Interview with Garfield, Olson on EG, more
INSIDER ESPORTS - Michael Fleming sat down with Alex Garfield, owner of EG, as well as Ian Olson, EG.ca manager, to talk about EG, ProMod, the economy, and more.
Thanks for sitting down with us, guys. Alex, you recently announced that Ian would be working as the manager of EG.ca. How long has this been in the works? Did you feel that you needed support running this organization?
Alex: Ian's players love him as a manager, due to his consistent, unwavering support for them over the past year. They specifically requested that they be able to bring him with them to EG. I think that whenever a group of players speaks so highly of a manager, especially one who's proved to be so capable from an operational operation perspective, it's an easy decision to bring that person aboard.
Ian, are you going to be just a manager, or more like Alex Conroy, who traveled to CES to help compLexity with sponsorships and the brand?
Ian: I will be the division manager for the Canadian Counter-Strike team, and helping for whatever Alex needs me to help with. I'm here to learn and help grow one of the leading North American brands for eSports. I will be working closely with management and will help out EG in any way that I can.
How did you select the players that you did? Were there any others like Garett “GRT” Bambrough and Griffin “shaguar” Benger that you spoke to? Did they reject your offers?
Alex: I don't want to speak for Griffin, but at this point, it seems that he's really moved on from Counter-Strike. He does some very good work as a broadcaster for QuadV North America, but as far as playing goes, he hasn't really been interested in a long time. We did have some pretty extensive discussions with GRT, and he was excited about playing for EG again, but he eventually decided that he didn't want to go into CS full time right now.
Right away, people began criticizing your selections for the EG.ca roster, especially following their addition to ESEA-Invite. How do you feel about the team? Obviously you believe in them but are they really capable of taking on North America?
Alex: I think that they've been showing that they can compete with the top teams throughout the first few weeks of this CEVO season. They surprised a lot of people with their strong win over eMg, and lost to GG in OT; these are both top American teams, and the results are certainly no flukes. They work hard, and I think that by the end of these online seasons, they'll have proven the skeptics wrong.
Ian, with you leaving Sway Gaming, is the organization dead? The Counter Strike team has little left to work with. Will they recover from this or is this the end for Sway?
Ian: The Sway Gaming organization will be stopping all operations. It was a tough decision for me to leave Sway behind and go to EG. In the long run I saw it as a way to have my players supported in a way that Sway could only hope for, and being able to work with one of the biggest names in North American eSports is also a big plus.
Has either EG team made plans to attend any upcoming events?
Alex: Both EG teams will be attending all major North American events.
The economic slump that the world is currently in has hit gaming hard, with many teams losing some, if not all of their sponsorships. Do you think we are in for a terrible 2009 and – if the economy gets worse – the death of eSports?
Alex: Well, people have to realize that eSports in North America is still viewed as an experimental kind of sponsorship and marketing. So, when budgets get slashed, the eSports and professional gaming initiatives will be some of the first to go. Over the past few years, the corporate world has become steadily more acclimated to the concept, but it's still definitely non-traditional. Along that line of thinking, I would encourage people to prepare themselves for a somewhat difficult 2009 as far as North American eSports go. I think that Europe and Asia will be fine this year, and I certainly don't think that the death of eSports is upon us.
What are your thoughts on the fall of CGS? Alex, you specifically worked with compLexity as an assistant general manager. What problems, in your eyes, did you see with the CGS and could it have been fixed?
Alex: I don't have too many comments on this topic, because I wasn't an official employee of the CGS, but I do feel knowledgeable on the subject, so I'll say this: The CGS had an absolutely appalling disconnect between its executives and its gaming talent/personnel. As far as having all of the grassroots motivation, desire, and insight into what needed to happen for the league to successfully provide what the gaming community was looking for, all of the necessary minds were under the CGS umbrella. The problem was that their input either wasn't heard, or wasn't able to be executed, because of constraints placed by the higher-ups.
Ian, you worked for the ESL organization during your time with Sway. Are you remaining on with them or has EG taken too much of your time?
Ian: I still work for ESL North America. I'm trying to help the ESL brand grow in North America. I help some of guys run part of the Counter-Strike 1.6 division. Some stuff is in the works that will help the growth of eSports in North America. EG takes about the same amount of time as Sway did, except I have less stress now. Especially with me going to school and having a relationship, it helps not to be stressed out all the time.
CompLexity has been hastily adding divisions to their roster, including FIFA and World of Warcraft and TF2. Is the EG organization adding any more divisions?
Alex: Not as of now. We're constantly evaluating different games to invest in and different communities to support, so I wouldn't rule out further expansion in 2009. We just make it a point not to add divisions frivolously, or add divisions for the sake of adding divisions, so we'll usually put between 1 and 3 months of research into any game before we commit to support it.
The new EG website is scheduled to release soon. What are some of the features you have implemented into the site and how soon can we expect a release?
Alex: We're excited about the new myEG.net because it'll allow for some fun, new ways for the community to interact with EG's professional players. I won't play spoiler and divulge the feature set, but there'll be a number of reasons to keep coming back :). As far as the release date, we're looking at the end of Septemb-whoops, sorry, Freudian slip- February.
You said earlier that CS:ProMod is still on the way but many in the community are begging for the project to stop because Counter Strike 1.6 is “back in charge”. What are your thoughts on this? Do we really need a CS:ProMod?
Alex: Yes. Absolutely. And I think if you speak with anyone who's connected to the corporate world and in touch with the people who make these decisions to support eSports and pick games, you'll hear the same thing. Right now, the corporate world is rather "meh" about CS 1.6, and the reason that it's still invested in at this point is primarily that it has this amazingly passionate community. However, because of its archaic graphics, certain entities either refuse to support it, or are looking for an excuse to move away from it. Right now, there's no viable alternative, because all of the newer, team-based first-person shooters have significantly smaller communities. In my opinion, CS 1.6 actually dodged a bullet with COD5, because COD4 had a tidal wave of momentum, which - unfortunately for the COD community - was put to rest because COD5 changed things so much. But I know a number of corporate entities who were looking to switch from the CS franchise to the COD franchise for 2009 events if that momentum had maintained itself. The point is, at this juncture, CS 1.6 - because of its graphics - is hindering the potential growth of Counter-Strike, and is in considerably more danger than people realize. It desperately needs a graphical update, and thus the original reason for beginning CSP still applies.
At this point, I'd really like people to ask themselves, what does Counter-Strike need to keep growing? I think there are two obvious answers: better graphics, and gameplay saturation. The first of these, and its justification, is obvious. But the second of these, I think, is widely overlooked. If you look at the evolution of modern sports, there's a clear pattern towards mainstream acceptance: continuity. The basic elements of any competitive activity need to remain mostly the same for an extended period of time in order for it to grow effectively. I call this saturation. And If you even just look at eSports, you see proof of this. The communities that have been allowed to saturate without frequent gameplay changes have grown the most; the best example of this is, well, Counter-Strike, which has had only one major update in the past decade. Conversely, look at a game series like Call of Duty, which has a new update on an almost annual basis. The lack of continuity has prevented that franchise's community from growing to what it could become.
So, yes, CS 1.6 with better graphics is still the main short-term goal. But I would like people to consider the importance of long-term gameplay continuity as far as the mainstream growth of Counter-Strike goes. Because CSPromod really isn't a mod at all, and it's 100% custom coded from the ground up, we're going to be able to preserve its gameplay whenever and wherever we want to. Regardless of what engine it's on. Now that's a pretty cool thing, because the community all of sudden won't be reliant on Valve to make good gameplay decisions. Valve can release 5 more versions of Counter-Strike over the next three decades, and because we have our own code base, we can update CSPromod graphically without altering how it feels. That's, I think, the biggest perk of the project. Because finally the community will have a game that's truly its own, and it can rest assured that the gameplay won't change with each graphical update. Think of it as a way to preserve CS 1.6 gameplay across every foreseeable update that Valve throws our way.
When you first announced EG.usa, many – and some to this day – call you a traitor and the team traitors as well. However, you never said anything in return. Do you think you went behind anyone’s back or is this story, without the appropriate facts, ridiculous?
Alex: To be blunt about it, the story that compLexity released to the public was and still is a complete, utter farce. However, my players and I felt that the most appropriate and professional course of action was to bite our tongues and move forward. That's what we've done, and I have no desire to revisit the situation.
The EG organization is sponsored by Intel, Razer, Kingston, and Divo.
Graphics by Andy Price, made from the www.compLexitygaming.com gallery.