BafiK: "At the moment, the analytics is a more entertaining content rather than the analytical one"

Two gaming days are over. Flying Penguins and Vici Gaming have made it to the playoffs. Was it a surprise that Flying Penguins were the first to advance to the final stage?

— I expected more that OG or RNG would make it. Our guys, Old but Gold, also were able to fight for it. EternaLEnVy has prepared well, Flying Penguins have met for the first at a LAN, they hadn’t met before. FP have been playing for three weeks and they are in a good period now, which can be called “a peacock-feathers courting stage” and it has happened at this tournament. I think that this is a reason for their success at the tournament.

All three playoff matches will be hosted on March 10. Two matches will be carried out in a bo3 format and the third one will be a bo5 series. Might the fatigue factor influence players?

— We have already hosted tournaments with the same format for a number of times. We had this at all previous events if I remember correctly. In my opinion, we carried out three Minors last year: two in Kiev and one in China. All Kiev Minors were organized this way last year and there were no problems. Two bo3 matches are an optimal format for players. Actually, one bo3 or bo5 match would be perfect but making a few best-of-3 matches and one best-of-5 is normal. You can live with it, you can play it. It is possible that it will be tedious if super difficult series are played where there are all three maps in the semi-final and five maps are played in the final. But they can be played, actually. Even being a player, I took part in more difficult matches.

The new patch has been released in Dota 2 recently, in which the model of Draw Ranger has been updated and the new hero, Mars, has been added. Did you like the new model or didn’t pay much attention to it?

— I didn’t pay much attention to it. I probably noticed in Auto Chess that the model has updated. I haven’t faced Drow Ranger in Dota yet. I have played 3-4 matches there. I have faced Mars once and haven’t met Drow at all. That is right that it has been updated. The game needs to be updated all the time, it becomes out-of-date after all when the time passes. There is a big increase of players in Dota, considering that Auto Chess has popularized Dota and its client. The model is attractive, so the in-game content must be updated. This is a normal practice.

Do you like the new hero, Mars, or not?

— It happened that we had a media day before the tournament and the release of Mars was scheduled at the time of the media day. I have not even fully learned about his skills yet, I saw that it had been released but I managed to play against this hero only yesterday. I entered a match, it was picked and only then I read about his skills and saw what he can. Mars is a specific hero, it doesn’t seem to be broken or something like this for me. It’s unclear now how it should be used. I didn’t have problems with it in the game. I beat it, without knowing what he could do, but I figured out during the match. It has an interesting ultimate and a skill, which I would call a reverse version of Bristleback’s skill. You always need to try playing on it with a forward push. It’s probably some kind of a tank or so-called bruiser (Bruiser is a kind of a hero, which is a mix of carry and tank, which can receive a lot of damage and attacks well in response — editor’s note). He should be an initiator, we’ll see how it is played but it’s difficult for me to say. I haven’t played on it and I can’t make conclusions.

With regard to adding new heroes, we can remember the time when Dota 2 had very few heroes. For example, only 46 heroes had been at the first The International and 115 were at the eighth one. In your opinion, is a big number of heroes good or bad?

— That may sound strange but I, actually, like the LoL’s policy in this term. I would cite this game as an example. The first Dota was full of heroes, so there was progress, a development, people wanted something new, a new content because the monotony becomes boring. That’s why we have been interesting for as many years as the Dota exists, without considering the first one. The second Dota has been live since 2011. We have 2019 now and the number of players is not small and the number of viewers who watch broadcasts of matches and tournaments is even bigger. Consequently, you need to understand: regular updates, including new heroes and remaking of the old ones, are required to keep the game fresh for so much time. If we are talking about some kind of a glut of heroes, which I doubt a lot, even about 150 heroes are not a problem. Some heroes can be always removed from Captains Mode. I will tell about how this situation works in LoL. Riot Games had released heroes every two weeks, in fact, and then understood that there was a glut and they began changing old heroes. This is a normal way of development. Keeping it fresh is a way of regular updates in the game. This is the only way, in which the game, which has been existing for so long and is so popular, must work. The number of options doesn’t decrease but only increases. This is complex chess.

Let’s speak about your casting work. How did you become interested in the esports and how did you become a caster?

— I was just playing a lot in my time and even tried myself in the professional esports. I had amateur teams in Kiev, then pro-teams, I played with Iceberg and Resolut1on at one moment. They were too young at that time. After that, there was a certain history, after which I refused from the idea of becoming a player and decided to do more more-to-earth things. I got a job and then run a business. I got tired of it later and returned back to Kiev from my small town Korosten. It turns out that all my familiar people from the esports were there and after the guys from WePlay! asked me to help them in one project, I was working with them for a while. After that, this happened by accident that I started casting. This was not my goal, it just happened so. We didn’t have a caster for one match and I had to cast it somehow, everything started from it. I casted one match, a second one, a third one, a fourth one, a tenth one, then received an invite to The International. That’s how I became a caster but that was not my initial goal. Probably, it was a certain circumstance. Of course, I would not stay there and would not do this if I didn’t like it. Actually, I rarely do something that I don’t like. It has happened that I had become a caster and I am glad that it has happened this way and there was no plan on this.

What was the brightest and most unforgettable moment in your casting career?

— Unfortunately, my memory is not very good but I have one very strong flashback — the last The International if I am not mistaken. We were casting PSG.LGD vs Team Liquid with CaspeRRR. I have never felt such a thing. The venue was full of a public, which was chanting a lot, and chants were very strong. We can even find VODs (VODs — replays — editor’s note) and recall this. When you are casting there, you don’t hear yourself and such moments, actually, make you work on casting, work in the esports because this is a feeling, which is worth living. It’s a very strong thing. We have always had cool tournaments at the arena in Kiev, the guys support teams very cool and always chant. They always respond to your words and this is very strong too. But the scale that was at the stadium at that moment can’t be compared to what we have now even at the arena. If we gather 300 people or even 400, they are loud, cool but it can’t be compared to the emotions you receive at The International when 5-7 thousand people or even more are chanting there. To be honest, I even don’t remember how many people were there but it felt like there were 20 thousand (Bafik didn’t make a mistake, Rogers Arena can include more than 19,000 people — editor’s note).

Is chanting in the esports similar to chanting in classic big sports? How fast did we get to it? For, example, if we compare the esports to the big football, how much time do we need to get to a level of big sports?

— We don’t need to seek to make the fan subculture be like in sports. The fan culture is very specific in the sports, especially if you cite a football as an example. In my view, this is a very bad one because usual people and football fans, not ultras, but simple guys who visit a stadium don’t differ a lot from those who come to our tournaments now. These are ordinary people who just want to have some fun from watching, receive emotions, an impression and in fact, they have a lot of pleasure when something good, something fun, something pleasurable happens. There are ultras too — the guys who support their team till the very end. This is another culture, another specific and I think that we will get to this not very fast. Historically, ultras groups are formed by a history of a team, which has a rich history, some remarkable players, moments. There are no such teams in the esports, especially in Dota. Some kind of team culture only starts forming and some fan groups will emerge around a certain team. We have simple and young guys, I would say that they are not so aggressive. However, I think that we will have ultras one day but this is not very possible, of course. We have a more peaceful history, but which is very-very explosive in terms of love to Dota because the love to Dota creates the emotions we receive here. People chant, clap in a hall after each kill and that’s very cool. In fact, I don’t think that we need to tend to something or someone. We have our own culture, atmosphere and it is developing on its own.

What if we compare the coverage in the esports and the football? Some people say that we are far from football, someone says that we are close. What do you think about this?

— We are not far and not close, we are different. These are the incomparable things. Of course, we can compare the coverage of the esports and the football but in practice, football matches are covered by a certain number of cameras at a stadium, different angles, and a direction. The same thing is in Dota: a certain number of observers and cameras work there, with which different events that happen on the map can be shown. At the same time, there is a directing work, which controls observers and manages how the broadcasting of a match is carried out. In my opinion, the coverage of Dota is realized at 90% maybe. That’s my opinion. Guys from Wepos, who work on the coverage of Dota really well, are working for us. Their objective is a camera work in Dota. All they do is additional information, which a viewer can watch on a screen.

The main problem, which separates us from what happens in the big sports, is what is going on between matches. Our studio of analytics now is shabby in terms of technical coverage because it is just chatter. Everything we see is an analysis of a match and all depends on people who are on camera, they don’t have normal instruments, so the whole studio of analytics, which exists (a tournament and an operator doesn’t matter), doesn’t have an infographic, it has nothing to work with. The only thing, to which we are getting used to now and with which we have recently come up, is an information desk where a person explains some particular moments. In other words, there is at least some participation of the game in what is going on in a discussion. What do we do? Watch highlights, statistics, and talk. It’s difficult to operate. At the moment, the analytics is a more entertaining content rather than the analytical one. So we are probably behind the big sports and its coverage in terms of this. From the perspective of what we broadcast, I think that we have grown up very well but again, I am talking about top coverage. If you want to observe Dota beautifully, you will need to involve the best. It works the same in the sports: involve the best survey, set up your stadium with a flying camera and so on. I think that we are doing brilliant in terms of this and we move in a right direction but need to keep working on what happens between matches because there is “a gloom” there and we have a lot of room for improvement.

We know you as a caster from StarLadder. Was there a moment in your career, due to which we would be able to see you in a different studio nowadays?

— Of course, such moments were, they will always be. There are always some behind-the-scenes talks, ideas and so on. There was a period when I was talking with a famous person about a potential moving. I had an unlucky and emotionally difficult period. I had to change something at that moment. As a result, the negotiation didn’t yield results. What is more, all the problems, which I had, resolved. Now, such talks are extremely rare because all people are probably waiting for you to come to them. You need to understand that many people and many studios don’t look a lot at who works on camera, I would say. I think that the selection of employees is not actual now. There are people who have come to a studio, for example, 15-20 people who work on Dota, and I think that nothing will happen until someone of them leaves. There will be no new faces and my shift is not necessary because each studio has its own representatives and they have plenty of them. I am not needed in RuHub, I am unlikely to be needed in Maincast and I am on my own place in StarLadder. That’s why I don’t have plans to move somewhere now.

I have heard such an opinion that CS:GO is more difficult to cast than Dota 2. Do you agree with this or not?

— I don’t know. I have never casted CS:GO and don’t know how to do this. I watch Counter-Strike very rarely and play it extremely rarely, so I probably can’t say what is more difficult. If I am not mistaken, v1lat has said that CS:GO is more difficult to cast. I do not agree with this. I think that Dota is the most difficult game among representatives of the esports games. Maybe, StarCraft can compete too, it’s difficult for me to be an expert because I am not good at it too. In terms of esports component, I am more impressed by StarCraft and Dota. Counter-Strike is a mechanically and tactically strong game but why is CS:GO easier to cast? The threshold of understanding should be lower there. For example, if I cast Counter-Strike, I will not know 90% of spots but I will be able to make this match easy for viewers to understand. I can’t imagine what I have to do to explain a viewer in a common way in Dota. We try and tend to make the coverage of Dota be as understandable as possible. We often speak in a simple language and this is one of the ides but the threshold of entering Dota is way higher for viewers and a caster than in Counter-Strike. After all, there is the only understandable scenario in CS:GO: there are terrorists, counter-terrorists and a bomb but there are a great variety of tactics and how they work. There are two ancients in Dota, we can exaggerate it in the same way but the number of heroes and tactics is overwhelming. With regard to a number of options and variables, there is a lot more of them here than in CS:GO. It is possible that Counter-Strike is more difficult to cast on a very good level. In general, you can learn and become familiar with CS:GO but it’s way difficult to master Dota, in my opinion.

What can you advise people who want to become an analyst or a caster?

— I worked a lot with people in my life and even hired them and such stories happened both in the esports and outside of it. The first questions, which must be asked to a person who wants to become a caster: “Why do you need this? Why do you want to become a caster? What can you give a viewer as a caster? Why does a viewer need to watch you?” To be honest, 90% of people who were asked these questions were unable to answer. They regularly ask me how to become a caster, I, in turn, ask the certain question but there is no answer usually. People simply don’t know what to answer. Don’t try to get there until you don’t answer the questions “Why do you want to be a caster?”, “Why do you think that you have to be here and work on it?”. Everything comes out of this. If you answer these questions and understand that this is what you need and you realize it in your head, you will find your own ways, you will find out how to get in. All guys make it. Many people think that there is total nepotism and so on but in fact, nepotism spreads only after you have made it. I have been into the esports since 2007-2008 since I was a child. Despite this, I have got into casting not with the help of v1lat. What are the ways to a casting profession? — Volunteering. Come to a company on other vacancies and not right as a caster. After that, begin offering your services slowly, speak with people, meet them. You need to create a favorable atmosphere to be heard.

I have cited a good scene from “House of Cards” when Kevin Spacey comes home in one of the first seasons and a homeless man often shouts near his house. He shouts one episode, the second one, the third one and he always ignores his and he comes to this homeless in the fourth episode and says: “While you are sitting here bare, barefoot, with nothing, stuck near a pole, no one hears you. When you are in my place and shout, everyone will hear you.”

This means that you need to create understandable conditions for yourself so that you don’t just write questions “How to get into the esports?”. Become a volunteer, come to a tournament as a volunteer, meet me, meet other guys. We were at a tournament in Kazakhstan, some guys sent me VODs and we got to know each other there. You need to know how to find an approach to people. If you don’t know how to do that, you will not be a caster, actually. There is no caster who doesn’t know how to communicate. Otherwise, this is a bad caster. If you know what you want, you will not ask this question.