Live Interview: In his third year of progaming, Flash; the story of the “ultimate weapon”
There has been around seventy or so published articles of FOMOS’ focal content of the interviews section, the “Live Interview”. Numerous influential members associated with the e-sports scene have been telling their more sincere stories “live” through this section to the e-sports fans. But one day we suddenly realized that we have never interviewed the “ultimate weapon”, Flash of KT Rolster.
The other members of the “Taek-Beng-Lee-Ssang” quartet have had as many as two opportunities to open up to their fans. However, Flash’s name was where to be found on the list of interviews. Ever since his debut, Flash has been the centre of attention due to his age, and has now has matured into the leading member of his race, and one of the mightiest progamers. We were never more certain that it was time to interview him.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Since the start of the Shinhan Bank Proleague Season 2009-2010, Flash has blazed the competition coming out victorious in all his six matches, not to mention showing performances worthy of his nickname, the “ultimate weapon”, in the individual leagues. Of course, his performance in the previous season was noting to scoff at, but this season looks to be different from the last. With the support of his reliable teammates, Flash has been looking stable gaming-wise and psychologically. And this being his third year into progaming, his interviewing skills has become more adept and entertaining than any other.
Flash’s first “Live Interview” since his debut. FOMOS’ first “Live Interview” with the Flash. An interview two years in the making, this “Live Interview” did not disappoint the expectations.
We shall summarize the key points of the interview.
1. Flash, an unexpected victim of his nerves?
2. Does Flash enjoy his nickname “the juvenile head of the household”?
3. How was the “anti-carrier build” created?
4. Flash: “Nada was not my mentor.”
5. Flash likes trophies better than having a girlfriend.
No longer “the baby of the scene”, Flash, a veteran progamer in his own right
The vast majority of the journalists working in this scene remember every moment of Flash’s career. I am no different in this regard. It was sometime around the April of 2007. Flash, a mere child, crashes onto the scene like a shooting star by defeating Free and Bisu on his first Dual Tournament to qualify for the OGN Starleague. Even before his debut, there were rumours of him being an unbelievable player, but nobody predicted such an entrance. After making it to the final four, then the final eight on his first two OGN Starleagues, he became the youngest winner ever of an individual league by placing first in the Bacchus OGN Starleague 2008. It was the moment the “ultimate weapon” was born.
Q: With the start of this season’s proleague, you have entered your third year of progaming.
A: I was afraid of losing after become known to so many people. However, I have matured enough to handle these things on my own now. I have lost plenty of games up to this point, so I focus more on winning than on my defeats.
Q: You must have gotten your own progaming “know-how” by now.
A: It is only natural. I used to tire myself out after practicing for numerous tournaments. Fortunately, I have learned how to keep up with my practice demands without tiring myself out. I also helps that I work out three hours a day (laughs). I think it explains my recent good results.
Q: Are there any games that you regret?
A: There were so many games that I feel terrible about losing. I personally believe that our team would have won the match against Air Force ACE, and would have done better in the league afterwards, if I didn’t end up losing against Oversky on Battle Royal. I was such a fool to play on that map (laughs). I didn’t realize how difficult the map was until I practiced on it. I just wanted to prove to everyone that I could defeat zergs on that map since no one else was able to do it.
Q: You lost twice against the same team in one day for the first time last season against Samsung Khan and STX Soul.
A: I was painfully aware of that fact as well. Actually, I was also aware that I was the only player to have not received the dishonour of losing twice a day. I actually keep track of all these records and pay a lot of attention to it. I have lost proleague matches before, but always won the ACE match afterwards. But I ended up losing the ACE match as well against Samsung Khan and STX Soul. I was especially devastated after the match-up against STX Soul, it was one of my toughest moments.
Q: One of your toughest moments? What were the other harsh moments for you?
A: It was harsh when I was eliminated from both individual leagues last season. I was physically drained when I played against Best in the OGN Starleague. On Wednesday I played the Winner’s League, and the very same night I had to play in the OGN Starleague and the very next day I ended up crashing out of the MSL as well. I think that my current position would have been different had I handled the situation better. They should arrange the schedule so that such a thing does not happen in my opinion. I actually wanted to quit progaming after I dropped out of the MSL (laughs). It wasn’t just the harshness of the defeat; I was worn out by gaming in general. The schedule was just too tough. I was exhausted that I told my manager that I couldn’t go on.
Q: That reminds me of your nickname, “the juvenile head of the household”. What is your honest opinion on it?
A: (Laughs) Honestly? For me, it is a very positive nickname. It means that I am carrying the entire team on my shoulders. However, it’s not the same for the team. It doesn’t matter what the fans call me as long as the team wins, but the situation wasn’t so. I am close friends with all my teammates, and I think they may have been stressed out because of my nickname. So I kept saying that “I want everyone on our team to win” in my interviews. I am happy because it’s actually happening that way this season (laughs).
Q: Did you ever think to yourself “why can’t you even win a single match for me?”
A: I would be lying if I said that I never thought that (laughs). Even so, I never actually said those comments to my teammates. I don’t win all the time either. I thought to myself that it’s enough that I win my matches if my teammates are going through a tough phase. So I’m okay after ten minutes or so. I always think ahead, so things are not that hard on me.
Q: Do you think you were over-used due to KT Rolster’s “hope-torture” inducing position in the league? What would have happened if your team was at the bottom of the table instead?
A: I don’t think I can just say “then I’ll rest” (laughs). Our team is sponsored by a huge company. It is unimaginable for us to finish at the bottom. It also does not bode well for my own ego to let my team finish at a low position. I would have kept playing even if my results were not good.
Q: This season’s KT Rolster feels different, perhaps highlighted by the fact that it is the beginning of the season, but different nonetheless.
A: Luxury’s revival has given me the greatest strength. Also, most of the first team members have been relegated to the reserve team one time or the other during the off-season period. They all practiced all night to gain their spot back (laughs). The coaching staff also helped control our mindset and scolded us a lot. The name change from KTF to KT also brought about change for the better in general. With our new uniforms and new mindset, we were able to produce better results.
Nada has never been Flash’s mentor. And do nerves still get to Flash?
Flash’s stories about his debut and his period as an amateur/semi-professional gamer are well known by all. The process of Flash making his debut as a progamer for KT Rolster was a controversial one. If such a feud went on for the right to claim ownership over a gamer who hadn’t even been registered as a progamer (my own translation, the original article is very vague with the comments), one can only imagine the skill and untapped potential of Flash during his younger days. We’ll here more on this topic from Flash himself.
Q: We’re curious about how you made your debut as a progamer. It is such a well known story, but let’s hear it anyways.
A: It was back I was really young, probably when I was in third year of primary school. I watched my elder brother play Starcraft, but he didn’t help me much. Just when I got the hang of the game, my parents got rid of the computer. Then I went to internet cafes to play FPS mainly, but got interested in Starcraft again after I watched it being broadcasted on television. My parents brought another computer around winter time, and I ended up beating people who had been playing it for over a year after a while. I surprised myself by successfully incorporating progamer strategies I saw on television (laughs).
So I ended up passing the KOR (currently Hite Sparkyz) team entry test. But I was just an online practice partner, and they neglected me too much (laughs). When I told them that I was going to quit their team, the then coach of team KOR asked me “are you seriously going quit?”. It may seem unthinkable for an online practice partner to just move teams like that, but I had little choice since my time was running about. I made a promise with my parents, and I had a precious few months to keep that promise. I did get my semi-professional progaming license while I was with KOR, and I moved to Pantech and Curitel after someone I know introduced me to them. Thankfully, coach Lee Gwang Su took good care of me. After one or two months of joining the team, I ended placing first on every team ranking tournament for the next six months. When the word got out, several teams approached me, but I chose KTF. There were some problems with the trade (laughs).
Q: Because of your time in Pantech and Curitel, everybody regards Nada as your mentor. What are your thoughts on this issue? Who is your mentor?
A: I was not yet ready to mimic Nada then. To be honest, I tried to learn from him, but I couldn’t (laughs). So I decided to improve on my own. I was on friendly terms with Firefist, Hero V and Pepe. I went to school everyday, so I had to practice during the night. These three helped me progress so much by playing with me all night. So they can be called as my mentor. Many people say that Nada was my mentor, but to be frank he was not. It was difficult to ask elder gamers for a game at such a young age, but Firefist, Hero V and Pepe took the initiative to help me out.
Q: After you got your progaming license, you passed the qualification rounds immediately. Was that expected?
A: I went out there with zero expectations. I had never experienced the progaming world. I went to the offline qualifiers the day after I became a progamer, and everyone was saying that my group was “the best you can hope for”, and I luckily went through. The next day, the MBC Game offline qualifier group I was in was supposed to be even easier, but I met TT in the early rounds and he built gateways in my base to win the game. I was inexperienced and got thrown off my game afterwards (laughs). So I had to wait for the next offline qualifiers to enter the MSL.
Q: In you earlier interviews, you often mentioned that you were not affected by your nerves at all.
A: Although I said such things, in truth I was a nervous wreck (laughs). Once I reached the OGN Starleague, there were too many people there. I actually couldn’t sleep the night before. I woke Hery (current KT Rolster coach) up at dawn and practiced with him all night. I played Light without an ounce of sleep, but luckily was able to defeat him. The cheering after I won was unbelievable. I was able to turn heads with that victory, and was able to gain confidence from the match and perform well in that Starleague.
Q: So was it the attention that brought you here?
A: I still love playing games in front of big crowds. That’s why I like playing against SK Telecom T1. In enjoy playing in the presence of many people.
Q: So nerves don’t affect you now?
A: Nope (laughs). I still get nervous. I took medications to help with my nerves even after I won for the first time. I won on televised matches, but the games were not indicative of my skill level. On the few occasions that I perform up to my practice games’ standards I mention it during my interviews. Regular fans don’t know much about the level of gaming that goes on in the practice room. Even now, I can’t play as well as I did during practice. If I’m to be blunt, I rarely lose during practice. It doesn’t matter whether I play my teammates, or even Bisu or Jaedong. I think if I play as well as I do during practice there’s no reason to be the underdog against these players.
Q: Your display of skill on television is ridiculously high nonetheless.
A: I think I am able to represent eighty to ninety percentage of my skill level. However, that ten percent difference is critical. It was especially so in my recent match against FBH. I was able to smile because my team won, but I was very unsatisfied with my game. People said that I played well, but I did not think so.
Q: If so, were there any games that you were truly satisfied with afterwards?
A: The come-back game against FBH was okay, and I was very happy with my performance in the GomTV Invitational finals back then. My match against Jaedong on Harmony was okay as well. I think the game I played against Mind on Othello displayed the full hundred percent of my capabilities.
The smile that came after being defeated by Stork; the birth of the “anti-carrier build”
Flash is not just a player who plays the game well. He is constantly trying to create new build-orders and strategies. That is why the topic of “anti-carrier build” comes up when we think of Flash. The terrifying build that diminished carriers into mineral wasting units with fully upgraded goliaths. Commentator Kim Tae Hyeong had to say a tearful good-bye to his beloved carriers due to this build, and started a new romance with arbiters.
Q: Let’s discuss the “anti-carrier build” in detail. It cannot be denied that the topic springs to mind the moment you are mentioned.
A: I played a similar style beforehand but was unable to show it on televised games. Then after I lost my game against Stork in the round of eight, I had a sudden flash of inspiration. The revelation was so sweet that I smiled all the way back to the KT Rolster house. It was so strong against carriers (laughs). I first used it against Free on Loki. I did not plan to use it. I was left with almost no SCVs after being surprised by proxy gates in my base, and had no choice but to use the build in order to make a come-back. I started to use the build frequently after this game, and refined it as time passed by.
Q: So you were confident in the build?
A: I believe that was so. To be more precise, there were no other options. ForGG won a lot with timing pushes, but I believed that his style would have limitations. Protosses were too strong and I had to come up with a better way to counter their style of play. I reached my peak with this build shortly after I defeated Stork in the OGN Starleague finals.
Q: There are complaints that your style is too monotonous after the creation of the “anti-carrier build”.
A: The sorry thing about it is that everyone asks me why I keep playing the same upgrade style terran against protoss. It’s because I rarely lose during practice with it. Actually, I am revealing this for the first time, there is a new style of play that I have against protoss. It’s about fifty percent in its completion. It may have been used already, but I have modified it to suit my own tastes. I believe I will be able to show it on television one day, so I think you can raise your expectations for it. I am working hard to create my own style of play, and will have no predispositions about using all-ins as well (laughs).
Q: Many to say this is the “golden age of zerg”, with the zerg domination so visible in the scene.
A: I think it has a lot to with the map pool. Both indivial leagues were taken by the zerg, and this is unthinkable in this scene (laughs). I seriously believe that should introduce some terran and protoss favoured maps. Of course zerg players have practiced hard for this, but the map plays a big factor in my opinion.
Q: So you believe the map pool is responsible for the current trends?
A: If I’m to be honest, even when the overall situation for the zergs was dire, Jaedong was still doing very well. They say it’s “Zerg-craft” but I don’t agree at all. Zerg players say that it is “Terran-craft”, but the reality is very different. Don’t terran players lose a lot despite the claim for the race being imbalanced? In an age where all three races have more or less an even footing, the map pool plays a huge part because every race is very similar skill-wise.*
*I believe the overall argument Flash is presenting is that every race is more or less equal in terms of meta-game evolution and micromanagement skills, and until the next wave of evolution (that may never come) comes that raises one race above another, there’s no possible way to overcome map imbalance which Flash believes is the cause for the recent zerg domination.
Q: Your versus-zerg style has become more varied. The game you’ve played against Hero in particular caused much discussion in the communities.
A: I thought a lot about this style of play, and also paid attention to the psychology of the opposing player as well. The match was the accumulation of a lot of research and thought. The most important thing was to enhance my repertoire against zerg to three things in order to confuse them. It has yet to solve the match-up, but if I improve the build like I did with the “anti-carrier build” I think it will help me against zergs. Unfortunately, this style of play already has an answer to it. I’ll need to recombine this build with another one.
Driven by the “scholar terran”, Mind
After discussing his “anti-carrier build”, the atmosphere became much lighter. We were able to converse more casually and focus more on his plans for the future. One of the more interesting topics that came up were his thoughts on fellow terran gamers Mind and Baby.
Q: How do you practice? You have one of the heaviest schedule demands.
A: Once the schedules came up, I had to think about the left over matches every time I used up a build-order. It really caused me a lot of headaches. I used to worry more about which build-orders to use or spare against the players I had to go against in the future than what to do against my immediate opponent on the schedule. I always come up the build-orders by myself. The community assumed that I used to win a lot of matches because of the build-orders that Sync (ex-KTF coach) once prepared for me, but even back then I often prepared the build- orders all by myself. I don’t think ahead so much anymore. I’ve changed now. After getting eliminated early on in the individual leagues so many times, I decided to just win no matter what as I go along.
Q: You hold the title of being the youngest winner of an individual league.
A: I thought back then that I was ready to win an individual league. After Mind won the MSL, I got heavily motivated. I became furious after reading the articles about Mind being the youngest winner ever of an individual league (laughs). I told myself that there was no reason for me to perform worse than him and practiced incredibly hard, and ended up winning the OGN Starleague. Thinking back, perhaps I’ve won too early on because my motivational level dropped afterwards.
Q: There were moments where you slumped after you earned your first title.
A: Even now, although I lose to S-class players, I don’t lose too much to lower level players. It’s because I never underestimate my opponents. I do admit that there were periods during which didn’t practice too much. What with getting sick at times and getting my teeth straightened, there were times that I didn’t do as well as I could. But it’s all behind me now, and I’m ready to spread my wings and fly.
Q: We can’t skip discussing the youngest progamer on the scene, Baby.
A: I’ve heard a lot about him. I’ve heard that he is the best player on his team now (laughs). Personally, I think that it’s possible for him to break my record for the “the youngest player to qualify for an individual league”, but perhaps less so for the “youngest player to win an individual league” because of the immense competition these days. The people who win keep winning. If he manages to somehow break both my records, he’ll truly break out of his shell to become a great player.
Q: Doesn’t it take a lot of luck as well as skill to win an individual league?
A: Even now it amazes me how I managed to win the OGN Starleague (laughs). Being a champion requires both skill and luck. Jaedong was losing 0:2 in the Batoo OGN Starleague finals, but the games that were played afterwards were all stacked in his favour in terms of fortune. Once Fantasy was spawned in the one spot where he could not wall himself in. I was reminded of how important luck was. Of course Jaedong was the best player then and is the best player now. He is in my opinion the player with the most skill. Combine his skill and his recent series of good fortune, and it’s no wonder why he won those titles he won. I consider myself to be perfectly capable of winning those titles too if only I had that luck. Only time will tell if such a thing will happen to me in this season or the next (laughs).
Q: Are there any titles you wish to gain as of now?
A: I want to win the “player of the year” award. I’ve already won the “terran player of the year” and “newcomer of the year” awards. Since I’m playing well this season, with a “player with the most victories” award for the past two proleague seasons already under my belt, I think I can win the award in the near future. Jaedong already won two individual leagues this year, so this year’s award will probably go to him, but perhaps I can steal it away if I do well in the remaining time frame. I plan on getting the award in at least three years time even if I don’t get it this year.
Q: Don’t you want to win the proleague?
A: I really want to win it a lot. But I don’t want to set my goals up too high. I intend to qualify for the post-season play-offs first. From then on, we’ll have to work as a team to plan our way into the top spot. It will be unrealistic for me to plan on winning the proleague when our team has failed to qualify for the play-off spots for several seasons. So my goal is to qualify for the play-offs. They say you should aim high, but I believe that you should be realistic with your goals. I don’t have my sights on the individual league titles either at this stage to be honest.
Q: But don’t the sponsors demand trophies?
A: Of course the stand on the situation cannot be same for everyone. But our sponsors tell us to take it one step at a time. Words like that really help us out, and lessens the burden on our shoulders. We’re told to do better than our last season’s finish, seventh, even if we don’t win this time. I believe that it’ll only be a matter of time before we get the winning trophy if we take it one step at a time.
Flash: “I intend on being progamer for the next ten years!”
With all this experience gained within just three years, we were curious to see how much more Flash would progress as a gamer in the future. Flash mentioned that he wishes to remain as a progamer for the next ten years. Doesn’t it boggle the mind how much this young player will achieve during that period? We were sure that Flash is the gamer with the most potential the scene has ever seen. Not just gaming-wise, but in terms of his mindset towards his profession.
Let’s pay close attention to this prodigy for the next decade to come. Let’s not forget to cheer for him when he amazes us with his skill. Of course there will always be fans who are over-critical of the players. But through this interview we realized that Flash was not a player who would be easily thrown-off by such criticisms or derogatory comments. Getting sturdier by the day, Flash truly was the “ultimate weapon”.
Q: Did you think about playing Starcraft 2?
A: As of now, since I’m doing well playing Brood War, I don’t intend to switch to Starcraft 2. Players who are not getting good results might switch immediately, but for now I just want to be good at Brood War. I’ve heard things about Starcraft 2 being not as fun as the original, but I’m sure there will be qualities that only Starcraft 2 possesses. I don’t think it’s wise to expect the same game, and we’ll need to take it as a brand new game. I intend to do so from a distance.
Q: With nicknames like “young monster”, “ultimate weapon”, “crooked-child” and “juvenile head of the household”, you have one of the most nicknames out of any progamers.
A: I don’t pay that much attention to it. I just take it as a sign of popularity and I urge myself to play better. “crooked-child” was a nickname with a bad connotation, but I liked it. It just sounded cute (laughs). Now I feel good about that nickname. Other gamers might like such nicknames too. My teammates say I catch onto things fast and call me “crooked-child” too (laughs).
Q: Which non-teammate player are you most friendly with?
A: It’s hard to pick one. I’m friendly with a lot of gamers. I’m pretty close with Jaedong, Fantasy and Kal. I know all the STX Soul players personally. I have been on the scene for quite some time now and know a lot of players (laughs). Fantasy was the same race as me, and we progressed in skill at a similar rate. We’ve been friends since we were amateurs.
Q: “Lee-Ssang” match-up has always been a hot issue amongst the fans. Do you consider Jaedong as your rival?
A: Yes. I feel sorry for my fans since my career is lacking compared to his. It hurts my pride as well. But don’t I win against Jaedong not that infrequently? I believe that our trophy count comparison can be in my favour with time because of that. Our conditions on the day we meet often decide the outcome of the match. Come to think about it, I think I have played Jaedong the most. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we are rivals. But I want to catch up to him more than anything else.
Q: Do you have a role-model as a progamer?
A: I don’t have one. I confessed a lot of things today. To be honest I gave a lot of phony answers during my time (laughs). However, Reach is my role-model as a person. He gets good reviews wherever he goes. I never once heard a person bad mouth him. Once there was a bad mannered team that wouldn’t stop to exchange greetings with Reach. So I said that I would do the same to them as well, but Reach scolded me for having that kind of an attitude. As a result I learned a lot about paying respect to one another and having good manners.
Q: When was the time when you spent your money the most?
A: I think it was when I bought my fellow teammates a meal. I never indulged myself by spending money. I don’t think I spent over two hundred thousand won even once. Most of my clothes are gifts, and I don’t enjoy accessories. So I never spent too much money at once. I spend most of my cash on food. Food for my teammates and food for me (laughs).
Q: Don’t you want to get a girlfriend?
A: I don’t have the time to meet one. Back when I had one there was more time, but now I’m too busy. During the off-season I catch up with several friends, but I don’t think I can date anyone. The most important thing is that it’s not possible for me to retain my performance if I get a girlfriend. There will never be an opportunity like this for me ever again. This is the time to win.
Q: What kind of progamer do you want to be?
A: I want to be the progamer with the most trophies before I retire. I want everyone to think of me whether they think of the proleague or the individual leagues. I also want to gain the respect of everyone like Boxer. In short, I want to be a “legend”. Just I like I grew up looking up to Boxer, I want the next crop of progamers looking up to me.
Q: Do you want to play into your thirties? Could you disclose some of your plans for the future?
A: I think I’ll keep playing until I get drafted into the military. I have yet to think of playing in my thirties like Boxer. I’m sorry to say this to the older players out there, but they say that you’re not as nifty once you get old. I won’t give up the moment I feel some limitations. I don’t have such problems as of now anyways (laughs).