Thanks to Blizzard Korea, we got an opportunity to conduct an extended interview with WCS Season 1 Champion, Lee "STX_INnoVation" Shin Hyung. We talked to him about his lengthy Brood War career, his thoughts on his 'best in the world' status, and how he felt about some of his rivals in StarCraft II.
TeamLiquid: How did you first come to play StarCraft?
Innovation: At the beginning I was just playing it a bit as a hobby. When I was in seventh grade, I saw progamers playing it on television, and started thinking that I should become a progamer. I liked Nada in particular, back then.
When did you first feel that you had talent for the game?
It wasn't that I judged I had talent in games, but I thought that gaming was more suitable to me than studies. But I was pretty good at StarCraft and other games when I was in school.
How long did it take from when you decided you wanted to be a progamer until you became one?
About two years, from when I joined the house and I became a pro.
Was your family against it when you said you wanted to be a progamer, or did they support you?
After I made the decision about my future together with my family in seventh grade, my father continued to give me a lot of support and help.
Even being the eldest son among seven siblings, there wasn't any resistance?
No, my family thought that I should go in the direction that I had talent.
You played Brood War for about 4~5 years as a pro, what do you think looking back at those days?
I was a practice partner, I think it was a stage where I was bringing up my skill level. It was a good foundation going into Heart of the Swarm.
How about your results in BW? Are you satisfied?
I'm not really satisfied, I just think it was part of the process of growing as a player.
But you did do alright, people called you a hot prospect, and you were STX's ace at certain points.
Yes, but that was just a flash in the pan. That's not enough to gain recognition, and it's not like I did particularly well in individual leagues. I just think of it as a period where I briefly played well.
When you first had to play StarCraft II professionally for the hybrid-proleague, what was your impression of the game?
It felt like approaching the game for the first time again. Because everyone was in the same situation at that time, I felt like I could do well if worked hard.
Did you feel that SC2 was more or less suited to you at the time?
At the beginning, the graphics being so different made it hard to adjust... I think up to WoL it was a period of adjustment, and starting in HotS I started feeling the game was better suited to me.
You started off the hybrid league with a 0 – 7 record in StarCraft II matches. Did that discourage you?
I was very good in practice at that time, better than most other players and I had a lot of confidence, but I think that led to me playing too safe in broadcast games, and I couldn't get good results. But I did have the confidence that I could be good eventually.
Innovation bathes in what we can only imagine is the blood of his opponents.Any particular reasons StarCraft II has been better for you? What was holding you back in Brood War?
Production is easier, and I think it's a game based around micro and big engagements. Also, multi-tasking is a bit easier, so you can be more aggressive.
Since I'm a player who is very mechanics based, and I was very lacking in strategic and finesse elements in Brood War, StarCraft II has helped me in that regard. Players with good mechanics and fundamentals can put themselves in good situations, the game being fast paced and all.
What do you think the problem is for the players who can't make their BW skill translate to SC2 skill?
The players who had their primes in Brood War have been playing for a very long time, and they're getting old. I feel maybe it's because they don't have the same drive, or their handspeed just hasn't kept up.
But you could be considered a player who has played for a long time as well, playing your first official matches in 2008. Don't you have any problems staying motivated?
In my case, I wasn't enjoying playing the game when I was playing Brood War. In StarCraft II I'm playing in more matches, getting results, and placing high in individual leagues, so now I'm really enjoying it.
Any particular reasons you didn't enjoy playing during Brood War? You were a first-team regular in Proleague even then.
Yes, but in Brood War, I just didn't have much passion, and I was living a pretty dull daily life – I think I was just really discontent back then.
StarCraft II, the speed, the graphics I think make it a bit more fun, and just doing well in individual leagues and advancing through them is fun for me.
What about HotS let you go up one more level from WoL?
Using widow mines in TvZ instead of tanks, alongside the afterburner medivacs, let me play a fast paced game, which has been a great thing for me.
You're doing well with Terran, which has a pretty different identity in SC2 than BW. Does it make you think that maybe you could have done better with a different race in BW?
I haven't thought about that for Brood War, but during WoL I did think sometimes that if I had played Zerg I could have done well.
You changed your ID from Bogus to Innovation. What was the reason for that change?
When I was watching a K-Drama a while back, one of the companies in the show had the word Innovation in its name, and I thought it sounded cool. Also, I wanted to change things up in StarCraft II, so I came to change my ID.
Oddly enough, your play isn't particularly 'innovative' or unorthodox. Don't you think that's odd?
I don't think my ID and gamestyle have any relationship. I'm a simple guy, so I'm not good at doing a variety of different plays, and I'm just playing based on my mechanics.
You reached the quarter-finals and semis a few times in WoL. Were you nervous then, or were you always calm and collected?
I was surprisingly relaxed in the GomTV booth. Playing a lot of games there, I got a lot of broadcast experience, and I think that led to good things for me. These days I don't get that nervous, and I didn't really get nervous back then either.
Did that feeling change when you played in your first final?
I thought that I'd get nervous playing in my first final, but once I was actually sitting there, it was just the same as usual.
When you lost after being up 3 – 0 against Soulkey, the fans speculated about the reason. That you choked, or that something else happened... What was the reason in your opinion?
When I was winning 3 – 0 I was feeling too giddy, and I couldn't calm myself down until it was all over.
By the time you got to game seven, did you feel like you were up against a wall? Or were you able regain your composure by then?
I wasn't able to find my composure until after game seven ended. I had become withdrawn mentally, and I played poorly as a result.
There was a really long break between games three and four, where it seemed like Soulkey was able to collect himself. Do you think a long break between games six and seven could have helped you?
Looking back at it now, I just didn't handle the situation well. I think I was just destined to lose.
The key moment in that game was when your drop got caught by Soulkey's mutalisks. Could you walk us through that sequence?
I had confirmed the mutas with my viking, but my mind wasn't just all there. So I didn't even really know what I was doing when I put my troops in the medivacs and activated the afterburners. I was just out of it.
You also showed weaknesses in general to all-in play from Zerg throughout last season. What do you think about that?
I've lost a lot to my opponent's all-in rushes in the past and that's continuing even recently. I think to myself that I can stop those attacks but I keep getting busted – it's something I have to shore up.
So in practice, you can usually defend against those attacks?
Yes, it does depend on who's the one executing the all-in. I do stop the attacks in practice, but in broadcast games players bring really refined builds, so they were stronger than what I expected.
When you plan out a multi-game series, do you usually do that yourself? Or does the team's coaching staff help a lot?
I've always preferred working alone, so in most cases I just prepare by myself.
Innovation in a rare overseas appearance at MLG.A lot of people are calling you the best player in the world after you won the Season One finals. What do you think about that title?
I'm not so sure about that yet. I just think of myself as the Season One champion, that's all.
Then who is the best player in the world, outside yourself?
I don't think there's one player to pick, everyone seems similar. There are so many good players with even levels of skill, so it's difficult to just pick one person.
A lot of people like to compare you to Flash. What do you think about that comparison?
Our styles are pretty similar, and Flash is a really good player, so I just think we naturally come to be compared.
Is there a player you could call your rival?
There's no one I can single out as my rival, but if I had to pick someone, I'd have to go with Flash because he is very good, and we play the same race. It will be important to see who places higher in this Starleague.
Anyone you would like to face in this Starleague?
If I had the opportunity to pick someone, I would consider picking Life.
You already beat him once, in the previous group of death. Is that not enough?
Then, both of us weren't playing that well. If possible, I want to face him again, properly.
Actually, Life lost to two foreigners at DreamHack: Summer. What did you think about that result?
I didn't really care.
You said in another interview that you need to win at least three tournaments before you can say that you are 'good.' How did you come to have such a high standard?
At first, I thought that one championship would be enough to be call myself a good player, and be called a good player by others. But after winning a championship, I didn't really feel anything, so I think I have to keep winning.
You also said that you felt your skill level has gone down a bit after winning. What happened?
I felt personally that after I won the championship, I didn't get as much practice. But it's not like it was big drop in skill, I still think I'm at a good level.
It seems like a lot of players have trouble balancing individual leagues and Proleague. How do you handle it?
In Proleague, the opponent you face and the way you prepare counts for a lot, so I think with a certain level of skill, anyone can do well in Proleague.
I place a little more focus on the Proleague. In individual leagues, your bracket luck and condition on match days has to be good for you to progress.
What do you think STX Soul's chances are at winning the Proleague season right now?
I think around 20%?
What do you think about the overall state of the game? Balance is good?
Yes, right now all the races are active at the top tier of competition. The more skilled player is the one who wins, and I don't think there's better balance than what we have now.
There's word that the Hellbat might get nerfed. Players like Flash have said that this is a change that must not be made. What are your thoughts?
I don't put much weight in Hellbats outside of TvT. And that's a mirror, so it doesn't really matter there. I think I'd be fine in other match-ups even with a nerf.
Don't you think TvT has become a bit boring, because it's too hellbat-drop oriented?
No, it's fun for me. Because both players are so busy, exchanging blows with each other.
You've been to IPL and MLG. How have those experiences been for you?
Just, I consider it as my first time in America? I don't think I gained anything in particular from it. There's always something on the schedule, it felt like I was playing games constantly until I had to leave.
A lot of other players say they were impressed by the foreign audiences, at least.
I don't really notice to the reactions of other people... The audience did seem more passionate than in Korea, but I'm not the type to pay attention to that.
Then you don't have particular interest in competing in more foreign tournaments?
The importance of foreign tournaments has gone down a bit. I don't have any special desire to go. I think focusing on WCS is the best plan, although it would be nice to compete abroad if there was an opportunity. But my desire to specifically go to foreign tournaments has gone down some.
You gained a lot of popularity and fans from winning WCS Season One. How do you feel about that then?
I don't have much desire for popularity or things like that, and I don't really like showing myself to others, so I don't really know right now.
So your main goal then, all it is is winning championships?
Just always standing at the highest spot.
sOs mentioned that he checks out community forums in between games to see what people are saying. Do you do that too?
I don't really read the forums that much. I don't think I have anything to gain from reading people's reactions to me.
Isn't it nice though, to read praise when you've played a good game?
It does feel good, but I don't think that will help me in terms of playing the game itself.
A lot of foreign players say they at least make sure to rewatch the games they've won. How about you?
I do watch my games, just the ones I won.
Some players like to keep up on a lot of tournaments, whether they're Korean or international. How about you? Do you watch a lot of games?
I almost don't watch at all, besides some specific players I want to watch. I don't even know where to watch international tournaments – it's not my style to watch a lot of games.
You placed second in Code S, and won the championship at the Season One finals. Which one did you want to win more?
The Season Finals had a bigger scale, so I wanted that one more.
When you're not playing the game, what are your hobbies?
I like to go on walks, and these days I'm playing badminton with my teammates.
What do you think about when you go on walks? Is it still all StarCraft?
I just do it to clear out my head, and for my health. I don't think about the game much when I'm not playing it.
Any media you like? TV shows or movies?
No, I don't like TV or movies that much.
Who are you friendly with on the team? Who do you hang out with?
I like all my teammates, but I'm hanging out a lot with coach Calm lately.
Anything you'd like the fans to know about you?
No, nothing, in particular.
Uh, not really.
Any final comments to your fans then? To the ones overseas?
My foreign fans really seem to like me and care about me. This Season One Final championship isn't the end. I can keep winning, and I will work hard to become a player that can win the Blizzcon finals at the end of the year.