Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

So here we are, the end of 2016 is upon us and I thought it would be a good idea to create a blog post of my journey throughout this year, as it was some what of a roller coaster and of course a bit has changed for me.

At this point last year (in 2015 going into 2016) I was still of course at Frostburn Studios, continuing the day to day of working on Heroes of Newerth and casting yet another season of HoN Tour with season 4.  I continued to enjoy casting HoN, however after doing it for ~5 years at this point, I no doubt was going through phases where I was just simply going through the motions.  That on top of a clear decline in the competitive scene, as well as more lay offs happening within the company, it became harder and harder to justify sticking just with Heroes of Newerth.

In April, another blow of sorts happened to HoN when Sam aka Milkfat announced that he would be leaving Frostburn to go work for Blizzard on the HotS esports team as well as Beef earning a full time job with compLexity Gaming and no longer being able to assist with HoN as a result.  Of course I was happy and excited in both of these cases as they are both good friends of mine, and no doubt these were "dream jobs" of sorts, but it did make things even harder when it came to HoN and continuing to have the passion for it.

This would lead into June, where I would be traveling out to Thailand to attend the HoN Tour Season 4 World Finals.  Because of recent events and some other things not worth getting into, I was a bit concerned and honestly was hesitant on event wanting to go in the first place because of this.  But knowing there was a chance this could be the last HoN Tour Finals, at least for me, I decided just go and make the best of it.

Honestly, because of the VERY hard work of my co-workers who were still around, it actually turned out pretty good and actually had some fun results on top of it with Complexity Gaming, a team that initially didn't even qualify, getting to the finals over heavily favored Sync Esports.  To top it all off a team from Thailand finally won it all, in a way making a statement that the Thai scene has officially taken over when it comes to competitive HoN.

As the event wrapped up, I knew I had wanted to give some kind of message to the community simply because of rumors that this could be the last season of HoN Tour, as well as my personal future not being certain either.  However I did not expect myself to choke up and sit there on the caster desk after we actually finished, crying for a good couple of minutes before being able to gather myself.  But it was at that point where I just felt a mix of joy and sadness on what the last 5+ years of my life had been and how overall amazing of a ride it was and how much it had done for me on a personal level.

To be clear, I still did not know what I would be doing in my future as I went out to Thailand and wouldn't be decided for a while after.  But I do remember driving home from the airport after finally reaching home in the states with my co-worker and friend Brenton aka Fauxaccount, and we talked about what we both thought the future would be for HoN and ourselves.  It got me really thinking about maybe now was actually the time to move on with my esports and streaming career, something I no doubt had thought about for a while.

When I knew I would be making the decision to do my own thing, I reached out to my good friend and had her create a logo for myself that I would use as a brand of sorts to help kick it all off.  I was thrilled with the outcome and it really helped motivate me and make me realize that this was all actually happening!

Now we are catching up to where my announcement post happened that I would be leaving Frostburn full time to pursue my career as a full time streamer and caster in esports.  This would be followed by my previous blog post of my 3 month journey so far.  There have also been a couple more things that have taken place, including my official announcement that I would be joining Code Red, an Esports talent agency that is headed by very respected names Redeye and Capatalist.  Oh, and I got 3k MMR in Dota 2, which isn't that great, but it was a personal goal of mine before the year ended!  This was really a cherry on top of what has been an epic finish to 2016 for myself and I am positive it will only continue to get better in 2017.

As for what my goals are in 2017, well maybe I will have to write another blog post for that...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My 3 month journey so far

Three months ago on September 15th, I had my first official stream as a full time streamer and caster of esports.  What that really means, honestly I still don't have a very clear answer.  But at what cost?  Well, I no longer work for Frostburn Studios full time where I had been employed for the last 5 years, including the 3 previous years I spent as a part of S2 Games.

Instead, after many conversations and getting full support from my amazing wife (thegoodgeekwife aka DuchessCPK), I went the route of the unknown and uncertainty that is working freelance.  Some may call this crazy, giving up a guaranteed pay check every two weeks, benefits such as health insurance, all while owning a house and a new truck with payments to make.  Sometimes though, you have to take these leaps for the ultimate better, and that is what I really believe I am doing here, for both my personal career as well as the eventual outcome of better support for my family.

So I kicked it all off with an announcement to the HoN community and my fans in general as far as what I would be doing moving forward.  As I made this announcement post, my heart was racing really not knowing what the general reaction would be like.... would fans be upset?  I was leaving a game for the most part that had been my life for the last 5-6 years, a game with passionate fans.  It turns out nearly every response and tweet and reply I got was nothing but positive.  If anything people were upset that "It took so long".

So with that out of the way, it helped reinforce both for myself and my wife that I was making the right decision.  Oh, and then there was the fact that a guy named PPD online. Yes, the PPD that is one of the most successful esport players of all time, reached out to me after he saw my post asking if I was interested in flying out to the EG team house to help them cast a big Dota 2 tournament.  Initially I was uncertain as I was still really new to the game, but after talking it over with close friends and family, I decided that this is why I am doing this, for opportunities like this.

So my streaming journey would begin on September 16th and I would kick it off with a AMA stream to answer questions people may had concerning my journey, which again went great.  This would continue to be a theme really through out these 3 months so far, that I continue to just get amazing support from old and new fans a like.

After a couple weeks of successful streaming and casting any Dota 2 games I could find, I would fly out to California where I would join PPD and GrandGrant on casting the MDL event which was happening in China.  Along with this being my first official Dota 2 event I would cover, it would also take place at a pretty awful time due to happening in China.  So not only was I going back three hours from EST to PST, but we would start casting at ~10 PM PST each night, and go to about 5 or 6 AM in the morning.

Honestly, I don't know if I did that well at this event at least on the casting part, between the awkward timezone, my lack of experience and even just the very laid back casting environment (which being a hype caster isn't really my best strength) I felt pretty "meh" after.  However, I do still think it was worth it and working with both PPD and GrandGrant was an amazing opportunity. Two very smart Dota 2 minds. I learned a lot, so I thank them for carrying the casting.

The MDL event also made me realize how much I still have to learn about the game Dota 2.  Sure, it has similarities to HoN, but a lot has changed since I really have been invested in dota a while ago.  So over time on my stream I would make a point to really focus on a lot of these heroes and items that I didn't really know yet to help me better my knowledge.  I would do this by just watching/casting random games, to continuing my unranked journey while prioritizing on playing said unfamiliar heroes.

I also reached out to of course many contacts that I made over the years from HoN and traveling to events, making a point at what my intentions are personally moving forward and how I am actively looking for any opportunities.  This helped me get a couple of casting opportunities, including several with BTS and MoonduckTV, which once again felt great and I learned a lot from.

Now I have also made a point since the beginning that I did not plan to focus JUST on Dota 2, all though it so far has been the majority of that.  But I have also found myself doing official casts for both Battlerite (including the first ever official tournament for the game) as well as Overwatch just recently .  I also have done a little of CSGO on my own time, but nothing official.

In November I heard about the Northern Arena event that was taking place in Montreal, and I decided eventually to attend the event since I happen to live fairly close in Michigan.  This would also happen to be my first Dota 2 event I would attend just for that purpose, and I was really excited to see a lot of faces I haven't seen since the HoN days.  I reached out to the Northern Arena team and they were very accommodating with hooking me up with a media pass to the event as several of them knew who I was and watched me on Honcast (feels good to be known!).

So I flew into Montreal as the event was basically kicking off, where I was picked up at the airport by long time twitch/hon buddy Rotnam who happened to be a local to Montreal and was also doing a little work for the event.  I get to the venue, and immediately start seeing people I am just ready to go up to and give a hug and get a selfie with.  From the complexity team, to the Alliance boys and many more, it really helped remind me of great times from the past and that I have a lot of great times in this industry to look forward to.  LANs are basically the big party for everyone that loves the game you all play and a convention of sorts to allow for all to just come together and hang out.  And it just so happens Dota 2 has a LOT of them, something I should probably get used to.


As for the event itself, I loved the very low key vibe of it.  The room the event would be held in for all of the days except the final was not the biggest and could maybe fit 100 people at capacity.  The players as well as the talent were all pretty close, and the ability to just walk around and chat with all of them at ease was really cool.  Also, I was really happy to see how the talent took me in, including several I had never met in person before, its like we were already all good friends.

Then the finals being in the huge arena was also a great experience, especially getting to hang out behind the scenes for basically all of it.  The finals ended up being fairly one sided as Wings Gaming proved that their lack of play post TI6 didn't really phase them to much, but overall was very entertaining.  Nothing but love for all of the staff at this event, again they were very accommodating and honestly didn't have to be as I am very new to the scene, but I really did appreciate the experience.

So with that event out of the way, one of the questions I was asked constantly was "will we see you in Boston?".  My answer continued to be we would see, but in the back of my mind I knew what the answer really was, and that was OF COURSE.  Now with my situation, I can't just attend every event out there as much as I would want to, but with the finances the way they are I have to be careful.  But with my wife's approval, and with Beef from Complexity (a long time buddy of mine) able to hook me up with event tickets, I decided to go.

Now anyone that knows me well, knows that I am not one that likes to ask for things like money or frankly help in a lot of situations, but my wife also convinced me to run a donation goal on my stream to help fund me getting to the event.  I decided to set it to $500 over a two week period, and after the first day I already had just over $200 made.  Over the week it got to the $500 goal, with a big portion of it coming from one awesome viewer in Torte (BIG SHOUTOUT DUDE AND THANKS), and I was officially going without the worry of my financial situation!

Now I could write and talk about a lot with everything that happened at the Boston Major and I plan to at least do a stream wrap up of the event.  But as far as some highlights, the venue was absolutely amazing.  It wasn't a venue you would expect to see a Dota 2 tournament in, however you could appreciate what it was, and they did a great job of making the setup work on the stage and in general.  It was also amusing seeing the reactions of those that worked at the event who were a much older crowd, and I even got the chance to talk to a couple who were very curious as to what on earth was going on.

One again seeing people was great as ever, and I got to say hi to a LOT of people as so many were there.  One of my favorite greetings was when I waited in line for the Team OG "Meet and Greet" and when I got to the front both n0tail and Fly did a double take and were like "wait, Breaky??? Oh my god".  Just something about that reaction that makes me feel great, knowing that I had enough of an impact on their lives to get a reaction such as that.  I got to talk to them for a bit, as well as others like Moonmeander, Black, melonzz, Zfreek and so many more.  And on top of it, everyone seemed to know that I was "coming into the scene" and had nothing but positive messages and reinforcing that I am doing the right thing.

I also had several conversations at the event that could possibly lead into future business opportunities and more, you know the "making contacts" stuff.  That alone would have made the trip worth it, but of course there was so much more to it.

Then there was the matches themselves, oh my God the matches.  As with any esport or traditional sport really, there is something different and even better about seeing it in person.  And this event was no different, the hype from the crowd at nearly every match as well as so many of the results going as they did.  I will say it was a rough start with Complexity being knocked out early, as I was sitting with their families and everyone, but even they watched many matches the following days.  Ad Finem was of course the highlight of the tournament, there is no secret there and being half Greek I did have pride for them.  But OG winning it all even, not only was I happy to see former hon players n0tail and Fly, as well as Jerax even do so well, but I did predict them to win it as well.

Also the weeks leading up to the Boston Major, I was continuing to do my own streaming / casting of dota 2 matches, specifically of an event that was going on called the Pro Dota Cup.  Now the ProDota Cup is sponsored by Azubu, which is a streaming service similar to Twitch, so as you may expect streaming their event on Twitch may not be liked.  However it turns out the owner of ProDota Cup series was watching my casts and suggested hes fine with me doing it and actually got in contact with me about doing official casts for them for the American regions in their future event (enter it's happening meme here).

So here I am, just three months later after I began this journey, typing this up in the Chicago airport returning from Boston and getting ready to start casting my first official online tournament with the ProDota Cup.  And this is just the beginning as I see it, I knew that this wasn't going to be easy and there is still work to be done, but I think things have been going just alright so far.