Following a weeklong break after EU-NA Rift Rivals, Origen will return to the League of Legends European Championship still 3-3 in the standings and tied with FC Schalke 04 and SK Gaming for fourth place.
It's not where they want to be.
"I think we are all quite disappointed with how we have started," Origen jungler Jonas "Kold" Andersen said. "Losing is one thing, but losing without playing to the level that you're expecting of yourself is a different thing. We are 3-3, and that's OK, but it's more in the way that we're playing lately that makes it a little bit worse."
"It's kind of sucked," Origen support Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez said. "I would have loved to have a better start, but I can't really complain about being 3-3. I just generally believe that there's just a lot in us. There's a lot of things that we can show."
Above all else, the members of Origen are introspective and hungry. It's easy to imagine them dissecting a win with the same level of harsh criticism as if it were a loss. Origen aren't where they want to be in the LEC standings, but their internal ire is more than that: They're not showing their best onstage.
With their own players being the organization's harshest critics, Origen have tried to foster an internal atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable being open and honest in team discussions, no matter how harsh.
"We make sure that there's nothing unsaid," Mithy said. "Everyone is understanding of each other's anxieties, so we can work together to ease them out. That's kind of the culture approach that we have in this team. We just talk about everything. Whatever comes to anyone's mind we just say without holding ourselves back.
"I've learned to do it in a non-toxic way decently well by now, being aware of what kind of emotion I'm feeling and being able to express it without making the whole atmosphere worse."
Much of this comes from the experience that veterans such as Kold, Mithy and mid laner Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm can bring. Even the two youngest players on the Origen lineup, top laner Barney "Alphari" Morris and bot laner Patrik "Patrik" Jírů, bring considerable experience, having played competitively since 2015.
"We have the philosophy that whoever is in the position to take charge should be in a position where he can say, 'I can do this, this and this,' and everyone follows how they can be involved in this play," Kold said. "We are a very democratic team, I would say. We are a team that likes to make sure that everyone is involved and everyone is on the same page, so we do it kind of on the fly."
On broadcasts, Origen have earned the reputation of being a "slow" team or a more "patient" team, but they have one of the more proactive early games in Europe. Their in-game struggles come from their own high expectations and an embarrassment of riches in each individual's flexibility. Both Kold and Mithy cited the team's versatility as their greatest strength but also their greatest weakness due to the lack of focus it can bring.
"We don't have a clear, clear identity apart from many people calling us 'the macro team.' That's more in the mid game how we play," Kold said. "We're trying a lot of things. ... We're trying to redefine what it is actually that makes Origen a team that can potentially go to worlds and play really well."
"It's a long-term strength. I think that's the best way to put it," Mithy said. "In spring split, we had an idea of how we would win the easiest, and we went with that, but the idea that we're trying to bring to this team is that we are a long-term project, and we feel like all of the players have the potential to perform and be in a leading spot in the games. That's creating a lot of confusion, but it's making everyone learn more depth in the game, how every position works, how every position can carry, and that will help us be more creative in the long term."
The value of Rift Rivals has been a subject of debate since the tournament pitting the top NA and EU team began in 2017 as an odd, slightly less serious international event put on the calendar toward the beginning of the summer split. Teams have used it to try new players and compositions in an onstage environment that's more competitive than scrims but doesn't count for the all-important world championship standings.
For Origen, the tournament offered the chance to practice a few role swaps between lanes, such as sending Patrik mid lane instead of keeping him bot, and try new compositions that could easily be punished by opponents if Origen were unable to execute them, such as a Taliyah/Pantheon bot lane.
Taliyah/Pantheon might not have worked out as well as Origen would have liked, but the team left North America with a 3-1 overall record in Rift Rivals and completed a few interesting in-game experiments.
"We just lost our last [LEC] game against Splyce where we didn't play how we should be playing, so right now we are not playing to the level that we know we can play at," Kold said. "We'll take this opportunity here at Rift Rivals for us to kind of get back to where we should be. We take this as a separate thing where we can hopefully take something away from it and learn from it."
Origen certainly have fostered the right team atmosphere to make this happen.
"For me personally, it just feels really good to work with everyone," Mithy said. "It feels like everyone is working their ass off, and we're not hating on someone if something goes wrong. It's like, 'You f---ed up here. I said it. We agree on it. Let's just move on.' It's a very natural, hard-working environment that just feels good."