History was made in Paris when Team Vitality won their first and last CS:GO Blast.tv Paris Major after such a long run and facing so many challenges throughout their journey. Fans cheering loudly, players and the staff crying, everyone hugging, and ZywOo finally winning a Major; what could be a better storyline than this?
Happy emotions were all over the place among Vitality fans as they picked up their trophy, and I sat down with Anne Banschbach, the Director of Esports, to get to know more about this journey closely and discuss about the team's future plans as we get closer to CS2 launch. You can read the full interview below.
Interview With Anne Banschbach, Team Vitality's Director of Esports
Vitality won their first and last BLAST.tv Paris Major, how has the journey been through all these years? How is the environment in the team?
Anne: We are all incredibly happy to have won this. I mean, it goes without saying that it meant a lot to us because it was in Paris, because it was the last CS:GO Major, because it's the 10-year anniversary of CS:GO, because it's the 10-year anniversary of Vitality, it was dupreeh's first Major with his baby attending. You know, there were a lot of firsts and a lot of big moments there for us. It was ZywOo's first Major trophy, and I think he is one of the most deserving people to win a Major.
Well, a matter of time, but we finally did it. So, we are super super happy, and super proud about that. It was a big achievement for the company, specifically also for Neo, our co-founder and president. Neo and Nico co-founded this company together, and Neo is an emotional person, but not someone who get tears quickly, and when we won, he was crying happy tears. We were all ugly crying on the stage, and it moved my heart; it was amazing.
In general, how's the team? I mean, it's not so much about riding a high; I think right after the Major, of course, there's a high, you know. You run, you celebrate, you have done it, and then, we gave a little break to them.
We opted to skip Dallas just to give them some time to breathe, reset, refill the tank a bit, and then be there for Blast. We came second in Blast, as you could see in the last game, and at that point, they were just tired. There was nothing left to give in, and I think that's fine. You know there's a tank, and sometimes you can replenish it over a player break like right now; sometimes it's just full, and that's what it is.
In general, the atmosphere is really good; I mean, how would you feel after winning a Major? They also know that there is a rocky road ahead of them with uncertainties regarding CS2, and of course, being on top always means you are under pressure to deliver more or to be dethroned. So, of course, they are aware of that, but I don't think it's a big pressure; I think it's more curiosity, you know, an outlook on the future.
As you know, CS2 will be coming soon, i.e., this summer. What are Vitality's future plans regarding the same in terms of preparations?
Anne: That's a great question; I mean, the whole team has access to the game; they play the game. It's a bit of a question mark because no one knows what to expect; of course, the team is looking at it. I think it requires an intense couple of weeks of practice to get used to it. Ultimately, as I said in an interview, CS2 is fundamentally not a new game; it's more like a mod, a bigger update, but they will get used to it.
Of course, we'll have to have dedicated sessions on that, but it won't fundamentally change who they are as a DNA. There are so many things you can assume, but you never know what's going to happen and how it will affect your team and other teams. If it will work with the players or not, if all the players will enjoy it after a couple of months or say, actually, this is not for me, you don't know.
But I look at this, and I am relaxed in this sense of what comes, and we'll cross that bridge when we get to it by preparing for what we can right now, and we will do that...
The current roster is working well; however, just to ask, can we expect any additions or changes?
Anne: To answer that, of course, it's always our job to be on top of the scene and what's happening in roster moves and things like that and being in close touch with the coaches. Do we always have back plans, options, and scenarios and have everything planned out? Yeah, because otherwise, we would not be doing our job.
It's a competitive environment. In German, we say, if you rest, you rust, so, of course, you need to check, but there are so many puzzle pieces moving regarding CS2 also. I think there will be, in general, a lot of movement on the market because of that and because of uncertainties. So, let's see.
There were communication issues in the team, which was confirmed by you as well, but after seeing how the team is performing, we can say that it has been worked on well. How were these issues solved, or has the team found a way to avoid, for example, the language barrier?
Anne: Yeah, the communication issues happened in the beginning when the roster started off, and because there were some French native speakers, some Danish native speakers that in both of their times only played in their native language. So, of course, there was a struggle; however, since it has been over a year or a year and a half, these have been overcome with practice and communication.
But by that, I don't mean just the language barrier. Communication can also be under pressure situations, i.e., having the right calls and knowing what they mean, but of course, they dedicated an intense amount of time to this. So, I can safely say that this has been overcome because sometimes, if it used to be only two French guys left or only two Danish, they used to switch to their native language, but recently, they have stopped that.
It's funny because in our recent voice comms, you can see, ZywOo and apEX still being alive, "speaking in English, and dupreeh shouting, "Go French Go French," and they just didn't; they stuck in English because they were now used to it. So, you can see that it has been overcome, and when I say communication, it's not just talking, it's about being on the same page, having the same game culture, expectations, and playstyle, and expecting the same from your teammate and they have done that hard work on the road to Paris.
They have shown that they have done it successfully, and that's why it works right now, even though they are tired.
Do all Vitality players have access to CS2, and if so, are they practicing the new mechanics that have been added, and how much is the team ready for CS2 tournaments?
Anne: I mean, right at this very moment, players are on really well-deserved summer break, so I do hope they are not practicing. They are probably playing individually on it and, of course with that practicing on their own time. We also have had some sessions, but so far all the tournaments that we have had, the entire focus was on CS:GO, but we can't neglect CS2 as well.
So, it will be more of an individual preparation for now, trusting that they get familiar with the mechanics moving forward. Also, with that being said, I also can't reveal the whole training approach that we are taking because that's the secret sauce to it all. But yeah, right now, I hope no one is practicing because it's day 3 of the player break, and they just got back home from Washington, and I really hope they are getting over the jet lag doing nothing.
We might see Vitality playing in a CS2 tournament soon, given that its release is coming closer. Do you think it might be an issue for the team to get used to the new mechanics in such a short time?
Anne: I wouldn't call it an issue, but is it challenging? Sure. Are we the only ones facing this challenge? No. Every team is facing the same challenge, which I think is interesting to see what will happen, and I think the first one or two tournaments on CS2 will also not be representative of the actual skill level maybe.
Maybe that will be about who had more time and who is a quicker early adopter. Is it going to be easy? I don't think so. Is it going to be an issue? No. At the end of the day, this is their job, they will fully focus on it, and they will be grinding for it like if your system has an update in your job, you would make the switch.
It will be challenging for a couple of days, but then you will get used to it. It just remains to be seen how other teams deal with it and who comes on top really.
Valve has announced some of the stuff coming to CS2; however, a lot of that is yet to be revealed. As of now, as you mentioned, the game is just like an update/mod. Do you think that we can see something Major closer to or after its release?
Anne: Well, never speak for Valve, so I don't know, but I know that Valve is really focussing on CS2, and they want to ensure that it has a good launch. So, I think for them, the priority would be getting the gameplay smooth, getting it to run at the same standards that they are known for, and keeping that up, as you can see in the patch notes as well.
If I had to guess, I would say I don't foresee a massive curve ball thrown at us in the short future because it is already a big change. I think ensuring the quality product will be the base of it, but then again, we all learn never to assume with Valve, and who knows if they have something special planned. Still, even if that's the case, one curve ball for us is a curve ball for everybody, so I am not worried about it in that sense because it will be the same thing for everyone; everybody has to deal with it, no one has an advantage so yeah, it's going to be very interested to see.
Anything you have to say to the Vitality fans around the world?
Anne: Thanks to all the Vitality fans that showed up at the Major that supported us online, but also to all the fans from other titles as well. Honestly, you can see over the past weeks, as you know, Vitality had a bit of a rough week. The fans are really supporting us, and it really shows that we don't just have many fans but also quality fans.
Honestly, it wouldn't be possible without them; it's an incredible joy to see that, to meet the people in person, to be recognized, and to go up in the crowd and speak to everyone. To hear the sheer power at the arena made me cry; quite frankly, it made me tear up, and I think that's what we all are here for, and it's just really an honor to be a part of it.