Q&A with Joona “natu” Leppänen

1422541968535 Today's interview is with a person who is often considered as one of the most important players in the Finnish Counter Strike scene, Joona "natu" Leppänen. With over 15 years of experience in the bag, Natu is easily one of the most experienced guys in the scene.  He has competed at the highest level of Counter Strike in both of the games major versions (1.6 and CS GO) and has had his fair share of success back in the day with teams like  Destination-Skyline, Four Kings and 69°N-28°E in 1.6 and of course 3dmax in Global Offensive. So naturally when I first heard the news that he has been signed by Ninjas in Pyjamas to lead the team as their new coach it came as a bit of a surprise and sparked a lot of questions. Fortunately I was able to get a Q&A session with him a few weeks later after he came back from Fragbite Masters Season 4 finals, where among many things we talked about his transformation from a player to a coach, NIP’s adaptability in the current Meta, CS GO’s return to IEM and Get_Rights impact as an IGL. So let’s get in full swing and see what he had to say! Zenith: So Natu you just came from Fragbite Masters Season 4 Finals, How did it go? Natu: I like doing casting and analyst gigs as it gives you a good possibility to brainstorm about the game from different angles. The only problem I think with the current concept of how these desks are ran is the lack of time and depth we can really go in to. Other than that, great experience and Fragbite are great people along with my colleagues at the event. Zenith: Do you think if EnvyUS also attended the tournament then the results would have been different? Because even though TSM have been FNATIC’s kryptonite, they haven’t faced EnvyUS that much in a BO3 series since reaching their new found peek. Natu:  Well don't own a magic eight ball so I can't really say for sure, but I do think TSM is a very strong team currently and they have found a flow in their play which is very hard to play against. Envy on the other hand has been struggling with finding their ways recently so I don't think it would have made a massive difference honestly. Zenith: How is the transition from a player to coach going for you? You have been playing at a competitive level since you were 16, so naturally it must have been a bit weird to be the guy in the sidelines for a change and work behind the scenes to make a team work. natu to coach Natu: I've been away from playing the game for a couple of years earlier so it wasn't something totally new to me. Of course as a gamer you would love to play until forever, but it was something I had mentally been preparing for. I like the people I currently work with so it has been mostly positive change. We have mutual respect and it has been a lot of learning the first couple of months about them and about where their comfort zone is. Zenith: How different is it watching matches as Coach, as opposed to a viewer and players perspective?  Also naturally when you analyze a match you will find flaws and mistakes, how do you deliver the criticism without sounding harsh? Natu: You look at small details, timings, communication, how do they play out situations and instinctively help one another out in small plays for example. In this level everyone has to be able to take negative criticism, but it has to be constructive obviously. There are plenty of ways of saying and showing things without “insulting” someone. It is basically similar to any other form of coaching or being a manager in business life. You just need to understand who takes criticism in what way. Zenith: So far how has your experience been as a coach? Do you think coaching, analyzing, casting etc. are now becoming a more viable career options for players after they retire? coaching importance Natu: Yeah, I think it is the future definitely. The differences between winning and losing are so small that you want to take every inch with you as you possibly can. Someone with the ability to see the whole picture and be able to showcase things and manage people well is definitely a plus for any team. In terms of casting it all depends on the personality and how comfortable you are in that situation. For myself I enjoy it and it's a fun way to stay intact with eSports. Zenith: Do you think the current Meta is part of the reason NIP is not doing as well as we expect them to do? Because while teams like FNATIC, TSM and EnvyUS are using the powerful pistols + Scouts combo to their full potential, NIP are failing to do the same and therefore maybe falling behind? foprce buy Natu: I don't believe it's that black and white. There are a ton of other flaws and things that I see as problems before any changes in Meta. Our biggest issue right now is to have everyone in the zone and feeling super comfortable when they play. When you have a natural flow things happen faster than you can snap your fingers. I think we are slowly getting that back and I see things progressing on the right way. It just isn't something that happens overnight and takes more time than most people may think Zenith: Since Get_Right has now taken up the role of an IGL in NIP, what you as a coach has observed to be different? GTR IGL Natu: As you probably know, Xizt took back that role again. But I must say GeT_RiGhT has some of the most deep knowledge and understanding of other teams out there. He also has an exceptional situational awareness which translates to his ability to be the kind of a lurker as he is. This also can be an asset when you lead a team. I think he can make some great mid-round calls but lacks the confidence as he hasn't got as much experience in the role, hence the switchback. Zenith: During the 1.6 era more Asian teams were involved with Counter Strike, however that is no longer the case with CS GO.  While there is a pretty good general fan base, the competitive scene in Asia comparably is far inferior to what Europe has right now. What do you think is the reason behind this? asian scene Natu: They haven't focused in CS: GO as much as the rest of the world has. As far as I know a lot of them have been playing another version of Counter-Strike which is targeted to the Asian market, and that cannot be good in terms of CS: GO’s development. I'm sure there is plenty of potential in Asia and who knows maybe in the coming year or so we will start to witness that. Zenith: As we all know recently Electronic Sports League announced that CS:GO will be featured in Intel Extreme Masters Season 10, which is kind of weird given that their excuse for not including it was the lack of interest in Southeast Asia and China in the game. Well that hasn’t changed much. So do you think it is safe to say that now they simply want a piece of the growing scene of CS GO, instead of genuinely believing it has the potential to be a great competitive game? Also do you think this changes anything for CS GO? Since there really is no other noticeable advantage to this instead of the name ‘IEM’. iem-katowice Natu: I would just say that I'm more worried about the oversaturation when it comes to the amount of content CS: GO currently has. It makes everything a huge blender for the fans and it makes scheduling impossible for the teams. At this point I'm sure many of the top tier teams are starting to be far more selective on what they participate in. It is without a doubt all about money when it comes to business – hence no one should be surprised any organization wanting to be a part of the Counter-Strike circuit right now. Zenith: What is your take on Skins and betting on CS GO?  We have a fair share of both haters and lovers of them in the scene, but it is undeniable that they are a crucial part of CS GO’s growth and also somewhat responsible for all the DDOS, match fixing etc. Natu: It's something I don't really care about too much. Skins are fine in itself I guess, I have some myself but I don't spend much time to it. Gambling should never be accessible for minors and that is my only big problem with skin betting currently.  DDOS ok yeah, that is a problem! But it has become a responsibility of the players to make sure they are protected from these kinds of acts by now. Zenith: Among lower tier teams are there any that you can see growing into a top tier one in the future? gplay performance Natu: This is a very hard one. I would like to give Gplay some credit for their hard work though, I don't think many really see them that high up in any rankings – but from what I've seen they are one of the most hard working teams out there and it's showing off. Zenith: After the whole NA match fixing incident and the shuffle that took place later, do you think they will be able to stabilize and be a threat to the EU teams once again? na scene Natu: Eventually, I suppose so. Once they have the necessary talent and have the ability to combine that talent into the right mixtures. I'm not saying there isn't talent in NA – because there is plenty of it. But it's more about finding players that mesh and work well together. That seems to be the problem they have right now. Zenith: Finally any parting words for the fans? Natu: Thanks to all the great NiP fans out there, it is very cool to see how much following this team has. Especially DreamHack was almost overwhelming with the local fans going bananas for team. Well that’s about it for this one guys, I would like to thank Natu once again for making time for this interview from his rather busy schedule now as a coach. You guys can give him a follow over at Twitter and Facebook , also make sure you tune into his stream via his Twitch channel, where he tries his best to interact with the fans.    
  • Mohabbat Jan

    awesome interview as always. good work zenith.