If you’re playing competitive League of Legends or Overwatch in Australia; chances are that things are looking pretty dire if you’re not a wolf… or at least one of Australia’s legendary drop bears.
That’s right, the LG Dire Wolves and the Sydney Drop Bears are running rampant. The Dire Wolves were already a force to be reckoned with in the Oceanic Pro League in 2017, but domestically, they’ve been unstoppable this year. They finished the first split undefeated for what I believe is a first in the team’s history. Despite a more difficult time at the Mid Season Invitational, they bounced right back, found themselves a new recruit in the shape of BioPanther and have yet to lose a series in split 2.
The Drop Bears are no slouch either. They finished in pole position of the first season of Overwatch Contenders this year, dismantling their nemesis, MasterMinds in the final. They may not have gone undefeated in the first season (they lost one match), but they’ve turned up the heat and are currently undefeated in season 2…
The Dire Wolves. Credit:Nathan Mott
The Drop Bears. Credit:GameReactor
With both these teams looking likely to claim their respective league titles yet again, they’re set to do so at the highly anticipated Melbourne Esports Open, in front of thousands of fans at the start of September.
What do these two have in common? They both fall under Guinevere Capital, run by Dave Harris and are reaping the rewards of the Guinevere home base. Dave set up the esports high performance centre at the Sydney Cricket Ground, using his traditional sport know how and adapting it to esports. All this winning piqued my curiosity, so I had to find out more about how this all came to be. I went to visit Dave at the esports high performance centre to see some of the magic first hand.
Despite the rather quiet looking picture, the actual first impression of the space is very much that of a busy startup. A fairly open plan space, with a kitchen, a ping pong table and in this case, lot’s of gaming computers. Best described as an energetic, bustling, work in progress.
Tucked away in the corner was a relaxed looking Dire Wolves team, playing a collection of games in some down time. Apart from the Corner Wolves, it’s an environment I’m very used to and one that is leaps and bounds ahead of what most esports teams have had access to.
Gawking at the Dire Wolves wasn’t my primary reason for stopping by though; chatting to Dave was. I wanted to learn a bit about about him, his move to esports and his thoughts on the Australian esports landscape, so I sat down on the HPC couches and had a chat.
GFTW: How/when did you make the decision to get into esports?
Dave: I was working in traditional sports and saw esports as a threat, so decided to make the move into esports.
GFTW: This year you expanded to the Drop Bears. What’s the vision for what you’re doing here?
Dave: Our strategy is to have only a few teams, so that we can focus on each team a lot. Beyond that, we’re more involved in games with a lot of publisher support, like Overwatch and League of Legends.
GFTW: Beyond the Dire Wolves, you’ve done some great work with the HPC. What effect do you think this will have on the teams and what’s the lead time to see those effects?
Dave: I think we’ve already seen some of the effects. The first and most important thing is separating the work and living environments. In the house (across the road from the SCG) there are no computers so it’s forced downtime with no computers. Once they’re in the HPC, we try to create different spaces, so there are different rooms for solo queue and scrims. We also have a gym, swimming pool and kitchen, and encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle. On the mental side of things, we have access to sports psychologists and our director of sport has a background in military and sport science, so that does mental coaching.
GFTW: I feel like esports is largely misunderstood in Australia. The natural response to an event like IEM would be look at the nerds! What do you think needs to be done to change that perception?
Dave: I think it’s just exposure. I think that as we have bigger events and people get to touch and feel what esports is about, these perceptions will change.
GFTW: Similarly, what do you think needs to happen for esports to grow in Australia.
Dave: It’s just a matter of time and as people get older the industry will grow. With traditional sponsors like Maccas and Burger King getting involved this legitimizes the esports industry. This is what you see in the US and Europe already, and that will hopefully pick up pace in Australia.
GFTW: What is your view on getting more women in to esports?
Dave: It can only be a good thing getting 50% of the population interested in esports. It’s also about representation, that’s very important. Going forward, I believe that teams should be mixed gender at the highest level rather than having dedicated women’s teams. This is something that happened with Supastellar.
Outside of Dave, I was keen to get the thoughts of one of their players. I was fortunate enough to get to ask the Dire Wolves newest addition, BioPanther a few questions. BioPanther rose up the ranks through the Dire Wolves academy team, and he’s very quickly proven his salt with some top notch performances. He’s fast becoming a fan favourite in the OPL.
GFTW: The HPC setup is one of the best team training camps available in OCE esports. What do you think you’ve gained from being a part of it.
BioPanther: The HPC’s atmosphere allows me to perform at my best, as I am given everything I need to perform the best that I can! It also separates work from home allowing me to have a clear headspace.
GFTW: Which area of your play do you think has improved the most and why?
BioPanther: Playing aggressively/confidently, and playing at my champions limits have been my biggest improvement. Outside of that, understanding the game state more, champion spikes and opportunities have seen big gains too! Moving from the OCS to the OPL, the gameplay between the two is a whole different experience and adapting quickly to the new environment was vital. That helped a lot in my personal growth.
GFTW: You had some pretty big shoes to fill stepping into the top lane for the Dire Wolves, yet you seem to have nerves of steel. Mentally, how did you prepare for that?
BioPanther: I personally wasn’t too affected by the role that I was stepping into for the top lane. I was prepared for the challenges ahead and I was always looking for improvement in every aspect. I wanted to be my own player and show the potential, and reasoning as to why I was chosen to play for the Dire Wolves.
GFTW: I’ve loved your Mundo play across the split, but what has been a specific highlight for you since you stepped up into the Dire Wolves team.
BioPanther: Probably at my first international event, Rift Rivals. On Day 1 against Kuala Lumpur Hunters playing Ornn, where we four man wombo combo’d them near the dragon pit. Practically acing the enemy team was pretty much my personal highlight since stepping up into the Dire Wolves.
After spending time at the esports high performance centre, and hearing from both Dave and BioPanther, it’s not surprising that both the Dire Wolves and the Drop Bears are performing so well.
Too often, esports teams have been, and in many cases still are running in unhealthy environments. Between crammed gaming houses and lack of proper management, players often have some tough trade offs in chasing their esports dreams.
In creating the HPC, Guinevere has shifted the model a lot closer to that of a traditional sports team, with good accommodation; experienced management; proper facilities and balanced training. He’s raised the bar for what is expected of a top Australian esports team’s infrastructure and I can’t wait to see all the top teams follow suit, if they haven’t already.