eSports Spotlight: Quickshot interview

Alan caught up with Trevor ‘Quickshot’ Henry during the Quarter finals of the League of Legends World Championships in London.

quickshot3Trevor ‘Quickshot’ Henry is one of the leading and most experienced shoutcasters for League of Legends professional games. For anyone who has never seen eSports, shoutcasters are those who energetically commentate on the action, analyse the games and even introduce them. They are presenters, commentators and pundits rolled into one. For those familiar with them and with League in particular, there is no mistaking the ever present voice of Quickshot. Synonymous with the LCS (The League of Legends Championship Series) you cannot help but get caught up in his passion, energy and excitement. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table and dishes it out in a manner that makes it interesting and easy to understand. He quickly became my favourite shoutcaster and when attending the League of Legends Quarter Finals in London I jumped at the chance to pick at his brain.

I spoke to Quickshot on Day 2 of the 2015 Quarter Finals, after SKT’s victory over AHQ.

So how exactly does one get into shoutcasting?

Through actually doing it. I got involved by casting from home, got a rig together, put a bit of a thought process behind my online persona and then just looked for games to cast. I was very lucky that there was no LCS at the time, so when it came to looking for content I could do Go4LoL’s, I could do 4PL’s, and through doing regularly scheduled content I got invited to cast events by tournament organisers who had prize money. So truthfully the only way is to get on your camera and actually do it.

Casting and analysis must be a very time consuming job. Do you get much downtime to play in between all the research or do you have teams of people to do that for you?

Quickshot2We’ve got a team behind us from the production side that is always involved with stories and helping us primarily with stats. I’m not a very good numbers guy so we’ve got a qualified statistician that breaks down some server data. I certainly don’t get as much time to play as I’d like, because there’s always a league going on somewhere in the world. So I spend most of my time watching the game. Instead of going home and doing a ranked game I will watch an LCK match or an LPL or something along those lines. So I spend a lot of time watching League of Legends.

Where do you see League of Legends in 5 years, 10 years time? How do you expect the growth of eSports to go?

It’s sooo difficult, and it’s two very big questions, because league of legends has been incredibly fortunate enough to have a player base as dedicated and worldwide as we have. So in 5 years, in 10 years, I don’t know where it’s going to be. Based from what I’ve seen from other very big very popular games, online and multiplayer, they have lifespans of up to a decade, more. It’s new ground! It’s quite uncharted in this day and age. So it’s difficult to answer. I do think eSports will continue to grow. There’s a lot more big mainstream investors interested and looking, more and more of the world is coming online, the ability to play games is becoming cheaper and cheaper. And that’s one of the biggest barriers of entry, in countries that are not first world, that are not in the same circumstances as the likes of Europe, the UK and America, they’re getting access to faster internet and better computers. And that’s just allowing more people to compete and more people to play it so I expect League and eSports to continue growing, and hopefully so.

We’ve seen a lot more champion diversity at Worlds this year. Is this due to a more balanced game state or are teams just willing to take more risks?

Worlds_Tickets_London_800x315So many reasons. I think one of the big reasons we’re seeing so many champions at the moment is because we’ve not seen competitive play for 3 weeks leading up to the World Championship. It’s a new patch that teams are still needing to figure out what works on the big stage. We’ve seen 70 unique champions already in week 3 and a subset of those we’ve seen an excessive amount of. Gangplank and Mordekaiser are permanently banned, Elise is the most first picked jungler in the game. So the meta will start to stabilise and we’ll see that subset of 70 shrink, I feel, as the tournament goes on. The trick will be interesting in who develops a counter to the likes of Tahm Kench, Gangplank and Mord. So I think it’s a healthy year of state of the game and an element of uncertainty around what is the most effective in the best players hands. That’s also key right, everybody can be ok on Thresh but now you have to be good on Thresh and on Tahm Kench!

Speaking of Tahm Kench, we’ve seen a lot of him recently, dominating games and saving teammates all the time. Why is he not focussed in bans, do teams not deem him ban worthy?

It depends very much on the team, if you go back to some of the group stage games or even yesterday’s quarter final between Origen and Flash Wolves, Tahm Kench was banned in several games. Not all of them but a few. And it’s going to depend on where you priorities are in the team. If you ban the Tahm Kench you ban the ability to save hyper carries but it means you let hyper carries through. The risk that you then take is that you give this really powerful guy to a carry and hope we can kill him! But if you don’t you give him a slightly weaker champion in theory, let’s say like today they ban the Jinx and let the Tahm Kench through and you go well we’ve got to kill the catfish! So it’s a risk a team will take based on their opponents and their own strengths.

The Juggernauts patch released some absolute monsters onto the Rift. What’s your thoughts on these champions and should they have been allowed on to the Worlds stage in their current state? Especially given the Mordekaiser and Gangplank bans every game?

I think it’s something that we’ll definitely talk about or look at going forward because of the fact that Gangplank and Morde are so heavily banned on the red side. I think it’s interesting and it’s good because it does force teams to learn and force teams to adapt, right? And that’s one of the big things about League of Legends, if you want to stay at the top, in theory, you should be adapting to each patch. Now we’re not seeing that from a ton of teams because we’ve seen teams very good on a patch, very good on a style. But now you start to look at Fnatic who are adapting, SKT who are adapting, Origen have shown lots of playstyles over a prolonged period of time.

I like it that the Juggernauts were released. I also find as a viewer it’s very entertaining and interesting because yes it is difficult seeing Gangplank and Morde banned red side most of the time but in two of three games today SKT banned Mordekaiser blue side. That’s the first time that’s happened in 17 games! So now all of a sudden today when we’re getting into knockouts, the trend is changing. Does that trend continue to change? That’s what we have to see! So if you ask me that same question in two weeks’ time when the finals are done, I’ll have a more informed answer. But for the moment I like it, I’m still envisaged to see what happens because I’m still confident teams at this calibre and this level will say “I can beat Morde” with this style or these champions. That’s what I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing as the playoffs continue!

The game itself and its pro scene have a very harmonious relationship, feeding into one another. Do you think there’s any possibility that the game could remain as successful without the likes of the LCS, LCK etc.

I think that it’s a difficult question to answer because of how far reaching the implications are, when you have to look at every single regional difference, every single country and player base etc. But I definitely think the pro scene helps keep interest in the local scene. If you go look at the likes of CBLOL in Brazil, they draw massive viewer numbers for their favourite players. I think if you look at any sport even traditional sports, everybody plays football, everybody plays 5-a-side, so many people go to indoor football just to kick about a little bit, no matter how young or old you are. And a lot of those guys also watch. So I think there is a level of interconnectivity but I don’t think they rely on one another, they’re kind of their own entities. Because not everybody watches the Premier League. I have played 5-a-side but I don’t watch any football personally. I’m cricket and rugby solely! But the point is there.

In regards to football, player interviews are often the same cut and paste statements where they state the obvious, but in League it’s quite the opposite. Are players encouraged to say what they want or does the game just naturally allow that?

Players are always encouraged to say what they want! Player opinions are exceptionally entertaining! Because they differ. Everybody values individual players, individual champions, team decisions, completely differently. I think it’s a symptom of the game being so dynamic, you know, there are so many factors to the game. Even if you just look at champion diversity, even if you just look at dragon timings, everything can be discussed and debated. And there’s no 100% right, so that’s why I think you’ll find a lot of varied answers and opinions.

Do you find it difficult keeping up with an ever-changing game and having to remain an expert on it?

Yes, I do. But luckily I have a full time job where I do this five days a week. So my Monday to Friday is in the office where I will watch VoD’s and I will look at solo queue. If a new champion comes out I can load up a game and learn the mechanics of that champion. If I say to my boss “this week I need to know how Kindred works, because I’m expecting them to be super popular”, there is nobody that will say otherwise! On the condition that I’m obviously doing my regular duties too of course. So I’m very lucky in that it’s a difficult task but being full time LCS and full time League of Legends allows me to at least work through some of those difficulties and weaknesses and figure out what’s powerful in the new patch.

Do you think that it’s a problem that a lot of professional league players tend to retire quite young and have relatively short careers?

I think that’s true of any professional sport. There’s very few players that stay at the top, as the best, for a prolonged period of time. However, I also think I could challenge that. Because yes, you are right, 15, 20, maybe 25% of the players would last a split in the LCS. But if you look at a good chunk of the players, at least 50/60% of the players in both NA and EU LCS, are consistently there. Players like Nukeduck who’s been around three years, Froggen who’s been around since the day began, Krepo who played for three years. So there’s a number of players who go against that trend. But what I think is a little more interesting is how many players are at the top of their game for a limited time, then drop to oblivion. That’s what I find more interesting, that you can go from being the best top laner to not even starting in three to six months. That’s something I’d like to look into more, how do you breed a style of player that stays relevant, that stays on top of their game.

You’ve also got to look at the other side, players retire and move on to other positions. Krepo retired and went to full time casting as did Deficio, and Snoopeh I think is now the vice-president of Unikrn. A number of players move on. ClakeyD lasted a split and a half in the NA LCS and is now the head of the observation team for the LCS. You’ve got these guys that move on to other positions, that move on to sponsers. xPeke retired and started his own team. Yes players can leave young but a lot of these guys land on their feet and get influential positions. So it’s quite a big discussion around what happens next. When you’ve got a sport where everyone’s so young and technically advanced it’s also interesting because you don’t know how wide the spider web goes, because there is no outer limit yet!

If you weren’t doing shoutcasting, what do you think you would be doing?

quickshot1
I’ve got a marketing and business management degree and I worked previously at managing exhibitions and live events, some building up stands at events similar to Gamescom and Multiplay i-series, but in South Africa. So I would probably be doing something along those lines in a marketing role, in a sales role, events management probably because I really like this industry and I really enjoy the big events, the flashing lights and all the drama!

 
What do you think of the atmosphere here in London and how does it compare to other venues that you’ve been to?

London is very fun! In London the crowd really wants you to hear them. This will sound a little weird; in Paris, everybody cheers everybody celebrates, but they’re celebrating with each other right? They’re celebrating the human wave, they’re chanting the Spartan chants, and they’re just sort of enjoying the atmosphere. The British crowd, they want you to know they’re chanting your name! So it’s a different vibe where everybody’s shouting, everybody’s yelling, and they really get into the game but I definitely find there’s almost a measure of feedback that the British crowd wants. And it’s very nice.

Today for example I was casting with Monte and Krepo and it was so great that once a couple of players yelled our nicknames and we acknowledged them, the crowd then started chanting our nicknames and everyone got involved, until we clapped or gave a thumbs up or whatever and then they were right “ok that’s cool we’re chill!” And they did it with all three of us. It’s nice that they are genuinely happy that everybody’s getting involved and they literally just want to shake hands and high five and get involved with the fans.

Who do you think (other than Faker) is the star player of the tournament, or will be?

I think Niels has put a very good showing considering this is his first year as a professional player and he’s literally gone from nobody to a semi-finals contender. The only person that’s done similar was Faker when he went from solo queue player in Korea to winning am LCK split to winning the World Championship two years ago. There’s nobody else that’s done that. Do I think Niels can do that? No, it’s going to be a lot more difficult but I think Niels is probably my frontrunner. We still need to see two more quarter finals and a few more games but at this stage definitely him for his mind-set and his plays.

Predictions for who will lift the trophy in the final?

Look it’s on my pick-ems! I’ve gone for Euphoria, so I predicted a Fnatic SKT final and I think there’s a low chance, there’s a small chance Fnatic can do it but they’ve risen to every step that’s stood in their way. My head is telling me SKT will win, my heart is telling me Fnatic! I will not deviate, I will commit to my original picks!

SKT were crowned winners at the 2015 World Championships

Photos are courtesy of Riot eSports Flikr

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