The OP Live Hackathon: Bringing GameChangers to a Game-Changing Event

October 24, 2018

A celebration of esports and gaming culture was recently held in North Texas. The event was called OP Live Dallas, and it was the first of its kind. OP Live featured two major esports tournaments: the largest collegiate Overwatch tournament in North Texas and a day-long Fortnite “Bounty Royale Brawl” ProAm. However, as a collaboration between eGency Global and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Guildhall (the top-ranked graduate school for video game design in the world), there was much more packed into the two-day event for attendees to see and do.

This included a GameChangers Hackathon that stretched across both days, where three teams of high school and college students worked to build an application to support the esports industry.

A hackathon is best described as an invention marathon. The word itself is a portmanteau of “hack” and “marathon.” Hackathons began nearly 20 years ago, when two groups apparently coined the term for two separate events that both occurred in June 1999. Hackathons have grown in popularity and have even led to some programs that people use in their daily lives, including the Facebook “like” button and Facebook chat.

“Normally for hackathons the topic is just up in the air – there’s nothing about the event that makes the topic thrive. It’s not like you’re getting a huge amount of experience in one area. But for OP Live, the hackathon was naturally centered around esports,” said Zach Eisenhauer, Chief Technology Officer at Agglo.

“Doing an esports challenge in that space was extremely helpful because the students could go and talk to some developers at Epic Games, students and faculty from SMU Guildhall, or they could go talk to the coach of the Dallas Fuel and gain inspiration from actual contributing members in the industry. So, I thought it was really awesome to see these students getting real industry experience in programming.”

Eisenhauer, along with his business partner, Vanessa Esparza, the Chief Executive Officer at Agglo, were two of the main organizers for the OP Live GameChangers Hackathon.

“We build university applications, but we also help to run Hackathon events for universities. We saw many other people facilitating Hackathons, and we wanted to bring it to the University of North Texas. We felt it could really advance the technology program. It can take students from concepts that they are learning in the classroom to real-world problem-solving. It was something we got really passionate about,” said Eisenhauer.

For the OP Live GameChangers Hackathon, the participating students had about 20 hours to build an esports-themed application from the ground up.

“One project took statistics from a ton of different games: they had Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Fortnite and Overwatch, and they were able to show how your stats currently are and what you can improve on. It’s something that could be extremely useful in the esports industry. Since esports is so new, I think there’s a lot of space for players to easily find and understand their stats. It could also be useful for coaches to be able to vet out and recruit using tools and technology like this,” said Eisenhauer.

“The winning project was from Team eRecruit. It was a master Fortnite Discord bot that had different commands that would let you do several useful things. You could send in a check command and tell your entire team where to land, or you could go and get statistics about the top Fortnite players, or you could try to matchmake and find other Fortnite players with similar skillsets – all from within Discord.”

Anirudh Emmadi, a computer science major at UT Dallas, was a member of the winning team along with Nicholas Tindle, Darshan Bhatta, and Rohith Karkala. “Our vision was to have a central Discord server where everyone who wanted to join a team could join, and whoever is looking to recruit people can be on it, and the bot automatically ranks the players with their stats. We didn’t have that many people to test it on, so we just made some sample test cases for categorizing and ranking players. That algorithm wasn’t part of our initial idea, but I think that’s what made our program unique and stand out.”

“They had a really polished project,” said Eisenhauer. “The OP Live Hackathon was only about 20 hours long. So that’s not a lot of development time; it’s like half a week. For eRecruit though, they had a full presentation. They even made a logo for their app. The whole package was very polished, and all of the commands worked as expected. It was really all the effort they put into it that put them over-the-top.

“I always encourage students, no matter what their background is, to participate in a Hackathon. I think a lot of students get intimidated when they hear and read about it and think that you have to have a computer science degree or a lot of background knowledge in programming to even be productive in one. But in reality, a Hackathon is the basis of an idea and then attempting to bring that idea to life. So even students with a business background or an arts background or something nontraditional can bring a lot to the table, especially if they’re part of a team with someone who programs. In general, I would recommend that everyone try it once in their life and see if they enjoy the flow.”

Thanks to the OP Live GameChangers Hackathon and all the other activities (from tournaments to Powered Talks), OP Live delivered something for everyone interested in video games and esports – from the passionate gamer to their parents to school administrators to brands interested in navigating the exploding esports space.

“I thought OP Live was great,” said Eisenhauer. “A lot of inaugural events aren’t very polished. You know, the first year often is not so great, but then it builds up and eventually hits that polished, high-quality level. But OP Live was polished right off the bat. I know The Trade Group has experience building booths for events like DreamHack and they are experienced in Quakecon, and all that experience really helped bring OP Live to life. It was a really great event to be a part of.

“We had quite a few attendees say they want to come back next year, and they hope the Hackathon returns.”

“I’ve never experienced a hackathon like the one at OP Live,” said Emmadi. “If you wanted to take a break, there was so much to do other than just sit around and talk. We even got to play a little Fortnite. The cheering from the audience watching the tournaments would let us know when something exciting was happening, and we could step away for a moment to watch. It was really great.”

If you’d like to learn more about the inaugural OP Live Dallas event or for information about conceptualizing and running an esports event, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354.