It’s been a big announcement week for PUBG esports as two teams from Oceania were invited to compete on the international stage. Athletico who has been competing in the local tournaments on the CyberGamer ladder were invited to represent our region at the PUBG Starseries I-League. Before the team heads off to the Kiev Cybersport Arena in Ukraine, I caught up with them to talk about the announcement.

First up, I spoke to Bassel Ghobar also known as ’P0ngo’, Athletico’s PUBG in-game leader. He stated the pressure is on them as they’re the first team to represent the region in PUBG on an international level.

“Obviously there is a lot of pressure on us to do well on behalf of the Oceanic scene, but at the same time, it is a very proud moment for the team and it definitely feels good to see all our hard work and hours rewarded.” Regardless of the pressure and expectations, ’P0ngo’ has mentioned “Even to this day everything feels surreal, and honestly it will continue to feel that way until the day we arrive in Kiev.”

Speaking of talent within our Oceanic scene, I asked Athletico’s Jesse ‘Neferhor’ Watson about our talent in comparison to the world and how we compare on the international stage. He mentioned that he always believed “OCE has always had a super talented region across many game titles.”

“PUBG is one of those games where, you don’t just need aim, you need brains and that is why I think especially in PUBG we (Athletico) have a much better chance of becoming a top team worldwide. All of us are talented individually and will have no issue when we come across other teams in StarSeries.”

The Athletico squad was announced part of the South-East Asia/Oceania reveal alongside other teams such as MiTH and South Korean’s OGN Entus Ace whom recently won the PUBG Survival Series 2018 Season beating teams like FaZe. Without any international experience behind them, the squad is still looking to make a name at their very first international event.

Like the PGL PUBG Invitational, the Starseries I-League was only invite-only for our region as no local qualifiers took place. This method no matter the game is always met with some controversy regarding the spot however Cyril ‘uNkryh’ Carmien has said the overall response has been extremely positive.

“So far, the community feedback has been extremely positive, aside from a few setbacks, but I’m sure the whole OCE community will be watching and supporting us when the time comes, I’m not worried about that.”

“Well, if I’m being completely honest, at first when it was announced (to us only) we really didn’t even think about that. We were mostly happy that we’d be able to represent our region internationally and motivated about doing well because it could open doors for other teams, and shine a light on the OCE region that has great talents too.”

With Australia being pretty much sheltered from the rest of the world especially when it comes to esports, it can be hard to train the team to compete or keep up with international skills and talent. ’P0ngo’ definitely agrees with the statement. However the team has just been extensively practising and training in as many local tournaments.

“Probably the biggest form of practice would have to come from competing in the PUBG tournaments currently being hosted in Australia, including Cybergamer and Ground Zero and attending scrims run in the Oceanic PUBG scene. All this combined allowed us to have a good and consistent source of squad practice for weeks on end leading up to the tournament.”

Part of their training was to work on individual skills which ’P0ngo’ has explained that this is done via the integrated replay system.”Watching personal replays and vods and being able to analyse the team and individuals thus allowing us to be rid of bad habits as well as strengthening weaknesses has and always will be a very important way of improving – and that is something we have definitely done in preparation for Starladder.”

With the game coming out of Early Access late last year, asking the players about the state of the game especially when they’re playing it competitively is always an interesting one. I asked Lachlan ‘Heffaa’ Heffer about what was needed to improve the game as an esports title and he mentioned that they (PUBG Corp) “need continue positive development that is driven by competitive community feedback; most importantly frame rate issues, cheating and core gameplay balance. The spectator system needs a major overhaul that is more user friendly and better adept to focus on the action.”

“Finally as a spectator the game can feel slow paced and plain during the mid-game so some incentive for teams to fight earlier would add value.”

Heffaa is right with the game needing more development on the spectator side of things to build its audience. Without a smooth spectator system that overall shows the quality of the game itself – PUBG may not find that right audience but again, everything is still being developed and improved upon.

With a lot on their shoulders as the first team going overseas for PUBG, all eyes will be on them to see where our region sits on the international level. Taking place between March 1st and 4th 2018 at the Kiev Cybersport Arena in Ukraine, the PUBG Starseries I-League features 16 teams and a $100,000 USD prize pool. You can follow Athletico on Twitter here for the latest on the team heading over.