Aug 21 2014 - 2:15 pm

This weekend, Walshy turns in his controller for a keyboard

In 2011, Dave “Walshy” Walsh won his last cash prize at a major esports tournament
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

In 2011, Dave “Walshy” Walsh won his last cash prize at a major esports tournament. Three years later, he'll try his hand again this weekend at the Red Bull Battlegrounds in Detroit, though this time he won’t be wielding the controller that made him a superstar, but a mouse a keyboard in StarCraft 2.

Don’t let him hear you call it a comeback.

“I see tweets like, ‘Walshy coming out of retirement!” Walsh said. “No, no, no! I’m doing a small exhibition match, a fun thing… don’t consider this competitive me returning.”

If perhaps you’re wondering why a retired console gamer playing StarCraft is news, it’s because of the massive following Walsh has developed through his gaming career.

If Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel is the progenitor of professional gaming on the PC, Walsh is the console version. He’s won dozens of tournaments spread over multiple games, earning over $150,000 in a professional gaming career that spanned over seven years. He signed a $250,000 three-year contract with Major League Gaming in 2006, one of the first of that size in esports.

Also like Wendel, Walsh has proven to be a great ambassador for esports since retiring from competitive play. He’s worked with the Entertainment Consumers Association to create a chapter for esports. He’s a board member of the Gamers Outreach Foundation, a charitable organization based out of his home state Michigan dedicated to using video games to improve people’s lives. And despite his lengthy time away from competition, Walsh remains a staple of his sponsor Red Bull’s esports initiative.

Instead of the collective shrug you might expect from StarCraft 2 fans, most were genuinely excited to see Walsh’s entrance into the Detroit tournament. “Honestly one of the greatest esports personalities of all time,” one Reddit user wrote. “A legend,” another said. Most of the time a retired pro playing a tournament isn’t news unless they win it, but Walsh playing at all, and not even in the genre where he made his name, turns people’s heads.

Of course, that doesn’t help Walsh’s problem with heightened expectations. He entered the tournament for a simple reason: to have fun at a competition that's only a few hours from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. And while he says he’s the kind of competitive person who can’t have fun losing, that’s what he expects to do in Detroit. For the most part.

“If I get a win, I’ll be happy,” Walsh said. “I wouldn’t be surprised, especially with what kind of players Battlegrounds can draw out, if I lose in the first two rounds. I would be a little disappointed, but I guess I can’t have too high of expectations when I haven’t put in the hours for training. I’m just going out for fun.”

Most console gamers would struggle trying to click around a screen with a mouse and keyboard—at the least with the type of speed and precision needed by most pros—but Walsh actually has a history with PC gaming and specifically real-time strategy games. He grew up on games like Command & Conquer and the Warcraft series, particularly the 2002 title Warcraft 3. While he calls himself a “scrub” considering his lack of competitive effort in the game, he was still “pretty good”.

When StarCraft 2 came out midway through 2010, Walsh was quickly hooked. “I played more Starcraft than I was playing Halo,” Walsh said. At the time he was still a pro player competing in the Major League Gaming circuit for Halo 3. But that didn’t stop him from tackling the StarCraft 2 ladder, where he quickly reached Diamond level, the highest tier at the time.

The Zerg player says he used aggressive strategies to climb the ladder—why waste time in Silver and Gold when you can just win in 10 minutes?—but once he got to Diamond, he focused on his macro game.

“I like the decision making that comes behind in terms of determining what to do with your larva,” Walsh explained, outlining one reason he loves the insect-like Zerg race. “I really like those difficult decisions. All the games, when I lose them, I don’t feel like I was unlucky or it was due to balance. I feel like I just made bad decisions or poor decisions.” He points to poor scouting as a primary contributor to his losses.

When Blizzard added the Masters tier, Walsh managed to rank in the 70-80 range by the time he quit the game. But that was a long time ago. Walsh only has about 20 hours total in Heart of the Swarm, the latest StarCraft expansion.

“I feel bad because I promised to stream and that I’d put in some more time,” Walsh said. “But I’ve been busy lately so I’ve gotten in two games so far.”

Luckily, he’s got some quality coaches to help him prepare. StarCraft pros Shawn “Sheth” Simon and Marc-Olivier “desRow” Proulx have both offered their services. He plans to get at least one timing down with his pair of mentors and go from there.

Walsh can also draw on his vast experience as a Halo professional, competing in dozens of tournaments with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, though it’s hard to say how much those skills transfer over. The RTS genre is played in a style that's about as far from first-person shooter as you can get.

The only mechanical correlation Walsh finds is simple hand-eye coordination and capability to train that skill. “If someone was able to get 300 [actions per minute] on keyboard and mouse, if they put those years into a controller they would also be a top gamer and be very accurate,” Walsh said.

But strategic decision making in Halo, one of Walsh’s strengths, as a three-time winner of MLG’s Pro’s Choice Best Strategist award, is more applicable.

“I’ve always felt [Halo] was a very strategic based game when it came to controlling different parts of the map, or controlling weapons and power ups and timing those and working together with your teammates,” Walsh said.

Situational awareness—being able to read the state of the game and react to it with the correct decision—is incredibly important in many Halo gametypes, where players and objectives spawning all over the map create complex situations. That’s a skill directly applicable to StarCraft, a game where map awareness is one of the pillars of competition.

Still, the comparison is dubious at best. The two titles are on “different ends of the spectrum,” as Walsh puts it. “Complete opposites.” Even pro Halo players struggle to switch to Call of Duty, another title in the same genre. Matthew “FormaL” Piper became the first player to ever win a title in both games earlier this month at GFinity 3.

Walsh is non-committal on whether he could have been that record setting player, if he had dedicated himself to Call of Duty or another game. He feels he’d still be a top competitive player if he put in the hours, but that was what his retirement came down to: the hours.

“I do miss competing in the sense that there’s nothing that replaces the feeling of going to a tournament and being able to declare yourself the best in the world at something,” Walsh said. But he doesn’t miss putting in 60 to 80 hour weeks training, with no time left for friends and family. “It’s a never-ending season with esports.”

That’s something many professional gamers struggle with. Can you put in enough time to keep up with the players living the game in their every waking moment? Will you still enjoy the game enough to maintain that level of dedication? For Walsh, that’s where he realized it was over.

“The games you play you have to enjoy 100 percent,” Walsh said. When he realized he was playing StarCraft 2 more than the game he was paid to play, Halo, he knew it was time to hang it up.

“I don’t regret retiring at the time I did. I wasn’t enjoying the games and if I’m not enjoying it and having fun… that’s the whole point in being involved in gaming.”

That said his competitive spark isn’t dead. Walsh doesn’t plan a return but won’t rule one out, especially considering the esports push 343 Studios is making with the Halo franchise. The studio recently flew Walsh out to play a two-on-two match with the new Halo 2 Anniversary edition, part of the upcoming Master Chief Collection.

“I had a ton of fun playing the game and I was really amazed at the strides 343 was making in the esports scene,” Walsh said. “They really want their titles to be a top esports title.”

If Walsh doesn’t end up competing again, helping 343 Studios do that successfully might be his next destination. He currently attends Grand Valley State University in Pennsylvania, where he studies Computer Science with the goal of handling esports balance in video games. If he attend school full-time, he’d earn his degree in April of 2016, but Walsh isn’t married to the idea.

“I’ve actually considered stopping school at the end of the year,” Walsh said.“I would love to see if I could make a name for myself similar to [Sean ‘Day9’ Plott] as far as how big he is doing his streams and commentaries. Helping the community grow and become better Halo players.”

Like many older pro gamers, Walsh missed out on the YouTube and Twitch revolution, two things that help make up a large part of the income stream and popularity of current pros. But many of his fellow pro gaming alumni, like Plott, have latched on to the growing esports scene as commentators. Perhaps Walsh will be the next?

Or perhaps he’ll go on to help design the next great esport game. Perhaps he’ll become the first player to win an MLG championship in five different games with Halo 5. Or maybe even a StarCraft 2 champion? Well, lets not get ahead of ourselves.

“I can tarnish my good name with one of the Halo titles,” Walsh said. “But I won’t allow it to happen with Starcraft!”

This StarCraft 2 foray won’t even be a footnote in Walsh’s vast esports legacy. But it’s patently clear that despite his retirement two years ago, that legacy is still being written.

Phot via Red Bull Esports

Jan 21 2017 - 10:55 pm

Contractz shines as Cloud9 topples TSM

Cloud9’s rookie jungler made a big splash in his LCS debut
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

Cloud9’s Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia didn't just make an impression in his LCS debut. He blew away all expectations, and showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with.

Contractz was the last cut from the Players to Watch list we wrote before the League Championship season. We weren’t sure how much priority Cloud9 would give him, especially with so much talent elsewhere on the roster. Still, we felt uneasy--someone not on the list was almost guaranteed to break out.

We just didn’t know that it would happen in the very first series.

In a rematch of last summer’s LCS Finals, Cloud9 and TSM clashed on the rift. And despite the star power that this matchup brings, much of the focus was on Contractz. He was a major focus for C9, almost a win condition in themselves.

Let’s see how he did it.

Jungle Priority

Due to the changes Riot made to the jungle in the offseason, priority has risen for junglers. More experience and more ganks means a good jungler can more easily carry a game. Cloud9’s coach, Bok “Reapred” Han-gyu talks about priority all the time.

Priority is a League term that indicates which lane has a strong matchups and should be a focus for jungle ganks. The player or lane with priority gets earlier picks and more attention from the rest of the team.

In a bit of a role reversal, C9 picked jungle to have priority in game one. That meant C9 players actively played around Contractz’ Kha’zix and made plays to get him ahead. In one telling instance, AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi burned his Ashe ult so that Contractz could invade and secure red buff.

Contractz rewarded that allocation by killing TSM ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran for First Blood. Cloud9 picked a risky comp that required Contractz and mid laner Nicolaj Jensen (playing Fizz) to snowball. Aided by some questionable team play from TSM and baffling itemization from WildTurtle, they accomplished that.

How would TSM react in game two?

A Lee Sin God

Cloud9 continued to give Contractz priority by first-picking Lee Sin for him (only one jungler, Rengar, was banned). This time, he lived in TSM’s red side jungle, playing around pressure from Jensen and top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong.

A well-executed gank gave C9 First Blood again, this time on Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. C9’s duo lane kept their own red-side safe, allowing Contractz to clear and run to the top lane to kill Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell.

For much of the series, Cloud9 exhibited superior team play and coordination, and Contractz was at the center of big plays. He is an aggressive, carry-oriented player and C9 enabled that aggression extremely well. Even when TSM jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and the rest of the team was there, it was often C9 making the right moves, faster. Following a decent TSM dive in the bot lane, Contractz responded with kill after kill.

It’s still very early in the season, but this team has come together very fast. Their communication was superb as was the shot calling. TSM had poor performances from Turtle and Svenskeren, but this victory was still more about C9's macro-oriented team play, rather than individual performances. They will have chances to come back, just like C9 will have to keep their play high by continuing to aid their jungler.

Contractz just dominated what was the best team in NA. Keep this performance up, and he’ll find himself on another one of our lists: the end of split awards.

Jan 21 2017 - 10:50 pm

Soccer legend Ronaldo invests in Brazilian esports team CNB

The two-time World Cup winner is making a move into esports.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via [Fotos GOVBA[(https://www.flickr.com/photos/37885263@N05/6717662659) (CC BY 2.0)

Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima has joined the throng of sporting figures investing into esports, purchasing a stake in a Brazilian esports team.

Ronaldo has invested in CNB e-sports Club alongside poker pro André Akkari and Igor Trafane Federal, CEO of the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP), with the trio buying 50 percent of the organization.

The club's original founders, brothers Cleber “Fuzi” Fonseca and Carlos “Fury” Júnior, retain the other 50 percent ownership and remain responsible for the management of the team.

The news was announced through myCNB, the news portal owned by the same parent company as the team and now also owned by the new investment group.

According to the report Akkari, a close friend of Ronaldo, was the driving force behind the investment after visiting a number of team houses early last year.

CNB finished second in the 2016 CBLoL Stage 2 finals, a remarkable run of form after finishing bottom of the table in the Stage 1 season earlier in the year. The team they lost to in that Stage 2 final was INTZ e-Sports, who competed at the 2016 World Championships and IEM Oakland.

Ronaldo is arguably one of the biggest sporting figures to put their money into esports to date. A three-time FIFA player of the year, Ronaldo won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and 2002. He played for some of Europe's best teams in an 18-year career, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan.