The eSports sector in Malaysia has grown exponentially over the years, especially for highly recognizable titles like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. While most of the financial attractions are segregated among popular MOBA and FPS games, there are other eSports titles that are trying to catch up with the scene, albeit in a slower manner. FIFA Online 3 (FO3) is just one of the many games that are facing this issue, and despite football as a sport has the largest following in the world, its eSports sector is still relatively small.
This renders FO3 players a harder time to rely on competitions as a full-time source of income, yet it’s not a deterrent as some of them chose to be part-time players to pursue their passion in competitive gaming. Veteran team eMaster has been active as part-time players for the past decade, and we recently had the chance to catch up with them to know more about their history, the challenges of doing part-time competitive gaming, and their views on FO3’s eSports industry as a whole.
Desmond Kok: Manager
Kent 'EMaster.Arroyos' Liaw
Alexander 'EMaster.A13x' Lim
Vin 'EMaster.Vin' Chew
Seed ‘EMaster.Seed’ Tong
Gamehubs: How did you all form RB.eMaster? (writer’s note: they were still known as RB.eMaster when this interview was conducted)
EMaster.Arroyos: RB.eMaster was formed by combining two different teams, RBe and eMaster. The current members of RB.eMaster were from the teams that I’ve mentioned, and we joined up after we started focusing on FIFA Online 3.
EMaster.A13x: Seed and I were a part of RBe, along with Vin. He then joined eMaster when it was first formed, but we soon combined our teams under RB.eMaster, which we’ve been using for the past 3 years.
Gamehubs: Are you all former FIFA players or you started right away with FIFA Online 3, and what attracts you all to FO3?
EMaster.A13x: All of us started as FIFA players in 2003, since FIFA Online wasn’t released yet at that time. It was also how we got to know each other as we competed in several tournaments throughout the years.
EMaster.Arroyos: Alex and I first made the transition to FIFA Online 2, and when FO3 was released, all of us took the initiative to play it instead. This is due to the lack of opportunities in the FIFA main series, especially in Malaysia. With that said, it was still a risk for us to make the change since we didn’t know how FO3 will grow as an eSports title, but on a personal note, I was also attracted to FO3’s game modes.
Gamehubs: Do you all started as a full-time player? And at what point in your playing career that you decided to make this into a part-time venture?
EMaster.Arroyos: None of us started as full-time players from the beginning, since some of us are still studying.
EMaster.A13x: We prefer to call ourselves as competitive gamers instead of professionals, because we don’t get paid and our sponsors only supplied us attires and a training venue. As for becoming a part-time eSports player, we started from the FIFA main series, and it’s always been our goal to win big tournaments like the World Cyber Games at least once. This transitioned to FO3 as well, and even though we don’t have much time to play nowadays, we still have the passion for excelling in its competitive scene.
Gamehubs: What kind of challenges you guys face in being a part-time eSports player?
EMaster.A13x: Time would be the biggest issue, since we have less time to train now.
EMaster.Arroyos: Yea, I agree with that. We don’t have the leisure to spend 3 to 4 hours just for training, especially on weekdays as we have work commitments during office hours.
EMaster.A13x: The most we can do is to train at night after work, and thanks to fiber broadband, we can at least still play together. With that said, we are also at the mercy of the connection speed, which can produce high pings at times and make the game unplayable. This doesn’t stop us from training together though, as we’ll gather when a tournament is coming up to exchange ideas and improve our teamwork.
Gamehubs: How do you all juggle between commitments and life as an eSports player?
EMaster.Arroyos: We all know training is an important aspect to remaining competitive in the eSports scene, so we trust each other to do it on our own, since we have been a team for such a long time.
EMaster.A13x: As I’ve mentioned, we also make sure we’ll meet up physically to discuss tactics and way to improve our gameplay whenever a tournament is approaching, without compromising whatever commitments that we have.
Gamehubs: What does your family think about your career in eSports?
EMaster.A13x: My wife wasn’t impressed at first, as she had a bad experience with her ex-boyfriend who was addicted to Dota 2. She prefers a hardworking partner, and I managed to prove myself that I can be committed to eSports without interfering my responsibilities as a husband. Even my parents rejected the idea of being a competitive gamer when we were still studying, which was common. I’m just happy that I can change their mindset by getting proper results, and they ended up supporting me as well.
Gamehubs: Looking back at your career so far, what is your best memory or achievement as a team?
EMaster.Vin: Our recent victory in the National Championships Season 5.
EMaster.A13x: Yea, that is the best so far, even more so on a personal scale. I managed to beat all 3 players from the opponent’s team, which I have to thank both of them (EMaster.Vin and EMaster.Arroyos) for giving me priceless advice in terms of ideas and tactics. It was a nervy experience, since most of us didn’t have much game time except Vin, and we didn’t expect that we can go all the way to the finals and clinch the championship. We even doubted ourselves when we dropped to the lower bracket, but we ended up proving everyone wrong by having strong teamwork.
Gamehubs: All of you are in your early 30s now, which is not common in eSports, so what motivates you guys to keep going as a player?
EMaster.A13x: To be frank, it is because we are still winning. If we are consistently generating poor results, it’s easy to feel demotivated knowing that it’s harder to play catch up to other teams without proper training time. However, we realized we are still capable of being a top competitor in tournaments, so why not?
EMaster.Seed: It’s also important to have a bunch of teammates supporting you, as we can rely on each other to improve our gameplay from time to time. This serves as a huge motivation for us to maintain our career as eSports players.
Gamehubs: You are motivated now, but was there any point in your career that you feel like giving up? And why?
EMaster.Arroyos: Instead of giving up, it came to a point where we have to prioritize certain things in life, which caused us to spend less time for gaming. We were also forced to skip some tournaments because we simply don’t have enough time to train while juggling between work and family commitments.
EMaster.A13x: This is certainly a bummer as we realize the importance of joining tournaments to improve our gameplay, but as Arroyos mentioned, it is what it is. We don’t have the luxury to fully commit ourselves to FO3.
Gamehubs: Looking at FO3’s eSports industry as a whole, if it’s as big as the likes of Dota 2 for instance, would you all consider joining as a full-time player?
EMaster.Vin: It’s always a risk, but I quit my job to be a full-time player, and luckily, I’ve been able to survive in this industry.
EMaster.A13x: We would love to, but looking at Malaysia and Singapore’s eSports industry, it’ll be tough to do so, which is sad since we are not as huge as the likes of China and South Korea. With that said, we’ll try our best to do our part in building the industry, and hopefully, we can be full-time players one day if local eSports can grow as big as we want it to be.
Gamehubs: Football has such a huge following throughout the world, but its eSports sector is still relatively small, despite its steady growth. What do you think that needs to be done to make it bigger? What are the challenges?
EMaster.Seed: In my opinion, Malaysia needs a star player, someone that can be associated with the industry as its face to boost the popularity. On top of that, we also need a proper organization. Garena is doing well in promoting FO3 by having lots of tournaments and activities, but they probably need to improve on organizing and management. Not to say that they are doing badly, and I believe that they are trying hard, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
EMaster.Vin: We also lack exposure, especially in entertainment media, so the media plays a big role in uplifting the status of FO3 eSports in this country.
Desmond: On top of what they have mentioned, we also need assistance from the government. Our team is currently registered under Kementerian Belia dan Sukan (KBS / Ministry of Youth and Sports), but we are facing problems in getting funds from them. Our request was delayed for a very long time, even though we have submitted all the required documents. And it’s a tedious process to apply for funds, as we have to go through the regional KBS office, before they approve and submit the application to Majlis Sukan Negara (National Sports Council of Malaysia), which can take up to a few months.
Gamehubs: As for Garena, what can they do to improve FO3’s eSports sector? In regard to their lack of organizing and management.
EMaster.Seed: I believe they are listening to feedbacks from the community, but there seems like a lack of transparency in the way they manage things, which might come from the higher management team in the company. Maybe they are lacking manpower in FO3 and focusing more on League of Legends, since it’s their biggest money making machine? But of course, this is just pure speculation on my part.
EMaster.Arroyos: Personally, I think Garena has their strengths, especially in marketing for FO3. They reached out to the community and expand the player base, which can be seen in their efforts to organize events in universities. In terms of eSports, they are lacking in the management of tournaments. For instance, the format that they used in competitions is one of the most complicated versions that we have seen. Besides that, Garena has the quantity in terms of FO3 tournaments held throughout the years, but they are lacking in quality. Are they doing it just for the sake of having competitions, or are they trying to achieve something in eSports?
Gamehubs: I have previously talked to a few FO3 players, and they mentioned that Garena might be involved in some sort of match-fixing by putting certain competitors in easier brackets. This will give them an easier pathway to progress in the tournament. Is that true, and what are your thoughts about this?
EMaster.Vin: I think what you meant by match-fixing is the seeding system. From what I’ve seen so far, there isn't any evidence of Garena doing it, since they did live streams to draw the teams into their respective brackets.
EMaster.A13x: They are doing it (live streams) now but that wasn’t the case before this. Like Arroyos have mentioned, Garena’s tournaments lacked quality in terms of management. There was a shortage of experienced marshals to handle tournaments, and seeding was done previously done without any form of transparency. With that said, as we provide our feedbacks to them, they eventually organize live streams to organize the brackets.
Gamehubs: Based on the concerns that were mentioned, do you think that Garena is trying their best to rectify the issues?
EMaster.A13x: Credits to them, I believe Garena is trying their best to improve the quality of tournaments. But there are certain problems that kept resurfacing time after time, which can be frustrating, considering there is only one major qualifier every year and if they screw it up, we’ll have to wait a long time to get another opportunity.
Gamehubs: All of you are considered veterans in this field, is there any regrets or something that you wish you could have changed?
EMaster.Seed: Nope, none at all. I believe all of us have done well by ourselves in terms of being a top competitor in FO3, and instead of looking back at the past, we prefer to move forward and be ready for new challenges.
Gamehubs: Is there any advice you can give to prospective FO3 players, whether they want to do it full-time or part-time?
EMaster.Arroyos: They must have the right mindset and attitude. This will allow them to persevere to the end and reach the path of success, as they might encounter difficulties in the early days.
EMaster.A13x: Talking from my personal experience, it really helps to have a strong mindset, considering there aren’t many FO3 players that manage to consistently stay at the top after debuting. I’ve been a poor player once and getting thrashed used to be a normal occurrence in the early days of my career, but I pulled through by having a positive attitude and the will to learn from my mistakes.