With Play-ins completed for Worlds 2018, we move onto the Group Stage where teams battle it our for the Summoners Cup. The broadcast team has helped us reach that journey through fantastic casting and strong analysis. Razleplasm, analyst and color commentator for the LPL region has been an integral part for helping fans understand the Play-in stage.
Esports Heaven got the chance to speak with Raz and learn about his growth as a caster and also speak about the Play-in stage.
You’ve gotten praise on Reddit recently. It seems like China has a Hyperbolic Time Chamber, where the casters go over there and improve a ton. So, how has it been casting Worlds for the first time?
It’s been really fun. I can speak to my own personal development and I do appreciate the love and support I’ve been getting on Reddit. For me, I’m glad they’ve only been getting to see me now on this stage because I’ve had a lot of the criticism and I’m not the same person I was a year and a half ago. This year has been really good for my development. For me to really be working and chipping at a lot of my craft, and then being able to get to show that at MSI and now Worlds, I’m very happy for that. I got a lot of lessons out of it too because there’s so many new things that you get exposed to at Worlds. For me when I’m coming to NA, Worlds or EU for MSI, there’s a lot of new gadgets you get exposed to, so there’s always something I’m able to bring back to China.
People have commented on your on-camera personality and how it’s more relaxed and chill compared to others on broadcast. So, did you kind of go into broadcasting and say “this is what I want to be known for”? Or did this just kind of fall upon you?
That’s a good question because you always do that soul-searching as an on-camera personality and “what am I going to do to separate myself from other people” or “who am I really”? Because, coming into commentary, I was an analyst/coach. I knew the game inside and out, but being able to express that to people and explain it to them, that was incredibly difficult for me. I had to grind that out and I enjoy the game a lot. You can tell by how excited I get in-game and that’s just who I am and how I come across. It was easy for me to find that as a brand and come out with my own on-camera personality, because it really is just me. I like to have fun and I’m a positive person and the way I enjoy explaining the game to people is, “this is really cool, these rune selections are fun and this thing is hilarious”. So maybe I come off as positive rather than hammering people down. There are times when I am really critical, but that’s only when I feel it’s obviously unavoidable because there is something that needs to get changed for a specific team coming into the next series.
Recently the broadcast was criticized for having a bias. What’s your opinion on constructing a storyline on the broadcast and analysts or casters representing their own regions when it comes to analysis?
I feel like it’s very difficult to gain some bias, and sure I come from the LPL, but I worked in EU when I was on Dignitas EU. I also worked in NA when I worked on Dignitas NA. For me, I’ve been in the environment and I know the people from every region. I formed relationships and communications with a lot of people in Play-ins. A good example is Tierwulf, Edward and KabuM! staff as well. I come into this knowing I just love the game and I want to tell the story of the people, no matter who they are or where they come from. Sure, I know the most about China and I can chip in on that extra bit of information that people want to know. When it comes to bias, I think it’s a catch-all term and people can get really tripped-up around it. It’s up to the person themselves and if they’re talking too heavily about their own expertise rather than coming in with the amount of research that they had put in previously. Every caster that comes into this heavily researches every region before they go on broadcast. I think they can come in with very even information and I think a lot of people have. I listened to the commentary here and I think everyone has done a good job at that.
Let’s switch to in-game stuff and Play-ins. The wildcard regions look to be stronger than ever before. What are your thoughts on the emerging regions in general?
I think they keep getting stronger. There are points where I’m still disappointed, such as Latin America South and Oceania. Those two regions in particular, a lot of it comes down to bringing extra competition within that region so that it isn’t just Dire Wolves. I know that they have the Chiefs, Legacy Esports in OCE and in LAS they have Rebirth eSports. So there’s a few teams that can challenge the top teams, but you really want these teams to come back into their own region and get challenged, forced so that they have to be a lot more disciplined with slower gameplay, or if they’re going to just come back and say “we’re just a bloody and fast team, that’s who we are as players”, then they at least need to have better communication to follow up on plays. Sometimes they come back from a tournament without fleshing that out, and it’s not necessarily their fault, but it’s hard to take those lessons and grind that in during the couple of months when they’re back in their own region if they’re still as dominant as they were previously. I think as a whole, the Play-in regions are very competitive. We saw what Infinity Esports did, as they came over here and were very close and could have made it to the main stage, same with Gambit Esports.
A lot of these teams are getting better and it makes me optimistic about next year, because some of these teams are only one game away from getting to out of Play-ins and getting an upset against a major region.
Some would say that these teams are stronger because they have imported Korean players. Players like Frozen, Stitch, Candy, GBM, Snowflower, Steal. What would you say to that? That they’re only good because these Korean players on their team?
I think for some points that would happen. For TCL as a region through the season, there was a lot of Koreans injected into the teams but the same Supermassive came and their major strength was Zeitnot and SnowFlower. I wouldn’t say it’s an outright criticism because that’s what you’re seeing for the regions to get as competitive as they are. You’re just seeing more talented players come into the region. For the LJL, DetonatioN FocusMe have been a very strong team for a very long while, but being able to hit that Bo5 has been a real struggle. For them, it’s been Evi that’s been a strong standout. So, I’m not really coming out and saying it’s not the Korean players that are making them strong, or that it is, I think it’s a bit of both.
I’m saying it’s good to have outside talent coming in. A good example is OCE and LAS, in that their problem is competition within their region and within their solo queue. I don’t care if it’s NA talent or EU talent. We need to see that coming in. One of the added benefit in Turkey was Freeze coming into the main roster of Royal Bandits (which met Supermassive in the Finals). As a whole I think that the way it makes some of these regions stronger, if you have a lower population, is that you go out and import. Korean imports are a positive and the specific example of Supermassive, you got to see SnowFlower make Zeitnot feel comfortable and empowered. Zeitnot even made a mention of that himself.
Well it looks like NA is doing pretty good in that department then. We’ll keep stealing EU talent (laughs).
(laughs). That’s the way to go! Caps the list? No, Caps on that list!
Ok, so looking to NA and EU, many are concerned after the Play-in stage as they had trouble against some of the Wildcard teams. What do you think of the power levels of C9 and G2?
I’m optimistic in Cloud9 even though they got put in the group of death. They won’t come out of the group unless there is an upset, but for them to have struggled…which they struggled for two reasons.
One is that nerves on Jensen at some point and the other is they have new players on their roster that needed the experience. If they would have been dropped straight into the Group Stage, they probably would have bombed out 0-6. The fact they were able to learn some lessons in Play-ins was really beneficial. I think for them, it’s rough dog, but for C9, I think they’ll come in stronger.
G2, I think it’s very weird because they do have an outright strength in early game with Jankos and Wunder, but their major issues are the bot lane. Wadid is a great player, but we need to see Hjarnan into his own. I thought his Jhin game was well done, but his earlier Jhin game he made a few 2v2 mistakes. I think once Wadid and Hjarnan get their 2v2s straightened out with the competition they had to go against from SnowFlower and Zeitnot, then they should do well in Group A, but there are still some questions to be answered.
With Froskurinn leaving LPL and going to the EU broadcast, the LPL broadcast is looking for more talent. So for all the amateur casters and analysts, what advice would you give to them to be qualified for that position?
Be hungry, have a portfolio and be prepared
is always what I say to people. For about a full year I’ve been open whenever someone comes out and asks for a practice cast, or if they want me to look over a video. Once they ask me those questions, I’m very open in being able to provide feedback. Now that it’s come out that we’re looking for people, I think that’s great. As long as you have something ready, and if you don’t, get something ready. I’m always willing to look through it. For me, now that Play-ins are over, my plan is to go back to Shanghai and go through these lists and it’s never too late. I would say, get it all down and send it our way. I know an email has been sent out and if not, DM me and I’ll send you in the proper direction. Also, let’s say that you don’t get the position, there’s always a position open somewhere. It really takes patience and improving your own craft. I’ve seen people that started out very raw but just chipped at it time and again. You get these stories where, this guy is looking very good, a person that you can bring on a broadcast. It just depends on the timing and if you didn’t get accepted the first time around, always chip at your craft if that’s your dream.
To all the future broadcast talent, good luck and thank you Raz for the commentary this Play-in stage.
Izento has been a writer for the LoL scene since Season 7, and has been playing the game since Season 1. Follow him on Twitter at @ggIzento for more League content.
Images courtesy of Lolesports Flickr.