Pansy: “Do you want the PR friendly or real answer?”
We interviewed casting legends Richards Simms and Lauren “pansy” Scott about their transitions to PUBG, getting “hype” right, and and the state of the game.
This interview was edited lightly for clarity special thanks to Benjamin “Gratz” Graham for the interview!
What are some challenges casting in PUBG for you (pansy) coming from CSGO?
Pansy: I guess in CS:GO commentating wise it is already super structured because you have the start of a round, the buy coming in, the opening pick and then you talk about the strategies until something exciting may happen and that’s the round done. It is very structured, and it doesn’t change normally because the formula is always the same.
PUBG was and still is a challenge because you create the narrative from start to finish. Of course there is a structure because teams drop out, someone dies and someone wins, but that leaves a lot of room for everything else. I think the early things that were different from CS:GO was creating that structure and trying to build that going forward which has seemed to last.
PUBG has some very exciting moments, but how do you make them special and translate the energy of the game into your casting?
Pansy: Shout really loudly! Haha no I think for me I played PUBG from the offset and it felt special and exciting to me, so I find it very easy to relay that in game. For example, in other FPS games its easy to see when something is mechanically exciting because when someone hits a sick AWP shot in CS:GO everyone goes, “that’s exciting, that’s super easy to understand,” but there are nuances to PUBG that people don’t understand.
So trying to find out how to relay that information is again like that learning curve so its like was there bullet drop accounted for, what’s the recoil like, or did he have armour you know all these things so I think for me it is just trying to compress and condense all of that information into something useful and exciting and then try to make it as exciting for me as it is to others.
Why do you think that PUBG has managed to “crack” the Asian esports scene as fast as it has compared to CSGO which has only just seen some success with teams such as TyLoo, ViCi, etc.
Pansy: CS:GO has struggled because it is not free to play for one in Asia, and they’re dominated by Crossfire which is still the most popular FPS. Obviously, all the MOBAs like DOTA and league are super popular and they have their own kind of way of doing it and i think PC bangs really help that. In your like Korean sort of market and I guess china to a degree as well PUBG has just seemingly taken them by storm.
I don’t know how and I don’t know why but it just has I mean whether it is just coming into the market and going we want to actually crack this and putting a lot of time and effort into it making it approachable and understandable to how they normally play their FPS games that may have done a hell of a lot of good. Valve we love them, but they’re not exactly hands on when it comes to that. They’re like ‘here’s our thing take it and go away,’ but yeah I don’t know whatever they did for taking it they crushed it and I do wish CS:GO had any sort of sway in that market but they just don’t in comparison.
Back in Halo you were a big advocate for dedicated observers, in a much more chaotic landscape such as PUBG how important are observers to the flow of the game and your casting style?
Simms: I think 100% it is one of the biggest things of the game and more importantly the same observers are going help in the long run when using a dedicated team or at least as much as possible to try and use a dedicated team. I think with the observers working with ansvar and co at this event for example it is as important to me as it is working with Lauren. It is ok having a partner in crime to do the casting, but getting used to somebody who does the same events so you can understand their flow and their work process as well rather than being kind of all over the place.
Everyone tries to put their own kind of swing onto things but having a decent observer is so paramount and so critical because there’s so much going on so making sure they are not just an observer but they know the game, they know the teams, they know the rotational paths, they know what we wanna see as well and what the audience wants to see being able to connect with us and the audiences it is a critical part of the game. Having high knowledge not only the tools that are available in the observer mode but the teams in the game as well when you can get somebody who can do that to a casting thing that basically gives you what we can put on screen.
You’ve been playing PUBG since the very start, how do you feel the game has grown and what do you see for the future esports wise when more people give the competitive side a chance?
Simms: For me it is not even the same game that launched two or three years ago. Playing it from day one especially from the beta side of it like they’ve been through the memes the esports ready memes and everything else and even now like update to update alright there will be some from drivers and computer side of things like that fair play but update to update there are such huge changes in graphics, FPS, the look to the maps the additions of the skins even now we’re getting changes with the guns and so on and so forth being able to create and change that meta.
I think that’s one of PUBG’s biggest advantages that if there’s a problem, not necessarily a problem but if something’s been put on display like a nade meta or the mini meta for example its not just right lets nerf this into the ground lets change it up. There are multiple ways you can do it you could limit frag grenades, you could reduce the damage, or you could look at the radius there’s a multitude of different things you could do with PUBG as a game to not necessarily fix issues but certainly alleviate them and change them. For, me with the pro leagues and everything else this is going to be the telltale year. Look at the viewership, look at who is playing it, look at the demographic and see how things are going. It has been growing and even though we have seen some organisations leave in certain regions, I still think this will be the telltale year for the game.
What tempted you (Simms) to stepping into the BR genre with PUBG?
Pansy: Casting with me.
Simms: There we go basically that haha.
Simms: I have only ever casted over one game (Halo) and I have only ever really played two which have been Halo and WoW so this is gonna sound really weird, but I don’t know what brought me to this game. I have a really compulsive personality, like I used to play Pokemon as a kid on the game boy. I’d play it when I go away on holiday, but I would want to make sure it was completed by the end of it. I wanna make sure like evolving all the pokemon and things like that the same with warcraft when I used to play it even still now I dip in and out because I like to get my character and go from having nothing to having everything and being the best possible. I really get this from this game because you go from landing on the ground with nothing to being able to transform into a tank at the end of it all.
Me: Like going for drops yeah
Simms: Yeah there’s a few times me and my partners have been for drops and we’ll have like level 3 awm groza two big guns, but it is originally what drew me to it and the FPS side as well so it bridged that gap for me from warcraft and halo and those are the only two other games I play besides this.
Was it a straightforward decision for you guys when asked to cast in the PEL?
Pansy: Do you want the real answer or the PR friendly answer? For me yes and no it was always there was no questions asked if I wanted to do it. There was an opportunity to potentially do the NA region and there was a potential to do other things so I had to skip out on certain events because the dates were moved but it was with a goal in mind of doing the European pro league. I think that was always the main thing for us as it was the first big consistent thing that had come through. Obviously we had the standalone events but yeah for me it was missing out on a lot of the events.
Simms: For me it was always I knew that if this was coming up, I wanted to do it because it is the only other game I have done and I don’t have as many things locked in as many things as Lauren would have in terms of CS:GO events. The biggest thing for me was just having a child literally at the start when this all was coming up. My wife was due at around the same time that this would of originally started so it has been hell at home trying to figure it all and work it out.
Pansy: God thinking back you had a kid, I had a boatload of events and I had surgery it’s been good fun!
Simms: I mean thankfully it was like most men in the UK will only be able to get a week or two so I was extremely lucky in the fact I got about two months off work. I had nothing else on and I got asked to do a couple events in America but I said no January I am having off because I am staying with my wife and looking after her and thankfully he came a week early and then the pro league was delayed. It has definitely been difficult like going over there I love it and its great, but like the first time I ever spent not only two weeks away from my wife but two weeks away from my wife who has a newborn at home, it has definitely been difficult. It’s been a struggle but its amazing in the fact that I have never in my three years (I don’t know how Lauren feels about this one) been given a schedule where I can see what’s potentially coming up for a year’s work.
Pansy: Its rare especially as a freelancer. I mean I used to work full time for ESL, but now I work independently so you don’t normally get that luxury. You kind of get a, “you might need to be going to Australia in about a week can you get a visa,” and I’m like, “ermm maybe,” but yeah the scheduling is incredible. I think the scariest thing for me was having surgery before I went into it because in theory I wasn’t meant to miss that much time. This is my first event back since it happened and I think I am about eight days out of surgery now and its been pretty manic. It probably has been the most manic time leading into something, but I think im excited to cast with Rich and I’m excited to cast with Lee. I think it is a really good group of people who know what they’re doing and it is a great environment to do it in.
We have started seeing there’s trio/2 groups of casters during PUBG matches, do you think this is something that will become a standard for this game since you can’t follow all the action at once?
Pansy: Tri casting I don’t know. I mean you need the right three casters and I think it is worth trying out but I think it is so hard to get it right. For example, League of Legends had some of the best tri casts and I think you get some of the best personalities working together, and they refined that it would work well. I mean I have to say back in the day lol casters worked harder than anyone. They actually refined their craft, they reviewed it, they were meticulous and everyone else payed attention. You didn’t like admitting it because league casters weren’t cool (sorry lee). You know we pretended to be cool and edgy counter strike people, but they worked hard and it showed. I think to be able to get the right sort of tricast even in PUBG it takes so much work, and also no one fighting for mic time because some of the casters still are very new to having solid jobs in this industry so people want to be on air. They wanna have their shot at impressing someone if someone listens in they can have their moment you have to be able to relinquish that control and trust your co workers are gonna do the same for you. It is very, very hard to do, but I think with the right casters yes but you’ve gotta all be on the right page as well.
Simms: Tricasts are amazing but you’d need to know and define whose roles are what who’s doing what and stick to them and you can’t bleed into different roles you have to stick to that one and it has to be a positive factor where ok you lead this your the hype your the colour and it takes a hell of a long time. I did it with Halo for two or three seasons of pro league and probably until the end is when we actually sounded decent because at the time it was just three lads having a bit of fun on the desk. Alright we made it work because it was fun and we knew each other but from a high end perspective or actually sounding good on air it took a fair amount of seasons. Also i wanna say with NPL that feels like a very OGN thing.
Pansy: Yeah, I think that is very much the case. I think a lot of the Korean broadcasts if you look at potentially league of legends, starcraft the games that last a long time they’ll go to a tri-cast and i think PUBG could really do with it if it is done well cause its such a long game it gives you a lot of room. I think it is gonna be awhile till we see a perfected tri-cast if you get the right casters and the right place it would be sick and you’ll know when its perfect.
Simms: I don’t know how the desk is set up at NPL, but it may be a point you stick an observer up there or give them more POVs so you have a colour, a play by play and then you would have a reporter with them who’s looking at four different screens and chiming in with so you’ve got this rotation. I don’t know what it is like at OGN and how the NPL has the desk set up but giving them more tools to have that third guy who is acting as a reporter part of it but knowing the role and distinguishing it its so vital in making it work.
Pansy: I remember discussions around IEM Oakland a long time ago there was a potential to having a lot of casting pairs in the same game they would say you focus on these four and you focus on these four and everyone chimes in and analysts desk would throw to one and throw to another. It’s a concept that has been toyed with but never quite came through, but never quite came through because it is a lot of moving parts. I think this is a really good example of what could work especially with Scoom and Deman doing what they are doing here doing the sideline reports discussing rotation and nuance stuff. I think you could really work with that I would love to have more of them on there, but you are always on the mercy of the game if its hype hype hype it gets tricky, but they’ve brought in some really nice flavour that we can’t always focus on and it shuts us up on a bit which is also excellent.
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