Great Britain?

Great Britain?

It’s nearly two years ago to the day that British team Birmingham Salvo brought home $500,000 from the CGS finals in Los Angeles, crowned champions after beating US side San Francisco Optx on home soil. The gaming scene has since seen some turbulent changes, good and bad, but how have British organisations, players and events come off in the world of gaming as a result?

Birmingham Salvo 2008: Courtesy of TheCGS.com

In recent times, British players have been left in the wake of dominant European teams to contemplate, “Do we have teams capable of bringing home the dough like Birmingham Salvo did?” They’re right to question this and, in doing so, embark as I did upon a pretty rocky road to find out the truth, a bit like the innocent archaeologist Indiana Jones who sets out on the quest of truth (or for a hot chick) and finds himself in a pit of snakes.

Donning my khaki hat and vicious whip in hand, I made it my task to speak to some of the top European gamers from across CS, CS:S and CoD4 to try and discover what the real issues were in British gaming, if indeed they were to be found.

Setting off, I was quite proud to be making a case study of gaming in the UK, a chance – I thought – to get a real insight into the best we have to offer; the cream of the crop. With Multiplay’s Summer LAN drawing close, it gave me inspiration to seek out these issues and in some ways try and solve them. On the bright side, it seemed I was at least following the right path and some questions were being answered. The bad news was that the pit of snakes was getting closer.

Since 2008 and before, the domestic CS:S and CoD4 scenes have been kept healthy by a variety of individuals – both players and management – whose names are not unknown to fans. They were and still are the elite that drive some of our former and current top teams forward: Crack Clan, Power Gaming, Dignitas, Reason Gaming, Team Coolermaster, Fragmasters, Yoyotech, Imperial and many others. These teams at one point or another have been at the very best in their disciplines and they’re still some of the biggest names in Europe.

I caught up with some of CS:S’s big names to see if I could get any further insight into the British scene:

FeTiShMB, Reason Gaming: It’s a strange scene, they got a top team and then that’s about it. All the teams seems to be switching players very often, even with EPS.uk. I haven’t heard of any upcoming uk talents since re1ease so I guess there’s a lack of talent as well. If there’s anything holding back the scene it can only be the players themselves.

CajunB : One of the big problems I think the UK scene has is that they need to keep in mind that they have to stay together and the grass is not always greener on the other site. Besides that then, people on the UK scene don’t have a team like “g33kz” on the Danish scene who have  stayed together in bad as well as in good times. I don’t think the UK scene lacks individual skill and talent because they have some really nice people over there who can do a lot of damage.

Ruggah: The talent in the British CS:S scene is not lacking, it is more a problem of teams failing to stay together as a solid lineup…”the grass is always greener on the other side”, is the phrase that comes to mind.

MAS: Because of the stability. Of course, they got a lot of good players but their teams are always changing players.
of course they got a lot of good player

So, are we really lacking the individual talent to create successful teams, or is it the mentality of these players? The responses above give you a fairly mixed bag of opinions but the overwhelming response was that there is absolutely no stability in the UK Source scene. There is more than enough talent around, according to those I spoke with. In fact, there is experience and talent oozing from the UK Source scene, but it seems to just slip through the proverbial fingers onto the ground.

There have been accusations lately that those who do rule the roost in CS:S from the UK form a “clique” that’s preventing new talent from reaching the top. Cadred.org recently put this to HudzG, to which his reply was:

Hmm that’s hard one really, I just think that very few top players are willing to give people a try anymore, I mean look how good ben0 was for that.. He gave me my break as well as a lot of the best CS:S players in the UK today. The problem is that there’s no one really doing that with a sponsor behind them and no one willing to work with less known people anymore. I’d say though that if you’re good enough and keep playing, go to a lan with friend and do well eventually you will get spotted. It’s just a matter of time because people cant deny raw skill.

I think one of the organisations who are really good for that are Rasta. Damage and arky, from the times I’ve spoken with them really do try and develop people so I have massive respect for them, I genuinly really likes those guys, good trustworthy people.

On this issue, one of the CS:S greats .PhP argues the British scene is actually quite strong and that it’s no doubt the bigger, better players don’t take risk with new talent:

I actually think CS:S scene in Britain is very strong, but I guess it could be stronger. There is handful amount of very talented players, but some care more, and some less. Why can same players dominate scene for long time ?
Because they are best, and they know that there is noone better to pick up. They would need to start loosing to other teams from same country first before they would question their roster and consider picking up someone else. Yet there are players who weren’t known and became part of very good teams.

Is CoD4 ruled by the same cliques of people, the hardcore elite from previous CoD titles whose names crop up time and time again? Frankly, nah, I don’t think so. Those who are at the top of the game are in fact powerless to stop new talent rising to the top or not – I think most will agree that the CoD4 scene is fairly liberal and accepting of its new teams in the way it lets them succeed or fail. By and large, it’s easier to 1) grab a steady lineup and 2) succeed if you have the right players.

miRACLE, H2k-Gaming: The cod scene is really tight nowadays. I think we’ve reached a level that more and more teams can do upsets and challenge the bigger teams.. Both Reason and Dignitas is still great teams, but the reason why they don’t achieve as much as before is cause the scene is a lot more competitive now. On AEF for an example.. Where both us H2k and Dignitas failed in groups:

Dignitas got Fnatic early in the playoffs, and we got Reason early as well which means 1 of the big teams will lose and not achieve top 3 which is every top team’s goal for each event. The reason the big teams fail in groups is because the smaller teams are getting better and better – example PGS vs us on AEF, Dignitas vs Derailed or Team Thermaltake. I don’t think it has anything to do with that they are British.

The insight miRACLE gives us to the CoD4 scene is actually quite a sobering one, that the scene has become so competitive and so healthy that simply the opposition has become a lot tougher. When big teams clash in such early stages of the playoffs in tournaments, you’re bound to have upsets, and Dignitas and Reason unfortunately fell victim to this.

The behaviour of British CoD4 and CS:S players has, however, been called into question and they were harshly judged by Michael “Trigger” Sowa during a recent interview with TEK9:

But, there was always some bitching. To me, that is typical UK attitude – in game bitching and whining from Diablo and Danny. Diablo is the most whiney person I know, but hes a cool guy.

Doesn’t paint the prettiest picture, does it? In fact, the picture is even less appealing when players have given the same comments about the British scene with regards to its maturity in other games as well:

Warcl0wn: Well after what I’ve experienced I think its a problem with the general mindset of the UK people. In almost every UK team I’ve seen (in CS:S) there’s always drama, always people who pick a fight about stuff that doesn’t matter – and worst of all, people always seem to think “Well I bet the grass is greener on the other side”. UK has got so many talented and insane players. So if I could combine five UK players of my choice, and replace their mindset with f.instance the old Reason-Gaming team.. then we would have the best team in the world after a few months. The general flaw in the UK scene is just pretty much about the drama – as the skill of certain players there are, in many situations, at the very top of the scene.

Friberg, H2k-Gaming: I don’t have so much about what’s happening inside the teams, but I would say that people talk behind others backs. A lot of UK players are whining a lot when they play against teams, if it’s the same when they play with eachother that could be a reason. Otherwise I would think that the topteams don’t dare to give new, upcoming players, a shot in their team.

UK got some really good players in CSS and it suprises me they don’t put more time into their team – since they could easily be a topteam. Power is probobly the best team at the moment in UK but they still have teams like TLR and FM!TOXIC who could compete with them if they keep their roster together.

While these storm clouds coloured by some players don’t give British fans much reason to be optimistic, they can rest assured that the sufficient talent in each game is present from the comments above. This issue with attitude seems to be one you can’t easily shrug off, but are there positives, or is there an answer for this?

D1ablo, Reason Gaming: Most definitely. In CoD4 at least there seem to be some British sides that aren’t roster shuffling every LAN event – take us for instance. We’ve had a solid core for a good year now and that’s something the British scene has been lacking extremely in all games to date.

With regards to individual players, it can be strongly said that there has been a great uproar of new UK talent with the new positive minded CoD4 scene, which is fantastic for the games growth. Anyway, I dont find the english drama too daunting, it provides the scene with consistant entertainment.

So, a more competitive CoD4 scene gives us something positive to take from British gaming. Indeed, there are a number of teams – especially visible after the recent AEF tournament – we can think about being proud of.

There are of course solid competitive teams outside the usual names, and those are perhaps the ones which give the brightest outlook for the UK scene. A number of these teams have recently come to the forefront in various relaunches – Infused and 4Kings being the most prominent, and Imperial have established themselves as a solid organisation in the last year or so, managing to pick up the talented Danish uber G33kz at their peak. After what you could call a slump in activity from the top, these British organisations show promise for the coming years as they look to rebrand, wipe the slate clean and crack on again with championing the UK scene.

A mention must also be made to the new Derailed CoD4 team and others like them who are probably the best example in recent years of creating a new team from experienced and talented players and achieving some decent results. Admittedly, we didn’t see them win the AEF event, but we saw them beat Team Thermaltake and Dignitas in the group stages before we watched as they acquitted themselves admirably, finally falling to Fnatic in the playoffs.

With time, maybe Derailed will give inspiration to more UK players to do the same and to give it a try at the top.

The Derailed Lads at AEF, courtesy of http://www.teamderailed.eu

Players aspiring to be at the top have to have independence, to a certain degree, and the opportunism to move on from teams that don’t suit them or aren’t making headway. Individual talent and game knowledge is your own. With this knowledge and experience, you can find bigger teams already formed that have the match strategies in place – and you take it from there.

How do you get that big break playing amongst the people you may have idolised for so long, though? Well for starters, when you get to a certain level, you won’t idolise these people anymore – they’ll be your worst enemies on de_dust2 or cp_crash. When you’ve found your competitive sweet spot, how easy is it to build into a team and battle your way to the top?

The truth is, it’s not easy. If you’ve been playing the game for a relatively long period of time, the chances are most UK players know who you are, and you know who they are. The chances are also that they know you for being the “alright guy who started X years ago, and featured in one or two teams I came across once” or simply you’ll just be, “that lowie.”

Breaking past these portrait pictures that the top level players are bound to paint is probably half the battle. Once they can recognise a batch of UK players who have in fact been around for as long, if not longer, than they have and accept that 1) they might have got pretty good in that time if they’ve had the right training and 2) with the right team, they could really shine.

Insomnia40, Multiplay's Summer LAN - Picture courtesy of Multiplay

Very much at the forefront of the UK gaming world recently have been Multiplay, having just given an insightful set of answers to even more insightful questions from the Cadred community as pressure mounts on them to produce a successful i40 summer event. These events, in my opinion, have had a massive impact on the UK gaming community and questions have been raised about the calibre of LANs Multiplay are really capable of providing. To give you an idea of some of the issues, here are a selection of questions and comments Cadred community members asked Multiplay in the recent interview:

Whilst I understand the logistics of running a LAN, and various costs that are involved, the prize money is slightly poor compared to other various EU events…

Are you worried about the numbers that will attend your lans? Surely more people will start to realise that its cheaper to go to LAN abroad than it is to go to I-series…

Are you going to pay money out quicker in the future? If so, what steps have you made to stop these late payouts happening again?

As a LAN event there is never really much done to attract the best teams around, is there any onus to do that for you guys?

When will you cater SOME events for the bigger teams to help the growth of the competitive scene?

For the first time there looks to be serious competition to I-series on the horizon, with huge companies like HMV taking more and more interest in competitive gaming, how will I-series move with the times to stay ahead of the competition?

Calling a number of issues into question, the Cadred community in all its wisdom really cut to the heart of Multiplay in this question and answer session and raised the issue: are the UK’s #1 LAN host holding back the British gaming community? Multiplay cater for a wide range of gamers – professional and casual – and have had good success of doing so in the past. I’ve heard players on a number of occasions say that this is exactly the problem – the event organisers are adamant to put on a LAN built for all whereas other European events such as Dreamhack, TeX and AEF are much more competitive gaming driven. But the questions raised about payouts and the lack of attendance at the CoD4 and CS:S tournaments by big-name teams really draw attention to Multiplay’s efforts in the last few years and it leaves us wondering if it will ever challenge the European events as a top LAN.

There is a certain excitement for British teams that travel abroad, let’s face it. The thought of an event like Dreamhack where the women are beautiful and the games come hard sure beats the rainy/cloudy/windy UK and that corner shop you see every day for fags/beer/noodles. By the same token, is there really anything that attracts foreigners to the UK events if it’s not stiff gaming competition and decent prize money at the LANs? Multiplay are known for hosting some fantastic exhibitors and the atmosphere there, at least at Stonleigh, is hard to beat in many respects. The hodge-podge of gamers in attendance adds something different to the experience, but a different experience all together from foreign LANs.

The Choice is Yours...

I have to give attention to the issue of whether Multiplay pay out or not. I had a friend approach me the other day from Denmark who asked me if I could write about Multiplay still failing to pay out from their 1st place competition at i35 in 2008. We’ve just recently heard of the cash-in-hand payouts at ASM LAN and the issues of prize money payouts isn’t particularly anything new. I have to say when my Danish friend first told me, I was a little shocked it had been so long.

Competition in the form of HMV Gamerbase does look hopeful for competitive gaming in the UK, and maybe it’ll kick Multiplay into action. The HMV Gamerbase has already hosted a handful of quality events, at which big names were willing to participate. But what does Gamerbase need to do in order to attract the bigger names across the rest of Europe? Do they have the resources to start something on the scale which Multiplay attempt to do once or twice a year?

Some of the biggest prize pots and fan followings have been seen of late in Counter Strike 1.6, a competitive scene which has been going strong for nearly 10 years now. GoodGame.Ru recently published their cash rich list for 2010 so far for 1.6 teams and the British omission is noticeable for Blighty fans:

  • 1. Natus Vincere: $86,250
  • 2. FnaticMSI: $48,000
  • 3.  mousesports: $28,500
  • 4.  UNiTED: $23,550
  • 5.  SK Gaming: $23,400
  • 6.  mTw.dk: $16,550
  • 7.  forZe: $16,100
  • 8.  PiNG: $15,950
  • 9.  WeMadeFox: $15,000
  • 10.  EG: $14,000
  • 11.  oXmoze: $8,650
  • 12.  Ravens: $8,450
  • FnaticMSI 1st Place Arbalet Europe - Picture Courtesy of Fnatic.com

    In fact, there isn’t a British team anywhere in the list out of 75 teams. Surely there are UK teams out there capable of picking up or forming teams that can win $900 to make it to the top 75? Well, British fans would’ve thought Dignitas capable but judging by their recent performances this isn’t exactly realistic. I questions GuardiaN on the best British 1.6 has to offer:

    Because low players. Low practice + low players = no achievements. It’s the same like Czech and Slovak scene:  they only want money and full support and they did nothing to earn it. Just look at the old eSuba lineup with pHp…they paid half the price of LAN79 themselves because they wanted to show what they were capable of. They ended up winning it of course. After that, they had a lot of offers from organisations. But in 1.6 it’s like, “I won’t pay 50-100 Euros for LAN and anyway, I won’t win…FU.”

    Dignitas best British 1.6 team? It’s a shame…I can make a team and beat them without practice. They should practice more if they want to be a top team…where is jungleboy from dignitas…we need more JUNGLEboys!

    Swedish powerhouses Fnatic and SK-Gaming, the Ukrainian lads from Na’Vi, Mousesports and Tyloo seem to dominate the game across the world, but is there any space for a UK team to break into the upper echelons of Counter Strike, or do we even have the players in our midsts capable of doing it? Would Multiplay hosting a 1.6 tournament increase our chances in nurturing teams with a real hunger for the top?

    I think the age of the game plays some part in this and many people new to gaming pick up some of the newer titles, or games that are a little more favourable on the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, 1.6 is a fantastic game and in my eyes is well up there with what it has to offer in terms of gameplay, dynamism and competitive potential. The gap in skill levels in 1.6 is something to be reckoned with since the game has had such a healthy lifespan. For  new players individually to reach a decent enough level is hard enough, let alone form teams capable of conquering the heights of success.

    Interestingly, many of the names I mentioned at the start of this article aren’t associated with the UK or British gaming. They’re organisations with connotations of various teams, players and European nationalities, and that is something the British scene can be proud of – Imperial and the Danes; Reason and the Czechs/Slovaks; Power Gaming CoD4 and the Czechs. In the last ten years some of the biggest names in the scene have passed through British organisations and won major titles with them. However, this is still to be shown at a consistent, dominant level of the likes of Fnatic or SK-Gaming on the world stage.

    Those who currently manage British organisations are tasked with upholding a successful reputation in the UK and across Europe, bringing in players with enough skill and experience and managing them well enough to compete at the very highest level. I leave it to you to discuss what our community can do better to improve the situation and take it to the next level.

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