Interview, Overwatch

UC9: Skill Builds a Player, But Community Builds a Team

Following on from last week’s article, we now head to London to interview Romansparta, captain of ‘UC9’ and one of the coaches for the other two University College London (UCL) teams in the Overwatch Campus Clash. UCL Gaming Society has been highly active in collegiate esports, fielding multiple teams each split and hosting an esports varsity alongside Imperial College London (Imperial). After a shaky first week, UC9 made a stunning recovery and RomanSparta describes the importance of community and chemistry in building successful esports teams.

UCL fielded 3 teams in the Winter split and all 3 return for the spring, albeit with some pretty significant changes to their rosters. I wanted to find out the philosophy behind negotiating transfers and building the rosters as they are today from last season’s. “For UCL one of our big focuses on forming teams is having players that have synergy; more so than what I see a lot of unis do which have a first team, second team, third team.”

That said, many of their players lacked experience in a team environment. “Our teams were formed a bit haphazardly, but as our first season in NUEL went on, we did a lot of scrims and everyone got to know each other a little better, we saw which players worked really well together.” Two such players were Snyder and Loopdaloop. “Snyder and loop are a great duo, they work really well together they even live in the same building and they’re really good friends so we try to preserve that friendship in our teams.”

Their focus on synergy and chemistry over the raw skill of the players is different from how many teams operate and I wondered if it led to relatively balanced teams as opposed to a hierarchy of talent. “We do have some teams that are better than other but this isn’t because we formed them that way it’s more because where we think players will thrive best.”

UCL’s commitment to not having a hierarchy even extends to communications involving the teams. “So we have ‘Red Team,’ ‘Blue Team,’ ‘Yellow Team.’ That way everyone knows that even if you’re in Blue Team or Red Team or Yellow Team it doesn’t mean that you’re better or worse than someone on a different team, it’s just that’s the environment you’ll improve in, that’s the environment you’ll enjoy yourself the most in.”

Both in collegiate Overwatch and the tier 3 scene, teams with coaches are a surprisingly rare occurrence. With Romansparta coaching the other 2 UCL teams, I wanted to ask about the importance of non-player staff In collegiate esports. “for teams like UCLs who have a lot of newer players: we try to get people who aren’t part of the team to bring that new angle for them, to bring that experience to help new players feel like there’s someone guiding them, and they’re not just thrown into competition without any experience.”

UC9 was unable to play in the first week, but the second week they bounced back and won both games “quite convincingly.” I asked what the reason for the first week’s absence was. “First week was Chinese New Year and some of our players on UC9 are of Chinese origin. They were too busy with their family to spend time on Overwatch which is very understandable and very fair. We never want anyone to put Overwatch above their school life or their family life.”

Following this, UCL made some changes to help better accommodate their Chinese players. “There’s a big Chinese community on one of our teams and we thought we’d put them together because a lot of them know each other quite well. Like I said, we kinda want to preserve this community feeling.” The focus is always on synergy. “Our current tank duo for UC9 is Freefeel and Cofee, we thought they would better in UCLs this term but we’ve forgone that decision as we have some pretty good teamwork, we have some pre-existing chemistry.”

London has the highest concentration of universities anywhere in the country. My own university has an element of solidarity with our neighbouring uni so I wondered if UCL has a similar relationship with any of their neighbours in London. “There’s a few people from Imperial who we get along with and we play with quite often. One of the Imperial players has regularly turned up to our pugs and helped us out.” … “I’d say it’s a playful rivalry with Imperial.”

It seems that community is central to UCL’s approach to their Overwatch teams. Romansparta further elaborated. “At the UCL society, we have a real focus on community. I know that we have plans to go watch OWL matches together later this week, we try to do a lot of IRL events as well as in-game events. To us, it’s important that Overwatch isn’t just a game we play together, but a medium through which we can make friends and meet new people.”

That sentiment of making friends and meeting new people is something than Romansparta really hit on. “I know this is kinda typical like an anime style thing, but friendship is really important and having people that you get along with is really important especially when you’re having a tough time in life.”

Through their focus on community spirit and emphasis on putting the player first, UCL have created teams that are not only strong but enjoy playing the game. While they made a superb showing in week 2, we’ll just have to see next Campus Clash if the momentum off those wins will translate into a team capable of making the play-offs. Many thanks to Romansparta for the interview and we wish UC9 luck in the coming weeks.

– Sagiri

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