The second qualifier of the Overwatch World Cup: Group Stage was held in Sydney, Australia last weekend and after a stellar run through the ranks – our very own Blank Esports whom is representing Australia came out on top qualifying alongside top team Sweden after knocking out a strong and dedicated Japanese team.

Between the matches, I managed to sit down with their captain – Andrew “RQT” Haws plus manager/coach Jason “SereNity” Wang to discuss the Overwatch World Cup and the state of the esports locally in Australia.

You guys have been playing overseas in the Overwatch Pacific Championship. How does it feel like to finally play in front of a home crowd?

RQT: We’ve been in Taiwan for 3.5 months now for the Overwatch Pacific Championship (OPC) with a bias crowd always laughing at us when we’re getting exploded by the other team. So it’s really amazing to come here and meet people we know from online and have this amazing crowd supporting us – it just feels phenomenal.

SereNity: The biggest difference between the two crowds is that in Taiwan they always laughed at our mistakes. Marcus “Kiki” Jacob, he lost his mech once and he was getting staggered – the crowd just laughed. It really broke my heart so having a home crowd is definitely a welcoming change.

What are your thoughts on this Overwatch World Cup: Group Stage setup? It’s pretty insane to see something like this held in Sydney especially for Overwatch which is a fairly new title in Esports?

RQT: Yeah it’s insane. It’s great to see the events come to Australia and for Blizzard to support the country is remarkable.So far it’s an amazing event, the location is good with a crowd that’s actually sold out.

SereNity: There was other countries that they could have held this tournament where they’ve a more established esports scene and Blizzard. There’s still a stigma against esports in Australia, so I was really surprised they actually chose Australia.

Agus: An event like this says gives the scene more awareness and growth in Australia?

SereNity: Yeah in esports, Australia doesn’t really have many tournaments and this is so far one of the biggest events to happen locally so far.

The game (Australia vs. Sweden) will be broadcasted on Channel 7, which is a first for the title and another big milestone for local Australian esports – what are your thoughts on this?

RQT: Feels amazing with every step in the right direction of exposure not only just for Overwatch but Australian esports in general to audience that hasn’t really grasped it yet. Like the atmosphere is so much better in the stadium as well – everyone coming together for such an event.

SereNity: Most of the games have been streamed, for us it’s basically the same as Television but this is a really good opportunity to basically showcase esports on TV and it will give a lot of exposure for the organisations and players helping outsiders invest into esports and help out the Australian scene for all titles.

Blizzard Entertainment – Photo by Robert Paul

As an established team (Blank Esports) representing Australia coming from the OPC, did you guys have to change anything or do anything different to your current line-up and training?

RQT: Not really to be honest, our practice for OPC really doubled up for the Overwatch World Cup. Nothing has really changed on how we approached the game so we’re pretty much the same team we were over there.

SereNity: Our biggest concern though as an established team is that the competition can analyse us. Find our mistakes, find our weakness etc. We considered to change things up, make something new maybe? But we’ve decided to stick to what we know and how we practice because we’ve been playing together for so long. This seemed like the right choice in the end.

Agus: And it seems like it has been going really well with a win against Portugal and Spain.

After the win with Portugal, how do guys feel about going into the match with Sweden tomorrow?

RQT: It feels amazing because we know Sweden tied them 2:2 and being able to 4:0 gives us lots of confidence going into the match against Sweden.

SereNity: We watched the games and our concern was either Sweden was weaker than anticipated or Portugal is a lot better. If this the case of both then the results today will determine how we perform against Sweden.

In the prep leading up to the Sweden match, a highly ranked team in your group – how are you guys training to take them on.

RQT: We’ll watch their matches a lot and in-depth to determine how they’ve been playing plus also play how we’ve been playing. If we can exploit them from watching the VODs that would be great but mostly just focusing on us really.

SereNity: The things we’ve found out by watching Portugal before taking them on was used against their defeat. So definitely watching their games is key to how we can play against Sweden.

Blizzard Entertainment – Photo by Robert Paul

Let’s discuss about the Overwatch scene locally, where do you think Australia sits in the overall esports for the title.

RQT: There are some fantastic players in our local pool at the time we were forming in November last year. Basically hoarded all the talent when we picked our team. Outside of our team, there’s a lot of spread talent across the board like there’s remarkable players some coming from playing Team Fortress 2 professionally floating about. At the moment, there’s not a great deal of support or incentive for them to try as hard as we did as there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities arisen yet.

Agus: I guess because the game’s esports is quite new, there hasn’t been a grassroots scene developed especially for these talented players to break into the pro level.

SereNity: Yeah I guess Australia is so geographically spread as well, makes it hard for our region to play against other teams/players from different regions. Also if you look at the rankings for Australia, it’s all mostly just DPS players. There’s hardly any support or tank players mostly because ranked play is favoured towards DPS because they’re so highly favoured to win.

In terms of Overwatch as an esports, what do you think the title needs to improve the competitive scene?

RQT: In terms of just the game, it’s gotten a lot more advanced and complex since it was created to where it is now. In my opinion, they’re already developing it in the right direction and we’ve seen continually improvements in that sense but some features that are still missing like replay and more spectator options would help increase visibility and clarity for the game.

SereNity: My biggest hope for Overwatch is mostly heroes. They love heroes but they’re not really viable for competitive play. Hopefully Blizzard can improve upon the heroes or make new heroes to a better composition overall. The other big thing I’m hoping for Overwatch right now is hoping they can add a single-player story campaign. I reckon that would be sick.

Agus: For which character would you like to see a campaign more for?

SereNity: Haha hoping they can do campaigns for all the characters because Overwatch has a really interesting universe and I hope they can make a story mode for this.

We would like to thank both RQT and SereNity for taking their time to sit down with us during the Overwatch World Cup group stages as well as Blizzard for organising the interview. You can follow the team’s journey to Blizzcon on their Twitter.