Interview with Na`Vi.Liq
Hans Christian "Liq" Dürr has recently been announced as the manager of the newly formed Natus Vincere League of Legends team. He is the co-founder of the World of Warcraft site manaflask.com, managed two successful World of Warcraft guilds and leads a marketing agency in Berlin. In late 2011, he took some time away from actively managing eSports teams to focus on projects within the video game industry and has now returned to competitive gaming as the manager of the Na`Vi League of Legends division.
— Hello Hans. Thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions today. How are you doing? How are you adjusting to the team so far?
— I am happy with the team and try to spend as much time with them as possible. We managed to recruit some really talented and motivated players. In fact, despite the 1:2 defeat vs. Millenium in the CS Open Qualifier, they are even more motivated and eager to work hard in order for us to reach our 2016 goals.
— You mentioned in the roster announcement article that you started your eSports journey in the Quake era. How long were you in eSports as a player, and what made you stay in after Quake?
— Some really good friends and I founded a Quake clan in 1996. We called it quad-at-home and kept it active for more than a decade, from Quakeworld to Quake 4. I was active as a player for about 9 years probably and moved from Team Deathmatch to 1v1 in between to be more flexible with training schedules. My friends and I were really hyped about the development of the eSports scene in Korea and dreamt of how cool it would be if we’d see a similar development in Europe at some point as well. For me it was love at first sight. I enjoyed everything around eSports: the competition, emotions, community of players and teams, LAN parties, organizing tournaments and managing the team. The logical consequence was staying in the industry.
Screenshot courtesy of QuakeCon
— Why did you decide to go from being a player to being a manager? What do you feel are some of the most challenging aspects of the job?
— I was always involved in team management ever since we founded our Quake team. I took care of organizing regular LAN events, any media around the team, tournaments, scouting new players, etc. When I finished school and started an apprenticeship, there was simply no more time to practice as much as I’d have needed to in order to perform on a solid level as a player. As I didn’t want to leave eSports completely, but still be involved in a gaming community (preferably bigger than the declining Quake scene), I decided to look into other directions and applied for a voluntary staff position at the #1 WoW guild, Nihilum, in 2007. This was the step that led to managing the business side of one, and later two leading WoW PvE guilds and an online portal tied to them.
The most challenging aspect of the job in general is to be extremely flexible, as new and unforeseen challenges tend to pop up out of nowhere. You need to be able to tackle them, not let them influence your daily tasks in a negative way, while simultaneously providing the players with the best possible environment and support to make sure they can focus on their job.
— What was your first experience as a manager of an eSports team, and do you feel it was more or less difficult to manage in the earlier days?
— I feel that especially in the Quake community, a lot of the players we dealt with within bigger teams were extremely loyal to their clan, while today salaries, sponsors and other benefits play a much larger role which is, given the lifespan of a career as a player, understandable. There are definitely more challenging aspects in managing a team today than there were ten years ago as the media attention and tasks, as well as the demands from sponsors, increased a lot. My first serious experience managing an eSports team was the WoW guilds, as you had to deal with the full package: from making sure players and sponsors are happy, to media tasks, organizing offline gigs in large gaming conventions, to performance evaluation, content planning, marketing reports, and so on. You have to wear quite a few hats and it was indeed an interesting challenge to manage the business side of two 30+ member teams in WoW, that’s for sure.
Picture courtesy of lolesports.com
— Since you have returned to eSports, what are the most notable changes to the community?
— I always followed the competitive scene, especially for League. It’s really hard to compare Quake, WoW and League of Legends. The League community always felt like a brand new scene, instead of players switching from one discipline to another. I loved to look at teams like TSM in League that emerged out of nowhere and managed to build a successful brand, not only for their team but for some of their players individually as well.
— Alright, let’s talk a bit about the game. How did you get into League of Legends?
— I played League during Beta in May 2009 and to be honest, I did not like the game back then at all. Coming from Dota and HoN, LoL in its early state felt so clunky, was way too colorful for my taste and just not my thing. One year later, I met Jeff Jew (back then one of Riot’s designers and, as far as I know, involved in the creation of Teemo) at a convention where he was explaining what Riot’s vision for the game was. You could really sense the passion and love those guys put into the game and how they were eagerly listening to feedback. I decided to give League another try and was immediately hooked.
— Do you play League of Legends often, and do you play in ranked matches? If so, what rank are you currently?
— I play it casually, mostly ranked solo queue until I reach my season goal. I am currently ranked at Platinum and now tend to only play normal games to try out some different champions (usually feeding :P ).
Picture courtesy of lolesports.com
— What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of League of Legends? How do you feel it compares to the eSports of the past?
— Compared to the eSports of the past, League truly is a breakthrough for competitive gaming. It’s just incredible to see what Riot has accomplished in such a short time period. They set the bar very high and eSports wouldn’t be where it is right now (at least outside of Korea) if it wasn’t for their involvement. What worries me a bit right now is the current development of companies/individuals entering the market, throwing money at players to build a team with the sole purpose of selling their LCS slot once entering the LCS. From a business perspective, it’s quite an appealing investment opportunity, yet I believe it will hurt the eSports ecosystem of League in the long run. Traditional clubs won’t be able to afford established players when investment-driven organizations pay two or three times the amount but don’t have any intent to build a sustainable team and support their players in the long run.
— You tweeted pictures from Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the League of Legends World Championship Finals in Berlin. Did that tournament contribute in any way to your decision to get back into eSports, or had you already decided to rejoin the eSports scene?
The decision was made before the finals. The event of course underlined the decision and it felt more like an approval of it being the right move for me.
— What were some of your favorite moments of watching World’s 2015 live?
— Overall, I liked the whole production on site. Everything seemed to be a very well crafted, complete package where every little detail has been taken care of. On the sports aspect, it was nice to see KOO Tigers taking one map from SKT and of course I would have hoped to have a closer final :)
Picture courtesy of Riot Games
— Moving on to you becoming the manager of Na`Vi’s League team. What drew you to Natus Vincere, and how has your experience been with the organization thus far?
— I’d known Na`Vi as a club for a long time already and was always wondering why they didn’t touch League again after their first attempt in 2012. I was sending them a rough concept on my vision for what a League team should look like and what kind of support I would like to see implemented from the get-go. After quite a while they got in touch with me, we began talking and met a couple of times to finalize all details. My experience so far has been extremely positive. Na`Vi really cares about their players and staff which for me was an absolute necessary requirement to join them. I am not interested in an organization that is only looking at short-term success and doesn’t care about the development of their players.
— In the announcement article for the team, you mentioned how impressed you were with Na`Vi’s understanding of infrastructure and ability to provide you with the tools to create a successful team environment. Could you comment on how Na`Vi has helped the staff and team get set up for this next season? For example, is the team in or moving to a gaming house, and is the team set up with gear to start scrimming opponents?
— We’ve already had a couple of scrims, as they were part of our tryout process. We are about to rent a gaming house and move the team to Berlin as soon as possible to get an optimal start into the 2016 Season. Na`Vi will also take care of gearing everyone up with proper hardware as soon as we have moved. Besides housing and equipment, we’ll also make sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have full support to implement proper meal plans, sports activities and non-gaming coaching sessions.
— Did you already have a working relationship with the players or the coaching staff, or did you come in to the team not knowing them? Having met them what do you think about the team so far?
— The team has been built from scratch. I didn’t know any of the players or supporting staff personally before we hired them for Na`Vi. I think the team is working out pretty well so far, especially given that we started working with the current roster roughly a week ago.
Again thank you so much for your time sir, and best of luck to you in the coming season!
Vidalgo 17 December 2015, 17:34 39269 0