eSports has emerged as the latest global phenomenon; with enterprises such as the Philadelphia 76ers buying majority shares in Team Dignitas and Apex, and NBA team owners taking controlling shares in Team Liquid. eSports has moved up from bedrooms and garages, to stadiums with millions of viewers as the wider world takes a keener interest in the sport.
But like conventional sports, it takes a firm and dedicated hand to guide competitive teams to victory, particularly when the sport is so varied and the technology offered is so vast. While the competition is less physical than traditional sports, it demands the same incredible willpower, concentration, skill -- with strong PC hardware to match. As with any sport, it takes a great manager to keep the team on-track and focused.
Finlay Stewart is one of these managers; he manages Fnatic’s League of Legends (LoL) team, who have consistently placed highly in the tiers. We spoke to Finlay on what it takes to lead a great eSports team and how to keep them on track to win their games.
Having worked with Fnatic for around 18 months, part of that in Business Development, he knows what a team needs to function well. Finlay has spent a year directly managing the team and is used to catering to the players’ individual requirements as they develop their skills and practice their teamplay. While hard work, Finlay finds great rewards in his job:
“Definitely seeing your effort transfer to success on stage. Although my role last year did not affect the team that much in terms of performance, its always good when you give your everything to the team and see them do well. Other than that, when players express their appreciation its always a nice feeling. Most of what I do runs in the background but at the end of the day it’s important. Not everyone can see it but when they do it’s always nice.”
However, high-level eSports is not always smooth sailing. As expected from any business, many challenges face a manager when it comes to getting their team to perform well, especially since the role can take on varying responsibilities. Being new to the role left Finlay faced with extra challenges to overcome:
“The role of a manager currently in the LCS (League of Legends Championship Series) is very broad. Some managers don't get involved much and others completely run the team. Coming into 2016 split, I was the new guy. I basically just did as I was told. When Deilor [former Fnatic League of Legends Head Coach] left however, that changed. I was now the most senior member of the team, and had to step up. Going into next year, I will have a much firmer grip and will ensure everything runs properly from the get go. I’ve learnt a lot from this year and will not let any of the unfortunate situations we found ourselves in last year repeat themselves.
This is essentially the most challenging aspect of being an eSports manager. Making sure all the relationships within the team are managed, as well as the time of the players. Effective practice, discipline, sponsorship appearances, interviews. Managing time effectively is essential to a smooth operation.”
While Finlay is certainly getting a handle on the key players in his team and fitting to the role, there’s also the question of the logistics side; namely, providing his team with the gear that they need to perform at their peak.
Speaking initially about what he looks for when it comes to his team’s peripherals and PC parts, Finlay described the need for his players to play LoL at 144 FPS and to have the reliability and durability to hold up during extended sessions.
When questioned about his attraction to AMD parts for his team’s PCs, he describes the price-to-performance ratio that AMD offers:
“I find that AMD produces CPUs and GPUs that are affordable while also enabling the performance we need. AMD offers cost-efficient GPUs for non-taxing games like League of Legends, but if our players want to stream their game play which requires a different level of performance, AMD has great products for that as well.”
He also gave us the complete rundown on his player’s set-ups:
- AMD FX™ 8370 CPU
- MSI Radeon™ R9 390X GPU
- 2x8GB DDR-1866 memory
- 250GB SSD
- Fnatic Gear Rush keyboard
- Fnatic Gear Flick mouse and a Neon mouse pad
- ZOWIE Benq 144hz
Finlay says that this setup works very well for player Rekkles to stream and dominate the solo-queue simultaneously, without sacrificing performance in-game.
Speaking on the future of AMD and what Finlay, as Fnatic’s LoL Manager, is most excited for, his response was the following:
“I'd say that I am looking forward to seeing the new ‘Zen’ processor in action. I've heard that it’s going to be groundbreaking but I want to actually see how it performs. Sounds like it will be perfect for anyone that wants to stream high performance games, a number of whom we have on the LoL team.”