Starting from Call of Duty 4, and going all the way to being India’s first Apex Predator player, the young protégé Adarsh “Paddox” Verma is now leading the Valorant squad of LevelZero Esports.
Along with his brother Shrey “shine’ Verma, Shantanu “ AURA” Pandey, and Abhishek “YoLo” Rawat, Adarsh started LevelZero Esports as India’s top apex Legends roster. Since then, the organization has evolved to include multiple esports rosters, such as Super Smash Bros. and Fifa.
Sportskeeda Esports’ Suryadeepto Sengupta got a chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Mr. Verma and learn about his early days, LevelZero Esports, and his plans ahead.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Adarsh, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s life like outside taking headshots
Adarsh: Well, I’ve been doing my graduation in BSC Computer Science along with pursuing esports. I probably shouldn’t say this, but the lockdown has really helped me. Since I don’t have to be at college all day, I can practice with my team all day long. As of now, I don’t really get much time to do anything else except practice and stream. I do get some time off to watch a couple of episodes of my favorite anime shows. I have been meaning to start workout sessions daily as well before I get to my grind.
Are there any other career options you are looking into apart from focusing all of your time and energy on being an esports athlete?
Adarsh: I don’t think I have an interest in anything else other than esports and content creation. Esports has been a part of me for more than 10 years now and the only thing I want is to represent my country in the biggest stage there is in the particular field I’ve been working on. Oh and also get the Gold for my country.
What are some of your earliest gaming memories, and when did you decide to pursue professional esports?
Adarsh: My earliest memory that I can remember is playing Nintendo videogames like Super Mario, Contra and it was so much fun. Back then, I had no clue about esports, content creation, or anything. All I knew was that video games made me happy and I would scream if someone deprived me of that.
As to when I decided to pursue esports as a career, it would be back when I started playing Call of Duty 4 promod and I was this 9-year-old just killing people in a random pub server, my brother who also played the game, was amazed to see this and introduced me to the concept that is ‘esports’ It was like finding the most crucial puzzle piece of my life, I thought to my self, “wait I enjoy something so much and I can even earn money if I am really good at it?” Well, that was the day, I can still remember it, was the summer of 2009.
How was the situation back home, were your parents supportive of your esports career, or were they skeptical about the viability of the career?
Adarsh: Well throughout my run as a cod4 player my parents were not at all supportive, they saw this as an addiction and before that a hobby. Later when I played and won LANs and tournaments, they saw my passion for video games and also a small ray of hope in my career as an esports athlete. Since then my parents have been really supportive even if they don’t understand the full concept of it. They see me happy, which is basically what all parents want from their children I guess.
Do tell us a bit about your relationship with your brother Shrey Verma. Was he a major influence behind your esports career?
Adarsh: Well like I said before, my brother was the one to introduce me to the titles, the concept, and literally everything there is in esports. He was the one who fought for me against my parents when they weren’t supportive. If there was no shine, there would have been no paddox. My personal relationship with him is a really close one and we share almost everything with each other. He’s like a parent to me in esports, you know like how parents make their children study and ask them questions about the chapters they’ve read. Well, he keeps me posted on games and how to grow/improve in certain areas as well.
You started as a Call of Duty player. Tell us a bit about your experiences back in the days.
Adarsh: Like anyone, I started Call of Duty with its single-player story mode and I was hooked to it. I started playing the hardcore/softcore modes online when I saw my aim was getting better, of course, the esports part of Call of Duty 4 was all in promod which is a separate mode. Even though I performed against a lot of India’s best teams back then, I was long ignored because of my age. I was part of teams like ATE gaming who also had a team in CS 1.6, team iNDECENT, and Violence Gaming. I was 18/19 when I was in my prime in cod4, at this time I won a lot of tournaments as a player in Violence Gaming and people were forced to notice me, though the scene has been dead for a while then. I had to shift to a more live game. I searched for games to shift to all the time like Overwatch, PUBG PC, and even CSGO until I laid my eyes on Apex Legends.
As a former Call of Duty professional player, what do you think about the esports perspective of the current Call of Duty games? Do you think the yearly release model hurts the franchise from an esports perspective or it helps to keep the formula fresh and active with new content and additions?
Adarsh: As a former COD4 pro I would like to say that I have absolutely no interest in the recent call of duty games, the games are totally different from the games they used to make back then, in a bad way for me at least. The NA scene seems to thrive off the franchise though. The MLGs and other big organizations seem to have a good take on the yearly release model, so I’ll say the COD esports nowadays is for a very selected audience.
When did you decide to switch from Call of Duty to Apex Legends?
Adarsh: Like I said before, the COD4 scene was dead even before I was at my prime. I had to search for a better game which made me go through the slow-paced horrors like CS: GO and PUBG PC. Although I’ve taken quite a bit of liking to Valorant, I’m not really a fan of slow-paced multiplayer titles. I was hooked to Overwatch for a year before Apex was released. Overwatch was great and would be 100 percent my main game if it flourished in India at least a little, but that never happened.
Apex Legends was quite a new kind of game for me but I seemed to make good use of my movements eventually, which was the thing I was known for in cod4. All the puzzles started falling into the right places and I started grinding the game day and night. I had to have more kills than anyone at that point since there was no ranked system back then, I was just partnered with Zone Cafe and I started to stream all my games and gradually I was known as India’s best Wraith.
Do enlighten us about your journey as one of South Asia’s first Apex Legends Predators?
Adarsh: Apex Legends did not have a ranked system for 3 or 4 months and the only thing people were playing for was fun and the number of kills/wins which were not proper stats if you wanted to make a mark anywhere. Then came Season 1 when they finally introduced ranked. Every player in the world grinded the rank to become the best of the best. Ranked had a bunch of hackers and bugs which made it unimaginably hard to reach the top in the SEA region, and this was strongly overlooked by the devs at that time. We grinded day and night for the rank, made a bunch of strats which did not pan out sometimes. We were very aware that we were up against the world’s best players in the predator servers, which made us a bit nervous. We had a strong realization at one point that we are better in gunfights than most of them. We have a place in the world and we don’t have to be nervous anymore. We embraced the servers, the hackers, the bugs. We grinded, tried to avoid as many hackers as we could, and finally reached the top. There were a bunch of people in India who weren’t really happy about us for some unknown reason. We were even called hackers/boosted after we reached the top, but once the tournaments started taking place, we were the ones winning them all, we were stomping the lobbies. We were acknowledged as India’s best and interestingly this led to the birth of LevelZero.
You used to play as Wraith in Apex Legends. Why did you choose Wraith, and how does she sets herself apart from other champions?
Adarsh: I have always been the DPS player of my team, you know who likes to pinch into the enemy lines, disturb it and break it eventually. Wraith was a perfect character for me, who could kill one or two in a fight and phase back to safety if you have the right amount of aim and skills for that. No other champion was even close to par with Wraith’s abilities at the beginning. Another strong reason for playing Wraith is that I started the game grinding solo without any team. Wraith was the only character at that point who could do some damage and even take out clutches which were impossible for other characters, solo.
What do you think about the long-term sustainability of the battle royal genre as a primary esports option?
Adarsh: I’ve gotta say I’m not a very big fan of the genre, Apex is a big exception. I think Apex is a game that can’t be beaten in the next one or even two decades mechanically. Battle Royal as a whole is a genre that attracts many casual gamers, streamers, and fewer pro players because the genre has unlimited possibilities for content creation and entertainment. Battle Royal as a genre has marked itself as one of the mainstream genres now and it’s not going anywhere for a long amount of time.
Tell us a bit about the foundation and early days of LevelZero Esports.
Adarsh: LevelZero was merely an Apex Legends team in the early days of foundation. We were recognized as the best in Apex and we were in search of an organization that would take us. There were a bunch of Indian organizations that left us hanging and some that rejected us to the face. Everyone was skeptical about the game’s future. We thought why don’t we start something, something for people like us who don’t get the credit they really deserve, we could help the Indian community, nurture some unsearched Indian talents in different games as well. This led to the beginning of LevelZero Esports which consisted of 4 co-founders namely, Shrey “shine” Verma, Shantanu “ AURA” Pandey, Abhishek “YoLo” Rawat, and Adarsh “paddoX” Verma. It was not until 2 months of sponsors and team hunting did we get our first roster other than Apex, we got one of the best PUBG PC rosters in India at the time and also got our first sponsors at the time, GALAX.
What’s the team dynamic like in the LevelZero Esports Valorant roster?
Adarsh: We as a team are really aware that we have to work twice as hard as the CS guys who shifted to Valorant. We have literally zero experience in games like CS and Valorant’s gunplay. Trades and comms are mostly dominated by similar game styles to that of CS. We, as 5 individual players, are no doubt very exceptional, with better aim even than that of the CS guys. The one area we need to focus on is team coordination and trade games. It won’t be very long before you guys notice us on the top of this game as well, that’s a promise!
What was the primary driving factor behind you switching from Apex Legends to Valorant?
Adarsh: The devs showed literally no interest in the Indian region even after there were so many players here, waiting for their chances to bubble up to the top. We weren’t invited to any majors, We weren’t given any dedicated servers and we weren’t heard by the devs. It was a year and a half before we realized there was no hope for the Indian scene in the majors even after playing T1 scrims in the EU against teams like Fnatic, G2, luminosity and so many different organizations. We won a bunch of scrims there against the same teams. We had a good relationship with a couple of the main devs who focused mainly on the competitive scene of Apex, but at one point they said they had no recent plans to include India in the Major list. There was a game in the making at the point called Project A, we had high hopes for it since we desperately needed an FPS genre to switch to and PUBG/CS was no good for us. Valorant delivered with amazing gameplay involving verticality, well-thought abilities, and maps.
How do you think Valorant sets itself apart from other 5v5 FPS esports such as Call of Duty or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive?
Adarsh: Valorant is just as slow-paced as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive but the game has so much more than just a two-dimensional aim trainer. It has verticality, abilities, and heroes. You have endless possibilities to outplay an enemy. Call of Duty is more like a fast-paced gun game, with no kind of trait that can set itself apart from any other generic shooter game.
Where do you see the game in the upcoming years?
Adarsh: If Riot decides to nurture this game like they did League Of Legends, with good lore and content, constant changes in meta without making it boring, and care for both the pro and casual gamers, the game would last as one of the most played and most watched esports game for at least a decade.
Who is your favorite Valorant esports player?
Adarsh: I think I will say Tenz. He is clearly the most gifted and aggressive player in the Valorant pro scene right now. The kinds of play he makes is truly a treat to watch.
Let’s switchgear and discuss the Indian Esports Community. How do you think it sets itself apart from other foreign communities?
Adarsh: I think there are a lot of flaws in the Indian Esports community, but hey who doesn’t? The communities are different in all the games, I’ll say the Counter-Strike community is the most professional community in India right now who are making progress as Indian esports athletes. This is one of the reasons that the players are also a bit egotistical. There are few areas from where new and young talents can be recognized. But the community is improving and people are making an effort to scout for new talents in tournaments like the bid wars by AORUS and also the upcoming Skyesports auction tournaments. The Indian community, however flawed, is still a blank canvas. We can mold it to anything depending on our actions and choices in the future.
Do you think in the near future Indian Gaming Community will be considered to be competing at the same level as the NA or EU esports community?
Adarsh: I’ll give it a whole generation, but we’ll be there because the main problem is the lack of employment which leads to skeptical thoughts by the parents and thus the child is unable to pursue esports as a career.
Where do you see yourself and LevelZero five years down the line?
Adarsh: Our only goal is to bring this country the respect it deserves. We are in constant search of talents all the time. The country has the most population, that gives us the most chances for finding gifted players and the kind of people who can dedicate their life to esports, who want to be bred into beasts. LevelZero is always going ahead even as I write this and you can expect LevelZero to be one of the most reputed organizations in Asia in 5 years.
And finally, your top 3 tips for a budding esports player?
Pick a game that compliments your game style instead of settling for a popular game, you don’t enjoy playing. Of course, if you want to participate in esports it shouldn’t be dead. There are all kinds of games you can get in esports, so no reason to lose hope if you try a game and it doesn't pan out.
Stream your games regularly to get the maximum amount of exposure by yourself. Market yourself as much as you give time to your gameplay.
Don’t forget to stay in touch with the outside world every day, health is as important as your career, a healthy athlete is an inspiration for millions of guys. I’d like to state Ankit “V3nom” Panth as a live example.