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So far robharn has created 12 blog entries.

Big House this year and beyond #TBH12

Hi everyone, I’ve received a lot of questions on Big House this year and I want to provide a status update. I have a lot of thoughts to share, and my only request is that you read this completely to the end and do not pass along any tldr; summary version. A lot of it is personal and multi-layered, and I really struggled to find the right balance of sharing my honest internal dialogue while also keeping it concise enough for the general public.

For context, I’m Robin Harn, and I’ve been the head organizer of Big House since its inception in 2011. The event has taken place in October for each installment, minus the two covid years. Ever since I started hosting Big House, my reasons for doing it have largely remained the same:

  • I want to challenge myself as a project manager who has visibility on every part of an org chart: logistics, marketing, finances, people management, etc.
  • I have an entrepreneurial itch to host a large-scale event and find a way to put all the necessary pieces together
  • I want to fulfill a creative vision for how an event can look, feel, and be experienced, and have the resources to achieve that vision
  • I feel a duty to raise and sustain the quality of events to empower future generations of attendees to enjoy a great experience at them
These reasons have always been in harmony with the following assumptions in my ability to host events:
  • I have enough time over the summer and fall to dedicate towards planning a Big House in October
  • I feel I can give 100% of my energy and effort towards making the current year’s event the best possible product it can be
  • I have the financial stability in my personal life to be able to cover any potential losses if they come up at the end of the event
  • I feel the desire and hunger from the community, sponsors, and partners to support the event with the resources it needs

Over the past year, some of these assumptions have shifted. I’ll go through them one by one.

Time, energy, effort: I’ve recently been hired as varsity volleyball head coach at a high school near and dear to me in Michigan. I absolutely love doing it, and it satisfies a lot of the challenges I enjoy — if you replaced the word “event” with “volleyball program” in my original list of reasons I host Big House, you’ll find that my motivation and fulfillment are similar for each. This role not only involves coaching a varsity team, but also managing the entire high school program in all aspects such as hiring the JV/freshman/assistant coaches, budgeting, fundraising, coordinating gear, running youth camps, TOing, and networking. Previously I had only coached club volleyball, which runs from December through June and conveniently allowed me to focus on Big House in the summer and fall. But now I’ve stepped into managing an entire high school program, and the volleyball school season runs from August through October. Given that overlap with what is the traditional peak of Big House planning season, I won’t be able to give another project 100% of my energy during those months. If you know anything about me, you know I approach every project I take on with the intent to make it the absolute best thing possible, which requires all my energy and effort. This year, that means putting it towards my new role leading a volleyball program.

Financial stability: As much as I love my new role leading a high school program, it’s not a full-time job at the end of the day, and I currently don’t have the financial stability of a full-time job as a buffer. My last full-time job ended in extremely disappointing fashion, and I honestly lost faith in certain industries and positions of leadership in that process. So I’ve been living off personal savings and random gigs for the past few months in an effort to find inspiration with a possible career pivot, but I want that to be organic and not force myself into a new opportunity if it isn’t the right fit for me. I don’t know how much time this will take, but I feel very strongly that I have to let it naturally play out. Without this buffer in my personal life, I don’t feel it’s responsible to take on hosting a large-scale event that has almost always cut it close in terms of breaking even financially.

Community and partner support: With each recent installment of Big House, it’s become increasingly difficult to find sponsors and partners willing to financially back the event, and our general attendance has hit a plateau of around 3000 people. The combination of these factors makes it increasingly difficult to host a large-scale event at the creative level I want. When organizations like Panda, Beyond the Summit, and Golden Guardians go away, it has unfortunate ripple effects on events like Big House. The past two years, my staff and I dug deep to put in extra hours during planning season to still find a way to make it work, and against all odds we produced what we believe are the two best Big House events ever, creatively and logistically. But when the effort and stress level of making it work keep increasing while the big picture financial feasibility keeps decreasing, eventually it reaches a breaking point where we can’t keep pace with these two trends drifting in different directions.

All this is to say, as of right now, Big House is on indefinite hiatus. The door is open for the event to come back in future years, but it would require a shifting of several reasons and/or assumptions I listed above. That could mean it happens at a different time of year, or it’s led by a different head organizer, or it’s more financially feasible given some combination of increased partner support or shifting community expectations. I think if two of those three factors were to change, then Big House would be in a good position to return. But I just want to make it clear there are a lot of administrative and organizational questions that have to be answered before we even entertain that possibility, and personally I’m not actively working on answering those questions at the moment.

You might be asking why someone else can’t just step in and take over Big House in my absence this year. I think that’s a fair question and a possibility down the line, but I want everyone to understand it’s not simple on short notice. Venues for large-scale events require months or even years of lead time to secure them, often with tens of thousands of dollars in deposits, or multiple years of locked-in contracts for both the venue space and surrounding hotel room blocks. Someone has to take on that carried expense and risk — for example, if the head TO makes an executive decision to upgrade a part of the venue for an extra cost, then that head TO is financially responsible for any consequences of that decision. For the past eleven Big House installments, I’ve been fine taking on that risk because I’ve had the bandwidth to feel like I can control my own destiny in making the event great enough to overcome that risk. But for the reasons and shifting assumptions I laid out above, I won’t be able to do so this year, and it’s unclear who (if anyone) would be willing to step into that role at the moment.

TOing events is still a passion project. I’ve never paid myself a salary for hosting events, instead always reinvesting towards making future events as great as possible for attendees. The truth is, there are way more expenses now than even two years ago, let alone thirteen years ago when Big House first started. The community demands more, sometimes reasonably so, but certain constraints make it difficult for me to guide Big House in a direction that satisfies both my creative wishes and the community’s expectations. Streams and internet needs are the prime example — these expenses scale poorly at our venue because multiple stream broadcasts each bring their own costly additions of union labor shifts and in-house staging requirements. Internet is so obscenely expensive at Cobo Center that it infamously caused a major company, Wizards of the Coast, to cancel their stream broadcast altogether for a Magic the Gathering Grand Prix Detroit a few years ago. Growing viewer expectations (such as a “quad stream” broadcast) create massive tension on our ability to affordably spread out resources to the rest of the event.

Our aforementioned venue, Cobo Center, is quite frankly a huge pain to work with. We compete with the Detroit auto show and several other major companies for space, and often those clients have deep pockets to be able to put down deposits for multiple years, and way ahead of time. Up to this point, I’ve been careful to not lock in Big House for long periods of time with contracts, because I want to respect how quickly the gaming landscape evolves and might steer us in a different direction that would require a different venue. But sticking with one-year commitments has meant higher rental costs and more difficult scheduling, which exacerbates the issues above.

You might then be asking why Big House can’t just downscale and find a smaller venue. For me, it boils down to the creative vision of what I want to do with a large-scale event, and that still means we host it for the *entire* community at large in *one* very spacious (50,000 sq ft+) inclusive venue within walking distance of hotels and within 30 minutes of a major airport. Unfortunately, no other venues in the southeast Michigan area meet this criteria. Similar to a movie director who requires a minimum threshold of studio budget and community buzz to take on a film within his or her creative vision, I’m personally only interested in taking on the creative challenge of hosting events above a certain level of grandeur. And I can’t see myself making sacrifices to what we’ve come to expect creatively and aesthetically at a Big House by downscaling the overall scope of it.

I still love the game and the community. I’m incredibly grateful for the support from our thousands of attendees, and our amazing staff and volunteers, over the years. And I wish I could host Big House this year. I just hope everyone can understand — life happens, assumptions shift, landscapes evolve. I do this at the pleasure of the community, and if the desire and hunger is truly there for future installments of Big House, then please make that known politely and constructively. In the meantime, thank your longtime TOs, and practice gratitude for everyone behind-the-scenes who dedicates time and effort to making experiences great at any event you attend.

Best,
Robin Harn

Splatoon 3 at The Big House 11

For the best interest of everyone involved, we the Splatoon tournament organizers alongside the head TBH11 event organizers have made an extremely heavy decision to cancel Splatoon 3 at The Big House 11.

At the onset of the announcement of Big House, Raze and myself were approached to consider whether it was best to pursue running Splatoon again. Even during that first conversation, we knew things would look different this year. Various circumstances that allowed us to create the success of last year were different this year, by factors outside our control. After the awesome event we had last year and especially considering how much The Big House helped us and nurtured a relationship with the community, we both wanted to make the most of what we could and show our devotion to working together on creating an exciting experience for players.

One of the factors is the calendar of events. The saturation of tournaments was something the SplatLANs TOs have been discussing since early last year. More LANs are great, but our playerbase doesn’t have the density nationwide to make events that happen at the frequency we see with Smash, so the audience we see at these events is made of repeat attendees. Everyone’s wallets are hurting this year, and most players can’t afford multiple trips in such a short time, or if they can then they also risk burning out. Combined with the timing in the school year, Big House fell on a very awkward spot on the calendar for players.

Another factor is the personal bandwidth we have this year to support and run the event. Even knowing this and the risk it posed to how the event would perform, we wanted to try and overcome that with a marketing presence similar to last year. However, many things in our personal lives prevented us from pushing the tournament as much as we had liked. For both of us, we had bitten off more than we could chew.

Delivering a proper tournament experience is why players sign up. Without the proper mental and financial resources to put on an event of a reasonable caliber, we feel that to continue forward would not meet the expectations of anyone involved with the tournament. We also want to announce this far enough ahead of time so that the few players who have already signed up and made travel plans would be given ample time to adjust their plans. Canceling now will help us maintain a mutually beneficial partnership, in order to create something special for the scene in the future, something that players won’t want to miss out on. Everyone involved with making this decision is in agreement on one thing: we’d like to maintain a good faith partnership between Splatoon Community and TBH for potential future events.

This decision was not easy. I feel as though I’m admitting defeat, but in my mind, I know this is the most responsible thing I could do. If anyone is upset with this, I want to hear them out and talk with them personally. By the time this is posted, I’ll have already communicated with the players signed up for the event. There’s still a lot of Splatoon to be played, and I know for a fact bigger and better events are to come, but this one wasn’t able to bloom. Thank you for reading this, and I hope to see you all at another event soon.

Best,
Magic8Ball (Splatoon 3 tournament organizer)

Juggleblog: Introducing The Big House Online

Even the year 2020 can’t hold us back. I’m excited to introduce The Big House Online, this year’s version of our cherished fall Smash major. It’ll take place on December 4-6, featuring both Melee and Ultimate.

I’ve always believed constraints can breed creativity, and I fully intend to show that with our online edition of the event. One of the first things I realized while brainstorming this year was: while we miss out on in-person interactions at the venue, we also have no setup resource constraints since everyone playing at home uses their own setup. This frees us to run a swiss pools format that offers more and higher-quality playing time to the average competitor. I’ve always wanted to try a swiss pools format, and The Big House Online is the perfect opportunity to do so. I’ll post another blog about swiss details later.

Another push I’ve made in recent years is diversifying activities for Big House participants of all backgrounds and skill levels. To me, the most rewarding part of an event is the shared community experience. You compete in your favorite game all day, but you also get to participate in non-Smash activities at the venue, or watch the best players in the world put on a show. And while the physical gathering element isn’t there this year, we’ll do our best to provide the next best thing. To that end, you can expect Discord side events on Sunday to enable more fun even after you’re eliminated from the competition. More information on that is coming soon.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join in on the most unique Big House installment yet!

You can register today at: smash.gg/tbho

Best,
Robin Harn / Juggleguy

Join The Big House Online discussion! This year’s installment is set to take place on December 4-6, 2020.

#TBHO

@TheBigHouseSSB

Juggleblog: Wobbling banned at TBH9

Wobbling will be banned in the Melee ruleset this year at The Big House, and I want to use this blog post to explain my reasoning for the decision.

What is wobbling?

This event’s definition of wobbling is a series of moves (4+ pummel effects) by Ice Climbers from a standing grab position that infinitely lock the opponent in hitstun. This applies to Melee only.


Why ban it now?

A long time ago, Big House was one of the last majors to unban wobbling. So why the wobbling re-ban?


* It continues to lead to miserable play patterns and tournament experiences.

Wobbling disproportionately rewards the grabbing player for winning a single neutral game interaction, while invalidating defensive options for the grabbed player with no opportunity to escape using traditional Melee defensive mechanics such as stage positioning and DI. This puts a ridiculously high weight on technical gameplay revolving around grabs. While not necessarily overpowered at the highest levels of gameplay, the effects of wobbling should be considered for attendees of all skill levels. I want to be sensitive to community feedback that it creates miserable playing and viewing experiences.


* It doesn’t fit the skill set criteria that we subjectively deem valuable to test in a tournament match.

Just like how various stages have been banned over the years because they take away from what makes Melee so deep, wobbling doesn’t fit the criteria for what we deem valuable to test in a competitive setting. For example, Hyrule Temple is banned because the cave area of the stage creates degenerate character interactions. Poke Floats is banned because the scrolling aspect of the stage creates a non-interactive requirement to move laterally. A wobbling ban is not fundamentally different from any other subjective ruleset decision, and it forces play patterns that we don’t deem valuable to test our competitors with at this time.


* It’s what the majority of in-person tournament attendees prefer right now.

As a TO, it’s best to balance what I think is healthiest for the game and what the attendees prefer, and in recent months the pendulum has swung back towards a preference by attendees for wobbling to be banned. This wasn’t necessarily the case a couple years ago, but I believe the overall sentiment was skewed for a long time by Evo’s wobbling legal stance — after all, it’s hard for TOs to go against the ruleset of the biggest event of the year, and I’m certainly guilty in some capacity too. As with any ruleset updates, I encourage TOs to think freely and make decisions best for their event. At this point I value attendees’ feedback above all else, and it’s time to go back to our Big House roots there.

Best,
Robin Harn / Juggleguy

Join The Big House 9 discussion! This year’s installment is set to take place on October 4-6, 2019 in Detroit, MI.

#TBH9

@TheBigHouseSSB

Juggleblog: GP Big House

What is GP Big House?

GP Big House is a series of side events that will run throughout the Saturday (October 5th) of Big House weekend, designed to provide attendees with more guaranteed matches in a competitive setting outside of the main tournament. Its format is inspired by the Grand Prix format at TCG (trading card game) events, most notably the use of swiss rounds to maximize gameplay.

Smash events have constantly evolved these past few years, but the one question that’s always on my mind is: how can we make the value of entering tournaments better? After some brainstorming, I came up with the following goal: improve the number of competitive matches an average attendee has access to.

Yes, it’s currently pretty easy to find friendlies and keep playing after you’re eliminated from the main tournament, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve the accessibility of a competitive match setting. Facing opponents in any structured setting creates more tournament-like pressure and more value for your entry, and that’s what we’re going for here.

There are two main ways Big House could accomplish this goal: increased volume of tournament matches, or structured side events.

The first way, increased volume of tournament matches, would involve a main tournament format that’s more intricate than traditional double-elimination brackets. The issue with this method is the logistics don’t scale well with a large attendee turnout. An intricate tournament format that allows you to play a ton of matches might work great at a 50-player local, but it’s much harder to pull off for a 500-player bracket in the midst of a packed multi-game schedule. I’ve seen major tournaments try these formats over the years to mixed results, and it’s not the right solution for Big House.

What about the second way, structured side events? This involves matches independent of the main tournament, which is good for setup utilization and not interrupting the flow of the overall tournament schedule. And here’s where GP Big House comes in. All day Saturday, we’ll be running a series of side events each comprised of multiple swiss rounds, open to all attendees. So if you’re eliminated from the main tournament and want to play more, now you can hop in and play additional rounds of Smash. And because the side events format is swiss rounds, you’ll be paired against more and more similarly-skilled competition as you progress, creating a better competitive experience for all parties involved.

Now let’s jump into some details about the side events!

  • Entry Fee: $5 cash or 1 voucher (every competitor will get 1 free voucher during check-in to use once at any later time)
  • Schedule: All day on Saturday October 5th, with specific starting times to be announced later
  • Games: Melee, Ultimate, SSB64, and Rivals, with each game’s side events being run-to-demand (more turnout = more side events)
  • Prizing: Anyone who achieves a 4-0 record will receive prizing in the form of credit for merch/product from Big House sponsors

Brief FAQ:

  • Don’t feel like competing in the main tournament? We have you covered, as our Grand Prix style side events are open to  all attendees, spectators and competitors.
  • Worried about going 0-2? Don’t be! Our side events feature four swiss rounds of gameplay which means you keep playing for a guaranteed four matches.
  • Can’t stay for the whole time? Totally fine, as you’ll still have the option to drop midway through any given side event, just make sure to tell the TO before you leave.
  • Want to do side events all day? Go for it, you’re allowed to enter as many as you can squeeze in. Just remember it’s $5 cash per side event after you use your 1 free voucher.
  • Tired of brackets running at an unpredictable pace? It won’t be a problem — our swiss rounds will start at distinct times so you know exactly how long you have to take a quick food/bathroom break.

As the Smash tournament landscape evolves, I want to keep adapting to meet attendees’ needs, and an improved accessibility to competitive matches is at the very top of the list this year. After 9 years of TOing Big House, it’s refreshing to keep finding ways to improve, and I hope the GP Big House concept announced today excites you as much as it excites me and the rest of our staff. Many more details to come, but if you have any feedback in the meantime, don’t hesitate to tweet #TBH9 or contact us directly here.

Best,
Robin Harn / Juggleguy

Join The Big House 9 discussion! This year’s installment is set to take place on October 4-6, 2019 in Detroit, MI.

#TBH9

@TheBigHouseSSB

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