This year’s Melbourne Esports Open saw plenty a broad diversity in the kind of titles played, from fighting games like Dragonball FighterZ to MOBAs like League of Legends to popular Battle Royale game Fortnite.
However, for the first day of the weekend-long extravaganza at least, the spotlight was on Overwatch. Blizzard have built up this idea around the game called the Path to Pro.
Excel in Overwatch Trials, you'll be recruited for Contenders. Get noticed in Contenders, and you could get picked up by the Overwatch League. Get picked up for the League, and you could be making big money playing full-time against the best Overwatch players in the world.
That's the theory, anyway. We caught up with the Overwatch League’s only Australian player, Scott ‘Custa’ Kennedy, at the Melbourne Esports Open for a casual chat about the recent All Stars weekend, transitioning from the troubled Dallas Fuel to the triumphant Los Angeles Valiant and how the arrival of the game’s newest hero Wrecking Ball could shake up the meta.
You just back from the All Stars weekend. How was that?
Scott: "That was a lot of fun. Honestly, All Stars was a great time. It's really good to play with a lot of players that you don't really get to interact with, especially the Koreans.”
“You know, for that All Star game where I'm sitting there with- I remember sitting down. I hadn't really looked at it too closely, and sit down on the stage and I look to my right, and I went, oh no. I just realized that all these guys don't speak English. They all speak Korean. And when you have Kariv as an English translator, that's not what you want. That's not what you want.”
“It was actually a pretty good time. Fissure and crew were to be able to somewhat tell me what to do. It was a good time. Honestly. It was fun change of pace. “
Do you hope that they do it more regularly?
Scott: “I hope it's not done like a month after the season ends. With the finals, it was kind of an awkward time. A lot of players are on holidays or traveling at that point, so it was pretty inconvenient for everyone to come back. I think I remember hearing people talking about [how] it won't happen that late again.”
You started with Dallas Fuel, you moved to L.A. Valiant. What was that culture change like?
Scott: “It was definitely interesting going from one team to another, especially with the dynamics of which I changed. When I was on Dallas, I was sort of a substitute to EnVyUs at that point.“
“So I didn't have a huge influence within the team. But when I moved to Valiant, they made it pretty clear that they wanted me to sort of take a somewhat leadership within that team.“
“It was a really good transition, at least personally for me. I switched a lot of roles at the same time, so honestly it went amazingly. But I love both teams and I really do miss playing with the Dallas guys but I'm happy here.”
The season one playoffs didn't quite go how anyone expected. You had L.A. Valiant and then NYXL tipped for the final showdown but it didn't work out that way at all. Why do you think that things went the way they did?
Scott: “We definitely made some mistakes in the playoff preparation. Things didn't really go our way, which is disappointing. But you live and you learn.”
“It won't happen again next season. But you gotta attribute it to the meta change. I'm kind of hoping Blizzard learns somewhat of a lesson from that. When you have a season that is built around one way of playing the game and then at the last second you change it all of a sudden seeding becomes inconsequential.”
“It is what it is. But yeah, I think that's sort of why you saw a lot of flipping of the heads and why New York just wasn't the dominating team that they were all season.”
Who do you enjoy scrimming against the most?
Scott: “I think I really enjoy playing against the Dallas guys again because we're just good friends. And especially, you have Unkoe and AKM. There's a lot of personable relationships. So, it's always a bit of fun when we get in there and just talking smack and stuff.”
It's trading season at the moment. In an ideal world, who would you like to see L.A. pick up?
Scott: “In a perfect world, I see Carpe and Birdring coming from the other side of the pond, but you know, that's not what dreams are made for.”
Who would you like to play with?
Scott: “There's a lot of incredible players. Actually, I would love, this is obviously theoretical, but I'm really disappointed I never got to play with OGE. Incredible main tank player that came into Dallas as I was leaving. He's a really nice guy and an incredibly talented player. So hopefully one day I get to go back and play with him.”
Team Australia made it to the final eight last year. Do you think they'll do that this year?
Scott: “Yeah. I'm hoping for a better performance this year, otherwise I think I'll be out of a job next year. Honestly, I've been loving playing with the Australian guys, so we're getting back to the roots of playing things. We got a semi-tough group in Thailand coming up against China and Sweden, so we'll give them what we got and hopefully we'll be at Blizzcon and on that stage again.”
What's the difference in preparing for World Cup versus Overwatch League?
Scott: “World Cup is the classic style of format of esports, where you just have to show up on a weekend. Overwatch League is you're running a marathon. It doesn't matter how you play that one week, it matters how you play over all 40 matches, so it's about preparing for that one thing or that one set of strategies that's gonna work against all the teams in one weekend, so it's about playing your best in such a short period of time.”
What's the difference between learning from a win and learning from a loss?
Scott: “Obviously you learn a lot more from losses.“
“On Dallas I learned that you need to take losses and as much as you need to learn from them, you can't let them dictate how you play the game, 'cause that's what happened with Dallas, we were losing so much that everyone lost their confidence on how to play the game, and no one started believing in themselves or the team anymore, and that's why you saw such a talented roster go through such a long streak of losses.”
“And then on Valiant, we had an incredible stage four but I think a little bit of overconfidence and complacency especially starting in the preparation, we had a lot of success in scrims, in early preparation for players, we just fell off at the end, and that's a lesson that we'll learn and learn to never get complacent again towards the end.”
How much downtime did you really have going from the end of Overwatch League going into preparation for World Cup?
Scott: “I'm really looking for that downtime somewhere along the line, I'll let you know when I get there.”
When you're practicing, what product wise do you use, is there a brand that you gravitate towards or what kind of features in your mice, keyboard, headsets, that sorta stuff?
Scott: “I'm a huge fan of red switches. Honestly, Razer has actually good keyboards. I'm actually really looking forward to - I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say this - trying out the new Logitech wireless mouse, I've heard a lot of people talking about that.”
A lot of the other esports players try and separate their home life and work life when they're doing that full time training schedule, do you do that?
Scott: “I try to as much as possible, that's definitely [important]. Striking the balance of Overwatch League and living your life is important because you saw a lot of players get hit by burnout throughout the season if you give it everything. As I said, it's a marathon. You're playing 40 matches over the space of 20 weeks, 24 weeks with breaks, so it's all about recognizing that you do have to play [with some moderation].”
“Scrimming for 8 hours a day and then streaming for another six hours is great for one week, and then you just don't play for three weeks because you hate the game all of a sudden.”
"I just try and have the most balanced lifestyle, I don't have that one hobby or that one thing that I do, I just make sure I'm going to the gym, I make sure I'm taking time away from the computer as much as possible and just understanding the limits of how much I can play without getting to that point.”
Symmetra and Torbjorn are not the most popular picks in the Overwatch League. What can Blizzard do to make them viable?
Scott: “I think with the new Symmetra changes, I think Symmetra's an amazing hero and probably one of the strongest heroes in the game. The problem with Symmetra is you have to execute perfectly to have that effectiveness of the teleport.”
“That's why you don't see her played a lot. Because of the success rate of the execution, especially once you get on stage.“
“Torbjorn, I think they said they're reworking him but I'm pretty happy with where he is. He's niche in his own right, but I don't know how you buff him without having dwarves running around with hammers all the time.”
At the beginning of Overwatch League, there was definitely an expectation that the teams with the most Korean players had the edge, do you feel like that's changing?
Scott: “Yeah. 100% I think you showed that Korean players are still some of the best individually and mechanically skilled players in the game but you saw a lot of Western teams that had Korean players sort of having their problems. They're by no way infallible.”
“Look at Seoul Dynasty. They had an incredibly good Korean roster but they just couldn't put it together. So it's definitely, Koreans are definitely dominating the game but I definitely think this season was a testament to Western players. That we can compete at the level that we need to play against these players.”
If you could have one arcade mode played in the pro scene, what would it be?
Scott: “Mystery heroes, 100%. That was so much fun [at All Stars]. Until they got double Brigitte, Lucio and started running at us over and over again, that was not a good time.”
Do you think Widow will always be meta?
Scott: “No. I don't think Widow will be meta in this [meta]. I don't know how much Widow you're gonna see on the stage today but looks like they're playing a lot of the comps that we've been practicing for World Cup.“
“Hammond is a very good counter to Widow. Because Widow can't headshot the Hammond and Hammond can get on him for free and Widow can't really run from a Hammond because he can just grapple and chase her.”
Some have suggested that control point is the great equalizer between teams where even a good team can compete with a great team. Do you think that that's the case?
Scott: “I disagree with that. I would say that KotH is one of the most balanced game modes where the best team will usually win.”
“I think 2CP on the other hand is the gamemode in which anyone can win, right, all you need is that one good push, that one mistake from the opposition team, that one big play by the one player, and you can cap it out, and you've seen it on maps like Hanamura and Lunar Colony which are just so hard to cap out that all you need is that one good defense.”
If you could change anything about the format of Overwatch League, what would it be from your end?
Scott: “I hope,when more heroes are introduced in the game, that going into a map, each team gets to ban one hero. I think that would make the game incredibly dynamic and interesting and make it so that every team has to be dynamic as well.”
“Imagine if you're going up against NYXL and you're going 'Okay, we're gonna ban Zenyatta.' And then all of a sudden, Jjonak can't just play Zenyatta and it creates this difference and change in the game but doesn't overhaul the functionality of the game. So I think that would be an interesting idea, but with 28 heroes, I don't think that's enough to justify it.“
Do you sometimes have to explain Australianisms to your teammates. What's an example?
Scott: “100% Getting into an Uber, 'can you crack the boot' was a really hard one to define and explain because everyone just looked at me like an idiot.”
“Another big one that happens in game is in Australia when we say D.Va, we add the 'r to the end of it. D.Var. And everyone always makes fun of me for it because in America and Canada it's just D.Va."
"And saying no - we add r's to the end of our no's as well which doesn't make any sense.”
TF2 was the precursor to Overwatch for you, what are some of the things you've taken over from your time playing TF2 and then what things do you think Overwatch does better?
Scott: “I still think TF2 is one of the best esports ever made, mainly because it was completely community created, so we didn't really have to deal with developers and trying to balance the game, so that was amazing, but the games are very similar in their style. 6v6, team based, the uber is kind-of ultimate, built around the strategy of pushing and holding based on a percentage of ultimate is the same, so the mechanics are pretty much identical across the board. That's why it taught me a lot of communicating, playing, working within a team.”
“I think Overwatch has obviously done it better by just improving on so many different levels of things that Valve wasn't willing to implement [like] a ranked matchmaking system. All those kind of things. Just any competitive help, honestly, from Valve would have probably pushed that game over the edge, but that's what Overwatch did better and that's why we're here today.”