I got the chance over the weekend to talk with Dan, or as most know him Paleo Praetor, about the recent departure of Ever from the organization. We wanted to give both sides to a rather sensitive story in the amateur/semi-pro scene, as many fans love the work done by both Ever and Paleo gaming. Dan adds some clarifying points to the discussion, alongside with some teasers of things to come with the Imperial esports league.
Dan explains a bit of the backstory too, much of which will be familiar to those who read my Ever piece. He had reached out to Ever upon Dark Wave Gaming’s closure, having liked the idea that had been run there of Fight Night. He saw potential in the current iteration, but also found room for improvement upon it. “There was a lot of avenues to create something great that weren’t being mined, [for it] to be its full potential.”
Fight Night worked as a kind of single elimination, tournament qualification weekly event. Dan commended this aspect, it was great exposure for lower teams with decent viewer turn out. But the promise of qualification, Dan felt, hampered the idea. By pairing the games with a promise for future events, it held the idea back from what it could be. A shift, which found its iteration in Rumble on the Rift (RoR), towards a weekly, single big event with Bo3 matches. Dan highlighted that the worry with the Fight Night format is that Amateur teams come and go quite often, and it wasn’t a for sure thing whether the same team that qualified would be available for a tournament in months to come.
Paleo Gaming brought Ever on with the promise to not micro manage him, unlike other offers he had received. He would take the reins largely, and the only request made was that things were brought by Dan first, that he was consulted on things prior to them being given the green light. “We gave him a large degree of freedom in setting up the event. He did a fantastic job.” In a lot of ways Dan pointed that, rather than Ever not being offered help, it seemed more that Ever would rather do it himself, that, “He was concerned other people would dilute [his] vision [for RoR.]” It adds another dimension to that discussion. Dan put it pointedly that, “People shouldn’t confuse Ever’s effort with it not being a Paleo Gaming event.”
It was a hard situation for both parties to be in, it seems. On Ever’s side it was a lot of work and he felt alone in it, but from Paleo’s side, too, they didn’t want to push him into being micro managed or have people interfere with his ideas. Dan said on it particularly that, “Because of how well he was running the event, I didn’t push harder for him to hand over certain responsibilities. Maybe I should have, because then he wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed, but I assumed if he needed more support, he would ask for it.”
Fast forward to May, and RoR has already become a staple of the semi pro League of Legends scene. Ever pushes to move the weekly format into an LCS style event, including all the glitz and glamour that comes with that. Dan said he was cautious at first about the prospect, citing concerns about having the proper staff and architecture to do the event properly, if at all. Not to mention attempting, then, to compete with other, established leagues. It was that discussion that eventually lead to the outright acquisition of Imperial esports by Paleo, essentially gaining the aforementioned architecture for an LCS style event.
Dan addressed some of Ever’s leaving remarks as well in our talk. He mentioned that Ever was a leader of the Rumble on the Rift team, but also stressed that Ever was not the sole party involved. While it was definitely the case that Ever took the project onto himself and ran with it, putting in a massive amount of work to make it what it was, Dan feels that the depiction that Ever was alone in this process isn’t quite accurate. The two talked much of improvements, and while Dan tried to get people to help out with specific things, Ever was very particular at times with how things were to be done, often time taking them on himself rather than delegating the work.
Dan also felt completely surprised by the article. Up until Ever’s departure, it had seemed the two were on the same page with the event. He offered Ever the position of Broadcasting Director, hoping to have Ever come on not so much as manager-style of the broadcasting, but of setting the standards to be upheld for the tournament. Ever, Dan continued, seemed on board throughout the conversation. Ever approached Dan later saying he needed to step away from esports to have more personal time to spend with family and friends.
It seemed a theme throughout our talks that Dan was taken aback by a lot of the frustrations that Ever expressed. He seemed understanding of them, understanding that real life takes precedence over this, and that burn out can be a real factor. It just seemed that Dan wasn’t aware that there was any frustrations. He said that, “[I] just want an understanding that I was not imposing things on Ever, but that we were on the same page the whole time.”
Another point stressed was the kind of mutual agreement the two had. Dan felt that Ever worked and made Rumble a great success, but also felt that without Paleo and his opinions and acting as a medium it wouldn’t have been what it was. “Paleo gaming was better for having him on as a staff. I learned a lot from Ever, but he also learned from me.” Dan went on further describing the relationship between him and Ever to be quite close. “I consider Ever a close personal friend, who actually came up from Texas to spend time with the Paleo crew and stayed in my home. He is basically family. I think he is immensely talented and knowledgeable about the industry, and business in general. I am grateful for the time he spent here at Paleo, and I wish him nothing but success. I honestly hope we can collaborate in the future, because I think we make a rather formidable team.”
There also was a bit of a misunderstanding with the statement that this new league would undo all that Ever had done. While it was true that, originally, the teams already involved with Rumble were going to be given the chance to have higher seeding within the new league format game, Dan stated that, rather than undoing this work, he felt that it was fairer process to have an open qualifier, not giving any preferential treatment to any party involved. In short, “Our big issue was preserving the integrity of Imperial esports. They didn’t show favouritism. We want to show people we are committed to fairness to the scene, [and] the qualifiers were a way to do that.” He laughs and remarked, too, that this was shown that not all of the Paleo teams attempting to qualify made it in even, with only Paleo Tundra qualifying with a team kill. Paleo Green and Paleo Pride were left on the outside of the league.
Dan also stressed that this didn’t mean the end of what the Paleo-Imperial acquisition promised for the future of the semi pro scene. The sudden loss of Ever was a hit, but with a reorganizing of the team involved, Dan is confident that they can carry on with the original plans. Season 3 of Imperial will be ‘business as usual,’ with some minor improvements. It’s in Season 4 that Dan has set his sights on for major improvements. He hopes to surpass Rumble’s high quality streams by then.
Our conversation wrapped up in quite a philosophical fashion. Anyone familiar with the semi pro scene in League knows that Paleo gaming, and many other organizations I’ve spoken with, prefer collaboration to cold competition. Dan has a saying, “If we bring everyone to the table, everyone gets to eat.” He invited organizations, whether established leagues/tournaments or new fledgling ones, to reach out to the community. This is how Dan sees the amateur scene staying relevant in the overall ecosystem of League esports.