I don’t remember how the clams tasted when I interviewed Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan when he announced his retirement. It was already more than 150 days ago, and it was a serious interview; the taste of the food wasn’t important. It should have been tasty, but the bitterness of the soju and retirement would have been a lot bigger. I had hoped to visit the hot food places with the epicure, Wolf, without worrying about working or doing interviews. But the epidemic struck…
We postponed our appointment back and further back, and one day, news came before we met again. It was about Wolf’s return to T1. I thought that work comes to those who are capable, even in this situation.
As we wanted to have Wolf talk about his return, we again gathered at an unlimited grilled clam restaurant. We ordered a bottle of soju and beer as we sat. ‘Having an interview’ was a great excuse, and the business card was scraped in no time. With a bit of small talk, the clams started to open up, and the interview finally started. Wolf, how have you been?
It’s the second time we’re having grilled clams during your retirement interview. How have you been?
I’ve been extremely busy these days. Since the LCK had a break in March, I had some extra time, but I’ve been streaming all February and April. And meetings… There were so many meetings. Broadcast stations called me and some teams called me too.
What did you discuss with the teams?
They suggested to do some collaborative work. It wasn’t like a coach offer. I rejected all those beforehand. Anyways, I talked with some teams for the collaborations, but since I was to join T1… But other than that, there were so many places that called me up. When I wasn’t streaming during the LCK days, I was out at meetings.
It’s a happy time for you. You get to choose your work… In this situation.
It’s fortunate for me. It’s probably because of the unique characteristics of esports.
It was announced that you signed with T1 as a streamer so suddenly. Were there any stories behind that?
T1 did say that they want to have me work from before, but they didn’t call me for a long time. I didn’t know back then, but after signing with the team, they told me that they wanted to give me time to rest. They knew I’ve been running for a long time.
Although they wanted to let me take a break, but for my part, they weren’t calling me for more than a month, so I thought ‘Why aren’t they calling me?’ So I gave up and signed with SANDBOX. Then T1 asked me why I signed with SANDBOX, so I answered, “You said you’d call! Why didn’t you call?” (Laughs)
Since they didn’t call, it must have felt like “We should get together for dinner sometime.”
Yeah. Anyways, at first, I was going to stay at SANDBOX. There were many advantages. I was also worried that I might not be able to stream in my style if I were to go back to T1. I was worried there might be some limitations. Since I’ve been in T1 for long, I was close to the operation team and content team, so I was able to ask them stuff. Things like what I should do in T1.
T1’s answer was: “No, no. We just called you in because we like you. You can do as you want.” There wasn’t anything that I was required to do. They were very considerate to me before, and they’re still considerate to me now, just like before.
So I talked with SANDBOX and I came to T1 after a negotiation. SANDBOX was sorry to part with me to the last day. They told me, “There would be more merits to you going there, and your image fits better with T1.” I was very thankful. It could have seemed to them that I was going against business ethics.
SANDBOX sounds very generous. Did you originally want to work with T1 again?
I gave a lot of thought. As I said earlier, I thought there could be limitations if I were to work with T1. But T1 told me that they won’t touch anything about my streaming style. I also thought that I would be able to say whatever I want more conveniently if I was affiliated to T1. Up to now, it feels alright. I shot something like an interview on Monday, and the content team treated me like a brother. I guess it’s paying off to have maintained good relationships with people. I lived well. (Laughs)
You find “real” connections and relationships after you leave something.
I really feel that recently. There are a lot of people that I know in the Inven Broadcast Station, and I did a lot of content at OGN as well. The people I know in Inven and the youngest writer in OGN are all in higher positions now compared to back then. I’m thankful that everyone’s still there and that everyone kept good relations with me.
How was life as a free streamer? Rumor says that sometimes your streams were more popular than the official broadcast.
I guess I didn’t know how the world goes around. After I left the team and became alone, there was so much to think of. Including earning money. The teams helped me a lot up to now so it was convenient. When I was retiring, I wanted to live as an individual for a while, not being affiliated to anywhere, but as April came, I started to think I should have a place to rely on. So I came back to T1; although it hasn’t been long, I’m really satisfied. It feels that I’m back where I belong. My mind feels easy... Like I’m home.
Anyways, over the past few months, isn’t it quite different from the old T1? The players are different, there are a lot more sponsors… I thought it would feel different for you.
I felt that a lot. I don’t have any connections with coach Kim, although I know coach Comet. Even with the players… Besides Effort and Faker, I don’t really know them. So it feels a bit awkward for me to go visit the team and meet the players. I just said let’s have a cup of coffee to Effort. If kkOma was still here, he would have probably introduced me to the team, saying, “Guys, this is your brother, Jae-wan.”
It doesn’t feel awkward at all with the content team. I just go and say, “I’m here. Let’s go out for dinner with your business card.” (Laughs) Business cards are awesome. They buy me meals all the time I go to the office.
Business cards mean power. There’s something I’m curious about… It may be a bit too materialistic. You got Air Jordan sneakers last time. Are you getting anything from BMW?
I don’t know the details. I think they’re supporting the team vehicle. Not to individual players, but to the team. Anyways, what’s important is that probably no player has a driver’s license in the current T1 team. There were some talks regarding that, so I also asked if I’ll be getting a car (Laughs).
More than anything, I was really interested in the fact that BMW is sponsoring the team. I heard a few things about T1’s future plans and I thought it would be really interesting. But it’s really regretful that BMW is coming in this year… No one has a license… (It seems that You’re emphasizing the fact that you have one.) (Laughs) Think about it. Before, Huni, Bang, kkOma, and I all had a license. Wouldn’t it have been better for BMW as well if they came in back then?
It does seem that you want something. Anyways, did you talk to your old teammates? Effort would have really liked it since he’s an old fan of yours.
I usually enjoy exaggerating stuff. I told Effort that I’m going to T1 and that it could be a coaching role. I gave more details by telling him that I’m getting my own room in the new T1 house, looking forward to his reactions. But Effort thought a bit and answered really formally, “Oh. That. Sounds. Fun.” So I was like, “What? Aren’t you excited?” If Blank was still here, he would have given awesome reactions. I thought Effort was a very serious character because of that.
You watch all the matches. Do you feel proud of Effort? And have you ever thought that you want to be the one playing there?
After I retired, I haven’t once thought that I want to play there. I thought it was a timely retirement. Since it was due to my health issues, I’m sad, but I don’t regret. I just hope that everyone in the LCK is happy and fares well.
In that regard, I really feel good when I see Effort doing so well. Effort often mentions me during his streams and I think his POG pose is to remind people of me. I’m really thankful.
How about Faker? I asked Faker in an interview and he said he didn’t have any thoughts about you joining…
That’s probably true. Faker’s like that. Since it’s more like I’m coming back to the content team or the team office rather than to the squad. If I came back as a coach or head coach, he probably would have felt differently.
It would have been quite funny if you did come back as a coach. You’d be back as a coach, but your long colleague became part-owner.
(Laughs wildly) To prevent such a disgraceful situation, I cannot become a coach.
But then, if you’re a T1 streamer, can you still be the official Faker-critic?
Yes, I can. I can probably do the same. We’re in different departments. Many fans were worried that I wouldn’t be able to speak out my mind. To those fans, I asked them, “Do you really think I’d fold?” The T1 content team also actually likes it when I criticize Faker. I think it’ll be alright unless I make a huge mistake.
Why do you stand in that position? Honestly, deep down, don’t you support and cheer for Faker more than anybody else?
Of course, I do. There’s one thing that’s unfair for me about that. I’m not a Faker-critic. I criticize everyone. It’s just that people pay more attention to Faker and he has a lot more impact in this scene, so it seems that I just criticize him. I criticize everyone equally. And I do cheer him a lot. It’s true that I don’t compliment much… It feels kind of awkward, complimenting a friend.
On the other hand, who do you compliment the most?
Oh, that’s a hard question. I try to be equal when I criticize and be fair when I compliment as well, but I guess I’ve been complimenting Effort more. Canna as well. You know, Canna’s doing great. I also praised Kuro a lot. Other then them, I try to compliment the rookies or the younger players like Keria or Chovy. Kuro’s an exception.
When I compliment rookies, I often add a few comments: all rookies have a chance to do well. They can play ambitiously and it could work, but rookies often lost their color in their sophomore year. What I’d like to advise all rookies is “don’t lose your own color”. Obviously, that’s the most difficult thing.
Is the reason you compliment Kuro often is that he hasn’t lost his color in these many years?
I’ve known Kuro for long, and he’s kind of similar to Faker in a way. Although he’s been around for a long time, he’s been maintaining his prowess and it doesn’t feel that he would stumble in the future as well. He’s like a pillar in the current KT team.
When players with a long career like Kuro does well, it feels good while getting a peculiar feeling. Whenever I see their games, it feels kind of weird. I want rookies to come up and do well, but on one side, I don’t want the older players to fall.
Since a lot of fans were excited that you’re coming back to T1, I brought some questions from the fans.
Oh, good. I like that.
Q1. When I asked the fans for questions to Wolf, your CEO Joe Marsh asked a question right away. When are you going to follow him back?
I saw that. I actually don’t follow people back much. Over the four-five years I was on Twitter, I seldom pressed the follow button. Since Joe Marsh said that, fans started talking about it during my stream, so I did follow him.
It’s important to manage my Twitter account as a player, but sometimes, it’s really tiresome. Joe Marsh sent me a DM but I didn’t answer yet (Laughs). Since I had a drink during this interview, I might go home and answer… Ask him for a car.
Q2. You’re consistent. Good. The next question is… What’s the best thing about coming back to T1?
The feeling that I belong here.
Q3. There seem to be a lot of T1 goods that aren’t for sale. Do you get some of those goods? Will you do a giveaway?
I do get some. They’re planning to make my jersey as well. I think they’ll be selling the goods soon. There are tons of goods piled up in the T1 office. I think they’re ready to sell them.
And giveaways, yes, probably. T1 thinks of the fans a great deal… (No, what the question meant was will YOU do a giveaway on your own?) Oh, me! Yes, of course! I’d probably need to get stuff from the team, but I think if I ask if I can take some, they’ll say yes. (So if they do give you goods for giveaways when you ask, you’ll do the giveaway?) Yes. If they don’t, oh well.
Q4. What do you feel when you see the new current roster?
Honestly speaking, I feel nothing. After kkOma left and foreign companies came in, I just feel things are going around as it is. Obviously, I do hope the players do well. Maybe I’m feeling a bit more distant now. Before, I thought about each player individually, but now, I just want everyone to do well. Effort, Faker… I do wish that T1 does well and has success, but not many emotions come to me when I see the roster.
Q5. When will you talk about ‘the story of fighting with Faker’ that you didn’t fully talk about during your stream?
That’s really hard (Laughs). Maybe when I leave T1? (So there was actually a fight?) Maybe, and maybe not. We lived together for five years… There wouldn’t have been nothing, right?
Q6. If there was nothing, that’s not friends. Next question, is there a game where you think that you did extremely well? I think this person wants to look up the VOD for that game.
I’m bad at remembering games… But to pick one, I think it was against EDG? When I turned the game around with Rakan, that was impactful. I think I did really well. And in 2017, at the MSI, in the last game where I played Zyra. What was especially great in that match was that I had plans spanned out for the next 30 seconds, which really went as planned. Other than that… There are so many games I did well. Just watch any match. Except for the matches from 2018.
Q7. What do you think about the combination of Orianna ult and Rakan ult? This person mentioned that they joined Twitter to ask this specific question.
It’s good when things are lined up well, but Rakan has been nerfed a lot and both of them are very weak in the laning phase. The synergy and teamwork are extremely important. There’s a lot to consider for it to work well.
Q8. How’s ‘Winter’?
Winter is doing well. She’s nearly 11 kg now. Every year, she gets bigger, but it’s not that she has a lot of fat… It’s all muscle. My mother takes her for a walk every day for two hours. (It’s hard for people to have a two-hour walk…) My mother said that too. I go meet Winter at least once a week. And a lot of money goes to her snacks. I think we spend around 400,000 Won (≒324 USD) per month. (Even people don’t spend that much on snacks.) (Laughs) Winter has her own snack fridge.
Q9. Is there content that you’ve prepared for after the LCK? This fan wants to play with Wolf. I think they want content that they can participate in.
I don’t think there will be much content that viewers participate in. At least I’m not planning one. What I’ve been focusing on is more about esports and the league itself. Events where viewers can participate in are probably being discussed within T1. Still, I also like viewer-participating events as well.
Q10. Is there a player or players that you see a future as a streamer?
That’s hard… Maybe Gorilla? If he becomes a streamer, he’ll probably cover topics with more expertise. And as some people know, Gorilla is an extremely social person in the esports scene. He has all the information. All news gets to Gorilla first. If he does start streaming, he would be able to just tell stories from the scene for more than a whole year. Maybe wearing a mask… Although everyone would know already.
It won’t be easy for pro gamers to succeed as a streamer except for a few cases. People like Ambition, PraY, or CloudTemplar have been known already and they know well about how to communicate with people as well as what they have to do to make the stream fun. It’s hard for people like that to appear. Although the atmosphere has been changing, there were teams that didn’t like communicating.
That was the last question from the fans. It’s really difficult to stay cheerful. It would be hard to maintain that energy in all your streams. Have you ever been sick of streaming?
Of course, even if I haven’t been a streamer for long, there’s a lot of times that I felt that. Streaming itself is enjoyable since I like talking. But sometimes, some viewers fight with each other. It’s sometimes annoying and tiring to manage those people. There’s sometimes that one person who brings up topics that are sensitive, and if I don’t stop them, that one becomes tens and hundreds. It’s also hard to find the line between those who I have to stop and what not to stop.
Another thought that enters my mind is if it’s alright for me to stream like this. The more time passes, it feels that I lack expertise. Maybe because LCK isn’t the old LCK anymore, so I think, ‘Do I have to watch the foreign leagues as well?’ It could be sensitive, but I often hear that I’m LCKish. I think LCK is a very fun league. I believe that LCK is really good and although it’s not the best, there are still fun and high-level matches. As LCK is now being evaluated lower than the LPL or LEC, my thoughts get mixed up.
Usually, when people watch Go or Xiangqi, they say it’s boring. It could be that many fans consider the LCK as Go or Xiangqi. If you get to know Go or Xiangqi better, the mind game during each turn is extremely fierce, and it’s really interesting to watch that. Anyways, if I start worrying about that, I lose my energy.
Is there anything that picks you up in your life recently?
Rather than just one thing, multiple things have been picking me up. One is the free time lying on the couch watching Netflix. I sometimes cook and sometimes play new games. Recently, ‘Mount & Blade II’ came out. These things really make me light up. But more than anything, going to shoot [team] videos helps the most. If I go out and shoot videos, I get to meet many people. I talk with them, learn many things that I didn’t know before, and I say what I’ve wanted to say. I also like being interviewed, like right now.
But there’s a problem now. There are fewer chances to shoot videos and there’s not much left to watch on Netflix. I’m getting bored from Mount & Blade. So I did nothing yesterday. I was just lying around as if I’m dead. I looked for any interesting mobile games and found nothing. Played Mount and Blade and an error popped up. Turned on Netflix and thought there’s nothing to watch. This is the biggest problem right now.
You had said that you enjoy planning in itself. What have you been planning specifically?
There’s two. One, I told you during my stream. It’s visiting each team house and evaluating their food. It would be called Wolf’s Michelin Guide, or Wolchelin Guide. But if I grade all the meals, it might hurt the feelings of those who work so hard for the players’ means, so I’m thinking maybe just the top 3. As KaKAO once did a food-gank, I’ll be asking for more teams to help out. (Maybe having a guest to eat with you could be good.) Yeah, having one of that team’s players introduce the meals and eat together.
Another one would be making a league with the academy players. I think the difference between the tournament system and the league system brought a lot of change in the LoL esports scene. Previously, when the format was in a tournament style, it was easier for huge rookies to appear. The best example would be Faker. But as they transitioned into a league format, one player has to play many games and there are way more indexes to evaluate a player.
Eventually, finding rising prospects became more difficult. Also, before, if you did well in solo ranked, there were many chances to join the first string in some team. I did as well, but now, you have to get through the trainee, third, and second strings to reach the top team. Even in the academy, there are first and second strings. Those players probably gave up on school and would have a lot less salary, and they would definitely be working hard as well. However, there are fewer chances for them to be exposed to the fans.
I want to focus on those players. The academy has to be solid to have more meaningful competition within the team for the starting roster, and if it happens, the Korean esports ecosystem would work cycle healthily.
The plan up to now is to have about four teams scrim each other during the offseason with a team coach, and to broadcast that. The coach can introduce the academy team to the fans and they can explain the specific strengths of those players. I can add a few comments as well. And then, with my own money and maybe with some support from T1, we can have a ranking tournament for the prize money. There could be more ways to provide the prize money such as collecting all donations to the winning team or dividing it amongst the participants.
There should be people in the esports scene that are interested in running such a program. I personally think my image fits well with this program and the teams would be more interested if they hear a player that has a decent career is running it.
Are there things you’re looking forward to as T1’s streamer?
That’s one of the reasons I joined T1. There are many limits for a streamer to do everything himself. I want to do more things for the team and T1 wants that as well. One little thing that I hope is whatever T1 does, all to go well. It’s little, but essential.
For T1 to do well, the finals should have to go well. How do you expect the finals to go?
*Note: This interview was conducted two days before the finals.
I think we’ll win. Their performance against DragonX was really great and I think they’re prowess is nearly at the peak now. I think Gen.G would be rather anxious. I predict a 3-1 score. Since Gen.G is a good team they’ll take at least one game. The Picks & Bans will be really important.
I wish the players won’t be too impatient. It seemed that the tempo was quite fast during the match against DragonX. If they don’t make mistakes in the early game, they’ll be able to deliver good performances and if they do, I have no doubts against them winning the championship.
I’m quite full now. Lastly, a word to the fans?
I get too formal all the time at this question. Like always, I’d like to say thank you, but this time, I want to say that I’m more thankful than ever. I can feel the fans who cheered for me are still supporting and loving me. Since all the fans like me, I think I got this chance to come back to T1. And I can now make more streams and content. Thank you.
To the T1 staff members and players that you’ve been reunited with?
To the staff, I want to say, calling me back was an excellent choice. You’ve made many choices over a long time, but this was probably the best choice you’ve made. To the players, you’re probably already working extremely hard. I’d like to say that take care of your health while you play. A lot of people would already tell you to do your best, so I wish you’re healthy and happy. And don’t blame yourself after matches.
This is really the last question. How was today’s meal?
Compared to the grilled clams we had last time, this tastes better. Maybe it’s because I feel more comfortable than the day I announced my retirement. We drank as much as we ate the clams, but today, it feels that we enjoyed the clams more than the drinks (Laughs).
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.