ReDeYe: "I think WCS could do a much better job of allowing or integrating other tournaments"
The WCS Season 2 finals lead us an interview with the well-spoken Brit. In a lengthy chat, Nydra and ReDeYe discuss the emotions surrounding the weekend, the pros and cons of the WCS system, future possibilities before StarCraft and why would he lose to Seltzer in a StarCraft 2 game.
NAME: Paul "ReDeYe" Chaloner
COUNTRY: United Kingdom
NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS HOSTED: DH Winter '12, DH Bucharest '12, WCS Europe finals '12, WCS Europe '13, WCS Season 2 finals '13
ОК, so the Season 2 finals just recently finished and I imagine those were emotionally exhausting days for you, considering all the excitement. How do you feel in these post-WCS S2 days?
It's always a bit blue for me after a huge weekend or a large scale event and Monday morning I was a bit low, it's just a huge high to come from that housework and washing can't compare to! *laughs* I had a bit of a cold too, which isn't helping, but it quickly passes as we get back to the office and on to the next set of shows and events.
This is the first time this year that ESL brings a WCS event to the big stage. What challenges did the crew face preparing the Season 2 finals?
It's always a challenge to build a big stage, produce the show and get it all 100% right. Luckily the guys here at ESL TV have lots of experience in doing so, having built lots of big stages and produced huge shows for LCS and IEM over the last few years, so from that point of view it wasn't more or less challenging.
We'd just come back from China, too, which was extremely challenging as much of the time things were out of our control, where as in Germany in our home town, things were just much easier to deal and we know how it all works and there is no language barrier to overcome so in that respect it was easier.
The flip side, of course, is that it was WCS S2 finals for the world and we wanted it to be extra special, so we had to be very creative with the set design and how the show would work and I am very proud of the guys for putting it all together to produce what we did.
While bringing an event of that scale to the audience is always a more difficult task to pull off, I imagine the job of creating excitement from a small studio - i.e. what you've been doing for the past two seasons and will be doing for Season 3 as well - comes with requirements of its own. What are they? Why ESL managed to pull off a successful studio show while others find that extremely difficult, if not impossible?
You're right, they are both very different and require a different mentality, a different approach, but not entirely. The rundown for both is very similar if not the way it is executed. In our studios, it's a much more controlled environment and dare I say a little more relaxed, though still very professional. That means we can do things quickly, change things on the fly and update the show as it goes along introducing things we feel will fit (MC doing the analysis for example) whereas at a large scale event, you just can't change things last second like that. It takes an incredibly large amount of people working in a very large venue with high stress a lot of time to execute changes, so if it's not planned and practiced (camera positions, jib movements, producer cue's, graphics timing and storyline etc) it doesn't get changed.
"I do think it is the role of the host to pull it all together and make it flow well"
In the studio though, it's a smaller team, we know the studio and its limitations and we are all together in the same building, a short walk away, so if we want to change it or update something, it's a lot easier. The challenge though is pulling it all together so it still feels special and for me that comes down to the role of the host and the commentators more than anyone. It doesn't mean they are more important, but if they don't get it and understand the flow of the show, it will fail, no matter how good the producer is, the camera work is or how good the matches are, it just won't work. So as a team we have to work really hard to make sure we deliver every single time during the show.
It also helps having a small studio audience as you can be much more personal with them and I often chat to them and have fun during the breaks or at the start, which helps them feel like they are part of the show too and they really are, ask anyone who has come down to watch. Because of that, the noise and reaction they make during matches is awesome and adds to the atmosphere.
It's hard to say for certain why it all works and doesn't or hasn't for some others, perhaps a mixture of everything we put together, but without blowing my own trumpet, I do think it is the role of the host to pull it all together and make it flow well. Be the glue of the show, if you like and without that, perhaps it doesn't work as well. It's easy sitting at home saying "well shit, why not fix that" or "OMG wrong graphic duh" but seriously, I think most would be amazed at what goes in to making, what is effectively a very long LIVE TV show production and it's not easy.
Talking about how Season 2 turned out, we kind of have to mention the previous such event, the OGN-produced Season 1. Put next to it, do you think Season 2 set new standards for how the seasonal wrap up should look like? After all, Season 1 took some criticism to the head from a lot of sides, including renowned eSports personalities like Khaldor.
I honestly don't think you can compare the two as straight-forwardly as that. In Korea they have a very distinct way of producing shows and you either love them or hate them (those from the west). We honestly didn't look at them and say "hmm, how can we emulate that" or "how can we be different". We just sat down and bounced ideas around but with an overall goal of "we want this to be special". It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with the ideas, but to execute them takes exceptional care and attention to detail and we are blessed with those kind of people, such as James Lampkin, David Kuggelman and Michal Blicharz.
As for better or worse, I'd obviously say I thought ours was better! I'd have to say that, but being objective, I think there were things OGN did that were really good, but I'd hope people really enjoyed what we produced and how we did it, always with the love of the game at the forefront of everything we did.
Staying on Season 2 topic in that case, did you expect the tournament to develop as it did? Have Bomber beat Jaedong 4-0 in the finals and all?
Shit, really? You must've been the only one.
I had a bet with someone before that Bomber would win it all, he picked Innovation. That was two weeks ago, haha.
But seriously, no, not in my wildest dreams did I think that would be the final or that he would just slaughter Jaedong like that. I suppose thinking about it, we should have known it wouldn't be as clear cut as "Innovation turns up and wins it all". Just because the Koreans had to travel this time and some travel better than others. Players like Taeja and Jaedong and Bomber too have been doing this for a long time now. They are used to the flights, the noise at the venue, crowds of people hunting them for autographs etc and I think the other Koreans, like Innovation it happens less so for them going out of Korea.
If you look at the players who exceeded expectations, Scarlett, Alive, Jaedong, Bomber, Taeja perhaps, they all have a lot of experience of traveling to events and playing in conditions which are different to what they are used to, perhaps that experience counted for a lot this weekend as the skill gap does seem to have narrowed between the top players, even from season 1. Bomber said he thought when he won MLG 2 years ago, he felt like he could beat anyone on any map on any race. He doesn't feel like that now, even after just winning season 2. The gap between the top 16 to 20 players really is a very narrow gap now. Even Innovation looks human now.
Some people think he might be having some real gaps in his play nowadays and it's that that kept him from OSL finals and Season 2 playoffs...
I think he has said himself, his hellbat play was probably the best of anyone and the recent changes have hurt him, no question, but I'm convinced (from my lofty silver rating) that it is exceptionally close at the top between everyone, but he is still the stand out player, still the one everyone wants to beat and I'm sure he will show us why in season 3 and at Blizzcon.
Which were the Season 2 stories that brought you the most joy and sadness?
I told Bomber before game one on day one when he went in to the booth that he was my favourite Korean Terran and good luck, so to see him finally break that 2 year law was awesome. But I really loved the MC v Jaedong matches, both the first and second map were just amazing to witness.
Story-wise, Jaedong was the obvious one. I feel so sorry for the guy having made yet another final and having played just amazingly for two days that he came up against the most in form Bomber in the final. I did say to him as Bomber lifted the trophy "don't worry, you'll win one soon, maybe the next one" and he replied through teary eyes "I hope so" and then just looked down. Man, I was crushed for him. But we went out after and he cheered up a bit with having some fun with Apollo and Carmac and I taught him some rude words that he could use to insult Apollo with that seamed to make him smile a little, but I know this one hurt him, I just hope he can use that to be even more determined next time.
I don't think we can forget Naniwa v Jaedong Take 3 either, this time going to JD rather than the Swede and I should mention Scarlett too as she had an amazing run beating Maru and MMA and then only losing in 5 maps to bomber. One map and she might have won the whole thing... There were just so many stories throughout the 3 days, even Naniwa beat Innovation! I've probably forgotten a ton of others too, we were so lucky!
Chaloner with the retiring Stephano in the ESL studio. Photo: ESL
On to more general WCS questions, I want to bring the topic of circuit's structure, which, even after so many days after its announcement, is a hot topic on media and community sites. Do you think it was wise to segregate the scenes and create year-long circuit like Riot did for League of Legends or the dynamic of the open tournament market (like in, say, Dota 2) was more cool?
I love the idea of a year long circuit, I really do. I hate comparing to other traditional sports, but in this instance it's worthwhile. Most of them flourish by having a long regular season, like football for example, where stories unfold and results create drama. The missing element in most regular season leagues is the end of season drama, unless two or three teams are close on points. What WCS does is have the long season via the points, but then a grand final at the end of it all to finish the season and I really like that. One of the most enjoyable year long tournaments was CPL 2005 which ran under a similar principle and despite not being around now, I really enjoyed that and I think a lot of people did.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the format of WCS, but I do acknowledge not everyone is happy with the three different regions, particularly around region locking and naming conventions. I do, however, know that Blizzard have some smart people working on it and I think they will come up with something that works, if they do indeed decide to alter it for next year. There is no magic bullet to region locking questions though, so anything that changes, even if it does change, can only realistically be a compromise rather than perfection.
That said, I liked TI3 as a tournament on its own merit, I just don't think it serves the community as a whole as well as WCS does, which is much more for ALL of the players than just the few rewarded with a huge prize on one tournament. I like that WCS can support a large number of players and add to their salaries and make it a viable profession. Oh, and one more thing, I think we need to wait for Blizzcon before comparing WCS with TI3 as comparisons with season finals or regional finals is just silly. It's not even close to being a comparable tournament.
"There is no magic bullet to region locking questions though, so anything that changes, even if it does change, can only realistically be a compromise rather than perfection."
You lead in right into my next question about the region locking. What is your personal take on the non-residency thing? We've spoken to a lot of players and everyone has different opinions. Some suggest that the players should at least practice on the local ladder, others are OK with it, third think it should be locked...
Ok, so this is a very personal opinion, not that of ESL or Blizzard, but I personally feel I'd prefer national championships in a similar way to 2012 where we get players from all regions to the world finals. I'd love to see 128 players at the world finals for example, made up from national championships and weighted in such a way that allows the better "skilled" countries, like South Korea a chance to get more spots. For example, Brazil might get one spot, Mexico two spots and USA four spots, but Korea might get 28 slots.
That said, I also like the idea that the world final contains only the very best players in the world and let's be honest at least 18 of the top 20 right now are Korean. If we had national championships, you could argue we won't get the very best 128 players there, but rather the best from each country. So, it really depends on what you want the end goal to look like. I suppose there is a middle ground to be used which could be around ensuring players who play in a region actually live there, but how does Blizzard or the tournament organizer possibly check this for every player who enters? It's impossible
I don't think I've really answered the question very well, but that says everything about how complex the issue is to solve I guess. I mean, the utopian view is that every country runs its own national league right? Imagine a Canadian Premier League with the best 16 Canadian players in every season, promotion and relegation and the top player goes off to the "champions" league of the World Finals. Again, that would cost a ridiculous amount of money, money that would have to be funded in a different way from the current model and probably a model that would not be sustainable in every country, bar those which already have established esports companies and sponsors.
Yeah, and those amount to probably five or six countries.
Yup, and then we are back to the same issue. The problem as I see it right now, at least from the players and fans point of view is this "too many Koreans in our region". The simple thing would be to introduce a limit on foreign players, but I'm not even sure that's legal, let alone what the number should be. The other thing to remember is this: Having those top Koreans in the region should, at least in theory, help the local players improve, though I accept this is arguable. It does appear to help in other sports though, so it's not a wild assumption to make. But again, what is the end goal? Best 16 players at the world finals or the best 16 from around the world?
Although WCS is the main circuit at the moment, there are still a lot of premier tournaments going on. Internally, I've discussed with colleagues how it might be the case that tournaments like DreamHack or the MLGs do not have yield the appropriate weight in WCS points when compared to the investment they need to prepare for them adequately. So in the end, preparing for a month for MLG and not winning big time there might affect your WCS performance negatively and that's bad, because WCS EU/NA/KR still yield the most profit. What's your take on that? Do DH, MLG, IEMs need to have bigger WCS points pool?
I think WCS could do a much better job of allowing or integrating other tournaments. Potentially make them part of the circuit entirely rather than just giving points out, like tennis perhaps. Have certain external WCS tournaments which are "Masters" that yield the same points. You could have one MLG, one from Dreamhack, one from Red Bull, one from IEM, etc. It's not a stretch to imagine that being able to work. I think it will be easier next year with more time to figure things out and WCS won't seem so rushed.
Do you think this would make tournament organizers care even more about StarCraft 2, now that they would be feeling important and part of the entire tournament year?
Probably yes, though I think most, if not all of them do care already. I think the biggest issue overall is to be found in Korean and not in the rest of the world anyway. I think if you can get OSL/OGN/GOM/GSL/Kespa/IESF talking and agreeing then that would be great, but I find it hard to believe they can come to an agreement as they have such different views, at least externally anyway.
Speaking of OSL and GSL, there was the unprecedented case of two WCS Korea seasons using different formats. Do you think there should be some form of inner-circuit consensus or having different brands lead the competition their own way is more enticing for the viewership?
The easy answer is yes, of course. Again, though, it isn't as simple as that. OSL and GSL both have established, well loved brands and ideals about running the game the way they want to run it. In fact, many fans I spoke to about this issue were aghast at the idea that either should change, but I think for the sake of a global league like WCS, it does need continuity across all regions. It's not just naming convention (though that is important) but it's also things like the same map pools, same format in RO32, same match systems in Ro16 etc. History ,though, dictates that this hasn't happened as well in Korea as it has been in EU and America where no precedent stood before and it was more straight forward for us to adopt these ideas.
Would people be unhappy with GSL if it was renaming Code S to Premier League? Probably, so I totally understand that view, but I do firmly believe if WCS is to be successful it does need uniformity across the regions.
The last time we talked to you was at IEM CeBIT 2013 and then we conversed about IEM using Heart of the Swarm as discipline before its release. As we now know, it was a brave but successful decision, one that attracted a significant viewership and sparked huge interest. We're now living in times when StarCraft is, arguably, no longer the king of eSports as it was years ago and there are constantly talks about tournament numbers being weaker than that of Dota or LoL. I don't want to go deep into that particular "problem" because, frankly, it's been discussed way too much, but I do want to ask if the game needs another brave decision as this one? What would it be if the answer is yes?
I don't think it needs anything particularly brave, but it certainly needs the support from the fans whenever anyone puts up a big tournament. We do have some ideas for IEM on how it can stand out from the crowd, but they are early ideas we are just bouncing around right now, radical yes, but very cool too. I don't know if they will make it to reality, so it would be wrong to share anything right now.
Overall though I think the StarCraft community just has to concentrate on what it does best and stop looking over the fence, enviously at the neighbours' new Porsche. It is an amazing community full of clever, mature and hilarious characters from the players to casters to the grassroots community responsible for tuning in and supporting the teams and players. So even though the neighbour has a new Porsche, our Ferrari is still pretty sweet.
Last September, you hosted the Valencia eSports Congress where a lot of eSports' figures came together to tackle the problems of modern competition and talk about the cogwheels that drive the scene. Do you think something like this should be annual?
Absolutely, it should be a regular thing, at least once a year. As much got done behind the scenes as it did on the stage and just getting the important people in eSports together to talk is a wondrous thing and an opportunity to exchange ideas and see other peoples perspective and their take of success and struggle. I think it was very useful overall and although we don't get to see all of it publicly, from what I saw behind the scenes I think the majority found it very, very useful. Hopefully we will have another one soon.
It certainly gave the media a lot to write about, I'd say, though I feel it didn't leave a ground-shaking impact onto the community.
No, probably not, but I don't think that was really the purpose. Actually, I think even broadcasting it was amazing, if you think about it. It really isn't conducive to getting things done if you do it in public, so the fact we even got a small insight in to how these people think was really good. I don't think the first one like that could ever achieve major moves forward, but it certainly started the ball rolling and out of it came the partnership agreement with Dreamhack, MLG and ESL. Certainly nothing bad came of it.
Last question to put an end to this all too serious interview. You're in a double elimination group with Seltzer, Carmac and Kaelaris. You have to play Seltzer first because she's a lady, of course. Who wins?
So, I lose to Seltzer, because, as she would tell you, I'm a gentleman. Carmac crushes Kaelaris purely using mind games. And then Carmac wins the final over Seltzer because, well, he's like that. I don't how the bottom bracket goes but I'm pretty sure the only drop play you'd see from my Terran play would be a box of some kind...
Have you considered not using drops and just using Bomber's macro to trample people? That seemed to work fine most of the time.
Actually, in honour of his 4-0 win I played only rush 3 bunkers play in 10 matches in a row on Monday. I lost 8 of them... Confirmed: I am not Bomber.
Sad day for British eSports that is.
So, while I go and find some high management that can put this into a showmatch, you can use our podium for last words!
A shoutout obviously to all of the great people at ESL and ESL TV who work long hours and deliver great results with very little credit. To my commentator team of Apollo, Joe, Kaelaris, Sjokz, JKap & Pansy for being awesome. To the players and teams for making it possible for me to earn a living talking about what they do (those who can, do, those who can’t, talk about it). To anyone who has ever tuned in to Starcraft 2 streams of any kind, thanks! And of course to Blizzard for an awesome game. And thanks to you for a fun interview on GosuGamers.
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