Interview with ex-Dignitas player SeptiQ

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I’m Rob ‘SeptiQ” Singleton, 21 years old from Cumbria, England. Formerly of the Dignitas Halo team that competed at the Halo World Championship UK and EU Finals.

Were you captain of the Dignitas squad?

It was between me and Fuzion. He had the title but I had the say in what happened, so technically I was the captain. He just got the Dignitas organisation, so he thought he was captain, but he didn’t do anything a captain would do (like work haha), that was all me.

I’m just gonna jump right in to it and ask you about your loss at the EU qualifiers. For many you were tipped as a favourite and it came as a shock, and I’d be keen to hear your thoughts without pulling any punches as to what you feel was the main factor as to why that was:

Where to start. Firstly as a team I felt like we weren’t as pumped to play as we normally would have been going up against Millenium. Probably due to the fact that we were just playing backstage in a room and not being on the mainstage, where teams like Epsilon played both of their series in a row. In a way it just didn’t truly feel like we were a part of the tournament, more like one of the lesser unknown teams being moved on to a station on the other side of the venue like at some casual weekend LAN. Going into the series we didn’t underestimate the French squad but we didn’t play as we normally would. Our communication was sloppy and difficult given the quality of the headsets and mixamps provided. We asked a referee to help try and make them louder and he responds; “what do you want me to do about it?” I feel that was quite bad considering that was his job and this is ESL, a huge professional gaming organisation, I’d always expected way better from them.

We basically had to nullify any game sound we had just to try and hear each other,  but even then it was still difficult. However we just carried on with the series knowing Millenium were probably dealing with the same issues. The difference is they’re very loud when it comes to communicating together, while we are the more calm and collected team, so it didn’t help that we couldn’t hear each other very well. Which is unfortunate because almost any team can be beaten if they’re having technical issues, and is still one of the biggest faults in eSports across any game. A regret of mine is not speaking up more about it. I know for a fact if we played that game with soundproof earphones, like the mainstage set-up had, we would have won that series, won our group and would have been favourites to win the entire event. The whole structure was just really messy, best of 3 group stage doesn’t justify who the better team is. When there’s 15 different gametypes and we get unfortunate enough to get 3 of our weakest, we were drawn a bad hand. It probably looks like I’m making a lot of excuses which yeah, I am, but they’re justified. We only had to play 3 games and we were out. We didn’t even need to finish our series against fabE, who played out of their minds against us in all fairness, although I think our team played differently and tried to force too much because our backs were against the wall.

All in all, we couldn’t play like we normally do. We excelled when we played in booths at Gfinity, and we were just underpracticed to beat Epsilon at the time. That’s something we worked very hard on leading up to the EU Finals. I put my heart and soul into Halo, trying to find new stratagies, counter strategies against teams, anything that will give us the best chance not only in Europe but internationally.

tldr; we sucked.

And following on from that loss, how do you feel that has affected your attitude to competing? I know you’ve had losses in the past and with being a top contender for so long it’s often part and parcel, but with it being one of the biggest opportunities in Halo did that make it more difficult for you, or did it just give you that much more drive for the next season?

At first, I was heartbroken. I stormed out of the venue with my girlfriend trailing behind not knowing what to say, and walked back heading to the hotel one hour away. Shortly after Brandon ‘Respectful’ Stones caught up and we eventually got lost somewhere in Colonge, and decided to find a taxi instead. At that point I said I was done playing. I was so frustrated with how everything went down, I deleted my Twitter and everything to do with gaming in general from my phone. That was by far the biggest lost I’ve ever had and probably will ever have, hopefully. It’s soul destroying putting everything you have into something and it not working in your favour, especially considering it’s the biggest Halo event ever. I gave it my all for the past 5 years for this exact moment, and I thought it was my time. After a few hours I calmed down, met with the team and talked about it in my room. I have never seen Mose so upset before, he was like that for the rest of the weekend. We all understood what had happened and tried to stay positive and somewhat enjoy the rest of our weekend. It took a while for the mental scar of what happened to heal, I could barely watch the EU Finals, NA Finals or World Finals without feeling awful. However once the World Finals had finished, I suddenly felt relieved, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders in a way, like I’m ready to compete again and striving for that win that I feel I deserve the most. After seeing the likes of Ogre 2, Pistola, Mikwen and more big name pros not make the Finals it made me feel a lot better about the situation. Yeah they had a difficult group in which not many expected them to make it out, whereas we were expected to stomp our group but instead seemed like a choke to the entire Halo community.

At some point almost everyone in their career, whether it’s eSports or traditional sports, will suffer a loss so big they question if they even want to continue. For me I feel like it can’t get any worse than that moment, in a way I’ve learnt how to take a loss, since I haven’t took a loss that bad in my entire career.

It’s interesting you touched on how Mose might have felt as well. What are your thoughts on the fiasco regarding Mose taking a coaching spot from someone after failing to qualify? Is this something you would have done yourself?

That came as a big surprise to me but at the same time I can see why it happened. Mose had planned on teaming with them after our loss at Regionals. He’s good friends with Kimbo so it would make sense that fabE would prefer him to coach. A player who knows the game just as much as the players themselves will make a better coach for the team.  I actually spoke about this at the time but I personally wouldn’t take that opportunity to coach. Yes it’s Hollywood and it’s the Halo World Championship, but I don’t feel like I deserve to be there, even as a spectator. I’m there as a player or I’m not there, that’s not me, that’s not what I play for.

For those of us who don’t know, you’re planning on emigrating to America very shortly. Do you have any plans for the upcoming season that you’re willing to share?

Yes, I’ll be moving in with my girlfriend as I study Business over the next two years meaning I’ll be competing over seas. This season could be a rocky start for me personally, as the tournaments to qualify for the NA Pro League themselves clash with a few dates I unfortunately can’t make. I’ll only be able to compete in the very last two Open Cups but I’m already at a disadvantage in finding a team ready to prepare for them since I’m currently still in Europe awaiting my student visa. I knew from the second the Pro League details were released that I may have to sit on the side lines for the qualifiers, and attempt to make a team in the Challenger division ready for the Fall Season Promotion Tournaments. This gives me time to find players I enjoy playing with and see a lot of potential to steal away one of the Pro League spots away. That’s not to say I’ve given up trying to qualify in the last two Open Cups next month, it’s just hard to find a team for those right now as there’s an invite only tournament happening this weekend that I’m unable to be a part of.

From your previous stint on Reality Check in America, is there any particular thing that you feel American’s do much better than European’s that makes the skill gap as big as it is? (other than have a better ping to their servers, of course…)

Haha. My time competing in Season 2 of the Halo Championship Series taught me a few things. One of them being is that the gap between the Top 8 and Top 12 teams is pretty large in itself. The sheer amount of game time, knowledge and effort the Pro Players put into the game separates them massively to the amateur and international scene. I believe the top European teams fall into that Top 12 category and will stay stagnant there for as long as competitive Halo is a thing. The main reason is quality of practice. In Europe there’s probably at most 3 teams that could give a top 8 NA team a run for their money. Playing the same team every night can cause a plateau in a team and it’ll stay the same for a while until there’s a team change, and then you start from scratch all over again. Why is it like this? The player base is no where near on the level of NA. We have very little rising talent in the scene in comparison, and the number of full teams is less than 5 currently. There just isn’t the same infrastructure.

Not to mention their attitudes are generally just better towards the game than most European players. I’m going to call out Europe here; this doesn’t apply to all and some will agree, some will disagree, but I’ve been there and I know the players and what they play for. Some European players seem to care more about being the best player in Europe, rather than succeeding internationally. They will accept that Europe will forever trail in the path of NA teams, so what more can they do? Being labled the best player in your region can be quite the accomplishment. I’ve been there myself, as the community at the time on HaloForum.eu nominated me ‘EU Halo Player of the year 2014.’ If you can’t break into the Pro spots in America, you might as well take the next best thing, being the best player outside of North America. It’s more than just being the best team and requires a very selfish and egotistical outlook on the game, which really stumps growth as a player and as a team.

There are a lot of roster changes going on in both Europe and America right now. Do you have any predictions on what changes will be made, and whether they will be for the better or worse?

In terms of North America, most top teams have been solidified with the roster lock which happened a few nights ago. I do think RNG has improved from Worlds. Not so much the players on their roster, but the overall mentality seems to be much better. The two young guns of Penguin and Commonly make a mean slaying addition with positive attitudes on improving. Their scrim results have improved, and they have been taking a lot of games from the current World Champions CLG. It will be interesting to see how this team performs and I do expect them to qualify for the Pro League. OpTic has just recently announced that Flamesword is retiring and will be staying on the team as coach instead. This came as a shock to a lot of people, but he will make a great coach nonetheless. Having teamed with him before and having his voice in your ear, it makes a huge difference in team performance and morale. They instead picked up Str8 Sick, a player who didn’t make World Finals but has shown how great of a player he is. This should improve the roster and bump them up a few standings. Maybe OpTic can be a top 3 team again like back in H2A. Envy looked solid at PAX East but you could tell that they were underpracticed on a few maps and gametypes, losing to EG after being up 2-0 in winners bracket. I have no doubts they’ll make the Pro League and they’ll continue to grow better as a team. Enigma6 had a rough tournament at PAX losing to OpTic, who most didn’t really expect with the talent they had on that roster. Out of all the top 8 teams Enigma6 will have the hardest time making it into the Pro League following their performance, but we all know what those players are capable of doing. I haven’t seen much from Team Liquid and Team Allegiance myself but I expect TL to qualify for a spot in the league and ALG, E6, Ogre 2’s squad and more will be fighting for that final place.

And well I may as well drop some intel of what’s currently happening in Europe with my opinions included. Epsilon eSports have parted ways with their Halo roster. I don’t know the reasoning, and I’m sure we will find out soon. It was a surprise to me as it’s probably not costing them a whole lot for their Halo team but there’ll be some inside stuff I’m unaware of.

A ‘godsquad’, presumably going under the Infused banner, has been playing together recently. The lineup consists of Chalkie, TuFoxy, Snipedrone and Jimbo, who are forming a team with the intention of dominating Europe. On paper that’s in my opinion 4 of the top 5 players in Europe currently all on one roster. Four players who can hold their own individually at an international level, which is something Europe hasn’t had, in, well, a long time. They clearly have their sights on just washing away any hope for a team trying to take 1st in the EU Pro League and I’m hoping they have their eyes on the prize of the next Halo World Championship. There is too much talent on one roster to only be focusing on the EU Pro League alone. My problem with this team is all of them think very highly of themselves, so heads will be clashing. I don’t see a select leader to this team and that could make them crumble. The last time Chalkie left Ramirez it didn’t go as he planned and went running back to him. They’ve also not been doing the best in the scrims that they’ve played but they can only improve. It could be a time bomb waiting to go off or it could be the next dynasty team in EU Halo. Only time will tell how this team will perform.

The current fabE roster consisting of Kimbo, Snakey and Mose set sights on picking up Respectful instead of German player Speed. This roster is quite a scary online team to any European reading this, and with the EU Pro League being majority online, I believe this team will take at least 2nd place in the League. Raw skill and constant aggression will be the key to success behind this team. They’re all able to get up in your face and make a mess of it. Definitely a squad not to be taken lightly.

Onto the BUK twins. It’s unclear what organisation they’ll be representing after Epsilon’s departure, however a roster consisting of Ramirez and Riotz has been brought to attention. This roster to me lacks a solid set of slayers compared to fabE and Infused, as the previous Epsilon roster had both Snipedrone and Jimbo killing everything on the map while the BUKs made short work of any objective going. Riotz has been playing a lot recently, but he doesn’t compare to the slayers on fabE and Infused. Ramirez and BUK57 have very similar roles as players, pairing them up is like having two version of Heinz on your team. Selfless and will do what it takes to win. This you would think is a good thing, but they will take many risks, be very aggressive and could cost the team map positioning in crucial moments.

Who do you think will win the World Championship next year?

It’s difficult to really say who will win the next World Championship because surprises can come at the most shocking times. Lehtul demonstrated this last season when he suddenly picked up and left EG to join CLG. If something similar happens again, then it’s all up in the air. The meta game might change with some additions of maps and gametypes. Who knows, maybe 343i might surprise everyone and make a fun competitive Halo game by removing radar and automatics, drastically changing the meta. As of right now I’ll stick with CLG, I knew they were going to win the second Lethul joined even after their loss at XGames. That squad is just too talented and take no bullshit from anyone.

And lastly, what do you think are the three biggest improvements that could be made to either the game or pro league for this season?

1. I would personally change a lot about the game but I’m one of those original Halo trilogy lovers and Halo 5 isn’t a part of that. To a lot of competitors like me it’s unfun to play the game unless you’re on a team and scrimming every night. That’s mostly down to how easy it is to play Halo 5. The ceiling for skill can be high but it can be closed very effectively by the radar, powerful automatics and more. Halo 5 had the potential to be such a great competitive title, one of the best even, but no pro would say that’s the case currently (I refer to Naded’s rant). A sandbox update at the very least to nerf the automatics would promote less static gameplay and a more fun experience playing.

2. My second notion would be bringing back Double Elimination for good. It was shown at PAX East, but not much has been said about Double Elimination for future tournaments such as the Pro League playoffs. Double Elimination has been a staple of competitive Halo for years and the last season with BO3’s and Single Elimination is not how competitive Halo should be ran.

3. Eventually I would like the Pro League to include 10 teams rather than just 8. By having only 8 teams, this limits the amount of top end players, veteran or new. There’s easily 10 solid teams that are on an even playing field and plenty of amateur teams or players that will contest the bottom 2 each season. It’s uncertain whether Ogre 2, known to most as the GOAT of Halo, will make it into the Pro League. With 10 teams he has more of a chance. Outside of the current 8 teams there’s nothing to play for months until the promotion series once a season. Having two extra places in the league means more to play for, but not too much, otherwise it won’t seem like the elite league that’s it’s supposed to be.

Before we go, it’s time to bring back the bonus quick fire round:

Best player right now?

Royal 2Mill.

Best player in Europe right now?

Snipedrone’s alright I guess.

Wra7h or Simms?

Why must you do this? I love them both. Pass.

Onset or Wonderboy?

Onset because he actually made it to Worlds.

And last but not least; Storm rifle or SMG and Bo3 or Bo5?

Both enough to tilt for a few hours, BO3 obviously did you read my first answer sheesh

Thanks for joining me and taking to the time to answer my questions Rob, and all the best for the future. You’ve been a staple of top European Halo for a long time now and I’m sure many of us share the sentiment that you’ll be missed.

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