Johnta: "We had to build everything from scratch and I think we are doing okay"
Currently competing at the Shanghai event and sitting on a 1-1 record in the Swiss group stage following a close loss to Renegades and a convincing win over Panda, TYLOO are playing their second tournament since the team brought in YuanZhang "Attacker" Sheng, YuLun "Summer" Cai, and Johnta at the beginning of 2019.
We sat down with the former HellRaisers coach in China to find out what challenges he has been facing with his new team and how the progression has gone over the first few months of the new team's existence, including their showing at the IEM Katowice Major, where TYLOO went 2-3 in the first stage, barely missing out on a spot in the New Legends Stage.
Read below to see what Johnta is trying to bring to the Chinese-Indonesian side and how they are dealing with ongoing communication issues with the newest additions.
To start off with your addition to TYLOO at the beginning of the year, what has it been like to work with this team after your time with HellRaisers?
First of all, I realized that it was going to be a pretty interesting experience for me. The TYLOO team needed a coach who can bring the structure and I have always been the guy, even when I was the captain in 1.6 I was the guy who was bringing some structure into the game, to make it less chaotic and bring more ideas, and I was doing the same thing for HellRaisers all the time. Understanding how to build it helps me to set some teamwork, which TYLOO definitely needed, especially after they decided to change two players. We had to build everything from scratch and I think we are doing okay so far.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
The biggest challenge overall when you work in international teams when people don't speak the same language, the biggest thing is that sometimes you talk about some things and you explain some ideas, they can understand it, but it's really hard to feel it 100%. Even when you speak to someone who speaks your native language, when you both speak it, if you try to explain your idea to him, it's not going to be 100%. Everyone thinks about it a bit differently and when it comes to the international level, when you speak English, not in your native language for both you and the other guy, it always comes a bit slowly. Sometimes you have to go through the same things over and over again and that is the main thing that slows down the progress a bit.
I realize after my time working with HellRaisers that the progress is important, but you shouldn't focus too much on being a perfectionist. If you think only about the highest things, it can break you morally because you want to achieve more and more, but you need to be patient, and this is what we are trying to understand. This team is definitely growing up, we have a lot of things that are getting better and better every day, but we need more experience, more time to make it consistently good.
How does communication work, especially with AttackeR and Summer, how are they with English in general?
I see that BnTeT, xccurate, and somebody have a way better feeling of English because of the experience they had. The Indonesian guys speak more with me, we have more two-sided conversations, but with the Chinese guys - I think it's because of the language barrier - it's more of me telling them my thoughts and they are trying to listen to it, but they don't come to me with some things. This is what we are working on. I don't think it's because they misunderstand or because of English, it's just because maybe they're not used to it that much as players. There are different types of players, ones who are very open, open to ideas and to try something, and others thinking more about their game, who are less open to trying new things. This is what we are definitely working on and it's getting better, but we still need some time.
The overall communication is that I speak English, Jack, our manager, helps translate for the Chinese guys, the Indonesian guys understand me 100%, I think. I try to build the game, the key decision-making moments, around the Indonesians because they are placed on the map where they can feel that it's good to do something. xccurate knows Chinese pretty well, BnTeT is getting better, and one of our long-term plans is to make the team communicate fully in Chinese. That is what we are going to work on because it's important for an IGL to say even basic stuff and with three, four, five months, and a year later this big problem of this team will be fixed.
How would that work with you, though, you don't speak Chinese, so wouldn't it be difficult to pitch in in that scenario? Is it difficult now?
With some time, I will understand better and better, but still, I already know pretty much all the calls. I don't know about other Asian teams, but in this team, the communication and the callouts are pretty basic. One zone can only be named by one callout, but if I were playing in another team, I would call four or five different positions because it gives a better idea of the timings. If you say 'he's B short' on let's say Mirage, but that could mean plenty of angles. If you call it the right way, your teammates can feel the timing one or two seconds earlier, which is extremely important, especially in a hyped game.
What has been the living situation for you? Do you live in China at all?
No. We have some periods when we have bootcamps. We had a bootcamp in Germany before the Major, then we had a bootcamp before this event in Ukraine. Sometimes we practice online, which is pretty okay for a coach to be online, I have maybe a 250-300 ping and not a big delay on TeamSpeak, so it's alright for me to communicate, to follow the game, to do everything. The only thing is the timezone difference, but it's not that big because we start at 8-9 AM and finish at like 4-5 PM, so it's okay. It's adjustable.
Tell me about your showing at the Major, where you didn't make it past the first stage. What were the biggest takeaways from that?
We had pretty good preparation for the Major considering we started playing with two new players and built a lot from nothing. We had six out of seven maps in our map pool. We played five at the Major, we didn't play Train, but we had it prepared on a decent level. The only thing the team lacked at the Major was the experience of playing high-value matches. They need to be communicating more calmly, they need to play 100% the same way they do in practice, but when it comes to some emotional moments in the game, it's hard to keep your head calm and to have the best ideas, sometimes you hurry, sometimes you lose a round because of it, sometimes you go for an eco and lose a couple of guns and your economy is falling. The team needs more experience in playing these matches to know how to be calm as a team together, not just individuals. This was the main issue why we lost.
Overall, I think we showed a pretty good game, we played with NRG, who are a decent top-10 team, we were very close on both maps, we also played very close with AVANGAR, they're also a pretty good team. With G2, the last game wasn't that good, but even though it wasn't good score-wise, there were a lot of rounds that if we took one, the game could have been completely different because of the old economy system. We had some rounds like that. But we still have something to work on and that's what we're trying to do.
It's obvious that you brought more of a European style to this team, how are the players reacting to this and how are they getting used to it?
Some things are going pretty well. But some things... Asian CS mostly relied on individual moves or some rounds when you just come in, throw smokes. With a good European structure, you play more strategically, if you look at let's say North, when they're doing some execute, they have a plan that one guy will smoke here, one guy will flash here, a lot of moves. Asian teams don't have that, they have the same things but they do it out of skill. They feel like they should flash, but maybe on the next day they will not flash it like that and they won't win the round, these situations consistently.
This is what I'm trying to bring so that the guys have a better feeling of each other's timings, they need to know that with better teamplay they can get a lot of rounds and that they can only be surprised by something very different. When we bring both good structure and become calm in important moments, the guys are going to be playing on the very top level of Asian CS. First of all, they need to be the best in the region, and with more experience, we will know how to play better against top teams and we'll bring some of the surprise factor from this region. I want to keep this, that we sometimes do something not typical, which other teams don't expect from us. That was a good feature of Asian teams, but if you look at one demo, you understand everything, so that's why we need to bring both of these playstyles together.
What are you looking to get out of StarSeries?
I would be happy if we went out of groups, that would be a good result from us. But either way, I'm always looking for small details of our game, and if I see that the thing we are working on is improving, it's already a positive result for me because I see the progress. We understand that this team needs some time, we just need to work on the details of our game, which is not good yet, just to make it better and better. In some time, we are definitely going to be a top team.
You briefly mentioned the old economy, something that has recently changed, what are your thoughts on that?
I think it's pretty cool, I like it a lot. I like changes overall because sometimes it feels like everything is the same, you watch events and they look the same, some small details are changed but a regular viewer doesn't see that many details which are game-changers on the top-tier level, like some new meta moves. Something fresh like an economy change, or the AUG change, is pretty good because it brought a lot of new things in the game, such as the CT sides being played differently. The economy is also pretty good, but maybe it's a bit overpowered in some ways. It shouldn't be such a big bonus or maybe it shouldn't go over four rounds, but overall, I think it's a pretty good change, I like it.