The moment Splyce had worked for finally came: The team achieved a playoff berth in the League of Legends European Championship (LEC).
In a season filled with ups and downs for other squads, Splyce was among a pack of four teams that went seemingly unaffected by turbulence during the season. Alongside Team Vitality, Origen and Fnatic, it is fighting for second place.
The team's support, Tore Hoel "Norskeren" Eilertsen, can finally breathe.
"It feels pretty good," he said of Splyce's qualification. "I've never had this happen before. I felt a lot of relief when we won [against SK Gaming]. Normally, I would be screaming, but I was so tired. I knew how important it would be to win against SK -- [I had] a lot of pressure this week."
Not too shabby for someone who nearly sat out of the 2019 LEC season after a tumultuous free-agency period. Coming off a rocky season with Team ROCCAT, Norskeren showcased potential and garnered interest from a number of teams. In fact, one team nearly signed him before changing its mind.
However, by that time, his agent told him that LEC support spots had been taken. So he notified the scene via Twitter of his potential absence from the circuit. His situation at the time did not help.
"I had pneumonia, and it was pretty rough doing the talks," he said. "I was getting really tired and worn out, so it was mentally draining. It didn't really help that my job was on the line, that I might not have a good offer for the season. Luckily, I didn't die, and I got a new team. So that's fine!"
Rather than playing in an academy team or missing the season, he received an offer from Splyce. The team had recently returned to the LEC and let Raymond "Kasing" Tsang go. Suddenly, Norskeren found himself alongside veterans Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamas and Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup -- two players he had watched for years before becoming a pro.
"It feels cool to play with them, because they're kind of the people you looked up to, and they have achieved so much," Norskeren said. "Getting to play with them is kind of an honor."
Even then, Norskeren entered the season with a chip on his shoulder. Maybe a better performance with Team ROCCAT would not have left him in that situation, unable to tell whether he would be playing and full of regrets.
"I really have to prove myself this season because I almost got dropped," he said. "I was thinking: Maybe if I tried 110 percent, I would have an offer. I really want to go into this year giving my all, and I have that thing to look back on. If I don't do what it takes, I will probably be left out. It's kind of motivating."
In his defense, he merely followed orders in Team ROCCAT on Summoners' Rift -- like a robot, he said. Such an approach had an obvious problem that nearly harmed him in free agency; "I didn't really get a chance to develop as a player," he said. "I needed someone to help me and work with me, but I didn't have that."
But there might not be any regrets by the time his contract ends at Splyce; his coaches are making sure of that. The staff, Norskeren said, is better than anything he's had this far into his career, which included stints in Schalke 04 in the 2017 Challenger series and in Team ROCCAT in 2018. For Norskeren, there is not a day that goes by without him learning something new.
"All of my mistakes are called out, and I feel like I have much more help and guidelines, whereas in all the [other teams] I wouldn't have that," he said. "I learned a lot more on how to be a good team player, where I'll be a part of the victory."
For a while, as is customary in new teams, Splyce needed to build synergy. With everyone struggling to find their marks, some mishaps were bound to happen -- on top of unfortunate plays, such as two Blast Cone accidents against G2 Esports and SK Gaming in Weeks 3 and 4. But Splyce has progressed past the building stage.
"I feel like we have been finding out what we should do, and we have been assigning roles, and everyone is doing it pretty well," Norskeren said. "We just have to make it better and master it, and become a better team at practicing as time goes on. So I think if we keep going, we will have a good showing in playoffs if we manage to qualify, which I think we will."
In the meantime, there are things he misses from Team ROCCAT, namely the friendship he built with Rogue's Kim "Profit" Jun-hyung and Schalke 04's Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi over the course of a South Korean boot camp.
Back then, they played a random symbol generator to determine who paid the tab whenever they visited a food store. Although he did not pay the most frequently, rumor has it that the tabs Norskeren paid were monumental.
That type of friendship, he notes, makes him compete even harder when they meet on Summoners' Rift. "It's a good thing to have friends in all the teams," he said. "It gives me a little more motivation to beat them, or it makes me feel better. It felt really good to beat Schalke, because I never played against Memento ever."
For now, he is enjoying the ride with Splyce.
"I am grateful for the situation we're in," he said. "We might not have the most fans, but I really appreciate the ones who do support us. It helps a lot. I will try to interact with my fans more by streaming, but it's kind of rough with the schedule we have."
And it is about to get much rougher with the playoffs looming around the corner.