Overhearing League of Legends players talk about their play is like listening to sports commentary from the planet Kepler 41-b.
And — if you have an unpracticed eye — the action is even more incomprehensible.
It’s a magnificent blur of motion and mayhem. Even die-hard players can be shocked at how fast momentum can change in the hugely popular online game that pits teams of players against one another in stadium-filling matches.
But the human part of the story is as old as team sports. And INTZ might be the best tale in League of Legends right now.
The upstart São Paulo team stormed through the early rounds of Brazil’s League of Legends championships earlier this year, upsetting more established teams that for years have dominated the League of Legends scene in the eSports-mad nation.
The story behind the story: Lucas Almeida. At 30, he’s over the hill, by pro gaming standards. But the hulking six-foot-two Brazilian entrepreneur with a ready laugh remains a gamer’s gamer. In college at Universidade Paulista, in São Paulo, he was a pro gamer who turned down a chance to join the legendary Brazilian team that grabbed the Call of Duty world championship more than a decade ago.
“If I’d played a little more,” Almeida says, looking wistful for a moment. “I could have been a world champion.”
Since then, he’s gone on to build Cachorro Gato, Brazil’s leading online marketplace for pet owners.
But like many former athletes, Almeida couldn’t let go. So he co-founded INTZ and recruited gamers from around Brazil — and two from outside Brazil — in an effort to become the best of the best. And if it hasn’t yet brought him to the pinnacle of professional gaming’s toughest challenge, it has brought him to NVIDIA.
“We are really happy NVIDIA invited us to come,” says Almeida. “Every hour here is an opportunity to make our game better.”
Late last month, we hosted Almeida’s elite five-man “main” team — one of three that INTZ fields — at our GeForce eSports Studio in Silicon Valley. The studio gives gamers access to top-of-the line GeForce-powered battle stations and blazing-fast internet connections. It also gives NVIDIANs — and our own in-house League of Legends team — a taste of how this top teams plays. (To save ourselves embarrassment, we’ll omit the details of their matches.) INTZ is the first. More are coming.
Over six days at NVIDIA, INTZ took on a host of North American teams — ones that are too far away to set up matches with in Brazil. They stuck to a grueling schedule that saw them play one of North America’s top teams within an hour of getting off a 15-hour flight from Brazil. They grabbed a quick win in their first game before falling 2-1.
It’s the culmination of a journey that reveals just how big a deal League of Legends has become.
These players — with handles like Alocs, Tockers and Jockster — aren’t gamers passing time in their parent’s basements. Players like Felipe “Yang” Zhao and Luan “Jockster” Cardoso are stone cold digital killers.
The stakes are high: so far they’ve racked up more than $100,000 in winnings at the 2015 International Wild Card Invitational and the Circuito Brasileiro de League of Legends 2015, the first split in the Brazilian League – Champions Series. And they’re all eager to match their skills against the world’s best.
Like any pro athletes they play — and train — full time at INTZ’s São Paulo gaming house. Their roles on the team — midlaner, jungler and carry — are familiar to any League of Legends player, even if their skills are next level.
“That moment you get the opportunity to overhear a team captain go over a match with their team, you realize how noob you are,” NVIDIAN Clay Causin marveled on Facebook as he watched them operate from our GeForce eSports Studio.
Now the players are on the cusp. On Aug. 8, they’ll appear before an audience of more than 15,000 screaming fans for a shot at the Brazilian championship. If they clinch it, they’ll go on to face the best of the best in the League of Legends world championship later this year.
And — like so many entrepreneurs who have built sports teams — Almeida will have a taste of the glory that evaded him 14 long years ago.