Author Archives: Berath

Elements and the Quest for the Philospher’s Stone: Part 2

3 months ago, here, I wrote about Elements in League of Legends, and their struggle to find a new roster during the Spring Split. I said I hoped there wouldn’t be any more roster changes and that the new roster would be allowed to settle and find it’s feet.

Nah.

It’s now 5 weeks into the Summer Split and Elements have been scooped up, shaken about and then re-assembled with a whole load of new pieces like some dodgy Lego kit. Gone are Shook (jungle), Wickd (top), Krepo (support) and Rekkles (ADC) to be replaced by Dexter, Jwaow, PromisQ and Tabzz respectively. The only constant is Froggen (mid-laner and Team Captain). To be fair Krepo retired; he has moved into casting LCS and is now employed by Riot. Rekkles also wanted to leave. He has returned to his original team, Fnatic, following a rather odd theme of the pre-Summer Split; a kind of ‘Return of the Prodgical ADC’. We’ve had Rekkles going back to Fnatic, Tabzz was the previous ADC for Elements and, a third team SK Gaming, saw the return of their old ADC, CandyPanda.

The big question of course,is, has it worked? Has the Elements organisation found the Philospher’s Stone to coalesce this new set of elements into pro-gold? So far, I’m afraid, the answer is ‘no’. Elements are currently 2 – 6. According to rumours, they may be looking at a roster change.

(At the time of writing, apparently, Elements haven’t spent more than 4 playing weeks with the same roster since becoming Elements at the start of last Split)

Searching for fandom in E-sports

I went to a Sci-Fi convention a few weeks ago. One of the good ones, run by fans themselves and not taken over by corporate interests, Redemption if anyone wants to know. Anyhow, one of the Panels being run caught my interest ‘Where does Fandom live?’ I wasn’t 100% sure what it was about, and when I turned up, neither did the rest of the audience. The panelists weren’t too certain either and couldn’t remember suggesting anything; many of the ideas for the Panels run at these conventions originate under the influence various forms of intoxication so this wasn’t unusual.

After some discussion about what we should discuss, the Chair remarked that she had been a great fan of fanfiction and loved indepth debate and fan theorizing over various television programmes. Her old hang out was Live Journal, however recently Live Journal seemed to have died out and she just couldn’t track down where the associated fandom had disappeared to for the new shows that were appearing.

We talked about this and really couldn’t come up with any clear answer. Facebook was mentioned, so was reddit and tumblr; tumblr in fact emerged as the strongest contender for a replacement. However, nothing seemed to satisfy. Maddy remembered long debates on LJ and a strong sense of community, reddit was too large and generally unfriendly, tumblr was very visual but it was extremely difficult to carry out any form of detailed group discussion. I advocated for the forum, and although they could fulfil many of Maddy’s demands, these days with the many alternatives, forums are hard to grow and maintain.

So, the final conclusion of the Panel was that fandom still exists but it’s now scattered and more likely to be found in small disparate groups. There isn’t the community and there isn’t the depth of discussion. Harsh.

Seeking fandom

And what have I found so far in e-sports? I’ve found reddit, I’ve found Twitter, I’ve found Twitch chat. The closest thing to an actual community where faces become familiar is Twitch chat linked to a stream, surprising since Twitch chat is notoriously racist, sexist, homophobic, juvenile and shallow. Twitch chat is all of that. However there are means within the medium, through which groups can form and cling together despite the hostility of the general environment. There are mods who moderate the channel chat and can set the general tone. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to subscribe to the channel and they are identified by a subscribers icon. Since it tends to be regulars who both subscribe and visit the chat, people start to identify and recognise one another and in this way a group forms. People then arrange to game together outside of chat and may start to meet and communicate independently in skype or using Twitter. In many ways the chat operates  similarly to a community server for a pc game, like TF2 for instance with it’s admins and regulars, but instead of playing themselves, everyone is watching someone else (the Streamer) play.

However, for me, the final clincher for an ideal fan community is still missing and that is proper discussion. All the best community servers for a game are linked to a community forum and discussion can take place there; on-server (and Twitch) chat tends to be more conversational. As an average fan, I’ve found no equivalent where I can endlessly discuss composition, builds and strategy of my favourite teams. There are obviously places where this occurs of course, but in this New World of Fandom, they’re hidden away; difficult to find without an in to the group or friendship circle.

Anyway, I have managed to make some links, a tip of the hat here to Cyanide’s posse from his Twitch chat, but it has seemed so random. But for small matters of chance via the Stream I might never have come across them.

Elements and the Quest for the Philospher’s Stone

Oh well. The end of another week of LCS and a couple more painful losses for Elements. It’s hard to believe that the Super Team from last season is now sitting uncomfortably in the lower half of the League Standings.

Of course everyone and his dog has a theory about why it has all gone so wrong for Elements along with a plethora of solutions, some half-baked, some less so. Certainly the game of roster musical chairs they’ve had recently can’t have helped; bench Wickd, bring in Kevin, bench Nyph, bring in Krepo, bench Kevin, bring back Wickd and expecting Krepo to shotcall and turn the team around in a week when he has never really shotcalled before, was, let’s face it, a bit of an ask. I don’t know how the support staff around the team are fairing either. Nyph has now moved to Head Coach.

Whatever, I think it can be assumed that there is a lot of soul searching going on in the Elements camp at the moment. I hope there won’t be any more roster changes, to be honest I think they’ve run out of possibilities anyway. So, this near the end of the Split, it’s time to hunker down and work it through with the components they have and maybe they’ll find the Philospher’s Stone by the end of it and create pro-gold.

 

stone2

 

(Philospher’s stone: the Philospher’s Stone is a legendary substance or coaching technique allegedly capable of turning bronze League players into Challenger or even Pro players. It can only be imagined what effect  it might have on LCS teams)

Origen: Following teams, Marilyn Monroe and saxophone players

I said that I’d never follow another team. I said that I’d never be drawn back onto that particular rollercoaster.

I rejoiced as I escaped the clutches of Fnatic, ready to coast through the LCS Spring Split, my emotions untroubled and my heartbeat steady.

But I’ve done it again.

Origen. I’m sort of into them now. Yes, xPeke of ex-Fnatic, his team. And it’s the same. Saxophone players.

You said it Marilyn (sort of).

You’re drawn to a team by their flashy roster, exciting plays and Poppy picks and their potential. You just can’t stop yourself, you think they’re going to be the biggest thing and you come to them. You might try and kid yourself that this time it’ll be different; it’s an organisation, not a team, you’re not going to feel the same about them as you did about the last one. Then before you know it, they’re on loosing streaks, dropping players and facing relegation, and you find yourself taken with them through the whole agonising ride.

Yes, you can stick with them and then it just goes on until it all disintegrates. Or you leave and move onto the next team and then ‘it’s the same thing all over again’.

Word Marilyn.

League of Legends: Fnatic is looking for a coach (or the moon on a stick)

On 23rd December, Fnatic put the following up on their website:

As the Fnatic League of Legends Team Coach you will be responsible for every sports aspect of our team operations. The Team Coach is expected to optimize performance and the development of Fnatic’s League of Legends division. The successful candidate will:

  • Develop and formulate meaningful practice regimes and methods that stimulates a steady positive development of the team and its members.
  • Stipulate and monitor short and long terms goals for the team, as well as each individual.
  • Manage, lead and inspire a team consisting of five young and highly talented athletes.
  • Frequently evaluating the performance of the individuals in the team and providing them with suitable feedback, balanced criticism and motivating comments.
  • Hiring and managing LoL game analysts and ensure that their work is structured, presentable and comprehensive for the players.
  • Encourage and educate the athletes to perform regular physical exercise, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
  • Analyse upcoming opponents and preparing the team thoroughly prior every match and tournament.
  • Identifying the team’s strength and weaknesses and incorporating this knowledge into the practice and game plan.
  • Study the contemporary trends of the game and ensuring that the athletes are informed about all recent changes, such as new game patches and meta.
  • Cope with possible conflicts and resolve these together with the Team Manager.
  • Exercise and ensure sportsmanship and fair play into the team’s game, practice and mindset. Location: Berlin, Germany. Pay: This is a full-time position, the payment will be based on the applicant’s qualifications

REQUIREMENTS:

Besides sharing our passion and desire for #winning, our ideal Team Coach is someone that:

  • Is at least 23 years old and comes from EU or any other country that has work eligibility in Germany.
  • Writes, reads and speaks at least English and 1337 language. Korean or Klingon is a bonus!
  • Frequently plays, watch and analyse League of Legends. High ELO is a bonus but not a requirement.
  • Comes from background as a player, coach or manager in either professional sports or eSports.
  • Is a genuine team player who loves the prospect of creating something extraordinary out of a group of world-class athletes.
  • Can manage and inspire players and staff both in physical and virtual environments.
  • Has a profound knowledge of sports psychology and can educate people on its fundamental.
  • Understands the value of data and how to present it in a comprehensive way.
  • Gets eSports and feels comfortable about being adaptive in this fast-paced sports and industry. If we just described you, please send us over your CV and a mock up of a coaching case study or game analysis(required) as a work sample. In case you have additional documentation, stats or links you want to share, feel free to add them. Please note that due to the high amount of applications, we may require long time to answer all applicants.

Apply by sending an email to coach@fnatic.com – deadline for applications is 29th December.

Not much time for interested candidates to apply. And it’s over Christmas. It’s a good move though. This last season in League, the issues of coaching and team infrastructure have become topics of increasing debate in the West. Part of it is through the increasing dominance of Korea and the growth of League in China. Much of this has been put down to the prevalent use of Coaches and the strong supportive infrastructure behind teams.

So teams in the West are finally starting to look at infrastructure. However, it’s arguable how serious this is. The application for Fnatic coach seems to be asking for everything; sports psychologist, analyst, coach, it goes on, but with no quoted salary. In my experience of recruiting, the salary offered is a good benchmark for applicants to assess experience wanted and the level of qualification; and a way of us letting them know. They come across as a little confused and vague regarding exactly what they’re looking for or would find acceptable. Fnatic are a big name brand so I suspect they’ll get away with it and will get someone good, but it still gives some indication as to whereabouts the West, generally, is with respect to Coaching and support staff . Next season, Riot will be providing a partial salary for a team Coach which is a step in the right direction. Some teams have already committed to improving the support to their teams, Team Curse has a Head Coach and Head Analyst working with the Team Manager and TSM has three high profile Coaches, so we’re getting there.

But it’s not only because infrastructure wins prizes that this increased support is important. It’s because many of these players are very young, very inexperienced and the pressures on a pro-player are immense; the pressure of competition and practice and the pressure from fans and the e-sports community. These players need support. The subject of player mental health is just starting to come under discussion. The issues are linked and, as e-sports continues to grow, I think it’s about time both started to take increased precedence.

League of Legends LCS: My Life, or 6 months, as a fan

I never thought I’d get into competitive pro League; the LCS (League of Legends Championship Series)

I watch a lot of competitive Team Fortress 2; so I supposed I should have guessed it would become a thing.

At first I wasn’t sure. So many of the players looked so young. They seemed so vulnerable. How could I support something like that? It felt somehow dirty. Like the Hunger Games. Or Battle Royale. Children fighting children. It was a first step. The way down the proverbial slippery slope

I could see a picture, unfolding, in my mind:

Riot: Hey let’s make Summoners Rift real. The teams can fight each other with real weapons, with blood, gore, children killing each other, dying, bodies ripped apart……crying

Berath’s Brain Burps: Rarr. ggwp

No, just a bad thing all round.

However, I slowly began to get to know the teams. Some of the players were actually adults, some even had receding hairlines. The age limit was 17+ so even the youngest looking ones only looked like babies because I’m an old fart.

So yes, I started to follow the matches and I found myself becoming a fan, I think round June or July of this year. This was a first for me and opened up a new world. I’ve never followed football or rugby or anything similar. I’ve never followed a band or singer. Now I found myself with a team to support; Fnatic (chosen because the players seemed jolly and they were some of the first ones I managed to identify consistently). Later I found out they actually won games too.

It was an interesting experience being a fan. It wasn’t exactly comfortable. It gave me an insight into what it must be like to be football fan. I’d always considered them alien, rooting for a team; rejoicing in their triumphs, sorrowing at their defeats, but now I found myself following Fnatic games anxiously and compulsively on my phone when away from my pc. I’d put time aside to watch matches, I’d plan my evenings. I wanted Fnatic to win. And not just win. To crush. To steamroll. To destroy their opponents, to bathe in their tears, to laugh at their suffering and dance on their graves.  As a long time Guardian reader and qualified social worker, I found this disconcerting.

I hadn’t realised the proper nature of the player-fan link either. I’d understood how fans idolise; a player favouring a tweet could send one into thrilled ecstasy, no exaggeration. However what I hadn’t properly gleaned was how players needed their fans in return; how they enjoyed their gifts and tweets. It stood to reason really, we all need approval and to feel accepted.

Then came the chaos of the off-season and, thank goodness, Fnatic fell apart and so I could get off the emotional rollercoaster that I’d found myself on as a Fnatic supporter (I’m sorry Fnatic, I’m writing about me, not you). I’m not going to be a fan again in the same way. I’ve done that. Once burnt. I’m just going to follow the players, not a team, and avoid the stress of games and roster changes. I’m looking forward to the LCS Spring Split now. I can just be casually interested in all the teams and in how various players will perform. It should be good.

(and not even start to think about Origen possibly qualifying in the Summer Split)

E-sports, League of Legends; support the team or the player?

In League of Legends, we’re currently in the middle of the pre-season, after one competitive Season finishes and before the next one starts sometime in January.

This is the time that, theoretically, players can rest and take time off. However, it’s also the time that teams change up their rosters for the forthcoming Season. Since I’ve only been following competitive League since the summer, this was something I hadn’t experienced before. Players I’d grown to like were dropped and teams changed beyond recognition. It was all rather unexpected.

Some of the biggest changes occurred within the team I’d grown to like the most; Fnatic. First, amidst countless rumours and gossip, they lost their prize ADC, Rekkles to their main rival Alliance. Then, following further rumours, they lost their jewel-in-the crown mid-laner xPeke to form his own team Origen, along with their longstanding jungler Cyanide who decided to retire. This left Fnatic with their toplaner, Soaz and support, Yellowstar.

This led to the following question; did I still want to support Fnatic? In mainstream sports, people support the teams without much question; Manchester United, London Irish or the Washington Redskins. They don’t stop  because they change a player. But in e-sports, support  seems to be very player led. There is an argument that this demonstrates the immaturity of the e-sports scene but I don’t agree. In mainstream sport, supporters will often support a team because of a link, perhaps geographical, or a family connection. In League some teams  have tried to build a national identity, C9 is seen as being 100% NA, up to now Roccat players have all been Polish. However, Roccat demonstrates the problem with this; they’ve now run out of Polish players at the standard they want, and are currently looking at fielding a Korean player. Establishing a national identity in this way is not possible for most teams. There is also another issue with e-sports teams; they’re small. Change three players in a football team, not so noticeable, change three in a League team, that’s over half the squad gone and the team is suddenly very different.

So what should an Organisation with a team do? Returning to Fnatic, I’d adopted the team because of the players, the front men. Apart from them, Fnatic as an organisation was just a brand. I’d never seen any management to get interested in, they’d had a coach but he left after Worlds. Fnatic as an organisation meant little. So, I’m following the players, my only remaining interest in Fnatic is supporting those who stayed. From this aspect, it’s interesting to look at xPeke’s new team/organisation that he’s forming. Origen is very much branded with his own identity and that’ll continue above and beyond individual players. It’s what I’m supporting.  This has happened elsewhere. The creator/owner of NA  team CLG is Hotshot, an ex-player who streams and has a very high profile and so, whatever happens, can provide continuity for supporters. TSM, also NA, was formed by Regi who played for them before moving into coaching for the team and similarly has a very strong though somewhat controversial profile. Returning to Roccat, their Manager, Flyy, is appearing on various League talkshows and is becoming known, maybe with a similar outcome.

I think it will happen more, now Riot is encouraging teams to have Coaches and allowing them on-stage. Teams will start to be increasingly identifiable beyond just the players.   Teams and organisations are starting to realise that having constantly changing rosters and players that rapidly come and go, particularly as the competitive lifetime of a player is generally 2 to 3 years tops, does not lend itself to a stable scene from the perspective of retaining supporters.  Raising the profiles of more permanent staff can only help with this as can giving positions e.g. as streamers to ex-players.

Full and updated article appears here: http://www.goldper10.com/article/714.html

It’s Sunday; It must be Llama Night!

For over a year now, Who Dares Grins has been running a general Community Gaming Night on Sundays. Overall, this has been a success. Some games draw more people than others, but in the main it’s been a good opportunity for community members to try out and play games that aren’t TF2, in particular for those who’ve moved away from it.

Every Monday I put up a thread asking for suggestions for the following Sunday. The only criteria is that they’re multiplayer. On Tuesday evening, the suggestions thread is closed and a poll of games is drawn up from that week and from previous weeks along with any wildcards I feel like throwing in. Voting then begins. Any ties result in a vote-off.

I drew up a list of games we’ve played after our 52nd Llama Night

Battlefield 4
Cards Against Humanity – played 3 times
Chivalry Medieval Warfare – played 4 times
Civ 5
Command & Conquer Red Alert: A Path Beyond
CS:S Gungame
Dota 2 – played twice
Dungeonland
Fistful of Frags
Hidden (but servers borked)
Just Cause 2 Multiplayer
Killing Floor – played twice
League of Legends
Left 4 Dead 2 – played 3 times
Loadout
Magicka
Mechwarrior Online
Minecraft
Monaco
Natural Selection 2 – played twice
No More Room in Hell
Open TTD – played 3 times
Planetside 2 – played 3 times
Quake Live – played twice
Starcraft 2
Sven Co-op
TagPro – played 3 times
TF2 MvM
Terraria
The Ship – played 4 times
Trouble in Terrorist Town – played twice

A good mix.

By the way, why Llama Night you might ask. Well, firstly, one of the community members called Lt Mama came up with the idea and said it was ignored when he did so it’s sort of his name and secondly in homage to Jeff Minter, one of the gurus of video gaming. Jeff Minter was designing video games right back in the early 80’s,  founding the development house Llamasoft. Many of his games featured ruminants; llamas, camels, sheep etc. He was one of gaming’s pioneers so the least we could do was name a gaming evening in his honour.

TF2 catch-up

So what’s happening in TF2?

Earlier this year, Valve changed the Quickplay system. Before, a player would be given an option to ‘Start playing’ (Quickplay) after logging in. They would automatically be sent to a random server with, theoretically, a standard configuration. However, the ‘theoretically’ part showed the problem. Many of these servers were, in fact, commercially run and had game-changing modifications for subscribers ranging from extra ammo to invulnerability  and the ability to fly.

This was generally considered bad.

Valve decided to change this. They made it so Quickplay automatically sent players to offical Valve servers only. There was an option to select community servers (again with a standard configuration) but this was off by default. It soon became apparent that most players didn’t bother to select. Community servers found their Quickplay traffic dropping (you can get plugins that indicate the method a player has connected to a server).

I’ve seen it myself. Many of the servers I play on are far emptier, some rarely fill up at all now.

So what did this mean for Who Dare Grins? We always relied a bit on Quickplay traffic to keep us ticking over during a session. Now, we could stay in Quickplay, but we’d need to remove our Class Restrictions (avoiding no-fun teams of 7 snipers and 4 spies) and wouldn’t be able to run custom maps (once we got round to installing them) neither of which were included in the standard configuration. We decided to leave Quickplay and rely on our community and use of the original TF2 server browser, a clunky thing but which gave more search options. The overall reduction in Quickplay traffic to Community servers would mean we wouldn’t loose much.

This meant that community building for the server has become even more important. As part of this, I do a lot of posting on forums, advertising the server, usually in response to requests for server recommendations. After every session, players who seem likeable are invited into our Steam Community Group. On the server we try to be as welcoming as possible. Gradually we’re building up.

Our two TF2 nights are going well. The server fills up from about 8ish for a couple of hours, sometimes longer. We’ve a good selection of regulars. We get a sprinkling of newcomers too. Some of them even come back a second time; a positive vote there for the server, I think.

Outside this, Comp is quiet. There are a few people involved in various teams that are about. I was asked to be Demoman in one which was nice but I had to say no. I still think being involved in comp is incompatible with running a Community and a community server. We have three community nights now (the TF2 evenings and a general gaming one) and I like to be around as one of the Clan Leaders and Server Admins. It’s also good to have tagged players on the server, helping to mark it out as a community server and not just a collection of randoms to a new player.

Finally, we’re preparing for i52 in August. It’s a new venue at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. There are issues regarding accommodation; most is not on-site and requires transport. However the venue is said to be superior to Telford. To be honest, I’d rather have a handy hotel room but we’ll see if they’ll put on a shuttle bus which they did for the Spring LAN. Again TF2 will have NA and Australian teams there; again the community has been fundraising to help get them there.

League of Legends: why Team Builder scares me

I played two games of League the other night.

The first was  in Team Builder. The other was a normal Blind Pick.

In the Team Builder game I picked  Morgana support. I was the last to arrive and we went straight into a game.

It soon became clear that my team knew what they were doing. They were timing buffs, they had a jungler who was actually jungling and they took Dragon. I’m the first to admit that my Morgana is not brilliant. She’s not my favourite champ, I find her functional rather than fun and I’m still getting used to her skill shots and cooldowns.  I ended up laning with a Twitch who snapped at me a couple of times for missing shields and it felt pretty pressured. We actually won, I found myself soloing their nexus ( I’ve no memory of where everyone else was) but throughout the entire game I felt I was running to catch up with the rest of the team in skill and knowledge.

Afterwards, I checked their profiles. All were level 30, I’m level 29. Three were playing ranked (Bronze but still); everyone had won more than three times the number of games I had. I was outclassed.

In the second game, I decided I wanted to try jungling on my newest champ, Amumu. I’d read some jungling guides, watched videos and practiced with bots. I was ready to go! The team composition was fair. We had a top Jax, Twitch ADC, Katarina mid; and a Teemo…as support I guessed. Everyone seemed fine with Amumu wherever he was going.  However once the game started no-one seemed to really care what anyone was doing. Teemo started to roam almost immediately. I started off ready to jungle, full of enthusiasm but it soon became obvious that the other team had no intention of jungling and their Pantheon and Yi were going to stay top. So, with a little sigh, I sold my Quill Coat which I’d already bought and stayed top with Jax.

No-one flamed, though Teemo had some trouble,  complaining at our Kat, largely because at one stage she leggged it leaving him to die, I’m not too sure who to, because I was running alongside her. Sometimes to stay is to die. For some reason Teemo had decided that Kat was the one responsible for keeping him alive against all odds, and now demanded that she be reported. He ignored my contribution in his death, maybe because he didn’t know what Amumu was.  After that, Kat received a couple more complaints in  similar vein, but seemed to find it amusing rather than anything else. Poor Teemo lost heart at this stage and kept putting up surrender votes which were largely ignored and insisting that we vote YES because we were going to LOOSE!!!!!

We didn’t. The other team surrended instead (their Nidalee was afk).

I looked up Teemo’s profile when we’d finished. It was like a small glimpse of insanity. Every game they’d played Teemo. Every. Single. One. Row after row after row after row of that inane, chirpy, grinning face filling their match history……worrying.

Teemo_0

Teemo aka Satan. Cutest Champ in League. Small, fast; deadly with poisonous invisible mushrooms. It’s said that if the Great Old One Cthulhu had an alternate form it would be Teemo.

So, one Team Builder game stressful with players above my level, the other Blind Pick; with players pitched just about right, yes, even the Teemo. This has happened before. The TB matchmaking isn’t quite right; it’s separate from Blind Pick. The more games you play, the better it gets, but that still means there’s a time when you’re likely to be playing with much better players with specific expectations of you in the role you’ve queued in. The worst behaviour I’ve seen in League has all been in Team Builder with higher level players raging. It makes me wary of playing Team Builder unless I’m playing a role I’m confident with on one of my comfort picks.

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