ImageOn June 25 Austin "lavak3" Savarese placed 1st in the ESL Unreal Tournament Summer 2017 Cup, edging out long-standing champion Rookie on the UT4 Plus Forward leaderboard. In less than a week he managed to secure a qualifying placement in the Quake World Championships. I caught up with him to ask a few questions about his history and recent experience straddling two very different AFPS games.

You have a unique name, where does it come from?

lavak3: I came up with this nickname a very long time ago in Unreal Tournament 1999. Originally the name was lava and I started wearing it as lavakillseverything but then one day I just threw it together as lavak3 and it's stuck since.

Where did you get your start in competitive gaming?

lavak3: I started playing competitively in 2004 playing UT2K4. Once I got a taste of duel, I got hooked.

What do you enjoy outside of gaming?

lavak3: I really enjoy the going to the gun range and/or going fishing with a couple buddies. Nothing too crazy.

What do you play for fun, when you're not practicing for a tournament?

lavak3: Fun? What? In all seriousness, the people I play with usually love to have a good time and don't take things "too" seriously. Unless we're practicing. I find myself taking a break from the "online FPS" genre if I want to play just for fun. There's something about that genre that gets me going. Lately I've been playing Ori and the Blind Forest. Fantastic game.

Do you have any previous experience playing on LAN?

lavak3: I've been to a few LANs but the most notable one was in Salt Lake City, Utah. There was a UT LAN in 2006 which featured a tournament for Capture The Flag, Team Deathmatch, and my favorite... Duel! I ended up walking away from there with First place in all three and some nice prize money.

I know you’ve been active on and off in the Unreal Tournament community for 10 plus years, did you pick up any Quake experience along the way?

lavak3: I had definitely heard of Quake while I played UT over years and I regret not getting more involved with the scene until now. I've had some moments in the past where I've played Clan Arena in Quake Live, but that's about it. I never really got too much into the game but I always did enjoy the unique movement and weapons.

You recently placed First in the UT4 Summer Duel Cup (June 25) before quickly turning around for a qualifying spot in QuakeCon (June 30). How did you manage that?

lavak3: Switching to a different game is definitely challenging. I was pretty fortunate to have a friend ( ScizR) who was playing duel throughout the beta who could train with me that week before the qualifier. It does take some humility to realize that you aren't as good at first, but I wasn't horrible. Some stuff carries over, but not everything. You just have to be able to learn how to change and to adapt. I had some people tell me I couldn't do it. So it was a kind of fuel to the fire.

Watching Scizer, another Unreal veteran, play in the ESL qualifiers... he was very dominant with and also reliant on, hit-scan weapons. This wasn’t the case for you. Do you feel you have any advantages, disadvantages, or held-over habits coming from UT?

lavak3: I know ScizR has come a long way from the elim UT days. I think this is his first time playing in a duel mode competitively in any game, so he will most likely keep improving with experience. He has nice aim and has a lot of potential to be a top dueler. To me Quake Champions duel flow feels very similar to UT. I do feel very confident in my aiming abilities in Quake, which I feel I've built in my background of UT. The only disadvantage that I can think of coming from UT was learning the movement... it takes a while. :)

In many ways, I feel the Unreal community has historically been somewhat vitriolic. In this context, you’ve always had a strong sense of confidence outside of the game. I think part of what makes you a compelling player is seeing how well this translates into a unique and often very aggressive play-style in game. I noticed some hints of this coming out on Sunday. How have you felt about the transition?

lavak3: I still am lacking good practice experience with other top players to get into a confident dueling shape. There are only a handful of them that I've had a chance to play. Having an aggressive play-style carries more thought than one would think in terms of how you initiate and decide to follow through. The main idea of playing aggressively is to catch your enemies off guard and to overwhelm them. This is to force them to a certain area to ill them and put yourself in an even more favorable situation. Playing aggressively opens oneself up to a decent amount of risks if done at the wrong times. Recklessness turns on the player and thus makes this strategy ineffective and even detrimental. In order to play an aggressive play-style successfully requires that certain conditions must be met.

Have you found any major differences in terms of the communities (outside of the game itself)?

lavak3: Certainly, these online communities can attract hateful people but they can also introduce you to lifelong comrades. In the UT community I can say I've ran into all of those. Overall, I've been pleased with the community in Quake Champions. Everyone from the high skilled to the lower levels have been extremely nice and enjoyable to play with or against. I don't know if certain games design fosters specific player behavior or what, but the game is in a great spot community wise. I only wish we had more cups for North America, or at least small weekly/monthly tournaments.

How do you feel about the current developer support between the two games?

lavak3: It just feels like Quake has bigger and better backing behind it. SyncError even stopped by my stream and followed the other day, which I thought was pretty cool. I hope UT does better, that's all I gotta say about that.

You can catch lavak3 streaming on his Twitch channel icon_twitch lavak3_