Interview with Crumbz - the transition from League to Overwatch
Alberto "Crumbz" Rengifo has done it all. With experience as a coach, player, caster and analyst for League of Legends, Crumbz is one of the authorities on esports as a whole. Starting in early 2011, Crumbz started his tenure within League of Legends, which was the vehicle that ignited his career in esports. In his newest venture, he now joins the analyst desk of the Overwatch League to help contextualize and break down plays for all to see. Crumbz found some time to speak with Esports Heaven to talk about his career, why exactly jumped ships to Overwatch, and some lighthearted analysis.
One interesting little fact that I found while doing some research was that you grew up as a competitive sailor in your home country of Venezuela. Are there any lessons from sailing that have shaped how you live your day to day life? Are there any that have impacted your professional life?
The lessons sailing taught me were invaluable. Many of them have become the core of who I am today. Sailing teaches you to have confidence in yourself and in your ability to carve your own path. It also teaches you to be independent. When you’re in the middle of the ocean by yourself, it’s important to be able to be resourceful when something goes wrong. It taught me how to enjoy times when I’m by myself, and how to improve at a skill without the reference point of someone else.
As many people know you from your time as a professional player, coach, analyst, and caster within League of Legends, it would be remiss of me not to ask - why did you make the leap of faith to Blizzard Entertainment and the Overwatch League? Was there something specifically that lured you over to Overwatch?
My relationship with Overwatch goes way back. Before the beta was launched I was invited by Blizzard with a couple of other people in the gaming space to come into the Blizzard offices and test the game out. I was stoked; I didn’t think Blizzard even knew who I was. Since then I casually played the game for a couple of the seasons. I was busy with League so I couldn’t stay on top of Overwatch but I thought a great thing the game [had] going on was its emphasis on relatable character(s). A story is all about the characters and I think Overwatch has done a stellar job presenting its heroes.
But cool characters [are] not enough to make such a monumental leap, especially for a move as big as this one. My decision came down to this: I knew what I had in League; the position I was in guaranteed me a long, safe and successful future. The biggest draw would have been to refine my role and adapt to living in Korea. While living in Korea is incredible, the whole package lacked sufficient risk for my taste. I like to take risks, and get out of my comfort zone, and challenge myself. When I was contacted about Overwatch I was first skeptical, but after a few days of consideration and pros and cons lists, Overwatch came through with flying colors. Overwatch offered the opportunity for me to learn a new game, challenge myself to reach the same heights of expertise, work in a team environment and be part of the most ambitious esports project yet. It was a perfect fit for my next chapter.
I like to play Poker, and that game has many great aspects applicable to daily life. If you know your limits well and have the confidence to be able to make the most out of those limits, every move you make should be an all in, because you’re never banking on outside factors, but rather on your ability to thrive with said factors.
You’ve been very candid and inspirational when it comes to the topic of feedback. Could you shed some light on how you found your own personal goals and aspirations? How does one give themselves feedback?
In my head I have goals of perfection—to establish routines and habits that are so clean that they become my second nature. For example, instead of worrying about how an analyst desk segment might have been, I worry about analyzing a game a day. Outside of work, as my routine, look at a game and analyze it. Have that become second nature. All of my goals are about routines and my perceptions. I have an idea of who the Crumbz of tomorrow is; his goals are autotelic. So then my feedback is - you knew your routine but you didn’t accomplish it. Identify why and try to weed out excuses. Excuses end up being like knots in your back - once you get them all out of the way and are faced with the challenge head on, your self honesty springboards you to your goal.
Crumbz from his days as a professional League of Legends player.
Standing beside him, we see a familiar face.
Dark humor and satire are two Crumbz staples. Will we be seeing those traits peppered into the Overwatch League broadcast? Do you have anything in mind already when it comes to adding some color to Overwatch analysis?
Yes! Absolutely. I don’t have anything in mind just yet. To be honest, that kind of humor comes to me when I know something intimately well. Right now I don’t think I have that kind of knowledge to be able to make something of that caliber, but I give myself 1 to 2 weeks before it’s up and running. I think I’ve hit a sweet spot for learning the game so it will only take time.
You mentioned in one of your vlogs while casting in South Korea that there were almost no restrictions to what kind of style SpoTV wanted for their casts. Do you think being put to the test with no restrictions ultimately lead to how you’re approaching Overwatch now? What are some lessons that you learned while casting in South Korea that your bring over to the analysis desk for Overwatch?
Those lack of restrictions led to a lot of inappropriate commentary. Luckily, my peers helped me stay on the righteous path. I don’t think there was much from casting in Korea that is shaping my approach to Overwatch. If I would be tackling Overwatch with the same mindset I think I would be missing out of the opportunity on seeing the game in a completely different light.
The biggest lesson I learned is that repetition makes perfect, so that’s it. Instead of practice casting every day, it’s practice analyst desk everyday. I don’t think anyone’s ever said that before so quote me on it.
That being said, let’s jump into some analysis. From your research in Overwatch, who has been the player who stands out the most to you and why?
I’ve been intrigued by JJoNak from the NYXL. He had that crazy game where he hit the highest damage dealt across both teams, even surpassing Jake’s Junkrat. But what interests me about this player is the implication this damage approach to Zenyatta has on the team. He tends to keep his orbs on tanks in order to maximize both his healing and damage. I find this style fitting if you were to take a look at the game from a numbers perspective. It’s nothing new—we’ve all seen Mercy strats that have her do all the healing to get her charge up faster, but I have the feeling that a mathematical approach to the game can be developed further so long as someone puts in the time to figure it out.
He conquered the League of Legends analyst desk and he’s come to Overwatch to rule over new ground!
As a former professional player yourself, what would you say is the most important trait to winning a title? Has any team, in your perspective, shown any of those qualities yet?
The qualities a team has to make them a championship winning team are known outside of the stage, and rather, in their practice. I have not gotten the chance to sit down with any team and really dig deep into their core philosophy and get to see them stick by it. Until that happens, I won’t know for certain. Too little time has gone by to determine the effects of a long season on all 12 teams.
The concept of heroes that are “strong but slow” and heroes that are “fast but weak” has always interested me, but the metagame currently has been dominated by high mobility. In your opinion, do you think we could see more compositions that are “strong but slow” in the future? (i.e Dallas Fuel’s Orissa/Roadhog composition on Temple of Anubis, Point A against Seoul or the Zarya/Reinhardt comp played in the same match on Numbani Point C)
Absolutely. However, right now, we don’t get to see such diversity with compositions because of the supports that are currently meta. With how mobile Mercy is, compositions tend to perform best when they can play with and against her—AKA catch Mercy as well as provide enough mobility to keep her from being a static healer with ample of room to escape enemies.
We’ve also yet to see all the maps. I fully expect these strong but slow compositions being picked up when we get to see the entire map pool come into play.
Who is one hero you think is criminally underrated and why?
I don’t think there’s any hero that’s criminally underrated. I do think Sombra is one hero who has so much potential. Hacking and playing off health packs can be an outrageously strong mechanic that if I had to pick an underrated hero it would be her, but then again, everyone knows the niche situations she shines in and how devastating she can be.
Easing back a bit on the analysis as we close out the interview, what's one of the biggest hurdles you’ve face transitioning into Overwatch? What are some things that have helped you overcome that problem?
The biggest hurdle in learning Overwatch has been the speed at which certain elements in the game happen that are hard to catch. I like understanding the details behind plays and in a game like League, there was always ample time to evaluate a situation without missing a whole lot. In Overwatch—say I want to direct my attention to the ultimates, thinking that maybe a player is going to hit his ult timing sooner than anyone else and want to see how the teams play around that, but my vision is not trained well enough yet to be able to see both without missing something or having to go back and rewatch it.
That’s been the most difficult thing by far, but I’m confident that it’s something that simply takes time. Speaking to my coworkers about this has helped a lot—not just because some come from a MOBA background as well, but because some come from FPS. It helps put things into perspective, because people that come from different background in games have different ways of looking at Overwatch.
For instance, in League, I could play the game and even cast without ever looking at the screen but only looking at the minimap and at the champions’ icons. In Overwatch, I have a tendency to be more interested in the map view as it helps me understand the game, but I’m confident that as I put more time into the game I’ll be able to combine that view with a new way of looking at the game that hopefully is jam packed with analysis and resonates well with veteran and new viewers.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLG’s of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, Team Dignitas, and Riot Games.