CVH – The QuakeCon 2019 Interview
You are working for Bethesda as the Legends community manager for over a year now?
Yeah, I started in March 2018. So I think it’s about 14 or 15 months, or something like that.
Going into the job, what did you really expect from it and how has your expectation of what you’re getting out of this position really changed in that period of time?
I’ve tried to keep my expectations small because I didn’t really know what the corporate world was like for the gaming industry. I expected things like writing social posts and monitoring Reddit and talking to people. But one of my biggest hopes was to help run events like the Master Series and having an impact on our competitive scene. So, that’s one of the most pleasant surprises. Of course, there’s a lot of other things that are happening behind the scenes that I didn’t know about, that go into everything from a new expansion to a new patch and all of the little day-to-day acts that make the game work. So, the real learning curve for me was figuring out how things work.
You were a music major. How has the experience that you had through your college experience and afterwards shaped the way that you approached your position at Bethesda?
There’s not a whole lot of overlap between music performance and community management. They’re very different worlds. But when I was doing music for a living alongside streaming I got really comfortable on stages. I’ve been performing since I was five years old and started studying music. Even through college, playing in a bunch of different types of gigs and with a bunch of different professional ensembles where I used to live really taught me to be comfortable on stage. There’s leadership qualities you have to get when you’re in that kind of setting because everyone is very responsible for their own stuff, more so than I think in a lot of office settings. If you’re late to a rehearsal or you mess up or there’s a lapse in communication, a whole gig can come crashing down and people don’t get hired ever again. So, I learned a lot about responsibility doing the music.
We spoke a little bit about how you have a big part in getting this event to actually happen, but in terms of your role in the preparations what have you been doing beyond the casting of the event?
Casting really just started for this event. I wanted to cast the finals and was in a position to cast the finals, so that was nice. It started from the very beginning with something as simple as trying to decide on a name and working with the art team to develop the first logo for the Masters. As far as the format goes, there are restraints, like, we have a one day event this year, while we had two days last year, so that’s eight people instead of sixteen. But, deciding how people qualify was me, deciding which format that the tournament was played in, like conquests or last class, that was me. Figuring out who we would work with for the qualifiers, this year that came to me, because I wanted to work with Team Rankstar due to their previous experience with Legends. So, I had a big part of that and I was getting them set up as a vendor for Bethesda, and I think they did a great job. Moving towards the finals, working with our vendor for this event, PGL, things like getting players booked, making sure they had all the information on the players and if there’s any communication I needed to help out with there. They would also come to us with a bunch of different onscreen assets. Everything you saw during the broadcasts, the player intros or the graphics for this or the graphics for that: they’d run those past by us. And I would be providing them things like the style guide and what we wanted to see. They would use things they saw in the qualifiers as a basis and we would go through and approve those and let them know what we wanted changed. So, it’s very much down to the nitty gritty stuff. And it all comes together to form this great event at the end. So the casting was actually the least pressure for me. I was was very happy that everything turned out okay.
It was really cool, yeah. Let’s speak a little bit more about the format. What motivated the decision to switch over from conquest to last hero standing?
Honestly, it was pretty simple. I personally don’t mind either format, but I know a lot of our most competitive players prefer last class standing. From a player perspective if we are trying to make a tournament series that caters to our homegrown group of really competitive players, we should go for that. I think the viewership experience can suffer at times but as long as the meta is in a really good place you don’t really get a ton of 3:0’s. We had seven matches today and two of them were 3:0’s. I think that’s acceptable. You couldn’t really expect more in a conquest format. When you’re doing a no-ban tournament you probably want to stick with conquest, because if there is one deck that’s really, really good it has a potential to sweep over and over again. But I don’t even think we are in that situation with the meta right now. But if you’re running a tournament a month or two ago with Empire Abomination and there’s no ban you probably don’t want to do last class as that would be horrible to watch.
Yeah, I was about to say that I’m very grateful that you guys fixed the abomination problem going into into this tournament.
Yes, that had its time to shine. We even did the thing where Disciple of Namira was banned for the LCQ, because the patch wasn’t gonna be in time. But we knew the deck was going to be non-existent after that patch which is very important.
This year you casted with TRS’ casting team and I just wanted to ask how did you like casting with the TRS guys this year? Did you miss having Justin with you on stage?
For TRS, it was basically Lazergician. I mean for the qualifiers it was all TRS people they reached out to. They had full reign over that: we approved whoever they wanted, unless there was some problem. Everyone this year did a really, really great job. It was nice having Lazergician in a dedicated post role. He was fantastic for it. I wouldn’t want to do that because there’s been a lot of pressure to switch because he is the guy who has production in his ear telling him “we’re going to do this or that”, and “make sure you change the conversation”. So it’s much easier to be in our situation as regular casters. And, yeah, I definitely miss Justin and Corey who was there last year as well, but overall I think it was a great group. We also miss Josh Utter-Leyton as he was busy playing Magic in Prague, but it was great to have Jason. I think he was a super huge asset to the group as he has experience as a competitive player and as a card designer, and now as a caster.
The Master Series is really Bethesda’s flagship tournament series for TESL. But you did mention that there are going to be PvP events starting in the fall. Many of the competitive players have lamented that there’s really a dearth of tournaments going on beyond just the Master series. Is there any talks among you guys at Bethesda to maybe change that?
I can’t really speak to any further official tournaments yet. If I could, I would. I’d love to, but I can’t. As for the events system we are really excited about getting that into the game and we don’t think it won’t necessarily be as competitive as the Masters. But it will be a great way to get the larger player base, who don’t really want a dedicated weekend to do a qualifier, into another more competitive type of game mode. Hopefully, we can do more competitive and less competitive events with that and keep that going consistently. Aside of official stuff that I can’t really talk about, I’ve heard of a couple of different community-oriented groups that are going to bring back some form a series. I know Team Rankstar is probably going to bring back their Classics Series, so I’m excited to see how that goes and support it however we can. But, I can’t really talk about the official stuff too much.
I have a follow up question on the events. Not sure if you can answer.
Probably, not but we’ll give it a shot.
You mentioned on the Legends Cast podcast that there are talks about events that would include decks that aren’t legal on ladder. Is that referring specifically to the idea of introducing formats and rotation, or four-color events?
If we’re running an event system, the goal is that we can really sort of adjust it however we want. If we want to run a pauper event with commons and rares only, we can do that. If we want to run an event where only certain sets are legal, we can do that. That wouldn’t be a full-blown rotation, that would only be available for a weekend or a week-long event. But it could be cool to sort of simulate and test the waters to see how different card sets interact. It could even be something like you can only use Isle of Madness, Dark Brotherhood and Houses of Morrowind cards. That would be a wacky format that I don’t think anyone’s ever tested before because the sets are so wildly different. So there could be a lot of different things and design wants to see and it’ll be cool to see how players adapt. But that wouldn’t translate to the official ladder.
If you were God of Bethesda, what three changes would you make for TESL specifically?
Well, I mean if I were God of Bethesda, I would ask the design team what they want, and give them their wishes for Legends, I think. Oh, also I’d keep stocking Quest bars in our kitchen. They always run out and it’s super-annoying and I need them.
You also mentioned in the past that you’ve had a small hand in pushing cards so that they see play. You mentioned Spawnmother?
I just fell in love with that little mother. It was so bad at five cost. I don’t usually do this, but we were at a design summit talking about the cards and it was really important that Isle of Madness did pretty well, because it was so long since the last expansion and I just zeroed in on Spawn Mother, like “this card should be better than Imperial Siege Engine”. So they made it happen for me.
Other ones that actually do see more play now are Syl and Thadon. I mentioned them to the design team, but I think they were gonna change them, anyway. They both started out at very much worse statlines. I think Syl was 6/5, and Thadon, I think was -1/-1 or something like that. They do a good job of pushing cards as well. If they test something and it’s not as good as they want they’ll make it better. Oftentimes, a named card like Khamira, Zumog Phoom, or Emeric will have multiple versions. I can’t say they were because they might be a thing in the future, but there’s a lot of different versions that don’t make it into the final cut because they have to choose one version to go with.
Have you ever done the opposite and pushed them to scale a card back?
I don’t think I’ve ever done that. I’m really into powerful cards. I just love them. If it’s between having a set that doesn’t make an impact and a set that makes a little bit too much of an impact, where maybe something like Alfiq Conjurer is too good, I see a card like Alfiq Conjurer and I’m like “Yeah!” Every set could handle a couple of cards of that power level. They get me excited and I think they get players excited, too. I will also push things to be nerfed, sometimes. I basically wrote a lot of the balance patch with Hand of Dagoth and Haunted Manor because that was during the transition. I was a big proponent for speaking with Josh and saying “Hey, if you want to nerf Dawnbreaker and Namira’s Shine, I think that’s a really good thing to do.” I fully encourage those things to happen sometimes when I think a deck is too good.
Last question. Funny story from Bethesda?
I guess something I didn’t mention on stream, because I didn’t want to give him credit was that Joey actually said he wanted Thuldir to win. That was kind of funny that he was actually pretty spot on about that. I don’t know, there’s just too much funny stuff that goes on, honestly.
I guess one thing that’s funny, I probably mentioned this somewhere before, but last Masters Series 2018 as we got two qualifiers in and Mudcrab Merchant was everywhere. And I got a phone call on my desk phone, which is never used: It was Pete Hines and he asked me to come to his office. And I was a little bit worried. So I walked into his office and it was like. “Do we need to do something about Mudcrab Merchant?” That was the conversation. And I was like: “Yeah, probably”. And then we did. But it was cool that he took a vested interest in the meta of the qualifiers and he was watching it during the weekends. Even though he’s super busy. So it’s kind of like a funny and endearing story. We still saw mudcrab this year, so I don’t know how well that went. There’s less of it.
Maybe you need to do another nerf.
He’s gonna call me into his office again, isn’t he?
*laughs* Alright, thank you so much. It’s been great to talk to you.
No problem, it’s been great to meet you, too.
Take a listen!