OpTic Gaming missed the 2019 LCS Spring Playoffs by just a hair. A strong split from Jungler William "Meteos" Hartman and Lee "Crown" Min-ho nearly propelled the team into the 6th seed, but early season visa issues for Noh "Arrow" Dong-tak hamstrung the team's ability to develop synergy. In a Best-of-1 format, every game counts, and the GreenWall started the split with a roster centered around OpTic Gaming Academy Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett and Bot Laner Toàn "Asta" Trần.
While the hybrid roster performed respectably at 2-2, by the time Arrow's visa issues were ironed out, OpTic Gaming was a few steps behind the other teams in the LCS in terms of development, and the main roster got off to an 0-4 start. Still, OpTic Gaming kept things competitive to the end of the 2019 LCS Spring Split, and should look forward to a competitive summer if the team can continue to develop at its current rate.
After a week 7 victory over Echo Fox, Meteos sat down with Nick Geracie to reflect on his experience on 100 Thieves and FlyQuest Academy in 2018, give a window into OpTic's environment, and discuss the unique aspects of his new mid laner Crown.
I'm here with Meteos from OpTic Gaming following one of the more convincing wins we have seen in recent weeks. Are teams in North America less decisive than other regions?
Yeah, I think that it's usually a trend in spring in that I've noticed games tend to be pretty long. I think part of it is because a lot of rosters are super new coming into spring and haven't had much time to play with one another. Not everyone is on the same page about how to play the game, so there is a lot less of the play feeling fluid and natural.
A lot of times, the decisions people make will be what they think they are supposed to do for their team, but maybe their heart isn't in it personally. For example, a jungler could be thinking, 'Normally, I would be farming this camp, but my laner is going to die so I have to sit here instead.'
I think it's dependent on how well a team has been gelling, but relatively speaking, there's not a lot of teamwork in the LCS Spring Split. However, you see the teams that have more stable roster cores like Team Liquid and Cloud 9 are just kind of rolling people over in a lot of cases. When they are ahead, they end quickly. When they are behind, they find ways to come back. I'd say it is primarily roster changes that can slow down a team's progression.
Those teams kept their respective cores and integral parts of their playstyle, so it was easier for them to synergize quickly. OpTic plays the game completely differently than last year, and also, you had visa issues at the beginning of the split. Was Arrow able to scrim at all with you before the season?
It was pretty hard. Arrow was waiting in Vancouver while he was trying to get his visa sorted out, so initially, we were scrimming with him remotely. Then, when we found out there would be visa issues and Arrow wouldn't be starting for the first few weeks of the LCS, we had a team vote to decide on whether we wanted to play scrims with Arrow and then just play Asta on stage or we practice with Asta and try to have something presentable for the stage on opening day.
We ended up practicing with Asta, and it was a pretty rough period because Asta is really inexperienced with team play. He's super young and has only really played solo queue, so in addition to figuring out how our team wanted to play, we had someone who was inexperienced. Also, there was a language barrier for both Asta and Crown, due to both of them still needing to improve on their English at the time. I'd say those issues definitely made us have a slow start.
When the main roster finally got on stage, you lost four games before picking up a win due to a lack of synergy from the visa issues. Due to the small number of games in the LCS splits, diid you feel a lot of pressure from this setback?
It's really hard to say. I think we've come a long way. It feels like our practice is getting more stable and the way we are playing is in a way where we are seeing most things the same way. We still have some stuff to work on, of course. We're not perfect by any means, but we're getting better.
As far as feeling pressure to play catch-up, I don't think any of us are too concerned about it because it's kind of unnecessary pressure on some level if we worry too much about the result. I've always been really process oriented, so I've always focused on how our practice is going and how consistent our gameplay is when comparing scrims to on-stage games. That will really highlight what we need to work on.
Sometimes, teams will play on way in scrims and then in a completely different way on scrims. This is mostly due to nerves and playing safer than normal. I think we're definitely getting on track.
Crown has exceeded expectations since coming to LCS. What is he like to play with as a Mid Laner?
It's been great playing with Crown. He's extremely nice, which is kind of rare for mid laners. Usually, mid lane is home to more of a selfish mindset, which is kind of understandable due to how the lane is played. Not only are you getting ganked from all angles, you are a huge factor in how the game goes in any way. You're going to want all of the resources as a mid laner to do your job.
However, Crown is kind of the opposite. He works with what he has and he doesn't really ask for anything. For me, it's one of the first times I've had to be the one to say things like, 'Dude, I need to be ganking mid more. When are the good times for me to come?' or 'Hey man, I have to get vision for you here.'
Crown is a really nice guy to work with. I guess the only struggle has been the langauge barrier. He's super new to English, but he's learning extremely fast; faster than anyone I've worked with before. He's a funny dude, and doesn't ever really tilt over get mad. He goes with the flow, so it's been great working with him.
Now that the visa issues are ironed out, has Arrow been able to help Crown acclimiate to North America?
I think when Arrow came back, it definitely helped Crown because without Arrow, if there's something he's not understanding, there's nothing we can do about it. We don't have a translator, so with Arrow, things are a lot better.
If there's a situation we need to be on the same page about, Crown being able to express himself and us being able to express ourselves to him and have him understand it has made Arrow invaluable as a translator. There have been a few cases in LCS games where Arrow and Crown will speak to each other in Korean if it's something really important, so having another Korean is for sure helpful for Crown.
How does OpTic Gaming's infrastructure compare to other teams that you have played for in your career?
I think it's pretty similar. Scrims for pretty much all teams start at 11am, so we're expected to get to the office around 10am so we can get coffee, food, or whatever else we need before we start practicing. We scrim, break for lunch, scrim again, break for dinner — that kind of thing. OpTic's been good, it's been pretty comfortable.
OpTic has an office, and some teams are doing the teamhouse setup of years past. Is there a certain dynamic you prefer?
I think I like the office a bit better. For me personally, it helps to go somewhere to practice. I'm forced to wake up in the morning, and then usually I can walk to the office since it's a ten to fiftene minute walk from my apartment. I'll get some exercise, and I'll feel much more awake because of it. There is also a Starbucks nearby, so I can stop for coffee.
Obviously, we spend most of our time in the office, so the atmosphere isn't uptight by any means. However, it gives it a professional feel. It is different than just rolling out of bed and playing in your room all day.
Work/life separation becomes more important as you grow older, in my experience. Have you found that to be the case as well?
That's a good question. Initially, the entire competitive scene was in team houses. I think the concept of having an office space different from where you live is fairly new, and some teams are still doing team houses. I prefer the separation. I started it when I first re-joined Cloud9 for the 2016 NA LCS Summer split. I was living someplace else, and I would just commute to the gaming house.
I don't really mind the gaming house either; it's fun because you get to bond with your teammates a lot. Still, having a separation of work and home for me is pretty nice. It's pretty hard to have a girlfriend when living in a team house, because everyone's there. Whether it be a relationship, or friends, or family, having more privacy is nice.
What's the dynamic between Dardoch and yourself?
We've been working fairly closely. We will still sometimes switch off scrims where he will play with the LCS roster and I will play with OpTic Gaming Academy.
I think it's nice to have another perspective. Dardoch and I have different views on the game. Some of our views are similar, and some are different, so it's nice to get a different angle and hear another perspective on things. Sometimes I'll change my mind, sometimes he'll change his mind, and sometimes, we'll agree to disagree. I always enjoy being able to talk to someone about Jungle, and it's been cool working with Dardoch.
You spent the majority of last summer on FlyQuest Academy. Did you feel rusty when you first returned to playing on stage this split?
I don't think it was too different for me. I've been playing since 2013 and I've played on every random stage, like the janky intial LCS studio with no audience. At this point, I feel pretty comfortable regardless of where I play the game. I'm focused on my monitor thinking about the game and not really focused on what else is going on around me. I don't think it has affected my performance.
Playing in the NA Academy League can be a less immersive experience for some players. Is that something you experienced?
I thought playing in the NA Academy League was nice. It was a change of pace because all of the matches are online. You're playing in your scrim room, and sometimes it doesn't even feel like you're in a 'stage' game when you're playing your matches. It just feels like another scrim. You can be alt-tabbing on twitter or something during champion select, and you can listen to music during the games. It feels to me like what Academy is supposed to be: A place to learn.
I think having that less stressful environment is really good for new players to the scene to become more familiar with the fundamentals and get a feel for the game. In addition, some players can go down to Academy to get a mental reset, or take a break. It was a good experience for me.
Your move to FlyQuest Academy was unexpected in the eye of the public. What were you able to get out of your time in the Academy League?
I think I was able to take something from it. Most of the people on FlyQuest Academy were much less experienced than the teammates I was playing with before. There were a lot of things that higher level players will know off of muscle memory, and you won't even have to talk about them. However, coming into a new team, the newer players haven't been exposed to those type of ideas.
FlyQuest Academy was a pretty good exercise for me to practice patience when teaching people. Obviously, I got frustrated sometimes, and I did feel kind of like, 'Why am I here?' at times. It would be pretty hard, especially when I was met with resistance on some of the things I was trying to explain.
Two players I really enjoyed playing with were the Top Laner, Alvin "Engo" Ngo, and the Bot Laner, Terry "Erry" Park. They're just two really funny dudes, and even though they were pretty inexperienced when it came to the game, I really enjoyed living with them and hanging out with them. They were really funny and kind of reminded me of why I first got into all of this competitive play. It reminded me to be more carefree and to have fun with things in my approach.
On 100 Thieves, things were really stressful the entire time, and I think it took a toll on me. I was caring too much about results and I was being really uptight, so FlyQuest Academy kind of relaxed me and took me back to the more joking, light-hearted approach to the game that I had before like in the early C9 days.
Was the pressure in 100 Thieves due to you making finals in your first split?
Well, I don't think it was necessarily outside pressure, it was just how the team was run. The overall atmosphere of the team was pretty high-stress. I was one of the only people who would want to joke around or do goofy things, and when I would do it there, everyone would just look at me like, 'what the **** is this guy doing' so I stopped doing that kind of stuff obviously. You try to fit in with your environment. But yeah, I'd say it was the attitude of everyone else.
So it was a different in culture?
I'm glad you have found an environment that suits you better. Thank you for the interview Meteos, is there anything that you'd like to say to your fans?
To the Meteos fans, thank you so much to all of you for sticking by me for this long. I've had a fairly up and down career — no one knows what's going to happen, not even me. But there have been a lot of people who have stuck with me the whole time, so huge thanks to them.