DANIËL BASSON

From 4 September, Tuks Gaming will run the next leg of their Orena University League (OUL). The league aims to develop the winning players by exposing them to international leagues. Perdeby spoke to Morné Snyman, chairperson of Tuks Gaming and co-founder of the OUL, and Maryke Kennard, vice-chairperson of Tuks Gaming, co-founder of OUL and chairperson of Tuks MindSport Club, about the league.

You and your partners teamed up with Orena earlier this year to form the Orena University League (OUL). How has the response been?

Morné: Since we started Tuks Gaming last year, and [with] Maryke being very influential in the League of Legends community due to being in various professional clans and playing competitive League of Legends at DGC at rAge a few times, the response to the league was very positive and supportive from both Tuks and the SA League of Legends community. We had 12 teams compete (1 withdrew halfway) from Stellenbosch, UCT, CTU, UP, Rhodes, and Midrand Graduate Institute. When we were expanding the league to other communities, though, we got quite a bit of resistance from communities questioning the need for the platform (not many of them were students though) and there was some toxicity, but in general the students in the communities have loved the idea and have started the process of forming teams.

What benefits has this league had for Tuks Gaming?

Maryke: It put us on the map for future Riot tournaments, including the European University league which we might end up joining, bringing more challenges/opportunities to our current players.

Morné: It has really put us on the map overseas and locally. Tuks has become known in the university gaming circles abroad as tough competitors. We now have close ties to similar societies abroad, such as the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge’s Gaming Societies, and we started having eSports weekends annually with them and a couple of other societies in Europe where our Tuks teams face their best teams in titles such as Hearthstone, Dota 2, Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. Both these universities compete in NUEL (National University eSports League) in the UK and the competition is fierce, which gives our teams really competitive matches. The league has also provided a platform for many students to form teams, and we’ve seen these teams evolve into them playing together during their free time and becoming friends, which is quite awesome.

Riot Games supports your league, which means that a lot of the focus is placed on League of Legends, but with interest rising in Dota 2 and Hearthstone, how is this going to change the dynamic of your league?

Morné: It’s going to change how we run everything and our structures that we use. The games differ quite substantially and we’ve had to adapt new rules and structures for the various titles in order to allow for the expansion. We’ve also had to enter into discussions with three of our European partner leagues abroad in order to agree to a common ruleset that can be used so that our international matches are possible without any problems. Three of the European leagues have also agreed to take up Hearthstone in their legs starting in the next couple of weeks.

What has it been like playing against gaming teams abroad?

Maryke: Teams abroad for League of Legends have a huge advantage: ping. They have lower ping times than us since we do not have our own servers, but we do look forward to facing them in South Korea at the International eSports Federation (IeSF) world championships if our first team qualifies.

Morné: The Tuks|JuanShot team also competes as the first team for Tuks MindSport Club, which sees them competing in the upcoming National Trials for the South African team going to the IeSF International Championship. Francois Mouton will be going to the trials to compete for the Hearthstone spot on the SA Team.

How does South Africa compare to these international teams?

Morné: In League of Legends, the winners Tuks|JuanShot were very close to the skill level shown in the leagues abroad, even with the 120 ping difference. The SA teams have had to adapt their play styles to accommodate the 180 ping that they get. The international teams normally also follow different strategies and metas than what we see with the South African university teams. We just had Francois “Fafa” Mouton on Sunday compete against some of University of Oxford’s best Hearthstone players (Legend rank) in exhibition matches to advertise the league, and saw him win the set of 5 games 3-2, and it was quite close. These players will be competing for the NUEL title in this leg and was a good indication that the skill level of SA players in Hearthstone is not so far behind the international university scene. At least with Hearthstone, ping doesn’t matter as much so it’s easier for the players to play internationally against other universities.

Tuks|JuanShot won the last leg of the OUL, which will see them compete against multiple European Universities. What opportunities await the winners of this semester’s competition?

Maryke: We are organising some RP prizes again and [are] getting some good gear for the winning teams. We want to show the world that our university has the talent to compete in the EU league.

What are Tuks’ prospects in these upcoming gaming meets?

Morné: As we have quite a big community of gamers at Tuks (estimated at a minimum of 500) and Tuks having quite a number of competitive gamers that also compete in DGL, our prospects are quite good for the upcoming leg of OUL and if they win the international matches.

What are your hopes and goals for the expansion of the league?

Maryke: To get some talent developing, bringing universities together, and getting this big enough to start a Varsity Cup type competition for online games.

Morné: To get development going in the SA eSports scene and to get more students exposed to international competitive gaming. We’re also hoping to see more gaming societies forming at universities across the country and these societies becoming gaming communities, such as Tuks Gaming where teams become friends and where you can meet like-minded people.

Illustration: Jackie Zhang

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