Making his debut on 2016, Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk is now known as one of the best performing bottom laner in the current LoL scene. He started from the Challengers Korea (CK) and experienced numerous international tournaments throughout his 3-year pro career. This prominent bottom laner made it to the Worlds Finals in his first LCK year. And in the following year, he succeeds to lift the Worlds trophy. He made it to the Worlds stage 3 consecutive times and in 2018, he was included in the Korean national team for the Asian Games.
Although Gen.G wasn’t at their best in 2018, no one expected them to fall this much in the 2019 LCK Spring.
“I’m not sure if this Spring was a good experience or not. I just don’t want to experience this ever.”
Especially for Ruler, who was used to competing for a spot for the top throughout his career, this Spring was a totally different experience. It must have been pressuring for him and Gen.G since they had to withstand heavy criticism.
After having some time to recharge from his rather frustrating Spring, we sat with Gen.G’s bottom laner Ruler for a 1-on-1 interview. Starting from his days before jumping into the pro scene to his plans after retirement, he managed to share honest answers during our 1-hour long talk. The following is the interview with Gen.G Esports’ bottom laner, Ruler.
Notes: This interview was conducted during the 2019 MSI.
How’s practice going recently?
We’ve had a week off. After that, we’ve been practicing mostly solo queue. Since we’re also streaming, we don’t have a lot of time to focus on scrims.
Have you scrimmed against teams that came to Korea for a boot camp?
We’ve only performed against TL and I think we did pretty well.
How have you been after the Spring Split?
You know, our Spring didn’t go that well… I went on my vacation as fast as possible and now I’m practicing. I had a week off and I’m back at the gaming house playing scrims and streaming recently.
You have some close friends who are now off to the MSI such as Clid and Teddy. Did you play duo queues with them before they went off to Vietnam?
Hm… Now they won’t let me duo with them. (laughs) So, I’m doing my best in solo queue to get higher ranks.
I was kind of jealous… That’s why I didn’t say anything to them. To be honest, it does make me jealous when my close friends win the LCK. (laughs) So, yeah, I didn’t say anything special. The only thing I remember is that I said “congratulations!”
How will you be preparing before the Summer Split starts?
Our team has to do very well this Summer. That’s why we’re practicing more than usual.
What kind of person were you before jumping into the pro scene?
I went to an industry high school and I was thinking of whether to focus on gaming or my studies at that time. Playing games was one of my favorite things to do when I was young. Once I started LoL, my ranks naturally improved. That’s when I decided to focus more on gaming than my studies.
What was your first rank in LoL?
I was Silver. Then I was relegated to Bronze. (laughs) After I received Bronze, I tried harder to get better ranks.
Did you play any other games?
Either than LoL and Warcraft, I played soccer games a lot. Well, people would mostly think of FIFA or PES but I played a soccer game called Freestyle Football. (laughs) I loved that game so much! But, playing soccer wasn’t a hobby. For me, playing games was a hobby. I only enjoyed watching soccer.
When did you start to believe you had a chance of making it to the professional gaming scene?
Frankly speaking, I never thought of it before I received high ranks. As I played games, my rank naturally improved and soon I met pro gamers in solo queue. I sometimes won against them and that’s how I gained confidence. I think that was when I started to think of becoming a pro.
Did you have a role model in solo queue?
I watched a lot of “Deft montages” as I grinded in solo queue. I tried my best to learn and that’s how I was able to win a lot of games. But I don’t really think I had a specific role model in mind since I was always confident that I was the best in solo queue.
So, you started from Bronze and came all the way up to Challenger. What would be the main reason for your improvements in solo queue?
When I first started solo queues I didn’t have a lot of knowledge at this game and didn’t even buy my Runes after I hit level 30. So, I was basically playing LoL without thinking at all… (laughs) That’s when my teammates in solo queue started saying, “Yo, go back to Normals! Please come back after winning at least 500 games.” Well, after that, I practiced a lot and that’s how I improved.
You made your pro debut in Challengers Korea (CK) and your team performed pretty well. However, in an interview, I read that your father wanted you to perform in a 1st division team.
At that time, my parents told me to go to the army if you’re not going to perform in a 1st division team (LCK). So, it did make me pressured but it wouldn’t matter if I promote my team to the LCK right? That’s why I tried so hard to get promoted. Unfortunately, our team lost after going up 2 games in the CK Playoffs. It was a frustrating defeat.
So, what was the main reason you moved teams?
I have to say it was my parents. When I look back at my CK days, I have so many good memories; my teammates and I made such a great team! However, my parents didn’t want me to perform [in CK] and I went back to focusing on solo queue. That’s when other teams reached out to me.
Did you receive a lot of offers from LCK teams?
I was mainly on top of the KR server Challenger list for the past 1-2 years and I thought, ‘why won’t I receive official offers from teams?’ Fortunately, head coach, Edgar told me that he was thinking of signing me and that’s how I ended up in Samsung.
My friend, Mowgli was going for the tryouts. So, I told him, “Can you recommend me to the team?” But it turned out that Edgar was actually considering to sign me as well.
When you first moved to Samsung, CoreJJ changed his role to support. Former pro, Wraith was also performing as a starter and in the AD carry position, there was Stitch. Wasn’t it pressuring for an LCK rookie to get a spot in the starting lineup?
I was overwhelmed with confidence at that time. Since I thought that I can win against anyone, I wasn’t that nervous or pressured. Well, it was very surprising to see CoreJJ performing as a support. (notes: CoreJJ changed his role from ADC to support in 2016.) When he asked me to play duos, I thought he was joking. Then he told me that he will now play as a support and this was what made me pressured since I thought that he changed roles because my presence would make our team having 3 ADCs. If I underperformed, it would make the situation so awkward.
How was your teamwork with your supports? I remember that Wraith and CoreJJ took turns performing on stage.
CoreJJ just moved roles so he didn’t play scrims that much. That’s why I wasn’t able to perform with CoreJJ that much. Still, we did practice together a lot.
There were some veterans in the Samsung roster. What kind of help did they offer to you at your LCK rookie season?
They gave me a lot of strong and harsh feedback and that’s why my performance improved. Although it was tough, I’m sure that it helped me.
Do you remember any kind of advice you received at that time?
I was killed inside the game too often. I think I was very hasty and sometimes I was killed way too frequently. That’s when Edgar was very mad and he did give me some harsh feedback. (laughs)
Eventually, you managed to perform better than expected in your first LCK season. Were you confident in delivering good results?
I was always confident. However, I was alarmed after losing in lane against high-tier teams. They were way better than I thought they’d be. Still, I thought that I was capable of becoming better than others. I tried my best.
So, did your confidence help make you become one of the best bottom laners in the LCK?
Yeah, for sure it did. Also, I experienced a lot by participating in numerous international tournaments.
You made it to international stages in your first LCK year. How much do you think your experience in Worlds helped you?
Worlds is a dream stage for every LoL pro gamer. I couldn’t believe that I was able to perform in Worlds in my rookie LCK year. I got the chance to learn from players all across the globe and it helped me a lot. That’s why performing in international tournaments is a must for players.
Were there any players that caught your interest?
I faced FORG1VEN in the Semis. At that time, Korean teams had such a strong image. However, he was so good at laning against us. I learned a lot from his plays.
After finishing your first year in the LCK, you get another chance in the next year at Worlds. Although your team was on a bad start, you guys managed to win the title by defeating SKT 3:0 in the Finals.
When we were preparing for the 2017 Worlds, practice went really well. I think the Ardent Censer meta went well with our style. That’s why we thought that we would definitely win the Worlds. However, once the tournament started, things went bad. Our performance during practice wasn’t good and we actually thought that we could get eliminated in Groups. Luckily we won some important games and survived Groups.
During the 2017 Worlds, your team improved a lot in such a short amount of time.
We might have simply adjusted to the atmosphere. Also, we performed much better in official games than in scrims. After we made it through the Group Stage, our concerns vanished.
In your first LCK season, you came in a close second place in the 2016 Worlds, Next year, you managed to win the 2017 Worlds. Which tournament do you think was more memorable?
The players I was with say that we won the 2017 Worlds because of our second-place experience in the 2016 Worlds. However, personally, I think that we could have won the 2017 Worlds even if we did win the 2016 Worlds. Well, in a different way, I remember the 2016 Worlds more since I was so frustrated in losing in the Finals. We were so close to winning the title…
You had some very good memories in 2016 and 2017. However, 2018 wasn’t as good. Looking back at your experience in the Worlds and Asian Games, what does the year 2018 mean to you?
Our performance had some big ups and downs in 2018. I think we lacked practice after winning the Worlds. So, once we focused more on practice, our performance got better.
As for the Asian Games… I don’t have pleasant memories. Of course, it was a good experience for my mentality. It made me more motivated.
Is there any international tournament you would like to win in the future?
Although I do want to win the MSI, I’d like to make my revenge in the Asian Games. (Q. It’s a pity that they won’t have esports as an event in 2022. You’ll have to remain as a pro for quite a while.) Yeah, I’ll have to be a pro for a long time… (laughs)
There were a lot of changes inside the team going into 2019. With the roster rebuilt, what was your goal going into this Spring Split?
Our scrims went pretty well. Although we did lose in the KeSPA Cup Finals 3:0, we thought we were on track and expected to make it to the LCK Playoffs. We didn’t expect that we’d do this bad.
At the beginning of the Spring Split, a lot of unexpected teams, especially the promoted teams performed very well.
The promoted teams were DAMWON and SANDBOX and I didn’t anticipate that they’d do this well. As we faced those teams, we thought that they displayed solid performance. On the other hand, our start wasn’t as good. That’s why it made us struggle in the Spring Split.
Like you’ve mentioned, Gen.G’s start in this Spring didn’t go as planned. That’s why people started to think that Gen.G’s late-game focused playstyle is no longer viable in this current meta. What kind of feedback did you guys share during this split?
I was asked to not die in the mid to late game. As a team, we tried to go back to the basics.
In round 2, Gen.G started to improve. Your performance, especially on Vayne was exceptional and saved Gen.G from the Summer Promotions. Although you are now an experienced player, this time, you had to go through a totally different environment and could’ve faced the worst case scenario: being relegated to CK. How was this Spring different compared to your past few splits?
When we were competing for the top, I thought, “We could’ve finished on 1st place if we won this game…” However, this time our team had to compete to survive in the LCK. So, it was the other way around. We started to say, “We could’ve finished on 6th place if we won this game…” This year has been definitely tough for me.
We’re trying our best to jump back but I’m not sure if this Spring was a good experience or not. I just don’t want to experience this ever. (laughs)
You said that you would make a donation if Gen.G escapes the Promotions.
Before this Spring Split, I told the fans in my live stream that I would give 1 million Korean Won (approx. 838 USD) to charity if I fail to lose weight which I eventually failed. Then, during an interview in the Spring Split, I told the fans that I would donate 1 million Korean Won if we escape from the Promotions. And, we did and I decided to donate 2 million Korean Won.
I did think about donating in the past but couldn’t carry it out. This was a great chance to actually give help and I feel so good. I know it kind of looks like I’m showing off when posting, "I made a donation!" through my social media account. But, I had to since it was a promise I made with my fans.
This split, a lot of people used the word ‘Ruler ending’. (notes: A term made in the Korea LoL community after Ruler’s capability of carrying the entire game.) Doesn’t this title pressure you at all?
I’m really happy about this nickname since it means that my performance and hard work is finally paying off. It doesn’t make me pressured at all. This nickname is something that should be used more often!
In this MSI, IG and G2 are using an early game focused playstyle. On the other hand, SKT seems to focus more on their mid to late game macro. What are your thoughts on the current MSI meta? (notes: This interview was conducted during the MSI.)
I think it would go down to how one can aggressively play in the early game. I think this can be a threat to SKT since foreign teams are so good at that. So, they’ll have to prepare a lot on that matter.
Then, what are your thoughts on Phong Vũ Buffalo?
They are good at fighting but sometimes they overplay. I don’t know how to explain but they really love to fight. In a pro gamer’s point of view, I do feel it’s somewhat unnecessary. (laughs) However, in a fan’s point of view, their playstyle is for sure fun to watch. That’s their team color and I do respect that. Although they’re good in skirmishes, they might have a hard time against high-tier teams.
What are your goals for this Summer?
My goal is to win the Worlds. But, currently, this goal seems difficult to fulfill. So, it would be best to at least make it to the Playoffs this Summer and possibly perform in the Regional Finals. Although we might fail to deliver good results, I just want us to enjoy and have fun.
What would be some improvements that you should make going into Summer?
I think our laning ability needs improvement. Other than that, performing well in teamfights would be important for our team. Personally, I’m trying my best to climb up in solo queue.
Do you think you’ll remain in the esports scene after retiring?
If you count live streaming as esports, maybe? Well, I think I’d be streaming since it was a thought that I’ve had throughout my career. I don’t think I’ll become a coach.
If you had the chance to move teams, which region do you want to perform in?
EU or China. I’d like to learn their unique playstyle. (Q. Then you’ll have to practice performing on non-ADC champs.) Yeah. Well, I do think Sona is fun these days. I’d like to try out Sona-Taric or Sona-Pyke comp. I do sometimes use Sona in solo queue but I die at least 10 times. That’s why I think that it might be a bad decision to actually use her [in official matches]. (laughs)
Do you have any words for the fans?
I know we let our fans down this Spring. I’ll do my best to deliver better results this Summer. Thank you for your support!