Freya spoke to Will ‘BUK57’ Buck, a Halo player for Team Epsilon, who recently competed in the Halo World Championships in California. We asked Will about his thoughts on how the World Championships went, and how the future is shaping up for Halo ESports.
Congratulations on your placing in the Halo World Championships, were you happy with how your team placed?
“We were happy with our placement, bearing in mind that it was the best placement of a European team. In terms of our goals, we were aiming for Top 4, it was really great getting to the top 8 as a European team, we set records for that, but in terms of our personal goals, we would’ve liked top 4, but just played really badly on the last day. In terms of general performance, we’re happy with it, and it was really nice prize fund as well!” (Team Epsilon received $75,000)
What were the highlights of the event for you, and how do you feel the event was managed and run?
“A highlight of the event would have been when we played against CLG. It was on the side station which was kind of unfortunate, which I’ll come onto when I speak about the event itself. So we played CLG on the side station, and we went down 0 – 1 against them straight away on Fathom CTF. Then on game two we came back and won Team Slayer, which is normally one of our weaker game types so it was really great to come back and hang with the best team in the world, and then have really close games for the rest of the series.
In terms of the actual event itself, it was ran really well, it was quite a lot to organise as there were sixteen teams from all around the world. There was a lot of time where matches were happening in the side stations, the second stream was getting a lot of love on Twitch, but in terms of having the main focus, it wasn’t the best. But the rest of the event was ran really well, however, most days started really early for us, so we had to wake up at around 5-6 am to get a coach to the venue. When we got to the actual event, it was still quite early, we started playing games at 8-9 am, so it might’ve been nice to have longer days, so even though we still start early, we could have longer rest periods between each game, as well as having more games on the main stream.”
“It was really great to come back and hang with the best team in the world”
What are your thoughts on the new ESL Halo 5 pro league? What do you think it will do for the future of Halo?
“The pro League is really interesting, as I’ve seen it happen now for quite a few titles, most recently Call of Duty, and I feel like its really revived the eSports scene in console gaming, as it means there are guaranteed matches to watch every week. So for spectators it means there a guarantee of good matches to watch every week, and for the players there’s an incentive to play. At the moment, the European stuff is kind of vague, we haven’t heard all the details, but hopefully we’ll know in the next few days. But I feel like it’s going to be really good for the European and the Worldwide Halo scene. Although there’s no money up for grabs I believe until near the finals, so its not going to be as money incentivised as much as some other pro leagues, but I think there’s plans for that in the future.”
Do you think the ESL pro league will enable more pro players to make Halo their full time career, as in theory, the more practice you get as a team, the more you’ll progress?
“I would love to say yes, but I still think, even after worlds, only perhaps the top 4 teams can actually say they play Halo full time. Even though we were in the top 8 and won $75,000 between us, once you get taxed and the money comes into your account, it’s not enough money to live off, especially as you have to wait two month’s minimum for that. So even if you’re winning money, it’s normally a 60 day pay out, so if it’s a case of paying rent, it’s not really viable. I think it would be great if the Pro League was does continue after this season, that they say that players get X amount of month per month, like a salary. So it would be nice to have a salary, but if not, maybe something similar to what CoD does where they have weekly thousand dollar cups, which can give people more incentive to play. But at the moment, most people that I know, even American players, they treat it more as a second job, which is what me and my brother treat it as, we both work 9 – 5, then come home and play, usually from 6pm to 10pm every night.”
Do you think there are any other aspects that need to be addressed in order to sustain Halo as an eSport? What do you think needs to be added to promote growth of Halo?
“For the things to be added, 343 are currently working on it, the more advanced spectator mode, as well as the caster cam. At the moment, every other game has a really detailed one, and it’s normally with no delay, so at the moment, we’re still using a spectator client that has delay, and quite a few bugs in it. So that’s definitely one thing they need to work on so that it’s more eSports friendly, but everything else they’re doing is great for the game. There are preview builds of it, which you can see on dev kits, but at the moment there’s nothing available for the public.
They’re already taking steps in the right direction to promote the growth of Halo and an eSport, as they’re partnering with the big worldwide leagues such as ESL, who have really big visibility. They’re also partnering with the likes of ESPN, so just getting more and more partners involved, which was exactly what it was like back in the day for other Halo titles such as Halo 3, they had Dr Pepper and other big mainstream brands to promote the game. So I feel like that’s the next step, and I feel like that’s going to come quite soon, and I can see them very easily getting a big sponsor for Halo.”
What do you feel like you need to work on as a team to break into that Top 4 and beat off some of the North American competition?
“I think we just need to work on playing more as a unit, so at the moment our team, although we have good teamwork to a certain extent, every now and then we split off into pairs or 3 and one, and we’re not always playing 100% as a team. When we played against CLG, that was when everything was clicking, and we need to get that more consistent. When you get to this sport of level, everybody can aim, so if you can aim just a little bit better, it might help in certain situations, but no matter what, if two people are shooting one person, you’re going to win. So overall just teamwork and consistency.”
How does Halo 5 compare to other Halo titles that you have previously competed in?
“When you’re playing at tournaments, it’s quite weird, as you practice online so much, and it’s so different playing on a dev kit, because the shot registration is so much better. You’re playing on a host which is literally a laptop on the same desk as you which is hosting the server, so rather than connecting to a server (in the UK, the closest one is in Ireland) where we play on 30-40 ping, and then we go back to playing on LAN which is about 10 ping.
In terms of the actual game itself, it’s a lot more fats paced, there’s more movement abilities, as well as the gun play being quicker, meaning you can kill people quicker.”
You can find Will on Twitter @BUK57