[Interview] Cowsep announces move to Facebook Gaming, talks pre-season changes and mental health

▲ Photo from Cowsep's Twitter


Joseph "Cowsep" Hursey recently announced he is now streaming for Facebook Gaming, moving to the platform along with other streamers like Jeremy "Disguised Toast"  Wang and Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrias who have also moved over in the past weeks. Cowsep has been streaming around five years, mainly on Twitch, but has also maintained his Facebook page well which will help in his transition there.

Cowsep took some time to speak with Inven Global about the move, as well as his take on the preseason changes and his current mental health around streaming full time. We met at his favorite Korean pizza joint, and then he challenged us to a game of pool. 

▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global



Cowsep Moves to Facebook Gaming


Cowsep announced that he was partnering with Facebook Gaming last week, and began streaming there on Dec 7th.


So you've announced you're switching to Facebook Gaming, so why are you switching over to that? What is the benefit from it, and how has it been so far? 


Yes, I announced a few days ago I'm moving to Facebook, and actually... I was expecting the announcement to do better. When I sent it out, I was expecting it to have more reach, or more drama behind it. But what ended up happening, I released my announcement for Facebook Gaming on Facebook itself, but it wasn't using the appropriate thumbnail. So then I had to change my cover photo to try and get the appropriate image on there, and the changing of my thumbnail got more views than the actual announcement. 

So yeah, the announcement on Facebook didn't do quite as well as I wanted. I don't know why, but it didn't. But I also announced it on YouTube, and the comments were actually positive there. A large majority of my audience does use Facebook, because a lot of them are from Southeast Asia. So I got a really positive announcement on YouTube. I also announced it on Discord to try and get some of my regulars in there. 

▲ In front of Cowsep's favorite Korean pizza joint


And the thing about Facebook is everybody switches over for a different reason. I talked about this a lot, I think the move to Facebook can be really beneficial to me. I just mentioned how I have a large Southeast Asian audience who all use Facebook, and over the years, a lot of them are unable to watch on Twitch. For instance, when I go to Vietnam and I want to stream, I can't use Twitch sometimes, like the ISP blocks Twitch. So Twitch becomes a platform that is really hard for a lot of these countries to utilize.

So I figure if I take a year off and see what's going on and see if I can continue to do things with Facebook, there's a lot of potential for me to do things there. I'm really looking to keep building my audience in Southeast Asia. I also have a few friends who have moved over to Facebook as well, so I can interact with them there too.


Have you noticed any differences so far? 

Mostly just in how the audiences interact with me. Facebook viewers are so different, it's weird, but kind of nice. They're more interactive, and they're more humble and respectful of me in a way, whereas Twitch is just... Twitch. A lot of the Facebook comments are like, "Cowsep, look at me!" and other stuff like that hahaha. Twitch of course is just their current mix of memes and pastas and stuff, but I guess sometimes they have real conversations too, actually diving into the game.

Facebook seems a bit more social, they try to be a bit more interactive with me. I don't know. I guess that's because of the platform that the stream is on. Like, Facebook is a social networking platform, so that's just what they're doing - trying to be social and get noticed and stuff. But yeah, I'm getting used to them.

▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global



Preseason Changes


As a jungler, Cowsep plays the most affected position by all the preseason changes. Here is what he thinks about the drakes, new maps, and Sanguine Blade.


So what are your thoughts on the preseason changes then? You tweeted about it some, but what are your further thoughts on all of the jungle and drake changes?

Yeah, so when it comes to the pre-season, the first thing I want to ask is, "Why is stopwatch still a thing?" I mean what is up with this, I don't understand. I can go on for an hour about Stopwatch, I think this should be the big focus for this interview - "Stopwatch: Why is it still in the game?" Big bold letters! I just don't understand why they aren't removing it. I can't imagine people really enjoying it.

 


I mean I have beef with Zhonya's too, it's the most purchased item in the game. However, I can understand its purpose. I can see why champs like Fiddlesticks and Morgana and stuff need Zhonya's to function. I do, however, think it should be more expensive and give more stats so people aren't just always building it. Because if you look - I'm going on a Zhonya's rant right now - but if you look at every champion in the game that's AP, they all build Zhonya's as a third or fourth item. It's come to the point where it is no longer situational, it's required.

In this case, I'd really like to see them do something about it. I know I've talked a lot about this one item, but it's something that really ruins my day every day, so yeah! Hahaha. That's the biggest thing that I'm surprised about, that Stopwatch is still so rampant. 

But moving on, I think the preseason changes really benefit Master Yi a lot. Yi has the farming of the jungle style right, he really loves that kind of play, less ganking plus he kills dragons really quickly. At first I was worried about the dragon changes, because I thought the map wouldn't change until after the third dragon - not after the second - with the way they worded the patch. And the thing is, games in Korea are over before you even get to the third dragon right?

But no it was after the second which was pleasantly surprising. I'm a big fan of change in games because I play this game all day, so anytime it changes I'm happy with it. So I really like how it changes the map, I'm happy about that. I honestly think changes like this should really be every three to six months and not every year. Because for example, last year all we got were turret plates, which is so boring right? Then Riot went on vacation for three months. Literally that's what happened. They just did the plates and went on vacation. Hahaha.

The dragons themselves... I really enjoy the idea of dragon souls. They made the individual dragons weaker but the souls stronger. Which is okay. It kind of requires more teamplay around the dragon, but you can also kind of solo sneak those as well. I find myself getting the soul fairly often because I am proactively going for it.

For the jungle, I love the small camp respawn timer reduction. I think they're almost right, I think 1:50 would be better instead of 2 full minutes, but hey man, I've been asking for respawn timer reduction for about three years now! It's not even pure farming right now though. Like 1:50 would get me pure farming because that's 40 seconds extra off the clear.

▲ He's very proud! And we couldn't wait...


The problem with this patch is the catchup experience. Missing the catchup exp, I mean a lot of people were kind of tooting their horns about it, but the thing is, people don't actually realize how important catchup exp actually is. A lot of people just think, "oh I don't want that so I can outplay my opponent and I can put them behind." And we can agree that that showcases individual skill level right, but the issue with that is the person who is behind isn't having fun and isn't really playing the game.

Like if you've ever been behind as a jungler you totally understand what I'm saying. Like it's so frustrating, it's so boring. And the laners also take your farm. So while I agree that the enemy jungler should be punished if you're playing well, they shouldn't be four levels behind you. Maybe one or two.

And a lot of people may disagree with this, they think you should get really far ahead, but you have to kind of think of the game differently. If you're playing ten games a day and you feel like crap in five of them - because you average a 50% win rate - that doesn't feel so good. And that's generally how it goes. You usually lose when you fall behind. I think catchup exp should be reintroduced, and I'm saying this as a pure farming Master Yi player, but I can understand why people are against it.

Otherwise I guess the preseason just brought some new items. The Sanguine Blade one was kind of interesting when it got released before it got hotfixed. You could cap attack speed just from jungling when you're alone in the jungle. But the problem for me is Master Yi doesn't really need too much attack speed. So I think the item itself, as a Master Yi player, is not so good.

But otherwise I think it's kind of interesting. I kind of like it. A lot of people complain and say it should give extra attack speed if you are alone, not if the enemy is alone. But I think those people fail to realize if they did it like that there is no counterplay. Right like if you go to 3v1 to kill the carry, they always have that extra attack speed. But the way it is now, if you bring two people, you counter the item. Which makes sense, Riot doesn't like that uncounterable stuff. 

▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global

 

Cowsep's Game Development and Riot Forge


Riot recently announced that they are partnering with game devs to create more games within the League of Legends universe and Cowsep has been developing his own twoer defense game for the past two years.


So I know you are developing a game, and Riot recently announced Riot Forge, where they partner with game devs to create new games using their IP. What do you think about that as a dev yourself, and have you thought about using it? 

I mean to be frank, my initial thought is, "Oh great, more competition." Hahaha. The thing is, when there are so many games being released, now that's more competition you have to work with, right? Especially when my audience is all League related, they are likely to be looking at these other games created by those developers using this. So yeah, my immediate thought is just the competition coming out now because of it. 

But to be honest, I think that thinking about it outside of a business standpoint for myself, I think it's actually a good thing, and people have been wanting to make League related games for a while. And now they're finally giving us the ability to use their IP. I mean I think all around, it's a really wonderful idea. It's maybe not so good for game devs with a League audience, but if they are using that IP, then it's very good for them. So I think that Riot Forge is overall positive.

And I don't know, maybe I'll end up trying something, but I'm kind of into having my own stuff. I feel like Riot Forge is more for younger people. Where they're so invested in the LoL universe they want to make something for it. But when you're older, you have your own investment and ambitions that you're working towards, so you're not like, "Oh I have to make something League related," you already have your own ideas.

But the younger kids are like, "I play League all day, I'm making a League game now!" Especially with the prevalence of tools now like Unity and Unreal Engine, people can easily make a League kind of game.

 


So I think overall I think it will definitely be good for the community, and maybe I will end up doing something, because if I don't have to purchase assets - you know the characters and all that - they give that to you, when you have all that stuff, you can make really cool things. For example, DotA Auto Chess! So we will probably see some really cool new genres from that. 


So to clarify, you aren't planning to shift your current tower defense game to be a League game, right?

No no, because the thing is, I've been working on this game for two years or so. It's mostly just learning, and it's already come along so far. I have too many ideas of my own that I'm working on. I want to do another that's a stream game. You know how they have those points and stuff, I used to have an older game for my website and I kind of want to bring that back. If you make games like that, you can keep all of your audience in one spot and kind of maintain them.

And then I have this tower defense game. So I've been using that to learn, and I've been working on it for so long. I released the alpha and people have been really enjoying it, and to the point where I don't think I can abandon it. And as a solo dev, it takes forever. But I think I have something pretty good there and I also have the audience to deliver it to, so I'm not eager to get rid of it. You know, the people who get rid of projects never finish projects. So I'm sticking with it. 

This is the thing, for anyone who needs motivation for anything. "Motivation never lasts, you have to use discipline." And also, "The busiest people are the luckiest." So when you get bored of it, you just keep doing it. Like everyone asks "How do I have the motivation to finish my game development, or get to master tier, or challenger..." But the thing is you have to play past the motivation. The motivation gets you started, the discipline keeps you going.

So that's why I don't plan to do those Riot kind of games. However, if I ever want to practice my programming skill, I might do a one-week build of a game and then just be done with it. Because if you already have assets set up, you can just build something and be done with it. And I think that might be something I end up doing. No big Riot related games, but I might try a little mod, or a League of Legends tower defense. I could totally do that with the same idea that I had, just copy that. 

▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global


The other game dev type question I have is about the queue. Any thoughts on fixing the autofill problem but not creating long queue times, etc?

Well the problem with autofill is we need the shorter queue times, but when you have an autofilled person on your team, you lose. So there's the tradeoff with longer queue times, but higher quality games. I'm not the kind of person who likes sitting in game for 15 minutes because I had an autofill. I'd rather just sit in queue for five minutes instead of three.

The longer queues are mostly an NA problem, so in Korea or Vietnam the queues are shorter since there are more people playing. But sometimes I'll sit in queue for just 30 seconds and get autofilled. That's just not right. They need to remove autofill, or maybe encourage people to get a few more LP if they select 'Fill' or something like that, so some people are more likely to fill so that others don't have to. Because autofill just ruins games.

And I'm not even talking about me getting autofilled, if my support gets autofilled, we're screwed. And can you imagine an autofilled top vs a main top? They just get stomped. Like Ashkan "TF Blade" Homayouni vs some regular bot laner, you're donezo. Autofill is one of those problems for lower population servers.

I think if your queue times are greater than five minutes, then sure, turn on autofill. But there's no reason to have autofill for these two to three minute queue times. We don't have enough data about how long queue times are and what Riot's doing, and in high elo you're always going to have autofill because how long the queue times are, but if you're playing in Silver, why are you getting autofilled?

I think it's just a quality of life thing for low elo players. Or even up to Diamond players, they have short queue times too, just one to three minutes. So if you're under Master tier, I really don't think autofill should be a thing. And not just for me, for everybody. Like you can say, "Oh you should learn some other roles Cowsep." No it's not about me, it's about everybody. Everybody can be autofilled. 


Mental Health and Time Off


Cowsep and other streamers have been vocal about the challenges of steraming that most outsiders don't recognize. Cowsep explains some of the nuances to his personal challenge with streaming full time. 


Around MSI, you spoke about how the game seemed to be balanced for pro-play only and was becoming really frustrating for you in your daily life. Then a couple weeks ago, you tweeted out that you needed to take a break and get outside more. Do you care to share anything about how your life revolves around streaming? 

The problem is when you play the game day in and day out, it becomes more of a job than a game. And when you play with people who also treat the game so seriously - like especially in Korean solo-queue with how seriously they treat it - it just becomes very frustrating. And when you balance the game around pro-play, everyone has to play meta all the time. The games are really short because they have to keep the pro games at a certain length, and it's just really frustrating in general. 

So I find it really hard for me to do the constant eight hour streams that I used to do. Nowadays, the longest streams I can do are about five hours. And just sitting inside the house all day, the negativity really just bubbles up on you. You just really have to go outside and get away from the game, forget that it even exists. 

▲ Cowsep's favorite pizza, Potato Pizza. Carbs on carbs! (But very tasty!)


I think they're kind of moving away from pro-play balancing a little bit, like with the dragons and stuff. I think this will make for some really interesting kind of solo-queue games. Like obviously it will benefit pro games where team play can win you the dragons, but in solo-queue, everything is such a fiesta, it feels like you can win through the dragons. Like the Elder Dragon is kinda crazy now.

I don't know, it just feels a lot more casual to me. Unless you just straight up get stomped into the dragon soul - and that happens sometimes - but definitely I feel like it's a bit more casual which I enjoy. I'm not sure what makes it feel that way though. Maybe because I don't have to gank all the time, because in pro-play, it's all about the ganks.

But now that we're moving more towards farming in the jungle, laners can kind of focus more on their 1v1s. They don't need their jungler there all the time, they don't have to get frustrated at their junglers, the junglers don't have to always get frustrated at the laners. So we've kind of separated the map to a point where you can kind of focus on your own game instead of the overall game, like where actual pro-players have to focus on the team game. Now we're focused on each of our own little games.

It's kind of tough, but I do think the games are improving. So maybe I'll start playing a bit more, at least this pre-season, because I like the jungle changes, and I'm glad we're finally getting real jungle changes. Because previously, the jungle changes were like, "Here's a crab.... Oh nevermind it's too strong, here's a crab nerf... Oh no, no, no. Let's make it a little bit later." So yeah, that's how I feel about all that. 

 



Someone suggested you should play a new champion, and you laughed at it but then you said their reasoning was good because they spoke about your game development and creativity side, so do you have any further thoughts on having a second main? 

The problem with a second main is I have to do what my viewers want me to do. It's my job. It's like if you're working in the office, and your boss is like, "Write an article about the LCS," and then you write an article about the LCK, you can imagine how your boss would react. It's kind of the same with streaming.

If I'm expected to play Master Yi, and then I decide to play some Tryndamere, then everybody is going to be freaking out, and some people won't even watch your content. And you're not really going to get new people because nobody even knows you're now a Tryndamere main. So I would love to play another champion but I don't think it's going to happen. But maybe the upcoming mobile Wild Rift, because that will be big in Southeast Asia.

▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global


So I know you really like Pokemon, have you played the new game? I know a lot of people had interesting critiques about it, and you have a creative dev mind, so I wanted your take.

No actually, I haven't even bought a Switch yet. I've kind of wanted to get one, but in general I don't really enjoy games as much as I used to because it kind of just reminds me of me not making my game. I have this unfortunate mindset where I have a hard time enjoying my time. If I'm not busy, it feels meaningless to me. I can't just sit down and enjoy Netflix, I have to be working.

I've talked about it sometimes on stream where people will say, "Man, I'd just love to be a streamer and work my five hours and go do whatever the hell I want to do," but you can't really do that. Because when you're in a position of growing your business - which is what streaming or freelancing really is - any time you're not working is time your business could be declining. 

You're just wasting time. I feel like my time is precious and I need to do more with it. You're missing opportunities and other people will just be going past you. Like the people that work harder will do better right? So for me, I just have to always work, so I can't just enjoy time off. 


Lastly, anything you want to say about your trip to Vietnam? 

Yeah actually I'm going to Vietnam because I wanted to take some time off from streaming. I mean yeah we had that little talk about my mental state from streaming, so the idea is that I'll go to Vietnam just not to work. I actually literally don't want to work! I can't turn my brain off, so I'm trying to take this Vietnam trip as a chance not to work.

▲ Cowsep visits Vietnam


But the thing is, I actually think I'm going to end up recording content for YouTube so I'm technically still working. I don't want to, but I think otherwise it's such a missed opportunity, right? Most of my fans are there, so if I didn't want to work, I probably should've gone to Greenland or somewhere in Europe or somewhere right? But yeah I love Vietnam so much, I just wanted to return and see some fans and stuff. And I knew I'd probably do content, but the idea was just to go on vacation. 



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