The end of the APEX Season 2 Finals saw the uncrowned champions Lunatic-Hai claim their top place on the global Overwatch podium. The much eluded first-place title has haunted the team’s recent tournament placings, which include two second place finishes at the APAC Premier 2016 and IEM Season IX Gyeonggi tournaments, as well as a loss in the quarterfinals of APEX Season 1.
It seemed as though Lunatic-Hai’s penchant for playoff upsets was beginning to become a habit, much to the dismay of their (undoubtedly) huge fanbase in South Korea and abroad. However, the team’s persistence in the finals paid off, and we saw Lunatic-Hai hoist the APEX trophy over their heads for the first time.
This wasn’t the first time the organization found success in an FPS title, and I’ll try my best to share a (brief) overview of Lunatic-Hai’s endeavours in the genre.
Despite the team’s recent popularity in Overwatch, the organization has had an illustrious career in the FPS genre. From Counter-Strike 1.6 (CS 1.6) to a number of small, Asia-specific FPS titles, Lunatic-Hai has been considered one of the premier FPS-focused teams coming out of South Korea.
Most notably, Lunatic-Hai had one of the strongest CS 1.6 teams in 2006. GotFrag.com, a previous mecca for esports news and statistics, previously ranked Lunatic-Hai’s CS 1.6 roster as the #3 team in the world after their placement at the 2005 Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) Winter Championship. CPL’s championship series featured the best global CS 1.6 talent and pooled them together for epic LAN tournaments to find the best teams in the world. Lunatic-Hai took second at the tournament, losing to SK Gaming in the grand finals (VOD).
Lunatic-Hai was considered one of the first successful Asian CS 1.6 teams because of their other strong performances at international events such as the World Cyber Games and E-Sports World Convention tournaments. However, Lunatic-Hai soon folded their CS 1.6 roster due to a number of team members leaving for South Korea’s mandatory military service and the country’s lack of interest in the game.
This left WeMade FOX as the last high-calibre CS 1.6 team, ending one of the most successful Asian CS 1.6 rosters in history.
Image via Inven
Despite the team’s international success in CS 1.6, like most other South Korean e-spots organizations, Lunatic-Hai found most success in the Asian-specific FPS titles such as Special Forces 2 and Sudden Attack. This is also where ryujehong put his foot in the waters of esports, playing for STX Soul’s Special Forces 2 and Lunatic-Hai’s Counter-Strike Online teams.
Similarly, other members of the Overwatch team played in Black Squad and Sudden Attack, albeit for other organizations or non-professionally. In fact, EscA had an even more illustrious career in both Special Force and Black Squad, winning multiple domestic and international championships.
Both EscA and ryujehong were a part of the STX SouL organization, a large esports organization in South Korea that was renowned for its StarCraft Brood War talent. Later, EscA would go on to join Lunatic-Hai’s Black Squad team , playing in domestic leagues until joining the Overwatch roster. If you can read South Korean, you’ll also probably recognize Lee Taejun as the first name on the in-game roster list for Lunatic-Hai.
Dean (far left), Leetaejun (middle) and EscA (second from left) were members of Lunatic-Hai's Black Squad team - Image via OGN
EscA and ryujehong’s careers speak to the misunderstood calibre of FPS talent that was in South Korea prior to the release of Overwatch.
The country’s focus on domestically produced and Asian-focused FPS titles restricted our ability to see the level of FPS skill that existed in the country’s esports scene. As Overwatch has united the regions, the latent ability has become more and more obvious - especially as the gap begins to widen between the South Korean and Western teams in tournament placings.
It seems as though South Korea’s proficiency in esports isn’t limited to free-to-play MOBA’s or real-time strategy games, but also lies within the realm of first-person-shooters. We'll have to see how far the gap is as we follow APEX Season 3 on over.gg!