Flight to Korea:
My flight to Korea left at 2pm on Monday afternoon in Malaysia. I knew that the time it took to get from my apartment to the airport could be anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours long. I left very early for the airport knowing this and thankfully I did because by the time i got there they had almost closed the check in traffic in KL is disgustingly bad sometimes!
I was lucky enough to be booking my flights when premium class (business class) tickets for the flight were somehow cheaper than economy. This would be my first time travelling non economy so i was looking forward to it much more than previous times I had gone to Korea. During the flight I got out my laptop and started working on my schedule for the week. It involved a lot of discussions with players from the team and Choya about how they have been feeling recently, what they want from the future among other things. I also wanted to make sure I got to catch up with everyone I use to know in Korea form when I was there in GSTL. The flight itself was relatively non eventful, hit some turbulence for a 20 minute period which is always fun when your trying to type out things!
So I landed in Korea, it felt good to be back, I have always considered Korea to be a second home to me. I had never been in the winter however and the cold air was like a massive slap in the face as soon as I walked out of the terminal. Now I knew it would be cold, but I seemed to underestimate it, thankfully the taxi I got into had great heating and it was pretty funny trying to get him to understand the address written down of the FXO house. Normally one of the players comes to pick anyone up from the airport, but I told them I would get there myself this time so they could focus on practice for the qualifiers on the weekend.
I got to the FXO house at about midnight Korea time. Last time I had been to the house there was 10 people staying there. Now because of qualifiers coming up that number had gone up to 16 (the absolute maximum the house can hold) So I was happy to see as soon as I walked in the entire place was full and they were all practising. It had been a while since I had discussed their practice schedule with Choya so I wasn't sure what time they were going to bed. After I had said hello to everyone I just sat back and watched them all practice for a while. You never really understand how good some players are until you watch them play in person. Because I knew they were all stressing over qualifiers I stayed out of the way and just watched until they all went to bed.
Now a funny note was, I was planning on staying at the gom house for some of my stay, but for the same reason that I was staying out of the way at the FXO house I didn't want to interrupt anyone practising there either. So I had told Choya I would sleep on the floor at the FXO house. Now no matter how often I said "no he should have the bed he needs good sleep for practice" they just wouldn't listen and I was forced to sleep in one of the new players bed.
The way it works for Korean's is that a person's age is very important. Because all of the newer/younger players coming into the FXO house are on "Probation" might be the best word for it. They undergo a sort of initiation into the house that they have to work through. This involves cleaning up after the older players at times. Cooking dinner for the team eating after the older players have finished (not enough room at the table for 16 people haha). Skill also comes into play in this regard as well, last time I was at the house it was Whale/Tree/Weekend who had this responsibility. This time it was xD and voidray, it was nice to see that the others had settled in well with the team, they had gotten less shy and more willing to speak up. It took me some time to get use to this way of seeing things, It still is pretty awkward when the younger players come and ask you if you want food/clean up after you but as I was saying before with the bed you really cant say no to that kind of stuff with them.
So, it got to 3am and everyone started to go to bed. I was sleeping in the room with Sirius Leenock xD thebest and asd. Needless to say I fell asleep instantly. For some reason, I always sleep the best when I'm in Korea. Malaysia I have trouble sleeping and Australia, but Korea always gives me such good sleep.
I was woken up at 10am by asd poking me going "food food come". There are a number of players in the FXO house who have enough English to actually talk to which is good, the others try their best to understand but if they cant they will just call over someone else. The FXO house has a maid that comes every weekday to do the cleaning/cooking for the team so they can focus on practising and holy crap she is a good cook. I am normally not a fan of Korean food but that stuff was goooooooood.
Tuesday is internal ranking match day for the team. Needless to say round robin between 16 people takes all day to complete. They just sat down and powered through it, Oz is currently changing his sleep schedule for Columbus so he didn't take part in this weeks due to opposite sleeping schedule. At 4pm everyone took a break from the games and came to have lunch and I got to talk to Leenock about New York if he had fun and about how he was feeling about GSL the online league's we are in at the moment and everything was good for him.
I had arranged to have dinner with SloG to catchup that night and to stay at the gom house since we planned on having a few drinks afterwards so i said my goodbye's to the players and headed off. The gom house was very different to when i stayed there, only 5 people compared to like 12 made the whole place seem so much bigger! It ended up being myself SloG Khaldor and Desrow heading out to Bulgogi Korean BBQ which was AMAZING!
During the dinner I got to hear all the fun and drama that had happened in the gom house over the last few months since I had been to Korea which was really good for me, it had been a while since I had been out with friends since I was working 16 hour days 7 days a week back in Malaysia for the FXO events and such. SloG was trying to get the waitress to hit on Khaldor which made him really really embarrassed which was hilarious as well.
Khaldor had to head back to cast KSL so SloG Desrow and I went to a local Bar to have a few drinks to continue to catchup. We weren't there for very long because they wanted to get back to practising for the weekend so we got back to the gom house by 10pm and I went to bed since i knew that the next day would be very busy.
Back to FXO house:
So I got back to the FXO house to begin the discussions with Choya about the contract with the team renewal. For those who didn't catch the news, the last time we renewed the contract we gave them a pay rise because they were performing really well. So this renewal will be a lot of back and forth on what they want and manage their expectations. The talks went very well and they understood a lot of what we were trying to grow FXOpen e-Sports into. You will see regular streaming WITH commentary from the players soon as we had a big discussion about how most Koreans believe that "just winning" is all they need to do. It is a slow and gradual process especially with the language barrier but I do want to thank FXOxD who has done a great job of translating where needed!
I spent most of the day in talks with them about those, then spent the rest watching them practice and discussing IEM with a lot of the players. The rankings had finally been completed by then as well which ended up being Leenock Lucky and Whale 1,2,3 respectively (remember oz did not participate) So I was very impressed with how far whale has come since I had last been there and he was bottom 3. I decided to buy pizza for a lot of the players since they were all working so hard that night. I could not help but feel how dedicated all the players on the team where, they would play 9/10am until 2am and later and would very rarely take breaks. Even when they did it was like 1 game of chaos or watch an episode of K-drama then right back to it.
This day however they all stayed up practising to about 5am because they really wanted to do well on the weekend and I didn't want to look out of place so i stayed up with them even though I was about to pass out at my chair. The next day I woke up at about 2pm and I was like wtf? Turns out they tried to wake me but I was just too out of it to wake up and as I walked out I got my share of laughing at for sleeping so long I also missed breakfast so I was really hungry but there was nothing left from breakfast so I had to wait until lunch. Luckily Gumiho was playing one of his matches for the IPL individual tournament (which hasn't aired yet so I wont spoil anything) so I got to watch that while I waited for lunch. It really is impossible to keep up with that guy when he plays haha.
The rest of that day was spent just hanging out with the players and watching them practice as the next day I was going to start doing some video footage about the team. It was difficult to judge how much footage I should do because I also wanted them to practice without interruption too.
So Thursday came around and I got a lot of the footage done, but unfortunately the camera I was using decided to corrupt all the videos :S So I would have to redo them on the Friday. I actually thought it was Friday this day and was about to head out to watch GSTL when xD looked at me like I was a crazy person and it took me a few minutes to understand why. But it was OK since it meant I had more time to get interviews done the next day again! I know that the interviews could have been a lot better, but it was a learning experience for me since I don't usually do interviews but at least there's nowhere but up to go for things like that for our team.
So Friday came around and everything I needed to get done was done. So I headed off to the gom studio to catch up with wolf. I got there like 5 minutes too late and missed out on the pizza that DRG bought for the studio >.< The games were interesting to me but ended pretty quickly compared to how long I thought they would. Snow bird was at the studio too so Wolf Khaldor Snow bird and myself went to dinner at the same place I did last time (It was that good) We got to discussing the games that day and an interesting subject that was along the lines of Perfectly executed games vs entertaining ones. Of course both sides have their need was but it was a good discussion regardless.
Over dinner we got to discuss a whole heap of different things regarding casting itself, what kind of improvements gom really needs to make and I have to commend snow bird for sitting there and listen to it all without saying a word and then at the end going "everything you have said I have already told gom" without getting annoyed as I would have done.
I had arranged to stay at the gom house for the rest of my stay to make sure everyone in the FXO house got enough sleep for qualifiers so I headed back to the gom house with Khaldor where Major and SloG weren't feeling great about qualifiers so we tried to cheer them up and went off to bed.
Code A Qualifiers - Saturday:
I woke up with about 15 minutes to get ready to head to qualifiers with slog Desrow and major, they were all playing on that day. Thebest and asd were playing that day as well. I did my best to tweet results that were coming through and live report but between 5 foreigners + 2 of my own players I missed a lot of the information. We had McDonald's for breakfast where we ran into the iG guys (edison, xigua, macsed) who were nervous for the day. I walked around a lot of the day trying to watch as many games as I could. All the foreigners were knocked out eventually, I managed to get slog's games vs revival on camera which I am uploading to you tube now.
Thebest was eliminated first round with 3gate voidray builds which was upsetting as well as Tear hitting CoCa in semi final but asd made it to the final of his group losing 1-2 in the final so he was really upset. Kasyu made it to the semi final but knocked out major on his way which was bitter sweet. Gumiho and Choya came in to support the players so we went out to dinner afterwards to make them feel better.
That night I couldn't sleep because I was having chest pains, I still don't know why I think it was just due to the cold. But funny enough it was 2am and Khaldor came out of his room after KSL and we ended up talking for like 4 hours. Khaldor and I get along really well and we have the same sense of humour so it will be good if we ever get a chance to cast together in the future.
Code A Qualifiers - Sunday:
Eventually I got to sleep and it felt like only 2 seconds before khaldor woke me up to go to qualifiers for day 2. It was the coldest day of them all and standing outside for 10 minutes trying to find a taxi was not fun at all. But once we got to the qualifier it was much better, there were a lot of FXO players this day, Whale Tree Weekend and Crane in the morning Choya Sirius xD and Voidray in the afternoon. Choya decided to be a smart ass and try to mess with Khaldor calling him gay to see what he would do. Khaldor also being a smart ass decided to play along by putting his arm over my shoulder to mess with Choya which made him start pointing at us and going "boy girl or girl boy" ....
This day went really really well for our team. All but 1 player made it to the finals in their group. They all played really really well I could not have asked for any more. Tree and Choya made it through which was awesome! But I cant help but think of the possible 7 players we could have gotten through since they all made the finals and lost in really close games
Trimaster Naama SaSe jinro haypro all played this day as well along with Deathangel. I started to feel bad because our team was knocking out foreigners a lot Kasyu - Major, Whale - SaSe and Tree - Deathangel. But they were all good games regardless.
Choya got walkovers right up to the semi final which seemed to be a trend for Sunday's qualifiers John mentioned that the Korean school calendar had just started so I assume that's why a lot of people were no showing.
After the qualifiers all the FXO players + Coach Choi from MVP and Khaldor came to dinner with us and I got to talk about online team leagues GSTL and GSL with Coach Choi who is very good at English too.For some reason my CC decided to become unresponsive when I went to pay for dinner which was pretty embarrassing but thankfully Khaldor was able to help out and I transferred him cash later on in the night. Because of the very little sleep I got the night before as soon as I got back to the gom house I fell asleep instantly since my flight was at 8am the next morning.
Air Asia has this option that you can pay $30 to be put in the draw to be upgraded to Premium if no one pays for the ticket a certain period before the flight and you get refunded if you aren't upgraded so thankfully I was upgraded again woo!
So it came to 5am and I got up, both major and slog were still practising so I got to say goodbye to them before I headed off.
Overall I had a really great week I am back in Malaysia now and I'm uploading all the video footage I got while I was there and I am back to organising our next FXOpen Invitational as well as a LoL event we plan on running shortly too. I hope to be able to go back to Korea regularly but only time will tell!