An Interview with Immortals CEO Noah Whinston: Eyeing up Expansion?

Noah Winston is a big figure in esports, especially in League of Legends. He is someone who dropped out of college at the prestigious Northwestern University in order to become the CEO of Immortals. He is also someone who is outspoken about the fan experience and what he wants his organization to bring to the world of esports.

For Noah, this includes expanding the Immortals brand to many different esports, possibly even Dota 2.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the Immortals CEO and get some of his thoughts about expanding his organization.

Why Now?

Noah was introduced to League of Legends during the Season 3 World Championships by a friend. Even though he was not familiar with League, he was “engrossed in the experience”.

Immortals CEO: Noah Whinston

While Noah had always been a fan of esports he did not realize just how big it was. He decided then that he would want to look at it all as a fan first, So I think when I look at esports even before I started Immortals I approached this from a fans first perspective. I was a fan of esports before I ever thought about trying to do anything in it.”

Why Dota 2?

Dota 2 is an esport that has been around for many years and has plenty of support behind it. But, until recently, Noah had not really thought about getting involved with it. Like League, he was introduced and realized just how much the fans loved it.

“My first experience to Dota 2 was kind of the same way. I never watched a game of Dota, but I decided to hang out with some friends at TI6 in Seattle last year. Coming into the International and seeing this energy and this excitement around this game, you don’t need to understand the game itself to understand the feeling that the crowd has for it or that the fans have for it.”

Unlike some other esports, Dota 2 has a lot of support from its creators. Noah stated, “The only reason it is that big too is because of the massive support the community gives to that tournament through the Aegis and the crowd funding mechanisms that Valve institutes for it.”

This adds to the ecosystem of the game and the tournaments. For Noah, TI impressed him with its prize pool, which is a major problem for many esports.

“Obviously that ecosystem functions in a very different way than almost any other esports game. TI is the biggest prize pool event in the entire world for anything esports. It’s the culmination of an entire year of competition, everyone in Dota prioritizes performance at the International because of that prize pool and status. Because of that the International serves as this kind of hallmark event for esports outside of esports. Whenever TI happens, there’s always more and more stories around about how big this prize pool is.”

This caused me to wonder, what makes Dota 2 special in contrast to other scenes?

Dota 2 captures fan passion in a unique way relative to other esports games. It provides unique opportunities for those fans to directly engage with the thing that they love via the crowd funding mechanism for TI. I think of the esports out there, Dota is truly global in reach.”

Noah went on to mention the fact that these many different areas had very passionate fan bases. Unlike other esports he believed it was not limited in its reach.  

What the future holds for Immortals and expansion?

Next I wanted to know what Immortals future looked like. They are an org that is clearly on the rise and one that has a multitude of teams. While expansion is an option, Noah does not believe it’s the only one.

I think that we’re certainly not one of the organizations that thinks picking up more teams and more games are synonymous with growth. We do agree that being a multi-gaming organization is important for stability and reach, but at a certain point, and it’s a point we’ve reached, we’re more looking to grow vertically and not horizontally. We’re not looking to bloat by adding more teams in more games, we’re looking to kind of deepen our connection and our experience in the games we’re already in.”

This is an extremely interesting perspective as it seems that many org owners are always seeming to want more players and teams. Expansion is currently rapid in the realm of esports.

Noah says that they are trying to be opportunistic about their team and player pickups. He does not feel the pressure to add teams just to add them. For him, it is about finding someone who piques their interest.

“It’s More from the perspective of is there someone who so compels to sign them that we enter that scene. I think a good example is looking into our expansion in Super Smash Bros, both in 4 and Melee, where it was less of an approach ‘hey we really need Fighting Game players, like super smash bros players.’ It was more of an approach, “hey, Anti, Shroomed, these are guys are so compelling for me, both as an organization owner and a fan, and they fit so well with what we’re trying to do as an organization so well that we’re going to enter these games just for the privilege to sign them.”

This led him to Dota 2, saying, “I think that’s the approach we’re taking to Dota 2 right now. We’re still doing our research on the ground level, on the grassroots level.” For Noah, it is more about doing the research and making sure that it is something they feel will fit and something they feel they need.

“From my perspective what we’re looking for is a compelling reason to enter the scene. A team that compels us because we want them to be part of our organization so badly we’ll enter Dota 2 for them. Rather than saying, ‘look, Dota 2 is a great scene, we’re gonna compromise our values just to find any team that we can in it. That’s not to say Dota 2 isn’t an attractive enough game for us if we were a single game organization we may be taking that approach. But at the scale we are at now, it doesn’t make sense to enter other games just for the sake of entering.”

More specifically I wanted to know what was the “Immortals way” in regards to expansion. “I think that more for us it’s less of let’s try and find games to expand into and more of an if there’s a particularly compelling opportunity to take part in another game that’s something we’ll consider”

What would Immortals bring to the Dota 2 scene for Players?

This is a very important question for any esport. For many of them, the players are either respected and paid as well as they should be or are not supported in ways that make them feel like they can make playing an esport their career.

For the players, compared to a lot of the organizations in the Dota 2 scene, we provide a lot of stability and for lack of a better word legitimacy. We are a Venture funded organization with a long track record of treating our players well in other games, and especially with some of the drama that’s come from within the Dota community around players getting paid wages on time, getting their fair share of the prize money, etc., certainly that’s something we expect every player in our organization to be able to sleep sound about. To know they’re not being screwed over or screwed on their contractual options to their team.”

Noah also explained that his org takes the time to make sure that their infrastructure is solid. This means that they are organized, they know how to keep a player healthy through diet and exercise. For Immortals this helped the player and the org by keeping them at peak performance.

“Basically, we know that the players who play in our organization want to win. And we want to do everything we can to enable them to be their best selves.”

But, they do not just stop at helping a player with their current situation and career, they look towards their future.

“We also think about for them what happens for them outside of competition. What happens to a Dota player after he’s decided to retire, what are the education opportunity, what are the career opportunities available to them, and that’s something we really care a lot about.”

Dota is struggling to keep players on their rosters. This is causing players to feel that their future is insecure. Noah recognizes this and believes that its a problem that has to be remedied.

“We think right now there’s a lot of instability in Dota as a result of short-term thinking. If a team performs poorly at Kiev, they’ll probably make a big roster swap to ready themselves as well as possible for the International. If a team performs poorly at the international they’ll blow up their roster and try and rebuild from scratch. That amount of instability means rarely there is the opportunity to build long-term bonds between teammates, and there’s rarely opportunities to build long-term bonds between the specific rosters and their fans bases. And there’s rarely enough stability for players to really think not just about how am I doing the best that I can for competition, but how am I setting myself up the best to continue to live a life as a player, an influence, or outside of esports after I’m done competitively.”

The Fans

Lastly, I wanted to know what about the fans? While there is already great support from them for Dota and other esports, I wanted to know what more could be done?

I think a big part of our focus there is to create a fulfilling fan experience. Making it so that players feel close to their fans and that the fans feel as close to the players that they support so much. That’s done through streaming, through content creation, through social media, through meeting our fans where they are in their communities, and it’s done in building our own communities where our fans can interact with each other.”

“Our goal is to be able to create a fulfilling fan experience holistically. It should always be fun to root for Immortals and if we enter a game we bring that philosophy with us.”

The Dotasphere and Immortals

As you can see, it seems that Immortals are keen to expand into Dota if the right team or players are available. Interestingly enough, the right team may well be available right now. Up until recently, it seemed as if Team Onyx and Immortals were destined for each other. However, Digital Chaos messed up that idea by dropping the roster that took them to second place at TI6 and picking up Onyx.

With this in mind, the stage could be set to rescue the former DC roster, now named Thunderbirds and provide them with a home. With Kiev only a week away, Immortals face the decision to dive in or wait and assess the options. Based on what Noah has eluded to above the latter seems most likely, however, recent events could tempt Immortals’ hand.

Up until recently the amount of new organizations entering the Dotasphere was limited. However, with Mousesports returning and now Immortals declaring an interest in Dota, the future looks interesting. The only thing holding back other organizations acquiring teams is that lack of top level competition. Of the 16 teams attending Kiev, only one of those does not have an organization. With this in mind, it is easy to see why it may be off putting for other well-known organizations to pick up a Dota side.

It seems like the stars are aligning for both Thunderbirds and Immortals. Could we see an Immortals side at Kiev or TI7? Only time will tell and Immortals may not have long to make a decision.

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Dignitas Playoff Profile: The One Man Ssumday Army or the Unsung Duo to Victory?

 Setting the Stage

 

The return of the gold and black of Dignitas this split was a welcomed sign by some. Even more welcomed was their highly touted Korean imports. Bringing across the Pacific Top lane phenom, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and high flying (get it cause he played in Jin Air… sorry) Jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas looked to come back in a big way. Of course, alongside this was the big news of financial backing from the Philadelphia 76ers. This was reportedly the swaying reason why Ssumday joined the team. Integrating these two talents would not only take time, but effort from the organization.

Will Dignitas’ games be another case of Ssumday and co., or will the rest of Dignitas pull their own weight? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The rest of the Dignitas roster was flushed out with Apex Gaming’s Mid laner, Lae-Young “Keane” Jang, Canadian up and comer, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, and the 2000 assist man himself, Alex “Xpecial” Chu. Many pundits at the beginning of the split described Dignitas accurately: the Ssumday and friends show, with the heavyweight Top laner often carrying his teammates. Dignitas won and lost games on whether their opponents could contain Ssumday or not.

But that was for the first half of the split. “Trust the process” seems to be the name of the game for Dignitas. After bringing in coach, David “Cop” Roberson, it seemed the process really took off. The team play between the Korean and NA players seemed to pick up too. Dignitas overall matured into a strong team, and while Ssumday was still easily the ace for the squad, games were won on the backs of other teammates. LOD, in particular, stepped up as a player, while Keane earned an insane nine Player of the Games, one behind Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. 

 

The Players in the Jerseys

 

Probably the most hyped player to be imported in the off season, everyone’s eyes were on Ssumday, a staple for the KT organization in LCK for many years. He didn’t fail to deliver, having a dominant opening season in NA. There’s not much more you could ask for in a Top laner. Strong in lane, impact felt outside of lane, and someone who can carry the team on his own back if needed. Ssumday is definitely still the star of this Dignitas roster and should be showing up to prove it this weekend.

There’s an almost cliche team composition of picking a Korean Top laner and Jungler and it working well (see Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin for examples). With Ssumday and Chaser, that pattern continues to be effective. Junglers excel at getting their laners ahead, and Chaser will need to be on point to guarantee that Ssumday can be the tyrant of the top half of the map. Bot lane is another possible target for Chaser, with ganks on P1’s bot lane having possible massive gains if they can keep No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon down. Chaser will need to not only play smart, but creatively, and pick up on the opportunities to get his teammates ahead. If not, Dignitas may look worse for ware.

Maybe not the strongest Mid laner in the league, Keane is still a player you should never count out. Can he shore up his weaknesses for the playoff run or will inconsistencies haunt him? Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

Mid lane, as always, dictates much of the team fighting prowess of a team. Keane will need to show his more consistent side, or possibly bring some pocket picks or off meta choices to catch his opponents off guard. While I think many wouldn’t place Keane as the linchpin that Dignitas rotates around, both Phoneix 1 and Cloud 9 do place their mid as top priorities. Keeping the opposing Mid laner in check will be vital, as will be Keane stepping up his performance overall. His stats have him solidly in a middling position for KDA, Damage Per Minute, and Damage Percentages of his team.

The silent pickup from Dignitas was trading Apex’s Apollo “Apollo” Price for EnVyUs’s LOD. I say silent because the signing of two big name Korean imports generally overshadows a domestic swap of two lower tier ADCs. LOD, however, has come up big for Dig and has shined as a contender for best player on Dignitas. He’s stepped up in big ways for Dignitas in a meta that was hard on ADCs, but looks to carry that on into the playoffs. His partner, Xpecial, clocked his 2000th assist with Dignitas, and has also had a noticeable uptick in the latter half of the split. The duo look to show that this isn’t just a Korean team as the two North Americans have put up good performances.

 

The X Factor

 

What’s the X factor for Dignitas to pull off a deep drive into the playoffs? Their botlane duo of LOD and Xpecial. While it may seem like their star in Ssumday would have to pull off the big plays, I actually feel that the duo in the botlane can have more of an impact if they can manage to get ahead of their lane opponents. Arrow has been an absolute monster for P1, but their listed support of Jordan “Shady” Robison has me thinking Arrow may not play up to his potential. If the synergy of LOD and Xpecial can step up to the plate and best Arrow and Shady, Dignitas have a decent shot at defeating their first opponent on their way to the Semis against Cloud 9.

Can LOD and Xpecial show that they’re one of NA’s top duos? Or will they fail to make a dent against the monster, Arrow? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

If LOD and Xpecial can show up against Arrow, then they stand a chance against Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta too. ADCs have come back into a more carry based position, and a strong bot lane coming out of lane can sway the tides in the mid game. Ssumday should be solid in the Top lane against Derek “zig” Shao. Even against fellow Korean, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, he stands a good chance of holding out. Chaser can possibly gain an advantage from the Jungle, being a more seasoned veteran than both Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Rami “Inori” Charagh. While Keane will also need to be strong or at least keep even with his opposite sides, it’s the duo in the bot lane that will have the biggest impact on their performance. If they step up, they can pull off a great run. If not, I don’t feel they’ll go deeper than Semis.

 

Predictions: 3-1 Dignitas over P1, 3-1 loss against Cloud 9

I’m skeptical of P1’s roster decision going into the Playoffs, and that’s why I give Dignitas the edge here. Starting Inori over William “Meteos” Hartman seems questionable. The team has galvanized around Meteos, but Inori is nothing to scoff at. Regardless though, Chaser should have the edge here, having trust and experience with his teammates. Ssumday against Zig should favour Dignitas, while Keane should be able to hold his own against Ryu. The big question is whether Dignitas’s bot lane can find advantages over P1’s. If yes, Dignitas should win their games cleanly. If they can’t, any win will be hard fought against a well positioned Arrow.

Dignitas will face a much stronger opponent if they move on and face Cloud 9. Cloud 9 retained all of their Worlds attending roster, except Meteos. They picked up Contractz, who seems streaky, but is still a strong Jungler. That means Cloud 9 should easily be the favourites here. Against some of the best laners in the league, Dignitas will be hard pressed to find advantages in the laning phase. While they have looked better recently, mid game should favour the C9 side with experience and communication. If Cloud 9 show up looking like a team that can take first place, Dignitas won’t stand much of a chance. If they show up looking like the roster that loses to Immortals, Dignitas might stand a chance at taking a few wins. Ultimately, C9 should take the series in either scenario.

CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

The Return of Dyrus: Will his new team grace the LCS? Marc Merrill Confirmed

Well it’s that time of year again folks. The Spring Split comes to a close, the Promotion tournament rages on, and the majority of us are left with no good League of Legends to watch. Thankfully the scene delivers us some exclusive news that will excite any fan of League: the return of Marcus “Dyrus” Hill.

Dyrus reached out to me personally on my MySpace account saying, “It just didn’t feel the same watching these scrubs win Top lane. That’s just not how you do it. I had to come back and teach kids how to play Top lane again ;)” Wink included. Dyrus detailed how he felt it was important for some real American throwdowns to return in the Top lane.

Dyrus also confirmed the backing of a venture capitalist group succinctly titled “Sketchy Big Money Guys Who Want More Money But Love Esports We Swear Ever Since It Made Others Money”, or SBMGWWMMBLEWSESIMOM, or just Big Money Guys. “With the backing of Big Money Guys I feel we have a real single shot at making LCS before all our funding is pulled suddenly and violently leaving many of our support staff stranded and without any chance of survival! We’re absolutely excited and thankful for this single shot at the big leagues with a group that only believes in us if we perform in one split of Challenger Series.”

When asked about the process of forming this new team and anyone who inspired this sudden change of heart, Dyrus simply sent me this image as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

While Dyrus stressed that this was not necessarily the final draft, he assured me he did not in fact do it in MS Paint five minutes before contacting me. Definitely not.

While Dyrus is currently the only announced player for the roster, he hinted at some fellow familiar big names that may join him. “I’m not allowed to say who will be joining me just yet, but I can say that they are known to LIFT things sometimes twice or DOUBLE… Double times… Ohh, and I think TheOddOne said he was free too I guess.”

(Praise be Unto Mark Merrill, our Lord and Savior)

But what will this legendary team be called? Dyrus also wasn’t hesitant with this. “We wanted to be known for our own legacy and not the team we played for in the past and had massive success with. So we decided on Team Alternative Middle, or TAM. Our logo is pretty cool. It’s got fire and stuff. But we wanted to build our own, completely unique and never done before sounding team. Like, we may bring in a super star Danish mid laner or something.”

In case it wasn’t apparent, April Fools folks. Sadly the return of Dyrus doesn’t seem to be happening (yet!?) Hopefully my bad humour was mildly amusing to someone. Anyone. My mom thinks my jokes are funny.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Joe!

NA LCS Spring Split Story lines to follow: Preseason Edition

It’s a new year and a new season with the NA LCS Spring Split just around the corner! To welcome in the hype of a new year, I’ll be bringing you the top four story lines to follow going into this NA LCS Split! Also, a quick TL;DR is at the bottom for those in a rush!

The Rebuilds: New players, same placements?

Two of NA’s more troubled franchises, Team Liquid and Immortals, went into what could only be called a ‘rebuilding’ phase over the off season. Immortals, dominating during their regular split showings, always seemed to struggle in their playoff runs. Liquid, on the other hand, seemed to always have mediocre placings during the regular splits, while meeting similar middle of the road results during their postseason matches.

Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Immortals’ rebuild wasn’t much by choice, as the majority of their roster left for greener pastures elsewhere. Retaining Mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park, the Immortals side cobbled together a team that is hard to argue as, on paper, more talented than their previous.

Acquiring polarizing talent in Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett is a good core to build around, but given it was a replacement for Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin it’s hard to view it as a clear upgrade. Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong is another solid pick up for the team. Again though, observers are left wondering whether he will be better than Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo. Whether rookie Li “Cody” Yu Sun and Korean import Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung will be a strong bot lane is another question hanging over the roster.

Can one time world Champ Piglet bring help Liquid ascend? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Liquid seemed to have a lot more agency in their rebuilding choices, looking towards internal problems and needing a change of scenery to make it further.  The team constantly fell just outside of relevancy internationally, so it seems like it was time to change the core of the roster. Keeping rookie talents in Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Matt “Matt” Elento bring a sense of stability to the roster, with Matt being a particularly strong retention.

Promoting Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin back to the starting five was another wise choice from the team, who will hopefully bring pressure from the botlane that seemed lacking in S6. Joining him from Korea is star studded Reignover, a product of the Liquid-Immortals Jungle shuffle. His tactical mind and presence in the Jungle will need to make up for the downgrade in the Mid lane, with the departure of Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun and the rotating North American Mid laners of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Austin “LiNk” Shin.

Either the rebuilds for these teams will go according to plan, or they’ll continue to be haunted by their postseason woes (Immortals) or stagnating mediocrity (Liquid). Their skill will truly be tested on the rift. This is something that fans will want to keep an eye on. It’s a mix of talented players, Flame/Dardoch/Pobelter for Immortals and Reignover/Piglet/Matt for Liquid, mixed with some questionable players whose skill ceilings may not be as high as fans hope. Still, super teams have failed historically and we’ve seen some incredible splits from teams that ‘shouldn’t have done well,’ like CLG in the NA LCS Spring Split in 2016. Can Immortals pull off another almost perfect split? Will Liquid rise above their middle of the pack status?

Steady as she goes: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know?

While our previous story line followed teams who thought a change in players was the answer, these teams have chosen (almost) the exact opposite approach. Both Cloud 9 and TSM only have a single player change in their lineups, with Juan “Contractz” Garcia replacing struggling William “Meteos” Hartman in the jungle for Cloud 9, and familiar face Jason “WildTurtle” Tran replacing the hiatus taking Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the ADC role for TSM. CLG, on the other hand, did the unthinkable in the craziness of the off season; they didn’t change a single thing about their roster, retaining all five starters without bringing on any ‘backups.’

Can the CLG Fam have a repeat of last Spring Split? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

So what’s the story here? Well, it’ll be whether the stability of these rosters holds out against the crop of new, fresh talent. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell will truly be tested in the Top lane against the recent influx of Korean imports, like Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok.

Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong will also be under new pressure to remain the unkillable sponge we saw in Cloud 9’s playoff run. Was struggling Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun the best choice for CLG, and not another, more talented import Mid laner? Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s reign of top NA Mid laners is also up in the air now.

Overall the real questions here is whether these were the right choices. I don’t feel like, outside of CLG, there was much room for growth in acquiring new talent for these rosters. It’s also questionable whether it will be a case of ‘synergy trumps new talent’ or if ‘stagnating water will fail.’ Truth be told, I am more supportive of the first. There is a lot to be said for team synergy and players all ‘clicking’ naturally. For the NA LCS Spring Split? I think these rosters will remain in the top four of the league. During the Summer Split? It will depend on how the other teams in the middle of the pack settle.

The return of the boys in gold and black: Dignitas’ interesting return to the LCS

Dig hold a special place in my heart like a lot of the ‘legacy’ teams do. They were there when I started getting into the scene, and it was not without a bit of sadness that I saw them relegated and dissolve their League operations. It’s great to see the team back, if for no other reason than to see another old team back on the stage.

But Dig also were the talk of the scene when they acquired Top lane talent in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and potentially scary Jungler in Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. While the team Dig bought out to return to the LCS, Apex, seemed to meander around the middle of the pack, the addition of a tried and true pattern of Top-Jungle Korea imports, alongside acquiring Benjamin “LOD” deMunck to fill the hole left by Apollo “Apollo” Price has many pundits torn on exactly where to put Dig.

The Terror in the Top Lane? Courtesy of Inven.

The big story line to follow here is whether Dig will actually make an impact in the league or not. Signing big name talent isn’t the sure fired solution to a winning team, and while it is obviously better than signing bad talent, there’s been a few examples of that failing (read Alliance and other super team failures).

But Dig isn’t just a ‘super team in the making’ kind of deal either. They’ve got serious backing from NBA franchise Philadelphia 76er’s, something Ssumday cited as a reason for joining the NA side. It’ll not be just a simple question of whether the team will click, but how the newly moneyed Dig can use those funds to make the integration of their two Korean imports as painless as possible. If they can do that and make the team mesh, we could be looking at a new top four contender. If not? Well, back to the middle of the pack for the Dig boys and hopefully avoiding relegation.

Just call me the Underdog: Can the bottom of the pack make a real move upwards?

Ahhh, the scrappy, loveable underdogs at the bottom of the heap, these teams have seen troubled splits that didn’t turn out like they probably wished. Phoenix 1, Echo Fox, EnVyUs, and newcomers FlyQuest (god awful name) are all slotted pretty low in most pundits minds. P1 struggled last split to a non-memorable split had not been for a miraculous Rengar filled win against (until then) undefeated TSM in the NA LCS Summer Split.

Echo Fox just never seemed to get much momentum going forward, with Henrik “Froggen” Hansen finding himself again in 7th place in the NA LCS Spring Split 2016 and an abysmal, single win showing in the Summer. NV, on the other hand, exploded onto the scene and hyped up many to be the next top flight team, but ultimately petered out as their Summer split continued, ultimately ending with an unsatisfying 6th place in the regular split and an early bow out from the playoffs, falling to Cloud 9. FlyQuest are newcomers to the scene, having climbed into the League from the Challenger Series under Cloud 9 Challenger and are a mix of old Cloud 9 members attempting another foray into the scene.

Can the Foxes double their wins from last split? (Surely two wins isn’t too hard…) Courtesy of Gamepedia.

The big question marks here is whether these sides will make any real waves in the scene. FlyQuest have the luxury of having no real history, so they’ll be coming in with a clean slate, but one that’s questionable as to if it’ll hold up against top flights like TSM and Cloud 9. NV will look to newcomers Nam “lira” Tae-yoo and Apollo “Apollo” Price can carry the team into the top half, but it’s questionable whether they’re even upgrades to the members they’re replacing.

It’s not a daring prediction here, but I think Echo Fox can at least improve on their one win split this time round. The real question is if they can become contenders based on how fast Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok integrates into his English speaking team? Also whether Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Austin “Gate” Yu are the answers the Foxes needed to make a dent in the scene. I’m still skeptical of this roster making any real contact with the top tier teams in the league, but I’ve been wrong before.

P1 are the only team I have serious hope for going into this split. Acquisitions of the Boss Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from European side H2k and KT veteran ADC in No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon add depth and talent to a roster that, once finally figuring out how VISAs work, really looked to be on the up and up. Not just an upset win against TSM last split, but also starting to pick up wins against teams in tiers above them showed improvement to the remaining core of the team.

Can the Boss whip another team into a Worlds team? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

As with any prediction, it’s quite possible that I’ll be shown to be completely wrong. But I don’t think that any of the bottom tier teams outside of P1 hold much of a chance against the top half of the league. FlyQuest is untested (ironically, given the veteran status of their players) in the new competitive league, NV is a bit of a wild card on whether they’ll show up enough, and Echo Fox seems to just not have it in them to really make it far.

P1 showed themselves to be a decent team last split, with clear upgrades in Korean duo of Ryu and Arrow alongside new Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma. they seem to be the best suited to break into the middle of the pack. But, nobody predicted them to be the team to take down the undefeated TSM, so anything is possible for any of the teams at the bottom here. There’s only up to go from the bottom, right? Right? (Ohh wait, relegation exists…)

TL;DR

The Rebuilds: Liquid and Immortals enter the NA LCS Spring Split with a fresh new roster, so the question here is whether this’ll be what the doctor ordered, or whether the teams will find themselves worse for wear? Can Immortals pull off another nearly flawless split? Will Liquid finally find themselves at the top?

Steady As She Goes: TSM and C9 only changed one player on their roster, WildTurtle for Doublelift Contractz for Meteos respectively, in the off season, while CLG vouched to retain all of their starters. The question here is whether this was the right move for the teams, and whether they can continue their placements consistently being in the top four of the League.

The Return of the Boys in Gold and Black: Dignitas’ return to the LCS is met with baited hype, as the team acquired big names in Ssumday and Chaser for their top and jungler positions. Whether this will translate to a team that can challenge for top of the league will depend on how well the team meshes this split.

Just Call me the Underdog: P1, Echo Fox, NV, and newcomer FlyQuest are slated to find themselves again at the bottom of the pecking order. Some interesting off season roster changes, particularly for P1, raise questions as to whether these teams can make a real run for middle of the pack or beyond. P1 holds the highest chance in my opinion, adding depth to a roster that managed to take down TSM, but only time will tell whether this holds any truth now.

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The Telecom Wars Reignited: The Clash of Titans, or Another Super Team Flop?

It seems to be a tradition for Korean teams to, once seemingly at their peak, dissolve and disperse their players throughout the world. It’s almost like a kind of redistribution of talent. Fan favorites Rox Tigers followed such a tradition, as their five members left the roster to find themselves new homes. The two Tigers to highlight here? Well, obviously Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho, the two stars of the old Tigers roster. Where better to find themselves but new homes, across the rift, in some of the most storied teams in Korean esports history: SKT T1 and KT Rolster. But this is Korea, baby, so these weren’t the only high flying players signed: KT signed Smeb, while also picking up “Faker Stopper” in Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, one time World Champion Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, and LPL ravaging Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. SKT retaliated by signing up-and-coming Peanut, and locking up the polarizing, talented Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon from North America’s Immortals.

Courtesy of SKT T1 Twitter.

You should all know this already though. I’m not here to report on the players, but ask the kind of question I find myself always asking when these super teams come together: will these teams become tyrants of their region, or is it just another fallacy of composition? The fallacy of composition is a logical fallacy where someone wrongly assumes that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. To put it another way, if we have the best players in each of our roles, we’ll have the best team. Super teams have abounded in many regions, Europe coming to mind quite often (read Alliance.) These teams haven’t always worked out. Sure, TSM’s super team eventually meshed into an almost flawless machine (pre-Worlds.) But this isn’t always the case.

SKT’s move, in a lot of ways, falls much lower on the chance of being this tried and failed pattern. SKT kept a solid ‘core’ with ever scary, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in the Mid lane, and dynamic duo Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan in the bot lane. Peanut was just simply a solid pick up, having matured as a player and, pending he integrates well with the team, will bring only positives. Huni, too, makes a lot of sense. He’s a kind of diamond in the rough, and at his peak can be insane mechanically. SKT’s support infrastructure should be more than enough to bring out the best in him as a player. If SKT can’t do it, nobody can. SKT made the necessary moves in the off season to secure their position as the top in the world, only really seeming to be a super team because their core was so strong to begin with.

KT’s move is a little more on the super team side, and it both intrigues me and makes me wonder: are they committing a similar fallacy that has failed so many other teams? Smeb is a solid pick up, no questions asked. Any team would do better to have Smeb on their side. Score is the kind of player you always want to have around. He is a true veteran who still holds his own mechanically. The three remaining, newly signed players are all from Samsung teams (back when sister teams existed) that dissolved. While I’m definitely on the Telecom War reboot going on, I think I have to cautiously point out that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, just yet.

Can the veteran Score lead the new KT Rolster’s to new heights? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

That’s why I brought up the Fallacy of Composition. I look down the roster of KT and I literally cannot think of players I would replace. They seem to all fit, they’re some of the best available and I cannot fault the KT management for anything but a stellar off season. Just because each player is a good player doesn’t mean they’ll mesh though. Particularly not against a rival that, truthfully, had retained much more of their core lineup and have brought in rookie stars who can and will be molded. KT’s roster is a strong roster of good players, but recognizable faces that have been in the scene for quite some time.

To put another way, I think there’s a contrast here. SKT, in my mind, is in it for the long game here. Faker will, eventually, retire. Bang and Wolf are an amazing duo, but you can’t put your eggs all in one basket. You have to keep the long term in mind. So the signing of two amazingly talented ‘rookies’ (not really, but in contrast to Faker, rookie seems due,) is a developmental way of thinking. Not that they’ll suffer, it’s not like a rebuild, but they’re developing. KT, on the other hand, have assembled a team to win. Their thirst for a Worlds showing is evident. They’re thirsting to come out on top of their telecom rivals. They’re thirsting for the formal recognition they’ve long been due. That all might bite them in the ass if it doesn’t work out. Or it might be the smartest move they’ve made yet.

The Alpaca returns! Courtesy of WWG.

I think the hype surrounding the rebooted Telecom Wars is well warranted. This will produce some amazing series’ over the next two splits. I think the highlight games will come from LCK, and any and all viewers should make sure to watch. But I think there needs to be a cautious voice out there too. I don’t think we can expect the players and teams to all completely mesh and be the team they are slated to be right off the bat. But it won’t take long either. This is Korea, the place where professionalism and support infrastructure are well developed. If there’s any region in my mind that could break the ‘Super Team curse’ I think it’s Korea. I also think we may need to wait a split, particularly for KT. But once they’re settled, oh man, will it ever be the clash of titans we’re all hoping for.

 

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Ssumday’s Trip to NA LCS: Will it have an Impact or be another case of miscommunication

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Seeing the boys in gold and black from Dignitas back in the NA LCS brings a certain happiness to me. They’re an old team, one of the ‘legacy’ teams, and their eventual removal from the league in relegation seemed sad.

But they’re back, and seemingly with intents of making much better names for themselves than they have in recent splits. The signing of high flying Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho Korean import is the kind of ‘big franchise move’ that Dig needed. They wanted to make a splash in the scene after acquiring middle of the pack squad of Apex. But is it enough to bring a break out year? That depends.

Ssumday’s skill is definitely noteworthy. I always feel a bit of respect for players that have been around for years now, particularly ones who have survived the grueling, cutthroat nature of LCK. Sssumday’s done that with KT in various capacities.

He brings his strong team fighting and overall experience to a roster that, truthfully, will need it. An odd pick up for the Jungle, a relatively uninspiring Mid Laner, a rookie(ish) ADC, and a once-strong-but-now-not-overly-so Support leave Dig with a strange kind of squad to be working with. Can Ssumday turn the kind of rag band team into a winning squad?

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

By the sounds of it, though, I think Dig brings something that other teams have been lacking when bringing in Korean talents: support. Multiple interviews with Ssumday show that he chose Dig because of the stability of not only the NBA ownership, but also of the support staff surrounding the players.

I wouldn’t want to say it’s of a Korean caliber, but by the sounds of it is very much a strong, robust system. This support staff will be key for Ssumday. He’s a good player, a great player, but I think fans often forget that League is strongly a team oriented game. Ssumday will need to be able to integrate with his teammates, get to know them, and ultimately synergize with them.

A genuine interest in learning English is a good step for Ssumday too. It’s been shown time and time again that Top-Jungler synergy can be key for Korea duos in foreign leagues.

I don’t want to say this all falls on the support staff either. As with any new teams, it’s really hard to gauge their exact strength. A smattering of super star players has been shown to flop, while a team that everyone undervalued have won back to back splits.

On a similar note, I don’t know if I want to say either that this falls entirely on Ssumday’s shoulders. But, that kind of happens when you’re arguably the teams closest thing to an ace. I think of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong for Cloud 9 and how the team seemed to live and die by his plays. He was just able to do so much for the team.

I think Ssumday will have similar potentials for Dig. It also falls on his teams around him to make sure they’re stepping up to the plate. I think, ultimately, Ssumday needs to be more than just an ace: he needs to be a captain. He has to bring this team together, through either his play or his off the Rift abilities.

My honest verdict and prediction? I think Ssumday can do it. TSM showed they were mortal on the Worlds stage and lost key ADC superstar Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Cloud 9 still look like solid contenders for the top, but a new Jungler will mean the team needs to grow together. CLG didn’t make any roster changes and it’s questionable whether this was the right or wrong move. Immortals and Liquid are whole new teams.

If there were any time for Dig to make their impact, or should I say make their Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, it’s this Spring split. I think Ssumday’s got the right attitude too, going into this ambitious, wanting a change of scenery, and, most importantly, trusting in those around him. He has the making of the next ‘great Top Laner,’ bringing not only pedigree but seemingly a genuine desire to grow in the NA LCS. Only time, and results, will tell though if Ssumday found himself the right home to build a new legacy around.

Paleo Gaming’s side of the story

 

I got the chance over the weekend to talk with Dan, or as most know him Paleo Praetor, about the recent departure of Ever from the organization. We wanted to give both sides to a rather sensitive story in the amateur/semi-pro scene, as many fans love the work done by both Ever and Paleo gaming. Dan adds some clarifying points to the discussion, alongside with some teasers of things to come with the Imperial esports league.

Dan explains a bit of the backstory too, much of which will be familiar to those who read my Ever piece. He had reached out to Ever upon Dark Wave Gaming’s closure, having liked the idea that had been run there of Fight Night. He saw potential in the current iteration, but also found room for improvement upon it. “There was a lot of avenues to create something great that weren’t being mined, [for it] to be its full potential.”

Fight Night worked as a kind of single elimination, tournament qualification weekly event. Dan commended this aspect, it was great exposure for lower teams with decent viewer turn out. But the promise of qualification, Dan felt, hampered the idea. By pairing the games with a promise for future events, it held the idea back from what it could be. A shift, which found its iteration in Rumble on the Rift (RoR), towards a weekly, single big event with Bo3 matches. Dan highlighted that the worry with the Fight Night format is that Amateur teams come and go quite often, and it wasn’t a for sure thing whether the same team that qualified would be available for a tournament in months to come.

Paleo Gaming brought Ever on with the promise to not micro manage him, unlike other offers he had received. He would take the reins largely, and the only request made was that things were brought by Dan first, that he was consulted on things prior to them being given the green light. “We gave him a large degree of freedom in setting up the event. He did a fantastic job.” In a lot of ways Dan pointed that, rather than Ever not being offered help, it seemed more that Ever would rather do it himself, that, “He was concerned other people would dilute [his] vision [for RoR.]” It adds another dimension to that discussion. Dan put it pointedly that, “People shouldn’t confuse Ever’s effort with it not being a Paleo Gaming event.”

Courtesy of Paleo Gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo Gaming.

It was a hard situation for both parties to be in, it seems. On Ever’s side it was a lot of work and he felt alone in it, but from Paleo’s side, too, they didn’t want to push him into being micro managed or have people interfere with his ideas. Dan said on it particularly that, “Because of how well he was running the event, I didn’t push harder for him to hand over certain responsibilities. Maybe I should have, because then he wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed, but I assumed if he needed more support, he would ask for it.”

Fast forward to May, and RoR has already become a staple of the semi pro League of Legends scene. Ever pushes to move the weekly format into an LCS style event, including all the glitz and glamour that comes with that. Dan said he was cautious at first about the prospect, citing concerns about having the proper staff and architecture to do the event properly, if at all. Not to mention attempting, then, to compete with other, established leagues. It was that discussion that eventually lead to the outright acquisition of Imperial esports by Paleo, essentially gaining the aforementioned architecture for an LCS style event.

Dan addressed some of Ever’s leaving remarks as well in our talk. He mentioned that Ever was a leader of the Rumble on the Rift team, but also stressed that Ever was not the sole party involved. While it was definitely the case that Ever took the project onto himself and ran with it, putting in a massive amount of work to make it what it was, Dan feels that the depiction that Ever was alone in this process isn’t quite accurate. The two talked much of improvements, and while Dan tried to get people to help out with specific things, Ever was very particular at times with how things were to be done, often time taking them on himself rather than delegating the work.

Dan also felt completely surprised by the article. Up until Ever’s departure, it had seemed the two were on the same page with the event. He offered Ever the position of Broadcasting Director, hoping to have Ever come on not so much as manager-style of the broadcasting, but of setting the standards to be upheld for the tournament. Ever, Dan continued, seemed on board throughout the conversation. Ever approached Dan later saying he needed to step away from esports to have more personal time to spend with family and friends.

It seemed a theme throughout our talks that Dan was taken aback by a lot of the frustrations that Ever expressed. He seemed understanding of them, understanding that real life takes precedence over this, and that burn out can be a real factor. It just seemed that Dan wasn’t aware that there was any frustrations. He said that, “[I] just want an understanding that I was not imposing things on Ever, but that we were on the same page the whole time.”

Another point stressed was the kind of mutual agreement the two had. Dan felt that Ever worked and made Rumble a great success, but also felt that without Paleo and his opinions and acting as a medium it wouldn’t have been what it was. “Paleo gaming was better for having him on as a staff. I learned a lot from Ever, but he also learned from me.” Dan went on further describing the relationship between him and Ever to be quite close. “I consider Ever a close personal friend, who actually came up from Texas to spend time with the Paleo crew and stayed in my home. He is basically family. I think he is immensely talented and knowledgeable about the industry, and business in general. I am grateful for the time he spent here at Paleo, and I wish him nothing but success. I honestly hope we can collaborate in the future, because I think we make a rather formidable team.”

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

The dream lives on! Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

There also was a bit of a misunderstanding with the statement that this new league would undo all that Ever had done. While it was true that, originally, the teams already involved with Rumble were going to be given the chance to have higher seeding within the new league format game, Dan stated that, rather than undoing this work, he felt that it was fairer process to have an open qualifier, not giving any preferential treatment to any party involved. In short, “Our big issue was preserving the integrity of Imperial esports. They didn’t show favouritism. We want to show people we are committed to fairness to the scene, [and] the qualifiers were a way to do that.” He laughs and remarked, too, that this was shown that not all of the Paleo teams attempting to qualify made it in even, with only Paleo Tundra qualifying with a team kill. Paleo Green and Paleo Pride were left on the outside of the league.

Dan also stressed that this didn’t mean the end of what the Paleo-Imperial acquisition promised for the future of the semi pro scene. The sudden loss of Ever was a hit, but with a reorganizing of the team involved, Dan is confident that they can carry on with the original plans. Season 3 of Imperial will be ‘business as usual,’ with some minor improvements. It’s in Season 4 that Dan has set his sights on for major improvements. He hopes to surpass Rumble’s high quality streams by then.

Our conversation wrapped up in quite a philosophical fashion. Anyone familiar with the semi pro scene in League knows that Paleo gaming, and many other organizations I’ve spoken with, prefer collaboration to cold competition. Dan has a saying, “If we bring everyone to the table, everyone gets to eat.” He invited organizations, whether established leagues/tournaments or new fledgling ones, to reach out to the community. This is how Dan sees the amateur scene staying relevant in the overall ecosystem of League esports.

Ever’s departure from Paleo Gaming

 

Ever, previously of Paleo Gaming and the brain behind Rumble on the Rift, took time to sit down with me last night to discuss his leaving Paleo Gaming. It was a move that rippled through the semi pro scene, as Ever is a mainstay and a fan favourite of the community. Ever gives me the full story, with all the context and backstory to a lot of it, but for those who want a TL;DR, check the bottom of the page.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

To give context to Ever’s decision to part ways with Paleo, he informed me of his past. It all started with Dark Wave Gaming, an idea of his that he started “before other organizations popped up.” There were three teams under that banner, a similar tournament style series like Rumble on the Rift called Fight Night, although on a much lesser production level. But as Dark Wave grew Ever found himself more and more micro managing teams, finding sponsors, and less and less of what he actually wanted to do. He found himself unavailable to the teams even, as he was constantly busy with the more managerial side of things. He eventually left and mulled over the idea of leaving the scene altogether.

Ever was approached by Dan, also known as Paleo Preaetor, asking if he’d come back to the esports scene again and join Paleo Gaming. “Yes… but under the right conditions,” Ever said, not wanting to return to the management/directing aspect of it. Many organizations approached him about doing what he did for Dark Wave Gaming, growing it through sponsorship and marketing, but he wanted the freedom to do something creative, to do something he was actually passionate about, and to refocus himself on content creation. Paleo offered him that.

For a while this was entirely the case. “I don’t want to be micro managed,” Ever had said, and he was left to his own devices, creating a wealth of content and a community around that content. But the more Rumble on the Rift and Paleo Gaming took off, “the more people wanted to have input on it.” More and more opinions on matters popped up and it became increasingly difficult for Ever to manage this input and demand.

The main driving force behind his departure, though, was that slowly it became the case that Ever was becoming a one man production crew. As Rumble on the Rift grew, so did the demand on Ever and the time requirements to meet this demand. Graphic changes, setting the scene, doing interviews, editing those interviews, getting teams to commit to times to play, give aways, MVP graphics, standings, and everything else that made Rumble what it was took over. Ever said that, at one point, he and his girlfriend calculated at least 24 hours of work between Saturday to Tuesday on Rumble, on top of a full time job. He found himself having less and less time outside of his job and Paleo.

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What sustained Ever through this was his sole passion in it, “The only reason I was doing it was that I really, really wanted to focus on community creation. To give the teams identity.” To create the kind of community and fandom that Pro and Challenger scene got for the semi-pro. So many tournaments abound within the scene where players and teams are, “just a name,” and knowing any players in any of the teams before the tournament itself was an oddity. Ever wanted the new Imperial-Paleo league to change that, to give the scene a chance to create identities and personalities.

If you recall my previous article, this was all going to change in the new league planned from the Paleo-Imperial acquisition. Interviews with players, team organizers, past interviews, articles on sites like ours, increased sponsorship, prize pools for the players, consistency with teams and longevity of the scene were all targets for the future. The hope was to create an, “infinite amount of content for the community to sift through.”

But things were changing from what I had previously of reported on. In Ever’s own words, “With the acquisition of Imperial none of [this] was going to come to fruition, I wasn’t going to get a break, teams weren’t going to be given special treatment, and everything I had done for the past 6 months wasn’t going to matter.” The reason for the cancellation was timing: Imperial was just about to start up its 3rd Split, and Rumble on the Rift still needed time to finish its own course (it was on the 17th of a planned 25 games, and Ever had wanted to finish it prior to moving towards the League.) It’s a harsh thing to report, truly. I was beyond excited for the future of that league. Everyone at the Game Haus was too. [Edit: It should be noted that the league with Imperial WILL still have interviews, the quote was not meant to say this would not happen in the league)

All of this mixed with a feeling of being burnt out, of losing the joy for Rumble, is the main reason Ever decided to part ways with the organization. Ever is optimistic about his future, however, feeling confident in his abilities and hoping to, again, focus more on his creative content abilities than his management skills. Having helped build up two organizations, he hopes to find another one that will respect his desire to have a certain amount of freedom in his operations. Time will only tell where you’ll see Ever next, but we at the Game Haus wish him and Paleo Gaming only the best!

 

TL;DR

 

Ever and Paleo went their separate ways over a few reason: mainly, Ever felt burnt out from being a “one man production crew,” the recent decision to cancel Rumble on the Rift in favour of going full force into Imperial, some of the details of the Paleo-Imperial acquisition, and wanting more freedom to pursue his own creative outlets. Ever hopes to still stay within esports and looking forward to plying his trade elsewhere.

Semi Pro LCS: Paleo gamings’s acquiring of Imperial and what it means for the scene

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

 

While it may not be as popular as the LCS (yet), the Semi Pro scene is starting to move itself towards a similar League format that should benefit the whole scene. The recent acquisition of Imperial by Paleo Gaming signals a move within the scene that could see it grow even faster than it already is. Not only is it a melding of two of the biggest tournament organizers in the scene, it’s also a partnership that hopes to further unite the scene and improve the standards for players and organizations alike.

For those who may not know, League of Legends esports scene is almost entirely consolidated into the developer-run LCS (League Championship Series) in North America and Europe, along with a similarly formatted league in Korea, China, Taiwan, CIS, Brazil, Latin America, Turkey and Oceania regions, along with Challenger Series’ for many of these leagues. For the most part tournaments outside of Riot (the developer) sanctioned events are sparse, leaving a gap between the Pros (LCS) and Wanna-Be-Pros (Challenger Series) and ‘the rest of us.’ This is where Semi-Pros reside, just outside of the major leagues and playing a smattering of smaller sized tournaments run by third party organizers whose standards, payout, and quality can vary.

But this all might be changing. Paleo and Imperial’s coming together means that the scene is, in a way, making itself a stronger beast overall. In Paleo Ever’s own words, “[The] semi-pro scene is starting to come around, the strength of Paleo, Imperial, Initial and Reverie are all like minded, all setting our standards the same.” It’s a kind of organic unity that many of these organizers share. They want the semi-pro scene to feel legitimate for everyone involved, from fans to players, and that means higher standards for everything from prize pools to production value to coverage around the events.

Current standings of Rumble on the Rift. Notice our boys doing well on there. Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Current standings of Rumble on the Rift. Notice our boys doing well on there. Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Ever said that the move to acquire Imperial seemed a natural one. Rumble on the Rift, currently a weekly show match series, was moving towards an ‘LCS style’ League anyways. The move would see teams currently involved invited to qualify for higher seeding within the league, while other teams would then be invited to compete to fill out the rest. The merger, too, seemed a logical step too, bringing the strengths of both organizations together. In short, the ‘best from both worlds,’ kind of mentality, unifying the scene, the fans, and the teams, under a more singular banner in hopes of strengthening the scene and improving the experience for all involved.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

The move also was done with the intent uniting the scene, for the benefit of both the community and the teams/players involved. By raising the standards of competition, Paleo hopes to cause other organizations in the semi-pro to either step up their game or eventually wilt away as teams find better homes amongst tournaments and leagues that have higher standards than them. True to its name, it’s survival of the fittest for Paleo, and this can only mean good things for the scene overall.

And when we say ‘LCS-like,’ Ever  wasn’t kidding, he held no punches in the quality the league will bring. Viewers can expect bigger cash prizes, more teams, more marketing for those teams and their players, pre/post game interviews, a weekly show based around the weekly matches, highlight reels, Summoners Show cases, and articles, all of which will be geared towards the league itself. This also includes the obvious things like VODs, streams, highlights on their Youtube pages, and, another key point, a certain sense of longevity for players and teams together. The move towards roster locking helps solidify teams as a unit, rather than players that can be poached or convinced to play for a competitor right away, half way through a league, or even in the last week of it. The league will be “100% geared towards the teams and the players and the marketing for them.”

As with any move to create bigger, conglomerated leagues or tournaments, questions abound about the health and sustainability of such a move and the scene that will follow. Paleo stresses that it was absolutely vital to hear contributions from all stakeholders in the arrangement, from the viewers and fans, to the organizations themselves in the Semi-pro scene, to the teams and players involved in it. Such staples of the scene like Rozenoir, Underdog, Slay, Bladed Kings, Red Bird Esports and others were consulted for their input into the league, alongside fans and community members. Words like ‘organic’ and ‘home grown marketing’ abounded in Ever’s discussion, and it only means good thing for the league going ahead. We’ve seen many failures in esports of, often well meaning, organizations/developers trying to force esports into a community in a way that just doesn’t fit. Paleo looks to have already dodged that bullet.

To say the least, the excitement about the prospect from myself is quite high. It’s a move that the semi-pro desperately needs, and I’m one of those odd esports fans that likes league formats and standardization. It can only improve the quality of life for the players and teams involved, it’ll create its own ecosystem around the league, from interviews to articles to highlight reels, that can only propel the careers of all those involved. As it gets bigger, too, we could see a serious following of teams that are staunchly involved as semi-pro teams, possibly even see the development of talent and players be picked up by CS and LCS side teams. It’s a niche needed in the scene, and one that seems to be expertly filled by the recently merged sides. All of us at the Game Haus are more than excited about it and hope to be bringing our own exclusive covering of the events soon for fans!

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