xanderK: 'Dota 2 shined (for me) more than League did but I can really see what makes them so popula

General Joshua “ASWAY” Ouellette
Former S2 Games community manager and Honcast employee Ken "xanderK" Smith sits down with GosuGamers to talk about his time at S2 Games and what he plans on doing in the future.

377097_10150408101974102_520498853_n.jpgHey Ken, its been a while since we’ve spoke, how have you been buddy?

Not too bad actually! Been keeping myself busy with job applications and other future plans.

As many people know, you’re no longer the Community Manager for S2 Games. Can you give us any information as to what happened? Why are you no longer with them?

Basically, S2 decided they wanted to go a different direction with the position and they let me go.
Yeah, unfortunately. Basically, S2 decided they wanted to go a different direction with the position and they let me go. To explain, S2 has been growing very rapidly in the last year or so and I'm proud to be a part of that. However, I think that their desire for the Community Manager position has changed with that growth and they didn't feel like I was the right person for the "new" job. That said, I know that my coworkers greatly appreciated the work that I did and were very sad to see me go. The great thing about working S2 is the relationship that you develop with your coworkers. It's very much like a family and that is the thing I miss the most. I was pretty upset about it to start but I've gotten over it and am excited for the next chapter of my life.

While working for Honcast and S2 Games, what are some of the most memorable moments you’ve had with them? Is there something so ridiculous that happened that you’ll never forget?

Oh man. There's been so many. It's hard to pick a specific one. The trip to San Fransisco, three Dreamhacks and NASL certainly stand out as highlights. I could go on for pages about all the nonsense from those trips. Just working with the staff will be the most memorable thing for me. I'm going to miss hanging out with those guys and gals every day. They make the atmosphere of S2 what it is and it's great.

S2 Games recently announced that AceJR is the new Community Manager, if you could give him one major piece of advice, what would you tell him?

Well it's not an easy job, that's for sure. But the most important thing I could offer is that being the Community Manager is that it is a 24/7/365 job. It means you're never really "off the clock" and helping people on the weekends or in the middle of the night is part of the job. You have to make it your own and feel responsible for it at all times. On that point, the Community Manager should feel almost offended when bad stuff happens and make it your personal vendetta to get things fixed or improve a player's experience.

You went from working for Honcast, a relatively small business, to S2 Games, one of the biggest video game producers in North America, what was that like? How did you deal with such a large change?

Well, it wasn't a huge adjustment actually. S2 might be a big company but it's got a much different feel to it. I know everyone in the company by name (or by online name!) which makes it really easy to get comfortable and settle in. Plus, when you're passionate about something like I am with HoN, it makes things easier still. Also, having people that I already knew helped a lot. At the beginning, there was Nick (BreakyCPK) and Phil (The_Thrill), who I had a tremendous amount of experience working with. They helped move me in and introduced me to everyone. It helped a lot in the early days until I got completely into it.

Now that you’re no longer with S2 Games, what do you plan on doing? Are you still interested in working with eSports organizations?

Regardless of what happens next, I will DEFINITELY be around the scene as a fan and advocate
Well, I'm still figuring that out actually. I've been applying to various different positions and I'm excited to see what happens next for me. Gaming and eSports are my passion and I've dedicated a ton of time to it in my life. I'm definitely interested in continuing with that in a full time position but who knows. Regardless of what happens next, I will DEFINITELY be around the scene as a fan and advocate. In the short term, I'm going to be streaming a LOT more over at www.twitch.tv/xanderks and trying to get my name out there more. For other info, I'm staying active on Twitter at www.twitter.com/xanderks so follow me there too!

It took quite some time for Hontour to get up and running. Now that its currently on its sixth cycle, how do you feel about it? Before Hontour was released, did you expect that it would be this big and active?

Oh it's great. This was the goal for the first season all along. HoN Tour has brought consistency and excitement back to the HoN scene again and it's been extremely entertaining to watch. The best part has been seeing the progression of the divisions throughout the tournament. There's a very high level of competition in every division and it's been cool to see the teams make their way up to Diamond. Once there, I honestly think everyone has a chance. Trademark has showed a lot of dominance but they've faltered and struggled in certain matchups. There's a lot of teams that are quickly rising (LION, TFR, TteS) to compete for the top slot and anyone can take a game off of anyone right now.

I did expect HoN Tour to get to this point and I expect it to get even bigger. As time goes on, it'll get more and more recognition for how unique and interesting it is in the eSports scene and, as a result, get more and more players. Of course, I also know what the future plans are for the event so I know where it's going and I'm really excited to watch it get there.

In your opinion, out of all the active competitive Heroes of Newerth teams, who do you think is the most and least talented, and why?

Well, I'd rather think about it like who has lived up to the hype and who isn't quite playing to their potential. Every team has a lot of talent. The obvious choice for "not playing to their potential" is Complexity but I think they are working on that and making a ton of progress. It seems like there was a lot of issues that got in the way of performing their best since Dreamhack and I'm happy to see them working on that stuff instead of quitting on it. The team that has impressed me the most is definitely Stay Green. It's required a lot of work and adjustments but I feel like they've got things clicking on all cylinders. I'm especially loving the drafts from Swindlemelonzz. He's been consistently innovating and yet always gives his team a great shot to win every game. Then the rest of the team delivers every time.

Being a Community Manager, I’m sure you’ve seen some pretty interesting and entertaining things on the Heroes of Newerth forums. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the forums?

Well the forums are always crazy and I'm proud of how much better the forums have become since I started in late 2011. The best thread that I can remember was in Competitive Discussion and, interestingly, I forgot what it was initially about. Zai` of Trademark eSports decided to turn the thread into a place for Spiderman memes and it was HILARIOUS.

eSports is growing daily and team houses are being more and more popular. What's your take on team houses? Most of the Stay Green members are currently living together in Miami, do you think other teams will follow in their footsteps and move in together?

I hope they do. Team houses are really the best way to improve because of the atmosphere that it fosters. It reduces communication problems and gets teams focused on the goal of getting better. I'd love to see more teams go that route and, if they do, we'll see a ton of innovation and a higher level of play from the whole scene.

You mentioned on stream that you’ve recently dabbled in League of Legends and Dota 2, how do you feel about the current state of each game? Could you see either of these games becoming your go to game?

Dota 2 shined (for me) more than League did but I can really see what makes them so popular
Well first of all, HoN will always be "my game" so no worries there. Since leaving S2, I've felt a little less "awkward" in trying out the other games in the genre and I've enjoyed my experiences. Dota 2 shined (for me) more than League did but I can really see what makes them so popular. I'll actually share the opinion I had after my first night of playing all three: Signing in, the lobbies, the menus, everything outside of the games themselves just feel better. But once you get into the action itself, everything just feels lacking in comparison to HoN. There's so many things that were changed or added in HoN that make infinitely more sense than what is in the other games. It shows the care and dedication of the design team to craft the best possible experience in HoN and I think they've done that.

Thanks for for taking the time to do this interview with me Ken! It's greatly appreciated! Any final words

Shoutout to the whole S2 Games staff, who made the last portion of my life so fantastic, especially Nick (BreakyCPK), Paul (Malloc), Chris (Chavo), Nate (Zero_MnoTW), Chris (DangerousDan), Pu (DivA), Jacki (Vesta), Brent (Buro) and Alan (Idejder). The HoN competitive players and teams, who have all become my friends since starting my casting career with Honcast, especially Insania, Swindlemelonzz, Zfreek, Moonmeander, AngryTestie and NoVa. The community at large for making every day interesting and exciting, especially the HoNored Posters and the Moderator team. Finally, my family and my loving wife Carolann for supporting me moving away to chase a dream.