LT Panel
RT Panel


Major Differences Between Team Building in Esports (feat. Achilios, DoA, and Crumbz)

Volamel 2019-04-16 03:12:47
  This is a collaborative piece focusing more on Overwatch. For a League of Legend's focused viewpoint, click here.
As the new kid on the proverbial esports block, Overwatch has lessons to learn. To help contextualize where the game is headed when we talk about player scouting, a direct comparison can be made to League of Legends. Both have heavy South Korean influence, scouting patterns have been mimicked one another, to a degree, and both are popular on a global scale, but the departures come when we look how long the title has been injected into the zeitgeist of esports fans. Competitive Overwatch has not been around for very long, but longer than the number of seasons the Overwatch League has had thus far. Technically speaking, Overwatch has had events since late in 2015, but real parity did not materialize until early-to-mid-2016, putting the esport at around three years old. This gives Overwatch enough time to conceptualize axioms, but when it comes to realizing those ideals, that’s where we have a problem. This begs the question; how much of an impact does the age of the esports title have in its scouting? Esports Heaven spoke with three different experts in both fields to gauge how the scouting has differed between League of Legends and Overwatch.
A veteran of the esports space, former caster for OnGameNet and current Overwatch League commentator, Erik “Doa” Lonnquist, had a short but poignant answer. “It certainly does have an impact [...],” Doa said, “[...] in that, by this point, coaches should be well aware of what makes a good Overwatch player in general and what characteristics they might need in certain roles they’re filling on their squads.” “When an esport first kicks off, a team has to learn what to look for and I think, for the most part, that has been fleshed out in Overwatch,” Overwatch League commentator Seth "Achilios" King said. “Certainly, in the beginning, it might not have been. This is a game, much like League of Legends, [that] does evolve quite drastically. I think it’s a little more drastic than League of Legends, especially when the meta shifts. If a team is good right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be good down the line when it comes to Stage 2 or when a major meta shift happens or something like that.” He explained that this volatility could be the main culprit in why players like Pine or Saybyeolbe, two flagship talents for the New York Excelsior, don’t see much playtime anymore.   “In regards to finding players that are flexible and can play in any circumstance, that’s still being worked on, but I think that it’s gotten significantly better,” Achilios said. “You take a look at some of the big names, back in the inception of Overwatch, names that kind of exploded onto the scene, they either aren’t really around anymore or they aren’t seeing play anymore because they can’t hold up. I think teams are looking to avoid that situation nowadays.” That same sentiment has been echoed by a number of Overwatch League coaches, one being Atlanta Reign’s head coach, Brad "Sephy" Rajani. So much so that he popularized the term “meta agnostic” to help define which players or teams find success in as many metagames as possible, rather than focusing on just one. Alberto "Crumbz" Rengifo, a former analyst for the Overwatch League and currently an analyst for the League of Legends Championship Series broadcast, took the question in a different direction. “[The age of Overwatch is] huge because since the scene is so new, you’ve yet to see what long term issues happen when you integrate players in a certain way or what sustainability looks like.” “The comparison I have to that is League of Legends where some teams realize that ‘we can’t just import Koreans every year, we need to start developing homegrown talent because that’s what’s going to be the better long term play for us.’ Teams have yet to move or localize in the Overwatch League, so I feel until that happens they’re not really going to know what the issues are, because every single team is now going to have a world of trouble behind them.” For transparency’s sake, the Overwatch League will be featuring “Homestead Weekend Events” for their 2019 season. This will have the Dallas Fuel, the Atlanta Reign and the Los Angeles Valiant hosting home games through Stages 2-4 of the 2019 season. Full global travel will begin during Overwatch League Season 3 set to take place during 2020. This gives teams a small sample of what is to be expected of them and the pressure that they might face, much to Crumbz’s point, coming into the full-scale travel schedule of the 2020 season. However, it’s not only the age of the esport that can shape how teams are built. There can be rigid rules set in place dictating who you can and cannot sign. Other esports tournaments and leagues like the League of Legends Championship Series and the Starcraft 2 World Championship Series all have some form of region locking put in place to help foster domestic talent. For example, in the League of Legends Championship Series teams are limited to three imported players for any one organization. This rule also includes a clause that only allows two imported players on any one given team, this does not seem to exclude academy teams. A team could have: two import players on their main roster, with one on their academy or one import player on their main roster, with two imported players on their academy team. Seeing how the Overwatch League does not have any form of region locking, this undoubtedly has affected the way organizations have built their teams.   45% of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League was comprised of South Korean talent whereas in the second season this number has only increased. Currently, 57% of the teams in the Overwatch League are comprised of South Korean talent. This high demand for South Korean talent unintentionally could be driving some teams to pursue and increase scouting efforts for Western talent. Teams like the Houston Outlaws, the Boston Uprising, and the Paris Eternal all have been actively investing in western talent with varying degrees of success. “I think the teams that are avoiding Korean talent are doing it very deliberately, [like] Paris, but most teams are just looking for the best players and right now, [and] the majority of those players come from Korea,” Doa said. “That’s probably going to be the case for now, but not forever.” Achilios gave another nod to the Paris Eternal explaining, “ [...] if you look at their main roster, it instilled so much hope in the fans and they got so much backing, especially from the French crowd off of that because they were like, ‘you know what, we’re not going to be one of those teams that picks a lot of Koreans and goes for the full six Korean roster.’ People really like seeing that.” This regional focus is a multi-faceted idea. Not only are you providing very tangible marketing opportunities, but it shows that region that there is a clear path into the league. For example, the European Overwatch Contenders scene does not have as many resources as some of their counterparts. This compounds the meaning the Paris Eternal’s focus on European talent as well as their established academy team, the Eternal Academy. “We’ve already seen multiple organizations, NYXL, Spitfire, Vancouver, [and] Toronto now, that have just adopted the idea of picking up full Korean rosters, players that have already been tested on LAN and either have championship or playoff experience under their belt,” Achilios said. “They knew when these players were coming in that they’re used to playing under an audience, maybe a little bit shook up like we saw Ivy in Toronto’s first series but then he really stepped up his play. It’s really good to be able to grab a team that has that much experience already.” “I think there are benefits to both sides,” Achilios said. “I think it’s really easy to say that, ‘ok these guys have played together in Korea and we can get all six of them right now and then we have a roster with synergy’, but I think there’s some depth in your strategy and play and marketing if you go after western talent. The Koreans are already so good at the game and have been the best for a while, since EnVy won Season 1, after that it’s just been Korean dominance.” Crumbz chimed in with a reference back to the concept of geolocation and how that plays into marketing. “The region locking is reminiscent in what happened in Starcraft where people were concerned that the Koreans were the best players,” Crumbz said. “So they hired all the best Korean players and the leagues suddenly became ran by Korean players. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the Overwatch League, but my biggest concern has been, how do you drive fan engagement at that point?” “They’re not from the same place, they don’t speak the same language, hell they might not even play the same game. How do you make those connections? At the end of the day, you want to entertain the fans. Is the only source of entertainment that these people can provide for this audience the quality of gameplay? That’s my biggest concern with that. I have no problems with, ‘do you want to win? This is a pretty strong team, go for it’, but it’s then about, how do you drive the brand of this team? How do you drive engagement? Some leagues are figuring it out but I think you would really have to adopt what Korean shows are like in order to really capture the players that these teams have. They have all sorts of irreverent shows and I think that’s where a lot of these players would really shine.”
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs 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.

Latest Poll

first poll

Do you consider Battle Royale games an esport?