Room On Fire will release a documentary Tuesday about one of the craziest matches in Counter-Strike history.
The quarterfinals between Fnatic and LDLC at DreamHack Winter 2014 will not be forgotten anytime soon. Fnatic used a boost in the third map that allowed Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer to see where the LDLC players were, and the result was a dominating comeback from a Fnatic team that was losing 12-3 and a berth in the semifinals of the Major. Or so it seemed. The boost was ruled illegal, and the teams were initially told to replay the third map, but Fnatic forfeited amid the controversy, and LDLC eventually won the tournament.
The match turned Fnatic into the most hated team in Counter-Strike in spite of being perhaps the best, and the heat fueled Fnatic’s dominant 2015. Room On Fire produced a 40-minute documentary about the match, with commentary, highlights and player interviews, so look back two years after one of the wackiest moments in the game’s history.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn was shown the documentary and had the chance to interview Room On fire’s Jason “Moses” O’Toole about choosing this match to profile, how it all came together and the lasting impact the match had on the Counter-Strike scene. Check out the documentary below
Vince Nairn: First of all, is this going to be a one off? Or are you looking to do more documentaries like this one?
Jason “Moses” O’Toole: I mean, we’re always looking at different projects we can do. Some of them aren’t to do with specific matches, but in terms of this one, the idea is to be able to do a series and bang out three to four per year. I think this first one was really rocky getting it started because I headed up the whole thing, and I’ve never done anything like this, let alone up to this scale. So it was a big learning experience for a lot of us, putting this together. But we have an Excel sheet with like 20 games focusing on 2012, 2013, 2014, attacking the history of the game for some of those new viewers who might not have been around for some of those matches. The scene blew up so much, so let’s start getting these people informed about the past as well.
VN: What made you guys want to choose this specific match to be the first one you did this for?
JO: Part of the idea behind this project is to create content for organizers, so when they hire Room on Fire talent, to find another way we can add to their event. The original plan, just to give an example, was to release this the week before DreamHack Winter last year. And just for various scheduling things, our camera guy, his visa to Russia got denied to EPICENTER. We were gonna do like six interviews at that event, so the timetable got all screwed up. And on top of that, it’s probably one of the more iconic games that you can think of in the past, right off the bat. One of the craziest games of Counter-Strike you’ve watched. This one certainly is in the top three, especially when you think about all the controversy and how that information wasn’t really public or known at the time. It just seemed like a really cool match to tackle right off the bat.
VN: Logistically, how did it come together? Did you find the players were open to talk about it? Did you have to nudge them at all?
JO: Logistically, like I said, when our camera guy’s visa got denied to Russia, we had to cancel like five interviews off the bat, so that was a bit awkward. That was the start of just kinda scraping together to find interviews. I had to fly out to California last minute for ECS to do Janko’s interview. And this is one of those learning experiences or mistakes on my part. We were locked in to the fact that we could only interview people who were going to be at the Major qualifier at the end of December. We had to kind of base things around which players were gonna be there.
In terms of the players, they were phenomenal. And that’s the cool thing. I think there is a little bit of a brotherhood in Counter-Strike where this kind of content, everyone from the players to the commentators, obviously, us putting it together, we all want this kind of content. This kind of content brings attention and shows how much we all care about the game. So the players were all incredibly open. This wouldn’t even be possible without those guys. There are certain sections of the documentary where I’m putting it all together and was sort of lost where to go next. Then I look at the transcript of some of the interviews, and something just clicks because of one sentence. So the players on both teams were excellent. The big worry, because I had it going in as well, would be the Fnatic, or former Fnatic guys that we interviewed and how much of an issue this was for those guys in the public eye. This caused a lot of hatred for those guys. This probably caused them a lot of grief, a lot of problems, a lot of stress from social media and everything. And it still probably goes on today. So big props to those guys for being very open about how it played out, their emotions at the time. That was very cool.
VN: Yeah, let’s get into that. When we look at how this match shaped Counter-Strike heading into 2015, it seemed like this instantly made Fnatic the biggest villain in the world. How did this kind of set the stage for what we were going to see in 2015? And how do you think Fnatic handled suddenly becoming so despised?
JO: I think they handled it as well as you possibly can. As somebody who’s also in the public eye and has dealt with come hatred on social media, it’s not always easy. And they get way more than anyone, and especially because there was the handshake moment at DreamHack Bucharest. There were the flusha cheating things. And then this was kind of strike three. For those guys to keep it together through all this is a testament to them. But I think the funny part is, one of the reasons we picked this match, we also looked at the matches and what kind of stories we could build off them. We looked at this DreamHack Winter match, and this kind of turned Fnatic into the bad boys of the Counter-Strike scene. They were the ones who were always hated and just didn’t give a fuck. They were the ones who always had that target on their back, and they started to thrive on it. The story changed a lot over the interviews, over the course of putting the video together. We have an element of this in the way the video works out. You sort of get this feeling LDLC was this team trying to overcome this monstrous team. You do get kind of a good versus bad type feel. When you’re re-watching the match and watching the desk segments, going through these interviews, especially when it comes to the infamous third map and the boost, you very much get that sense. We tried to keep that going, and we shifted the story.
Even going back to your first question, we want to do these documentaries, and you could make a documentary alone on the controversy. That’s one thing when we noticed when we were creating the video. I wanted to have a section on the controversy. I wanted to explore it in great depth, but I found if you go into it too much, you start to kind of take away from the match. You kind of start forgetting a match even took place. So we have all this interview content from the players — what they thought, how they felt, how it affected them moving forward — that we haven’t even put into the video, just because the story changed so much and we had to give the game its proper respect.
VN: It’s really an interesting debate. Part of being the best is looking for every edge, every advantage you can and exploiting it, right? I think there was a small group that was like “How much wrong did Fnatic actually do?” How did that debate play out? Because it seems like that minority was kind of hushed after not too long of a time.
JO: Yeah, it’s one of the craziest things. Of probably any ruling or any controversy, this is the most we’ve seen other pros speak out and speak out aggressively. Pros, community, no one kind of stopped in the moment — and myself as well. I remember watching this match. No one stopped to look at it from Fnatic’s point of view. I think there were a couple small incidents on the Fnatic side that they could have probably done better, but it’s impossible to know that at the time. I think the big thing from diving through all the tweets and the threads at the time, I think the biggest problem people had was Fnatic knew about this boost for two months. And even that drives controversy, right? For me, if I find a trick like that, I’m holding it. But the thing with that was this was the second tournament for the new Valve maps. So the general feel for the community was if they’re going to enforce these maps, then we have to do everything we can to fix them and make them playable. That was one of the angles that was taken. There’s a whole lot of things you could’ve gotten upset about at the time. Even talking to the LDLC guys, looking back, I don’t think they blamed the Fnatic players so much. I think a lot of that anger subsided. There’s even something that didn’t get into the video, one of the players was asked if the situation was switched, if LDLC was the one who found that boost, would they have used it? And I won’t tell you which player who gave the answer, but it did feel a little but like they weren’t sure if they’d use it or not. It was just a funny experience seeing them try to walk their way around the answer.
VN: And the other thing that’s funny, and I don’t want to spoil the doc too much, but there’s one clip where Thorin made a really good point in one of the desk segments. It was a risk for Fnatic to hold onto that for so long. To know the right moment to pull that out and if that moment would ever come. That was a risk for them to wait as long as they did.
JO: Yeah, and it’s even said later on, think about everything that had to happen in that tournament. So many different small pieces had to come together in that quarterfinal to create this epic match. And we tried to capture those moments or touch on them at the very least. Overall, we tried to kind of set this up and edit this video in a way that kind of takes you back to that time. We have the desk segments before and after the match. We have different things that make it feel like an actual analyst section and you’re just watching the pregame, then a match, then a post game with some interviews mixed in. I think it’s pretty cool how it all came together. Somehow.
VN: Whatever happened to that LDLC team? You look at that roster and it was so incredibly stacked on paper. How did that unfold? And do you think the residual effects of this match had anything to do with why they eventually fell apart?
JO: I think the big thing to remember is they actually won this event, right? We all know they won it, but no one looks at this event and thinks that’s the highlight. And the grand finals of that event were LDLC vs. NiP, but still this boost gets a majority of the attention. It would have been interesting had they lost that, had Fnatic not forfeited and they had to re-play, if there was no dispute, what might have happened to that LDLC team. Because that team was put together for the sheer purpose of beating Fnatic. That was kind of the first of the French shuffles early in that year. We sort of see the French teams have a cyclic life span where they’re sort of together and seem very good, then you see a decline and they shuffle again and you see that breakup. But I think it is interesting looking back at it, with all the vitriol that players like Happy gets. Happy was one of the best players in the world at the time. That was a sick tournament from him. SmithZz was playing very well. Kio, the joke is that he’s the problem, but at the time, he was still very good. You have these three players on this LDLC team that if you put them on there now, people would think that team was a joke. But if you look back just two years, this was a pretty sick lineup that won a Major. So that was really interesting to look back at as well.
VN: I think you guys did a really good job of this, but how do you go about just trying to put this insane moment into perspective? Especially in terms of history. Nothing like this had ever happened before and I don’t think anything like it could happen again.
JO: This is one of the aftermaths of the incident that we didn’t really put into the video. We didn’t really touch on it or investigate it. But you did feel after this match that it might stifle some tactical creativity going forward because who even wants to mess with a situation like this? Who wants to be involved in this? So I think teams maybe stepped back. And I think it did open up conversation between teams and tournament organizers if they found something. ‘Here, come check with us first.” But I think there might have been more hesitance to try and look for boosts like this. But then again, we saw Na’Vi’s boost on Overpass. That was at Katowice in 2016. That was really cool. So there’s still some innovation.
To capture this, it’s nerve-racking. I haven’t been as stressed in a long time as I was the day we ended the second map and opened up 30 seconds into the third map one night. And we called it a night at like 8 p.m. and came in the next day. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed as that morning when we started working on the third map because that’s the map you really have to do justice. And what we discovered was, with Room On Fire, we wanted to utilize all the talent we had. So we had Janko in there doing mid-game analysis for each map. Semmler was one of the casters, so we had him talking about the pure emotions. I was setting up a little bit of the history of these matches. And then we have Anders, who is the voice of Counter-Strike. We have these voice overs Anders does to kind of narrate and move this video along. But once you get to the third map, there’s no way to narrate that to make it sound good. So we discovered to use the players themselves to kind of narrate and set the stage. You can never replicate the emotions of what it’s like being in or casting that match the second time around. So we just used all the in-game clips to try and push that forward.
VN: Is there anything else you want people to take away from the doc or any points you want to hit?
JO: One of my big fears about doing this — and it’s something that I actively tried to prevent without compromising the integrity of the story — is I don’t want this to flare up the old hatreds. I don’t want this to bring that controversy back into the situation where here’s Fnatic to be the punching bag again. This is just to tell the story This is to show what happened and give insight into what the players were thinking at the time, whether that’s live in the game or in the aftermath of the game. So I would implore you not to make any kind of cray judgement in retrospect of watching this video. Just enjoy the piece of history for what it is.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE