OpTic hazed: Pre-ECS Interview
GosuGamers had the pleasure of speaking to OpTic Gaming's Coach and In-Game Leader, James "hazed" Cobb, prior to commencement of ECS Season 3. It's been a time of change for the team, but they are looking to put that behind them and make this weekend a success.
James Cobb, welcome to London! Nice and sunny for you.
"Thank you. Weather's nice - hot for ya'll, nice for me."
We're at the SSE Arena, it's a change in venue in comparison to usual events, how do you enjoy it?
"This is actually my first time in London, so this is the only venue I've ever seen here. It seems nice to far, I haven't seen the stage I don't think it's setup yet so I don't know what's it's going to look like. I'm pretty excited because I've never competed in London, it'll be interesting."
Are you guys planning to take some time to do some sightseeing?
"I will definitely, I think the rest of the guys said they would go again. Will and the other guys said this was their fourth time being in London I think. They've seen everything but they said they'll still go out and see the Eye?"
The eye, yeah. The London Eye.
"I was like, yeah OK I'll go there, that's cool."
It's just a massive ferris wheel.
"A ferris wheel, yeah that's what I heard. I was like "ooh I don't do heights" so I probably won't go on it."
It's half a hour, gives you the whole view of London.
"Yeaaaah, don't think I'm going up there."
Fair enough man! Back to OpTic, the last LAN event you went to was ESL Pro League Season 5 LAN finals. With a two week increment between offline events, how have you guys prepared for the event?
"Well, we prepared for this the same way we prepared for the next month, basically. Because we're hitting in all maybe four tournaments in a row, assuming we qualify for the Major. We have no breaks leading for the next month, so we said "OK, we have two weeks, we have to prepare for potentially four LAN events" and it's like "how do you prepare for four LAN events?". You can't prepare for your teams that you'll be playing against, you don't have time to do that. We really wanted to boot camp, some really unlucky circumstances came up where we couldn't boot camp. We tried to make the best of it and that was making sure that we knew exactly what we wanted to do, on every map we dry-ran a lot and sat in severs and just talked about strategy and how we react to certain situations, make sure we're all on the same page. I typed a lot of stuff up, not exactly like flowcharting maps and things like that, but what we needed to do after Sydney was figure out - OK, if something goes wrong in this situation, how do we respond. Instead of just waiting for me to call it or Jason, whoever was calling, everyone should know the response so we just do and do this. I spent a lot of time doing that, me and the guys talked about a lot, so we focused on our own game more than the other teams that we're going to play against. "
In the scope of ECS Season 3, you guys were potentially faced with three of the finest European teams. How are you approaching this mentally?
"Well, the way we look at it is if we can get out of this group, I mean, we can get out of any group ever. This is FaZe, SK, G2 - all three of these teams have won an event this year, and they're all looking like they're in prime form. I don't think any of us expected G2 to win EPL, personally I thought they would get knocked out in groups. And so I'm looking at these three teams and I'm saying "look if we can 2:0 this group, we are set for the next month, because we know that we can win, it's really important." Even if we lose in this, say we go 0:2, we're not too bummed about it. As long as we have good results, you know. If it's close, then we're optimistic - I think that's the best way to look at it. We almost have nothing to lose. It is a rough draw, we're not very happy about the draw, but we're going to make the best of it. You look at it and you say "if we lose, these are three of arguably the best teams in the world right now" and if you win you go "OK, we can win this"."
OpTic Gaming for the past while has been struggling to find a fifth. You saw the departure of stanislaw, then you had JasonR come in. Now you're standing in. Are there any developments on the issue? Can we expect an announcement in coming times?
"I don't have that for you. Ultimately the fifth decision isn't even in my hands, I'm not even part of the conversation. I told them straight up, I said: "Ya'll have to decide on what fifth ya'll want to play with, it's not on me." So any discussion about who they want as a fifth is done internally with OpTic. I'm not a part of that conversation, I'm just here to coach whatever five that they want to play with. I'll give suggestions on who I think I'm like: "Hey, maybe you should look at this person." But as far as who they're going to pick, I've no control."
At this tournament will you be in-game leading?
"Yes, I'll be in-game leading until they make a decision to either A. Keep me or B. Pick up a in-game leader or C. Potentially even pick up a fragger and one of the players on the team will begin in-game leading. Until they make a decision I'll be in-game leading."
Right, you just suggested that there's potential for somebody from the existing team to start in-game leading. Has anyone taken that initiative? Have you perhaps tried to push some of the members to at least try it?
"Yeah, I've hinted to a few of the guys, I said: "I think this person would be good in-game leading at this aspect." They have flaws as in-game leaders, none of them are naturally true leaders in that sense. The only one that's very close to being a natural leader, I think, is Tarik. The problem with Tarik is when he calls he's very scrimmy and fast paced, he never wants to play slow, and so I told him: "I think you can be a good in-game leader, you just need to learn how to mix it up, change the tempo, play slow, mid rounds, don't just do fast stuff." I think he could be good at it, but you know, he's shown some hesitation to do it. I've hinted at other players in the team too and told them what they needed to work on if they decided to, but I don't think that's the route they're going to take, but it is technically possible, they could change their mind."
This issue has been pretty persistent for some time now in North America, where there's a distinct lack of in-game leaders. From one perspective we can indeed say that it's something that comes from within, it's character that is require to fulfill this role. Do you think that perhaps the issue can be fixed if people try it out, maybe there's something hidden within someone's personality that can actually cater to this role?
"Oh absolutely, I mean the perfect example of that is stanislaw. When you hang around stanislaw, you know talk to him, he does not strike you as a leader at all. And it's something he wasn't naturally. He did it out of necessity, he got put into a situation where he goes: "OK, I have to in-game lead here." And he was just very good at it. He's naturally very good at it, but he had never put himself into a position to see if he was good at it, it was something that was forced upon him. I think it's definitely possible, there's probably some great in-game leaders, there has to be some great in-game leaders in NA that just don't know it, and I think the problem lies within stats. Players in in NA play for stats, they don't want to play for the team a lot of the time. It's hard to find players that are willing to sacrifice for the team, so I think that's the biggest problem, I don't know that it will ever get fixed, to be honest with you. I hope it does."
I suppose there's also the pressure that comes with being and in-game leader. I mean there's quite a lot running on your shoulders.
"Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean even for me just standing in, you know. The expectations aren't high for me, but there' still a higher expectation set of me, because I'm an in-game leader versus the rest of my team. If something goes wrong, it's all going to point at me, but if something goes right, it all points to me as well. So you get the good with the bad, and I think that pressure might tear some people down, but I think if they just tried it and really committed to it, you'd find some good in-game leaders in NA."
Coming back to you as an individual. Would you ever consider going back to a full-time active role on a team, given issues persist with finding a fifth in OpTic Gaming and they decide to ask you to stay?
"I mean, yeah. I would much prefer to be a player, the coaching thing was just something I wanted to try, I never intended for it to be long term if I didn't like it. I'm not the kind of person that's going to do something just for money, I have to enjoy it, so I told Tarik and they guys: "Look, as much as you're trialing me, I'm trialing ya'll as well, because I don't know if I'm going to like this." And after about a month I told the guys: "You know, this isn't something that I want to do long-term. I'll definitely stick with ya'll for a little while and I'll help out, but it's not something I'll be doing permanently, for sure." They were OK with it, they understood. I made it pretty clear to not only the team, but I think publicly, I was like: "I want to go back to being a player at some point." That doesn't mean it has to be with OpTic. If they want to play with me, hey that's awesome, but if they don't want to play with me, it's fine with me, it's not going to hurt my feelings. Definitely want to return to playing at some point, maybe do it for like another year or two and then maybe move on, we'll see."
Do you feel like coaching has affected your capabilities on the server? Do you feel a bit rusty on the server or do you keep that up?
"I keep that up on my own time. Scrimming in NA isn't where it needs to be, in terms of how many you can get a day. Right now there's probably about a five hour window that you can get scrims, and that's it. It's hard to get scrims outside of that, whereas in EU, you can scrim for twelve hours a day if you wanted. There's just way more teams and the teams are willing to play earlier and later. I think if NA would play more we would actually be more successful as an off-topic kind of thing. I think that's a big problem as well. But as far as developing my own skill yeah, we scrim so few hours in a day, I have so much of the day, because I prepare in the morning, and then scrims in the afternoon, then in the evening is when I might play for six hours or so in the evenings. I get a good amount of practice for my own personal skill."
hazed scoring an impressive 1v5 clutch
So I guess it's the divide between theory and practice. You guys can essentially do as much theory as you want, but the practice is where you get the hours in, focus up and develop abilities as a player. Would you say that's accurate?
"Yeah, that's fair. Like I was saying with the scrim times, I think the biggest problem is that I can theory all day, and I can come up with these strategies and these ways to play and how to react, but if I can't practice them, because we can't get enough scrims, then it does me no good to do all this theory. It's really frustrating as a coach when I create all this stuff, but I can't implement it in practice, because we don't have enough time, or we play teams that will just rush constantly, instead of trying out strategies and things like that. It's very frustrating in NA right now to practice. It's hard to get quality practice."
Returning back to ECS Season 3, you guys are facing FaZe Clan as your first match-up. Any particular preparation for them?
"Not anything particular for them, we prepare for every team the same way. I think the only team that's very special for us in how we prepare is SK. SK, you know, if I had to be completely honest, I don't know how to play against them. They are the only team that I've played against where I just say: "How do they always know what to do?" They always have the right answer, and honestly, I'm just stumped. I just don't understand. They make amazing reads, I don't know, it's weird. They're the only team where I'll sit after a scrim and I'm just like: "How did they know all the right answers?! Just how? How can they be so perfect?" So they're the only team I change my preparation for, every team is usually the same thing."
Finally I'd like to find out what the goal is for OpTic Gaming at ECS?
"I mean, ultimately we'd just like to make it out of groups. I mean, I would personally love to win a tournament. I haven't ever won a tier one tournament, that has always been my dream. If I could win a tier one tournament that would be amazing, but with the amount of practice that we got leading into the tournament and, you know, our group. The tournament is just stacked in general, a lot of really good teams here. If I made it out of this group, I'd be super happy. Have a good showing, if we lose, at least make it three maps, have a good showing. I'd be OK with that. But my personal goal - I wanna win. I want to win the whole damn tournament."
Thank you so much for the interview, an opportunity for some shout outs, if you have any?
"I'm not too well-versed on OpTic's sponsors, I know they have Brisk, Turtle Beach."
Got Scuf over there.
"Scuf, see I'm not versed in the console side of it."
(laughing) Hey, I'll help you out man, it's all on the shirt.
"I think we just got a partnership with Twitch, so shout out to Twitch as well. Sorry if I missed some of the sponsors, OpTic. I should've been more prepared for this."
I'm sure it's absolutely fine man, best of luck in the tournament and I really hope you guys get out of groups!
"I appreciate it man, thank you."
Images courtesy of IEM/ESL