No other foreign professional gamer has acclimated to Korea as quickly as Harrison "Kruise" Pond, support player for REUNITED. Since arriving, Kruise has been enjoying KR Competitive Play while chatting with his viewers and teammates in broken-but-improving Korean. Although REUNITED's OGN Overwatch APEX run ended in the quarterfinals with a 3-2 loss to Afreeca Freecs Blue, the British Lúcio main has kept at cheerfully entertaining his fans with lighthearted livestreams.
We had a chance to meet Kruise at the team's Seoul bootcamp and discuss his competitive nature, experiences in Korea, and the future of REUNITED. Like Lúcio, Kruise was upbeat and optimistic. He insisted that the team was back on track and that they would work hard to return to the top.
Hi, shall we start with an introduction?
I'm Kruise from REUNITED, and I've been playing Overwatch for about a year now. Before that I was in university studying accounting, which was pretty boring. I dropped out my first year because I wasn't really enjoying it, and started playing Overwatch. It also seemed like a great opportunity to start my career with this new game.
What was your family's reaction to that?
They were pretty understanding. At first, I thought they would go crazy, saying, "No, you can't do this." However, it turned out that I didn't even have to convince them. They were just like, "Okay, if you want to do this and it makes you happy, you can do it." I was glad.
It's been almost a month since you came to Korea. What do you think of Korea so far? Is there anything special or memorable?
It's the fans. They are on a whole new level. We've been to other events, and you can't even compare the passion and just how much they want to be there. When I met my fans, they seemed super hyped and honored to be with us. It's just amazing.
Does that not happen as often in Europe?
No, not for us, at least. I guess maybe it’s because Overwatch is still quite new. However, even after a year or two, I still wouldn't expect it to be on the level it is here. It's on another level for sure.
What inspired you to start streaming and become a professional gamer?
I'm super competitive. I don't know how long I've been like this, but I've always viewed everything as a competition. I really enjoy winning, and losing is the worst, but we've been losing a lot, so it's annoying... but I enjoy this kind of lifestyle. It's just fun, and it's so different from a normal job. I've only worked two normal jobs, one of which was at a book shop. I just couldn't do it. I had to do something different, like this.
Despite your competitive nature, you are very nice to your teammates, at least from what we can watch on stream. You say things like "Sorry, I messed up" and "Guys, we can win" all the time.
[Laughs] Wanting to do well in Competitive doesn't mean that you can be harsh to other people. That doesn't help anyone. You should just try to make everyone go along and win. When everyone's angry at each other, no one will do anything. They won't listen or try to win.
Would you like to say anything to those who are mean to their teammates under the excuse that they are competitive?
They need to understand that it doesn't work like that. Everybody is playing Competitive in Overwatch, and while it would mean that they may be somewhat competitive, that doesn't make them special or anything. It is much better to make everyone get along because it makes things easier. Even in a team environment, the conversation sometimes gets heated and people get angry, but when that happens, the teamplay just goes completely downhill. You have to be levelheaded, and that goes for when you play Competitive too.
I think that makes you perfect Lúcio material. You recently said that playing Lúcio is not so fun. Do you enjoy playing other heroes more? Which heroes do you enjoy playing in particular?
[Laughs] Lúcio is fun, it's just because I've been playing Lúcio for like a year straight because the meta hasn't changed much. We also scrim a lot. We scrim for six to eight hours every day and did not have many chances to take a break. I’ve played Lúcio every day for one year straight. Just Lúcio, Lúcio, Lúcio, same thing over and over again! [laughs] So, eventually it gets really boring, and it's just like, "Okay, I know exactly what I'm doing." There's no change to it. That's why I like to play other heroes in Competitive—mainly Genji because I find Genji to be the most fun. It's the easiest hero to do a lot of work and carry your team easily.
Lúcio received nerfs recently. What are your opinions about that?
Lúcio will always be there because of his speed boost. That's what keeps him there. I think he will still be played even if they removed his healing completely, although that would push him away a little bit. I think removing his speed buff will pull Lúcio away from popularity, but unless such a huge rework takes place, he will always stay as a popular pick. I think Sombra can counter him by taking away his ult, but Lúcio will continue to stay popular.
What’s your impression of Sombra?
Sombra…. When Ana first came out, I told my team, "Okay, this hero is really strong. I promise that this hero is really strong." And they were like, "No, she's bad." I kept insisting, "No, she's really good." They didn't believe me! [laughs] Then after about a month, everyone was running Ana all the time. I didn't say anything. But this time I said, "Sombra. Guys, Sombra is really strong! She will be strong in the future for sure! We just need to figure out how she's played, where she's played, and stuff like that." But they were just like, "No, she's not strong…." We'll see how it turns out [laughs].
I like Sombra. Her playstyle is like Tracer, but different. You have to play her really differently. People view her as DPS, but she's not really a DPS. On maps like Anubis, for example, if you hack those Health Packs around objective B, you deliver a blow to attackers because it's so close to the point. When your health is low and your healer dies, you should run for Health Packs, but with that gone, you're doomed. Her damage is pretty good, and her ult is insane. No one has figured out how to use her ultimate correctly yet. When people do, she will be played a lot more in the competitive scene.
Have you had the chance to play Sombra on stream?
Not necessarily on stream. I did play her a bit, but mainly off stream.
Do you think Beyblade will fade with the introduction of Sombra and the nerf to Nano Boost?
I think so. I haven't really played the overhauled Nano Boost yet, but I can already tell that it has become much harder to wipe a team. I can see it even when I'm playing against other teams. For example, if there is a Nano Boosted ArHaN or any skilled Genji, now I can just speed-boost away or push him away with Soundwave. If you could get like five kills before out of a Nano Boosted Dragonblade, now you can generate one at best, because all the enemy has to do is to spread out. As for us, we stopped Nano Boosting Genji. We started Nano Boosting Winston again, or Soldier: 76 when his Visor is ready.
Do you find KR Competitive Play a lot different from its NA or EU counterpart?
It feels like everyone wants to win on the KR server. This might sound weird, but in EU or especially NA servers, many people just play Competitive like Quick Play. They don't care, and it's almost rare for people to use their mics. In Korea, it's rare not to use mics, and that helps so much. Korean Ranked games are so coordinated. When I first played in Korea, I was like, "Whoa, this is crazy! They are actually working together!" [laughs] I was not used to it at first, because such thing would happen only at top of the top in EU. It's really good.
Do you think you will keep playing on the KR server even after you leave the country?
I don't know. I've got plans to move to America because that's where the big leagues are going to take place. I may or may not be able to play on the KR server depending on where I am, but I would love to. I love playing on the KR server, and I will miss it for sure because it's way better than EU and NA, for sure.
How was communicating with Korean players?
I had quite a few people that could speak decent English. That was fine, and I had some of them translate for me as well. I would be like, "Okay, tell them to do this. Tell them to shield me. Tell them to heal me. Tell them to Nano Boost me." Then I started learning a few keywords in Korean, and that made things a lot easier. It was always really funny because, when I spoke these basic words, they would always laugh. At the end of each game I would say things like, "Okay, game fee." [laughs] Then they would say, "Okay. Game fee!" and start laughing.
Were there any Korean pros you wanted to meet in particular? Did you befriend any?
LW Red was the most famous team for me. I didn't know that much about Korean teams, but I knew LW. I also knew Pine was really good, but when I actually played against the team, Nanohana [was really good]. It was just insane how good he was. I think he is easily one of the best players in the world; not even just in Korea, but alongside players like Surefour. He's so good on every hero, and it's insane. So I was happy to meet him, and I became friends with him as we talked to each other.
You often shout things like, "I'm Miro. I'm Zunba. I'm Taimou." on stream. Is it out of respect?
Yeah. I think these guys are the best on that hero. I say things like "Nanohana Tracer." That means a really good Tracer - or Zunba as the best Zarya. He's a really good Zarya player, so I go like, "Ah, I'm Zunba!" after a mediocre play with Zarya [laughs].
Have you encountered aimbotters on the KR server?
Yeah. A lot. At first, it was really cool that everyone wanted to draw and stuff like that, but after a couple of times it got really boring. So then I was like, "Okay, no problem. We can win. We can beat the hackers." It was way harder, but sometimes we would win. But we once met a team with three hackers and that was really hard. If there is one hacker on the enemy team, you can still beat them, but three is just ridiculous. I hope the problem is resolved soon.
Thoughts on your match yesterday against Afreeca Freecs Blue?
We weren't confident going in. We both had one day to prepare, so we were essentially unprepared. We just made some bad decisions, including decisions about team compositions that cost us the game. The main issue was lack of confidence in calling team comps. You can be scared to get blamed if you call a team comp that results in a loss, but... we were unsure about calling and swapping. On Hollywood, for example, we needed to play a dive comp because they kept pushing us. We needed heroes like Winston, Genji, and Tracer to loosen the back line. I still feel pretty sad about it.
We needed to be more confident with calls about hero picks for sure, and also in overall coordination. I don't know how that happened, but we have been very uncoordinated for the past three months. We had a hard time practicing because the circumstances were inconvenient for our team. We had issues with players not getting along, players not performing or talking, and we lost Kyb. That changed a lot of things for us, so we had to pick up a player quickly. We had to work with that, and we tried to build our team coordination back up again. It's getting better. We're definitely improving again.
How has your team's overhaul been coming so far?
At first it was really bad. It took a long time to get used to playing with ONIGOD. It also took a long time for him to get used to playing in an environment of top-tier teams against other top-tier teams. He's improving a lot, and I am happy now. I wasn't so happy before, but now I feel confident with ONIGOD. He's a good player. He just needs more time, and we can come back to where we were before.
So you think the future will be brighter for REUNITED?
For sure. I feel like we are getting better and better every day.
Anything you'll miss about Korea when you leave?
Oh, the people. They are generally so nice, especially when I think about EU or NA servers where everyone's just an a-hole. It's hard to find nice people there, but it's hard to find mean people here. Maybe it's because I'm a foreigner and they try to treat me nicely, or maybe there are a lot of trolls when I'm not around, but I am going to miss that for sure. I like the food here too. I really liked Galbitang, and also that spicy octopus dish. Oh, Korean fried chicken is also really good.
What is your general philosophy or mindset regarding streaming? What do you do to make your stream stand out?
I just try to be entertaining and skillful at the same time. There are so many skillful players, and you can just be another skillful player or decent but not as good. When people watch my stream, they sometimes watch it over someone else's stream, especially those who are better than me. For example, when I stream Genji live, there are other skilled streamers that excel at Genji. There are people like ShaDowBurn, for example, who play insanely well on Genji and are better than me at Genji. I try to be entertaining while being somewhat good at the heroes I play.
Any advice for potential streamers or those that are starting out?
I think it's all about being yourself. I'm not trying to be anyone that I am not. I don't try to force it because it's something that naturally comes, and that's what it should be like. I think that is also what makes funny things funnier while keeping you unique. Maybe it's just who I am.
What are you and your team's plans after APEX?
I am a little unsure right now, but I am pretty sure that we're all going to stay together and keep playing as REUNITED. We'll just keep playing and keep improving. I am not sure when the next event would be. I think December's pretty empty, but there should be a lot up soon, and there's also a league that starts in 2017. We'll need to work hard to get back on top, and I miss that.
It's so annoying to hear people say, "Oh, REUNITED plays a boring game. REUNITED, what happened to them? Kyb left and REUNITED is dead." It's so frustrating to hear such things while being in a team that was once at the top competing with everyone at events like Gamescom. We could have won that so easily. Now everyone's like, "Oh, it's REUNITED again." I want to be back on the top. I am competitive. That's something I really want to push.
Any last words for your fans?
Thank you for all the support, for watching my stream and our games, for playing with me and supporting me. For being my fan. It's so surreal having "fans". It still doesn't connect in my head that I've got fans. It's weird to me, maybe because I haven't been in this industry that long or because I haven't played Overwatch that long because it's a new game. I am very thankful, and I hope you keep supporting me. I'll keep doing whatever I do that you enjoy.
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