14 August 2016 - 14:46
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lurppis’ Mailbag #4: August 2016

In his fourth mailbag article, lurppis answers a number of questions about all things Counter-Strike sent by his readers and followers.
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This is my fourth, and much delayed, mailbag article. I hope to continue cranking these out on a monthly or so basis, answering the questions sent by my readers. If you have a Counter-Strike related question you would like an answer to, feel free to send it to lurppismailbag@gmail.com and it will be considered for the next edition, likely coming out next month here on GAMURS.


“In modern CS, the term "support player" is redundant and the proper term to be used is "role player". A "role player" is a player willing to do anything for the benefit of the team. But isn't that what an in-game-leader is supposed to do? Since an in-game-leader sets the strategy, he knows the details about every role, thus he can change his position easily and facilitate the fraggers.”

First of all, I appreciate you using the terminology I have previously explained on Twitter and on podcasts as my favorite for differentiating the roles on a modern Counter-Strike team. Indeed, I do not think true support players exist, and calling someone a role player – meaning the player fills whatever role is necessary – makes much more sense, and is frankly more applicable.

On paper, what you said would make sense – if you could have your in-game leader do all the “easier” roles, your star players would have more space to do what they are best at. However, in practice, it does not quite work out that way.

In many teams, the in-game leader is the most important player mid-round, as the other players may struggle making up decisions and reading the other team. Role players are often either the first player into the sites, or someone far away from the action – and neither is optimal for the player calling the shots. Ideally, the in-game leader would be the third or fourth player going into the sites. And yet there is a better option. If your coach is the in-game leader, the entire issue is non-existent, because your weakest player, skill-wise, can take on the risky roles, and the in-game leader can still make all the necessary calls.

“I know you'll probably get a lot of the same questions from NA CS fans like myself, but what do you think of C9 and their ability to compete internationally? Do you believe that Slemmy has unlocked Stewie2K and Skadoodle? Or is it just a run of ok performances?”

To me, it seems that Stewie2K is not a player who needs unlocking, rather he does it himself as long as the leash you put on him is not too tight. He is always going to make plays, and does not strike me as a player who needs a lot of direction to be effective, partly because he is so versatile, and also due to his aggressiveness opening up possibilities for him across the map.

However, I would argue that Skadoodle has not looked anywhere near as good after the sg@res-era, as he did during it. He seems to me like a player who needs tons of instruction mid-game, and who needs to be moved across the map like a piece on the chess board. As long as his hit rate with the AWP remains as good as we know it can be, that is not a problem – but most of what he can do will continue going to waste as long as there is not an in-game leader pulling the right strings for him.

As for Slemmy, it seems now that he will be stepping out, potentially to become the coach. Given his unusually low individual skill level for the professional scene, it is a good move – but if the ESPN report of Cloud9 picking up automatic is true, I am not sure how much the team will improve. He is another young gun, and has potential to improve further, but I am not at all sure that is what Cloud9 needs. A lot of it will depend on the team’s leadership going forward.

“What do you think of the French player apEX as a player, taking into consideration his career from LDLC until now? He has hit some amazing peaks and had really good form at times, but at the same time, even during the peaks, he's had games where he's missing. Add to that the amount of time he's spent being in bad form and I’m really confused how to rate him. Is this something that comes with the territory of being 1st entry (others like JW, byali, and even dupreeh have been called inconsistent as well) or is apEX just not an elite level entry if we take into consideration his whole career?”

apEX certainly is not the most consistent fragger out there, and as you said parts of it are explained by his role – if you are the first player into the sites, it is much harder to consistently put up big numbers than if you are coming in second or third, already knowing where the opponents are going to be. As such, the variance of such players – though byali definitely does not belong in that group, having taken only 16.7% opening duels for his team in 2016 – is going to always be larger than for passive players.

And yet, apEX’s level of play has suffered in the past 18 months or so, and clearly so. In fact, looking at his yearly statistics on HLTV.org, you see that after three years of fairly consistent play at a roughly 1.10 rating offline, his statistics have suffered and for 2016, he’s at sub-1.00 level for the first time in his career. Part of it is because EnVyUs has been horrible this year, but it does not explain 2015 – which also has the largest sample size of his career.

I do think apEX is a very valuable player, though he could use more help than he is getting on his current team. His 1.38 rating performance at ESL One Cologne 2014 is rating-wise tied for the best ever at a major, and as you said, his peaks are up there with anyone’s. However, it does not seem like he is fitting in very well role-wise in EnVyUs, and if the French Shuffle 2.0 that is rumored is to take place, it could also well reinvigorate his career.

“Do you think event producers should invest more in stats, like the NBA does with them, with more in-depth relevant info on the fly. HS-% is such a BS stat compared to success-% in opening duels, economy lost going after exit frags and a LOT more others. Which ones would you give priority for viewers if the resources were available?”

First of all, let us get one thing straight – the resources, as in funding from events and investors, ARE available, it is just that no one is doing the kind of statistical analysis contributed by e.g. SportsVU cameras and Synergy Sports in the NBA. There are some people working on similar projects in Counter-Strike that I have spoken to, but I am not yet sold on their ability to deliver – though I sincerely hope it works out.

Statistics are very situational, so I do not believe there are some absolute statistics that should always be shown – instead, a real birth of advanced analytics should give us a vast number of new statistics, and then we could in real-time pick the most applicable ones to any game, and each situation within a game. That is how you would get the most out of them.

In addition, some of the statistics I have previously outlined would greatly improve the quality of articles and video previews – as well as analyst desk segments – that could be prepared prior to matches. It would also help teams sort out their own mistakes, and even scout players when making roster changes.

“Hi lurppis do you think CS:GO needs someone like IceFrog?”

My understanding of Dota is beyond poor, but from what I have been told is that he is basically the single person leading the entire project and presumably making the decisions on what to do, and which way to develop the game into. I have said since CS:GO was announced in 2011 that Valve would greatly benefit from having someone whose vision would be driving the project, and if anything, their issues in making real progress with the game have confirmed my opinion.

It is a shame the company has not even considered hiring someone like Volcano – who wanted to work for Valve, and flew to Seattle on his own dime in the past – or Fifflaren, who could help the developers understand the competitive side of things and how to best help the scene, which ultimately will decide whether CS:GO is still played in five years or not. And yet this seems so impossible to me that there is no point even considering it. Add it on the list of many, many things that I wish Valve would prove me wrong on.

“How do you feel naSu will do in ENCE? Do you feel like he will be able to peak at similar levels that he played at with you? Can you also explain to me and other ignorant people more about him as a player and what his strengths/weaknesses are?”

In the early years, he was a prodigy of sorts, as we became one of Europe’s top teams around the time he turned 15. On later teams, he stepped down to a role player-like role – not due to inability to be the star, but simply because we already had contE and ruuit for those roles, and he could put up the occasional strong performance from a smaller role, and was a luxury to have where other teams might have their weakest player, someone whose skill could not come close to naSu’s.

In CS:GO, he has yet to showcase a similar level to CS 1.6, and it is impossible to know whether or not that is still in play. He had one of the best movements in the old Counter-Strike, and in general, he is a very fundamental player in the sense that he hardly ever makes mistakes; he communicates well and in general is the type of teammate you always want to have.

As for weaknesses, I would say that he does not push himself enough – if he had more drive to try to become a star player, I think he still could. But he needs to find the will to actually want to be a star to get there – because he also has a tendency to play to his team’s or opponent’s level, and that will not be enough to bring ENCE over the top.

“With G2's insane form in the past months, do you think replacing SmithZz with kennyS would still be a good idea? Would G2 benefit from kennyS as dedicated AWPer? Or would you rather keep SmithZz on the team for communication/synergy reasons, seeing as how they've been performing?”

There is no right answer for this, because I am not in a possession of a magic eight ball. But if we consider the output that kennyS and SmithZz have historically had in the past four years, it is hard to see how G2 would not benefit from having one of the world’s best snipers over a very mediocre one. At his peak, kennyS was the best player in the world, whereas SmithZz has never even sniffed the top 20. That is a large discrepancy that is hard to make up for through synergies.

I do believe G2 would be better off – and it likely would not take long. The issue is that a direct trade would be catastrophic for EnVyUs, and buying out kennyS’s contract should not be cheap for G2. shox and company have been playing well thanks to him and ScreaM, with RpK upping his level of play and even bodyy putting up the occasional effort. As for SmithZz, he has done his job, but how much better could G2 be at their peak with kennyS? Impossible to say, but I would predict quite a bit.

“Do you think the culture of auxiliary staff around CS teams will evolve as the potential financial gain would justify employing people who analyze demos, scout opponents or just run around empty servers timing distances and smokes, testing wallbangs/boosts etc. and compile reports for the players and "head-coach" to use?”

Many teams already have analysts and staff doing just that for them – and in fact, vuggo became the coach of Fnatic only after joining the team as an analyst prior to ESL One Katowice 2015. As I have often said, I do believe coaching is the future of Counter-Strike – and therefore so will be employment of analysts and scouts, who can greatly improve the preparation a team can put in prior to each and every game, while easing the workload of the in-game leader, or even better, the head coach.

I definitely think Counter-Strike could benefit from an American football-like approach of having two coaches – one for defense, and another for offense. Each side of the game is so different, and it would allow the staff to focus on two entirely different things, effectively allowing them twice as much time to do their job as they would otherwise have. And this is on top of the coaching staff already saving time from having analysts do much of the work for them.

Finally, I believe advanced analytics will in the future do a lot of this work for the teams. With heat maps existing, you can get most of the information you would spend hours watching demos for from a simple breakdown of heat maps within minutes. This is something I believe strongly in, and hope to be able to find a project to contribute in sometime in the future. In short, all of this is without a doubt in Counter-Strike’s future, and will improve the game as a whole.

“We've seen teams with skilled players, like FaZe and mousesports for example, that have either unlocked their previously underperforming stars or weakened their star player (kioShiMa’s addition has seen aizy begin to return to form, nex dropped off after NiKo joined). My question is, in what way do a team's conflicts with roles manifest? What is actually going on in the team that means one player won't be as effective?”

Often it is as simple as the in-game roles changing once a new player joins. The best players often can thrive in almost any role – though to a slightly different degree – but there are many players capable of playing at a star-like level in one role, who could entirely disappear in another. For example, both aizy and nex have struggled significantly once they have lost the fragging roles on their teams, and for aizy, it is even more worrying as it is the second time this has happened – first on Dignitas in 2015, and now on FaZe for nearly the past year.

Certain players also need to feel confident to play well, and self-confidence is rarer than one would expect among the star players. I have seen very good players fall off a cliff individually after having a bad tournament or two, with no change in roles in-game. It is possible that nex and aizy could learn to do well in secondary roles as well, but history does not suggest we should hold our breath. Given the reports of nex being uncomfortable in front of large crowds, I would expect him to never make the leap – or he would already have. As for aizy, the time is ticking.


You can follow me on Twitter at @lurppis_.

Photo credits: DreamHack, Gamespot

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