WCS 2014 Season 1
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
Interviews by Waxangel
Get to know your WCS players
WCS is starting back up, and so is our highly-acclaimed "Get to know your WCS players" series of interviews. Forty-eight Challenger League spots are up for grabs in the online qualifiers, and some of the players who claim those spots may very well end up causing a stir in the Premier League. Let's learn a little bit more about them!
In our last two installments, we talked to Fnatic's Harstem, Zanster, and Miniraser, as well as My Insanity's Kane, ABomB, and jjakji. This time, we have a trio of players fighting to make it into Premier in WCS America: coL.qxc, ROOT.Astrea, and Clarity.SaroVati!
Thanks to Seeker and Catz for helping make these interviews possible.
coL.qxcWaxangel: You made it into Challenger, how does it feel?
qxc: Last year had a lot of ups and downs and even though I qualified for a lot of significant events including multiple IEMs and a Homestory cup, I always felt a void from failing to qualify for WCS. I'm happy that I made it in and hope I can prove that I deserve to be there in my future matches.
Do you think something changed this time around, or that you got better than before? Or was it just the bracket/tournament luck finally breaking your way?
The qualifier was significantly easier this time around with region locking, but all together I felt like I just played better games than I had in the past. The next day I went on to qualify for IEM Cologne as well so I think some of the revisions I made during the holidays are paying off.
Any of those revisions you wouldn't mind talking about in more detail? Or are you hiding your style?
They're revisions to my approach to the game which have led to a more balanced mind set and a faster increase in skill. Without going into too much detail, I'm focusing more on how my time is spent outside of practice and more aggressively limiting how much time I spend on different activities. All in all, I'm more relaxed and motivated in general which has made a big difference.
Speaking of other activities, I feel like every time TL talks to you we take the parkour thing and drive it into the ground. Is there anything else we should know about you outside of StarCraft?
I literally have not done parkour in any significant amount since my time in Spain years ago. There is a time and place for everything. More recently, I've been playing a lot of ultimate frisbee as well as rock climbing. Over the holidays I took a significant break from starcraft and was playing a lot of hearthstone and pickup ice hockey. I like to theorize about game design and such in my free time as well, although I haven't put to video any of my more recent thoughts...
Pickup ice hockey? Did you just pick it up recently or was that something you did when you were a kid?
I played in high school, but I use the term play very loosely because I was and am still awful, but it is something I really enjoy doing. I've never been much of a team sport person, but for whatever reason I've always enjoyed hockey.
So do you get as competitive about it as you do with StarCraft, or is it toned down to a "have fun" kind of thing?
Everything I do, I do to win, but I have invested so much of myself into Starcraft that my drive with anything else is so reduced that it feels like I don't care at all. I enjoy playing and skating and I go hard, but at the end of the day it's a diversion from what really matters and not much else.
Going back to the game design, are you thinking mostly about StarCraft 2? Or is it more varied types of games?
All games share certain critical features, but in general my thoughts are toward SC2. I consider things like the longevity of the game as an esport, how to make the game more fun to play and more accessible to newer players.
Do you realistically think any gameplay changes could help SC2 at this point, given its distribution model and marketing?
I think SC2 is very close to being significantly better gameplay wise. There are certain abilities, features etc that make the game less fun for new players and more frustrating. But, at the end of the day, without additional revenue coming in, it doesn't seem profitable for Blizzard to continue to develop and such. So, I'm just going to answer potential future questions with this brief monologue:
No game is finished or perfected and people like novelty. Given that these two are true for a game to be massively successful over a long period of time it requires consistent tweaking and enhancements. For that to be possible, it needs to also have a consistent revenue stream to pay the people to do said work. Thus, for StarCraft to grow (I think it will survive no matter what), it needs to function on a model that brings in more consistent revenue so that developers can be paid to continue to make the game better, more accessible, etc
The monetization of sc in some sort of free to play model enables the consistent updates and maintenance of the game so that it stays fresh and up to date which promotes growth. No matter what, I think StarCraft will survive as an esport for a long time, but growth seems more important than survival.
So at this point I have to ask you about Starbow. What do you think of it?
I've played about 10 games in starbow now and I enjoyed how they changed the game to reward more aggressive play by reducing the effectiveness of increased saturation per base... each worker past 8 yields diminishing returns and you only need 3 / gas per base which means a whole lot less workers overall and a lot more income if you're expanding aggressively. I'm not a big fan of some of the units (like banshees) and it feels awkward to micro/stutter because I'm not used to the timings but it was a fun change in pace.
I also looked a bit into 'One Goal' which is designed to be a better SC2. Perhaps the change that excites me most is the greater incentive for aggression and subsequent reduction in deathball interactions.
If I were to pursue a project similar to this I would do it more in the vein of "One Goal" where the intention is to improve SC2 with the fewest changes possible. I feel that SC2 already is in a very good spot and requires some relatively simple redesigns to get a big increase in fun and accessibility.
On that note, does that kind of thing interest you? Working on or creating a mod for the game - the "extension mod" feature for 2.1 would make that kind of thing easier to update and easier for people to use. Realistically, do you think you could find the time to work on that kind of thing?
While still being a progamer, no, not at all. The first step would be to learn the other races a lot more. I would want to be pretty high in gm with both Zerg and Protoss before I undertook something like that, but it's certainly something I would consider in the future. Then I would need to aggressively get people of different skill to play the game. One of the biggest issues to address is making starcraft less frustrating and more enjoyable - particularly at the lower skills.
I imagine a new StarCraft that maintains the immense complexity and depth while being much friendlier to new players at the same time, and that problem is more complicated than simply making the game more fun to watch/play at pro levels I think.
If you had to pick one thing, what's the #1 problem that makes the game less approachable for new players right now?
Each matchup has its own unique trials that cause frustration, but losing without knowing why you lost and how to improve are consistent across the board. People want to know where to focus their energy next to improve. They want to know how to play better so they have something to work toward. This is the most frustrating aspect of playing. Unfortunately, this is also an issue that is mostly addressed through the UI and battle.net itself.
Players should know their WCS opponents by the time this comes out, but we'll just ask this anyway: is there anyone you want to face in Challenger, and anyone you want to avoid in particular?
I want to play Polt and get revenge for my recent loss to him in the IEM Cologne qualifier. As far as avoiding, I don't care. If I get someone strong then I will have the chance to show my strength through good games. If I get someone weak then I will show my strength through domination.
If you could be on a team with five other players, who would you pick and why?
Terran: innovation, mma, polt, maru, and bomber.
If you could have warhounds back, or have every other Terran nerf in history rolled back, which would you pick?
Rolled back. Tanks did 50 damage to everything, EMP did full shield damage and energy, how could I lose? Bunkers at 30 seconds, rax at 60 seconds I think. Reactor at 25 seconds, marines at 20 if I recall correctly. I've been here since the beginning. I know my history
That sounds like an amusing mod, all nerfs rolled back for all races. Which race would even be the best?
Terran, the master race, cannot be stopped with nerfs back. We had some nice buffs, stim was ~140s too, I think.
If you could be the 2014 WCS champion or be the head developer on SC2, which would you choose?
WCS. I can fix the game after I'm done beating it.
Okay, let's wrap up any final comments shoutouts, etc etc?
Big thanks to complexity and my fans for making my career possible and I hope to show better games in 2014.
ROOT.AstreaWaxangel: First off, could you introduce yourself briefly to the SC fans who might not know you so well? Also, tell us about how you got into SC2.
Ok, my name is Max "Astrea" Angel [heh heh] and I got into SC2 when my friend introduced me to the game about 2 years ago. I didn't play BW, and started playing WoL about 6 months into its release, but it was very fun so I learned and caught on quickly.
You're still in high school, yah?
So as of now you're balancing school and competitive gaming fairly evenly then?
I would say I put more emphasis on Starcraft but I still have good grades .
How was your progress working up to Challenger level? Did you start playing more as a hobby and at a certain point it became more serious and competitive?
Well honestly, I still think it's a hobby. I play this game for fun because I like it, not necessarily to win some huge prize pool or be well-known across the community. I think that that is just starting to happen because I like the game so much, and I think it's very fun to start getting some fans . That's not to say just because I still consider it a hobby I can't be serious and competitive, but I still play because its fun.
So making it to Challenger was more of a natural progression of your skill then? How did you feel when you made it through?
Well I felt excellent of course! It felt good as a self-validation, knowing that I was good enough to finally play in something like this, even though I think it takes a bit of luck as well. I think it felt better though having all of my team congratulate me and knowing they were happy in my success.
What are your goals regarding competitive gaming? If you were doing it for fun before, has this achievement made you think of it more "seriously" so to speak?
I think I'll be happy regardless of my results as long as I know I'm improving. The main difference before and recently when I qualified for WCS has been my openness to talking about Starcraft to the people around me in the "real world". I didn't talk about my commitment to the game to my friends or parents for fear of rejection. But being more skilled and having some results, I feel more self-assured that I can talk about it and that if I share it to others and they don't like it, then they're wrong and not me.
How's the reaction from around you when you say you're into competitive gaming? I figured that at least in your age group it'd be a fairly accepted thing. Or at least that's the impression I get from the internet :D
Well to be honest, I don't know how, a lot of people knew I was pretty good at Starcraft before I even told them. It's not like I didn't talk about it to my close friends or anything, but I didn't prefer the subject. Somehow though this had spread, and a lot of people congratulated me for getting into Challenger League. I was fairly sure I had never talked to about Starcraft before, and that made me a lot happier talking about it. Once someone in my physics class, who I never told I played and who was sitting next to me, asks me how good I was at Starcraft so I told her I was like top 10 on NA on ladder which I was at the time. She seemed really amazed, and suddenly starts telling the teacher how good I am at Starcraft and I was really embarrassed and just face-palming wondering why she was telling the teacher excitedly about my skill at video games. He started laughing after that and told me it was cool, which made me kind of happy.
I retired from public life ever since TL started letting me work from home, but when I went out a few weeks back I noticed some kids watching LCS on a phone and talking about it. Is that what it's like these days? Gaming/esports is not uncommon for ppl to be talking about?
First of all, I have no clue what LCS is [it's the primary League of Legends competition]. But in general, I don't know about other schools, but games are a fairly common topic sometimes even during class. It might just be the friends I hang out with though.
Anyway, back to the game. A lot of people are probably going to see you for the first time in Challenger. How would you describe your playstyle?
I'd say I play a solid macro based style with lots of aggression and counterattacks. I'd probably put myself closest to HerO in the way I play, and he's my favorite player.
You mean you aren't content with being ahead and have a constant need to make risky attacks :D?
Well aggression doesn't have to be risky, I'm talking things like warp prism drops, proxy pylons to warp in, early gate pressures vs Zerg, lots of counterattacks vs Terran, pretty standard stuff like that that not all players do. I do like to mix cheeses in every once and a while though .
Ok, so Challenger brackets might be released by the time this goes out, but we'll ask this anyway to get a sense for your preferences. Is there anyone you'd like to face in particular, and anyone you'd want to avoid?
I would prefer a Zerg because I think my PvZ is my best. I would also hope to avoid a team kill and the super gosus on the list like Bomber. Everyone on the list is really good though, so it will be tough either way.
If you could be on a team with five other players, who would you pick? (no one on your current team)
I'm assuming I can choose SEED players then? Based on a combination of skill and awesomeness I would choose SolO, HerO, HuK then sOs and Taeja just to carry everyone.
If you had to take three progamers with you to rescue your girlfriend from Somali pirates, who would you take along?
Well Incontrol would have to be one of them I think he could take them on 2v1, along with sasquatch probably. Just in case they were friendly pirates and it was all a misunderstanding, I would bring Sage because I think he always smiles and that would make the pirates ease up a bit.
Sorry, that's the incorrect answer, your girlfriend is dead. The correct answer was Slivko x3.
S*** I've never seen Slivko, is he really buff?
Here you go.
Holy s***, I didn't know StarCraft was such a good workout.
Ok final question, pick one each of the following players to macro/all-in/or ragequit against: Avilo, Catz, and elfi.
That's easy: macro against cat, all-in against avail, ragequit against elfi.
Alright, any final comments or shoutouts or things of that nature?
Shout out to all the sick players on SEED and ROOT. Shoutouts to our sponsors Tt Esports, Twitch and V3gamingpc.com!
c.SaroVatiWaxangel: First, introduce yourself to the ppl who might not know you so well.
Hi I'm Brian "SaroVati" Zhao, a Canadian Protoss player for Clarity Gaming. I'm currently a full time student at the University Of Alberta studying Engineering
How'd you get into StarCraft?
I've played sports my entire life, but they have all been team sports. At the start of 10th grade, I wanted to do something competitive 1v1, and since obviously sports was out of the question since those people have been training for like 10 years already, I decided StarCraft was the way to go.
Wait, so was it like "I need to look for a highly competitive computer game to play" and after months of research you settled on Starcraft?
Haha it was more "I'm a gamer at heart and have been playing anything and everything for like 8 years, might as well go into StarCraft!"
Most people are seem to play the game for fun first, and then they discover they are good at it and become competitive.
Aha, well I guess I started out decent at SC2, placing in diamond (highest at the time) and just moving up from there. I'm a competitive person at heart so I guess the real fun is being able to compete and show how good you are to others
So the focus has always been to become as good as possible?
Photo: Clarity Gaming
Photo: Clarity Gaming
I think more so to play the game how I want to play it, not follow builds made by others blindly, and strive for my version at perfection yes. I don't think the goal was to become the best in the world (else I wouldn't be in school xD) but I definitely did want to get as good as my free time would allow me to.
How did you feel when you made the step up to Challenger?
Obviously it felt good, but honestly not too surprising. Again, this is my first WCS qualifier that I've been able to play in. Since 2013 season 1, I've had friends and practice partners qualify, and was a bit sad that midterms or finals stopped me from trying my hand at qualifying, but I'm definitely glad I have a 100% success rate for qualifying
So basically you only tried this time around because of the timing? What happens if you make it to Premier?
The matches are planned ahead of time, and I can hopefully reach time agreements with the broadcasts. It just didn't make sense to me that in 2013, half the qualifiers were during weekdays and took roughly 8 hours, it's like they didnt want any player who wasn't a full time gamer to qualify
What about Polt man, he's like full time credits in college too!
Polt didn't have 2 midterms and a final on saturday to cockblock his entrance into 2013 WCS ^^ haha. That and he's noticeably quite a bit better than me :0
So are you still playing any T-Sports (traditional sports) these days?
I'm playing men's basketball league and intramurals at my school, while also helping coach the volleyball team at my old high school. I'd love to play more, but unfortunately my program doesn't give me a lot of free time to work with
Volleyball and basketball,are you like 6'5"?
I wish, hahaha. When I played club volleyball, I was always the shortest kid since like U14. I'm only 5'10, so playing really competitively got difficult after I entered high school. But I work with what I got :D.
What would you say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses in basketball?
They'd be the same thing, I'm really stubborn and overly competitive at times, it leads to me not thinking clearly at times, and making bad plays. But at the same time, it helps me not give up (as cheesy as that sounds) and keep playing aha.
I meant more like a tangible skillsets answer than an anime protagonist answer. Naruto is stubborn and overly competitive, and it leads to him not thinking clearly at times, making bad plays. But he never gives up, so he always wins.
I'd say "I'll take that as a compliment," but I really don't think that comparison suits me
Why, are you on team Sasuke?
I'd like to think i'm teamless in the world of Naruto ;o
So you're used to playing team sports competitively, have you tried any of team esports at a competitive level?
I play Dota with my brother at a very high level, but we don't think we are competitive. If we duo queue, we usually play with sneyking, aui, and other streamers. Considering we are chinese, I guess we have the 'Korean' advantage when it comes to dota :D
I've actually heard of aui so you must be pretty good.
What can I say, I definitely do try my best.
So from your perspective then, what do you think of all of those 'esports are sports too!' arguments?
I think they have some validity, but shouldn't be considered the same. In the first place, why need them to be the same? esports can be more awesome than sports at times too :D. They definitely share similarities in the mental aspect of the games though, being in tough situations and calmly acting, practicing hard, playing well etc. are all similar between the two.
But I think esports is available to anyone. In sports, me being as short as I am will never let me play super competitively, but in esports, no one cares if you are short, tall, boy, girl, etc. It's just you and..... a keyboard...? xD
Are there any players you admire/aspire to be like in basketball and sc2?
In basketball I honestly did not watch much NBA and the like. I played basketball because my friends played it, I was alright at it, and it kept me from being super fat xD. In sc2 I also rarely watch GSL, and other big tournaments. If I had the time for that, I'd probably be grinding more games. Any players regardless of race that challenge the metagame and are brave enough to play their own style though definitely have my respect.
That's kind of interesting, a lot of players seem to consider researching the Korean meta to be an important part of being competitive. Gotta know how to cheese :[
Each player definitely has their own idea of how to be competitive. And trust me, if there was a protoss that embodies NA cheese and name doesn't start with a 'hit' and end with 'man,' it'd probably be me. I was doing obnoxious all ins and cannon rushes since the start of WoL
So I hear the players have received notices on who their opponents are, but just to get a feel for your preferences, who would you want to face out of possible opponents and who would you want to avoid?
I said this on the show I was on a day or two ago, but I honestly didn't care who I got. If I got a big name player, i'd get more exposure whether I win or lose. If I didn't, I'd get a potentially easier entry into premier. So whoever luck wanted to draw me, so be it
Are you ever playing a map and thinking "wow this bridge isn't built to be structurally sound!"
I'm actually in Mining Engineering, so at the start of each game I'm like wow, this nexus should really just be like 4 hexes closer to maximize the amount of money this mineral body should make! Dunno who made the rule to force initial buildings so far away . In fact, we should just play sc2 games based off of who can mine more resources off the map. Then everyone wins right?
Who's your best friend in SC2? Who's your biggest rival?
Best friend: Bails? idk I'm friends with everyone I'm so popular ;o
Rival: no one really, you'd have to beat me to be considered my rival right? Dunno if many fit that description :/
If you had to take 3 progamers along with you to rescue your GF from somali pirates, who would you take?
I'd take shew cuz he's pretty cool, bails because he wouldn't know wtf is going on, and golden because he'd provide comedic relief and we could film the whole thing and eventually make a hollywood movie.
Using your knowledge of mining, what would you say minerals are composed of and what are gold minerals composed of?
Minerals are definitely some mixture of diamond and kyanite, and gold minerals are definitely the same thing but dyed gold. Following that logic, gold minerals are a lie. That's why mules dont even mine more from them.
Ok, any final comments, shoutouts, or funny statements?
In all seriousness, thanks for this interview!. Shoutout to my team Clarity Gaming, they have supported me for a LONG time and definitely a passionate and caring group. Thanks to our sponsor OWNAJ, and thanks to all friends and family for supporting me. Special shoutout to the Council, those kids know who they are
Ugh, another skype clique. Should have a showmatch between them D:
LOL, Protoss NA chat definitely could take Zerg NA chat. We came first anyways #justsaying