Impressions from the Philadelphia Fusions First Week at Blizzard Arena

The Philadelphia Fusion, unfortunately, got less prepare time than other teams due to VISA issues stopping them from participating in the preseason. The 10-man roster is all foreign-born players from across the globe. A team assembled from numerous different teams with little crossover from player-to-player, entered the regular season with, as the casters preached, “the element of surprise.”

In any case, first impressions of the Fusion are a mixed-bag after a 1-1 start. It was good to see the Fusion come out and get a win over the Houston Outlaws in their first game on the big stage, but unluckily the Fusion drew the Spitfire in game two and ended week one with a 3-6 game record.

The Strength of the Fusion

Carpe and Shadowburn. Photo via Philadelphia Fusion twitter

However, fielding a starting damage-duo of Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok and George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha will give the Fusion two reliable players that will keep them in games. That was clear heading into this season. However, the one aspect of this roster that came to the surface in week one was the strength of this teams tank line.

Arguably one of the biggest surprises of the week was the play of flex player Gael “Poko” Gouzerch. Alongside Finnish tank-main Joona “Fragi” Laine, the two paved the way up front for Carpe and ShaDowBurn, while showing up in the kill feed often. Poko was in on nearly every engagement and was finishing off players at a hectic pace.

In their very first game under the bright lights, the world got a first-hand look at the potential of Carpe on Tracer and the hard-hitting ShaDowBurn on Genji and neither disappointed. Taking a look at how each player wants to play, the styles match up quite well. Both players excel in one thing above all else and that’s building ultimate charge and we saw that against the Outlaws.

In a similar fashion, Poko’s ability to stay alive on the payload and build ultimate charge also plays into this teams strengths. Each fight seemingly ended with a fully-charged ultimate from one of those three Fusion players. It’s rather impressive watching this team find shots to build.

The Weak Spots

Boombox practicing. Photo via Philadelphia Fusion twitter

It wasn’t all good for the Philadelphia Fusion last week. Playing a team as talented as the London Spitfire will expose a team’s weaknesses without a doubt. For as strong of the front line of the dive-composition is for the Fusion, the backside support doesn’t exactly inspire the same level of fear in opponents.

Facing the Spitfire displayed an inability for the Fusion to defend against diving on Mercy and the failure to avoid attacks from the backline. Against the Outlaws, it was unlimited dragon blade’s and pulse bombs, but facing the Spitfire it came down to simply outshooting the opponent. With more support deaths Carpe and ShaDowBurn weren’t able to play to their strengths.

In light of this, the onus falls to Poko and Fragi to play better up front. The lack of impact from Isaac “Boombox” Charles and the mixing of Mercy’s between Alberto “neptuNo” González and Park “Dayfly” Jeong-hwan seems to be a problem. The Fusion have a talented group of support players with Joe “Joemeister” Gramano coming off the bench, but each player wants to play a different way.

Furthermore, the inopportune timing of the support ultimates against the Spitfire was a big reason why this team lost. It’s not the time for this team to make a change, as Boombox is essentially the only Zenyatta on the roster, but there might come a time where this team needs to reexamine the supports.

In spite of a loss to the Spitfire, this team showed that there’s a good chance they end up in the top-six at the end of the season.

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Featured photo via Philadelphia Fusion twitter

The “Poko Bomb” is tearing up the Overwatch League

Teams in the Overwatch League will now have to prioritize the ultimate status of Gael “Poko” Gouzerch’s self-destructs after sheer domination with it through the first two weeks. Throughout the entire league, no other player is even within striking distance of total ultimate kills and after a huge performance against the San Francisco Shock, it’s not looking like anyone will catch him.

In fact, the team twitter account is actually looking to change the name of D.va’s ultimate to the “Poko bomb.” If this keeps up, I think Blizzard will have no choice, but to change it. Here’s a stat to illustrate Poko’s self-destruct dominance.

That stat says it all. Poko’s success rate is at an incredibly high-percentage right now and that’s proven by the gigantic lead in ultimate kills league-wide. The overall number is impressive, but it’s not the volume of ultimate kills, it’s the consistency. 

During the Philadelphia Fusion’s 2-1 victory over the Shock, an overwhelming amount of fights were won simply off self-destructs. Poko’s not only consistently getting kills, but finding quick ways to build his ultimate. Following his aggressive tank partner, Joona “Fragi”  Laine, who helps clear out space allowing for the DPS-mains and an ultimate building minded Poko to farm ult-charge.

Once it’s ready, it’s just a matter of time before D.Va’s mech comes crashing down on you because it’s not only the angles he throws the self-destructs at, it’s the timing. Waiting for the moment the opposition uses their ultimates or decides to fall-back to strike. It’s also the creative heights in which he flies and the targets he picks out. It’s all calculated.

From here on out, tracking Poko’s ultimate usage is going to be a priority. On the final game on Eichenwalde, three straight self-destructs led to double-kills while taking out Mercy. This was the case all afternoon for the Shock. Expecting a George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, the constant aggressive self-destructs kept catching the backline off guard.

In only three games, Poko has established himself as a specialist with that ultimate. Moving forward, it’s going to be in the back of teams’ minds. Teams will be forced to make adjustments if he continues to find kills at this high of a success rate.

Additionally, Poko’s style of play is very much aligned with how his Fusion teammates approach the game.This bodes well for them as they develop and hone their strategy. Poko fits in this role behind two capable DPS-mains and Fragi on the Winston. Those three distract as Poko positions himself for an end of the fight self-destruct. 

However, a team that is focused on flanking could be hard-countered. In their loss on Dorado, the Shock committed heavily to anti-dive and waited for ShaDowBurn to flank. It was the only time the Shock had success against the Fusion dive composition. 

However, is this sustainable for Poko? He’s landing two-kills on basically every self-destruct attempt. The 2.38 ult kills per 10 minutes is not sustainable but don’t expect to see anything less from Poko. He’s logged plenty of practice time into perfecting the timing and distance of D.va’s explosion. Even if he lands fewer kills, Poko is still a threat to turn every team fight when he has full-charge. 

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Featured photos via Overwatch Wiki

Overwatch League’s Uprising may cause some upsizing

Big numbers in Day two of the Overwatch League. Big numbers coming out of cities hosting watch parties 

Boston Uprising watch party at The Greatest Bar.

Upsizing not Uprising

This is a picture taken last Thursday at the Boston Uprising watch party held at The Greatest Bar (clever name, not my opinion.) inside the TD Garden where the Celtics and Bruins play. Over 125 people crammed into the two floors of a Boston sports bar.

Now I don’t know if any of you have been to Boston sports bars, I’m sure some of you have. This is the last thing anyone expected. Especially The Greatest Bar. Boston Uprising hosted the event and also had people there giving out free merch to fire up the crowds. To see people cramming themselves into a bar to watch video games gives me immense hope for this sport. For this league. For the next generation of geeks.

Watch parties like this have been held all over the country for the Overwatch League. San Francisco hosted one and had Sinatraa and Super, players who are currently ineligiable to play, there to meet and take pictures. Around 100 people showed up to watch that one.

Picture of Houston Outlaws watch party.

Houston, from all the pictures Posted around the internet had what appears to be the biggest watch party of them all. Over 600 people came out in support of the Houston Outlaws! That’s insane!

Some fans even drove across the country to the Blizzard Arena to watch their favorite teams complete.

These two guys drove 2,700 miles to watch the NYXL. Viewership on Twitch yesterday peaked at just about 250,000. I know it’s still early. I know it’s the “cupcake phase” or however you want to say it. It’s still new and exciting but even people who aren’t fans of Esports have to at least admit this is impressive.

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Credit to The Esports Writer.

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And the Overwatch League Week One MVP is…

The opening week of the Overwatch League has now come and gone, and after two games a piece the teams are already starting to separate themselves. In similar fashion, certain players stood out amongst the talented group and flashed early on.

It is no surprise, the best teams in the league are the heavy-Korean teams such as the Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire, and New York Excelsior. All of whom ended the first week at 2-0. The other undefeated team is the one surprise from this week, the Los Angeles Valiant sweept their matches ending the week up 7-0 in games.

Who was the week one MVP?

After the dust settled, four players stood out among the rest of the player pool. The first player to be mentioned is Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun for the Seoul Dynasty. Unlike any other player this weekend, Fleta went above and beyond with his hero pool. Seven unique characters all combining to do massive amounts of damage and help carry the Dynasty to a 6-1 weekend.

Pine signing autographs after the win. Photo via the Overwatch League

As for the unsung heroes of the opening week, how about Terence “SoOn” Tarlier and the Valiant taking the league by storm? Led by SoOn and his backline Tracer play the Valiant rolled through the San Francisco Shock and came out victorious even though they were the underdog against the Dallas Fuel. SoOn’s presence made the difference with his constant pressure that worked wonders alongside Valiant’s dive composition.

Looking at the New York Excelsior roster, there are a few names that took a big step this weekend. Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon’s flashiness on the Widowmaker and McCree or Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol rolling on Tracer made it a tough decision to make. One Excelsior separated himself from some of the other support mains in the league

Bang “Jjonak” Sung-hyeon was responsible for huge picks, a great deal of healing, fight winning transcendents, and a ridiculous amount of healing on Zenyatta. It truly was an all-around great performance. In terms of best Mercy play, one half of the Dynasty dynamic support-duo, Jin-mo “tobi” Yang, was nasty with Valkyrie, moving in-and-out of danger in a flash.

It’s hard to pick a favorite of the London Spitfire roster considering that roster still feels very much in the air. Keep an eye on the Spitfire to have a more fluid starting roster in the future.

Drumroll Please

As for the best of the weekend, it’s quite simple, Fleta was the workhorse for the Seoul Dynasty. Anytime the Dynasty needed a hero switch and a big push, Fleta would switch and the Dynasty would win. It’s nice to see a wide variety of top-end talents at multiple heroes and position making a name for themselves. Now let’s see if they do it again in week two.

 

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Featured photo via Overwatch League

Why Overwatch League Matters

How Blizzard can change the Esports scene in North America

Courtesy of Blizzard Ent.

 

I feel as though I’ve had to explain to multiple friends and family members what exactly Esports is. I have several friends who understand the basic concept of it but don’t understand how fun and entertaining it is. This is where the Overwatch League steps in.

After being announced over a year ago, January 10th was opening night. Twitch viewership peaked at just over 400,000. 400,000 people tuned in to watch a video game competition. In the grand scheme of things people gather to watch this number is relatively small, but also very big. Let me explain why Overwatch League matters.

Why does it matter?

The United States is known for a mulititude of things but Esports prowess is not one of them. In Korea they’ve been showing Esports on television since the days of Starcraft Brood War. TBS signed a deal with ESL to broadcast CS:GO on their station and I made sure I tuned in.

On January 9th Blizzard Entertainment held their first ever media day for the OWL and announced that they signed a deal with Twitch for a two year broadcasting agreement. It’s been reported but not confirmed that Twitch spent in the area of 90 million dollars to obtain exclusive broadcasting rights.

If you’re like me you tuned in to the games opening night and saw one of the best Overwatch matches I’ve ever seen played between the Dallas Fuel and the Seoul Dynasty. Seoul ended up winning the match but it was as close as they could be. Nearly to half a million people watched that game. It’s very early into the first year for OWL but from what I’ve seen online they’re living up to expectations. They loaded the booths with experts on the broadcast team. The analysts, shout casters, and production teams are insanely talented and above all engaging.

So why does any of this matter? Personally I think that it matters because this is giving the kids who were picked on for being a “nerd” or what have you a safe place to gather. The word nerd has lost its sting and gamer culture has become celebrated and cool thanks to sites like Twitch. Streaming has exploded over the past years resulting in communities of kids and now adults having a place to embrace our passion, gaming. The average age of an Esports fan in the US is 28 years old. Right on the nose for me and my friends.

Overwatch League can bring people together

Another reason OWL is important is it gives kids and parents something to bond over. Several of my friends have kids of their own and are always looking for a way to connect with them. This offers them that opportunity as well as a way to see if their passion will grow into something more than just a fan. Overwatch League is important because it’s helping to legitimize Esports as a whole throughout more of North America. If you told me 5 years ago that Robert Kraft was going to own an Esports franchise I would looked at you upside down.

I haven’t been covering Esports actively very long in the grand scheme of Esports itself but even in the “short” amount of time I’ve been around, the scene has flourished. There are major companies/sports franchises buying teams for video game competitions! Is this a business move? Yeah, probably. But even so it helps to legitimize this crazy thing we call Esports. While we’re only a couple days into season one of Overwatch League look for it to continue to do well and if things go the way they’re projected to, expand exponentially.

What do you think of the Overwatch League so far? Do you think it’s going to sustain viewership or will it die it over the season? Let us know and be sure to stay tuned to The Game Haus for more Esports news!

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Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: Los Angeles Gladiators

In this edition of roster breakdown, the Los Angeles Gladiators get the spotlight. One of two Los Angeles, California based teams sporting the flashy purple and white jersey’s for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The talented Gladiators squad will house players from all across the globe, and will focus on two things in this upcoming season: having fun and playing aggressive, according to Rob Moore of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE).

Ownership
Stan Kroenke, owner of the newly acquired Los Angeles Gladiators, is constantly being discussed in sports media. He recently moved the St. Louis Rams franchise out of Missouri and back to Los Angeles where the franchise previously resided in the 1980’s. It’s been a point of contention around NFL circles, and since then the Kroenke name has been vilified by the people of St. Louis.

Regardless of the public perception of Kroenke, one thing’s clear and that’s the fact that he understands how to run a franchise. Consider this, Stan Kroenke owns KSE, a parent company for all his sports holdings. That same company has become a multi-media conglomerate with television and radio stations. On top of that, KSE expanded its holdings to five different franchises major sport franchises (MLB, NBA, MLS, NHL, and NFL) and finally seized the opportunity in the esports space.

Now, along with Boston Uprising owner Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke adds legitimacy and national media attention to a new, burgeoning league. As someone actively cheering for the Overwatch League to succeed, it can’t go understated how important it is to have the backing of names like the Kroenke’s. KSE is planning to build an arena for the Gladiators, and could be big players in free agency.

Coaching
Team Kungarna was one of the surprising North America teams throughout the last year of Overwatch. The Kungarana roster had talented pieces, but the interchanging roster made it difficult to obtain any team synergy. Current Gladiators’ head coach and former Kungarna coach, David “dpei” Pei, was a big reason for Kungarna’s Overwatch Contenders run and meshing a moving roster. His coaching was key in bringing together a jumbled group of players and making them into one of the best North American teams.

Players

Photo via LA Gladiators Twitter

The LA Gladiators are one the few daring teams to only stick with seven players on the roster. The one backup spot will most likely be filled by one of the teams three-DPS (damage per second) mains. Gladiators decision to stick with seven players limits their ability to counter certain match ups. It puts extra pressure on the tank and support line.

Looking at how this roster was constructed, it’s not trying anything innovative or new, like San Francisco Shock essentially going with a team filled with DPS/Flex players. Gladiators roster will be more straight forward: 3 DPS, 1 Flex, 1 Tank, and 2 support.

Lane “Surefour” Roberts
Role: DPS/Hit-scan
Region: North America (Canada)
Former teams: Cloud 9
Favorite Heroes: Soldier 76, McCree

Surefour, as I’m sure this is the case with most people, was the first player to ever grab my attention in high-level Overwatch. Arguably the best North American Overwatch player, and one of the premier hit-scan players in the world. If there was a player to build around on this team, Surefour would be that player.

Recently, we saw Surefour and the talented Canadian team push Korea in the World Cup final. A strong showing showcased that he’s still improving. He’s certainly good enough to compete with the best players in the OWL, and should be a star in the making in Los Angeles. One of the most accurate players in Overwatch.

Jung Sung “Asher” Choi
Role: DPS/hit-scan
Region: South Korea
Former teams: CONBOX Spirit
Favorite Heroes: Tracer, McCree

Asher is a rather interesting name. Obviously starting off in Korea and getting plenty of Apex experience gives him a leg up, but there’s still some questions regarding his effectiveness heading into this season. His play was often overshadowed by former teammate Park “Architect” Min-ho, and he’s not considered one of the best Korean Tracer’s.

As a Tracer main, his duty will be to be disrupt the enemy back line, but his aggressive play can put himself into bad situations. Luckily, Asher will be playing alongside Surefour which will open up lanes for Tracer. Asher’s Tracer heavy play can be substituted for Hydration’s projectile focus on Genji and Pharah. Asher provides explosiveness, experience, and will be a key starting piece for the Gladiators in season one.

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles
Role: DPS/Projectile
Region: South America (Brazil)
Former Teams: CLG
Favorite Heroes: Genji, Pharah

Hydration is going to be the first player off the bench. He’s known for his Pharah, but Hydration has a good enough hero pool to go Junkrat or switch onto Genji when needed. He’s one of the few Brazilian born players in the OWL.

 

Gladiators cheering for Surefour. Photo via LA Gladiators twitter

 

Tanks

Aaron “Bischu” Kim
Role: Flex
Region: South Korea
Former teams: Kungarna, Team SoloMid, Ronin
Favorite Heroes: D.va, Zarya

Bischu is a must-watch player and a fantastic pickup for a team looking to play aggressively. The former League of Legends star now switches his focus to Overwatch, and he’s proved in a short amount of time that his Zarya is one of the best.

On top of his efficient play in the flex slot, he brings continuity with his head coach and former Kungarana teammate iRemix. The fact that the Gladiators tank line will have some synergy coming in is a big advantage and is the reason these three guys were brought in over potentially more skilled players. It’s possible this is one of the better tank lines in season one.

Luis Galarza “iRemix” Figueroa
Role: Tank
Region: Puerto Rico
Former Teams: Kungarana, Splyce
Favorite Heroes: Winston, Reinhardt

iRemix’s tank play in Overwatch Contenders was always extremely impressive. His Reinhardt during season two was one of my favorites in North America, and he’s made the necessary adjustments when Reinhardt with Winston when Reinhardt was fazed out of the meta. In his role, iRemix might be the most important player on the team. He’ll be the defensive linchpin.

Supportsional
Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara

Role: Support/Flex
Region: Finland
Former teams: Reason Gaming, Hammers Esports, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Ana, Zenyatta, Sombra

It’s apparent that Kevin “Kez” Jeon, the Gladiators manager, did his homework. While the decision to go with Asher and Hydration as their DPS-mains is somewhat questionable, bringing in the two Finns is no mistake. Gigantti, which both Shaz and BigGoose played for, overwhelmingly over-succeeded and it’s the play of these two that sprung that success.

Shaz can plug and play any number of heroes, but his primary role in season one will be on Mercy. Look for this team to switch Shaz to get advantageous composition. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring in any other support mains. It’s because this duo is versatile and skilled.

Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni
Role
: Support
Region: Europe (Finland)
Former Teams: Rest in Pajamas, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Lucio

Similarly to the tank line, the Gladiators supports will have plenty of familiarity of how they want to play. It’s a great move to target players that have experience playing with each other. On top of all this, BigGoose’s Lucio is ridiculously good and will play into how this team wants to play on paper.

Expectations?

When I first glanced at the roster, I gave a loud sigh. Another team missing out on Carpe, Saebyeol, and Stitch. After examining it further, this could be a surprise team this season. Yes, they’re lacking the Korean talent, but outside of Miami, Seoul, and London, this is probably the most familiar team in the OWL. A team built around familiarity with each other.

However, it’s tough seeing this squad make a push for the postseason. While Surefour is a game-changer, the two other DPS-mains don’t stack up as well on paper. This team will need more firepower to come out on top.

 

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University of Jamestown

Collegiate esports programs: University of Jamestown part 1

While collegiate sports has seen fan-bases that rival that of some of their respective professional leagues, collegiate esports, thus far, has not been able to gather as much fervor. Collegiate esports have seen an insane growth in recent years, with practically every major school in America and Canada clamoring to form some kind of a team. Fans of the scene and esports in general are hopeful the trend will continue to grow. I sat down with head coach of one of the newest esports programs, Josh Knutson of the University of Jamestown. We discussed the program, in its first year at the university, his hopes for the scene and some of the trials and tribulations of collegiate esports.

The program now

The first order of business is always working out the details. Currently, Jamestown fields teams/players in Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone and CS:GO. The usual suspects for any collegiate esport program. However, Knutson also hopes to expand into Heroes of the Storm if possible. “Its an easy add, and Blizzard as a company has been really awesome with working with our association on the corporate level.”

University of Jamestown

Josh Knutson, Head Coach for the University of Jamestown. Courtesy of Jimmies Athletics.

When deciding on which esports to try to enter first, Knutson said they looked first and foremost at what other teams were competing in within their association, NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports). A focus on hitting the ground running with the program fueled this, as they wanted to get into a regular season from day one, with a good number of fellow colleges involved.

With the physical equipment bought, and an established presence now, Knutson is hopeful for the program’s expansion. Bringing on incoming freshmen to join is easier when you can show them it’s already happening, rather than based on promises. Expanding into other games, too, is an easy step, as with esports it just requires an installation on a computer to play. No need for new stadiums and turfs mean collegiate esports programs can be flexible and more daring with their expansions, Knutson explained.

The program’s future

When I asked about goals for the program, Knutson gave the tried and true hope for his team: “From a coaching standpoint…. I want to put a national championship trophy on my shelf.” Starting off a new program though, Knutson is aware of the challenges they’ll face on that quest. ‘Moving Forward’, is the motto for him and the team. “Every day take practice seriously, take our games seriously, move forward and keep getting better from a skill level and from a player development status.”

More concretely, Knutson discussed hopes for growing the program itself, hoping to (roughly) double the size of the roster from the current 16-30 next year. With a bigger roster comes the usual need for more facility space and more equipment. He highlighted, too, that this year was mostly focused on laying the foundation for success with the program. In the years to come, it’ll be about growing bigger and stronger, along with their chosen league in NACE. “We’re in a really good spot to be in the forefront of that big wave that is coming for esports.”

Alex Huff, one of the Overwatch players for the team, added to the discussion too, from a player’s perspective. Alex notes that two of his fellow Overwatch players are prior friends, so synergy with them was never an issue. However, noting the increase of players that will most likely exist next year, he mentioned his excitement of mixing up that dynamic and learning from his fellow teammates. “It’s going to definitely be able to facilitate growth and to grow the whole program itself. We’re going to have some people who are going to come in who may have more knowledge and teach those who may not have as much knowledge.”

 NACE and a shake up in collegiate esports

I’ll admit, I’m relatively familiar with most of the popular collegiate esports leagues. TeSPA, Collegiate Starladder League, etc. are names I’m aware of. NACE was not one. I asked Knutson why he and the program chose to go with NACE. While being less of a household name as the others, Knutson highlighted how their mission and his program aligned: “To legitimize collegiate esports as a respected athletic activity on college campus’. Really push it to the same level as football, basketball and some of the other traditional sports.”

University of Jamestown

The National Association of Collegiate Esports, or NACE, is the latest league to try and make a dent in Collegiate esports. Courtesy of The National Association of Collegiate Esports

Knutson discussed NACE’s formation frankly, stating that he thinks part of the reason NACE was formed was out of frustration with the other leagues. From league structure to technical help, NACE is attempting to set itself up as something different than the others. Through corporate partnerships with Blizzard, Twitch and Battlefly, to a commitment to ‘doing it right’ from the beginning, Knutson believes NACE has set itself up as a leader in the scene.

Citing a few reasons for this, too, Knutson pointed to the similar level of dedication and regulation that exists already in collegiate sports as one of the reasons. Setting up a league with a similar structure to the NCAA, say, or some other established form of competitive league, was something attractive about NACE for Knutson. “We really bought into that idea of ‘if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this the right way.’ We want to legitimize it right away, and have it as respected as any other program is on our campus. We wanted our student athletes to be in the same vein as the football player or the basketball player.”

Knutson deeply identified with this notion of putting newly minted esports programs on the same level as the traditional programs offered by Jamestown. His players are held to the same requirements as their fellow athletes at the school. From attending the All Athletes meetings to community service requirements in their community, his players check all the same boxes as the football and basketball players. “I think that our administration and our coaching staff really brought in that idea of let’s legitimize this and do it the right way.”

 

This is part 1/2 for an interview with the University of Jamestown’s esports program.

 

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Featured Image courtesy of University of Jamestown Athletics.

Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: San Francisco Shock

Starting over to the pacific league, the San Francisco Shock, owned by NRG Esports owner Andy Miller, will sport one of the few non-Korean teams in the Overwatch League. The Shock virtually have a North American all star team with the addition of two talented Swedish players.

SF Shock in a limo. Photo courtesy of Nomy

The decision to keep only seven players on the roster with Jay “sinatraa” Won and Matthew “Super“ DeLisi inactive due to age constraints, could be detrimental. Most of the teams in the Overwatch League are keeping eight or nine players, and although it’s a talented North American roster, there’s no clear superstar.

In terms of perception, the Shock will undoubtedly be an underdog in year one. South Korea is the central Overwatch hub of the world, and building a team that consist entirely of Korean foreigners is a gamble. It’s not a bad idea in theory. Trying to grab all the talent outside Korea could payoff, as most teams will focus their energy and money on Korean players.

The few teams in the Overwatch League who built their roster similarly to the Shock will be an interesting experience. Seoul Dynasty’s head coach, Lee “Hocury” Ho-cheol, believes the non-Korean teams are underrated, according to an interview with ESPN Esport. Shanghai Dragons, Florida Mayhem, Dallas Fuel and San Francisco Shock will go down this path.

Here’s the San Francisco Shock organization:

Ownership
NRG Esports is a prominent organization within esports that has had success in many different popular titles: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Rocket League. Andy Miller, NRG’s CEO, and Brett Lautenbach, NRG president, Bowl throw their hat into the Overwatch League and will bring some ownership experience to the OWL.

Management
Andrew “Zwei” Baker takes on the responsibility of building the Shock roster, and on top of bringing on a team of non-Korean players, he signed on Brad Rajani and Dillion “LegitRc” Odeneal to be coaches. Two American born coaches that have familiarity with the players on the roster, and come in with plenty of coaching experience.

However, the front office had some turnover recently when former manager Maxwell “Hoturaz” Bateman was fired for sexual assault allegations. The organization quickly brought in LegitRc to help bring stability to the front office.

Roster
In the hope that the talented Shock roster will individually improve during the season, and surprise the Overwatch world while going through  a more strict training and practice regiment. It’s imperative that this team focuses less on winning and more on improving their game.

Unfortunately, two of the more talented players on the roster (Sinatraa and Super) will be inactive. As Overwatch fans saw at Blizzcon, Sinatraa is clearly the key piece to this franchise. Nurture his ability now and he could be a star down the line. The outlook for this team to contend for a title is to focus on winning in year two.

Photo via San Francisco Shock will

Andre “iddqd” Dahlstrom, DPS/Hit-scan
Favorite heroes:
McCree, Tracer, Soldier: 76
Iddqd, the 25-year old, Swedish born, hit-scan main, has proved over and over he’s one of the best McCree’s in the world. His 40% accuracy and damage output is the third highest of any other player on the team.

Furthermore, his aggressive play style and big play potential pairs perfectly with how the rest of the roster looks to play. Iddqd is a lock to be a starter this season. He will more than likely play the long range hit-scan role.

Andrej “Baybay” Francisty, Flex/DPS/ Hit-scan
Favorite heroes:
Soldier: 76, Genji, McCree
Baybay was always a player I believed to have the talent to contend with Koreans. While on Kungarna, Baybay was a major part of their success in the Winter Premiere and other major events. Dogman, Baybay’s former teammate agreed

“Baybay was really aggressive, and Kungarna was a team built around Baybay,” Dogman, on the Overwatch podcast.

In any case, Baybay showed plenty of promise, but getting the chance to face the world’s best competition should continue to improve his impressive gameplay. Baybay maintains the most damage on the team, and the second best accuracy. He’s the Shock’s bet Soldier: 76.

David “Nomy” Ramirez, Tank
Favorite Heroes:
Reinhardt, Winston
Nomy has consistently been one of North America’s best tanks throughout all of 2017. Nomy was instrumental behind some of the most memorable Immortals run. During the time when triple-Tank was popular, Nomy essentially carried Immortals to many Immortal victories, as the best North American team.

For this reason, Nomy should be one of the leaders of this team and a member of the Shock’s player core moving forward. On top of excellent blocking and positioning, his ultimate effectiveness is incredible. His success rate with earth shatter and ability to turn entire fights is unreal. His bet trait is his survivability with primal rage. Even at a number disadvantage, Nomy consistently keep fight alive with his ultimates.

Daniel “dhaK” Martinez, Support
Favorite Heroes:
Lucio
On the negative side, the Shock will run with only two true support mains. Both supports are also hero specialist, and there’s no Mercy-main. dhaK almost exclusively plays Lucio and will be the most crucial player on the backline got San Francisco.

Keep in mind, dhaK is a nice fit alongside a squad that likes to push forward. His Lucio is known to keep the speed boost up while having some of the best wall skating abilities of any Lucio-main. The decision to not run with a consistent Mercy, at this juncture, seems as if it’s a big mistake. Luckily, the two supports might be the perfect match for the tanks and DPS.

Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson, Flex
Favorite Heroes:
Genji, Soldier: 76, Ana
Generally speaking, Nevix was always a secret weapon for Misfits. Yes, it helps playing alongside Tviq, but Nevix was the player that pushed them over the top. The potential for triple-DPS compositions with Iddqd, Baybay, and Nevix on the backend could be deadly.

In terms of experience, no other player matches the number of high-level matches played than Nevix. He’s won the most money playing Overwatch on the team, and will be big part of this team’s success heading forward. He will fill into the open flex spot.

Sleepy’s Jersey. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Shock

Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews, Support
Favorite Heroes
: Zenyatta
Sleepy is somewhat of a mystery. He has little to no major experience and is basically exclusively a Zenyatta main. Based on stats, he has low healing and low damage output as well. If there’s one player who could be considered a liability, it’s Sleepy.

Dante “Danteh” Cruz, DPS/Flex
Favorite Heroes
: Tracer, Sombra, Genji
The 18-year old, American born Danteh is an intriguing prospect. It’s clear he has talent, but is commitment going to be an issue? No, it’s not, Danteh is focused on Overwatch and becoming the best player possible. Even off the bench, he can have a major impact as a backline disruptor.

As a Tracer, Sombra, and Genji main, he’ll play a big role in changing the momentum of matches. Off the bench, Danteh can make it more difficult on a teams supports and give tanks troubles from behind enemy lines. This will be Danteh’s role this season.

Outlook on the season
It’s a developmental year for the San Francisco Shock. No Sinatraa or Super will force them to focus their contention intentions on season two. The key is develop players like Iddqd, Baybay, and Nomy. It’s important those guys catch up to the Korean level quickly.

After analyzing the roster, it’s clear there’s potential to have a surprise season, but at this juncture it seems unlikely. Players who have never carried teams are now placed into that position. The supports of danK and Sleepy also feel under-researched as the Shock will head I to season one with the worst supports on paper.

Finally, playoffs are in all likelihood out of the question. It has the look of one of the worst roster in the OWL, but don’t be discouraged because certain players could develop into stars. It’s a process and one the fans of San Francisco have to embrace.

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Featured image courtesy of the San Francisco Shock

Read Boston Uprising preview 

paid DLC

Should future Smash games feature free or paid DLC?

DLC, since its inception, has been a controversial aspect of gaming. Smash 4, in the eyes of many, is an example of paid DLC done right. The game featured new characters, new stages and additional Mii fighter outfights for a year after the game’s launch. This made Smash 4’s life better, since every new character coming out kept the Smash community excited and engaged with the game long after the Smash 4’s release. Smash 4 definitely proved that DLC works for the series.

That said, DLC itself has been changing. Many recent games such as Street Fighter V and Overwatch have opted for free DLC releasing throughout the game’s life. While both of these examples incorporate additional purchases such as a season pass and loot boxes, not all games with free DLC eek out more money. Other Nintendo IPs such as Splatoon and ARMS both roll out their content via free DLC released over time. Free DLC seems to be becoming more common, to the point that it could become the standard for competitive games. With that in mind, should future Smash games use this model? Let’s talk about it.

Supporting high quality DLC

Creating additional content for a game post-launch obviously takes up resources. That, in itself, is a common and fair argument for paid DLC. That argument is quite fair given the overall quality of Smash 4’s DLC. Smash 4’s additional stages were well-made, but the real meat of Smash 4’s DLC was the characters. The seven DLC characters clearly had a lot of time and resources put into creating them. They’re just as complex and fully-realized characters as any of the characters available at launch.

paid DLC

Smash 4 released paid DLC, and price to all available DLC added up over time. Should this be seen as a reason to try free DLC instead, or should the pricing just be tweaked? Image: Nintendo

What makes Smash 4’s additional content of such great quality is that there is no obvious divide between DLC and non-DLC characters. The additional content added into the game feels like a natural extension of the core game, which was already brimming with content at launch to begin with. Many would argue that such high quality DLC would only be possible if it is paid. The money garnered from the purchases of the DLC would pay for the added development costs.

If future Smash games are to have similar amounts of content that Smash 4 had at launch, then it is perhaps unrealistic to expect the game to provide additional content for free. The previously mentioned Street Fighter V and Overwatch gain funds for DLC development costs through additional purchasing options. Nintendo is highly unlikely to include microtransactions in a full-price game, especially in the aftermath of the recent Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco. But how would Nintendo go about adding additional content?

paid dlc

Would free DLC be more likely for a new Smash Bros. with a similar amount of content to that of Melee’s? Image: Nintendo.

Argument for Free dlc

If future Smash games feature DLC, this author can imagine two possible approaches to releasing content. One of which features free DLC and the other features paid DLC. Both of these approaches intended to realistic more than hopeful.

Free DLC could be featured on a game that features less overall content than Smash 4 did. Smash 4 included a variety of modes and other content that is supplementary to the main experience of playing Smash. Modes such as Smash Run and Smash Tour are distractions that didn’t retain audiences for too long. Additionally, there are so many single-player and co-op content in Smash 4 – far outweighing the likes seen in Melee. It could be realistically imagined that Nintendo would implement free DLC in a future Smash game if the game featured less modes and overall content than Smash 4 at launch.

Argument for Paid DLC

Perhaps the largest issue with Smash 4’s DLC was its pricing. To buy all of DLC stages and characters, one would have to pay $45.38 USD plus tax. If one were to buy all of the additional Mii fighter costumes, that would bringing the total cost of DLC to $74.63 USD, well over the price of the Wii U game itself. And this is all assuming one only buys content for one version of the game.

Should consumers be expected to pay this much for new stages, characters, and costumes? Some would argue that we should. Left to right: Cost 3DS content, Cost of Wii U Content, Cost of Wii U and 3DS Bundled Content. Image Courtesy of Seteveisak on Reddit.

To expect someone to spend this much money on DLC is quite ridiculous. It’s clearly overpriced, especially in regard to the Mii fighter costumes. However, the overall amount of content and the rate at which it came out were quite good. If future Smash entries use paid DLC, they should offer a slightly lower amount of content in exchange for lowering the price of the content. If Nintendo needs to price the DLC to fund the additional development costs, then this seems like the most optimal negotiation. In addition, future Smash games could have similar or even greater levels of content than Smash 4 provided.

More OPtions and possiblities

These are the two most likely scenarios from the perspective of this author. This isn’t to say that there are other methods in regards to how DLC can be handled in future Smash games. This is where we’ll turn it to you. Do you think future Smash games should feature free or paid DLC? Should they have DLC to begin with? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured image courtesy of Nintendo via smashbros.com

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Overwatch League roster breakdown: Boston Uprising

The Overwatch League is fast-approaching. The rosters have been revealed and the dates for preseason and the regular season are set. The world is ready for the league to start in January 2018. In this series of articles, I look to give new fans a valuable and in-depth look at all the franchises and players to prepare for opening week.

Image via Boston Uprising

In the inaugural season, the twelve teams will compete in a six-month long season and crown the eventual champion in July. The entirety of season one will be played at the Blizzard Stadium located in California. The OWL will not only be a pioneer league in the esports scene, but a centralizing force in creating the best player pool imaginable.

I wanted to start with the consensus worst team in season one of the OWL: Boston Uprising. And it’s not that this team can’t succeed, it’s that the roster is filled with unlikely heroes. A team of relatively unknown players, in a league this stacked with talent, isn’t tough. But, Overwatch is a team game. Individual names don’t win championships, teams do.

Let’s talk about the Boston Uprising

Ownership

Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, and owner of the exceedingly successful New England Patriots franchise, was one of the first big names to show interest in the Overwatch League. Alongside some of sports’ most venturous owners, Kraft being attached gave the league some pomp and stability.

Obviously, the league is filled with sports ownership groups buying up franchises, but Kraft was undoubtedly one of the biggest names to sign on. If anything, his involvement made other potential investors seriously consider joining in. It also helped raise awareness and will continue to do so as more potential fans find the OWL.

Coaching staff

Yes, believe it or not, the OWL has coaching. It’s like any old sport; there’s a head coach and an assistant coach, and they make all the important roster and strategy decisions. It’s been proven how effective a good head coach can be in Overwatch, as teams in Korea’s Apex league have had make-or-break seasons with different head coaches.

Luckily, Boston’s lack of roster talent doesn’t transfer over to the coaching staff. Da-hee “Crusty” Park has plenty of experience coaching inexperienced (NC Foxes) teams. The original head coach, who was demoted back to assistant coach, is Jason “Shake” Kaplan. Shake spent his early playing days on Gale Force, Code 7, Complexity Gaming and eventually found his way to CLG.

It’s imperative that this coaching staff finds the right combination to make this all work. Shake and Crusty are both extremely capable of taking this team to another level this season.

Image via Boston Uprising

Boston Uprising Roster

Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-Jin; Tank
One of the more recognizable names and leaders on this roster. A former League of Legends player turned FPS-star, and is now the main-tank on Boston Uprising. Gamsu has spent the majority of his Overwatch career playing on the Korean team CONBOX Spirit, and moving back and forth from Apex Premiere to challengers because of relegation.

However, Gamsu was a brilliant choice for this new team. A player whose experience in the esports space dates back to an entirely different game. Gamsu will help new players transition into this league. He’s also valuable for his play style. He’s known to not take bad engagements and usually has a pretty low death total.

Kwam “Striker” Nam-Joo; DPS
The best hit scan player on the team, and similar to Gamsu, a recognizable and interesting player to watch heading into the season. The former ROX Orcas player will now have to help carry the Uprising franchise with his big play potential from Soldier:76 and McCree.

Stanislov “Mistake” Danilo; DPS
In a world of good Tracer mains, Mistake will have to step up and become a reliable back-line Tracer to compete. The Russian born player, and one of the more recognizable players on the team, will have to continue to play that disruptive Tracer style we’ve seen in the past. There’s a growing consensus that Mistake is much better than people realize. He’s a player to watch this season.

Kristian “Kellex” Keller; Support
In terms of production, it’s hard to say another player on this Uprising team has done more than Kellex. He’s consistently been one of the best Lucio’s in Europe. Despite not being on any successful Overwatch teams, Kellex has found a way to stick out among the crowd of good Lucios. He’s a name that could surprise some people in season one.

Shin “Kalios” Woo-yeol; Flex
Now here’s an interesting player, one that sat on RunAway’s bench for a season and played on Afreeca Freecs Blue for a season. Most likely the Uprising’s starting D.Va player, and could be used as a flex player with his variety of hero choices.

Joseph “DreamKazper” Sanchez; DPS
The third and final DPS-main and only player with a quality pocket Genji. DreamKazper is also one of the few American-born players in the OWL. He leaves Tempo Storm to (presumably) play a backup role to Mistake and Striker, but will be handy as a projectile player with Genji for certain matchups.

Park “Neko” Se-hyeon; Support
One of the few players to play in Apex, and the only player to experience the Apex playoffs. The upstart NC Foxes, who almost took the royal road to a title, lost 4-0 to a more experienced and talented Kongdoo Panthera team (London Spitfire). Neko on Support was a big reason for their success.

Mikias “Snow” Yohannes; Support
Enter one of the two Toronto Esports signings. Snow was a Support player for Toronto Esports, which was ran by the current Uprising president, Chris “HuK” Loranger, who is mostly responsible for bringing the support main over. Snow is undoubtedly a questionable roster decision, but he’s one of the few Uprising players with plenty of Mercy experience. He should slot in as a nice bench player.

Lucas “NotE” Messier; Flex
Similarly, NotE signed from the Toronto Esports organization. NotE will be behind Kalios as the team’s flex. It’s tough for NotE, having a smaller role on this team with the D.Va slot being filled. He’s one of the bubble players, and will have to work to get some recognition and an extension moving forward.

Connor “Avast” Prince; Support
Avast is a candidate to surprise some people in year one. His ability to stay alive and turn fights was a staple on the Luminosity Gaming Evil roster. For now, Avast will have to earn his roster spot as a Lucio main over Kellex.

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Featured image courtesy of Boston Uprising