I am grateful to have had the chance to interview one of the most legendary esports journalists of all time; Duncan “Thorin” Shields. He has been an esports journalist since 2001, and is well-known for popular YouTube series “Thorin’s Thoughts”. Thorin has won the Cadred/Heaven Media Esports Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013, also he was given the same honour at the 2017 Esports Industry Awards. Recently he has made appearances on the analyst desk at EPICENTER 2018 and cs_summit 3.
Thank you very much for the interview. How did it feel to be back on the desk, after a break, in Kiev? Recently, have you consciously refined your on-air persona in any specific way?
It’s always fun to work an event with SPUNJ and seangares, as both can not only analyse the game to a high level but also can have some fun as well. Now that I’ve worked a few events with stunna I think we’re getting our chemistry down and it makes the desk a lot more free-flowing, which is my favourite kind of environment.
I don’t think I’d say I’ve changed much about my persona on the desk. I tweak it more based on who I’m partnered with and the atmosphere of the event. I move between analysis, historical context, narrative building and banter depending on what the strengths of my partners are and how important or good the match was.
What is your opinion on how FACEIT are handling FPL?
FACEIT seem to be doing a great job running FPL. The concept has been proven, as shown by the number of pros who play there and the open attitude they now have to bringing in new talent, which would have been a major stumbling block even a few years ago. Sure, there were some teething problems with players being kicked for inactivity but complaining publicly, but dealing with players and their hair trigger for social media will always be its own trick.
I don’t know if players like ropz and oskar would have the careers they do without FPL, so there is much to be praised about the initiative.
Do you think British Counter-Strike has a future? What must the British scene do to build one?
That obviously depends on how you define future, but I imagine there will always be a fairly healthy amount of players from the UK. In terms of having any kind of long-term or meaningful impact upon the competitive side of esports, I doubt we will see an entirely British line-up break into the top 20 any time soon. I do think they are missing a trick by attempting UK only line-ups, though.
Being as English is literally the Lingua Franca in all of the international teams you see in the top tiers of the game the UK has a natural advantage, so if it’s the case, as is often suggested, that it’s a cultural malaise of poor practice and behaviour holding the UK scene back then I’d suggest the players with enough skill and dedication bunch together and get 2-3 players from the rest of Europe and make a team with them.
With the UK scene having degraded so much over the years, they need to think of themselves like smaller countries where the best players go abroad and play for international teams, like Rain, GuardiaN, oskar, NiKo, ropz etc. smooya might seem like the exception to the rule of UK players, since he has established himself as legitimately skilled in fields of top 10 teams, but there are other good players out there in the scene. The key is to learn from smooya’s mistakes and not talk too much shit or be too obnoxious early on. Let your play do the talking and you’ll find a lot of the negative politics won’t surround you.
The UK has had top players in numerous esports games over the years and has a lot of active players in most games, so just as I don’t think Koreans are genetically superior esports competitors, but rather have a cultural advantage, so I think it is culturally based as to why the UK is in bad shape. Also doesn’t help that a lot of the UK success came during the era where sponsorship and infrastructure were better in the UK than a lot of European countries.
Do you think will there be a world where the UK Counter-Strike scene will be on par with other European countries? Are we a long way away from a stronger UK scene?
No, I doubt it will ever happen since it there is a terrible culture surrounding UK esports which comes from the competitors themselves and so infects generation after generation. The 4kings players I would have said started some of this trend retired more than a decade ago, so you can’t lay all the blame at their feet. I don’t particularly care if the UK scene succeeds or not. I’m not about handouts or artificially boosting people’s success. If you want it and you work for it and you develop your skills then you have a chance to succeed, but if you won’t do those things then you deserve your failure and I would hope it’s a lesson for others in life.
It doesn’t matter how much money or how many tournaments or sponsors you bring into the UK scene, they will always make the same excuses and fall into the same bad habits of behaviour. At least that is the trajectory right now. If they want to actually make something of themselves then perhaps they should look to how countries like Denmark develop their talent or even the spirit of Britain during the blitz and find the courage to do the hard work to improve and excel.
Were there any historical rosters who had significant stylistic similarities to the current Astralis?
The clear parallel is the mTw.dk line-up of 2008, which featured current Astralis coach zonic. They also played around a mobile AWP in Sunde, though there was more of a hands-on approach to where he went as opposed to the freedom granted to device. They also had solid to strong players at every position, with a very balanced skill balance. They were fantastic at preparing, executing tactics and making mid-round calls. Much like Astralis, if they didn’t win then they practically always made the semi-finals, if not the final. To beat them typically took legendary performances, often the best the opponent would have of the year.
I find it hard to imagine this is a coincidence, being as zonic himself is the coach of Astralis and takes control of both their practice and some elements of how they call the game now. He understands the kind of culture and work ethic it takes to create such a complete team and just as I long held that mTw team as the best in 1.6 history so this Astralis line-up looks set to become CS:GO’s greatest, if they aren’t already.
Is there a historical team that would counter Astralis if they were given the same relative skill and fragging ability? What is Astralis‘ stylistic counter?
Every single team in history has a counter. That doesn’t always mean that team will supersede them, but that they win more often head-to-head. So just as NiP had VeryGames/Titan with shox, FNATIC had TSM and so on, I think there a few teams which would be interesting counters to current day Astralis. The first that springs to mind would be Virtus.pro but of 2015. They had strong fragging, a very difficult style to anticipate/read and they were fearless.
All three combined seem like the counter to Astralis: you need good enough fragging to make their set-ups and strats able to be neutralised. You need a solid system but which can’t be scouted and easily read. Finally, you need to be able to play your game without fear, so that you can pressure Astralis and make them second guess their approach.
Another team which would fit that mould would be the LG/SK team of 2016. Their ability to make tough decisions in key late-round scenarios would have been a great counter to Astralis, assuming they could break through Astralis’ front-running and get past the early kills to arrive at 2v2 and 3v3 scenarios.
Fragging alone won’t get it done, as FaZe proves, and going the tactical route seems difficult to pull off since Astralis are arguably the best in history in that vein.
You previously stated that you might have been a comic book writer if esports didn’t exist because of your interest in them. Are you currently reading any comic books?
I don’t read any specific monthly comic books since I don’t follow specific characters, I follow specific writers. I also don’t follow stuff that’s simply new, I buy up comic books from any era and then read them based on when I feel like it. Most recently I’ve been reading some of the more obscure Alejandro Jodorowsky comics, which always deliver a thrilling and insightful experience. I’m looking forward to reading the new Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips graphic novels too.
What are your thoughts regarding the pistol round loss bonus adjustments? Also, what about the change in the price of the SG and AUG?
I think the pistol round bonus change damages efficient economy management, so I think it will skew the game away from intelligence and too far towards individual skill and luck. The CT economy is already so fragile in the game, especially on maps like Inferno, that it promotes gambling in a manner I think spoils professional play. The weapon changes seem fine and will likely only be implemented into the games of those absurdly good at spraying or very bad, like IGLs.
Like me, you favour radical changes to the AWP due to it being underpowered. What is the most important change needed to bring back the excitement of the pre-nerf AWP?
I think players have adapted enough that it probably doesn’t need reverting entirely. At least I’ve come to accept the state of the weapon now and what the truly great AWPers can still do with it. With that said, two changes I would very much like to see implemented would be a normal kill reward ($300) and quickscopes being entirely accurate at close to medium range, as they were in CS 1.6. The former will help with the economic aspect of having the AWP and the latter helps to offset the powerful advantage the OP pistols have at close range.
What do you think of the environment of cs_summit? Is it an environment that should be utilised more often in Counter-Strike?
I think cs_summit is a good change of pace, being as its a less serious and intense tournament. What’s great is it both provides a chance for a more fun broadcast, from the talent’s perspective, but also means teams can play without the pressure of a stage or crowd and thus, hopefully, showcase their potential. I wouldn’t want every tournament to be run like this, but I think there is room for a few in the calendar. Double elimination is a wonderful format and that I do wish it was used in bigger tournaments.
If aliens came to Earth and asked you if you had any enticing upcoming content, what would your response be?
I don’t reveal my upcoming content since people just complain about it not being released immediately anyway and frankly, it’s none of their business. I give teasers to my Patrons, though.
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