Team captain and commentator, Troels "syndereN" Nielsen, took a (long) moment to sit down with us for a rather substantial interview. We have been able to touch upon several events revolving around this eminent personage of the e-sports community, including of course the very recent Mortal Team Work debacle. The Dane revealed his shocking side of the story deepening already established convictions of the organisation. On a lighter note, we discussed the future, his intentions, and his team's current situation.
Some may say you didn't start the year off on the right track. After all the recent events revolving around your persona, how are you feeling?
I'm fine. Things have indeed been a little messy, but I'm looking forward now. We're staying together as a team and still having a good time. We'll be practicing and hopefully the results will come in time.
Glad to hear that! 2012 was a hectic period of your life to say the least. After what can only be described as a rollercoaster ride, what would you rate as the highlight moment of 2012 and why?
I'd select three highlights: Winning DreamHack Summer, qualifying for TI2, and attending TI2. Playing in front of the DreamHack audience has been awesome both times (DHW 2011), and especially facing Na`Vi in the Grand Finals was an awesome experience. Qualifying for TI2 as underdogs was incredible as well--the feeling of having earned a slot to compete is something special. Everything about TI2 was amazing... Apart from the disappointment of our performance.
And, if looking from another facet, the worst? Why?
The growing discontent inside our roster leading up to and during The International 2... Speaks for itself, I guess.
Now that the episode is far behind us, could you get us through the reasons behind the dissolution of one of the year's most successful line-ups? Referring to the MTW which won Dreamhack Summer and secured a post at the International late August.
Well, I still think there's no need to mention any names. Quite simply, the team spirit was just falling apart. People lost truth in each other and their abilities, and the game play suffered from it. We couldn't recover and step our game up during the event, so it turned out terribly.
How was the situation at The International then? On one side you had this amazing gift served by Valve and on the other hand an awkward conflict translating into a real life setting. How did you react to the contrast?
Well, we tried to adapt to the circumstances and use the practice to get a feeling that we stood a chance in the tournament. However, with the progression of the tournament it became increasingly apparent that we weren't up to par with other teams. Even though we tried to motivate ourselves for every game, I could tell that the team just wasn't even nearly as close as it used to.
Not too much disappointment, I hope. Were you able to restore a harmonious relationship with your teammates outside the game?
I've spoken a little bit to Funzii, Socks and Mad since then, but not much. Played against them a few times, but that's pretty much it. Haven't heard from Kebap since TI2. How 'harmonious' that is, I don't know. We pretty much mind our own things now.
Going a few months back from the misfortune in question, did you realistically expect to win the European qualifier and earn the golden ticket to Newell's Chocolate Factory? Were you still standing firm during that period?
We were first of all not sure whether we'd be invited in the first place. When we didn't, we just gave it all we had. Losing the first game and dropping into the lower bracket was a tough blow, but perhaps that was exactly the push of motivation we needed to win the whole thing. It was all or nothing, and with each game we won we believed more and more in ultimately winning the qualifiers.
Moving into a subject of actuality, and probably the most anticipated part by the readers, let's talk about the recent Mortal Team Work tragedy. After 15 years of glory, one of the most reputable organisations in e-sports' history sees such an abrupt end to its journey; you, of course, being a direct witness of the giant's fall. Could you please give us a generic statement about this happening?
I don't have any access to the details behind team management or anything - apparently, the organisation's financial model wasn't sustainable anymore, so they had to shut down. It's a big shame to see one of the older names of e-sports exit after such a long time. Hopefully they'll be back again sometime in the future.
When did the financial turmoil become evident within the organisation?
The first time we were introduced to the trouble was when the organisation couldn't send us to DreamHack Winter 2012.
What was your reaction?
Of course it was a disappointment, but at the same time our team was very new and perhaps not quite ready to compete with the opponents which would have met us there. We would have loved to try, though!
The not-so-glorious days...
Any other difficulties you've encountered from thereupon?
mTw still owes me quite a bit of money... But technically, that's from before DreamHack Winter 2012.
How did the management justify the accumulation of their debt? Have you heard any news from the CEO regarding the payment?
I have tried to contact our contact in mTw multiple times over the last two months through texts, Skype messages, phone calls... To no avail.
Realistically speaking, do you expect to see the money back one day?
I don't know what I expect, really, but I think it's disrespectful after I've been playing faithfully for such a fairly long time that they don't at the very least respond to my messages.
After hearing said words, I am truly astonished. I can't believe that what seemed to be one of the most respectable powerhouses in the industry treats one of its brightest figures in such outrageous manner...
Yeah, it's surprising to me as well... I guess things have slowly gone downhill for them in more than one sense.
What do you mean by "more than one sense?"
Not only going down the hill financially, but perhaps also in relation to communication with the teams in the organisation. At least that's the impression I'm left with.
Were MTW hiding the fact that they were facing major difficulties until their closure? If so, which methods were employed to keep such secrecy? Which fables were you told when you saw the payments kept getting delayed?
We weren't informed in the Dota 2 division, at least. I was told that mistakes had happened in the accounting and that it would be sent the following week, or something along those lines...
Have you tried getting in touch with representatives from other departments of the organisation? Are you vaguely aware of their situations?
No--the only other player from the squad I've previously talked to is DIMAGA, but that was only in connection with DreamHack attendance. I haven't talked to him online.
What was the experience of seeing one of the e-sports greats crumble from the inside out?
Weird... Originally joining mTw, I had really high expectations with the legacy which the organisation had, but it unfortunately wasn't to last. I'm not sure if I as such really 'saw it crumble', because as I said, I wasn't really behind the scenes to see the actual crumbling.
In the released statement by MTW, the management affirms that "the business model of e-sports clans does not work anymore in its current form." What exactly was meant by this manifest? Was it a matter of being incapable of competing with the new guard of the scene? Or is it just a typical case of sour grapes?
I don't know what exactly is meant by their words--I guess you need to get in touch with the management to get a comment on that. My guess is that they attempted to continue with a business model corresponding to one which they ran during their time of glory with the successful CS 1.6 team, and that they couldn't sustain it. Sounds like bad decision making to me.
Although nobody doubts your bona fides, the fact that you've stayed with MTW until the bitter end would impress even the most noble of knights, and even more now judging the circumstances. Is there another side to this inspiring loyalty?
I think bona fides describes it pretty well.
Now that you've experienced this whole fiasco through your own skin, what advice would you give to players currently in search of a new shelter? Also, what words of wisdom would you send to the management of e-sports organisations from the angle of a player? What approach are you going to adapt yourself in regards of your quest for a new home after all the recent events?
If it doesn't sound realistic, it probably isn't. This goes both for organisation and players. We'll just continue playing, and try to become a top contender to make ourselves worthy of a big and renowned sponsor, and hopefully it turns out better. Going for a mediocre sponsor isn't worth it--they usually either promise more than they can deliver, or cannot deliver what ambitious players are looking for. It's all or nothing for us, and at the moment it's going to stay nothing until we improve to perform on a stable, high level. Hopefully then, with the right results, will we attract the right sponsor.
That's a less gloomy theme! You have mentioned that your team will be staying together after all. If I understand correctly, your main goal now is to excel in terms of results. Any upcoming events? How are you going to be able to sustain yourselves financially for the moment? Any organisations in prospect?
There are no events in the immediate future, so we will just be practicing and preparing for whatever comes in the near future and attempt to get some good results in online tournaments. It will take time, but we have time for it.
How comfortable are you feeling with your resident line-up?
The most important thing when I built the team was knowing the people behind it, so that I could have faith in being able to sustain it without drama, internal issues, etc. I knew that this wouldn't be a dream-team within a few weeks, but was rather focusing on putting together a team that could last in the long term. With practice and dedication from everyone, I think we can get there.
Will Tobi find his permanent casting partner soon?
It's well known throughout the community that joinDOTA offered you a contract for a full-time casting gig. What were the reasons for turning down such an opportunity, and will you ever take them up on the offer?
I'm studying and want to finish my bachelor (3-year university degree) in English with Media as my side subject. I'll have that finished this summer, and then we'll see what I'll do. I currently haven't locked myself on anything, but I'm really contemplating taking a break from studying and taking at least one year focusing a lot on e-sports. We'll see where I go. Perhaps I'll take them up on a casting offer, it's not settled yet.
Being objective, who do you consider to be the best foreign team at the moment?
Right now, Empire. They are the most consistent high-skill team in the Western scene at the moment. They have a very clear style of play, and execute it well.
What about the Oriental hemisphere of the Earth?
iG. This is definitely the team to beat at the moment, and has been ever since TI2. Their coordination and individual skills are the pinnacle of Dota 2 right now.
An unanswered enigma which has been tormenting many minds in the DotA2 community: How do you maintain your glorious neck beard?
(Laughs) I don't! Contrary to popular belief, I shave my neck beard quite frequently, actually--but I always keep my rim of facial hair. I like myself better with it. Shoutout to Liquid`ixmike88!
One last question to end us off. You've build the image of a very polite and mannered gentlemen in the scene. Are you sometimes tempted to break from the shackles of your personality and release some of your devilish compulsions?
Everyone can get frustrated, and it does happen to myself as well--especially if I either put up a poor performance and feel like I've let my team down, or if I feel embarassed with our team's performance because we're playing way under our level. I generally keep a positive and respectful attitude, though--both in and out of game. A little respect and positivity goes a long way.
Thank you for baring me through over 30 questions until these very late hours of the night. Words cannot express my gratitude. I wish you the best of luck in the future. The remaining lines belong to you.
I'd like to give a big shoutout to all of the followers who still stick with us after mTw goes down and our results and performances as of late aren't keeping up to standards. We won't disappoint you in the future!
If you want to follow my team and I, check out these places:
#mTw.Dota2 (we are still using this for a while from now)/ #???.Dota2 (our new IRC channel for team 'Re-defining Madness') @ Quakenet IRC
Thanks for the interview and thanks for reading! Take care.