Eric "Snip3down" Wrona left the X Games stage with a broad grin. He has a lot to be happy about after the first day of the EXP Apex Legends Invitational at X Games Minneapolis with his team, Team Reciprocity, in third place, comfortably ensconced among the top five teams with a score of 52.
Before the tournament started Friday, Team Reciprocity was not on the radar for many people beyond the fact that Snip3down is one of two controller players at the tournament; the other is Counter Logic Gaming's Jack "NiceWigg" Martin.
"I feel really good. Me and my teammates are a very newly formed team," Snip3down said. "We've only had about a month of practice. I've actually never competed in Battle Royales before, so it's been a learning experience, and every day we're getting better."
This might be Snip3down's first Battle Royale tournament, but it's hardly his first competitive esports tournament. Nor is it his first experience on the X Games stage. At the 2016 Aspen X Games, Snip3down won a gold medal for Halo while with Evil Geniuses.
"Well, there's a lot more dirt. It was a bit of a winter snowfest out in Aspen 2016," Snip3down joked. "We got snowed in, no airports were running after the tournament ended. That was probably one of the best times of my life -- you get snowed in for four days in Aspen, Colorado, after you win a gold medal, so there's no reason to complain there. I'm just excited to be out here. I never thought I'd be able to compete once, let alone twice, so it's really special to be back here."
Apex Legends has attracted all kinds of players to its competitive scene. Most players competing at the X Games fall into one of two categories. The first is made up of more experienced players coming from other first-person-shooter games such as Halo, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, or Overwatch. Snip3down himself is a Halo player, also for Team Reciprocity, who picked up the game in the Halo offseason.
Day 1 of the #EXP @PlayApex Invitational at the @XGames is over. @TSM is in the lead halfway through the competition with 62 points. The final day of competition begins tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET. pic.twitter.com/Qah5701nb2
- ESPN Esports (@ESPN_Esports) August 3, 2019
"Apex came out and I loved the game the moment I touched it," Snip3down said. "It felt very similar to other first-person shooters I'd played."
There are also less experienced players, some of whom are experiencing playing on a local area network (LAN) for the first time. Team Reciprocity is an interesting combination of both.
Snip3down has approximately 11 years of competitive Halo experience. Reciprocity picked up the Finnish duo of Niko "ZeroNothing" Suominen and Sebastian "Mimu" Vesala a little over a month ago when Snip3down's former teammates were picked up by other teams. After looking over the European Apex Legends teams, Snip3down found ZeroNothing and Mimu competing in minor events. There was one minor contract hiccup, but eventually the current iteration of Team Reciprocity was formed.
"I'll tell you what, it looked really cool when every big org was on the list, and then it was just 'Team Snip3down,'" he said, laughing. "My teammates, we all came to an agreement that they're cool getting some jerseys -- they've never been to an event before."
Third-place Team Reciprocity, along with sixth-place Misfits and seventh-place T1, among other teams, have taken advantage of their high kill scores to stay toward the top of the standings on Day 1. It puts Snip3down in a surprisingly strong position to contend for another X Games medal.
"Before the tournament everyone was playing Caustic," he said. "Everyone was playing really defensive, waiting until the end of the game, and since we've been here I've only seen a couple of Caustics. Everyone here seemed to really switch things up, and they realized that kills are going to be one of the most important things here, so placings are important when you get down to the back 10. But the last 10 placings don't get any points whatsoever, so a lot of these teams are going to play aggressive and soak up points with kill records."
One of the trickiest parts of scoring a battle royale is balancing how much kills in a game should matter compared to a team's placement at the end of a game. In a game such as Apex Legends, in which success can heavily depend on map rotations and transitions as a team as the collapsing circle of play becomes smaller, that can lead to teams taking things slower if kills don't matter as much in the overall standings. Team Reciprocity had an average finish of eighth on Day 1, but with the fourth-most kills at 28.
"A lot of the time it's difficult to enjoy something when it's so unpredictable at the end," Snip3down said of battle royales. "When five teams are pushing from the same side of the map trying to get into the circle, there's not as much consistency there. And I think when kills become a huge factor, teams are going to be a lot more aggressive and you're going to see a lot more gunplay come out, which in my opinion, as a spectator is way more entertaining."