An interview with TheGenius - Part I
The Four Kings is a name synonymous with the incredible popularity of Half Life's treasured mod - Counter Strike (CS). The clan, like the game they play, has been through many revisions over the years, but right now 4K can claim to have their regal backsides firmly wedged into the UK CS throne.
Professional CS tourneys are hitting an all time high, with events taking place in the US, Europe and Far East. So I thought it was time to track them down for a chat.
There are in fact six current members of the clan, not four, which is fortunate since you need five players to play in official competitions. Their name is actually more a matter of Quakeworld history. History was never my best subject, so if you’re the same as me or just know bloody well everything there is to learn about the CS community, then skip ahead to the meaty interview, as your main course. Casual gamers, HPB (High Ping Bastards) and those of you who choose not to select a knife when running in CS – read on, this is a little starter of background history just for you.
Four Kings - a brief clan history
When is a Four King not a Four King? Actually, when it’s a B!TCH, in fact. The CS branch of 4K started its true clan life as B!TCH, after an unsuccessful time as part of the US clan NR. This amercian clan like the current Four Kings was broken into divisions for different games, so when the original NR Unreal Tournament clan dissolved, the CS guys stayed together. Why they decided to call themselves B!TCH could be the subject of a humorous competition, in fact, if anyone comes up with a really good explanation, I’ll send’em a promo T-shirt from one of the many games we get sent. Any of you that have been playing Quake for awhile will probably have at least heard of the original Four Kings, who had some totally insane skillz and at the end of 2000, B!TCH merged with them.
It was a smart move on their part, as anyone who is currently trying to get sponsorship for their clan will tell you. It still isn’t easy getting companies to cough up, but when you have a clan that’s at the top of the two most popular FPS (First Person Scenario) games - you want sponsorship? Well, you got it fellas, please sign your soul away here - and here, thank you gentlemen.
Current possessors of the Four Kings’ gaming bodies and promotional image are Thrustworld, the online gaming service, who are about to find life even tougher with the launch of BT Openworld’s gaming service through Games Domain. Oh and the PR company, Kazoo, who represent the likes of Blokey, who will soon be jetting his way to Korea to represent our fair isle in the World Cyber Games (Unleash havoc on some yankies, my son ;-)).
Like or loathe them, 4K has been at the top of it's game, at least in the UK, pretty much since the beta was released. They have weathered various accusations in the past, including cheating and even faced accusations of having a 'Manchester United' syndrome. It is fair to say that at one time they could have fielded probably four or five quality teams under the 4K banner, all for separate events. Tough decisions had to made and the clan are down to the six I met at a recent event.
Regally owned - Four Kings at the UK CPL World Qualifers 18 November 2001
I caught up with TheGenius at the UK qualifers for the CPL World tournament in Dallas, during a break in the rounds at London-based, The Playing Fields. Yes, okay I’ll admit it, I’d never met this guy or the clan, before the event, but I’d sure heard about them.
And a cool bunch of guys they are - arrogant as well, but hell, why not, if you’ve worked you’re arse off like they have for over two years to get, and stay at the top. I’d say they’re entitled to have a little swagger in their step.TheGenius or Jonny Neffgen, other than having a real name that ought be a character in a gritty cyberpunk adventure, struck me as a very confident figure, with his No.1 buzz cut and really, quite startling eyes. Please don’t ask me what colour they were, I’m a bloke, I don’t notice stuff like that. I guarantee though that he’s walked through life, getting frequent double-takes. Now, with PR representation, through Kazoo, I doubt it’ll be long before more people recognise his baby blues, or eh, greens? Anyway, having observed his own masterful PR skills, as he organised his clan for press pics, ensuring that the Thrustworld T-shirts were out in force, I don’t think TG would be too offended, if I suggested he had the makings of being the ‘Sujoy Roy’ of UK Counter Strike scene.
So I asked Jon a few quick questions, amid general cheering coming from a crowd around 4K's Liquid (Marc Mangiacapra). The TPF staff had apparently found a piece of software on the net that tested accuracy and reflexes. Liquid was putting it through its paces, much to the amusement of a gathering crowd of gamers.CFC: So how do you think it's been going so far, has it been easy?
TG: It's not been easy, as we've been playing with different rules and configs here, but we're through, we'll be alright getting to the final I think. The only reason anyone is here, is to see 4K versus Noc.
Note: CPL has introduced their own GUI for Counter Strike events, which prevents you from accessing the console and is intended to prevent performance enhancing config changes. Overall, it seems to have been okay, although freezing did occur and some players complained that they were unable to bind keys for all movements, such as looking right and left. Hopefully, with a receptive CPL, these little bugs will be sorted out and teams will win purely because of their collective skill, rather than better technical knowledge.
CFC: How do you feel about them? Do you think they have any advantages having practiced here for the last couple of weeks?
TG: Well, we've been at i9(a weekend LAN party at Newbury race course), so we've had two solid days of LAN practice, their team play is very good, but I think we'll win, but we just want to have a good game really, can't wait to the final.
CFC: So looking to Dallas, not assuming that you'll be there, but there is a distinct possibility that you will be - Do you think you have a chance of coming away with the cash?
TG: In Dallas, we'll be happy with a top 10 finish, because the trouble is this will be the first really big world championships of any sort, from the big games over the Internet, you know 150,000 dollars, you've got all the big teams with the Americans and Europeans. If we finish top 10 we will be happy.
CFC: Are there any teams that make you think: "Oh my god, we've been drawn with these guys, we've got no chance!"
TG: What like Ninjas in Pyjamas? *laughs*
TG: Well, I think everyone is gonna say that.
CFC: Yeah, I saw them play at CPL London in August.
TG: We've got one player here, Darth, who is probably the best player, but...*shrugs*
CFC: So are there any clans that you admire or really want to play?
TG: The difference is, we've seen NiP play and played against them before. We just don't want to play them, but we would like to play against the top American teams - x3 in particular have a big reputation for not doing alot and the same for Zeno from Canada, we'd like to play them both, if possible.
CFC: Is there a particular map that, if it gets drawn you'll feel you have a good chance against a difficult clan?
TG: We're pretty solid on all the maps, not too good on the two custom ones, which are especially for the USA CPL. Nuke, train, cobble, all the old classics are our strengths.
CFC: So possibly your weakness, might be the CPL maps?
TG: For sure, we’ll get the practice though, if we can win today.
And win they did, but it wasn't just the fact that they won - they effectively dominated the game winning 13-1. As I write this, it reminds me of something 4K's own DanFrag (Dan Lucking) said to me recently: "I would say a clan is made of 5 separate players, well 6 =], but 5 in game =] And we have improved by learning to play with each other". Yes, and before anyone gets any weird ideas for clan practice nights, he's actually referring to 'teamplay'. Its pretty simple home truth, really. The final of the UK qualifiers demonstrates the difference that new players can make to a usually tight clan, but to the credit of Noc, it took the top team to really rip open the gaps in their team play. So remember there really isn't a quick fix in pro gaming - a few weeks training with assorted mates, doesn't make up for months of team practice, if it does, you must be bloody amazing and I want an exclusive or you're most likely cheating and in which case, you deserve to get caught.
An interview with TheGenius - Part II, will be added on the 7 & 8 December, including questions about the clan's training regime. Remember, The Playfields will have live coverage of the CPL Dallas event.