Caster, Analyst, Coach, and all-round Mr. NA, Jason “moses” O’Toole is a veteran of the game who has seen and done it all.
In a year of change for both himself and the region in which he calls home, we spoke to moses about recent roster moves in NA, the importance of orgs like nouns and M80, as well as his new casting duo with Adam “Dinko” Hawthorne.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX: It's been tough for the NA teams so far, including Liquid. How are you feeling about the rosters so far?
Jason “moses” O’Toole: Yeah, I don't really count Liquid anymore, which is weird because it's readjusting my brain, but yeah, it's disappointing. You obviously want them to do well. I'm not entirely surprised, Complexity wasn't going to be an overnight fix; there's going to be a lot they need to work on, and it looked like there's even more to work on than I thought there might be. EG, we know how EG is in NA at the moment, so that's going to be a little bit longer as well for them if they can even get there. Ironically, even nouns is here in Cologne right now doing a little bootcamp.
I don't know. It's weird because my expectations are just a little bit different. If you look at it, this is the second time that the NA scene has been demolished down to the ground level. The first time was CGS, which closed down in 2008, and it took the NA scene five years to 2013 to really get started with any kind of significant growth and realistically, it was probably 2014-2015 until you would've said it was in a healthy place in terms of events and teams and all that. So if you think about it that way, we're like five years away if it's a repeat scenario. It'll probably be sped up with today's age and the more investment we have now, but it feels like NA is going to be three or four good years away in terms of rebuilding, and we haven't even started yet.
An NA team is probably not going to win a Major for like five years, so it's going to be a long road for the region and that's why it doesn't really surprise me because we're going to be starting again from ground zero.
BLIX: If we can focus on Complexity first, you said you think there's more work than you originally thought there would be. Do you think that's something another roster change might be needed in the future?
moses: I wouldn't rule it out. I wouldn't go there quite yet if I were them, but certainly, yeah. If results keep being disappointing and they keep not making it out of groups, you have to remember this is a team that had a decent showing in Katowice and wasn't able to build on it. I guess only they know what's going on within the team and if it's as bad as a roster change being needed.
But you know, it's worrying signs when you imagine this change is plugging EliGE [Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski] in for FaNg [Justin "FaNg" Coakley], and there's an immediate upgrade there, but Grim [Michael "Grim" Wince] drops off and then hallzerk [Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli] isn't having the impact he was having at one point, and you look at that and you're scratching your head trying to figure out what could be going wrong and what could be proving those problems to persist and sometimes some areas get worse. I didn't expect quite the drop off, I thought it might be a little lacklustre, but I didn't see the drop off coming.
BLIX: What about EG then? It's a very young team; you've got a couple players who have had tier-one experience. How much potential do you see there?
moses: I don't know. I'll be honest, I haven't seen all those players in that much depth just because they haven't really been at the tier-one events that I've been working. Again, regardless of how much potential there is, an EG project like that has got to be a year and a half, two years away from being competitive, and then the question becomes, 'How much time do they have in Europe? How much time do they have here to practice?'
I was just talking the the nouns guys who are here on a bootcamp, and one of the guys mentioned to me that they've learned more here in two weeks than they did in two years playing in America, so the learning curve is really steep, the region is obviously really far behind in terms of knowledge of the game, philosophy of the game, and even talent. So even EG, regardless of how much potential you might see, there's no way to tell whether that team is going to break into the top tier and prove that they're going to be consistently competitive and that's a team that you'd point at even more likely than Complexity to potentially have a roster change in their future just by nature of where they're at and where they still have to go.
EG for me, regardless of what you think of the players and what the team looks like, still feels like they're a year to two years away from being able to be competitive for the region.
BLIX: So with Liquid departing, how big is it to have teams such as nouns, M80, even that Forsaken team Warden is coaching.
moses: It's super important that we have orgs that are still looking. Really, it's just the four teams, and I'm not sure about Forsaken. I haven't spoken with warden [Matt "Warden" Dickens] yet as to whether they're paying salaries or not, but really, those four organizations are the only ones really paying salaries. We could use more, but it's good to have that. More important than anything, we could use events that these teams are going to play in and events that are going to motivate more and more people in the region to form teams and try and get better.
When you look at the landscape here in Europe, all the big events are here except for a couple, but then you have CCT, relog, and Thunderpick. There are so many opportunities to compete and so many times that you're getting official match time with other tier two, tier one teams that are constantly playing against each other. Think of Monte at the beginning of this year, playing 129 maps in three months, there's no chance for any of that over in NA. More than team orgs, we need tournaments to start popping up, even if it's just online stuff. We need more things for our teams to compete in, more things for people to watch, and more things for our fans to consume in terms of content. It's all super important, it's all tied together, and we're behind on all of it.
BLIX: What about you then? You're typically viewed as a Caster, but you're here in Cologne as an Analyst and you were at BLAST Spring Final as well, how's that been treating you?
moses: Good, it's a little bit of a weird place, it's fun bouncing between the two and it's been cool to get a couple of events for the first time in a few years doing the desk. It's a completely different style of broadcast and a completely different way of thinking about the game. I've always found it fun, but in one sense, it's that weird thing because when you're known as I am for being able to do so many different roles, you're never really the priority for any of them.
That wasn't really an issue for the first eight years, but now it's becoming a bit of an odd situation coming into events. It's cool, but hopefully, it can settle down and I've got some more casting coming up so I'll be going back to that. It is what it is, it's fun being at the events and anything you can do to be part of Counter-Strike history is like, game on.
BLIX: How about the new duo with Dinko, [Adam “Dinko” Hawthorne] how's that relationship gelling?
moses: Good, we enjoy casting together, and we had Dallas and the big FaZe versus ENCE game, which was good because we got the really intense match experience. We had the final there, which was good to get the final experience in front of a crowd too. It's coming along well, slow, but the start of these things is always the start and getting the audience familiar with a new pair of voices. They're not used to Dinko and I going back and forth and developing more chemistry on how we can approach different situations like timeouts, bad games, blowout games, things like that are all things you learn as you go along and have more and more conversations.
So, yeah, we're talking and at events, we're figuring out things as we go and then it's about finding more events to be at and getting time in the booth together.