Grubby interview: "I try to have the most positive effect on the entire game outcome"
Grubby has been something of a legend in esports throughout his career, dominating not one, but two RTS games and building up a reputation as a crowd favorite. I had the opportunity to ask Grubby a few questions in what I thought would be a quick, fun interview. Fun for sure, but not quick as he delivered above and beyond what I was expecting.
What triggered your shift from Starcraft to HoTS?
It was several reasons combined. The main reason was that I personally didn't enjoy StarCraft as much anymore as I used to. Since 2003, I've always maintained that my biggest strength for WarCraft III (and then StarCraft II) was boundless motivation, and that I wouldn't be continuing to play so much if I didn't truly enjoy it. Once I looked into the mirror and realized that it was no longer the case, I realized I could not perform so well under those conditions.
Secondly, I didn't look forward to each day knowing I'll be practicing or streaming SC2, whereas when I tried out Heroes I completely found a new enjoyment again which reminisced of WarCraft III. The joy of playing a kind of new genre, a new game but with all the old familiar characters from the Blizzard universe, gave me the idea that I will play Heroes for a while and see how it goes. I really enjoy it, and streaming it, and I can uniquely share all things that I discover about the game with my stream viewers, unlike when I had to keep such tips to myself for pro-gaming benefits.
Are you content with streaming and not playing competitively?
I was content with playing competitively, although there were some (very worthwhile) sacrifices made over the last 12 years of it. Streaming more is a new dimension of enjoyment. I already enjoyed streaming interspersed between the more serious, actual practice schedules that I had. But now I can stream a lot more, and it's more enjoyable because I have non-stop interaction with my viewers instead of seeing some of them every now and then at a tournament.
I think much of the competitive success of a team comes from extreme consistency and very limited player rotations on the roster.
You've mentioned that you aren't playing competitively because you don't have a team.
Well, Heroes is a 5v5 game, you can't play competitively by yourself. That's the literal truth, hehe. I had a brief stint of trying out a competitive team beginning of 2015 with some Greek & Dutch friends, and it was very interesting and helpful as the Greeks were also ex-LoL players who explained some core mechanics about MOBA's since I had never played any. However, I think much of the competitive success of a team comes from extreme consistency and very limited player rotations on the roster. This seems quite hard at the moment if you don't have a set of old friends with whom you've played together for a long time. LucifroN and VortiX form a nice solid base for the Team Liquid team, for instance and some members of Tempo Storm in NA has been together since April 2014. Starting afresh with relative strangers on a team now would be quite a serious challenge. Having said that, I'd love to have some more competitive experience in Heroes, maybe there will be a chance in the future to sub for a team or some such.
What would you look for in a team?
I believe I would create one myself if I found the right members.
What teams, if any, would you be interested in playing for?
I haven't thought about it.
If you didn't play competitively, would you host events? Cast maybe?
Streaming, hosting, casting... the possibilities vary widely! I love eSports so I'm sure I'd find some way to be involved.
Any casters you like in particular?
Khaldor has great game and player knowledge. I like Kaelaris' tirelessly upbeat tone, cheerfulness and accent, and I like Cooby and SolidJakeGG's synergy.
You're primarily known for single player games, how do you transfer your skills to a team environment?
I try to have the most positive effect on the entire game outcome, both by my own positioning, play and contribution, as well as trying to see how we can best work together in any pub game.
How important is individual skill to a successful team?
It's important, but there are certain limitations in solo and duo queue which you can never overcome. Say you solo queue and you're doing a Butcher and Tyrande combination. Every now and then you won't be sure who will be the focus target, and not hit your combos. This is even more glaringly obvious in team engagements. That's also part of the charm of those games - it's more messy and chaotic, and the master of chaos emerges victoriously.
If a (skilled) individual solo Q'er would suddenly become part of a competitive team - say, for instance, if I suddenly subbed for someone on Team Liquid – then it would take quite a while to learn a lot of the common skill combos, just like it took time to learn basic character/hero skills and interplays.
What do you think it takes to be successful as a solo queue master?
- Being able to play all roles well
- Understanding drafts and filling the right holes
- Being of an optimistic disposition
- Look forwards, not backwards
- Presented with two poor options, wholeheartedly embrace the better one
- Help the team realize when you have a chance to end and win the game (surprisingly important, a lot of people lethargically pass by the winning moment, caught up in minutiae)
Are there any frustrations you have with how solo queueing works?
Not particularly. I am actually quite happy about it. I just think it would be nice if it reflected in your Rank, profile or somewhere the % of games you solo Q'd. Say for instance someone looks at my profile or tunes into my stream, and it says "Rank 1: 500 games played, 300W/200L, 87% of games Solo Q, 12% 2Q, 1% 3Q". That'd be worth more than "Rank 1: 200 games played, 80% 4Q".
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I remember that even as my competitive self rages at the injustice of it all.
How do you remain in such high spirits even during a terrible defeat?
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I remember that even as my competitive self rages at the injustice of it all. It offers perspective. Secondly, I've learned that a moderate self-critical relative look at my gameplay offers the most chance for improvement. Definitely more than self-destructive, outwards focused anger - even if it can be a challenge to rein in such sentiments sometimes.
On the future of esports in Heroes, how large do you see the scene getting?
I'm pretty confident that Heroes will continue to grow at a steady rate. Heroes is a unique game, different from most MOBAs, it just takes some time for people to realize that. Comparisons are important for offering perspectives, which is why it gets compared to LoL and Dota 2 a lot. But it's really a very different game. It's my type of game, in a way that LoL and DotA 2 are not.
While the game has been played since Q2 2014, it went through many changes and re-iterations, and the development team at Blizzard is continuing to flesh out what they want the game to be like in a fundamental way. This is further reaching than just game balance. How they want ranked to work, what's after Rank 1, how they want clans or in-game tournaments to work - these are some big questions. And they want to answer it in the right way, it seems, without rushing it out. So I also feel un-rushed about it. I am just enjoying the game.
How do you think the relative simplicity of the game affects the competitive aspects?
If we simplify the situation by a lot, complexity comes down to two things. (1) Options and choice; and (2) Difficulty of execution.
1) For options, let's use the example of a card game (HS) with 100 cards in the set. The most OP combos will be found relatively soon, a meta will emerge as the dominant one and in a few weeks or months, nothing else but the best deck(s) will be played. Every card set that adds another 50 card increases the options, and therefore the complexity of choice. Hearthstone is relatively simple, and yet I doubt I'd be able to reach top 10 Legend in a month or two of training. In terms of difficulty of physical execution, HS barely has anything, except when you have a Nozdormu on the board.
2) For difficulty of execution, we can use StarCraft 1 as an example. If we look at the aspects of game play that do not involve options but only execution, we can study this simplified model. For example, creating an SCV at every Command Center and a Marine at every Barracks you have, continually, is not an option - it's the verified best way of playing the game. Yet it gets difficult to execute, especially when there's so many other things to do. This offers a level of complexity on the physical level.
When you combine Options with Execution you get a truly complex game, like StarCraft 1 is. Hearthstone is half a complex game (options), and will continue to get more and more complex in that regard with every card set that gets added. WarCraft III has more limited options in terms of timings and army compositions than StarCraft II is, but has more options in terms of item and shop choices, hero choices, and fighting micro decisions. However over the whole it's easier to execute than StarCraft II (perhaps everything except in-combat micro, this is difficult to quantify in WC3).
Heroes of the Storm:
- Will continue to get more complex in terms of draft as more heroes get added
- Will continue to get more complex in terms of game knowledge as more heroes get added
- Will continue to get more complex as people start doing better skill, heroic combo's and rotations (people always get better at games as time passes)
I don't think Heroes is as complex as SC2 or WC3 yet, but it's definitely competitive enough to be extremely enjoyable to play and watch. Bigger and better tournament productions and casters getting more comfortable are vitally important as well, don't forget.
How do the Heroes events compare to SC events?
Hmm quite similar, I guess? StarCraft events have more experience and comfort, Heroes is still very young.
Korea's methodology is usually one of perfecting the best solid options.
Which region do you think has the strongest meta?
I think the strongest standard meta comes from Korea (their two to three tank meta). Korea's methodology is usually one of perfecting the best solid options. Historically EU has upset Korea either by reaching mechanical similarity (e.g. Snute or Lilbow in SC2), or by using strategies that they are not familiar with (e.g. Stephano) and fall outside Korea's meta - or both. Special strategies will only work a limited amount of times, whereas teamwork and mechanical prowess will have to be up to par in the long run.
What are some changes you'd like to see in Heroes?
More personalization to account profiles like: how much solo queue or duo queue someone plays. What's a player's respective rank is with a certain Hero - for example kerriganFan#2521 is #3 in EU with Kerrigan. I'd also like to see some kind of Tavern Brawl (a la Hearthstone) in Heroes. If you're not familiar with it, in Hearthstone there is a Tavern Brawl mode where there's a new set of crazy rules every week. There are no ranking points recorded and you could just start every game with maxed mana, or have a 100% RNG deck with 10 legendaries or whatever.
It's a quick and fun and very casual way of playing the game that could allow people to blow off steam from the more serious and competitive Hero League games. Even though quickmatch is supposed to fulfill that function (and it does for me), it doesn't seem to do it for everyone. A Heroes Brawl mode could pit 5 Kerrigans vs 5 Azmodans, or 2 Tassadars 3 Butchers vs 5 Li Li's. Or you could lay down bags of gold everywhere it's a collect, steal & return home type of game.
I also hope MMR can get to a place where more people are happy with it. I personally don't know all the intricacies, but it'll be nice if there was a level of transparency that could put matters to rest. Right now you've got a lot of people thinking MMR works poorly, and they may be right, or they may be compensating for their lack of progression. Transparency could shed some light.
What do you think works well in Heroes?
Almost everything. It's a very well designed gameplay experience and I've loved it since I started playing it.
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