From the start of the PUBG esports scene, Team Liquid has been running as one of the top-tier teams. From the first tournament in TPP to the transition to FPP, in the domestic European PUBG leagues and series, Team Liquid maintained a high position and was considered one of the best teams. All of this was possible because Jim "Jeemzz" Eliassen and Jord "Ibiza" van Geldere stood as pillars of the team.
During the 2021 PUBG Global Invitational.S, I was able to meet with Jeemzz and Ibiza for a nice conversation. The two players were happy to discuss their careers, the PUBG esports scene, and the current tournament.
※ This interview was conducted on Mar. 15
Is it your first time here in Korea? How do you like it?
Jeemzz: It’s pretty good. Something I really admire in Korea is that it feels peaceful wherever you go. The people and the culture — if you walk around Paradise City, near our hotel, it’s all so peaceful. If you go to Europe or North America, people are more obnoxious. It’s somehow way more peaceful here. It’s a good thing.
Ibiza: I’ve been here a couple of times before. The people are really nice. Wherever you go, you get treated well.
Jeemzz: I like how people nod at you, tilt their heads when they greet you. Also, the food here is very different from what we’re used to. The food is way healthier than any other countries I’ve traveled to. There are a lot more vegetables, rice, meat, chicken, fish — all that stuff. There’s not as much fast food or junk food here. Better food in general.
Let’s track back to the beginning. Do you remember the first time you played PUBG?
Ibiza: I do. I used to play a game that was quite similar to PUBG, mechanical-wise. It was also a TPP game. When I saw PUBG for the first time, I thought, “No, I don’t want to play this game”. I don’t know, it looked kind of weird to me. I got a certain vibe from it that I didn’t really like.
And then, everyone started playing it. You know how it goes after that, I just went in to check it out as well. The game felt mechanically the same as the game I used to play. I was already kind of good at TPP. I started playing it, and then I instantly got to know good people and got in touch with great players, so that made the experience even better for me.
Jeemzz: I started playing in maybe early 2017. I had been playing a lot of H1Z1. It’s also like a TPP shooting game. It’s very similar to PUBG in many ways — you drive around and jump out of your car to kill people. It was a friend of mine that recommended PUBG to me. He said that it’s a new game, it’s a new game, and that I should try it.
I looked at some trailers and some gameplay footage, but it didn’t look fun to me. My first impression of PUBG was really bad. It looked like a really slow boring game. So I didn’t want to buy it, but in the end, my friend kept pushing and pushing. Eventually, he bought it for me. He gifted it to me on Steam. In the first game, I played solo. In my very first game, I won with 8 kills. I remember that. I guess that’s how I started. After that, I just kept playing.
How did you guys become pro players?
Ibiza: Like I said, I was really good at the game. And I already had been streaming back then. So I got a little bit more recognition. I got into the right Discords. Pretty much instantly, we created a top EU discord. Everyone was grinding for the leaderboards back then. Our names were on that for multiple seasons. So people kind of knew us, and we were always playing every single day.
My first team was Team Kinguin. That was with Fuzzface, Layton, and Larsen. Fuzzface plays for Faze right now. That was the first official organization I joined, and that’s how the ball started to roll.
Jeemzz: First, I played a lot of duo games with another Norwegian guy who was only 15 years old. We played EU and NA server duos. We would always fight for being 1st place on the leaderboard. And we got first in both of the leaderboards. There was a team that saw me on the leaderboards, and in some Norwegian tournaments that we played in. They saw me, and they wanted to pick me up as their sub player for their team.
I hadn’t been competitive in any other games before — I had never been on a team. At that time, I was breeding salmon. That was my job. I just said to them, “Yeah, I’ll be your fifth player, why not. There’s no reason not to be.” Suddenly the team ended up kicking one player. I think he rage-quit in the middle of a tournament.
As they were taking me in as the fourth player, the team was in contact with a German organization called PENTA Sports. I just ended up playing with them. We qualified for the first event in PUBG which was IEM Oakland 2017. That was my first tournament.
You two are both like the first-generation PUBG pros. How could you maintain the top-tier performance for all this time?
Ibiza: I think it comes from that we had always been playing quite well. When the game came out, when we started playing with the other teammates, we had really good results. That’s where we got our motivation and that’s why we kept playing. Our fan base grew, so we started to stream more, then motivation came from that, new tournaments were announced.
It was just a really good start. From there, I just grew more motivated. The game became more and more serious. I played in more tournaments and made it to big tournaments. After that, it was easy to go from there.
Jeemzz: I think we were lucky to end up on an organization like Team Liquid and PUBG becoming so serious for us as it is. That way, we also can play the game for a living, get paid, and actually do this full time. I think that’s important because I know a lot of other people in Europe, they’re playing this game for so long while they’re doing school, other jobs. That’s a really big factor.
Also, we always kept adapting when the game was changing, learning new ways to play the game, and becoming better and better at the game. We’re still learning new things, even after so many years.
Like adapting from the M4A1 meta to Beryl meta, right?
Jeemzz: Yeah. Double M4 back in the day. [Laughs]
Ibiza: Way better. I don’t like the Beryl meta whatsoever. Team Liquid really supports us a lot. They want to give us the best experience and you can feel that they really care about us players. That also really plays a big part in it.
That’s kind of connects to my next question. Players tend to move around a lot in PUBG esports, especially in Korea. But you two have stayed in Team Liquid for three years. How did you stay on one team for so long?
Jeemzz: That’s a good question. I was asked this question a few days ago. It’s kind of a hard one to answer. I guess we just have really good friends. I think the most important part of having a team is that you want to play with the people you’re playing with. So if you get along well together, you should be playing with those people you get along together with.
Because if you’re on a team, and you’re playing with the people you don’t want to play with, I don’t think it’s ever going to work out in the long run. It’s just been like that. I think that’s the best answer I can give. I don’t really know myself.
What’s the biggest strength of the current Team Liquid?
Ibiza: We just like to get along, go out together and eat. We sometimes see other teams just sit there looking at their phones. Our chemistry…
Jeemzz: Our team is more than just playing together. It’s like a second family or whatever you would call it.
Ibiza: We like to do things together. Go jacuzzi or all the stuff. In-game-wise, I would say… What could it be?
Jeemzz: I don’t know. It’s hard to come up with.
Ibiza: I think the way of thinking about the game is different compared to other teams. But it’s hard to explain it.
Jeemzz: [Laughs] You can’t explain it without sounding like… The way I would say this is that we think we are smarter than other teams. But it comes up as egoistic. [Laughs]
Ibiza: Especially up to now, we really haven’t won.
Jeemzz: Yeah, we haven’t won anything big yet with this team.
Ibiza: Our team is most of the time there. We always had a chance to win the tournament except for week 4. But we had the chance to win all 9 PCSs. The first two weeks, we went to the weekly finals on the first day. I guess that’s our strength. We’re always in the run for the first place.
In my opinion, the circles were quite crazy last week.
Ibiza: It’s a hard game right now. All the top teams are here. There’s no room for mistakes. You can notice that other teams are kind of figuring out how to compete better as the weeks go by.
So a lighter question this time. Between you two, who’s the better player?
Jeemzz: [Laughs] All your questions are hard. We always shy away from these questions because it feels bad towards the other player.
Ibiza: I think Jeemzz has really good strong points. For example, he’s like the aggressive guy. He makes really good openings and stuff. He’s really confident and I think that makes him stronger at that part. But umm… What’s better about me? [Laughs]
Jeemzz: I don’t know. [Laughs] I already answered this question because we’re filming a documentary about our team here. Our last episode was about Ibi and his strengths. A lot of his strengths come from out of the game. He keeps the team vibe really good. He’s a very positive guy.
Ibiza: Sometimes not, you know [Laughs].
Jeemzz: For the most part, he’s always the guy keeping the team spirit up, keeping it high. He’s a very social guy.
Ibiza: And I respect my teammates. I don’t ever want to bring my teammates down.
Jeemzz: You will always have teammates arguing and stuff like that, but that almost never happens with Ibi.
I can feel that big team chemistry from you guys here. I understand there are in-game roles within a squad. What are your roles?
Jeemzz: We know that pretty much clearly by now because that’s a lot of what we’ve been working on since we came here to the tournament. So, clib and I are co-IGLing within the team. I would try to back up clib in the early game and make sure we do what he wants to do — we try to play how he thinks the game should be played. The later the game goes, the more I take over when it comes to the fighting. I try to make sure that we are doing stuff together so we don’t end up doing stuff like splits.
Ibiza: In the meantime, mxey and I would give suggestions. Things like “we should rotate, we should take this”, and there’s also keeping track of the kill feed. That would be mostly mxey and me. And mxey also has a role of keeping things together because it can fall apart really easily and he makes sure that everyone is on the same page.
Your landmarks are traditionally Pochinki and Pecado. Is it because those places are near the center of the map?
Jeemzz: Pretty much, yeah. In those positions, you can always be pretty close to the circle. So you can get to a decent spot in the first zone. But it feels like the loot has been getting worse and worse in these spots. [Laughs] The longer we’ve been looting them, the worse it feels.
Now that we’re here at the tournament, we sometimes loot other positions. I really enjoy looting other spots too because the way you play the game is different. You feel like you get to use your head more when you play. In Miramar, you can land all the way northeast, in Torre, and then the zone could be all the way on the other side of the map. Then you have to be really concentrated, really engaged in the game the whole time. If you’re in Pecado and you get that same circle, you’re always really close so you just need to go “there” before someone else gets there. So it sometimes feels good to loot other spots too.
Ibiza: And also, this tournament, you can really feel that Pecado and Pochinki aren’t as good as they used to be because teams around us are adapting. Nowadays, teams are looting around it more, so you’re more stuck too. Back in the day, people didn’t really realize that, so the compounds around Pochinki and Pecado were more free. Now, it’s much more compact.
Jeemzz: Now there are people everywhere around you. Those positions like Pecado and Pochinki are always good to move fast to somewhere. But now there’s that team that’s right next to you that gets there before you.
What was your most memorable PUBG Esports moment?
ibi: I’d have to say PGI 2018. Because of the number of people that are watching, and it was like my first big tournament. We got there, the format was kind of rough — best out of 8, and we got double second. If there was a third day, I believe we would have won the FPP. OMG won that. OMG had a really good first day, but their second day was rough and we were slowly catching up.
For me, the double second felt that we won the tournament. We performed the best and the whole tournament had such a good vibe. The people I met, the hotel we were staying in… It was such a nice tournament.
Jeemzz: For me, I think it was 4AM throwing a grenade at four players and spraying them down. It was 4AM Cpt. That was the most memorable to me because you don’t see that often in PUBG, that a player sneaks behind a team all the way to the end and kills all of them and just wins the game.
I remember that. It was just one grenade, right?
Jeemzz: He threw one frag and just sprayed. You can see their faces when they’re dying. They were so shocked, and were like “What happened?” It was also such a good moment because the casting on the clip was so good too.
The reason I mentioned the most memorable moment was Ibiza’s smoke grenades path. How was that moment?
Ibiza: I don’t really remember the game, but I remember that we ended up in the yellow houses west of Gatka. I had a lot of smokes. I don’t know, was I the last one alive?
Jeemzz: Yeah, you were the last guy alive and you looted all the smokes on us.
Ibiza: Yeah, I looted a lot of smokes and I don’t know, it just happened. I just threw smoke by smoke, and because of the TPP experience I had, I kind of just knew I could throw the smoke and jump in it to see where I’m going. I played it slow.
Back then, nobody really looted that many smokes — people usually just looted two or three. Yet you guys had so many.
Jeemzz: Yeah, we did. I think after that, people realized how much you can do with smokes. You can survive for so long. You can make a big cross like that. He had a long distance to go, and even though he died, if the guy that killed Ibi wasn’t there, he could have made it all the way into the zone. I think he had like 12 smokes on him.
Ibiza: I’m not sure again, because it’s so long ago. I think I saw it somewhere as well, and I think I got inspired by that. I guess my brain just turned on that moment. [Laughs]
You know, that moment kind of changed the meta. Watching you play, it seems that Team Liquid uses the frags really well. Grenades, smokes, molotovs, flashbangs — is there a tip to using the frags so well?
Jeemzz: If I were to give a tip with grenades, is I just count inside my head. It takes 5 seconds for a grenade to explode. The more you play it, it’s like muscle memory to you. You know how far you have to throw it and count at the same time. So by the time the grenade reaches my enemy, it explodes and they don’t have time to run away from it. That’s what I do.
How could you be more precise with the throw?
Jeemzz: Well, you gotta practice. [Laughs] Always carry more grenades and less ammo, try to use your grenades as often as possible. When you master grenades in this game, it’s so much fun. You just get to kill people and they can’t even do anything about it.
Grenades used to be so much stronger before.
Jeemzz: Yeah, they were. People were always saying that grenades were going to get nerfed. Players like Fuzzface and I were really known in EU for our grenades. People were saying that we were going take a big hit after that, but I guess we were so good with the grenades that the nerf didn’t matter for us.
I saw Jeemzz say on Twitter that you still didn’t bring home a big enough trophy yet. What would you mean by “big enough”?
Jeemzz: For me, a big enough trophy would be like a tournament of this size. Like an international tournament — not just like any EU/NA tournament. For me, it needs to be the biggest tournament with the best teams in the world, like this tournament.
Now more about the game. Which is more important in PUBG, winning the chicken dinner or kills?
Ibiza: I mean, kills could give you the confidence that brings you the chicken dinner. Once you start killing people, the chances to win the chicken dinner are bigger. So I would say kills, but… There’s a difference in how to approach it because some players like just shoot all the time. That shouldn’t be the case. Some peoples’ only focuses are kills and stats and stuff. There needs to be a good balance in your team, in your own head as well.
Jeemzz: I agree with Ibi. Kills get the ball rolling, gives you confidence. Maybe you’re shooting a guy that’s 300m away, but you take the kill from someone else. Then the text pops on your screen, saying that you killed this guy, 1 kill. Then you start the game with a really good feeling. Even though it was a free kill, and you didn’t do anything special, you still feel like, “Yeah, I’m owning!” [Laughs] And you start feeling really good about yourself. It gets the momentum going.
Then which would you choose, 5-kill chicken dinner or 15 kills no placement points?
Ibiza: It really depends on the game. Let’s say you just chill in a compound the whole time, you get one of the freest wins while grabbing a few kills here and there. That doesn’t feel as good as if you really worked hard and went through multiple teams to gain the same 15 points.
Jeemzz: The harder the game is, the more fun PUBG is. Having a lot of teamfights and winning them is much better than just sitting in a house and winning the game.
Ibiza: Maybe if you had to rotate a lot for the chicken dinner, and had to make really good rotations, make smart maneuvers and stuff, but you just didn’t really get that many kills. In this case, that chicken dinner with just 5 kills would still feel really good.
In PGI.S, the rules are very unique, with the Weekly Survival and Weekly Finals. What do you think about it?
Jeemzz: I don’t like it. I think it’s really fun for people to watch, especially the survival because everyone’s playing for the win. It’s also kind of fun to play, but it’s extremely frustrating for players, very stressful. I don’t think it’s the PUBG we know or what we’ve been practicing for. So it doesn’t make sense to swap the format just before a tournament like that.
Ibiza: It’s really punishing too. If you made it to the finals already, you get that really good feeling. But even if you made it to the finals, if you don’t get top 4, it doesn’t mean anything. 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, it all kind of feels the same. It’s stressful.
Jeemzz: I’ll just say that I don’t like this format and I hope they don’t keep it. I really hope they change it back to a better PUBG where people don’t have to play for the win, and play longer series of games too. In best-of-10, it all comes down to how the circle luck. Circle luck would always mean more the fewer the games you play. Even if the finals were best of 15 instead of best of 10, that would make a difference.
Ibiza: I would like to see the finals be best of 15. That’s survival. In survival, you have 16 chances — not everyone of course, but overall, you have 16 chances. That’s a lot more chances. It feels better.
Would there be a team that you guys would consider your biggest rivals in this series?
Jeemzz: I don’t have any teams that I would think of as rivals, but there are a few teams that I think are really good. I admire some of their playstyles and how they execute their push. One of them would be Gen.G. I really enjoy watching their team play. It seems that they’re listening to one player and just following his calls. It looks really organized when they play together. Everything they’re doing when it comes to fights, it looks very coordinated. It looks like they really trust each other and know each others’ playstyle.
Ibiza: To me, it would be Infantry. They seem very organized. Insane mechanical skill and the way they play together is just... Jeemzz once told me too, he played with a couple of them, and he said that they always play like that. Even when they’re just playing ranked, they stack up, they do things together. They seem to have good work ethic.
Jeemzz: They have a good idea of how they want to play the game. Even when it’s not tournaments. They’re kind of practicing even in the ranked games.
As a fan, to me, Infantry are like zombies. They manage to revive their teammates and maintain as many people as possible all the time.
Jeemzz: [Laughs] Yeah. That’s really a good thing. If they’re getting down, but not getting flushed, that means there’s good team play in the team. That means they’re ready to trade.
How do you see the current state of PUBG Esports?
Jeemzz: It’s looking good, now with the plans for this year. Obviously, because of COVID, it looked really dark, and everything kind of stopped for about half a year, but we’re here now, and we’ve seen the plan for the rest of the year, it looks like there are going to be a lot of tournaments. So it’s looking healthy, the viewership’s been great this tournament. To me, it feels likes it’s going up and I’m really happy about it.
Ibiza: Yeah, things could still be better as well. I’ve also complained a little bit about this format, but I respect them for setting up this tournament in the current situation of COVID, the way they’ve been handling it, the way we have practice rooms. There are always things that could be better, of course, players like to complain, I mean I like to complain as well. [Laughs] But it’s pretty sick what they have so far and the plans for this year.
How are you enjoying your professional careers?
Ibiza: It’s like one of the hardest things to become. And something I do is a reality check. I need to realize, flying around the world, playing games for a living, I have a balanced schedule, I can do whatever I want, I could stream whenever I want. I really appreciate it. I’m super happy.
Of course, there are moments too where you don’t see these things because you’re not playing well or the team’s not performing well, or there are other things in the personal life that are going on, but in general, I really appreciate it and I love it. I got to know a lot of people and grow my own brand a lot, so it’s really good for me.
Jeemzz: I would say the same thing. It’s very enjoyable. It has a lot of good perks. You could work from home, you do your own schedule, all that’s really great. But that all comes out of sacrifice. It takes a lot more time than a regular job does. And spending time with family, friends, relationships, that kind of stuff is super difficult for being a pro gamer. We’re being here for three months almost.
When we got here, we had to quarantine for two weeks. When we go back, we have to quarantine again. The preparation for coming here was a lot too, with the paperwork and everything. It was very stressful, honestly. But that was only because of COVID.
I think it’s time to wrap up. Do you have any shoutouts or last comments?
Jeemzz: Shoutout to all the fans, thanks for supporting us. Shoutout to all the sponsors of Team Liquid, and shoutout to Team Liquid themselves. Banana Culture.
Ibiza: And you for giving this interview. This was one of the better interviews we’ve got.
[Laughs] Thanks. Was it?
Ibiza: You know your work, and you’ve done your research, so that’s really good.
Jeemzz: Yeah, this is the best interview I’ve ever had. Because I could tell you watched the game for a long time and you know the game. Most of the people that interviewed us... They don’t know that much about PUBG. It was very enjoyable.
Thank you so much!