Ural Steel – 20 Lashes of a Noob in Russia
I was sitting at my desk one bright summerâ€™s day cursing over the latest problem that had arisen. Needless to say I wasnâ€™t feeling work that day, too many problems to fix and not enough time to do it. Just then, the phone rang, I grumble as I reluctantly grasp the phone and mumble the standard greeting. The voice I heard made me sit bolt upright. â€śYesâ€ť I said when he asked for me. â€śI doâ€ť I said when he asked if I want to go to Moscow to cover Ural Steel. â€śYou just made my yearâ€ť I said as I hung up the phone, I meant it too. Awesome!
The hardest bit between then and the event was sorting out my visa. Now if anyone has gone through the process of getting a job, itâ€™s like that but worse. They want to know everything including what youâ€™re going to be doing, why youâ€™re going, your passport, extra photos and a week to sort it out.
I had about 5 days…
Due to some sort of administrating error my first forms didnâ€™t go through, leaving me only a day to sort out my visa. It looked like my dreams of being at Ural Steel have been dashed by red tape, damn! A call to my contact at Wargaming quickly resulted in a hotel and train booking with a next day service to get the Visa sorted. I travel to London, get to the visas office and grab my Visa with only twelve hours before takeoff.
I book into my hotel within sight of Heathrow Airport and login to the internet to sort out my last second arrangements; behind the scenes livestream with Highflyer15 on RivetingTV for the main event Sunday, check.Â List of day job stuff to get done in the evenings, check. Working laptop and camera equipment and wireless mic, Check. This is going to be good! Doesnâ€™t look like Iâ€™ve forgotten anything and all my equipment seems to be working.
The morning comes and I miss my shuttle-bus to the airport by five seconds, this isnâ€™t really a problem as I was going to be super early and thereâ€™s another one in twenty-five minutes but I was feeling anxious. You see, Iâ€™ve only ever flown three times before this, once when I was fifteen years old and two times just weeks before. Itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m scared of the actual flying itâ€™s more that I donâ€™t want to miss the plane and airports are big yo.
Luckily security wasnâ€™t a problem and I didnâ€™t manage to get myself frisked. I find myself pacing around the waiting lounge trying to see any players or other people I might know, thereâ€™s one but Iâ€™m not 100% sure so I donâ€™t say anything and just do about fifty laps. However when I get onto the plane this same gentleman sits down next to me and thus gives me enough confidence to be sure it is him, freelance journalist Brendan Caldwell who was on this trip writing for Rock Paper Shotgun.
Checking the teams I see some names I know. I was excited to meet professional players, hear their tactics and plans, find the difference between the servers and get the inside scoop!
I was in for a ride, I just didnâ€™t know it. Leaving England Iâ€™d be leaving the internet behind for the entire weekend…
The first team I met were ACES â€“ Battle group. Their field commander was sitting just across the aisle on the plane and we chatted about the pros and cons of all the vehicles. The tactics and choices were within my grasp of the game and I felt confident, I knew my Tanks, Iâ€™m on my way to watch Ural Steel, Iâ€™m a badass.
As we got off the plane I realised how dusty Moscow is. If you thought pollution in London was bad, visit Moscow and then youâ€™ll know what pollution really is. The other people from the UK were all press so being old-hands at flying they ran out of the airport as quickly as they could… right past the driver of our minibus. So we stood there with the minibus driver waiting for 30 minutes and complaining about how they mustâ€™ve gotten lost and what a bunch of tools they are before we gave up and found them outside phoning their contacts to find the minibus. What a good start to our Russian trip!
What follows a four hour plane trip? A two hour bus ride into Moscow. Our driver mustâ€™ve been a stunt driver as he was darting through stand-still traffic at heart racing speeds with precision skill, well at least compared to the other motorists. Â At last we pull up to the hotel and Iâ€™m greeted by Wargamings Maria, who I proceed to give a big hug because why not? Â Travel weary, in a country that I speak none of the language and a pile of work to be getting on with I retire to my hotel room. Dinner was served and this was my first chance to meet the rest of the players.
I sat down with ACES and was promptly introduced to the rest of their team. Simon â€śBumpâ€ť Bennett then sat with me and we all had a jolly good laugh at how much a noob I am compared to everyone else around me. “What!?” They scoff, nearly choking on their food. “You don’t use the sidescraper maneuver every time you come out of a corner!?” I’d better stop talking, I don’t want someone to die from a noobisum.
Afterwards I swing by the bar to talk to as many people as I could find and lo and behold Iâ€™m standing in the middle of Odem Mortis! Incurable has centre stage and is talking to Bump as I force my way into the circle to find out more about these players. I listen mostly and laugh at myself as I was introduced and recognised as the â€śannoying oneâ€ť from the Fun Cup by Bump. I was quickly defended by some players who had actually seen the stream so the ice was broken successfully. Conversations about tanks and the tourneys continued; OMs quick exit from the final eight of the Fun Cup and their continued success in all of the other tournaments. I had high hopes for a European team, they were relaxed yet serious and realistic.
You may not know this but the Russian server has a fearsome reputation as having the best players, training and teams, much like the Korean server in StarCraft. This means most fans watching from their respective homelands didnâ€™t expect to see a non-Russian team in the top four but of course, wanted one.
I retire to my hotel room after the verbal 20 lashes and continue with my day job work. I get an invite from Wargaming to go to Red Square (look out for my video on this coming soon) that I couldn’t refuse. So off we go to see the Kremlin. An hour of traveling by minibus for a 5 minute tube ride away later, we were greeted with huge buildings of bright colours. Other things to note are a good dozen armed guards patrolling constantly and people selling awesome hats. Some of the people we were with decide that they want Team Fortress 2 in-real-life and try to collect them all! I don’t blame them, they looked awesome. We return to the hotel after having to search for a couple that we’d somehow lost with another super long journey and this time I go directly to my room.
My Internet dies around 4am and I proceed in my socks to the bar to see if anyone is still around. The answer is of course yes. Arthur and Maria of Wargaming were in the bar with Italian journalists Francesco and Andrea. Later the video chief Kirill joined us as we talk about everything and anything for the next few hours before deciding to retire for an early night at 6am.
That was day 1.