Torment on joining Version1, splitting with Squishy, and finding his grind again

August 14, 2020 - 17:35
Rocketeers / Interviews / RLCS / Teams /

For the first time since Season 3, we won’t have the trio of Kyle “Torment” Storer, Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda, and Jesus “Gimmick” Parra taking the pitch in the RLCS, and we won’t have Cloud9 as one of North America’s most popular (and often most dominant) teams.

Cloud9 has departed Rocket League entirely and Squishy was sent off to NRG, which has made the perennial favorites even more favored than ever. As for Torment and Gimmick, they’ve stuck together and have joined Version1, a brand new team organization from WISE Esports Ventures, the company behind the Call of Duty League’s Minnesota ROKKR.

Joining them on that roster is former Spacestation Gaming player Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare. AxB may not have as long of an RLCS resume as their former Cloud9 teammate, but he has been the rock of SSG in recent seasons, helping propel them to the top of the NA league play standings in RLCS Season 9 and finishing 3rd himself in MVP voting.

It’s a fresh start for the ex-Cloud9 duo, who less than two years ago claimed the RLCS World Championship but have had an up-and-down run since. Together as Version1, can this trio retain its collective place in the upper echelon of North American Rocket League amidst the longer-form RLCS X competitive format?

Rocketeers caught up with Torment this week, ahead of the first RLCS X North American regional, to get the scoop on a wild offseason full of changes and their confidence going into the weekend.

Rocketeers: How did you end up with Version1?

Torment: Throughout the offseason, we were in talks with Version1 for a while. For me and Gimmick, they seemed like a good fit and they were really open to just us two, and they didn’t even know our third yet. But they had a lot of faith in us and making the right decision, and we ended up announcing about a week ago. I’m really happy with it so far.

Version1 is a completely new thing, whereas Cloud9 was already huge when you joined and kept growing. Do you feel any difference in terms of hype and expectations?

Definitely a bit. Obviously, when an org that people are familiar with joins a scene, they notice that more. But I think a lot of people so far have been pretty excited about Version1 as an org, and they’ve been doing a lot of great things so far and they’re engaging with the scene. All of the cool announcements and content stuff have been great so far to me, and I think a lot of people have liked it. I think people are excited for it, and we’re definitely excited for it too.

Were you particularly looking for something that felt like a fresh start?

Maybe a bit. I think we just wanted an org that would support us well, and make sure that we can perform our best and be able to not worry about anything else. I think the fresh start is pretty nice as well, joining Version1. It’s definitely different than being on Cloud9, but so far we all like it.

What happened behind the scenes with Cloud9 leaving Rocket League and Squishy leaving NRG?

We’re not exactly sure why Cloud9 left the scene. I think they said somewhere that it was mostly because of the relationship with Psyonix or whatever; I think it was more because of the game. They just wanted to get out of the game in general. And then on their way out, NRG wanted Squishy, so they ended up selling Squishy to them, leaving me and Gimmick on our own. That’s basically the gist of it.

Were there any hard feelings with how things ended there with Squishy?

No, definitely not hard feelings. We still talk to Squishy sometimes, we play other games with him, and everything’s cool. I understand his decision to join NRG. You look at them now and it makes sense: they’re super successful in the offseason and they’re the favorites going into the RLCS, pretty much.

Credit: Psyonix

What was the offseason like for you, then, not only without an org but also without a third player, just trying to figure out the next steps?

The offseason was weird, because for me and Gimmick, we’re used to being outside of that roster-mania period. For six seasons or whatever, we kept the same roster, and there wasn’t much worry about that kind of stuff throughout any of the offseasons—for the most part. It was really weird, not having a stable third and having to go into roster lock. We only knew the week before that we were getting AxB, and we found out about that super late into the offseason. We were almost done with all of our tryouts and then we found that AxB was available.

It was really weird and not something we’re used to, but I’m honestly just glad it’s over with. Because I don’t like that period. I like having a stable team and being able to grind and improve as a team instead of having to test things for a month and figure out where we’re gonna go.

What made AxB your best choice for a third, and why did you end up making that decision over potential other players?

A lot of our tryouts were pretty solid, and we weren’t necessarily worried for the season before we found out about AxB. But then when we found out AxB was available, we instantly knew we had to try him out, especially because of how successful he’s been the last two seasons with Spacestation. They’ve been Top 2 in NA twice in a row, and I think AxB was third in MVP voting—he had an insane season last season.

We knew we had to try him out and we knew the potential, and he’s just honestly a super-solid all-around player. We think that’s something that’s pretty good for the play style we want. We don’t have to be the teams that do one third man and two people just going crazy on offense, like we used to be. We can be more rotational and balanced, and have a better defense especially. I think that’s pretty important.

Also, AxB brings a lot on offense. He’s really good at disrupting the play and demo’ing the other team, and also is probably one of the best shooters in NA right now. Anytime he has a shot, he always bangs it right under the crossbar. That’s pretty nice too.

I saw that you tweeted that you just moved into an apartment. Is that a team apartment or just for you?

I moved in with [Version1 coach] Fireburner, mostly because we’re friends and he wanted to move out of his parents’ house, and so did I. It was the perfect fit, and we also only live like two hours away from each other, so it was pretty easy not having to fly or anything.

Honestly, the main reason for me was that I needed new internet. My internet has always been pretty shaky, but throughout the offseason, for whatever reason, it was terrible. We literally missed the Spring Series event because of my internet, so something definitely needed to change. I moved to somewhere that I can get fiber, so I don’t need to use cable. That was definitely super important for me.

How has it been for you as a pro player during the pandemic?

Not much has changed throughout the pandemic. I mostly just stayed home and grinded the game anyways, and just talked to my friends on Discord instead. The only big thing was that the LANs that would’ve happened throughout this past few months didn’t happen, which kind of sucks—because the best part of competing is getting to play onstage in front of a crowd. It’s a bit quieter, I guess: you’re just playing the game in your room all day. Hopefully things get back to normal soon.

Now that we’ve seen the European regional and a bit of The Grid, what’s your take on the new RLCS X structure?

I actually love the format. It’s super open, which as an RLCS player, you have to grind more for your spot. It’s not almost guaranteed—at least, if you don’t go into the relegation tournament, you’re pretty much guaranteed your spot for next season. Now you have to grind and play well every single time you come out. But I like that. I think it promotes better competition, and some of these newer teams will be able to prove themselves.

The other good thing is post-pandemic, I guess, all of these events will be LANs besides The Grid. All of these regionals will be LANs. That will be super cool, as well. I’ve always hated having to play online so much. I think Psyonix realized that a lot of teams didn’t like playing online for 90% of the year, so that’s super huge as well and I’m super excited for that.

Last time we spoke in December, after Cloud9 made it through promotion/relegation, you said that you had struggled with motivation coming off of that World Championship win. Can you talk a bit about getting yourself out of that slump and finding that drive to try to climb back up the mountain again?

I used to be able to just cruise on playing our two hours of scrims a day, and then mostly doing free play and not doing much ranked. Once Season 8 hit and this new wave, the new generation all came into the RLCS at once, it definitely changed things. There was a play style that I was unfamiliar with, and all of these players were so fast and demo-heavy. I was behind the curve. I mean, we were as a team, but I was definitely behind the curve individually.

I just made a promise to myself that I would play more, just ranked, 6mans, and play as much as possible. I think that’s been huge for me to adapt to the meta changing. That was the main thing I’ve been doing over the last six months to a year, that I realized I needed to do.

Going into this weekend’s first North American regional, how confident are you that Version1 can make a deep run?

I’m pretty confident. I think right now, if we’re playing super well, we can definitely compete with the Top 4 teams in NA, which is G2, NRG, Envy, and Spacestation. I think we can compete with all of those teams, and looking back at The Grid [week one], we did well against Envy and Spacestation. We went to five games with both, and I’m looking forward to it, honestly.

Sometimes it comes down to what groups you get and what matchups you get. I think in The Grid, we could have made a deeper run, but we ended up getting Spacestation first round, and losing a close game with them—and then they went on to win it. That was a bit unfortunate, but I think we can make a super deep run and surprise some people.

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.