Close to the end of the year, our reporter Alexandre “DrPuppet” Weber had the chance to speak with former Fnatic coach and entrepreneur Luis “Deilor” Sevilla about the keyboards he is creating with his company Dygma, his time after Fnatic and on coaching.
How is Dygma doing? I’ve seen you were already working on the first prototypes of your first product?
It’s going well, but we’ve had many issues through the journey. To be honest creating hardware is really though. The main challenges when you are creating hardware comes when you are trying to invent something or create something the Manufacturers are not already making. Since we designed our product ourselves we have to make it from scratch and you have to argue a lot with the manufacturers to get the product you want and you’ll still need to compromise on something.
A few weeks back we made the payment for the molds, the molds are basically solid metal blocks that form the shape of the product. You need this one to be able to manufacture the aluminium cases, the plastic base or manufacture the keycaps, for an example.
After the molds are ready, we start the phase 1, where we create 10 molds and check if they are all correct or if they need some adjustment and after that we start with phase 2 where we create 50 units and double check them. As soon as Phase two is finished you can start the mass production. So we will be facing our problems with the molds and double checking if something went wrong despite the manufacturer confirming that the 3d-files were good, so there are problems and challenges constantly. Chinese culture is radically different than western culture, the way they communicate and do business is completely different to western culture.
I can imagine, are you still doing everything in Shenzhen, China?
Yes, in that area.
I can remember you pitching the idea for the first time online, was it 2 years ago?
Yes, it is a bit more than two years ago actually. I started working on the idea in September 2016. At least where I started to learn all the electronics, 3D modeling parts and in general about Keyboards and two months later I had my prototype. After that, I decided to seriously pursue this, started working with engineers and created the business. So basically two years ago I started shaping the idea.
So you were still at Fnatic at the time?
Actually, I had already left Fnatic. I quit Fnatic in July of 2016 and I was considering what to do next at this point and I had several internal motives to do something. So there were quite a few things I considered. Before I started coaching League of Legends I was a poker player. If you are a Poker player you work all for yourself and that’s it. You are having no impact on the world at all.
As an Esports coach, I thought it was better in a sense as I was providing entertainment for many people and was helping a few individuals grow, in my case, my players and staff around me. One of the things I wanted to do was to go one step higher, I wanted to have a real impact and in improve people's lives. Have a real impact on people's lives besides only providing entertainment. This was one of the biggest aspects I had in my mind. I wanted to do something that was not only for me and wasn’t only coaching a team.
With that in mind,I looked for things that could interest me. So one of the things I feel is lacking and I really liked in League of Legends is data. A real data analysis software. This was one of the things I always considered to create software and you could adapt it to various other games as well. I was also contacted by multiple different teams and I was considering being worth to work with organizations in multiple management positions, anyways I discarded all that and decided to go with ergonomics hardware.
When I was working with Fnatic I had players like Spirit and Reignover that had wrist issues and multiple players had back issues, issues that aren’t common for people that young.
So I started researching better gaming tools and I found nothing.
That planted a seed in my head. When I quit Fnatic and I started taking a closer look at mouses and keyboards and so on, but there was nothing. There is research and brands trying to create and experimenting with ergonomic keyboards since the 1960s while some of them had minor successes, most were very unsuccessful overall. And I thought this was interesting enough for me to pursue, so I went for it.
At least from my experience people are starting to change that. For example, more coaches are getting involved and also players are going on a much more regular basis to physiotherapy to prevent or handle those issues. But do you feel this is still a huge problem?
About the physical issues, it is not only practicing for a huge amount of time.
But overall a combination of having bad habits for years, like bad posture, how you sit and how you put pressure on your wrists and for how long. Of course, a better mouse and keyboard could help but won’t solve the issues. First of all, education is important and through the years this has improved as organizations have been able to invest more money they have been investing money on psychologists or physiotherapists and so on.
Also, players are going more to the gym, they are more aware of this kind of stuff.
I think they aren’t on an athlete level yet. I really believe Esports players should at some point embrace the lifestyle of top athletes and take care of everything, their sleep schedule, their food and how much exercise they do. I also think they should invest their money in personal trainers and with personal trainers, I don’t mean someone who goes with them to the gym, I mean laning and performance coaches. For example, if you are a regional league player and you are a top lane main, you should look for a top lane coach if you are an ad carry you should look for an ad carry coach and if you struggle with communication you should look for a communication coach.
This is something that happens in the NBA, the young players have several individual coaches that they hire on their own to improve their training. I think Esports is still a bit “green” in this aspect, not only because of the players but also because the whole management and the environment around them is still very young. The whole Esports industry is still very young and growing although it has been growing a lot lately. Despite that in League for example is more money involved with the Franchising, there is still no clear career path for Esports management and coaches.
I think a lot of it is improving but there is still a lot to do.
Do you feel that we have enough good coaches for that right now? A lot of people still ask me the very same question very regularly, however, I often don’t know anyone that I could recommend to those players asking for help, due to the schedule of all the good players usually not allowing it. Do you think we will need to wait for more former pros to retire, pursue streaming and personal coaching so we have qualified coaches?
I think it is a matter of someone putting out content like a path on how to become a coach or an analyst. Right now it is totally random. You become a coach because you were a player and you decide you don’t want to play anymore, you become a coach, but you have no clue about coaching. You also have the path where you were never a pro player but like the strategic side of the game, but still you don’t know anything about coaching or in the very rare cases that you have studied or previous experience in coaching and you also enjoy League’s strategic side and you go into coaching.
Personally, I would fit in the third category and this is very rare. So having a background or any experience in Coaching and psychology would help. So I think if someone would offer a course, any form of content or would write books about coaching in Esports this also definitely help. I believe that someone will do that, it could be me or another person, but I believe that this will happen at some point and people will know where to start. This doesn’t exist right now.
Actually, I learned a lot from watching your interviews and the things players talked about your coaching back in 2015 the most. And while back then most of the coaches were either high elo friends from other players or former pro players taking a shot, now you either get lucky or you join a regional team and fight your way to the top. I feel that with the academy leagues Riot Games is trying to solve some part of this issue. Now with the LEC also opening up opportunities for teams in Europe to develop both player and staff talent.
Also what helped me personally was talking a lot with Weldon Green at the time, getting to know a bit of how sports psychology works overall and reading biographies of successful people, do you remember anything from the time you started that helped you in that regard?
Reading books, to be honest. What helped me wasn’t necessarily books on coaching, but leadership for example biographies or everything that is in the realm of psychology.
There are many books that teach you a lot of valuable things. In my early twenties when I was playing poker I hired a financial coach and he helped me to get started about reading books and work this way. When I was young I thought reading books were the most boring thing on earth, but at that point, I learned that it doesn’t matter if it is fun or not, all that matter is if you are learning. At the same time, I started to coach poker in my early twenties, first coaching friends on how to play better poker. Then there was a point in 2010 that I was coaching an office of 30 players and I was a coach full time. So I was coaching them and I did this for 7 months straight. After that I coached a lot online and went to South America and coached in Malta, UK, Uruguay, Peru, and Argentina, I was coaching in many places. Technically I created kind of gaming houses for Poker and I coached players for 3 months.
I lived this kind of life in Poker instead of Gaming before. And what I wrote to Fnatic in 2014 to get the position in 2015 was that I already had over 2000 hours of coaching experience with high stake players. I had a massive advantage on this because I had already faced a lot of challenges, traveled a lot, learned a lot through books and through practice. I was a good poker player and a high stake player myself, so I was able to understand properly the strategic concept of poker and I was able to teach those. The psychological aspect and how it affects the lives of a poker player is very similar to a league of legends player. So I was well prepared for it.
I think what is the most interesting and bridging factor of the two worlds, is the tilting factor that is relevant in both games.
Actually, the best poker book I read about this was “The Metal Game of Poker” and actually a lot of those aspects reflects on League.
I remember there was a time everybody was reading and recommending to read “The Art of War”, do you think this is a relevant book for everyone to read?
I think it is an interesting book to read, but there is something we have to keep in mind when reading books from the eastern culture are that they are much more abstract.
You need to make an interpretation, in western culture you are more straight to the point.
You will ask the teacher exactly how it works and what the result is going to be when you learn it. However, Asian teachers are more like “do these things and you’ll find your path”.
So have that in mind because if you are looking for the low hanging fruit, you are not going to find it. I think it is a good book but depends on interpretation and how much thought power you invest into it. So if you give this book to a player he might not take too much from it, but a coach or in general an older person could extract much more from this knowledge and be able to apply it to the world. It's a book I recommend to everyone but have this understanding that the background is different from where we come from.
Looking back to the beginning of Dygma, what was the most important and the most difficult things about Kickstarting the Idea?
The most important about kick-starting an idea is that you have to build a community before launching so the standard way to do this is to get emails of people that are interested in your product, one way to do this is obviously Instagram, Facebook or twitter ads for an example. So if you do a Kickstarter campaign without a big list of emails, you are probably not going to make it. For me, the most important thing was the communication.
During the Kickstarter campaign, you have to be constantly answering to comments, messages, and everything, because you are spending money on ads. So you can reach the campaign and get the emails so people are able to get to know your product and be connected to your Kickstarter. So what happens is that because you are spending money on ads you constantly reach out to people that don’t know you and your product so you are constantly fighting trolls for many many hours every day and for weeks. I remember one instance where I was sleeping and when I woke up I saw that one of these trolls, that I was facing daily, had half million views on a screenshot he posted. So I asked myself how he had this amount of views and clicked on it and this sent me to the subreddit “quityourbullshit”.
And when I found this thread it had already 15K upvotes and about 500 comments and this thread was basically flaming super hard what we are trying to do. So you have to imagine this was a Saturday I think and I wake up to this and was just mind blown.
Then I spent about 12 hours on this thread answering people and trying to calm them down.
Oh, you can even see your answers there.
Yeah, the guy that posted this was saying that I was wrong for posting this and I was constantly responding to everyone in this thread. I think that the only way of combating trolls on the internet is by being the kindest person on earth, while you have all these persons insulting what you have been doing for months and have been struggling massively to find the solutions to a problem and investing a lot of money to make the Kickstarter work and then you have for weeks people trashing you every single day. And I was the only person in charge of communication, taking care of social media and all the content and if you read through this thread you’ll see my answers everywhere and see how I answered the comments and so on. So from those experiences, I have to say that the most challenging thing was communication.
At least you had a good community to start from as you had already built your own community in Esports through your work with Fnatic. I can imagine that helped and you did one crowdfunding campaign that did well right?
I remember even though the vast majority was positive about the idea, they were still critical about the product, however, I think you managed to establish it by now and people are more waiting on the product to be ready than anything else from my perception.
I don’t think that Raise is going to be the revolutionary keyboard that will change everything. My goal with Raise is to plant the seed that there are options for better tools. Dygma won’t only do keyboards, we will do many other things as well. What we are trying to do is to push the boundaries of gaming peripherals so we all have more options and better quality products. Of course, I want it to do well and we are able to sell thousands and thousands of them but I still think it is a bit too early and we have to educate our audience.
It is the right direction and I hope that other companies go that direction as well. Not directly copying what we are doing of course, but explore more options with ergonomic products.
I understand you want to force the competition to step up their game. So basically what you want to do with the Raise is not only to test the product and market but also do research and with that promote healthier practices in Esports, did I understand this correctly?
At the same time you are running Dygma you are also working with the Spanish organization “Movistar Riders” is it for you a job that you took because you are a competitive person and wanted to stay competitive or do you see as a way to keep in touch with the young upcoming talents and understand their needs for Dygma?
To be honest it is neither of those. When I left Fnatic I said to myself if I’m going to join a project, it has to be a real project. What I mean with that is a 10 man roster, the right infrastructure, psychologist and an Esports center. So if I wouldn’t move higher, I didn’t think it was worth the time.
At the end of 2016, Riders contacted me and wanted me as their coach and my answer was that I’m not coaching anymore and it was only a 5-minute conversation. Since the guy that contacted me was an experienced businessman I decided to contact back to him and explain my project, Dygma. And we had a few talks and he was a really interesting and helpful person. So we established a relationship this way and I said if the project advances and if there is something that aligns more towards my visions, maybe I’m interested and if there is not I will still help you. What happened at that time, there were a lot of people contacting me about having a lot of money and starting a great project and I gave the same answer to everyone. That I’ll see how their project moves forward and I will help for free because I’m interested in moving Esports forward. Actually, the only ones that called a second time were Riders. They were the only ones that actually moved forward and were a real thing.
A couple of months later they invited me to Madrid to see what they were doing and they were building an Esports center. So I was there before it was built. After worlds, I was invited again to coach and teach their staff members and there was a point we were continuing like this and I saw how they were working and building their project. I saw they wanted to create an awesome project, with the right mindset and hire the right staff and so on. Since we built already a relationship and they made me an offer, I thought it made sense. Our visions were aligned and I believe that this company has the right tools to execute it and how I see Esports it doesn’t matter how good you are in the sports side if you are shit on the business side your company will go to “shit”. I believe that Riders has a really strong business side and has a good Esports side, at least they are trying to build what I think is the correct way of doing it. Thinking the long-term and investing in Infrastructure, training people and growing them. I believe that Riders has the potential to be a top organization in the world and it is just a matter of time.
It is interesting to hear you saying this because the first time I heard of Movistar’s interest in entering Esports was in 2015, where I was playing the wildcard finals with Kaos Latin Gamers in the Movistar Arena in Chile. There were already signs and rumors about them being interested in entering Esports as one of the reasons they were keen to host the finals. And the following year they entered their huge partnership with Kaos Latin Gamers the following year and built out an amazing infrastructure for them in Chile where even until this day there is nothing comparable to what they build together in Chile. And it is really interesting to see this trend because not only Riders are investing in those infrastructures but also with the franchising the other teams are following a similar trend, where do think you the European teams are going with the franchising entering next year?
Predicting the future is always complicated (laughs). I have mixed feelings about this, I think franchising is obviously good for the companies. By companies I mean the sponsoring companies and the people that are putting the money because you can’t lose your spot.
However, the way Riot is doing it is contaminating the second division leagues. So basically they canceled the second division leagues and there will be academic teams in the regional leagues. So this means that there is no easy way for young talent to grow and that regional league teams will have to face academy teams that have super budgets. On one side it is good to have teams with higher budgets because it improves the overall quality of this league but on the other side, it is not good for the regional teams, because it is not smart from them to invest in players over the academy teams into the league. Since the players will prefer to enter an academy team to increase their chances to get into the LEC, which I see as a potential issue. Although this is an issue that can be navigated with trading clauses and the other issue is the closing of the second league.
For an example, in Spain, the second league was strong, not in a sense of the highest quality but there were a lot of players and organizations that were banking on the second league. If you are 17 and high diamond you might not play LCS or the first division from the start but you could play the second division in Spain and improve. Riot wants to control everything really tightly and it eliminates growth opportunities and this is how Riot operates as a business, personally, I disagree with it but it is what it is. I believe if they put more emphasis on the young players that their game will spread and continue growing automatically over the years. This is what I have been doing with Riders and will continue to do in the upcoming years. I think the key to long-term success is to build from the ground up to the top and with the ground, I mean building the young talent so they can be the future of the game and in the case of Riders, the future of Riders.
I understand your concern. Riot will have to find a way to incentive the organizations outside of the LEC to keep investing the same amount of money if not more in the future.
Which is interesting looking forward because the Spanish scene had a good thing going for them. It grew rapidly and in a couple of years, it was able to match wildcard region salaries for just a regional league. Also witnessing this year the Spanish community this year in Madrid, especially their energy was something I didn’t witness outside of South America yet. My concerns are also that we could lose some of this community, while it also could be the chance to build on it as well.
About this, we have some academy teams in Spain, which I think will be beneficial for it.
I’m talking about the fans having this awesome vibe there will be and there is a direct connection between the LEC and the Spanish team. One thing I’d like to add is that Riot experiments a lot and I think they experienced last year in North America with the franchising and this year they are experimenting with it in Europe, which means they haven’t figured it everything out yet. This only means they have an idea and they execute it. They think it is the best and they go for it but we’ve seen several format changes and Europe has been behind North America because the big bosses of Europe are in North America as well. So Riot is experimenting on what they think is the best for the region. So the next year will be the first and I think only by the time of the third year they will have it figured out.
In general, everything that pushes professionalizing the league is positive and I liked a lot the relegation system but totally understand that from a business perspective the organizations prefer the franchise system.
To close out the interview I would like to ask a few more questions about the future of Dygma, now you are obviously working on the Raise while developing it, did you have a specific game in mind?
I always have League of Legends in my mind, I can’t get it out of my head (laughs). Raise is the iteration of a product we are working on. This was the first prototype of what we wanted to build.
So this was the prototype that we wanted to build, we sold 50 prototypes of the following version and the entry barrier was too high so we went from this design to a more traditional design. So we took the good parts of this design and applied to a traditional design until we had the design we are currently on. The philosophy of this design was that if you buy it and plug it in you are already benefiting from it. Like having the palm pads integrated, like having the split bar or like having a button for the thumbs all of those things are easy to start using it and you can easily benefit from them. However, if you split it you have a higher learning curve due to your typing not fitting for it, but you can benefit a lot from releasing the stress from your wrist, your shoulders and enhance your performance. In the current design, I’m not only thinking about video games, but I am also more focused on what a person is used to do and what can we do to improve them. This keyboard has a higher ceiling than any other keyboard, you start with the same experience and if you put the time for the learning curve. It is as good as any other keyboard but if you want to use it, it can get a lot better if that makes sense.
Which is great because you can still adopt that to several different games in future versions of the Raise.
We definitely have a lot of ideas with a lot of different keyboards in other shapes and features. There are so many things we can do if we have enough money to do it.
So let’s assume the Raise does well, what would be the next thing you would love to do with Dygma after that?
There is no complete and straight answer to that. Business wise the best and smartest thing would be to continue pursuing keyboards and drop down our manufacturing costs. And all of the costs towards research and design you can use for other products and projects. That will ensure that you have lower costs, higher margins and you will have more money to invest in Research and Design for other products. This would be one way that you can take it. The other way you could take it is, to a keyboard you must have a mouse because this is the standard. So Mouses is something we are currently looking into, we even have several designs in our heads. Another thing that I would love to move is in the chair direction. Because Gaming chairs currently are bad. It’s sad that such a bad design is the standard in gaming. They are really cheap to manufacture. These chairs are very popular because they are very cheap to make, look cool and are easy for companies to market.
There are a lot of manufacturers already doing them so technically every brand could make theirs. For example, if an esports teamwants to have branded chairs, they could reach out to those manufacturers, they would ask for a certain amount, put their logo on the chair and ship to them. Many companies do this and their chairs become gaming chairs, but those chairs are designed to be comfortable for a racing car, not for extended computer usage. They are bad for our health and this is something I want to take a look at, because I think it can be done so much better. In a similar way to keyboards but I think it is more extreme, these chairs are gaming chairs, because they are marketed that way, not because they are good for gaming.. Those are the products we want to explore the most.
One last question until my Dygma mouse gets announced, what is my mouse of choice?
I have no recommendation, to be honest, I depends on many different things, hand size, how much weight do you prefer, your kind of grip and I believe it is more about taste like your mechanical key switches. When talking about ergonomic choices one of the things we are considering is a vertical mouse, but there is a major problem with vertical mice. Since you are constantly clicking the mouse while you play league of legends you are creating pressure from the top of the mouse to the table so your mouse is stabilized, but if you put it sideways and create the same movement you are pushing the mouse in the air it is like you are pushing to the left. Those are ideas that I’ll start to think about as soon as I have more time when we start shipping Raise’s and there are a lot of smart solutions that haven’t been explored in gaming that I want to go in that road.
Do you want to give any shoutouts?
Thanks for interviewing me and also I want to thank everyone that has been following me since the Fnatic days. I still have a lot of followers on twitter although I’m not very active on social media, so thanks for all the support.
If you got curious and want to find out more about the Raise and the process behind making it you can find it here -> https://www.dygma.com/