DoA on how Overwatch is the hardest game he’s ever casted and his current relationship with Riot Games
I had the chance to ask OGN caster Erik “DoA” Lonnquist a few questions about his career and the games he casts. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, DoA is an OGN caster who has been casting League of Legends for over three years, and has recently moved over to Overwatch.
2016 was a big year for your career as a caster. Earlier this past year, you and Montecristo started to cast Blizzard’s new FPS, Overwatch. How has the transition to Overwatch been?
DoA: Well, more than anything, it’s been fun. I feel like FPS is the genre of video game I’ve always loved the most throughout my life. I started way back on Wolfenstein 3D with DOS, then going into Quake 3 Arena, unreal tournament, Halo One on console, you know of course a ton of Goldeneye on the N64 back in the day. It’s kinda funny that it’s taken me this long to get into an FPS professionally. I’ll always love Starcraft, RTS’, and MOBAs, but FPS has always been my favourite, so I was really excited to get to actually cast an FPS finally. And where [Overwatch] is an FPS moba hybrid, it makes it a bit more interesting as well. But mostly, it was just fun and exciting to get the chance. But it's also been really really hard. I’d say Overwatch is the hardest game I’ve ever casted, and some of that will get easier as the spectator mode is improved. It’s been a good challenge. I really had to push myself. It's fun to work really hard to figure out what to improve on, and mull that over day to day, so it’s an ongoing process, but it's a good one.
Overwatch has exceeded most people’s expectations, and become a relatively huge esport in a short time. Did you expect overwatch as an esport to explode as much as it did when you first decided to cast the game?
DoA: Yeah, absolutely. When I saw the trailer for this game back a couple years ago when I was watching Blizzcon on my couch here in Korea, I immediately thought it was going to be huge. And I had full confidence that Blizzard would be able to develop an FPS that would be a viable esport. I would say more than anything it’s exceeded my expectations in that it's a game that immediately caught my attention because I felt like it had a really positive message in ‘The world could always use more heroes” and everyone can be a hero. [Overwatch] painted a more positive image of the future than we see in a lot of games and media these days, so right off the bat, I liked it for that. I also had the confidence that Blizzard could make a fun gameplay experience, and with the amount Blizzard’s dedicating towards esports right now in general, I had a pretty good feeling it was going to do well. When I was coming into Overwatch, I wasn’t too worried about the success of the game, I had a feeling it would be pretty big.
Korea has unexpectedly become huge early adopters to Overwatch, with Overwatch overtaking LoL at pc bangs and OGN already producing a league similar to LCK in APEX. Despite all of this, we have yet to see huge Kespa teams like SKT, KT, and SSG grab an Overwatch team. Why do you think these organizations have hesitated to pick up a team like Lunatic Hai, and do you think this will change in 2017?
DoA: I don’t think it was surprising at all that Korea adopted Overwatch so fast. Korea, and OGN specifically, had a league for LoL before Riot made one in NA and Europe. [Korea] was the first place to have Starcraft tournaments. Korea has always been the first to jump on new games and tournaments. And as far as the popularity for FPS in Korea, people weren’t aware of it, but Koreans have been playing FPS pretty adamantly for the last 10 years now, and people are just figuring out that “oh these guys can play FPS. So I guess to me being here [Korea], it wasn’t surprising, it's just what they tend to do with a new game.
As far as its success over LoL, its release was at a time where Riot was making a lot of people in the Korean scene angry, in how they were changing the ranked ladder, the things Riot Korea were doing with SPOTV, breaking up champions and making it the LCK. The fans were really upset with that, so I would say the market was prepped to switch to a new game already by the mistakes that Riot had made. So it was a combination of a really good game in Overwatch, fans being upset at LoL and Riot, so they were ready to switch, and OGN is always ready to kick off a new league.
To your question about Kespa, Kespa traditionally does wait a year, a couple years sometimes, before jumping into a new games like this. They waited a while for Starcraft. They waited a while for Starcraft 2 if you remember back in 2010 and 2011 when the GOMTV leagues were happening. It wasn’t until the end of 2011 - start of 2012 that Kespa really joined too. And then in LoL, you had about a year and a half of leagues before Kespa finally jumped in and made some teams in 2013. So it’s not too surprising to see Kespa hold off and not jump into Overwatch just yet. And frankly, I personally don’t think Overwatch needs Kespa. I have not been a huge fan of how Kespa’s done things in the past, so I personally hope that Kespa will sort of stay out of it, or there will be some sort of new player organization that will come in with Overwatch. I’d like to see something that was run by the teams. I’d like to see a player organization that was managed partially by the players, but also the management of the existing teams, which is harder because most of these teams don’t have big owners and don’t have big coaches yet. I think it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen Kespa jump in yet, and maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if Kespa stayed away from this game in general.
Speaking of APEX, one team missing from the tournament was Misfits. How do you think their presence instead of say NRG could have affected the tournament? Do you think that they could have even won the whole thing, even though the Beyblade comp, which they were known for, fell out of meta?
DoA: It’s hard to say because I wasn’t really following Misfits during the time APEX league was going on. I was focusing on the teams here in Korea, so I personally can’t really judge Misfits’ quality of play against what we saw here in APEX, and it's also hard to do. When you see teams play in different regions, you can look at things like individual play, ult management, engages, and say, “oh, this team seems to be better than the other team,” but until you see them actually play each other, it’s hard to say. I think the way [APEX] was, Misfits would have probably done pretty well, I don’t think anybody can question that. But with how good EnVyUs got at the end of the tournament, because of the shifts in the meta, and picking up Mickey after Talespin left the team, I think it would be tough to imagine any team beating EnVyUs in the state they were in at the end of APEX. I think Misfits would have done well, but not win APEX. It's hard to say though haha.
I want to now shift into the other game you cast, League of Legends. I know that you declined casting Worlds due to scheduling conflicts. In the future, do you think you will cast future international Riot sanctioned LoL tournaments, like MSI or the world championship, if your schedule permits?
DoA: It’s always possible. I think that right now, the relationship I have with Riot Games would make it a little bit tough for me to go and do that. I don’t think they're my biggest fans right now to be frank about it. But I will say this, I always absolutely loved working with Riot’s production staff. I’ve seldom had more fun than at events like MSI and Worlds 2015. The other Riot casters are awesome. They’re great to work with. The production crew is great. It’s just certain individuals in the esports department that I frankly think are running things pretty poorly and that includes how they interact with talent, especially freelance talent, and they’re own talent too, to a certain extent. And so a lot of the issues that Monte has spoken about very publicly in the past, I’m definitely on board with those sentiments as well. And you know the way he was treated, his team ownership issues and things like that. Frankly, [Montecristo] and I are business partners, but we’re also close friends too, and I don’t like it when my friends are treated like that, so that makes me not really want to work with Riot as well. I love working with the production side of Riot. I love the casters; they are great. The events are awesome, the fans are great, the game is great. But the esports department has some issues that are unfortunately gonna prevent me from working with them in the future. Who knows, I’d love to, but I doubt it will happen.
What are your thoughts on the new KT Rolster super team that was built over this offseason? Do you think they are far and away the best LCK team?
DoA: Next to SKT, yes. Seriously though, they look awesome, but we’ll see what happens. I mean, there’s been “super teams” before, right? Incredible Miracle at the start of last year should have been a lot better than they were, so it’s hard to say. You can put a lot of individual talent together in a team, and we’ve seen that in the past. But it really is down to if the chemistry is there between the players, and if the players get along with the coaching staff. Tentatively, they look really good, but we won’t really know until we see them playing some games and see how [KT] works altogether. It is exciting though.
Many high profile Korean players have moved over to NA during this offseason. Do you think this will make NA a Worlds contender, or will this turn out to be China 2.0?
DoA: I don’t think NA teams are necessarily going to be “Worlds contenders.” I mean, the fact is that when Korean players move to NA, it's kind of like a vacation or retirement of sorts, I think. You are not going to find the same quality of practice and motivation in NA. It sounds harsh to say it that way, but I think time and time again, results have proven this to be true. And when you hear about the practice schedules and things like that, it just doesn’t seem like NA will be competitive in that they’ll have a chance to win Worlds. We can certainly see a team reach the semifinals come from NA. Sure that’s possible, especially with a lot of the good players that moved over to NA this year, like you said. But winning Worlds, I just can’t see it happening, especially with the way Korea practices. It would be cool to see. I’m from NA, I would love to see this. But realistically, I doubt it.
Final Question: Will SKT win Worlds again?
DoA: Yeah, why not. At the start of every year, I’ve predicted SKT to win Worlds, and I’ve been right what three out of four times now. I will make my official statement here. SKT will win Worlds 2017 haha.
I just want to thank you for doing this interview. Do you have any final words to say to your fans?
DoA: Well, I guess more than anything, thanks for the opportunity to do the interview. Thanks to the fans for supporting me over the years and my casting. I’ve been a little bit incognito over the past few months because of wedding, vacation, honeymoon stuff and all that. I promise a whole lot more content coming in 2017; a lot of really exciting stuff is on the way. Definitely keep an eye out for that. I also just appreciate [my fans] for following me from game to game. I started out in Starcraft 2, spent some time in League of Legends, and now I’m spending a lot of time in Overwatch. I appreciate it and hope they stick around.
Once again, I would like to thank DoA for taking time out of his schedule to sit down and do this interview with me. You can follow DoA on his twitter @ggDoA. You can also catch DoA casting OGN’s LCK and APEX series when those leagues return.
Photo courtesy of ESL
Interview by Malcolm Abbas. Follow him on Twitter @SmashhLoL.