onscreen: “I’m just scared that CS would end up like Quake”

Midway through their EPIC.LAN40 escapades, we caught up with streamer and former professional player Craig “onscreen” Shannon. onscreen is here as part of a mix, where he has joined up with his epic22 winning teammates Travis “L1NK” Mendoza and Sam “Astroo” Gresham, and as of the interview they were three matches into their Group C run, with two wins and one loss.

Welcome back to EPIC.LAN. This is your first one for about six years. I checked, and your last one was epic22, where you also played with L1NK and Astrooo and you also won. What’s it like being back at a LAN and with those two players again? How’s it going so far for you guys?

When I go to LAN now, it’s just for fun, really. So, I mean, I never really expected to win the last one I don’t know if we’ll win this one. I don’t know, yeah. We’ve already lost one group game, 16 – 14, it was really close. So now we’re all like “oh, shit.” But it’s CS2, a new game, so you never know right? We’ll see how we do in groups, but yeah. It’s not like we have any strats or anything we’ve only played for a bit honestly. But because its CS2 we thought “Fuck it, let’s go, why not?” It’s fun to do.

But yeah, I miss LAN. It’s been a long time since I played and just thought it was a good time to do it now. Because CS2 has come out, everyone’s playing it. Just because we want to try the game. Yeah that’s why we’ve got L1NK and Dom, who’s been playing VALORANT for Liquid for the past two years, or something. We’re all CS players at heart, obviously, even though they play VALORANT.

I’m going to hark all the way back in the day back. 10, 15 years back, you were a professional player, you play the teams with team like 4Kings and the like.

Yeah, and we win LAN back then and we win a mouse mat and like a tenner. So it’s a bit different now. Saying that, the prize pool at EPIC hasn’t changed for fucking 15 years, it’s a bit shit for UK CS to be honest. I would go to EPIC in 1.6, the prize pool’s exactly the same now. It’s pretty shit when you compare it to like over countries and stuff, so it’s a bit of a shame in that regards. But yeah, it’s a bit different nowadays for sure.

Back in a day you would have had like you ClanBase and the likes now like that’s all gone. ESL’s pulled out of the UK, no more Prem. So do you think like the landscape and the atmosphere of CS at the moment in the UK is better, or worse than it was when you were playing professionally?

It’s not, it’s not changed, at all to be honest. If you ever wanted to make it in CS as a UK player, you’d either go to NA or another country. Basically, that’s the space of what some UK players did essentially, or join an international team.

It’s very hard for the UK teams, I mean Into the Breach recently got so far and there was everyone’s biggest hopes. “Oh yes, a UK CS made it further?” and then they fold. Like typical UK CS, a few months later they all split up. I always say this about UK CS. It’s not that the players are bad, it’s just so hard to put five, good UK CS players, and then to stick them together for the long run.

I would go to EPIC in 1.6, the prize pool’s exactly the same now. It’s pretty shit when you compare it to like over countries and stuff, so it’s a bit of a shame.

If you could do that then, yeah, you get one up there for sure. But for example you’ve got smooya and stuff, who’s insane, and Thomas is obviously really good. You got these individually, really good UK CS players, but if they obviously want to play Pro, you’ve just got to join another team. You can’t have a UK team, it has been tried and tried so many times over the years and it never works.

onscreen getting into the match at EPIC.40 (Photo: Marco Rizzo)

I mean, speaking of you, you tried the whole sticking with a full five UK a team back at the start of CS:GO.

Yeah, because I mean that was short lived. We joined 4Kings and they put us all into a house. I was like we want to go to this event, this event, this event. “Yeah, no problem,” and then they just fucking go bust. That’s just fantastic. I think we to one LAN or something, I can’t remember what it was, and then we want to one with like London Lynx, I think it was, I remember those guys.

But yeah, that’s why I’ve got into streaming. I preferred that, didn’t have to be good at the game anymore. You just stream for fun really, That was it?

You did the transition from, I believe, 1.6 into CS:GO. I don’t remember you being a Source player.

I didn’t play Source at all, no, so like when Source come out, it’s kind of weird because it didn’t really take over 1.6. It kind of just split the community into two because 1.6 tournaments were still going. Like it wasn’t like, “Okay. CS:GO’s over here is CS2 now, everyone move over.” It wasn’t like that. It was like, “here’s sauce, play it if you want.” And everyone was like “Well should we play or not? I don’t know.”

And obviously my teammates at the time they won CGS, which was like the, the major for Source. So they were actually World Champions UK CS. But at the same time, half the scene was still playing 1.6 at the same time. So people go “Oh it doesn’t count.” But that was still really good.

But just like, harking back from that, the transition from 1.6 to Source to GO, and now it’s like GO to CS2. You may not be playing competitively anymore, but you’re still in touch with the scene and the community. How have you seen the reactions between the games back then and now?

Yeah. CS2 is shit really, when you think about the changes it’s really bad. Like Valve really fucked up here in terms of the release. Like everyone I speak to the first thing they say is it just feels shit. They messed up the main thing about the game that’s been throughout the history of CS, is that it feels nice to play. I mean it doesn’t matter if like there’s some bugs here and there, as long as feels good. Right?

You want to play and have it feel nice to play, and they fucked it. That’s the crucial thing, and they fucked that for CS2. Everyone was like “oh it’s beta its fine they’ll sort it” and then it comes out and its the same fucking thing. So yeah, they’ve really fucked that. I was worried at the start, like fucking hell, like people are gonna quit.

I mean it doesn’t matter if like there’s some bugs here and there, as long as feels good. Right? You want to play and have it feel nice to play, and they fucked it.

It was that their prime time. Because because of VALORANT, so many new people are playing CS, because they never played CS ever, because VALORANT brought so many people, like tons of people to FPS’s and they were going and trying CS. But then you go play CS and VALORANT is way smoother. They try CS2, “oh its shit,” and they go back to VALORANT. They messed up, massively.

To the point where CS is pretty much dead in NA to be honest, which is kind of sad. In Europe, obviously, CS is more popular than VALORANT. But in NA, VALORANT’s just taken over there to be honest.

I saw you put a Tweet out a while ago saying “Valve have to get right because VALORANT exists”

Yeah. It was like the perfect opportunity. They could’ve easily, like, capitalised on that. So many new players ready to play the game. I’m just scared that CS would end up something like Quake for example, which is just…

I love Quake, best game ever, but it’s just completely dead because there’s no new players playing it. You just got a bunch of 30 year olds playing each other in pro league and that’s it, which is a shame. I hope CS never gets like that, shouldn’t be hopefully. But Valve need to sort their shit out, which they are to be fair to them they are.

The Counter-Strike copium is at record levels right now.

After playing CS since day 1 let me tell you this, every major update was always terrible to begin with.

I would say keep expectations low, but there is a major difference this time, and that is Valorant exists.

— ONSCREEN (@onscreenlol) March 6, 2023

They’re doing updates, constantly, for it. I mean when CS:GO first come out it was absolutely shit as well to be fair. I had the beta for that as well, and that come out. But again, we weren’t just pushed on to see CS:GO, but there people still playing Source and 1.6 when GO came out.

Like, I never played Source at all. I played 1.6 all the way up to CS:GO. I didn’t touch Source at all. It wasn’t until CS:GO was actually quite nice when I move. Like the first time we played CS:GO there wasn’t any servers or anything, like we had to just host servers, like, playing local. They had to connect to us, that’s the way it worked for us. And no-one used Molotov’s or anything. No one liked to use them because that’s a new thing for CS when Molotov’s came out in CS:GO.

As long as Valve sort their shit out, CS2… She’ll be good. To be fair to Valve, normally they know they’re doing, and I can see now they are listening to feedback, I guess they just wants to get it out there.

So you moved away a while ago from competing to content creation. You’ve been doing it for a while, extreme successful. What’s the sort of main differences between the two?

Don’t need to be good at the game. *laughs* I mean the only reason I got into streaming is when I was in 4k, people wanted to watch. There was no money in there. I just streamed for fun back then. I was doing that and I was streaming WoW Arena. I was getting about 100 viewers maximum, which is all right back then, but that’s all I used to do for fun back then. And as Twitch grew, I kind of grew with Twitch.

So like I just got lucky right at the start. To start again now I’d have fucking no chance. It was just because I was there since the start. There was like me and summit streaming CS and that was it, no-one else. So that’s all it was to be honest, it’s just for fun. I was even working, was working for Shell at the time, because there’s no money in it whatsoever.

And then yeah just eventually in like 2015, starting to get all these companies wanting to sponsor me like “what the fuck? Alright…” That’s when I handed my notice into my job. I had a full career set up and everything, had to have an awkward could conversation with my boss and they were going like “why you want to leave?”

And I was like “I can sit at home and play games all day!” Well yeah so I’m obviously glad I did do that because then I could put the time in and go full time. It was like when subs had come out, I had a thousand subs. I said “If I hit a thousand subs I’d quit my job” kind of thing. That was big back then, because there was no gifts, you couldn’t gift subs. No Twitch Prime.

That was actually people just subscribing, that’s was actually a good source of income back then. Subs don’t mean shit anymore on Twitch, it’s just gifted and Twitch Primes and stuff.

You’ve taken a bit of a break from content creation as of recent because in May you had…

Yeah, I got a brain tumour of all things. So that was kind of a shock, kind of came out of nowhere. I mean I had other related symptoms all over the place and could never figure it out. I ended end up going for an MRI scan for my chest, I was getting chest pains. And while I was there, it was like a special offer to the full body, and I was like “sure, why not?”

So they did my head, body, everything and that’s when they spotted it. So super lucky to find it, and then you look at all the symptoms I’ve had it all related to this brain tumour. So it’s called the pituitary gland. It does all your hormones basically and it’s grown on that and it was making my hormones go over the fucking place just constant.

I had a thing where I was just sweating constantly out my armpits for no reason. Like I’d just be cold and start sweating and I’d be like “what the fuck?” You get all these weird symptoms but you’d never expect it to be that. But fortunately, it’s not cancerous running for like that. So just I was in hospital for two or three days. They went up my nose, keyhole surgery, took it out through there. So no scars or anything.

It started to feel like a job anyway. So I kind of want to start streaming for fun again anyway.

I’m fully recovered now. I told everyone I’m taking a break, told my sponsors that I am and don’t know how long, you know? So it’s been like, six months now, and, I don’t know, when I’m gonna start again. This the longest like break I’ve taken from stream ever. Like before, the longest break I’d take was a week or two when I went to fly out to like Twitchcon and shit like that.

Never before. So, I thought now’s the time to take like a long break. I mean, I probably will stream again. I just don’t know when, It makes no difference now when I start now, because I’ve taken such a long break. It’s gonna be like starting again anyway, right? So I have no idea, probably come back to fucking two viewers probably or something.

It started to feel like a job anyway. So I kind of want to start streaming for fun again anyway. Steaming is completely different now than it was in the past, now you stream to like entertain, and that was never me. I just streamed to play and I didn’t give a fuck so yeah. I will come back eventually, I just don’t know when.

So, bringing it back to LAN, you’re three games into your group so far. How far do you think you guys are going to go?

I don’t know. So, our first game went well. Our second game, we lost on ancient 16-14, which we though we’re going to beat them. So we went “oh no we’re out of groups we’re going home.” If we go out in groups I’m drinking all night anyway, so I’m not that bothered. But now our third game we actually played an actual decent team. And then we beat them like 13-5 or something, but that was on Mirage. So I think if we stick to the scrimmy maps like Mirage and stuff, we’ll probably be alright.

I just fucking wish Dust 2 was in there man. Would win the whole LAN just playing Dust 2 all day. Well, unfortunately is not. I’ve not played Anubis once, that’s out instant ban. I still don’t play Vertigo, that’s a noob map but everyone loves it.  I’m a 1.6 player at heart, that was never a map we’d have.

Bring back Train.

Yeah yeah yeah, I want to play Train, I want to play fucking Dust2. Like fuck sake, Tuscan even. I don’t know, I think we’re technically top of the group right now when I look, because you get a point for an overtime loss. I don’t know how that’s happened. Do you know how many get through?

Top four go through, the top two go to upper bracket, next two to the lower bracket.

Ah Okay, we should definitely get through then, I just don’t know if we’re going to be upper or lower. So yeah, so at least we’re playing tomorrow. So not on the piss that much tonight anyway. Unfortunately.

onscreen has reunited with fellow epic22 winner, and current VALORANT professional, L1NK (Photo: Marco Rizzo)

As a consequence of being a streamer, you’ve played VALORANT a bunch. What are your thoughts with it compared to CS?

So VALORANT, now is nothing like VALORANT when it first come out. I’ll say that. So like, Project A is when I played it. Like that’s when my stream fucking blew up. So it was fucking really good.

I had like 100k viewers at one points, it was insane. That’s like my biggest stream ever, partially because I had drops. It’s only people who did Project A had drops and this is before Twitch made it so you could drops everywhere. That was fucking mental. Even now I get people coming up to me going, “Yo onscreen, thanks for the drops.” That was fucking like six years ago. I’m just like “Cheers, no worries!”

I mean back then, VALORANT was actually really good, really, really good. And now, CS is just way better now to be honest.

I remember playing it when it first came out, and there were a few players I could gel with, but now I look it and go “What the?”

Well there’s that famous tweet from the devs who said that “shooting matters in VALORANT,” and then after that they add Raze into the game with a big fucking rocket launcher and I’m like “hang on a minute.” And that new agent they’ve added, that just goes into a 1v1 thing. Oh, my god. I think they just run out of ideas.

I loved it so much because it was based on 1.6, VALORANT was actually. The devs, they made it from, there was like a 1.6 Warcraft 3 game mode. And that’s where VALORANT’s based off believe it or not.

So they based the whole thing off that. The shooting was all similar to 1.6. I loved it at the start, and a lot of people did. I was playing it so much, and reminded me when CS2 come out and everyone came back. It was like with VALORANT, so many people come out the shadows who I hadn’t seen in years all playing again.

And CS2 is doing the same thing now, but they fucked it. VALORANT was super smooth, really amazing to play in the beat, I don’t know about now but, and CS2 is like shit so I really do hope they sort that out now.