New Rivals of Aether Organization Brings a Touch of Class to Esports

At Genesis 5, six of Rivals of Aether’s greatest players took to the Sunday stage to fight for the title of RCS champion. among those players we saw the familiar jerseys of organizations like Panda Global and T2 Esports. However, two players in the Sunday finals were wearing the jerseys of a brand new organization, Tuxedo Esports. With 4th- and 5th-place finishes at the most prestigious RoA tournament in history, Tuxedo has already established itself as a powerful brand in the competitive Rivals scene. I caught up with player and co-owner Billy “LBO” Dunmire to discuss the origin of his new organization as well as their plans for the future.

Tuxedo-esports-logo

Live It, Breathe It, and Now Own It

For those familiar with competitive Rivals, LBO is a familiar name. The Zetterburn master has been taking names and producing strong results since the early days of the game’s esports scene. However, LBO never intended to be a top competitor when he picked up Rivals of Aether for the first time.

Having played Starcraft 2 and League of Legends at a high level, he had proven to himself he could be a strong competitor, and had even run Starcraft tournaments. Searching for a break from the competitive grind, he picked up Rivals of Aether. “I started playing Rivals to stay more casual and not get invested.”

While LBO’s plan to stay casual may have failed completely, his competitive career has seen nothing but success. He was quickly picked up by Burrito Esports, and made a splash at several high profile tournaments in 2017. This was where the idea to form his own organization began.

“When sponsors started entering Rivals, our crew and others got people picked up by sponsors so we got a firsthand glimpse of the business side of everything. Over time we found ourselves saying, ‘we could do this and more.’ Eventually we just had to take the leap.”

Suit and Tie

LBO explained that the name of his new organization started with his co-owner, Ryan “Cupz” Belcher. “Cupz is a big fan of penguins. We explored that route of naming but we aren’t a hockey team so it didn’t fit. We wanted to stand out from the crowd and not go for some intimidating scary name meant to sound tough. So I took the penguin idea and went with Tuxedo instead. It’s classy, but our mascot could still be an awesome penguin.”

Whenever a new game begins to develop a competitive scene, new organizations will inevitably sprout up. However, there are two critical factors that set Tuxedo Esports apart from the crowd. First, both LBO and the team’s first signed player, Dolphinbrick, are elite competitors within the scene. This allows the brand to launch with immediate credibility within the Rivals community. However, what’s truly encouraging about Tuxedo is that fact that the organization launched with multiple sponsors.

Brand deals and sponsorship are critical to the sustainability of an esports organization. LBO has already secured partnerships with N3rdabl3.com, a gaming and popculture news and review platform, as well as Iello Games, a titan in the board game industry best known for King of Tokyo, winner of a myriad of industry awards. LBO explained that his preexisting relationship with both companies helped convince them to get on board with Tuxedo Esports. “I write for N3rdabl3 and already have a running relationship with those guys so it’s an easier sell when they already know you’re competent in what you do,” he said. “I also do contracting work for Iello and regularly spend time with the higher ups there as well.”

This networking and salesmanship, combined with the team’s already-impressive competitive resume should have Rivals fans excited about the future and security of the organization. The competitive excellence combined with business savvy closely mirror the origin of one of the biggest names in all of esports, Team Solomid.

Looking to the Future

Despite his new business endeavors, LBO has no plan to stop competing any time soon. “I figure it’s no different than working in your own store,” he explained. “You cut down labor costs and get to handle the business from both ends.”

In between tournaments, LBO and Cupz are hard at work preparing to expand their brand into other games. While the team obviously wants to recruit top talent, they have a much clearer vision for what they want in a Tuxedo Esports player. “Our main priority is to pick up players that are grinders before getting sponsored,” said LBO.” DolphinBrick has been a top player and a super hard worker before ever getting sponsored. Shizblacka, our streamer, was scouted for a month before we decided to go with him. He streams constantly and he did so without a sponsor.”

He went on to explain that above all else, the team is looking for players who display a strong work ethic. They are open to signing teams and players from any game, so long as they can meet those strict requirements.


For more on Tuxedo Esports, be sure to follow them on Twitter. You can also follow LBO directly. My thanks to LBO and the entire Tuxedo Esports crew for the opportunity to learn more about their organization. Having interviewed countless owners of esports orgs, I can confidently say that Tuxedo has all the prerequisites to be a powerful force in the industry.

 

For more Rivals content, check out the Genesis 5 preview series I did over on the Rivals website (featuring LBO and Dolphinbrick), or check out the Ranno fanfiction I wrote last year.

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2017 HGC All Pro Awards

2017 was a remarkable year for the HGC. We saw brand new teams like Roll20, Team Freedom, Expert, and Beyond the Game rise up to challenge the established elite in their region. Europe shocked the world at the Midseason Brawl, and Korea retaliated by once again claiming the World Championship at Blizzcon. With the 2018 HGC less than a week away, it’s time for one final look back at the 2017 season.

 

Today, I’m proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Community All Pro awards. The All Pro award is an extremely prestigious award in traditional sports, recognizing the very best player at each position–the elite among the elite. In an ideal world, this would be an award distributed by blizzard, voted on by every player in each league. However, since that doesn’t appear to be a thing, I took it upon myself to do a community version, so that players in each region could receive some level of recognition for their incredible skill. These players showed that not only could they succeed as members of a strong team, but that their individual skill surpassed every other player at their position.

 

Before we unveil the All Pro teams, let’s meet voting panel:

 

CavalierGuest–Head Coach of Gale Force Esports (voting on NA, EU, KR, CN)

Moonprayer–Esports Writer for tempostorm.com (voting on NA, EU, KR)

Bahgz–Co-host of Trollin HGC (voting on NA, EU, KR)

Khroen–Pro Player for HeroesHearth Esports (voting on NA)

DBSmiley–Staff Writer for HeroesHearth, and all-around smart human (voting on NA)

GranPKT–Pro Player for Tricked esport (voting on EU)

Casanova–Pro Player for SpaceStation Gaming (voting on NA)

LiqiudGG–Host of Trollin HGC and The Nexus Trolls (voting on NA, EU, KR)

 

My thanks to everyone for their time and their votes. One final note–the pro players were not allowed to vote for themselves. With all of that out of the way, here are your 2017 All Pro teams.

 

Korea

Tank: Tsst

Honorable Mentions: The votes were fairly split between Noblesse and Tsst, but MVP Black’s frontliner tipped the scales by one vote.

Support: KyoCha

Honorable Mentions: merryday received several votes as well, but Kyocha ultimately edged out the nomination.

Offlane: Rich

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: Reset

Honorable Mentions: sCsC received one vote, but Reset was the overwhelming winner of the award.

Flex: Jeongha

Honorable Mentions: The votes were fairly split between KyoCha, Sake, and Jeongha, but ultimately the latter took the win.

MVP: Noblesse

While Tsst received more votes in the Tank role, Noblesse was the overwhelming favorite as the Most Valuable Player not only for his talents in game, but also his stellar transition to the coaching role.

 

China

Note: I reached out to every community influencer I could think of who follow the scene in China. Only CavalierGuest was willing to provide his insights on the region. So, the following are his votes. 

Tank: Misaka

Support: Alooffool

Offlane: Wind

Primary Ranged: qianxiao

Flex: MelodyC

MVP: 619

 

Europe

Tank: Breez 

Honorable Mentions: None.

Support: SmX 

Honorable Mentions: Bakery received a single vote, but SmX was the overwhelming winner of this award.

Offlane: Wubby 

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: POILK

Honorable Mentions: It should be noted that most of these votes were collected before Gold Club, so POILK was still able to win the vast majority of votes while still a member of Zealots. Snitch and NiC received a single vote each, but every other vote went to POILK.

Flex: adrd

Honorable Mentions: Snitch and Schwimpi each received a nod, but it was the adrd’s drafting skills combined with his hero pool that gave him the majority win.

MVP: Inconclusive

Every voter had a different nomination for EU’s Most Valuable Player. So, congratulations to:

Quackniix, Zaelia, Wubby, Schwimpi, and adrd.

 

North America

Tank: Justing

Honorable Mentions: There was a single vote for Fury, but every other vote went to Justing.

Support: Jun

Honorable Mentions: Two votes were given to each of Buds and Killuzion, with the remaining majority going to Tempo Storms longtime support.

Offlane: Goku

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: Daneski

Honorable Mentions: Votes were spread across the board in this category, going to Prismaticism, Fan, Kure, and Khroen. However, the tie was ultimately broken in Daneski’s favor. Again, most of these votes were collected before Daneski’s debut with Roll20 at GCWC.

Flex: Psalm

Honorable Mentions: Cattlepillar, Glaurung, Nazmas, and CauthonLuck all received a single nomination, but the name that emerged multiple times belonged to the passionate Kerrigan play of Psalm.

MVP: Goku

Kure, Glaurung, and Justing were all mentioned by the voters, but the Most Valuable Player in North America was overwhelmingly Goku.

 

Congratulations to all of our 2017 All Pro teams. I’m hoping to do this again with a larger voting panel at the end of Phase 1, so if you’re a pro player or content creator, be on the lookout for a message for me towards the end of the split! Look for all of these players to make their 2018 debut as the HGC kicks off this weekend!

More than a Masher #2: Playing Actual Humans

Welcome to the second edition of More than a Masher: my journey from total FGC noob to competent tournament player. If you missed the first issue, be sure to check it out before continuing the adventure!

This week saw a ton of progress, and I was finally able to measure myself against other players! Let’s get into it.

More Time on the Stick

So, as I mentioned last week, I got my first-ever fight stick, and I’ve been playing through the Skullgirls tutorial to learn some basic fighting game concepts, and get my hands used to the mechanics of using the stick. After a week of practice, I’ve become much more consistent with my basic combos in training mode. Then, something interesting started to happen.

skullgirls training

I specifically have avoided looking up the most optimal combos online. Once DBFZ is out, I’ll likely spend very little time in Skullgirls and so I’m not concerned too much with optimizing my Filia to take on the ranked Skullgirls ladder. I figured it would be better to just focus on getting the basics as mastered as I possibly could, since I’m entering the entirety of fighting games from the most beginner level. I’ve got a basic ground-to-air combo that cancels into a super, and a simple crouching poke combo to use in neutral. My thought was to get both of these to the place where they always came out when I wanted them to in any situation. However, as i would sit there practicing the combo again and again, a little voice started whispering: “I wonder if I can squeeze another hit in before the super.”

Instantly, I would start experimenting with different buttons, seeing which would combo, seeing if I could cancel into the super a bit later in a multi-hit move. I ended up adding like 3 hits to the string, and let out an involuntary “that was awesome!!” the first time I executed my new combo. This is especially interesting because I’m not an explorer in video games. When I played League of Legends, I didn’t want to make up my own builds, I just went online and found the best build to copy. I’m sure eventually when I’m playing DBFZ I’ll eventually want to look at optimized damage, but I’m genuinely surprised by how much fun it is to just experiment in training mode.

Here Comes a New Challenger!

My hope with this series is to get it up on the weekend, or at the latest on Monday of each week. However, this week I knew I wanted to make sure I included a few of my first experiences playing online against actual humans. Up until now I’d only been doing the tutorial, having fun in training mode, and occasionally playing arcade mode just for fun. I knew I needed to actually play against some real humans to see how my training would hold up in real combat.

lobby

So, I reached out to my buddy Windows, who is a top level Rivals of Aether player. He hasn’t won any Skullgirls tournaments or anything, but he knows the game well and has the mechanics of a pro level fighting game player. As I expected, most of our games were a complete stomp in his favor. We played about 20 games, and I think in total I took about 5 rounds. I discovered two things during the first 10 or so games as I was getting absolutely obliterated:

  1. My neutral game was awful. The buttons I was using in Arcade Mode, it turned out, were easily punishable by a competent player who knew what I wanted to do. I felt like I was actually blocking pretty well, but whenever I threw out a move in neutral I immediately got blown up.
  2. Pushblocking is incredibly important. He played Fukua, who has a combo she could use while I was blocking that ended in an armored command grab. There was no way to block and punish the string. This being my first live match, however, I completely forgot that pushblock was even a mechanic in the video game. Over and over I would just eat this combo and either attack into the armored grab, or just sit there and eat the throw. I think by the end of the session I had calmed down enough to think about pushblocking, and even successfully did it once or twice.

I also learned that, while my combos were not optimal, I could execute them about 70% of the time during a live match. Before I spend a ton of time adding to the combo, I want that number to be as close to 100% as possible. I have watched enough high level FGC to know that everyone drops a combo from time to time, but right now I feel like I will learn more by having reliable combos and playing live matches than i will from spending all of my time in training mode learning combos I can’t actually use against a real human.

To contrast my experience playing Windows, I managed to get a session in with my good friend LiqiudGG, who is a content creator in the Heroes of the Storm scene. He’s an old school fighting game player, but hasn’t really spent any time playing Skullgirls, so his specific mechanics and combos were nowhere near Windows’ level. Again we played about 20 games, and this time I won every single game. To me, this said that my time learning the game is actually translating to some actual skill. During this session, I was also able to actually pushblock whenever I wanted to.

My last takeaway from both of these sessions is how incredibly fun both sessions were. Windows obliterated me in nearly every game, but each time I managed to land a solid combo, or actually take a round, it was exhilarating. By contrast, my games against Liqiud were fairly stompy in my favor, but I still really enjoyed being able to execute combos and dictate the pace of the match. At the end of both sessions I just wanted to play more. As it turns out, not only are fighting games really cool to watch at high level, they’re also super fun to play!


Thanks for reading this week’s installment of More than a Masher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play the DBFZ beta, so we’ll have to wait for launch before this series has any actual FighterZ content to it. However, I hope you’re enjoying the journey as we lead up to release day. This week I’ll be looking for more online Skullgirls matches and I’m going to start learning a new character. To follow along with that process, or to play some games, be sure to follow me on Twitter. See you next week!

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More Than a Masher #1: The Journey Begins

DBFZ Pro Circuit Idea: Quest for the Dragon’s Wish

More Than a Masher #1: The Journey Begins

Welcome to a brand new series that I am insanely excited about. Each week I’ll be chronicling my journey through Dragonball Fighterz going from total FGC noob to tournament competitor.

For those that don’t know me, let’s get some quick background. I have been a professional writer in esports for about 7 years now. Most of that time has been spent working in MOBAs like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. In 2016 I started to follow Super Smash Bros (Melee and Smash 4) and watched the Street Fighter finals for Evo that year. I instantly fell in love with fighting games and have absorbed every bit of content I could over the last 18 months. When DBFZ was announced, I knew it was my chance to break into the FGC as a content creator.

krillin

Aw yea, ready to get stomped on by so many stronger people!!!

The only problem was, I’d never touched a fighting game before. Sure, I owned Marvel 2 on console and mashed some buttons with buddies, but I was never an arcade kid, and knew nothing about the tournament scene. My college time was devoted to World of Warcraft, and after that came League of Legends. If I were to start covering Fighterz, I knew I would eventually need to attend tournaments, or play with people online. The moment I sat down, I would be exposed as a total fraud, and lose any credibility as a writer in the scene.

So, I resolved two things. First, that I would be open from the start with the community. I know esports, and I love fighting games, but I am still learning the history and lore of your incredible community. Second, that I would commit myself to becoming a competent player, and share that journey with you. I’ve set myself a goal to attend CEO in 2019 and make it to top 32 get out of pools (changed back to my original goal based on some helpful feedback). Hopefully I’ll feel confident enough later this year to attend a few events, but I have no idea where to set my expectations yet. It will all be part of the adventure!

With introductions out of the way, let’s get into the first week of my training–how to prepare without the game!

Get a Stick

Starting this process, I knew the first thing I’d need to do was invest in a good fightstick. I play on PC and have an Xbox controller, but after trying out Skullgirls and Street Fighter 4, I figured out three problems very quickly:

  1. My Smash Bros. instincts kept taking over when I was under pressure. I wanted to use the triggers to grab and shield. It was incredibly difficult to get my brain to use them for hard punch and hard kick, let alone EX moves.
  2. I couldn’t crouch block. Having a fully circular pad for the joystick, it was really hard to get my hand to naturally find the right spot where normal crouch became crouch block.
  3. I literally could not shoryuken. It didn’t matter how  much I practiced the motion, I would get a fireball or absolutely nothing almost every time.

Now, both of these are obstacles that could be overcome with practice. However, I’m already so far behind, and felt that a fightstick would solve both issues, instantly pushing me ahead days, if not weeks, in my muscle memory training.

So, I used some cash from Christmas to get myself a Qanba Q1. Y’all, I love this thing so much, I don’t even know how to describe it. First off, look at the thing–it’s gorgeous!

20171231_201427.jpg

My precious….

It instantly felt more natural. Within 5 minutes of opening the box my wife had the thing cracked open and we were figuring out how to replace the square guard with the hex that came with it. Now with 8 clear directions, my hand can find crouch block with little trouble. After two tries I could also do the shoryuken motion successsfully and consistently. Executing combos felt so natural, the buttons felt good to press, I’m having more fun just practicing combos in training mode than I have with any game in the last five years. Now that I had the right equipment, it was time to learn how the heck you play a fighting game.

The Skullgirls Tutorial

After seeking some advice on Twitter, I was informed that the best instruction available was through the tutorial in Skullgirls. So far, I have zero complaints. Everything was easy to follow for a beginner. It teaches you the very basics from block mixups to throw techs. I got stuck for about a full day on the throw tech lesson–for some reason I just could not get the timing down.

skullgirls tutorial

I enjoy practicing with Filia. She’s much less….distracting than most of the cast.

That tutorial ended up being a bit too overwhelming to pass, but I had already decided I was not going to skip any lessons. Instead, I took myself over to training mode. I had watched a lot of videos from the Super Couch Fighters where they used training mode to have the CPU repeat recorded actions. This seemed like the best way to practice timing my tech.

It took some doing (the recording system wasn’t super clear about when I was recording the CPU’s inputs or not so I had lots of dead time) but I finally got a solid series of throw mixups input that I could train with. After about 30 minutes of repeatedly practicing my techs, I started to figure out the timing. Then it was back to tutorial to pass the lesson.

At this point, I’m most of the way through the tutorial. Rather than try to burn through it all quickly, I’ve been splitting my training time between three things:

  1. The tutorial itself
  2. Practicing combos in training mode to get used to the mechanics
  3. Fighting CPU opponents to get used to blocking.

At this point I can pretty consistently beat the CPU on Normal difficulty. I’ve been maining Filia as she feels pretty straightforward and her combos into supers are pretty easy to execute. The only character I can’t beat reliably so far is Peacock. I have not yet figured out an answer to that darn airplane/car combo. She puts too much stuff on the screen. I’ve put her to the side for now, and I’m focusing mostly on confirming the combos I feel confident with.

Skullgirls_-_Peacock

Behold the true face of evil

The biggest problem I’ve seen so far with my training method is that I get so comfortable doing the same full combo over and over again that I end up doing a super even if I drop the combo somewhere in the middle, wasting a bar and getting blown up. Hopefully splitting my time between training mode and CPU fights will even out mastering the mechanics with judging when to complete the full combo.

The last thing I’m focusing on right now is a strange habit I’ve discovered when doing combos that involve a command input. Most of the time I find that my finger wants to hit the button twice. If I’m doing quarter-circle back + HP, my finger hits the HP when I start the motion, and again when it finishes. If I pay close attention this doesn’t happen, but in the middle of a fight it usually leads to a dropped combo.


Overall at this point I actually feel really good. I feel like I’m progressing smoothly with only 7 days of practice. There’s still plenty of mechanical things I can work on in Skullgirls that should set me up to better focus on character-specific things once DBFZ comes out. Above all else, I still can’t believe how much fun I’m having. I know I’ll get destroyed, but I want so badly to play against people. No one in my circle of friends cares at all, but I just want to talk about my progress. More than once I’ve found myself giggling after I figure out a way to extend my combo with a few more hits. Tokido was right–fighting games really are great.

Thanks so much for joining me on this journey. For updates in between releases in this series you can follow me on Twitter. Let me know what you’ve been doing to train, or just to survive the agonizing wait until the game drops.

DBFZ Pro Circuit Idea: Quest for the Dragon’s Wish

Greetings DBFZ community! I’m really excited to be releasing my first article for this exciting new game. For those that don’t know me, I’ll introduce myself a bit since you’ll be seeing much more of me over the next year. If you don’t care about that and just want to read a cool tournament idea, scroll down to the horizontal line.

Briefly, I’ve been an esports journalist/blogger for 6 years. I used to write for Riot Games covering League of Legends, and have since gone freelance focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Smash Bros. My content ranges from match analysis to player interviews to industry news and speculation. I fell in love with the FGC during LI Joe’s run at Evo 2016, and have been looking for a title in the scene to add to my content pool when Dragonball FighterZ was announced. Having loved DBZ forever, and it being a brand new IP in the scene, I knew this was the game I had to commit to. While I’m new within the FGC, I’m an esports writing veteran and hope to bring my experience and knowledge of other scenes to bear in helping the DBFZ scene grow and prosper.


Essentially, this idea sprang from the following thought: Battle for the Stones was a neat idea that was ultimately a huge letdown…what if it were done well? The idea of themed qualifiers that affected a final event was really interesting, but the power for each stone was poorly conceived and affected the integrity of the tournament as a championship to cap the first wave of Marvel Infinite competition. My goal with this tournament idea would be to create a themed qualification, but leave the competitive integrity of the finals intact. I think DBZ has a perfect theme for this in the Drabonballs. The quest to get a wish granted is what drove the first arc of the Dragonball manga, it seems a fitting theme for the first tournament circuit. Here’s what I propose:

wmat

Qualifiers: Search for the Seven Balls

Seven tournaments in 2018 would be identified as holding one of the seven Dragonballs of Earth. As the balls are usually scattered across the world, ideally these would be spread out to tournaments in Japan, Europe, the US, Latin America, etc. The winner of each tournament would earn a ball, and automatically qualify for the finale. Players may only have one Dragonball, so just like Battle for the Stones, if the winner of a tournament already owns one of the Dragonballs, the runner up would earn the qualification. The eighth and final spot would be given to an online qualifier, representing a lone challenger trying to collect all seven balls for themselves.

Finale: Collect all Seven

Unlike Battle for the Stones, the Dragonballs will not give any advantages. This is a tournament where the greatest fighter in the world will have their wish granted.

The tournament will operate as a standard double elimination bracket. When you are defeated in the upper bracket, you will surrender any and all Dragonballs to the player who defeats you. When we reach grand finals, the player on the winner’s side will already have all 7 balls, and only need to defeat one remaining challenger before they can complete their wish.

It will likely be underwhelming to only have a top 8 as the entire event, so ideally a few additional players will be flown out to play some themed exhibitions during the day–good guys vs bad guys, saiyans vs humans, that sort of thing. After grand finals, a winner will be determined, and they will have assembled all 7 Dragonballs, ready to summon the dragon to make their wish.

The Prize: Your Wish Has Been Granted

For winning the tournament, the champion will receive a significant prize pool, ideally 100k or more. However, they’ve also collected the Dragonballs, so they get to make a wish.

shenron.png

This is where I think a number of sponsors can be brought in, and the player should be given a choice between four wishes, just like the mechanic in the game. These could be things like a new car, a lifetime supply of a food sponsor, some sort of amazing vacation package, the chance to record an announcer pack for the game, etc. It could be really amazing to see someone win the tournament, popoff, get handed a giant check, and then have to bring the Dragonballs to the center of the stage, recite the incantation, and see Shenron pop up on a big screen. The player asks for what they want, and then the dragon’s voice booms out: “Your wish has been granted”.


 

Personally, I love invitationals and closed tournaments in fighting games. Open events are wonderful, and Evo is something special strictly because of the sheer number of entrants, but I think there is something special about a smaller event with huge stakes. It creates interesting storylines, a connective tissue for the fans throughout the year, and provides a unique entry point for casual observers. I have extremely high hopes that Dragonball Fighterz will become a stable in the FGC, and I think as a new IP it deserves a unique method to crown its champion.