JoRoSaR Interviews mYi CEO Cedric Schlosser

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Good evening folks,

As I’m sure you know from my last blog post, I recently returned from an amazing extended weekend away at the mYinsanity house where I got to live, breathe and troll (but of course) the life of a pro gamer.

I can assure you all that there is a good, fun amount of content to slowly sift through - I believe I left Switzerland with over 120GB of video to edit – so am really looking forward to sharing it with you all.

We start off with an interview featuring mYinsanity CEO Cedric Schlosser. Cedric is someone who isn’t normally in the limelight as far as the team goes but plays a critical role in keeping everything together on a day-to-day basis as well as managing the affairs of the team house.

As always with my interviews, I try to ask relatively few cookie-cutter questions and ask more interesting questions that the average viewer might want to know the answers to.

If you’re a member of the StarCraft Sub-Reddit, do visit and share the post here. If not, definitely go and sign up!

Remember – this is the first video of many. Keep checking back for more, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter to watch out for next announcements! :-)

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Big Weekend!

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I’ve been sitting on this for a few days now, but wanted to announce that this weekend, not only am I commentating the Gfinity Starcraft II Elite Division on Friday evening but will then be waking up bright and early on Saturday morning for a flight to Switzerland – I will be visiting the mYinsanity team house until Tuesday!

20140327 - myi-logo

You can find the announcement Facebook post here.

Now, I will be going for a number of reasons, some of which I invite you to dictate:

  • To have fun (hell yeah eSports!)
  • To explore the team house environment
  • To get to know the players a bit better
  • To create content for you guys (including stuff you wouldn’t normally get to see inside the team house!)
  • To stream (either playing or commentating), with or without the aid of decision-enhancing alcoholic fluids.

Is there anything in particular you want to see? Do you have a burning question that you want to ask one of the mYi stars? What about the team house environment interests you the most that I should find out about? Will I receive the mYi blessing and successfully 2-rax everyone on ladder? Do they really just sit around eating Toblerone all day?

Ask me. Comment on this thread or on mYinsanity’s Facebook post, and I will read it and react accordingly if I can.

I’m really looking forward to this – I hope you’ll join me in helping to make my trip a really memorable one!

UPDATE: There is now a Reddit thread here where you can submit both your questions for the people in the house and offer suggestions for other content. I will be checking there, on my blog here as well as on Facebook/Twitter – so however you wish to connect, let me know! :-)

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Gfinity Starcraft II Elite Division – Season 1

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I’m excited to announce that I’ll be commentating for the Gfinity Starcraft II Elite Division starting later on today! Six players will be duking it out in a round-robin format over five weeks, where they play each other once in a Best of 3. The season starts this Friday (7/Mar) at 19.00 UK time and runs for five consecutive weeks, finishing on the 4th of April.

Gfinity Logo

The prize pool is $3,000, split out as follows:

1st – $2,000
2nd – $750
3rd – $250

If two players are tied at the end of the season, tiebreakers are cumulative map wins (i.e. winning 2-1 would give you +1) and then head-to-head.

And the six players are:

Liquid’Snute
Mill.ForGG
Acer.Scarlett
Empire.Kas
Ai.Patience
Acer.MMA

I’m really looking forward to this, with each week bringing three new matchups to entertain and excite! Tonight we will kick off with Patience vs Scarlett, Snute vs ForGG and Kas vs MMA.

Tune in later from 19.00 UK time at the Twitch GFinity Alpha stream – see you there!

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Why Heroes of the Storm Will Be a Game Changer

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For those of you who may be more into the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) scene, where games such as Defense of the Ancients (DotA 2) and League of Legends (LoL) have enjoyed incredible success, you’ll be interested in taking a quick look at this. Here’s the official trailer:

However, I think you’ll also agree this fan-made trailer is very, very awesome.

I honestly can’t wait for Heroes of the Storm. First unveiled at BlizzCon and hailed as a “team brawler”, this brings together characters from all three of Blizzard’s enormously successful franchises – Starcraft, Warcraft & Diablo. Nova battles Thrall, Tyrael goes head to head with Zeratul and Jim Raynor locks horns with Arthas? Sign me right up.

There are several aspects of this game that excite me quite a lot. I think the concept of team levelling will be an interesting one to follow, where all experienced earned map-wide is shared so there is less emphasis on a single player carrying the team for example – teamwork will be emphasised at all levels of play.

What’s really cool too is how there is a level of uniqueness among heroes without making the game too complicated – ultimate abilities are chosen by the player during the game without needing to invest time and energy into character builds before a game starts. It seems like a good compromise between quick replayability and having a level of customisation to enjoy as players discover different ways of combining their powers.

At this preliminary stage though, I confess what REALLY gets me going is how interactive with the maps are. Each map has its own unique set of objectives that help players destroy their opposing teams. For example, on Cursed Hollow you find yourself in a haunted forest where resident Raven Lords demand tributes, that spawn randomly throughout the map. Gathering enough tributes curses the opposing team, giving you a period of increased dominance. This isn’t absolutely required to win the game, but it is also enough of an advantage to make it a huge incentive and give rise to lots of non-stop tactical battles. On another map, Dragon Shire, players have two stations they can capture, and any team who holds both can have a hero transformed into a powerful dragon for a period of time.

This sounds odd but bear with me – I feel like Blizzard have taken the brawler genre and are doing something similar to what Counter-Strike popularised in a very good way. Think hostage rescue and bomb plant/diffuse scenarios where teams still have to eliminate each other but have enormous incentives to complete objectives that aren’t the straightforward approach. This adds a new dimension to each game (and indeed each map!) and offers different mixes of strategies depending on heroes chosen and synergy of abilities – without making the game fundamentally over-complex.

There are other things that I find interesting to see how they pan out – there are no shops or items to purchase, again simplifying the game in favour of team strategy and action. Heroes also begin at level one with four abilities, not having to ‘learn’ them with levels – the potency of each skill simply increases for each level the team gains. In fact, there are enough things with the game design that make Heroes of the Storm unique that it is really clear a lot of thought has been put into the fundamental mechanics of the game and what the developers want to focus on.

The result will be a highly unique, competitive game where action is fast paced and teamwork will play an even more pivotal role (hard to imagine given how amazing teamwork is in other similar games, but I feel this is true here) to competitiveness at the highest level. There is also enough variance and customisation in maps and choices of ultimate abilities to give each game its own distinct flavour and keep players coming back.

In short: yes, please.

I’d like to present to you a video I had the opportunity to make for Heroes of the Storm featuring a showmatch released over the holidays on a map called Blackheart’s Bay. I hope you enjoy – please share your thoughts and comments below, and don’t forget to share on social media!

Whatever happens, I predict Heroes of the Storm with its new look at fundamental mechanics of this game type will change and re-shape the way we think about team brawler games – and from what I’ve seen so far, it looks to be an exciting ride.

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Tt eSports Theron & Saphira: Choosing a Gaming Mouse for Everyday Use

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As someone who’s in front of a computer watching and playing games a lot, it goes without saying that my equipment is really important to me – but this isn’t something people discuss particularly often. In my personal case I have a back injury which means I’ve done a bit more homework than most regarding my desk height, posture and chair. However, today I’d like to discuss something that at one point or another has come across the minds of gamers everywhere – the mouse.

Evolution of the Computer Mouse

For those of us who have been around a while (food for thought: the newest generation of gamers have never used a ball mouse!), technologically there have been lots of incremental evolutions of mice over the years. We started with ball mice where quality mechanics ruled the roost, then moved on to optical with the odd laser mouse coming into play – all the while with ever-increasing DPI capability.

I’m not going to bother talking about these today; I’d like to come at the question of what mouse to choose from a more practical standpoint. I’m going to start with the assumption that unless you’re a top pro-gamer or have your mouse sensitivity on stratospheric that you won’t notice the difference the last 200DPI makes once you start hitting numbers over a few thousand, unless you’re the kind of gamer that enjoys the fluttering wings of a butterfly in a nearby forest affecting your aim in an FPS game, ha. The things I care about most are comfort and function, importantly in that order.

I will be writing a fair bit here based on my own experience, but generally speaking if you’d like the TL;DR version I will summarise my findings like this:

A bolded point in this article is a key consideration or learning that I took away during testing of a gaming mouse.

I’m also going to avoid super-obvious common sense stuff like “Make sure it’s comfortable!”, as I’m sure all of you will already veto even a fantastic technical mouse if it just doesn’t feel comfy. However, bear in mind you can’t always test mice before buying them as much as you’d like (not just because of packaging etc.) so I’ll try and throw in considerations that can be made both pre- and post-hands on.

The first thing to be very aware of is your grip on your mouse. There is no right or wrong grip, but by knowing how you grip your mouse you can immediately see if a particular model would be inappropriate for how you old yours.

Different Types of Mouse Grip

Generally speaking the palm grip (which is also what I use) is the most common and popular, with the claw and fingertip grips less so. You can already begin to see a few things about what kind of mouse might be unsuitable for some users: for example, someone who uses a fingertip grip might not like a large back-end to their mouse (which may be great for someone who uses a palm grip) as it could press into their hand when they wouldn’t like it to.

Claw grip and fingertip grip folk also usually (but not always) tend to favour smaller mice, as the smaller area of contact between hand and mouse means a lighter one is often easier to flick around and be responsive with.

The two mice I end up looking at in this post are both for me as someone who uses the palm grip.

Determine what grip you use with your mouse, and rule out using common sense any mice that on a basic level just wouldn’t work with your grip.

To backtrack for a second and give a bit of context, this blog post actually started as the result of a design issue I had with a previous mouse (specifically the Tt eSports Black) which I found really comfortable but had two of them with frayed cables within just a few months. It was nothing drastic, but the cable during transport simply wasn’t durable enough for me to use with my laptop because I moved around so often. About to give up, I was challenged by Tt eSports to try a pair of mice and really give them a good test – so I took up this offer and decided to put them through their paces as thoroughly as I could…by using them at work for a few months each in addition to gaming.

I was recommended to use two mice in particular, the Tt eSports Saphira and the Tt eSports Theron. I used each one for three months to get a good feel for how I would cope with using them long-term (my job involves me sat at a computer for most of the day when away from gaming). Below is a photo of both mice, which you can see are somewhat similar. The Saphira is on the left and the Theron on the right.

Tt eSports Theron vs Tt eSports Saphira

Both of these have a compartment on the bottom that contains removable weights depending on your front/rear preference for weight distribution. This wasn’t a big issue for myself as I enjoy my mice a bit more lightweight, so I eventually after experimentation took out all or all-but-one weight from both. It’s also worth noting for Starcraft II fans that the Saphira was co-designed with WhiteRa specifically to be used for longer gaming sessions without fatigue. I personally didn’t take this into consideration during my testing but some Special Tactics fans may disagree with me there. :)

The simpler design does come at a cost which might be an issue for some (but didn’t affect me): the simpler design of the Saphira means that the buttons for adjusting custom DPI settings were moved to the bottom of the mouse – on the Theron they are the angled buttons in-between the main mouse buttons. For this reason if you are a gamer that hot-switches between sensitivities while in-game it could get a bit frustrating – I suspect most don’t do this though, so is unlikely to be an issue.

If you need to regularly switch mouse sensitivity while working or gaming, check to see that the switch on the mouse is quickly accessible.

There’s a certain elegance to the design of the Saphira that is becoming increasingly rare in an age where gaming mice are getting more complicated by the week; a smooth, rounded top surface with very simple, flat grips on either side to keep your thumb and ring / little fingers in place. There are no real fancy bells and whistles on-show, and the entire surface (on both mice to be fair) is made of a grippy material which really helps my style of grip in particular.

Especially with palm grip users, having a grippy mouse top surface can make a big difference, especially in games where you need to react extremely quickly like FPS games. If you can’t feel this (due to packaging or otherwise in a store), a good quick-glance method that works most of the time is to see if the surface appears matte or glossy through the packaging.

I know the above seems like a pretty simple point to make, but the number of gaming mice I have seen where (for good looks) they use a really non-grippy shiny surface is surprisingly large. Some mice also claim to have a grippy surface but most that say this and are glossy in appearance still slip an awful lot when your hand sweats even a little bit during a longer gaming session. I won’t name names here, but I’ve used a few mice in the past that did just that which really disappointed me after a few days of use, especially when I’m playing FPS games like Counter-Strike.

After using the Saphira for three months (working weekdays and gaming weekends) one thing I can definitely confirm about it is that after extremely long days I don’t feel like my hand / wrist / arm is tired from using the mouse; it really is fantastic for longer sessions. My only niggle with it came down to something highly personal; I found that after a while I noticed the mouse really came ‘up’ into my palm due to having such a large curvature. While this wasn’t uncomfortable at all, it meant that when I flicked from side to side during gaming I was guiding the motion using more of the middle of my hand, rather than pivoting more from my wrist where my fingertips provide the most movement.

(Optional, as it’s not that big an issue) When you move your mouse quickly, have a little think about the movement in your hand and wrist: where is your movement coming from, is your main pivot your wrist, hand or shoulder? Can your mouse and its shape complement that?

Switching to the Theron also took a bit of adjustment; it’s flatter on top, is in general more ‘sculpted’ than the Saphira and while the photo above doesn’t quite show it, it’s slightly shorter and wider. This actually suited the shape of my hand and style a bit more once I got used to it – I thought the Saphira suited larger hands because of its longer shape and higher curvature, and I felt marginally more comfortable with the width of the Theron as my thumb had a nicer place to rest (note on the side of the Theron it curves outwards on the thumb side so there’s a little bit more of a natural rest point).

TteSports Theron Overhead Shot

My biggest worry with the Theron was actually the buttons for adjusting mouse sensitivity. These are the angled buttons below the mouse wheel that you can see in the image above. I occasionally at work use three fingers (index, middle and ring) on the top of my mouse because I scroll a lot, and two fingers (index and middle) when gaming. In both cases, I thought my middle finger may inadvertently strike the sensitivity setting which would be especially frustrating in the middle of a game (for those wondering how this is possible with just two fingers on the top of your mouse, when my middle finger is on the right mouse button the first knuckle of my finger is still hovering very close to the centre of the mouse).

Happily, it turned out this wasn’t an issue at all. Because of the larger sculpting / depression with the left and right mouse buttons, I found my middle finger when gaming sits more comfortably towards the right side of the button and as a result the sensitivity buttons don’t get in the way. Similarly when working, my middle finger is very rarely extended fully (usually slightly bent on the scroll wheel) and that also means the angular buttons are surprisingly well placed to stay out of the way unless you need to use them.

Something I touched on near the beginning of this blog post that I should emphasise now before I forget: it wasn’t until I switched out the mice and carried them back home / to the office that I remembered the reason I needed them in the first place. For me personally this is an absolute must, but is real easy to miss if you’re just focused on a good technical mouse:

If you use your mouse on-the-go often (like I do with my gaming laptop), I recommend always getting a mouse with a braided cable. This is important as you’re (gently please!) folding up the cord multiple times a day and you need longevity from your equipment!

Braided Cables are Great for Gaming Mice

Finally, something that’s worth mentioning at least in passing is the mousepad / mouse mat – how mice combine with the surface you use them on is incredibly important to be at the top of your game, but with this I genuinely believe that past a certain quality there are significant diminishing returns.

Once you find a mouse surface (whether you like a hard, flat surface such as wood or a metal mousemat etc. as opposed to say, cloth, which I personally prefer) that you’re comfortable with, get something you like and stick with it – but as long as it’s of half-decent quality I would not go round spending a lot of money on an absolute tip-top surface as I don’t think the incremental value is worth it when compared to the importance of being comfortable with your mouse.

At the end of the day, it was ridiculously tough to choose between the two mice. I ended up marginally sticking with the Theron, because (and I love WhiteRa to bits!) although the Saphira had very simple elegance and good stamina about it, I found the Theron overall slightly more comfortable due to my hands not being large enough to take full advantage of the Theron. The more sculpted shape of the Theron combined with the button placement being a lot smarter than I originally anticipated (my fault!) meant that it just felt better for me to flick around.

My biggest surprise – since this was an experiment after all – was how much information I was able to gleam from using these mice in a day-to-day environment at work. I think it isn’t necessary to specifically switch out ‘normal’ and ‘gaming’ mice, and to have something that works in both environments is great for the majority of us.

I hope this was useful to someone perhaps looking for some of the less talked about points (aside from the obvious “comfort!” which I should say for the sake of clarity still needs to come first) when it comes to choosing a gaming mouse. A special thanks as well to Kitty Mach and TteSports for giving me the mice to try out (they don’t sponsor me or anything, they were just unbelievably helpful!).

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DreamHack Bucharest (GameSocial Stream) VoDs

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Hi everyone,

We only stopped casting an hour or so ago, but I now have some VoDs from today’s action on the GameSocialTV stream! Make sure you check them out on Twitter as well (at @GameSocialTV) because their overlays and production value is absolutely excellent. :-)

DreamHack Bucharest 2013

Without further ado (don’t worry, no spoilers – links to Game 1 only):

Liquid’Ret vs Veneration.StatiC
FNATIC.NightEnD vs ENCE.elfi
mYi.DaNa vs prOp.Sjow
Liquid’TLO vs Axiom.Heart
Grubby vs Liquid’HerO
Grubby vs Liquid.Taeja
FNATIC.Harstem vs KTRolster.Flash
Acer.InNoVation vs AZUBU.SuperNova

Playlist for everything here

Enjoy! :-) Special thanks to Nick Baker (@NickGSC) of GameSocial and my wonderful co-caster Adam Simmons (@Madals91). As always, you can catch me up on Twitter @JoRoSaR or on Facebook at facebook.com/JoRoSaR.

JoRo

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ESETUKMasters / Plantronics GameCom at i49

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I’m sure I’ve said this before but it is massively nostalgic for me when I attend an i-Series event, because all the way back in 2012 (which in eSports timelines is approximately forever) they were who gave me my first opportunity (well, an arranged one anyway!) to showcase myself as a commentator. Insomnia 49 was also the biggest i-Series to date and really brought together so many different gaming disciplines under a single roof, including the huge MineCraft Expo event. All in all, over 25,000 people descended upon Telford throughout the weekend – and unlike a lot of large scale LANs, this is an event that I can legitimately say is a proper gaming festival.

Dinner with Madals the night before casting at i49 startedDinner with Madals the night before commentary started – can’t go wrong with a hearty Italian!

An idea of scale, you ask? Well, this is a photo I took on the night (at 23.00!) before any official events started / took place. This about 1/4 of a hall and there were three in total, not including the main hall (with stage, seating and rather importantly, the bar):

Some of the LAN crowd at i49

Massive shoutout as well to Matthew MacDonald a.k.a. Kharne who brought in the Saints of Sin to play to the crowd on Friday night – and to be frank, not only did they attract a large crowd but were unbelievably good as well. Fantastic music (specifically great original songs combined with amazing covers of older classic tunes) coupled with good drinks – there were Starcraft, LoL, DotA, Counter-Strike, Infinite Crisis, Minecraft, TF2 folks and more all rocking out and having a great time.The Saints of Sin at i49

These guys were experts at getting the crowd going – it was amazing.

The Saints of Sin at i49

I maaaaaaaaaaaay have wanted to sleep in the following morning but like a good shoutcaster, didn’t.

Now, it would be impossible (sadly) not to mention some of the technical difficulties we had, especially on Friday/Sunday where for some portions of the day the internet and indeed the UK national network (i.e. the guys that supply ISPs!) was struggling to cope with the sheer number of nerds out in our little neck of the woods. Happily though these got eventually resolved – I wonder what would happen if next time something like that happens we put a sign up telling people where to tweet for customer support ;-) Kudos to Madals for coming up with that idea.

Friday was reserved for casting WCG where I also laddered when there were any issues with the upload / stream, and Saturday was the beginning of the tournament with the BYOC qualifier well and truly under way. This determined the players who would be joining their seeded counterparts in Sunday’s playoffs and the games were generally extremely exciting with lots of long, macro back-and-forth action.

When games weren’t going on or we had downtime, we enjoyed mingling and chilling with players and passers-by at the ESET stand where we held Starjeweled tournaments and introduced a lot of people to both ESET and Starcraft – in the photo below I highly suspect mYi.PengWin is busy showing us one of his famed (cough…Reaper Viking…cough) ‘builds’…

The ESET Stand at i49

Keeping an entire team motivated to do well and practicing throughout a weekend can be tough though, and here you can see dignitas.r2k doing his best to keep the team fed and watered. Apparently, this broke the till at the branch he visited – not entirely a surprise.

Team Dignitas and KFC at i49

For dessert, Wizzo was on hand with the famous Multiplay ice cream machine, as well as getting creative with his advertising. Whatever he did, it worked – there were queues throughout the entire weekend!

Wizzo's Ice Cream at i49

The entire time we were casting on both the Friday and Saturday as well, Madals and I were using some specialist equipment that we wouldn’t normally get to use and I’d like to touch on this a bit and why it’s so great. Plantronics were also on board in addition to the continued support and sponsorship of ESET for this i-Series, and provided us with the rather awesome and top-of-the-range GameCom Commander headsets that we cast from for the duration of the weekend.

Plantronics GameCom Commander Headset

Now, I’m not just saying this because they sponsored the tournament – there is a really good reason why these were particularly useful throughout the weekend. Very few headsets actually come with a built in condenser microphone, allowing for good sound quality on a broadcast without having an additional standalone mic. The over-ear cups of the GameCom Commander coupled with the mic quality meant that our technical setup to broadcast the tournament was much simpler without relinquishing any quality to a standard headset mic – something we really appreciated.

I have to say that despite early reservations about the weight of the headset I was nowhere near as tired after wearing it for nearly eight hours as I thought I would be. I found that for prolonged sessions detaching the velcro piece at the top (thanks Madals for discovering this!) allows for a more comfortable wearing experience which meant that despite it being a hefty unit, we wouldn’t worry about fatigue towards the end of the day. This could potentially be really useful for streamers who want the flexibility to use both a good pair of over-ear headphones but have a good quality mic which can also be used on-the-move / travelling.

JoRoSaR Using Plantronics GameCom Commander Headset at Home

Lastly, I also wanted to highlight the genuinely awesome way Plantronics supported the ESET UK Masters Season 2 and brought in great community spirit to the i49 qualifiers – rather than just throw money at these online qualifiers (although the prize money was there!) the direct UK qualifiers earned themselves headsets – a GameCom 780 for 1st-3rd and a GameCom 380 for 4th-8th. This meant that players outside the top few seeds also got prizes and help spread the joy amongst the consistent UK scene that perhaps aren’t as well known yet but are fast improving. :-) I hope that more sponsors around the world do this to support eSports in the future, it’s a fantastic way to making these tournaments not only more rewarding but potentially more accessible!

JoRoSaR Madals & DreAm at dinner

One of the great stories of the weekend that I’d like to share has to do with the above photo. Madals, dignitas.DreAm and I went out for dinner before the pub quiz and we successfully recommended the gaming festival to the restaurant owner – and to see her during our commentary the next day with her children was a fantastic sight! I can only imagine there being a few Minecraft boxes and 8-bit swords leaving the convention with them later – doing our little bit to push gaming forward! :-)

Now, Saturday night was the legendary Insomnia pub quiz – which never fails to produce a crowd that is short of capacity and entertainment that is practically unrivalled amongst fellow nerds. This year was no exception, and the atmosphere was AMAZING. I will do my best through the next few photos to give you a glimpse of what it was like, but there are some things (like the rowdy banter, the not-always-PG-friendly things that come up on-screen during the pub quiz and the always-trolling audio and video crew) that need to be experienced in person.

Signage at the i49 Pub Quiz

The Crowd at the Insomnia 49 Pub Quiz

As always, a great gaming theme dominates the pub quiz and one of the most challenging turned out to be the picture round, where most teams know a lot of the games referenced but there were a few that seemed to elude almost everyone in the room – can you spot the references below?

i49 Pub Quiz Picture Round

The eventual winners amassed an incredible score and also celebrated with one leg on a keg – which I have to say is particularly impressive (and also possibly quite normal for an i-Series pub quiz). There was also a bikini-clad Super-Meat-Boy Speedrunner and SC2 Caster coming in at third place (which I will spare photos).

However, you can view the entirety of the pub quiz here – thanks Multiplay for uploading it! (Warning: It’s over 2h40m long – but very worth the watch)

i49 Pub Quiz Winners

Sunday was nothing short of incredible, in a number of ways. I suppose the first of these could be waking up and getting to the venue despite sounding like Barry White with a throat infection, but a good breakfast goes at least a little way to sorting that out!

The bracket stages were fantastic though, watching the players come through after group stages and in particular our finalists Harstem and BlinG make it through as the two favourites, but not before fighting through incredibly difficult competition including JonnyREcco who once again displayed his rivalry with BlinG by fighting an epic Best-of-3 where he went (only just!) to the lower bracket, later to be taken out by Harstem en-route to the final.

You can watch the finals by clicking this link or playing the video below – I will not spoil it game-by-game for those who didn’t watch suffice to say it was one of the most entertaining PvP’s I have cast in a very long time – I highly recommend watching!

There isn’t too much to say after this other than to say the night afterwards was long and full of cheer (not just a code work for drink). It was sad to finish the games especially after a brilliant finals but a fantastic finish to top off a great weekend is never a bad way to end things.

JoRoSaR and StressThe Starcraft and League of Legends casters team up to…drink later! :D

All in all, a great weekend to catch up with old friends, see and meet new faces, and watch an army of gaming enthusiasts enjoy their favourite games whatever they may be. I can’t wait until i50!

Until next time, happy gaming :-)

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2012 – My Year of eSports

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Hey everyone! First off before anything else is said, I just want to chime in and say that I hope that your Christmas season has gone wonderfully and that you are all looking forward to a wonderful and happy 2013. I look forward to trying my best to have fun with and meet as many of you as I can both online and at events in the coming year. :-)

The journey I’ve taken through the past year has been as unpredictable as it has been exciting. In fact, this is about the fifth time I’ve sat down to write this, so I’ve decided to go from the point of view of introducing myself better as who I am outside of eSports (about the first third of this post) and work my way in from there through my 2012 journey before finishing with my last few events of 2012 and what the new year brings for me. Apologies in advance for being wordy – there are about 5,000 words here, but I will be sure to punctuate with anecdotes and photos as much as I can. So, without further ado!

There is no pro-gaming pedigree in my background; in fact my life experiences are quite the contrary. I finished my MEng (Hons) in Aerospace Materials Engineering back in 2008, during which I had a stint at a championship winning Formula One team. Having raced in go-karts competitively (sadly nowhere near as much as I would have liked – it’s an expensive sport!) throughout university I always thought that I would go into motorsport when I graduated.

JoRoSaR KartingLong before Starcraft came along, this was how I unleashed my inner bossmode.

My curiosity had other ideas, though. While studying I participated in a number of business challenges and competitions, some run by university and some external. I did reasonably well in these and I decided to have a punt when an internet startup company offered me a position on graduation. Over the next six months, without going into details the business plan we put together gave us an incredible amount of investment and the business was off the blocks – and I was hooked. There was something I found thrilling about the challenge of pursuing a new skill from infancy through to success. This, combined with what I believed to be my best career prospects at the time, convinced me to become self-employed and start businesses on my own.

Due to an unfortunate sequence of events at the end of 2008 (personal) the next year was practically written off for me as I spent it recovering as well as travelling – but starting in 2010 I set up a number of new eCommerce businesses and was able to make enough to at first stay afloat, and then be reasonably well off. In fact, some of this experience I got from (a long long time ago, in a Blizzard universe far far away) running a Diablo II items business while in high school to earn pocket money on the side (as a side note, USWest Hardcore Ladder patch 1.09 is where I was last reasonably well known in case anyone remembers that far back). As a result of upscaling this and applying the same concepts to essentially boxes of goods stored in the shed downstairs, with a generous helping of luck sprinkled in, I began to get to a point where I put my time into other things.

As a natural progression from eCommerce, I began to dabble in online marketing in all forms – SEO, affiliate marketing, brand awareness and learning to how to read and react to website data to increase conversion rates and so forth. I began to do more of this for the businesses I ran and before I knew it I was starting to take on a volume of workload that became impractical for me to handle alone. As the effectiveness of what I was doing got better, I started outsourcing what I had learnt – and again looked for something else to learn to occupy my time. Hello, Starcraft.

My gaming experience was casual, semi-competitive at best – during a boom in LAN shops (net cafes / PC bangs / etc.) in Asia in the late 90′s I played some older RTS’s (Red Alert, Age of Empires, AoEII and The Conquerors expansion) and tried my hand at being competitive at Counter-Strike 1.5 but was never really much better than about-average as far as the competitive scene was concerned. As the latter years of school took over I played Warcraft III (and later the Frozen Throne) to a decent level but was blissfully unaware of the massive eSports following it had, as I was a casual after-school gamer and didn’t go out of my way to check out such things. Hong Kong isn’t the perfect place to be for eSports exposure, as the general success-driven attitude here tends to discourage pastimes that are not seen as career-assisting (somehow, piano and violin snuck past this as the exceptions to the rule – I was a Piano Grade 8 player myself, anyone else?). As a result, it’s unlikely that you would see things like eSports mentioned in media, and the general community was quite small. I had the same problem with chess, which I play competitively but is seen as a hobby that time shouldn’t be sunk into too much.

I then shifted away from Warcraft III and played DotA from quite early on in its release and again was a proficient player, while simultaneously getting into online sim racing competitively – but after a while I felt that things became stale and was looking for another RTS to sink my teeth into. Conveniently, I was back home visiting for the summer when someone told me that Starcraft II was definitely *the* game everyone was waiting for and that it was set to be quite a large competitive scene – a phrase I hadn’t heard in a while. I bought the game the week it was released after obtaining a beta key shortly before, and after tinkering around and deciding I liked what I saw, browsed around and discovered TeamLiquid and began to watch streams.

London Barcraft

Most of 2011 was spent playing casually and watching as much Starcraft as I could in my spare time, including a large helping of GSL. This was my first foray into properly watching competitive gaming being narrated, and I loved that the story of the game unfolding could be brought to life by the people talking behind the camera. I discovered later on in the year that London Barcraft started up and was growing in the city, and made my first appearance there at an MLG event where I acted as resident photographer. Soon afterwards, I went to my first major competitive event at EGL4, where I will save the re-cap by linking you to the post here – I went as a spectator, then had my role evolve into press photographer, interviewer and finally caster – over the course of two days! I guess given my entrepreneurial / opportunistic background outside of eSports it probably shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise, but it really was for me!

Slightly before this happened, I made my first attempt at casting. While I really enjoyed tournaments such as the GSL I also realised that a lot of smaller, random online tournaments were a lot less engaging with the audience and I felt it was difficult to maintain my interest. Wondering if I could do better, I did the odd video for YouTube, and leading up to EGL4 above I also live cast the qxc vs CatZ Best-of-31 showmatch (I had qxc on Skype as a fan since he went to Korea with FXO, long before his IM all-kill) – nine and a half hours of my life that my throat does NOT want to go through again but the rest of me would jump at in a heartbeat.

The Bo31 and EGL4 combined set up my recruitment for Playhem, where I had my first cast just after Christmas with Lyrlian in 2011 and became a regular haunt for a while where I would cast two, usually three times a week in early 2012. It was a lot of fun doing this on the side and I discovered this was definitely my new ‘project’ for me to work on when not working. What really made this fantastic for me was the great combination of friendly and enthusiastic casters as well as the loyal and passionate viewers that Playhem got. There are too many great regulars to list here, but you know who you are – while many in the SC2 community were talking about how poisonous and frustrating stream chats were to deal with, we effectively never had to ban or even timeout anyone on the Playhem stream and every tournament night was treated as a fun get-together or party. I fondly remember fangames after tournaments where viewers would play Raynor Party or Star Strikes or Photon Cycles with the casters, and I even remember 2v1′ing Revival after he won a tournament once with Steisjo (and winning, only just!). I learnt so much about both casting and playing during these months and my enjoyment for the game only grew – to anyone aspiring to cast for the love of the game and get better while you’re doing it, I can think of no better place to learn and grow.

I always enjoyed doing this as something on-the-side and never considered that I would get to cast major tournaments at all – at the end of the day I was always interested in casting games from really good players of course, but my thoughts never drifted ‘to go to X or Y tournament’, but that side of me had my eyes opened when Steisjo put me in touch with Dreamhack and suggested that I cast a community stream for Stockholm. Needless to say I was thrilled, and it seemed that my casting setup in a limited space (I don’t have a separate lounge or study so cast from my bedroom) gained me a little bit of notoriety on Reddit – here and here. ;-)

And I guess that’s where things started to snowball. I was continuing to work as I normally would and cast in my spare time but I barely had time to settle back into my rhythm when I was asked by Multiplay (who I was introduced to by Nick Baker, the bossmode admin I met at EGL4 a while ago) to come and cast an i-Series event, the biggest LAN the UK had to offer, in May 2012. This was my first ever invitation to an offline tournament and needless to say I was both thrilled and anxious on the run-up to the event. I ended up enjoying the event immensely alongside founding GLHF caster Martijn (see my blog post here for the full all-drinking, all-dancing details) and after that, made a conscious decision to take my commentary a little more seriously and crank things up a notch, keeping one eye out on opportunities abroad.

It didn’t take long. A week-long family holiday on the west coast of the US turned into an extended trip with my flight back to London coming two weeks later, in order to accommodate both MLG Anaheim and the Gigabyte eSports LAN. It’s worth pointing out that I had fully intended on going to MLG Anaheim and changed my flights long before I was asked to cast there! The invitation to cast the beta stream for MLG came literally 48 hours after I was asked about my availability for Gigabyte, and all of a sudden my holiday became work.

I returned to the London at the end of June, having come from casting online cups for enjoyment to casting three live events in the space of just over a month. It was a lot to take in, and truth be told I was actually looking forward to getting some work done and trying to decide where I would want to take my future over the summer. In the mean time I community cast a further two Dreamhack tournaments (always so much fun!) before life again took an interesting turn in August.

For reasons beyond my control, my largest source of income had to close its doors to business at the end of August. This was particularly important as up to this point I was enjoying being able to work around my casting schedule as I could work from home or the nearest coffee shop. However, this newest development meant that my bank account was effectively put on notice – while I had enough in savings to theoretically live for a year or two, realistically I had six months before I would have to seriously watch my spending to maintain my savings. I told myself that while I was job hunting I was not going to allow my casting to be affected and to enjoy every opportunity I got while I still could – and who knows, maybe things could even go further (but I never assumed this would be a realistic possibility).

The opportunity did come, though. While working as a cameraman for a friend of mine at the Gadget Show exhibition weekend in England back in April (completely not eSports related) I bumped into Kaelaris who was also at the event for promotional reasons. We got on quite well, and short while later I was asked to step-in on short notice to cast the EPS Berlin Open in September alongside him and Icicle. This was my first experience in an interviewing/hosting role as well as we alternated duties through the tournament, and I loved this as it gave me another opportunity to come at the story of a Starcraft II game from a different angle through player interviews and insights, and make it even more entertaining and engaging for the viewers. Around this time as well, I was happily announced as one of the four winners of the IPL Caster Search competition which meant I became one of the community casters for the qualifiers leading up to the IPL5 Finals.

Here is where things really started flowing thick and fast through the last three months of the year. After casting the community streams for some time, I was asked to head to Bucharest to join Apollo in casting Dreamhack (for those who forget which one…well, this one, LOL) almost immediately after going to Shanghai to cast the WCS Asia finals which was a tremendous opportunity for me from Blizzard. I learned of my potential participation in both of these events within a week of each other – I don’t know how to describe the feeling other than I was swept away with excitement for the opportunity and had practically no time at all to digest anything due to other commitments away from eSports. It feels like a fairy-tale cop-out line to say that things ‘came out of the blue’ but it really did seem that way with little time for reflection. You know the week after you come back from a holiday or a really different / new experience and you slowly start taking it all in and winding down again / getting back to your normal routine? I guess it felt like in-between events I didn’t even have that, which is both a challenge and an amazing feeling.

JoRoSaR's MLG Mouse MatRemember this?

The amount I learnt from these events was enormous, and being able to cast alongside some of the people I had autograph a mouse mat for me at MLG Anaheim under half a year ago was an dizzying experience to say the least. I was not expecting to be a part of major events like these as my primary focus was still as a storyteller and as someone who wanted to bring new players into the amazing game that is Starcraft – I was both astonished and proud of where I had come from in a reasonably short period of time, but also recognised that I needed to continuously work to improve my commentary and stay entertaining. It sounds odd saying this after getting a number of major events under my belt, but it took until coming back from Shanghai to realise this because I didn’t have too much time to reflect on what was effectively a whirlwind six months. Between extremely stressful real-life commitments, preparations for travel and actual shuttling to events on weekends (I now like flying a lot less than I used to!) I was becoming drained but in the best possible way.

The last two events of the year for me were IEM Singapore and IPL5, both of which I knew I was attending well in advance so had time to prepare, but nonetheless still had to cope with three weeks away from home while continuing to juggle a lot of things away from Starcraft. I made a conscious decision at both of these events to sit back and enjoy them as much as I could rather than treat them as pure work, and found a lot of the stress I previously carried going into events as a play-by-play caster evaporate quickly through the excitement, banter and general great atmosphere at these venues.

Polaris and Ninja practicing at IEM SingaporeSingapore’s Polaris and Australia’s Ninja practicing at IEM Singapore

Singapore was an absolute blast – at the end of casting on day 1 I made my way towards the Formula One simulator competition next door to IEM and used my previous competitive sim racing experience to win a pretty slick Intel processor! After my second attempt at getting a good lap time in a crowd started to form which added to the excitement.

Best time so far on the racing simulator at IEM SingaporeThe best time would eventually tumble to the low 1:23′s throughout the course of the weekend. The track for reference is Watkin’s Glen on the iRacing simulator.

The crowd around JoRoSaR at the sim racing machine at IEM SingaporePart of the crowd during a record-breaking attempt

The atmosphere was a lot more tense from the second day onwards as we moved towards the knockout stages of the tournament. The games were flowing well though, and the team behind greasing the tournament wheels were doing an excellent job. It certainly helped a lot that Intel provided the players with hot-swappable SSD drives so that setting up on a new computer became something rather instantaneous and reduced downtime between games considerably.

Sting and LucifroN doing map vetoes at IEM SingaporeSting and LucifroN choosing maps before their Ro16 clash

Artosis and Kaelaris at IEM SingaporeMy view of the games when not casting, behind Artosis and Kaelaris

While we were having a lot of fun at the tournament, we didn’t forget to take things seriously at all. Fortunately a lot my prep work going into the tournament was done in the weeks beforehand courtesy of a handy caster notebook – a lot of the things written down in it are actually things I already knew and committed to memory, but in the middle of a cast when wanting a quick reference, I learnt that it helps to have that reinforcement of what you want to say readily available at arm’s length – especially with multiple great players to keep tabs of in one place.

JoRoSaR's  notes at IEM SingaporeA snapshot of some of my notes – with many adjustments!

Players at IEM SingaporeDefinitely not a row of players one would consider messing with.

The knockout stages were an amazing run of incredible series – the number of 3-2 victories  was ridiculous and Sting’s run through the tournament touted by some as “boring due to lack of Terrans” turned the atmosphere electric and defied even the harshest critic’s expectations. In the other half of the bracket, watching Grubby come back from 2-0 down to take the series to 2-2…not once, not twice, but THRICE…gave not only the staff but the live audience and no doubt the viewers at home too palpitations for most of the day.

Grubby and Cassandra at IEM SingaporeGrubby during his nail-biting encounter with MC, with Cassandra looking on.

Grubby with fans at IEM SingaporeImmediately after winning, Grubby gave his opponent a respectful handshake and immediately went outside to cheer with his fans.

When games weren’t being played fun was still had, however! The analysis desk was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed heading Team Declining Fashion (as we became known) with HasuObs and PiG taking a look at some of the plays throughout the knockout stages. Downtime was filled before the League of Legends final with Joe Miller having his head shaved on-stream after saying he would do it for reaching a required number of Twitter followers (and to all of you we extend our thanks for the hilarious entertainment that you created), and the pro-player free-for-all before the Starcraft II finals was both tense and hilarious – highly recommended watching.

VoD for the SC2 FFA is on my YouTube channel here. Video length ~40 minutes.

JoRoSaR Joe Miller at IEM SingaporeBefore…

Joe Miller with his hair at IEM SingaporeAfter!

And finally, while the schedules were packed on game days the team had a well deserved meal together after the tournament, and I even managed to catch up with some of the people in the amazing local eSports community on the next day – enjoying some of Singapore’s famously good hawker food.

Player and staff meal at IEM SingaporeStaff and player meal after IEM Singapore, with Jarett Cale looking particularly hungry

Singapore hawker centreEnjoying one of Singapore’s amazing hawker centres.

With only that day to spare, however, I hopped on what would turn out to be a 32-hour journey (including time in transit) to Las Vegas for IPL5 without returning home to recuperate between these tournaments – the first time I had done this. Arriving at the hotel to find the League of Legends casters already arrived resulted in a quick drink before a long-needed snooze! The next day I witnessed the might of the GSL production crew as we were taken into the immense hall for rehearsals and a run-down of procedures and caster schedules. Not before, however, a bunch of the casters and friends got together for some fun in the Shootmania room, squeezing in some Monobattles before the meeting.

Caster Monobattles at IPL5Caster Monobattles at IPL5

Technical rehearsal at IPL5We had a good chuckle at the technical rehearsal during overlay and transition testing.

The weekend schedule was admittedly quite kind on the community casters at IPL5, allowing us to put our all into the casts as well as enjoy some of the recreation Las Vegas has to offer its visitors in the mean time. The quality of games was superb – I mentioned several times throughout the weekend that if we simply took those who bowed out of the tournament in the Lower Bracket Rounds 1 & 2, we could still have a world-class tournament in itself! That kind of player depth is ridiculous and was very well received by the spectators.

The crowd at IPL5The view of the crowd in the Starcraft II all all weekend was absolutely amazing.

IPL5 Hotel Room ViewAlthough it’s worth noting I also had no complaints about the hotel room view!

On the first day of the tournament (our busiest day on the side-streams) I had a massive bout of jet lag from Singapore and ended up checking out the tournament hall at the silly hour of 5am. I was surprised to find one other person there as well – BboongBboong! We both could not stay asleep so we went into the Shootmania room for a bit of practice and chit-chat before breakfast.

JoRoSaR and BboongBboong at IPL5

While we were casting for a fair bit of the day, it was fun and varied – every single match was a clash of titans and regular caster rotation meant that the banter was never stale and we had a great time casting with everyone else in turn!

JoRoSaR and Frodan at IPL5Casting with Frodan, who I hadn’t cast with since MLG half a year ago.

An amusing side-note is that TheGunRun was on hand to fix any potential streaming issues at IPL, but the day went by so swimmingly that he was left in the most unusual position of having very little to do! Here he is in his trademark cape, except he had nowhere to be running to on this particular day…

TheGunRun at IPL5

As the tournament progressed, we had a bit more of a relaxed schedule and inevitably we spent an evening exploring the gambling possibilities that the casinos in the vicinity had to offer. I am pleased to report that despite my small amount of gambling I managed to leave Vegas up overall!

Casino Winnings at IPL5Only a little bit, but the first bet was good, and more would follow throughout the weekend.

The final day saw an atmosphere that was alive with excitement, and the build-up to both the GSL finals and IPL finals was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, especially during the GSL World Championship. It was also great watching both sets of finals from near the player’s section of the hall, and while I will confess I was rooting for HyuN in the GSL final, as the number of Playhem daily tournaments I’ve cast where he was in the finals there is too many for me to count – but a great time was had by all despite his loss, with both finals going the distance in terms of number of extremely tense games. It was surreal to think that a year ago I was just discovering watching GSL and now I was at a deafening and electric Finals event cheering on the players, after casting there as well!

Team Korea during the GSL World ChampionshipsTeam Korea during the GSL World Championships

GSL Finals Crowd at IPL5The crowd at the GSL Finals

GSL Finals PresentationPresentation ceremony after the GSL Finals

JoRoSaR, Symbol and HyuN at the GSL FinalsConsoling HyuN together with Symbol after his loss to MVP.Sniper (Photo: Carlton Beener)

JoRoSaR and MVPSniperCongratulating MVP.Sniper after his GSL championship win (Photo: Carlton Beener)

Last but not least before I flew home, the night the tournament ended I also made good on my lost bet to GHOSTCLAW during the Gigabyte eSports LAN where I owed him Korean BBQ, and we arranged for the Liquipedia team (which turned into a wonderful entourage of about 35 people!) to a nearby place for dinner. I also unfortunately lost an extra $10 bet on the result of the GSL finals, so was determined to make sure I didn’t owe anyone anything else by the end of the evening!

Stella ArtosisA couple of drinks after the event didn’t go unnoticed – I bumped into this fine gentleman who was drinking what he called his “Stella Artosis”…

JoRoSaR and Ghostclaw at KBBQ at IPL5Paying my debt to GHOSTCLAW of the Liquipedia team. Photo: Kevin Chang

We arrived at the restaurant while it was completely empty but it wasn’t long before a string of Korean pro-players arrived to join us in addition to the production crew of the GSL, so we knew we had made a good choice! I won’t tell you here how much my share of the bill was at the end of the night, but suffice to say it was money very well spent and a great way to round off the most amazing event I’ve cast so far in my eSports career and to bring a close to a breathtaking 2012.

JoRoSaR, Mr. Chae and Liquipedia CrewThe Liquipedia crew & friends including Mr. Chae after IPL5. Photo: Kevin Chang

I hope you’ve enjoyed (i.e. not fallen asleep during!) my rather extensive babbling blog post, and I look forward to telling more stories in the new year. Before I do, though, there’s a bunch of individual thank-you’s I’d like to extend. There are so many wonderful people I’ve met throughout this year and there are too many to mention individually, but I’ll do my best to single out a special few here. If you are not mentioned below, please note this isn’t deliberate – thank you very much to so many people that helped me get to where I am today, and I hope that I can make you proud in the future.

The Playhem Crew – Too many of you to split this individually, I admit. The staff, casters past and present, regular viewers and players. You lot bring so much enjoyment on a daily basis whenever a tournament is on, and I think a lot of people owe you a lot more than you get credit for. Here’s to a bright future and seeing more wonderful people get into eSports through your ranks.

The hardworking tournament staff - Thank you’s in particular to Puckett, Kharne & bakor and the rest of Multiplay, the ESL & Dreamhack teams, Carmac and for having faith in me for various events throughout the year – I look forward to working with you in the new year. We mustn’t forget though the amazing volunteers that were the lifeblood of the tournaments from the technical staff to the tournament admins. They do an amazing job and I hope that the community continues to recognise their immense contribution behind-the-scenes to eSports.

London Barcraft – For opening my eyes to the potential of the grass-roots eSports following and showing me first-hand the amazing local communities we have built.

Grubby, Artosis, Kevin Knocke and Frodan – Thank you for your kind words, encouragement and guidance. It is through my extensive chatting and learning from you guys (when you go out of your way to make time for me) that I gleamed so much and find new motivation to push myself even further moving forward.

In the week following IPL5, I actually landed a full-time job starting at the end of January 2013. While the job isn’t eSports related, I will be doing something I love (digital marketing) in a wonderful company based in London. I have also ensured that I will be able to get time off to continue doing eSports events. Given my predicament as recently a few months ago, this is a real weight off my shoulders. It’s an added bonus that a lot of my to-be work colleagues are gamers and follow the SC2 scene as well! (Office populated with nerds = WIN!)

Looking forward to the new year, while with my job I may not be able to spend quite as much time on the game I hope that I can improve my time management skills in such a way that I end up doing more with less. Part of my objective in the new year is to also improve on my own game but mainly for reasons relating to confidence and my own personal enjoyment. I want to continue to focus on being a good storyteller, and bringing entertainment to the wonderful and growing eSports community.

Most of all, I look forward to casting for you, meeting you, and sharing great times with all of you reading this in 2013. Thank you for your support and encouragement, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

All the best,
JoRoSaR

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Videos from IEM Katowice Qualifiers and Bonus Footage from Singapore!

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Hello everyone!

I’m working on a blog post on the run-up to Christmas, but in the mean time I have a quick  update to post the VoDs from the IEM Katowice Stage 3 qualifiers that I cast online a short while ago. All links will open in a new window and are Game 1 (so no spoilers for how many games in the series). Also, it’s a double-elim tournament so seeing the same name twice doesn’t mean they won or lost the first one :-) Enjoy!

LucifroN vs Elfi
HasuObs vs Vortix

Grubby vs LiveZerg
Stephano vs LiveZerg
HasuObs vs Daisy
Grubby vs Vortix (Game 3 only)

As an added bonus, I noticed a little while ago that the hilarious Free-For-All from IEM Singapore wasn’t on YouTube to watch yet, so after several hours (probably more than several) of wrangling here it is, including introductions and post-game analysis.

IEM Singapore Free-For-All

For those that have seen the game or want to cheat and go straight to the post-game analysis (not recommended if you haven’t seen the game, it’s very entertaining!), I snipped a separate video here. ;-)

Post-FFA Analysis

I hope everyone’s enjoying the weather (be it summer or winter where you’re from!). Do forgive me if my next blog post ends up being a bit late, as I only have two days before going home to Hong Kong and Australia for the holiday season. I’ll try and squeeze it in though!

Love and banelings,
JoRo

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Part-Time Passion

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Hello everyone! I’m writing from a coffee shop in Shanghai while I wait for a connecting flight to the US for IPL5. I hope you enjoyed the Intel Extreme Masters event in Singapore and I’m looking forward to casting at another epic tournament this weekend.

I wanted to share a short story with you about something I witnessed on my way to Singapore. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in an emergency exit row so I had decent legroom and was preparing to nod off to sleep. Next to me were an older English couple who were visiting relatives in Australia and stopping in Singapore as a layover.

About half an hour into our flight, a flight steward by name of Anthony walked past and exchanged pleasantries with the couple, who then started a little bit of chat about Singapore. He sat down opposite (the crew seats on the exit rows face backwards) and started talking to them.

I expected to fall asleep anyway, except I didn’t. The more I sat and listened with my eyes closed, the more interested I got. Conversation ranged from Singaporean history to a detailed discussion of what makes a whole variety of national Singaporean dishes unique to their cuisine and where to go (down to the individual restaurant in what region of Singapore) to sample each. It was apparent to me that Anthony was not just a flight steward here for a job – he was practically a qualified Michelin-starred chef and had such an engaging personality he could keep you locked in for hours.

Before I knew it, I was also joining in and chatting away. It turns out Anthony’s son is an award-winning chef and he also has a passion for cooking himself. He spoke in depth about how cuisine has changed in the last few decades, recipes for the new sous-vide that he was planning on buying and favourite local haunts.

He doesn’t need to be doing this job, but he wants to. He said there were two types of people who got a job like his – those who wanted to see the world, and those who wanted to meet people and interact with different cultures. And this distinguished gentleman was certainly one of the latter. He is normally up in First Class, and is regularly poached to be head steward on flights involving diplomats and heads of state – but his idea of taking a break is to walk through the aircraft and have in-depth conversations with as many interesting people as he could find from all walks of life.

I eventually went to sleep, but not until three hours later. And those three hours were filled with some of the most captivating, interesting conversations I’ve ever had.

The couple next to me left the aircraft with smiles across their faces, as did I – as well as several pages of written notes on what to do and where to go in Singapore. Anthony may have officially been a steward, but it was abundantly clear that he had a burning passion for things he did away from work as well, a determination to excel and succeed.

As one of the few Starcraft II casters at major events who does not have a full-time job in eSports, I took a lot from this. It’s great to know that with passion and motivation, you can be amazing at things you set your mind to – even if you don’t necessarily have the job title to match.

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