Man on a Mission: An Interview with Khaldor

Khaldor Behind the Scenes

Photo Credit: DreamHack

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.

Khaldor Casting

Photo Credit: ESL

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.

Khaldor and Kaelaris

Photo Credit: DreamHack

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.

Wrapping Up

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 :).


EsportsJohn is obsessed with space and loved watching the NASA Spacewalk yesterday. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

Refocusing. Planning a new goal.

So, to be straightforward: I was fired from Esports Edition this week.

A large part of the reasoning for this decision was my chronic failure to produce articles on time and communicate properly with the management. This isn’t the first time. In many ways, it reminds me of my schoolwork in high school and college; I’ve never been much of a prolific writer, and I often miss deadlines.

I have the worst form of writer’s block. The inability to put two sentences together if I’m not sincerely interested in the topic. Then, when I’m late, I tend to quiet myself because I know that I have no real excuse (and I hate making excuses for my failures). The only thing I can say is, “I just didn’t do it.”

The more overdue my material becomes and the more impatient those waiting on me for it become, the more difficult it becomes for me to write at all. I let the weight of all that pressure push down on me, unable to lift it away piece by piece. The only real release is dropping all of it, quitting, and starting over.

This is something I’ve lived with and tried to understand for many years. It’s possible I just have a fundamental “laziness” that I’ve yet to overcome. Maybe I don’t understand the value of “hard work”. I’m not really sure. I haven’t discovered why I do the things that I do yet.

Whatever the case, I’m moving forward and trying to figure out what works best for me.

What Was Wrong With Esports Edition

The first and most important goal that I have is writing about the things I want to write about. When I am excited about a topic, I put everything I have into it, and thoughts and ideas flow out without effort. Part of the reason why it was so difficult for me to write pieces at Esports Edition was because I was continually being forced into a smaller box.

First of all, you should understand what Esports Edition is, and what it’s goals are. Esports Edition is a subsidiary of a larger corporation called Perk.com. Perk.com makes its money through advertising on apps that reward viewers for watching videos, reading articles, and using the app. Like all companies that make most of their money from ad revenue, their goal is to create lots of short, engaging content that will keep the viewer interested and looking at the screen.

I was told early on when I joined them as a startup that they were looking to foster a gaming community and create a sort of “grassroots” news movement. I’m not one to put all of my eggs into the “community” startup basket, but I’m also not a huge fan of large corporate identities (as can be seen from my constant criticism of ESL). It seemed like a good goal, and very much in line with the sort of community I was trying to foster at TeamLiquid.net before I was expelled quite unfairly. In hindsight, it’s ironic that I placed so much faith in the Esports Edition group.

The first few articles I wrote for them were supposed to be “general, evergreen” content. They wanted me to write pieces that anyone could read, whether they were new to the game or seasoned veterans, could read and learn from. They also wanted it to be “evergreen”, or “timeless”, meaning that it had to be general enough to not attach itself to a single patch, event, team, or player’s success. I wrote about using the Dragon Knight and the perks of Talents vs Items.

It was boring, tedious work trying to fit myself into this box, but I was promised more freedom in the future once they had built up a base of articles for the site.

Needless to say, this never really happened. They kept pushing for very general content and disliked my pieces that went over 1200 words. When the 500 word cap rule came into effect this month, I was already done. Not only would that cut my pay in half (1000 words/article on average previously), but it was fitting me once again into a very small box which I didn’t care for.

The best analogy I can give is a BuzzFeed article. And I swore I would never write BuzzFeed articles when I first started my freelance writing career. Never ever.

When that rule was implemented, I was already considering new jobs, including the writing position at ESL. Being fired is no loss in terms of where I was headed anyway, though it still stings to know that I failed. It has put me in a situation where I need to figure out my priorities and the direction I want to head very quickly. I don’t have time to sit around and think about what I would like to do in the future; the future is NOW.

What I’m Refocusing On

About eight months ago, I decided that I was going to make a living in esports. My ultimate aim was always to be an Editor-in-Chief. I loved the work that I did at Team Liquid managing writers, scheduling content, and filling in whenever a writer was sick or unable to write. It was everything that I could ever want to do in life. But you don’t get to a position like that without lots and lots of writing first.

Luckily, there are still things I definitely want to write about. I’ve never been interested in straight up news or interest pieces. I’m not a flowery writer. I parse through a situation or incident, find what’s right and what’s wrong, and I try to convey that. It’s very similar to editing in a way.

To that end, I love writing editorials providing criticism. I’m honestly not that opinionated, but when I see something that is particularly worrisome like AA’s behavior during ESL’s recent rulings, I am compelled to speak out. We don’t have a lot of criticism in the community anymore aside from Reddit mobs, and I don’t think that does the scene any favors. Criticism is a guideline for discussion, understanding, and improvement.

I also really love doing interviews. To be honest, I haven’t really done many, but the ones that I have done felt truly amazing, and I think I have a knack for it. My goal is to expose people as they truly are so that people don’t have to sort through the multitudes of opinions of them based on hearsay and speculation.

There are actually so many incredible people in the Heroes scene like Equinox, Khaldor, and some of the guys from Big Gods. At the same time, there’s a lot of connotation with their names and “arrogance” or “attitude”. You really don’t know until you talk to them and treat them like human beings instead of celebrities.

The last and final piece of the puzzle is guide writing. I have always loved writing guides, dating all the way back to my time on TL Strategy. I love it. They are time consuming and can be a nightmare to update, but I love them so much. More guides to come.

The Great SQL Project

It’s no secret that I’ve been working on statistics for Heroes of the Storm. Up until MasterLeague.net launched only a few months ago, there was literally no definitive source for finding the drafts of every game in the order that they happened.

This was a problem when I first started trying to think about collecting drafts and studying them, so I began to build spreadsheets to collect the data. Despite rather lukewarm responses, I think the spreadsheets were a resounding success in terms of what they were intended to do.

But they had some limitations. I managed to find some SQL-like query functions in Google Sheets that slimmed them down substantially, but it still wasn’t what I ultimately wanted. I wanted tools that viewers, casters, and analysts could use to quickly gain information, study, and use to predict the game.

So I started creating a fully fledged database. I literally know nothing about this field of programming and I’m learning on the fly, but I feel confident that I can create an in-depth collection of games, drafts, and even player picks that can be used as a powerful tool for searches.

I’ve planned out the entire database and gone over it with a friend of mine who is a DBM (database manager). The MySQL server is being set up this week, and Dthehunter and I are going to be working tirelessly over the next month or two to populate the database with the appropriate data.

The ultimate goal is an app that will have several tools that help users dynamically view and predict games. I can’t reveal too much about the tools at this time, but I am eagerly anticipating the finished product that I envisioned almost four months ago finally come to fruition. Stay tuned for updates.