My journey as a manager : Part II

Before I continue my story, I’d like to bring some light to some minor events that have happened between the last post and this, apparently, Absolute Legends are attempting to come back to life, their site is back up with a ‘new look’ on http://www.absolutelegends.net I really don’t know how to feel about this, if anyone trusts them anymore it’s on them and not on aL, that’s all I can say.

Another impressive feat for shady people is the launch of Netolic Pro League Season 5, not only are they creating a new league, they’re actually getting officially monetized for it through Valve’s Dota TV tickets. Laurent “Ange” Blum, while being extremely shady, is nothing compared to Marco, or any of the other people over at Netolic. I was extremely appalled when I saw the news, I had to deal with those people as a team manager and it was one of the worst experiences ever, they’re highly incompetent and shady. I encourage everyone to boycott them, be it as a player, organization, or most importantly a viewer; do not let the scum of the earth profit from eSports.

Team formation alongside MaNia

It’s time to continue where I left off in Part I, following the decision to kick everyone but MaNia from Absolute Legends, it was time to start our new team from scratch. MaNia and I were really close, it was obvious that we had to work together on this one. The only thing we knew for sure was that miGGel was going to be part of it, MaNia has been wanting to play with miGGel since before we decided anything, they’re really old friends and enjoy playing with each other more than anything. We needed three more players, MaNia had been after Merlini to join him on this for a while, and Merlini was thinking about it. Unicornxoxo had been talking to MaNia when he learnt about the new team, MaNia saw potential (and he was damn right) in him, we were looking for another support to join MaNia when I realized that Miracle was teamless for a while, I seeked him out through Pajkatt and asked him if he was willing to return to comp. Dota 2 and he said this team sounds nice enough for him to try. There we had it, we were going to go with MaNia, Merlini, miGGel, Miracle and Unicornxoxo, we even have had a few official matches with this roster, it looked really promising and the PR aspect of the team (mainly thanks to Merlini) was huge. However, Merlini had come to the decision that he can not play with the team because he had to move, and was not ready to go competitive again, it was a big blow in our face, especially as aL would have paid more money if we had Merlini, but we had to move forward.

Synderen was always an option at the time but the players were skeptical about his strength as a solo mid, as well as his commitment towards Dota 2 as a player, Ryze also wanted to join, even though he did not fit the role we needed (Solo mid), the team decided to go for Ryze because they enjoy playing with him and they were confident enough in their versatility as players. This team went on as Absolute Legends for around two months before we decided to leave because payments were super late, and we just felt like it was a sinking ship. The team obviously was not the most committed in the world, they were extremely laid back, but I loved them and I truly loved managing them. They’re some of the best bunch of people you could meet in eSports on any day, every single one of them was extremely nice and down to earth, it was entertaining for me to manage them even if they were never going to hit Tier 1.
After we left Absolute Legends, we had the big issue of attending LAN events, having qualified for DreamHack and EMS One, it was time for me to get my game face on, we qualified for DH 15 days before the event, and without a sponsor the players said they most likely will not go, I could not stand the idea of that, I felt like they had to go even if their chances were not that great. I started seeking sponsorships left and right, my goal was to get this team to the next LAN events, as well as hopefully reach a long-time stable sponsor. I announced the situation on websites as well, to increase my exposure to sponsors. We were in talks with many organizations, including Copenhagen Wolves, Ninjas in Pyjamas, MYM, and Denial. However, it seemed like all of those sponsors were not willing to send us to DH on such short notice, which is understandable.

Suddenly, Pandepic (ex-manager of Natural 9, after they left aL) messaged me on Skype wondering if we needed help going to DH, saying he could most likely send us there with help of his current employer. I was really happy to hear such news, we discussed things and it seemed like he wanted to try this alley of marketing for his company, his company hosted and managed several projects, which IsMyGolf.com was one of at the time. Our job was to promote IsMyGolf.com as much as possible, and in exchange they would pay for everything we needed to go to DH. Less than a day later, another old friend (Hector ‘Frost’ Rosario, who used to work at aL) spoke to me when he heard about the news, he had recently started his own organization located in the US (Flip.Sid3 Tactics) and although they were new they were doing quite well with that RIT LAN as well as a few youtube shows. He showed interest in acquiring this team on the long run, I told him about IsMyGolf, and unlike most CEO’s in this industry, he was more than happy to work alongside with them. We reached a deal where IsMyGolf.com would only sponsor our team for DH, so they will have main tag there, then F.3 is the main sponsor onwards. I was really, really happy to see such great responses from the community as well as from old friends with small ideas that were willing to help my team. Going from Absolute Legends to Flip.Sid3 Tactics was like a complete twist, everyone is so genuine and truly caring about the players at F.3, despite being small and having very few sponsors, they were able to give us basically all they had to make sure the players were getting what they deserve, and it saddens to me to this day that they’re not getting as much attention as they deserve, hopefully that will change soon. Shoutout to everyone at Flip.Sid3 Tactics, you guys are truly some of the best.

Following a long break before, and during TI3, it was time to talk business with the team, I knew that this team needed to either adapt a new approach, or change players, I had a meeting with them and asked if they’re willing to start a new year with the goal of going to TI4. As a manager, despite loving the team, I wanted to do something big this year, even though our role is simple and completely out of the game, I wanted to ‘manage’ a team to TI4, and I’m working on that at the moment! There was a lot of back and forth talk, but basically the decision was to not play with Ryze and Miracle any more, we told them and they accepted it gracefully, I’m still in contact with both of them and they’re great, great fellows. MaNia, miGGel, and Unicorn wanted to continue, although Unicorn was unsure about his time this year cos of school commitments, they were approached by Socks and Mad, and they gave it a try. The team was doing extremely well in scrims, but Unicorn had decided to walk away from Dota 2 at least for a while, mainly because of his studies (I also think he was not enjoying playing with the new team, but that’s just an assumption).

FATA was an obvious replacement, everyone knew that he’s one of the best free agents in the scene, and we didn’t hesitate for a second to ask him to give it a shot, he tried it out and was ready to go further. Sadly after a few games, MaNia shocked me with the news that he has decided to retire competitive Dota 2, saying that he had planned that this would be his last team, but because he was not enjoying playing with this team, he had made his decision to end it right away. He thought it was best for him, and for the team. I think he disagreed with 7ckngMad’s approach, but again, everything was handled in the most professional, friendly, and generally ethical way. I was really sad to see MaNia go, hell I’m still sad about it, anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him well would tell you how great of a person he is. The team accepted it, and after a few discussions, they decided to try paS out, and after a few scrims everything was back to normal, going stable and steady, and since then we’ve been stable. I skipped through the organizations part because it really was extremely back and forth, I think it would be really boring to read about it, but if enough readers are interested I will write it in a separate post. Regardless, we ended up with a new idea, Sigma.int, a structure with an investor’s funding and the knowledge of every single player as well as staff member, including myself and ShiBa, the two managers of the team. 7ckingMad runs a big part of Sigma.int, and he’s doing a really fine job at it so far. The team is going at a great rate, and although we could have done better at the last LAN, I still believe we’re 100% on the right track.

Life is rather easy at Sigma.int, as a manager, since ShiBa is basically managing the team with me, although recently he’s been rather busy, he’s always available to help if I’m not here. 7ckingMad himself does a lot for the team, in terms of everything from PR to scheduling, it’s just a really easy team to manage, but I still enjoy doing it and I love those players. The mutual trust relationship I’ve always had with my players is something I take a lot of pride in.

This pretty much sums it up, I know this wasn’t the most interesting read, but I wanted to shed some light on the process of team creation, what happens when you’re forced to make a change to the team. I also wanted to share that you CAN get a sponsor for events if you try your hardest, I hope I gave some helpful advice in this aspect but you can always ask me if you have any questions.

Update : For anyone who is interested, I will be joining the great Finch tomorrow in the First Pick show, where we will discuss many things related to managers, this blog, as well as the scene in general. There’s a good chance that my good mate Charlie ‘Monolith’ Yang, ex-manager of Dignitas and current manager of Speed Gaming will be joining as well!

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My journey as a manager : Part I

Before I start with my heroic journey full of action and mischievous encounters, I want to thank everyone who has read my first post and gave feedback, I’m quite glad that there are some people who find this kind of thing interesting. This post is going to detail my experience in general, from how I became a manager to the many things I’ve encountered, I realized that this is one of the better ways to explain things.

How did you become a manager?

A question I’m always asked and the actual answer is always more complicated than the one I briefly give. I have no idea how most managers became managers, I’m sure it wasn’t too far off from my story but I’m just letting you know that this is not a staple, but simply my own story.

It started when I was approached by Absolute Legends to become a writer, they have seen some of my posts on r/dota2, which included an introduction to Absolute Legends IHL. I was approached by the aL IHL admins at the time via IRC to write a brief introduction since they thought I was good at this kind of thing, those IHL admins later turned out to be the worst people I have met in eSports, if names like Mikeylicious ring a bell.
Moving on, I agreed to become a newswriter for Absolute Legends as I did quite enjoy writing and I wanted to enter eSports since it is my passion after all, I was a very active writer and within less than a month I was approached by Raoul from aL management to help him organize tournaments, from there I was approached to become part of aL management to handle the Dota 2 sector. At the time GoDz was with the Australian aL squad, and after they disbanded I asked to find a new team for the organization which I will personally manage, aL agreed to my request and the search started.

Absolute Legends : A sweet disaster

There has been so many posts to expose how shady Absolute Legends are, and how bad Tim Buysse is, etc.. The truth is none of those posts gave it justice, both in a bad and a good way, there’s a lot more that goes into everything and I feel like it’s about time someone who was actually part of the organization on a deep level speaks out. I will discuss everything from the start, this will both detail my experience as well as shed some light on Absolute Legends.

The search was on! I was actively on the lookout for new teams, free agents, and keeping up with the scene day by day, it was one of the most interesting things that I’ve done so far as a manager, it’s like being a talent scout. I was given a budget by aL, and it depended heavily on the stream quality of the players we would get; if the team had active streamers I could offer them as far as 500 Euros, and if not I was capped to around 200-250 Euros. We were in a hurry because we wanted to remain relevant to the scene, following the aussie squad’s disbandment, so we had to look at our current options, and of course the main goal was streaming potential.
Twista came to me with the news that an interesting team was being formed, with names like Vigoss, God, ComeWithMe, and freezer. At first glance I thought this was not the best of options if we were looking for stability, but there was definite stream potential there as well as star quality and a huge entrance to the Russian audience. I spoke with the players to hear their thoughts, Vigoss and G said they were ready to stream if we got them new computers capable of streaming, they said it was no problem. The team was still unsure on a fifth, Admiration was playing with them for a while but when he found out they were about to sign he started backing out, he did not want to commit to an organization or a team fully without testing it for at least three months, I thought it was very odd of him. In hindsight, Admiration seems like a very smart guy!

While tryouts were going for the fifth player, I approached the rest of aL management with the team, I assessed it carefully and gave them a summary, we agreed to offer them a deal where their salary will depend on the amount of average viewers they have on their streams, together with the amount of streaming they do, since the point of this is transparency I will not hold out on the numbers. They were to receive 300 Euros base, and 600 Euros if they reach an accumulated total of average 6k viewers when they do stream, and a number of hours that has escaped my mind at the moment. Tryouts brought nothing worthwhile, I found out MaNia was back from retirement and I saw him scrimming with some Swedish players, I told CWM about him and he said that sounds like a good idea. CWM approached him, and MaNia decided to try it out, it seemed to work out fine and MaNia was the fifth player in the team. The deal was cut with aL, we bought a new computer Vigoss and got him to start streaming. The team was doing relatively okay, there were no issues except they weren’t streaming as much as they should be, Vigoss stopped streaming after two days and every time I told him to do it he said he doesn’t like interacting with people, and that he was scared of doing things on the internet. We were about to buy a new computer for G when he hit us with the surprising news that he has received an offer from China to form an international team there. He pitched me a story of love and heartache, that he couldn’t stand staying in Russia any longer because of a girl that broke his heart, it sounded like bullshit to me and that he simply got a better offer. I knew that if we stopped him from leaving and forced the contract on LGD, LGD would never buy him out for the crazy number aL had there ($5,000) and would just look elsewhere, which would leave God stuck with the team when he most likely would not be happy anymore. I had a talk with aL and we decided to let him go, we broke his contract free and he went to China leaving our team with a lot less value since we put a lot of hope on G’s streaming numbers.

Things went on from there having player after another, S0ny joined the team to replace G. The team wasn’t doing too well and most of it was thanks to Vigoss, he was always ‘busy’, he didn’t talk during any game except for like two words. We talked to him a lot, he still was the same. I spoke to CWM and all I got was ‘I dunno whats wrong but Vigoss is my good friend’. It was time for DreamHack and Vigoss was supposed to go get his visa work done, he kept avoiding the subject every time, he was highly incompetent in doing the simplest of tasks like making sure he sent the papers on time, I was 99% sure that he was not going to get the visa in time. That plus his attitude in-game and the general team atmosphere forced me to consider replacing him completely, I talked about it with the rest of the team and they all agreed it was the right call, we replaced him with SexyBamboe and went to DreamHack, after which the team shortly started to disband.

This was by far one of the worst teams to ever be formed and I take no pride in being responsible for it, it was a ‘star’ team with a lot of potential value for the organization, but it really never panned out. It was full of drama and headache, CWM and freezer raged on each other more than two strangers in a pub did. Vigoss was by far the weirdest and most incompetent player I’ve had to deal with (He once wanted to link me something and he sent me a link to his INBOX, yes his bloody INBOX.). Despite how much I love SexyBamboe, he was quite nonchalant and overslept a few times when scrims were scheduled, but he probably knew this team was destined to fail and did not care so much. S0ny is one of the nicest people I have met, but he seemed to go in a package together with freezer. The only good thing that came out of this entire idea of a team was MaNia, by far the nicest player I have had the pleasure of meeting. The decision was obvious to ditch everyone but MaNia and form a new team from scratch, I will be discussing that in part II.

teamlogo

 

To take a break from this extremely long story, I have split my ‘journey’ in two parts, I will continue in the next blog but I will now move on to talk more about Absolute Legends, there is a lot to be said and I will try my best to summarize it.

During my time at aL, I have seen so many posts accusing them of being liars, scammers, and whatnot, and I have defended them often, but I have always restricted my defense to the Dota 2 sector. Sometimes I regret staying at aL knowing all the things that were said about them, and knowing that most likely some of them are true, but I was enjoying the freedom I was given, I was enjoying creating my own experiences and my conscience was resting knowing that the sector I manage was well handled, everyone was getting paid and treated fairly.

The aL management was a very odd thing, it had some of the nicest, most competent, and greatest people I have met in eSports to this day, but it was all under two shady highly incompetent CEO’s Tim “WetDream” Buysse, and till a point Ryad Abour from eSahara. While I, Raoul, KrausBaws, and Linas worked everyday – as well as many others- to create new content, make sure aL has a good name out there despite the shit storms being caused, we knew that in the end it was all a sinking ship, because no matter how hard we tried to convince Tim of not doing something stupid, he’d almost always end up doing it anyways. Suddenly we’d see things like him buying out domains and making redirect to the aL website to piss off freaks4u and get more traffic. We’d hear from some SC2 player that he was not paid, we’d hear that the LoL team did not get paid, he always had a reason, an excuse, an answer. I used to believe him at first but eventually I just realized he was completely making a fool out of both himself, and the rest of us. It was too much at one point that we all said screw this, and slowly left one by one, no more reason to stay in a sinking ship, especially since the resources we had gotten from them to create content, or get new teams, were quickly running out. To this day, I talk on Skype almost everyday to the good people that were in the aL management, we always hoped to start our own thing one day, maybe Sigma will be big enough to take all of us in the near future!

I believe I don’t need to mention every fuckup that aL has caused anymore, they’ve been exposed way too much and if they ever try to restart again they’re going to have a really tough time, but since I have made an oath to myself to not let my team miss a penny they earned, I will continue to pursue the $2,000 that my team has won in the second season of RaidCall EMS One. The team had MaNia, Miracle, Ryze, Unicornxoxo, and miGGel at that time, we were owed $2,000 and they did not ever receive the money, I have been to both ESL and Tim several times, and both of them seem to not understand what’s going on. They both shift the blame on each other and in the end the players, as always, are the ones who get hurt. There’s a lot more that aL has done but I feel like this is quite enough, in the end it was a great experience for me and some of the other people, but the organization was truly ran by a shady person, despite how often I have tried to believe otherwise, I would not trust Tim Buysse with anything.

I have written a bit too much this time, I don’t know if this will be easy to digest, but I wanted to share an experience that I think was never shared with transparency before. If you have any questions you can ask me here, on r/dota2, or via Twitter.

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Defining the role of a manager

An introduction to Behind The Lanes

Hello everyone, this is Samo, the current manager of Sigma.int, and some of you might recognize me from my past work for both Absolute Legends, & Flip.Sid3 Tactics. I’ve always contemplated the idea of starting a blog that showcases what happens behind the scenes in the competitive Dota 2 world, something that let’s people know how things exactly work so they can have a better understanding of everything. However, I have never gotten around to doing it till now, I do believe that this is something that is rarely discussed, maybe people don’t care enough about it but I believe it’s worth my time anyways. In this first post I will be discussing the nature of a manager’s tasks -despite how variable they can be- and will be shedding some light on some of the organization’s perspectives when it comes to acquiring new teams and players.

So what exactly do you do??

I can’t recall how many times I have been asked this question whenever someone knows that I’m a pro team’s manager, this of course happens most often when I’m playing pubs with a tag on -after being called a fakenicker/wannabe then explaining that I’m merely a manager-.

There is no one way to define a manager’s role, so we’re going to have to class managers into two cases : 1 – A manager which was appointed to a team after the team has been completely formed, and 2 – A manager (most often employed by an organization) looking to acquire a new team or form a new one from scratch.

First, let’s discuss the first case which is the most common, in this situation either one player or a group of players assemble a new team after numerous tryouts and plans, and then they start looking to appoint a manager. A manager’s tasks are pretty simple and they can be summed as follows :

  • Schedule managing; this is by far the most important task any manager has after the team has been fully assembled, this task extends from noting down match times on a calendar to managing and knowing every player’s personal schedule to make sure there is no conflict when scheduling a match in a tournament. This task is by far the most time consuming, it requires you to be online -mostly on skype- just about everyday to keep up with all the different tournaments and match dates, conflicts often arise, especially when you’re managing a team with 5 working/studying players which has always been the case for me.
  • Tournament Seeking; this one is a process you only have to go through if your team is not one of the top ones in the scene at the moment, it includes always being on the lookout for new tournaments, whether it be through contacts, or web surfing. There are many tournaments -usually for small teams- that are via sign-up and qualifiers, and not invites, you have to actively search for those. There’s also a small part of this task involved for managers of top teams, it includes looking at all the different invites you have, pitching it to the players and making a choice of which to accept together.
  • Booking; if the team is about to go to a LAN, it’s the manager’s task to organize the flights, the accommodation, and even the daily transport/food fees. This is a task that involves you working directly with the organization in case of a sponsoring party. It sounds pretty easy but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen first hand mistakes happen in this area, and 100% of the time so far it’s been on the organization’s part, sometimes copying and pasting a player’s name whilst buying a ticket can be too hard it seems. (N.B. : This happened during my time at aL, where the ever-so-loved CEO wrote Ryze’s name as Christian instead of Christoffer, even though I gave it to him right before, Ryze had to pay 900 euros to get a last minute ticket, and it was refunded by aL after a couple of months. Those few letters were worth 900 euros!)
  • LAN Duty; I’ll be honest, this is one task I do not know much about, I’m by far the worst manager ever when it comes to this particular task. I have never accompanied any of my teams to a LAN just yet, but it’s out of my hands, due to being Egyptian, and having army duty ‘waiting’ for me I can not leave the country, and even when I could the acquiring the visa part was way harder than I thought. However, this is a pretty obvious task, you accompany the team and make sure everything is going according to plan, you’re always ready to solve any problem that may arise.
  • Morale Managing; this is probably a task that many managers try to accomplish, but it’s not that easy, and in my experience, a manager can not do so much about it. What a manager NEEDS to do however, is reading the team’s current morale, even if it’s not easy to affect it or improve it, you must be able to read the team chemistry and assess it, whether it’s just to yourself, the team’s captain, or to your organization. The first time I ever managed was that rather eccentric Absolute Legends line-up with CWM,freezer,Vigoss,God, and MaNia; this team had by far the worst morale I’ve seen so far, I was stupid enough to keep trying on making this team work (I’ll explain in a later post why), but the correct decision was the one made eventually, ditching everyone but MaNia.
  • Public Relations; many managers do not include this as one of their tasks, I personally think this is one of the biggest tasks a manager should be taking care of. This is essentially representing your team publicly, especially on the various social media and Dota 2 portals. You don’t have to manage things like facebook/twitter accounts yourself but a manager should oversee those things, and always be ready to explain things transparently to the public, in case of your average drama fit that occurs every now and then.
  • Sponsor Seeking; if this team is not already sponsored, then the number one task is seeking an adequate sponsor for this team. This is a very long process that works exactly like getting a sponsor for anything else, you need to assess your team and be able to properly present exactly what they offer, estimate what they deserve and start using every single contact you have till you can find a suitable organization or sponsor to help support your team.

ss (2014-01-13 at 05.08.02)

This pretty much sums it up, it’s really not that hard of a task but most of us are volunteers and it requires you to either really love esports, or be a gigantic fanboy, and I’m both.
I will now briefly discuss the added tasks of a manager who works for an organization that has no team and is looking to acquire a new team or form a new one player by player, this has happened many times in Dota 2 before, and it seems to often fail. When an organization has had a team and decided to let it go or the team has left, the previous manager or a new manager is appointed most of the time to go through this process. The manager has to keep a very awake eye on the scene to know exactly what’s going on, who’s a free agent and who’s not, what new teams are being formed right now, etc…
A manager gathers a list of possible options and presents them to the organization, with what is basically a pros and cons list for each option, and together they make the call, which brings us to the next part of this first article;

How does an organization pick between teams?

While I do believe that this is not the hardest of things to figure out, I’ve seen so many people bedazzled at organization’s choices uttering things like “Why did they pick that ‘trash’ team over ‘x’ team??!!!!!1111onecos(0)”, so I’m going to go through it as briefly as I can.

There’s essentially nothing more important to an ordinary organization than 1 – pleasing their current sponsors, and 2 – acquiring new sponsors; it’s a business after all and we need to be realistic. Since most sponsors are looking to advertise a certain product or service, the more exposure a certain team gets, the better they are going to be. With that in mind, here’s a list of what an organization looks at, and most often in this order :

  1. Fans : this is by far the number one deciding factor for an active organization, the more the fans the more sponsors, it doesn’t get simpler than this. This is assessed through stream viewers, facebook likes, and twitter followers. During my time in eSports I have seen so many players neglect this part of the business, and only focus on their gameplay, which really isn’t very smart. I personally speculate if we were to offer any big organization back in 2013 a chance to sign No Tidehunter (before they started winning everything), or a team with SingSing+4, the latter would be the obvious choice.
  2. Stability : The hardest aspect to predict, yet one of the most important. It doesn’t matter how many fans the team has, if it can’t hold itself for more than a couple of months before stirring drama, and/or having a roster change.
  3. Results : Yes, I did put this as the third priority, obviously if the team is top 3 TI it’s higher than this priority, but aside from the very top teams, your results do not matter as much as any of the two points above.

I fear I have bored you too much already, I realize this isn’t the most exciting of blogs, I just truly felt like I needed to start informing people more, I’ve been asked a lot about how one person can get into eSports or what kind of jobs are available out there. I’m sorry if my writing is not that great at the moment, hopefully I’ll improve and be able to articulate posts better over time. In the next post, I will be discussing my ‘managerial journey’ from how I became a manager, through every team I’ve managed, and where I am now. As you may have noticed I’m not going to sugarcoat things, be it about players or organizations, and I plan to continue my blog this way.

This blog represents my own thoughts. I definitely want to get some feedback so I can improve and hopefully shed some light on the things people really want to know about when it comes to esports organizations and management.

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