When professional League of Legends players travel for events, they have to play somewhere. From barren backrooms inside the venue to lavish hotel suites stocked with snacks, the environment at these events has changed over the years. That being said, what happens in the practice room is still up to the team.
The practice room at the Royal Palms hotel is warm, just like the Miami weather. The heat isn’t from the unbearable humidity outside, but from the warmth of six gaming computers whirring away. The business-suite-turned-practice-room is just big enough to have desk space for all the players and management comfortably.
Snacks in the Team Liquid practice room litter a table in the center that’s covered with large bags of pretzels and granola bits, along with bottles of water, fruit, bananas, peanut butter, tea bags, bagels, and now-cold room service (chips and guacamole, chicken wings, and quesadillas, if you care.) Below top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong’s feet, a power strip hovers above the ground, being pulled at from two separate computers relying on it. The room is obviously set up hastily, but it’s clean.
Despite the fact that the scrim is paused, the talk doesn’t stop from the players. Constant banter and discussion is happening, mainly from the mouths of jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Peng’s mouse doesn’t stop moving and clicking throughout the pause.
After the scrim ends (with a loss), head coach Jang “Cain” Nu-ri and assistant coach Kang “Dodo” Jun-hyeok turn the team around to watch a replay of the game on a flat-screen TV. Jang is giving the team hard criticisms but the conversation is in no way one-sided. The players are explaining their mistakes, apologizing for them and talking about how to fix them. His thoughts are explained to the team with a smile on his face, reminiscent of a disappointed father who still very much loves his children.
Even when Jang speaks directly in Korean to support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, Kang makes sure to translate to the rest of the team. Kim’s problems are problems for the rest of the team as well, after all. Puchero and Peng’s feet are tapping impatiently throughout the meeting and several more players anxiously are gnawing on their fingernails while hearing out their coach.
After the meeting finishes up, Kim shouts out a “Yes, sir!” and the team spins their chairs around to jump into the next custom match.
Team Liquid’s practice room is so bright that the room almost has a light blue tinge to it. The curtains are drawn back, letting the players see the beach in front of them, but they’re not distracted during their scrims.
Floors away, Clutch Gaming is also scrimming, though their room is a little different. The curtains are closed and there are only two lamps on, emitting dull orange-yellow lights. Again, snacks are scattered about the table, though this room is mostly filled with Red Bull and Miss Vickie’s potato chips.
“It’s funny because the room is super nice and we have a really good view, but we’re closing all the curtains at 12 o’clock when it’s super sunny out. It looks really dark just because we have to hide the glare,” Clutch Gaming AD carry Apollo Price said in a later interview with The Rift Herald. “It’s a little bit gloomy even though we’re in Miami.”
This room is much more crowded than Team Liquid’s, with some staff members intensely watching the games from over the players’ shoulders or watching on a separate computer set up for spectating. Some others are just hanging out quietly and snacking on some chips. Coming fresh from the Liquid room, it was surprising that Clutch could even focus with all those people around, but they did manage to win their scrim against 100 Thieves.
“[Practice] did feel a little bit different. It wasn’t really like, uncomfortable, but it felt a little bit harder to focus because we had a lot going on. It felt a little bit more relaxed, which is not necessarily a good thing,” Price said. “I don’t necessarily blame the environment for that. It’s just towards the end of the season, that’s how our team was. It wasn’t as strict as I think we were during the regular season or during the other parts of playoffs.”
After their scrim ends, Clutch Gaming huddles around a single monitor as they quickly go over their performance. Everyone on staff is giving input to what the team did right and wrong, rather it just being one coach, though there wasn’t really much to talk about as the match was pretty decisively won.
Immediately after, the players are all smiles and the room is filled with jokes and laughs as they wait for their scrim partners to finish their discussions. Some players have the League of Legends subreddit up on their monitor, while a couple of them lean over to watch bits and pieces of the latest episode of TSM Legends.
The rooms weren’t always the luxurious suites that the players have now, though. At the NA LCS 2015 Summer Finals in New York City, the players were working out of a back room at Madison Square Garden, the venue for the event.
“It wasn’t even a room that was set up. There was just a curtain blocking the two teams,” Price said, referring to the practice room for his third place match on Team Impulse. “It was very sketchy in comparison to Miami.”
Though practice feels slightly off for the players, they’re still able to focus in different environments. After all, the important thing is that the players are still able to learn, adapt and prepare, not where they’re playing.