Clutch Gaming Head of Esports on their Worlds potential, analytics; the power of probability

We hear a lot Clutch Gaming has a lot of analytics that they’re working on, a lot of different ways to try to solve the game, but you yourself have said that, you know we don’t know what’s actually going to be useful for the LCS team, maybe 99 percent of it won’t be.

Is there anything so far that looks like it could be promising? Yes. So the 99 percent thing is actually not just an estimate. We’ve tried hundreds of things and the vast majority of them are sitting on the bottom of a drawer never to be used again.

And so for us we have seen a couple of maybe interesting things, one of them was just pathing and just getting a better idea of pathing, but so far it’s completely useless comparatively. The human mind is pretty interesting. People who are observers or scouts, our scouts, our analysts, have a better sense of the game than our data does right now. The hope here is that we can tease apart the bias such that as we move forward we’re able to find things, but for the most part were just like gold mining. We’re just like you know shoveling the pan, try and see specks of gold in there and if we see a speck of gold, call our friends over and say let’s drill deeper here and hope for the best.

And so far it’s still really early days for us. The discoveries in baseball and basketball took decades to do. The discoveries in football still may not even come yet. That said we’re in a good spot right now because we think that we have not only the stability and the resources to invest into this but also with franchising in with the fact the LCS is currently designed the way it is, we have the time and I think that’s something that other teams in the past have wanted to do but just didn’t have the time and resources to do, so we’re really happy to pursue it. Without the analytics, before they get there, what is the process of Scouting?

So most of it’s actually just being very very scientifically method driven and so it’s just having hypotheses. It’s trying to tease out bias, it’s thinking really deeply about let’s like examine this player in a vacuum as opposed to in context. The context really skews your perception.

There are a lot of players who were on worst teams last year and as it turns out if your team is losing, it’s really hard to look good at what you do. And so because of that a lot of what we wanted to do for these guys was look, let’s try to evaluate them on more you know independent scales. Are we good at doing that?

Absolutely not. We’re not even close to being good at doing it, but you have to start somewhere. It’s a very very very hard problem but if you don’t start somewhere you never solve it. And so just like state your priors, state your assumptions, and then go for it. What regions were you scouting for for an import slot?

So we were looking at China, Taiwan, Brazil, Europe, South Korea. And why don’t we usually see imports from most of those regions? Almost all imports come from Korea, sometimes from EU.

Yeah that’s probably a strong bias. It’s a bias issue probably. Korea is considered the best region. So the question is how much talent is in Korea and the answer is probably a lot.

And there is this bias on that front. Also there just haven’t been many resources poured into scouting the other areas right. So there are a lot of staff and people out here, you know Korean players out here, are your biggest resource. And they tell you hey, Lira what do you think of so-and-so player and he will know because he’s solo queued against them, so he’ll know and if we’re like hey Apollo what do you think of x and y NA player, because you solo queue a lot, they’ll tell you as well.

Most organizations haven’t had the resources to have a scouting org before, so it’s just harder to look at some of those regions. We do think that you know China has a lot of talent. We think Europe has a lot of talent. Even South America has a lot of talent that’s just untapped but it just requires more work and more diligence on that front. Also Korea is just really awesome.

They’re just really good at this game, and so is Europe, so it’s not to take away from how good those guys are, because those guys are great 1 through 20. What does it take to scout players in those countries when you don’t have players to advise you? Having people there to ask the players who are there for their advice and just watching a lot of footage on their play. Some of it’s hard to find. You probably know this well all it’s really hard to find footage in Asia unless you speak the language. And so part of it is just having people on the floor who speak the language and look at the film and look at the resources there.

And so it’s, you know in talking to our guys one of the big things that comes up is their feeling about hey we’re really upset about this. We spent so much time working on all the stuff and we picked up no one from China or no one from Brazil, and when I tell them like no this is actually the most useful thing we’ve done We’ll hopefully, like our analytics hopefully will get there at some point but right now just having an idea of where players are at and just watching and tracking their growth over the next year is going to be so much fun. You recently said that the roster you guys have could land first place, could also land sixth place.

What’s Clutch’s ideology on results? So one of the big things for us and I think this is true for humans in general is that humans are really bad at thinking about results probabilistically. When we look at something and when we think about the outcome for example when we flip a coin. People see it came out heads.

They assume it’s just heads. You either win or you lose. There’s no in-between, and the real answer is when you flip a coin it’s like 50/50. Sometimes it’s heads and sometimes it’s tails. And so when we look at results in terms of first place and sixth place or first place and tenth place, there’s always a chance for all those outcomes.

The best team in the league, and let’s use the NBA for this, the best in the league right now is the Golden State Warriors in terms of their talent pool. But they’re you know they lose sometimes because they’re not going to win all their games. They win the majority of their games. We’re also going to win the majority of our games, but that’s a different question than they will win for sure they won’t win for sure and therefore your decisions should be changed as a result.

We think that the first place team in the NA LCS, the team that we project to be first place team is first place the majority of the time. Like maybe 60-70 percent of the time, but that also means that 30 to 40 percent time the second place team could be first place, the third best team could be first place, the fourth best team could be first place. And so that’s how we see it. It’s certainly more likely for us to be a six place team that it is to be a first place. And that’s just a fact right. The the actual marginal variance between third and sixth is actually pretty small.

All things considered. That said does that mean we have no chance of making first place? Hell no we definitely have a solid chance and if our team improves and we have things go our way. If we have there’s 50-50 at baron and that’s different between winning the game and losing the game, and we have to take it because that 50/50 is if we don’t take it will lose 100 percent of the time we should take the 50/50 but from the outcome of analysis we should think about that game as like woah, we lose this game like 55 percent of time, do we really deserve a full win from this game as opposed to 45 percent of a win. Now if we can get that to happen the vast majority of time, maybe there are underlying things we just don’t understand why we’re so good or why we’re so bad, and that we have to examine.

But at the end of the day it’s very possible for any team to fall in that outcome. That said, if you’re the 7th best team in the league the probability of you making first is pretty small. It might be negligibly small and the probability of you being in 10th place is pretty high. It might be really high. For us, we think that we’re a team that has a playoff type floor and a Worlds type upside and so that’s our hope right now and that’s our goal.

Is there anything else you want to talk about? I think we’ve mentioned this before but. There is no way we know anything right now.

There is absolutely no way we know anything right now compared to where we’ll be three years from now if it’s actually the case that we know everything right now, we’ve made a mistake. And I think that’s something that people should be aware of. League of Legends three years ago was very different from this year. League of Legends three years from now should be very different than this year.

And it’s not the patches that’s doing that, the patches are a big component of it but people are just getting better and it’s really important to keep an open mind in terms of how you can get better and how to change and adapt because at the end of the day if you ask me like seven years ago what would you be doing in seven years. This is not the answer. But you know what also wasn’t around seven years ago? Iphones weren’t around seven years ago. Instagram wasn’t around seven years ago people weren’t sure Facebook would be big.

Seven years ago. Right. Or at least as big as it is today. Whole Foods is owned by Amazon today. Like how crazy is that.

And so I think it’s really important just to let people know you should be fans of this year. You should be fans what your players do. You should be fans of people spending money to invest into your game and your sport. But also know that no one knows the future. And so we really want to respect the fact that there are so many unknown things out there and hopefully we’ll adapt to it. But we’ll let people know.

We’ll let people know when we run into something we don’t know and we’ll let people know that when we run into it, that we were completely clueless and we were just shooting darts into the onto the wall and hoping for the best and hopefully you can string together enough things where we win enough coin flips for us to think hey we’re actually really good at this but we definitely aren’t right now and it doesn’t matter that we started six months before the other non endemic teams. It doesn’t matter that we’re three years behind the current endemic teams on somewhat some aspects of the game. All that matters for us is just making sure we keep this mentality of we’re not there yet. We need keep working to it and hopefully we’ll figure something out and then hopefully we’ll win.