Mitchman interview on working with Alliance and Banks

KarY 2021-02-10 07:01:54
  Mitchman sits down with Esports Heaven for a quick chat on his start as a commentator with CS:GO to transitioning to VALORANT,  ending up as an analyst for Alliance's VALORANT roster, his casting dynamics with James Banks and more. Hello Mitch. Thanks for taking the time out to answer some questions for us. How are you doing? I’m doing good mate!   Let’s begin with your life growing up. Tell us a bit about yourself I grew up in Dublin, Ireland with my mother and grandparents. When I was a kid math was always my go to, I was the chess club and video games kinda kid.  I used to play video games as soon as I finished my homework and spent hours and hours on Halo and GTA before I had a PC.   Anyone who plays video games has a story, something they can associate with. What’s yours? I’m actually not sure I have one to be honest haha! I used to try to be a pro, grinding Rocket League, CS:GO and Halo, but that’s about it!   Subsequently, you forayed into the esports albeit a cutthroat side of the industry. How was the transition like from being a gamer to pursuing a career in esports, especially CS:GO? It was really natural to be honest, mainly because I never actually tried to transition. I was supposed to go to a CSGO LAN event in Northern Ireland, OneTap LAN, with my team. Right before the event the team split up, so I offered to go anyways and help out at the LAN. I had planned to help out with cabling or something but they asked me to cast. I “cast” that event with Dinko, and we had some fun,. He was already establishing himself as a caster and so he had some amateur gigs that he didn’t have time for anymore. He passed them on to me and things just went from there. I ended up linking up with Dean Brown who brought me into ESL work and that was it really, we rode the wave from there until I met Banks and switched to mostly analyst desks and later VALORANT. Feedback is essential to make any improvements, and esports has a plethora of ways to receive feedback - be it commentating, coaching, playing, and so on. What methods do you utilize to improve outside of your on-air time? When I began commentating I would always ask my peers to be completely blunt with me about what they didn’t like. That method of feedback was invaluable but only really works if you have some people close to you that you trust to give you brutal feedback!   How would you define CS:GO as an esports at this moment? For me CS:GO is stale. I loved the game for many many years, but the lack of updates from the devs just makes me sad. I got so sick of casting or watching the same teams on the same maps again and again.   Like many others, you too have branched out to Valorant. What are the reasons for which you chose to dip your toes into Valorant? Is lack of opportunities in CS:GO one of the reasons, or are there any more underlying factors that made branching out to a new game seem more plausible? For me it was just boredom with CS:GO. The idea of a “League of legends style fps” as I would define it, made me really excited. 6 new agents every year and 2 new maps, as is the current plan, will keep things really exciting indefinitely. Once I began working on VALORANT it captured my heart right away and I knew this was something I wanted to commit myself to, as casting CS:GO just didn’t entice me at all anymore.   For a novice such as myself, kindly highlight what makes Valorant interesting as a game especially in the FPS genre? How does it bode against the behemoth which is CS:GO? For me VALORANT is just more interesting. There are so many more variables to consider when playing the game. Teams have different sets of utility available to them depending on what agents they choose. This dictates the playbook that they have available to them. You must consider not just your own and their abilities but also ultimate's and how close they are to having their ultimate. For example, in CS:GO map control is a big thing. But in VALORANT controlling the ult orbs is another layer to the standard map control. If an enemy brimstone is 1 orb away from his ultimate on the last round you must make a choice. Do you play aggressive for ult orbs so he has to get a kill to have a highly impactful ultimate? Do you find out where he is playing and take him down early? Do you ignore it and hope for the best? There’s always a lot going on outside of the traditional tactical FPS trope, combine that with the new maps and agents you have to learn to interact with and you can get some very interesting scenarios. mitchman

(Image credit: WePlay)

Riot is pouring all possible efforts to make Valorant as competitive as possible. Do you see it succeeding as an esports that too as a fierce competitor to CSGO? I genuinely don’t see VALOIRANT as a competitor to CS:GO.  CS is a very easy game to understand on a basic level but a difficult game to master. You can select any random person off the street and explain CS to them, and when they watch it things will be relatively intuitive. T side wants to plant the bomb, CT’s want to stop them. Flash-bangs blind, smokes block vision, fire is hot. These things are mostly already known or very easy to grasp. VALORANT just doesn’t appeal to the average person the same way. There are so many different agents and abilities that you have to understand before you can really comfortably watch it. Does this mean that VALORANT can’t succeed? Of course not, take League of Legends as an example. I’ve worked many events with an LPL caster Dagda, who has tried countless times to explain the game to me. After playing with him and watching many streams I now have a very very basic understanding. If you take a non-gamer and try to explain it to them, it will take more than a few sentences before they can sit down and “be a fan” so to speak.   Besides being a commentator, you’re also an analyst for Alliance’s Valorant roster. What does your job entail and in which ways do you contribute towards the development of the team? Alliance has been a really interesting project for me. I’ve always had a passion for analytics and getting to use it with a team is a unique and very fun experience. In the beginning I was there to come up with suggestions for players to trial and oversee the trials. Once we found Fearoth the structure changed. Myself, Banks and Fearoth have what we call the Golden Triangle (only I call it that but it would look pretty good on leather jackets). We made decisions together on the rest of the trials and always had input and feedback in daily debriefings on who we felt needed further trials and who fit the mold of the team we were looking for. Now that our roster is fully formed I am there every day for practice to keep track of progress and work with the guys on any new ideas and refine the work they are doing.  I am also working with players individually to set and achieve personal goals and improve them as individual players outside of the team environment. I also scout enemy teams to identify tendencies and any useful information such as agent preferences, play locations and map veto suggestions to help keep Fearoth as informed as possible on what our enemies like to do, which can, in some cases direct our game plan for a specific opponent. Interestingly, you also cast as a duo with James Banks -- Alliance’s General Manager for Valorant. Being a casting duo as well as working in the same organisation must be delightful, although my question is directed more towards these two things causing a “conflict of interest” type of scenario. How do you tackle these separate sets of responsibilities without letting it affect both sides of the coin? It is definitely a difficult situation which required much thought on my part. Especially as I am working with Riot a lot recently, but we had everything cleared by them, and so the responsibility falls on me not to be biased. Considering the state of VALORANT right now most of the talent are involved with main organisations, as streamers, team managers or analysts like myself. I actually think it has helped my commentary a lot. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the top level players regardless of what team they’re on, after all I’m the #1 Mistic Fan! But working with this team has given me greater insight into what players are thinking; both my own and opponents. It keeps me in the loop with what teams are practicing and what works and what doesn’t which is invaluable.   Nonetheless, your pairing with James Banks has been greatly admired by the Valorant community. Casting since CS:GO days, and developing a good friendship must have certainly played a key role in cementing this dynamic duo. Share your thoughts. Myself and James have been very close friends for the last two years or maybe even more. Time flies! When VALORANT first came out we decided to go into it together and give commentary a shot. Words cannot describe how much I have grown as a caster and a person because of that decision. The last year had its ups and downs for my personal life and James was always there for me, the bond we share is what makes us such a strong duo both on analyst desks and in the commentary booth. The response from the VALORANT community has also been surreal, I’ve never had so much support in what I do and I’m eternally grateful for it!   What are your thoughts of Valorant introducing a regional lock for talents while casting their official tours? In “normal” times, region locking talent is a terrible idea. Considering we have regions like OCE absorbed into NA and talent from other regions that regularly work across borders it only serves to harm the scene as a whole. In the more recent example however Covid is, I believe, a big reason for this. Riot may want talent to be in their studio for Masters events, to serve as an upgrade for the broadcast between these stages. The issue with this is travel from outside of NA at the moment is so unpredictable day to day. I presume Riot NA wants the same talent for online and offline portions, which is where region locking comes into play to ensure consistency. There are so many things at play here that it is impossible to say exactly what the reason was, but that seems to be a fairly plausible one for me.   Banks recently wrote about the both of you not being able to cast any Valorant event for the entirety of 2021 as the talent list has been locked, and also the regional locks don’t help that either. What are your views on this sudden development and from here on how would you map out your on-air career in Valorant? It’s hard to tell what the future holds, obviously I’m very saddened to hear that Banks won’t be joining us on VCT. After 2 years of working with him as a duo on desks/casts we really have become best friends and it will be tough going on without him. My current focus will be on making the VCT broadcasts as entertaining as possible and developing the synergy between myself and Lothar as we will be covering VCT together for the foreseeable future.   Alright mate, it's time to wrap it up. Anything you’d like to say? I think that’s everything from me! Cheers!
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