Stuchiu: Evil Geniuses' volatility isn’t a bug, it’s a feature - Dexerto
CS:GO

Stuchiu: Evil Geniuses’ volatility isn’t a bug, it’s a feature

Published: 1/Dec/2019 16:26 Updated: 1/Dec/2019 17:31

by Stephen Chiu

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EG is one of the best teams in the world. Their lineup of Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte, Cvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, Ethan “Ethan” Arnold, Tarik “tarik” Celik, and peter “stanislaw” Jarguz have been making a run at the best team in the world, with big LAN victories at ESL New York and StarLadder i-League Season 8.

While EG are a consistent contender, their strengths as a squad also create a volatility in their identity that they are more liable relative to other elite squads. 

Notable Close Calls

EG have been the most active elite team since the end of the StarLadder Berlin Major. They’ve attended 7 different LANs (6 tournaments and the EPL group stage) across the span of about two months. During that time, there have been a few notable upsets or close calls.

At DreamHack Malmo, Grayhound beat them in a bo1 on Nuke in the upper-bracket. Then in the lower bracket, mousesports eliminated them 2-0. While Grayhound played well and Mouz is a quality squad, I considered the result a one-off for EG. They had just traveled from New York to Malmo in the span of 1-2 days. Travel fatigue, jet lag, and the emotional highs of winning New York over Astralis were all good reasons to believe that this was a fluke.

Valve / ESL

However, the pattern continued. At StarLadder i-League Season 8, NiP beat EG 2-1 in the upper-bracket. After that, EG limped through the tournament. While the upset was surprising, EG rallied back and ended up winning the tournament. Still, it was surprising that EG lost the first series to begin with, especially as they smashed NiP in the rematch 2-0 later on in the tournament.

EG then went to IEM Beijing where they lost to FaZe twice in the group stages. While FaZe looked a lot better in this tournament, EG were the favorites to make it out. Finally at CS:GO Asia Championships, EG were the big favorites to win the entire event. Instead, MIBR beat them 2-0 in the group stages. Mouz once again made the coup de grace as they eliminated EG in the playoffs.

Once is a fluke, twice could be a coincidence, but this many times? There was a clear pattern and there are three primary reasons: The dynamic between team-identity and player form, map veto, and stanislaw’s tactical style.

EG’s Team Identity

At its core base, EG is a loose individual team. They have three young stars: CeRq, Brehze, and Ethan. All three of them are mechanically at the top of their game. Tarik and stanislaw play hybrid roles. Tarik oscillates between playing the wing or taking map control, while stanislaw can be the first entry or a lurker. In general, the EG roles are fairly fluid as most of the players are versatile enough to change positions on the fly.

ESL
ESL
Brehze and CeRq with coach ImAPet

This fluidity is possible due to the large amount of individual freedom. Every player on the squad gets to push the envelope when it comes to taking individual duel s. EG hone in on their mechanical strength to get the opening duels or trades. This all comes together under stanislaw’s calling which is a mix of set plays, instinctive and great mid-round calls, and changes of pace. 

For EG to succeed then, their primary win condition is to have their stars in good form. The problem for EG is that player form can vary and it’s hard to play at top levels for protracted periods of time. Thus we come to the first factor of EG’s volatility: they are more vulnerable to dips in player form than either Liquid or Astralis. Astralis’ foundations are based on their tactics and teamplay, so even when they are having an off day, they can win by being smarter.

Liquid is a hybrid between a structured and individual style. In terms of structure, Liquid take a few less aggressive risks than EG do on the individual and macro level. This decreases the variability. Another factor to consider is the difference in player consistency.

When you look across and compare the EG and Liquid players, the Liquid players are far more consistent and higher skill ceilings. On their best days, Ethan, tarik, and stanislaw may have similar heights to Jake “Stewie2K” Yip, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, but the EG players have far more cold days compared to their Liquid counterparts.

As for the primary stars, both Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken are consistent rocks for Liquid, particularly EliGE. When EG had their run, they relied on the consistent firepower of Brehze and CeRq. While CeRq continues to deliver (surprisingly considering how aggressive his AWPing style is), Brehze has started to slump. While I don’t read too much into stats, it’s worth looking at his to give a broader context of what’s happening to EG in their upsets.

StarLadder/Igor BezborodovBrehze’s performance is indicative of EG’s performance as a whole

Brehze has had a 1.17 rating on LAN in 2019. When EG won ESL New York, he had a 1.29 rating. In the games EG have lost, he’s been below a 1.00 rating for most of the losses, the only exceptions being the elimination bo3 against FaZe where he got 1.02.

For reference, here is a list of Brehze’s HLTV ratings in matches where underdogs upset EG. Outside of Grayhound, all of these were bo3s.

DreamHack Malmo

  • Brehze against Grayhound: 0.82
  • Brehze against Mouz: 0.99

StarLadder i-League Season 8

  • Brehze against NiP: 0.83

IEM Beijing

  • Brehze against FaZe (opening match): 0.64
  • Brehze against FaZe (group stage decider): 1.02

CS:GO Asia Championships

  • Brehze against MIBR: 0.9
  • Brehze against Mouz: 0.78

The correlation between Brehze’s off days and EG’s losses is strong. Without him, the other players cannot make up for the consistent frags and all-around game that he brings to the table. As their tactics flow from their skill, the other players must step up if they want to succeed.

Map Veto

The other thing to look at is EG’s map veto. When the lineup first broke out at the StarLadder Berlin Major, they were first picking Train and Dust2. They then tried experimenting with Nuke and Dust2 at ESL New York. Lately though, the team has started to first pick inferno and dust2 into every team. We’ve seen this at StarLadder i-League Season 8, IEM Beijing, and CS:GO Asia Championships (there are notable exceptions where EG first picked Nuke against Mouz at CAC and Nuke against NiP at ECS 8).

Inferno and Dust2 are tough maps for any team to conquer. The only team that managed to conquer Inferno was Astralis, who are the greatest line-up of all time. What’s more, they did it through a tactical-controlled style, the antithesis of how EG like to play. As for Dust2, it has always been a volatile map and one that can go either way. It’s hard to say why EG have decided to opt into these maps as I think their Nuke and Train are better.

It could be because they’ve been on the road for so long that they feel the most comfortable on standard maps rather than specialized maps that require more practice. However, it also closes the gap between underdog teams and elite teams. Heroic beat EG on inferno. NiP beat EG on Dust2. FaZe beat EG on both. The map veto is something that EG will have to consider as it is one possible way to lessen their volatility as a squad.

Stanislaw’s style

I consider stanislaw a loose tactical leader. He thrives in loose systems where a lot of individual skills are on display like his old OpTic lineup or the current EG lineup. Ronald “Rambo” Kim, former C9 coach, talked about this to VPEsports, “stanislaw likes more default, kind of everyone do your own thing and then play individually.”

At the same time, stanislaw likes to innovate clever tactics and include some complex set plays that are clearly pre-planned. So you will always see something particularly clever or unique from his squads whether that’s a set fake, execute, or pistol round. However, he isn’t someone who likes to have a structured approach where everyone has a role to play. He’s more jazz than classical, he’d rather look at bigger picture things than smaller details He even talked about this in his twitlonger when he talked about his conflict with Wilton “zews” Prado, “I brought up several times that we should stop focusing on every little thing and focus more on the big picture – innovating new things and perfecting our fundamentals.”

StarLadderStanislaw and tarik celebrate a victory

This focus on the bigger things and a more individual default base is at the core of EG’s identity as a team and a core aspect of their strength and volatility. It gives them the freedom and confidence that lets them take advantage of their mechanical prowess. It is also what makes them undisciplined in situations where they have a clear advantage, but can throw it away on multiple individual duels.

The most glaring example of this was their recent series against Liquid in the ECS Season 8 group stages. In that match, they threw away multiple round victories because of their lack of disciple. On Inferno, EG had secured the B-site and had a power-play situation, but stanislaw charged out for a duel and died. This gave Liquid enough space to retake the site and win the round. In the last round on Dust2, they challenged in a 4v2 and once again gave Liquid the chance of getting back into the round. 

EG’s Volatility

Now that we’ve examined EG’s volatility in-depth, is there anything they can do about it? The only potential changes are a change to their map veto and tournament scheduling. EG traveled to 7 LANs in two months. If they cut down on that amount, they are liable to make fewer mistakes as they should be better rested and more focused at each subsequent LAN. The downtime can also let them decide whether or not they want to continue down the path of being a primary Dust2/inferno team as they are good enough to go almost anywhere in the map pool.

ESL

Outside of that though, it will likely come down to player skill. If the players can reach their New York form, then everything is fine. If not, then I don’t think there is much else they can do. While it’s possible to force more structure or a change to Stanislaw’s style, it will likely hurt them more than help them. While stanislaw’s leadership may lead to more volatility, it has also elevated them to a higher level. His style has honed in on EG’s biggest strength: mechanical skills, and emphasized it as their primary win condition. To go away from it is to go away from their greatest strength. EG must ride and die with their skill and therefore volatility will always be a part of this team’s character.

CS:GO

BLAST’s director of operations on maintaining integrity with online CSGO

Published: 24/Nov/2020 15:23 Updated: 24/Nov/2020 15:33

by Adam Fitch

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“This time last year our rulebook and our whole setup were based on LAN events,” BLAST’s director of operations and production Andrew Haworth told Dexerto. “We hadn’t really done a huge amount of work on how that would be replicated in an online world.”

Earlier this year, with the global health situation emerging, governments all around the world were forced to reduce the feasibility of hosting events, and thus, they were moved online — halfway through a tournament, in some cases.

Prior to the restrictions, tournament organizer BLAST managed to host their first big competition of the year in February, impressing many and unknowingly hosting what would be one of the only prominent offline events in the 2020 Counter-Strike calendar. They didn’t have the same privilege later in the year, however, as limitations had yet to be permanently relaxed in many locations. Nonetheless, they went on with their plans to host the BLAST Premier Fall Series, albeit online.

Another layer of absurdity was added as a factor of hosting an event, and that was the revelation of a spectating bug that spanned multiple years. With the Esports Integrity Commission — a body devised to maintain the integrity of competitive gaming — issuing bans to dozens of coaches, integrity questions were more prominent than ever during an online era, no less, where it’s harder to monitor the activity of teams and their coaches.

BLAST Premier Fall Series 1
BLAST
Commentators Scrawny and launders arrived at the production location early to accommodate local restrictions.

Haworth’s background working on major music festivals and the Olympics Games means he’s no stranger to crafting contingency plans to put in place in case of a problem arising. Prior to hosting the Fall Series, they went through sessions of scenario testing with key department leads to devise numerous methods of still getting the job done.

Considering BLAST have deployed everything at their disposal to maintain competitive integrity within their events, Dexerto spoke with Haworth to see how they adapted their processes to move to a remote production while monitoring the gameplay itself both in and out of the server.

Going back to esports’ roots

“We were fairly lucky in the timing of the outbreak, we just finished our Spring Series in February and didn’t have another live event till the end of May,” he said. “Other tournament organizers didn’t and were thrown into that halfway through a show. We had a bit of time, purely by luck, to have a look at what we need to do for our Spring Showdown and our Spring Final.”

While esports, like most other sports, is fundamentally an entertainment product, the need for competitive integrity is essential. Fans tune in to watch the best players in the world face off against each other, and that’s no different during an era of online competition.

“If the fans don’t have faith in what we’re putting on if our broadcasters and sponsors don’t have faith in what we’re putting on, and the teams ultimately lose faith in it, then none of us can stand behind it proudly,” Haworth said. “So competitive integrity is in integral to what we do, none of us are arrogant enough to think that we’re perfect in that.

“There may be things that we’re doing now that we’ll review and determine haven’t worked quite as well or are not effective. Some of the things that we have done we want to ensure, while maintaining competitive integrity at all times, doesn’t affect the performance of play. We don’t want to be taking up computer performance for the matches because that isn’t going to gain the right tone with anybody.”

BLAST Premier Fall Series 2
BLAST
The venue had no players in sight, with only production staff and broadcast talent being present.

With a change in circumstance comes a need to change the parameters in which events are run, and that filters all the way down to the gameplay itself. BLAST saw the need to adapt their guidelines early in the year, when LAN events no longer seemed possible, so all of the teams were on the same page.

“The rulebook gets issued at the start of every season, we generally review it and update it after every event,” Haworth said. “We did less of that last year — I think we only made one or two slight revisions from Spring Series into Spring Showdown because the former was very much for a LAN. We also have our competitive integrity policy, which is broadly drawn out of the rulebook and is a short, sharp summary to articulate to what we do. That’s on our website. We’ve worked with experienced tournament officials that have worked with other tournament organizers and in other settings, it’s important to us that they can see elsewhere what has worked, and equally what hasn’t worked, so we can pick up best practices.”

From bad to worse

All partners of ESIC — including the likes of ESL and DreamHack — vow to enforce rulings decided upon by the commission, and that was no different for BLAST. The spectating exploit utilized by at least 37 coaches rocked the CS:GO community and certainly begged the question as to what tournament organizers are doing to ensure fair play is had at all times.

Moving online adds another layer of difficulty to constantly and accurately monitoring the matches played, especially considering tournament officials can’t be present to see how teams are operating with their own two eyes. BLAST believes they’ve reached the pinnacle of monitoring at this precise moment.

“Some of the measures we put in place aren’t perfect but they’re the best available solution we’ve found so far,” Haworth told Dexerto. “There are methods that we’re developing and evolving. We are confident that the measures we have in place currently are giving the desired result in not allowing anybody to manipulate the system or take advantage of it.

“From a coaching bug point of view, the player cams that we’ve put in place have been a really useful feature. That’s something that we looked at, to start with, as a broadcast feature that had some great context and depth. It grew into something that we now utilize to ensure we can see what players are doing.

“We’ve worked with players on camera angles, we have down-the-line shots, coaches have cameras on them and we listen to TeamSpeak for both a broadcast feature and in terms of integrity,” he continued. “The MOss system is far from perfect but it allows us to know what’s open on someone’s computer, there’s a report sent to us post-match with that information.

Moving forward in the face of adversity

Despite having what they believe is a solid solution to both playing online and safeguarding the integrity of the tournament, it would be understandable if a tournament organizer decided to postpone an event due to the recent exploit revelation and subsequent disciplinary rulings. Haworth ensured Dexerto, however, that that wasn’t an eventuality BLAST considered.

BLAST Spike Nations
BLAST
BLAST have undergone plenty of growth in 2020 so far despite the difficulties, expanding into new titles like Valorant and Dota 2.

“We’ve never really moved our date around. We put our 21 days in the international calendar [that’s shared by all CS:GO tournament organizers] in April this year to try and provide full transparency,” he said. “We worked on this straight after the Spring Final, there were a couple of bits that we thought we could include like the coach cams but there were also a couple of things that weren’t ready for the Fall Series. We played around with them but wasn’t sure if it would cause performance issues on players’ PCs so we didn’t want to risk it.”

There’s not the only difficulty in providing a fair and stable environment for the players, BLAST have plenty of staff that are needed to execute a full production. Having staff at home using personal internet lines isn’t the most confidence-inducing prospect, but the company has managed to execute a means of working that allows for maximum efficiency given the circumstances.

While online play, and the copious amount of events that are taking place, may not be ideal, esports has proven to be resilient in the face of extreme and unpredictable challenge. The Fall Series was revered by industry professionals and Counter-Strike fans alike, but it’s clear that BLAST are not resting on their laurels leading up to the next phase of the competition.