We met SKTelecom T1's Coach iloveoov on the 13th. We received questions from A LOT of users so it took us half a day to organize and filter them. Coach Choi has been resting at home since November 1st, before he goes off to the military. Working as a progamer, then as a coach, didn't allow him to spend much time with his family, but he has been doing his best to become a family man and spend some quality time during these past few weeks.
With military duty on the horizon, which all able-bodied Korean men must serve at one point or another, Coach Choi said, "I want to spend my time at the army to mull over and bring closure to my e-sports life." Oov, who said that he wishes to see e-sports soar when he comes back 2 years from now, stated that "an entity with strong conviction must step up, and if it can get the entire industry to rally around its causes, the e-sports scene will be able to overcome its troubles of yesterday and today."
After having spent 10 years in the industry, Oov has made many connections within the e-sports scene, and said, "I achieved and learned after having shared my path with SKTelecom T1 for 10 years. Without the help and support of others, I would not have achieved what I have, and I plan to return their love in full upon returning from the military."
@suitable88: What is Bisu to Oov?
A : Bisu is on a different level from other progamers. I don't need to micro manage him: I just need to broach a subject, and he knows exactly what I am talking about and figures out the rest. We spent a lot time talking about not just the game, but his future outlook as a progamer, the e-sports scene's future in general, and what role Bisu can and should play for e-sports.
A lot of youngsters who choose to go down the path of a progamer give up when they don't achieve the results they want. But it is crucial that players with Bisu's level of skill do not quit early. Those are the players that need to lead the scene. I once told Bisu, under the assumption that you live up to 100, 10 years is a large amount of time to be devoting to one thing. Only through achieving success will that time hold any meaning.
When we did talk about the game, SKTelecom T1 deploys race-specific coaching, so we never talked about details of his game play. If I had an idea, I would tell it to Coach Kwon [the protoss coach] and he would tailor it to Bisu and discuss it with him to come up with new strategies or management methods.
@DraGoonHero: How do you come up with BO's like that? Lol
A : Coming up with a strategy is not a skill-set specific to Starcraft, but rather, it's what guides me through life. I will explain.
When I used to go to school, we had 5-choice multiple questions often. I would often just plug in each answer to the question and try to backwards engineer the logic to solving the question. Especially in subjects like math, this way of solving problems worked well for me. Coming up with strategy is very similar: you start from the goal you want to achieve, and try to backwards engineer it by plugging it into an existing build. If you try to just come up with a build order starting from scratch, it becomes really complicated, but this methodology makes the process a little clearer.
I only discuss strategy with players who meet the minimal requirement in terms of skill, and also know how to think outside the box and adapt. The latter is a very important quality, and not a lot of players have it. On SKTelecom, only Fantasy meets that criterion. B-teamers barely have enough time building their mechanics and foundations. They also have a fear of trying out a new strategy. While they are devising a new strategy, if their internal rankings start to decline, they become scared that they will lose their spot on the team and fall back into their old habits. Fantasy was the only one who was able to overcome this fear.
There is a reason why I focus on strategy as a coach. The 3-4 years I spent coaching could be compared to the process of a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly. It takes a lot of dedication. I thought that if I wanted to make the most out of my time as coach, I had to specialize and brand my skill-sets. But reality was different. Of course you have to know the game inside and out as a progaming coach, but it's equally important to know people. You must know how a player thinks and lives. You cannot call yourself a coach just feeding strategies to your players. However, I am very bad at reading what's on a player's mind and managing his life. So I decided to really focus on my specialty in devising new strategies. Kind of like when I was a player.
The process of instructing players only becomes fun once they reach a certain skill level. Without a good foundation, they won't be able to execute a strategy, and even if they do by accident, it's building a castle on sand. I would say players that are at least a 3 out of 5 in terms of skill are the ones that are capable of discussing a strategy and bringing improvement to both sides.
While I was a coach, there is an old saying that really applies to coaching: do not try to fit a bucket's worth of water in a soup bowl. Each player has a natural limit to how much water they can hold. Fantasy has his number, and so do players like Ssak and yeOngJae. It is important to know how much they can hold to maximize the efficiency of their learning process.
@EmOmOzm: How did you feel during the match-fixing scandal? Do you know savior streams on afreeca, and how do you feel about it.
A : I am very close to savior, like an older brother. He is a player that I always gave trouble in tournaments up until my retirement. During our frequent encounters in Superfight or the MSL, I got close to him. I think it was at Superfight, where we had a long talk. He said the game was no longer fun. I had gone through similar times, so I gave him some advice. I told him to switch races. Around 2006, I had a serious dilemma. I was tired of playing Terran and wanted to enter individual or team leagues as another race. Although it never happened, I felt like I could find meaning in the game once again. So I told that to savior, but after he played against GoRush as Terran once, he stuck with Zerg.
After that, he started slumping, and then I heard about the scandal. I was very sad. Because he couldn't find meaning within the game, he looked elsewhere and had gotten involved with something he shouldn't have gotten involved with.
I personally don't believe that savior fixed matches knowing what kind of damage it would bring to e-sports. I don't think his conscience had developed enough to know that what he was doing was something terrible. For example, a bunch of hackers recently brought down the elections committee's server without thinking of the vast consequences it could have on our nation's politics, and it is similar to that. He didn't realize that what he was doing would hinder the careers of many others involved in the scene.
A lot of players who started playing professionally at an early age are mostly like that. They don't understand the concept of moral hazard. I'm not defending savior, but I want to bring attention to the fact that progamers are young adults who are still mentally underdeveloped and young.
At one point, I regarded savior to be a player who could lead the e-sports scene: he had the talent, and he produced a saga. After the scandal, I lost all respect for him. I tasted bitterness. The industry had invested so much resources and time into him, and all of that had disappeared into thin air. I don't care that savior is streaming on afreeca, or whatever. I believe it is way too early to be doing that, and he needs to spend some time looking back on his actions, but that's not something that anybody can force upon him; he must make that choice himself.
@Square_Zero: What was your toughest game as a progamer?
A : I can't give you a specific game. There was a period when I had a very tough time, though. I didn't even wanna go to the stadium. It was when we had the red uniforms. Our team was under-performing so we all shaved our heads. We dragged our feet to our matches and were barely able to play through the games.
@EllenoreSpring: Times when you look back on your decision to become a coach and feel like you did the right thing?
A : I touched on this before but I don't believe I was a successful coach. Coaching is all about people. I am bad at people, so I did my best to find fun in devising new strategies. The road to becoming a successful coach is not an easy one.
The supporting coaches have their work cut out for them. You stay at the team-house the longest, and you have to do everything. When you win, you break even, and if you lose, you are the national enemy. When your team wins, the spotlight goes to the players and the head coach. When your team loses, all the hatred is directed towards the coaching staff. Not many people know these intricacies of coaching. We are the hidden workers behind the scenes, but it is a thankless and exhausting job.
This applies to any organization, but progaming teams in particular are machines with a myriad of big and small gears intertwined with each other. The coaching staff is the small gears connecting the big gears. When the machine works well, the big gears earn praise. If the machine breaks, the small gears screwed up. That is the life of a supporting coach. They work in adverse conditions with minimal rest. Without the coaches' sacrifice, the e-sports scene would come to a halt, but not many people appreciate the role they fulfill.
This is not specific to just SKTelecom. Coaches on all teams work in similar environments. They are in need of appreciation and improved working conditions. In that sense, I don't think I would be able to work as a coach again.
@happy_jieun: Do you have anything you want to say to BeSt?
A : I have a lot of love for best. His personality is very similar to Kingdom's, who used to commentate and is now in the military. When kingdom was a progamer, I got into arguments with him a lot. We had very differing thoughts on the game. Best likes to work alone and is very stubborn, which is exactly what Kingdom was like. They expect you to think in a logical and efficient manner. Once you can convince them, they will follow you without questioning. But the process of convincing them takes a lot of time and effort. Once they can overcome the differences and appreciate your thoughts, they execute it with brutal efficiency. They take criticism very well and once they understand what they did wrong they own up and fix it at lightning speed.
SKTelecom first found him and he has grown into one of the most senior players on our team. With each passing year, there must be a lot of thoughts and worries on his mind, and I have no doubt his wisdom will help him overcome each and every one of them. He was one of the players that I yelled at the most as a coach, so I still take a keen interest in his well-being.
@kalie_j: Any non-terran players you take interest in and want to give a word of advice?
A : Nope, they have their own coaches and head coaches. I have one person that I am worried about, though: Coach Kwon [formerly Doctor.K]. He had to return from the army early due to insomnia, and his health is suffering. His insomnia was exacerbated with his coaching life. He can be called back to the military at any time, and the coaching life style will not help with his insomnia.
I hope that Coach Kwon recovers as soon as possible. Coach Kwon puts all of his time towards taking care of his players, and doesn't take care of himself, so somebody needs to look after him. He should realize that if he doesn't take care of himself, he won't be able to take care of the team even if he wants to. Coach Kwon fighting!
@kalie_j: Your son Shiwoo is growing up; does he listen to you? Or does he listen to his mother more? Is he a cutiepie? Are there times when you think 'this is no doubt my son'?
A : I'm not sure if this answers your question of who he listens to more, but he is scared of me. He says he likes his mother more.
Shiwoo is very competitive in nature. Even when he plays rock paper scissors, when he loses he says he will never play this damn game again, but then proceeds to play until he wins. Same goes for when he races. I often tell him, 'you haven't even given it your best shot, and you're already giving up in the early stages just because you lost the previous game,' but it's no use. He stays upset for quite a while after he loses.
Truthfully, I'm not one to be talking. On my days off, I often play 2v2's with my wife, and I find my self fuming when we lose. When it comes to competing, instincts over-shadow logic and I get angry when I lose. He is just like me in that regard. His straight eyebrows are also mine.
I am still proud of my son's competitive nature. Competitiveness is passion. Once he finds his interests and passion, I have no doubt he will become successful.
@kalie_j: During the 10-11 season, SKTelecom ended the regular season in first place but lost to KT Rolster in post-season. Why?
A : We came to the conclusion that our fall was due to scheduling. Once we ended the regular season in first place, we planned out the entire post-season and tailored it to build up to the finals. However, the finals in Shanghai were cancelled. We felt discouraged and unmotivated. We had spent close to a month preparing for those games, and everything had changed all the sudden. Winning was no longer on our minds when we came back. Even I felt unmotivated; I can't imagine how the players must have felt.
The 09-10 season loss in the finals was because we lacked skill and hadn't done our research, but we lost the 10-11 season to external reasons.
@kalie_j: The SKTelecom T1 Terran coach position will be vacant once you leave. What is being done about that? Will you have Fantasy fill that position, or will another race's coach step up, or do you have a successor?
A : I didn't really plan for it, so I'm not sure. I haven't partaken in the team's practicing since November 1st. I think Coach Park and our directors will come up with a suitable alternative.
@kalie_j: You have the nickname 'Old Man and the Build Order' [T/N: Like the novel Old Man and the Sea. Sorry my brain is too tired to come up with a clever equivalent]; what did you think when you first heard it? I think your bleached hair contributed to it, and I want to ask why you bleached your hair.
A : Earning another person's praise is a delightful thing. 'Old Man and the Build Order' is a very suitable nickname for me. Build order is not limited to strategy and tactics in-game. It must account for external factors as well to become a true build order.
I was often viewed negatively for trash talking: people said I was rude, an asshole, and dirty-mouthed. Even after I became coach, I often received criticism for trash talking other teams. But I believe that is all part of the game. I learned a lot from BoxeR when I was a progamer. He did everything that he could in-game to win. I expanded that mentality to areas outside of the game. Getting into your opponents' head through interviews was just one aspect of it; I often tried to mislead the players to making wrong assumptions about my game plans and play style as well.
This is what build orders mean to me: there is no perfect strategy, and in a situation where there are weaknesses, holes and solutions, there is a limit to how much you can hide your cards from your opponent. It is more effective to actively manipulate the opponent to commit to an ill-founded assumption, so they are caught off-guard with my actual game-play, and my chances of winning are increased. This is where factors outside of the game come into play and help you decide on your build order.
So the build order part is explained, and now for the old man part. I've always wanted to dye my hair before turning thirty or going off to the military, so I tried silver, but it was hard to take care of. I also thought of growing it out and tying it back, but now I have to live with a bald head for the next two years.
@sjh2788: The e-sports industry is going through a rough patch. What is your solution?
A : There are too many people trying to voice their opinions. There is an old saying that if too many people are given paddles to row the boat, the boat ends up in the mountains. I believe that tough times call for a leader for others to follow. That person needs to be able to overcome temptations of personal profit or inner-group favoritism, and set his sights on the betterment of e-sports as a whole. Everybody must follow his lead and work as a team. Whatever we end up with is what we will have to use as our basis for future development, and rewards and praise must come after all of this is settled. Everybody must unite under the cause of e-sports for the greater good. The captain must watch his every move to not lose his credibility, all the while displaying leadership, so the crew can follow him indiscriminately.
@sjh2788: In the early days of Starcraft 2, there were rumors that you would switch over with Boxer; was there any truth to this? According to your recent protige MMA, you seemed to have entertained the idea of switching over; do you have any plans of pursuing a career after returning from the military?
A : I played SC2 in its early days. I was 7th on KR ladder at one point. I was on par with players who have won or made the finals of the GSL. I played a lot of games against players like MVP, NesTea, Leenock and July.
The reason I played SC2 was if KeSPA made a new SC2 league, or joined another league, I wanted to teach our players. To be honest, once I hurt my wrist my life as a progamer was effectively over. When I went to the hospital to get it checked, they said my arm was equivalent to that of a 50+ year-old. I just wanted to get a head-start in SC2 so in the case of a switch our players would have an edge over others through my knowledge of the game, so I must say the rumors were false.
There was a time when I had retired, then returned as a player. Even then it was because I wanted to lead my players through example. There is a widely shared sentiment amongst players where they look down upon their coaches and feel like they don't know enough about the game to keep up with emerging trends. So I wanted to prove to them that I had what it took to be their coach. But the team didn't welcome my decision. They thought I had returned because I couldn't forget the taste of winning as a progamer. Once e-sports develops some more, I wish to play a captain role for our terrans while other members of the coaching staff manage the lives of the players.
It is regretful what happened with MMA. He knew how to read the game. He was practice partners with Ssak, and he developed very quickly. He entered the military but was injured so he had to return early. I heard he now plays under Boxer and recently won a tournament.
@EllenoreSpring: Is here an aspect of SKTelecom T1 that you can confidently say no other team can come close to?
A : I have no idea how other teams operate so I can't say anything with confidence.
@eunsu111: On the show Battlenet Attack, Hyuk said "Fantasy is already practicing by the time I come in." How much does Fantasy practice?
A : SKTelecom T1 players unanimously pick Fantasy and Bisu as the two players that practice the hardest. This says everything there is to know about their practice habits.
@eunsu111: There is rumor that By.Sun is ranked number one in practice. Is this true?
A : By.Sun will grow into a force to be reckoned. He has a gift that leaves him no choice but to be good at this game. He can watch his teammates' games and copy their strategy and management on the fly. I'm not talking just the overall, I'm talking timings down to the second, building placements down to the very pixel, and harassment like you were watching a replay. He is an intricate copy machine. On top of this he knows how to adapt and think outside the box, and win the game when he has the advantage. He thinks when he plays so he will grow into a great player.
@kbc1335: Plans of switching to SC2 after returning from the military?
A : Nope, and my wrist is in bad condition. Like I said, my arm is like that of a 50+ year-old.
@_JungM: What does SKTelecom T1 mean to Oov?
A : I spent the entirety of my 20's with the team and I am proud of it. The team shared its prestige and twists and turns with Oov. I'm not sure how readers will take this, but SKTelecom T1 shared my prestige. After the team's creation in 2004, I won the OSL and MSL, and when we were winning PL, I was always there. Even after I became coach, we have not missed a playoff, and we made three straight finals starting from the 08-09 season. SKTelecom T1's story has been my story up to this point, but now it is time that we part. I am sad to be leaving T1 behind.
@YNWAjh: I heard you talk to NaDa often; how close are you? Also, is Bisu the naturally-gifted, or the self-made type?
A : I saw in the news that Nada opened up his own online shopping mall. I called him but Nada must have been busy because he didn't pick up. I congratulated him on facebook but he never responded. He is not the Nada I used to know... I'm just kidding. Nada has always been my little brother. He has also been my companion in life.
Bisu is the self-made type. He got to where he is 100% through his own effort and time. There are no genius types on the current SKTelecom T1 lineup.
@happy_jieun: Who is the player to watch this season from SKTelecom T1? What were your happiest moments as a player, and as a coach? Who was easy to coach, and who gave you the most trouble?
A : To use the stock market as an analogy, a promising rookie is a stock that has a big up-side. In that sense, By.Sun is a player to watch. I am also looking forward to Bisu and Fantasy's performances. There are too few games this season for Bisu to live up to his 63 wins from last season. If Fantasy can perform as well as Bisu last season, I guess you could say he fulfilled my expectations as well.
@ondo89: If you could pass down one quality to your son, what would it be? Are there qualities of other people that you envy?
A : I would like to pass down something I don't have: courage. I get scared very easily. It's the reason I'm scared of traveling by plane. It doesn't have to be so literal like that, either: I am scared of trying out new things, too. I hope my son grows with the courage to dictate his own life. Too much of it would lead to idiocy and failure, but I think it's important that he has enough to try out new things and take on challenges.
@syung22: What was your most memorable game as a player, and as a coach, and why?
A : When I was a player, I would say the third game of the TG Sambo MSL finals against YellOw. It was an island map, so we both played strategically, but it became an all-over-the-map bloodshed. I thought I would take the game easily, but it ended up becoming an elimination race.
+ Show Spoiler +
When I was a coach, I would say the Bacchus OSL that Fantasy won. I had been wanting to terminate our student-teacher relationship at that point because I had nothing more to teach him, and wanted to set him free. Coincidentally he gave me an OSL victory as a good-bye present.
@bbosyuk: The void created by the lack of the 'Build master' this season has been more than noticeable. Do you have a build that you are particularly proud of? Are there any players that you feel would have become one of the greats if he had played terran and you were his coach?
A : I am proud of many of my builds. I would have to pick the slow mechanic Terran that produces agony and delicious Zerg tears everywhere as my proudest product, though. In ZvT, Zerg must play reactionary Starcraft according to the factory timings. If factories go up quickly, the Terran can go quick Starport, or build more factories, or switch to bio. Factories are key to a Terran's build order. When Fantasy was preparing for the Incruit OSL semi-finals, I realized factories are what dictate the flow of the game in ZvT', and it has made it much easier for Terrans to face Zergs.
@HeeRao_o, @muu_nuu, @ibelievepol: How does it feel going off to the military?What are your plans until you enlist? How do you spend your day? Do you have any plans of a fan-meeting?
A : It feels good. I feel like I will use the time to look back upon myself and tie up any loose strings. Up to this point, I only focused on Starcraft and never looked at other areas of life. I will use my time at the military to think about a lot of things and start organizing my life. I will be gone from the e-sports industry for two years, and I hope for further development and improvement during that time.
I plan on spending my time traveling with my family. Ever since I came home on November 1st, I have been spending time with my family. I send my son off to kindergarten, clean the house, wash dishes, spend time talking with my wife, then go out to pick up my son from kindergarten. I have no plans for a fan-meeting.
@ondo89: Imagine yourself as a rookie, and you have the choice of becoming a player, coach or director/head coach. What would you choose and why?
A : I would become a player. I don't know what it's like to be a director. I've experienced everything there is to as a player, so I am most familiar with it and I know how to succeed as one. I experienced the extremely adverse conditions as a practice partner, and have tasted victory in individual and team leagues. I have the most knowledge on life as a player [out of the three professions]. If I could return to being a player, I would do my utmost to keep my wrist in good condition. I would show that you are always rewarded for effort and sacrifice.
@ondo89: After having decided to enlist, what was your first thought relating to SKTelecom T1?
A : None as far as SKTelecom T1 goes. It never fails to perform and will continue to in the future.
@HaNe_Dreamer: Any players you would have liked to coach.
A : Earlier I mentioned the mentality of a coach. The player must have a strong foundation and a willingness to take risks, change and adapt. I want to coach somebody who is willing to take in other people's perspectives and isn't afraid of trial-and-error. KT's Flash, CJ's Leta, Team8's Sea and Jaedong, and our team's Bisu would be good choices.
If I were to coach Jaedong or Bisu, I would first practice their respective race so I am on par with their skill level. When I coach a player, I don't ask for justifications or motives behind their every move. I believe a coach must be on the same page as the player so that he can understand the player's decisions by just watching. In order to do that, coaches need to be able to play like an S-class player. That would be the only way to get the players to respect you as a coach.
@joingtaku: Are there any Terrans you have been following closely except for Flash and Fantasy?
A : Leta, Sea and RuBy. Leta knows strategy and he isn't afraid to try out new things. Sea has very fluid transitions from early to middle to late game. When I talked to Ruby on Battlenet while he was on ACE, I saw my younger self in him. If I were his coach, I feel like he would outright reject strategies I give him and we would argue every day, but he would bring the results.
@PLEASE_BeMyKYU: Are you still close to your mentor, Boxer?
A : We still keep in contact but Boxer is very busy these days. I plan to see him before going off to the military. Boxer asked for a birthday present recently. He wanted a new soccer ball so I bought him an Adidas soccer ball. I will give it to him before going away.
@mtejolm: Anything you want to say to SKTelecom T1 players, and younger progamers in general?
A : I left the practice house on November 1st. Since I am no longer directly affiliated with SKTelecom T1, I would like to say something as an older progamer in general. I wasn't a great progamer or anything [YEA RIGHT] but as a senior who has experienced everything, I want to say "As you have already decided to devote your best years to e-sports, play to the fullest of your abilities so you feel a sense of achievement and don't regret your decision later." Constantly reminding yourself of what you are sacrificing and striving to compensate for it will guide you through tough times and motivate you.
@HeeRao_o: Any last words to your fans?
A : My health hasn't been great recently, so I've been taking medicine. Your health comes second to none. I received so much from my fans and my sponsors when I was a progamer. I didn't fully appreciate what it meant at the time, but now that I am a coach, I can fully understand the mind of the giving. I thank all my fans who stood by me during these 10 years, and I hope to cross paths with you after I come back as an improved version of me. Thank you all for your endless support.
Source: Daily E-sports
* Oov is extremely well-versed; his vocabulary is well-developed for a progamer (a lot of them dropped out of school early so they speak like a 10 year old) and shares some deep insights. I tried my best to capture every bit of his thoughts, but I strongly advise you to read it in Korean if you can.