Red Bull LAN Orlando - Interview with Sean "Day" Plott
Sean "Day" Plott is something of a figurehead of the StarCraft 2 Community and runs a daily webcast called the Day Daily, where he teaches you to Be a Better Gamer. He also commentates for many different StarCraft 2 events and is the mastermind behind the Red Bull Lan's StarCraft 2 events! He took a moment out of his busy schedule to have a chat with us - read on, GameZone faithful!
Dustin Steiner: How did the idea for the Red Bull Lan get started? Did you have any direct involvement in its creation or were you drafted by Red Bull?
Day: The Red Bull Lan was originally only Halo focused with the underlying goal being, make a Lan to help gamers train. Take the fact that they’re playing games professionally very seriously. When I started working with Red Bull, it was just a nice fit. The whole tag line behind the Day Daily is ‘Be a Better Gamer’, and I take that notion of training very seriously as it’s my favorite thing in the world. So it was a natural marriage.
Red Bull let me be in charge of the production of the entire production for Red Bull Orlando’s StarCraft 2 side. So it was really cool to not just be able to be in control of the schedule and the overlays, but also to be able to sit down with the players and not only learn a lot about them but also devise challenges that the players wanted that would specifically help with areas they are weak in. Honestly, that’s been my favorite part of the event.
DS: How were the focus players chosen? Was it mostly judging on their past performances, or was it more of a ‘who could make it’ kind of deal?
Day: We chose two teams, and from those teams two players each were selected. So if you notice it’s two Moussports players and two Team Liquid players. Random’s not quite the right word – it was a combination of factors. If any of the players could make it, obviously was an issue, but if any of the players had any specific issues they wanted to work on was a big factor.
The team managers were also involved in the process as well, it wasn’t just us barking at the teams saying “We want these players!” They basically ended up having internal discussions with their teams and decided amongst themselves who wanted to go and who didn’t, etc..There was a collaborative relationship between us, the managers and the players. The important thing was that everyone that showed up was really happy and excited to be here.
DS: There have been rumors of your return to Pro Gaming as a player for a long time now – do you have any plans in 2012 to compete in any majors? Why or why not?
Day: You know, I really love playing. At the core of it that’s what I really love to do. However, I do think its more important to grow eSports. If you think about it, with all the players streaming and tournaments going on at every hour of every day, I’m envisioning a guy who doesn’t play StarCraft, never heard of it. If I went back to playing professionally, would that person be likely to get involved with eSports or become a fan? I feel like the answer is no.
I definitely know there would be a lot of people that would be like “Yeah, that’s awesome!” and would want to follow my progress, and that’s flattering and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I don’t think it would help the industry, and that’s way more important than anything me-centric. And that’s why I want to put on events like this – it’s different. It’s not your standard breed of tournament. So I’m envisioning that same guy again who reads an article about the Red Bull LAN, about training for games, and he thinks “huh, that’s different.” I mean sure, he could envision a tournament but he never actually thought about the training that goes into it.
Or another project I’ve worked extensively on, the After Hours Gaming League where top tech companies got to compete for $5,000 dollars for charity. Microsoft won, and the company sent out a blast letter to all their employees, getting that many more eyes on eSports as a whole.
So, in short, if things align properly, I may end up doing it eventually, but working on other projects like these are more important to growing the industry as a whole, and that’s my overall goal right now.
DS: What advice would you give to casters just getting their start?
Day: The most important thing is doing it. Just do it – A LOT. People always come up to me and say things like “I want to cast but I’m not sure if I should cast StarCraft,” “I’m more of a Warcraft 3 player maybe I should cast that” etc, you should just pick something and cast it. Making sure you consistently deliver on casting is always more important than quality. Always. If you try and come up with an argument against that I’ll just stand here and keep yelling no until you get annoyed and walk away.
If you do your casting 4 times a week for a month, and you get to the end of it and don’t like it, then casting’s obviously not for you. You have to figure out if the most basic activity is the fun thing. I always say that famous authors aren’t the ones who enjoy being NY Times Bestsellers, they’re the ones who enjoy writing sentences.
A lot of people watch my brother or me cast and think “Man that would be awesome to be up on the big stage and be famous”, the truth about all that fame is its just an illusion, we’re all just nerds doing what we enjoy doing. I just really like talking about StarCraft so that’s why I do it. Its just important to do it a lot, find out if you like it. The more you do it, no matter what you do, the better you’ll get.
DS: You’ve primarily been a caster now for about a year and a half – what motivated the change from player to more of a mentor role for the community?
Day: It was a combination of two things – one, I was low on time. I still wanted to be involved in some way. In particular, I love analyzing. I love problem solving I even do sudokus on planes, I just think they’re really fun. If I’m low on time, and I don’t have time to play, there’s this middle ground where I can talk about the game and about what’s going on, without having to spend the four hours practicing the ideas that came out of the game.
So that was one half of it. the other half of it was that streaming technology was suddenly really easy to do and free. So combine these two together and that’s where the live Day Daily came from. I really like the live format, So no matter how terribly I do, I’m always done at 8 (pst). I honestly have a lot of trouble with pre-recorded stuff, I’d record something and be like “Nah, I didn’t like that middle section, let me re-record that,” etc. I used to do these podcasts that were 20 minutes long and have it take 4 or 5 hours to produce one because of edits and re-records. So that difference in time just made it really hard.
And honestly, I think I do Live way better – more pressure the better. I guess that’s been beaten into my head from StarCraft. I love being under pressure. So that’s where the Daily came from. And because I’m more ambitious than I am smart, I decided to do the daily 5 nights a week at 7PM PST. Great time for viewers, terrible time for me – friends always ask me out to dinner and I’m like “Wanna do it at like..10? Right before you go to sleep?” I just grew from there and I did it for a few weeks, and I said, “Holy **** I love doing this, I’m going to keep doing this”, and I could finish grad school which was great.
DS: What was your favorite StarCraft 2 moment from 2011?
Day: I feel like this is a bit of a cop out answer, because it’s not really a moment but, the thing that I liked most about 2011 was that there was always a period of time where the community said there was one race that was the best race. I like that a lot because that demonstrates that there’s changes going on in the overall thought process within the community – it’s like a step by step process. The Protoss figures something out, they get complacent, then the Zerg or Terran figure something out and so on.
So if you think about it let’s say, just picking random numbers here, 80% of Protoss vs. Zerg matches are being won by Zerg. What does Protoss do? Literally the only place they can find new strategies is in unknown, untested areas. Taking the really basic example, let’s look at Protoss early expansion. This strategy really didn’t exist when they game started – most Protoss used one base plays against Zerg. Then suddenly someone decided to try it, and all sorts of losing starting happening, roach all ins, Zergling all ins, all these forms of losing popped up. Then finally, a moment happened. After continuing to lose for awhile, someone hit a breakthrough and suddenly Protoss surged ahead because it was two base against two base, so they started to win. Then Zerg started experimenting with three base play really early on. So then they had this whole big struggle just like Protoss did, trying to figure it out. It’s really interesting to me to watch this matchup now and watch as Zerg can now just swat these early two base pushes, especially if the players are skilled ones such as DRG or most Master level Zerg.
All of this just reinforces the idea that StarCraft 2 is this huge well of ideas that I almost envision as this huge lake underground, with all of these ideas, only you can only pull out one bucket at a time. You just keep pulling out more and more and more – the thing that would scare me that it wasn’t a huge lake but just a shallow pool and we only had a few more feet to go. But feeling the game continue to peel open to where there are strategies with 4 or 5 bases versus the beginning of the year where we were at 2 base versus 2 base plays is extremely exciting.
DS: Are you looking forward to any event in particular this year?
Day: Yes, the Battle.net World Championships because all of these tournaments exist, and they’re all trying to doing their own thing, and now it’s a clear progression. You now start in your region, then you move on to your nation, then to your larger global region and then the world.
I’m also getting really tired of tournaments being like “Okay, we’re going to bring 32 of the best players in the world together for a tournament and have them play all their matches in 12 hours!” “Okay tournament’s over, wasn’t that great? See you in two months!” It’d be like if 24 released all their episodes on one weekend, and then you didn’t get anymore shows for 2 years. I’d actually prefer them to spread it out, y’know?
DS: What players are you particularly fond of casting? If you don’t want to pick favorites, could you at least recommend some good players to watch, other than the ones on stream here at the Red Bull Lan?
Day: For players I really like casting – Liquid’Hero. He’s very aggressive and being aggressive is the key to reaching higher and higher levels of strategies, but it’s the hardest way to learn. Imagine if your build order is perfect but you attack at two incorrect times and just lost everything? You might think there’s something wrong with your build or just say, hell, I’m not attacking and miss a complete window of opportunity. He’s really good at finding these small windows and as a result his games are a little wilder but he can always manage to find his way out which I really like.
As far as players I’d recommend watching, players that have a lot of repetition in their builds, such as MVP, ThorZain and HasuObs from a foreigner space.
DS: The StarCraft 2 Metagame is constantly evolving – how do you keep up to date on new builds and strategies? Is it more playing on Battle.net or watching replays?]
Day: Both really – fact of the matter is I spend about 50 to 60 hours a week between playing, discussing strategy, doing the Day daily, so all of those things really help.
DS: Any plans to play any more survival horror games on the Daily? I quite enjoyed you nearly wetting yourself with Manfred (his stuffed Rabbit) perched on your shoulder!
Day I’ve heard they’re making more Amnesia games, but I can’t emphasize how horribly difficult it was to play that game, so scary *laughs*, but I’d like to.
DS: Do you have any closing words for my readers (and your fans) on GameZone?
Day: You can make a difference – go get your friends and introduce them to StarCraft 2. If they like tournaments, show them the GSL. If they like messing around, show them a Funday Monday. If they don’t want to worry about laddering, do some monobattles with them. If everyone from the StarCraft 2 community brought in just one more person, the community would double overnight. It's not a hard request, if you're a gamer you likely have some hardcore gamer friends. All it takes is a little introduction work!
Lastly, follow me on Twitter @day9tv and tune into the Day Daily every weekday at 7PST on www.day9.tv
Thanks for the interview Sean! We'll be sure to tune into the Daily and watch all your casts!
Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin!