Last month I sat down with LPL expert and recently turned- OPL color caster Indiana “Froskurinn” Black to discuss what makes the League of Legends OCE region unique, and who she thinks will win the 2016 OPL Split 1.
You’ve been a a coach in the EUCS, a caster for the LPL, and now a caster for the OPL. How do you think OCE compares to the rest of the world, and what, if anything, makes it unique?
In terms of skill level, people always make this joke about OCE being bronze and NA being gold and stuff like that. But if you take a top tier OPL team and put them in a North American or European competition, they’ll probably do just fine, they’ll probably end up mid-tier. Spawn (fellow OPL caster, Jake Tiberi) said it really well when he said something along the lines of “When the International wildcard teams go to Worlds, they are playing against the first and second seeds from North America and Europe, and they beat them- not consistently- but it’s not like it doesn’t happen.” And you know what, for all these grand statements that people make about OCE being bronze, not a lot of people can tell you the difference between an OPL game and a North American LCS game or even an LCS game and an LCK game.
Because there isn’t one or because they are very subtle?
Because they are very subtle and about very high strategy. Let’s consider the Koreans and why the Koreans have been on top for so long. It’s because of their objective priority or objective identification, their command and control of vision and the fact that they understand that vision itself is an objective. Typically you have monster objectives- red, blue, dragon, baron- and structural objectives- towers, inhibitors, the nexus. Then we have this concept of vision- stealth wards and pink wards. Well, what is the difference between a stealth ward and a pink ward? You can see one, and you can’t see the other. It’s about gaining invisible information vs challenging or contesting for information. When a team lays down a pink ward and you can see it, you think “Ok, so they are getting information off of this, i’m going to destroy it,” and it takes 5 hits to do so. Do you think the other team will just let you take their ward? No! They are going to fight over it.
So what the Koreans do really well is that they understand that people will fight over this desire to control information, and they will move it. What most other teams, Chinese, OPL teams, don’t understand is that vision is an objective. What they do is fight over Dragon and Baron which are fixed position on the maps. But if you don’t have your minion control wave it is very hard to transfer that monster objective into a structural objective. Koreans will pick up the vision, move it into your jungle, bait you to try to clear it and then they will kill you. And because it is much closer to the objective that they want, they will get there much faster. It’s about engineering these fights to be exactly where they want them to be.
The best team in the world right now is the Rox tigers and their Jungler is a battle ward Jungler but that subtle difference, no-one is going to talk about that. They are going to talk about how this guy flashed into a wall and be like “That guy is bronze, he’s so bad, NA is so much better” and yet i just saw that same flash in North America. Mechanically these guys are on a very similar level, like K1ng being able to orb walk a full attack speed Kogmaw, that’s the same thing you would see in the LPL. But the Koreans are a step above.
If players in OCE are mechanically on par or close to being on par with those in other regions, e.g. NA, what factors do you think are holding us back from performing better on the world stage?
Geographically, OCE got a very short end of the stick, and the fact that they have been able to perform the way they have, is amazing. Why does Turkey always win? The reason is that they can play on EU West. They get a higher level of practice and they get more cross regional experience. Geographically they are set to succeed. The same thing can be seen with Brazil- they can’t scrim NA but they can go on bootcamps to North America.
The thing is, to bootcamp an AU team and physically take them out of Australia, costs so much more money than anywhere else. It’s impractical.
So I actually had a concern that when people like Swiffer, Swip3rr, Carbon retire, the OCE scene would die off but thankfully there is a lot of up and coming talent in OCS – we’ve seen it with people like Wrecked and Cheese and Phantiks. OCE is put at every single disadvantage to excel on a global stage because of the location and the infrastructure and funding in the scene itself. Riot have done a phenomenal job to boost that up recently but I’d say the success OCE has found on an international stage so far is truly phenomenal.
What about the OCE community? How does that differ from elsewhere?
Vocabulary of the audience is very different. When we were casting at the International wildcard, we were talking about macro play and people didn’t know what we meant. If you’re watching the International Wildcard then you’re not completely new to the game and yet they didn’t know what we meant by ‘macro.’ In the LPL this is a standard vocabulary word. Macro is referring to the bigger picture, map play or strategic play. Micro play is mechanics- my ability to press my buttons and control my character better than you. Macro is my ability to think better than you. Like Sin gaming, they pound for pound do not have as many mechanically talented players as Legacy. How Sin were winning is that they were outthinking their opponents.
On the topic of Legacy, I recently interviewed Tim “Carbon” Wendel, and he mentioned that gaming houses should be the way forward for OPL teams if they wanted to succeed in coming years. What are your thoughts on this?
A gaming house has obviously worked very well for Legacy but you could also say that it didn’t work for Hellions.
Obviously no-one is going to disagree that spending more time practicing with your team as a unit and working on teamwork is going to lead to worse results. But I think that a gaming house is a very eastern mentality. It comes from Korea. The thing is that when you say “Big Brother” in Korea and “Big Brother” in the United States, they mean very different things. I mean typically “Big Brother” in Korea means leader of the house, oldest member of the team, the person you look up to and it’s all about family and bonding. In the states everyone is like “1984” and “invasion of privacy”… Cloud 9 and TSM have facilities, not houses, so they have an offsite location that they sit and work at. It’s to keep their work and living separate and to keep their stress separate. It’s a very Western thing to have your 9 to 5 job then go home to your personal space. It’s important to have your own personal space. I don’t think gaming houses are the best thing for Western teams because the culture is so different.
Who will win OPL Split 1 for 2016?
The Chiefs will win. I like Legacy as a team, they are super exciting and talented- I’m a big fan of K1ng- I really like that AD Carry- and Tally is god tier.
But I still think that the Chiefs last year were the best iteration of an OCE team because they were strong in both micro and macro. With Swiffer, they are very co-ordinated and clean.
Look, the skill disparity between the top teams and bottom teams is vast on an individual level- mechanically. So I think that plays into the decision making of a lot of teams. We see that some top tier teams make very risky plays because they know that they can outplay their opponent 1 v 1. They do this instead of trying to make the correct play. You can clearly see that in Legacy’s games.
I took a little flack because I said that Legacy don’t play macro- I think their manager was like “The boys take nothing for granted. You know, they’re scrimming all the time.” But I can only speak to what I’ve seen. What I’ve seen is cockiness, they play their opponents as opposed to the map because they know they can beat them that way. They’ll have to treat the Chiefs differently.
Change of pace now, let’s discuss your role as a caster. What kind of advice would you give to players/ coaches etc looking to transition to casting?
There is this mentality that if you’re not a professional player then you don’t know anything about the game. Professional players are a wealth of information and the things they say should be respected, they obviously have talent but to then use that as a justification to say that no-one else can have any authority on the game…ridiculous. If you’re spending all your time watching and analysing high level league of legends as opposed to playing it then you’re bound to know something, so I feel like people say “I can’t be a caster or an analyst because I’m silver…” but that shouldn’t be the mentality.
Also, it’s about understanding what people want. One of the biggest complaints we get as a broadcast team is that we don’t know anything about League of Legends. People say “I’m Bronze 3 or I’m Gold 2 and I know way more about this.” Obviously we all have to know stuff about League of Legends to get our position, so we had to ask ourselves “Why do our audience perceive that we don’t know anything about LoL?” We figured out that it came down to this issue of micro points. A micro point is going to be a mechanical interaction in the game itself, so something like how Yasuo’s windwall would work specifically on wall jumping. If we injected more micro points people perceived that as being more intelligent about the game, rather than doing a macro point.
Finally, what has been your favourite casting moment?
It’s actually really basic. It involves one of my favourite Chinese teams- it would probably be easier to ask me, ‘which Chinese team players do you not like?’, it would be a shorter list.
One of my favourite Chinese teams is OMG, they are one of the more well known Chinese teams because they competed at Worlds. They have this top laner called Gogoing. Gogoing is like a beast, a god of top lane, he was like a pillar for the community and for the league itself- think about Legacy players, like Carbon. His style was super aggressive, in your face, “i can take you down”… but he was benched. So he had this incredible Worlds performance and then right after worlds he is benched.
He seems to just be messing around, and OMG are floundering. They were the best team in China, and everyone respected them and they were amazing and then suddenly they just crashed down. Then it comes close to the time for play-offs. It’s do or die. OMG have to win this game if they are going to make it to play-offs. There has never been a time in history when OMG has not made play-offs, they are that dominant a team.
I’m with Pastrytime (fellow OPL caster, Julian Carr) who is the other LPL historian. They’re doing the team line-ups – keep in mind that China doesn’t really give us any information, we just have to wait and see who is on each team for each game- and we see that go-going is playing. And it’s kind of like this moment of ‘it’s do and die’, the king of top lane is back…
So we’re casting the game and go-going gets ganked top-lane, 2 v1, as his signature champion… and he kills both of them. Pastrytime and I were casting standing up to try and get more hype and Pastrytime goes nuts, and i literally stated jumping up and down. It wasn’t in front of a big crowd- I’ve casted in front of big crowds like with IME Cologne- this time we were just in this tiny little broom closet. But that moment in that storyline was one of those great moments. If you go back and listen to the VOD, you can hear my voice shake, I literally say “Welcome back to the LPL Go-going, it has been a while.”
Catch the 2016 OPL Split 1 Grand Final between Legacy and the Chiefs, Tuesday April 5th at 7pm live on the Riot Oceania Twitch channel or at selected cinemas.
If you’d like to keep up to date with Froskurinn on Twitter, you can follow her @lolFroskurinn.