Sunday, July 8, 2012

Interview by BlueBoxSc


TL thread:

Blue: Hey TL, this is BlueBoxSC, bringing you Infinity Seven coach Thundertoss! Thunder, before we begin, is there anything you'd like to say to introduce yourself?

Thunder: Well I'm a caster as well but since this interview is going to focus on coaching, that is a good enough introduction.

Blue: Jumping straight into it: what's your job as a coach for Infinity Seven?

Thunder: To put in simply, it's my job to make the team as competitive as possible. That means improving each player and honing their in game skill as well as helping them with the mental aspects of competitive gaming.

Blue: Coaching a team can't be easy. What do you work with players on to make sure that they're performing at their absolute best?

Thunder: It depends on the player. But a little bit of everything. Stuff like controlling nerves at LANs, to the philosophy of certain matchups, to micro tips, to in game trivia stuff. I try to help them with everything so it is hard to sum it up in a short amount of time.

Blue: I play in some dailies myself, and lock up during matches - way more so than I would on ladder. As a coach, how do you equip players to deal with nerves?

Thunder: Nerves are fairly specific to the player. Some players are worried about specific opponents, others about the outcome of the match, others just because they get nervous in pressure situations. So if it’s something i can just talk them through then I try to calm them down so they can play their best. If that doesn't work I just remind them of how many hours of practice we've put in. The best thing for nerve issues is a great training base. No matter how affected they are by the atmosphere, they can look back at all the hours we've put in and the visible improvements that were made and reassure themselves of their ability to play well.

Blue: That sounds calming. Do you believe that players attending LANs would do well to have coaches with them? Have you ever attended a major tournament with one of your players?

Thunder: So on one hand, if the coach is familiar with the player and can calm them down and reassure them just as a friend or mentor then of course. But the most calming thing is probably still going to be the hours of training put in beforehand. I've attended all the major LAN events as well as some of the local LANs in SoCal that a few of my players attend. Sometimes just saying "don't worry, just do what we've practiced" is better than anything else and being there in person isn't even a big factor.

Blue: What sort of people do you work with, and what do you do with them? Any favorite players in particular? Do you do work outside of iS?

Thunder: I try to work with all my players but I spend a lot of time with our up and coming players. Part of that is just due to scheduling but it's also because there are diminishing returns in terms of improvement. People like axslav have less holes in their game and when they do they tend to identify and try to improve on them where as it's sometimes easier to improve the younger and less experienced players. I don't have favorite player if you're talking about people on my team. Outside of iS I still work with a few pro players but nothing close to on the level that I do with infinity seven. I also offer lessons (for non pro players) but it's not my primary focus.

Blue: How did you land your position with iS? Who did you talk o? What were you doing before you applied?

Thunder: I have been working with pro players for a very long time. Because I run the Top200Koth I tend to have most of the top players added on my buddy list. I would help GM players find practice partners and often times would observe the custom games. If I saw anything I thought a player could improve on I’d offer them advice. Coaching wasn't really something I was looking to get into from the start. I was/am primarily a caster and just happened to have enough players respect my insights that teams approached me to coach. I didn't really apply to anyone.

Blue: So did iS come to you with an offer?

Thunder: I had been approached by a sponsor interested in a smaller team with a lot of potential so I had actually talked with the management of iS before the idea of coaching was ever really brought up. I had done a bit of research on the players for the potential sponsor so even after it ended up not working out I was still interested in helping out. But yes multiple teams asked me to become the official coach and I ended up joining iS after an official trial period because I respected the management (especially Jingna) that I had been working with previously.

Blue: What advice would you give to players or coaches trying to join the up-and-coming NA scene?

Thunder: You have to be willing to put in the time. Playing, coaching, whatever, there's no substitute for the hours. Too many players just want to win, want to get prize money, or want the e-fame, and aren't devoted to the idea that the main goal is to be the best and improve at the game and that said goal will take hours upon hours of practice. There aren't many coaches in the NA scene but their goals should be the same (make the players the best by learning the game as best you can).

Blue: Out of curiosity, what qualifications and attributes does a good coach have?

Thunder: It's hard to pin down precisely. It's more than just knowing and understanding the game. Lots of pro players know the game but aren't good coaches. As a coach you have to understand that players will know more than you and that to improve your team you have to learn as much as you can from all the players you can. You also need to understand that players will have their own styles and that coaching isn't about making them play a style you think is best, but more about helping them play their style the best that they can. You need to have strong knowledge of every single race/ match up so that you can help everyone on your team. You need to have good knowledge of a wide range of builds/ strategies as well as specific players. It's what you would expect from coaches from other professional sports. You don't have to be better than your players at doing a certain thing but you need to know what you're talking about. A good coach is one who spends his/her time figuring out how to improve others in ways that would be less efficient than the players working on it themselves. So being able to identify mistakes that players have a hard time seeing in their own play or being able to analyze opponents well so that your players don’t have to spend hours watching the replays of the upcoming opponents... all those kinds of things are great things for a coach to be able to do

Blue: Do you have any great stories to share about your experiences coaching?

Thunder: There are a lot of small stories but I think the best thing so far is more of a storyline rather than a story. Right now we are 19-0 in ESEA (team league) waiting to see who we will face in the grand finals. So hopefully the story gets the happy ending and iS becomes the first team to go undefeated in ESEA.

Blue: Good luck! =D Is there anything else you'd like to say before we wrap things up?

Thunder: I'd like to give a shout out to my team of course and all of our sponsors, SteelSeries, DeviantArt, and GGWP Apparel. I'd also encourage people to check out the Top200Koth every Friday at 6:30 pm - 2:30 A.M. PST. And if they're interested in setting up lessons after reading this interview to not hesitate to send me an email.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nit and Grit

Here's an interesting article (which I am quoted in) that talks a bit about the challenges and effort that goes into trying to be a progamer. Written by my good friend Cassandra Khaw.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Check out this cool video featuring myself, iSanddbox, and Quanticflo. (taken at the recent socal lan)

via Joshua Calixto

Friday, February 10, 2012

Making eSports Into an Industry Giant

To turn 'hobby' into 'industry' you have to make the business model sustainable, and we have a few ideas on how to make that happen.
So I was doing my doing my usual rounds of checking up on all the happenings within eSports; checking results, flipping trhough some vods, etc. when a really good rant on vVv's Loser's Bracket podcast got me thinking...
The rant was about monetizing eSports and how the standard business models for sports and entertainment somehow has failed to be implemented within eSports. Despite being fairly easy to regulate in terms of monetizing broadcasts, most big organizations still provide a free product the the majority of the viewers and rely on risky venture capital/ sponsorship deals to sustain themselves. There are a lot of issues with this but the larger problem is that as esports consumers we aren't doing enough to directly support the things we love.
If you want to listen to the rant (it's a bit long) you can do so HERE. It's about half an hour long but incredibly entertaining. It can probably be summarized as: high quality performances should be monetized. So pretty much, the large organizations which serve as focal points for gathering money and sponsorship should put some of that burden on the viewers, where it has a much smaller impact since it is so spread out. Having the 80,000 viewers that we see tune in to a stream pay $2 each is enough to demonstrate that eSports can have a sustainable business model. Currently most of the money is investment or sponsorship & ad revenue, which works for large TV networks because they are reaching an absolutely massive audience but even the less popular channels you have to pay for in addition to whatever cable package you have. For some reason, perhaps because of the mentality of the 'internet age' viewer base, most spectators feel that a free stream is a necessity and the organizations don't want to alienate the viewers even if it means weakening the business model. 
This check could be ten-times that size with our help.
Now as it was brought up in the podcast, some organizations like the GSL have subscription models and are taking the right path to ensure that they continue to help Esports by making sure they continue to exist as long as the demand exists. However, they are essentially being undercut by other organizations who pay to produce a similar product, investing in production, high quality players, and setting up lan evironments/ festivals but not charging for the product. 
Now Starcraft II is certainly seen as one of the flagships of eSports, partially due to our willingness to back the game we are passionate about. We support our documentaries, we show up en masse to tournaments, and we buy all kinds of nerd swag gear. But even with this, we aren't spending that much compared to fans of other sports. Tons of families have seasons tickets to their favorite/local baseball team or buy tickets a few times a year to see their NBA or NFL team play. Even assuming that a ticket is around $60, that's still higher than what many of us pay to watch most of the major  tournaments that happen throughout the year. Now part of that responsibility is on us to make sure that we show our support in a more tangible way than just following our favorite pros on twitter. We should be making sure that everyone understands that there is a business behind eSports and that one cannot exist without the other.
But it's also the responsiblity of those businesses to both provide a quality product and then charge for that product. It's not that as a fan of esports you should just be throwing your money at things. You want the companies, the teams, the players, etc. to make you say "Shut up and take my money!" because it's a quality service you care about and you are more than happy to pay for it. I know that although MLG events and IPL's are expensive to go to, I am more than happy to attend (and have). I run the Top 200 KotH with my own money just because I am happy to contribute to the scene. But I know that on a large scale, there's no way I could do that safely without charging. So even while I enjoy having a free stream to watch some of the big tournaments I agree with the rant made. There just aren't any other examples of this kind of content being given away for free. I'd rather pay than have it be free for a year but not even exist the next. 
Imagine how much money there'd be for everyone to earn if eSports was funded better.
One point that wasn't really discussed but that I got to thinking about is that while the Starcraft II touranemts are still using this business model, we have MOBA tournaments with massive prize pools because they are running off the micro transaction business model where are large portion of the customer base is actually continually contributing small amounts that together, allow for these invesments to continue. World of Warcraft is a muchbigger game in terms of revenue because of the monthy subscription and sheer number of players playing but I want everyone who plays Starcraft (or any eSport game that you' only paid a 1 time cost for) and just imagine how much could be done if all the players were putting even a small percentage what WoW or XBL players pay towards eSports each month. 
So I guess it comes down to the community. We should be vocal about our willingness to support the amazing scene that has grown out of our love for these games. We should be looking at ways to put money into the things that we are getting something out of and we should be vocal about what kinds of additional things we want to see and pay for. I know I (and many others) would be whipping out a wallet if I saw a chance to buy a Slayers Jacket.
What things can you think of that you would be more than willing to pay and how do you think we can work together to make sure that Esports becomes a true professional industry?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Interview with LastShadow

So those of you who tuned in to the Koth (2/3/2012) might have heard an extra voice commentating. That was LastShadow, a foreigner who's now been in Korea for 7 months and plans to stay indefinitely. I decided to interview him this weekend about his upcoming plans and goals for the future.


The RTS/ ARTS connection

MOBAs have also been described as ARTS or "Action Real Time Strategy" but how much do RTS skills carry over to games like LoL, HoN, and DOTA and is it reciprocal?