Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel, March 11, 2017

In the Crossfire: IEM Katowice 2017 with Sadokist

Matthew "Sadokist" Trivett and his partner-in-crime Henry "HenryG" Greer are one of the three distinguished CS:GO casting duos. Well known for their fantastic wordplay and creative casting, the two also run Drop The Bomb TV, a weekly CS:GO show that is about to head into its second season. I caught up with Sadokist at IEM Katowice 2017 to discuss casting, Drop The Bomb TV, caster criticism and the Dust 2 rework.



Draulon: It is no secret that you guys have an insane schedule. For example, after casting at DreamHack Las Vegas, you had to fly back to Europe almost immediately to cast the ESL Pro League. How are you holding out?

Sadokist: That was actually like the worst jet lag I’ve ever had. I didn’t force myself to sleep on the plane, so it’s partly my own fault. We were pretty wrecked after Vegas anyways, it was a long event. Overall, you just kinda get used to it. I am pretty fortunate that I don’t get a lot of jet lag, so Henry is a lot worse than I am. The hardest part is keeping my voice in check.

Lately I’ve had issues with that, and it is kinda annoying. I am not overly happy about that, so it’s something I have worked on for a long time. For example this week at Katowice in the group stages, the game on Inferno when Astralis was playing, Xyp9x had a 1v3, during that I held my voice together, but at the dev1ce clutch, at the last second you can hear me let all my air out, and it ripped on my vocal cords. That is something that you want to do only in the finals. Because if you make a mistake and lose your voice, it’s the finals, but if you do it too soon it can be really costly. I try to be more disciplined so that’s the biggest thing I gotta continue to work on.

Draulon: How is Katowice treating you so far?

Sadokist: Straightforward, IEM has been at Katowice enough times that usually there are not too many issues, I know the League tournament had a pretty major issue, but CS:GO was fortunate that there was only a small issue that they had to fix. In terms of the crowd, it has been a little more calm than what we normally see, and I think that mostly has to do with the fact that Virtus.pro didn’t make it through, which is a bit unfortunate. With that said, they are still here, large numbers, still supporting. It has a good atmosphere, whole city knows about IEM, all the hotels are booked… there is definitely a very good feel to the city when we are here.

Draulon: Let’s talk about the format a little bit, as it is a frequently discussed topic online. Based on your experience, what is the ideal tournament format for CS:GO?

Sadokist: Ideal format is a hard question. Let me first say that I don’t think this format is that bad. I think it is good to have a few changes in format time to time because it does create different results and different results are important. I think it is big for Heroic to make it through to the playoffs, it is really important that they get the exposure that they have received from that. If you lose three BO1s, maybe it isn’t a BO3, but it still means you lost three games in a day and that you didn’t show up. I know the groups were close, could have gone either way, but there were upsets. It shows that you weren’t on your “best behaviour”.

I think the ideal format is still the Swiss format, but instead of everyone playing one day, you should take the Swiss format, break it into two groups just to start it off, so that you play two games in one day, eight teams, then the other group plays two games the second day, and then, once everyone is 1-0 or 0-1, then you split it up into a full pool of everyone else. Just so teams get a chance to get more than one game in a day, and they get a day off so they can regroup if they are not feeling it. I think that’s perfect. So a group that breaks into a Swiss if that makes any sense. The ultimate would be if we could do BO3 all the way through, but that is costly, means a lot of scheduling, so that is not gonna happen. Not in the current landscape at least.

Draulon: So let’s shift the focus to Drop The Bomb TV. You mentioned you are working on the second season. Could you give us a little insight on what you have planned for this season?

Sadokist: So we are redoing the entire video intro, just to modify it and make it more modern, keep it up with where we want to be with the show. We are doing ten episodes, that was always the plan. First season had six episodes because we wanted to do enough that we can build in a series, but we didn’t want to bite off more than we can chew.

The episodes will be independent from the features, we will still run them during the episodes, but there won’t be one every episode. There will be five features, which will give us more time to do even more with the features. They were great last season but they will be even better this time. We are looking to potentially bring in a second producer to do more visuals during the show itself, strategy breakdowns… statistics, more graphics and highlights. Stuff that adds a lot of dynamic to the show instead of looking at our ugly faces when we talk. We were planning to start mid-March, but we are in negotiations for funding that could take a little bit longer, so we may bump it to April, but there will be an announcement really soon, at least within the next two weeks.

We will condense the show a little bit, so it will be more to the point, topic will be more broken down. If everything goes perfectly, we will have one live show, meaning that if we are at Pro League or ESL One: Cologne, we will have like a small tent on the first day before the event, we will bring in 40 to a 100 people as an audience and hopefully a player too. Player will be a part of it so there will be a signing session afterwards. It will be more of an open concept where we will have crowd interaction and we will have little more fun with it. On the cards I am not sure if it will happen this year, but we really hope that it can.

Draulon: The topic of criticizing casters has left the CS:GO community quite divided in the past few weeks. On one hand you have people who would like to give honest feedback, while on the other hand people see most of the criticism baseless. Personally, how would you like to receive feedback on your work?

Sadokist: Constructive criticism is the best. People don’t realize sometimes how much we see. I know I have couple of crutches, someone pointed out that I say “lovely” too much, and I was already aware of that, but when they pointed it out I was like: “Okay I need a shock collar, and every time I say it I give myself a little shock”. I say “wrap around” quite a bit too.

Constructive is the key. It can’t just be “oh you know he is a sh*t caster I don’t like him”. That’s nothing, you just sound like an a**hole at that point and I am just going to ignore you. When people come in a good tone and are positive about it, have points that they think are valid, it’s great.

The other thing that needs to stop are the constant comparisons. The “I prefer this duo over this duo”, “this duo is the best in the world, not these guys”. Take it for what it is, if someone is good it doesn’t mean the others are bad, just means you have a preference which is completely valid and it’s fine. I think we are spoiled in CS:GO to have three incredible duos and a number of other talent. Pansy and moses have been excellent this week at Katowice. We are spoiled, but just because you like one doesn’t mean you have to hate the others. I think people need to remember that and be supportive of all of them.

Dan and James are very different from Anders and Semmler who are very different from Henry and I. You just have to keep that in mind.

 

Draulon: Going back to the repeated phrases you mentioned: is it necessarily a bad thing? Don’t you think it adds to the personality of the caster?

Sadokist: To an extent. It depends on the context by which it is said. So it is called a “crutch” in the industry, because what it means is that you lean on that phrase. When something happens it is your go-to, because either you are locked into saying it so much that you just ingrain it into your mind, or you don’t know what else to say so you just say it.

What you are saying I think is more like the Anders “Are you kidding me?” kind of stuff. I don’t really have one in a hype moment, I tend to do rhymes but I make them a little bit different.

Tasteless (StarCraft caster) when he is casting StarCraft, his “GG”. When he does that, it’s fine. It’s his signature. But when you are saying phrases in mid-sentence like “Oh that is a lovely shot”, I say that a lot and I am aware of of it totally. Why don’t I say “beautiful”, or “gorgeous”, or “magnificent”. Thing is I know all these words and I can think about those words, but I have said “lovely” so many times that it is basically auto-pilot.

The problem with a crutch is that when it becomes that repetitive, it starts to sound like you lack creativity, which is something I certainly don’t lack but it can easily come off that way. I think personality and catch phrases are very different than crutches.

 

Over the years, HenryG and Sadokist have become essential to have at large events.
Over the years, HenryG and Sadokist have become essential to have at large events.

Draulon: In the past few years, a lot of changes have been made to production at esports events, especially to the analyst desk. YNk’s weatherman segments come to mind for instance. Casting though, has remained relatively the same during the years. Would you like to see any changes to how casting is done?

Sadokist: I think the analyst desk has the biggest room for improvement, there is still so much more they could do. The guys on the desk have such a mind for the game and we have such a great group, we have SPUNJ who has just come in, YNk is always great, Thorin is a fantastic story teller. I think Thorin on a desk itself works very well. I think YNk, SPUNJ and even Natu can be utilized in a more in-depth role, be that prerecorded content or weatherman segments like you say.

Casting itself you can’t change too much. It is what it is, it is talking about the game as it happens. In order to change that, what could you do? What could you bring to it? You can bring different replays or different storylines produced by the producers, but overall the format has to stay. It is in existence because of what exists in the game and you can’t really change that.

You can talk about roles, like Anders and Semmler are hybrid, Henry and I are probably in Counter-Strike right now the most traditional in that I do play-by-play and he does color casting. Casting itself is fine, I think it is the desk where there could be so much more done.

The other thing you could do is a secondary stream, like a “noob stream” like Purge did, where you get more different POVs and explanations, where you could leave the analyst mics open for the game where they literally just talk about what they see in the game instead of casting it. You could try stuff like that.

Draulon: Recently you talked about some changes you would like to see in the Dust 2 rework. Do you have any more thoughts on the subject?

Sadokist: I mean I am not sitting on a drawing board saying “they should definitely do this”. The hard part is: how do you change Dust 2 without ruining the whole traditional aspect of the map. It is the most traditional map in CS:GO. I think if people got over that, you could do a lot more with it, but that is a very hard thing for the community to accept, so Valve has a tough task.

First and foremost, it is definitely going to get a facelift, it will look much prettier when it is back. Little bit of plastic surgery. My idea kinda stems from the open skybox that existed in CS:S. I know Henry has a very different opinion on that because he played Source and he said there were a lot of issues, like you could almost smoke B site from spawn and immediately fake it and rush A.

I just think the tunnels themselves with the darkness and the dark CT colors when they push through… it’s very limited. Even if you put like a non-breakable window or something in there, I just think it would be aesthetically pleasing.

The other thing you could do instead of opening market (and I do want to see more smokes to B, I understand people are worried about the retakes so we will touch on that in a second), give me at least one skylight I can throw a smoke out of, one molotov or something, that can be used both ways. It doesn’t just have to the Terrorists smoking in, you can also think that a Molotov could land in from mid as the CTs are rotating to B to hold off a push. Think pistol round, put a smoke in there early to slow down the rush. It’s like a gamble. You could potentially utilize it for the CTs to push in as well. So there are some things specifically that by lifting the market roof as opposed to the skyboxes could be beneficial to the CTs. If you open the skyboxes, the smokes are just going to go in a huge open area in the T side of the area that won’t do anything, but if the market is open, the CTs could actually smoke the tunnels themselves and potentially push.

I don’t think the retakes or holding B is the issue. I know Dupreeh said that it is the hardest position to hold, and I actually agree with him to a point because there is only so much utility you can use to hold off that chokepoint, then they rush you down. But I don’t think that is so much the issue as much as it is if you can play two in the site. Because the reason you can’t play two in the site right now is that mid is so hard to hold, but when you change mid, you change everyone that plays A, you change the default setup, so there is a lot of things they have to consider.

Look, I don’t know if my idea is the best or not, but I am glad it created discussion and I am glad that people are actively thinking about this, because that means Valve has some feedback. I am not going to say my idea will change the way it goes for Valve, but ideas like mine that people notice, Valve will at least take into consideration and think “maybe we could try that”.

At least it gives them some feedback to work with.

Sadokist and Draulon can be followed on their Twitter accounts at @Sadokist and @Draulon.


Image credits: DreamHack | Adela Sznajder, IEM | Helena Kristiansson
Interview edited for clarity

Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel

Blaze is a student who currently lives in Europe and has a great interest in Counter Strike and competitive games. He spends his time hitting the gym or working on various game dev projects where he has a role in management or 3D graphics. You can follow him on twitter @draulon