HSEL 2018 Fall Major - Overwatch player interviews

September is upon us, the leaves are falling, school is ramping up, and with it our annual Fall Major is starting. This time around, the games we are featuring include: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Fortnite Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege, Smash 4, and making its debut, Dragonball Fighter Z!

HSEL features a diverse crowd of players who range from all corners of the country, and are engaged in all types of games. We have players who are in the top 1% of their game and are dominating ladder, players who are champions of past HSEL tournaments, players who are new to HSEL and looking to make a name for themselves, and everyone in between. Today we will dissect the thought process of two Overwatch players. One who has earned great success in several of our past majors and open, and another whose team is of a high competitive ranking, and is hungry to score big in their first HSEL tournament.

Our first player is an HSEL veteran, who has reached playoffs and placed highly in multiple opens and majors. They have also reached a high rank on the competitive ranking system, and during the Fall Major hopes to coach and lead their team to victory. Due to certain strategies being discussed, the player wishes to keep their anonymity.

Question 1: What is your history playing Overwatch, competitive Overwatch, and in HSEL?

A. ”I started playing around season 4 [of Overwatch], and last year's Winter Majors was my first experience on a team. I was around 3600-3700 (peak 3800) when I tried out for my school team, and ended up shotcalling as support. After the Spring Majors I had my name on the Looking for Team list for Summer Open. The Summer Open is my second experience on a team, and it was actually much different from my school team's environment because we had a much higher team average, and team members in GM/T500”

Question 2: How are you preparing for the Fall Major, and what are some difficulties you are facing?

A. “So, I'm the team captain for my school team this year, we didn't have that many signups for tryouts so I've been trying to figure out our final roster. We only did it last Sunday actually, a roster of 6 main +2 subs. I'm currently looking for 2.6K-2.9K teams that will scrim us, I think ideally I want to hold 3-4 scrims a week. I'm not entirely sure about VOD reviews or playing ranked together for right now, since I'm not sure how much time high schoolers want to invest into a school team, or if they even want to take it that seriously.

Question 3: How are you working to overcome these morale/commitment issues?

A. “It was pretty hard to get six people to show up for scrims and our matches even with a roster of 9 people. My team had to play around a limited skillset/hero pool for most people, since again, there's not that many tryouts and unlike say, an Open Division team you can't just cut people and find a replacement, since they have to be from the same school. So for example our main tank wasn't comfortable playing Winston, our hitscan specialist had work and couldn't play Monday matches. I'm doing my best to schedule our practices around people instead of the other way around, so I'm very open/willing to reschedule scrims around stuff like bedtime/work/going out with friends, etc.

Question 4: What kind of compositions and strategies are you as the captain and coach devising?

A. “I mostly plan for my team to run one of three comps: Dive, Deathball and GOATS. We're gonna run so much [GOATS] because it gives teams a good chance to win even against higher average teams. Depending on what my team specifically would want, we might try the Los Angeles Gladiators strategy with Brig swapping to Widow in spawn on Kings Row, or running modified GOATS with Mei instead of Zarya on Nepal Village. GOATS is stupidly powerful and teams that can't react to countering it fast enough just get stomped.”

Question 5: What do you predict this tournament meta to be like?. How will you adapt to this read?

A. Hmm... so from past experience there's been teams that are just playing for fun or don’t have much experience as a team (like running 4 dps), and there's also been high average teams that absolutely rolled through us with a meta comp, but I do expect to run into a lot of teams running GOATS. Honestly If we run into a team running anti-goats, the plan is to swap dive/deathball depending on map/situation, and if we lose to GOATS the first fight, we're going to swap to Pharah/Junk or Pharah/Hanzo. And then of course if we're losing to dive/deathball/other comps we're just going to run GOATS.

Question 6: Are there any players or teams your especially looking out for?

A. Some of the other teams to look out for from the last seasons were Vandegrifts and Sunny Hills in playoffs (I think they're west coast, but I know they have at least a master's average), and Generals eSports from east coast. I'm hoping we can at the very least make playoffs again, I'll feel like I personally failed as a team captain/manager/coach if we don't. It was actually really cool to see that Generals won in Finals against Vandegrifts, since I know they're high plat/low diamond average but they have insane team synergy. Although I'm not entirely sure if those teams are participating again this season.

Question 7:Is there any particular team or player you follow, and why is that. And how has watching pro games influenced you not only as a player, but team captain.

A. I'd say mostly Los Angeles Gladiators, since they come up with the craziest strategies that work out Watching pro games gives me a good idea of what a team should and shouldn't be doing. I'm pretty sure the biggest influence from pro games would be what composition we run Like switching in a Sombra for a Zarya in GOATS.

Question 8: What are some important skills you’ve learned playing and practicing in and for HSEL tournaments?

A. Past experience has given me a really good idea of team compositions and hero counters, and a better idea of how each hero is supposed to position and use their abilities. Of course listening to callouts/shot callers also gave a good idea of what a team should be focusing and what individuals should be calling. So for me personally, it's given me a good idea of when I need to swap and a really good idea of how to shotcall and make decent callouts as well as ult tracking. It's pretty hard to coordinate your entire team when you're shotcalling or making callouts, so there's not exactly perfect synergy with the Major teams I've played with. Often times I would be trying to figure out what ults to watch out for, and then my team wouldn't have the call to go main/upper and decide on their own. But... basically it's helped me the most with positioning, ult management, team composition/counters, and most importantly comns. Often times I would be trying to figure out what ults to watch out for, and then my team wouldn't have the call to go main/upper and decide on their own.

Question 9: How have you managed to cope with shotcalling strats and playing at the same time? And do you have any tips for anyone wanting to try this?

A. Well strats like team comp for maps and hero pools are mostly discussed outside of the game, either before, after, OR between fights - like if you're running Genji and they swap to Brig, you tell them to swap to X hero. After the fight you look back to what was done wrong and tell them to switch next time. It's just a learning curve. For strats like "Let's go Main" and "Dive Zen in the back" they need to be called quick after a wipe. You need to trust your teammates to follow up on your calls, or remind them that they need to follow up in the future if that was the reason a fight was lost. There's only so much you can call out to an extent ...so some strats are discussed beforehand/debated afterwards, shotcalls are made on the spot; and when you’re playing you really just need to rely on your team to pull through. Though it's pretty necessary to know how to play well and talk at the same time.
As for tips for teams, have a designated shotcaller. Ult tracking should be done as a group - like "Did they use Blade last fight? What about Transcendence? Callouts should be done by everyone - Supports should announce if they're being dove, tanks should call out who they want to dive, etc. However, your shotcaller's words are final. If your shot caller says to jump in Ilios Well, you d o it because you trust that they have a strategy and know what they're doing. Don't have one person who tries to do everything, they literally can't. Your shotcaller is generally your offsupport or main tank because most of the time your main tank doesn't have much mobility. Whoever they call is who they can focus attacking off support like Zen can call out discords and coordinate with Main Tank/Off Tank for a proper dive.

Question 10: What were some unexpected learning curves you had to go through when first shot calling? Difficult teammates, lack of experience, etc.

A. Definitely not being heard or being ignored, playing Mercy and having a Tracer on me the entire fight with no peel, or playing a low mobility support and being solo dove by monkey. It shouldn't work since teams can collapse quickly on someone out of position, but it'll work if there's no peel for backline.

Lack of experience was a bit of a problem too, since people just didn't realize they needed to talk. Also there's only so much you can call while trying to play your part. If your main tank really loves to drop shield as Rein and play aggro, or tends to hold shield too much, that'll get your focus, and then you won't notice if anyone else is playing out of position or poorly. This is why coaches are definitely an important role for a team. Coaches can see what you didn't see. Maybe your Rein had a really good reason for holding shield so long, or Zarya pressing Q when half the team was dead

Another unexpected learning curve, is dealing with tilt. Losing a fight starts to demoralize your team, and losing a map is even worse. If you're not winning by a landslide, there's going to be tilt. There's really not much that you can do about individuals (we had an offtank that tends to start getting loud when he's tilted and clutters comms) but you really just need to work through it. You might not want to talk or really try, but it's your duty as a member on a team to not give up. Yeah, you're not winning or doing as well as you want to, but not every fight is winnable in OW. Just work through it and keep things positive. A good sense of humour or a really positive teammate tends to help out a lot. Comms tend to fall apart when people tilt because people slowly stop talking. Once you notice someone stops talking, or things start going quiet, you end up not wanting to talk either, and that’s when you lose.

Question 12: What are your plans in the future regarding esports? Do you want to treat it as a hobby in college like Tespa, perhaps start streaming? Or pursue becoming a full time professional on a big organization?

A. I'm planning to pursue esports mainly as a hobby, I'm actually trying out for a 4100/4200 team, and about half the roster are my friends. I'm not sure what tournament they'll play in or if they'll just stay as a team playing scrims for a while longer, but UGC/Open Div/TESPA are definitely options.In the future Open division is definitely a possibility. Actually, believe it not I play on a 30 fps laptop. Streaming drags it down to 15-30 frames depending on if it's a fight or not, so full time streaming isn’t really viable until I upgrade my setup.

Momo and Jon

The next two players are good friends who decided to pick up Overwatch, and after struggling to find their footing, made a decision to work hard and improve. Ever since then, they’ve shot up the Overwatch ranks to high masters, and haven’t looked back. This is their first year competing in HSEL, so let’s take a look at how these newcomers are preparing and what they expect out of the 2018 HSEL Fall Major.

Question 1: How did you guys start off playing Overwatch, and what steps did you take to reach this point in your career?

A. Momo: I started out playing Overwatch on console, played at a super low rank, I barely knew any maps or gamemodes, I didn’t even play comp. Me and Jon played together on console, but eventually my PlayStation membership ran out. A year later Jon ended up getting Overwatch on PC so I said, why not try it out? Jon started out above average at plat/diamond, but I was still didn’t know anything and placed in silver. After that day, I got really mad and kept telling myself to get better, because we had always watched esports, and wanted to be good as the pros. So, I sat down, and kept grinding and grinding, and with the help of Jon I eventually got to masters. Whenever I play Overwatch, I always play to get better, I never play to just play. It’s the mindset that matters.

Question 2: Since this is your first tournament, what are some of your expectations? How do you think you’ll perform, and any other general thoughts.

A. Jon: When we first heard of HSEL, we went to the youtube channel and watched a bunch of games. Overall we're feeling pretty confident because we’re a high rank, and we’re only scared of a few players like “Dan Twist”. But overall were feeling pretty good, and just go in with a positive mindset throughout the whole thing.

Momo: Another thing, the only thing we’re scared about, is some of our teammates we haven’t played with before, because this is our first year meeting them at a new school. We haven’t played with them very long yet, so we don’t have a strong relationship, synergy, with them yet. But to make up for that we’re going to keep scrimming against teams better than us, and just keep practicing and grinding together

Question 3: Is building team synergy one of the main goals you want to work on before and during the season? Is there anything else your wanting to prepare?

A. Momo: That’s definitely something were going to want to improve before, because if we can point out our mistakes before the league starts, it's going to give us a higher chance of winning right off the bat. Besides that, we want to improve our relationship between the players, like for some reason we keep getting mad at each other. Some players can only play certain roles, so were trying to figure out how to balance each role, so each role plays well.

Question 4: What type of strats are you developing, and who’s designing the strategic angle of your team?

A. Momo: I’m the team captain, and also a really good shotcall, so that’ll be my job. Jon will be my assistant shotcaller, but I’ll be the main one since im playing healer. But essentially what we do is watch VODS of other teams and see how they play, as well as watching Overwatch League. We’re gonna see how the enemy team likes to play, and the types of comps and playstles they run. Based off that we’re going to try to beat them using high IQ strats we take from OWL VODS.

Question 5: What things specifically are you looking for in the opponents VODS, and OWL games?

A. Jon: Basically we’re looking for their best DPS players, and best players in each role. So, when we play them, we know who to focus first on team, and how to best wipe them and take the point. We also look at their comps, and try out new creative comps to counteract their comps. For example if we see they like to run dive a lot, we’re going to tell whoevers play Brigette on our team, how to focus down the monkey and divers.

Momo: To add on to that, we always want to try new comps. We like experimenting with new things, like innovating on comps like instead of just Hog, Orisa, and in a DVA to help matrix and confirm the kill. We know their going to run the meta, so we’re trying to find new ways to counter and break the meta, like Jon said.

Question 6:Does your club face the same issue of having lower skill/less committed players? If so, how are your going to overcome this huge skill gap?

A. Jon: One way I think we can help, is since we’re GM, we can teach our plat and diamond players GM level strats and mechanics. All our other players only know plat/diamond level stuff, and we can help them get to higher level. We’ll train them and scrim together so they can all get better

Momo: Team work is really important in overwatch, so we have to practice our teamwork. So even if a diamond average team has really good synergy, we can out mechanic them and outskill them. I hope at least

Question 7: Since you guys are essentially going to have to hard carry games, are you devising unique strats based around you guys? Like for example if Jon is playing Genji and hard carrying, are you going to tell your tanks and healer to pocket and baby your Genji so he has the support he needs to carry?

A. Momo: I think it’ll change from game to game, depending on what map we play on, and what hero each team runs. But for the most part I want everyone to work together, and I don’t want us just pocketing one or two players. If our rein is only predicting our genji, our ana is only healing our genji, and our mercy is only damage boosting our genji, I think we’ll have issues. So we’re going to try to play normally, but obviously the higher ranked players will get more attention and priority over other players. Still trying to keep it kinda balanced though

Question 10: OWL season 1 has just wrapped up, and contenders and world cup are going on right now, are you guys following and teams or players in particular?

A. Jon:I like to watch the DPS Overwatch League players L like Hydration or Sinatraa in solo queue, and how they can carry there teams at the same skill. I’m trying to watch the how they dive in and which heroes they go for first. Also fun fact: The pro player “Avast”, his little brother goes to the same school we do.

Momo: I got better from watch Jjonak, because most supports would just heal, but he goes for kills. In theory as healer you're just supposed to you know, heal. But he does more, he makes big plays, which is how you win games. You have huge plays, you do more, like you go for a flank sleep, a flank shatter, you throw an aggressive anti, stuff like makes the difference between winning and losing. Doing more than just pressing left click.

Question 8: What are some individual tips have you learned and implemented from watching OWL games?

A. Momo: I usually watch to see if which comps they run on certain maps, and if they run any unique comps.

Jon: I try to focus on the DPS players, and how they can combo with each other. For example Doomfist Sombra, and how they work together.

Momo: Another thing, I notice sometimes they’ll run solo support. I want to learn how to do that while still staying alive.

Question 9: Where do you see yourself in the esports scene in the future?

A. Momo: I just want to keep grinding Overwatch, and if a new game comes out that has a big scene and I enjoy, I’ll keep grinding that too. Hopefully I’ll become a pro player. I’m only high masters now, but if I keep playing and getting over 2 or 3 years, I can probably become pro.

Question 10: So, hypothetically let’s say you guys get really good, top 500 consistently, doing pretty well in Open Division and winning HSEL, would you consider taking a gap year or semester during or after high school to focus on going pro or streaming?

A. Jon: Depends on what our parents say, if our parents give us that space, and we’re really close, and they think we can actually do it, I think they’ll give us a shot. Just depends on what they say. I think we can convince them if it comes to that. When I hit my peak near top 500, I explained to them and they seemed proud of me.

Question 11: Is there any last words you want to say?

A. Momo and Jon: “I just want to say something: Every team out there in the Fall major Overwatch, is going to rolled and smoked!”

Eric Yeung