If you don’t know who Khaldor is, you probably haven’t been in esports very long. The man has a list of esports contributions a mile long ranging across an entire decade, from tournament admin to caster to streamer. He’s primarily known for his StarCraft II debut in the GSL, and now for his involvement in Heroes of the Storm, though he has casted several other games including Warcraft 3, FIFA, and Dota 2.
I was lucky enough to sit down and have a Skype chat with him about his career, his casting, and his current thoughts on Heroes of the Storm. Part 1 will cover some of his history in esports—it’s impossible to cover it all in one interview—and his motivation for doing the work that he does.
On Casting Career
Before you ever became a caster, you were managing a web site and a WC3 team (4k). When was the moment that you knew you wanted to become a caster? Or have you just pretty much always wanted to do it?
It was more of a coincidence to be honest ^^. Back in the days of WarCraft 3, we did only radio-broadcasts, and even those were very infrequent. Videostreams were more or less unheard of and only used at big offline events. With radio-broadcasts every 2-3 weeks, it was a pretty big deal when a weekly tournament could announce live coverage for one of their cups. I was involved as the webmaster of a WarCraft III website back then and also helped out as an admin during the cups. One day one of the casters got sick, but, as the broadcast was already announced and people were super excited for it, the organizers were looking for a replacement. I offered to do it if someone could help me with the technical side and we were able to fix it just in time for the tournament start. I didn’t even know if people could actually hear me or not when I started :D. Turned out they could and people seemed to enjoy the show quite a lot. From that point on, I broadcasted those tournaments regularly. I really enjoyed myself casting tournaments and, in the years to come, I sacrificed tons of weekends and time growing the esports scene in Europe and casting online and offline tournaments in my free time :).
Awesome. That’s such a cool story. I understand back then you casted in German. Later on you obviously transitioned into English casting. For someone like me who is not multilingual, that sounds insanely difficult to do. What do you think the most difficult part of that transition was?
The most difficult part is that, no matter how good you are at speaking a second language, you will always have a more limited vocabulary as [than?] a native english speaker. Especially when you are trying to make puns or just try to make the commentary a bit more colorful, that can be a problem. There’s a lot of situations where I want to joke about a situation in the game and I know the perfect anecdote or pun in German, but I’m unsure if it translates properly into English. So it can be a bit difficult for sure at times. It’s also a lot harder to commentate in English (especially when you do a solo stream) than to have a normal conversation with a friend. There’s so much stuff happening in a game that you have to be able to speak fast and be on point with what you say. I think it was more of a problem for me when I first made the switch, but now I’m very comfortable commentating in a second language, but it was definitely a challenge at the start.
One of the things I remember clearly from your GSL days were the over-the-shoulder videos you did of players so that viewers could see their hands and the way they moved their mouse. What was the inspiration behind this? Do you think this was a successful set of videos?
Haha yeah, those were quite a bit of fun ^^. There are some pretty funny pictures out there where I recorded a few of the videos and some of the Korean editors photoshopped me into a Lion King Meme :D. I think the series was super interesting for most people that are interested in StarCraft.
I really wanted to show people how fast players are when they are playing the game and especially the Korean players were super impressive. I had the idea during the Qualifiers for Code A because it’s such a great opportunity to record extra content. The players were extremely nice when asked about it and I remember that one of the first players that I recorded was SlayersBoxer, a living legend. I have to admit though that it hurt like crazy standing there for 30-40 minutes at times, holding that camera over their heads haha :D. Totally worth it though, I still go back and occasionally watch some of the videos with Losira or Flash.
Oh god, the Losira hands hahaha!
The King of APM 😉
During the first six months or so of Heroes, we didn’t really see you casting much at live events, just qualifiers and online events. Was this your own choice or were you just not given the opportunities at the time?
I casted actually quite a lot of offline events during that time, but most of them were not official Blizzard events. It was a bit of a rough time for sure, and not being part of the official circuit was definitely disappointing and at first very demotivating. But in the end I decided that all I could do was focus on my own work and keep doing what I do. I’m happy that it all worked out and that I’m now a part of every major event in Europe, and I’ll make sure to continue improving to keep it that way ; ).
Now that you’ve casted all three games—WC3, SC2, and Heroes—which game have you enjoyed casting the most?
I don’t really have a favorite. Every single one of these games is different, not only as a game but also in regards to its community. I have very good memories casting all three games and haven’t regretted the decision to become a full time caster as a result. There’s just epic moments that you will always remember and I have those with all of the games I casted.
I have to admit though that it’ll be a special day for me when Blizzard finally hears my prayers and announces WarCraft IV ;). That series is what started it all, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart!
Are there any other games you’ve thought about casting? Or are you just a Blizzard fanboy for life?
Oh, I casted quite a few other games actually. Mostly when commentating at the World Cyber Games. Two examples would be FIFA and Dota 2. But in the end, I’m a person that focuses on one main game, and I’ve always been a fan of Blizzard’s games.
I actually had no clue about that. The list of stuff you’ve done in esports grows longer….
Haha, you’d be surprised. I’m pretty sure you also didn’t know that back in WarCraft III, I was actually the Supervisor of one of the biggest WarCraft III leagues in Europe, the NGL ONE. And also heading “GameSports”, an Esports project where we were training new commentators. I always liked to be involved in the scene and try to grow Esports. It’s always been my passion and it’s how all of this started for me.
On Motivation and Determination
You’re well known for casting insane hours for qualifiers and such, sometimes almost 24 hours straight. What’s motivates you to do this sort of thing?
It’s fun :P. I enjoy casting and I also want to promote the scene, the teams and the players. I have no problem casting two tournaments back to back if I can achieve that, and I simply love casting the games that I care for. As a general rule, I will always try to cast as much as I can. I have no intentions of focusing only on offline events. I think that the online tournaments, especially the qualifiers, are incredibly important, and casting a lot helps me also to get to know the teams and their style. The amount of hours I’ve spent casting online tournaments is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why I know so much about the players and even minor teams.
In Korea, for example, I’d cast European StarCraft tournaments simply because I enjoyed it and because I did not want to lose touch with the European scene while I was living in Korea. That meant casting from 1am to 7am in the morning. It was exhausting but it was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. I don’t think I’d ever give up the online casting part. I enjoy it way too much.
The community jokes a lot about your muscles, but I think physical fitness is actually a tell for industrious people. Would you say your approach to a physical routine reflects your approach to your work? Or are those just two completely separate parts of your life? :p
For me, sport is a way to balance out the time I spend at my computer. I’ve always been doing a lot of sports, ever since I was a child, and it has become a big part of my life. I spend nearly my entire day at my computer playing the game, watching scrims, talking to admins and players or casting tournaments. I need something that allows me a certain balance. For me, working out is relaxing because it’s an opportunity for me to simply shut out everything else, not think about the next tournament or broadcast, and simply focus on something completely different.
Casters often get a lot of dirt thrown at them. In the face of criticism, you often stand your ground when somebody says something stupid. How do you keep your inner compass from interfering with meaningful advice?
Haha, good question actually ;). I think it’s pretty much known that I am very outspoken and not necessarily the most politically correct person :P. I have strong opinions, and I think it’s one of my best qualities since it also motivates me to do a lot of the things I do. At the same time, I have to admit though that it’s also a weakness since I react to too many outside influences and sometimes go overboard. I believe that it got a lot better in the past year and that it’s easier for me now to ignore a lot of the trolls and unfounded criticism, but it has been a problem for sure.
At the same time, though, I think it’s important to stand your ground when faced with ignorance or stupidity. One of the problems in our society is that people are afraid to have opinions these days. Everybody wants to be politically correct and nobody wants to take a stand anymore. Finding a balance is difficult, but I feel it’s important as a “figure” within a community to also address problems that need to be fixed. It’s very easy to be the nice guy, but it won’t really help to improve things. It’s a really interesting dynamic and could probably fill an entire interview by itself :D. To come back to your original question though: a lot of advice that one receives on the Internet is well meant but oftentimes useless because people don’t know why someone is doing certain things. If someone has a point, though, I usually talk it through with friends that listen to my casting and ask them about their take on it and if it’s something that I should address or not. It’s very helpful to have friends inside and outside the Esports bubble that can give you their opinion on such things and offer maybe even a new perspective and therefore help you to improve.
In a 2011 interview, you said you would have to make a decision between esports or returning to a “normal” job after your time at GSL. Has esports been the right decision for you?
Yes, it was definitely the right choice. Moving back from Korea, I wanted to focus more on my own channels on YouTube and Twitch to make sure that I’m not completely dependent on a company like GomTV / ESL / Dreamhack in the long run. I’d still consider to work for one of the big Esports companies, but I’d always make sure that I can maintain my own channels. I’m quite happy with the way that things are going and didn’t regret going fulltime in Esports at all. It’s a lot of fun and a very exciting job. The pay might not be as good as with a normal job, but I would not want to miss it :). I plan on staying in Esports for as long as people still enjoy my commentary :).