Interview

Tadpole on Triple Trouble’s RLCS collapse, Rival Series rebirth with Bluey

February 12, 2020 - 21:21
Rocketeers / Interviews / RLCS / RLRS / Teams /

Triple Trouble was one of the standout stories of Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) Season 7. The unsigned former Red Reserve squad continually beat expectations to make it to the World Championship, with a clear sense of unity and familial support around them as they made the playoff bracket. Triple Trouble’s underdog success secured their status as fan favorites, and they were seemingly poised for a bright future together.

Instead, it all fell apart in the offseason. Aldin “Ronaky” Hodzic departed first, taking the open spot at FC Barcelona, and then Andy “Kassio” Landais left two days later for Veloce Esports. With those moves, Triple Trouble no longer maintained two-thirds of its roster and had to forfeit its RLCS spot for Season 8. That left Euan “Tadpole” Ingram without a team, the competitive opportunity that he had earned alongside his comrades, and—as he tells Rocketeers—a purpose and desire to continue as a pro.

“Mentally, it’s a tough thing to talk through. It was probably one of the hardest times in my life,” he explains. “Up until that point, for a year and a half, my entire life had revolved around Rocket League. And the two years prior to it, simply just being a competitive Rocket League player and doing my best to improve. Having that ladder system going all the way up, we never took a step back: it was RLRS, then Top 4 RLRS, then promotion tournament, RLCS, Top 6, and LAN. We never took a step back.”

“And then to have the biggest drop-back possible happen… it was, in the least cliché way I can say, heartbreaking. It was a really, really tough time,” he continues. “I have my family, my girlfriend, and my friends to thank for me still playing the game today. Because I genuinely, for a long time, considered retiring straight after it happened. That was the state of my mental health at that point.”

Flaring emotions at the time led to back and forth tweets and Twitlonger explanations between players, family members, and a lot of chatter in the community—a painful divorce capping off what had previously been such a heartwarming story. With time to reflect, Tadpole says now that he understands why his former teammates made their respective choices, but that it wasn’t the choices themselves that were so upsetting in the first place.

“People tend to get it confused a lot. It was never the decisions that were made,” he says. “I look now and I look at Ronaky playing for Barca and Kassio playing for Veloce, and I don’t doubt that both of those players made the right decisions when they had those decisions given to them. It was the way it happened, the way I was treated through it—it was incredibly disrespectful. From two people that I genuinely considered family, it was the most unexpected thing that has happened to me.”

Seizing upon another clichéd phrase, Tadpole says that time really has been the best healer, and that continuing to compete—last season with Method in the Rival Series—has helped him work through the situation. And despite what happened, it hasn’t been radio silence with his former mates.

“Over time, it will clean itself out,” says Tadpole. “Ronaky and I have exchanged words every now and then. We’ll wish each other luck in where we’re at, and hopefully that will be the end of it. Hopefully all of us can move on and have better careers through that.”

A second chance

Now Triple Trouble is back, albeit not in the same configuration as before. The familiar logo remains and Tadpole is still at the heart of the team, but now he’s joined by his Method teammate Rix “Rix Ronday” Ronday from last season, as well as a surprising new third: Dan “Bluey” Bluett, the veteran RLCS player who was the European MVP last season with FC Barcelona before finding himself without a team.

“Probably the biggest pull factor through it is having optimism,” says Tadpole of moving past the previous collapse of Triple Trouble. “I think this roster now should have a lot of optimism. Having Bluey join us as well gives a lot of that off.”

“The way Triple Trouble ended felt unjust,” Tadpole adds. “I would much rather give it a second chance and hopefully end with us getting signed by an organization rather than a big Twitlonger explaining how things have gone wrong, and a statement saying we were going to forfeit our spot. It’s a better-fitting end to it.”

Tadpole and Rix Ronday played last season with Boris “Borito B” Pieper, Rix’s longtime teammate. Finishing 3rd in Rival Series league play as Method, they had two opportunities to be promoted into the RLCS: through the Rival Series playoffs and then the promotion tournament. Method flubbed both chances, falling 4-3 to Team Singularity (after being up 3-1) the first time around, and then losing to both Team SoloMid and Complexity the following time. Method would stay in the Rival Series for RLCS Season 9.

“I thought and still think to this day that we could have built something really, really strong with that roster. It was just that under pressure, we tended to struggle with rotations and decision-making—which tends to happen to a lot of teams, but it cost us a lot,” says Tadpole. “It’s the small margins that we all love Rocket League for in the first place, but when they go against you, it’s not fun in the slightest.”

Over the offseason, the trio was open to re-signing with Method. However, Method—after a few seasons of diminishing returns in Rocket League—made a lesser offer than the roster was comfortable with, so they started putting the previously-considered plan in motion for Triple Trouble’s rebirth. Tadpole says that they all agreed to consider opportunities with other teams at first, just to test the waters before moving forward for this season.

“At the start of the offseason, I put a message into our group and basically said: Look, there’s no preference I have for where the roster goes. Any roster of me, Rix, and Boris, or even if that stays together—but I think we should have 2-3 weeks for anyone to try anything they want to,” he says. And then Bluey popped up in search of a new home.

“I was still more than happy to keep the same roster, but I don’t think we could turn Bluey down if that opportunity came around,” adds Tadpole. “He’s just come off of an MVP season in the RLCS. It’s not something where I could live with myself if we were to turn down Bluey in that situation.”

Bringing in Bluey

Bluey is an immensely talented player who has repeatedly proven himself at the RLCS level—a truly elite, mechanical force with a DreamHack championship under his belt, as well. But he’s a player who, at the age of 18, has already accumulated some baggage in the competitive scene.

He first came up in the RLCS with Frontline, which joined PSG Esports in Season 4. They had a fantastic season right off the bat, but when struggles hit in Season 5, he was benched after making disparaging comments about his team. Granted his release, he teamed up with past RLCS champion David “Deevo” Morrow and then-unknown Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois to form Savage!, and quickly stormed through the Rival Series to vault back into the RLCS. FC Barcelona signed them and they made it to Worlds in RLCS Season 7, but were less successful in Season 8 despite Bluey’s own impressive stats.

Over the offseason, FC Barcelona dropped Bluey in favor of former Complexity player Hrant “Flakes” Yakoub. Given Bluey’s past situation, rumors suggested another falling out with teammates, and fellow EU player Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson (ex-Renault Vitality, newly with Mousesports) inflamed those rumors on his stream. Bluey posted a Twitlonger about the situation, taking responsibility for his past actions on PSG (“I made a big mistake and ran my mouth publicly,” he wrote), but asserted that his departure from FC Barcelona didn’t have similar origins.

“Things were not working out on the team, and some people on the team felt that it might be best to swap me out for another player,” Bluey wrote. “That’s just esports, boys, and that’s life. Sometimes a personnel change is in the best interest of everyone involved, and I do believe that will prove to be the case here as well. I want to win more than anything, and as a result, I can be highly emotional. It is perhaps both my greatest strength and biggest weakness. It’s something that I both embrace and try to control, and most would say that I’ve come a long way in that respect.”

Asked about that and Bluey’s presence on Triple Trouble, Tadpole says that he doesn’t see Bluey’s strong emotional responses as toxic or potentially negative to the team. It’s something that might not sit well with every potential teammate, he suggests, but Tadpole ultimately sees that passion as a net positive.

“I think Bluey is extremely emotional in a sense that he really wants to win and succeed in the game. He’s been lucky enough to do that a lot of the time, and then other times, he’s maybe faltered more than people expected,” Tadpole says. “I think Bluey, for me at least—as a player watching him before he joined us—I think he’s always needed a backbone player with him. I’d love to see him on a team with, say, ViolentPanda: that sort of calming, captain-like influence around him, to both allow him in-game to do what he wants to do, but then emotionally as well try to stem the flames that he does have with him. And he’d tell you that himself. He’s a super-emotional player and he loves winning, and when things are going badly, maybe in some people’s book, he doesn’t have the right reaction to that.”

“I think it’s all in good nature. His will to win is worth more than having to deal with maybe a player that’s a bit too emotional,” Tadpole adds. “And that’s where we’re at as a roster. I’m more than happy with Bluey being a little bit emotional and struggling with losses, as long as his motivation and will to win stays where it is—because that’s what makes him successful. I don’t think it’s a toxicity issue. I don’t think that he contributes to a bad team environment, but I think that it can come off the wrong way to a lot of people. Maybe it did with the old roster, maybe not.”

The org dilemma

The Triple Trouble name’s return to the Rocket League spotlight could ultimately be short-lived: as Tadpole mentioned, the roster is on the hunt for an organization to represent. Nothing is imminent, he says. They’ve talked to some organizations, but as a team—even one with RLCS veterans—just entering a Rival Series season, there’s no guarantee that an organization will see the kind of return that they expect.

“As much as we’ve got a really strong roster with good names on it now, the RLRS still really offers very, very little to organizations,” he says. “Unless we look like an RLCS-level and -ready team, I don’t think we will get signed. If we have a good start to the season, that will become a more realistic possibility.”

Tadpole already knows this routine well. After Red Reserve pulled out of Rocket League as that organization crumbled, Triple Trouble went without an organization for the entirety of RLCS Season 7, including through the World Championship. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, he says. Ultimately, the organizations they talked to last spring were wary of entering an esport in which developer Psyonix’s plans and ambitions were unclear—a long-simmering frustration of organizations inside of the game, as well. Even with the advent of in-game items, the esport’s long-term future remains too vague for some.

“We spoke to multiple Tier 1 organizations last year, and the overwhelming response back was, ‘Oh, we don’t know what the developer is going to do with the game, so we’re not going to join yet,'” Tadpole recalls. “That’s a real shame, both for us personally because we’re missing out massively on organizations, salary, and being comfortable where we are. But also for the esport as a whole, because many of people’s favorite organizations that people want to join won’t. Not because it’s a bad esport, because we’ve proven that wrong at this point. But simply because nobody knows where it’s going.”

“For an esport that’s trying to push to be Tier 1, it’s hard to deal with,” he adds. “People’s frustrations are fair, and I think nobody’s really as frustrated as me in that respect, simply because of how long I’ve been without an organization.”

Triple Trouble recently added a sponsor in energy drink mix X-Gamer, which could signal a potential future as an independent team rather than signing with an established organization. Tadpole suggests that it’s unlikely in the short term as a Rival Series team, and that the prospect of also sustaining themselves through the sale of in-game Rocket League items would likely be a year or more away even if they do get promoted this season. Still, staying independent is an idea he likes, and one that could become more viable in the future as the Triple Trouble name continues to build affinity and competitive success.

“It’s a prospect that I’ll always keep in mind, because we’ve grown the brand to what it is now,” says Tadpole. “There’s no reason that we couldn’t keep doing that and build off that as well.”

Ready for Rival Series

With a promising roster and clear enthusiasm for the return of Triple Trouble—and potentially rewriting its abrupt ending—there’s a lot of excitement around this team this season. Tadpole admits that they’re still figuring out their dynamic together on the pitch, although scrim results have been positive, and that he thinks there’s a very diverse mix of players and strengths on this squad.

“It’s going to be a very unpredictable roster, even for ourselves. It’s a brand new roster that we’re still trying to get used to,” says Tadpole. “I think it’s probably the biggest mix of players that I’ve been a part of and that I’ve seen in a while. Obviously, nobody can doubt Bluey’s mechanical ability and his attacking ability as well. And even me and Rix in our own sense are very, very different players. I think that gives us a lot of leeway in terms of the passing plays we can manage and the attacking ability we can manage; literally everything about it tends to revolve around the fact that we’re very different players. I think what could make it successful in the long run is our individuality in different ways. I’ll be excited to see how that plays out next season.”

Even so, the Rival Series is a tricky league to navigate for even very talented squads with veteran players. Tadpole knows that well, and says they’re going into the season confident but not cocky.

“I think if it was RLCS, I’d be very confident. But the RLRS is incredibly unpredictable, and literally since its conception, people have seen it a thousand times over: it’s easy for any team to pick up a result on the day in the RLRS,” he says. “We’ll be quietly confident and we’ll play to the best of our ability, but we won’t hold ourselves to any high expectations—simply because it’s that sort of league where if we do that, it could come back to bite us. We’ll take it game by game, as usual.”

Andrew is the Lead Editor of Rocketeers, and has been covering Rocket League esports since RLCS S1 for publications such as Red Bull Esports, Esports Insider, The Esports Observer, and Waypoint. He is also currently the Content Lead for The Esports Journal magazine and has written about games, gadgets, etc. for 100+ publications since 2006.