Just like we promised, next in our interview series is no one other than the popular host, commentator and the legend of StarCraft 2 commentating, James "Kaelaris" Carrol. He told us, why we only see him during offline events, shared some background information from the HGC and ESL productions and maybe even added a tip or two for upcomming hosts and commentators.
James "Kaelaris" Carrol, born 26.7. 1988, United Kingdom
Professional host and commentator for ESL with more than 7 years of experience, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and a legend of StarCraft 2 commentating.
Twitter, Twitch Stream, Youtube
You pretty much "jumped" into HGC without notice, originaly as a substitute for Khaldor, who had visa issues. How did happen that the HGC production reached out to you? What was ESL's, as your employer's, stance on this?
So Blizzard, ESL and I had been in discussions and negotiations for the 2017 HGC season. To cut a long story short, initially I was offered the full time spot, however ESL and I declined as we didn't believe the money was right for the amount of work across the 10 months. That being said, despite us declining the offer for the full year, all parties are on very good terms. Business is business. So when they realised that Khaldor was going to have problems getting there straight away, they still wanted an EU face but also someone they had faith in, that would provide a great start to the league experience. I've done league format broadcasts for SC2 (WCS) in the past, so I guess I was the perfect fit. I was very happy to get the chance to be involved, since I knew that, outside of the LANs, I wouldn't get to do much Heroes this year (sadly).
Does that mean that we still have a chance to see more of you in 2018, including the regular season (or anything Blizzard has up their sleeve for the next year) ? As many fans were disapointed to only see you during the offline events, after your initial performance.
To be completely honest, those discussions about 2018 haven't properly began yet. I think in a non-official capacity, both parties (myself and Blizzard) have expressed interest about having me involved in a higher capacity than just offline events. However that's a long way off with many emails and talks to be had if we get there. I was sad though to have to just watch the entire league play unfold while I was sat at home though. That being said, it's not like I wasn't extremely busy this year. I always land on my feet! Especially the hosting skills i've developed beyond just commentary have increased the demand for me across esports in general.
Despite only appearing in offline events, you have an amazing name amongst the Heroes of the Storm fans and viewers as they grew up to like you a lot and after the substitution even publicly supported you to stay in HGC. I remember phrases like #remembertheginger and many others. How did you feel when you knew the fans "got your back" ?
I appreciate it a lot. I love this community, the members of it and general public. I feel like with Heroes I can be myself a bit more than other games, and I think that especially translated to the audience during HGC main league when I was there for 5 weeks. I think it also helps though when it comes to league play that I came in with a very clear plan and ideas in mind. I knew I wanted to incorporate a lot of fun into the broadcast, stupid things like hashtags each day. #TriksWackyMeta for example. I know how to make a league broadcast memorable. It also helps me that i've been broadcasting and commentating esports for 7 years now, so I have a slight advantage over most of the guys in Heroes when it comes to my approach, because I've learnt from many mistakes in the past! Hopefully I get back to the league broadcast one day so I can repay the communities kindness.
Talking about HGC and ESL. Now that you have had worked both for ESL and HGC, which production are you more pleased with? What are the biggest differences that a mere viewer can't see?
It's very difficult to compare. There's a lot of varience in productions across ESL, nevermind comparing them to other companies. Some projects at ESL I can rock up as easily as I did at HGC, sit down, do my thing and go home. Other productions such as big LANs we have rehearsal days, show run-downs, all the bells and whistles. It would take me a longggg time to explain all the working parts and differences i'm afraid.
Now that you mentioned all the things you have to do during preparation for an event. How do you prepare for an international event? And do you have some time to enjoy the event, when you are not in front of the camera? Or do you have any "homework" you have to do in the meantime?
So this depends on the event as well as my role. Sometimes events actually have sane working hours and you can look around, meet people etc. Most this year have not been that way though. Most are 12hr+ days, and the majority of those hours can be on-broadcast. I truly believe esports needs to move away from this model down the road. Fatigue kicks in for me after about hour 8 of a broadcast and I can tell my performance is increasingly harder to put on from there. As a commentator I usually get time to relax a bit since we're on rotation, but as a host there are no breaks on this esports-crazy-train. As a commentator my preparation goes more in to the specifics of the game. For heroes, talents, builds, meta heroes, slightly off meta heroes, trends the players and teams like to follow etc. How to articulate those ideas. As a host, the prep is very different. A lot of my time is spent figuring out what I want to ask the other panelists about the players and teams. How can I push the narrative of the teams and tournament better, and how can I further those storylines with the people on the desk. Transitions, intros and outros are very important to me. And it may sound a little "weird" but body language on the desk as a host is a big deal as well. As an example, you'll notice during HGC Western Clash, even when sat down, i'll open my stance a lot, stretching my arm out quite far. Small thing and while it might feel unnatural to incorporate in to your actions, it gives a bit more of a psychological welcome to the audience, and also a slightly more authoritative position for the host, over the desk guests that are usually a bit more closed off. There's a lot I think about for this job haha.
Well there definitely is more to that than most people think. Thanks to your work, you traveled to many offline events and got to see places a mere mortal can't. What is the most exciting thing that, despite all of this exhaustion and long hours, happens behind the curtains?
Well i'm sorry to say but, i'm quite the boring guy off camera haha. Since i've done so many shows now, and been at so many productions, I like to keep an eye on and help with shows where I can. If something isn't quite right I will try help find solutions for issues or problems. Other than that, just a lot of joking around with other commentators and players. If its a heroes event I like to play mario kart with Dread, Bakery and Snitch. That's a lot of fun. Shame my dig boys werent at Western Clash haha. Other than that, try get some good food. One of my favourite things to do at events that i'm alone at or when I want to unwind is i'll go find a really good steak place and just relax with a steak, just by myself. I like my alone time. But the true answer to this is just games... games and more games.
Despite all of this, is your work still a dream come true ? Did you allways wish to work in programing or what was your 'supposed to be' job?
Well way way back when I was a little lad, I wanted to be a Lawyer, so that's what I went to university to do. However more and more of my attention was just on video games, so I really wanted to chase something in that field. My job is still a dream come true, but I just wish that there wasn't as much travel. I wish I could just stay in one spot and actually have a true home life. Get a dog, have stable relationships, buy furnature that I want without worrying about if I have to move to another continent in the next year. I think now my next dream is to eventually transition in to game design.
You also worked as SC2 commentator, before starting with Heroes of the Storm. After all this time, which of these games is closer to your heart? Is it the same one you rather play and cast or the other one?
I think while I love Heroes more right now, I don't know if anything in my esports career will do what StarCraft2 did for me, which is bring me to the forefront of international commentary and esports. I always explain it like this when people ask me about the two games; I enjoy watching StarCraft now more than I enjoy playing it, and I enjoy playing Heroes more now than I enjoy watching it. That's not to say I don't have fun playing SC or watching Heroes, that's just how the metrics work out for me relative to one-another.
How can one become a professional caster or commentator, the next Kaelaris, Khaldor or Grubby? Is it about going to an interview, about catching someone's eye on your stream or about something totaly different?
If I have to speak truthfully it's mostly about catching someones eye. My best words of wisdom I can give to people are make videos for youtube, practice commentating, then take those skills to online tournament organisers and see if they will give you an opportunity to broadcast their tournament. Did you know I did 300 Sc2 video casts before I even got the chance to do some proper online tournaments? I practiced. I made mistakes. I built a catalogue that people could check out that I approached them with. From there, find people who are willing to give you impartial guidence, perhaps other commentators that have lived the journey if they're willing to give you a bit of their time. Other commentators and hosts are your best form of criticism, positive or negative, not reddit (sorry reddit! I love you haha).
What do you think of the direction the Heroes 2.0 took? New loot system, bigger support for streamers and progaming (HGC, licences for official casting even to smaller partners like us). Is there anything else you would do in their place?
I think the direction of Heroes 2.0 is great. It's very clear that the game on a casual level is very successful in most regions. For me though, and I say this every time someone asks me, I still want an esports tab ingame. To me it's the single greatest way to draw new esports viewers from your casual audience. I wont go in to the contents of the esports tab since I have a million ideas, but you get the picture.
Everyone knows your favourite hero is Ragnaros. Why him? Did you like him ever since he appeared in the Warcraft universe or was it love at first sight only after he entered the Nexus?
So i've loved Ragnaros ever since my first kill in Vanilla. I remember very clearly my friend coming over to my house because I was raiding 40 man and it was a big deal that one of us was going to finally kill him haha. For me I enjoy everything about him (apart from the legs they gave him in heroic Firelands). I love his design, his voice, his scale, Sulfuras hand of Ragnaros etc. It's a shame they've nerfed him into the ground lately. I also love his lore. How he and the other elemental lords shaped Azeroth, only to then battle against the armies of the old gods, but then fall under their control in defeat. Ragnaros isn't my only favourite though. I love Vikings and Dehaka, but those loves haven't been nearly as long as good old Raggy. Here's hoping the revive him sometime, or perhaps it's "TOO SOON".
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Any shoutouts or final words? (Other than "By fire be purged!")
Thanks for the interview, and thank you for the Heroes community for not forgetting about me between offline events. I'm prettyyyyyy sure you'll see me at BlizzCon in some capacity!