Lets Talk About Optics: 2GG Shouldn’t Be “Blamed”

ibp

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good excuse to do one of these. Smash usually gives me lots of opportunities to discuss marketing and PR concepts, but lately the drama’s been relegated to stuff I don’t particularly care about. I still don’t really care about the thing most people are mad about in this instance, but I think there’s an important distinction to be made regarding 2GG, IBuyPower, and every facet of this specific situation.

Real quick, let me be clear: I have been overly critical of 2GG in the past. I also feel like I have been appropriately critical at times. However, in this specific instance with this particular event, 2GG is not at fault for like 98% of the things people are mad about. One of which I’ll rant about in a second. If you’re here looking for me to stir up a witch hunt against 2GG, that’s not this. So, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page, and then we’ll dive in.

Weekend at the Masters

So IBuyPower is a big sponsor in esports. They have their hands in most games, even directly sponsoring teams across games like League of Legends and Rocket League at various times. For three years running, they’ve hosted a CS:GO tournament called IBP Masters. This year, they’ve decided to expand the event to include a Smash 4 tournament with a $10,000 prize pool. IBP reached out to 2GG to help run the Smash side of the event.

Essentially, 2GG took a contract to assist with an event, just like what VGBC does when they stream an event, or when an organization like Great Value Smash travels out of their local area to assist with running a larger event. IBP didn’t have the infrastructure to effectively run a Smash 4 tournament, so they reached out to the local experts. 2GG have proven their ability to partner with big companies and to host exceptional tournaments, so the partnership makes perfect sense.

People Mad on the Internet?  Surely Not!

So, unsurprisingly, when the announcement came down from 2GG about the event, Twitter sort of exploded for a minute. There were two sides to the anger, and we’ll address each in turn.

Like many, I immediately lashed out because here was yet another tournament announced late with massive stakes. However, by all accounts 2GG was approached late in September to run this event. Likely they were told by IBP not to announce until now. In a twitlonger, Champ detailed the philosophy behind the event which makes the timeline more reasonable. We’re going to come back to this, but for now the people who are leaping to 2GG’s defense are completely in the right. IBP likely did not understand how impactful a $10k prizepool would be for Smash 4 since they are used to working in the much more lucrative world of Counter Strike. This is meant to just be a fun little side event, a chance for the company to dip their toe into Smash. It is not 2GG’s fault that IBuyPower approached them late, and wasn’t ready to announce the event until now.

The other part of the anger is something so dumb, it needs it’s own header so I can rant about it.

Big Events Stepping on Little Events

Holy cow am I fed up with this. Whenever a big event gets announced, someone complains about how it is hurting the smaller regional events somewhere in the country. It isn’t really even an issue of timing. When Panda Global announced Too Hot To Handle, half the comments were about other events that weekend which were being “ruined” because a bigger organization announced an event.

I’m sure that I’m in the minority here, but I truly think this needs to be said. Competition is a good thing. It forces innovation, demands that even small events run more smoothly, advertise more effectively, and offer more to attendees. The quality of every event is forced to increase. Stay relevant, or get left behind.

“But Trent,” you say, “most regional TOs can’t possibly compete with a $10k prize pool.” You’re absolutely right about that. However, they don’t have to. As my dear friend Suar is fond of saying, prize pools don’t do a thing for attendance. Just look at the numbers for GTX versus Smash Con. Look at the 2GGC events that had weaker themes. The average Smasher is never going to see a pot bonus, so it doesn’t inform their decision to attend an event. I’ve made every argument to the contrary in the past, but the data is just too consistent to ignore. Yes, a couple of top players may decide to attend the IBP event instead of your little regional, but that is not going to affect your bottom line at all. If you have poor numbers at an east coast event, you cannot blame 2GG for it–you need to run a better event and attract more local smashers. If you’re one of the people complaining about how 2GG is hurting another event, stop it. Instead, promote the other event. Focus on appealing to the demographics that can’t be touched by an event in another region. Adapt, improve, grow.

So What is 2GG’s Fault?

In this instance, 2GG really hasn’t done anything wrong to deserve the level of rage thrown at them yesterday. I freely admit that even my own posts were an emotional overreaction. However, I think this is a fantastic opportunity to discuss the concept of optics, and how 2GG could have potentially avoided yesterday’s reaction.

We’ve talked plenty on this blog about 2GG as an organization. They are a phenomenal tournament organizer, but consistently throughout this year there has been an issue with communication. Several sagas had their themes announced mere weeks before the event. An entire event had to be cancelled due to poor communication and timing. So, at this point, 2GG has a history of not communicating details effectively, and announcing events late.

When we’re talking about optics, another way to think about it is “perception”. You’ve likely heard the phrase “perception is reality”. In marketing, the facts of a situation are not the only thing we have to consider. We have to take into account how a situation looks. If your optics are bad, you cannot blame the consumers for getting upset.

Optics Hit Us All

So we’re not just focusing on 2GG, let’s look at a way I screwed up my own optics in the past. Early this year, I wrote an article arguing the case for a Smash 4 Summit-style event. I wanted to combat the notion that Smash 4 players had no personality, and to do so I attacked the big names in Melee. The point I attempted to make was that people were over-valuing the personalities in Melee, and that they weren’t any better or more interesting than the big names in Smash 4.  Then, in the comments of that article’s Reddit thread, I made an inaccurate statement about Mango. If you were a Melee player who’d never read any of my articles before, the optics of that situation are really bad for me. I attacked the gods to try and defend Smash 4, and said something wrong about Melee history. With only those two points of data, it would be entirely reasonable to draw the conclusion that I’m just a Smash 4 fanboy who hates Melee and doesn’t know anything about the scene. I’ve written multiple articles in a specific effort to repair that image, but the damage is done. To many, I will always be that guy who hates Melee and doesn’t know anything about Mango.

Customer-Perception

People can only draw conclusions based on the information they have. Now, there is enough information available that, if someone looked into it, they should be able to reasonably conclude that I’m not just some idiot who hates Melee. However, when their only two pieces of data were something wrong and something negative, that conclusion was entirely reasonable. By the same token, while 2GG did nothing wrong by taking this contract with IBuyPower, they did not properly account for the optics of the situation.

Let’s look at the original announcement by 2GG for IBP Masters. This post looks identical to their saga announcements and partnership posts. Even in the video there’s a screen that says “2GG and IBP present”. If you aren’t familiar with the CS:GO event, it is entirely reasonable to draw the conclusion that 2GG went out, got IBP as a sponsor, and chose to run another event in November, further over-saturating the month. Combining this with their history of late announcements, it was also entirely reasonable for top players to be upset that another event with massive stakes was announced so late.

I said before that I overreacted yesterday on Twitter along with everyone else. Based on the facts and reality of the situation, our anger yesterday was unfounded. However, yesterday when the announcement was made, we had only that announcement and a pattern of behavior on which we could base our reactions. Had 2GG anticipated the reaction, had they considered the optics, they could have limited the negative response.

Optics are incredibly important to consider, especially as TOs start to take these contracts with non-endemic sponsors. Companies like IBP don’t have the pulse of the Smash community. They won’t know how things will be perceived, they can’t anticipate reactions. As members of the community, it’s our job to educate these sponsors on the behaviors and expectations of the community. To a company that runs League of Legends tournaments, a $25k pot bonus would be a pittance. It would be the responsibility of Bear, Vayseth, Champ, or whoever was contracted to run that event, to explain how that pot bonus would impact the community. It’s our job to consider how every announcement, advertisement, and action will be perceived and to adjust accordingly.

Smash is growing fast. The days of grassroots events are essentially gone. Even legacy tournaments like Big House and Genesis have been corporatized. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The more we continue to grow and adapt to how the scene evolves, the better it will be for everyone involved. Effective growth means more money. More money means better tournaments, stability for pro players, possible income for streamers and TOs, reduced risk for experimentation and innovation. Embrace the new era of Smash, it’s going to continue whether you want it to or not. As a fan or a player, keep fighting for quality at every level. Support your local and regional scene, but don’t bailout something that isn’t working. As TOs and community leaders, become educated about the new era. Learn how to optimize social media, read books about marketing and volunteer coordination. Get your finances in order. Search out contracts and better sponsors. There is so much more opportunity out there. All we have to do is earn it.


Related Articles

Interview with TSM | ZeRo: Selling Personal Merch

Resource Allocation: How to Handle the Problems with Pot Bonuses

How To Manage Volunteers–A Resource for TOs and Community Leaders

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I Will Now Rant About the HOTS Draft Lobby From a Spectator Perspective for 914 Words

So, today will be a bit of a departure from our regularly scheduled programming. Normally I try to be educational, to impart some sort of insight or wisdom into the world of esports. Instead, I just kinda want to vent a frustration today.

Heroes is easily my favorite team-based esport at this point. The intricacies of draft and map preparation, emphasis on teamwork, and reduced game-length make it  a really great spectator experience in almost every aspect. The exception, for me, is the draft lobby. I despise the current HOTS draft screen.

Now, let me be clear–I have very little issue with it from a gameplay perspective. I like having the 3D models, seeing what skins people will use is cool for potential coordination, it’s all great. However, that experience does not translate well to a good spectator experience. Let’s take a look at what we’re talking about.

draft

Take a quick glance at the image–can you even see Tyrael? HOTS purple, cosmic aesthetic is super cool and consistent in-game, but when you’re gearing up for an HGC match it just ends up looking dark, like someone screwed with the brightness on your monitor. This is a huge problem when I’m trying to watch matches on my phone. It’s utterly impossible on mobile to see the hero names. If you’ve got a couple of the angels, or some particularly unique skins, there are times where I pull up a game halfway through the draft and literally don’t know who’s been picked.

Skins are another huge problem I have with the lobby. Overall, Blizzard has done a great job keeping the silhouette of each hero consistent across their various skins. However, when all you’ve got is a little window with the face, that consistency starts to fade. Let’s say someone checks out a game after not playing or watching for a few months. Are you 100% confident they’d be able to tell the difference between every single Muradin and Falstad skin? Can a new player really tell for certain whether a team picked Auriel, or has a bright tint for Malthael?

Staying on skins for a moment, they can be really distracting. When a team locks in a hero, the big 3D model pops up, which is cool, but then the player will cycle rapidly through a bunch of skins. I know this is a really shallow nitpick, but when you’re trying to listen to analysis or think about how the rest of the draft will go, it’s a pointless bit of fluff.

I want my draft lobby to scream esports. I want it to look professional, consistent, and clear. Beyond all that, it should provide more content! So much of the space in the HOTS draft lobby is taken up by useless fluff. Look at how Smite presents the draft during esports events.

smite draft

Look at how clean and uniform it is! The heroes pop out, everything is clearly visible, and they use the hero splash art, meaning that it’s consistent. Even on a little mobile screen, you’ll always see the same image for Odin. There’s room front and center for interesting content. Go sit and watch an HGC draft with the sound off. How quickly do you get bored? You’ve got Gilly and Dread in a tiny window at the bottom, and literally nothing happening on screen as a team decides their pick. In this Smite screen, you can see that they show statistics as each hero is selected. It’s not a crazy amount, but it gives you something else to look at. Further, if someone is watching with the sound off, they know if this is a common pick or something unique.

Smite, Paladins, League of Legends–all these games have in-game draft lobbies and have since their early beta. However, none of these games use the in-game lobby for their esports presentation. Instead, they prioritize the spectator experience and offer something that makes the draft a more pleasant viewing experience.

I remember the awkward days of having to draft for HOTS matches with awkward browser clients. I’m beyond thrilled that we have an in-game draft lobby for custom games and tournament scenarios. It’s far better for the players and tournament organizers. However, that does not mean the same perspective is ideal for people watching at home. HOTS has the shortest game-length of any MOBA. There have literally been games where the draft was as long as the actual match. The draft should be interesting to watch. It should be visually distinct, filled with information, and not require the viewer to work to figure out what heroes have been picked.

Maybe I’m the only one who has that problem, but even so, I think so much more can be done with the presentation of the draft. With any luck, the team has something special in store for Blizzcon to level up the viewer experience. Having followed the scene since beta, it really is remarkable how far we’ve come. The production value for events is consistently top tier. We get awesome supplementary content like the Heroes of the Dorm doc, and the making of Kel’Thuzad stuff. As shown by the reversal of the Junkrat decision, the esports crew listens actively to the community. However, I’m never going to be satisfied with Heroes as an esport. I think there is always more we can do, and to me it is past time to really focus on the at-home spectator experience, starting with a revamp of the draft lobby.

How Pros Prepare: Junkrat Edition ft. Tempo|Kala and Dark Sided|Moops

HeroesoftheStorm-Junkrat-Abilities

This should have been a pretty quiet week for Heroes esports. All the teams are locked in for Blizzcon, and the Cruicible wrapped up last weekend. Teams are preparing to head to their boot camps, and those left at home haven’t yet begun this season’s Rosterpocalypse. What should have been a boring week where I focused my blog on Smash Bros. or something suddenly wasn’t thanks to one little tweet from the official Heroes Esports account. The tweet stated that not only would the Blizzcon finals be played on the upcoming Junkrat patch, but that the brand new hero would be allowed throughout Blizzcon. The patch would be released a mere 9 days before the event, breaking the standard 2-week ban on new heroes.

Naturally, the pros and many in the community expressed their displeasure with this decision. Thanks to that feedback, Blizzard reversed their decision and announced that Junkrat would be banned at Blizzcon, though the matches would still be played on the new patch. This wouldn’t normally be blog-worthy. Blizzard responded to feedback from concerned parties, and reversed a decision in less than 24 hours. That should be applauded, and then we should move on. However, I took a look through the various Heroes social platforms to read the comments made about the situation by the community.  I saw an overwhelming number of ignorant statements about competitive integrity, player preparation, and the like. It struck me that many in the community don’t really understand the impact of something like a new hero being added to the rotation before a big tournament.

In an effort to elevate understanding, I have two wonderful folks helping me out: Kala, coach of Tempo Storm, and one of ANZ’s Blizzcon representatives, Dark Sided’s own Moops. Let’s get into it!

If It’s Fair, It’s OK

This was a sentiment I saw expressed again and again. Junkrat is enabled for everyone, so all teams have the same ability to learn the hero and adapt to the new meta. We’ll talk about the problems with that line of thinking in a second, but first I want to make it clear that this idea is just patently untrue. Teams in the major regions have tournament servers and a fairly active PTR on which to start digging into a new hero. They can start exploring Junkrat’s talent builds and learning how his kit functions today. The wildcard team from ANZ has no such opportunity.

“Since we don’t have a tournament server or ANZ PTR servers (probably due to the lack of player base), we have always had to play on the live patch for HGC games,” Moops explained. “At times, patches or bugs resulting in banning heroes have occurred days before a tournament (we were unable to play falstad in the ANZ Finals).” He went on to say that the team would basically be unable to touch the hero until he hit the live servers “other than studying and theorizing with patch notes.” If Junkrat were to become a meta-defining hero at the event, ANZ would automatically be less experienced with him. It would affect the way they had to draft against every other team.

Wildcard teams already have a significant disadvantage at international events due to an inferior practice pool. By adding a new hero so close to the event, you put them yet another step behind. If your only argument for adding Junkrat is that all the teams can just adapt, you’re effectively saying you don’t care if the Wildcard teams start the tournament with equal preparations.

What Makes a World Champion?

c9 win

I personally take greater issue with this line of thinking because it directly undermines what I love about big international events. For HGC teams, the whole year is a road leading to Blizzcon. Every match, every scrim, every bit of theorycrafting is an effort to move players and teams closer to this one goal. Qualifying for the event means you can be counted among the elite in this game. At Blizzcon, we’re witnessing the peak of Heroes of the Storm play as the best teams in the world go head to head. When the event ends, I want the World Champion to be the team who objectively played the video game better than every other team. A world championship should reward the team that has best evolved over the whole year, not the team who adapted best to the most recent patch.

Tempo Storm’s Kala echoed my sentiment. “Any new addition to a game can vastly change the meta, and the tournament at that point becomes ‘who can adapt to the meta quickest’, which in itself is a fun idea, but it’s certainly not an accurate representation of who is the strongest team internationally at that point, which is what Blizzcon should be trying to do.”

Think of it this way: let’s say that a new expansion came out one week before the World Championship for Hearthstone. Over 100 cards are suddenly added to the pool. No one would argue that it’s very cool to see new stuff played in tournaments. In Hearthstone, the first tournament after a new expansion release is often the most exciting. However, the winner of that first tournament is rarely the player in contention for the championship at the end of the year.

This is because the two events reward entirely different skillsets. It can take months for the Hearthstone pro community to fully explore a new expansion and optimize decks. The tournament just after an expansion release doesn’t reward the most skilled player, it rewards the player who found the best deck the fastest. Winning a Hearthstone championship takes a wide range of skills. It requires an ability to read the tournament meta, to prepare the right deck lineup, to select the right tech cards, and to learn every potential matchup fully. A tournament so close to release can be won just because you’re the only guy who figured out N’Zoth Paladin was a thing. That’s a cool story, but is it really worthy of being called a World Champion?

Players Should Just Work Harder

Hoo boy. I’ve been in a lot of esports communities, but the Heroes community really has a lot of these flawed notions. Over and over I saw comments to the effect of “you have plenty of time to learn Junkrat, just put in the effort.” Kala had an opinion on that line of thinking.

“The point in preparing for a tournament isn’t and should never be about learning a brand new Hero and trying to incorporate him into the meta. There’s already enough work involved when it comes to going up against international teams. You need to learn their playstyles and tendencies, and during group stages/scrims a brand new tournament meta starts to evolve, which you need to be able to stay on top of in order to succeed.”

International events are a completely different beast when it comes to preparation. During the regular season, you’re scrimming teams every week and then playing against them on the weekend. The meta evolves and becomes optimized, but it doesn’t radically change outside of patches. Going into an international finals, you suddenly have to learn a bunch of completely diverse meta games. Hero priority in Korea is completely different from ANZ, which is again a unique beast when compared to EU. Hop on Twitter real quick and ask Gillyweed how many hours of video she watches just to be able to commentate an international event. Now imagine doing that preparation with thousands of dollars on the line.

In addition to opposition research, teams still have a ton of their own flaws to work out. Teams like Roll20 and Fnatic were largely unchallenged in their region, but that doesn’t at all mean that they’re playing at their peak. Going back and examining their own VODs, their analysts can identify areas for improvement and theorize new team compositions. The teams who weren’t in first already know what they need to work on, and have that much more work to do just to catch up to the best team in their region. Players need to work on individual performance issues in solo queue, and teams need to optimize their draft and map play through constant scrims.

Piling on, teams are losing entire days of practice to travel. Fnatic are off to Korea for a boot camp, which means a lost day of practice flying out, and at least one useless day travelling to California.

So, teams are already spending hours every day studying their opponents, working on personal improvement, theorycrafting, and just getting from place to place. Now they need to add a new hero into that mix? I think the average player may not understand just how much work goes into preparing a new hero for professional-level competition. Fortunately, Moops helped break it down.

“When learning a hero to a proficiency acceptable at competitive play, it takes a lot more than hitting level 5. There’s generally 3 steps to learning each hero.

1. Understanding the basics of the hero – usually done in the first 5 games when getting the hero to level 5 in QM.

2. Learning the in’s and out’s of a specific hero in HL. This includes best/worst maps and matchups. Step 2 probably takes the lengthiest amount of time as you really just need to grind the hero and there’s always more to learn.

3. Syncing up with the team. Learning how best to utilize the hero with the team is the final step. This needs to be done in scrims as while the player might understand the ins and outs of the hero already, the rest of the team members need to know how to play around them.”

Again, looking at our previous points, adding Junkrat to the meta would have rewarded the teams who can get through steps one and two the fastest, and put everyone else a step behind.


Ultimately, I empathize with anyone who was disappointed when Junkrat was removed from the Blizzcon pool. I listen to most of Garrett Weinzierl’s podcasts. I’ve heard your side explained in great detail. It’s natural to want to see the newest stuff, it’s really cool to see teams adapt, and watch the game evolve right before your eyes. Your viewpoint is entirely valid.

However, I want you to take a moment and try to put yourself in the shoes of a professional player who qualified for Blizzcon. There is so much on the line at this event. You’re playing for regional pride, for life-changing money, for the right to be called a World Champion. The winner of this event is immortalized in HGC history. The losers are almost guaranteed to make roster changes–you’re playing for your job and your team’s stability. As a player, you want to arrive at the Blizzcon stage ready to show the world the result of your hard work and preparation. To say that teams should instead just have to adapt to new situations really undermines and de-values all the hard work these players are putting in preparing for the event.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to see Junkrat be played. Heck, I’m hoping we see new drafts, cheese strats, and a surprising tournament meta. I love new stuff, and I love watching pro players learn on the fly. However, I also really enjoy watching the game I love played at its peak. You can’t have it both ways. There are lots of opportunities in esports for wackiness, novelty, and rewarding adaptation. In my humble opinion, the international Grand Finals should not be that place.


I want to say a final thank you to Kala and Moops for taking the time to chat with me. Go say something nice to them. I’m also going to start linking some past articles at the bottom of each new article since that worked so well during the Roll20 interview series. Plus, when you click more links on my site, my value as a person increases!

Heroes

Zoia Got It Wrong: Why HGC Teams Need a Gaming House

Smash

Interview with TSM|ZeRo: Selling Personal Merch

Embarrasingly nerdy fan-fiction

Decisive Action: A Fan-made Ranno Origin Story

Roll20 Esports Interview Series: The Boss

Heroes of the Storm, like all esports, has a unique equalizing effect. Pro players have access to the exact same characters and in-game tools as anyone. To the untrained eye, a Varian, Chromie, or Medivh looks exactly the same in a quick match as they do on the Blizzcon stage. That said, what makes the HGC truly special is the group of hard-working, passionate gamers fighting for the right to keep pursuing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at the men on the other side of the screen. It’s time for you to really get to know the Roll20 Esports Heroes of the Storm team. Check out previous interviews at the end of this article.


Last week we finished up the last of the last of our player interviews. Today, we’ll be continuing the series by talking to one of the founders of Roll20, and the face of the company in the Heroes community. Nolan T. Jones and I had a chat about the origins of Roll20 as a company, the founders’ affinity for Blizzard games, and the esports org’s goals at Blizzcon. To change things up, we did today’s article as more of a Q&A session rather than a standard profile. Let me know how you feel about the change in format in this week’s Reddit thread or on Twitter. Now, on to the interview!

roll20-logo

Can you tell us a bit about your history in gaming?

Nolan: Personally, I’ve been playing games as long as I can remember. My parents had an original Nintendo Entertainment System, and I started there. Played computer games since they installed via floppy disk. My partners in Roll20, Richard Zayas and Riley Dutton, are also both lifetime players, and my earliest memories with both of them include video games. Fun story: Riley initially was wary of Richard because on my recommendation Riley loaned Richard a copy of the original Fable, and Richard took a little too long to return it.

In a twist that would surprise a great many Roll20 users, we really didn’t start playing tabletop games until college.

How did you get involved with Roll20.net?

Nolan: Two years after college I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and Richard to the Washington DC area– both of us following our spouses’ careers– while Riley stayed in Kansas where we had all gone to school. Fast forward a few years later and all three of us were losing touch. I started playing some D&D with a local group and wished I had a way to do it online with my other friends. Riley had a pretty elegant solution to gameplay in-browser, and I thought we could launch it via Kickstarter. Our 2012 Kickstarter was successful far beyond our initial ask, and from that point on the three of us worked together to build the company into what it is today.

Image uploaded from iOS

L to R: Richard Zayas, Riley Dutton, and Nolan T. Jones at the opening of the opening of the Roll20 Esports Lounge on August 31, 2017 in the Student Union at the University of Kansas. The Union asked Roll20 to help establish the space before Roll20 had even moved into esports.

In a fun note for Blizzard fans, our actual company name is The Orr Group, LLC., named after our World of WarCraft guild, the <House of Orr>. Much love to oldschool Andorhal.

What is your role within the company?

Nolan: Initially I did a lot of community management and branding, while Riley did all of the programming, and Richard handled the finances and intangibles (and a head’s up to anyone starting a new business– there are a LOT of intangibles).

As of this year, Riley and Richard have stepped back from the day-to-day of Roll20, but I’m the Managing Partner of the company. I would say my biggest contributions to the platform currently are finding new hires and guiding expansion.

Who’s your favorite hero in Heroes of the Storm?

Nolan: ETC by a hair (with Tyrande a close second). Tanking is probably the role I’m best at, and ETC was the first character that helped me understand positioning in the game.

Why was Heroes of the Storm the launching point for Roll20 Esports?

Nolan: It’s a game the three of us know, understand, love, and wanted to share with our company employees and community-at-large. When Heroes of the Storm first launched, I had sworn that I was done with Blizzard games (burnt out from the WoW cross-server swap in the middle of a Grand Marshall grind and high-tier arena play, and disappointed-beyond-reason that the story of StarCraft II was not Raynor out for revenge against Kerrigan for killing Fenix). Richard convinced me to give it a shot, and I’ve become the biggest fan of the game– closing in on 4,000 matches played.

As I’ll say to anyone who listens, I think Dustin Browder’s original inspirations coming out of basketball coaching legend John Wooden’s book “On Leadership” really set Heroes apart from other team games. It was because of that team-based emphasis that I felt this could be an esport that properly represented the camaraderie of the Roll20 roleplaying community in a competitive environment.

 

What made Team 8 the right team to partner with to start Roll20 Esports?

Nolan: They were continuously underestimated, and I liked that about them from the start. What really made them THE team for us was that they were holding out to get properly compensated by a sponsor. That’s a core Roll20 business belief; as creators of a platform and content, we think payment is important, and knowing that this team was aware that they had worth was appealing. Particularly as Blizzard had done so much this year to help put money into the scene with the HGC format, it seemed like the right time to step in and be a part of that process.

So to other teams still looking for an organization, you’d say it’s important to understand your own value?

Nolan: Absolutely. Don’t over-estimate it, but negotiate a value, and then expect your organization to follow through. This situation coming to light in regards to Playing Ducks is disgusting; the fact that the players aren’t being paid is sadly not completely abnormal– which is why players may need unions and the like going forward to help quickly expose organizations looking to take advantage of their playing rosters.

What is your favorite part about owning an esports team?

Nolan: I enjoy supporting the overall community, honestly. I probably take it too seriously for as corny a concept as it is, but I like the idea that I’m helping to contribute joy to players and viewers. Roll20 is a gaming company, and I really believe that means we are supposed to be having some fun.

I’ll also say that the Roll20® in-game stuff still blows me away– that’s a logo made by a good friend of mine that represents a thing I made with two of my best friends and came to represent a whole fantastic community full of folks… and now it’s in the crossover mash-up of these Blizzard games that my friends and I have loved for decades.

 

 

 

 

What does it mean to you to have your team headed to a world championship in its first year of existence?

Nolan: I would have honestly felt that this roster underachieved if we weren’t going to BlizzCon in one of the automatic North America spots. These guys are very talented; when they lose, it is often because they collapse on themselves.

The bigger question is how we can capitalize on this opportunity. Can this roster clean up and elevate their play to its max, and how far does that take us?

Would you say that your goal for the team this year is to win BlizzCon?

Nolan: To give a very honest-but-John-Wooden answer, my goal is for us to play our best. There’s a degree to which I’d be disappointed with winning the whole damn thing if the other great teams sputter and our play is sloppy. What I want is for all five guys to be able to look at their performance at the end of the week and know they did their best to prepare, and then played to the best of their ability. I’ve won and lost a lot of very competitive basketball games over the years, and the result is not what matters the most to me– it’s always the feeling that my teammates and I pushed ourselves to our limits.

Any sidebets planned at BlizzCon with the owners of other teams?

Nolan: I’ve only gotten to talk briefly with two other sponsors in HGC. As such, I’m really just excited to meet folks from some of the other organizations and make relationships.

What should Heroes of the Storm fans know about the Roll20 app if they’re interested in checking it out?

Nolan: Roll20.net is the number one way to play tabletop games online and if you, like me, grew up with computer roleplaying games, let me tell you that tabletop roleplaying games allow a whole new level of freedom that you will cherish. If you’ve ever been frustrated that your imagination seemed trapped by the limitations of a game’s programming– that the dialogue options didn’t have what you wanted to say, or you couldn’t go beyond a certain wall– then you will really, really enjoy what games like Dungeons & Dragons have to offer.

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What’s your favorite class in D&D and why (bonus nerd points for specific edition)?

Nolan: I’m frequently a rogue. My favorite character I’ve ever played was a 4th Edition D&D Dragonborn brawny rogue.

Since you mentioned it (and personally 4th is my favorite edition, Warlord for life) I’ll ask: what’s your take on 4th edition as compared to the other editions of DnD?

Nolan: I think that 4th Edition is a great introduction for people who are coming from video games– Final Fantasy, World of WarCraft— where min-maxing and tactical planning are key. I personally adore it, and hope that it will eventually have the same sort of “Open Gaming” licensing permissions we’ve seen for 3rd and 5th editions.

Is there a specific game or edition you’d recommend to newer tabletop gamers investigating the platform?

Nolan: There is not, because there are so many different games that supply so many different experiences. My advice is to not end up paralyzed by trying to decide what game to try first, but instead simply try and find a group of people that seem like fun and play! Then you can start to refine what parts of tabletop are most appealing to you in the long run.

Anything else you’d like to say to your team’s fans?

Nolan: Thank you. For the outpouring of social media support, the Twitch bits cheering / in-game-item-repping, your excitement about jersey, and onward.

This process of introducing and intermingling fans-of-a-roleplaying-platform and fans-of-an-esports-team has been overall really gratifying. If I might, though, make an ask of our venn diagram of a following: help each other out. Let’s make certain as the Roll20 community expands that we remain known as the folks who will help bring more people into their hobbies and make more friends along the way.


Thank you so much to Nolan for taking the time for this interview, and to Roll20 for the opportunity to chat with these awesome players. As we roll on towards Blizzcon, stay tuned for more HOTS coverage and Roll20 content!

Want to show your support for Roll20? Head to the R2E shop and pickup an official Roll20 Esports jersey! 

 

Check out our previous interviews:

Prismaticism

Buds

Justing

Goku

Glaurung

Roll20 Esports Interview Series: Glaurung

Heroes of the Storm, like all esports, has a unique equalizing effect. Pro players have access to the exact same characters and in-game tools as anyone. To the untrained eye, a Varian, Chromie, or Medivh looks exactly the same in a quick match as they do on the Blizzcon stage. That said, what makes the HGC truly special is the group of hard-working, passionate gamers fighting for the right to keep pursuing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at the men on the other side of the screen. It’s time for you to really get to know the Roll20 Esports Heroes of the Storm team. Check out previous interviews at the end of this article.


 

We’ve arrived at the final player interview in our series. Don’t worry though, we have more Roll20 content coming down the pipeline! Today, it’s time for the captain to share his thoughts. Glaurung has been interviewed and discussed more than any other member of the team, so I’ve attempted to give you something new, a slightly different perspective on Roll20’s most tenured pro.

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Focus and Pursuit

Glau’s history in competitive HOTS has been well-documented.  Prior to Heroes, he had never really pursued a competitive career. He explained that while he had always enjoyed competition and loved gaming, throughout most of his life the focus had remained on school. “I was studying physics and computer science,” said Glaurung. However, as esports rose in popularity, the career of a professional gamer started to sound much more appealing. Eventually, he left his studies behind to focus completely on becoming a pro player in Heroes of the Storm. At this point, Glau admitted that he has no clue what his life would be like if his pursuit of this dream had not worked out.

Screenshot2017-08-16 20_17_19

Initially, qualifying for the HGC wasn’t really about becoming a champion. “I wasn’t too happy about my last team’s performance at Blizzcon,” he explained. Rather than sign with an established team guaranteed to lock in an HGC slot, Glau instead chose to join Chu8 in building a team focused on having fun, and not taking the pro scene too seriously. Once the team qualified, however, the call to compete proved too strong. “Qualifying for HGC made the previous years’ worth of time investment worth it.” The rest, of course, is history. The team shattered all expectations, and is now the North American first seed as Glaurung returns to the Blizzcon stage once again.

Transitions

When Roll20 made its first roster change, many analysts were concerned how the addition of Goku would affect the team captain’s play. The two share similar hero pools, and some suggested that there might be struggles over who gets to play trademark heroes like Zeratul. “It took time to adjust, but we’ve been able to make it work,” said Glaurung. Focusing Goku as the team’s offlane specialist has provided much-needed clarity in their gameplay and draft strategy.

The draft was another key piece of the new roster’s success. Originially, Glaurung had been the team’s primary shotcaller as well as the lead drafter. Now, he has taken a back seat in the draft, with Justing taking the lead and others providing support. “It allows me to focus more on shotcalling.

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Glaurung’s prowess as a shotcaller has been lauded by plenty of outlets (myself included). He mentioned that “this team dynamic is good for me as a shotcaller. Everyone is really good at feeding relevant information as well as navigating through small side skirmishes.”

Friendship and Free Time

Although most of his time is spent practicing and preparing, Glau has a personal passion that he stays committed to during the season. “I love to rock climb,” he said. “There’s a rock climbing gym near my house that I go to multiple times a week.”

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In our interview with Buds, I had jokingly asked how the team might fare in a zombie apocalypse. Buds was quick to call out Glaurung specifically as the team member who would doom the rest of the group. “I would probably get bitten and end up biting everyone else to convert them,” Glaurung admitted. However, he did say that his reasons for doing so would extend beyond a mere hunger for brains. “Being a zombie is probably pretty lonely. That said, ever the captain looking out for his team, Glaurung did mention a clear plan of action for the team to survive an apocalyptic scenario. “Everyone can just set up camp at Justing’s ranch in Wisconsin!

 

Throughout the interview, Glau kept his answers concise and focused. In keeping with that, his message to all the team’s fans and followers was simple and clear:

Thanks for believing!

Thank you so much to Glaurung for taking the time for this interview, and to Roll20 for the opportunity to chat with these awesome players. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and keep an eye on Roll20 Esports (and, you know, me) for our last player interview in this series.

Want to show your support for Roll20? Head to the R2E shop and pickup an official Roll20 Esports jersey! 

 

Check out our previous interviews:

Prismaticism

Buds

Justing

Goku

Wish Esports Unlocks the Future of HGC Sponsorship

Note: I was not paid or compensated in any way for the following article. 

Recently I explained the reasons why endemic esports organizations were so hesitant to sign a professional Heroes of the Storm team. We talked about the complex revenue streams of organizations like Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming, and why the current state of HOTS isn’t so attractive to those organizations. Ironically, that discussion topic was requested by Team Zealots’ own Mopsio. On Monday, Team Zealots announced that they had been signed by the newly minted Wish Esports.

eidh

Wish is not a name any hardcore esports fan will know from another game. Instead, it is an online shopping platform following the path first laid out by Roll20. Originally, this article was simply going to be an analysis of what this new trend in HOTS sponsorship means for the future of the HGC, and esports as a whole.

However, one of the newly signed Wish Esports players, Granpkt, was kind enough to answer a few questions about their new organization.  Don’t worry, you’ll still get my thoughts on the matter. This is too huge to ignore, and I know you all really come here for my incredible insight into the world of esports, and not because I get exclusive interviews with HOTS pros. Glaurung interview in the Roll20 series coming tomorrow, by the way.

Thoughts from the Source

So, here’s how this’ll go down. First, you’ll get my Q&A with Grankpkt, and then I’ll share some info I was able to gather regarding Wish and their connection to the Heroes scene. If you want even more content than that, you’ll get my thoughts at the end. With that out of the way, here’s Granpkt on his shiny new team sponsorship.

Me: How did the team become connected with Wish? Had any of you heard of the Wish App before the sponsorship talks began?

Granpkt: They reached out to us through Reddit after watching us since the crucible and were fans of us since then, they decided it would be a great idea to launch the esports side of Wish with us. Some of us have heard of Wish.com before and have looked around it a lot since our first time being approached by Wish, and like using the platform.

What made this the right sponsor for the team?

G: We have been in talks with quite a lot of different organizations, but pretty much what lead us to sign with Wish was the enthusiasm and the confidence they are putting in us. Another huge factor was that since they currently sponsor the LA Lakers, it made us think that they would be a lot more professional than the rest, and so far they definitely have been.

What does having a sponsor mean to you and the team?

G: It’s a huge deal for us, we have wanted to find not only an organization, but a home since we joined HGC and all of the waiting has finally paid off. We are so happy to represent them and know this is the step in the right direction to do well in the playoffs and moving into 2018.

gran

What resources will Wish provide to help the team?
I can not tell specific things obviously, but they are supporting us very well. They are giving us everything you would expect from a great sponsor.

How many Wish puns can we expect from the team over the rest of the season?
Haha, I hope it will be at least once a week, else I would be disappointed, I can only Wish it ends quickly!

Anything else you’d like to say to Zealots fans?
I just want to say thanks to all of those out there who have been supporting us since Open Division. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you and I hope they keep cheering for us in the upcoming matches! As well as that, check out Wish.com, it’s an awesome place to shop and a lot of fun!

Thanks so much to Granpkt for his thoughts. Give the man a Twitter follow, and tell him how much it hurt me to have his punsmanship live on my blog. I was also able to get a bit of information from Wish regarding their side of the arrangement.

Wish was interested in Heroes do to a pre-existing affinity for the game. What’s interesting is that the company is based in California, but they were excited to sign an EU team. It turns out that a bulk of their customers are from Europe, so having a foothold in the EU HGC meant a unique connection to that part of their customer-base.

The team are being paid salaries, and have also been given some credit on the Wish platform to purchase themselves potential equipment upgrades or shiny new toys. The company is also partnered with the Los Angeles Lakers, and apparently a trip to the states to see the Lakers play could be in the team’s future. From my conversations and research, it’s clear that Wish wants to build a brand with a foundation of competitive success, while also connecting with the community.


The representative from Wish was a pleasure to work with for this article, be sure to follow the team’s official Twitter for updates.

What Does It All Mean?

I freaked out a little bit when this announcement hit the Twitterverse. As I have said before, Blizzard games are tough for endemic esports teams to get behind. Heroes has a very small LAN component and very little supplemental esports content. Many of the top figures in Hearthstone don’t actually compete in tournaments. Most teams were forced to release their Overwatch teams and abandon the game completely due to the Overwatch League. Heroes of the Storm is just hard to break into, and tough to generate revenue from unless you’re already successful and sign a team that’s a mortal lock for Blizzcon.

There are now three teams that have completely circumvented all of those challenges. Roll20 has already transformed the HOTS community. We saw Bloodlust rewards involving tabletop gaming and several top players began streaming a DnD game. Recently, the first Open Division team to receive sponsorship came from an unlikely source–HeroesHearth. Two is a coincidence, but now with the addition of Wish, there’s a pattern happening and I couldn’t be happier.

These companies created an incredible organic marketing campaign. Every week we’re hearing their brand mentioned again and again on a stream with tens of thousands of viewers. If their team qualifies for Blizzcon, that number grows to the hundred thousands. For Roll20 and Wish, their targeting their ideal demographic–tech-savvy young adults. HeroesHearth is literally advertising to every potential user of their platform.

These corporate sponsors also simplify the revenue stream. Esports organizations are essentially middle-men between esports fans and companies that want to sell stuff to fans. They need to build a fansbase specifically for their teams in order to attract sponsors. Wish and Roll20 have cut out the middle man, and are reaping the benefits. Instead of just having their logo on a jersey and a stream overlay, they get constant mentions on Twitter, Reddit, and the official HGC stream. Even when their team isn’t playing, they still get mentioned in previews, recaps, and analysis segments.

These teams will also reap huge benefits from expanding to other games. There’s very little overlap between hardcore fans of different esports genres. If Roll20 sponsors a Counterstrike team, they’re marketing to a completely new subset of their ideal demographic. If Wish decided to pick up a Smash 4 player, they’d easily grab an additional 30,000 site views just on the day they announce the signing. This is huge for the teams that are still unsigned in the HGC. They now have a successful pattern to point to when approaching potential sponsors. Instead of chasing Renegades, Srey and the other Superstars should be trying to find contacts at other online service platforms. Personally, I’m down for Team OkCupid.

The “Problem”

Now, I know some people will have huge concerns with this trend. Corporations running sports teams just feels like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. However, corporations already run all your favorite esports teams. Fnatic can’t operate at the level it does without corporate sponsors. Esports orgs are heavily influenced by companies like Logitch and HyperX. This way, the companies are directly paying salaries and benefits to your favorite players. Things like 401ks and health insurance become so much less challenging–these companies already give that to their regular employees.

popeyes

“Sure,” you say, typing furiously, “but aren’t team names gonna start sounding really stupid? I can’t see myself rooting for Team Popeye’s Chicken.” First of all, Team Popeye’s Chicken has my undying support, and I will buy that T-shirt tomorrow. Second, is that really any weirder than Team SoloMid? There isn’t even a solo middle lane in HOTS. Heck, some maps don’t even HAVE a middle lane. If it means that my favorite players have a retirement account and a living wage, they can call themselves whatever weird name they want. I’ll cheer my head off for team MonkeyBananaFarts if it means BKB has a dental plan.

Ultimately, remember that every league in esports is still owned by the developer. The whole point of esports at this stage is to advertise the game. Literally the entire purpose of the HGC is to get you to buy a loot box, or play a few extra hours a week. Blizzard won’t allow any corporate shenanigans that negatively impact their league, or its ability to sell Li-Ming skins. To me, this is an incredibly exciting trend. If these teams see success in Heroes, it could completely change the landscape of young esports scenes. It could change the way top players approach their professional career, and ultimately bring more money into under-developed games. Wish Esports has made me more excited for the future of esports than anything in a long time. I cannot wait to see where we go from here.

Esports in a Baseball Park–The DBAP Gaming Challenge Launches This Week

When thinking about gaming in the US, your thoughts may first wander to the coastal hubs like New York or California. Few people would immediately think of North Carolina as a key part of esports tradition. However, the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit made regular trips to the state capital, Raleigh, each year. My hometown saw epic matches between top League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Halo teams.

Durham_Bulls_Athletic_Park_Durham

This weekend, a new tradition in North Carolina esports begins. 10 minutes away from my office sits the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to the minor league baseball franchise of the same name. However, this weekend gamers will flood the stadium to compete in a wide array of titles from fighting games to first-person shooters. I spoke to Event Director, Ross Ledford, to find out what competitors can expect at the DBAP Gaming Challenge.

Passion for Games

It may seem strange for a baseball team to be hosting an esports tournament, but Ledford explained how a love for gaming permeates the Bulls organization. “The idea for the event came from the MC for the Durham Bulls, Jatovi McDuffie.  He was a long-time gamer and wanted an event that incorporated gaming with the Durham Bulls.”

Leading the event, Russ and his fellow Event Director, Michael Everett are veteran tournament organizers in the southeast. Everett created the Carolina Games Summit, a yearly event which features gaming tournaments alongside panels and other events. While in college at North Carolina State University, Ledford  hosted “the largest collegiate esports event to-date, ‘Clash of the Carolinas’. In the past nine months alone,” he added, “Mike and I have hosted 85 tournaments and have been involved with events that have a combined attendance of over 30,000 unique visitors.”

Take Me Out to the LAN Party

Over the weekend, the event staff are anticipating over 2,000 spectators and competitors to attend the Gaming Challenge. The entire stadium has been converted to accommodate computers, fighting game setups, and monitors for spectators. Gameplay will also be shown on the stadium’s massive screen. The bulk of the tournament will take place in the indoor sections of the park but, if weather permits, the organizers do intend to have feature matches outside in the stadium.

dbap

Four games headline the event with a combined prize pool of over $5,000. Those games are Rocket League, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Both Smash games will also have a prize for doubles, and Ledford confirmed that all games will have prize support. The full list of games will include:

  • Rocket League
  • Super Smash Bros.: Melee
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Overwatch
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • League of Legends
  • Halo 5
  • Lawbreakers
  • Street Fighter V
  • NBA 2K18
  • MLB: The Show 17
  • Madden 18
  • Marvel vs Capcom Infinite
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Tekken 7
  • Injustice 2

Veteran fighting game players should be aware that the event’s $12 entry fee covers every game you wish to enter. There’s no additional fee for Smashers to enter doubles either. Ledford explained that “this way everyone can attend the event and participate in all the events they want to, and are not limited by entry fees.”

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Essentially, the DBAP Gaming Challenge appears to be an entry point for residents of the Triangle to discover the world of esports. In addition to the tournaments there will be live music, free-to-play arcades, a cosplay contest, and much more. Local game studios like Bosskey will also be on hand providing support, giveaways, and prizing. According to Ledford, “The event is meant for all levels of esports athletes. Carolina Games Summit and AEL (Amateur Esports League) strive to provide high-quality tournaments in a fun and accepting environment.  With this mentality, we try to have our events be open to all skill levels and hope to foster the growth of esports into something great.”

Russ’s answers to my questions oozed with a passion for growing esports in the Southeast. Having found an enthusiastic partner in the Durham Bulls, this event is merely the beginning. “There are talks about leagues, continued events, and much more, so stay tuned,” he said.

To register, or find more details, visit the DBAP gaming website. Thanks again to Russ for taking the time to answer my questions, and be sure to get out and support your local esports scene this weekend!

Roll20 Esports Interview Series: Goku

Heroes of the Storm, like all esports, has a unique equalizing effect. Pro players have access to the exact same characters and in-game tools as anyone. To the untrained eye, a Varian, Chromie, or Medivh looks exactly the same in a quick match as they do on the Blizzcon stage. That said, what makes the HGC truly special is the group of hard-working, passionate gamers fighting for the right to keep pursuing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at the men on the other side of the screen. It’s time for you to really get to know the Roll20 Esports Heroes of the Storm team. Check out previous interviews at the end of this article.


goku

This week we turn our attention to the newest member of the team. Holding down the solo lane, Goku joined the Roll20 roster following the Mid Season Brawl. Today he’ll share some insight into that transition, his goals as a professional player, and the shocking, totally unexpected origin of where the name “Goku” originated.

Like many top level HOTS players, Goku began his competitive MOBA career in League of Legends. However, his tournament experience extends beyond the genre. Before committing himself to Heroes, Goku could be found at local fighting game tournaments competing in Marvel vs Capcom 3 (fielding a team of Spiderman / Dr. Doom / Dante). However, no game pulled him in quite like Heroes of the Storm. “I really never [loved] a game compared to how much love I put into Heroes of the Storm,” he explained.”

Ever Forward

That love for the game has given Goku some very clear goals as an HGC pro. Simply put, he wants to be the very best. He noted that qualifying for the HGC gave him the security to keep playing the game long enough to “leave my mark [on] Heroes of the Storm history.” For Goku, victory isn’t enough–he wants to be remembered.

My greatest goal that I’m chasing is to become a legend in Heroes of the Storm…and continue that legacy until I feel like I did all I can do in the Heroes of the Storm esports scene. And in the end, just be a player that can be admired, or a role model for other players that share the same role as I.”

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While those goals may seem lofty, Goku isn’t sitting around waiting for them to happen. “I put a lot of practice and research into my heroes.” He added, “Recently, I have been working out. It’s a great stress relief and I’m not working out to the point where it affects my gameplay…besides working out I usually do some research into other regions.”

To realize his dreams, Goku has put everything else on hold. He explained that he left college and a degree in Business Finance  in order to pursue a professional career in HOTS. “At that time I was putting a decent amount of my time into Heroes of the Storm and I realized it affected my studies a lot. It took me a while to realize why it was affecting my studies, but I fell in love with Heroes of the Storm and [decided to] try my best to get into Heroes esports. Luckily…my family has given my a lot of support since the beginning and are continuing to do so, I couldn’t have asked for a better family.” Goku did add that he plans to finish his degree when his HOTS career comes to an end (hopefully many years from now).

Recently, Goku received a bit of flack for some comments he made in a post-game interview, but he explained that this too was part of his process. “I can understand my recent interview has me viewed as being very cocky, but I never allow that pride to blind me. When I [made] those statements it was to make myself only work harder to set up a bar that may seem unrealistic, but I want to give the enemy team more than my all…to give them something that can be terrifying.” He did admit, “of course, I need to work on my interviews…so it doesn’t come out as rash.”

Goku Has Joined the Party

goku

In the first split of the HGC, Roll20 Esports shocked the North American scene by surpassing all expectations. In a move that surprised many, the team chose to make a roster change, trading YoDa to Superstars in exchange for Goku. It took some time for the transition to fully pay off, but Goku noted that the team seems to have found a strong formula with the new roster.

One of the biggest challenges initially was trying to find our identity, which in relative terms meant finding our strength within the meta. It was decided…that I would be getting the solo lane unless we used niche picks like Abathur.” For example, Goku explained, “…if we were to pick Illidan we’d make Prismaticism go on the secondary support and make Glau main range, so everyone would slightly shift roles so that I can keep the solo lane.” 

The team continues to evolve this strategy as they work their way towards Blizzcon. “Our biggest change has been our drafting style. Justing leads the draft while everyone else puts in a lot of input.”

Anime Names and Fan Support

Now, I’m sure you’ve all been itching to discover where the name “Goku” comes from. While it shouldn’t surprise anyone, he did share something interesting about his connection to the handle. “Well, my name is obviously based off the main character in Dragon Ball…but it actually isn’t my favorite animated series. It certainly had the most impact on my life [at] a very young age, but my actual favorite anime series in terms of story is Berserk.”

To close, Goku could not be more appreciative of the team’s fans.

“To all the Roll20 supporters–thank you so much. I know it’s hard to convey that in words, but one day I’ll repay the things you guys have done for us. The cheering and the Twitter support, every time I see it, it gives me the strength to not just keep working hard, but to also ascend and improve and become even stronger than who I was before. So in the end, thank you guys for the support.”


Thank you so much to Goku for taking the time for this interview, and to Roll20 for the opportunity to chat with these awesome players. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and keep an eye on Roll20 Esports (and, you know, me) for our last player interview in this series.

Want to show your support for Roll20? Head to the R2E shop and pickup an official Roll20 Esports jersey! 

 

Check out our previous interviews:

Prismaticism

Buds

Justing

Roll20 Esports Interview Series: Justing

Maciej Kołek - Fotograf

Heroes of the Storm, like all esports, has a unique equalizing effect. Pro players have access to the exact same characters and in-game tools as anyone. To the untrained eye, a Varian, Chromie, or Medivh looks exactly the same in a quick match as they do on the Blizzcon stage. That said, what makes the HGC truly special is the group of hard-working, passionate gamers fighting for the right to keep pursuing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at the men on the other side of the screen. It’s time for you to really get to know the Roll20 Esports Heroes of the Storm team. Check out previous interviews at the end of this article.


Last week, Blizzard took their turn driving the Roll20 interview train. Now we’re back with our regularly scheduled programming. Today the squad’s front man is taking his turn in the spotlight. Warrior main Justing opens up about his journey into the pro scene, his friendship with Buds, and some tips on trading cryptocurrencies.

Heartbreak and Friendship

Justing got a taste of competitive gaming in League of Legends, but never pursued a pro career until he found Heroes of the Storm. What began as a search for direction ultimately led him to forgo college in pursuit of a spot on a pro Heroes team. “Out of high school I was trying a couple things to figure out what I wanted to do for a living and also at the time I was in a relationship,” he said. “The stress from not knowing what I was doing ultimately led to me getting dumped and then I basically just used HOTS as a means to avoid thinking about it. After doing nothing but playing HOTS for a couple months I realized I had gotten pretty good and decided to try and go pro with Buds, so we made an amateur team in October 2015 and now we’re here.”

TM8_JustingThe friendship between support and warrior began on a 7th-grade soccer team. According to Justing, their relationship has a direct correlation to their success in the Nexus. “We’ve played a lot of team games together (League of Legends, WoW, soccer) so we have a lot of synergy playing together. I am more vocal than he is but if I say I need help he doesn’t have to say anything I’ll just get a [Divine Shield] or cleanse or whatever I need and I just come to expect it. When we played games together in the past we could both be silent and play off of each other really well. I’m also a lot more critical of his play than I would be of someone else because I know him so well–I know I won’t offend him and I want us to improve.”

Although he’s always had the support of a close friend, some family members took longer to get on board with Justing’s career choice. “When I first told my parents this was the career I wanted to pursue my dad was fairly optimistic, my mom thought I was just being lazy, and my aunts and uncles kept asking why don’t I just go to college. Now that I’m on a top NA team, my mom watches all of my games. Whenever I win a big match I’ll get texts from some family members congratulating me and the same aunts and uncles think it’s ‘so cool!’ that I get paid to play video games. 

 

Leading From the Front

Justing plays a crucial leadership role within the R2E roster. He explained that he is the team’s lead drafter (though he made a point to mention the assistance that Goku and Prismaticism provide in draft prep). In game, he is constantly communicating, “calling enemy rotations/information feeding, calling for engages/disengages, giving general ideas of what our composition wants to do so everyone can make the best decisions, and in teamfights I try to make sure we are manipulating our space properly as a team.”

Screenshot2017-08-16 20_19_04

Justing has long been considered an elite warrior in the Heroes community, and he attributes much of that success to his experience communicating with his teammates. “…I think the tank’s communication is the most important on the team so that gives me an advantage.” He added, “this meta also caters to tanks as the solo engage in most cases with aggressive tanks, comparatively the tank skill mattered less when we had defensive tanks with allies’ gust/sunder engage for example.”

 Sell High

With his commitment to personal growth, Justing leaves very little time for personal Team8-Justing.jpghobbies. However, he did share one rather unique passion–trading cryptocurrencies. “Trading was one of the things I tried out of high school because I love the technical analysis of charts,” he explained, “I could look at them all day.” Cryptocurrencies have come a long way since the early days of Bitcoin, but don’t go to Justing looking for a share of his riches.

“…unfortunately I sold my cryptocurrency stack when I started pursuing professional HOTS so I’m not a millionaire, but that’s okay because money is easy to come by but you can’t buy a Blizzcon win. I am currently long in TWTR and casually trading cryptos.” He added, “buy TWTR.”

Parting Thoughts

Before closing, Justing had a few final thoughts for his fans and aspiring pros. First, he explained the lack of a consistent streaming schedule. “I don’t actually hate streaming I just think there are better ways to get practice than in Hero League and I value improving at the game over other things right now.”

He elaborated on what those other things are for any players considering pursuing a competitive career. “If you want to be a professional player the best thing to do is make or get on an amateur team [because] scrims against other teams with voice comms are insurmountably more valuable than Hero League, the competitive game is MUCH different than Hero League. Also watch your replays and be critical of your mistakes. Watching professional play can also help.”

To his fans, Justing said “Just thank you for all the support, my favorite thing to do is watching the replays and watching chat when I do something good and reading all the kind words on twitter, I really appreciate it.”

Finally, he had a parting message for all his HGC opponents.

No :cheese: plz, we’re :clap: not :clap: mice :clap:

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Thank you so much to Justing for taking the time for this interview, and to Roll20 for the opportunity to chat with these awesome players. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and keep an eye on Roll20 Esports (and, you know, me) for upcoming interviews with the rest of the team.

Want to show your support for Roll20? Head to the R2E shop and pickup an official Roll20 Esports jersey! 

 

Check out our previous interviews:

Prismaticism

Buds

Roll20 Esports Interview Series: Buds

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Heroes of the Storm, like all esports, has a unique equalizing effect. Pro players have access to the exact same characters and in-game tools as anyone. To the untrained eye, a Varian, Chromie, or Medivh looks exactly the same in a quick match as they do on the Blizzcon stage. That said, what makes the HGC truly special is the group of hard-working, passionate gamers fighting for the right to keep pursuing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at the men on the other side of the screen. It’s time for you to really get to know the Roll20 Esports Heroes of the Storm team. Check out previous interviews at the end of this article.


Today we continue our series with Roll20’s support player, Buds. A promising young player in 2016, Buds’ star has rapidly risen with his team’s success in the HGC. He’ll offer insight into how the team builds their unique compositions, his experience competing with Dyrus, and how Roll20 would fare in a zombie apocalypse.

Suddenly Support

Buds first appeared at the top of the competitive HOTS scene on Team Name Change alongside his longtime friend Justing. However, if Roll20 fans go back and watch some of TNC’s matches, they won’t be able to find Buds in the support role. Instead, his original role in Heroes was that of a ranged/flex player. Leading up to the initial HGC qualifiers, TNC disbanded and the players scattered to various rosters within the NA scene. Buds, however, was determined to find a roster that would allow him to keep playing with Justing.

20170614_DH_HermanCaroan-05713.jpg“We jumped on and off a lot of teams…” he explained, “but couldn’t really find anything we liked.” A few weeks before the qualifiers began, the pair received word that Chu8 was putting a team together with Glaurung for the HGC. The roster specifically needed a tank main and a support. Justing reached out to Glaurung and requested a tryout for himself and Buds. With only a few days before their tryout, Buds had to transition to a brand new role.

“Before I even knew about joining a team as a support, I was talking with Justin on how I wanted to make the swap to playing support,” said Buds. “The transition was really smooth and worked out quite well because about a week later Glau’s team was looking for the support and tank, so I just spammed games on support and watched some pro matches and just tried to learn the basics of each support hero I could.”

It took a few weeks to iron out the kinks, but eventually Buds and crew qualified for the HGC. “Sounds silly, but [it meant] pretty much everything. For the longest time I have wanted to be professional at a game and qualifying for the HGC finally feels like I’ve accomplished that.” Becoming a pro gamer also helped Bud’s family understand his chosen profession. “My family has always been supportive with whatever I choose to do. My dad was skeptical at first, but when HGC started he got into it right away. I actually saw him browsing the heroes subreddit the other day.” He added,  “my parents and my brother pull up the stream and watch almost every weekend, it’s pretty sweet how supportive they are about it”

Making it Work

Although newer to the support role, Buds has plenty of insight to share on how his team works specific healers into their team compositions. Roll20 has become infamous for their unique comps, and each has a suite of supports that pair perfectly with that gameplan. He explained, “when we do the Medivh/Diablo, we like to have Malfurion with it because the Diablo flip into Malf root is good [before level] 10… They also have ults that synergize really well like Leyline, Apoc, and Twilight Dream [which have] really good wombo potential.”

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We saw the team unveil a few compositions last week which included HOTS’ latest warrior, Garrosh, but Buds has more ideas in store for the hero. “Another easy combo would just be Garrosh, Uther, and Nazeebo.  The Garrosh throw into Uther stun is just an easy combo to execute, then throw a zombie wall over it.”

Being a pro isn’t all theorycrafting and HGC matches. Buds’ new career has provided several unique opportunities, including the chance to travel the world. “The coolest thing I’ve gotten to do so far would probably be the traveling. Being able to travel around the US and to Europe to play is pretty crazy. On top of that, traveling to somewhere I’ve never been to play on LAN is awesome. The best part of being a pro is playing on stage.”

Buds is also the only support in the HGC to have healed for a former professional League of Legends NA champion. At the end of HGC Phase 1, Roll20 (Team 8 at the time) invited former Team Solomid star, Dyrus, to participate in an official match. For Buds, it was a surreal experience.

It was pretty awesome to be able to play some games and just chat with the legendary Dyrone. I remember watching him play way back in the LCS, which was the first esport I’ve ever watched, and thinking how awesome being a pro gamer would be. I never would have thought that i would be playing scrims and a competitive match with him. We got to show him the competitive side of the game which he told us he enjoyed a lot, he also just liked the game in general. He was surprisingly good at the few heroes he could play and did really well in the HGC match against No Tomorrow…hitting insane tongues [on Dehaka]. He was a really friendly and laid back guy, I had a blast playing with him.”

The Man Behind the Heals

Roll20 is a team known for its synergy, but Buds is not sure that would translate outside TM8_Buds (1)of esports. For example, he thinks the team would fair rather poorly in a zombie apocalypse. “We would be looking for supplies and come across a pack of zombies and Glaurung would do something that he likes to do in scrims, be super aggressive and be like ‘I’m testing limits!’ [Then he] gets infected and doesn’t tell us, turns into a zombie and bites us all.”

Buds sees his role on the team as a support both in game and in team communication. His position requires him to “be friendly, try to have good communication, staying positive and keeping morale up, trying my best in game and always looking to improve my play to better the team.” 

He is appreciative of everyone who supports Roll20, wanting to thank everyone who has cheered for the team and supports them. “We’ll do our best and try to make NA proud,” he said.

In closing, Buds had one last thought to share with his fans who want to get to know him a bit better.

“Not much else to know about me besides I really like cereal.”


Thank you so much to Buds for taking the time for this interview, and to Roll20 for the opportunity to chat with these awesome players. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and keep an eye on Roll20 Esports (and, you know, me) for upcoming interviews with the rest of the team.

Want to show your support for Roll20? Head to the R2E shop and pickup an official Roll20 Esports jersey! 

 

Check out our previous interviews:

Prismaticism