Overwatch is quickly becoming one of the biggest titles in FPS esports, and there are glimmerings of something even bigger on the horizon! A recent report by Morgan Stanley even estimated that the League contemplated by Blizzard could be conservatively valued at as much as $100 million… This is the takeoff phase for pro players looking to get in the game, and competitive teams are forming at a stupendous rate. We sat down with one of the game’s best known players, Team NRG’s Seb ‘numlocked’ Barton, to get his perspective on what’s coming next for 2017’s hottest team shooter!
Tell us about your first experiences with competitive gaming!
So what really got me started was when I downloaded a program called Xfire, which let you add players to your friends list across games. I didn’t really get into tournaments until Counter Strike: Condition Zero. Which is a weird one to start with, I guess! laughs. Anyway, I saw people on my friends list playing it, but didn’t really get hooked until I heard about friends playing in Enemy Down, which was a popular Euro League at the time.
I moved onto Counter Strike 1.6 when I discovered Condition Zero wasn’t competitive, and from there to Counter Strike: Source, which was where I had first LAN experience. My Dad drove me like five hours to compete, and we ended up camping together; it was a bit weird because the event was all people who were more like 16 – 18 years old and then there was me at 12. laughs. I’m still in contact with a few people from that team! Then came Team Fortress 2: I joined a Counter Strike clan that also had a TF2 team, watched some of their matches, and basically had to buy it. Then I ended up playing TF2 for like seven years! laughs. It was really the game that set me on the path of wanting to be a pro gamer – I realized you could actually make money and earn a living!
How did you get into Overwatch?
After Team Fortress I moved on to League of Legends, which is obviously a pretty different game. After a few years of that, the beta for Overwatch was announced. At that point, my old TF2 team and I kinda reconnected and talked about the game; we all thought we could be good at it. My passion is really more for first-person shooters, and so I jumped at opportunity to play together again!
How does it feel to be recruited from overseas to play professionally?
Pretty awesome! I mean, just incredible. When I was a kid – 10 or 11 or something – I went on holiday to Nashville, Memphis, and basically did this whole Elvis Presley tour with my family. Ever since, I’ve wanted to live in America. At the moment I’m out in Los Angeles with just one teammate and a manager, but the plan is for us to move very soon to Vegas for a sponsored gaming house with (hopefully) all six of us!
What’s your favorite – and your least favorite – thing about living in the States?
Everything is accessible! I was from a really little village in Cornwall with like a hundred inhabitants, so to move to LA where I can have anything I want within an hour? Pretty insane to me. I don’t like how much hotter it is here though. Like a twenty degree Celsius difference. laughs.
The NRG Overwatch team just played their first competitive matches over the past weekend. I understand you were really under the weather?
Yeah, basically I had a throat infection… Fortunately I’m feeling much better now! I wasn’t able to make many calls, and was pretty much completely mute in the tournament earlier this week. My team was unable to followup on some plays because I couldn’t talk!
What’s the energy like on the team right now? How are you feeling about this week’s games?
I mean, everyone’s super pumped. It’s a new roster, and we’re really excited to be working together and seeing little improvements day-to-day. So even when we lose a match like we did on Saturday, we don’t get down because we know the underlying progress is still there!
The Overwatch League is on the horizon. Is that something you guys are discussing at all, or is all the focus on teambuilding for the here and now?
The League is basically the entire focus to us. The improvement here and now is always going to be important, but the end goal is definitely to be competing in the Overwatch League. We’re aiming high!
You’re known for a lot of things, but among them is your fantastic Reinhardt play! What tips would you give to new players looking to pick up the character? What would you tell those who are comfortable with the hero, but want to take it to the next level?
To the newer players: don’t be afraid to make mistakes and find out what your hero can’t or can’t do. You need to discover the possibilities available to you, and not be confined to being a shield-bot like most noob Reinhardts!
If you’re trying to really improve in Overwatch, you’ve got to focus on little things that can translate to big improvements. Here I mean stuff like learning angles for Fire Strikes that can help build Ultimate charge for free, or how to use walls and pillars to grant cover when you’re dancing with your shield.
The metagame has gone through some big changes with the most recent patch changing most of Lucío’s mechanics. How do you view that hero now? Has he been toned down or will time prove our favorite DJ even stronger than before?
Lucío’s more rewarding position for the player himself now, although it feels a little more wonky playing around the Speed Boost itself. I definitely think he’s in a better spot overall though!
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Shoutout to all my fans and sponsors, especially the fans for sticking by us and knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! laughs. Ok, maybe not that metaphor; it’s a little grim!
Thanks for joining us numlocked! We’ll be rooting for you this weekend!
Thanks for having me! Love to my family, friends, and my girlfriend!
That wraps it up! You can catch numlocked and the NRG Overwatch team competing this weekend: just keep an eye on their official Twitter account: twitter.com/NRGgg