Casting and commentating is a difficult, often underappreciated task, as Alex Walker discovers.
By Alex Walker on December 9, 2012 at 11:15 am
There’s been plenty of commentators hopping on the StarCraft bandwagon since its barnstorming release a couple of years ago. Some have made it, some haven’t. But the one consistent force in Australia throughout this whole time is the ruggedly handsome and charming Leigh Mandalov from South Australia, better known as Maynarde.
He’s been in the game, so to speak, for longer than most. And that experience and his reputation was fully appreciated earlier this year when Blizzard hired him as the master of ceremonies for the World Championship Series finals for Australia and Oceania. I sat down with Mandalov to ask him about the event, commentating and how it all came to be.
Describe yourself and your background as a gamer.
I’m [in my] late 20′s now, and I’ve been a gamer since I was old enough to use a controller, getting my first console at the tender age of 6. It wasn’t until WarCraft 2 when I first dabbled into competitive online gaming; it was mainly single player until that point. I’ve never been top-class at anything except for being decent at Quake 1 but I got a lot out of it due to my competitive nature, which just got me wanting more and more.
How did you get involved with competitive gaming and StarCraft?
I got involved in competitive gaming in other games (Quake especially) due to playing a tonne on local servers, and discovered local LAN contests via the other regular local players. Since the old WarCraft titles though, nothing has ever excited me more than a new Blizzard title. I can safely admit that I am a huge fan of every title they’ve brought out. Brood War was the best RTS title I had ever played until that point and I left the FPS scene to play this as competitively as I could (not very competitively) and casually with mates.
Signing up an account at TeamLiquid changed everything for me. I got to see VODs of the professionals like Savior, Boxer, Flash, Jaedong, Bisu etc all show me how high level RTS is meant to be played. Never have I been more captivated by watching a game instead of playing until that moment. Thanks to Husky and Day I was sufficiently hyped for SC2, and instantly went to every local LAN I could. Within a few months I was already completely hooked, and became active on the sitesc2sea.com in an effort to help and be a part of the more local scene which wasn’t really doable on TL unfortunately.
What inspired you to cast, and at what point did you start taking it more seriously?
Because I was so passionate about SC2 and no one was really running tournaments at the time, I ran my own. It was a small private tournament between myself and a bunch of my friends that all worked at EB Games. Someone suggested I should cast the games, so I did. I never really took casting seriously until I realised that people who weren’t my friends actually genuinely liked my casting; very heart warming! I started to get bigger gigs, each and every time being shocked that someone would suggest me for anything. I then also realised that my goal to help the community would be better achieved via casting and promoting tournaments rather than being a competitive player, luckily I enjoyed playing and casting equally!
Did you study other commentators in StarCraft or sports when starting out?
Not at first, but I did once I started to take casting a little more seriously and didn’t want to let people down. I felt very mediocre and never listened to my own casts cause I hated them. I mainly listened to and took notes listening to Artosis and Tasteless who were and continue to be an inspiration for me.
What preparation is involved for an event, and how much technical work is required behind the scenes to bring everything together?
I just have to make sure I remember my suit jacket for a live event! I already know most of the local players and their play styles from watching local tournaments and talking with the players themselves on a daily basis. Then yeah, it’s all freestyle baby. I just watch as many tournaments and games as possible to keep up with the metagame and such.
Regarding technical work behind the scenes? I’m not involved in it, I’m just the caster. My job is the easiest compared to others, I would HATE to have the responsibility of a stream director or admin of a big production.
How do you warm-up your voice before casting and how do you maintain it over the course of a day without getting hoarse?
I don’t actually. I have some weird genetic ability to not get hoarse for a long time. One weekend I cast two 8 hour days back to back, smoking and drinking Pepsi Max pretty much the entire time which I later learned to be the worst possible thing for voice preservation. I used to be in a metal band, maybe all that screaming hardened it or something.
How does a commentator improve? Do you have other casters that you trust and rely on or do you prefer to get your advice from players who know the game better?
I can’t speak for others, but for me I think just playing the game, watching the game, and being a part of the community has been the way I improve.
I mentioned Tastosis earlier, I had the pleasure of meeting those guys recently and hung on every word of advice they gave me. Not every day you get to meet and talk to the people that are the best at what you do. My weak-point in casting is definitely my analysis, so I always prefer to talk to players over other casters for game knowledge advice, I do however have ONE caster who I co-cast with often that I respect greatly and rely on for analysis during and between casts. Her name is Zepph [a commentator for Team Immunity] and she’s awesome, deserves to be big time.
What was it like going from casting online events and tournaments for the Australian Cyber League to being the MC for the World Championship Series?
These have been the greatest experiences, especially WCS. I honestly didn’t ever see this being possible, like I said I think I’m pretty mediocre compared to other casters. I pretty much owe it all to local community hero Dox (Derek Reball, read our interview with him here) who grabbed me for his own tournament, then recommended me for ACL who were behind the production of WCS Australia / Oceania. Until that point I was casting clan leagues in front of ten live viewers. The moment I walked out on stage with a microphone at WCS and the entire 300 strong crowd exploded into a cheer before I ever said anything was a moment I’ll remember forever, I was nearly in happy tears. I was honestly starting to feel pretty disenchanted with the community due to whining and bad personalities, but that changed for me. I never realised how many people there were as passionate as I was. It’s an amazing feeling that’s mostly indescribable.
Did you get any advice from Tasteless or Artosis while you were at the event?
I sure did! I got told to drink warm water, whether that be straight warm water or preferably tea during a long live event for voice preservation. I got tips on how to bounce off your co-caster more than I already was, and to talk before the cast about what your strengths are if you haven’t cast with them previously. I also got tips on how to multi-task keeping an eye on the mini map while listening to the co-caster to try and make sure as much is covered as possible. Last but not least; keep up with the game. Play it and watch it as much as you can.
Tasteless and Artosis, presumably sipping on some warm water
What advice would you give someone if they were looking to become a caster?
I would say first of all think about why you’re becoming a caster. Is it because you want fame or is it because you want to make things better? If it’s the former then please stop, if it’s the latter then think about what you can do that other casters don’t and what YOU can do to make the tournament experience better for everyone. What do you bring to the table? Think about those things, build on it, and cast as much as you can and promote through social media. I did casts for a year without getting any form of social media lol, noob mistake! Practice makes perfect. Other than that, don’t emulate anyone and just be yourself, read the tips Tastosis gave me, and hopefully people will like you, gl hf :)
Thanks so much for your time Leigh, do you have any shoutouts or final words?
A lot of love to everyone that I’ve worked with over the past couple years within the SC2 community. The past couple years being a part of this game’s community have been on the whole very awesome. Special shout outs to Dox, Zepph and Tastosis who have helped me the most as far as casting goes, and last but definitely not least to my wonderful better half Kalikah for being supportive and very understanding on those weekends I’ve sacrificed for eSports.
You can also follow Mandalov on Twitter to keep track of all his upcoming events.