Seth "Achilios" King has arrived in the Overwatch League. A multi-game caster, Achilios began casting Overwatch in OGN's Apex league in South Korea in 2016. Now, over two years after starting to cast the game, Achilios and his casting duo Wolf "Wolf" Schröder are bringing buckets of excitement accompanied by rich historical context to season 2 of the Overwatch League.
Despite being a part of the cast for only a fraction of a season, Achilios and Wolf have casted some monumental moments in a few short months, including the very first win for the Shanghai Dragons organization. Last week, Achilios and Wolf casted a match between the Guangzhou Charge and Atlanta Reign, which would go on to be the longest, highest-scoring match in OWL history.
Following the Charge's marathon victory over the Reign, Achilios joined Nick Geracie from Inven Global to discuss his time in the Overwatch League, his dynamic with Wolf, and even dropped few suggestions to increase the excitement of Assault maps in competitive play.
Achilios, I want to start by asking you about this match that you just casted. What does that type of length and back and forth do to a caster over time?
Honestly, if the games go long and there is constantly action, it's usually not too rough when casting, at least for me. If a game is going long because there are consistent pauses and you have to consistently be funny and entertain the audience during that kind of down time, I start feeling more exhausted. Basically, as long as the games are going and there's still action, my adrenaline's still pumping, so I'm still high energy.
I'm able to be pretty upbeat on the cast and keep up with everything, so I don't mind series like that. It's just when technical issues and those kind of things happen — Wolf and I are basically cursed in that regard — that's when you get worn down very quickly.
You've been casting Overwatch for a couple of years, but this is your first experience casting the Overwatch League. How has this experience been for you these past two stages?
It's been great so far. Being back in America is a large transition. I've been in South Korea for so long that I consider it my home, so I feel kind of like a foreigner coming back to the US. As far as working with the Overwatch League, it's been nothing short of fantastic overall. I have no issues to complain about. All of the people who make the actual production come together have been very accommodating and very responsive when I need help with something.
Being able to talk to people in English live during a broadcast is a pretty crazy change in its own right for me. When we cast in Korea, we're always out on our own. We have no buttons to talk to production. They run everything, and we respond to it, so it's very much about rolling with the punches. Here, we have a lot more input and control.
If I want to see a specific replay, I can make a request for that. I have all of these tools and sorts of things that I've never had before, so it's a pretty staggering change in that regard. Otherwise, it's the same game. Metas change in all games, but otherwise, it's still Overwatch, so I just show up and do my thing every day.
You originally casted OGN Apex and then Contenders in South Korea prior to casting Overwatch League. Do you try and weave the older storylines into your OWL broadcasts when applicable?
Yeah, and part of it comes from being a duo with Wolf. Wolf has always been a history-driven caster, even back in his StarCraft and Heroes of the Storm days. He's always had this encyclopedic knowledge of what team a player used to be on; how many championships the player has won; what year something was; what champion someone was playing when they won a championship, etc.
Wolf has this really in-depth knowledge about the history of the game, so that definitely bleeds over into my own thoughts about how I want to tell the story of a team. History is pretty much everything. Not very often do we see someone just come out of nowhere and get picked up.
Toronto Defiant's Hong "im37" Jin-ui is maybe the best example of that happening. He's known for being really good in open division and streaming a bit, but as far as history of being on a team and having a legacy and whatnot, it's completely nonexistent. Most players have some form of legacy, and those are really fun stories to tell because Overwatch is way bigger now than when Apex was happening. There are a lot more eyes on it now, so a lot of people don't know these older stories.
I know some people that are already familiar with them might get frustrated that we're always talking about the old days, but what those people don't realize is that there are people who DON'T know. We want to contextualize this rivalry or how far this player has come for those who weren't around.
For example, the fact that Moon "Gido" Gi-do is now potentially forever on the bench for Washington Justice is crazy. This guy used to be a Genji main, and he was the OGN Apex Season 3 Finals MVP! If you don't know that, you don't care as much about Gido being benched, you just think 'Oh okay, I guess he's just not a good support, whatever.' With the additional context, you realize how crazy of a fall from grace this is for him.
In similar regards, you and Wolf got to cast the first victory for the Shanghai Dragons in franchise history during Stage 1. A lot of the players on the Dragons are South Korean players who got their starts in the Apex league, so was there something personal to casting their victory for you?
Like you said, a couple of the players were in Apex, and then played together Kongdoo Panthera in Contenders Season 1 & 2. Seeing these players transition into the Overwatch League and turn the Shanghai Dragons into a potential playoff team is pretty nuts to see.
As far as us getting to cast that victory, it was complete luck. We just happened to be put on for that game with the Dragons playing against Boston Uprising. Fusions couldn't play because of the 2-way contract ruling with Uprising Academy. It was all of these weird, perfectly aligned circumstances for Wolf and I to be a part of that moment. It was surreal. I think I tweeted something like, "They did it, and I was f*****g casting it."
It was unreal that I had just arrived in the Overwatch League and I got to be part of a moment that substantial. While it was an incredible moment, looking back...it was a completely different team. Still, the fans in the arena were going crazy. People were crying and hugging each other. It was such a beautiful moment. Geguri was crying on the sidelines and the curse was finally lifted.
In the past, you casted multiple games. Was there anything you had to change in your approach when transitioning to casting Overwatch full-time?
I've personally found Overwatch to be a game not only more accepting of my casting, but a game where I can excel and cast the way that I want to. I like fast-paced, high-octane gameplay. That's where I excel. When it comes down to what I get out of casting, I like when stuff is happening nonstop and there is always action flying across the screen.
I like to try and convey as much as possible as to what's going on, and for some people, that can be hard to understand because I am speaking so quickly. I get that, especially for non-native English speakers, but I like to tell the entire story of what's going on so people who aren't necessarily watching, but listening, can still understand how a team fight is developing and what exactly is happening in the game.
I've had people tell me that they listened to a cast when driving to work because they couldn't watch, but they could tell exactly what was happening because of my casting. I've always wanted to paint that mental picture for somebody who isn't necessarily staring at a screen.
That's very much like conventional sports broadcasting.
Yeah, except way faster and way more chaotic *laughs*
Is this type of descriptive casting something you've always strived for, or something you've cultivated specifically in Overwatch?
I've kind of always been trying to do it, but it doesn't necessarily work with a lot of the other titles that I've casted. For Overwatch, when the action is on, it's on. There's not a lot of down time, but when there is, Wolf is decompressing everything for the audience. I'll explain what is going on in real time and then Wolf will go back and go in-depth.
It's like I'm painting in hard colors and Wolf comes in after me to do the shading. We're painting this picture so we can contextualize things a little bit more for people who aren't even watching. I think that mix exists really well here for me in Overwatch.
The way you described the dynamic between you and Wolf and what you excel in really fits with the current meta. What are the pros and cons of casting the GOATS meta?
It's really repetitive. You find yourself saying the same things over and over, and one of the things people will get on you about is repeat phrases.
Initially, when I was casting Overwatch Contenders Season 1 in South Korea, I was always saying, 'yet again' every time something happened in the game. That was my big repeat phrase, though I've had a few others recently that people have pointed out to me. For example, I always say 'locked up' when someone is caught in Zarya's Graviton Surge or a Brigitte stun.
Repeat phases can irk some sensitive people in the audience or watching from home. They want a caster to stop doing that, but when the gameplay is rinse and repeat in the 3-3 meta, it's really hard to not repeat yourself. It can become very frustrating when you're waiting for the cycle of twelve ultimates.
I think that 3-3 is good in that it's an intricate, micro-intensive meta. I think that it's really fascinating to say really good teams like NYXL and Vancouver Titans playing 3-3. It's really neat to see because sometimes it's these little hairline factors that can completely turn a team fight around, and being able to identify that and call those out is really neat. However, at the end of the day, the majority of an audience watching the game is not going to care about that, and the repetition makes it a pain.
The nature of Overwatch is also static in that it's teamfights over objectives, as opposed to having phases throughout the game where interactions change drastically. There are only so many words you can think of for the same six ultimate abilities, especially in the heat of the moment. What changes to the meta would you like to see to make the game more flavorful to cast?
I think casting the game right now is hitting everything at a really good pace as far as excitement. The meta is exciting because 3-3 is still prevalent, but we are seeing more swaps to DPS and we're seeing Baptiste come through as well, which is fantastic.
Things are already pretty exciting, but I think some adjustments to Assault maps would maybe be some of the best things we could see for the game. I don't even mean this necessarily from an excitement standpoint, but '2CP lol' is a big meme. Sometimes you will see people steamroll their way through and get a double capture after finishing in overtime on point A, and things tend to slow down.
I think things should be more down to the wire. For example, if you finish with less than a minute on point A, you should not be rewarded with four minutes. That is way too much time. A team who finishes with a decent time bank can get a four minute bump, but it should be reduced to two-and-a-half or three minutes for the attacking team if there's less than a minute left in its time bank. I think that will help reduce the length of the games, which will help audience retention.
This match tonight was exciting because we had thirteen total points taken on Hanamura and things were so close. However, sometimes you get rounds over and over again where people have significantly large time banks that need to be chewed up. This sometimes causes things to drag on for what feels like forever, so reducing that time bank addition would be great.
So it's less about changing the game itself, and more about changing the framework to best showcase the game's excitement.
Exactly. The game should reward teams who are being decisive and getting things done quickly. If they're coming up huge, they should be rewarded with the huge time bank. The teams that are struggling and barely scraping across that first finish line should not get a full four minutes. There should be a little bit of a disparity.
Thank you so much for your insight and time, Achilios. Do you have any long term goals you are trying to accomplish in esports through casting or otherwise?
That is a bit of a tough one...I kind of fell into casting. It was a suggestion from a friend who said I should consider trying it out back in 2012. I decided to do it, and we casted one day together. The online tournament we were casting fell apart after that, so they cancelled the rest of it. Still, I enjoyed the single match that I casted enough to keep pursuing it as a hobby. Eventually, that hobby started making me small amounts of money, and then it became a career.
Every week, I used to go to a LAN, cast a tournament, and maybe make like $50 or something. Eventually, it became bigger stuff, and soon after, Montecristo was messaging me asking if I wanted to move to South Korea to cast as a job. It was a dream come true: at that point I had been casting for about four years, and this was something I was doing for free because I enjoyed it. Now, I'm being asked if I want it to be my job. That's crazy. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity I had to lunge at.
I'm just kind of happy to be doing what I'm doing. Obviously, pushing myself higher and higher as far as what kind of tournaments I'm being a part of is always a good thing, because where there are more eyes on you, there is also more growth and opportunity. Right now, I'm not sure what the next step is, or if there even is one! I'm enjoying being here, and I'm going to keep riding the wave. I love this game, and I love casting in front of the live crowd.