Grubby: "I was very glad to read that people loved my commentating"
Some know him from Warcraft III, some know him from StarCraft II, but nowadays most people learn about him through Heroes of the Storm. Manuel Schenkhuizen, more commonly known as Grubby, is a sort of living legend in the eSports world. After playing competitively in various RTS games, these days he fills his days with streaming Heroes of the Storm. For the Europe Championship in Prague however, he was invited to cast along the likes of Kaelaris, ToD and SolidJake. We managed to catch up with Grubby during the event, and learned a lot of interesting things
You have been playing RTS for a long time, everybody knows you from Warcraft and SC. What made you decide to move to Heroes, do you miss the RTS part?
I started with WC3, before that I played hundreds of different games. RPGs and RTS’s were my thing. When Warcraft 3 came out, everything else ceased to matter. Similar to when someone gets a GF and forgets about all his friends, I can imagine. I started playing WC3, I took one year off from school between high school and university. It was amazing, I was winning tournaments and having a nice lifestyle and having so much fun delving deeper and deeper into the strategy of the game. Soon the 1 year off turned into 8 years career, and by the end WC3 was winding down and SC2 came out and as someone who was still very hungry to prove himself even after already a long career it was obvious for me to move to SC2. I was already a big fan of SC1. I did that for about four years, and in the last year I had doubts if I should continue the same way. Partially because I had been doing it for a long time, and partially because I wasn’t competing as well as I hoped. I said I’d give myself another year, and after that year I asked myself the same question. During that year I was still doing pretty ok, third place in WCS, defeating good Koreans here and there but it wasn’t as good as I expected from myself.
"I was too strong to be influenced by the dark forces of LoL, WoW and HS."
You could say there were temptations before, LoL, WoW, HS. Games that are immensely popular, but I could easily resist because of my discipline, seriousness and love/passion for RTS games. I was too strong to be influenced by the dark forces of those games. But when I was burned out of SC2, after a disappointing loss at WCS in the group with MC and Happy. I asked myself If I could go on, I gave so much for that tournament, if SC2 was the right thing for me. I tried out Heroes a bit and had a lot of fun, played it with friends and my girl, all of that together was a whole new experience for me after all those years of single player games practicing on my own in the stereotypical attic. Now it was so much fun to play with other people. I started streaming Heroes and even though I only got a 100 concurrent viewers, in contrast to the 3,000 I got for SC2 usually, it felt so much more rewarding and fun. I've always said that you should play the games that are fun to you and I would not continue playing games that I didn’t enjoy, and I felt like it was time to put my own words into action. I need to follow what I love, and not just for work or money. It wasn’t a smart business decision, but I felt that as long as you do what you love and are a bit lucky everything will work out alright. And I am lucky enough to have the big supportive fan base. I started playing Heroes, and never looked back (actually I looked back once but didn’t want to go back).
You stream a lot, casted at this event, and have mentioned several times that you are toying with the idea of starting your own pro team for Heroes. Do you have clear plans for the future?
I put the pro team plans in a Void Prison. At this moment, it just isn't the right move for me. It's not something you do lightly, since you have the faith of 4-5 other players in your hands. I've seen players been treated poorly, as well as seen players treat the rest of their team poorly. I would want to do it really right. But at this moment, with my focus still on streaming, it wouldn’t be a right thing for me to do right now. At this moment i'm fine with what im doing. It's still a dream of mine, but as are a lot of other things so there's no concise plan yet.
When did you hear you were going to cast here?
I don’t remember, Blizzard reached out to me since they know where to find me. I haven’t solicited for a lot of esports jobs in the past, somehow people always know how to find me.
Sometimes I'm itching to throw out a fishing rod, and put out some lines to see if I can do more things like this. But in my situation, the organisations know how and where to find me, they know me and know what I'm good and not good at and they will choose me or not. So whenever they reach out I'm very happy to do it, it’s a privilege.
"It's still a dream of mine, but as are a lot of other things."
I remember when I was just starting out as a pro gamer, I reached out to all the teams for WC3 and only one of them came back to me and weren’t interested in me joining.
What was it like to work with this team, and how did you prepare for this event?
My preparation for games like this is basically playing the game, learning as much as possible about the game. This has always been my way to prepare. Since I take up the role as the expert during casts, this works out for me the best. As for working with Kaelaris and ToD, and ESL in general, I've worked with them on numerous different broadcasts before.
After this event you are being called the best caster by a lot of people. This is most likely due to the level of depth you can bring that nobody else seems to be able to at this point. Do you actively try to differentiate yourself from your co caster during casts, actively searching for things that you know your co caster doesn't realize, or is it just a matter of that being the way you always look at gameplay?
It was flattering and I was very glad to read that people loved my commentating. I don't think I am the best caster, but I have perhaps the most professional gaming experience. So I am able to bring a point of view that's hard to replicate for the others. However there are many aspects I need to improve on which other casters could be a lot better at.
The main goal is to show the audience as many interesting points about the game as possible, showing why the game is exciting (if it is). Combining knowledge & nuances with action packed commentary is a good formula for this.
Do you think there is still a lot of room for you to improve as a Heroes caster, and for the way casting is done in Heroes to improve as a whole (either in the structure, pacing, or general quality of commentary?
The main thing I am trying to improve upon is when a team is able to take uneven fights (2v3, 3v4 and 4v5). This happened a lot in RtB2015 EU, often with success. Keeping note of everyone's HP, mana, ability and heroic cooldowns is key for this. In Hero League, taking 3v4's is often a recipe for disaster, but it often worked at RtB because of a team recognizing that they can. Being able to predict this situation would allow me to let the audience know why the low-manned team is trying it - of course without spoiling if it will work or not, maintaining the suspense.
What about this trip to Prague were you most excited about beforehand?
Since Heroes of the Dorm, it was the first tournament I casted on LAN for Heroes of the Storm. The level was considerably higher here, and I was really excited about seeing crazy good teamwork and skillshot combo's, as well as perhaps more out of the ordinary drafts. I was gratified on both points!
Did you have favourite teams that you hoped would qualify this weekend for Blizzcon?
Actually I went into it with an open mind. I preferred it that way, because I felt like praise should go to the current best teams, not the ones who were the best 6 months ago. That can be unfair to newer or hard working teams. While bias is inherently good for building story lines, I felt there was enough time for all the teams to prepare to the point where we would see some special preparations.
I felt that whoever brought the most special preparations would win. None of the teams had any big matches for 2-3 weeks before the event. Na'Vi seemed to have utilised this time the best, or in the best way, bringing the most diverse hero combinations to the table. As a result I think they really deserved their first place and qualification.
Can we expect more casting from you, either in online-only events or other LAN events?
I'd love to, if there are opportunities.
Have you been able to play Overwatch, what did you think of the game and what are your thoughts on its future as a possible eSport?
Yeah I played it twice, it is extremely fun and I do believe the hype is deserved. When it comes out I'll stream it and show my amazing FPS skills. /s You can check that out on twitch.tv/followgrubby.
Any final shoutouts?
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