Blitz, why did you take a break from casting?
Blitz: For people that follow my career pretty closely, they know I just switch between things really often. I went from streaming to playing to casting to coaching. I feel like in my life I really enjoy having constant new challenges, I get bored really easily, so it was the next natural step to do [coaching]. Then KuroKy offered me the opportunity to coach Team Liquid and it just seemed very natural.
When that happened you guys were on the top of your casting game. How did you feel about that?
Capitalist: I was okay with it. Coaching was a really big opportunity for Will, so I never wanted to pressure him to stick around with casting. I always tried to make sure he felt good about doing coaching because it is a really unique experience. How often do you get to learn and at the same time be there and be in a position to tell players your thoughts on Dota? That’s pretty rare and he got to learn from one of the best, so I think that was a really unique opportunity and I think financially it was probably better.
I think any time you have a chance to be part of a team in Dota 2, it’s naturally better than casting. I was totally understanding of it and in the end, whether Will came back to casting or not, eventually for me, career-wise, I realized I would have to do things on my own at some point. Maybe Dota dies, maybe I go to a new game. Whatever I do, I’d have to do it solo, so in that regard I had to keep going without Will.
Was there ever a search for a new co-caster with that kind of synergy?
Capitalist: Yes. The big thing for me is I really like duos; I really like being able to work on my craft and improve with someone. With Will coming into joinDOTA, it was a really big opportunity for us. He was the one that made the first step and said, “Hey I want to make us an actual duo” and that clicked with me really well. Dota is kind of weird in that we’re not employing duos — you can build up synergy and you can cover each other's weaknesses. I wanted that.
I did search for a co-caster but there was no one who was willing to put in the time and effort to become a proper duo, I think. They were either too established or I wasn’t really interested in them as a co-caster. I ended up not really having anybody, so I spent that year kind of bouncing around and I ended up doing a lot of panel work which was just kind of coincidence. It wasn’t intended, it was just more that I would go to these events and they would always say, “Oh we need more people for the panel.” Even at DAC i ended up co-casting with Lyrical because they invited five play-by-play casters — someone’s got to step down and that was going to be me. Same with Moonduck who invited me along, but they already had play-by-play so they needed more analysts and I kind of went into that. It’s a little bit unfortunate because I don’t think that’s my best role, but it is what it is. You have to find work somehow and that was the best way for me to be useful.
Blitz, what do you think made your synergy so difficult to duplicate?
Blitz: I just think we’re really good friends. Austin is one of my best friends in the scene so it was really easy to vibe and to get things going in that regard. We spend a lot of time with each other just in general.
Capitalist: [Laughing] Yeah at Shanghai we spent 2 weeks together because we were sharing a hotel room, we were hanging out doing nothing for a full 2 weeks.
Blitz: Yeah, it comes from having situations like that. We would always be paired together in rooms because back then organizers would ideally save by having a duo in a room. Austin and I had no problems with that. We’d take the time — half the time when people say stuff like this, I don’t believe them — but we’d go back to our room to talk about the cast, and that’s the first thing we always do when a cast ends. I’ll go to him and say, “That was pretty good,” and he’ll tell me “yes” or “no,” and then he’ll tell me what he felt like went right or wrong, or where he thinks I lacked or could be better.
Our idea was we wanted to be a pair that was more 50/50. A lot of casting pairs are in a 70/30 or 60/40 play-by-play to analysis ratio. Play-by-play covers a lot of the aspects of a Dota broadcast and the co-caster only talks when he’s spoken to. We wanted to split that up and that kind of requires you to swallow your pride and move in on that realm a bit.
Casting is a weird job and I don’t want to call anybody out, because this is not meant to be that, but you have an inherent disadvantage by helping other people with their craft. They could potentially take your job, so people hoard information; I do as well. It’s not that I’m telling everyone, “All casters suck,” it’s just that we’re all competition for each other, but Austin and I were always willing to improve each other’s understandings. I’d help Austin with Dota and tell him the meta trends I feel are important or how I feel he should play the game, and we go over his games a lot. I think I did help him improve his Dota understanding.
Nowadays, if Austin reads a draft he always knows who is going to win or lose and it’s because we think very similar in that regard. I don’t know how many people I’d share this kind of information with. Conversely when I try to transition and do a little bit of play-by-play so our flow is more natural, he’s always going to critique me and give me tips to give me a leg up in that aspect of a cast. So it’s just a no-ego relationship — we’re friends and we want to see each other improve. I think that is what makes us really special.
Capitalist: One time we had a kind of philosophical disagreement about criticism of players on casts and what kind of tone to set. We managed to stay on opposite sides, but we walked away from what other people might have turned into a bad argument. For us we were both able to keep our egos at bay and walk away still laughing and talking 30 seconds later. It’s not the happiest moment I’ve had with Will, but it is one of my favorites because we were able to do something like that and still walk away and be friends. When you’ve been with someone for a long time you’re never going to be able to agree with each other or be on the same page all the time. However, if you can have those disagreements and still be friends and walk away with it... that’s perfect.
As you mentioned, Dota doesn’t really “do” duos. Tastosis (Tasteless and Artosis) in Starcraft, for example, is an iconic pair that some people might recognize. Do you see any other synergies when you’re watching other people cast or do you guys feel as though yours tends to be the strongest in the Dota scene?
Capitalist: I definitely see synergy in other casting duos, I think some of it is… maybe not intentional and sometimes personalities just work out well together. TobiWan and Synderen are a great example of that. It also helps that they’re both independently good at what they do, so they naturally mesh together very well. Sometimes a casting duo shares a sense of humor that works for them and it flows but I don’t think anybody has what we do.
When I first started casting ESL ONE Frankfurt, my first LAN, I was always asking my co-casters, “What do you think about the cast?” because I was always self-conscious and I just wanted feedback as much as possible. Especially working with Tobi, I didn’t get a whole lot of feedback from him. I was just constantly hounding people about feedback and wanting to talk about the cast but Will was the first person who was willing to have those conversations and I fiend that. I’m very self-analytical, I like to go back through casts and understand what people do right or wrong, what I like and what I don’t, and when I’m able to talk that out with someone else it’s way more illuminating. When Will came to joinDOTA he wanted to make a duo and he would prompt these conversations — that was fantastic for me. It helped me so much in being able to really flesh out what my ideas were for commentating and what I wanted to be.
Blitz: I like James Bardolph and DDK, I enjoy watching those two a lot and I think they are the most entertaining to me. I don’t know much about CounterStrike, but when I watch them I have a lot of respect for them. I think they have a similar style and it seems they’re really good friends off the air, so it’s fun to watch that. I enjoy watching pairs that naturally have a lot of fun. In Dota I really like KotlGuy and Lacoste. Grant by himself is great — Grant’s synergy is with himself! I just enjoy pairs that sound like they’re having fun. Hype casting isn’t important to me because for me Dota is the hype. Analysis is the same. I just love to listen to people that sound like they’re genuinely really enjoying each other’s company.
Do you think playing professionally or having a higher understanding of Dota adds a lot of vibrance to casting Dota? Rather than being average at Dota but really good at play-by-play, for instance?
Blitz: I mean it depends. A guy like Tobi will always be talented no matter what. I could listen to Tobi narrate turtles fighting and I’d have a good time, but the extra knowledge does help. For instance, it’s great when I can tell Austin something and he can also also sound excited about why it’s cool. Sometimes I’ll tell him something in a cast in a really off-hand way and something will click in his brain and he’ll figure out what I want to talk about next and then he’ll bring it up and sound really excited. For me it’s so cool to see someone actively learning on the job.
What do you think each other's biggest strengths and weaknesses are?
Blitz: Austin’s biggest strength is that he probably has more drive and a willingness to learn than anybody that I know by far. His natural weakness is — if I’m 100% honest — is that out of all the play-by-play casters he’s the least naturally talented, if that makes sense. It’s not to say that everyone doesn’t work hard but I think Austin has to put in even more effort to achieve the same level of success.
Funny story: the first time I met him I thought he was a jerk. Whenever anybody meets him, they get that vibe. He’s a good looking guy, he’s very boisterous and confident and you think, “screw that guy!” That’s the number-one thing I always read about Cap. “I really didn’t like that guy, but then he turned out to be okay,” and so he has that to contend against. As a result, he has to work extra hard for people to realize “that guy is actually sick!”
Capitalist: I think Will is probably the best analyst out there. He’s learned right from the source and he’s an incredibly smart guy. He’s just able to pick things up really quickly and roll with it. That being said, because he is such a smart guy and he is very naturally talented in a lot of things, I feel he often times doesn’t have the drive to be able to push himself. You heard him, he was able to bounce from job to job, and he’s so successful at everything he touches. When you’re that successful that often you lack a little bit of that drive to become the best.
However, after he came back from coaching I see a different Will — I see someone who is trying harder. He is putting more energy into his casts while in the past, Will would get bored while casting. While we were casting at joinDOTA we’d cast a lot of low-tier games, so he would get bored just grinding through them. Energy would be down, but since he came back he’s a lot more excited and he puts a lot more effort in. I think that in a way, coaching has helped him grow a lot.
Is there anything specific about coaching that you think helped Will improve?
Capitalist: If you want my insight, it was empathy. You really take a lot more time to be appreciable to people, to see people’s side of things. [To Will] I feel like you’re maybe more selfless. Not that you were selfish before.
Blitz: [Nodding] School always came easily to me and Dota for the most part came pretty easily to me. I take things for granted a lot. This is going to sound bad, but when I set my mind to something, I know I’m going to do it. It’s always been that way. When I said I was going to lose weight and get fit, Austin didn’t doubt it. If i put my word on it, I’m going to do it and I’m going to go really hard at it. That’s how I’ve been my entire life.
I give off a really bad air sometimes — I’m very cocky and I’m arrogant in that regard and it rubs people the wrong way occasionally. If something comes easily to me then I’ll just tell you it came easily to me. I’ll say, “Oh that was pretty simple” or, “I don’t need to do this because I could always do something else.” When you coach, you have to actively worry about 5 other people and their perception of you at all times, because they’re hyper-sensitive towards things like that. It makes you realize that you have to be the mature one at all times. Whenever one guy says something the other guy always remembers it.
I try to remember that when I say something, people will always remember it. People take things the wrong way and I realized that the best thing to do when I came back was to leave no wiggle-room. If people doubt you’re a hard-worker, don’t say anything — just work hard, just keep your nose to the ground. If someone says, “Hey can you cover this shift?” just do it no problem and don’t complain to anybody. This time around I’m a little more aware of things like that and I try to be more humble about my position.
Thanks for sitting down with us after a long day of Dota! Any final shoutouts?
Capitalist: Thanks for supporting us and thanks for sticking with us through everything. Especially for any fans who stuck with me when Will was gone or people who have been around since joinDOTA days. I really appreciate those people who helped me get through that time period because it was really dark. Anyone who gave me a word of encouragement during that time or told me that I was improving that always helped me a lot. Most of the time I was motivated by anger at that time, I just wanted to prove the world wrong. Thank you!
Blitz: Thanks to everyone who is nice to me and sends me positive thoughts. If a Reddit comment gets 5 upvotes saying that they hate me, I used to focus on that stuff a lot and think, “Why do these 5 people hate me? Does that mean more than 5 people hate me?” and then I’d go down some weird existential crisis. I’m not trying to get people to feed my ego, but I just want people to focus on positive encouragement. There are people who do enjoy my presence and I’m trying to take them less for granted. Thanks for reading!