The world's first full-time pro gamer, Johnathan "FATAL1TY" Wendel, made a name for himself as a Quake champion in the late nineties and early noughties.
But esports has changed so much since 1999. Today, FATAL1TY still has his own line of merchandise and streams on Twitch, and recently announced ReadyUp, a new team management platform that helps amateur and pro esports teams manage rosters, scrims and player development.
In the first of a two-part interview, we have an in-depth chat with FATAL1TY about ReadyUp and how it could change how esports teams operate.
Esports News UK: Can you tell us a bit about ReadyUp and why you got involved with it? Esports News UK is read by amateur esports organisations in the UK. What can ReadyUp offer them in particular, and to casual players and pros?
FATAL1TY: The thing I saw missing in esports was mainly just people getting engaged, and finding a place to start. The mission of ReadyUp is trying to create simplicity for people who want to get into esports and the management side of it.
We're going to help gamers organise matches and practices, getting information for the tournaments they know, and working with the leagues to get teams to join tournaments. To try and create a more simplistic way of gaming.
A lot of people ask me how I got into esports, and that's a really difficult question. You need to sign a team up, join a tournament, there are so many facets. If you play at a football club, there's probably a system in place, so we want to create that infrastructure and simplicity of getting people started.
We're catering to the weekend warriors to the casual players and more amateur gamers and those who want to take it very seriously, and at the pro level.
On the player development side we want to help teams find the player they're looking for. If you need an Overwatch support hero or healer for example, we can help them find that person, and help that person find a home.
"We'll be pulling data from games and offering player development for organisers and captains of teams. Player development will become a very unique feature of our system."
Why did you personally decide to get involved with ReadyUp?
This has been my secret project I've been working on behind the scenes for a long time, and finally I've found the right people to help make this a reality. It digs deep into my skin.
For me I just want esports to be taken as seriously as traditional sports. And I think that's happening more and more every day right now.
So we're creating tools that already exist in existing sports and bringing them to esports, so catering to all types of different games, from FPSs to MOBAs to RTSs, any game you play in the world, you can create and build your team on here.
We're going to help you organise and make it easier for you to connect with your teammates, find new players and so forth, through an easy web application and smartphone app.
Please tell us about the team.
Roderick Alemania is acting CEO and co-founder with me. So using his network of people he knows from San Francisco and whatnot was able to take this to the next level really fast.
We talked on January 17th and I told him that my idea of what I'm working on and this is my dream and I want to build this for esports. For me I want to see esports grow and grow immensely. I've kind of been Johnny Appleseed, the guy holding the flag for esports for 18 years or so now all over the world.
Sean Allen is our CTO, he was in R&D and architect over at PlayStation for like 15 years. So he's doing an amazing job, making sure we keep things very simple and so forth.
The team's really driving right now and it's a really exciting time.
"This has been my secret project I've been working on behind the scenes for a long time, and finally I've found the right people to help make this a reality."
Will there be a desktop app or program?
There's no program on the computer at this moment. We'll probably run a web app and so you just go to the website to manage the team.
The organiser or leader might need the web app for more detailed information, but the smartphone app is really capable. We're building out somewhat of an MVP product to showcase over at E3 to investors and whatnot.
This is a prototype we've been working on since April. We're moving really fast and we're having a lot of progress along the way. Everything has been flowing very nicely and coming together well - we're excited to have something readily available like a beta near autumn.
What kind of pricing and packages can people expect to see from ReadyUp?
We'll have a free version, but then we'll have some special premium features added. We're still working on what features people will pay for and all the nuances of that. But we have a pretty big roadmap ahead of us with all the things we want to do.
We'll be pulling data from these games and offer player development for organisers and captains of teams. There's so many cool features where the player development thing will become a very unique feature of our system.
Knowing a person's role is DPS or sending out a calendar invite to practice or play at a certain time, the first to six sign up get their positions for example. It's a cool thing. It's why we called it ReadyUp - we want to engage people to connect with their friends and those who have a similar interest.
The app calendar will tie into existing calendars very easily. We'll bring more organisation to competitive gaming, so instead of people using Facebook groups or whatever messengers or documents and files, we're able to remove a lot of that clutter and create organisation. We're on the right path.
"We'll bring more organisation to competitive gaming, so instead of people using Facebook groups or whatever messengers or documents and files, we're able to remove a lot of that clutter."
Can you tell us some of the specifics here and explain how ReadyUp will work in greater detail, will there be graphs and specifics on player development, will team captains be able to set certain goals for team members?
We're not really going into specifics yet, but we're working on a lot of different ideas around that. It also comes to how much of the API is available out there from the games developers themselves.
The more they let us into their systems, the more we can help other people.
Is ReadyUp targeting any orgs or certain games in particular?
We're agnostic to all leagues and all platforms, for me I want to be able to help everyone that wants to use these kind of tools.
If they're playing PC, console or mobile games, whatever they're doing, they need to have somewhere where they organise events, practice and get better with their friends, or they want a social moment.
Some people might go to the bar with their friends for a drink, other people might want to hop online and hang out with their friends too.
There's all kinds of people out there on the internet. Some people like to just cause havok and be a pain to people, others to socialise and hang out with friends.
I know professionals who love to play, but how do you help them organise their calendar? We're doing a lot of cool features around the calendar which will be very unique for gamers that want to connect and have a rich experience.
"It's not just for esports, it's for casual players and those who want to have a good time too."
So it sounds like ReadyUp extends beyond esports players. Are you going after casual players and streamers too, and helping with their schedules?
Yeah. I think anyone that has a group or a following, they can engage with them through this platform. I think there's a lot of different ways we can help in that regard.
I call my subscribers the practice squad on my Twitch channel. I can arrange the first person that 'Readies Up' on my stream can play with me. So it's not just for esports, it's for casual players and those who want to have a good time, looking at gaming as entertainment.
If you want to play golf with someone, you have to book tee time, and when you want to play a game with your friends you can book it and set it in your calendar. You can get notified 'in one hour you're playing with your friends' then they can get the right mindset.
The theme of ReadyUp is all about engaging that kind of environment - getting in the game.
Right now when you match-make it's based on your elo, it's not based on if you have other common interests or are the same age, or have anything in common. There's usually one person on the team who's extremely toxic and doesn't want to help anyone do anything.
So if we can create a better environment where you're not exposed to these toxic people... or you know, if someone wants to be toxic they can be toxic together, that's fine too. You can create your ultimate toxic team! The whole idea is enriching whatever you want to do on the internet - whether you're amateur, casual, and so on.
In online games like League of Legends and Overwatch, solo queue comes down to luck whether you're placed with a good team, or a toxic team, or a passive team who don't talk for example. Can ReadyUp help solve this problem?
Yeah. Say you want to play Overwatch with really aggressive-style players, not defensive players, you can mix and match play styles. I play Overwatch a ton and I was teaming up with complete randoms, I was having to work on their psychology to try and get them to play effectively together.
I usually go DPS. And if those guys wanted to go DPS, I'd say okay, I'll go Roadhog or a tank or whatever, and if we win the first round we'll carry on in the same roles, but if we lose I'll go DPS.
And so I had to do these mind tricks with people or give them an understanding. And it started working. I started levelling up because I was a leader. Sometimes you won't get DPS no matter what, it's funny dealing with players on the internet - it's hit or miss.
But when you find that one good player, you're like: "Hey let's play again."
Having good team chemistry... at the end of the day you're playing a game, if you have good people on your team then you'll play better.
We're trying to connect players so they become friends in whatever service they're playing.
We're also going to try and help those guys enter tournaments. We'll be talking to tournament organisers and developers so that a team can automatically enter a tournament [through ReadyUp].
Check out part 2 of our interview with Fatal1ty - about all things esports and his time as a former pro gamer - later this week.