Aug 8 2016 - 9:07 pm

TSM, skittish over cheating rumors, transfers Overwatch team to Complexity

Team SoloMid has transferred its Overwatch team amidst allegations of cheating surrounding two of its players
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

Team SoloMid has transferred its Overwatch team amidst allegations of cheating surrounding two of its players.

Nicolas “NicolasTJO” Aubin and Jake “torkTJO” Lepoff have a checkered gaming past. The pair received bans from CEVO for cheating in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on June 8, 2015. Similar allegations surround them in earlier games, and they followed them to Overwatch as their team, Code 7, became one of the best in the game, eventually signing with Team SoloMid.

The pair have not denied their past and were up front about their Counter-Strike history when Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh expressed interest in the team, according to Dinh, who initially supported the players. 

"They know that if they fuck up again we’ll drop them," he said on Reddit. "I hope the fans can understand that this is their second chance and give them the benefit of the doubt that this will not occur again."

But today TSM has transferred the the team to CompLexity Gaming, wiping their hands clean of a successful Overwatch squad that rightly or wrongly can’t seem to shake the demons of their past.

The announcement states “additional allegations regarding [the players'] competitive integrity in other games” led to the decision.

“As a brand, TSM has always been about hard work and performance,” Dinh said in the announcement. “I did not want our legacy to be associated with allegations of dubious behavior and I will always hold my brand to the highest standard. I still believe that the guys can prove their skill and clear their names through time and hope that the Overwatch scene can give them another chance regardless of this decision.”

Team SoloMid offered the other four players on its roster a chance to stay with the organization, Tony “Harbleu” Ballo told the Daily Dot, but the team wanted to stick together as six players. They’ve already qualified for the $100,000 ESL Atlantic Showdown at Gamescom later this month as well as the regional qualifier for the ELEAGUE and FaceIt Overwatch Open and a roster change could lose those berths. 

"We think we could have found good replacements," Harbleu told the Daily Dot. "TSM was willing to buy out players from other teams. But with ELEAGUE and ESL coming up, we really wanted to attend those."

Plus they didn't want to throw away all the hard work they've put in to climb up the competitive ranks, he said. Since Harbleu joined the team in May, they've quickly grown into one of the top teams in the game.

When the team broke onto the scene as Code 7 in the beta, they certainly turned heads but still ranked outside the top tier of elite teams. Recently, though, their results are about as good as you can get. The new CompLexity has emerged as one of the top three teams in North America with a valid claim on the second spot after beating Cloud9 in multiple series.

Some may claim that’s because the two TJOs, as the pair are oft called, are up to their old cheating ways, but few teams at the top of the Overwatch competitive scene are immune to cheating accusations. Cloud9 star Lane “SureFour” Roberts lives with fans screaming “surelock” every time he makes a great play, even when he was playing from the Nvidia headquarters for a bootcamp before the Agents Rising live event. EnVyUs player Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka recently came under fire for suspicious mouse movement during a stream, prompting team owner Mike “hastr0” Rufail to respond to the allegations.

He’s more confident in his players as an owner than Dinh, it seems, but he probably has more reason to be considering the entire EnVyUs team is competing from his team house. The new CompLexity lineup plans to move into a team house of their own soon to prepare for the next big slate of events, but even that won’t end the cloud of doubt surrounding the two TJO players.

Either way, the cheating allegations are a cloud hanging over the Overwatch competitive scene. The only way they’ll be cleared is if tournaments like the upcoming ESL live event take the necessary measures to prevent cheating. As long as events like the Overwatch Open, with its $300,000 prize pool, are played mostly online, there will be questions surrounding many players, especially ones like the former TSM pair who have a history of it, even if it really is history. The only way to clear the cloud of accusations will be to implement a full live league where every match is played in a controlled environment.

Until then, the ghosts of the past and the specter of cheating will hang around the top performers, whether it’s justified or not. CompLexity is betting that it’s not, but TSM apparently can’t stomach the perceived risk.

Jan 17 2017 - 8:56 pm

Wolf Schröder and StarCraft’s Overwatch exodus

The South Korean caster discusses Overwatch’s rise.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Screengrab via OGN Global/YouTube

At nine supply, you’re to put down your first pylon. A protoss gateway—what you need to actually make units besides probes—comes at 12. Keep making probes, too: When you hit 14 supply, that’s when you drop the assimilator. Wolf Schröder has followed this progression a thousand times as a StarCraft 2 caster for South Korea's biggest broadcast and league. A one-versus-one game of base management and army building, StarCraft 2 is much different than developer Blizzard Entertainment’s new six-on-six shooter, Overwatch. But now Schröder is one of many who made their names in StarCraft and are now flocking to the new esports title.

In October, the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA) pulled its investment in the game, ceasing support for its sponsored teams and ending the StarCraft Proleague. There just wasn't much StarCraft 2 left in South Korea—or anywhere in the world. With Overwatch on the up and up, many of those former StarCraft 2 professionals are flocking to Blizzard’s new game, despite their distinct differences.

“There are tons of other StarCraft 2 pros rumored to be playing Overwatch, trying to go pro” - Schröder

Schröder’s been a fixture in Korean StarCraft 2 since the game’s start. A professional career as a StarCraft 2 player was not in the cards—he never made it to the top of competitive play—but Schröder’s proclivity for game information led him to a casting gig at the highest level: South Korea’s Global StarCraft 2 League. An international caster living in South Korea, Schröder’s knowledge of the international StarCraft 2 scene was unparalleled. Schröder rode the rise and fall of StarCraft 2 in Korea, but is now looking to make his name elsewhere: Overwatch.

“It’s definitely sad to have to leave StarCraft 2 behind, but since I was already interested in Overwatch, the move makes sense,” Schröder said.

And he’s not the only one. Personalities, players, and organizations are investing major time, energy, and money into Blizzard’s growing Overwatch esports team. With that sort of investment, Overwatch’s growth is inevitable, Schröder said. South Korean cable television channel OnGameNet is the first big organization to capitalize on Overwatch’s popularity, sparking the OGN Overwatch APEX tournament in October to showcase the South Korean scene—and four invited international teams—with a consistent tournament schedule.

HuK | Photo by R1CH (CC BY-SA)

Some former StarCraft 2 folks are looking to fill a void in their profession careers, though not all of them. “I think hardcore StarCraft fans won’t switch over, nor will most of [the game’s] personalities,” Schröder said. “That being said, some personalities have switched.” 

Chris “HuK” Loranger, formerly of Evil Geniuses, is one of them. A former StarCraft 2 pro, HuK is stepping into casting and analysis in Overwatch. Daniel “Fenn3r” Fenner is a former StarCraft 2 player who’s made the switch, too. Though he’s not signed to a professional team, Fenn3r has a big following on Twitch.

“There are tons of other StarCraft 2 pros rumored to be playing Overwatch, trying to go pro,” Schröder said. “KeSPA dropped their sponsorship of StarCraft 2 teams which left quite a few mid-tier pros struggling to figure out what’s next for them. Many seem to be trying to turn to Overwatch.”

Like Kim "MyuNgSik" Myung-Sik, an accomplished StarCraft 2 pro who played for SK Telecom T1, StarCraft 2 pros are likely to see some strain in the switch: MyuNgSik’s Overwatch team, Team First Heroic, has already disbanded, leaving the player a free agent for now.

Schröder sees Overwatch’s success continuing in the wake of StarCraft 2 in South Korea, however. “Part of the reason StarCraft and League of Legends did well in Korea was because of their fanbases live locally,” Schröder said. “A sign that says ‘Haksal I love you’ in the crowd means so much. It means that even though this game is new, fans are coming out in droves.”

It’s aspirational for professional players to see fans supporting them; it’s a driving force in their dedication to the game. “StarCraft and League of Legends started that way too,” Schröder said. “Fans are a motivating factor for any aspiring progamer.”

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

That motivation drives South Korean Overwatch players to practice harder than western teams. “No real shocker there,” Schröder said, “but as others have already pointed out, Korea’s top teams are not as successful as EnVyUs right now.” Whether or not that dominance will last depends on western dedication to Overwatch. Part of that means hiring coaches, Schröder added. And western Overwatch teams have been reluctant to hire coaches, according to Schröder. In Korea, it’s a tradition: “It’s hard to find success without one,” he said.

EnVyUs has taken note of that, hiring former Cloud9 player Kyle “KyKy” Souder as their temporary coach heading into OGN Overwatch APEX Season 2. It’s not something the team felt they needed before, but they’ve likely seen from their Korean colleagues the influence a coach can instill in a team. Though plenty of other western teams have Overwatch coaches, there are plenty who don’t. For Schröder, it stems from a lack of respect for coaches that aren’t as good at Overwatch as the team is. South Korean teams aren’t worried about that.

“Their coaches generally aren’t top ELO players or progamer level,” Schröder said. “But they’re coaches who have the experience to keep a six-man roster motivated, find their strengths and weaknesses.”

Teams that don’t have a coach will start to falter this year, Schröder said. “Maybe it doesn’t show now, but it will absolutely start to show going into 2017.” Raw talent is abundant, but that doesn’t necessarily ensure success. A good coach can harness that talent, guiding players through the complexities of esports in and out of the game.

Raw talent is abundant, but that doesn’t necessarily ensure success

Need for that kind of support will only increase as Overwatch League approaches. But until then, 12 South Korean teams, many of them with coaches, and four western teams, most of them without, are heading into OGN’s Overwatch APEX season two, which began on Jan. 17. Though we won’t be able to pinpoint success in season two directly to Overwatch coaches—or lack thereof—the trends on display are worth a second look.

Schröder hasn’t announced whether he’ll be casting during OGN Overwatch APEX Season 2—Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist have main casting duties there—but he’s promised to put a “big focus” on Overwatch in 2017.

HuK image source

Jan 17 2017 - 6:02 pm

Watch Rick and Morty play Overwatch

Or, at least, some random dude who does a good impression.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Images via Cartoon Network, Blizzard Entertainment | Remix by William Copus

So Cartoon Network's Rick and Morty play Overwatch, huh?

Well, not really—it's really just an everyday Overwatch player who does a pretty good impression. Posted by YouTube user Nickel, the video shows a player called Turok, playing Widowmaker, doing the voices.

Rick and Morty is a popular animated sitcom that first aired in 2013. The show follows mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith on their interdimensional adventures and the craziness that ensues—like Rick injecting Morty into a homeless man, or our favorite episode "Get Schwifty" where giant heads converge on Earth and demand to hear a new hit song or they will destroy the planet. Rick and Morty was renewed for a yet-to-be-released third season in 2015.

"If my Widow doesn't work I'll switch to Soldier or something, you know," Rick says. "Don't trip, my Soldier and my Pharah are pretty badass. All these years of Quake, isn't that right Morty?"

Morty responds: "Yeah, you know. Everyone try to have some fun out there."

Though Rick and Morty's team ultimately ended up losing the game, Turok's tactic had a decent affect on the in-game moral. The team stayed pretty positive throughout, keeping excess salt to a minimum.

Next time, though: More burping.