During WESG World Finals we ran into Counter-Strike veteran, former fnatic player and current coach of B.O.O.T, Harley "dsn" Örwall. We decided not to pass up on the opportunity and caught up with the Swede to see what he's been doing since he retired in 2011 and found out more about his tenure with the Chinese team.
Having garnered countless victories under the fnatic banner in over six years, Harley "dsn" Örwall has his place in the books as one of the most successful players of Counter-Strike 1.6's long history.
After retiring from the game in 2011, the Swede took an extended leave from the scene and came back only a few months ago, as a coach of B.O.O.T.
The veteran was present at WESG, which gave us the opportunity to catch up with him and find out what he's been doing in his five years of absence:
Let's start with you joining B.O.O.T as a coach, how did that come together?
I was studying Mandarin in Taiwan, in Taipei, for nine months. While I was there, it was pretty random you know, one old friend hit me up like "We're doing this sort of new Counter-Strike team, we know you're studying Chinese", it was really really random. But then again, I'm the kind of person who likes to do random things, I guess, I'm not really comfortable with staying in Sweden, living like a nine-to-five life, I like to do the random stuff that nobody likes to do.
I thought like this is a little bit strange, but I am studying Chinese, this could be an opportunity for me to go to China and see what happens. I guess I thought it through a little bit, but then again I wasn't sure what would pan out.
After you retired from Counter-Strike, it's now been about five years, so what have you been doing in that time, was it just studying or did you have a job?
Not really, simultaneously while I was playing Counter-Strike I was also a poker player, so after I retired from CS I did the poker thing that a lot of gamers did I guess back in the days, just grinded poker for a long time.
Was it any successful?
Yeah, pretty successful, but you know, poker is like social darwinism, survival of the fittest, it got harder. If there's something really easy, like a lot of money, sooner or later people will begin to realize that hey, there's a business opportunity here. So eventually, it got a lot harder, and I sort of realized that it wasn't really worth the time. I would have to put in a lot of time to earn less than what I did before, sort of a negative income curve or whatever (laughs).
In the end, after doing that after ten years, I wanted to do something else in life. Then I moved to Taiwan and started learning Chinese, which is sort of related to Counter-Strike, since back in fnatic we used to work with MSI, a Taiwan-based computer company. They took us there for PR trips and I thought hey, Taipei is a really nice city. I know it seems like a random decision to go there and study, but then I sort of fell in love with the city, so I stayed there for longer than intended.
It's a lot of things not so related to gaming, I obviously kept an eye on the old guys I knew in 1.6, and of course I'm very happy to see Counter-Strike evolve from sort of like the 1.6 smaller events to this big phenomenon with big stadiums and matches. And obviously, you know, in my heart, I envy these players that now get to play those big matches. When I retired, I was pretty tired from playing Counter-Strike in a way, because I did for a lion's share of my life. But then I sort of got an itch when I saw these people playing, so when I got this offer, I just said yes. I didn't really know what to expect, but here I am I guess.
In those five years, or I guess especially in the past couple of years when the scene got much bigger, have you ever thought about coming back as a player, not just a coach?
Nah, I think my playing days are over, I don't really think I have it in me to be a player. I would give myself maybe like a 5% chance or even less to even succeed in the comeback attempt, because obviously the competition is more stiff now, there are a lot of really good teams out there. Sure, you can see some old players having great results, but it's because they've been working really hard since day one, like Virtus.pro and NiP, they put in a lot of hours, so obviously I would be so far behind I wouldn't give myself good odds to come back.
But then again, as a coach, it's a little bit different I guess, especially with the Chinese teams. It's quite obvious they're lacking in the teamplay department, the sort of basics, actually, and you can see that even the best Chinese teams, the number one thing that could propel them to the next level is very basic things that European and American teams do very well like communication and mid-round decision making. It's not about aiming, it's about all of the other things pretty much.
In these past couple of months that you've coached B.O.O.T, what do you think were the biggest challenges for you, be it in terms of living in such a culturally different country or the job itself, coaching a Chinese team?
It is a bit hard. I think the biggest obstacle so far that I didn't realize when I got here but realize now is that the culture is very different, it is a little bit more individualistic thinking, sort of relates to the culture, how it is in school, if you get a few more points on this exam then you'll pass like an X amount of people. And that sort of relates into the game, where people might think more about how they play and not how the team plays.
It's hard to explain I guess, but compared to Europe where it's a lot more about teamplay, even if you're an up and coming player in Sweden for example, you sort of get drilled into that system, into the communication, teamplay and what not. In China it's more of a public style, which makes it hard to coach, because some things that are obvious to me might not be so obvious to them. Teamplay can be a little hard to teach somebody, because it sort of comes naturally for players who practice that the whole life since they were young. Whereas here, it's like public pretty much.
So by far the biggest obstacle in the job is that the teamplay isn't such an obvious thing here, their aim is good but the most important thing is the mid-round decision making, teamplay... That is what separates a good team from a really good team, how they handle those situations.
Some of the players you started with in B.O.O.T have left and you got a couple of trials, talk to me about the progress of the team, what's happening now?
Yeah, the team sort of disbanded a little bit, I was actually not there, but now we sort of have five new players, I guess (laughs). So I only had about one month with the first guys, which is not enough to get any noticable progress.
Now the new squad has been in the gaming house since the 25th December, so it's all very fresh. It's been a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, I hope this time we can have at least three to five months and evaluate what we're doing well, what we have to work on in the future.
With a new lineup come new goals I imagine, what are they now?
Right now the situation in China as far as the Counter-Strike scene goes, you have TyLoo and VG, they're obviously far ahead of the competition behind them. But then from like the third to about the eighth spot, it's pretty open, you have some teams sort of competing for the third spot, but maybe not so consistently. That third spot is up for grabs and I guess like three months from now we want to be the third team in China, if we succeed or not, I'm not sure, we'll see how it goes, but that's our intention, that's what we're aiming at as our first goal.