SolidJake: "But then I played Heroes... That changed everything!"
Jake 'SolidJake' Kulinski has quickly become one of the biggest personalities in Heroes of the Storm. Casting just about all NA events and being the host of Town Hall Heroes, a weekly podcast on competitive Heroes of the Storm, SolidJake does a lot for the community. It seems that his hard work is being rewarded, because he was invited by Blizzard to not only cast the Americas Championship but also the Europe Championship. We took the opportunity of SolidJake's first time in EU to talk with him about Heroes of the Storm, casting and esports.
You started as a Super Smash bros player and tournament admin, how did you transition into your current position as Heroes caster?
My history is a bit weird, I started off as a Smash player, then more of a tournament admin. That led me to working with MLG. And then I fell in love with StarCraft. A lot of people don’t realize this, but I worked with SC for a long time. That’s how I know Grubby, I worked with him for years and years as an admin and in production. As I fell in love with the game, I went to Blizzcon to watch the SC finals.
But then I played Heroes... That changed everything! I played it the first time it was ever available at Blizzcon. This is really something special, I've always loved Blizzard titles. I grew up playing Warcraft, Brood War; I am a Day 1 WoW player. I've always been drawn to Blizzard titles. To me, the way Blizzard has always supported esports stood out. Heroes is like the Smash Bros of Blizzard in a lot of ways. That was interesting to me. I said to myself, this game will be a great opportunity and I went all in. Dropped everything else, put all my efforts into Heroes with Town Hall Heroes and now here we are.
"But then I played Heroes... That changed everything!"
What do you think about the news that Blizzard has stated 2016 will be the eSports year for Blizzard titles?
Oh yeah, I'm beyond excited. A lot of us have been hoping for something like this since they [Blizzard] have been a bit passive still. But even the support we've received in 2015 with Heroes of the Dorm, Las Vegas and now Prague is great. I'm so happy with all that. Blizzard has put so much effort into not only making the game awesome, but also making the community feel like they matter.
This is the first time you are casting in EU. How long before this event did you hear you would be casting here?
Right before the Las Vegas event started (September 19th), I got a message from Blizzard saying they wanted me to cast at Prague as well. This gave me a big confidence boost, a lot of the other people were very nervous, this was a big live audience for the Heroes casters in NA.
Blizzard probably reached out a few weeks prior, stating they were maybe thinking of letting me cast the EU event as well, but that happens a lot and you don’t value it very highly until it's confirmed. So when I got the message that morning, it was the best way to wake up. I didn’t need my coffee that day!
What was it like to work with this team, since you are used to working with a different team back in NA?
This was really refreshing. In NA it has been super different for me, which might sound odd since I've been working in esports for years. The crew we have in NA is a tv crew, which is more experienced in scripted tv. There are some ESL people, but they really want to script everything, have bullet points and map out the whole show. Really overthought with rehearsals. I'm accustomed to just walking in, with no script and just having to think and speak about the game I'm passionate about. Coming to Europe was so satisfying, to work with а talent like Grubby аnd to work with a normal show, where we talk about the game. We can talk about the brackets, and the game, and we don’t really need a script to do that. If feels a lot better to me.
"Blizzard has put so much effort into not only making the game awesome, but also making the community feel like they matter."
Is there a noticeable culture difference between EU and NA that you discovered during this event?
Yeah, actually. A big cultural difference is never look at the camera as a caster. They want us to look at each other only. In NA they want us to look at each other at the start of the statement, but then turn to look at the camera. That’s a bit of a difference between the regions, but the rest is all the same. The community, players and games are all the same familiar way.
You mentioned it was refreshing to work at this event because you are used to working with a traditional tv crew whereas here the crew is really specialized in esports events. Did you learn anything that you will bring back home and try to incorporate in the NA events whenever possible?
Not necessarily. This is how the traditional esports in NA events tend to operate, and it was just refreshing in the sense that it was more like the events I am accustomed to, and not the tv stuff.
What were you most excited about when you heard you would be casting at this event in Prague?
I would say I was most excited about the opportunity to not only travel to Europe for the first time, but to get to meet the EU Pro players. It's always very fun meeting someone in person for the first time. Especially after knowing them online for close to a year!
Do you feel like you are always improving your casts, and in what way do you try to improve your casting from one event to the next?
I definitely feel like each event I am improving, but I also feel that I'm failing if that isn't the case. I'm very lucky and I get to work with a lot of extremely talented and experienced people. When I am doing commentary on an event with people like Chobra, Tastosis, or Kaelaris I can really learn a lot from them. Tips for practice, maintaining my voice, even dealing with jet lag. I do a lot of things to prepare for a cast. I study replays / vods of the teams, play a lot of the game in general, exercise and diet accordingly, and watch tv hosts like Stephen Colbert to take from their techniques.
Were there any teams you were personally rooting for to win / qualify for Blizzcon?
I would love to be part of more EU events, online and offline.
Is there any potential for seeing you in more future EU events (online / offline) or do you think it is better for EU events to have EU casters like Kaelaris, ToD and Khaldor?
I would love to be part of more EU events, online and offline. Actually, I plan to seek out more opportunities. I had intentionally focused on NA, but I think it's about time to expand that further.
What are your thoughts on Overwatch and its potential as an esport?
Overwatch has a lot of interesting possibilities. By default it's 6v6 with hero swaps, but the idea of team drafts in a less traditional sense is very interesting to me. Fundamentally the game seems like an esport in every way. Lots of mechanical skill and diverse playstyles. I can't wait to see it unfold. I will be involved to some extent in terms of casting, but Heroes is clearly my focus.
Finally, as something you are quite familiar with from Town Hall Heroes, would you like to give any final shoutouts related to the Prague event and in general?
A big shoutout to Kaelaris for vouching for me, and helping getting me to Prague, and of course a massive shoutout to the entire EU Heroes scene. After such an amazing event, I can't wait to do more in EU!
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