, I would be lying if I said that the departure of our two star players has no impact on GS. It does, especially short-term. I would also be lying if I said we know what that impact is/will be. Things always look morbid when something that worked well suddenly disappears; but when one door closes, another opens. We now have 2 positions available for people who want to prove themselves, same way Cull and gabe wanted to prove themselves when they first joined. They're two amazing players, no doubt about it. But it would be a disservice to all other players out there to say that there are no other 2 amazing players who can also train and succeed. The Vainglory eSports scene is becoming quite healthy in the sense that there are multiple teams and dozens of players who are very close in skill level. 

The question I see asked a lot is "Why did Cull/gabe leave?" We can't answer that fully. But I will talk in generic terms about lessons learned so far, and what we're changing. Nearly every team has its internal dynamics, conflicts, and issues, no matter how good they perform. There were many-many things that worked with Sirius; there were a few that didn't, and these few meant more than we realized. 

We're also seeing the older, more established orgs enter Vainglory, and for some players those orgs have a lot of appeal. We can't blame anyone wanting to join TSM or Cloud 9 or what have you; we only wish them happiness there. But I can say that we're determined to become just as notorious, that 2016 looks amazing for us, that GS offers same-if-not-better competitive salary and performance incentive opportunities in Vainglory, and that in a grassroots org you're a legend that's helping build an empire, not just another face in the crowd. GS is also heavily community-focused, and exists for a bigger purpose than just wining prize money. For some these things matter the most, and it is those players that we're looking for.

Lessons Learned

KEEP IT FUN! We were so busy building up GankStars that we almost entirely forgot how to have fun. We became a too-professional team - practices were about just that, practicing. But a team is about more than that - it's about friendships, a collective journey, and just human emotions in general. "How was your day? What did you eat last night? DISNEY! Which park are you going to, and have you been before?" It's about hanging out, making memories, taking silly pictures. For Sirius, it was just practicing, day in and day out. One of our major goals for Spring is to just have a lot more fun; after all, this is a game and YOLO!

Ground/coach the players. If humans could always see their own mistakes and issues, the world would be a whole lot better place. But we simply can't, no matter how good we are at other things. Some can do it better than others; none can do it perfectly. We all have ups and downs, bad judgements, depressions (I went through 2 of those), or pure laziness. It's not bad - it's human. Having a coach or a manager to ground the players is amazingly helpful; I owe a lot to my friends who got me through my depressions. A coach sees things that you don't for a very simple reason: because he or she isn't you. Tiger Woods has a coach. Tom Brady has a coach. Michael Jordan had a coach. And all Olympians have had coaches. And it's not because the coaches were better than the sportsmen - often they weren't, and in fact best players rarely make best coaches. No, coaches are irreplaceable for one simple reason: because their students are human. And guess what? Those coaches also have personal coaches! Embracing your humanity instead of attempting to fight it is the first step to becoming a legend. We'll be looking for a coach for both of our teams for Spring/Summer.

Solicit feedback proactively. We've asked over and over again - please let us know if anything is wrong. What we've learned is that gamers are a whole lot more introverted in this regard than people at our jobs; they often don't speak up. It's easy to say, "if they don't speak up, it's their problem." Except it's also everyone's problem. We're all in this together and we owe it to each other to show continuous, proactive concern. With the team winning and far across the globe, I often didn't ask how things are going past the surface-level response. The players themselves sometimes were afraid to speak up simply because they didn't want to lose their contracts, or because they shied away from conflict. So going forward we'll put a big emphasis on emotional well-being and making sure there's ongoing communication about any issues and concerns.

Next Steps!

Competitive. So where is GankStars? Roster shake-ups often take a psychological toll on the remaining players. Honestly, that's our biggest obstacle right now. People blame themselves, or look too deep into what they've done wrong. There are always lessons to learn and a big change is sometimes necessary - a humble attitude never hurt anybody. But one can also spend too much time blaming themselves, trying to find something that's simply not there. Sometimes people just want a change, they just want to try something new. Sometimes they need to grow elsewhere before coming back (this happens a lot in other industries). Whatever the case is, the trick is to move on and that's what we're working on as far as our competitive side. 

Community. On the casual side, GS has never been better. Our web site roster is outdated as of time of writing (should be updated soon), but we have a total of 35 members in the guild now. We launched GankStars Academy and are continuing to expand the team that works on it. We've begun work on another project that we can't yet talk about, one that will also benefit all of Vainglory community including the competitive side. And, we will start recruitment for yet another large project soon. Awesome things are happening in this area and we're very excited about this Spring and Summer.

Clash Royale? One of our members is at Supercell headquarters in Finland as I write this, asking questions about Clash Royale. It's very likely that we'll enter that game in both competitive and casual roles very soon. Our goal is to be a three-game organization by the end of 2016, but we don't want to rush it; we'd prefer to fail as much as possible in one game first so we learn the ropes with least impact. That said, Clash Royale seems to have eSports in its sights and that means we're very interested!

Merchandise will be available via this web site soon! Before, we couldn't afford to buy in bulk and distribute ourselves, and we were dependent on finding a vendor that can print and sell individual shirts at great quality and without charging you a ton. Now we can buy in bulk, and Mexi and his wife graciously agreed to handle distribution. We tested Square payments at NA Championships, so soon we'll roll them out to this web site :) Hooray!!

Miscellaneous. GankStars is on solid financial footing and we will continue to grow our position by building strong relationships with businesses, supporters, and influences that share our vision. GS is here to stay, and we are building a framework that can last. We're looking for loyal players and galaxy members who want to build and be a part of a true grassroots org with strong community focus and ideals. If helping others makes you want to wake up in the morning, whether you're in EU or NA, you should apply

I'll end with something not related to this blog post at all, but something I found to be one of best lessons I learned in life: keep looking for those friends you can trust 100%. They're ah-mazing. Being vulnerable can hurt more than a few times, but if you find even one such friend, it's worth it. At the end of the day, life is wonderful. You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Cheers! 🍻

Pwnt

Announcing GankStars Galaxy - A Community of Friends

“Community? Aren’t you an eSports organization?” 

What seems like both a long time ago and just yesterday, GankStars became competitive. Ever since, we have wrangled with trying to balance our competitive and casual sides of the guild. This affected everything - from minimum rank requirements during recruitment, to managing ‘noise’ levels in chat so strategies could be more easily discussed, to only accepting people that somehow directly supported the competitive side. We’ve tried multiple approaches and while few have worked, most have failed. This type of dynamic is also very new to the MOBA space and in some ways with guilds, Vainglory has brought elements of an MMORPG to the game. In the end, we feel that having a casual guild and competitive organization clumped together under one name with no specific unifying purpose is not what we want to have in the long run. So how do we unify?

Well we think the best way is to help build a GankStars Community.

For the longest time we wanted GS to remain small. We weren’t a fully casual guild, so it didn’t make sense to recruit a ton of casual members. But we also didn’t want to hoard competitive talent, so we often limited our recruitment in that area as well. Since late April, we have received over 300 applications to the guild; less than 10% succeeded and it was certainly not easy to say ‘no’ so many times. But the new vision for the GS Community requires manpower to make things happen, so we’re finally looking for an opportunity to say ‘yes’ more often. 

So what is this GankStars Galaxy? 

It’s a community of creators, producers, organizers, makers, movers, and friends united around the goal of content creation that primarily advocates Vainglory as a game and eSport. Many would join this community if they are a fan our competitive teams, yet the greater focus would be to help grow the Vainglory scene by writing guides, making videos, participating in shows, volunteering at events, helping other teams and guilds, and in general being a focused force for the good of all while having a hell of a good time doing it. 

It may sound like a conflict of interest when we say that we want to help all teams and players out there. Yes, we’ll always try to be the best and perform at our highest level, but we won’t be the best all the time, every time. And we absolutely won’t thrive in an environment where supporting each other isn’t a priority. Vainglory isn’t a one-winner-takes-all game. Vainglory is a platform on which many teams and organizations can flourish and where millions of players can have a great time together. And that world, the world where Vainglory is a huge success with many healthy teams and well-educated, well-entertained players, is the world we want to live in. So we want to do our part in creating it.

We’re looking for YouTube pros, entertainers, video editors, media aficionados, artists, organizers, positive influencers, active gamers, and just awesome personalities! 

If any of this sounds like you, please apply! And if there is something else unique that you can bring that’s not listed here, let us know.

Carpe Diem!

GankStars

What Makes a Good Contract and Club? Tips for Players

Vainglory is growing up fast and teams are being approached by various existing entities with offers of buyouts and partnerships. We have been approached by a titan of the industry some time ago, G2 entered the scene by recruiting a team, and R3D joined SK Gaming. I'd wager a few Vainglory teams are in the process of discussing a potential buyout or merger this very moment. 

Being approached by an existing team can be a good thing; it can also be a bad thing. As in any industry, there are companies that treat their contractors well and there are those that don't. Hopefully, this post will help you sort out the good from the bad. You can always reach out to us for confidential non-legal advice as well (you don’t need to disclose who is approaching you).

What’s In a Good Contract?

We think a good contract should have the following player protections. 

Guaranteed Pay

If you’re on a starting roster, you should be paid for your services. It’s great if the contract ties a large percentage of your compensation to performance - that’s only fair. But it’s a red flag if the contract has no guaranteed pay whatsoever, or no way of earning decent pay. Don’t fall for “we’ll pay if you perform” promises; this is business, not politics. 

Reasonable Winnings Split

The percentage the players get will vary from one organization to another, but make sure it’s in your favor. If the organization provides a lot of support - free travel, food, and housing, analysts, coaches, etc. - you can agree to a 50/50 split. But these should be real services, not just promised ones. Otherwise, a 30/70 or 20/80 are more reasonable splits (70-80% going directly to the players). Ours is 15/85. 

Allowing Other Revenue

The company should not take a large percentage, if anything at all, from various additional revenue streams you may have as a player.

Short Duration

As Riot wrote recently, there’s at least one 10 year deal in League of Legends. Yeah. 10 years. That’s insane. While Riot will implement rules to limit contracts to 3 years, Vainglory right now is not as mature as League of Legends and so we recommend 1 year max, or 3 to 6 months if you’re not sure if you’re getting a good deal. 

No “Contract Ceiling”

Make sure your contract explicitly specifies that you as a player will be informed about another organization approaching your organization about you. If you never know who else is interested in you, or how much they’re offering - how will you know your market value? You won’t, and thus you will very likely be underpaid. It’s okay to be paid less if you are in it for other causes; but you should have the right to know when this happens instead of being in the dark.

Good Buyout Options

The whole point of signing a contract is to have a guarantee of services over a period of time. That said, reality is such that things often don’t work out. A good contract should have 3 buyout options:

  • player can pay $$ to get out of contract without penalties. This amount is usually large.
  • player can pay $ to get out of contract but can’t be competitive for a certain period of time. The $ amount is usually low, but the duration of no-competition varies. 
  • company can pay the player $ to get out of contract, and the player is free to continue to compete for other companies. The $ amount in this case is similarly low. 

For reference, we use the same $ amount for both options 2 and 3, so that it’s equally fair for both parties.

Fair Responsibility

You should be able to terminate the contract if the company acts in violation of it. It’s as simple as that. 

Nice to Haves

We have a few extra things that further protect the player but are not necessary for the contract to be solid. For example, GankStars can’t terminate the contract during a competitive event without a good amount of notice. Or, if you were on a starting roster and played at least one game in a competition and then you were benched, you’ll still be guaranteed a (smaller) percentage of the wins. 

Other Red Flags

Are you being pressured to sign? Do you hear a lot of promises but not much in writing? Is the organization being clear as to who they want to sign and who they don't? Watch out for these red flags and anything else that feels fishy. 

What's in a Good Organization?

Transparency

Organizations will probably not disclose their balance sheet or full finances to the players, just like a private business rarely discloses theirs. That said, there should be a lot of transparency in terms of vision, short- and long-term plans, payouts, etc. If you find out that an org keeps their players in complete darkness, that's a warning sign. One simply can't feel like they're a part of the cause if they don't know what's going on - that's the difference between a job and a passion.

Culture Fit

Get references from existing players in the eSports club that's approaching you or you're trying to join. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't have players in your game yet. Hang out with those players, talk about life, ask generic questions about the club, and get a sense of their culture. Is it a culture that inspires you, or one that you feel you'd have to "deal with"?

Also talk to players that have left the club, and try to understand their perspective. The main focus here is not to see who was right or wrong, but to see if the breakup was treated with respect by the organization. Not everything can be written down in a contract; in situations that are gray areas, you'll know that a club that respects its players will make the right decision.

Integrity

Integrity is hard; you often have to pass on the "easy way out" or an instant reward. But integrity inspires, instills trust and confidence, and promotes fair play. This also means that you should expect the club to treat you equally to other players and enforce rules. You want to join a club that can get tough when needed, but only when needed. Otherwise, it can devolve into chaos or lose respect of the community in the long run.

Conclusion

Get guaranteed minimum pay, reasonable prize money split, few to no restrictions on additional sources of revenue, short duration, good buyout options, the right to know when another org is interested in you, and hopefully some nice to haves. Watch out for pressure to sign, a lot of talk but no walk, and the org being unclear about who gets contracted and who doesn’t. Talk to current players inside that org and those that left to get multiple perspectives. Email us at info@gankstars.gg with any questions - it's hard to capture everything in a single article.

If you do contact us, we'll keep the conversation confidential. These kinds of decisions can change one's immediate life-path and are sensitive topics. If something is outside of our expertise, we'll be happy to suggest some authorities to talk to, especially if it's related to legal advice. It benefits everyone, including GankStars, to have a healthy community of competitive players that are just as well-protected as the companies they sign contracts with.

Vainglory In-Game Guild System Explained

Finally, a moment we've all been waiting for - an in-game guild system! Patch 1.9 FTW. So how exactly does the guild system work? PwntByUkrainian sat down with Kraken, the UX director at Super Evil Megacorp, to get some answers.

1. "Thank you, Kraken! Straight to business - we've seen 'club' used as a term before. Are you still debating about it or have you officially settled on 'guild'?"

K: "We've settled on 'guild'."

2. "What is the max guild level right now?"

K: "There isn't one."

3. "Does the guild grow equal amount of max slots per level? If so, how many spaces per level?"

K: "Yes, guilds add 5 extra slots per level until they reaches the max of 50. So at the start, the guild is limited to 20 members. At level 2 the guild can have 25 members. At level 3 - 30. And so on. Max capacity of 50 is achieved at level 7."

4. "Luke. I am your father."

K: "Spoiler."

5. "If only 2 out of 3 people in a group are from the same guild, does the guild still get points after the game? Is it a smaller number of points than if all 3 people were from the same guild (as far as points toward guild level)?"

K: "Not right now. A group has to have all 3 people from the same guild in order for the players and the guild to gain fame."

6. "Do casual games result in the same amount of fame as ranked games?"

K: "Yes. Any match where you go through the matchmaker counts; private matches do not award guild fame."

7. "Will we be able to see guild and team tags at the same time under people's names in Friends List?"

K: "Right now, both in-game and in the lobby, it will show player's guild tag if that player is not on a team; otherwise, it will show player's team tag. In the future, this will continue to be the case in a match; however, we may show both team and guild tags in lobby's Friends List."

Pwnt: "Sweet, your next beer is on me."

8. "How many games before someone can be assigned as a guild officer?"

K: "Officers cannot currently be assigned. The ranks are automatic based on how many games player has played while teamed up with 2 other guildmates."

9. "I see 'Initiate'. What are the names of all ranks?"

K: "Initiate, Member (after 10 games), Veteran (after 30 total games). The creator of the guild is Captain."

10. "Do all ranks have same permissions/priviledges right now?"

K: "Captains and Veterans can invite in invite-only guilds; no other differences exist between ranks right now as far as privileges/permissions."

11. "Do all guild ranks contribute the same amount toward guid level per game played?"

K:  "No. Each player gets certain amount of fame, and the sum of all fame gained is contributed toward the guild level. For games won, Captains get 125 fame per game played with guildmates, Veterans - 100, Members - 75, and Initiates - 10. So Captains and Veterans help raise the guild's level the fastest, on a per-game basis. When the group loses a game, they gain around 70% of these amounts (so 7 fame for Initiate instead of 10, etc.)"

12. "What happens when a Captain leaves?"

K: "In a guild, when the Captain leaves, the most-senior member of the guild becomes Captain. If that person leaves, the next most-senior member becomes Captain, etc. So if you start a guild and Player A joins the guild first, and then Player B joins the guild, and then you leave the guild, Player A will be the new Captain."

NOTE: Captain Neato also said on Twitter that for a team, when the team leader leaves, the player with the next-highest elo rating becomes the new leader.

13. "Do any other game activities increase guild rank? For example, in-houses (all 6 people are from the same guild)."

K: "Nope, only public matches (casual or ranked)."

14. "Majority Skill Tier shows Ask Again Later but we’re all higher than that?"

K: "Not exactly sure, see if it updates after a day. Otherwise could be a bug related to tier compression."

NOTE: It did update for GankStars the next day, so it seems this is not a bug.

15. "Recently Active shows 0/15 and we have 10 people online since hours ago..."

K: "This is based on games played, not just being online."

NOTE: This number also updated for GankStars the next day.

16. "Can we pay ICE to rename a guild, like we can to change our IGNs?"

K: "That's not something we've been talking about adding. We want guild names to be pretty stable. If you want a new name, you'll have to forge a new guild."

17. "Will guilds ever expire? There’s a tag we want, it fits us perfect, and that 'guild' has 1 member in it who hasn’t been active for a month…"

K: "Guilds are permanent for now."

18. "I marked my guild as Invite Only. Oops. How do I change it?"

K: "That's something we'll have to account for down the road, but for now it's a fixed setting."

19. "I’d love for the guild to have collective ICE that each member can apply to withdraw from. For example: leader buys 5000 ICE. A member needs skin. They say 'Pay with Guild Funds' and leader can then approve or decline the request. Would this ever be implemented?"

K: "I think it's a cool idea, not sure if it will fit in our roadmap, but thanks for the idea :)"

20. "Does the guild chat have any sort of history, or can members only see it while they’re online and they can’t see what was posted while they were offline?"

K: "No offline chat history exists as of right now, though I'd very much like to change that."

And there you have it! Thanks to Kraken for his time on a busy day.

Have even more questions? Mejlis answers many gotchas in a forum post here.

 

Where, How, and How Much: Practical Answers to Guild Management

Did you read our previous blog post on starting a guild and thought, “That’s cute, but… where do I actually get a custom e-mail address?” This post is for you. No frills, no philosophy - just straight-up answers.

There may be better services and ways of solving problems - please tell us at info@gankstars.org if you know them so we can share here. We spent many, many hours comparing services & finding solutions for ourselves; it doesn't mean there aren't even better answers. Note that we are not paid or in any way encouraged to mention these specific services. Our only official sponsor at the time of writing is Mobcrush, and they are not mentioned in any special way compared to other streaming services.

Web Site

SquareSpace - we use and recommend them. The cost including the domain name is $10/month or $96/year (20% savings). Easy to use, beautiful layouts, customizable, and with an incredible customer support.

Weebly - heard of them also being great. We didn’t spend much time there, so they could even be better than SquareSpace for you; do check them out. 

WordPress - we know HalcyonHammers are running a highly-customized WordPress site, but you should only pick this option if you’re somewhat technically proficient. 

For VG image backgrounds, check out the work of Justin Murray on his Devian Art page.

E-mail

Want a custom e-mail address such as something@mydomain.com? Pick your web site provider first, and then see if they offer this option as an add-on - SquareSpace does, for example. Gmail is the best e-mail provider in our opinion. You’ll pay $50/year per account, so consider setting up just one account as there are better ways to spend money.

Logo & Animations

We recommend LooseKeys studio (@LooseKeys). Prices vary, but expect $150-300 for a decent logo. Logos are very finicky business so if one designer just doesn’t produce the feel you want, move on to another - a good designer will understand and won’t be offended.

T-Shirt & Hat Sales

T-shirt design and one-off prints are covered below, but for having an online store we recommend Bonafide Clothing

Pros: personal attention, no setup cost, you get a personalized address & store pages, they take merchandise photos, manage orders & inventory, and ship on-demand (no need for bulk purchases). In return, they take 25% of the revenue and their shirts include their (small) logo on the back, just below the collar. You can remove the logo if you pre-pay for shirt inventory, though (100+ shirts at a time). If you want soft shirts - ask for same shirts Mobcrush uses. Base price isn’t punishing and lets you sell great shirts for as low as $19.95. 

Cons: it takes awhile to get up and running, and if you want to do two-sided design (front and back) you have to pre-pay cost of at least 100 shirts (on the plus side, pre-paid shirts don’t have livebnfd logo on the back, so it won’t interfere with your design). 

Hats: They have 5-panel hats where the front area is one panel instead of 2 (no stitching on the front which would interfere with your logo… trust us, we spent a lot of time looking for this). Many customization options for hats are offered. You must pre-pay for 100 hats at least if you’d like to sell hats - you cannot do those on-demand. 

T-Shirt Design

Use whatever designer does good work there. We used Brad Chmielewski (@LooseKeys on Twitter, he is also the host of Shatter the Vain podcast, among other things). He knows his stuff and didn’t murder us despite a lot of micromanagement on our part. Reasonable prices.

Format: preferable format is .ai (Adobe Illustrator), but .psd (Photoshop) should work also. You want to have your canvas in 300 DPI, not just 72 - this ensures no blur once printed. Each printer will ask for a different size of images, but typically it’s 13 inches across, 19 inches down (or something like 4500x5700 pixels). That’s the printable area on the shirt, which is usually the area from seam to seam (with about 1 inch margin - i.e., can’t print closer than 1 inch near a seam such as collar, shoulder, or bottom of shirt). Keep in mind that female tops, sleeveless shirts, etc. can have smaller areas, so the best design is one that leaves a little space on the sides, to allow you to sell more types of shirts.

Front or back: for on-demand orders via Bonafide Clothing, you must do front designs only. Unless you pre-pay for the inventory of 100+ shirts - then you can put design on both front and back of the shirt. Doing front and back with services like CustomInk.com, or doing more than 1 color, will always cost more money.

T-Shirt One-Offs 

If you’re not in a big hurry, you can use an online service such as CustomInk.com or Zazzle.com.

If you want some shirts ASAP, you can do screen printing at your local t-shirt shop - it’s much faster, often the same day, but costs $40/50 per shirt. They may ask for your design in both it’s final colors (try to stick to one or two colors) as well as in black (i.e. the text and logos all black). What happens is they use the black version to capture the outline of the text/images, and then they fill that outline with the color of choice. Once you have your logos and text in both colors, go to the shop. They’ll have only certain colors available, not all of them - so you’ll have to match your color to the closest one available once you’re talking to them in-person. 

Your local shop will want your designs in PNG format at 300DPI resolution and every piece should be in a separate file. For example, for our fist shirt, we sent them 3 generic files: the fist, the mobcrush logo, our motto text for the back. We then sent 3 files that were just Sirius team player names for the back of the shirts.

In San Francisco, we use Bang-On T-Shirts - find a similar place locally.

T-Shirt Quality

Technically, shirts themselves are cheap, very cheap. We’re talking $5-6 for some of the best-quality shirts out there (made in the USA, too). But different vendors will upcharge based on quality. The thicker the shirt, the more durable it is, but also the less soft and comfortable it is. American Apparel Tri-Blend is very soft, for example, but won’t last as long as a 100% cotton shirt. If you want something that’s reasonably soft but will also last - go with a combed or ringspun cotton shirt as opposed to a normal cotton shirt. American Apparel's 50/50 is a great pick - 50% ringspun cotton, 50% polyester. It's very soft, but still feels like it will last. 

Read here for more on shirt quality.

Jersey Printing

Designing a jersey is the easy part; printing is the hard part. Very few places will print jerseys for you if it has graphics all around and on the shoulders. It takes weeks, you have to order in bulk and pre-pay, etc. Don’t do this until you have a team worth putting into jerseys, or until you’re swimming in money. Once you’re ready, though, we recommend you contact Christian Stagg from Dynamic Team SportsIf you find out which printing company the teams in other games are using (League of Legends, DOTA, etc.) - please let us know at info@gankstars.org.

Merchandise Store vs One-off Prints

T-shirt design, unless it's just you logo on it, takes time. It doesn't exactly make your guild better or stronger. Use livebnfd.com if you expect to sell more than a few shirts. Even then, stick to one design unless you're achieving decent popularity and/or have free design services available. 

If most of your customers are your own guild members, consider sticking with one-off prints - just order in bulk more or less to get a discount (say, 15 at a time), then distribute to each member. 

Database & Info Sharing

Write things down! But where? We recommend Evernote - it syncs across any number of devices, so all of your co-leaders and co-organizers can access things. Going to Korea with a team? Make a note with apartment details, emergency info, etc. Signing a contract? Put a copy in Evernote. You can later sub-section and give access to certain notes only to certain people. It stores text, images, PDFs, etc. You can even have a note for common web URLs - VIPL schedule, VGL announcements, media mentions of your team(s), and so on. You can also create a password-protected note where you store logins to various services.

For file storage, use Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. We use such service to store copies of contracts, hi-res images such as logos and merchandise designs, photos of our teams in professional settings, member photos, etc. 

Tip: don’t use your contact e-mail address as your login address. 

Voice Chat

We use Discord App and highly recommend it. It’s still a bit raw, but the quality is superb. Completely free, no ads.

Do not use Skype unless you like being DDOS’ed. If you do use Skype, make sure to go to Settings -> Advanced (or w/e the equivalent is on iOS/Android), and DO check the “Allow direct connections to my contacts only” option. This hides your IP address from non-contacts (yes, your IP address is completely exposed to anyone and everyone otherwise). Make sure you do this for every device where you installed Skype. Finally, do NOT accept contact requests from people unless you’re _sure_ you know who they are and you trust them. We suggest limiting this list to people at SEMC or other officials, and to never ever add players you meet in Vainglory - ask them to chat to you via Discord instead.

Text Chat

Discord app does provide text chat, and if you’re starting from scratch, we recommend you try sticking with Discord for text as well as voice. Us - we're still using Line app for text because that’s where we started. Band app is also good and is used by many in the Vainglory community.  All of these options are free.

If you travel to Korea, download Kakao Talk app - it’s a Line app clone, but something that’s very popular here. 

DDOS Protection

Having problems? Try IPVanish or Hide My Ass. Then, change your external (WAN) IP address - use a search engine to find out how. As soon as you change your external IP, always use one of those IP blocking services from the time your computer(s) boot or as soon as you get on your mobile device.

Social

Twitter is where it’s at. You can have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever else if you like, but if you want to focus your efforts - stick with Twitter. Make sure to follow @vainglorygame and @vaingloryleague

Do reserve your username on major streaming services as well - Twitch, Mobcrushand Kamcord. We’d even suggest reserving similar names to yours, such as one with an “l” in place of an “i” - this saves you headache when someone comes in posing as you or your guild. 

Player Contracts

If your team participates in something with prize pools exceeding a few hundred bucks, or seems stable enough to last for months, we recommend you solidify your relationship with contracts. Money has been known to ruin friendships - take the unknown out of the equation by having a written agreement. 

We at GankStars are passionate about player-sided contracts and hope this inspires others to do the same. Just like unhappy employees leave companies, unhappy players leave teams. That said, take a cut from the get-go to cover guild expenses - logo & t-shirt designs, merchandise sample printing, travel, etc. Make your contracts short-term at first and change them as the organization grows. 

For example, you may only need to take 10 or 20% of winnings at the start to cover guild expenses. We certainly don’t recommend going above 20% at the start - again, it’s best to have motivated players. But as the org grows, this number will change - travel, analytics, coaching, and promotion cost money. Don’t start off with a 50/50 split just because someday your bottom line may dictate it. Just like when you start own business, you the business owner should be paid last because re-investing into the business and its people pays off.

We also don’t recommend taking control out of players’ hands over their own destiny. Imagine being unable to interview at another company just because you’re employed somewhere already! Short, specific, player-focused contracts make for happy team members. That said, if you’re reading this as a player - understand that your team’s brand is organization’s property, and that the organization/guild needs to have some sort of budget to exist. Any good contract will include brand protections and restrictions on how you as a player can behave on social media, how your image as a player of the guild/team may be used, etc. Both sides need to avoid short-term greed. 

We are not ready to share a template contract at this time, but perhaps we will in the future - if so, a separate blog post will be made.

Corporate

If you’re handling money, it’s best to be incorporated - be it a Limited Liability Company (LLC, recommended) or an S-Corp (Small Corporation). Don’t rush this - having a company is as easy as paying a few hundred bucks to LegalZoom and, by itself, it means nothing. But it also takes some time, so start this a month or more ahead of when you think you’ll be making your first payouts or securing your first sponsor (although you can easily secure a sponsor without an LLC). LegalZoom is great for help, but it does try to sell you a bunch of extra services - you can probably be fine without most or all of them. The final decision is yours.

When you make an LLC in the United States, you must pick the state in which to incorporate it. Each state has different laws regarding LLCs, different protections for customers vs company members, different tax filing requirements, etc. We recommend you incorporate in Nevada. They have very LLC-friendly laws and a lot of adjudication experience in the area of entertainment/gaming. You don’t need to live there to incorporate there. Nevada is the state where GankStars is incorporated as an LLC. 

When incorporating as an LLC, make sure to list your co-leaders as members. Pay attention to the articles of incorporation! Write them in a way that is fair and predicts both good and bad in the future (members leaving, members trying to take over other members’ share, decision-making, decision resolution/tie breakers, leaving shares for future investors, distribution of initial shares, etc.)

Finally, you want LegalZoom to apply for an EIN for you. Employer Identification Number is essential to conducting business in the USA as a company - it’s basically your company’s Social Security Number.

After you have your LLC legalized, use your Articles of Incorporation and EIN to open a business bank account at your bank of choice. After that is done and your team starts having travel needs, you can apply for a credit card if you want, to start accumulating air miles and other rewards. We recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred for that. 

Expenses

Absolutely take the time to write down every guild-related expense _and_ save the receipt. You can do this in Evernote or use an app & service specifically designed for it, such as Expensify. Physical receipts can be destroyed once you have them in electronic form - just make sure to back up the data. Why write down expenses before you're incorporated? You can actually expense purchases made prior to your LLC becoming formed, within a certain time window. Things add up, too, and you always want a sober look at your finances. For example, we just looked at how much one-off shirts cost us and said "whoa, enough with that." 

Side note - be frugal. Spending is easy; saving is what counts. Expenses skyrocket when you grow and you'll always, always wish you had more budget. So - do you really need what you're about to buy? 

Phew! That was a lot. We hope this gives you enough information to get started! Please tweet at us @vggankstars if you’d like something added or just want to say hi. Best of luck out there!

Building a Guild: Lessons Learned

(The summary is at the end.) I was asked this question by quite a few people. It seems fitting to start our Blog with something that inadvertently speaks to the history of the guild. We hope this helps other teams start and solidify faster so we all end up enjoying a more rich Vainglory community. This isn't an exhaustive list, and there is always more than one way of doing anything, but I feel the things listed here are important to almost any foundation. With no further adieu, here's what I learned from my time as a leader of GankStars. 

Find Partner(s)

You want someone as mature as you or better to help you. Ideally, both you and your partner(s) will be mature enough to not take drama personally and to be able to separate being a leader from being a member. If you're not mature enough to do that - don't start a guild, and just join one and learn until you feel you've learned enough. Knowing your weaknesses is a strength.

Why find partner(s)?

- running a guild is just as hard as running any organization, and having someone there for the times you're down or unavailable will significantly speed things up

- everyone makes bad decisions, especially in the spur of the moment, so having a second (or third and fourth) head(s) will help you avoid those decisions

- it forces you to work as a team right away; if you can't work as part of a team and can only bark orders, you will likely fail eventually 

- if all you want is credit or to be "the man," are you really in it for the right reasons? Paint an arrow on your mirror with the words "The Man" above it and save yourself and others a lot of time!

GankStars as we know it today was founded by myself, Sphix, and IraqiZorro. This month, FooJee joined the leadership and competitive teams, so we have four people making decisions. Has it always been sunshine and rainbows with so many people running something? Not even close; humans lead to drama, always, and you and I are no exception. Yet I can name multiple instances where, had it been just me on leadership, the guild would likely wither off and die. Same would be true if I wasn't there - having a different point of view made all the difference. 

Agree on a Uniting Goal

Make sure that you and your partner(s) aren't in it for fame, ego, profit, or other selfish reasons. Selfish reasons are fun for you, but they don't inspire others. You should have a common, genuine goal such as "providing a fun environment for newbies," or "running one of the best teams in the game." If you feel your partners are after self-promotion (shouldn't be hard to spot based on their actions) - talk it out immediately, and move on if you can't resolve it. 

After you have a vision, make a few rules centered around your goal. All of your new members should share that goal and agree to those rules. And I mean all of them. The first person that doesn't will start driving a wedge in your culture, which will eventually lead to a crack and some sort of drama later on.

The more guilds spring up, the harder it will be to attract the players you want. A great goal/vision and a clean set of rules will help you attract them. 

To give you an example, GankStars started with a simple goal: to have a place for friends to play and grow together. At the time Vainglory was very young and that's all there was to it. Eventually we added trying to be the best pro eSports team in Vainglory. We have 4 rules that support that goal:

  1. No assholes or drama queens.
  2. Everyone must be willing to improve and take feedback.
  3. Everyone must have and show great sportsmanship.
  4. New members cannot join if existing members don't approve of them.

Your vision is your destination; your rules are the paved road you stay within to get there.

Focus on People

Web site, logos, Twitter, etc. do matter, but they mean nothing without people. I don't recommend producing bad-quality anything, but consider starting with just a Twitter account. Outside of that, focus on recruiting & keeping great people. 

People lead to drama - accept that fact. It's not wrong or right, it just is. This will test your chops as leader(s). The key is to take yourself out of the situation as an individual and look at it as an unbiasedly as possible. Is the person really mean, or are you/another member in a bad mood and just took something they said badly? That said, don't let anyone in the guild run amok. If your most-skilled player (or most-social one, if that's your guild emphasis) is being a total ass and refuses to apologize - kick them. Better now than later. Don't worry, there are many skilled/social players out there, but they won't want to join you if you have assholes pushing people around. 

Books can be written on drama and people. In general,  always hear out both sides of the story and act on facts alone. Be kind, and give people second chances *if* they ask for it and apologize for the first time. Try not to argue with anyone publicly. Ask them in public to tone something down if things are happening too fast, but use PMs to resolve the situation or only PMs if possible. After the situation is resolved you can ask the person to apologize publicly - it doesn't have to be a long thing, a simple sincere "sorry about that" will do most of the time.

We had our share of drama at GankStars. Rude people were kicked. Sometimes I screwed up and had to post an apology. Sometimes another leader screwed up. We had leaders leave temporarily. We all grew from these experiences, and in the end it was buckets of humility that helped us get through things. Always carry buckets of humility with you (or boxes, if you're Taka).

Guard Your Brand

Your brand isn't just your logo; your brand is literally everything that can be in any way linked to you or your members. Anything and everything that is public in any way ultimately relates to your brand. Think of "brand" as a synonym to "trust" - it takes time to build, and no time to lose. 

Ask your members to be wary of guild brand. If they show affiliation with your guild on Twitter but their profile is offensive - that's direct damage to the guild brand. Don't ask the public to be rational; instead realize that your members' behavior will always reflect on your guild's brand. 

Was your member rude to a random person in in-game chat that one time? Your guild brand just took a hit - cross your fingers screenshots don't get posted. Did you or your co-leader just tweet something arrogant or negative? You just damaged your brand. Think twice before you do things, and ask everyone to pay great attention to how they represent your guild. 

On the plus side, building a good brand by doing small good things pays off big time in the long run. Trust me, you may not have been approached yet by that amazing potential new member you were hoping to recruit, but they know your brand and will reach out if their situation changes if they find your brand to be good. Other guilds won't be afraid to promote you if your brand is positive. On the other hand, promoting a guild with a negative vibe would reflect bad on the guild doing it, so people won't do it. Nobody owes you anything in life - this Earth was here before you, and it will keep spinning just fine without you. So focus on earning trust instead of asking for it.

Brand is a big reason why we have the "great sportsmanship" rule. We don't post screenshots of wins online, for instance, because bragging isn't a good brand. 

Actions > Words

At the start all you have is your word, and that’s fine. But once you lay out your vision and rules, it’s time to shut up and let your actions speak on your behalf. Don’t focus on being popular or recognized - just do what you set out to do well, and the rest will come (assuming you’re not negative/toxic).

This means:

  • Don’t gloat
  • Don’t brag
  • Don’t talk crap about other teams or guilds
  • Don’t make a ton of promises
  • Don’t reveal plans much ahead of time unless you need to raise money or other support
  • Don’t answer insults or let people push your buttons; when you remain on high ground, the trolls only make fools of themselves

This is especially true for your own members. If you promise things, do them. If you have rules, follow them. A fish rots at the head; don’t be the head that rots. Prioritize integrity. That doesn’t mean being unnecessarily strict or controlling - it just means staying true to your word. Guess what, you’re not just building your guild’s brand on the outside - you’re also building a brand on the inside, as well as your own (leader’s) brand. When you lead, the spotlight is on at all times and everything you do is scrutinized - keep that in mind.

Recruiting

I already mentioned that everyone being on the same page about the vision/goal and the rules is important. That may be hard to accomplish if you recruit too fast - you don’t have the time to really check what people are made of. We made that mistake a few times at GankStars and it bit us just about every time.  It’s up to you how slow you recruit, and I wouldn’t artificially slow down recruitment - but make sure you have enough time to feel people out. A few days is a minimum, in my opinion.

If I told you that we decline over 95% of applicants, you’d think it’s because we are more known now or are more focused on being competitive. But the truth is, we’ve always done it, and doing it is what helped us be more successful. It’s hard to find people who fit your vision of the guild, and that’s okay - nothing wrong with knowing what you want. Don’t be afraid to say no. You don’t go out with every single person you meet, right? So say no a whole lot more often than you say yes; it’s a red flag if you don't. Be nice about it, though :)

How did GankStars recruit? We started by posting in Vainglory official forums. After we got our web site, we added an application page there. We’ve also approached people we met in-game if we liked how they carried themselves. Finally, and this is up to you, we have a rule about not poaching - if someone isn’t guildless or doesn’t apply to us first, we don’t go out to recruit them. That just creates bad blood between guilds and you can get by without doing it.

Miscellaneous

We’ll discuss sponsorship, merchandise, internet setup (how to test for good wifi and such) in future posts. Honestly, if you’re starting, you shouldn’t be worried about sponsorship or anything like that. Focus on what matters - your core vision - and the rest will come naturally.

Voice - use Discord app, it’s great and free. We highly recommend not using Skype due to security issues (definitely do _not_ give your Skype username to anyone you don’t know, and do not accept requests unless you’re 100% sure you know the person).

Web site - we use squarespace.com because it’s simple, good enough, and cheap. I hear Weebly is also great. I know some well-known guilds have beautiful sites on WordPress, but I believe that’s a lot more work.

tl;dr

  • find partners
  • come up with a uniting goal/vision, and create rules from that
  • focus on people at first, not small details
  • guard your brand, both external and internal one
  • actions speak louder than words, so speak less and do more
  • recruit slowly
  • be humble, always - can't emphasis this enough

I hope this helps someone!! <3 Now go start the next big thing.

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