On August 23rd, Multiplay's 49th Insomnia Gaming Festival kicks off in Telford, United Kingdom. Primarily a PC LAN event, this year see's the addition of one of Microsoft's staple franchises; Halo 4.
Organised by renowned event hosts Multiplay & Europe's home of Halo, TopMid.eu, the Halo 4 Cup will feature an FFA (Free For All) and a 4v4 team event featuring some of the best teams and individuals from across Europe. With some fantastic prizes up for grabs (ConsoleDeals have bumped up the 4v4 prize by £1,000 and are offering a brand new Xbox 360 E to the FFA winner), the competition is sure to be intense.
Just who are TopMid.eu? What can we expect from the Halo 4 Cup? And who's going to be covering the event? We sat down with Michael Valentine and Gemma Cooper of TopMid, and Richard Simms who makes his broadcasting bow at i49.
ConsoleDeals: Hi, guys. Firstly, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions for us. Michael... We’ve seen a few Halo communities come and go in our time, but the TopMid community seem a fantastically enthusiastic bunch. How did TopMid come to be?
Michael Valentine: TopMid was original called HaloForumEU, and came about after the previous owner decided to shut up shop. Myself and Roy (Griffiths) decided it was the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and ended up creating HaloForumEU. Over the past year, we’ve seen steady growth in the community, more events throughout Europe and of course our rebranding to TopMid. We just hope we can continue what we’ve done so far, and ensure that the Halo franchise has a long time left in the competitive community.
CD: I'm sure it has! Gemma, you are part of the staffing team at TopMid, as well as Multiplay and the EGL. It sounds like you’re pretty busy! How did all these come about?
Gemma Cooper: I’ve been involved with TopMid community since 2009, during the glory days of Halo 3. The scene was thriving and events such as MLG had Halo as their headline game, providing £100,000 in some cases per event for 1st prize. I was really drawn to the competitive nature of the game, and the fact the community was so large. I went to my first competitive LAN event in 2010 and fell in love with the atmosphere and the attendees. Since that, I’ve been to 10 LAN events and have enjoyed taking part in games from Halo to Call of Duty on a competitive level!
GC: I’ve been helping out at EGL events since their second LAN event in 2011 and have a strong relationship with the staff there and enjoy being involved in such a well-known company. I’ll do anything there from content, photography to general admin work. It’s a good laugh! More recently, the Halo community decided they fancied a change, and Insomnia sounded like a good option due to the nature of their events; offering both a competitive environment but also a casual relaxed atmosphere. The TopMid staff approached them to see if we could run a Halo event on their behalf, and here we are now!
CD: And from what we heard, you had a big hand in pulling the i49 Halo event together?
GC: I’d like to think all the staff at TopMid had an input and involvement in putting this Halo event together – I genuinely couldn’t ask for a more hardworking group of guys to be working with, including the guys at Multiplay. We asked Multiplay what they needed from us and formed a brilliant staff team based on their requirements and I don’t believe we could have formed a better one. The team also behind the original proposal to Multiplay worked endlessly to make sure it was of a high quality and exactly what Multiplay needed from us. I wouldn’t ever want to say I’ve had a big hand in the organisation; I’d want to say it has been an equal distribution between my team and we’re all equally hard working!
The team also behind the original proposal to Multiplay worked endlessly to make sure it was of a high quality and exactly what Multiplay needed from us.
CD: Looks like you're all doing a great job in getting Halo out to the masses. Richard, we finally managed to sit down and watch the last episode of your Halo talkshow, Back2Basics - great show! What made you kick off your own Halo orientated vidcast?
Richard Simms: Well after an unfortunate set of events at EGL9 where my team flopped dramatically and we went out early, while down at the venue I thought id take a dab hand at casting some of the games for the remainder of the tournament. A few people watching at home said I was doing a good job even to the point of a topic on top mid saying 'Simms to cast EGL10' which was flattering, but honestly I felt right at home.
RS: Once EGL9 was over I decided to 'Hang up the pad' as such and just play for fun as opposed to full time competitive play and try get into doing something for/with the community. A few weeks later we got the ball rolling and we’ve been doing it ever since. We are now moving onto episode 14! I feel like we have really built a built a bridge between the US and EU communities and this is only driving me to do more for our community and produce more content.
CD: We understand this is your first Insomnia... what are you looking forward to the most?
RS: I’m truly excited for i49, they really have pushed the boundaries in terms of what they have done for European Halo. Them alongside our great sponsors! I don’t know what I'm more excited for more if I'm honest. The fact that I'm going to be attending one of Europe’s biggest gaming weekends with so much to see and do for the first time, or the fact that this for me is going to be my first real shot at casting on camera to the EU alongside Mr Jools.
RS: Seeing Halo in all its glory and been played how it should be played by teams who know what there doing for me will be the highlight of i49. There is some great talent in the EU now and I know that the players will defiantly give us a show. I used to sit for hours watching MLG VOD on a Friday night and still to this day I find nothing more entertaining than seeing LAN play; The atmosphere, the tension, it's going to be awesome!
CD: We look forward to tuning in! So, a question to you all. When did you get in to the Halo series? Have you been a fan from the outset?
MV: My very first game for the Xbox was Halo: CE (Combat Evolved) and I was amazed at the storyline more than anything else. Once Halo 2 came out I started playing competitively and finally attended my first LAN event, competing at XL3 which was the first Halo 3 LAN event in the UK. Since then, I’ve attended multiple LAN events for Halo and was even lucky enough to play Halo 4 at a pre-launch party in Manchester!
I’ve attended multiple LAN events for Halo and was even lucky enough to play Halo 4 at a pre-launch party in Manchester!
RS: Like Michael, I got myself into Halo: CE when my parents purchase me an original Xbox. We didn't own a PC or internet at the time so I could not join in on any of the XBC that my friends where doing. I completed the game more times than I can remember on all difficulties. Once Halo 2 came out I decided I needed to get into some Xbox Live Multilayer action. I purchased a computer and the internet myself and that was it. I never saw single player again; MLG, Customs, BXR and Double Shot became my life and I've been stuck ever since, not to the extent I was in Halo 2 but I'm still a pretty big fanboy!
GC: I’ll be completely honest with you here; I have never ever played the Halo campaign! I often get a lot of hate for that, but I’m sure I’ll get round to it eventually. However, I’ve been playing Halo matchmaking since Halo 3. I only got my Xbox 360 in 2009 and that was purely because Halo was available for only the Xbox. I’m a massive fan of the franchise and the people involved behind it, and will continue to support it.
CD: Moving on to the Halo 4 Cup itself. The support we’ve received from the Halo community since sponsoring the event has been really overwhelming. Just how big is this event for the game and it’s fans, particularly in the UK?
GC: I can’t thank the people involved enough for putting their faith behind our community and the staff team, especially ConsoleDeals, Astro, Hauppauge, SquidGrip and Multiplay of course! We never expected the support for Halo to become so large again, especially after games like Call of Duty just completely dominate the scene. This therefore is slowly becoming one of the largest Halo events in Europe since the days of Halo 3.
GC: It’s so important to the community, especially as their opinion and input is so so necessary as we’re trying to make this THE event for the community. Hopefully the support and growth of the game can be stimulated by events such as i49. We genuinely love anyone that helps us and gets involved – you’re making our game become the best it can be again! Don’t forget to check out the stream if you’re watching too, we’ll have (Richard) Simms and Jools broadcasting all weekend long for those of you who are missing it!
RS: For us as the EU community its massive! We do really need a flagship company to give us a strong and constant LAN event, I believe that Multiplay can give us this. Them along with consoledeals.co.uk bumping our prize pool, Squidgrip, Hauppauge and Astro providing us with prizes. The boys over at TopMid gearing us with some of the best streaming equipment money can buy. This event will put European halo on the map and really show both 343/Waypoint and the US community that we are alive and we are worth been a part of and involved with.
To put it bluntly, it’s massive.
MV: To put it bluntly, it’s massive. With the support we’ve seen from yourselves and others, the community have really got behind this event, and we’re seeing a lot more hype than we normally do for Halo events. Hopefully the numbers are strong and we can put on quite the show for people watching at the venue and at home on the stream. We’ve tried to make this event all about the community, allowing them input in all the major decisions to do with the tournament, so they know this event is all about them.
CD: There looks like there’s going to be a lot of quality competition at the event, particularly when we get to the business end on Saturday. Which teams are the ones to watch in your opinion?
MV: Ohh, this is a tough one. You’ve got to put High Society up near the top. But there’s always room for an outsider, and many people would be backing Reign.Deception to be near the top if they can stay focused throughout the weekend!
GC: I’m really glad we’ve got the top teams coming to this event as they really do add a whole other level of competition to the game. This community is very vocal in voicing their opinions on teams and the quality of the competition online, so it’ll be very exciting to see what happens once they’re put in front of each other with so much at stake! Personally, you need to be keeping an eye on High Society.
GC: Then there are teams like Deception who need to prove they’re not just ‘online warriors’, who came 2nd in the pre-i49 online event tournament. I’d be more interested in the German and French teams attending, if they do. It would be nice for them to come and shake up the top 3 and have a foreign team placing in the prize pool zone! Finally, keep an eye out for Outbreak. I haven’t heard a lot about them online, but I know they’re just as eager for it as any of the others.
RS: I know the French are now 100% coming after they won the online tournament for the free tickets so they for me are coming in as the underdogs. We've got your usual suspects such as HighSociety who, yet again have another new line up for another event. ReignDeception are going to be interesting, they come into this competition as the most practised team in the EU right now. They are currently the 'marmite' team of Halo, you either love them or hate them.
RS: Team Outbreak come into this event with also a new line up with Snipedrone and Jimbossity having been collected in place of Riotz and Lethal. Jimbossity was crowned Best newcomer at EGL9 and even went onto finish in the top 8 in the FFA at his first event. Snipedrone is currently one of the best snipers in the game right now with an aim that rivals that of some of the pro's in the US. These guys could/can do damage.
CD: It’s going to be a pretty manic event at i49 - what have you got lined up so far to keep you busy?
RS: Aside from trying to give the best possible stream to the people sat at home, I'm really going out of my way this event to shake everyone hand and say hello. Im going to be taking pictures with people and teams all day and I'm going to be tweeting the entire event game by game, score by score, upset by upset. Next to this I actually want to get involved in a few games and I may even possibly enter the FFA!
GC: We’re going to be crazy busy, but that’s good! It just means there’s plenty for the Halo community to be involved in – and even more for event attendees looking to get involved in another game. On Friday, you guys can look forward to a Halo FFA. Once this ends, the 4v4 tournament will begin with a double elimination bracket through until Saturday evening. Once the tournament is over, and the two final teams have battled it out for the amazing first place prize, we’ll be having a Sunday ‘chill out day’ with games such as 2v2s and other games to involve the mass at Multiplay and anyone who wants to stick around with us. We’ve got a lot of different things going on, so I’m sure there will be something for everyone!
CD: Sounds like fun, count us in! So final question. Halo aside... what else are you playing at the moment?
GC: Aside from Halo, I love playing League of Legends! There is something distinctively addictive about that game. Occasionally I’ll play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on the Xbox or something more casual like Minecraft, but for me it’s all about League of Leagues!
RS: Currently I'm playing a little bit of World of Warcraft, as an Ex-Heroic Raider I keep fluttering back to it for a few weeks then drifting off again. But with B2B really starting to kick off and the prospects of another show inbound I need to stay in touch and on top of Halo as much as I can so I'm probably going to be giving it up... again. But GTA V is out in a few weeks! I will be buying that and smashing online play for a while once that comes out.
CD: Hopefully via ConsoleDeals, Richard? And Michael?
MV: League of Legends... and probably playing it too much if I’m honest! Other than that, Avatar Golf is a ridiculously addictive indie game on Xbox Live that I tend to play. It can get rather competitive though...
CD: It wouldn't be right if it wasn't though, right? Thanks, guys. We'll see you at i49!
You can check out the latest Halo bundles here. If you're headed to i49 in Telford this August, make sure you sign up to the Halo 4 Cup FFA or 4v4 team event for your chance to share in over £3,000 in prize money, and win an Xbox 360 E Super Slim as well as many other fantastic prizes.
Let us know in the comments if you are Insomnia 49 bound, we'd love to say hello and hear what you're looking forward to most!