(Written by Richard Lewis)
There are initially a few misconceptions to dispel when taking in the history of Zboard. The first is that while the players that made up the early incarnations of the team had played earlier versions of Counter-Strike, the team had no 1.6 history or equivalent. They didn’t actually come together until Condition Zero was released, a game that Ben “ben0” Balcombe maintains is the greatest incarnation of Counter-Strike thus far. The second is that Ben wasn’t always the leader of the team, even though he would become known as the face of Zboard for many.
When the team first came together they were called neon and Dan “Cras” Howlett was the person calling the shots. Not that it lasted too long. Two of the other members, Scott “Toccs” Hawkins and Jim “InSuR” Woolley didn’t care much for Dan’s leadership style and Ben decided to follow his real life friends into making their own team. However it wasn’t long before Dan came back to the players asking to be considered for a trial. That team went on to be known as “X043” and Ben, often having to be the person who smoothed over team arguments, quickly became recognised as the leader. The name wasn’t the most inspired as Ben explains:
“Before I was known as ben0 I was called 0wn4g3 and I had to stop playing for a bit. When I returned I thought it would be funny to call myself X-0wn4g3, as in an “ex” girlfriend or whatever. So when we were sat around thinking about names for this team, because I didn’t even really like neon as a name, I decided to just take the X-0wn4g3 name and make it X043. Of course, we changed the name to be “Xtreme Ownage”, which was probably as equally bad as neon was, but we were young.”
X043 quickly topped the enemydown Condition Zero ladder in 2004. The level of domestic competition wasn’t great though and it was clear that more people were interested in a mod of the original Counter-Strike game on ther Half Life 2 engine, called Counter-Strike: Source.
(Written by Henry Greer aka HenryG)
[My team at the time] got ourselves into a really good position and I was getting some real acclaim to how good I was at the game. Before I knew it I got a call up from the UK’s best CSS team at the time ‘X043’. This was when things really got serious, these group of guys were better than me and they were aware of offline tournaments and wanted to make it to the same level as the 1.6 players at the time (SK, NiP, NoA etc.). I wasn’t really sure where it would lead, but I loved the idea of making money out of playing a computer game. We maintained our position as the UK’s best team, but we certainly had our rivals and teams snapping at our heels for that prestigious title of having no money, no sponsors but the biggest e-penis in the British CS:S community. We had been called out by a few of the other teams for being ‘onliners’ and the fact we had never been to a LAN in any other games suggested we were either cheating or scared to prove ourselves. Multiplay had just announced their first ever CS:S tournament and the prize pot was a tantalising £250. Every other UK team was going to be there and we were desperate to attend, not only to get rich but to also shut the haters down.
After having explain to my loving mother (I was 16 years old) that not everyone on the internet was a catfish and you could actually legitimately meet nice people to play some CS with, she finally gave me the money to attend i23, the UK’s first ever CS:S tournament.
We won the tournament in a pretty convincing manner and shut down a lot of our haters and continued to do so. We progressed throughout Europe and entered bigger and better leagues (Clanbase etc.) and we won every British event that was available. We started to pick up sponsors and soon became to be known as ‘Team Zboard’ (sponsored by the peripherals company). From that point I played at bigger and better tournaments and was starting to become a world class player.