Humbly Confident: A Sit-down with Quantic’s Hai

I approached Hai long ago for an interview because I thought he and his team had one of the best—or worst—stories in eSports at the time. Orbit was an up-and-coming LoL team in a North American scene full of new (or newly-recognizable) names. Those names included names attached on to the greats—such as TSM.Evo and CLG.Black—and names standing completely independently. Orbit was one of the latter, and they somehow stood out from the crowd.

On the eve of what seemed to be their chance to truly break out, Orbit—the organization—crumbled. The people at the top were MIA, and funding for the team went with them. Hai and his teammates were crowd-funded to their next event (only a couple weeks away when this all went down) through Reddit. Afterward, the team seemed to catch a much-deserved break and were signed by a major name in eSports—Quantic Gaming. But only two weeks into their new relationship, Quantic announced financial difficulties and dropped almost all of their players—including Hai’s team.

Now, months later and in the wake of a string of victories, Hai and co. are back with Quantic and looking to a future of opportunities with the first LCS season currently wrapping up.

Gilean: Hai, thanks for taking some time to sit down and answer some questions for the fans.

The first thing that might stand out is that your team has gone through quite a few changes in name, but—for a while, at least—not many in roster.  Your team went from Orbit, to crowd-funding through Reddit, to Quantic, to NomNom & Cloud 9, and now back to Quantic. It wasn’t until your team was unable to qualify for LCS that any of the members departed. What kept your team together through so many challenges?

Hai: Well, the name changes weren’t really a big deal, [since] we were only ever under two organizations even though we had many name changes. Our team was always confident in each other, and we just had problems with sponsors is all.

Gilean: What about for you personally? Reginald (Captain and Mid-laner for TSM) stated after Season 2 that he was done with eSports, despite the fact TSM was clearly one of the top teams in all of North America. Of course, he recanted the statement within days. But you’ve never even hinted at quitting, from what I’ve seen. What’s driving you? 

Hai: Hmm, I imagine I’ll quit if I don’t qualify this time around. I would have quit last time if I was able to go back to school, but I didn’t have anything ready for that.

Gilean: What were your thoughts when your former teammates Nientonsoh and WildTurtle headed to the LCS and joined up with Team MRN and TSM, respectively? Has their gameplay surprised you at all on their new teams?

Hai: Not really. I already knew Nien would be starter for Marn eventually when we joined them, and for Wildturtle I was a bit surprised that they actually used him. I was happy that they decided to pick him up as starter though and encouraged him to join them.

Gilean: Could you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Quantic? For those who don’t know, Quantic was the next major organization to pick up your team—after the disappointing events surrounding Orbit—only to ironically drop most of its own players and teams (including yours) within two weeks due to a financially-forced restructuring. What gives you faith in Quantic now?

Hai: Hmm. Quantic had a great offer for us this time around, and, even though they died once because of poor decisions, I’m hoping they learned their lesson this time around

Gilean: Cloud 9 was a team that consisted of your teammates and lacked the backing of any major eSports organization. How was your team able to survive as “Indie Competitors” until your recent re-signing?

Hai: Well there wasn’t really any expenses as a team that we needed, so it didn’t matter that we weren’t sponsored.

Gilean: Despite not making it into the LCS, your team has seen a lot of success since the qualifiers, even with new members. You beat Dignitas within weeks of the qualifiers, and recently took first place over Curse Academy and Dignitas at the MLG Winter Championships. How has your skill and teamwork grown since the qualifiers?

Hai: Our gameplay and style has significantly changed since the roster changes and of me role swapping. I was very limited in my skill as a Jungler. I wasn’t terrible, but I was skill capped since it wasn’t the role I was meant for. With me switching to Mid and getting a new Top Laner/Jungler, our entire play style has changed, and I think we are significantly better now.

Gilean: Finally, looking ahead, what are you doing to ensure you’ll be ready for the next LCS season? And what happens if you’re unable to qualify once again?

Hai: We’re practicing a lot every day and working on our synergy, staying confident but humble in our ability and just doing everything we can to be ready for it this time around. In the case we fail, I’ll probably move back and attend college again with my GF.

Gilean: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk. Any final thoughts or shout-outs you’d like to make?

Hai: No problem at all, thanks for the interview. Feel free to follow me @hai_l9, thanks!

[Gilean is an independent eSports content producer who is begging for your attention! Every follower he gains @HHGilean is another incentive to bring you more interviews, articles, and features.


Gnomesayin–Team FeaR’s Manager Talks Season 3, New Coach, and Gargamel’s Secrets

Gilean: First off, thank you, Christina Laird (GnomeSayin), manager of Team FeaR, for taking the time to answer some questions for the community. I imagine things are just now starting to settle down after the excitement of qualifying weekend.

Most of us who’ve been around eSports for a while (especially MLG) are familiar with the term “coach.” But what does a team manager do? Do you fill a role essentially the same as a coach, or something closer to the business side of thing with an organization?

Gnomesayin: I definitely don’t fill the same role as a coach, or have any input in picks/bans/strategies. Basically, a coach’s role is to make sure everything IN the game goes smoothly, my role is to make sure everything OUTSIDE of the game goes smoothly so the players can focus on the first part.

Gilean: Furthermore, what drew you to the role of team manager at a time in eSports where most people would be hard-pressed to even state what the job entails?

Gnomesayin: I think that I just wanted to be involved, to be honest. It could have been esports journalism (if I didn’t suck at writing), it could have been working in events, or even helping players increase their profiles. I just really wanted to do something involved in competitive gaming, and I think the best offer I got was to manage, and I grew to love the team.

Gilean: What originally drew you to this team? Or were they drawn to you? And how long have you been working together?

Gnomesayin: The thing that drew me to the team was, I knew they were talented, and they asked. [*laughs*] Curtoky (who was their support player at the time) asked me to manage, and I said, “Sure.” They offered me the position at the exact time I was like, “I need to get into this competitive league thing!” so that was perfect. I barely knew any of them at first, and I was pretty intimidated, which seems really weird now looking back.  It’s been about a year now, and I can’t think of a less intimidating bunch of guys. (I am thinking. I seriously can’t.)

Gilean: A couple roster changes have occurred while you’ve been with this team. What do Sycho Sid (Top) [Now, allegedly, Sycho Squid] and Zuna (AD) bring to their roles that was missing with Balls (Top) and Aphromoo (AD)? Are there are new challenges with these two?

Gnomesayin: Roster changes. Hm. I really love Benny, he’s da best! And Zuna has been with us before when we were MTW, for a little while, so we are already very comfortable with him.  But, to be honest, we need more time with the new roster to really become as beast as we need to be. But with Benny and Zuna, they bring a lot of communication across the map, they talk amongst themselves as well as to us, and I think that was something missing before. The challenges for me personally with those players is, with benny, he’s a rascal and mischevious and keeps trying to get me to teach him Scottish. And with Zuna, sometimes I have to mute mumble if he gets loud or gross.

Gilean: Playing to qualify for Season 3 looked to be a formidable and intimidating gauntlet even from the safety of our own chairs at home, and I can hardly imagine what it was like to play under that sort of pressure. But do you think anything positive will come from this experience? In other words, could this have been a sort of “trial-by-fire” that will help lesser experienced teams be prepared to take on the likes of TSM, CLG, and Dignitas in a tournament setting?

Gnomesayin: The qualifiers for season 3 were great LAN experience for any teams that haven’t taken part in something like that before. It’s great for the scene. Not great for us, because it’s better if we’re one of the few teams prepared for LANS! [*laughs*]

Gilean: The casters were quick to mention that members of Meat Playground and Team FeaR were quite friendly with each other. Balls, a member of Meat Playground, is the former long-time teammate of MuffinQT, Xmithie, and MandatoryCloud. What else don’t we know about the history between these two teams? Did playing the in the qualifiers present any unique obstacles?

Gnomesayin: Man, I hated playing against Balls and Lemongod when we were playing Meat Playground. It sucks, because they are good friends of the team, and we were hoping we’d both get through. Hmm. What don’t you know about the history of both teams? Well, Atlanta created both of the teams, Goose (which became FeaR) and Meat Playground, too.

[Editor’s note: Atlanta is on neither of these teams anymore.]

Gilean: Have you heard anything on the future of the Meat Playground roster? Any chance we could see Balls or another member return to Team FeaR as a sub for Season 3?

Gnomesayin: I know what’s happening to some of the Meat Playground members, but I don’t know what parts are secrets and what parts are public, so you’ll probably see the members here and there scattered on different rosters for a while.  For our subs, though, we’re trying to pick people based in California so we don’t have to pay much to get them to Santa Monica (we’re really cheap), and I don’t think Balls would quit school to come to Cali, anyway, even though he’d be a really good sub.

Gilean: What does not making it into Season 3 mean for other eSports teams? Is it worth it for them to continue competing elsewhere? Or should the individual players be keeping their eyes peeled for substitute positions?

Gnomesayin: It’s really disappointing to not make it into Season 3 for other teams. I’m sure we’d have been devastated if we hadn’t made it through. But when you really think about it, Season 3 is a big plus and it takes up ALL the time of the eight top teams, so if you just barely missed out on Season 3, you’re now one of the Top 8 teams at MLG/IPL/ any tournaments that aren’t Riot related, so you’re making a lot more money than you were previously. So although it sucks, I think it’s really worth sticking with your team or getting a really talented team to compete elsewhere.

Gilean: After Team FeaR qualified for Season 3, you were thinking about stepping down from your position, despite having helped your team accomplish a feat every LoL team out there was striving for. Why were you thinking about leaving, and what did you and Team FeaR ultimate decide on in the end? And can you tell us a little about this new coach who’ll be coming in, and how your duties will differ and be divided up between the two of you?

Gnomesayin: As Season 3 was incoming, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to live in the house with the team, and that would be a hindrance. But, also, the team decided we needed a coach, and I guess Zuna’s brother, Kenma, is going to take that position. We haven’t really talked about exactly how we’re going to divide duties between us yet—that’s still to be decided, but we’ll figure it out!

I’d like to thank you for coming on and giving us a fresh perspective on the LoL scene and some great (and eagerly anticipated) information on Team FeaR. Best of luck in Season 3!

To keep updated on Team FeaR’s activity’s, you can follow Christina “Gnomesayin” Laird on Twitter @FeaRGnomesayin.

 [Gilean is an independent eSports content producer who is begging for your attention! Every follower he gains @HHGilean is another incentive to bring you more interviews, articles, and features.]

Chig Discusses MLG Dallas, Halo 4, and FnaticRC Classic’s New Roster


With MLG’s announcement of Halo’s return (at least, for one Event) to the Pro Circuit, my content juices have been flowing. In the first interview leading up to the premier Halo 4 MLG Event, Chig–captain of FnaticRC Classic–has agreed to once again sit down and talk with me about his current plans, his team’s decision on a final roster, and share his thoughts on Halo 4.

Gilean: Welcome back, Chig. First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit down for an interview. With the state of things, I was beginning to fear I’d have no more chances to interview Halo pros in the not-too-distant future. A pretty frightening thought!

Chig: Not a problem. I’m always available!

Gilean: First, let’s just clarify for everyone: Do you plan to compete in the MLG Fall Championships Halo 4 Event?

Chig: Yes of course! I’m really excited to be back at an MLG Event finally, and playing an amazing looking game, too!

Gilean: What about the other pros? Who’s planning to make the trip to Dallas that you know of?

Chig: I haven’t talked to anyone that wasn’t planning on going, so well see. Should be a packed venue!

Gilean: Will you be competing under the old FNATIC Classic name? And will ProtoType and Russo still be joining you?

Chig: Yep, still a proud member of the FnaticRC (RaidCall) team! And Yes of course they will.

Gilean: There were rumors long ago that Mikwen had been running games with your team and was a likely pick-up. Is he still your first choice moving forward?

Chig: Actually, no. We went with what we thought would be best for us all and went back to teaming with Str8 Sick. We made a quick decision without any discussion among everyone involved, which we shouldn’t have. I’m just actually glad we didn’t compete at a tournament since Columbus, and still hold our year long relationship as a team together, even through that rough patch.

Gilean: I’m sure that will be welcome news to a lot of Halo fans, especially in a game that’s known for sometimes having inconsistent rosters.

A fan, @RazOnYouTube, asks, “Which game should we play to better prepare ourselves for Halo 4?” Adding to that, how do you plant o prepare for a competition in a game that won’t even be on store shelves when the Event rolls around?

Chig: I’ve heard a mix of opinions with Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. I’m going to be playing Reach for the fact that Halo 4 is developed on the Reach engine. We’ll see though. I think any game would do, as long as you’re playing with a team and keeping that chemistry together and also making sure your communication stays on-point

Gilean: Do you feel that teams who competed together in Reach will have the greatest advantage heading into the tournament? Or will studying what we know of multiplayer so far be of more importance?

Chig: Yeah I definitely do [feel that teams who stucketogether will have an advantage]. Not being biased either, haha. No one knows a lot about the game. Like how the game is going to be played at a highly competitive level, weapons, maps, respawns, etc. So it’s going to come down to not only your shot, but how fast you can learn the game with your team, trusting your teammates if they find something good to do in the game, running together in pairs, and also not just calling out because no one is going to have time to figure out call-outs, but communicating with your team and small talking. All of which are better if you have teamed with the same people longer.

Gilean: Are there any pros out there you’re aware of who you worry might have an advantage? Specifically, I’m referring to any pros who have had hands-on opportunities, play testing, and so forth?

Chig: Yeah, I think SQ will have a little advantage since Flamesword has played a H4 for a couple weeks. Also, I think Elumnite, Naded, and StrongSide are teaming, so they’ll have a little advantage, too, since they all did the same as Flamesword. But nothing too much that Friday of MLG Dallas won’t help for the rest of us in my opinion. All day Friday is warm-ups, so everyone can play Halo 4 and figure stuff out. I, for one, am taking Friday very serious, going over every little thing and figuring out as much as I can, along with my teammates.

Gilean: The term “loadouts” has come up time and again. Many fear that this will ruin Halo 4 the way bloom ruined Reach. But others think that loadouts could work well within the world of competitive Halo, encouraging a little forethought and strategizing in order to determine the best way to tackle a particular game type,much in the same way a game like Shadowrun might have. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Chig: I love the loadouts and the whole idea of it. It’ll definitely bring another big aspect to competitive Halo. Other than not being able to drop the flag in CTF, I honestly like everything that 343 has done with Halo 4. I’m optimistic, some say.

Gilean: In closing, do you have any final comments or shout-outs you’d like to issue?

Chig: Shout outs to FNATIC and all of our sponsors, my teammates, my girlfriend Alexis, and my puppy! Haha.

Hope to see everyone reading this at MLG Dallas! It’s the most even playing field for everyone and a perfect way to get your name out there in a new game!

Halo 4 baby! I’m pumped!
Gilean: Thank you once again for taking the time to talk. It’s always a pleasure!
Chig: Take care.
[You can keep up with Chig by checking out his Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to check out the official FNATIC website to keep updates on the whole organization.]
[Gilean is a former member of the MLG Content Team who is begging for your attention! Every follower he gains @HHGilean is another incentive to bring you more interviews, articles, and features.]

Mikwenning at Life–The Face Behind the Hood

Austin McCleary has captured and held the Halo community’s attention ever since his impressive debut in Halo: Reach. Now, we have an opportunity to learn more about this young star and his plans for the future.

Gilean: I first need to ask something that’s been bothering me for months now. Your hoodie. Is it a fashion statement? Hiding a bald spot? What?

Mikwen: Superstion! *laughs* I have a full head of hair, don’t worry.

Gilean: We’ll take your word for it.

Staying on the topic of you, you also seem to be a bit of a “rebel” of sorts, lacking a better term for it. You’ve discussed topics such as smoking over Twitter, and your profile states that you “[g]eniunely don’t give a fuck.” But we haven’t seen any drunk tweets and defamation on your part, as we have with certain other pros who shall remain nameless, but may or may not live next door. Do you feel you know where that line is, after all?

Mikwen: I actually have had a few drunk tweets, but they’re nothing over the top, and were all done legally. (I was in Europe.) All I said was, like, “Drunkwen WEEEEE” or something.

Basically, like I’ve always said, I’m going to be honest and be myself and not care what people thinks. That’s where the line is drawn. I don’t go out on a limb to attack people, and I make sure I stay (somewhat) professional while still being myself inside that. It’s like a professional way of not giving a fuck. *Laughs*

Gilean: Let’s move onto tournament talk. It’s been quite a while since the Halo community heard from its beloved pros, so we’ll start all the way back in Columbus. To many fans, Columbus marked the best event Reach has ever produced and one of the best events in years. What was it like to be right there in the crowd, drowning out SC2?

Mikwen: It was awesome. [It] felt like we were supposed to be there again. Didn’t feel like that in 2011.

Gilean: What may have felt somewhat less awesome was your team’s performance. You place Top 16 with Str8 Rippin. While still within the Pro ranks, that was not likely what you were expecting or aiming for as a team. What happened?

Mikwen: We came out really flat against Ambush and got 3-0ed. Then [we] came back strong on Sunday and lost a really close game five to Classic. Basically, [we] just choked, nothing more to it. Sucks, but it is what it is.

Gilean: Shortly after Columbus, the entire Str8 roster was able to head to Europe and compete largely thanks to your sponsor, Apex. Tell us about that competition. How does the European Circuit differ from North America’s? Is there talent over there?

Mikwen: It was actually pretty similar, minus the teams. There’s definitely talent, [it’s] just really hard for them to practice due to the connect barrier.

Gilean: After Str8’s European victory, you decided to depart the team. In the process, you had to leave your long-time partner and teammate, Ninja. Did you ever discuss leaving together?

Mikwen: Well, nothing’s official, but I am running with Classic. It’ll be weird to leave [Ninja], but, just like everything else, stuff has to end. It feels like that time [for us] will be sooner than we thought.

The plan was for Str8 to stick together, but since I got the Fnatic Classic offer, [I] couldn’t resist it.

Gilean: What drew you to Classic, beyond just an offer to play with them? What made their appeal so irresistible?

Mikwen: Well, I looked at their placings. Last event, they lost Game 5 50-49 to Instinct, the team that got 2nd. [Instinct only lost in the end themselves in Game 11 50-48.]

So they’re on a top level, obviously, and I had to take it.

Gilean: Despite your obvious talent, 7th Place is the highest you’ve managed on the Pro Circuit thus far. What is it that Classic offers that puts them on that top level that your previous teams lacked?

Mikwen: Well, not only are they all incredibly skills and lack egos, but they let anyone go off. [They] allow each other to shine when it’s happening. Basically, it’s a family, not a team.

Gilean: That sounds like the kind of chemistry every player is looking for.

We’ll wrap up with a quick discussion on Halo itself. Its odds of showing up in Anaheim are slim to none. What have you done in the meantime to fill your time?

Mikwen: Amazingly enough, playing Halo. *Laughs*

Gilean: You seem pretty optimistic that your practice will pay off and you’ll find a circuit to compete on after Anaheim. Do you think Reach has what it takes to keep going with the new settings?

Mikwen: Yeah, I feel we’ll be at Raleigh. Anaheim is never a great event. Best to set it aside, but do something to keep interest. Just like they did.

Gilean: Any final comments, shout-outs, or challenges to issue?

Mikwen: Shout-outs to family, friends, fans, and let’s step it up. Keep Halo going! ❤

Gilean: Thanks for your time, and good luck in Raleigh!

Michaelangelo: Helping Give Rebirth to the FGC’s Relationship with MLG

Michaelangelo made an impression on me when I went to interview him, as did Perfect Legend. The man is easy-going but hard working. Very hard working. (You’ll see what I mean later.) When we had repeated technical difficulties, he kept working at it and kept insisting until we finally got everything fixed.

The FGC has been welcoming, accommodating, friendly, and professional so far. All those terrible things I’ve heard about drama or hating anyone who even has the letter “M,” “L,” or “G” in their name have just not proven true so far. I’m sure some of it is still out there, but I have yet to find it. And I think MLG and the FGC are about to discover they care a whole awful lot about each other.

Gilean: We’ll start with the basics: What is your name, your handle, and what character do you play in Mortal Kombat?

Michaelangelo: My name is Michael Lerma. I go by Michaelangelo in tournaments. I play Kabal and a bit of Kenshi right now.

Gilean: Which leads to my next question. “Kaballin!” Really? Will you be sporting that shirt at your next MLG Event?

MIchaelangelo: Haha! I wear that sexy shirt to every tournament I go to, and plan on going to MLG events but, unfortunately, not in time for Columbus.

Gilean: It sounds as though MLG is pretty passionate about the FGC, so I would be too worried about missing your chance. Fighting games are here to stay on the Pro Circuit.

Recently, you raised approximately $10,000 and sponsored yourself to attend essentially every event there was throughout the year. (Told you he was hard working.) What possessed you to do this, and how did you raise that money? Did you make it to all the events you wanted to?

Michaelangelo: It’s all about the passion and dedication I have for fighting games. Especially Mortal Kombat! I raised the money by just working and saving. Little did I know it was for Mortal Kombat tournaments. I’m really glad I saved and had one of the greatest times of my life last year!

I did make it to every event I wanted to.

Gilean: Your competitive “season” ended with EVO 2011, if I’m not mistaken. But it didn’t end quite as well as you had hoped. How did you place?

Michaelangelo: I placed 9th at Evo. It was tough not placing where I wanted to at EVO, but I did have a great run, and I’m happy with how well I did last year.

Gilean: There was talk you might take it easy after EVO and drift toward more casual gaming. Will we really find you waving a Wii-mote around in your downtime?

Michaelangelo: Haha! “F” that! After last year, I only really play games I want to take seriously. Other than that, I’m usually doing other things besides gaming. I thought I was going to take it easy, but I have received so many requests from my amazing fans that this year I’m going to try to make it to as many events as I can. This year I’m doing it for them.

Gilean: Was part of your decision to stay competing related to your performance at EVO and a desire to go out on top? Or are there other stronger influences?

Michaelangelo: I have always been a very competitive person, and my passion for games sometimes scares me. The fans just made me take it to a whole other level. I enjoy making people happy and some of the looks I would get at tournaments said it all.

Gilean: Speaking of love for games, there’s one other game that has interested you in the past that a large portion of the MLG Community is certainly…”passionate” about, to put it lightly. You’ve competed in Halo in the past, though perhaps not at MLG. How did that go for you?

Michaelangelo: Before I played fighting games [almost exclusively], I would play any game I felt was competitive and did very well in local tournaments. I would go to houses and bet money against people who heard about me and thought they were better.

After doing so well last year I decided to go big. The rest is history. *Smiles*

Gilean: Mirror matches are something that the League of Legends and FPS communities don’t know much about, although I’m sure our SC2 friends could comment on the subject for days. How difficult is a mirror match for you? What added challenges does it throw into a fight?

Michaelangelo: Well mirror matches for me are a bit scary because Kabal is so damn overwhelming sometimes that the matches almost feel like a blur.

Gilean: Are there any match-ups that Kabal or you seem to struggle with?

Michaelangelo: Kung lao, Kung lao, Kung Lao! For some damn reason, it is engraved in my brain that he is scary to play. Any other character I don’t really mind playing.

Gilean: Finally, Mortal Kombat seems to be your main gig. Do you plan on branching ou in the future? Do you spend any time with other fighting games?

Michaelangelo: I do play a bunch of other fighters (although I hate 3D ones), but I never loved on as much as I love Mortal Kombat. The day you find me playing a game other than MK9 at a tournament is the day MK10 comes out!

Shout-outs to everyone who believes in me and supported my crazy ass.

Gilean: A huge thank-you to Michaelangelo for taking the time to talk (and fighting through the technical difficulties). Follow him on Twitter @MKMichaelangelo and check out his website

(Some) Placings: 

MK Truck Tour: Two 1st Place Finishes

Hadocon: 1st Place

PDP: 7th Place

UFGT: 4th Place

Revelations: 1st Place

Norcal Regionals: 1st Place

East Coast Throwdown: 1st Place.

Perfect Legend: Interview with a Shaolin Monk

Major League Gaming has decided enough is enough and has gone full-steam ahead in their efforts to entice the Fighting Game Community into their fold. And I love it. But there’s just one problem: I don’t know who the hell these people are! (And, maybe, neither do you.)

In an effort to remedy my problem, I sought high and low for a wise teacher. At the end of my journey awaited a wise man in a razor-rimmed hat. And behind that hat stood a Legend.

Getting to Know You

Gilean: Allow me to introduce to everyone Carl White, more commonly known as Perfect Legend. Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get your start as a competitive gamer, and how long have you been making kids break their sticks in anger?

Perfect Legend: I’ve played video games for most of my life, but I started to play competitively [in 2005] when I was 17. I competed in my community by hosting my own tournaments. I felt that [it] would be a better strategy to bring the competition to me, rather than spending a lot of money to go to other competitions.

When I grew past the competition in my local community and made enough money from it, I decided to go on the road to seek stronger competition. My first out of town tournament was T.I.T in Texas but my most significant tournament was East Coast Championship 2006 in New Jersey. That was when I met a friend of mine, Jeron Grayson, who introduced me to the gaming brand that he was in called Empire Arcadia. They dominated the Fighting Game Community competitively and I wanted to add my expertise and prove that I could play alongside the Nation’s best. It didn’t take for me long to prove that either. After joining, I won East Coast Championship 2006, EVO East, and, eventually, EVO World Fighting Game Championship 2K6.

Gilean: You have been crowned World Champion in both Mortal Kombat and in Dead or Alive, and just recently won Evo 2011 for MK. What draws you to these two games over other fighting games? Do you compete more predominantly in one over the other?

PL: I play a variety of video games. Competitively, I love fighting games, and, within the fighting game genre, I like to play games that are different from the norm. 3D games like Dead or Alive are my passion. There is so much depth to those types of games because the game is in 3D. Games like Soul CaliburTekken and Virtua Fighterall grab my interest as well. Unlike 2D games, there are more options for various situations, and you’re not limited to a couple [options]. For me, I love the freedom of having options to choose from.

Before 3D games came into play, I loved Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct. In any arcade that had the game, you could find me playing them. When they made the new version of MK for modern systems, it was MK Tom Brady [The competitive gamer whose real name is Bill Menoutis] that brought me into the game. He felt that I had the skill set to be good at the game and wanted me to help bring flare and support to the MK community. I always wanted to support the competitive scene for Mortal Kombat, but I never found an entry point, so this was a great opportunity for me to contribute to the community.

Right now, I’m playing Mortal Kombat until my true love, Dead or Alive 5, comes out. I play other fighting games, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to play at such a high level in all of them. I’m one of the prominent players for Empire Arcadia, so, like the other members of both present and past, I have to be able to compete in multiple games to keep the brand relevant in competition.  The discipline required to maintain high level gameplay in multiple fighting games is very tedious; it builds mental fatigue rather quickly. This is why after winning the Evolution World Fighting Game Championships I took a much needed break away from the game to focus on other fighters. I didn’t want my skills in the other fighting games to be neglected. Every now and then I brush up on the game to make sure that I’m at the very least relevant if I have to play.

Gilean: What character(s) do you main in Mortal Kombat and why?

PL: For me, it’s about the storyline. Kung Lao was the first Mortal Kombat champion, and I [have] loved playing with him since Part 2 and, especially, Shaolin Monks. I just like the character’s SWAG! I [do] play other characters just to understand what properties they have, so I know what I’m up against when facing them.

Gilean: What MLG Events have you attended in the past?

PL: My first MLG was Columbus, Ohio, in 2010 for Tekken. My second Event was last year when [MLG] returned to Columbus and held the Mortal Kombat Exhibition, which I won.

Getting to Know Your Game

Gilean: FPS Competitors always stress how important it is to get LAN practice in if one wants to actually get worthwhile practice. In fighting games, it would seem that LAN would be even more important, seeing as how precise and perfectly timed every action must be. What does a regular practice schedule look like for you? Do you practice against bots, over XBL/PSN, or are there moderately skilled players nearby?

PL: Most of my Mortal Kombat practice is in done in the practice mode against max difficulty. When I do get the chance to practice against a physical opponent, it’s usually with either MK Tom Brady, THTB, Forever King, or Altarie, who’s from Canada.

Gilean: How well balanced are the various characters in MK? Are there any OP characters we should keep an eye out for during the Event?

PL: Well, Nether Realm is on top of the game when it comes to patches. So, the minute something broken is unveiled, best believe that it gets patched quickly. Right now, there are a few characters who are very strong, though; to name a few, there is Sonya, Jax, Kitana, and Cyrax. Those guys rose up in the ranks because they [nerfed] other characters in the past which indirectly made them stronger.

Gilean: Mortal Kombat has gone through numerous changes over the years. How does the current title stack up against its predecessors? Has the game ever become so bad it lost its competitive appeal for you?

PL: I cannot speak for the other 3D renditions of the game, but as far as MK 23, and 9, it is really competitive. Personally speaking, I think the game has gotten better through this version. It has really put MK back on the map in terms of branding with fighting games. When you look at the community, this is the most competitive Mortal Kombat to date.

Gilean: Is MK a game that rewards an aggressive play style or a reactionary one?

PL: Mortal Kombat rewards both styles of play.  You have to know when to react and when to be aggressive.

Getting to Know Your Community

Gilean: MLG has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the FGC in the past. What has been your opinion of MLG over the years, and do you think things are about to get better with MLG’s new passion for fighting games?

PL: I find it funny that people think MLG has [only just recently] picked up fighting games. When I first came into the Fighting Game Community, I had already heard of MLG being involved. In fact, in 2005, they were partners of EVO if I’m not mistaken. Unfortunately, the fighting game community was turned off by MLG for some reason. At the time, I didn’t know what that reason was. All I knew was that what MLG wanted to do to help fighting games expand ,and I agreed with what they had in mind. The FGC has been trashing MLG ever since and still do now.

I read an article in 2005 about Empire Arcadia supporting MLG’s initiative, and that was my calling to join the organization. But I had to find out how, and that is actually what compelled me to compete and become a professional gamer. At the time, though, MLG stopped pushing the game that I wanted to play professionally because of its falling out with the FGC, which is why I reluctantly ended up going to CGI/CGS and WCG (Championship Gaming Invitational – Championship Gaming Series and World Cyber Games)

Gilean: In a recent interview, it was stressed that grass roots events are vital for the health to the health of the FGC, and that if MLG wants to enter back into the FGC’s good standings they will need to respect these events. Just how important are these smaller events across the country?

PL: Well, I don’t know about the events being smaller. Perhaps in stature when comparing the community to the industry or professional gaming, but in terms of numbers, well, the FGC has truly grown significantly. It would only serve to do good for both the community and the league if they respected each other. This is about the gamers and showing their love for gaming and competition. At the same time, however, we can’t neglect the opportunity to grow.

We in the Empire have a distinct point of view about competitive gaming. The FGC follows more along the lines of the WWE; as TriForce would [call it] “Digital Competitive Entertainment”. Whereas, MLG follows more along the lines of MLB. Sundance would [call it] “Major League Gaming”. Sundance and TriForce are visionaries who understand the future of competitive gaming for the United States and that’s why I continue to support their efforts.

Unlike a lot of gamers, I don’t want to be stuck playing games for a living all or even most of my life. A professional gamer to me is someone who makes or has made a living off of gaming. It doesn’t have to be just competitive gaming. The title is called “professional gamer,” so it involves a gamer doing something professionally in gaming. Sundance, Seth Killian, TriForce, and others are all professional gamers to me because of what they contribute, not only to competitive gaming but to gaming as a whole. When I’m satisfied in winning enough World Championships, I would like to take up a position similar to what they are doing and continue my professional gaming career. Look at Walshy. He retired from MLG, and now he is a professional commentator for the league. Gamers need to start thinking about their future and not just about pressing buttons on a joystick or pad.

Gilean: From the insight you’ve shown so far, you’d likely fit right in helping gaming and eSports through their next evolution. But let’s focus on MLG for just a bit longer. If the league really wants to nail this Event and impress the FGC, in what key areas do they need to shine?

PL: In my honest opinion, I think MLG is already doing a good job. They got $50,000 to put into their first three games of their first winter event. No matter how much dislike gamers from the FGC claim to have against MLG, they’re coming to play and win some of that [prize pool]. I have a team mate who plays Soul Calibur 5 named Phillip Atkinson (KDZ), and he is stoked that MLG picked up the game. He already told me that the Soul Calibur Community is going to flood MLG. The same with Mortal Kombat, and best believe the same will be for King of Fighters. It wouldn’t surprise me if you see a lot of Capcom players visiting MLG to get some of that money from the King of Fighters XIII, which has a very similar Street Fighter engine which the players are familiar in playing with.

Another key area of importance is who they get to promote and endorse the games in their league. Like any professional sport, player endorsement is vital to a brand’s success. As the Mortal Kombat Evolution World Fighting Game Champion, I’m in a very important position where I can help expand the Mortal Kombat competitive scene. This is where I can put my title to use. In the Empire, you’re taught that, “It’s not what you win [that’s important], but what you do with what you’ve won.” For me, endorsing MLG helps expand the Mortal Kombat scene. That is more important than winning the championship itself. I hope other respected gamers follow suit and help MLG take fighting games to the next level.

Gilean: Is the FGC a close-knit one, or is there a lot of strife between players? How interrelated are the different games’ communities?

PL: The fighting game community is far from being close-knit. If not for SRK/Evo, the Capcom community would not get along with the Namco, Nintendo, Tecmo, Sega, SNK, and Nether Realms. Cacpom games foster elitist gamers who look down on the other competitive fighting games like TekkenSuper Smash Bros.Dead or AliveVirtua Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. No one can tell me this is false because I’ve been in the scene and competed at their tournaments locally, regionally, and [at the] majors and hear them talk to me about gaming discrimination. “Oh, you play DOA? Man, you should play a real fighting game.” I’m like, what?

This starts a lot of rivalries that cross over into games. I find it funny how they make cross over games so that we can fight it out virtually. Whoever came up with that idea is godlike, because it supports both the community and the industry. Games like Super Smash Bros. with Mario vs. Sonic, Capcom vs. SNK with Ryu vs. Terry, Street Fighter X Tekken with Akuma vs. Orge, Marvel vs. Capcom (and the list goes on), are an excellent way to unite the community.

Gilean: Is there a large international community for MK? 

PL: I know that they play Mortal Kombat in other countries, and there is a very strong presence for the game. But for the game having another scene outside of America, I’m not too sure if that does exist. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt it’s because people may not like the game, but has more to do with the extreme level of violence and gore. It’s like the Gears of War for Fighting Games. It is accepted here in America, but in other countries it may be too violent to be accepted.

Gilean: I’d like to thank Perfect Legend for taking the time to talk with me. I strongly encourage everyone in the MLG community to give him a follow on twitter: @PerfectLegend. If you’re going to be in Columbus, show the man some love! And if you’ll be at home, too poor and too far to attend the event (read: myself), then be sure to tune in and watch him show off his “SWAG” live.

(Follow, as it turns out, helps encourage me to keep doing these things: @Gileann)

Here’s just a little preview.

PowerUp MK 9 Grand Finals: EMP PerfectLegend vs. EMP Tom Brady

Evo 2011 Grand Finals: EMP PerfectLegend vs. vVv REO

BOSS NASTi: Interview Pt. 1

Justin Silva (Boss Nasti) is a character who has generated a generous amount of buzz recently within the MLG community. Many community members would love nothing more than to see him fail. But others, his defenders, claim if you give him a chance there is truth and wisdom in his videos. This vocal minority, I must admit, caught my interest.

Silva had (has) an infamous reputation on the MLG forums. But behind that reputation, he claims there is the knowledge and ability to change the face of competitive gaming. I, for one, am intrigued by this claim. Some of the concepts put forth by Silva I have agreed with in principle, but not in execution. Others, I have disagreed with entirely. And still others, I am completely in the dark about.

I have done my best to downplay my own voice and ideas during this interview (which will likely expand into multiple parts due to length). My own thoughts and ideas will be presented in a later article as a followup to the interview(s).

Gilean: I’d like to begin with the obvious question on everyone’s mind: How did you and Naded come together and dream up this new team and gaming house?

Silva: Well a lot of people don’t know that I’ve known Naded since January 21, 2011, when he first messaged me about some videos I made that he thoroughly enjoyed and, more so, agreed with.

Now, of course, this was a while back, as I have been in contact with Brett since then.  Fast-forwarding to MLG Providence. On Sunday night of the event, a couple hours after it ended, I heard my phone ringing upstairs. I run up my staircase to check my phone and I saw two text messages from Brett. The first message said, “I’m ready to team up and I want you to coach me;” the second was him telling me when he’s going to be home so we can talk.

Two days passed and now it was Tuesday. Brett got in contact with me and I told him what our options were [at the time]. The one thing that we both agreed initially was that we didn’t want to team online(seeing as how he lived 45 minutes away from me). I proposed a “Team House”(now Brett was all excited). It’s funny because there really are little to no cons in doing a team house if you are able to build a solid foundation during the recruitment and interviewing stages before move-in. Being able to work hands-on with your team will always be greater than working online.

So I told Brett some of the ways that we would benefit from doing a team house. First, a real coach is involved in it where I will actually be teaching, transferring my knowledge and experience to players in order to develop them, which will result in their placings via tournaments/competitions. Secondly is being able to show them my strategies that I’ve created for each map/gametype in real-time and in multiple forms to better break it down to them. Thirdly is being able to review film together as though we’re sitting in the a theatre and watching it from multiple angles so they can better grasp everything I’m teaching them. So many benefits with once again little to no Con’s.

We talked about it for hours that day, so long we lost track of time because ideas were flowing right away. I told Brett this was something I attempted in the past and have already done a great amount of research on “Team Houses”. After I explained to him a lot of what I wanted to do, he was just onboard that much more. What really made it official though was the decision to create our “Promo Video” that we first came out with to really mold and put the idea into something that we can show the public.

Gilean: You said that the recruitment and interviewing stages were essential to the success of a team house. But this sounds a little bit like Naded and Karma’s “Golden Ticket” opportunity, which didn’t turn out too successfully. Did you adjust your strategy from what Naded had tried in the past?

Silva: The recruitment stage to a team is by far the most important because it sets the foundation for every team. Meaning that the majority (99%) of teams (including the Golden Ticket team) did/do not set a proper foundation for themselves. Instead of asking questions to get to know the “Person” and find out their way of thinking towards competitive gaming or a team, they opt to recruit individuals based off the “Player,” not the “Person”. This is an ineffective and inefficient way of going about it. This is proven to this day through watching how many Pro teams break up right after MLG events, and I’m sure the number is far greater [for amateur teams]. The majority focus on the short-term, which is playing games/customs with players a maybe asking them a couple questions along these lines:

-How good are you? (When all they’re really asking is how well can you aim/move your fingers on your controller.)

-Do you communicate well? (Which is funny because this question is a contradiction, because you cannot expect anyone to be on the same page as you with every form of communication in-game.)

-How consistent are you? (Which is them just looking for how positive they go in-game as well as how consistent they are, which gauges nothing because they haven’t even started practicing.)

-Some may ask, what’s your schedule? (The low standard (99%) reply is, as an example, “ I can be on everyday.” “I can be on any time after 3:00 pm.” “I can be on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon.” Notice how all of these are very broad)

The Long-Term/Higher Standard players (1%) will ask questions that are based off the “Person,” not the “Player,” the reason being that every player can always improve and potential is never maxed out. Remember that your teaming with a “Person” first and a “Player” second. This is best shown in the Brake vs Demon D altercation.

Demon D was talking down to players in MM and to Brake’s viewers on his stream as well. Brake was simply trying to explain to Demon that this is how you lose viewers, especially if your teammate is talking down to them as well as people they meet in MM. This is just not how you create a positive image at all, and Brake was trying to explain that to him. Demon D, from his actions, was acting very unprofessionally also adding that Brake was trying to control him and tell him what to do, which was absolutely not the case at all. It was simply constructive criticism at its finest with evidence being provided from Brake, and Demon D just showing his low self-esteem by not being able to accept the cold hard facts. This is a prime example of teammates who are not on the same page at all whatsoever, did not setup a proper foundation, and went about recruitment in a low standard way.

This is why I asked questions such as:

-Do you drink (Alcohol or Energy Drinks) and/or smoke? (We don’t want any outside factors to affect this team.)

-You’ll be gaming 60-70 Hours/week, what do you think about that?

-A time in your life where you showed true dedication and commitment to something?

-Living together in a team house, everyone will have responsibilities. What do you think they are?

-How long should a team train before attending their first event?

-What is the difference between a “Coach” and a “Player”

-When working with a “Coach,” how would you describe your job as a “Player”?

-What sensitivity do you play on?

These are just some of the question I asked over 200+ applicants between the application and interviews. So I will say that this is nothing like “The Golden Ticket” in any way. TGT was online, OPY is hands-on in a Team House, I would say that’s the biggest difference right there. My application and Interview process is totally different than what TGT did, I’m actually prepared where they weren’t. We know our teammates as “People” first, then “Players” second. Yet the most important difference is my team has a real Coach, it is my responsibility to get them prepared in every way and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Gilean: Asking questions about the person and not just the player is certainly conducive to a long-term team. But some people claim you have maybe focused *too much* on the person, and not enough on the player.

An alternate view to your proposal, I feel, would sound something like this: Examine the players who first have the skill to win. If they don’t have the talent to make it in the top ranks, then they’re not worth your time on the team. Once you narrow down the pool of potential candidates, where their skills are essentially even, you then begin asking the questions that reveal a player’s personality. The personality becomes a “tie-breaker” of sorts, a means of finding the most compatible player with your team who still possesses the talent to win.

What would you say to those who feel you focus too much on the person and not enough on the player?

Silva: Let’s define a player’s skill/talent. Ultimately, it is just their ability to aim or more so move their hands on the controller (moving analog sticks & pushing/clicking buttons). Now, I have never seen someone who could never get a kill at all in a shooter game.  This would define them having little to no skill because they would not have been able to aim on their opponent’s body consistently enough to put damage into them therefore ending in a kill. So someone would have to show me one in order to counter what I’m saying. Which, let’s face it, no one will ever be able to prove that, thus referring back to the point which is that everyone can shoot, everyone can get a kill. What it comes down to is how to do it in an organized fashion. This is what a player’s skill is defined as, making 1% of a team. As a player, 1% is Individual Skill, and 99% is Mental Skill (executing a strategy, anticipating/predicting player movement, communication with team, individual awareness of surroundings, etc.)

So under this it will nullify anyone’s proposal to put the “player” first because a player can always improve individually. Even more so in this situation where my job as a real Coach is to teach, mentor, and once again transfer over my knowledge and experience to the players in order to develop them, which is essentially why looking at them as a “Person” so much more important. The misunderstanding a lot of people have is that we’re picking up players that are of lower skill, this is not the case. Remember that everyone can always improve, which it is my job to develop them no matter how much skill/talent they have coming in. But remember the thing that is not so common right now is “the ability to learn,” and, even more so, “wanting to learn”. This has been one of the biggest characteristics I look for in gamers, because this opportunity demands it. 99% to the Person and 1% to the Player.

“Relationships are made from establishing a foundation of common characteristic’s people share, not how good you are at your job”- BOSS NASTi

Gilean: More than once, you’ve mentioned the importance of a coach’s role in your team. How does your coaching style differ from others’? What qualifies you as an authority in Halo, since you will be “teaching,” as you put it, your team how to play this game?

Silva: “In sports, a coach or manager is an individual involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sportspeople. This type of coach gets involved in all the aspects of the sport, including physical and mental player development. Sports coaches train, develop and mentor their athletes to become better at the physical components of the game. The coach is assumed to know more about the sport, and have more previous experience and knowledge. The coach’s job is to transfer as much of this knowledge and experience to the players to develop the most skilled athletes [possible]. Combining these aspects of the sport, the coach is accountable for the overall performance and results of the team or player.” -Wikipedia

This video is of Sundance DiGiovanni (CEO of MLG) and Jerry Prochazka (LordJerith, President and Owner of vVv Gaming) clearly stating that Sundance not only regrets calling these people “coaches, and more so pro coaches,” but he also talks about how someone needs to lead a standard for “Real Coaching:”

A “Real Coach” shares the same relationship to their players as a Teacher does to a Student. Which is clearly defined in the definition provided above as well as in the video from both figures. The Low Standard the majority is at now believes that a Coach is more of an Assistant/Helper than someone who actually Teaches their players. It’s more of the players need someone who can Assist/Help them in minor things such as timings, an extra set of eyes, cheering/motivating, etc. Basically an MLG Coach is a title that has no set qualifications, expectations, or requirements to meet in order to call yourself a “Coach”. All you honestly have to do is be able to time things and you have the job of an “MLG Coach.” I for one will not adhere to this Low Standard. Any one of us who has ever had a Real Coach in sports knows that they actually taught us a lot of things we were unaware of and we learned so much from them. I’m just embodying something “Real” that’s been proven to work in Major Sports, why is everyone else soiling the value of a “Coach” by using the title when they only Assist/Help? It’s disappointing.

Here’s a list of the majority if not everything I do for my team as a “Real Coach”

1. Creating/Teaching Strategy

a) Setups

b) Transitions

c) Choke Points

d) Positioning

e) Angling

f) Routes

g) Route Times

h) Quick jumps

i) Pre-Nades & Nade-Placement

j) Improving their aiming consistency

k) Predicting/Anticipating player movement/actions so they will know where their opponents are at all times and what they’re doing

2. Communication

a) Simplifying callouts in order to utilize more mic time

b) Having more callouts than the norm in order to provide more detail about opponent’s whereabouts/exact position

c) Using short phrases/keywords to execute a play/transition/setup/defense/offense etc…

d) Using a low composed tone throughout the game, to the point of where they will never raise their voice

e) Tactical/Strategic forecasting

3. Mental Fitness

a) Communicating before, during, after a fight

b) Keeping composure in a fight

c) Playing our game no matter the score

4. How to Study

a) Reviewing Film from multiple angles

b) Utilizing overhead maps

c) Creating a play-through/walk-though

Everything that I have listed here is just a partial amount of what I do for my team “In Preparation for a Tournament/Competition”

My qualifications are that I played and co-developed strategies for the #1 Undisputed team in Conker: Live & Reloaded on Gamebattles at the time. A lot of people didn’t know that CLAR was played very competitively on GB with 200-300+ teams where 80% at minimum were actually Active. My team name was “No Radar” and my old GT at the time was “dirtydan711,” which some may remember me by. The reason why my team was #1 for two seasons in a row and was the KOTH 32 Tournament they held at the end of the 3rd season was because of the foundation we had as a team, which is a foundation that I carry with me and build upon to this day. The majority of what I have listed above are concepts we implemented back in 2005. Around 7 years later, we’re still at a Low Standard, and it is disappointing. I’ve studied Strategy in one area from researching other coaches in professional sports and looked at everything they did for their team across Soccer, Football, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, etc. I played chess competitively growing up and competed in some tournaments. I’ve experienced and researched multiple areas in the world where strategy can be applied in order to gain enough knowledge along with some experience to qualify myself as a “Real Coach” If you want to be a Real Coach, you need to be able to do everything I can and sum up the definition at the top of this response.

Asking me how my coaching style differs from others is not correct. I am a Real Coach whose responsibility is to teach, mentor, transfer over my knowledge and experience to develop my players and the team in order for the result to be Winning Tournaments, if not at the very least Monetary Placings. I am responsible for where my team places at a tournament, because it is my job to prepare them. My players are responsible for executing what I have taught them and what they have learned. It is a team effort at the end of the day.

In order to prove that you’re a Real Coach before a Professional one at that, you need to be able to take a team from nothing (ex. AM) and turn them into something (ex. Pro). Ex. A Team would have to go to an MLG Event compete in and make it out of Open/AM to a Top 16 Placing because of what their assistant taught them and the players executed to a tee.

But remember, in a state of disarray where no one right now (except myself) knows how to actually reach the Higher Standard (for the games/areas I am involved in). Someone has to step out and be the Higher Standard so everyone will know what it is and how we can all get there. We cannot be afraid of change or trying new things, because even if they don’t work out, nothing is lost, meaning that we can only improve.

This concludes the first portion of my interview with Justin Silva (Boss Nasti). I hope to expand upon this with some of your own questions in the future, as well as more of my own. But I feel this is a significant amount of information to chew and digest as it stands, and I want to keep the focus on the specific claims and ideas presented here.

You can look forward to my own commentary (and may others’, if there is an expressed desire) in the future on the content above. In short: Silva and I, surprisingly, share a number of beliefs about the philosophy of coaching and teams. But we would see these ideas implemented through vastly different means. The best analogy I can give is two Senators form the same party who share the same goals of helping people, but can’t decide on just what bills to pass through Congress in order to do it.

I would like to thank Silva for his time and for the great effort of putting his ideas down in writing for myself and others to examine.

@Gileann–For updates and regular information about all things related to eSports, Gaming, and whatever the hell I feel like. — Stream for OPY