Jake “SolidJake” Kulinski’s involvement in the Heroes of the Storm scene pre-dates the release of the full game being available to the general public. Between masterminding what is arguably the most popular Heroes’ podcast, TownHall Heroes, to casting the amateur Open Division scene and launching a community funded tournament with a $10,000 prize pool, Bloodlust, SolidJake has seen and done it all.
While the list of accolades continues further in Blizzard games and the fighting game community (FGC), SolidJake has accomplished all that he has despite failing to look out for ‘numero uno’...himself.
As long as his wife and her family’s business is taken care of, as long as the Blizzard community is taken care of, as long as the players and talent around him are taken care of, Jake is fine operating at a loss and putting himself at risk. The consummate ‘fall guy’ as it were.
That’s not to say he hasn’t had opportunities to put himself first and selfishly look to further his career in the entertainment business; it has to be on his terms after everyone else around him is first taken care of.
SolidJake didn’t even take notice of the fact that he put the world around him ahead of his own well being until it was brought to his attention, nor could he put a finger on to why.
“I do not know if it is because I come from the Smash Bros.’ community where we are used to having nothing. Back then we were used to really having nothing and that was fine. We love what we do, we love our game, we love our community and we do it for the game and for the community. It's just kind of the mentality I’ve always had with my Smash tournaments and with Heroes as well. It is just kind of always how I've been brought up I suppose.”
Town Hall of the Nexus
In February 2014, the Town Hall Alliance podcast was born. SolidJake, Kevin "Schamtoo" Pearson, Jared “Zoia” Eggleston and omegablackmage all joined one another with a low-resolution image in the background to talk Heroes of the Storm prior to it being released.
Four years and 177 episodes later, TownHall Heroes is still kicking and to SolidJake, it’s his baby.
“It has been a fun ride with TownHall. We have shifted hosts three times with (Kurtis ‘Kala’ Lloyd’) and (Mauricio ‘Marche’ Miranda) coming in as the next generation. There is just something about it and it is really compelling to me to ask fans as to why they like the show because to me when the hosts change out, theoretically, it is a different product, right? It should feel very different but I've always tried to retain that same kind of vibe and the same kind of feel and you know what? The viewers reciprocate. They actually stay with it and I always think, ‘Why do you like this versus X-other show and they are just like, ‘I don't know, I just do.’ It has definitely been a huge, huge, huge part of my career because without TownHall I don't think my cast and crew would have had the same kind of opportunities especially early on the amount of exposure that show brought to myself and my co-hosts is insane.”
A self-admitted Blizzard fanboy, SolidJake sites the consistent content releases within the game and the community surrounded it as the reason why he was initially attracted to it and why the show has succeeded after all this time.
That’s not to say life at TownHall was always peachy. Back in July of this year, SolidJake tweeted out that the show was to have its last episode at the end of the month stating, ‘all good things must come to an end.’ His co-hosts moved on to different ventures, leaving SolidJake in a rut.
“I feel dead inside, to be honest. It was not a good time for me. A lot of people were changing their focus. (James ‘Bakery’ Baker) has an awesome full-time job with Dignitas, Derek ‘DunkTrain’ Arabian) is moving on to other things and the crew just wasn't wanting to do a show at the time. I needed the break as well just to kind of refocus and explore some other options. I was looking for some other things to do.”
Turns out, a few months later and an encounter with old friends led to TownHall Heroes returning in October.
“We had actually announced that it was done. We said that we were going to do a final episode and I kept putting off doing that episode. I was out at the (Heroes Global Championship) studio and I was hanging out with Kala and Marche and we were just talking about the game. We just said, ‘This should probably be a podcast,’ and I'm like, ‘Huh, you're probably right.’ TownHall then returned because we had two guys who wanted to do a show.
The community welcomed the show back with open arms and an end is nowhere in sight.
A failure and a lesson
Over the course of the first few years of creating Heroes of the Storm content, in addition to his other work with Youtube, ESL and streaming, SolidJake estimates that he worked around 80 hours a week. Never not networking, theorizing content or big picture plans down the road as production is his love.
“I come from a background working in production first and commentating second. I actually look at that side of the show more than anything else. I really like to innovate, do new things and make the experience just better for people as much as I can.”
When SolidJake began to feel burnt out and overworked, he attempted to expand into different games by creating a production company called Arcane 8. The dream was to build a small team of people, renovate part of his house for live events and there he will host full events like Bloodlust, a crowd-funded professional Heroes tournament with a $10,000 prize pool.
At the beginning, they produced the Open Division for Blizzard on their channel and Amazon flew them out produce videos for their new game, Breakaway.
Once 2018 came around, Breakway got canceled as well as hundreds of hours of work down the drain. Soon after the Open Division was moved to the BlizzHeroes channel as part of Twitch’s partnership with Blizzard.
With back-to-back tough blows to Arcane 8, SolidJake knew it had to end.
“It was such a step backward for me because I had moved all of my content like TownHall to that network and it just kind of looked awful at the end of the day because I have killed it to this day.”
While he admits the project was a failure, that’s not to say he got nothing out of the experience.
“It was a big lesson learned because I learned that I cannot do the business side of things very effectively. I'm good at the creative side of things and if I had a business partner that was going to do the financial side such as selling sponsorships for events and maybe things would have gone better. But I spent countless hours trying to get sponsors for events. For Bloodlust, we still crowdfunded $10,000, which is amazing, but we got zero sponsors that year. It is very difficult to fund events like that without any kind of support.”
“I always try to think about the players first. Without the player and without the viewer you have nothing in the world of esports so that is the most important thing. I was just always thinking, ‘Okay, let's get the players excited for an awesome prize pool and let's get the viewers excited to engage with the players directly and then I will make money via sponsors.’ That's how I mentally envisioned it but I don't know what else I could have done as I reached out to any sponsor imaginable but no luck.”
As far as what the future holds for SolidJake, his knows his talents lie best on the production side of things and with Smash Bros. Ultimate now out and Warcraft 3: Reforged around the corner, there’s a possibility he may expand his horizons further. He could also always go work at one of the largest entertainment companies in the world which isn’t too far from his residence in Connecticut.
“I live very close to ESPN and part of me thinks that make sense but at the same time I like being my own boss. I hope I can continue to basically create events and content with other amazing companies. Whether it be Warcraft 3 with Blizzard or ESL, I want to keep doing what I'm doing, basically.”
He does have a dream job down the road that, with a little help from Blizzard, he hopes to turn into a reality someday.
“The dream job for me is that Blizzard releases a platform fighter that is free to play and has no lag on the internet and I get to commentate top-level matches a few days a week from a home studio. That's the dream.”
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