Rebuilding China: Language barrier, Uzi's buyout, and preseason exhibition

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Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / LPL Screengrab

As far as I’m aware, the problems with Chinese teams persist. The National Electron Sports Open results may be more or less disregarded, as it happened quite soon after the World Championship, but that doesn’t make headaches less severe.

Weekly hurdle: The Korean influence

There’s a Chinese proverb I’ve seen fans use when discussing what they perceive as the problem of the Korean imports meaning “to quench one’s thirst with poisoned wine,” or to seek temporary relief at a high cost. Typically, the belief is that Chinese teams imported Koreans to improve their level of talent, but in-game communication suffered. As the meta game changed, they weren’t able to play lane swaps correctly because they lacked the necessary communication.

As with all popular theories, there is some validity to these claims and some pitfalls. Initially, when Koreans arrived in China and began to adjust to the environment, EDward Gaming’s coach Ji “Aaron” Xing said he noticed the biggest difference was in the way the Korean players approached the game. They practiced more and in a different way that focused on developing their flaws.

In top teams, this approach allegedly began to rub off on the Chinese players. Players like Wei “GODV” Zhen had always practiced a lot, but some within LGD have said he changed his approach as a result of the Korean influence. Ming “Clearlove” Kai, who had always been known as a rare Chinese player for his work ethic and dedication to the game, even saw initial improvements and more development in his approach, though it may be unrelated.

Over time, as we’ve seen players like Lee “Spirit” Dayoon express frustration with the practice ethic that has been reported to exist in many Chinese teams for years, it became clear that the environment was also beginning to impact the Koreans. As some team owners and managers are quite friendly with their players, Chinese players can often get away with toeing the line of instructions from coach and staff. As soon as top Korean player discovered they could also shirk orders, their own focus declined. LGD’s Korean players took scrims leading up to the World Championship about as seriously as their Chinese brethren.

I’ll discuss solutions to what I perceive as the infrastructural problem later, but in many ways the Koreans have adapted to their environment. They’re still strong players, but in a less structured realm. Song “RooKie” Euijin’s popularity is strong given his commitment to learning Mandarin Chinese, the fact that many enjoy his stream, and his friendships with Chinese players on other teams.

Ultimately, the Korean influence initially improved the Chinese practice ethic, but over time other problems became difficult to overcome. This is something that has been acknowledged, at least in part, in discussions of the topic. As a result, proponents of this argument have included that improvements do not counter-balance the ultimate cost of the language barrier.

While I do think language barrier plays an important factor in disrupting team cohesion, it seems to have a larger impact outside the game than inside the game. One can devise a communication system to deal with even something as complex as lane swaps as long as the team understands how to execute them. Overall, the Chinese teams at Worlds were strategically behind, and the language barrier exacerbating the issue has been exaggerated.

The language barrier may have still played a part in the strategic lag. As Dignitas coach Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal said in an interview I conducted with him about the North American team Dignitas with both Korean and English-speaking players, he said he felt the biggest problem was communicating when players had a problem or just cooperating outside the game.

It’s possible that this problem lead to the inability of Chinese teams to quickly adapt to the meta, as discussions would have been stunted. If having discussions about the meta is a strain, and the team sports a roster of supreme quality, teams may be more likely to rely on individual skill than to develop a tactical approach.

Problems between Korean and Chinese players may be difficult to express. I’ve heard a few surprisingly damaging stories that resulted from mistranslations of comments made between players or players and staff. Some Korean players have felt less confident competing in China since they aren’t sure whether Chinese fans are cheering them on or insulting them when they meet them.

The larger problem with language barrier sits outside the game rather than ingame, and I think it’s often used as a straw man argument for why the teams failed to perform. Ultimately, other arguments like teams not playing their more comfortable strategy, as KaKAO suggested, or not practicing adequately hold larger sway and aren’t necessarily the fault of importing Koreans.

Since, however, it is certainly a problem that can be fixed, more effort can be done to teach Korean players who choose to stay in China to speak Mandarin Chinese. KaKAO said that learning the language is one of his primary goals for next year. Implementing mandatory classes like this could also go along with overall infrastructural improvements, but the act of importing Koreans is not at fault for the poor performance by Chinese teams at the World Championship.

One aspect I think is worth more investigation is the contribution of the Korean element to the stunting of Chinese talent scouting. Many young Chinese players like Yu “300” Zuxing, Zhou “Soda” Pengxian, and Chen “Cherish” Zhe have been unable to advance to LPL, and we’re seeing older Chinese talent retire with a generational gap.

Again, however, I think there is a larger systemic failure of organizations to scout or transfer proper talent either because of buyouts or a lack of effort even before the arrival of Koreans. Feng “TnT” Qingyu, for example, spent a year in LSPL after proving himself in LPL even before Koreans arrived.

Roster Rumblings

Confirmations

NESO showed us some of the first confirmations of transfer season. Wang “wushuang” Li, already announced on WE’s weibo prior to the World Championship, played for WE. Bo “Mo” Cai from Acfun appeared on Invictus Gaming’s roster as support. Bong “Republic” Guntae, a Korean player previously of Taiwan’s Machi eSports played for Energy Pacemaker All. The organization had participated in one other tournament with him before, but with EPA’s third place, it was a good chance to assess his form. King’s Dong “SinkDream” Shichun joined Oh My Dream.

More obscure regional qualifiers for Tencent Games Arena, which allows teams to compete for entry into LSPL, showed ex-Vici Gaming support Ying “Yh” Hai and the resurfacing of Gan “ChouD1” Junjie who played for Wings of Aurora in 2013 transferring to Wk.Panda.

Fans of LGD Gaming in Spring of 2014 may also remember the Riven player Fu "Star" Yang who has resurfaced alongside Energy Pacemaker All's Le "2eggs" Xiaotian to compete on Energy Pacemaker.E for a spot in LSPL.

None of these transfers are particularly inspiring, but wushuang and Republic are the most interesting. wushuang has performed well in solo queue and is largely regarded as a positive acquisition. He didn’t display much prowess in NESO. Republic looked much stronger than the team’s previous mid laner, but likely won’t contest some of the LPL giants.

Chinese Rumor Mill

As for ongoing rumors, the prevailing ones at the moment circle around Jian “Uzi” Zihao, the top laners associated with the WE organization, Lee “Easyhoon” Jihoon, and the constant influx of Lee “Duke” Hoseong rumors that never seem to die.

The Uzi rumors are the top story. Some even found their way to Reddit, though the sphere of mythos has already shifted. It’s sometimes hard to take rumors coming out of China completely seriously, so I would advise caution in interpreting some of them. At the moment, the speculation revolves around Uzi’s buyout, which OMG had previously stated is quite sizable.

At the moment, rumors suggest Uzi’s buyout bidding has exceeded the minimum required and has now gone to numbers around 50,000,000RMB ($7,857,929 USD). If you recall from last week, the entirety of Qiao Gu, including LPL spot, players, and staff, is likely to go for 12 million RMB, meaning that Uzi himself would go for four times the price of the team that finished second in LPL this summer.

I can’t remotely validate the rumors of this price—it may even be a joke! The original poster was doubted by others as part of the discussion. It's worth noting OMG had previously seemed very confident that few could afford their buyout, meaning that the number is steep. While this number may not come near $7 million USD, if Uzi is sold, I imagine it breaking the transfer price record for a single player.

The poor performance of LPL teams at the World Championship has significantly raised Uzi’s stock, as he’s made the final for China twice. The rumored bidders are Royal Club, as reddit has seen, and Invictus Gaming. Royal might be the better option since they’re liable to rebuild a team around him, which suits Uzi’s play. Invictus Gaming would be—interesting. RooKie is a very good Lulu player after all, but I’d rather iG build their team around him with a more stable AD carry than break the bank on Uzi. As fans like to say, however, if iG really are involved, Wang Sicong, iG's owner, gets what he wants.

The WE top transfer rumors speculate that Jang “looper” Hyeongseok at least will remain in China and will transfer to the main team, WE, replacing Peng “Aluka” Zhenming, who will go to WEF with Ke “957” Changyu moving to Master3. I’d prefer 957, who may be the best prospect of the three, to remain on WEF rather than go to either WE or Master3. If Yang “OldB” Seungbin remains with WEF, that team could surpass both M3 and WE. If Chen “CjLear” Chen Jianliu, who has been playing jungle for WEF recently, is the starter, then perhaps 957 is better off trying to prove himself on a failing LPL team.

If this rumor is true, it suggests WE acknowledge that Aluka is a problem, which is a small positive sign for fans of the team in 2016.

If China’s forums are to be believed, Lee “Duke” Hoseong is to play top lane for every single team in LPL, just as he was supposed to last split. (Thank you, Sun “XiaoXiao” Yalong, for getting everyone excited for no reason.) Changes may, however, be coming to Najin that might make Duke’s appearance in China more likely.

The most recent rumor has more credibility than the others, as it was a hint left by Young Glory’s manager on weibo. The comment said “Welcome Easyhoon to China?” Since Snake’s manager suggested Easyhoon may be interested in leaving SK Telecom T1 before the World Championship, Easyhoon has been one of the players with the most buzz on the forums. Armanini’s follow-up post mentioned he was “bored” when he left the hint, so it’s not clear if he was merely looking to stir the pot or Easyhoon is coming to China.

A bit of old news still worth writing about

One development that has been confirmed is something I missed while traveling at the end of July. Royal Club’s new coach, Kim “vicaL” Sunmook, has worked with the organization before. In 2014 Summer, vicaL joined Star Horn Royal Club as their Korean coach, and Yoon “Zero” Kyungsup has attributed most of the team’s strategy and teamwork to him. While Siu “Chris” Keung got most of the glory, vicaL floated under the radar.

I’ve promised never to get excited about Royal Never Give Up (ex-King) again, but I’m happy to see a Korean coach acclimated to the scene return and continue to work in it.

Upcoming Events: Preseason Exhibition

The ongoing Tencent Games Carnival will hold an exhibition match between players from Snake, MG owner Liu "PDD" Mou, and LPL casters. At 6 a.m. EST on November 16th, the event will begin with a discussion by professional players and other celebrities of preseason changes. At 6:30 a.m. EST, the match will start.

Team Top Jungle Mid ADC Support
Blue PDD ZZR LoveJY kRYST4L Ella
Red Flandre JoKer U Martin  苦笑

It’s unclear if the matches will be played on the preseason patch 5.22 unless the players are using some version of the PBE, but at the very least 5.21 will show off Kindred while the commentators discuss how preseason changes will affect the game.

Originally, this was supposed to be a showmatch between Vici Gaming and Qiao Gu, but other events, such as Vici Gaming's visits to universities, conflicted.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.

Pulse leaves EU LCS, joins LPL

eu.lolesports.com 3d ago

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Richard "Pulse" Kam announced that he would be departing EU LCS to cast the LPL from Riot's Oceania office.

"When people see me on screen, the automatic reaction is negative," Pulse stated on Facebook, "and regardless of whether that’s justified or not, that sentiment won’t change if viewers insta-mute the stream or have already decided that anything I say will be garbage.

"This is a big step for me and my career and at the end of the day it’s to provide more and better entertainment to the fans and audiences that watch the shows I’m on," said Pulse on what it means to be a caster.

He will be joining the LPL effective immediately, casting the first matches of the LPL season on Jan. 19.

"Consider this my training arc. Every half decent anime protag has to go through one and 2017 will be mine."

Click here for the full article via eu.lolesports.com

Riot to hold international tournament in July

by 12h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games will host an international League of Legends tournament in July, separate from the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds, according to sections of a Chinese press conference translated by Yahoo Esports' Kelsey Moster.

According to the translation, Riot employee Ye Qiang said that instead of shortening the spring split in order to allow for more international competition, Riot will be hosting an international event in July, which would put it in the middle of the summer split.

“We are still considering what kind of event would be the most interesting for everyone," Qiang said. "For example, can we do a World Cup-type tournament? We hope LoL events can be more diversified, can satisfy our audience, and can give everyone a better player experience, so this is what we will target for the event this year in July. Wait and see.”

The exact format of this tournament is unknown, as is the specific location, date and even how participants will be selected. While the conference was held in China, there is no clear indication that the tournament will be held in Asia.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Riot Games and Big Ten Network partner for new conference LoL championship

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games and the Big Ten Network are set to announce a partnership for a new season-long collegiate League of Legends championship, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

The championship will feature 12 of the 14 conference schools competing in the championship, the exceptions being Nebraska and Penn State, and is set to begin on Jan. 30. Divided into two divisions named BTN East and West, teams will play in a best-of-three round robin against division opponents, with the top four moving on to a single elimination playoff bracket. The finals will take place on March 27 and will be televised by the BTN.

The winner of the BTN league will subsequently go on to compete in the LoL Collegiate Championship. For BTN, this league will hopefully allow them to reach an audience who they have not connected with before.

"As a content provider, we have obviously seen the popularity in esports grow," Erin Harvego, BTN's vice president of marketing, told ESPN. "Given the demographic that watches, perhaps this could reach a younger viewer who we haven't reached before."

This is not the first time that Riot and BTN have partnered for an event. Last April, BTN and Riot worked together to create the BTN Invitational, a best-of-five series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

Fantasy LCS: 5 Dark Horse players to draft

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Jose Silva / theScore esports

With Fantasy LCS descending upon us very, very soon, we at theScore esports have taken it upon ourselves to indulge you in what may be your breakout pick of the fantasy season. These picks are generally high risk picks with the possibility of an even higher reward. If you miss out on Bjergsen or Reignover (very likely if you're down in the draft order), you might want to keep an eye out on one of these picks. Who knows, you may strike gold and outperform the top picks of your draft....or take to Twitter to call me an idiot.

As I stressed in my previous articles, EU picks are underwhelming in the "Best Two Games" format due to the league's new format that will see some teams only compete in two games per week.

Top Lane

NA Dark Horse: Samson ”Lourlo” Jackson, Team Liquid

Steady growth is the name of the game for Lourlo. The end of summer saw him expand his champion pool and become a more reliable top laner for Team Liquid. If Lourlo can continue his growth, that, combined with the jungle pressure of Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin, could be the perfect combination to make him a top tier top laner.

EU Dark Horse: Barney “Alphari” Morris, Misfits

We simply don't know how Misfits will perform in their group, but we do know that the top lane talent in that group is fairly exploitable for the likes of Alphari. A rookie entering his first LCS split, his active laning and the support of Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon will likely put him as the top of the top laners in his group.

Jungler

NA Dark Horse: Lee “Chaser” Sang-Hyun, Dignitas

Chaser's career trajectory would rival the greatest of rollercoasters. From being one of the best junglers across 2015 and a superstar on Jin Air, Chaser was subsequently part of a Longzhu superteam that did not come close to living up to expectations. Benched for upcoming aggressive talent Lee "Crash" Dong-woo, Chaser did not perform well in 2016. In a revitalized Dignitas lineup, Chaser is the catalyst for the lineup's early game and a key factor in the performance of his aggressive sidelanes. Look for Chaser to rack up assists and/or die trying.

EU Dark Horse: Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Unicorns of Love

When you think of "dark horses", maybe a unicorn isn't your first thought. But, newcomer Xerxe has been hyped up by peers and enemies alike, with his entry into the jungle being a true X-factor in determining just how good the Unicorns of Love will be. If you think love prevails, you might want to pick up the jungle prodigy just to see how far he can go under the guidance of his incredibly experienced peers.

Mid Laner

NA Dark Horse: Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook, Phoenix1

Nothing says under the radar like having a Worlds semifinalist moving to a historically poor NA LCS team and people not making a bigger deal about it. Alas, Ryu and his stats can tell the whole story. Constantly in the upper echelon in the EU LCS, he benefited from Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski's aggressive jungling style. Rami "Inori" Charagh will provide similar coverage on this team, potentially leaving Ryu in familiar territory to rack up points in the mid lane.

EU Dark Horse: Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, H2k-Gaming

There's no denying Febiven's talent. I mean, did you see him solo-kill Faker? Memes aside, Febiven is coming onto a revitalization after a disappointing 2016. His presence in H2K, matched with a new self-sufficient bot lane should see the first blood king come back to form as the playmaker he was known to be in Season 5.

AD carry

NA Dark Horse: Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, Dignitas

Seventy-three KDA in the first week, a top three KDA in his position by the end of the split, and an absurdly low 13.2 percent of his team's death. You wouldn't know it if I just said the stats, but this was LOD on a team that barely squeaked into playoffs, not Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. With the support of the new Dignitas lineup, it's likely that he can ascend to new heights and cement himself as one of the region's best AD carries.

EU Dark Horse: Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi, Team Vitality

Steeelback is moving to a team with an undeniably higher ceiling, and communicating with his Vitality teammates will be a lot as the team fields a number of French-speaking players. His rapport with veteran support Ha "Hachani" Seung-chan will be important in establishing a solid presence in the bottom lane, and could be the catalyst in padding his already stellar statistics.

Support

NA Dark Horse: Matthew “Matt” Elento, Team Liquid

Team Liquid look poised to have a solid bot lane and jungle synergy with their two imports operating in both these positions. Matt will serve to benefit as well, being a natural playmaker on champions like Bard and Thresh. He has the chance to rack up an incredible amount of assists as a result. He may also cut down on his deaths in a better team environment with better synergy.

EU Dark Horse: Lee “IgNar“ Dong-geun, Misfits

IgNar may be new to the EU LCS, but his talent on other teams have not been questioned. He has played in the top level of North America and Korea, and will be the anchor to rookie AD carry Steven "Hans Sama" Liv. His experience may be underrated and as a result could be a solid pickup in the support position, able to rival the top tier supports in needed statistics.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

Scripting site shuts down after settlement with Riot Games

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

After a six-month court case, the hackers behind scripting service LeagueSharp have ceased operations after reaching a settlement with Riot, according to a post on their now-defunct website.

"As some of you may know, Riot Games has filed a lawsuit against LeagueSharp and has made it clear to us that LeagueSharp violates their Terms of Use. As a result of our lawsuit with Riot, we have agreed to cease development and support for LeagueSharp and any other tools related to Riot Games. You also should be aware that using third-party tools in League of Legends may result in the suspension or banning of your account by Riot Games. We apologize for any pain we've caused to players of League of Legends."

Riot originally filed a complaint, which was obtained by Rift Herald, against the five people behind the service on Aug. 5, citing breaches to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and facilitating the means by which thousands of players violated LoL's Terms of Use.

They also accused the defendants of leaking personal information about a Riot employee who they threatened and harassed on social media after Riot reached out to them to try and settle the matter out of court.

"[The] defendants or those working in concert with them disseminated personal and non-public information about a Riot employee, threatened that employee, and posted offensive comments on the employee’s social media," the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the five defendants operated through a Peruvian shell company which held the copyright to their scripting software in hopes that it would protect them from legal ramifications.

"Additionally, knowing that this lawsuit was imminent, Defendants have been quickly and carefully destroying or concealing evidence such as their most incriminating online posts and purporting to hide behind a Peruvian shell corporation created solely for the purpose of evading liability," it said.

With the settlement, the average LoL player can expect encountering a few less unwinnable battles in Solo Q as well as some balance restored to the Summoner's Code.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

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