Starcraft Analysing The Desk

RichardLewisRichardLewis 2013-12-04 20:00:42

The CS:GO event at DreamHack saw a "dream team" assembled of hosts, analysts and casters from across the globe to ensure that the broadcasting experience was like nothing Counter-Strike had ever seen before. There was no denying, this eclipsed anything that we had seen in our beloved e-sport, having more in common with Starcraft, League of Legends and Dota than anything we had been used to.

The live audience agreed and it was reflected in our viewer numbers - a record breaking 140,000 for the final give or take - and the future of the game suddenly looked a hell of a lot brighter than it had done for some time. Eclipsing Starcraft at DreamHack is no mean feat and yet the Counter-Strike stream did that with ease.

Being the first of its kind we wanted to give our views on how this ensemble cast handled their respective duties and express the areas in which it excelled and underachieved. Regardless of any criticism though, we all know DreamHack raised the bar for the game and we can only hope that in 2014 other tournament organisers will follow suit.

Jonas “BSL” Vikan 4/10

His announcement as being the host was met with raised eyebrows. Sure, the master of the master of ceremonies – Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner – was unavailable due to prior commitments but Jonas still represented an off the wall choice. Having had the pleasure to work with Jonas during our CGS days and respecting his journalistic background, I was hoping for great things.

Jonas’s strengths have always lay in knowing what to say and how to say it, being able to easily appear to be the smartest person in the room when pressed for an answer about anything. In the hosting role he was being forced to ask the questions and help steer the conversation. Surrounded by so many big personalities he floundered and was really overpowered by an ensemble of analysts chomping at the bit to give their views.

The time away hadn’t helped either. Tripping over the names of teams – most notably with LGB eSports – he came across as someone who was asked to fill in at the last minute, blundering though as best he could and content to constantly bat the chat back to others to keep the glaring spotlight away from his deficiencies.

Counter-Strike is like that though. You only need to stay away for a short time to realise there’s no way back, as many a former top competitor has found, and whether or not we shall see Jonas again will be down to him. As an audition for future gigs this would definitely end with the immortal lines “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

Scott “SirScoots” Smith 8/10

As always, the old man was good value for money. Despite being the senior citizen in the team few people could match his energy and enthusiasm, which was the perfect antidote to some of the more sedate members of the casting crew. However, to brand Scoots as some sort one trick “jibber-jabber” pony would completely undercut his value to something like this.

His inherent understanding of broadcasting means he’s the guy who will jump in and fill a fluffed cue. He knows how to cut someone off in a seamless manner when a commercial is looming or a game is about to get underway. He isn’t the guy making mistakes and saying “THE FUCK?” as the audio is switched between segments. His experience in the back room with the VT equipment and editing suite translated to a masterful performance under the bright lights out front.

In terms of entertainment value, Scoots remains one of the people we should treasure the most. Free from the clutches of EG, he says whatever is on his mind and doesn’t look to be a diplomat. In addition his Counter-Strike knowledge was surprisingly strong and it had the hallmarks of someone who had sat down and done his homework before he went on air. His closing speech about how CS:GO was the future and how anyone still rejecting the game due to affiliations with 1.6 needed to wake up to reality was also a perfect end to this new chapter in Counter-Strike history.

Should definitely be upgraded to the main role next time around as his experience will filter down to everyone else and make for a much smoother broadcast.

Duncan “Thorin” Shields 8/10

His introduction started with a pointless furore over his decision of what to wear – namely a series of sports jerseys – during the broadcast. It was a ridiculous stream of criticism, sometimes from people who should know better, that overshadowed the first half of what was the biggest show we’ve seen any form of Counter-Strike hitched to in a long time. DreamHack will never be about dress code and I’m torn on the issue – on the one hand, it’d be nice for it to feel like ESPN sports centre. On the other, the sight of wannabe e-sports celebrities wearing a cheap polyester suit as if that instantly makes them professional / competent is faintly ridiculous. In short, we should judge our commentators on what they say and do, not what they wear.

And on that front Duncan delivered in spades. The whole “e-sports historian” angle is really overplayed but there is probably no-one else that could match him for that kind of knowledge or anecdotes from a 1.6 background. An essential component in building up storylines, Duncan’s value really comes in contextualising a game, merging the “then and now” and helping those who don’t have his same experience and knowledge grasp why games are suddenly more important than just simple wins and losses.

He is also an entertaining person in his own right. Steer him towards the right subject and not only can he find something interesting to say about it but he will also usually find an alternative view on something that has often seemingly reached the point of closure. If he could be more succinct at times, his points might resonate even more but for the most part you can just have fun listening. He, like most Brits, is also someone who might struggle to keep it PG-13 and certainly isn’t interesting in moulding himself into another bland, casting clone.

He’s made no bones about how he’s not interested in pursuing this full time. This is a shame as on this showing he has come a long way since his days with IEM. Polish the rough edges – a point that might sound rich coming from myself – and he could just as easily be in the mix as a caster. No doubt though, the analyst desk role exposed a new side of him that will win over even some of his most vicious detractors.

Stuart “Tosspot” Saw 9/10

Another announcement I personally had mixed feelings about, I perhaps should have realised that the QuadV stamp of quality would come shining through. And shine it did. Despite not being a natural Counter-Strike man by any means (we all know where Stu’s passions really lie) he still managed to narrate the action in a fashion that is rarely matched by the new breed of play-by-play commentators.

His use of pitch, tone and volume to generate excitement is probably the best of any caster in Europe (we all know Americans have a headstart in this department) and this was visible from the live crowd that were pumped every time he was at the commentary desk.

It’s not just that though. He has an expansive vocabulary and rarely repeats phrases, a cardinal sin among some of the younger generation, and he is someone who has an eye for when to comedy. Most modern casters, living under the delusion that this somehow equates to professionalism, rarely criticise players when they make mistakes. Tosspot understands that even at the highest level a “fail” deserves some gentle ribbing.

His class was most apparent on day one. Delays kicked in and for several hours Stuart had to fill. In lesser hands this would have been as disastrous as Ricky Gervais’s improv at Live 8 but he actually managed to keep it entertaining and flowing, despite people around him being about as receptive as a terrestrial TV aerial in North Wales.

His commitments to Twitch mean that we’re unlikely to see him regularly but he is one caster whose infrequent visits we shall welcome, no doubt about that.

Corey “Considerit_Dunn” Dunn 6/10

Corey as a caster should be absolutely beloved by everyone in Europe. We love American voices and his drawl is right up there with the best of them. He is polished and possesses many skills other casters would kill for. And yet, and I’m almost loathe to say this, there always feels to be something lacking from his casting that leaves me a bit underwhelmed. It always starts out good but over the course of a game, especially the best of threes, his potency seems to fade and all that I can focus on are some of the mistakes.

I don’t know if it is just that he needs a stronger colour commentator to be paired with but it does seem that some of his observations about the game are way off. He will often break up the play by play with some attempted tactical insight and it feels like an imbalanced way to do the casting, especially when those insights are way off the mark.

There’s no doubt that Corey is still a top level caster but you have to wonder if it’s lack of competition domestically that is making him a little soft in some vital areas for casters. It was great to have an American voice at DreamHack, essential even, especially with the way the compLexity narrative unfolded. However there has to be more to it than just the voice, especially in this company.

Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen 6/10

The rise of brand Lurppis as some sort of Counter-Strike guru shows only the lack of retired players transitioning into media roles. He has benefited from a number of things, a perfect storm to enable him to monopolise a role many would be better suited to. We can safely assume that there are many better tactical thinkers if we look at achievements alone, yet there are barriers such as the lack of English speakers or seeing them limping along into the twilight of careers in CS:GO. Patrik “cArn” Sttermon certainly offers a better option but was too busy assisting his team in winning the damn thing. Bjorn “Threat” Pers has shown himself to be both knowledgeable, excitable and likeable but also allows play-by-play guys to make him agree with their own glib insights when he should correct them. With the insistence from the bulk of the community that a CS:S player couldn’t really offer the same level of insight, Lurppis seems to be the only option that manages to straddle across all areas to benefit.

And he insight is fine, exactly what a former player would be expected to offer. He notices why certain tactics are executed at certain times, he spots the flashes and nades, he can say correctly how someone should have played a situation. The main deficiency is that when he is in the colour commentator role he is little more than a charisma vacuum.

At DreamHack, after being told to “tone down” the Twitter flaming and constantly ridiculing other players according to my sources, he simply offered a dull droning point of information that was akin to the shipping forecast. The number of times Tosspot tried to set him up for some caster interchange, or provide a platform for some good humoured banter, he simply ignored it and was back to droning on about something that really could have waited.

For someone who brands himself as a “big personality” there was none of that on show here and the shame of it is there’s plenty of people who can offer both if tournament organisers are willing to take a risk and realise that, for example, you don’t need to take a second string 1.6er over a top tier CS:S player in the CS:GO universe.

Auguste “Semmler” Massonat 7/10

Auguste was the definitive play by play and analysis guy rolled into one in the short lived Bloodline Champions scene. Since then he has floated between roles, often playing the straight guy in the GD Studio despite his considerable talents in other areas. His decision to go “all in” on CS:GO is a move that surprised anyone who had followed his career and it was undoubtedly hard going at the start.

Forming a bona fide bromance with Anders Blume he has had to often play the role of colour commentator when I believe his strengths lie in play by play. However at this event he felt more cemented in this role than he has in the past and made some solid observations throughout. Certainly they are lacking the depth that a pro-player might bring but they are delivered in an easy to understand way and were, for the most part, accurate and insightful.

What is often overlooked in the current casting scene is that a colour commentator shouldn’t just bring knowledge but also personality. This is where Semmler excels. He was in his element when on the big stage, berating cameramen for not observing the action, reeling off anecdotes and looking to get in on jokes. He brought the fun to a commentary team where Anders is always going to be more methodical.

There’s still a long way to go but he knows it and works hard. He’s probably the one caster who plays the game more than any of the others and is always looking to enhance his knowledge. I still think his talent lies in play-by-play but he’s slowly and steadily moulding himself into what the scene needs, which is the smart play.

Anders “Anders” Blume 7/10

Anders is always going to be a divisive caster. We all know that his voice isn’t the kind to grab you by the lapels and shake the shit out of you. Even with significant improvement in this area it still isn’t going to resonate in the same way as a Miller, a ReDeYe or a Tosspot. Still, the reality is you don’t HAVE to have that despite it being an advantage.

What he does have is a good eye for what is going on. He doesn’t really miss lot or make many missteps, he can clearly identify the action and reel it off without his brain ever going faster than his mouth. It is like listening to most sports radio. It provides the information you need to create the picture in your head of what is happening around the limited images you can see. This is actually a skill that requires a lot of practice to hone.

Anders is also a grafter. He works hard, he attends every event, when he has the opportunity he can contextualise what is happening accurately because he was casting the previous tournament and knows first hand what occurred. Having this sort of continuity in casting is rare because competition usually precludes that. Anders has been the go to guy for CS:GO casting before any paycheques were put on the table, let alone one of this size.

His inclusion on the mainstage was an absolute must. He simply had to be invited to do it and the decision to let him cast the final was a class act. No longer can his critics say “he’s not ready for a big event” because he has been under those bright lights, with 140,000 spectators online, and handled himself admirably at a time when others might have let the occasion get to them. I’ve no doubt he will continue to get better but for me he punched well above his perceived weight here to show he can rise to the occasion. Long may it continue.

Anders might not be the single greatest person you ever hear cast CS:GO but he is THE CS:GO caster and on that basis alone deserves to be respected and appreciated.

All photos Copyright DreamHack and used with permission

Photgraphers Helena Kristiansson & Rikard Soderberg

Agreed, they were very good. My only problem is that Thorin sometimes seemed like he has no idea about the source scene, because he said some fatally stupid things. Despite that, he was surprisingly good
C'mon just wrote the whole post and didn't get posted.... !

Short version: I agree with the article.BSL day 1 sucked, later bearable. Thorin great, Scoots also but would like one more person added to the analyst desk for more diversity. Dunn underperfomed this event but sometime also got badly matched-up with Lurppis in my opinion as Lurppis often oversteps his role and keeps on making the same point and overshadows with it the live action. Anders is good and Semmler as well but aren't as great on their own as when they cast together. Tosspot great!

Put in ReDeYe and Joe Miller and some other colour casters and your put.
Great read, I wholeheartedly agree with the ratings. I personally found Thorin and SirScoots to be pleasant surprises, I hadn't seen much of them before Dreamhack. As for the casters I thought Tosspot owned it with some truly amazing casting. He kept my bleeding whyamIupat8am eyes glued to the screen.

The rest of the casting team were good, the problem I have is I don't want someone analysing the game for me; I can do that myself, I just want someone like ReDeYe/Joe/Tosspot to cast the action in an entertaining manner. I guess that just comes down to me being a grumpy old CS player though.
I'd love to see Tosspot and SirScoots agian. They were my favorites of the caster crew. :)
The first CS tournament I actually bothered to watch since CPH 2012 and I wasn't disappointed.

+Thorin - As others have said, he really kept the analyst desk afloat. He has a lot of knowledge and provided a lot of much needed depth to the stream. Very impressive, would love to see him do more in the future. I think its a role he is more suited to than casting. He carried the desk basically, great job.
+SirScoots - Kept it real, loved his segment at the end about 1.6. He has charisma and an interesting personality, he offers something different when he talks and thats always cool.
+TosspoT - Amazing caster.
+Semmler/Anders - Didn't catch enough games where they were casting to give a rich answer but from what I saw, they were good. Anders has his own style, he does not have the voice of a Corey Dunn but he showed to me that he was far more aware and knowledgable regarding what was happening in the game. Semmler was good too, would like to see him involved in more events.

-CoreyDunn - Hes usually a very good caster (one of my fave), I felt he was a bit off this event though. He didn't do a terrible job by any means but I felt he just wasn't up to speed with what was going on in the games and kept on making little mistakes in game.
-BSL - He was poor throughout the event, he just looked uncomfortable (partially due to the amount of mistakes made by production) and not suitable for the role. Its his first time as a host from what I've read, and to be fair he was alright in the final so I guess I won't write him off yet totally.
-Lurrpis - When it came to analysing the game, he was good. He provided some valuable insight but as others said he does not know how to carry the conversation. There were multiple moments of silence after the other caster left an opening for him to say something. He was still alright though, wouldn't say he was awful but he can improve.
-The team backstage - the amount of close-ups of BSLs face when someone else was talking was scary lol. They cut off way too late at times and took forever to switch scenes.
they are all so inexperienced. They need a shit load of events under their belt. Worst thing with CS over the years is it goes through admins/scene writers/(pretty much everyone involved) like the dickens. Means people can never build up the xp to give us quality coverage.

Also, Corey Dunn, name rings a bell, ex 1.6 player? edit: oh nvm, i was thinking of corey dodd lol.

Great to see bsl doing the rounds, even if people didn't think he was too good.
thorin was great on the panel. a nice energetic personality that constantly had a lot of interesting things to say between games.

tosspot was the best caster. its the first time ive heard him cast games other than in old video montages from 1.6 etc and he kept me pumped during the live matches.

sirscoots was good, cant fault him. pretty sure there was several moments where he wanted to speak and bsl cut him off or ignored him. shame

anders is always another great caster and a big +1 that he is consistent and basically THE csgo caster atm. hes worked his ass off to get where he is and deserves much credit.

corey dunn was way off this event from what hes usually like so i agree on that point, and that americans usually have a much better tendancy to keep things hyper entertaining. dunn didnt grab hold of me and keep me glued to the screen the way tosspot or anders did.

bsl can be described in 1 word - awkward. he looked so out of place and made so many mistakes i wouldnt want to put him on the panel for another big event again. as mentioned above there seemed to be moments where other panelists wanted to add something and bsl just ignored them or cut back to the games without acknowledging them. agree with other peoples views on this guy.

lurrpis was about as entertaining as a roadkill rabbit this event. everytime the camera cut to him he looked half asleep or like he'd been taking drugs or something. several awkward silences when he was set up to make comment by another caster and yeah .. he was just shit aside from his game knowledge and i wouldnt use him again if it was up to me.
Never rated Corey Dunn myself, yes, he has a good voice, that's pretty much where it ends. He doesn't seem to know a lot about the game, so like you said, when he tries to give insight it's really cringe.
i think giving lurrpis 6/10 is extremely kind.

He managed to suck any energy and enthusiasm the play by play caster tried to build up. The arrogance he has is just painful to watch. Long awkward silences, can't fill time to save his life, no rapport with his pbp caster, didn't look like he wanted to be there, no banter, killed the conversations dead at times with weird and awkward comments.

If the cost of having a colour caster is that he's a miserable fucking cunt I'd much rather watch two pbp casters in semmler and anders.
Couldnt agree more
wondering how THREAT would have looked in lurppis place.
Probably would have been better, but Threat was bound to TV6 for Swedish shoutcasting, so he was unavailable.
handsome as always
I really enjoyed the read and agreed with pretty much everything. I really hope TosspoT will cast more CSGO as he was really fun to watch and made some of the games appear way more exciting than they were (which is exactly what a caster should do).
bsl was just to gay.....
Stuart saw deserves a 9/10. He's great at generating excitement.
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