Interview with OMG management: players first, rotating roster system, and an all-Chinese lineup

by theScore Staff Jun 24 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / CGA.CN

OMG is currently ranked fourth in their standing for the Chinese League of Legends Pro League. They had a difficult 2015 LPL Spring and placed below second in the regular season for the first time since LPL began. The team also had a poor Playoffs showing and dropped out 0-3 to LGD Gaming in the quarterfinals.

These results came after the promising acquisition of AD carry star Jian "UZI" Zihao. Additional changes followed between Spring and Summer, prompting many questions from the community. OMG's management team was kind enough to work with theScore eSports in seeking clarification.

In so doing, the management has painted a picture of what life is like for OMG's players, the reasoning for some of their recent roster changes, and the philosophy propelling many of their decisions.

Could you briefly describe the setup and infrastructure of the club: how many staff members in management, how many in coaching, players in the club, etc.,. I have heard you have a sports psychologist, for example.

OMG Electronic Sports Club now has two main departments: the teams unit and operations.

Teams is mainly responsible for organizing teams for various sports competitions.* This includes training and competition prep. The League of Legends project has most of our team members. In total, the Teams Department has 80 people.

The Operational Department, including the network promotion department, platform, marketing and video content production department, employs about 20 people.

There is a maid or "aunt" responsible for food and chores in the LoL department. At first, she was just a part-time worker, but now she's a full time employee. She is with the players from morning until evening, and she's like family now.

As for the psychological development section, OMG from the 2014 spring split on tried to procure professional psychological counseling agencies to aid the players. Now the psychology counselor and team will regularly communicate directly concerning the entire inner world of feelings in and outside the game to ease the pressure. The psychology counselor, clan management, and coaching staff need to communicate openly, after all. It's not just simple technical problems facing professional players; they are young with young people experiences. Whether they are concerned with the competition results or their lives in the long term, it is very important to address their needs.

*Note: OMG also has a female LoL team, OMD, an LSPL team, a Heroes of the Storm team, a SMITE team, a FIFA Online divison, etc.,

I assumed from context the total people in the department includes players.

What is scheduling like in the club? Is there set time for scrims, free time, solo queue hours, etc.,.

11:00: Get up

12:00-12:50: Team eats brunch

13:00: The team goes to the training room for the first round of training until 17:00

17:00: Training breaks for a meal and free time. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, this time is fitness time. We provide vocational trainers and a venue for the players. They will leave the base for the gym or to play outdoor sports.

19:00: The team goes back to the training room until 22:30 for another round of training. This includes scrims, and sometimes individual training exercises.

22:30: The team's aunt provides supper for the final break.

23:00: The training resumes and concludes with team discussion, sometimes one-on-one, until 2:00AM.

02:00: Players can decide to continue training after 02:00. Generally the club would ask them not to stay up, but many high ranked players only play late at night, so we do not strictly enforce bed time and allow them to continue to practice individually. But it doesn't matter when they sleep, they wake up in the morning at the same time.

During the LPL season, the day after weekly tournament games is a day off for the players. They have the entire day free, but they have to be back to base on time at night. If the team's status is not stable, then the day off will be canceled. All of these strict regulations have individuals responsible for enforcing them.

I have seen that OMG takes drama classes as team building through posts on Weibo. What other activities are part of the players' lifestyle? Are there many team activities scheduled outside practicing the game?

Our drama class, precisely, is the "application of drama" training. We hired a drama teacher of China's leading play actors to do team-building. The purpose of this training is not acting ability, but to work on some problems of their own character, personality or emotional management in a theatrical manner. This helps them think about their life values and the conflicts they face as individuals and as a team.

The fitness activities mentioned above are required for the entire team. Coaches and players participate in weekly outdoor activities together, such as a recent game of kick-the-beach-ball. The losing team received a small penalty, but the purpose is to have fun and be happy.

We will go to the cinema, or to a theme park (such as the Chamber of Secrets), or eat at delicious restaurants. Sometimes we use a cinema screening room in our base to relax together.

After the end of last year's World Championship, we had a special conference. We set up a charity fund to create computer classrooms for the primary and secondary schools in poor areas. Participating in community-driven activities enriches the players emotionally as well.

The OMG club has always had a reputation for putting out a lot promotional content like shows highlighting individual players or music videos. What is the focus of your marketing? Do you think the effort you put into marketing has contributed a lot to OMG's popularity?

Thank you for noticing our work.

Our focus is publicity: I hope that people who watch our team performance and experience our brand culture feel the positive energy of youth. Many people in China know of electronic games, but are still stuck in thinking of it as just a "game." We want others to see that our team is about more than a video game.

I think a club's popularity improves with results, but a club's brand and culture are inseparable.

Competition results are how others notice you, like an important starting point, but the brand culture unites the whole club. It helps develop central focus for leadership, but the fans also can really resonate with a team's culture.

Every player and employee has the OMG spirit. We live by lines such as "when there's a problem, take a look at yourself first."
"Think from others' perspectives."
"Find your role and live each day to the fullest."
"Don't be afraid. Insecurity is cured by your own hard work."
"It doesn't matter what tomorrow looks like, sweat and blood will make this journey fruitful."
I think everyone in the club experiences these sentiments after they're here for some time.

I think a brand is like a person. We are able to describe an individual person's identity and promote ourselves. People will not just believe the word of another person, but they will believe the feeling another person gives off. Perhaps this approach makes OMG feel more real.

Are there any characteristics of OMG's management that might make them unique in terms of your club's approach to doing business in Chinese esports?​

OMG 's management was involved in cultural diffusion industries, so we were already different from the start in terms of our understanding of branding. Now we can see that many Chinese clubs are more focused on brand building.

In the beginning, the management team realized that results-driven methods were just not enough. These young professionals put an insane amount of time into gaming, often at the expense of other things. There are many problems to be answered from their personality to life values throughout their journey to adulthood, as well as obstacles that they can't face alone. As a result, the management has put focus on their internal growth, which slowly grew to become the main idea behind OMG.

What do you think are the biggest things that have contributed to OMG's LoL team's success in China over the years? Both in terms of popularity and results.

I think we are still far from success. We are a ways from achieving stability in terms of strong tournament results. The club still has a long way to go. We have many fans, but we also have a lot to improve to become worthy of the attention we've received.

There are many players who aren't on the main roster who still are associated with the club. Players like Pomelo travel through China doing some charity work with OMG. When players are no longer playing on the main team or on OMD, the sister team, does OMG intend to create positions for them? What is the philosophy behind this?

China's social environment is special. Most professional players start from a young age and spend most of their time playing. This may be the thing they do best, and as professional players, they have a stable job, income, and life, but a professional player's career is very limited, and the current Chinese eSports industry as a whole has not yet developed enough to resemble the industry of professional athletes. Once athletes have retired, they have a career path planned, but a lot of pro gamers do not know where their futures will take them.

We hope that the club can make some effort to help players plan their entire career trajectories. We want to create careers and opportunities within the club that can give more security to pros so they do not worry about what their future holds when they're done playing. At the same time, we also want to help the long-term development of the club, and hopefully, the entire industry.

OMG hopes to become a desirable place to help the industry grow and be healthy in the long run, starting with the players.

Covering OMG's recent big roster change in acquiring UZI: what was the motivation for signing UZI? Did it have to do with losing to Royal Club at Worlds? I know many fans suggested the move some time ago, so did that have an impact on the decision at all or did it seem like the best move for the club for other reasons?

This has nothing to do with our loss to Royal Club at the World Championship. Transfers between clubs are normal and commonplace.

The fan reaction was mixed, as a lot of fans did not want UZI to move to OMG.

What really prompted us to make the decision was the inertia between the old players. Some weaknesses became very difficult to alter in keeping the same roster, and growth was limited. We felt the need to join forces with a new energy and promote change. We never thought that, for sure, with UZI coming to OMG we will become better or worse, just that we want to change our approach and our style to avoid falling into the same habits.

Was it a deliberate decision to leave OMG as an all Chinese team when other clubs started importing Korean talent? If OMG makes roster changes in the future, is a hybrid roster a consideration?​

We will not consider any foreign imports. We are willing to learn the Koreans' superior training, management, and structure, but we want every step to be walked by ourselves, as it is the true sustainable way.

There were some roster substitutions for LPL regular season: three supports, using San both top and as AD carry in some games, etc.,. What was the reasoning behind some of these substitutions?​

Jungler Loveling played for the team for the first time this summer against Edward Gaming

A rotating roster system is a more scientific approach within a stable environment for finding breakthroughs in our gameplay and prevent complacency. It allows players to adjust and realize personal goals under different circumstances and creates positive momentum.

There are many reports of internal drama in OMG. Some saying first that Cloud was fighting with the team, now around Gogoing. Do you have any statement you would like to make to address some of these rumors?

If you would come to our base and meet all the players who live together, you will find that they have very good relationships with one another. Differing opinions on the technical and tactical way to play the game exist and are very natural, but there are no true barriers in their relationships. OMG is a family together with normal disagreements, and everyone in OMG understands that.

What qualifications did you look for in hiring your coaching staff?

Cohesion with the team and staff.

Given OMG's recent struggles in LPL Playoffs, can we expect more changes? What do you think the club needs to do to regain momentum? ​

In recent games this summer, we made progress. We work to solve the emotional disagreements of everyone on the team. I most want to see an OMG where everyone really agrees to hold "team above all else" and plays to this end.

Regarding the recent roster changes for 2015 summer in which Xiyang moved to the top lane, juejue to the jungle, and Amazing to the support role:

This is the result of continued implementation of our rotation system. We did not start this summer playing with some of the club's older players so that they will have more time to work on their difficulties. Players switch positions to continue to test themselves, and new players learn material quickly. The team is in constant need of balancing. As long as the team as a whole is progressing in a positive direction, we are willing to try many different approaches to team-building.

Do you wish to make a statement regarding some of the high salary demands in Chinese esports lately? Other clubs, like WE, have expressed some frustrations in providing increased signing bonuses for players.​

It is embedded within China's environment, economic climate, social background, education environment, etc. Any rising industry in China would face the same problems of rapid expansion, and each decision one club makes affects another in a competitive environment. This is just inevitable, so I hope that everyone can make the most for himself and make this journey meaningful.

Thank you very much for your time. Do you have any additional comments you would like to make? Do you have anything you would like to say to fans of OMG?​

Thank you very much for your concern for our fans, this is our message for them—

We hope that our games can bring you happiness. We hope after many years that OMG can become a part of growing up for everyone.

Thank you to Sharon Li for facilitating the interview and to Chia "Reazony" Yu for assistance with the translation of the answers.

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