moto - America's Counter-Strike mind
The story of moto's Counter-Strike career, by someone who knew him during that time.
This article was originally published on GameSpot's sister site onGamers.com, which was dedicated to esports coverage.
Dave 'moto' Geffon was the first great North American Counter-Strike in-game leader. As a member of X3, TSO and 3D, moto won over $237,000 in team prize winnings, as well as CPL and WCG titles. Over the span of his six year professional career he took his teams to top four placings at all three of the major tournaments of his era (CPL, WCG and ESWC). It's also thanks to him that inferno, the most balanced map in the CS 1.6 map pool, came to be tweaked appropriately for competitive play, hence the "wvu moto" writing in the small sand pit near the library in bombsite A.
Starting out in a time when pug-style FFA (Free For All) intuitive play was the prevalent paradigm of North American CS, moto ruled his continent in X3. Convinced there was a better way he dared to venture out on his own and build up a side centered around tactical execution, culminating in a TSO team which went undefeated over an entire online CAL Invite season. When his ex-team-mates from X3 saw the light he was brought in as the leader of 3D and led them to a CPL championship, at a time when the Nordic teams were considered unbeatable.
This man's influence over the success and progression of his continent's approach cannot be understated, and yet he was also a distinctly flawed individual. Despite a tactical mind and, at times, brilliant individual play in big games, he was also prone to mental breakdowns in big matches, leaving his teams floundering to stay afloat in treacherous waters. He was slow to adapt to the new anti-strating and teamplay-orientated era, meaning his sides lagged by the European elites and were overtaken domestically. He refused to accept the progression of newer players in having developed into top talents, often costing his team the opportunity to acquire the right free agents.
This story is different from my other historical articles, because it is not only a retelling of the career of a player, but also a deeper insight into the man competing behind the monitor. That's because moto wasn't just the first great North American Counter-Strike in-game leader, he was also a friend of mine.
David Geffon, Dave to his friends, was born on July 29th 1982 in Beverly Hills, California. The divorce of his parents when he was young meant Dave often had to move from place to place during his childhood, always within the bounds of Southern California though. From around 11 to 17 he was heavily engaged in playing the sport of competitive ice hockey. Despite being a console gamer in his earlier years, it was his step-brother who was the online gamer in the house, playing the FPS game Quake 2. moto showed no interest that particular deathmatch FPS title, but when his step-brother one day introduced him to Counter-Strike, which was still in its very infancy, he quickly became hooked.
When starting out as a player Geffon played two-on-two on a ladder with a friend. The two of them took the name of the female owner of a small restaurant called Teriyaki-7, which was located next to the pier in Geffon's native Hermosa Beach, and split it up to provide each of their aliases. As the woman's name was Rumiko Motoyama, his partner took Rumiko and Geffon took Motoyama. That would later become shortened, as was often the case with aliases in those days, to simply moto.
"I remember the moment that I found out about organized Counter-Strike. I went and looked at the OGL page and saw all the top teams and thought to myself, 'You can actually have organized matches and leagues for this? I gotta get on a team' and I did. I started off playing with some smaller teams but eventually ended up playing with a fairly famous old-school west coast team, TDK. It was there that I really learned how to play Counter-Strike. I had skill before, but I learned a lot playing with the guys in TDK and it really helped me to become a better player. I really owe a lot to Doc (Tony) from TDK because he was the one who took a chance on me and I can pretty much thank him for everything I have to today in Counter-Strike."
-moto, talking about his beginnings in CS (ESEA, 2006)
moto's first real clan was TDK, where he learned the basics of becoming a team player, as opposed to a public server star. After TDK disbanded he joined up with CK3 (Clan Killers 3), which housed star players like Ksharp, Rambo, Bullseye and BigDog. They were the best team in the country and players like Ksharp and BigDog were widely considered the elite individual players of the day.
"When I played for TDK, I learned the finer aspects of organized Counter-Strike and what it meant to play with a team."
-moto, speaking about his first team, TDK (ESEA, 2006)
The key quality that stood out in CK3, perhaps influencing the young moto, was tactical execution. As some of the clan's members were 30 or older, including leader Big_V, they were less inclined to attempt to match raw reflexes with some of the teenage aim wizards of the scene, instead favouring an approach which emphasised set tactics.
The scene back then was often played with more men than the modern 5v5 setting, with 6v6 and 7v7 leagues. There was also no maxrounds ruleset, so instead teams would play a set amount of time on each half, with round times up to four minutes. It was a very different world from the one modern day Counter-Strike fans will appreciate. There was no HLTV and thus there were no HLTV demos to view and take tactics from or analyse.
"It was a huge deal...you couldn't "spy" on every freakin team that you wanted to, see everything they do from every POINT OF VIEW?!?!? All related back to the sharing thing, you could use one good strat/trick against every team and they didn't know how to stop it and hadn't practiced 20 hours of how to stop your strats. You use something new/good in a big match these days...20,000 kids know about it by morning."
-BigDog, team-mate of moto in CK3 and X3, speaking about the early days of CS (ESEA, 2004)
The birth of a dynasty
In March of 2001 the best individual players in CK3 (Bullseye, Rambo, Ksharp, moto, BigDog etc.) broke off and formed X3. The name initially stood for nothing, but in time would come to be referred to as Xtreme3. The time of tactical execution was over for this team, packed with incredible individual talents. They would instead get by on raw skill and intuitive, unspoken, teamplay. In April the team attended their first event together, and the first officially sanctioned Counter-Strike tournament held at an American CPL: the Speakeasy CPL.
Labelled X3 Blue, as they had another side competing in the tournament, the line-up of moto, Rambo, Ksharp, BigDog and Bullseye came in seeded #2. The team were unstoppable, smashing every opponent in their way en route to the 13 rounds needed to win a game, with no enemies even reaching 10 rounds in one of their games. Winning the tournament and the $10,000 for first place, moto had tasted LAN competition and, more importantly, the euphoria of victory for the first time.
"It was my first Counter-Strike tournament and frankly, I had a great time. I really had no idea what to expect because I wasn't really concerned with the tournament as I was with just meeting everyone from the team and getting to play Counter-Strike together on LAN (the tournament was just a side event). [...] I remember being in the finals and thinking to myself, 'This was fast' because I came from playing competitive hockey in which you'd have to win upwards of 12-13 games to make it to the finals and there we were playing for $10,000 after only 4-5 games."
-moto, recalling the Speakeasy CPL (ESEA, 2006)
Two and a half months later, in early July, moto and X3 attended their second significant offline tournament: the CPL 4-year anniversary bash. Again they dominated, winning the tournament without dropping a map. The only team who had come close had been TAU, forcing a narrow 13:11 win in the upper bracket semi-final. The upper final and grand final had been a statement to the North American community that nobody could stand up to the might of X3, as they beat down DoP, often considered the second best team, to secure a second LAN title.
The North American scene back then was not only centered around offline tournaments, as online play became a significant factor for teams with the launch of the CPL's online CAL (Cyberathlete Amateur League). There was no prize money to be won, but bragging rights were a big motivator in those early days of competition. After a dominant first season of CAL Invite, X3 defeated PAG in the final to take the inaugural title. X3 were so dominant online that numbering their losses would not even need all of the fingers of a single hand.
moto and his team ruled the North American scene and there was nothing to suggest matters would be otherwise anytime soon, at least externally. Interally moto became engaged in a struggle with the other members to convince them to adopt a more strategical approach to the game, implementing set tactics, practiced and planned beforehand. For a team filled with the best players in their region, who dominated with an arrogance born of being significantly better than their peers, this appeal appeared to be a waste of time for the other players. Some even took offense to the notion moto was putting himself forward as a potential leader.
"X3 never had a leader, we didn't want a leader. moto tried to be a leader, moto out of clan. We didn't kick him by any means but we didn't let him control what we did."
-BigDog, X3 team-mate of moto, speaking on his departure from the team in 2001 (ESEA, 2004)
"X3 taught me that skill wasn't everything and that the team portion of the game was more important than just 'out shooting' your opponents."
-moto, reflecting on his time in X3 (ESEA, 2006)
Creating a true rival
moto's split with X3 saw him going over to DoP (Domain of Pain), a team which had always been thought of as a collection of the best players not in X3. They had been the only team to hand X3 a loss online, so they were an obvious landing point for moto. This ragtag bunch of skilled players now had a player who actively wanted to create and a lead a line-up that could not only beat X3, but show that in Counter-Strike teamplay and tactics meant more than just raw skill and talent.
moto picked up kane, a player widely considered one of the best in the scene outside of X3 and who had been carrying TAU. With a line-up of skilled and veteran players, DoP headed to their first offline event in early September. The CPL Invite tournament saw four top teams (X3, DoP, PAG and GB) invited to the CPL's Dallas offices, to play a tournament with a first prize of prototype Intel processors. It appeared early on that moto's influence on DoP had been profound enough to prove his philosophical point within his debut event for them, as DoP handed X3 their first ever offline loss. The kings were not be dethroned though, coming back to beat moto and company in the final with an emphatic performance.
Early in October the two teams met again, this time online, in the final of CAL Invite Season 2. DoP's line-up had changed, as moto sought to find the right mixture to win out over his former team-mates, but X3 again prevailed, winning out on nuke to take their second CAL title and the first since moto had left their ranks. All eyes now went to CPL World Championship scheduled for that December, with a $50,000 first place prize moto would have the ultimate opportunity to win a LAN title.
After rolling through the early opposition, moto's DoP ran into X3 in the three round of the upper bracket. Playing on aztec, a notoriously streaky map due to the heavy CT bias it possesed, DoP looked to be no competition at all for X3, being blown away 1:13. In the lower bracket moto's men reached the final eight of the competition, but were bested in an overtime loss on prodigy to TSO (The Speakeasy Offensive), a side of less well known North American players who were more friends than pure competitors.
During the tournament this team drew moto's eye as having the potential to be the kind of team he had envisioned leading, focused on teamplay and tactics. With DoP he had simply been trying to enforce that kind of system onto a lesser version of X3, made up of the best individually skilled players he could find. What he had failed to recognise, perhaps taking it for granted during his X3 time, was the incredible intuitive teamplay X3 had, playing uncannily well despite not having a set system in place of leadership or execution.
"DoP showed me that team chemistry was more important than I had previously thought and just because you had a collection of skilled players who wanted to work together as a team that sometimes it just didn't work."
-moto, summarising his time in DoP (ESEA, 2006)
With moto deciding to leave DoP and join up with TSO, some of his team-mates even suggested that he had put such a plan into action in his mind before the tournament had finished, citing a bizarre clutch round one-on-one loss in that TSO game as him helping his next team to a better placing. Sour grapes or not, his ex-DoP team-mates did prove correct in that moto transferred over to TSO.
With TSO moto saw the potential to begin building the kind of team he'd vowed to construct when his philosophical impasse with X3 had been reached. With the final of CPL Winter a face-off between dominant North American champions X3 and dominant European champions NiP, it says a lot about moto's specific motivations that he cheered as NiP defeated his former team-mates in the biggest match in CS history, to that point in time.
"Dave was a great teammate, even back in X3 days. He voiced concerns [...] that we really didn't have any practice/strats or motivation to further our CS game. We depended on skill to win, and he thought we should practice and get strats and stuff. Of course back then we kind of just laughed it off, "'strats! who needs those?' :) But if we had done what he suggested and he [had] remained on the team we might have won winter CPL."
-Ksharp, X3 and 3D team-mate, reflecting on moto's time in X3 and the impact his approach could have brought them (ESEA, 2004)
Unbeatable and unselfish
"I hung out with tso a lot at the CPL World Championships last December and really got to know them well, they are really good guys who's company I enjoyed very much. Combined with great cs skills joining them didn't take more than a blink of an eye."
-moto on joining TSO (Gamers.nu, 2002)
Arriving at TSO, moto would keep the line-up essentially the same, but bring in kane, his star player from DoP. With kane having already produced a legendary nuke game against X3, many looked at him as a potential weapon which could be used against North America's best team, and with TSO a less skill-packed team moto would need a weapon like him to accomplish his ends. TSO immediately began a winning tradition, racking up weekly victories in CAL Invite Season 4, including a convincing win over X3.
Despite having waited so long to topple his old team, it can't have satisfied too much to see them also lose to other teams, like DarkSide and firstWave, to the extent that the line-up disbanded outright before the end of the season. The X3 members split up across other teams and moto's TSO ruled the league, going undefeated across the regular season. Their closest affair had been against Gamers-X (GX), widely considered potential cheaters, due to their uncanny ability to win with unknown Asian players, but TSO had come through to win narrowly. GX also housed future star method.
The playoffs were no different for moto's team, as they ran through opponents to reach the final. The opponent there would be riot squad, which featured Chameleon, the player who replaced moto in the starting line-up of X3 after his departure. The game had its moments of opportunity for both sides, but TSO came through 13:11 to take the title and record the first ever undefeated 19-0 CAL Invite season.
TSO's strength had been a proper practice schedule, with set hours, and a real approach of building up tactics with specific roles for each player and timings to hit. While the team did have talented players, in particular neville (a.k.a. quiksilver) stood individually, along with kane and moto, the team clearly won thanks to their execution and superior cohesion. There were plenty of skilled players in that season of CAL-i and teams who got hot, but none could slay TSO.
moto himself had put together an MVP caliber season, not only leading his team tactically, but also showcasing his own ability to rack up frags and play the role of individual star, something he had not been required to do as often in the talent-packed X3. With this perfect online season behind him he headed to Dallas for that Summer's CPL. As the best team in North America, with the kind of team system in place he had previously desired, moto could feel confident his TSO team were ready to match up with the best teams Europe had to offer.
"Playing with TSO showed me that playing with fun people really made the game much more fun to play."
-moto on his time in TSO (ESEA, 2006)
A difficult lesson learned
TSO were progressing through the upper bracket with ease, a tight win over zEx aside, and reached a date with SK.sca. The SK team featured HeatoN and Potti, the duo which had been at the core of the NiP team which had beaten X3 and won the previous CPL. The map was train and TSO began on the favoured CT side. The match began badly for the North Americans, with SK taking the pistol round and the first two of TSO's ecos, putting them up 3:0 on the harder side.
The rest of the first half must have felt like a dream to moto, as his team won all nine remaining rounds in a row. He had even decided to break out of the AWP sniper rifle, using it to great effect all around the map, roaming and picking off SK players. He finished the half atop the scoreboard with 16 kills and only six deaths. His MVP performance had TSO poised to knock off one of the tournament's favourites, they merely needed four of the next 12 rounds when they switched over to the terrorist side.
For a team that had made their reputation on solid execution and coordinated teamplay, four rounds should have been a very feasible prospect. There was one slight difference in this TSO team from the one that had won an undefeated CAL-i season though. They had brought in former PAG leader rj, using him as part of a six man rotation and, in particular, using his house as somewhere to bootcamp in Dallas. This would become significant soon in that second half.
The CT side of train is notorious for its snowball potential, as teams who begin winning can rack up huge runs of rounds without answer. SK.sca featured some of the best players in the world and quickly began putting rounds on the board. With the pressure on him to identify the Nordic sides weaknesses and select the right tactics to grind out four rounds, moto began to crumble. He stopped calling, became and slightly and was visibly shaken. His moment was slipping away and he didn't know what to do about it.
Into the vacuum of not having a leader stepped rj, falling back on his experience from PAG, as he began calling the tactics. The primary problem was that rj was no high level tactician, nor had he been brought in as one, and he simply called a basic inside push over and over again. To the veteran elite players of SK.sca the game became a shooting range and they won round after round, soon tying the game at 9:9.
In that 10th terrorist side round the internal pressure moto was feeling was externally manifest as he cratered (fell to his death). Despite that the team won the round to take the lead again at 10:9. That proved to be the last moment of anything approaching hope for TSO, they lost all the remaining rounds and the match. A truly devasating loss, in all respects, could not even be properly mourned, as the structure of the CPL's double elimination tournaments meant that the lower bracket played out soon after.
TSO went into a lower bracket game against DoP, featuring ex-team-mates of moto and kane from their time there, and were promptly eliminated from the tournament in a vicious 13:2 smackdown. The team seemed barely there during the game, unable to respond with any of the competitive drive they'd exhibited all CAL season long, their leader still lost in the fog of the SK train loss. TSO won their fifth place run-off match against the UK's Infinity-eSports, but fifth place was a painful finish for a team that had believed itself capable of reaching the final.
The tournament proved a dark day for North American CS entirely, as the top three teams were all Nordic. The best hopes for the region had been TSO and 3D, who had finished fifth and 17th-24th, respectively. 3D was made up of a core of ex-X3 players: Bullseye, Rambo and Ksharp. After playing with the kind of online flair and abandon fans remembered from X3, their CPL had been ended quickly with a shocking upset loss to Australia's function zer0 and a defeat at the hands of LAN Arena 7 champions mTw, of Germany.
"When soldiers lack discipline, the fault lies with their commander."
The discouraging end to the CPL for TSO is only to be laid at the feet of moto. His team-mates all performed at the lowest level anyone had seen from them during their entire time, which would have made it difficult to direct them to a victory regardless, but it cannot be denied that moto was the dynamo of their success and as he faded so did their belief in the unit's ability to win. These were players who at the past CPL had simply been a group of friends having fun and somehow placing top six at a major tournament, to crack the top three they needed the comfort of having a strong leader who knew they would win and had the plan at hand by which they could.
Putting aside his own failings in Dallas, moto came to the conclusion that his team-mates would not be capable of matching up with the firepower of the top Nordic sides, which featured some of the best aimers in the world. Even during TSO's CAL reign moto had always acknowledged that Ksharp and Rambo were the best in the country, those were the kinds of names he needed in his team. With 3D having received a monstrous shock to their egos, going from perennial contenders to placing outside of the top 16, they were more than receptive to the notion of bringing moto into 3D as their leader.
Taking kane along with him, moto joined up with 3D in early August, less than two weeks after the CPL. The final piece added to the team would be steel, whose GX team had been one of the few bright spots for NA at the CPL. moto had finally, albeit by a circuitous route, arrived back where he had begun: in a team filled with his continent's best players. The difference was that now they were willing to accept his leadership and he could seek a middle path between letting stars be stars and implementing discipline through regular practice and set tactics.
"leaving [TSO] post-Summer CPL wasn't an easy of a decision. I really had to weigh up where I wanted to go in counter-strike, what my goals were and what I needed to feel was like I was making these goals possible. Unfortunately I didn't think it was going to happen in tso, so it was best for me that I moved on."
-moto, on leaving TSO (Gamers.nu, 2002)
Turning the 3D ship around
In joining 3D, kane and moto brought their undefeated online play streak from the previous season with them, and it would eventually get as high as 48 games before the first loss. 3D won their first CAL Invite season in early September, but it took and overtime effort in the final, against up and comers zEx, to secure the title. At the USA qualifier for the World Cyber Games (WCG), 3D solidified themselves as America's best. That win sent them on a trip to South Korea, the first CS trip out of the country for the 3D players, for the WCG Global Finals.
In Korea the team struggled heavily with the new environment, and it showed in their performance. With the Swedish qualifier having been won by a huge underdog, the USA was one of the countries in prime position to benefit from the lack of an elite Swedish team and potentially win the gold medal. 3D beat A-laget, the Swedish representatives, in their group, along with most of the other teams, but bizarrely lost to Hungary's FoP, an entirely unknown team nobody had heard of or has since.
In the bracket stage losses to France's GoodGame and Germany's mousesports knocked 3D out of the tournament in seventh place, with no prize money and far from a medal finish. Domestic success was all well and good, but if moto's men could not perform in international tournaments, with their wealth of individual talent, then their time together could be over very soon. The new line-up also suffered from a lack of sponsorship, even begging for donations to attend the year end CPL event.
Later on in November 3D lost out in the semi-final of the sixth CAL Invite season, upset by a Rival team that were making their only their second Invite season. It was a sign of the rising of a new crop of individual players, as teams like W.E.W., GX, zEx and Rival could all now challenge 3D in online play. The shift is best highlighted by noting that the previous season moto had faced Rival in pre-season play and recorded a then record number of frags against them on fire, a custom map created for CPL competition. Now he had been bested by them and they were the CAL Invite champions.
3D were not headed into CPL Winter that December with much fanfare. Europe's top teams had all been playing musical chairs with their rosters and eoLithic, winners of the last European CPL, had taken in CPL Summer champions DarK and XeqtR to form a Norwegian superteam. After winning the MindTrekLAN CPL qualifier, many tipped eoL to be the favourites for the tournaments. There was HeatoN and Potti's rejigged SK.swe line-up, which was all Swedish, and a Nordic GoL superteam, represented by star names from four Nordic countries. This CPL looked to be stacked.
An early break, seemingly, for 3D came with the bracket draw, which seemed to place most of the top European teams in the other half, so 3D would not have to face them until later on, potentially. moto's team would first face four North American teams, killing all them without allowing any to record more than seven rounds. That brought 3D to the semi-final of the upper bracket, where HeatoN and Potti's SK.swe awaited. Playing on nuke, the game had less significance for moto than for his ex-X3 team-mates. Bullseye, Rambo and Ksharp were to face HeatoN, Potti and MedioN, who had beaten them at the previous Winter CPL on this very map, in the final.
"I also remember Dave and I winning a 2v4 with the bomb planted in lower, I killed 3 or so and shielded him from the last as he barely managed to defuse in time."
-Ksharp, recounting the CPL Winter game vs. SK.swe (ESEA, 2004)
3D showed their elite tier calibre as they comfortably controlled their Swedish opposition, winning the match 13:7 off the back of an MVP level performance from Rambo. Waiting in the upper bracket final was the Nordic all-star team that was GoL. Another monster team performance saw 3D rolling over the European team 13:6, with steel the stand-out man this time around, and into the final. After GoL out-dueled SK it was a rematch for the grand final. The map for the final would be dust2, a notoriously good map for mix-teams, which GoL was in a sense, due to having only been together for a few weeks prior to the event.
The game began with the Swedes in fierce form, taking the first three rounds. 3D struck back to level the match at 3:3 and so it would go for the rest of the half, 4:4 began 5:5 and it wasn't until the end of the half that GoL asserted themselves to take it 7:5. dust2 was known as a terrorist favoured map, so GoL had a lot of work still ahead of them on their CT side, but they also had elite AWP players like Hyb, VicoN and Souledge, who could shut down entire bombsites by themselves.
GoL took the pistol round and looked set to take a heavy lead in the match, as the money system back then meant that teams typically had to save for two rounds after losing the pistol round. There was no money bonus for planting the bomb and no galil or famas for teams to buy. On this round moto came up with a brilliant move which would change the game of Counter-Strike. Teams had tried similar things before, but never in a match of such scale and meaning. moto had his men buy desert eagles and set-up in the B tunnels, waiting for the CTs to come to them.
The Nordic players, eager for eco frags, rushed into the tunnels and found themselves three men down after the powerful pistols took them out. The remaining CTs did not engage and 3D allowed the round to end, losing it but saving weapons to allow them to buy for the next round. This was one of the first moments the top teams took real notice of the power of the money system. The CTs would get significantly less money the following round if they did not win by killing all the terrorists or defusing the bomb. Under normal circumstances that situation would never occur, but if terrorist teams purposely created such a scenario then they could hurt the economy of their opponents on rounds they could not won.
The next six rounds went to 3D, GoL unable to do anything to stop their offensive flow. moto and company were at 11:9 for the game, on the dominant side of the map. The ninth round did see moto a little embarrassed, as in a one-on-one with Souledge he attempted to hide behind the bomb boxes at A, the Swede seeing him through the crack in the middle and killing him without having to face him directly. That was the last moment for GoL, as from there on out it was all 3D until 13 rounds had been hit. 3D had won the CPL Winter event for 2002 without dropping a map.
moto's philosophy had been proven to have value when he had led TSO to their undefeated season, leapfrogging his ex-X3 team-mates, but something had been missing at the Summer CPL. That something seemed to have been the raw firepower to go head-to-head with the best European players, something 3D had no shortage of. Now moto's 3D side had made good on his vision of an organised team who won based on more than just their skill. On that day an American team stood at the clear-cut best in the world for the first time in Counter-Strike history.
That victory also helped 3D seal high profile sponsorship with Nvidia and CompUSA, which meant they would receive respectable monthly salaries (four figures each) and hardware. Team3D would become the first truly professional Counter-Strike team in North American CS, and in doing so pave the way for others to eventually begin to acquire real sponsorship of that kind.
One of the outcomes of the CPL results had been to set Europe into another frenzy of roster changes. SK's HeatoN and Potti were not accustomed to failing to make the final of a major CPL, so they had brought in former team-mate ahl and some of his friends from 2easy/mTw/team9, forming a new Swedish super-team. moto was fully aware of how powerful this prospective SK team looked, mentally shadow-boxing them to visualise how his 3D team, similarly packed with big names, might match up.
The Team3D leader took a trip to Europe in February, visiting a number of countries (Germany, Sweden and Denmark) to visit friends, including some of the SK players.
"I like Europe a lot, especially the Scandinavian countries. I could definitely see myself staying here for an extended period of time."
-moto, speaking on his trip to Europe (XplayN, 2003)
At the end of moto's European trip SK.swe had stomped the first European CPL of the year in Cannes, France, the world took notice that a new potential world champion was on the radar. Mere days later 3D defeated a W.E.W. team powered by boms and method, which had finished fifth at the CPL Winter Event, in the CAL Invite Season 7 final, claiming a fourth CAL title for moto's resume.
The first opportunity for a potential match-up with SK would come as all of 3D headed to Europe for the first time, as a team, attending Clikarena in Tolouse, France, in late April. The event is now infamously linked with poor organisation, as it started 48 hours late, despite only being a three day event. This meant almost all of the tournament was played out on a single day, a long and arduous day that began early and ended in the early hours of the morning of the following day.
3D perhaps had flashbacks of their WCG woes, immediately struggling in the group stage. Losing to Denmark's lvl and a revenge-hungry GoL had them in dangerous of failing to make it out of the group. Things looked dire as 3D fell heavily behind on train against mTw, only to rally with a big CT half, led by moto's AWPing, and escape elimination. After beating Korea's KTF they met SK.swe in the upper bracket. The reigning CPL champions would battle the team many were proposing as their replacements.
The game was on dust2 and moto's team looked set to be routed, winning only two rounds on their CT half. Switching to the terrorist side, SK won the opening two rounds, putting the game at map point 12:2. 3D needed a miracle to avoid being sent to the lower bracket, not least since they could still not buy full weapons and armour. Forced to buy without full armour, the North Americans showed competitive pride, winning the round. They then reeled off the next six straight rounds with barely a death against them.
How they were doing it nobody could say, but they'd have to keep up their terrorist side magic just to reach overtime. Again moto's team were showing off the tactical approach he had long promised would yield results beyond those possible simply from out-shooting the enemy. It could not last though, and SK broke through to take the round they needed and the match. Down in the lower bracket 3D were shockingly eliminated from the tournament by the absolutely unknown eu4ia from Spain, finishing 7th-8th overall.
Back on home soil, the next CAL Invite season saw them thoroughly challenged, culminating in them falling in the semi-finals to shaGuar and Volcano's zEx team. With the haunting memory of their troubles in France, 3D decided not to attend first Esports World Cup (ESWC), instead settling on the safer proposition of attending KillerLAN, which featured only American teams and a seemingly easy $5,000 first prize.
After opting for that supposedly easy money, the last thing 3D expected was to be denied it by an NA team. Playing the event without Ksharp, 3D were stomped by TEC in the upper bracket final. Fighting back to the final they again lost to TEC, this time in an overtime game. TEC featured Jaden and da bears, the two players who had been removed from 3D following the disastrous 17th-24th placing at CPL Summer 2002. These players were understandably driven to want to beat their old team-mates and now they had.
3D removed kane from their line-up and decided to stick with a five man team for that Summer's CPL. moto's team desperately needed a good performance, with so many disappointments already that year and their hefty sponsorship to justify. CPL Summer featured the largest prize pool in CS history, with $60,000 alone going to the champion. Coming in as the reigning champions, 3D immediately found themselves tested a few matches into their campaign.
Against 4kings on mill moto's men saw the match pushed to overtime. Losing the first half of OT 0:3 as T, they could not afford to lose another round. In the second round of the half it took a miraculous 1v3 by Bullseye, with only a deagle, to keep 3D in the match. They eventually won out in the second overtime to continue on in the upper bracket. That match was soon put behind them with an impressive nuke performance against a-Losers, winning eight T side rounds in the first half.
Reaching the upper bracket final meant moto and his team-mates had secured a top three finish and would now face off against SK.swe. Playing on inferno the first half went well, with 3D securing seven rounds. The match proved highly competitive, as the teams went back and forth until SK won 13:10. Having just been outdueled by elemeNt in an in-game leader battle, moto went down to the consolidation to face team9's vesslan, another legendary in-game leader. Again the match proved to be a thriller, this time going to overtime on dust2. A key 1v2 loss cost 3D a chance to potentially take the game and team9 moved on to an all-Swedish final.
3D had finished third at the CPL, earning a ridiculous $28,000, thanks to the size of the prize pool. They hadn't been able to win the big games against the top Swedish sides, but they had overcome the earlier problems of the year to prove they belonged amongst the world's best sides. moto's men had recorded back-to-back top three finishes at major CPL events.
Returning to Korea
At the end of August it was the USA qualifier for that year's WCG. With steel a Canadian citizen, 3D needed an American player to complete their line-up. They selected boms, former leader of W.E.W., who had helped zEx to a second at ESWC that Summer. 3D won the qualifier and almost two months later were flying out to South Korea, hoping to redeem the previous year's performance at gaming's equivalent to the Olympics.
3D were in top form in the tournament, running through all opponents in their path to the final without a loss. After beating the Danes of lvl in the semi-final, they reached a final that would be played against SK.swe. This SK team were beyond just dominant, not only had they followed up their Summer CPL win with a European CPL title, they had not lost a single map since the start of the Summer CPL. In this tournament they were not only unbeaten, they had utterly crushed practically every team they had faced.
The first map bore witness to that fearsome form, as SK rolled over 3D 13:7 on dust2. The second was train and moto was forced into a repeat of his disaster from his CPL Summer game with TSO against SK. 3D won the CT half 10:2, then lost the second half 1:12 to have their hopes of a deciding map deleted. Again moto had failed to come up with the right calls in a high pressure train T side game. This time, though, he had a WCG silver medal to show for his efforts.
Reaching another CAL Invite final, moto seemed set to secure a fifth title in nine seasons, facing off against the unlikely finalists of tsg. Led by a huge performance from tsg'd Dominator, 3D were dismissed from the final and forced into second. moto easily shrugged the result off, feeling that Dominator was an online superstar and that offline results were all that truly mattered, an easy enough sentiment to imagine considering he had recently finished second at a major tournament.
That Winter's CPL event was a huge drop off for 3D, as they failed to even crack the top 12. losses to rising US hope u5 and Brazilians MiBR, moto's team fell back on the cliched saying that "on any given Sunday" anything could happen, imagining this result a mere anomaly. In fact the seeds of future poor performances were beginning to yield such a crop. The team had agreed to let boms, who had led previous teams he had been in, take over the reigns of leadership from moto. The problem was that moto agreed with the idea only outside of the game, inside he would assert himself forcefully and take over at times, often with poor results.
"The team had sort of a crisis of leadership, specifically moto being unable to let boms lead the team despite the team as a whole deciding this was the new situation. On top of that, our teamplay was really weak and the energy just wasn't there. It was a disappointing CPL but I can't say it was really surprising. Despite the good WCG performance, the team wasn't meshing so good and the leadership situation wasn't settled at all."
-steel, speaking about the CPL Winter Event 2003 (SK Gaming, 2012)
The u5 team which had knocked 3D out of the upper bracket would go on to finish seventh overall. This team was led by a young leader (Hare) who had a fully tactical approach to the game. Their players were, from one to five, not as skilled as the 3D players, who were all stars in the scene, but they played with cohesion and a style which worked. Where 3D's strategy seemed played out, trying to brute force wins with their individual stars, u5 were fresh and exciting, Hare's tactics centering around rising star AWPer fRoD.
Some of the u5 players were precisely the kind who could have never hoped to get a place in 3D, due to not being individual stars, but played teamplay roles within u5 to make the team more than the sum of its parts. This is significant because in the following year 3D would be faced with recruitment opportunities and often choose, motivated by moto, not to give chances to some of the scene's rising talent.
Eight months of nothing
In May of 2004 Bullseye announced that he would retire from professional play, leaving Team3D. Less than three weeks later he joined compLexity, a new team funded by a lawyer who was so set on having his own top CS team that he had signed Bullseye to a huge contract and promised to build a team around him.
June brought the USA qualifier for ESWC and 3D were determined to attend the French event this year, even bootcamping for the qualifier. Their primary challenges looked to be u5 and NoA, with two spots available for the final. In fact 3D would not even get a chance to face either team. A narrow 11:13 loss to TSG, with a different line-up to the one that had beaten them in the CAL Invite final, and a beatdown at the hands of Rival meant 3D hadn't even cracked top four at a domestic qualifier. There would be no ESWC in 2004 for 3D.
“This was probably one of the worst ways for a tournament to play out, as well as probably being the low point of my stay in 3D which lasted 3 years. We were soundly beaten by teams that weren't significantly better than our own. This is despite having been boot-camping in the Los Angeles area for over a week prior. The biggest factor in this crushing defeat was the fact our sleeping schedule became increasingly distorted due to negligence as the boot-camp advanced and by the time the tournament came up we could not in any way get a full night's sleep the day before we played. While not an excuse for the awful way we played at that qualifier, it was definitely a contributing factor into this under-performance.
The team as a whole was experiencing a performance vacuum at this point in time, notably because of a change to the in-game leadership as well integrating the loss of Bullseye. Had this team qualified for ESWC, it would have taken a miracle for it to perform in a top 5 manner."
-steel, remembering the ESWC USA qualifier of 2004 (SK Gaming, 2012)
In the semi-finals of CAL Invite Season 10 the team were beaten by a zEx team made up of newer players. In the middle of July the team's problems become overwhelmingly apparent, embarrassed at EverLAN with losses to TEC and u5, again unable to even reach a match-up with NoA. In 2003 3D had overcome their losses to still secure top placings and play the elite teams closely, now moto could not keep his team within striking range of the top teams, losing to numerous lesser sides on a regular basis.
That Summer's CPL was another shambles and another 13th-16th place finish. Being trampled on by eventual champions EYE would have been okay, but elimination at the hands of EG.ca, a team with no significant accomplishments as a line-up, would be hard to swallow for players who still considered themselves the best in North America.
Saved by WCG
With the TSG team that had beaten 3D at the qualifier going on to a top four finish at ESWC, 3D decided to recruit Volcano to their team, since they needed another American for their WCG campaign anyway. The saviour for 3D's year was that WCG qualifier. Again they secured the top spot, qualifying for a three straight year as the American champions. Aside from splitting two razor thin series with Rival, 3D handled the rest of the competition to earn their Global Finals spot. This year the location was to be San Francisco, home soil rather than South Korea.
"SK, Titans - nothing is going to stop us"
-moto, following his team's WCG USA 2004 qualifier win (2004)
This WCG was slightly different, played on Condition Zero as opposed to vanilla CS, the key difference being that grenades were more powerful. Reaching the playoffs of the WCG, 3D looked initially shaky, losing the opening match to Finland's astralis, but came back to win the series. After cruising through and easy match vs. Singapore's team, 3D reached a semi-final against SK.swe.
This was not the all-powerful SK of 2003, they had lost in-game leader elemeNt. While they had recruited Hyper, a highly touted individual player and the MVP of CPL Summer champions EYE, SK had been practicing with SpawN and had injury force them to bring their sixth man, who had not been prepared to attend, with them at the last moment. SK were the favourites for the series, and indeed had been hot in that tournament, but they were not unbeatable.
The opening map was another train loss for 3D, but they took eight terrorist rounds in the first half of the second map, inferno. On the pistol round of the second half moto had his team-mate boost him onto a box inside the A bombsite. Dropping behind it, the plan had been to have a player help him get out if the opponents went to the other site. With his team-mates being killed, moto was stuck behind the box, with no way to escape. A stroke of good fortune came his way as SK perhaps out-thought themselves, heading back to that bombsite with their four remaining players.
A terrorist moved in to check the boxes in the back of the site and moto shot him in the head. Another terrorist was planting the bomb at the usual spot, facing the balcony, and moto quickly killed him too. With a whole 1m41s on the clock the last two SK players could have easily taken the bomb, which had fallen out of moto's sight, and gone to bombsite B and planted, with nothing the American could have done about it. It's key to understand, though, that in high pressure CS matches there is rarely time to stop and think a situation through like that, players often go into autopilot and rely on their killing ability to get them through.
Repeating his first feat, moto killed the next SK man to his left and then turned to his right and killed the last, inexplicably winning the round from a supposedly impossible situation. This round is still fondly remembered to this day, to the extent that box is still referred to as the "moto box". What's perhaps not widely known though, is that moto himself actually played a part in inferno becoming one of the best CS maps.
The creator (narby) had approached moto in 2001 to ask for advice on how to tweak inferno, since the map had big problems, like the lack of a T side halls and a bomb spot directly in CT spawn. moto provided some advice, which was then applied, and narby thanked him by adding "wvu moto" as graffiti on the wooden area underside the small sand pit next to the library room. This pit it only in-game metres away from the box behind which moto won his legendary clutch round.
Up 9:4 after his clutch, moto's team never looked back, rolling through to a 13:8 win. The decider saw SK completely broken, 3D won 10 T side dust2 rounds and took the match and series after eight rounds of the second half. For the second straight year 3D had reached a WCG final, but this time they had beaten the previous year's champions to do it. The opponents they would meet there were no less fearsome or favoured though. The other finalists were Denmark's The-Titans, a team that had won ESWC in the Summer. At the Summer CPL they had only finished sixth, but that had been due to age restrictions not allowing them to use teen prodigy whiMp. At WCG no such restriction could limit them.
moto dispelled the nightmare of the previous year's WCG immediately, with an eight round T half on train leading into a complete CT side shutout for a map one win. The second map was cbble and the first half again began so well, 11:1 as CT, but the Danes rallied to equal that feat. The game dragged out to three overtimes before 3D could close it out and claim the WCG title. With a gold medal around his neck and a cheque worth $50,000, the most he had won in his entire CS career, moto had overcome a year which might have ended his career, winning a major event in the latter third of the year.
The run into another CPL
Late November brought another CAL Invite final, but moto would again be left on four titles, this time losing to a W.E.W. team many thought were possibly cheaters. That took a little off the shine off the WCG win, but moto felt as though offline play would make that result irrelevant. The team decided to use the WCG line-up for that Winter's CPL, eschewing veteran player steel as a result. This was an example of moto's tendency towards superstition, something I'll address later.
At the CPL 3D were far from a dominating force. After escaping a 16:14 mill win over g3x they faced GamerCo, the new name of the Rival team that had finished third at the CPL that Summer. moto had refused to accept that the Rival players could be legitimately good, considering their third place and, fellow West coast team, D!E's fifth place at that Summer CPL a fluke, proof that anything could happen in a single day of play. In this match, on nuke, 3D began with a huge 12 round CT half. Switching to the terrorist side would offer a chance to show that 3D's execution was superior, but instead another T side collapse of moto's career, albeit not with him calling the strats, had his men lose out 2:13 to be beaten 16:14 on the final round.
After smashing MiBR in the lower bracket, on a map the Brazilians had barely ever played, 3D's elimination came at the hands of a Begrip team featuring cArn and dsn, future core players of the legendary fnatic line-ups. In the seventh place decider it was only fitting that D!E defeated 3D to compete moto's humiliation, in light of his previous notions about D!E and Rival. At this time he was still beyond reason on that topic, unable to accept that some players had improved and some teams could beat his with lesser players, skill-wise.
It was a new era of CS, with all the top teams featuring less skilled but vital role players, while moto and 3D continued to plug in superstars to an already loaded line-up and wondered why they didn't have better results. In the game against Begrip moto's own play could well be questioned, as he chose to repeatedly go down the sewers as CT on mill and get killed or be unable to help his team-mates out.
"After their large success at the WCG 2004 leading up to this CPL, 3D decided to keep that line-up and use me as a reserve player. Due to this, I had the rare opportunity to see the team from a front row spectator role. I saw some bad habits that were going unnoticed and uncritiqued, a habit that is definitely not advantageous in the long run. I also saw some clear disconnections between the leadership and some players not used to the person calling at the time (boms)
This did not manifest itself early on in the tournament, but as the matches played out and the tough situations piled up, it became increasingly evident and spiralled the team downhill from the moment it hit a critical point. Arguing during a match is definitely something that cannot be accepted at a big-money event and this kind of incident ate away at the team's confidence until they were eliminated in the loser's bracket.
Skill-wise this team was on a very good level but the psychological aspect was definitely dragging down the team's morale and spirit."
-steel, giving his perspective on the CPL Winter Event run of 3D in 2004 (SK Gaming, 2012)
In early 2005 steel retired and the team brought in cbz, a friend of Ksharp's who had played for tsg with Volcano previously. In May the team attended CPL Spain, in Barcelona. Upset twice in a row, by Finland's wings and France's Hostile-Records, had moto's team eliminated in last place. The same month they failed to win the ACON5 qualifier, losing in overtime to a coL team which was now considered NA's best side, having followed a fifth at CPL Winter up with a second at CPL Spain.
moto and his team decided a roster change was in order, bringing in Dominator and sending boms to the bench. Dominator had been one of the players moto had been slow to accept was a legitimately good player, but now they were desperate to try anything to succeed. The team attended ESWC without moto, a trip which was highly underwhelming, as they failed to get out of the second group stage after tying all three games there. In late July it was announced that 3D had acquired shaGuar and method, while removing cbz. moto was officially announced as having gone inactive, and would not played in any of the year's remaining events.
In his absence 3D seemed to improve, winning out in three domestic tournaments over coL. After winning another WCG qualifier, they attended the 2005 WCG Global Finals and again won the gold medal, this time in CS:Source. That Winter's CPL was another disappointment, failing to place top eight this time, and early in 2006 they lost out on a top two spot at the GGL TransAtlantic Showdown. The team and moto decided it was time to try again, with him having had an extended period away from the game. On the 31st of March it was announced that he would take over as in-game leader again.
The triumphant return
"Taking a break definitely helped my game because I’m much more motivated now than I have ever been. I had been playing Counter-Strike for over 5 years and was just really burnt out.The thought of playing Counter-Strike made me sick to my stomach and truthfully I never though I’d ever have the desire to play again."
-moto, on his period of inactivity from play in 3D (ESEA, 2006)
The world moto came back to was a very different one from that which he had left. Since his failure at CPL Spain, coL had won ESWC to become the best team in the world. SK.swe had then risen up, and these two teams had shown that the era of all-star teams of individual stars winning the trophies was well and truly over. In 2004 teams like The-Titans had established that the right role players fitted into the right tactical approach was a winning formula, now SK and coL were using that formula to rack up top placings.
The first big domestic test was at WSVG LanWar, in Louisville. Reaching the upper final 3D were beaten out 14:16 against Pandemic. After surviving a thrilling 16:13 game against rivals coL in the lower bracket, they earned a chance at revenge against Pandemic in the final. This was more than just revenge, it turned into a bloodbath, as moto's debut big event saw him lead his team to 16:2 dust2 and 16:1 inferno wins, taking first place in resounding fashion.
Two weeks later moto headed to France for the first ESWC tournament of his career. The campaign began poorly, losing to French team WebOne in the first group stage. In the second they managed to tie NiP, who were the champions of the European WSVG event at Dreamhack, thanks to a last second defuse from moto in the final round. Winning the next two games 3D were through to the bracket stage. Fans and media alike expected their opponent in the quarter-final, Lunatic-hai, to manhandle moto and his men, the Koreans having finished second at CPL Winter six months prior. Instead it was the other way around, 3D stormed to a 16:2 nuke win.
In the semi-final moto faced fnatic, a line-up modern day fans will know to be filled with winners, but then a team with no offline victories under their belts. When one considers that there are many out there who consider f0rest, the star of this fnatic line-up, the greatest CS player ever, it's understandable that it can be difficult for modern day fans to appreciate the context of fnatic's gradual rise, this was a team who was bursting onto the scene, but still lacking the experience to take home a major title, something which would evade them until the end of the year's circuit.
The map was train and one of the repeating themes of moto's career resurfaced once more, going up 12:3 in the first half on train, only to end up losing the match. At one point his team at been at 11:2 in the first half, then, even after fnatic's huge comeback, they'd gotten as close to victory as 14:11. In the end it was fnatic who came up with all the key clutch plays, winning the map on a final round 1v2 from Tentpole, one of the forgotten all-around stars of CS history.
The third place decider had aTTax wreck 3D and moto's men were forced to settle for fourth place. Still, this had granted moto's career the distinction of seeing him place top four at all the major tournaments of his era. After rejoining the ailing 3D this placing stood out as a significant return to the top end of the scene for 3D and their captain. There wasn't much time to revel in their run though, as the WSVG ISC event took place in Dallas a few days later.
The tournament began ominously, as 3D were almost eliminated in their opening match by the absolute unknowns of desire 2 excel (d2x). On dust2 3D lost the opening eight rounds as CT and were down as badly as 2:9, but rallied to win out the last four rounds of the half and finish at 6:9. Losing the terrorist pistol and the two following ecos, the score was at 6:12, would later reach 8:14, and it took a risky buy and some resurgent play from the #1 seed to beat the #64 seed and prevent the upset.
That narrow escape should have been a sign that 3D was in trouble in Dallas, something confirmed as they lost two matches later to Brazil's g3x. Beating up on two mediocre teams only allowed moto and company to reach the final 12 teams. In the lower bracket they faced fnatic, in a rematch of ESWC, but the map this time was nuke and 3D were handled 16:6. This elimination in 9th-12th place brought them down off the high of ESWC, back into the position of being a very beatable team, at best streaky.
Days later the this was proven as the team lost the CEVO-P final to JMC, admittedly in close fashion, yet a loss nonetheless. Next week came the Championship Gaming Invitational (CGI), a four team tournament with a large prize purse, to be aired on DirectTV cable television. In the studio environment the teams played in a modified ruleset of first to 10, so maxrounds 9. 3D were able to beat NiP in the opener, but lost to coL in the final, with $35,000 riding on the result. 3D were forced to settle for second and $15,000.
Two months later and moto attended his fourth WCG USA qualifier, with 3D winning their fifth straight. The team's form was very promising, as they put forth some real statement games. A narrow loss to Pandemic in the semi-final opener of their Bo3 series was followed up with monster 16:4 and 16:1 performances on dust2 and nuke, respectively. In the final they 16:1'd u5 in the train opener and then won an overtime dust2 game to take the Global Finals spot. Every year's WCG qualifier had seen 3D rising to the moment, and the past three global finals had brought them top two finishes. This time, with the game in CS 1.6, they would be playing in Monza, Italy, but not before playing again domestically.
In the middle of October it was the DigitalLife tournament, an event the moto-less 3D had won last year. The final ended up being a rematch of the previous year, facing coL, but this time it was fRoD's men who won the series, with the two coL wins being very tight losses for moto and the boys. Hopes of following that LAN result up with a WCG gold medal were short-lived. 3D ran into NiP in the WCG quarter-final, only to find themselves faced with a quite different beast from the team they'd played twice already that year. The previous NiP line-ups had been before the addition of SK star SpawN to the mix. SpawN stepping in for HeatoN transformed NiP into the best team in the world, with them having won two tournaments since then, heading into the WCG finals as the favourite. 3D made the series competitive, taking 12 rounds in the first map and losing the second in overtime, but NiP were just too much for them to handle.
Nobody could have known it yet, but that would be the last major event of moto's playing career. His final event was the WCG Pan American games, with 3D taking coL star AWPer fRoD to replace Volcano, who could not attend. They reached the final, but lost there to cogu's MiBR, the team who had won ESWC a few months prior. moto stepped back from the line-up, leaving Dominator to return and play with the team at the WSVG New York Finals. America's first great leader had hung up his mouse. He would go on to coach 3D in CS:Source in the CGS league the following years, but for traditional CS fans this was the end of moto.
moto the captain
In telling this story certain themes arose over and over, setting a wave-like rhythm across moto's career. As a leader he was a vital force in North American CS, early on picking up on the need for regularly schedule practice and real tactics. Aim had carried his first great team far, dominating their region, but it would run out as the best approach soon enough. During his TSO and early 3D heyday moto had been one of the very best in-game leaders in the world, able to out-duel and out-think even Europe's best on his good days.
With those sparkling highs came lows of equal proportion though. Used to being the smartest guy in the room, moto suffered from being incredibly stubborn in certain respects. When the game switched to revolving more around scouting the opponent and tailoring specific tactics to them he lagged far behind, sticking to the philosophy that anti-strats were time wasted that could have been focused on your own team.
"Well I've always kind of avoided trying to design strats just for one team, cos there's so many teams out there if you get into the habit of trying to design strats for different teams, you're going to be worrying about 'who's here?' and 'who's there?', 'what are these guys going to do?'. Sometimes you've just got to worry about your own game and then bring that, and if that's not good enough to beat another team then you don't deserve to beat them anyway. It's too much to actually worry about another team, there's too much in CS to worry about everyone else, you've just gotta worry about your own team."
-moto, speaking about anti-strats at CPL Winter 2003 (GotFrag/MFAVP, 2003)
moto the talent scout
Likewise, when it came to new players he could be as stubborn as with his approach to the new way of playing the game. Having been at the top of CS for so long in North America, and seeing other players trash-talking while knowing they wouldn't be able to compete with Europe's elite players, moto had grown so disillusioned with the scene that he was almost incapable of granting less accomplished players respect. If they had ever trash talked him or been beaten by him, then he was convinced that they could not match up to 3D's level or overtake then.
Any result by these improved players was written off as a fluke, a sign of how random CS had become. This was most apparent in the case of Rival, who managed to establish themselves as the most consistent North American team in 2004, while moto was still waiting for the other shoe to drop and them to be dumpstered back out of the top 16. This attitude bled over into player recruitment, as it took players reaching the top of the scene before he was willing to truly consider them as potentially legitimate top team performers. Dominator was always waiting on tsg, but until he reached the semi-finals of ESWC he wasn't even on the table as a prospect in a discussion with moto.
method had long been considered one of the most individually skilled players in the region, but moto pointed to his lack of good decision-making a reason to keep him out of the recruitment pool, despite players like Rambo and steel actively pushing to give him a try. More importantly, the skill and experience issue worked against 3D at times too. They were constantly stuck with the problem of being unable to remove anyone from their line-up, since everyone had been a star player at some point in their careers. Where 2004 and on should have been about removing the fading stars and inserting key role players like sunman, instead moto allowed players to stay on the team who either didn't fit, or were living off their past successes.
moto the player and tactician
moto himself straddled the position of being a star and a leader. In TSO he had been asked to carry a lot of the fragging load as well as being in the tactician, by virtue of other members being role players and more teamplay-focused than fraggers. In 3D moto was a middle man, who could thrive as a clutch round winner and a fragger, but also took his turn as a role player. 3D's problem was always that having so many stars meant simply hoping someone went off, which didn't always happen, and thus left people unable to fulfill the more fundamental roles at time, or being ill-suited to.
The most confusing component of moto's play was that on one hand he could be truly clutch, shining under pressure and winning big rounds to give 3D a chance. Then, on the other hand, he could break down as a player and leader. It's no coincidence that his career is littered with key train games in which his team had huge CT leads, but failed to execute on the terrorist side and get the required rounds. Those kinds of situations are where the great in-game leaders shine, figuring out how to get enough out of a tough side of the map to grind out the last few rounds to secure the victory. In this respect moto could sometimes be found lacking, a great frontrunner but not a great tactical strat-caller from behind.
Despite such problems, he was reluctant to truly hand over the reigns of leadership to others, as boms struggled from not being allowed to fully fly in his own right as the tactician. Eventually he did hand them over, but by then it was too late and 3D seemed entirely confused as to what the role demanded, as shown by Rambo's era calling.
Some of moto's desire to stick with the old ways can be seen in his superstitions. There were certain behaviours that he always engaged in across his career. Much like a hockey player who gets too obsessed with sharpening his skates before every game, moto would religiously change equipment and set-ups. One game he'd be playing on a big resolution, then 640x480. He'd bring in a new mouse and try a new sensitivity, then when he had a bad game he'd try something else out.
This compulsive nature did have its positives, and I have an example from sports history to draw a parallel with. In professional tennis one of the great overachievers of all time is the Czech player Ivan Lendl. Modern day fans of tennis will known Lendl as one of the game's great winners, with eight Grand Slam titles to his name. In fact, early on Lendl was considered a loser, someone who fell apart in the big moment. He lost his first four Grand Slam finals and five of his first six, in total. Lendl turned his game around by an openness to try anything that worked though, always looking for that edge.
This lead Lendl to try out the same racquets as his biggest rivals, learning what each offered and where the strengths and weaknesses lay, so he could integrate that understanding into his play. Perhaps most impressively, he had a court installed in his house by the same workers who made the court used in the US Open. The result? He would reach eight straight US Open finals, winning three in a row at one point.
Likewise, moto was one of the earliest CS pros to realise that changing playing environment could change a professionals feeling for his game and mental comfort level. So, early on in his career, he found out exactly what type of table the CPL events in Dallas used, then went out and bought an identical table, allowing him to practice in the same kind of setting as he would be put into for the big tournaments.
A much less positive side of his superstitious nature surfaced in a kind of tick while playing. When engrossed in a live match I noticed that moto would lift his hand entirely off his mouse, rubbing some of the fingers of one hand against each other, as if flicking off dirt, while the round was live. This would usually occur during the downtime of a round, where a player is sat watching a corner and waiting for his opponent to appear. Sometimes I saw him performing this bizarre behaviour at the moment an enemy did appear, leading him to die or have to hurridly put his hand back down and rush to aim.
The man and his monsters
Some players battle themselves, seeking to overcome their own weakness, while some battle the world, seeking to establish themselves as the best. From following his entire career, from 2001 through to 2006, I saw that moto's motivations came from two key battles which repeated over the years. Firstly, there was the battle with Ksharp and Rambo. Initially this battle meant proving he was as good a player in X3, trying to shine alongside the brightest lights in the scene. Later, it was a case of proving to them that his tactical approach was superior to their pugging style.
In time I came to the conclusion that it had been less about beating them than about being accepted and recognised by them, when he became the undisputed leader of the team and they submitted to his approach, he seemd to lose a little of the drive that had led him to battle them so fiercely. This pattern repeated with his other nemeses: HeatoN and Potti, the elite Swedes who won each won nine CPL titles in their careers, eight playing together.
For moto these players represented the pinnacle of competition, so innately skilled and so dominant in their success. They were the mark by which moto could judge his own efforts and the successes of his teams. Winning CPL Winter 2002 meant a lot, but beating HeatoN and Potti's SK team seemed to mean more. Finishing top three at CPL Summer 2003 was supposed to be about proving the CPL win had not been a fluke, that 3D were an elite side, but I suspect moto took more pride in being able to play SK closely, when they were at their unbeatable peak. Finally, in the WCG final of 2003 and semi-final of 2004, it meant a lot to win WCG medals, but beating SK in the latter year, and in such epic fashion, was the highest point of his career.
When moto beat HeatoN and Potti's teams, these were the moments in which his teams often floundered in following events, as he felt as if he'd touched the ceiling and there was nowhere higher to be reached. This can even be seen in the losses to their teams, as there seemed to be a satisfaction taken just from being able to play them closely, a drive that couldn't always be worked up for other, lesser, teams, and thus resulted in some poor placings against easier opponents. The thrill is in the chase, what does one do when they catch up with and slay their prey? When they outrun their enemy and turn to find there is nobody there behind?
The American mind
"One of the greatest leaders of all time. He was the first American to create a team built around dedication and not skill (tso) With hard work and a strict practice schedule, he led them to the first undefeated CAL season. He’s a hard worker and a solid player all around. He's a good competitor, and does what it takes and puts his all in to prepare or to win a match."
-Rambo, X3 and 3D team-mate of moto's for over five years (TAO-CS, 2008)
moto took North American CS from the days of pugging superstar teams to sound tactical teams, well practiced and prepared to win with their minds as much as their reflexes. He took his team to a WCG and a CPL title, placing top four at other major tournaments during his six year career. His teams won more than $237,000 in prize money and, in the case of the 3D line-ups, were revoluationary in their success in the field sponsorship and financial backing. Where America lacked for a leader he stepped forth, and for all of his flaws, his accomplishments resound lounder than the echoes of his flaws.
He was America's mind, the voice reminding them they could be better, and he was my friend.
Photo credits: GotFrag, fragbite, Ognian Gueorguiev, A-gaming, Gamers.nu
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.