Interview with Peter Dun: The problems of CBLOL

Interview with Peter Dun: The problems of CBLOL

[Staff note] We wrote an apology letter to the public and to Peter talking about the mistakes we made during the past days around this interview. It can be read here.

*** RED Canids was contacted by the staff of eInsider to send their response to what was said during the interview, which will be published as soon as sent to us. In a note, Felippe Corradini, CEO for RED Canids, publish the following TwitLonger (in portuguese) talking about the cases, later answered by Peter in his TwitLonger (in english).

Peter Dun is a competent, successful League of Legends coach. He has worked in China, spent two years in Brazil and in 2018 worked as the head coach for Splyce in the EU LCS. With Splyce, he won coach of the split in Spring 2018 and helped the team reach the playoffs in both splits.

In his time in INTZ, Coach Peter helped the organization win both splits in CBLOL 2016. In the same year, the team reached the World Championship group stage and started the tournament with a huge upset win over EDG, before failing to achieve more wins in the following 5 games. In 2017, still with INTZ, Dun helped the development of a new roster into a competitive team.

A few days ago, Peter and I skyped to talk about the failure of KaBuM in Worlds 2018, the lacking performances of CBLOL teams in recent international events, his time in Brazil and the problems surrounding the current state of the country’s League scene.

He believes the solution to the problem is to improve coaching staff and to make orgs work better and together for the sake of the improvement of the region as a whole. But this time he seemed more willing to share his true perspective of why Brazil is suffering a downfall. He even told some dark stories about lack of commitment and professionalism by a few individuals and organizations. Some of the most appalling narrations involve one of the biggest organizations in Brazilian LoL, RED Canids.

In this interview, Coach Peter gives us the chance to learn about the inner workings of the Brazilian scene. He shows us the foolishness in blaming the players for everything and the importance of holding the organizations and staffs accountable for what they should be held accountable. Peter also gives us a chance to understand the importance of building a Virtuous Circle, a lesson that we should use not only in order to improve Brazilian League of Legends, but also to enhance our professional and personal lives beyond the game.

Peter Dun, Coach of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

There is a lot of pointing and blaming, people are seeking who to fault for the lacking performances of Brazilian teams in international stages. I wrote an article in which I confront Ranger’s TwitLonger, where he suggests the problem is in the lack of actually good staff and Brazilian culture. I refute these ideas and argue that the players’ culture is the central problem, not the country or coaches.

How much of that do you think is true?

“First we have to talk about where Brazil is [geographically]. Brazil cannot scrim with teams from major regions. A disadvantage that only LAS and OCE share. Japan can scrim LMS teams. Vietnam teams can scrim mainland Chinese teams, sometimes tier 2 Korean teams, sometimes LMS teams. Turkish and Russian teams often scrim against EU LCS and LAN teams can scrim NA LCS teams. Firstly, Brazil has the disadvantage that they don’t have any cross pollination of ideas. The only way you can bring new ideas to the scene is by bootcamping internationally or by bringing in coaches from an international level. So, on one hand this means that Brazil can get their own ideas quickly. For example, Brazil was quicker than EU and NA to realize that it was better to play Mages in the bot lane. On the other hand, strategic innovation doesn’t pass to Brazil very quickly. This means that you often see individuals coming from outside, coaches and players, who become the impetus of strategic innovation.

“The advantage that Brazil has is that they have a very large and passionate fan base. They have a quality solo queue and low ping, which means pro players can get good practice in solo queue. That means that solo queue players from Brazil have good mechanics in an international level, closer to the mechanical level of major region players and stronger than most people in the emerging regions. The other advantage that Brazil has is that there is a lot more attention from outside than other emerging regions get. Emily Rand, for example, who is one of the best esports journalists in the business, regularly writes articles about Brazil. Not every week, but maybe once a month, once every two months. So there’s international visibility.

“But there is another disadvantage that Brazil has. For many reasons, whether you blame the economy or finances, Brazilian teams don’t pay as well as other regions. I was in Brazil for two years and by being in Brazil I was put in a 90%-95% pay cut versus what I could have earned in China or other regions. I did this because I was interested in working in Brazil and helping BR grow as a region. But it’s not something you can expect, you know, from someone who has just started their esports career and wants to make a name for themselves. The difference would be 20 times the salary, just to work in academy teams in EU. So in Brazil, the financial incentives are not really there and that makes it hard to attract outside talent, even though outside talent is necessary for the region to grow because of the geographical obstacles. So I think that we have to understand that that’s the environment Brazil is in.

“To answer your question, this means, in order to be successful, Brazil needs to expose themselves to international influences, by either bringing in international coaches, or sending the team to bootcamp somewhere. Of course this is expensive and Brazil is not as rich as some of the other regions. You need to bring in and invest in, for example, top Korean or European coaches, something like that, but you don’t have the financial incentives to make that work.

“Or you have to improve the region as a whole. Right? If you can make the region as a whole better, which has these mechanical players who play on 9 ping in Brazilian solo queue… It doesn’t matter about the KaBuMs and Keyds or anything like that. You have to be able to help the league as a whole, teams like IDM (RPG), Pro Gaming, Operation Kino. These teams are all teams that have to have strength and knowledge in order to be able to ensure you’re not relying on a small pool of teams, in order to cross pollinate ideas, and in order to help the region as a whole progress.

“Because let’s say you are a 6/10 team, but your region is a 2/10. You have no way to improve, it’s impossible to improve. You can win all the scrims and games you want against those 2/10 teams, you won’t improve. In fact, you might get worse because you might pick up habits that help you beat 2/10 teams but don’t help you beat 8/10 teams. Now imagine if you, as a 6/10 team, helped the region to get to a 4/10 or 5/10 level. Now, because you helped them improve to a 4/10 or 5/10 they might help you improve into a 7/10 team. Maybe your chance of winning CBLOL is reduced, but it means that when you go to an international tournament you are now better equipped to succeed because you are now practicing on a daily basis with teams which have strength. That’s something I believe many star players and teams don’t understand, that this is required for Brazil in order to be successful.

“I can give an example of this. In 2016 Worlds, INTZ bootcamped many times over the course of the year, they had Alex [Abaxial] who is American, they had me, a British man who has coached in China and so a lot of investment was made in bootcamping and helping the team improve, so that they could be the best team that they could possibly be. However, at the same time, after the season, INTZ was stuck in Brazil for 1 ½ weeks, unable to go to the US with no scrims. So paiN Gaming, who were on holiday, realized that it was important for Brazil that INTZ did well in Worlds 2016. So they took time off from their holiday and spent 2 weeks off their holiday making sure INTZ had good scrims so that Brazil could perform as well as it could at Worlds. This is something INTZ did for RED Canids and for Keyd before their 1st Split Final in 2017 and it’s something which INTZ gave a lot of help to RED Canids with over the course of MSI 2017, because they realized a good performance from Brazil helps everybody. But this is something that some new organizations in Brazil don’t understand. And it is something that Brazil as a region needs to understand if they want to improve.”

Peter Dun’s INTZ

So you believe that self sabotaging because of newer Brazilian organizations is the central reason of the problem?

“I have to be delicate to talk about this, because obviously I don’t know the details of the inner workings of every org in Brazil. I only know from my previous experience with INTZ that teams like paiN Gaming have always looked out for other teams in the region. INTZ tried to do the same in season 7. But… Although I don’t want to call out individual organizations in particular, I think it is worth talking about RED Canids as an organization, because RED Canids in season 7 highlighted everything that is wrong for me with the Brazilian region and why the region cannot progress.

“In season 7, I signed for a second year with INTZ, even though I knew the new roster wouldn’t be so strong and would take time to develop. We had a plan for progressing and qualifying for Worlds. Didn’t manage to do that, but we knew it would take time to develop the team. Part of my agreement with INTZ allowed me to help other people within the BR region during my spare time three times a week. Even if they worked for other teams, even if they were rookies. But the idea was that it would help the region as a whole and in return help INTZ improve faster, although it could mean a strategic disadvantage in CBLOL matches. The problem is this system only works if all teams are willing to buy into it. This is what RED Canids didn’t do during last year. INTZ helped a lot of teams, including RED Canids. RED Canids has even publicly acknowledged that INTZ took time off after losing to Keyd in Spring Split 2017 to help them. To prepare for MSI, we made all our staff available to RED Canids, we gave them all the help they wanted. Our scouting staff, coaching staff, our sports psychologist, we were all given free access and gave all the help we could because it would help Brazil as a whole if RED Canids did well at MSI.

Red Canids represented Brazil in MSI 2017

“Now let’s talk about how RED Canids responded to this sort of approach. RED was obviously invited to IEM in Spring 2017. They denied the invitation, but they delayed their denial until the last possible minute so that no other Brazilian team could get invited and go to IEM, in order that no other Brazilian team would benefit from the international experience that RED would be missing out on because they wanted to focus on CBLOL. In the end I think Hong Kong Attitude took the slot that a Brazilian team was supposed to fill in. But this is an example of RED Canids sabotaging the opportunities for other teams from the region.

“Then we can take a look at what happened in the second split of 2017. For the playoffs, INTZ were supposed to bootcamp, but we had a passport problem with one of our players, and because it was a difficult time to get a passport, we couldn’t bootcamp. However, a week before the semifinals, RED came back from their bootcamp. They heard I was at the hospital for food poisoning and, two hours before our first scrim, they canceled all our scrims for the week. Again, a deliberate attempt to sabotage the performance of another team, because of course at that point it was too late for us to book scrims with another team, even though we were supposed to scrim them 3 times over the course of that week. I don’t hold the players or the staff accountable for this. I had worked with many of them and it’s inconceivable that they would have promoted canceling scrims.***

“So the goal of that sabotaging was to lower the quality of the teams in the region so that they could have an easier time winning CBLOL. But that means that when you go to international tournaments, you underperform because you are not getting the best practice you can get. The saddest thing out of all of this is that, at the end of the season, when I was leaving INTZ, I did one-to-one debriefs with all of my players and one of them told me he knew the RED Canids situation was going to happen. I asked him why he didn’t stop me from working with other teams and helping people if he knew it would happen, and he told me he thought maybe because of all that we were doing, he hoped things could have been different this time.

“That is my abiding memory of Brazil. I don’t really think about the good things, the positive aspects or the success INTZ had in 2016. I look back on how I let my team and my staff down in season 7 by trying to help the region improve as a whole and on how another team was not focused on helping the region, but only themselves. It was a misguided belief, that other teams would help each other out because of the way we were helping people out, instead of sabotaging other teams.

“But I think it shows the problem. You can only have an environment where everybody helps each other if everyone puts in the resources. That is something paiN Gaming did for INTZ and INTZ did for other teams. But if you have other teams that are absorbing this help and making everything in their power to keep this from being a mutual beneficial process, then it makes it very hard for the region to improve as a whole. And if Brazil is not willing to improve the region as a whole, if teams are only willing to look out for themselves, the only way they can hope to improve is by huge financial investment that can compensate for the isolation gap. In Turkey, they have the ability to pay very large amounts of money for players. Some players in TCL get paid better than EU LCS players. They are able to attract star talent, both coaching staff and players, who are amongst the top in their roles in the world. People like GBM, Frozen. Maybe they’re not Faker level, but they’re talented, and Frozen, when he went to TCL, was a big advantage for Fenerbahce at the time. These are players that you can’t attract without the economic incentives.

“So without the financial incentives, it comes down to making the region better as a whole. Brazil’s past successes came at times when teams understood the importance of mutually beneficial behaviors. INTZ and paiN beat Flash Wolves and EDG at Worlds not because they had some divine right to win CBLOL and get to that point, but because at that point, most organizations in Brazil seemed to have the presence of mind to help each other in order to help the scene.

“In China we call it a Virtuous Circle. You create benefit, which helps everybody, and that circles around and ends up benefiting you. And this doesn’t work if not all teams are willing to complete the circle. It wouldn’t have mattered what team went to Worlds this year, Brazil would’ve still struggled, but at least there were efforts made to help Brazil succeed. KaBuM spent weeks bootcamping in Korea, whereas T-ONE did not do that.”

About what you said before, concerning mutual beneficial behaviors from organizations: If Brazil were to become a major region, through correctly utilizing the resources and talent we have, it could also help our neighboring region LATAM to improve, which would then help us, because we would have better teams to scrim against, and so on. It would create the Virtuous Circle you mentioned.

“But this only works if you see things in a wider picture context, right? If your goal as a team is only to win CBLOL, the most effective way to do that is to sabotage the region while maintaining a high enough level. But if your goal is to be as good as you can be internationally, the only way you cannot think about… I really don’t want to call out any teams, but if you are forced to scrim against teams that arrive late, or leave early, or teams that create an environment in which it’s impossible to get good practice, at some point you are forced to blacklist some of them, as Alex and I did in INTZ.”

How much of that lack of work ethic comes from the players?

“Honestly? I think it’s impossible to go out and say ‘all players in Brazil are lazy’. I mean, I think that when I read comments on twitter, fans are saying ‘Brazilian players are all lazy’, no! There are players in Brazil that really care about the game.”

How many would you say care that much about the game?

“The thing is that, when you’re a coach, you can kind of choose what players you want in your team. In 2017, the reason INTZ was more successful than fans and analysts predicted we would be was because we had players who were dedicated to succeed. We had Jockster and micaO, who care a lot about the game and study the game. You had Envy, who was a rookie and would basically play non-stop. Turtle was someone who most people thought he was garbage, when he joined INTZ, but he worked very hard in the game and would always ask for more help to improve. Ayel just plays League 18 hours a day. I’m not sure he should do that, but that’s his choice.

Jockster and micaO: hardworking experienced leaders

“The point is, it wasn’t impossible to find a group of five players in Brazil who were determined to be the best they could be. And some of those players weren’t exactly great mechanically, but they had the mentality to reach success. And while you can succeed with bad mechanics and good mentality and intelligence, you can’t achieve much with only mechanical skill.

“That applies to organizations. An organization cannot succeed with a negative mentality, and you should, as an organization, blacklist teams that bring negativity to the scrims. If a team surrenders at 10 minutes every time you get a lead, or invades at level one and quits because they gave up a couple of kills, don’t scrim them! That’s always an option the teams have. And coaches should help each other out, without needing to give too much information away, so that mutual improvement continues and teams continue to get better because scrims are getting better each time.”

Do you think work ethic is equivalent in Brazil and Europe, amongst players, or do you see a difference?

“I think in Europe more players are willing to call out teammates if they think they aren’t working hard enough. I think in Brazil, everybody tries to be friends with each other, so it’s very rare that a player turns to another and says ‘hey! You’re not doing your best, step up!’. It becomes a responsibility of the coach. In Europe, what I noticed is that people will call you out in front of everybody if they think you’re not giving in enough. Sometimes they can call you out in private too, but they will talk to you about it.

“In Brazil, I feel that it’s always the coach’s responsibility to do that, but the coaches may not always recognize that as the problem, they may not always know what to do about it, especially if the player’s not the easiest to work with, or they may even not have the authority. For example, in some situations, as a coach in Brazil, you cannot tell your star player to step up and work harder, because that player might choose to then underperform in response.”

How many players in Brazil have you seen that are not entirely focused, or that their main priority is not their League of Legends career, but leisure or side activities?

“I have only worked directly on a day-to-day basis with 14 players in Brazil. Amongst these fourteen players, all were generally good professionals, which doesn’t mean they don’t like to party, of course they partied a lot, but when it came the time to scrim and practice, these 14 players would be on time and work hard for themselves and their teammates. I don’t know if I got lucky with the group of players that I worked with, whether is that INTZ had a good recruiting policy, whether is because the atmosphere and the expectations were of a higher standard.

“But without working directly with other players it’s hard for me to criticize and pass judgement on their work ethic. But I know that there are at least three our four players in CBLOL who don’t give a damn about the game. Maybe there’s more, maybe there’s fewer, but I don’t think it’s as widespread of a problem as people seem to think. It’s easy to say ‘pro players have an easy life, they play computer games all day, they only party, don’t respect fans’, things like that, I don’t think that’s accurate.

Out of the 14 players Peter worked with in Brazil, all were good professionals

“I think playing League as a career is not easy. You have to keep your body in check, your mind in check, your gameplay in check, you have to perform under pressure, in a gaming house where you have to live with people, interact with them and resolve your differences on a daily basis. Plus, you have to do that consistently throughout the season and make sure you perform at a high level in playoffs or you risk losing everything.

“I think the players who are lazy, despite any mechanical skill, will be quickly dropped out, because it’s not easy to maintain this level.”

You are saying that if a player does not perform, he will risk losing his job, because it is a competitive scene. That is the way it is in any competitive environment. However, there is a theory that because there is not that much talent currently being invested on, from solo queue and semi professional leagues, the players that have been in CBLOL for a long time have become comfortable in their positions and do not try to improve beyond their current level because there appears to be no risk of losing their jobs. What are your thoughts on that?

“If you have a short term approach to the game and to success, you can’t risk investing in young players. Often it’s difficult to identify who your next star is, who your next franchise player is, so it’s safer to recycle players who have been around, even if they have been around for too long. I think it’s more about orgs taking risks and investing in training up talent when they are still very young. INTZ, for example, has the philosophy of looking for the next generation of talent, but it doesn’t always work.

“I do not think it is so much a case of old players getting complacent, I think it is more a case of… A player is not gonna turn down a job, nobody is gonna get offered a job and turn it down saying ‘that person is better than me for this job’, and that job opportunity is there for them because teams are looking for short term success, so I think it’s more on them for looking for those players than on the players themselves.”

But Brazilian teams that invested in short term success had everything but success, while teams that invested in young talent and, theoretically, long term success, like KaBuM, have had the best year. Should teams learn with that that this moment in which Brazilian League of Legends is weak is a time to stop recycling talent and look to invest in younger players and winning in the long run?

“I think there is less risk now, for sure, but you have to have experience and leadership in your team, I think you can have it through your coaching staff or through your players. There’s no replacing experience as an attribute. Maybe you don’t get five experienced players, but you have to have an environment where there is enough experience and where there are experienced players who set responsibilities within a team. For instance, Jockster in 2017 set clear expectations for Envy and Ayel. If he wasn’t that leader for the team, the team might have collapsed. But because he set an example for the younger players on how to work, it helped their development.

“If your coaching staff is strong enough, you can invest more in younger talent. But experienced players bring a lot to the table too. In the end, it’s about building the right team and the right coaching staff around the right philosophy.”

Do you see any other contrasts between culture around Brazilian League of Legends and European League of Legends?

“In Europe, they hire their coaching staff first. In Splyce, they called me, told me they wanted to appoint me as head coach and that then I could build the team roster from scratch. I don’t know how many orgs in Brazil would do that. I heard Nuddle is going back to Brazil, and I hope he can build his roster his way. But as an org, you have to trust your coaching staff enough that you trust them to build your team.

Peter Dun’s current team, Splyce of the EU LCS

“Either that, or you build your coaching staff around your players, which can be problematic if you bring in a coach that doesn’t fit those players’ ideal philosophy. That approach works if the coaching staff offers a more analytical role. Keyd did that, they built their team around the players and brought in a staff that is there on more of a support role. Meanwhile, CNB tried to build around players but with a more authoritarian coach in Strong, which helped the team collapse.”

What about DFM, who came from a previously weaker region, doing better than KaBuM?

“DFM has a very strong coaching staff, arguably the best coaching staff out of all emerging regions. Not to disrespect KaBuM staff, which I’m sure is also very competent. But Japanese teams also have the geographical advantage. They scrim with other Asian teams, sometimes from major regions, so they have cross pollination and that contributes a lot to their success, of course.”

In his TwitLonger, Ranger says coaching staff in Brazil is weak. Do you agree with that?

“I’m gonna tell you a story about a Brazilian team that went into an international tournament. It was not INTZ. This team asked me help to set up scrims with Chinese teams. I gave them the contact details, I set it up, the Chinese teams agreed to scrim this Brazilian team for one block and, if they did well, maybe they’d offer even more practice. But the Brazilian team’s coaching staff did not contact either of the Chinese teams. The coach of one of those teams later contacted me and asked me why I was wasting his time, telling me he had set aside the time to scrim with the Brazilian team, asking if the Brazilians were serious and professionals.

“Because of that, it’s probable that if I try to contact that coach in the future, I won’t be able to get his team to scrim with mine. Because this Brazilian team chose not to use the contact details that were given to them in order to practice.

“It is a sad story. I have another story too. When I joined Splyce, I agreed with a Brazilian org that in my spare time, I would talk to their coaching staff and instruct them to help them improve. There wasn’t even any payment involved, it was a volunteer one hour a week thing, because I’m interested in helping coaches develop. There were 12 appointments set in which I would talk to the coach of this Brazilian team. 3 times he showed up in time, 3 times he showed up late and 6 times he did not show up without any warning. The only times he showed up in time were after losses in CBLOL.

“I think there are definitely some strong coaches in Brazil. Dionrray is a good coach, I think Lucas Pierre [Maestro] is a good rookie coach, despite the rough season. There are other good ones too. They have good knowledge about the game, although that does not necessarily mean they know how to coach. To improve that, teams can send them out to coaching courses or management courses.

“So I don’t think coaches in Brazil are weak, but maybe sometimes they don’t have the experience to deal with certain kinds of players and offer the leadership that maybe they should. Also, teams should think about how to build their team a bit more thoroughly. You shouldn’t get an authoritarian coach for a star spangled roster, but you should do that for a younger roster.

“That is why KaBuM won both splits this year, they built the right roster and put the right staff with the right philosophy around some young stars.”

Ranger, KaBuM’s jungler, released a controversial TwitLonger after the team’s elimination from Worlds, blaming all but the players for the downfall of Brazilian League of Legends

About your Chinese team scrim story. You said they asked if the Brazilian team was professional and serious. That surfaces another question about the culture around Brazilian League of Legends. Many people seem to have the impression that some or many people involved in the scene do not realize that they are in a professional and competitive environment, but think they are just playing a computer game. Do you think that is true?

“That is tough to say because that story in particular is not the responsibility of players. Setting scrims is not the responsibility of players.

“I’ll say this: if you want to succeed, you have to have a professional environment, right? As a coach, or as players of a team, or as the team owner, you can say ‘we are going to create an environment which is very professional’. You can set that environment and you can set that expectation. This means that if you have that sort of environment, you’ll be successful and you will promote that kind of environment to the rest of the teams. If a team shows up late for every scrim, you can tell them you won’t scrim with them anymore.

“This professionalism thing… A lot of players in Brazil are still very young, so it’s not only the player’s responsibility to be professional on his own, but also the coaches’ and org’s responsibility to set boundaries and expectations for what is acceptable behavior. If a player is 17 to 21 years old, we can’t expect them to simply be professionals, we have to expect the higher hierarchy to impose the professionalism expectations.

“If we keep blaming players, we keep ourselves from going after the people who really should be setting higher standards for a professional environment.

“The way to improve the Brazilian scene and to avoid future embarrassments in international events is to hold the orgs and coaching staffs accountable for what they should be held accountable. And it’s not about telling players to go to bed at 10 and wake up at 8, it’s about understanding who you’re working with and what are the things that will make that environment a professional and productive one in a daily basis.”


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