The 5 best mind-blowing Age of Empires II experiences in my career are pretty clear.
By evaluating all the subjectively relevant metrics like – e.g., enjoyment, competitive feeling, environment, excitement, new experiences, people and overall vibes – these five experiences stood out for me.
I will order the ranking from worst to best, starting with
1. Trip to Maldives in 2015
I still remember the old days where I dedicated almost my entire life to Age of Empires II. I just absolutely loved it from my early ages and throughout the years I kept dreaming of being able to compete offline one day.
In the past, I used to follow a lot of Starcraft 2 tournaments, a lot of them being held offline. The atmosphere was just mind blowing and there was nothing I wished more for then competing in an offline event for Age of Empires II.
Problem was that Age of Empires II was by far not as far as it is nowadays. Back in the days, as the community you were lucky if you get one tournament per year having a price pool close to the $10,000. So, you can imagine, getting a LAN event seemed completely unrealistic.
Then, in all of a sudden, on April 14th 2015 the announcement of WSVD World Championship 2015 had been declared. That was a $10,000 USD 1v1 tournament which included the top 8 being flown to the Maldives to compete in an offline event. How cool is that? That’s exactly what I had been dreaming of for my entire life.
In 2015 my performance was lacking to my previous peak which I had reached around 2012-2013. However, I felt still very confident going into this tournament. But I knew it was going to be my last one as I back then decided to follow other goals. The pressure was definitely high for me to qualify and this was my last change to realize my dream of playing in an offline event.
My tournament kick-off was clean, I first beat Feanor 2-0, followed by 3-0ing Vodka. I then faced off against Janik, beating him 3-1. In my last round to qualify for the Showdown Stage – which consisted of the top 16 players of the tournament – I had to face MbL. Fortunately, for me MbL hadn’t reached his peak yet at that time and thus I was able to get a convincing 4-1 win over him.
The showdown stage consisted of four group – with four players each – that battled it out in a Round Robin format. My start was as smooth as I could have hoped for. First, I beat BacT 4-2. After that, I crushed mentalist 4-0. After 2 rounds I lead the group with 2-0 wins and an 8-2 win-loss ratio. I was so happy and felt like I had qualified, already. However, my last opponent WraTh had other plans. He still had a shot qualifying and gave it all he had. He led 3-0 until I realized, that if I lose, I am out of the tournament as BacT was guaranteed to go through as well. I played the best I could and managed to come back 4-3, granting me the ticket to Maldives.
From end of July on, we the players waited impatiently to get any information on when the LAN is actually going to happen. Things were very wild back then and nothing had really been organized, properly. It was a complete disaster to be honest.
Fortunately, we had Taff – a former Voobly moderator – taking care of business and he was able to pull the strings together. In September it was, that we got the information that the flights are booked for beginning of October.
Flying to Maldives
Landing in the Maldives for the first time in my life, I was able to experience a completely different world. In order to get from the airport to our revenue, we had to use boats. Kind of like caps on streets. The weather was amazing, sun all day and you were surrounded by the ocean. Everything was chill and beautiful.
Our destination was a small island which consisted roughly about 150-200 wooden huts. Over time, all the players flew in and it was the first time I met Dogao, Yo, Yingua, Paladin, Lojza and Bacti. We had a great time there just due to the revenue being so breath taking.
The tournament organization was a complete disaster, however. It seemed nothing had been planned before and the infrastructure just wasn’t adequate. First it was planned to cover the games live, but that had to be abandoned very quickly. The conclusion was to play the games, cast them and broadcast the videos after. That was obviously a bummer as it killed a lot of the hype for us players, but still better than nothing.
I had a very bad tournament performance there, finishing 7th overall. The result I deserved for the mindset shift I had back then. Even though my underwhelming performance, I was still super happy that I was able to attend my very first offline event as a competitor.
All further information can be found on Liquipedia WSVG World Championship Maldives 2015
2. Hello Nili’s Apartment Cup (NAC)
It was in 2015 where I unofficially stepped down from the game, focusing on my studies and my later to come job. I played Age of Empires II very occasionally, yet it was still enough to compete on the highest level.
In 2018, Nili_AoE, announced a never in the Age of Empires scene seen before format. This was the birth of Nili’s Apartment Cup. The first edition was endowed with $2,500 USD.
He flew in six players to his apartment in Hamburg to compete in his tournament while covering all of the player’s costs.
For me, it was just a blast being able to experience this as this tournament was a perfect mixture of competitive game play in a very chill, lovely atmosphere.
The organizational aspects which I missed so much in the Maldives were completely covered by Nili in his tournament. There was nothing missing and Nili was consistently trying to get feedback to improve the quality for the players and for the viewer ship.
What also made NAC so special to me was the different people casting the games. We had very wild combinations and I personally loved functioning as a caster as well.
The line-up was consisting out of Viper, Daut, Lierey, Tatoh and MbL. Going into the tournament I knew that there was no chance to compete for the highest spots as my preparation was lacking and the others just being too dominant. However, the goal was to beat Daut.
As expected, I got completely destroyed by everyone. The most important match I was able to win 4-1, however, against our Lord.
Not being able to compete in the tournament was still fine for me as the production quality was so good, considering the times we were in with Age of Empires II. My favorite moments were the meet ups with the community and watching the games on Nili’s couch with the other invitees.
During the meet ups, I got to know a lot of different people. A lot of them recognizing me, asking for pictures and signatures. That made me feel very special.
All further information can be found on Liquipedia Nili’s Apartment Cup
3. The improved version, NAC2
NAC2 was held a year after in 2019. This time, the format changed a bit in a way that six people were invited and two people had to qualify. I was fortunate enough to get an invitation as I doubt, I would have been able to qualify as the competition had become stronger and I was just not playing too well.
This time, Nili was able to put a staggering price pool of $14,000 USD. He also managed to step up the production quality, the catering and the overall feeling.
I looked very much forward to participating there as I experience NAC one year before and knowing Nili, I was sure he would have at least the same standard as previous year. He didn’t disappoint at all.
Unfortunately, due to my life choices I was not able to compete at the necessary level at all. The line-up consisted out of Lierey, Mbl, Nicov, Tatoh, Viper, Daut and Fire. I got completely crushed by everyone, even Fire, and that was the moment where I had to realize that competing on a high level just doesn’t work, anymore.
My favorite moments were again the meet ups with peers, having another meet-up with the community and the overall atmosphere.
All further information can be found on Liquipedia Nili’s Apartment Cup 2
4. Feeling like a king in Heidelberg
I, officially, came back to the scene with 100% commitment again in August 2020. At this point, the first two edition of Red Bull had already taken place and the third one beginning of January 2021. Unfortunately, not enough time for me to get into the main event.
The Red Bull series is very unique compare to the normal Random Map 1v1 where you start in Dark Age with 3 villagers and 1 scout. The Red Bull series is played in the Empire Wars mode which starts in Feudal Age and 28 villagers.
What was so special about Red Bull V compared to the previous editions was that it was held offline in a castle. How cool is that I thought? I eagerly wanted to compete there. The format was, that the 12 highest Red Bull Ranked players got invited. I was obviously not part of that, as I literally missed out on the first three editions. Three spots were available for qualifying, though.
I practiced my heart out to be as prepared as possible. I first 2-0ed DemonSheep. In the secondo round I got BadBoy, who I won 3-2 in a very close series. His Vietnamese counterpart SongSong I was able to crush 4-0. The final round of the qualifier I faced Kasva who I beat 4-1.
With that victory I booked myself the ticket to Heidelberg. Not only that, but also to the one-week practice in the GamerLegion gaming house with everyone of my team. That was another dream coming true for me. Back when I was following the Starcraft 2 scene and seeing the pro players living in Gaming houses, I was so eager to experience that one day myself.
So, on September 6th 2021, I travelled to Berlin to finally – after a few years of not seeing them – meet my beloved team mates again to live and practice in the gaming house. The feeling was so amazing. We had a great time, practiced a lot, enjoyed ourselves. The synergy definitely had a very positive development.
We travelled from Berlin to Heidelberg together by train. Arriving in Heidelberg, we first checked into a five-star hotel which had absolutely everything you could have hoped for. The food was delicious and the hotel service was top notch.
We were greeted by the Red Bull members. I have had my experience thus far in my life with service and most had not been too satisfying. But this time it was completely different. Not were the Red Bull members extremely organized and well prepared, they were also extremely friendly and courteous in the process. I absolutely loved that and also gave a lot of positive feedback.
We concluded the day at a special restaurant which a huge room just for everyone involved in the tournament. I was expecting around 20-30 people overall, but we were like 80 people. The production crew was just HUGE.
The day after we visited the location in which we played the offline event… the Heidelberg castle. I had never been to the castle before and it was just breath taking. The castle, the environment, nature, the view to Heidelberg, the people, the organization and production. I was so happy that I was able to experience something like that in my life.
The competition was super high. It was the biggest 1v1 tournament in decades for the Age of Empires II franchise with $100,000 USD. The player base consisted of Barles, slam, Viper, Villese, Vinchester, Nicov, Tatoh, Mbl, Lierey, Hera, dogao, Daut and Capoch.
I was already so happy that I qualified for this event that I didn’t really have high goals. The most important was to perform the best I could and take it from there. But oh boy, I had a run which I couldn’t even have dreamed of.
Before the tournament kicked-off, we rehearsed the show on stage to also get a feeling how the stage feels like when playing. It felt so weird to be on a stage playing the game I started when I was a kid.
The Main Event
The format was not ideal as 13 players were involved and a Swiss system format containing only four rounds. That meant that those players ending up 2-2 could have either been into the Play-off stage (Top 8) or not. My goal was to get at least the 2-2 score that – with a bit of luck – I could advance to the play-offs.
My first round on the stage was against Villese, who I was able to beat 2-0. That already gave me a huge boost of confidence, as I knew I needed one more win to secure my goal.
The second round was a tough one as I had to face my beloved team mate Daut who is an absolute beast. Before the matches a lot of trash talk was going on, obviously. I somehow managed to pull it off and got the 2-1 victory. That gave me a great position in the tournament.
For drafting we were allowed to prepare some notes in our book beforehand and bring it with us to the drafting table. That’s how Daut’s notes looked like against me.
In my third round I had to face Capoch. I knew, if I beat him, I am for sure in the Play-off stage. Things went well for me and I was able to beat him 2-0.
Qualified for the play-offs already, I played vs Lierey in the last round of the group stage. I got wrecked 2-0.
In the Quarter-Finals, I again had to face Capoch. I lost the first game, trailing 0-1. I managed to win the following 2 games making it a 2-1 for me. Then, the fourth game was a convincing win for my opponent, tying it up 2-2. Once again, we get into the decider and I miraculously pulled off to take home the last game. With that win I guaranteed myself the Top 4 spot in the biggest tournament the Age of Empires II franchise had seen in ages.
The feeling was just breath taking and I was so happy that I made the decision to come back to the Age of Empires II scene again.
In the Semi-finals I had to face off against Viper who completely crushed me 3-0 and ultimately winning the tournament.
All further information can be found on Liquipedia Red Bull Wololo V
5. A new world, welcome to Dubai
Back in 2013 the Tribal Wars was hosted which was sponsored by the founder of TyRanT, my former clan. Our former sponsor was extremely generous, but he also had high standards. Anything but a victory of his team was not accepted. We had a lot of pressure as we were aware that by not winning tournaments, the community could lose him as a sponsor.
By winning the Tribal Wars, we managed to make the sponsor so happy that he flew us to Dubai. Back in the day, our team consisted out of Kkab, Daut, Viper and me. Riut was also invited as he was our new recruit.
That was the very first time I got to meet all the people I had played for years in person. The feeling was just amazing.
Staying in Dubai
We stayed in the Burj Khalifa for the first five days to experience the city a bit and did a lot of shopping. The shopping malls there are just so extremely huge. We had one person of the sponsor’s friends who took care of us every day.
We did a lot of different activities like e.g., driving in the desert, attending the Atlantis water park, explore the city, ride in a helicopter, ride on a cruise ship, stay on an island, party, sky diving outdoor and indoor and going to fabulous restaurants.
I remember the first day of our arrival where we were told that we will go sky-diving the day after. Once we got the message, we looked at each other and were like, what did he say? I think no one of us really slept well that night.
Experiencing the sky dive was just phenomenal and it was by far the craziest thing I have ever done in my life.
Overall, we stayed three weeks in Dubai. We lived in a different world and it was great to see this.