LONDON SPITFIRE are defending Overwatch League champions, but season 2 has not been the smoothest of rides.
At his best, Gesture is the rock on which the rest of the Spitfire build[/caption]
Spitfire came out of the blocks in stage 2 looking like a different team, demolishing all before them until they crashed into Chengdu Hunters for their only loss of the stage.
They’ve jumped from mid-table mediocrity to fourth in the overall standings, behind only the Vancouver Titans, New York Excelsior and the red-hot San Francisco Shock.
But the stage 2 playoffs did not go according to plan — looking to add another £155,000 to their winnings last season, they crashed out in the very first round to Hangzhou Spark.
Spitfire aces Jaehui ‘Gesture’ Hong and Junyoung ‘Profit’ Park were selected for the Atlantic Division All-Star Team at the mid-way point of the season, and Sun Online caught up with them, with the team’s new general manager Robin Lee translating, to talk about how the season had gone so far and what the future holds.
What is Overwatch?
Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
Unlike many other shooters, characters in Overwatch have one of three roles: damage-dealers, support, or tanking.
Damage-dealers do the traditional job of trying to outgun the opposing team’s members. Tanks are there to draw fire and soak up damage while protecting objectives or their team-mates, while support characters can heal other players, boost their damage output, or protect them.
The Overwatch League is one of the flagship eSports competitions, with millions of pounds in prize money up for grabs.
12 teams competed in the inaugural season: New York Excelsior, Los Angeles Valiant, Boston Uprising, Los Angeles Gladiators, London Spitfire, Philadelphia Fusion, Houston Outlaws, Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem and the Shanghai Dragons.
That’s going up to 20 for season 2.
London has some company in Europe with the addition of the Paris Eternal, while Shanghai now have local competition in the form of Hangzhou Spark, Guangzhou Charge and the Chengdu Hunters.
The Washington Justice, Atlanta Reign, Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans have all come on board in North America as well.
All the players are full-time professionals, and all the teams are currently physically based around Blizzard’s Arena in Los Angeles, though they will be competing in their home cities next year.
You guys looked to be having so much more fun in Stage 2 than stage 1. What was the difference?
Gesture: That’s probably because we are performing way better in stage 2 than stage 1.
Profit: That’s right.
Three of your starting six are in the all-star team [Off-Tank Fury was also selected] – but you’ve only got a first-round playoff loss to show for it. What do you need to do improve your results?
Gesture: The direction our preparation has been taking has been pretty good so far.
That showed in our stage 2 results, and if we continue to scrim vigorously then we should be in a good place when playoff time comes.
The Hangzhou loss was particularly disappointing for fans given how well the stage itself had gone, and how well that first map went before everything fell apart. What went so badly wrong after map one?
Profit: Before we played them we had a specific strategy that we were running in scrims and it worked well against some of the very top teams in the league that we were scrimming against — though obviously we can’t say who we were scrimming.
It worked really well against the top echelon teams, but it completely fell apart against Hangzhou because their style is completely opposite to what we had planned.
What do you do plan to do in future when your Plan A so obviously isn’t working, and how do you plan to stop things going so wrong again?
Gesture: It’s very difficult to react to that kind of stuff on the spot.
You’re practicing a certain way because you believe in your strategy and your practice, and trusting in your process, and then it doesn’t work out even though it has worked against other teams.
Although it’s tough, the best way to react in these kind of situations is to quickly think on the spot, talk to your teammates and try to change whatever it is that isn’t working on the spot in order to turn things around.
But obviously that’s not going to be as effective as using a strategy that you’ve been practicing.
As well as the Hangzhou loss, your earlier losses to Chengdu and Shanghai seemed to follow a similar pattern – is there something about Chinese teams and their style that you particularly struggle with, or is there something else going on?
Profit: I don’t think there’s necessarily a trend in that manner, it’s just that we happen to have lost on those respective days, and they just happened to be Chinese teams.
Was the loss to Shanghai in stage 1 a turning point? That match was painful — but since that point you seem to have looked a lot better.
Gesture: I don’t think that was necessarily a turning point.
It may seem that way because we’ve been practising with the same amount of attention and effort since before the beginning of the first stage when we were bootcamping – it just started showing after the Shanghai game, which is why it probably seemed that way.
Spitfire are looking much more like the team we saw at the end of last season, but the Titans and particularly the Shock right now look practically unstoppable. What do you think will be key to toppling Shock in stage 3?
Gesture: In general it’s not best practice to prepare for a specific team or strategise against a specific team every time.
You want to drill the basics to be able to level up to a certain level to be able to do those kind of things.
I think we just need to keep practicing as we have been.
So far it’s been working for us, and at the end of the day it will pay off.
As for Shock… who knows what will happen. We might be able to beat them, we might lose; we’ll have to see.
Whats is your favourite comp [group of heroes] to run as a unit right now?
Both: Goats is probably the most fun right now, especially Rein-Goats.
Ah, Reinhardt. Gesture, your Reinhardt seems to have got much better since the start of stage 1, and you seem much more comfortable playing him now. What’s been the key to your improvement, and what do you need to do to take it to the next level?
Gesture: Part of it is that my individual practice paid off, and I got better.
But it’s also because our team has been playing better overall.
In this meta it’s impossible for any one player to look good if your teamwork isn’t good.
HOW DOES OVERWATCH WORK?
OVERWATCH is a relatively simple game in principle — you have teams of six players fighting for control of certain areas of any given map.
The six players can choose any of Overwatch’s seven ‘tanks’, six support and 16 damage-dealing heroes to get control of those spots and force their opponents off.
‘Tanks’ are the game’s most defensive heroes — generally large, heavily armored and not particularly mobile. They can take up space, deploy shields that stop their team taking damage.
Support heroes are there to help out the rest of the team — this is mostly healing, but also includes the ability to boost the damage your team does, reduce incoming damage, make it easier to see the opposition and suchlike.
Finally, your damage-dealers are there to dish out punishment. They may have secondary abilities that enhance those abilities and boost the damage output of other players.
There is overlap, with all the heroes able to do some damage to defend themselves. The way characters defend themselves also differs — some can deal damage from long range and are highly mobile and hard to hit, but are very weak when cornered.
Right now, the strengths of the game’s tank and support heroes has led to very defensive tactics being deployed, with many teams favouring set-ups with no dedicated damage-dealers at all.
This means that some of season one’s best players have ended up in bit-part roles as the offensive skills and huge plays that made the first season so exciting have faded away.
At the start of the season you were fairly unequivocal about your dislike of Goats. What’s changed – why are you now enjoying it so much more?
Profit: I guess the main difference is now that we’re winning, the game is more fun to play with Goats.
In the goats meta if you’re losing it’s very easy to get snowballed really hard, and not be able to do much to retaliate as you lose.
But when you’re winning it’s the other side of the spectrum. You’re able to snowball the game really really quickly and it can feel really satisfying to play.
Now that we’re on the winning side Goats feels a little more fun to play.
Thinking about comp changes, Profit, do you think we might get to see more of your Pharah in stage 3, given the success some teams have had with her?
Profit: I don’t think Pharah’s going to be used across the board in general for us, but if you see her it’ll probably be on particular maps where she has a clear advantage, and you can get a clear advantage from using her.
For example, on some Control maps you can quickly use Pharah to take point A, then you can pop and move onto a different composition for point B. In those sorts of situations I can see her being used.
One final comp question for Gesture, thinking about switching nice and early in maps – do you have any tips for budding Widowmaker players out there, and have you been giving Birdring coaching?
Gesture: The best tip I can give to the general Widow playerbase is if you change your zoom sensitivity to 37 or 38 you’ll probably see a lot of improvement in your Widow gameplay.
How are you finding the travel this year, with the recent trip to Texas and planning for the trip to Atlanta? How is that working for the team, and what effect is the travel having on your preparations and how do you think it will impact next year?
Robin: I think I can answer that one. If you’re travelling and playing away games you’ll only have a certain amount of time to use a given practice facility wherever you’re playing.
The matter of fact is it’s going to be very similar to the amount of time other teams have to practice as well, so I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue.
Every team is going to be travelling and will have to go through that.
It’s going to normalise across the league and eventually won’t matter too much.
The only thing that might get in the way of each team is how far they have to travel between games, since some teams will have to travel much further than others.
Are you looking forward to being in London next year?
Both: We’re both really excited to play in London, in front of local crowds.
And finally, how do you feel about trading in In-N-Out for fish and chips?
Gesture: I like fish and chips more!
Profit: That’s too bad, because I prefer In-N-Out.
MOST READ IN GAMING
You can see Gesture, Profit and Fury in action tomorrow night in the Overwatch League season 2 All-Star Game at the decidedly antisocial time of 2 a.m. Friday morning, live on Twitch.
If you want to watch them at a more reasonable hour, Spitfire play New York Excelsior at 8 p.m. on June 9th after the mid-season break.
This second half of the season is leading up the the finals in Philadelphia on September 29th where there will be £1.3 million on the line.
Next year all the teams, including London Spitfire, will be based in their home cities and playing home games there.
It appears Spitfire’s discussions with Spurs ended up going nowhere as the esports arena in the new stadium went the way of the cheese room, but we’ll have more details on Spitfire’s home games nearer the time, so stay tuned.