How TL Got Its Horse: The 100% Real, Really, Actually, Totally True Story

April 01 2019

If you’re on our website, reading our articles, chances are you’re a big TL fan. You’ve probably watched several SQUAD videos, tuned in to Hungrybox’s stream, plumbed NAF’s interviews for his rich and insightful discourse, and seen the sweet blue and white Horse in many of your dreams and a few of your nightmares.

We appreciate you, random TL fan, and we know that you would like to know many things about this fine organization, like how TL makes such trendy clothes, how we got so many top players, how we get the money to get so many top players, If the fell beast that Victor rides on counts as taxable capital in the European Union, and if it’s true that Steve has laden his once soft underbelly with various valuable gems from his horde, making him now nearly impervious to external sources of damage.

We’re here to answer none of those questions. Instead, we’re answering a much bigger question. Why Horse? It’s an age-old question about our logo that we receive constantly. In fact, the support team here at TL reports that over 88% of all emails they get simply read, “Why Horse?”

It’s a fair question too. We are called Team Liquid, not Team Horse. Why not a wave? Why not a crisp can of Monster energy drink? Why not orange juice, as a nod to the global fight against scurvy? The only liquid Horse has are the pedestrian liquids that are inside most animals. The only way to truly understand Horse is to go through Team Liquid’s past. This is the 100% real, really, actually, totally true story of Horse, the TL logo.

Let’s rewind to the year 2000. This was a time well remembered for EDM, Will Smith, and a healthy millenarian fear of computers and the end times. It was also the year that our fearless leader Victor “Nazgul” Goossens founded Team Liquid! Back then, the world of esports was so different that it would be barely recognizable to us today. Just a fraction of the size it’s reached today, holding an esports tournament in a major sports stadium seemed like a distant dream. Instead, most competitive gamers congregated in rec centers, back alleys, hovels fashioned from the raw clay of the riverside, and Artosis’s basement.

Back then, the rules of all games were wild. Super Smash Bros. was played with items, blocking wasn’t allowed in Street Fighter matches, and it was illegal in several countries to play Starcraft at anything higher than 300 APM. Rosters had less restrictions as well, allowing both human infants and prized racehorses to try their hands (and hooves) at many different titles. To this day, many people fondly remember the heated rivalry between Johan “babyhands” McGee and Momma’s Favorite “Momma’s Favorite Sunday Morning Cartoon” Sunday Morning Cartoon.

Though many people think of early period Team Liquid as a Starcraft team and brand, Team Liquid was equally as focused on the Pepsi Man and M&M’s: Shell Shocked titles, which had much larger competitive scenes at the time. Only after the debacle at “Hell in the Chocolate Shell 3” did Starcraft pull ahead, and this was mostly because Pepsi Co. and Mars, Incorporated were legally compelled to dismantle their esports divisions.

Contrary to popular belief, Victor didn’t even start his professional gaming career with Starcraft, but with the wildly popular arcade game Arlington Horse Race. In the early 90’s, Arlington Horse Race dominated the arcade scene, and what could be seen as the nascent beginnings of esports. Victor was top of the EU ladder and worked hard to keep the AHR scene alive. Unfortunately, international gambling laws ultimately lead to the death of the game and we released all our AHR players in 2001.

In the early days of esports, the idea of logos was both shocking and strange. Since esports was a culture driven by harsh sounds and heavy lights, the static and fixed imagery of a logo worked many gamers into a small frenzy. Up until 2001, all esports websites and teams communicated their brand and its power through elements of material culture like trophies won from tournaments, beautifully sculpted busts of their best players, and the tattered controllers of their enemies.

In 2001, the logo finally began to enter into esports culture. Japan’s Woodblock Gaming began marketing their players and teams with gorgeous, hand-crafted woodblock logos in the shape of a controller. This move was widely loathed and sparked several riots, but the first seeds were planted.

In 2002, esports had finally moved out of Artosis’s basement and into Phreak’s basement. With esports gaining a wider audience, gamers were forced to confront cultures that focused less on hordes of material wealth and more on things like branding, marketing, and fiat currency. Amidst this value shift, the teams with logos absorbed the most sponsors and top players.

Team Liquid quickly realized it was adapt or die and began to work on logos. Team Liquid’s first logo was simple, elegant, and easy. They focused on their main game and team - Starcraft - and made a logo that consisted of the title of the game written in a blocky, embossed font, then imposed the heads of three playable factions over the dark vacuum of space. This logo was wildly popular and well-received, but Team Liquid was forced to change it three years later, when Blizzard realized that the logo was a pixel-perfect recreation of the cover art of their game.

Back to square one for us! After issuing a formal “our bad” statement to Blizzard we did what most professional esports organization did at the time. Everyone here at Team Liquid - from the players, to the coaches, to the staff, to the resident witch doctors - came together and journeyed deep into the primordial forests of Ireland. The rolling fog, the damp air, the exhausting miles of hiking, and the delirium caused by the insidious whispers of spriggans really put people in a more creative, inspired mindset. Before too long, everyone was pitching in, coming up with wild new ideas, encouraging one another, and screaming branding ideas at thousand year old oak trees.

Emerging from the desert in 2006, our team of crack artists produced a bold, forward-thinking, and ingenious logo: A capital T placed next to a capital L. This was particularly ingenious as the T was short for Team and the L was short for Liquid. While this logo was unsurpassed in terms of beauty, form, and function, it was too ahead of its time to be successful. The problem was that acronyms had yet to be widely used in the gaming world and many in esports were not sure how to handle the ambiguity of two letters placed next to each other. The esports world greeted this new idea with raw panic, assuming the T and L to stand for things like translator, too long, and tarantula legs.

Understanding that we had misread our community, we opened up our logo design process to a contest in 2008. First, we let our fans design hundreds upon thousands upon hundreds of thousands of JPGs that could be our logo. Then, we held a vote to determine the community’s favorites. Then, we took the top 64 of our favorites and assigned them to horses in Arlington Horse Race and had them race to defeat each other.

The race was celebrated with this commemorative painting by Jim Warren

Through this process, we arrived at our Winged Beast logo. This logo featured Victor’s famous fell beast with two outstretched angel wings, and Team Liquid written underneath. It was wildly popular because it had no acronyms and had a beautiful artistic rendering of the creature that had struck terror into our enemies for years. We sold a lot of apparel featuring this logo, including a famous t-shirt and an even more famous bib for infant gamers.

While this logo was popular, the process to create it turned out to be incredibly, wildly illegal. It turned out that all uses of AHR machines constituted a level of gambling and immoral behavior that violated international law on several grounds. While we negotiated a treaty that would allow us to sell our remaining merchandise up until 2016, we would need to discontinue the logo. After issuing a formal “our bad” statement to the United Nations in 2010, we were ultimately forced to make another change - rather, many changes.

From 2010 to 2015, Team Liquid entered into an exploratory phase. During this period, Team Liquid tried out over 800 different logos. Some stuck around for months while others lasted for mere minutes. This was due to Team Liquid opening up the famous Alienware JPG Facility and hiring roughly 1000 JPG Scientists to create and recreate Team Liquid’s logo. This is why many old-hands in esports stil call us the “Home of the Thousand Terrible JPG Scientists.”

During the reign of the Thousand Terrible JPG Scientists, Team Liquid found many failures and successes. We cycled through hundreds of solids, liquids, animals, and abstract concepts as logos. Our orange peel logo celebrating International Scurvy Awareness Day made great inroads into the Caribbean privateer community, while our diaper logo celebrating the impact human infants had made in gaming was mostly a flop. During this period, Team Liquid’s logo was occasionally a horse, but not the Horse we know and love.

Horse would not surface until 2015, when Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet merged Curse with Team Liquid. Steve had long had an interesting relationship with horses. Starting off as a competitive Civilization IV player, Steve would play alongside some equine greats, like UnseenHorse. During his time with unBridled eSports, Steve would build a mostly horse team around the legendary Korean thoroughbred, Horslet.

Despite Steve’s rich history with horses, he championed the banning of horses in esports. Being front and center in “Hell in the Chocolate Shell 3” debacle, Steve saw just how much damage a panicked herd of powerful gaming horses could do to a venue, and to esports at large. While the horse community has now reconciled with the ban, back then there was no shortage of bad blood. This bad blood led one horse shaman to put a powerful curse on Steve, barring his team from any placing other than 4th until he paid homage to Horse.

When Steve first joined Team Liquid in 2015, he didn’t believe the curse was real and thought that merging with Team Liquid would be just the change he and his team needed. Over the coming months he would understand that he was wrong, the curse was real, and something needed to be done. This daunting realization plagued Steve, and he was known to carry around a notebook full of information and data about horses, as well as mysterious shorthand, and a foreign script that didn’t seem to belong to any human language. Steve could be found roaming the halls and board rooms of Team Liquid’s offices late at night, his eyes weary and blood shot, shouting, “My sponsors! My sponsors for a horse!”

Steve’s peril was obvious, and so Victor quickly agreed to follow his new Co-CEO deep into the deserts of the American Southwest, where they found and spoke with the horse shaman after climbing atop a great flat-top mesa. The horse shaman didn’t recognize Steve at first and admitted to kind of forgetting about the whole 4th place curse thing. The shaman instructed the two of them to replace their logo with Horse, and drew a picture of Horse in the dirt before them so that the curse may be lifted.

The JPG Scientists graciously implemented the design, creating the beautiful blue and white Horse you see today. Understanding that their purpose was fulfilled and their reign had come to an end, the JPG Scientists disassembled the Alienware JPG Facility brick by brick and walked off into the sunset, going to places we can scarcely imagine, to do JPG science we can scarcely comprehend.

Shortly thereafter, Team Liquid found that the curse had indeed been lifted after our League team came in an impressive 9th place the following split! There was great celebration and general mirth, knowing now that we were finally free from fourth place. We erected great banners depicting Horse all across our training facilities and offices and carried them into tournaments and games.

Our logo achieved, our curse removed, we are now free not only to tell the story of Horse, but to build on it further. That’s right, after years of general complacency, we’re happy to reveal our new and improved logo. Liquid fans, please raise your Horses in celebration for our entrance into a new era.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself who could have made such a gorgeous logo. What fine image artisan, what magnificent JPG scientist, what intricate soul could have done this? This logo was not made by a crack team of the world’s best artists, nor the world’s most refined scientists. It was made by our very own Steve! And we’re super proud of him.

We’ve already hung up the logo on all the fridges in all of our team houses and training facilities and we’re working on getting this new logo on fridges all across the world. Steve worked very hard on this logo and we hope you’ll support his new passion of graphic design by putting this logo on your fridge too. That way, Steve can see it and no how good of a job he’s done!

If you’d like an even better way to support Steve’s new passion, look no further than the Team Liquid store. We’ve got a fresh batch of new logo merchandise in stock right now! Act fast because we’re not sure how long we’ll keep this logo before Steve, Victor, or a stampeding herd of JPG scientists change it, so we didn’t make that many of these. We’re just gonna sell them for the next 24 hours and move from there, so get them while supplies last!

Writer // Austin Ryan

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