Achilios on the current Overwatch landscape, his start in casting, and some thoughts about the future.
I recently got the chance to drill one of Overwatch’s newest casters, Seth “Achilios” King, on his past, present, and future within Overwatch and OGN’s APEX League.
Good evening Achilios, thanks for carving out some time to talk with me! How’s election day been for you so far?
It's been under the radar, personally. I've followed it extremely loosely, knew that the frontrunner had ties with SC2, but otherwise was fairly uninformed. Outside of that, it was just another day of work!
Speaking of work, how were those games today? We don’t have to go to in-depth, but I know you and Wolf were both a little surprised with the results from today, with Flash Lux dropping 0-3 to MVP Space. Where did that come from? Surly that wasn’t on anyone’s radar, was it?
It was hard to judge the outcomes of either match today, given that MVP had shuffled players between their sister teams, and not having seen RG Wings since the promo tournament. I expected closer results for both. It seems like MVP Space have found a superior roster with the exchange, but a big factor was Fleta underperforming compared to his recent sets in the promo tournament.
Staying with APEX for a quick last question before we return to it later on, I wanted to know your thoughts on Rogue. They are quickly becoming (if not already) fan-favorites in the West with some of their performances in the online cups and the Monthly Melees. What is the general consensus out in Korea of Rogue?
You'd be a fool to disregard Rogue's recent dominance in online events. They've popularized the triple DPS (Damage Per Second) comp that has been catching on across the world, and have 5 straight 1st place finishes. I think that Rogue are well respected and may come in favored over Envy given their recent roster moves, but their lack of practice on 2PC maps is a major flaw that needs to be corrected. You can't be the "best" team if you're unable to play well on every map type; it's just not feasible for long-term dominance. I think that with the practice Rogue is putting in after their loss on Temple of Anubis, we'll see a [much] more concise iteration of the team moving forward in APEX, one that could very well end up in the final.
Other than that, I think that LAN experience for Nico is essential, as he looked a bit shaken during their series, compared to the rest of the team who was maybe frustrated, but didn't show it nearly as much.
Diving into a bit of your history, let's journey back to around 2015-2016. Allegedly you’re sat in a karaoke bar, with some Riot employees, and you get the fateful text DM from Monte. Do you remeber your first thoughts and what was going on around you at the time? Paint us the picture of your first moments being offered the chance to go to Seoul.
I wasn't at the karaoke bar with Riot employees that night — it was just one that was frequented by some of them — but I was, indeed, there. I had a rare night away from work with Team Liquid (video editors never rest) and decided to go out to the local to have some drinks and sing a few songs with the crowd. After a few hours of being there, my phone buzzed and I saw a DM from Monte. He and I had spoken in person in Paris during Worlds, but hadn't really communicated since then. I opened the tweet and read the words "Hey Seth. I want to know if you have interest in working for OGN next year". It was a shock to say the least. I immediately sobered up enough to respond with "Of course I'm interested," and we took the conversation from there. I was still relatively new to the esports scene (though not casting) and never expected that I'd have an opportunity to move into professional commentary.I thought my future in esports would persist as a videographer/editor and then maybe eventually a manager position for a team/company.
That leads perfectly into my next question: With experience in tournament administration, with some of your work at the GXL LAN event, and player management, has it ever crossed your mind about owning or working more directly with players? Either owning or helping to operations in a team?
Well, it's crossed my mind that if I had the means (income, sponsors,etc.) that I might look to own or invest in a team. I think that if it's ever going to be a reality, I'll do it when I'm looking to retire from casting, which is not in the foreseeable future at the moment. As far as player management, I look at my former work with Team Liquid and suspect that if things played out the same way with me still under their employment, I might find myself in the position of Michael Artress. I care a lot about the players that I've worked and spent time within the past, so being in a position to help them excel and steer them in them in the right direction for their careers is an appealing thought. But for now I like what I'm doing and will remain as a caster. It’s one of those "in another life" type of situations for me.
I don’t mean to harp on the past, but getting your casting start in League of Legends within the LMS, RaidCall To Arms, and with the HTC Ascension Tournament, I thought it would be fun to have you do a little though exercise: If you had to compare 3 League of Legends teams to Overwatch teams, who would you pair together and why?
I'd say MVP Space is the Kongdoo Monster of Overwatch, in and out of the League.
Meta Athena is essentially MVP, since they both do really odd-ball, off meta stuff.
And prior to S2 finals, Lunatic Hai was basically former KT Rolster: always near the top, never in 1st place, though their win and recent reverse sweep makes them look a lot more formidable, so they're working their way toward SKT.
Now, Papasmithy, Wolf, Atlus, and yourself are all quite new to Overwatch. Was it intimidating for you, personally, to take up some of your mentors’ work? Obviously I’m sure you knew months in advance, but Overwatch is an odd beast. Were there any hesitations coming into a new game?
This is the most intimidating game to cast for sure. I wanted to start in Overwatch since it was first announced but didn’t have an opportunity until IEM Gyeonggi. I had as much prep as possible without doing a practice cast, went in and attempted to cast it with Uber on the first day of the tournament, and I honestly thought I wasn’t cut out for it before the first map had even finished. There is so much going on at any given time, and you really have to train yourself to catch as much of it as humanly possible. Thankfully the spectators at OGN are top-notch, so they lessen the blow for you quite a bit.
Taking over for Monte and Doa is of course an interesting and stressful situation, similar to how it was with me even joining the broadcast for LCK. They're loved by their audience, so taking their place comes with the worry of rejection. However, it seems as though people are relatively happy on both the APEX and LCK fronts with us.
Obviously, I don’t speak for the community at large, but you guys are killing it. Staying within that vein, I hope this isn’t opening any fresh wounds, but what is one thing that Monte and Doa have left you with personally? Any really deep and interesting quotes on life or the human condition?
Not really any deep quotes, but some affirmation. The night before Monte left, we all had drinks together and it ended with he and I having some one-on-one time at a bar; I thanked him for everything he did for me, helping me get my career here in Korea. His response was that he didn't do anything for me that other people wouldn't have recognized, that I had made my career by being dedicated to casting for so long and constantly seeking to improve. It was refreshing to hear, and helped me realize how much time and love I invested in what started out as a hobby.
I still thank him, Doa, and Papasmithy for putting their faith in me and my drive to improve. I was relatively unknown when I came to Korea, but they saw potential and were willing to vouch for me, to have OGN invest in bringing me on. Not sure if I can ever repay them for that.
On a more light hearted note, talk to me about your time with Team Liquid as a part of the Video Editing staff. What were some of the weirdest or most fond memories with the team?
Working with Team Liquid was a fantastic experience, though exhausting. I remember the day that Steve Arhancet called me to ask if I wanted to move to LA to work with them, and it was a similar reaction to when Monte messaged me. I said yes immediately. When I first flew out, I got a tour of the house, my workspace, and then met the players. I immediately dove into the workload, alongside Damian Estrada, tearing through hours of footage that we would shoot, combining it into a watchable, enjoyable doc. series. Through TL, I was able to travel around the World, taking part in multiple esports scenes from CS:GO to SSBM.
One of the weirder things for me was seeing players leave. I've always maintained my friendships, so never really had to part ways with anyone, but seeing players like Xpecial, Quas, and coach Peter leave the org was a bit of a new experience. I knew that I would still have contact with them, but not spending as much time or living with them anymore was an odd realization. It helped me understand that esports is an ever-changing landscape.
With the landscape of Overwatch being so close in skill rating, generally speaking, what are some of your thoughts on “eras” and do you have any prediction on who or what team could become the next in line?
Well I think we already had the first "era" of the game with Team Envy. They had a 57 series win streak going into their match against Rogue at the Atlantic Showdown. Rogue winning that series was the end of the first era in my opinion. Envy continued dominance for awhile, winning APEX Season 1, but I feel like the time for their undisputed rule over the game had come to an end.
Now, I feel, is the era of Korea. With how poorly some of the Western teams did during Season 2 and Lunatic Hai, a constant top contender winning the finals, it seems as though the East has caught up and is looking to have similar region control like they have in League of Legends
I feel like that can be halted by Rogue coming into this Season if they make and win the final. Given their performances in the West (albeit online), if they can take the trophy home after S3 APEX, they will establish themselves as the best in the world. For now. Like I said in my last answer, it's an ever-changing landscape, especially in a new esport like Overwatch.
Jumping back into APEX, who do you have your eye on? Anyone in your eyes that potentially could really make a break into the playoffs or even the finals? For example, the way that Season 2 RunAway did or perhaps even Team Envyus in this sense?
I don't think we'll have any dark horse teams this season. X6 would have been the big one to pick, but they haven't looked good enough for a semifinals run to me yet (limited exposure so far, to be fair). I expect LH, AFB, and Meta Athena to be top contenders in the playoffs and hope we have a western team in the mix to join them.
In Season 2 of APEX we had tons of storylines: RunAway defying odds and expectations. Lunatic-Hai removing their scarlet letter. Meta Athena almost completing the journey of a Royal Roader. Coming into Season 3, what are some of your favorite storylines in Overwatch?
I want to see more of the season before I really commit to anything but I think I'll be really hype if MVP and Rogue beat their respective opponents in Conbox and Kongdoo Panthera.
They're both teams returning to APEX since season 1, and if they can make it out of groups, with new rosters, I think it'll make for a great redemption story.
Rogue is obviously WAY more likely than MVP, but it would be incredible if they could pull it off.
I wanted to end with a recurring question of my own brew. Why Overwatch? What about it captivates your attention? Other than a day job, what keeps you, Seth “Achilios” King, coming back to Overwatch?
Aside from being a big Blizzard fanboy (the amount of hours I've invested in Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft combined would disgust you), I like FPS (First Person Shooters) a lot.
I have a decent past with Counter-Strike, UT2k4, and then eventually Team Fortress 2.
So, seeing Blizzard, a company that I love very much, finally make an FPS? It was destined to be. I played Overwatch at BlizzCon the year it was announced maybe 9 times. Just played it, got back in line over and over again. I really enjoyed it from my first try, and as a wishful caster I thought of how I could find a future in the game.
I have no doubt that if OGN and coming to Korea didn't happen, I'd be working for an esports org. and casting Overwatch on the side, very much like I did in my early years of League of Legends.
Awesome! The final words are yours for any shout- outs and anyone you’d like to thank.
Well obvious big thanks to Monte, Doa and Papa for helping me get to Korea, the OGN viewers for being receptive and supportive of my casting, and the Riot casters that have helped me grow as a caster via feedback!
Interview conducted and written by: @Volamel
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, OGN, and @AchiliosCasts on Twitter.