GoDZ: 'SC2 sets the bar for casting'
I just moved over to Melbourne six weeks ago, yes. Definitely, being in Perth was really convenient for going to South East Asia. Just being in the same time zone as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, makes covering online events so much easier. Melbourne being three hour difference making it a bit harder, but I do still think it gives me an advantage.
What makes Melbourne still the perfect city for you right now?
For me, it feels like a city. Perth was small, isolated and it felt more like somewhere I could retire than somewhere I could be as a student or working as a professional. For me Melbourne is a lot more natural. I have been living in Singapore for three years, in the U.S. for ten years. There is a lot more happening, a lot more nightlife. And the education system here, the university I’m going to is one of the best in the country. I’m studying a bachelor of biomedicine.
Do you have any plans on making casting your full time job some time soon?
Not any time soon. I want to keep it up, I definitely want to keep my foot in the door. Additionally it is what I love doing, as a student and also before I started here in Melbourne, I was just working full time for a year and a half. It takes up a lot of time, a lot of energy, to keep on commentating, and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t see the possibility of continuing doing it in the future and also the fact that I love it. It’s something I actually thought today, it showed that following your dreams can be easier, or maybe I’m not sure about easier, it's hard indeed, but it can be easier than living a sort of mundane life about something you are enjoying and that is definitely what I’m doing. I don't have any short-term plans, but in the long-term I would like to keep casting full time.
How would you describe the GoDZ-Way of casting?
I would describe my way of casting as being quite analytical, I like to provide excitement through analyzing what the teams are doing. At the same time I still do sort of play-by-play casting, but I like more to say why they are doing things rather what they are doing.
What was your greatest moment as a caster?
So far it would have to be casting the ESTC, the Thailand DotA 1 championships, which was in October 2011, that just being my first big LAN event. Meeting all the professional teams, hanging out with them on a casual basis, and during the day providing coverage for the tournament where I got some amazing reception, was probably the most rewarding experience I had so far as a Dota commentator.
The first day when I arrived, when I walked into the huge hall, where they were holding a big gaming exposition, my mind was just completely blown. That was even before people arrived. Once the people arrived and the casting began, the atmosphere there was just great. Definitely, a lot of it comes down to the South East Asian community, but also to just being a part of something that felt so big, so unbelievable. Part of it was just unreal.
The tournament was still DotA 1. SEA has some issues with switching over to Dota 2 at the moment. What is the reason for that?
Although the South East Asian focus is still on DotA 1, the shift is currently happening. In an interview, the top teams, such as MiTH.Trust, they have been asked: ‘Do you consider yourself more a DotA 1 team or a Dota 2 team’, and they are starting to state: ‘If we’d have to say, we’d be a Dota 2 team.’ That is what they are now focusing on, because Dota 2 is going to be the future for Dota.
When did you make first contact with Dota?
My first contact would have been when I was living in Singapore, during year 10, and that was about six years ago. Initially I didn’t really think much of the game, but a couple of years later I gave it a serious shot and got fairly addicted with it.
Personally, would you say, you totally switched over to Dota 2, or are you still with DotA 1?
Part of me still loves DotA 1. If I get any opportunity to commentate on a tournament of DotA 1, I won’t turn it down, just because I consider myself to be focusing on Dota 2. At the same time, I definitely consider myself to be more involved with the Asian scene, so whatever there is in the Asian scene, be it DotA 1 or Dota 2, I’m looking to get involved in.
As a commentator, I think it is just sort of a natural progression to move on to Dota 2. It is the more popular game and at the moment, that is where most of the viewership is. At the same time, I commentate because I enjoy it and I definitely enjoy DotA 1 still, which I’m finding when I’m doing the monthly GEST, the Gigabyte Esports Tournament, which is in DotA 1 in South East Asia. Everytime I comment that, I just fall in love again with the Warcraft 3 DotA.
How about your player career?
I used to play DotA 1 quite actively, I played just within the Australian community, the problem with that community is that it is the Australian community, there is not much exposure, there is not many tournaments and as far as sponsorship or any sort of active community goes, it doesn’t really exist. But it is where I really got serious about DotA and started commentating, I played on a couple of semi-serious DotA 1 teams, I played in some local LAN tournaments and had a good time, even won a few.
And when moving on to Dota 2, initially I was playing competitively with Team Natural9 who are now known as absolute Legends, I was on their main roster for about four or five weeks and then as a result of my commentating also, they have been looking to practicing seriously for the International, they found someone to replace me, because they found my actual individual skills were not quite up to par.
You couldn’t quite keep up with their training schedule, or what was the main problem?
Yeah, I mean I don’t want to make excuses and say it was just the training schedule, it definitely was my individual skill as well. If the skills were there, I would have made the commitment, but it was a matter of my personal skill and just not working with the team, it wasn’t just lack of time.
What Dota 2 heroes which are still coming do you anticipate the most?
A there is so many. Probably my most anticipated hero is Pandaren Brewmaster, he was one of my favourite DotA 1 heroes. And my all-time favourite hero is Meepo. I can’t wait for him to be implemented. I really hope some teams are actually going to try him out and use him in competitive play. There were one or two teams in DotA 1 who would pick him every now and then. So we may even see him in Dota 2.
Do you have like a favourite team or player in Dota?
At least in DotA 1, my favourite style was always found when I watched the Chinese teams. A lot of people go on how about it’s boring, there is not too much action, but for me, it’s what Dota is about, because every member in the team is working as a team together so perfectly. The communication is absolutely spot on. It’s slow pace, I’m not going to deny that, but it’s beautiful to watch, because you can see the reasoning behind every decision they make; every small action has some kind of purpose. If you watch some of this high-action, high-intense European dota, which is so exciting, often it can get sloppy. There are mistakes being made, which is partly why it becomes sort of the more viewer-friendly form. But for me, as a semi-competitive player as well, I prefer watching the more calculated play.
Would you say one of the two styles is more successful at the moment?
In DotA 1 it was definitely the Chinese style. They kind of proved time and time again that they are the best teams, but so far in Dota 2, Europe is far ahead of the rest of the world with the metagame. I think with time, China will practice more and more and slowly shorten that gap. But I think Dota 2 is promoting a more action-heavy metagame. So they may have to sort or move out of their comfort zone, which will be interesting to see how they do.
Which strengths do Dota 2 players need?
I think, the biggest strength for Dota players is always going to be communication. You can find countless players who have accurate last hitting, lane control or even great map awareness, but you need to be able to communicate and know what your teammates are doing, because you’re always going to have to work towards a similar goal and you have to do that as a team. You can’t just be relying on one player. You have to have some kind of strategy which involves all five members.
What does Dota 2 need to become even bigger?
I think Dota 2 needs more professionalism from some of the teams, currently a lot of matches are getting postponed, teams are not showing up on time, teams ingame are not acting as professional as they can. Sure, it’s great to have characters and personalities. It’s been proved in Starcraft 2: It’s a successful scene because you have some of those personalities. But you need to do it in a controlled and appropriate way, which isn’t currently happening in Dota 2 with a lot of the teams. You see a number of tournaments cracking down and as a result you are getting default wins, you see teams get banned, which means necessary steps are taken, but teams have sort of start to react to those decisions.
Is it just the players and teams who have to react or also the organizers who have to be more strict?
I think the organizers need to be more strict, but they are starting to do that. I think, largely it also falls upon the community, because the Dota community as well is quite an immature one. Just any viewer who goes onto the forums either GosuGamers, joindota or any popular Dota newssite can see that there is a lot of immaturity.
The players often kind of reflect their community and to me it is something that needs to be changed mostly from the players and community: The tournament organizers are doing as best as they can. There is only so much you can do. You can’t ban every team, otherwise you don’t run a successful tournament. So as a tournament organizer, the easy way out is to just let those matches start 20 or 30 minutes late, because it is better than not having the matched played at all for teams and viewers.
Could one solution also be to make more short-term tournaments?
So far, within Dota 2, some of the most successful tournaments have been those short-term tournaments, such as the Infused cup, which ran over a weekend and produced some of the best matches and had the most excitement. They definitely do provide a lot of excitement and they force teams to show up on time or it doesn’t really matter too much, because over a short period of time, you have to commit to that. It’s not like an extended tournament which goes over two or three months. I think that can help to solve it, but the problem is with those short-term tournaments, you are less likely to get the necessary sponsors. You are less likely to have all the matches you need commentated. I don’t think the tournament as a whole can be as big as those extended tournaments.
What other games in eSport are you following?
Most likely most Dota players would lack the macro in SC2 a lot. Maybe Chen players would do slightly better.
Well I was a Chen player myself, and I obviously played a lot of Warcraft 3 Melee, before I played Dota, so I do have some skills. I have the micro, but I’m not sure about the macro, because Warcraft 3 has never been that macro based.
What can you and other casters learn from the very successful SC2 casting scene?
I don't know if it’s so much about learning. I mean, definitely, there is a lot to learn, they have to most experienced and professional casters in the business, as well as some of the most entertaining. For me SC2 just sort of sets the bar. They have this production quality which is not being seen in Dota 2, at all. Even at LAN events, even at those live coverage at Dreamhack, the previous Star Ladder tournament, the production quality just was nothing at all comparable to what you are seeing at the Starcraft 2 events. So for me, that is probably the biggest thing, Dota has to improve upon. Not to mention as a caster there is a lot to learn. The whole mechanics of having two different casters on the same match, coordinating back and forth, not talking over each other, you can almost see and have this goal of what you can aim towards to get as good as it gets or even better.
Isn't the status as a team game with all mental issues also a plus for Dota 2?
That is an advantage and disadvantage. Definitely it makes it harder to organize and you have to sort of adjust formats and scheduling, because you need to coordinate five people. With Stacraft 2, if one person can’t play, well you can replace him. With Dota 2, well if one person can’t play, that means a team can’t play and that becomes a much bigger deal. With the teams, there is definitely a lot more going on, because you have to communicate. As you said there is this mental aspect of being a team. You’ll see these teams coming and having great winning streaks, and sometimes it just comes doing to being positive and having team morale.
I’ve been on both sides, I mean being with absolute Legends or being in the conversation between matches just recently. When things start going badly, you can hear it in their voice, you can hear that they lose focus. They stop talking. I’ve been in games where they start losing, maybe even lost the first game, they go into the second game and noone is talking. It’s just quiet. They are still playing, but they are just not communicating at all. And that is because they lose team morale. It’s a big component in these games.
Apart from casting, what are you doing in eSports right now?
Right now I’m looking to get involved into some tournament organizing as well. I’m looking forward to organizing a big Asian Dota 2 tournament featuring Chinese teams, South East Asian teams and also one or two teams for the oceanic region. I’m also involved with the absolute Legends doing sort of managing them as well as helping to bring them out when they need and promoting them. So it’s not just commentating at the moment.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I’m currently using a Thermaltake keyboard, just a mid-range one, as far as I can tell. I actually won it at a LAN competition in Perth. I’ve got a Razer Goliath mousepad, with a Logitech mouse, a fairly standard one, I’m not too fussy when it comes to my gaming mouse, and I got a Beyerdynamics headset recently. That has been a huge boost in audio quality and microphone quality for me for all my commentaries.