The French scene in Counter Strike has always been turbulent. It’s had severe highs, and just as many lows to accompany them. The two time major winning core of LDLC and EnvyUs fame alone had it’s extreme successes, and to go with them it produced many disappointing results. Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer has almost been a personification of the scene. He is a major MVP, who was just supposedly kicked from the last French EnvyUs team by his teammates. He revolutionised the entire scene with his lurking IGL role, and also managed to bomb out of almost every event in the past two years in the groups with a team who shouldn’t have lacked for firepower but were stifled by what seemed to be poor in game decisions.
In order to analyse why Happy has struggled so much I’m going to look back on his career and see where he succeeded and where he floundered. He started playing professional CS 1.6 in 2007 playing under fellow IGL legend Ex6TenZ in a roster which was eventually signed by Epsilon, a team who was the best in France at the time and manage to win several small events as well as the eXperience 2008 LAN which many top tier teams attended, he bounced around a few different teams, captaining some and being led in others, eventually joining 3DMAX with shox, ScreaM, apex and AsP-. Happy clearly had a desire to lead players in 1.6, and it meant that he was eager to develop a fresh style for himself and his teams. The end of 1.6 was when Happy started to develop his patented lurking style, he managed to make very reactive and intelligent calls based on his lurks and often either managed to backstab the enemy team and win the round through tactical attrition or call his team to rotate to wherever he could make space. Happy has stuck to this style ever since, and this is certainly admirable, even if could be said that it impacts him now, he revolutionised the style of Counter-Strike played at the top level, and then stuck with his once profound style even when it became stale.
His early time in CS:GO was not particularly promising, in 2012 when the game was released he created a team with apEX, his former comrade from 1.6, and Maniac, a promising Swiss talent, under Team eXtensive and later LDLC. While their fellow French rivals, Ex6TenZ’s VeryGames roster, was wrecking shop against top level teams and rivalling NiP for the top spot in the world, Happy’s lineup was floundering far below. They won a few small events across the year but ultimately amounted to nothing. Happy was not satisfied with the results he had earned, he wanted more. The team disbanded their roster in August of 2013 and moved on their separate ways. He created another roster under Recursive eSports which showed potential, beating top tier teams like iBUYPOWER and Universal Soldiers at Dreamhack Winter 2013, eventually bowing out in the quarter finals to fnatic, the tournament’s eventual winners. It was a much better showing for Happy and his first event of impact in CS:GO, he took one of the worlds best to a close best of three series and beat some top level contenders. The organisation he was playing under fell under hard times financially however and had to release the roster, who continued playing together under the title “Nameless”. He decided to merge with a fellow French team struggling to fly above the radar in Clan Mystik, adding KQLY and his old teammate apEX to himself, Uzzziii and Maniac, re-joining LDLC in the process. Happy lead this team who by most accounts lacked firepower to a win at DreamHack Valencia 2014 and it was at this point when he first truly seemed like a top tier in game leader, he was winning games off tactical guile rather than sheer skill, a good sign of a great IGL. He went on to the quarter finals of EMS One Katowice, where once again, as in DreamHack Winter the previous year, they lost to the eventual champions, this time the Polish squad Virtus.Pro. Happy was on the verge of greatness, but needed a boost of fragging power in order to reach top tier status. They made semi-finals at ESL One: Cologne, losing for the third time in a row to the eventual champions, NiP. Happy’s only problem seemed to be the lack of firepower in his teams, they were toppling legends but just failing to the teams who were currently at their apex. His big break was just on the horizon however, in the form of the now infamous French Shuffle.
A few weeks after their top 4 finish at the major, 3 of the 5 players on Happy’s team were signed by Titan behind his back, only Happy and Uzzziii were left, and LDLC released both players. It seemed like a death blow for Happy’s career and he was left with nothing to work with, although he lacked star power in his old roster, he made it work. Now he had nothing. Fortunately, to make room for his former teammates, Titan released NBK and Smithzz, who together with one of the best players in the world at the time, shox, and former Clan-Mystik member kioShiMa joined Happy for a new team, who in a turn of events were signed back by LDLC after only two days. This was composed of players who were all in some sense rejects of the scene, but they banded together and made a historic run, coming at least top 4 in every event they attended under the organisation. The team were on incredible form leading up to DreamHack Winter 2014, a Major Championship event and managed to shock the world winning the title over NiP in the finals, becoming the first French team to ever win a Major Championship and cementing Happy’s legacy as one of the best in the world. Although the event was won with certain factors which some use to discredit the victory (notably fnatic, the best team in the world at the time, forfeited to LDLC in the semi-finals after using a rule breaking exploit in one of the maps) it was still an incredible win and a clear display of Happy’s genius as an in game leader, and also his incredible in game form at the time. A factor often overlooked in Happy’s career is that he was not only the in game leader for this run, he was arguably the star player. He won the MVP award for the event and performed incredibly both as a leader and a player throughout.
This peak in Happy’s play can be contributed to two key factors. Firstly his style of play was relatively unheard of, he was the pioneer of a new, force buying, lurking, tactical style which would always have a chance in any round. And secondly his skill at the time was almost second to none, he was top tier player at this point in almost every sense. Contrasting this to Happy’s recent failures, he hasn’t been at the same level as before, and his style of play just hasn’t been working, it no longer shocks and surprises enemies, Happy created part of the current meta, but he failed to continue to adapt around it.
This team signed with EnvyUs in early 2015 after winning a couple more noteworthy events. They won 4 more events before deciding to switch Shox and Smithzz for Titan’s stars, KennyS and apEX. This roster came second at the next Major, losing out to fnatic who took their third major win. And won the Major after that. The core of this LDLC/EnvyUs roster was arguably the strongest core in the history of the French scene, taking the title from the historic VeryGames team of the early CS:GO days. But the team still had their issues. They tended to fall off after a couple months, picking up fresh players and continuing the cycle, whether personality issues were to blame, or just the elements of the team being countered; something was going wrong. On this note, the team decided to remove KioShiMa and add a newer upcoming talent in DEVIL. They cited KioShiMa as the base of their problems and the statement “Kio was the problem” became a running joke in the scene, once again the ideas of clashing personalities and internal clashes reared their ugly heads.
After their second major win, the team started to hit a slump. Replacing KioShiMa didn’t seem to fix much and they seemed doomed to repeat the cycle which they had seen before. They won the odd event but were going out in groups all too often to meet the high expectation of a double major winning team. At the MLG Major in 2016 EnvyUs came last following disappointing losses to CLG and Gambit in a group which should have been easy for a team with such a high skill ceiling. It was by far the worst showing Happy had ever had at a Major Championship to that date and a shocking disappointment. So what went wrong? Happy seemed to prefer to give himself space and use his other players to do so rather than create said space for his stars. The team’s star KennyS, the MVP winner of their last major win, wasn’t performing and didn’t seem to have the same freedoms as before. In some rounds Happy would even favour himself with the AWP over his former star. Was this narcissism and ego on Happy’s behalf, or pragmatism?
A string of poor events followed, the team managed to qualify for the next Major Championship, ESL One: Cologne, but once again they came last place. What had changed for this team? They had gone from one of the best teams in the world to a total disappointment, a string of more disappointing events followed, the highlights being qualification for the WESG finals, a huge event with one of the biggest prize pools, and a win at the Gfinity CS:GP Invitational. They still showed flashes of their former brilliance, but it was often followed by disappointing results. They decided to replace their new talent in DEVIL with an older CS 1.6 legend in the form of Sixer, but results remained relatively inconsistent. Just 10 days before the 2017 ELEAGUE Major, which EnvyUs had just managed to qualify for, they won the WESG finals, beating Kinguin to earn a massive $800,000 cheque. It was a big event to win in terms of prize pool, but in terms of prestige the event was lacking. They had the easier side to the bracket, and a relatively easy group. They also benefited by Godsent’s absence, one of the favourites to take the event. This win, although big, was certainly not a sign of remarkable things to come. The team had the advantage of momentum on their side going into the Atlanta Major but it wouldn’t help them much, with the team yet again being knocked out in the group stage.
After EnvyUs’ third group stage departure things were not looking up for Happy, and they looked even worse when NBK, apEX and KennyS all departed the team in the third French Shuffle. He was left with the remnants of the French scene. KioShiMa was in FaZe at this point, and it seemed as if most who had previously played with Happy were happy to be rid of him. He initially had SIXER, RpK, xms, devoduvek and himself, but devoduvek was shortly replaced by ScreaM, who bought a much needed upgrade in firepower. Frankly, this team had a relatively terrible run. They often did well online and qualified for events, but would finish in last place or close to it when it came to a LAN environment. The team just didn’t work under Happy’s reign, RpK flourished individually, but it came at the price of having sub par players like xms and SIXER, and ScreaM having one of the worst runs of his career. They had the odd good tournament (most notably winning DreamHack Open Atlanta) but achieved little more. They failed to qualify for the PGL Major in Krakow (the first time Happy failed to make a Major Championship) and only just qualified for the ELEAGUE Boston Major in 2018, but quickly went out in the ‘New Challenger’ stage, the new equivalent of the main qualifier. The fact that Happy failed to do almost anything across this almost year long stretch with enough talent, in RpK at a career high apex, ScreaM being one of the best players from the region, xms, a new up and coming talent, SIXER, a 1.6 legend and a solid supportive player, and Happy himself, a talented player both mechanically and a man who has proven to be a good leader, shows that Happy was struggling in his style of leading.
Why did Happy not change his style? It could be down to the fact that individually Happy still played well, he averaged a 1.07 HLTV rating across his time with this roster, did he believe that he was not the issue? Perhaps internal strife within the team was the issue rather than Happy’s leading? However, when a team stays together for almost a year, seemingly willingly, can their failures truly be put down to personality clashes?
In February of 2018 EnvyUs picked up KioShiMa and academy team player, Hadji in the places of SIXER and xms. This roster is probably the worst any CS:GO team Happy has ever lead has performed. They have been terrible both online and offline and for the sheer amount of firepower in ScreaM, KioShiMa and RpK, they performed nothing. From the different player’s twitlonger posts recently put out since the disbanding of this team we can discern that ScreaM was made to play supportively when players like Hadji and Happy himself were allowed much more free reign, and from what we saw of EnvyUs at the CAC recently playing without Happy and with KioShiMa at the IGL we can tell that at least a large part of this team’s immense failure came from Happy’s inability to lead. But why was this? It could definitely be attributed to his inability to adapt to new situations as his style of leading has become quite antiquated but hasn’t changed. A part of it could be the fact that Happy is not a famous historical leader who can hype up his players. Players like Taz, n0thing, Zeus, k0nfig and Karrigan are all examples of players who have a certain unquantifiable quality of building up the mental state of a team and helping them rally and comeback in games and take dominant leads. It could also be the fact that historically, Happy has always set himself up for good individual performances, but recently even though he is giving himself space and freedom, he isn’t putting up good enough numbers. One could also put it down to the fact that his players aren’t performing well enough, but personally I don’t buy that, and believe that a sudden good performance from a player can be attributed to a change in leadership, and bad performances can be put on the leaders not putting players in the right roles and positions.
Happy has shown an ability to be the best leader in the world tactically at times. And he has also shown that he can be difficult to work with and harmful to his fellow players in game. He is a legend and hopefully will return to his former glory, but for that to happen he needs to learn to change.