Kurtis “Kala” Lloyd, the current coach of Tempo Storm’s professional Heroes of the Storm team, has a mission. The perceived lack of educational content within the scene has driven the Canadian to push himself to create his own Community Coaching content on his Youtube channel.
Recently at the Heroes of the Dorm tournament in California, Kala sat down with me to talk about his Community Coaching content, if the blame is on Blizzard for the “sparse” amount of learning tools, the difference in competitive mentality between NA and EU and more.
“Kala” as your esports name is actually short for something else. Where did that come from and why choose that as your tag for people to identify you as?
My original gamertag was “Kalamalka” which is the name of a lake that I spent a lot of time at as a kid. It has significance to me because Kalamalka lake is, first off, absolutely beautiful and it borders the city I was raised in. The biggest thing about this lake is that it has so many cliffs for cliff jumping which is huge in my city and my biggest fear is heights. This was the point for me where I could conquer anything.
So that’s kind of why I decided to name my gamertag “Kalamalka”, but after about a year-and-a-half of being Kalamalka I noticed people had a bit of difficulty pronouncing it so I decided to take the first four letters and just make it “Kala.”
From there you transitioned into the esports world and got your start coaching Fnatic. How did you get your start with them to the extent that you did?
I first entered into HotS after being involved in the competitive World of Warcraft scene and then I moved on to League of Legends. My roommate taught me everything about MOBAs and I became so invested in LoL and the LCS so that’s where I kind of got my jump into esports. I would watch LCS religiously and try to grind as a League player and I ended up hitting Diamond 1 which is 90-95 LP range and is pretty significant.
As soon as HotS released I was like, “World of Warcraft player, we got Warcraft heroes, we got MOBA experience, we’re moving into Heroes of the Storm.” So, that’s exactly what I did.
“I wanted to make a region that people looked at and were proud of. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last year-and-a-half which is to try to increase the professional nature of North America.”
After a few months of being in HotS there was a Reddit post looking for an analyst for Fnatic. I looked at it and was like, “This has to be it. There’s no way Fnatic, the organization, is looking for an analyst on the Reddit.” I jumped into the thread, read up a little about it and thought, “Okay, I’m going to try this but I’m going to work 10x harder than anyone else who is applying.”
I put in videos. I put in articles. I wanted Fnatic to look at my application and be like, “Yes, this guy above everyone else.” That’s what I did. It was between me and three other guys, they chose me, hired me, I worked remotely and that was basically my start.
You helped turn the Fnatic Heroes team into what they are now then transitioned over to Tempo Storm in North America. From an analyst and coach’s perspective, what are the big differences between the two regions that you’ve noticed?
For EU, from the outside perspective, they’re very rigid and very professional. From being on the inside and in scims with people like Breez and Quackniix, they’re characters, they’re funny and they have a good time.
From the outside, they have those elements as well but everyone looks at Europe like, “This is a very formal, very powerful region. They have the scheduling, infrastructure, they care about their jobs, they’re invested in their jobs.” Whereas, they look at NA and go, “Eh, it’s a group of cliques that developed the competitive landscape.” That’s what I took moving from EU to NA.
I wanted to make a region that people looked at and were proud of. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last year-and-a-half which is to try to increase the professional nature of North America.
Why did you leave the EU scene and move onto NA?
I wanted a change of pace. I wanted to work with a team every day consistently because, obviously, there’s a significant time difference between North America and Europe so I wanted to be able to do my day job, go into scrims when I’m done and just work 15 hours a day and go to sleep.
Some may say, “Who are you to tell pro players how to play when you yourself are not a pro player?” How do you get through to players who play the game 12 hours a day and you just got off your full-time job to come work with them?
I think the biggest challenge for me was entering into those spaces because people had no reason to listen to me. Sure, I used to be on Fnatic, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t use past experiences as a way to make myself relevant in the now. So, what I would do with my current team is: I would say things and if they would argue with me, I would listen to their opinions and I would either create a counter-argument or use the information that they gave to me to make me better at what I do.
I wouldn’t consider myself above any of my players, ever. I always, even with amateur players, use the information around me and make me a better version of who I am. That’s basically what I’ve always done. I use the entire scene as an information source to make me better at my job. My job isn’t entirely to tell players what they’re doing right or wrong, sometimes I’m also coaching communication.
“I think Tempo Storm does a better job than any of the other organizations in the scene to hold the staff and players accountable to do something in their scene.”
You’re saying this play correct but you’re saying it too lengthy. The information is being portrayed in 10 words when you can use three. Sometimes it’s dealing with personality conflicts on the team, it’s not always just micro and macro strategy. There’s a lot more to coaching than just that.
What made you interested in transitioning from the professional scene to the community coaching which you’ve been doing?
Every single person in Heroes of the Storm complains about the lack of knowledge in the game and no one was doing anything about it. I got to a point where I was playing Hero League and I got frustrated so I thought, “Okay, well I guess I’m the only one who will do it so I will.”
I created Community Coaching, I offer coaching services for free, I have been producing 45-minute videos daily for the past year and I wanted to start producing this content so that people would have a repository of information to learn from at any given time.
I’ve tried to create it in such a way that it’s universal. I’ve tried to create it in such a way that you don’t have to look back at a video and think, “Ah, that’s an outdated patch, this information is irrelevant.” I’m trying to equip players and the community with the tools to be able to make these conclusions on their own. I want to teach them how to think, not just how to play.
Do you put any responsibility on Blizzard to educate the community or are they just the game developer?
None at all. Blizzard’s responsibility to educate the player base is zero. It’s my job, it’s everyone else’s job who wants to and it’s the job of the passion of the community. If Blizzard is willing to honor us content creators and elevate our message to the community, hell yeah, that’s awesome.
It’s not on Blizzard to educate the community as it’s not on Riot to educate League of Legends players. The responsibility is on the community itself.
Tempo Storm has taken the initiative to create content with Psalm, yourself and Fan all being a part of that. Why does Tempo feel the importance to be the ones creating content?
I think Tempo Storm does a better job than any of the other organizations in the scene to hold the staff and players accountable to do something in their scene. So, not even specifying the contract, I think that Tempo Storm just does a great job of saying, “You have this platform, what are you going to do with it?”
You see that throughout my entire team. I would have to say that my team, in general, produces the most amount of educational content on Heroes of the Storm. Tempo Storm has always focused on education. Hearthstone, same thing. So many of the Hearthstone content creators are there trying to educate the community and I think it’s fantastic.
What would you say are some of the biggest issues you see when doing Community Coaching that drives you crazy or is very common from your experience coaching Bronze to Master level players?
I think it’s looking at the information that’s available to you so; information portrayed on the mini-map; information you received from your opponent using x, y or z heroic so you know that they’re down those heroics or specific information you get from seeing the experience bar and making the wrong calls.
Saying, “We’re halfway to level 13, they’re 13 and they’re all missing on the map, are we actually going to walk into this bush?” Stuff like that. When you take information, you disregard it and you disrespect it. I think that is the most common thing.
Have you noticed that the heroes’ community wants to learn or do they have this sense of ignorance to where they know what they’re doing and it’s their teammate’s faults?
I think there’s is an insatiable eagerness to learn. My Community Coaching has never gone un-signed up for even when nobody knew who I was. It’s always sold out completely. My patreon, always sold out. It’s always filled up because people want this information at all times no matter what. What that means to me is: Make content, you guys. Do something different. Make your own Community Coaching because people will pay attention to it. People want to learn.
“It’s not a matter of if you’re going to succeed, it’s a matter of when as long as you have that mentality and drive. I deal with amateur players on the daily and I convince them of this because I believe in everyone.”
Recently, you actually worked with Blizzard to put together a stutter-stepping video to educate the community. Talk about how that came together.
Blizzard honored me to be completely honest. They saw what I was doing and they thought it was real, organic and the voice I had and the vision I had was something they could get behind.
To be honest, Blizzard does very little with third-party organizations or bodies so the fact that they were willing to reach out to me and ask me to create something for them, it absolutely blew my mind and honored me beyond measure. I think they did that just because they thought that the way I portrayed information and the way that I had been conducting my own community was something that they just really wanted to get behind.
If anyone from Blizzard reads this, thank you. Seriously, I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity and I can’t wait to create more.
You recently transitioned into doing Heroes work as your full-time job, what did you do previously for work when Heroes was a side-project for you?
I worked at an avionics manufacturing facility on the network team. I have a background in network engineering and that’s kind of where I went into analysis work because I was so used to analyzing network code. I was like, “I can take replays and find your faults, that’s easy to me.” That’s all I did all day was fault-find.
What do you see for the future for yourself? You’ve done Community Coaching, Tempo Storm coaching and you recently casted some HGC Crucible with SolidJakeGG.
I want to take any and all opportunities. I want to do more for this game, I want do more for this scene. I want to cast more games, I want to be a better coach, I want to provide more community content and I want to, 10-15 years down the road, be the founder of one of the biggest educational environments for esports in the world.
To get you off on this, what advice do you have for an amateur player who wants to go pro but doesn’t necessarily know what it takes to get over the hump?
It has nothing to do with the game, it’s all about how you approach your life. If you want something in life, you just have to go and pursue it no matter what. If you have an eight-hour-a-day job that’s fine, you just have to play games and compete for seven hours after that. You have to grind until there’s nothing left then you have to keep pushing because that’s all there is to it.
It’s not a matter of if you’re going to succeed, it’s a matter of when as long as you have that mentality and drive. I deal with amateur players on the daily and I convince them of this because I believe in everyone. It’s all about work ethic. It’s all about whether you want to put in the time and want to put in the effort to make your dreams come true. If I can do it, you can do it.
Sort comment by :