British Hurricane's manager talked to us about the future of Hurricane and more.
Ysabel “Noukky” Müller is a household name in the European Overwatch scene. From organizing events such as the Copa del Boop or the HulkTastic Cup in honor of the late Overwatch legend Dennis “Internethulk” Hawelka, to managing London Spitfire’s academy team British Hurricane, Noukky has been a community pillar for the region. She talked with us about the future of her team in the new Contenders system, OWL teams coming to the region for the homestands and the next step in her esports career with Cloud9.
Overwatch League teams have used their Academy teams for different purposes. What’s your mission with the British Hurricane now and does it change for 2020?
Our mission does not change for 2020. Spitfire keeps its approach on being a Korean roster so direct promotion to the main team is rather hard for our players. Our mission at Hurricane is developing European talent while keeping an eye on the UK scene, with a big focus on players being able to choose their path of progression. This is why we are supporting players on their path over to NA, be it to OWL or other Academy teams. We are pretty adamant about not only helping them mechanically but also giving them a good set of skills and progress on different “out of game” topics. Helping them build a brand, making them a better teammate and being more comfortable in front of camera or in interviews are only a few of those.
You’ve recently attended an event by Beyond Arenas UK. Can you tell us about it?
We were invited by Belong to test out the pro room in their newly opened store on Oxford street, London. They have LAN Cafes all over the UK and are a big advocate of supporting local talent in England with each of their stores having inhouse teams. They not only provide a space where people can play together if they are not able to do it at home but also a big sense of community.
You won the first Breaking Barriers event in Europe last week. The event allows teams to stream their gameplay but also inevitably reveal their inner workings. How do you weigh the advantages of exposure against the importance of not giving away a competitive advantage? How serious or how entertaining should Tier 2-3 Overwatch be?
I personally think a balance can exist where Contenders is definitely the super serious competition, but there are also events that have a more leisure feel to it. As a team, personally, I wouldn't mind someone streaming their PoV as long as they stream it without the comms because a pov has only so much overview and is not too different from observed match stream if you leave the communication out. This also gives exposure to the player because he can interact with chat and reflect on his gameplay on off-time. I think for many people it's super interesting to see a player pov, especially if they play the same role. This is why the command center player view addition was really good for the OWL streams.
I appreciate tournaments like Breakable Barriers because it not only gives you an incentive during the off-season but also as teams are still rebuilding they can get a better grasp of newer talent before open division starts. We have a huge shift in Contenders EU at the moment with Gigantti dropping out, Eternal Academy back in and many of the unsponsored teams reforming. It also helps all of us to have access to things to work on before the season starts.
The new contenders system introduces some volatility especially for academy teams. Each game becomes more high stakes as teams are threatened to fall out of Contenders. What do you think about these changes and do you feel additional pressure as an Academy team because of that?
I do not think it’s only more pressure for Academy teams. Every team will be under higher pressure in this tournament format, since you have to re-qualify every 2 weeks if you are at the bottom. It will be really hard for many teams to strive for long term improvement since you can just drop out to open division again if you are not careful. We Academy teams have an advantage given there, which I personally find a bit too much. As a team that was in trials once and fought their way back, I know it can be scary at times, especially with all the eyes on you as an Academy team. Everyone has such a high expectation of sponsored teams thats it’s impossible for them to think they are having similar struggles as unsponsored teams
But with that being said, I appreciate the new format. It will be stressful for teams jumping between trials and contenders, but it will also give them so much playtime that they have the chance to improve more. I think having a staff will be important in this format to help you prepare for the matches. It’s not as easy as playing one team a week.
Arguably a big impact on the rise of NA Contenders despite its many academy teams has been the accessibility for North American Contenders teams to scrim Overwatch League teams. For the first time, OWL teams will make it to Europe for four homestand events, two in Paris and London respectively. Do you think it will help the European scene? Does it potentially help with having your players scouted too?
Yes, it will help the European scene. Having the possibility to scrim against these kind of teams doesn’t only give you good scrim partners but also gives you another point of view from outside your region to check out new strats or how well your strats work against those
I really hope that the OWL teams will scrim against the EU Contenders teams during the homestands and we have the chance to connect with them.
I also do think it will help Europe as a whole in terms of scouting because they see these people in action against more international scrims and not only the European internal scrims. Regions can get pretty stale when it comes to meta depending on what the regions themselves are comfortable playing and what works for them, but seeing them adapt and play against another caliber helps the OWL team to see the talent shine through better. At least that’s what I hope.
There is one other Academy team in European Contenders with Paris Eternal picking up their academy program again. Do you have fighting words for the perceived rivals?
I am so glad they are back with such a strong roster, not only player- but also staff-wise. I think it's healthy for the whole region to have more sponsored teams here to help the region develop as a whole. I am looking forward to scrim and play against them. Hope they don’t wave the white flag early again!
I know that your work environment will change soon. Can you talk about your move and what it means for your work with the Hurricane?
Sure. In January 2020 I will be moving to Santa Monica as a benefit of my now full-time employment at Cloud9. I got my visa done and will be starting to work in a broader role for the company probably taking care of more teams. Getting a bigger scale of tasks will hopefully help me to develop my personal work within esports to cover a wider scale of things and games. Working in Overwatch was my start in esports and I appreciate everything that this community has done for me. But nonetheless I really want to progress my career in general esports, which is also why I am truly honored about many people shouting for me to get a spot in the OWL. After not getting a shot for 2 years I decided to stay true to the org that gave me my first shot in player management and invest so much time in my development which is why I decided to stay with Cloud9 over anything OWL had to offer for me. I am happy being in the tier 2 scene, developing talent and helping them reach their OWL goals. This will not mean that my dedication to Hurricane will lessen or I will be leaving the team. They were my first big project that I helped build from scratch and successfully pitched to Cloud9.
They know it would break my heart to give up Hurricane.