The Tyler1 Championship Series is coming soon

Four ways to get your esports fix in the League of Legends off-season

If you spend a significant amount of time watching professional League of Legends (like me), then you are probably starting to feel a void where the LCS, LCK, LPL and other leagues used to be. You have caught up on watching everything at Worlds. Maybe you even went back and checked out VODs that you missed in Summer Split.

But now there is no more League to consume. Worlds is over, and every team is taking a much needed break from competition. There have been several announcements regarding changes to leagues next year, but what about now? We have two months before any professional leagues restart. How do we get our weekly fix of esports in the meantime? Here are my top four recommendations. Hopefully one of them will work for you.

Follow your favorite players’ streams

This is the most straightforward option. While the professional leagues are on cooldown, the individual players will most likely still be streaming on a regular basis. This form of viewership has several benefits. It allows you, the viewer, to feel more of each player’s personality, since the stream is built around them. You also get to experience the game from your favorite player’s perspective, which allows you to analyze their mechanics, builds, etc. For example, here are links to some of the professional players, coaches and casters that were streaming at the time of writing this article:

Watch your favorite player's stream in the off-season

Screenshot of Jankos’ stream on Twitch

Search for your favorite talents’ social media pages, as they usually update their fans when they will be streaming. Consider following and subscribing to their Twitch channels, as any advertisements directly benefit them. These sessions provide a more intimate setting for viewers, and players that stream frequently generally enjoy interacting with their audience. Tuning into streams lacks the casting and third-party analysis that professional broadcasts have, but story-lines and drama pop up now and again.

There are also plenty of top level League of Legends players who simply do not play professionally. They may prefer the casual nature of streaming, have a large enough following that financially they can stream full-time, have retired from pro play or may be a rising star in the making. Preseason is an ideal time to watch those streamers, because they are probably innovating with Runes Reforged, item builds and strategies. You might be able to learn a thing or two and apply it in your own solo queue.

Look out for regional/amateur tournaments and Scouting Grounds

Last year's Tyler1 Invitational was a huge success

Image from Tyler1’s Youtube

While there are regular amateur tournaments for League of Legends around the world, not many of them are actually broadcast. Expect to see some in the off-season, though, as they will not need to compete with the regular professional leagues for attention. For example, CompeteLeague will be hosting the Tyler1 Championship Series, starting on November 18. Last year’s Tyler1 League of Legends Invitational turned out to be a huge hit, so they will be back this year for your viewing pleasure. It is not an entirely serious event, so it may not be appealing to every esports fan, but the teams that were announced include some of the top Challenger-level players.

Regional leagues are also sometimes broadcast during this time period. For example, Ogaming is currently hosting Challenge France, the French national league that qualifies into the European Challenger Series. While the French casting may not be for everyone, the actual gameplay should appeal to viewers of the European LCS and CS. Europe has leagues for the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland and others too. Be on the lookout for announcements to watch these if they have not already happened.

For North American fans, this year’s Scouting Grounds are announced for November 26 to December 3. Riot invites the top Challenger players from each position to create four teams and compete in hopes of being drafted into the LCS and Academy teams for 2018. This is an event that showcases rising stars who may be among the 10 players to join a team following the matches.

Try watching another esport

Overwatch is an alternative esport to watch in the off-season

Image from Twinfinite.net

Yes, there are other esports out there other than League of Legends. The media is building up a lot of hype around next year’s Overwatch League (OWL). Overwatch combines certain aspects of massive online battle arena (MOBA) games with first-person shooter mechanics and game modes. Blizzard recently announced updates to make Overwatch more spectator-friendly and to create larger distinctions between the two competing teams. If the action was difficult for you to casually follow before, now might be a good time to give Overwatch another shot.

If you need something third-person, and much closer to League of Legends, then maybe give DOTA a shot. Summit 8 is currently pitting teams against each other from all over the world for a $300,000 prize pool. The draft, map, role-based gameplay and other elements of DOTA should feel right at home for League of Legends viewers. There are four DOTA tournaments in November and December, which should be plenty of content to help get through the off-season.

Hearthstone could be an option for League of Legends viewers who may not enjoy watching other MOBAs or first-person shooters. It is an online card game from Blizzard, which boasts being “Deceptively Simple. Insanely Fun.” Much like other card games, each player has a deck of cards to play with in hopes of draining the enemy’s health to zero. Spectating this game is incredibly easy. DreamHack is hosting a Winter Grand Prix December 1-4, which will be the last Hearthstone event for 2017.

Put more time into your own game

Everyone should learn about Runes Reforged in the off-season

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Of course, this is the best time to play more League, rather than spectate others. Maybe this could be your first time downloading your replays in the client. Rewatch your games and figure out what you could do differently to improve for 2018. Clip some highlights to show your friends, or just have fun playing a few more ARAMs that you missed during the LCS season.

Preseason is the time to adapt and innovate. Study the new Runes Reforged, watch out for Zoe’s release and figure out where they fit in the meta landscape. If you do not learn these elements of the game in the next two months, then you may be caught off guard when players are drafting next Spring Split. Get out on the Rift, get a feel for who and what is strong and weak, and compare.

Even if you have no interest in grinding more games, watching other esports or tuning into streamers, you can still just enjoy a break. Invest those extra minutes and hours into some other hobby. Most people will turn to exercise or catching up on music, books, movies and television. That is okay, too. If the professionals are taking a break, then why not you? It will be a while before teams return to the LCS, so make the most of it.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

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USA-South Korea Lives Up to the hype in Overwatch World Cup Classic

It had the look of a historic upset until South Korea predictably took control narrowly escaping out of a decisive game three orb a draw. The American Overwatch squad accrued three quarters of the Hanamura’s first point before a brilliant stall that led into a Korean hold and draw. Korea avoiding a 3-2 deficit was the main factor behind the win.

Overwatch World Cup. Photo via twitch.tv/playOverwatch

The game itself was historic because it’s the first time a Korean team has ever dropped a singular game at Blizzcon. The perception (and reality) is that Korea is far and away the best region in Overwatch. Results back this claim up. Heading into this matchup, an American victory seemed like a pipe dream.

The explosive DPS plays from young and talented Hyan “Flow3r” Yeon-Oh, intelligent Tracer play out of Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol and consistency from the supports is unmatched. That’s why up until this point they hadn’t dropped a single game. The US pushed them to their limits, and nearly had them on the brink of elimination. A late game rally on Hamaura was the difference.

The play from the United States team was superb, even in a losing effort. With the help of a raucous Southern California crowd, Jake “JAKE” Lyons, Adam “Adam” Eckel, and Jay “Sinatraaa” Won competed closely with the best players in the world. At no point did the US ever looked outclassed. It was the first blemish on an otherwise perfect record for the South Korean squad.

It could be a sign of things to come or a result of the US having better talent than most realize. Any progress made towards matching the dominance Korea has shown early on in Overwatch is promising. Even with a first round exit, the underdog American team showed they’re no walk over.

American fans will recognize this team as the same familiar names with an influx of new talent. Matt “Coolmatt69” Lorio has bounced around from club to club, but has consistently been the best flex player in the US. Fans of the Houston Outlaws will get a chance to see Coolmatt69, Jake “JAKE” Lyons, and Shane “Rawkus” Laherty on a regular basis.

One of the few players not picked up in the Overwatch League was Adam “Adam” Eckel, who took it personally, and ended up outplaying Yang “tobi” Jin-mo’s Mercy for a majority of the game. The premier Lucio and Mercy main in Korea got surpassingly out-resurrected by quite a bit. Adam elevating his game, along with the rest of the US, made for some of the most exciting and heart throbbing Overwatch matches yet.

It was apparent that they belong in this game. Another year of play and development has partially closed the gap between the World and Korea. Most of these player competed in the contenders series, which improved the overall play of each region. Now the United States, with its vast player pool, gets a chance to try and tap into that.

An Overwatch World Cup Classic

The same sentiment kept being passed around.

The intensity, back-and-Forth action, and adrenaline from an American team pushing the best country in the world to their limits made it feel like a finals match. USA proved there’s areas to exploit on the Korean roster. Korea struggled on the back-line and made questionable character choices throughout the first few games. The US capitalize Korea switching off their base composition.

All in all, it was one of the most entertaining and hard-fought Overwatch matches in history. Completely unexpected which makes it even more compelling. Homegrown talent stacks up well and this performance is something the US can build on. Korea on the other hand will look to take home their second consecutive Overwatch World Cup against France.

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New York Annouces Team Name and Roster for the Overwatch League

In a formal announcement to the world, the New York ownership group of the Overwatch League revealed their new name, logo and roster, according to Jacob Wolf of ESPN. Without further ado, I present the New York…Excelsior?

This can’t be right. Excelsior? The word to describe superior quality at hotels and newspapers? Ok, I’ll give them a pass on the name. Finding a catchy, marketable and familiar name is hard. That’s fine. I’m sure their logo will make up for the team name.

Photo via https://blizzard.gamespress.com/Esports-Overwatch

…what happened? The last thing I remembered before passing out was some blue wavy lines that…oh no, oh god no, it can’t be…

Yes, the decision on the logo and team name are, uh, interesting, but the decision makers got one thing right: the roster. It won’t be the most talented roster, but it will be good enough to compete against the best teams. New York will have a high-powered Korean team that should generate some excitement.

Let’s make it clear, the Overwatch League is going to be chalk full of talent on the player end, but an ownership group filled with inexperience on the esports end might not be fully prepared for what’s to come. I’m not here to criticize a new, innovative league that is trying to build the scene, but there seems to be a disconnect between the fan base and the owners.

The New York Excelsior join the Shanghai Dragons, Seoul Dynasty, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel and last but not least the Las Angeles Valiant, for the inaugural season. London’s team announcement will be soon along with the six remaining cities.

Luckily, despite the disconnect, the league will be highly competitive. Overwatch, as a competitive entity, is still a mess in terms of the structure of the scene. The Overwatch League will be a remedy to fix that with all the talent available in the pool. At the very least, it will centralize everything and is guaranteed to capture the interest of potential fans.

Is the Overwatch League out of touch with h fans?
Now, this has little to do with silly names and ridiculous looking logos. It has more to do with a league that has invested millions of dollars into a game that’s still building a following. The 30 million player base is clouding the minds of executives making the competitive Overwatch scene feel bigger than it actually is.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Approximately, OGN’s Apex gets 23,000 views on Twitch per broadcast (courtesy of esc.watch). Now Apex might not be the bet control to get an accurate number for how many Americans are tuning into Overwatch broadcast. From what I’ve seen, most Overwatch streams don’t get over 30k viewers. It’s dramatically smaller than the biggest games in esports currently.

Important to realize, there’s a major difference between a casual and hardcore player. 30 million players might sound sexy to potential investors, but that’s no guarantee of a successful league. Popular games have failed in the past to gain a competitive audience, as the game has to be exciting to watch more than anything.

Thankfully, the majority of fans are outside of the United States. Even if the American population doesn’t take to it, Asia and Europe have plenty of fans to fall back on. It’s the job of the league to take that player base and turn it into fans. First time in esports history, fans can cheer for their hometown team. It’s a great opportunity to really build something sustaining in esports.

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Header image courtesy of Blizzard

Trevor May: “Follow the money, it’s where the masses will look”

Trevor May

Courtesy of Twitch.tv

The sports and esports worlds are becoming more intertwined by the week. It was announced that Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May and his company Esports Lab were investing time and money to help relaunch Winstonslab.com.

This is just one of the latest examples of traditional sports individuals getting involved with esports. While many of these individuals are only investing because they see business opportunities, May, while also seeing similar opportunities, is following one of his lifelong passions.

As a child May grew up playing on a Super Nintendo with his older brother. They would play games like Super Mario and once the Nintendo 64 came out, games like “Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball”. While he had his passions for traditional sports like baseball, his go to after a long day was video games.

One of his best friends growing up had a dad who built computers just for fun. May, always being a console man at this time, went over and saw the room full of computers.

“This was my first true lan experience, and I loved it,” May said in an interview with The Game Haus.

With this, May was shown another side of gaming, online gaming. He went over to his friends house to play until he finally was able to get his own laptop. Once that happened, he started playing games like the “Total War Series”, “League of Legends”, “Warcraft 3” and “World of Warcraft”. These games allowed him to immerse himself into the world of online gaming and he’s never looked back.

Competition

The one thing that intersects for May between sports and esports is the competition associated with it. As one may expect, he is a high-level competitor and always has been. Whether he is pitching for the Twins or trying to get that Chicken Dinner in PUBG, May is out there to win.

“If you are going to put any real time into something then you want to be good,” May said. “Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and I hate to waste time”.

May is dealing with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. This is a surgery that normally requires anywhere from 10-18 months to come back from. It is much quicker nowadays but that is still a long time to be off the field. For a competitor like May, it is especially hard to be off the field and since he is unable to pitch competitively, he has taken his time to jump into video games and streaming.

A few months back when May started to gain a following on Twitch, he was contacted by the esports organization Luminosity. He quickly joined their streaming team and has felt welcomed since day one. Luminosity and May are working together on a gentleman’s agreement, which means no contract is involved. This is due to May’s contract with the Minnesota Twins.

The Business Side

While he is sidelined, May hasn’t only been playing games. He is also getting involved on the business side of esports.

“I knew from a business standpoint that I wanted to get involved,” May said.

For someone who does not like to waste time, he felt that furthering himself in the business world would be a good thing to focus on. May believes that jumping into the esports scene while it is young is a great business decision.

Trevor May

Courtesy of wwg.com

During this time, he has also been working on his company Esports Lab. One of the company’s first moves was getting involved with Winstonslab.com in order to bring it back.

They had a good following but did not have the means needed to continue on. When May was contacted about the company, he realized that this website was very similar to the analytics in baseball.

He said the world is data-driven and that like advanced metrics in baseball, esports such as Overwatch should use them too. This will allow for people to have a better understanding of what is going on in the game.

He compared this to World of Warcraft. This was a game May had played for many years and spent a long time playing competitively.

“The best way to get advantages was to look for the small ones,” May said. “Whether it was slightly better armor or a better weapon you needed any advantage you could get”.

With this comes his belief in Winstonslab. Franchising for Overwatch is coming with the new OWL and teams will be doing whatever they have to in order to get that slight advantage.

Now that he is more involved with the esports scene, May realizes what esports franchising really means. There will be a lot more money put into the scene and it will continue to attract big time names and playmakers. He also believes that once players become more well-known and esports becomes mainstream, then more people will continue to watch it.

A Newer Generation of Two-Sport Athlete

Trevor May

Courtesy of twincities.com

When asked about people who either don’t understand how people could like both sports and esports, May said if you’re prestigious at something, you warrant respect.

“If you are in the top percentage of people at anything then you deserve respect,” May said.

He continued by pointing out that people who are amazing at anything deserve a chance at making a living off of it. Esports may not be there yet, but they will be. May believes that someday soon they will get their due.

 

Trevor May is showing the world that sports and esports can be interconnected and he is a big advocate for just that. You can watch his stream and hear him talking about this. While he has had the time off he has put a lot of effort into playing games consistently and yet is still able to balance his baseball life. Sadly he knows that his time streaming will decrease once he is healthy and the next season starts.

What May is doing is something that people will hear about more. The esports world is in its infancy but, it’s growing fast. More important people will continue to get involved from both worlds and the message of understanding and respect will hopefully grow along with it.


Featured image courtesy of the New York Post.

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Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena: Future home of Blizzard esports

By now you’ve already heard that Blizzard unveiled their esports arena, Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, if not here are three things you need to know.

Blizzard Arena: Situated in Burbank Studios

Blizzard Arena

Image Courtesy of the Burbank Studios

First, the future home of Blizzard esports is situated in the Burbank Studios, former home of “The Tonight Show.” The venue will feature multiple sound stages, control rooms, practice rooms as well as an on site Blizzard retail store so that fans can get their hands on some Blizzard Swag. The merchandise in the store will vary depending on the event.

Speaking of events.

Blizzard Arena: Overwatch Contenders Playoffs

The Arena will host esport events for, what else? Blizzard Games.

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Entertainment

Esport events for Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft are on deck for this year. The first event to christen the arena is the Overwatch Contenders Season One playoffs that starts October 7th.

Following the Contenders Playoffs will be the Hearthstone Summer Championship on October 13th. Later in October the arena will host the early rounds for the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC) Finals and World of Warcraft Arena Championship.

Tickets are currently available for purchase for Overwatch Contenders and the Hearthstone Summer Championship.

Then, later this year, the Blizzard Arena will host the first season of the Overwatch League. Teams have until October 30th to sign players, so we don’t expect to hear anything about matches until past that date. For the immediate future Blizzard Arena will be the only home of Blizzard esports, but that will change.

Blizzard Arena: A new era

It’s clear that Blizzard intends this Burbank arena to be the first of many venues. We base this off the city-based structure of their Overwatch League. “We’re at a tipping point for epsorts,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment, “And we look forward to helping usher in a new era of competition-based entertainment.”

Only time will tell if the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles will prove to be the herald of arena based esports, as they hope it to be.


Featured Images Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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What the EU LCS announcement could mean for NA LCS

The Announcement

After spending a weekend in Boston at the NA LCS Finals my mind has been focused on one thing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Worlds, duh.” Sorry but you’re wrong. The more people I talked to who were in the know or even had inside information made me wonder about my favorite League of Legends topic, franchising.

Courtesy of: https://eu.lolesports.com/

We all know there will be a major announcement for who has been accepted sometime in November. It has also been reported that over 100 teams applied for the NA LCS franchising opportunity. This means that over 100 teams/organizations have either found investors or have the $13 million necessary to join the league.

What this also means is that there is an insane amount of interest in League of Legends for these spots.

Jacob Wolf announced earlier today that EU LCS would be splitting into four regions. With this there will be 24 teams that are all at the top league, six in each region. It sounds like there will be no minor league teams or challenger scene, and with that it will end relegation which has been a huge thorn in the side of teams. They will be playing in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

What does this mean?

How will this effect NA? Well for starters one would expect there to be at least 16 or more teams in the new league. With over 100 teams applying I can definitely see more. There has been much debate around this over the weekend and especially within The Game Haus.

One of the major concerns that has been brought up is if there is enough talent to allow for this many teams. We have seen in the past that League of Legends normally has about four upper echelon teams in each split with some middle tier teams and then normally at least two teams that struggled mightily.

This is a valid point and a similar one can easily be made for EU as many people feel they are a weaker region. The hope is that with salaries and more of a budget to officially pay players, some of the best in each region will eventually spread out to the different teams. It is also possible that some of the top players in each region may jump back in. Could we see the return of Dyrus to the main league? Although doubtful, the possibility is there.

Courtesy of: http://wwg.com

An argument could be made that this may extend careers as well. Plenty of people have worried about the fact that most League players either burn out or lose their edge once they reach their middle to upper twenties. That would allow more time for development of newer players and expectations may be lowered.

Another point that can be made for NA is that it looks likely that they will at least follow a similar format to EU. It is completely conceivable that NA goes regional and has all of their teams in each region like EU. There could be Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern and Western regions that could accommodate a similar number of teams.

Or, they could do what Overwatch league is planning on doing and have teams in separate cities like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. With the team owners of the OWL building Esports arenas, it is also possible that there will be League teams sharing those stadiums similar to traditional sports.

There are clearly so many different questions that can be asked with this news. One that has been answered is that Riot is not letting EU die out. Instead their goal of revamping it and adding franchising should give EU fans hope.

For NA it allows excitement to start brewing for the announcements to come after Worlds. For now League fans can theorize and discuss this on the forums while also enjoying Worlds. Big changes are coming to League of Legends. Riot clearly has a vision that includes League being around for the long haul and one can see that this is only the beginning.


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Featured image courtesy of https://esportsnewsheadlines.com/

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Overwatch league

Overwatch League: Are Paris and Berlin next?

On Thursday Blizzard announced the addition of two new teams to the still forming Overwatch League. One is another Los Angeles based team, while the other is based in London, the first European team announced. This brings the current total of teams up to nine.

With the addition of the first European team we believe that Paris and Berlin are next in line.

Overwatch League: Paris and Berlin

Paris and Berlin are next. Why? Well just look at the current list of cities with their owners:

  • Boston, USA: Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots
  • New York City, USA: Jeff Wilpon, co-founder and partner at Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets
  • San Francisco, USA: Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG Esports
  • Miami and Orlando, USA: Ben Spoont, CEO and cofounder of Misfits Gaming
  • Los Angles, USA has two teams:
    • Noah Winston, CEO of Immortals
    • Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owners of the LA Rams and Denver Nuggets
  • London, UK: Cloud9
  • Shanghai, China: NetEase
  • Seoul, South Korea: Kevin Chou, co-founder of Kabam

Notice how all of the cities listed are metropolitan areas, headquarters of businesses and are attractive places to live.

Overwatch league

Photo by parisattitude.com

Paris is one of France’s largest cities, as well as one of the wealthiest. According to the official French government website, Paris was home to “twenty-nine of the world’s 500 largest companies.” That claim was based on a list compiled by Global Fortune 500 in 2016. Not only is Paris a great place to do business, but it’s also one of the most popular places to live because of its vibrant culture. In short, the city of lights is too bright to pass up.

Overwatch league

Photo by meltingbutter.com

Berlin is the largest city in Germany, though it can’t boast the same wealth as Paris. Yet, according to a Savills report Berlin boasts a growing TMT (Technology, Media and Telecom) business sector. This makes Berlin an attractive location for an esports team because of all the tech companies that would pay for advertising.

We expect Blizzard to be announcing Overwatch League teams for these cities in the near future. Not only because of the business benefits, but also because it allows them to expand their European market.


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Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch League should allow hero bans

Overwatch should allow hero bans in the OWL. I know this is controversial and I am not 100% convinced of it myself, but the pros outweigh the cons. This is the most effective way of reducing one trick heroes and giving the game another strategic element, raising the skill level and allowing teams to innovate more.

However, they need to wait until the release of at least two more heroes and then, and only then, they should allow one hero ban per map. Not per stage.

This would give them time to get every important role filled with at least one replacement. There are however cons, but I firmly believe that in a couple of months the pros will outweigh the cons. An argument could be made for implementing this now. Yet, Blizzard should wait until season two of Contenders.

Waiting until they filled some more roles would help alleviate role banning. First, we need another speed hero before we can ban heroes. Lucio is the only hero that doesn’t have a contemporary.

Pros

Strategies

Every esport has several aspects that facilitate strategic thinking, separating the great from the merely good. Teams can use strategic thinking to separate themselves from the herd; both in other esports and Ovewatch. In Season 2 of OGN Apex you had two teams use strategies to advance themselves farther than anyone thought possible. MetaAthena used the wackiest, and some of the smartest, set plays to overwhelm otherwise superior opponents. On the other hand, you had RunAway using other more fluid strategies to propel themselves to the final of OGN Apex where they pushed Lunatic-Hai to the brink.

Photo: Robert Paul

 

However, this is not typical of Overwatch. Throughout Overwatch, there has typically been one dominate strategy, or meta, that nearly every team has run. And the team that plays that specific meta will win everything. In the western scene’s case at this moment, this is Rogue. They were strong before dive comp and now they are dominating the scene, but that gap is closing. Slowly.

The gap is closing only because other teams are learning how to play dive. But, what if you could ban Soon’s Tracer? You just handicapped Rogue and forced them to pull out one of the other strategies that they are always mentioning. This would force teams to innovate and come up with strategies while allowing the meta to be more open and broad.

Teams would be forced to come up with counter strategies for other teams and specific maps. You could ban out Ryujehong’s Ana or ban AKM’s Soldier. There are enough other heroes that fill those roles to allow you to still-hit scan or to get heals or even main tank.

Eliminating one tricks

 

While I love seeing players play their best hero and seeing the level of skill that these players bring to the game, I hate to see players get away with playing only one hero. It drives the meta issue and doesn’t facilitate innovation. Which is one of the reasons that we are stuck with a meta for several months.

Players who can play multiple heroes at that high level should be more praised than someone who can play only one hero. Albeit at a slightly higher level.

There aren’t many players who can play 5 or more heroes at a high level. Only a few such as Flow3r, Surefour, and Tviq can do this. We haven’t even seen Soon play that many heroes in a professional setting. Let alone be good at them. This is not to diminish the skill level of Soon, he is incredibly good at what he does. But, variety is the spice of life.There are almost no players with this natural skill and they deserve to be highlighted and depth of roster to be rewarded.

Forcing these players on to other heroes would mix up the strategies and force innovation. Because it is hard to push players to innovate when they are winning everything. Nor should we. The losers need a little more chance to innovate and come up with new ideas.

This is a better method of getting them to do this than adding and balancing heroes. Because if you constantly update heroes you get what LoL has. The team that can adapt to the new meta fastest wins.

The winning team should do so through superior skill and strategy; not whoever runs the current meta the best.

Another solution to the innovation problem is releasing heroes. Blizzard doesn’t seem likely to increase the hero release rate too much and we don’t want them releasing poorly designed and made heroes.

Allowing hero bans is the easiest, most fluid solution.

Cons

Not seeing the best possible players

Hero bans

In my mind this is the only con. We wouldn’t get to see top players playing their best heroes as often. We wouldn’t get to see WhoRu destroying teams with Genji because teams would ban him out. Nor would we get to see a lot of Soon on Tracer. This is my biggest issue with a banning system. However, the pros of forcing these players to learn other heroes outweigh this con. Forcing players to learn other heroes improves the professional scene as a whole.

I would miss seeing some of these players pop off on their favourite hero,  but at the end of the day this isn’t even that big of a con. The meta will determine what needs to be banned out and what doesn’t; so having such a star player playing on a sub optimal might be better than having him play a slightly worse on a slightly better hero.

At the beginning of this system, each team would be allowed to ban out one hero. A total of two heroes would be banned and neither team would be allowed to use said team. I could see a problem when both teams ban out Orisa and Reinhardt, or something similar. Then you aren’t battling with any anchor tanks and forced to play dive. As soon as there are more heroes, this won’t be a problem anymore.

This is a risk that needs to be taken as the pros outweigh the cons. The potential for more strategies and the reduction of one tricks would be awesome and nearly immediate.


overwatch league

Esports Franchising has Begun: First 7 Cities for Overwatch League Revealed

The Overwatch community has been waiting for this day since the announcement of the Overwatch League back in November 2016 at Blizzcon. The first seven teams have been revealed today. They are Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Shanghai. This is not just a major announcement for Blizzard and Overwatch, but for the entire esports world.

What does this mean?

Esports has always needed to establish itself outside of just the online world. This began when LAN tournaments first starting popping up and continued on to full blown sold out stadiums for major tournaments and events. To many though, this was not enough. People still believe that esports are just a fad that will eventually die out, as most games can only stay popular for a few years. What esports have needed was a way to show that they were here to stay and today’s announcement signifies that Overwatch is the first game to answer that call.

Having teams play in cities will do many things for the scene. To start, it will allow for people who are already fans to view more games. Instead of tournaments and games just being held in one city every couple weeks, or online, these teams will play in multiple cities on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for however long they decide to make the season. League of Legends has already set up this method by playing Thursday through Sunday for EU and NA. As a side note, League is also franchising, so it will be interesting to watch how they react.

Also, when you ask traditional sports fans who their favorite teams are, they normally answer the teams in closest proximity to where they live or grew up. While esports fans have grown up with certain teams that may not be near them, new fans will be able to become more attached because they will be able to say, “I am a fan of the Los Angeles Immortals”. How great is that? People also have deep pride for their cities, which in turn translates to their sports and now esports teams. Naturally, people who live close to these cities and who have any interest in competition or video games will gravitate towards their closest team.

The Team Owners

The announced team owners such as Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriots), Jeff Wilpon (COO of the New York Mets), and even Noah Winston (CEO of Immortals) show that this league has a lot of promise. People like them do not invest without doing their research and the reported price of up to $20 million in major cities is not inexpensive.

https://www.gamblingsites.org/

Most, if not all, of the new owners have experience in owning teams either in sports or esports and thus they understand what it will take to make these teams successful. It also shows the trend of traditional sports owners, business individuals, and former players getting involved in esports is growing as well. If you would have told me a year ago that Robert Kraft was going to get involved in esports I would have told you, not a chance.

What these owners signify most importantly is that esports are here to stay. Owners would not invest in a league that was not well planned out and one that they thought would not make them money in the long run.

What Teams Go Where?

https://esports.yahoo.com/

So far we know that Immortals will be based in Los Angeles. Also it looks like that NRG will be in San Francisco as that spot was grabbed by Andy Miller and Misfits will be in Miami-Orlando due to Ben Spoont’s buy-in.

As for the other four teams, one can only guess for now. I believe that some established teams will either be bought up or completely new ones will form. For established esports brands such as Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, Cloud9, and many others, one can imagine that they would either have to team up with one of the current owners or find a way to come up with the millions of dollars and establish their brands in their own cities.

For teams like Immortals, NRG, and Misfits, their establishment in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami-Orlando respectively means that if they buy into any other leagues (League of Legends) they will most likely have first dibs on these cities. Wouldn’t it be odd if Immortals had their Overwatch team based in Los Angeles and their League team somewhere else?

The league will not only consist of seven teams. As was seen before, this league will be global and consist of many different teams. It is most likely that they will start with a minimum of 10. If the league succeeds, then more will buy in and possibly at the locations that are pictured.

What is next?

There has yet to be an official date announced for when the Overwatch League will start. Many believe it will begin sometime in 2018 and all of the first season’s games will be played in Los Angeles until proper arenas have been built or at least teams have the rights to use certain arenas in the city.

playoverwatch.com

 

With esports arenas going up around the world one can only hope that we will see esports continue to grow. I have time and again compared what is happening now to the beginning of traditional sports like the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. For esports fans this is just the beginning. We are at the dawn of stability and major growth for esports as our children will grow up with tradtional sports and esports teams to cheer for.


Featured Image Courtesy of: https://ginx.tv/

Information Courtesy of: overwatchleague.com

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Interview with the Support Staff of YIKES! Part 1

They are some of the most underrated members of any team, always in the shadows behind each play, and arguably treading uncharted grounds in their day to day work. Support staff, in esports particularly, are often the less known factor on a team. While some have risen to quite prominence within a scene (Tony “Zikzlol” Gray and Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi come to mind), their work is largely unexplored. I got the chance to sit down with the up and coming YIKES! Overwatch Support Staff, Head coach Jeremy “Jerkkit” Wong, Player Development Analyst Zachary “Sovereign” Bent, and Strategist Pirin “Kitta” Singapan.

For those unfamiliar with YIKES!, they are the same team that once represented Denial eSports. While under that brand, fans may have seen them with strong showings at Overwatch Monthly Melees and Rivalcades. As YIKES!, they’ve managed to one-up their Denial eSports performance and take first at the most recent Overwatch Monthly Melee. While the roster may have flown under some fans’ radars, that can’t be the case any longer, as they are poised to be a strong up and coming NA roster. While currently unsigned, YIKES! have shown impressive growth as a squad and are a team to keep an eye on.

 

Your past experiences in esports

 

As I said above, coaching and support staff in esports are still relatively young in the scene. We’re not talking about traditional sports coaching, where there exist literal handbooks and strategies. I asked the team about their past experiences and how they informed their current positions. For Jerkkit, it wasn’t anything officially esports related that’s helped him become the coach he is today. Rather, it was his past experience with business that molded his coaching. “I was able to manage a lot of people development programs that we created within our company as head of directing for our HR department… helping them to develop skill sets to become more effective individual for themselves. I guess you could say ‘life coaching’ would be more exact.”

For Sovereign, his experience in the scene dates back to CSGO. Sovereign, however, eventually moved on from the CSGO scene, finding the amateur scene’s focus too heavily centered around the mechanical side of the game, rather than the bigger picture. “I moved onto MOBAs, I started playing DOTA, the Warcraft 3 MOD, the glory days. It was interesting because a lot of people had a lot more outlook into the game, they didn’t just focus on the mechanical side of everything, and the community fostered a better esports environment than I’d say CSGO at the time.” Eventually Sovereign found himself focusing on League of Legends, citing the ever important reason that, “I settled on League because the majority of the time it was my friends saying, ‘let’s play League.'”

One thing’s for certain, a better team logo won’t be possible.

From there, Sovereign found himself increasingly invested in the scene. Eventually, around Season 3 or 4, he was doing VOD reviews of games, trying to bring a professional, objective view. At this time, League of Legends, like many esports, was still fully figuring itself out and how to best utilize non-player support staff. Sovereign submitted his VOD reviews to a few teams, citing the GMs of both Liquid and Enemy as ones he remembered, eventually hearing back from Enemy to help them in their Spring Split in the Challenger Series.

How did Sovereign’s first gig work out? “We got into the Challenger Series, we bombed completely, [laughter] it was an awesome experience. But it was an experience.” With a foot in the door and a taste for esports, his focus also changed. “I wanted to be a coach at that point, I was like, ‘ok an analyst is cool and all, but I feel like I have more of a personal outlook on how to go about things.’ So a coach kind of fits that description.” Dipping back into CSGO, Sovereign found some mild success with one on one coaching, but was never able to crack into the scene fully because he didn’t have the connections. With Overwatch on the horizon, Sovereign shifted again to enter the burgeoning esports scene there.

It’s worked out well so far for himself and the team, with Jerkkit breaking in saying, “Thank God for the lack of your connections in CSGO. Worked out for myself, the guys, and Kitta too I’m sure [laughter].”

Kitta, like Jerkkit, comes from a slightly less esports-sided background. While always a gamer at heart, starting off in Star Wars Galaxies (the failed MMORPG based in the Star Wars universe), and eventually moving into the juggernaut of all MMOs, World of Warcraft, her experience was informed more by non-esports related things. For Kitta, the focus was always on PvP in MMOs, as, “one thing that I found fascinating with them was the PvP, we actually had to think like two steps ahead.” Strategy and planning were the name of the game. As many familiar with PvP in MMOs know, it’s not just your mechanics but also understanding what to do against certain opponents in certain situations.

Like many, when Overwatch was announced, excitement about the new esports scene attracted many to the game, and Kitta was no different in that regard. Kitta started out as a player, moving to a more IGL role and eventually, due to time restraints, taking a step back and focusing more on coaching. She started off by coaching a tier two team, while also working a lot on the analytical side of things. For what drew her to the coaching and support staff life, she cited, “I have a strong military background, I’ve been in the Marine Corps for several years, and so I have this burning desire to lead people and help people and coach people.” While her previous team eventually disbanded, Kitta found herself quickly on the YIKES! team as the Strategic Planning Analyst.

 

Past relationship with Denial eSports

 

Those who have followed the scene, particularly in North America, know that rosters being dropped and picked up by organizations has been a hot topic lately. Fans of YIKES! may remember the squad when they were under Denial eSports, and I took the time to ask the trio what exactly went down between the two parties there.

Jerkkit recalls how Brice “Gingerpop” Breakey approached him about joining the team, after having worked together as IGL (Gingerpop) and head coach of another project. They had been playing under Denial, and Jerkkit was on board. Jerkkit recalls how, when he first joined the team, the squad presented quite the interesting challenge. Those familiar with the likes of Félix “xQc” Lengyel won’t be surprised to learn that the larger than life personalities of the players was an interesting team dynamic, while it also felt that the players were largely on a very subjective mindset. They focused on how they viewed the game to be played. Quite different from the team that managed to take first place at the most recent Overwatch Monthly Melee.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The main reason for the mutual separation of Denial and the current YIKES! team? Each party’s goals and hopes didn’t align. With Overwatch League looming over the entire scene, the YIKES! team felt they had it in them to make it into the League, and while they felt Denial were a good step for them as a team, the two couldn’t see that being a possibility together. While the severance left no bad blood between Denial and YIKES!, a point Jerkkit stressed, they all felt they needed the chance to make it into the Overwatch League. “Going forward, we have all the pieces in place now. Everything from the players and coaching structure.”

For the next organization that YIKES! hope to represent, for the support staff, it’s about showing off their particular style and approach to coaching. “We really want to be able to exemplify our style of coaching and how we want to develop the players into becoming the best in North America if not the world.” While the roster has definitely shown up as of late, most notably with a first place showing at the most recent Overwatch Monthly Melee (note: interview was conducted prior to the finals, and thus any reference in quotations to the OMM  is referring to the results of April’s OMM and not the most recent one).

Denial eSports, while not the permanent home for the roster, gave the squad one of its strongest assets: longevity of the roster. “With Denial eSports that’s what really helped set us in position for where we are today. If we did not go through the transition of Denial and the players being signed under that specific org, we wouldn’t have had one of our team’s biggest strengths: which is a roster that has been able to keep the majority of the roster together for 5-8 months.” The ability to have trust in your fellow players, alongside knowing them and building strong connections with them, is an invaluable aspect of YIKES! roster overall.

Something that’s plagued the roster that other teams at their level have had is the ability to practice together under one roof. Scheduling scrims late at night, to accommodate players’ schedules and jobs, has its toll on the team, and the support staff is hampered by the distance. A long day of streaming for Félix “xQc” Lengye can lead to sub-optimal scrims, while Derek “Pizza” Johnson cutting back hours at his full time job to get an extra scrim block in, are among some of the difficulties the roster has had.

Overall though, Jerkkit felt that their experience under Denial was only a boon for the team. It allowed them to, “build character for our roster, for ourselves as coaches too, it really tested our mental fortitude.” As the team pushes forward to higher heights, they set their sights on growing and learning from their time with Denial and hope to find an organization that can give them the assets they need to take their next big step forward in the professional scene.

 

Hopes for YIKES! going forward?

 

Every team dreams of making it in the “big leagues,” and while that term isn’t quite accurate for many esports, it still holds true; every team reaches a point where they’re good enough to make it, and just want the chance to prove it fully. I asked the trio their hopes and aspirations for the squad. Not much of a surprise, given that the Overwatch League is materializing more, the unsigned roster hope to find an organization that can back them. “You’d love to have the financial support, the infrastructure, the equipment, the tools, when you need them you can get em.”

Zachary “Sovereign” Bent, Builder of Humans.

Any support staff dreams of having access to the tools and equipment to improve their roster, particularly if that equipment isn’t something they have to stress about. Jerkkit noted the increasing complexity and difficulty of tracking Overwatch. With its ever changing meta and chaotic gameplay, it can be difficult for the team to get the kind of data they’d like. Noting his team’s struggles with the Tank meta, and their prowess in the more dive comp meta, “With those types of changes that shift so fast in Overwatch, it’s not like CSGO where there’s a set meta and set way or foundation to play the game. It’s not really going to change in a 180 degrees when a patch releases. That’s not the case for Overwatch.”

Sovereign’s hopes for the roster were a little more pointed. “I hope to build athletes. That’s my end goal. I want to facilitate the proper system of building an athlete that can play any game, not just Overwatch. I want to see them grow into humans [laughter] that are functioning.” Noting that in many esports scenes, early pro players had a tendency to fade into the background once they retired, not bringing away much from their esports career except having perfected their skill in a game.

Without structure to their lives, or aid from their teams in growing them outside of their game, many players drift after their careers without any real help from their previous teams. “I want to change that. I want to build, I want to structure the bridge and making/filling in between obviously playing the game but also living a life. It’s something I want to bring together. So once they’re finished playing their games, once they begin wanting to coach, analyst, shot caller, caster, or whatever, they can do that. They wont fall apart once they’re not a player. I want to build a human that functions.”

 

Orgs needing to be flexible

 

On the topic of their future, the trio noted the need for organizations to be flexible and have strong backing for the future of esports, particularly with Overwatch. “When we need something done we need something done and it needs to be done now. The org needs to be able to support that.” Fans of the scene are aware of the increasing involvement of Venture Capitalist and traditional sport teams backing esports. With this in mind, many of the endemic teams may fall to the sideline unless they can secure financial backing as well.

On the note of endemic organizations, Jerkkit signaled a slightly counter voice to the prevalent opinion on certain endemic teams dropping their rosters in light of Overwatch League. Rather than laying the blame at the feet of Blizzard or the structure of the Overwatch League, he highlighted that, “while they did build esports to where it is right now, a lot of them [endemic organizations] aren’t evolving to the next step.” Without evolving, increasing their own funding and stepping up what they can offer their players, Jerkkit thinks they may fall behind bigger competitors. “You see a lot of orgs just pulling out entirely, they don’t have the funding, or the initial man power at the moment to facilitate their teams, so it’s hard to say where they’ll be in five years if they don’t start getting with the program.”

Jerkkit, the Old Man of the group and Head Coach. Also side hustles as a good mafia boss man for movies.

While it may sound like doom and gloom from the Old Man of the group, Jerkkit feels it isn’t a negative aspect of the way the scene is going. “I don’t want to make it sound like it’s a post-apocalyptic thing, this is how business works at the end of the day, and you’re going to start seeing a lot of it faze out.” While it’s yet to be seen whether these endemic teams are down and out, it doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the Overwatch esports scene like some have thought. For YIKES! though, it’s about focusing on the here and now, and progressing steadily on their own gameplay.

For Kitta in particular, it’s about having access to the basics and fundamentals that an organization needs to provide, things, “like proper places where we can all train together. Because without having those utilities, it’s quite a challenge to get everyone that are scattered all over NA to come together, but we still do it.” A common concern from the trio was this aspect of having to strain not only themselves, but their players, due to the lack of funding and ability to come together under one roof to practice. It’s no surprise then that the hope from a new organization is that they provide those basic assets.

While Kitta was a later addition to the support staff, she notes that coming from her tier two team to YIKES! was a massive change of scene. “Everyone has developed this like really strong relationship, where they become more of like a family. So coming onto this team, that really attracted me, and their eagerness to learn to thirst to win, not to mention their professionalism as well. Each player has a specific characteristic that makes the roster what it is.”

 

Flexibility of players’ abilities

 

Flexibility in organizations and support staff isn’t the only thing that Overwatch requires of its pros to be flexible in. Players, too, can’t find themselves too complacent on one or two heroes, or even on their particular role. While some players have heroes that are like pocket picks, heroes the opposing team might not expect them to be on, it’s more so that players need to be flexible in their hero classes overall. It’s one of the few games where a player’s role, Flex, is literally to be the hero the team needs in certain situations and certain comps. But for the YIKES! crew, it’s not just about one player, but all their players, needing to have that flexibility or depth to their hero pool.

While a player may be the off tank role for their team, they should be comfortable enough on other heroes to help their team in a pinch. For Jerkkit, it’s about being good enough so your team can have trust in you. “That’s the key factor, that trust level of being able to count on one another. ‘Ohh, he’s on this hero now, even though that’s my main, but I play this other hero we need right now.'” For an example, he highlighted how the roster can rely on Pizza, normally known for his Pharah play, to fill the role of D.Va or Roadhog for the squad. Tactically, however, he may value Indy “Space” Halpern’s D.Va, or prefer that hero on Pizza for the higher game sense he shows. It’s about flexibility with strats, but also knowing that you can trust the players beside you to do their role for the team on whatever hero is required.

 

Conclusion

 

This is the first in a three part series highlighting the behind the scenes forces helping YIKES! to their explosion onto the NA scene. The next part will detail more of each support staff’s particular profile, while our last part will get their opinions on the esport scene in general for Overwatch. Check back soon for Part 2 and Part 3!

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