Here at Battle n Brew, we are constantly trying new ways to improve your experience, tap into the nerd scene, provide a supportive and unique atmosphere, and generally blow your mind. Our journey has been strange and fascinating, our evolution has been unprecedented, our potential has become almost overwhelming… and still we strive to do better. So what can a bar do, once it has already achieved so many of its goals, once it has already recieved so many acolades, once it has been able to provide a customer with not just the option of severe entertainment, but with an entirely new frontier in positive experiences?
Pay Gunnar to have a beer and talk. That sounds about right.
So that’s what we’ve done. This blog will be made of those interviews, conversations, and musings I have with the top movers and shakers in the gaming world. Professional gamers, game developers, event coordinators, casters, and many more will be featured bi-weeklyish. I will ask them whatever the hell I want, with free reign over the topics discussed. And we will do it over beer. This is Battle n Brew, after all. We are nothing if not professional.
Welcome to my blog. Too late to turn back now.
For my first interview, I sat down with Richard Almand, aka Future. Future is a professional Protoss player for Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. He has competed in many tournaments, notably placing in the top 8 lower bracket in MLG Orlando 2011. He is also a professional coach for Starcraft 2.
Gunnar Ohberg: Welcome!
Richard Almand: Thanks for having me, Gunnar.
GO: Yea, thanks for doing this. First off, your a Protoss player. You started off in the beta for Wings of Liberty as Random. What made you choose Protoss and how long did it take to figure that out?
RA: Back in Brood War I was a Protoss player, back in 2001, but in Wings of Liberty I wanted to change it a little bit. I played Random just to get a feel for all the races, just to make sure which one suited me best. After playing all the races I even went to Zerg for a couple of weeks, but then I switched back to Protoss. It just felt right, it’s my roots, and I was winning a lot more with them, so I was like, “It’s right”. I bleed Protoss blood, so I decided to go back to Protoss. But Random gave me a good overview of all the races, so it kind of helped me out.
GO: You mentioned playing Brood War. That’s where you got your start, not just with Starcraft but with the professional scene. You were a part of I believe LighT and Pandemic in Brood War, and when you moved to Wings of Liberty you’ve been a part of VT Gaming, TeamReIGN, and Flow Gaming, which about a month ago you just left. For most sports that would be a lot of teams in a relatively small amount of time. Is that typical for a professional player?
RA: It’s kind of actually on the low side. I’m actually pretty happy with the teams that I’ve been on, and I’ve been with them a while. A lot of people, especially your mid tier players, get thrown around teams all the time, because they’re looking for a nice squad to not only get good practice but to support them in LAN events. A lot of mid-tier to low-tier eSports teams are very volatile. They might be there one day and gone the next. I was actually very, very lucky with the teams I chose, and they were really good teams. I’m happy. It’s about normal, maybe a bit on the low side.
GO: You don’t have a team currently, do you?
RA: Correct, no team at the moment. Free agent.
GO: Do you like that? Are you looking at any teams right now?
RA: I’m not really looking. I’ve been approached, I’ll hear them out, but I’m not really looking. I’m waiting for a huge team to contact me. Also, maybe I can get a good result at one of these tournaments so I can approach some of the larger teams with confidence. I guess not really looking, just focusing on myself, and improving myself. I do have a good network of practice partners, a lot of the top North American players. By me not being on a team doesn’t mean I don’t get practice. I actually have a lot of great practice partners I practice with. The only thing that sucks about not being on a team is not being involved in team leagues and maybe some of the promoting and a little bit of the fun you get from teams. But other than that, just lone-wolfing it right now.
GO: Over the past year, you’ve been to a lot of tournaments. You’ve been to IPL before, you’ve been to many of the MLGs. A lot of times, the team will help finance you to get there. Do you plan on having a busy schedule while you don’t have a team, or are you waiting for the team first and then plan on hitting a bunch of these tournaments?
RA: I’m probably going to attend the tournaments regardless. It will be a lot harder financially, but I can save money for it. It’s very key to attend these events even if you don’t have a team. It’s actually a great way to get on a team, to do well in these events, so I’ll be attending regardless.
GO: How many hours a week do you spend playing Starcraft?
RA: Not as much as I’d like, because of my coaching. I spend maybe 15-20 hours coaching a week, and maybe 6-8 hours a day average playing Starcraft. So what is that, like 48 hours a week playing Starcraft? My math’s a little fuzzy. Probably 45-50 hours a week playing Starcraft.
GO: You mentioned coaching. Tell us a little bit about that. If I wanted to get coached by Future, what would I do?
RA: I do coaching. If anyone is interested in coaching, you can approach me on Battle.net or in person. More than likely Battle.net or through email. You ask about coaching, see if you have any questions about it, we would talk about it, and then if you were interested, we’d get that set up. We usually go through replay analysis on Skype, and from there we find what kind of problems you’re having and answer any questions you have.
GO: You have a Bachelors in Marketing from Kennesaw State University. Do you plan on using anything that you learned in marketing for your career in Starcraft?
RA: I feel like I’ve been using some of that now. I really haven’t won any large tournaments, but I’m a relatively known player, at least by other players with similar achievements as me, so I’ve been using a lot of that marketing degree in how I promote my stream, how I promote my coaching, and just try to get my name out there the best I can. It’s really hard, it’s really competitive, and there’s a lot of other people out there, so it’s hard to get eyes on your stream and yourself. So yea, I guess I use it in how I promote myself. Right now I’m just focused on being a player, so maybe down the road I can use it for other things. It has helped me in my Starcraft 2 career. It helped get me places and get my name out there, really.
GO: Let’s focus on the Atlanta scene for a second. How do you think the Atlanta scene compares to the US Starcraft scene?
RA: I actually think we have a pretty good scene here. We’ve got a lot of good players. A couple I can think of are TheoRy, SirRobin, and Ska. Strong top-tier players. SirRobin, he was in WCS, he qualified, that was the USA national tournament. He and I qualified, so we actually competed in Anaheim. So we have a strong scene here, a lot of good players. It’s really fun coming to the events, and they’re really cool guys, and even the people who aren’t masters are really cool. We have a really strong scene down here. A lot of unknown players are really friggin’ good!
GO: For anyone who’s trying to get into the Starcraft scene, trying to make a name for themselves, besides practicing, what ways would you recommend as far as becoming a part of the Atlanta scene?
RA: To be a part of the Atlanta scene, you can come down to the tournaments they have at Battle n Brew every month. A lot of people in the Atlanta scene go there to play, and maybe observe. It’s a really cool way to meet everyone and talk to those players you see online, or just to hang out and talk Starcraft. It’s a really nice way to get in the Atlanta scene, and if you want to get into the Starcraft scene in general, where you can get started is to try to find a team, find a community, really find a group of guys who play it. The one thing about Starcraft is that it is a solo game, so it can be kind of ‘meh’ if you’re just grinding the ladder every night, by yourself. That’s not fun for most people. It’s a lot more fun if you get a lot of buddies who play the same game, and you guys can do customs and stuff. Be a part of a community if you really wanna get into Starcraft 2.
GO: Well we at Battle n Brew certainly appreciate the plug. We know that we enjoy having you, seeing a lot of epic games from you, from TheoRy, and from a lot of other people. Outside of Atlanta, what’s your schedule looking like so far this year for tournaments?
RA: I’ve been trying to qualify for IPL. I’ve come a little short lately, trying to get to that tournament. Zerg’s pretty good nowadays, so I’ve got to work on my PvZ. There’s that, and MLG is coming up in Raleigh at the end of August, so I’ll be going to that. Really trying to train for that, and save up to attend that event. Those are the two events I’m focusing on, and if there are any other qualifiers along the way, I always have my ear to the ground. I try to compete in everything I can.
GO: You have been a part of a lot of tournaments. You coach, you’ve been playing professionally since 2005. It’s no secret to most people that Starcraft has grown incredibly. Since you do have an insider’s look into Starcraft that most people don’t have, where do you see Starcraft a year from now and five years from now?
RA: It’s going to continue to grow, that’s the great thing. Back in Brood War, I played competitively. I wouldn’t say I was a professional, because there was no future in Brood War. It was just like “Yea, this is cool”, and there was a tournament each year. When Starcraft 2 came out I was like “Wow, I can make a profession out of this.” There’s actually money in it, a huge following, and so many tournaments. I think it’s just going to grow in popularity. The community around Starcraft is great. People like Day9, Husky, Apollo, guys like that really make it for the casual viewer extremely enjoyable, and that’s important. Yea, you have your hardcore bunch, but really you have a casual base as well, to help fuel the sport. In one year it’s going to continue to grow, in five years I don’t know. I’m sure it’s going to be bigger, but it’s definitely not going to die off.
GO: With Blizzard’s new Heart of the Swarm coming out we are assuming in the next few months, how do you think the new units in that game are going to effect the overall gameplay of Starcraft and your gameplay specifically.
RA: I got to play that at Anaheim. They had 200 Heart of the Swarm computers set up with all of the Blizzard employees corralling everyone in there. It was pretty cool. So I got to play about 8 to 10 games, most of them Protoss. I think Protoss is going to have a lot more to do. It’s going to be a much more versatile race. Right now, I feel like the games get decided by one battle, mainly, and I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. But with Heart of the Swarm, Protoss is getting a lot of cool units like the Oracle for instance. It’s a very early harass unit we get. Things like that will increase the skill ceiling and give an ability to Protoss to do some damage early to the other races. Also, the Mothership Core gives the Protoss more mobility in the early game. Half the time Protoss are scared to leave their base, but with the Mothership Core there’s a recall ability, so you can do aggression and you can get your boys out. With Wings of Liberty, they’re out there, they’re out there. They’re not coming home, probably, so that’s why a lot of the styles are very turtley, very two-base and three-base oriented. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. I think Protoss got a lot of cool units. Zerg got a lot of cool units, with the Viper and Swarm Host. I don’t know about Terran, it looks like they just got strong mech, but they did get the spider mine. So it’s gonna be interesting. I’ll be looking forward to it a lot.
GO: It sounds like as far as your gameplay is concerned, the problem that Protoss has been running into as far as mobility for their army, you believe a lot of that will change and create new tactics for you.
RA: Yes, you can do many more early game timings and not get punished for it. With the other races, they can get out pretty easy, but Protoss really can’t. So it’s really going to increase those tactics, and it’s gonna add new tactics to my repertoire.
GO: To wrap up the interview, what is your favorite drink?
RA: I guess my favorite energy drink would be NOS. I’m really enjoying the NOS’s right now, maybe because the NOS people are bringing them to Battle n Brew. I guess for beer, it would be something like a Newcastle.
GO: What is your favorite Bruce Willis movie?
RA: (laughing) That’s a random question. I got to go with Die Hard.
GO: The original Die Hard?
RA: The original Die Hard.
GO: I don’t think a lot of people could argue that is a fantastic film.
For coaching, you can email Future at Future@gosucoaching.com.
To watch his stream, visit www.twitch.tv/future_sc