Is it finally S1mple’s time to become the world’s best player?

For some time now Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev has been tipped to become the best player in the world. Whether it was way back on HellRaisers after making the playoffs of Dreamhack Winter 2014 or after carrying Team Liquid to a major final, it was expected that he would eventually be the world number one.

Everyone believed after he joined Natus Vincere that his time was now. And it was, although rather short lived. The team won ESL One New York with s1mple taking the MVP medal. However, Na’Vi would descend into a string of early playoff exits or worse.

The recent roster shuffle brings natural born leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko home with a new coach in Mikhaylo “Kane” Blagin. Under Zeus’s leadership is it time for s1mple’s story to come full circle?

Hasn’t he already been the world’s best once?

Mechanically, s1mple might already be the best player in the world. He’s certainly in contention with the likes of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, Marcelo “coldzera” David and Nicolai “device” Reedtz for that title. However, in last year’s top twenty players he was bested by two of those names, why is that?

S1mple was ranked number four in 2016 after spending most of his time on Liquid. [Source: Dreamhack]

The main reason is results. In 2016 Coldzera won two majors among other tournaments while Device consistently reached semi-finals with positive ratings at every event in that year. Secondly, these are regarded as complete players. They can play every role, rifle, AWP even support when need be. These are players that rely less on outrageous plays and more on strong decision making. They have also shown a willingness to work in a system and make sacrifices when needed.

Natus Vincere’s lack of top finishes and inability to find a working formula has put s1mple down the pecking order. The addition of Zeus should hopefully solve both of the problems starting with the latter.

How to best use s1mple?

It is on Zeus to implement a player like s1mple into his system and way of leading. My suggestion would be to let s1mple play outside of the system for the most part. He is best when he’s making wild plays based off of his own thoughts on the state of the game. Zeus could set the team up so that if s1mple wants to play X position on CT then there is a setup for that and if he dies then there is a set reaction from the team. Zeus could do this for a number of spots on a number of maps. This, in a fashion, is controlling s1mple’s aggression whilst allowing him to make his own plays. If it isn’t working reign him in and play a more defensive style holding from the bomb sites on maps such as Overpass and Inferno.

On the terrorist side you can use the same idea. The core four sets up for an execute while s1mple decides how to make an impact on said execute. That could be lurking on the other bombsite or actively trying to entry on the targeted one. I believe this would be an effective use of s1mple’s skill set whilst catering to the needs he demands.

Should he be the main AWPer?

With Na’Vi’s main AWPer leaving it is presumed that s1mple will take on the role full time. Some are skeptical as to whether using s1mple as the main AWPer utilizes his full potential.

Seized managed to keep his spot on Na’Vi despite initially being benched. [Source: cybbet.com]

My counter-argument would be that prior to the Ukrainian joining, Denis “seized” Kostin started playing as a secondary AWP. If s1mple is going off with a rifle then a flashy playmaking AWP shouldn’t be required. Give Seized the AWP and as long as he hits the shots he should hit then Na’Vi should have no problem allowing the two to switch on occasion.

This again gives s1mple more of what he wants but with the right resources to do so. There’s always a plan for if s1mple decides to change his style of play.

Conclusion

Despite the recent shortcomings S1mple has come leaps and bounds with Natus Vincere. His attitudes towards his team and its members have changed, with him saying that he will never leave and seemingly be showing more respect to his teammates. If Zeus can now come in and change his mindset towards the game in someway then we could see the nineteen-year-old join that list of complete players and cement himself as the best player in CSGO.

 

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ECS Season 3: A tournament to remember

UKCS might just be the worst on the planet, but at least we know how to put on a show. ECS Season 3 was without a doubt one of the greatest tournaments we have seen for some time. All the best teams in attendance, action packed games and an entertaining crowd. What wasn’t there to love about it?

SUMMER IS COMING

One of the biggest talking points was that we finally got Astralis, FaZe, SK and G2 all in the same arena. However, the fact that the North American teams came to play added extra spice into the mix.

Team Liquid and CLG both reached the semi-finals of the most recent international LANs, but this tournament cemented their return to summer form.

Liquid had to take down Fnatic to stay in the tournament. A task that should have been more challenging considering their recent run at Dreamhack Summer. Youngsters Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski and Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken proved too menacing with the former racking up a 92.8 ADR. They won the series 2-1 beating the Swedes 16-6 on Mirage and Inferno. Map two saw heroics from Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell secure Fnatic Train, but ultimately it was not enough to see a series win.

EliGE makes his case for best player in NA right now. [Source: Dreamhack]

Liquid would then go on to play Astralis for a spot in the semi-finals. Although the team lost the series 2-1 there were many positives to take from the games. The North American side managed to best the Danes on one of their best maps, Overpass, 16-6.

[Summer Shroud might be back. [Source: Youtube/shroud]

Cloud9 advanced to the semi-finals straight from the group stage after beating Astralis in overtime on Mirage. The team was swept by FaZe in the first map, however, they rebounded and jumped out to 12-3 lead back on Mirage. Cloud9, in true NA fashion, allowed the map to go to overtime where FaZe took four straight rounds sealing the win and their place in the final.

Similarly to Liquid, Cloud9 can head to Cologne with many positives. Mike ‘shroud’ Grzesiek looked revitalized and won a number of important clutch rounds. If Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip and Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta play to their usual level adding Shroud into the equation will make any opponent quiver.

LOVE US OR HATE US

Just one of many funny signs on display at ECS. [Source: Reddit /u/GeneralGigolo

Loves us or hate us, Brits are known for their outlandish behavior and provided much entertainment throughout the weekend. There were a number of ridiculous signs on display, some of the funniest I have seen in Counter-Strike.

Even though the endless ‘dabbing’, flipping off and fidget spinning was exhausting, the audience still cheered and gasped at some of the best plays.

 

 

The arena only added to the atmosphere. ECS did a wonderful job of setting the stage up and the tight-packed crowd increased the noise levels.

TWO GRAND FINALS

On Sunday we were treated to two amazing series in the forms of SK vs Astralis and then the actual final, SK vs FaZe.

The first series was unlike what we have seen from Astralis in the past. It was a real scrappy affair with the team straying from their usual calculated style to more risk orientated play. It provided a real treat for the fans as it was backward and forwards all the time with individuals stepping up to secure rounds.

Astralis won map one 16-12 on Overpass with SK then going on to win Mirage 16-14 and Inferno 16-12. Inferno was a true thriller with Astralis breaking SK’s economy late on only for Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David to pick up an AWP and end the match by anchoring the A bombsite.

The grand final built on the high standard already set by the semis. FaZe were in control for the majority of the first map, Mirage and eventually won 16-11 thanks to Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard stopping SK’s momentum.

Maps two and three were the real highlights with both going to overtime. On the last map Train, SK showed their former mastery of the map and looked as if they were heading for a complete shutout. They ended the half with a 13-2 lead. The second half had me reminiscing of the ELEAGUE major final in which Astralis made a huge come back against Virtus.pro.

SK Gaming win their second title this year. [Source:: HLTV.org]

FaZe actually managed to bring it back to 15-14 only for the Brazilians to take it to overtime. FaZe took the first two rounds and looked poised for victory only for MVP Fernando ‘fer’ Alvarenga and the rest of SK to take three in a row and win their second title in a row.


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What if s1mple Actually Joined the Ninjas in Pyjamas?

On Wednesday NiP played their final ECS Season 3 matches with two stand-ins following Adam “friberg” Friberg and Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg’s absences. The Swedes managed to get hold of two Natus Vincere players in Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Egor “flamie” Vasilyev to cover them.

While qualification was near impossible, the move sparked discussion in the community with many saying that NiP shouldn’t have been allowed to use stand-ins from another top team with LAN qualification at stake. Although the team did not qualify, they looked good taking a game off of the ever-growing G2 Esports, which begs the question, what would happen if a player like s1mple actually joined NiP?

That Barrier

At face value many would argue that the language barrier would be too great of an issue to overcome to be a consistently top team. However, this stigma has been broken before. In fact, even both s1mple and NiP have been through this exact problem.

The latter was when Finnish AWPer Aleksi “allu” Jalli joined the Ninjas. The team stated that they used a mixture of Swedish and English to communicate which would work for s1mple as well. From NiP’s performances with allu, you can tell that the language barrier was no issue. The team still managed to make the major finals and the natural decline still occurred long after Aleksi had left.

Allu reached six LAN finals with NiP. [Source: nip.gl]

On the flip side, s1mple joined American side Team Liquid in January of 2016. The Ukrainian is responsible for some of NA’s greatest international results, such as reaching the final of ESL One Cologne and the semi-finals of MLG Columbus.

The move demonstrates what adding one fantastically skilled player to a roster can do. S1mple was a few rounds shy of taking down Luminosity, now SK Gaming, in the MLG Columbus semi-finals with Eric “adreN” Hoag on his team which speaks volumes about his level of performance. It is possible that if the Ninjas were to make a similar move their form could instantly increase.

Hybrid Players

Part of Liquid’s surge in success was because s1mple is one of few top draw hybrid players. These rarities are exceptional riflers who are also competent AWPers and are often found playing as the secondary AWP in double AWP setups. Other famous examples of hybrid players are Marcelo “coldzera” David and Richard “shox” Papillon. S1mple took on this role in Wednesday’s matches where you could see he felt comfortable.

S1mple took on rifling and AWPing while on Team Liquid. [Source: Dreamhack.]

Since NiP already has a primary AWPer in the form of William “draken” Sundin, s1mple would be the perfect fit as he could pick the sniper up when needed or when he’s feeling confident. This would mean that f0rest could focus on his rifling which is his greatest talent.

Potential Signings

The potential to actually sign s1mple is unclear. I don’t think s1mple himself would oppose the move if Na’Vi’s results don’t improve soon. In his Tweet regarding the drama surrounding his stand-in, he stated: “just want my favorite team that I always cheer for to win some points in @ecsleague.” It was well known in his rise to becoming one of the world’s best players that he held f0rest and GeT_RiGhT in high regard.

The greater issue would be between the organizations. It’s all speculation of course, but I would assume that Na’Vi has placed a very hefty buyout on the superstar which NiP may be unwilling to match despite having the resources.

Since they may not be able to overcome that issue, who else could the Ninjas pick up instead of s1mple? Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas of OpTic Gaming is another European who took the plunge to move to North American and garnered results. Similarly to s1mple, mixwell is a hybrid player who likes to switch between rifle and AWP depending on how he feels. He was the catalyst to OpTic’s success in their ELEAGUE win and their consistent playoff runs.

Mixwell plays a similar role to s1mple on OpTic Gaming. [Source: ESL]

Another highly publicized pick up would be Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså. Although he could not contribute as a secondary AWPer, his rifling is one of the best in the upcoming ranks and NiP could make up for the absence by retaining f0rest as the secondary AWPer.

My final option would be to re-acquire Mikail “Maikelele” Bill from Red Reserve. Although the team and Maikelele may be less willing to team due to their history, Maikelele proved he could AWP at the top level back in 2014. However, in my opinion, he would benefit greatly from only having to do it on certain maps and in certain scenarios. Maikelele could definitely fill in the gaps left by Draken.

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ELEAGUE Street FIghter V Playoff Preview

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ELEAGUE

The inaugural season for Street Fighter V in ELEAGUE has been more or less a success. Solid average ratings, interesting story lines and most importantly highly entertaining games that have led to an attention grabbing product on television.

ELEAGUE’s production values and entertainment quality have done wonders for the fighting game community in establishing a main stream audience. The shiny studio, hype crowds and professionalism displayed by the casters adds a legitimacy to it all. On top of the diehard fans watching, plenty of 18-49 year-olds have been tuning in to catch their favorite fighting game.

Additionally, the competition is fierce with names like Du “NuckleDu” Dang and Kun “Xian” Xian Ho both failing to make it to the playoffs. New and old names have emerged and each player in the playoffs has an actual shot of taking home the title.

The Favorite: Panda Global Punk
Victor “Punk” Woodley is on a mission from the heavens in 2017. He’s becoming a robot with the urge to kill. He’s separated himself as the best player in this current era and winning ELEAGUE would put a stamp on that.

However, his first matchup is against the dangerous Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, but Punk does have a good number of strong Balrog’s in his region so he could be more prepared for that set specifically. If the last few months are any indication, Punk’s Karin will be hard to slow down.

The Underdog: BX3| Phenom
Interestingly enough, Arman “Phenom” Hanjanni always slides under the radar. He finished second in his group and then battled his way to a win over Zhoujun “Xiao Hai” Zeng, in a convincing 3-0, to win the group that featured NucleDu.

Necali, in my eyes, is still being slept on overall and Phenom has optimized his style from season one to season two. Starting in winners against an R. Mika player seems to work in his favor. If he can get that first win over Keita “Fuudo” Ai, watch out, because he can surprise some people.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ELEAGUE

The sleeper: Daigo Umehara
It’s even crazy to think Daigo actually made it to this point. After a lackluster group stage where he barely advanced through, he made a sudden a drastic change to Guile and once again squeaked past in the bracket stage.

Now it’s been three weeks, he’s had a lot of time to prepare with his new characters and make adjustments. He faces a familiar foe in the first round and could use Guile’s strengths to combat Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi’s Ken.

In turn, Daigo’s recent resurgence with a new character has seemingly given him more confidence. A focused and confident Daigo Umehara could be a different beast all together and now he’s playing with more matchup knowledge.

Bottom Feeder: Qanba Douyu Xiao Hai
No disrespect to Xiao Hai, but he’s not looking like the same player from season one. He did have a clutch win over NuckleDu and had grind out win over Chris “ChrisT” Tartarian, but he’s struggled in many instances this year.

Notably, he’s not having the same tournament success with Cammy despite her upgrades in season two. However, he showed his potential to make it this far and anything is possible, especially with a player like Xiao Hai.

In the end, there’s a chance any of these eight players make a deep run. The beauty of this league was its player depth and that’s being displayed this weekend. Someone is going home with a life changing win and will be remembered forever for winning ELEAGUE.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Space Soldiers’ Journey to ESL One Cologne

The Space Soldiers squad, hailing from Turkey, qualified for one of Counter-Strike’s most notorious tournaments by defeating Swedish side GODSENT in the closed qualifiers.

Space Soldiers sought redemption after faltering at the European minor, losing out on a spot at the PGL major. Despite that loss, they’ve been on a strong run of form. The team flew out to Lisbon to compete in the 4Gamers CS:GO Masters in which they took first place by defeating a number of Portuguese opposition. A confidence boost, no doubt, for the string of qualifiers that laid ahead.

European Minor

Unfortunately for the Turkish squad, they opened up their Major campaign with a close loss to Tricked and then a dominating defeat at the hands of Team Kinguin. Following those losses would be wins over North Academy and NiP. Although both sides had their flaws, Space Soldiers dictated the play leading to both victories. However, they would fall short to Dignitas in the next round, losing 16-2 on one of their worst maps, Inferno. Had the team not gotten off on the wrong foot, it’s likely we would have seen them pressing on to the main qualifier.

Cologne Qualifier

The ESL One Cologne qualifier was a chance at redemption for Space Soldiers. They easily defeated their first opponents, Bulgaria’s Outlaws, with score lines of 16-3 and 16-7 on Train and Cobblestone, respectively.

Their next series would be against Team EnVyUs, who as we know are a line up with potential thanks to the likes of Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and Alexandre “xms” Forté. However, a strong team performance would earn Space Soldiers another 2-0 victory with Buğra “Calyx” Arkın performing in both games.

Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in fragging against GODSENT. [Source: Liquipedia]

To secure their place at the infamous ESL One Cologne, Space Soldiers would have to defeat GODSENT, one of the many struggling Swedish teams. GODSENT got off to a bad start in the veto phase by allowing Space Soldiers to get their favorite map, Cobblestone, first. The Turkish were relentless in securing the victory (16-5).

In the second map, Space Soldiers would jump out to a commanding 14-4 lead before GODSENT started to build up an economy on the Counter-Terrorist side. However, in the twenty-fifth round, the Swedes would throw their chance away by losing to a TEC-9 force buy. Space Soldiers would win the map 16-10 and the prized tickets to ESL One Cologne.

It would be hard to pick a standout player for the qualifier. The entire team stepped up when needed, even stand in Engin “ngiN” Ko, however, Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in terms of kills and damage across both maps in the final.

The Big Chance

Aside from their attendance at WESG in China, ESL One Cologne will be the first premiere LAN event for the Space Soldiers. The team has risen in popularity due to the incredibly skilled Can “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş and Buğra “Calyx” Arkın. Their journey to the top has been eagerly awaited and I’m sure many will be wanting them to upset the best of the best as they descend on the Lanxess Arena, Cologne in July.


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Daigo’s Adjustments Push Him into ELEAGUE SFV Playoffs

The mark of a great player is having the ability to adjust after below average performances.

Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, only weeks after the unveiling of his new character Guile, was able to make the necessary adjustments to make it out of the Group B and into the ELEAGUE SFV playoffs.

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/el/

Daigo’s only loss was at the hands of one of the most explosive players in SFV, Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, who won group B. The top overall seed entering the day took care of business going 2-0 and 6-2 in games (faced Eita and Daigo). Against two of the premier Japanese players, he convincingly owned the neutral game with Balrog.

Aside from another strong performance from PR_Rog, the most unexpected result was Daigo essentially coming out of nowhere to get second in group B. Daigo is obviously a strong player, but after a sub-par finish at NCR and finishing sixth with a 3-4 record questions started to arise regarding Daigo’s play.

During SFV’s life cycle, Daigo’s had a harder time than usual adjusting to the new game. Ryu, his classic character from other Street Fighter games, wasn’t working for him this one around. He needed a character switch. Guile, a charged fireball character with excellent spacing tools, seemed to be the answer.

Despite bad losses in March and early April, Daigo proved this Friday at ELEAGUE that it was only a matter of time. Daigo ended with a 4-1 overall record with a 13-6 record in games. His defensive playstyle was a switch from weeks prior. It ended up working out.

Wins over Hiroyuki “Eita” Ngata (2x), Bruce “Gamerbee” Yu-Lin Hsiang (Necali), and Darryl “Snake Eyez” S. Lewis (Akuma) pushed him into the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, PR Rog’s relentless Balrog gave him fits, but he gained valuable information in that matchup.

Next Round Matchups

Group A and B winners will face off starting with PR Balrog up against Victor “Punk” Woodley, and Daigo will meet with one of his longtime Japanese rivals in Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi. First off, I’m already gleaming over these opening match-ups. Punk is quickly building a legend I. Street fighter V and PR Balrog looks fantastic with Balrog.

However, Daigo vs. Momochi to open as an elimination match will be intense. Daigo will have basically a month to build more Guile experience and prepare for Momochi’s Ken.


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Fighting Game Invitationals vs. Open Tournaments: Can the two coexist?

Fighting game tournaments are evolving. As the scene moves out of the basement, a plethora of opportunities have been presented. The world discovered there’s a market and dedicated audience that not only loves the games themselves but follows each top players tournament performances.

Enter the new era of fighting games. An era where potentially new players would rather sit back and watch the best players than invest the time into becoming a strong player themselves. Welcome to the age of fighting games as a spectator sport.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/el

In the Joseph “Mango” Marquez Cloud9 Melee documentary, he mentioned the fact that the growth of Melee’s player base has stalled but that viewership has risen considerably in the last three years. Yes, the Melee renaissance brought in plenty of new players but it also exposed the scene to potential investors and showed that there’s money to be made here.

Consider this: five years ago a tournament like the Smash Summit would have been nearly inconceivable to the Melee or fighting game community. Today, it’s accepted as one of the premiere events and most of the audience could care less because the Summit puts on an entertaining show for fans.

A tournament with no open bracket has been accepted by a community founded and based on the ability for anyone to compete. It’s a dramatic switch in philosophy.

Open tournaments are what separate fighting games from other esport titles. The fact that any random fighting game player can enter a major tournament, face the world’s best players, lose, and still get that entire tournament feel is unique and special. Most players, at the end of the day, could care less about their record. It’s more about the culture and tournament atmosphere that keeps bringing people out.

However, invitationals are going to have a strong presence moving forward. The benefits are the fact that payouts are typically higher at these events ($250k ELEAGUE prize pool, $100k for Smash Summit) and top players themselves love the events. The viewers still tune in despite the lack of a real tournament feel. Numbers don’t exceed the Evo’s and Genesis tournaments but get enough attention to justify these events to the community.

Regardless of how players feel about invitationals, they still watch to see the best players play the best players. Investors see a studio product like ELEAGUE as the next step and a chance to profit off the fighting game community. The actual community is not prepared to move away from open tournaments as some top players have projected.

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/ThatMikeRossGuy

Despite what top players might say, open tournaments aren’t going anywhere. Without them, it’s no longer the fighting game COMMUNITY anymore. As invitationals become more prevalent, it should, in turn, strengthen open tournaments as well. It’s not a situation where we, as a community, have to decide between the two. Both can coexist and strengthen the other.

Finally, invitationals are the only viable way to present fighting games to a national audience. Of course, Turner decided to display 32 of the best players rather than invest in actual tournaments. Studio tournaments are the only possible way for these networks taking an interest in fighting games to control their product and squeeze as much profit out as possible. But this will help legitimize the scene as a whole and if the two can coexist, it can create a better future for all fighting game players.

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ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Kicks Off With Unexpected Results

photo courtesy of twitch.tv/eleague

Fighting games have gone full blown esports. The preliminary round of ELEAGUE’s inaugural Street Fighter V tournament kicked off today with a strong slue of players competing in Group A. The matches were broadcasted live at the Atlanta studio and officially started the new era of fighting game tournaments.

Furthermore, it was the fighting game community’s first look at a new type of tournament. One with commercial breaks and invitation only. The broadcast lasted six hours, and only a small percentage was actual gameplay. This is not a critique, it’s just the facts. The best of three made for quicker games, making the host fill long periods of dead air time.

Regardless, the production value was outstanding, and the games overall provided some entertaining Street Fighter. Any criticism is met with the fact that it was their first attempt at a fighting game broadcast. All things considered, they did a great job. The lack of normalcy from a fighting game tournament was lost, but the overall event was a success.

1. Victor “Punk” Woodley, 6-1, Advances to Semifinals
Punk’s recent success is no mistake. His Karin play has pushed the Meta-game. Based off of today’s results, he is a serious contender to take the ELEAGUE title. His 6-1 record was impressive, with his one loss coming to Infiltration’s Juri. No one could consistently deal with his unrelenting corner pressure.

2. Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi, 5-2, Advances to Semifinals
Momochi hasn’t been as effective lately, but today his Ken came to play. He had wins over Infiltration’s Rashid, Smug’s Balrog, and only fell to Punk and surprisingly Marn. Momochi dealt with plenty of game three, last round situations, so it wasn’t an easy road. He did qualify for semifinals with his win over Infiltration.

3. Bryant “Smug” Huggins, 5-2, Advances to quarterfinals
After a disappointing season one, Smug is back in season two with Balrog and hitting harder than anyone. His punish game coupled with Balrog’s damage output is a perfect fit. One mistake and Smug would essentially end the game with his corner carry and use of EX-hits to extend combos to end rounds. It felt like he was back playing Dudley and styling on players.

4. Thomas “Brolynho” Proença, 4-3, Advanced to quarterfinals
Possibly the surprise of the day was Brolynho finishing fourth in the group. He was placed in a win-or-go-home scenario, and ended up winning two clutch sets against Marn and Julio. His mix-ups and recognition of the situation with Necali was impressive. Despite tough losses to Momochi, Smug, and Punk, he had strong wins over Infiltration to finish third.

5. Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee, 4-3, Advances to quarterfinals
The second real look at season two Infiltration gave us two new characters and mixed results. He had answers for Ken with Rashid, but struggled with his new main in Juri in some situations. It’s a work in progress for Infiltration, and that showed with his 4-3 record. He’s still a player to keep an eye on heading into the next round.

6. Julio Fuentes, 2-5, advances to quarterfinals
Julio had a rough day. He was having difficulties in neutral with his Ken and couldn’t build late damage combos consistently. He did have times were he excelled with insane comebacks with V-trigger. His two wins came over Ricki Ortiz and the must-win 2-1 over Marn to advance. He’ll have to make adjustments if he wants to advance to the semifinals.

7. Martin “Marn” Phan, 2-5, eliminated

Marn. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/eleague

Marn was undoubtedly the most entertaining part of day one. Despite being eliminated, Marn’s antics provided plenty of hard laughs. His Ibuki play was no joke. However, it feels as if he’ll need more time with Ibuki before he has success. In most of his losses, he kept it extremely close and barely got edged out in a few sets. Hopefully we see the newly sponsored Marn at more events.

8. Ricki Ortiz, 0-7, eliminated
Tier list matters, and that’s proven by the second place finisher at Capcom Cup going 0-7 at ELEAGUE. Cammy got nerfed to the ground, and after a disappointing 33rd place finish at Final Round and going 0-7 today, Ricki is questioning her character choices.

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NBA eLeague

The NBA and Take-Two Are Changing esports

The NBA and Take-Two (Makers of NBA 2K) are teaming up to change esports in a major way starting in 2018. The NBA and Take-Two have partnered to create a professional, competitive NBA eLeague.

Traditional sports games have fallen behind in the world of esports. Games like League of Legends, Pokemon, Halo, Counter-Strike and Dota2 have had been dominating competitive gaming and are already paying gamers million of dollars.

The NBA is trying to take a piece of that pie. There is so much money to be made from gaming that traditional sports need to innovate before they get left behind.

The NBA and Take-Two are trying to set the trend for these traditional sports. This bold leap could change the gaming industry like never seen before.

So what exactly will this NBA eLeague be and how will it run?

How Will it work?

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: https://geekiversedotcom.com)

The eLeague, as Adam Silver has called it, will be a professional gaming league run by the NBA and its franchises. Each NBA team will be in control of their own 2K virtual basketball team.

For example, the Chicago Bulls will have the eBulls and the team will manage its roster just as they do for the on-court basketball team. There will be general managers and a salary cap.

All 30 NBA teams will be involved and this season will mirror the real season. Gamers will be paid a salary to practice, train and compete for their respective teams and the only difference is they will be training with a controller instead of their body.

These teams will be through a real draft, similar to the traditional NBA draft. Each team will have five professional gamers on its roster. They won’t be playing with LeBron James, Steph Curry or Kevin Durant but instead they will play with their custom created avatars that they work on to improve.

One area of concern most people come up with is how can they do this if everyone is going to just be a 99 overall player who can do everything? NBA2K has already fixed this issue in their latest version of the game.

archetypes and badges

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com)

NBA 2K17 really wanted to make sure that each player had their own specialty. In previous years a player could make a point guard who could be 6-foot-7 and earn all badges to become the most unstoppable player of all-time.

There are three solutions they came up with to halt this.

The first is with archetypes. For all examples in how this works, we will stick to looking at point guards.

When you create your player you can pick a position. Once you select the position you wish to play, you must pick an archetype. The archetypes for point guard are the following: playmaker, sharpshooter, lockdown defender, shot creator and slasher.

Depending on the type of point guard you decide to become, you will have only five badges you can upgrade. That is the second part of the solution: the number of badges one can upgrade. In NBA 2K there are dozens of badges a player can get that makes them better.

One of those badges is the pickpocket badge. To unlock the pickpocket badge, a player must get a certain amount of steals within a season. The pickpocket badge makes a player more effective at stealing the ball.

As you can see in the picture with the sharpshooter, pickpocket is not one of these upgradeable badges for that archetype. What that means is that the pickpocket badge must stay at the bronze level.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: YouTube)

If the sharpshooter archetype gamer unlocked the limitless range badge then they could upgrade it from bronze to silver then to gold. Once a player has a gold badge they can upgrade it to the hall of fame level. Hall of fame badges allow a player to be great at that skill.

By allowing gamers to only have five upgradeable badges, they have stopped people from becoming players that are great at everything and 99 overall.

The third way NBA 2K17 has made it difficult to become 99 overall is by including park reputation.

Park reputation is a tier system in which can only be aquired by playing at MyPark. There are five levels to each tier. The tiers are as follows: rookie, pro, all-star, superstar and legend.

A player can only get to 95 overall before the game will not let them upgrade anymore. To earn more upgrades, one must reach levels one, three and five of the superstar tier at MyPark. The amount of games and time it takes to reach those tiers is extremely straining and does not come easily.

These three additions have really helped NBA 2K level the playing field and made a game that requires multiple different skill sets, rather than just a bunch of players who can do all. This is something NBA teams will have to look at when constructing teams for their NBA eLeague.

2K HAS ALREADY TESTED THIS

There is a mode in NBA 2K called Pro-Am that allows all these different gamers to take their custom players play in five on five games similar to an NBA contest. These teams become really competitive and are an example of how an NBA eLeague team would look. NBA 2K have already held two major tournaments over the past two years to test how this would work in a legitimate format.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:http://www.usatoday.com/sports/)

The first one was called the Road to the Finals which took place in 2016. This year NBA 2K held the All Star Tournament which would gave 250 thousand dollars to the winning team Still Trill.

Over two million people streamed the final game, according to NBA 2K, proving that there is a market for competitive traditional sports games. The tournament showed is that these skilled players are capable of drawing a lot of viewers.

There are over 110,000 teams on Xbox alone in the Pro-Am game mode. The teams and players are already around waiting to be picked up by NBA franchises.

Why This Will Change eSports

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: Matthew Hagan)

The potential of this idea is unlimited. Currently, getting the NBA to be involved is monumental for the growth of NBA 2K as an esport. The NBA is the first professional league in the United States to create their own esports league.

The success with the two tournaments that NBA 2K have already run proves that there is huge interest in this game. Eventually the NBA eLeague could expand to more teams than just 30. There could be hundreds of teams in each region of the world. Eventually there could be regional championships that lead to a world championship.

An eLeague allows people who could never play in the NBA a chance to become NBA stars. This includes people who have disabilities and are unable physically play the sport. It doesn’t matter your size, weight, or gender, anybody who is good enough on the sticks can end up being drafted to an NBA eLeague team. That is something that no other professional sport can offer.

This is just the beginning for the NBA and Take-Two. Once the money begins to flow they will realize they need to expand the field. Before you know it there will be an NBA2K Hall of Fame and a list of new NBA eChampions.

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ELEAGUE Announces Street Fighter V League; Ushering Fighting Games into the Future

Street Fighter V is getting another major league, with the announcement that ELEAGUE is picking it up. The Turner owned league has recently had tremendous success with the Counter-Strike division, and will now move back into Street Fighter. It adds another $250k prize pool and could become the most important tournament, next to the Capcom Cup.

On March 27-30, 32 of the world’s best Street Fighter players will be invited to compete at the preliminary rounds. The top 16 players from last year’s Capcom Cup have already received an invitation, and the rest will be selected from Capcom (most likely based off Capcom points). From there, the top 24 will advance to the regular season, which will be broadcasted all the way through May on TBS and Twitch.

ELEAGUE will be the first time a network has committed to a long-term Street Fighter league. It’s an experiment to see if this type of structure can work within fighting games. It will undoubtedly expose the fighting game community to a market that has most likely never seen a fighting game tournament. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all upside for the Street Fighter V scene.

After the invitational has completed, the regular season will have four live broadcasts, with groups of six battling to make it into the playoffs. Each broadcast will be on Friday throughout April, with the playoffs starting on May 26th.

The future of fighting game tournaments

ELEAGUE’s interest is the first sign that the next wave of esports events is coming. Instead of a weekend long tournament, leagues similar to this one could be the next phase in fighting game development. EL’s focus on top players is the first step into a spectator dominated structure.

Now, as a player who regularly attends and competes at events, this is a little scary. There’s no question that ELEAGUE’s presence is good for the entire scene in terms of growth and legitimacy, but it takes the emphasis off grass-root events. Luckily, Capcom is still committed to tournament organizers through the Capcom Cup. This could be the start to more spectator focused events though.

The upside is exposure. More eyes on Street Fighter means more potential investors, player acquisitions, and better overall experiences. This will be the third time SFV has made it into a national stage. Fighting games are no longer apart of the niche market. Companies have noticed the growth and strength and have decided to invest in its future.

Regardless of your opinion on spectator events, ELEAGUE is good for players, fans, and the game itself. It’s the fighting game communities chance to reach an even wider audience and to keep building this into something great.

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