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Undetermined: A Cautionary Tale

This piece is meant to get facts regarding the situation with TBD/DTG to the public. Both parties involved were contacted for comment and used to provide additional support for statements made by the Author.

The Rise

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On June 30th, FXOpen std.pngFXOpen e-Sports stood alone at the top of the North American Challenger scene. They defeated former LCS team Complexitylogo std.pngcompLexity Gaming in the finals of the MLG Spring Championship to claim $20,000 and a guaranteed spot in the 2014 LCS Spring Promotion Tournament. Two weeks later, the team decided to leave FXOpen, and became To Be Determinedlogo std.pngTo Be Determined. The roster of Westrice, heavenTime, Arthelon, ROBERTxLEE, and NydusHerMain were in the beginnings of a run of dominance in Challenger events that would include claiming the first two ggLA Challenger Arenas as well as an 11-2 run through the MOBAFire Challenger Series Regular Season. The top tier of Challenger teams has been a short list without much consistency historically, but To Be Determined was (and is) a permanent fixture.

Organization

Behind the players of every team is a support staff that often includes managers, coaches, or analysts. For To Be Determined, the longtime face in the background was Anne “Treasure” Armstrong. As the Chief Operating Officer of FXOpen, Anne oversaw the transformation of the FXO roster into one of the most successful amateur teams of 2013. When the team parted ways with FXO, Anne left with them, becoming General Manager of To Be Determined. Anne sought sponsors and opportunities for the team, but differences in opinion amongst the players and staff left TBD unsponsored throughout the lead up to the LCS Promotion tournament, the biggest chance for exposure for an amateur team.


The Decline/Roster Shakeup

Internally, TBD struggled to match their streak of success as summer became fall - the team failed to take first in any events and began with a disappointing 4th place finish in NESL Pro Series Season VII. Team synergy was at an all time low, and internal frustrations were high. “The environment around the team became non-conducive to improvement as a player, even reaching into being toxic,” former jungler Simon “heavenTime” Jeon said, “it was the major factor in my decision to eventually leave TBD.”

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On September 24th, Arthelon and NydusHerMain left the team. Bubbadub joined as the new support for TBD, and with Arthelon returning to the team shortly after, things began to look up. The addition of Bubbadub allowed for a change in team environment, and the players began living together for the first time. Less than a week after Arthelon rejoined, heavenTime was replaced with Brokenshard, the former Dragonbornlogo std.pngDragonBorns jungler, and polarizing community figure. Original FXO member Jon “Westrice” Nguyen thinks the addition reinvigorated the TBD lineup. “Once Brokenshard came into the picture, the current roster has been the most successful,” he said. The results certainly show improvement. After moving Brokenshard to starter, TBD posted a 16-6 record in the NACL Regular Season, as well as cruising through the LCS Spring Promotion Tournament group stage at 4-1, and being viewed as least desirable matchup for the relegated LCS teams.


The End of TBD

December 11th saw the players of TBD announce a pending name change in a Reddit post. The move was a surprise to many, particularly the evidence of an uneasy transition: “The current TBD Twitter and Facebook... do not represent our team.” While not yet announced, it was evident that TBD had parted ways from their support staff, particularly Armstrong. In another Reddit post two days later, TBD “reformed” as Determined Gaming, announcing the new name, as well as a new Team Manager (Lynnea MacKay, who was managing scrims for Curse Gaming) and General Manager (Jerrus Lumijarvi).

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Disputes

Everything presented above thus far was confirmed by all parties involved, but several matters were held in contention. Most significantly, in talks with Armstrong, she suggested the move blindsided her and that she was not involved with the teams decision. On the other hand, according to Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal, the team discussed Armstrong stepping down from finding sponsors or owning the team, but staying on in a managerial position (finding scrims, ensuring tournament participation etc.). In the process of the discussion, “we told Anne we would prefer her not be owner, but retain her position as manager. She became upset and responded by saying she quit,” Djemal said. Matters were not diffused when Armstrong did not relinquish control over the Facebook and Twitter pages for To Be Determined (the accounts were either never discussed, or were held hostage), which was the primary factor behind the name change.


Takeaways

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The timing behind the move is certainly unfortunate for all involved as it came one week prior to the biggest match in team history, as Determined Gaminglogo std.pngDetermined Gaming will face off with the new Eglogo std.pngEvil Geniuses lineup for a spot in the 2014 LCS Spring Split. Regardless of the circumstances and personnel surrounding the sudden changes, it is important to recognize that a key factor was a lack of binding for anyone involved. Armstrong explained, “With contracts never being signed, we relied on trust. I trusted the players when they said they we'd look out for each other.” As trust goes both ways, the team felt Armstrong was not holding up her end.

According to Brokenshard, “Anne failed to perform some of the basic duties expected of her,” and “it came to a point where the team did not trust the competence and personality of the manager, and decided to look for services elsewhere.” With everyone involved relying on trust, the slightest perception of grievance can cause even the most tenured of teams to become unsettled. Signing contracts is a daunting concept, particularly when believing better opportunities could be on the way, but also allows for all parties involved to be free from relying on promises. The Challenger scene for League of Legends is a “Wild West,” with a lack of established protocols or authorities and a penchant for sudden, drastic changes. Everyone who chooses to take part does so at their own risk, hoping the opportunity provides a payoff to validate the investment.


The story of To Be Determined provides an important look into the uncertainty of even the highest level of Amateur eSports, and the importance of communication by all involved.



Written by David "TheDynasty" Spitler - @TheDynastyLoL
Contributions made by João "LazyJohny" Dias
Edited by Jordan Spence - @SanctifiedLoL


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