Purge: 'You have to bust ass'
When I first got the idea I knew this is what I was going to do. The difference between the average person and somebody who does what I'm doing now, is that it takes a lot of dedication, just like I talked about a second ago. For example, when Starcraft 2 beta came out, I was like 'Ah, this is really awesome. And when I saw Husky's channel, I thought: 'I can do this'. But then I never did anything. And that is the average person who looks at casting. They say 'I could totally do this, I could be a successful caster'. But then they never have the effort to do it. That is important. Not only do you have to be qualified, have to have the voice for it. I have the game knowledge, I have a decent personality. You also have to bust ass to get there.
So I was at work one day and I was bored as hell: 'Oh my god, I should do for Dota what Husky did for Starcraft.' And then within a couple of weeks, I had stuff going. Then I put out five to seven videos per week and each of these was an hour long. So my volume was really high and I kept it consistent for about nine months. I think between march and about september/november I only had 600 subscribers on YouTube - now I'm up to 16.000 subscribers. My videos produced per day are not even comparable, but you have to do that for a really long build up time. And I knew that I could get here eventually, but you have to bust ass and make no money for a long period of time, before you can become successful.
So you started your casting career with YouTube videos. How do you transition over to livecasting?
You know, it's pretty much the same thing in a lot of the ways. You're still casting a game, and you're still using the same knowledge, the same experiences. It's all about describing what's happening, it's really not that different in my opinion. The only thing that's been different, I guess, are success levels, because once you get from YouTube to streaming, you can get the same people to watch you, but not everybody is used to that. If I build up 10.000 people that watch every video I make, they will not necessarily be available to watch it live, so that is kind of a different shift.
And it's different websites, too. Some people only use YouTube, some only use Twitch.tv, so it's like I had to do both things. You need to build up on both websites. It's not as easy to just dominate one thing and then just get huge viewer numbers everywhere else, so that is probably the most interesting thing. It still does prove effective, my stream numbers are very high for not being a pro player. I think there are very few non-pro players that actually get high stream numbers.
What is more important for you at the moment? Livecasting or still YouTube?
I have no intentions on stopping either one, at all, because they are going hand in hand. YouTube is going to provide a much more stable income, which has been kind of my goal whole time since I started. I mean, I actually casted for a very, very long time for absolutely zero money. That was probably nine to twelve months, where I was spending at least 20 to 40 hours a week making Dota content - and I got zero dollars for that stuff.
So, YouTube is gonna be very stable and at this point, I think it's smart to diversify, in between livecasting as well as YouTube, because then I can have income sources from lots of different places and then be more safe as the market changes, or maybe if I'm not super-successful in livestreaming. Then I still have YouTube to fall back on in terms of revenue, because I would really not like to have to get a normal job at this point.
So what is your next aim with shoutcasting?
Most of my goals are pretty much accomplished. The only ones that I'm really looking forward are LAN stuff. I'm very excited to do stuff like that, because at least in the U.S., there are a lot of LAN environments, especially now. I did things with my friends like console playing, but it was never like you go to a PC café and play with random people. I never really got that experience, because everybody had his own computer here, at least the people I knew.
I'm excited to go to LAN tournaments. I really want to cast MLG, because I really like their tournaments, but we have to wait obviously until Dota goes there. That is probably my main goal, but I’m also excited about going to the International, I’m going to do that for sure. Just generally LAN tournament stuff, everything else is just going to come with time, and I’m excited to see how that progresses, but we will see.
What was your greatest moment as a caster, up to now?
I was really excited when I realized I got featured on TeamLiquid, that was really awesome. It's kind of a hard question, though. I'm sure if I had some kind of a major LAN tournament under my belt, that would be it, but I haven't been there yet. Streaming has been really cool, reaching some thousand people live is something really awesome. It's easier to compare that in terms of success to just YouTube VoDs. I mean, I'm very proud of my YouTube channel as well. Getting a crapload of subscribers there is great. I'm one of the biggest Dota 2 channels on YouTube, I think I'm number two right now. That is really awesome as well, but I guess the stream viewers and just the widespread eSports success has been really, really good. I'm pretty excited for the future, when I get to meet the other eSports personalities. I'm quite looking forward to that.
Do you think you are riding on a wave with Dota 2 getting bigger and bigger?
Of course, It's partially riding a wave with Dota 2, there is no denying that at all. My YouTube channel would not have seen the growth it had if I had decided to cast Starcraft 2 games, because there the market is saturated. But that was part of my plan from the start. If I start it first, and I have the biggest numbers and I'll get the biggest views, then the ball will roll. There are only so many videos people can watch.
As long as you are one of the best or one of the most established and you are one of the first that does it, then in some way you deserve to get the viewers I guess. I had the idea and I put the effort in, before a lot of other people did. Luminous obviously was around before me. So, of course I'm riding a wave, but I position myself to be in the place where I'm at. I think I'm a good caster by all means and I have been working really hard.
What does Dota 2 need, to become even bigger?
Obviously the game would need to come out, that would help a lot. I think the biggest place where Dota 2 can get huge numbers is by pulling a lot of fanbase from other Dota-like games, maybe League of Legends or the HoN-players. If they feel like switching. I mean it's fine, they can have their game. I think, once Dota, or Dota 2 at least, becomes a very, very well known eSports game it could really impact the tournament scene. I mean we are already getting pretty large numbers for livestreaming at low production value, of course. At least the casting I do is pretty low production value. If I can get thousands of viewers for a casual pro game with low production value, what is going to happen in six months or in two years?
I think, one of the reasons, why Dota 2 is going to be so successful is because it is a little bit worse as a spectator sports than Starcraft 2, just because the game lengths are a little bit too long, but unlike Starcraft 2, it is very easy to play Dota with your friends casually. So I feel like as enough people play the game, especially in the U.S., the demand for streams and VoDs will strongly go up as the player base increases hugely. That will just drive it, because there are so many people who are just so extremely passionate about this game, myself included. That is part of the reason why it just gets so big and the only reason it has existed up until now as Warcraft 3 DotA. It just needs time, I think, and enough people to play.
When did you make first contact with DotA?
Multiple times throughout the years, I think the first time I ever played Dota was when I was in Highschool. I know I used to play Warcraft on my brother's computer and once in a while we played customs. I grew up playing Starcraft 1 customs, so playing Blizzard game's custom maps was nothing foreign to me. A couple of times in High School I was playing DotA for a very long period of time and said, “this game is so addicting”, but then I just kinda faded out, moved to other games, also on console for a very long time. Then actually I started playing DotA heavily until I was about half way through college and I stopped for playing an MMO and then I said “there is this one awesome game I used to play long time ago, let's go see if it is still around.” And then I checked it out and played it very, very heavily. The only time I took a pause from DotA was for Starcraft 2.
Did you make the Dota 2 switch right when it was possible, or do you still play DotA more often?
I pretty much switched immediately. I was waiting around for a beta key and I was hoping to get one. My YouTube channel wasn't that bad at that time, so I didn't have tons of exposure, but I believe, I started casting around March 2011 and I was basically trying to ramp up my YouTube channel somewhere to what HuskyStarcraft did, with the Starcraft 2 scene. So I was like 'I'm gonna cast a couple of months, so I had lots of practice in DotA 1 and when Dota 2 comes out, I'll already have a slight small fanbase and can continue moving from there. I got my beta key through GosuGamers, I think it was in September and at that time there were very few people in the Beta, but I was after Gamescom, about a month after that, I think. Once I switched over, I almost never went back. The only times I play DotA 1 is when I play with some of my DotA 1 friends who don't have good enough computers to run Dota 2, yet.
Some people will get upset about this, I'm sure. There are a lot of problems with people getting angry about people saying how good they are, but if I was to look at the entire population of Dota, I'd say I'm probably in the top 5 to 10 percent concerning skill level. I have been playing very heavily for about three years now. I had a pretty high ranking in North American DotA Cash, which was some ranking system. Not that it is hard to get a good ranking, but I was around top 400 for North American players.
Is there any team or a playstyle of a Dota team, you like most?
I guess I’m most excited for Darer at the moment. Artstyle’s new team with ex-Moscow 5 players, probably even my favourite team going into the International, I think. I was kinda pulling for Ok.Nrv.int, because of the U.S. players on them, but I really liked Moscow 5's playstyle: Very, very high aggression. Na'Vi obviously has amazingly good players, but I guess, everybody likes them. So I would say, probably my favourite team right now is Darer. They haven’t been winning a lot of games, but Artstyle has been picking a lot of interesting heroes and G is amazing. He is such a good player.
What do Dota 2 players need to do to get better?
It's a combination of a lot of things. You need to be very open-minded. I personally hate the community for the raging mindset. Valve is doing a really good job to shut that down in some ways, because that has always been a problem. For example, when I first wrote my Dota-guide 'Welcome to Dota, you suck', I wrote that with rage, by all means. I was so frustrated with having to be thrown in a pub game. I played completely obliviously of teamwork for probably two years before I finally found 'Oh, we should probably defend our tower pushes from five creeps.' Those little things make a big impact.
So first of all, that negative mindset, that pub players have is something that needs to be thrown away. I don't care if it's on the internet. I think there is a basic understanding of other humans, where you should not treat other people like assholes and you should not be an asshole to other people. That is the biggest thing that people need to get over in pub games. With that said, people need to be very self-critical of their mistakes and you have to be able to analyze and take constructive criticism. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and some guy being an asshole, but if people can analyze their mistakes and they pay attention to the errors they make, that's gonna make a long way to get better. Other than that, obviously reading guides to their heroes, listening to better players telling you how to play your heroes better, that is as well going to give a long way towards increasing your skill as a player.
What heroes still missing in Dota 2 do you anticipate the most?
There are a couple. There are 10 to 12 heroes, that I really love. That is actually something that I forget about when I play Dota 2, and then I go back and play one or two DotA 1 games, and then I say 'there are all those heroes that I love a lot playing, but I can't play currently.' I'm pretty excited about Ogre Magi, that is a nice support, ganking-support hero in the metagame, so I'd actually love to see him in a pro game occasionally, because Ogre Magi will be usable. I’m also excited about Syllabear, I actually like playing him a lot and some of the newer heroes that we never really see though nowadays. I'd also say Nerubian Assassin. Undying is really awesome. There are tons of heroes, even Shadow Demon, even though he isn’t balanced. I can literally name around 10 heroes now, which I’m excited about. There are just so many wonderful and really fun heroes in the game.
Which hero is the most underrated hero in Dota?
I’d probably had answers for you, if you had asked me this a year ago. I feel like there is good variety, in hero picking currently, it’s just a little harder for some heroes to get picked. I think Krobelus has some potential, she might see some more play in the future. She is a little squishy early, which is probably her weak point, but the spirits have been buffed appropriately. A year ago, I would have said Krobelus, Chaos Knight and maybe Leshrac, but all of those heroes we do see in play now, so, I don’t have a good answer. Maybe Undying, I am not up to date at all in DotA 1 current metagame, so maybe I’m behind, but I would like to see Undying a little bit more, I guess. And in Dota 2, I guess, he will be played occasionally.
What other eSports games do you follow in the competitive scene?
I have been following Starcraft 2 pretty heavily, since it came out. Like I said, I was originally thinking, I would maybe cast that. And I watched pretty much every MLG since then, I even paid for that pay-per-view event a couple of weekends ago, which was really awesome. I don’t really follow a lot of eSports other than that, but of course I do like watching occasionally fighting game streams and some other games. I have come to appreciate all the eSports games over the past couple of months.
We are all the same people and sometimes, for example, I see comments from an SC2 player bashing Dota or something like that, and I’m like 'that's not cool, I like your game and I like my game as well, I am one of you, why do you make fun of me?' It’s like a weird double-standard that a lot of players have: 'This is my game. And you are not allowed to love the other games.' The same thing happens with fighting game community and other games. It’s kind of sad sometimes, but I really do like Starcraft a lot, the only thing that sucks is when I have to cast a Dota tournament, I can't watch the other Starcraft 2 tournaments. Hopefully that gets remedied in future somehow.
You live in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. What does that make the perfect place for Dota 2 casting for you?
It doesn’t matter. I could cast Dota 2 anywhere with an internet connection, that is really all I need at this point. So maybe I’m looking into moving in a couple of months to enhance my Dota 2 or YouTube casting. It’s just that I grew up here, and I went to college. Then I came back and worked for an engineering job, then I got laid off from that and then I was like ‘alright, it’s time to go full time casting’. And that is what I did. I just haven’t moved yet. In the future I’ll probably will, though.
To some place, where more eSports is going on, maybe?
Yeah, I’m thinking about maybe networking heavily with other YouTube casters or YouTube people, or something else. That is what is on my mind at the moment.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I bought a pre-built PC last summer. I was scrapped on cash, so that is not the nicest thing ever, but I’m currently buying a new one, just a really powerful beefy processor for better rendering and streaming. I have a nice studio microphone, it’s an AKG Perception 120. That is why my audio quality is so high. I just got a Beyerdynamics MMX 300 headset which is pretty cool. Other than that I just have a typical mouse and keyboard, nothing too fancy, they will probably all be upgraded eventually. And then I have dual monitors. One for stream and chat, one for gameplay. Xsplit is what I use for streaming, and Fraps for recording, Sony Vegas for rendering. That is also all on my FAQ page.
What is special about your casting?
My casting, I feel, is special because I’m really experienced at casting. There are actually a whole bunch of casters, TobiWan is obviously the most popular. As a solo caster I probably am somewhat without compare, because I’m able to do the play-by-play as well as knowing the strategy insights. I’m obviously not a pro player, so I don't have absolutely great amazing strategy, but for 80 percent of the player base, what I'm saying is above their level, so it’s ok. That is what I feel is my greatest strength. I can do commentary and analyzation on the fly.