SC2's first world star, 'FruitDealer' Kim Won-Ki
'TG Sambo - Intel StarCraft 2 Open Season 1 champion'
'World's first major SC2 tournament winner'
'Player that won 100 million won'
These are the words that are used to describe TSL_FruitDealer. Not only is he titled a glorious 'champion', but he is the first player to take home the prize money of 100 million won. Having both the fame and the money, TSL_FruitDealer is the first true hero of SC2.
'FruitDealer' has already become a representative 'nickname'. He's been considered the best since closed beta, and he's now the champion of the first major tournament, TG Sambo - Intel StarCraft 2 Open Season 1. At the time, zergs were considered difficult to play, but he has shown innovative strategies coupled with unlimited skill each game.
Many fans love TSL_FruitDealer. He may not be the most handsome, but his friendly image meshes well with the ID 'FruitDealer', which is attracting tons of interest from many people. He is very well-spoken, like a champion, in his deep low voice. From all-ins to management, displaying a wide variety of play styles, TSL_FruitDealer has become a player with all the qualities of a star player.
Truthfully, his SC2 career has been a sequence of 'uncertainty'. After being enrolled in the army, he was released back home due to health problems. This is when he became in contact with SC2, and he started to participate in tournaments just to enjoy the game. Soon after, he has become the most famous player world-wide.
After season 3 round of 8, TSL_FruitDealer is awaiting 2011 GSL Code S.
TSL_FruitDealer has advanced to the round of 8 in season 3. He was greedy to win once again, but he was crushed by HongUnPrime 3:2 in the round of 8. Season 1 champion, season 2 round of 32, and season 3 round of 8 are surely outstanding results. However, for TSL_FruitDealer, getting to the round of 8 was a disappointing result.
TSL_FruitDealer is a very spirited individual. From time to time, he gets frustrated after a loss and stays away from the game. He is also known to express his feelings on SC2 related community sites. These factors are different from what we expect from a successful progamer, but fans support TSL_FruitDealer nonetheless. It's because even though he seems distracted, he always answers the fans' expectations when he is standing on that stage, sitting in his booth. This is why he is still a favorite to win in 2011 GSL Code S.
Q. How have you been doing since season 3 round of 8? You must be getting a lot of rest without much schedule.
A. I'm doing a lot of different things. I've been playing pool and have been learning boxing. I also went snowboarding and did all sorts of things. I usually like to drink, but I haven't drank all that much. I'm trying not to drink and learn other things instead.
Q. I want to know why you're trying to quit drinking and trying new things.
A. I wanted to quit drinking from a long time ago, but it's hard to stop. Instead of completely quitting, I'm trying to drink as little as possible. I've been trying other things, since I don't have a lot of things on my schedule, and each day felt longer and longer. I think liquor intake is directly proportionate to my game performance. It's definitely better for me to stop drinking. It's good to drink once in a while, but too much is a minus for sure.
Q. You were knocked out in the round of 8 in season 3, were there any damage done?
A. It's been very regretful. I did so bad. I think I lost in a situation where I couldn't lose. I'm sure every player thinks this way after the games, but I think I played very poorly. It was very annoying and I tried to forget about it since I've been having pointless thoughts. For about 2 days, I've been drinking and going to bed to recover. I definitely had another chance to reach the final since I was in the round of 8, so it was disappointing. At the least, TSL_Rain has reached the final and that's helped me recover somewhat.
Q. Including both you and IMNesTea, there were a lot of people that expected a match between the 2 champions of season 1 and season 2.
A. Honestly, I thought it would be easy until the round of 4. I think IMNesTea thought the same way. I don't think either one of us expected to lose in the round of 8. I think we got a little ahead of ourselves. We told each other 'let's meet in the round of 4', and IMNesTea would often say 'I'm going to eat some delicious fruit in the round of 4' (laughs). We overextended ourselves and got knocked out.
Q. You must have been self-reflective recently.
A. I usually don't like to get ahead of myself. I was confident, but I still expected a tough tournament. That's why I was more nervous, and was very pressured. I was pressured to reach the round of 4. I practiced a lot, but I didn't get to execute the things I did in practice. I'm very disappointed regarding that part. I have had a relatively long career, and I've won before, so I regretted showing such abysmal performances.
Q. Aren't you still participating in 2011 Code S leagues? You must have no room to breathe.
A. I rested a bit after losing in the round of 8. After about a week, I'm increasing my practice time back up. I'm currently loosening up playing random. Even though I took a break, I've been thinking about the game, keeping in touch with other people, so it shouldn't be a problem to get my game back. I need work hard for 2011.
Winning season 1 has changed everything for TSL_FruitDealer.
No matter what game, the most important thing for a progamer is to win. Players that have won enjoy more fame than the average progamers. Well, there are 'unfortunate winners' that experience no change after a win, but TSL_FruitDealer is not one of them. Ever since winning TG Sambo - Intel StarCraft 2 Open Season 1, his life as a progamer has completely changed.
Before getting to the main interview, we want to look back at his SCBW career.
He was a 'lazy genius'. Since joining e-stro, called e-nature at the time, TSL_FruitDealer was a prospect that had a lot of expectations. His official record is 13-20. His play against NaDa was especially impressive, and he was a hyped zerg player that displayed 'infested terran drop' plays.
His progamer career didn't last very long. He didn't adjust to the strict restrictions of the progaming system and his will wasn't the strongest around. That TSL_FruitDealer has now become a central leader for TSL. He has succeeded in becoming an experienced player in the midst of enjoying his share of freedom.
Q. I want to talk about season 1. You were one of the favorites to win before the tournament started.
A. I did think that I was the best zerg player among the group, but I didn't think that I could win. However, after winning a game here and there, I was at the final stage. To be honest, the bracket wasn't too easy either. I played against TSL_GuineaPig in the round of 64, and it was such a difficult match. At the time, zergs had a tough time beating protosses, and his practice amount was incredible. I barely defended against a 4 warpgate rush on Scrap Station, and I went for a hidden expansion at the 9 o' clock on Kulas Ravine, but it was a last minute strategy rather than a prepared one. I think in season 1, all these last minute decisions worked in my favor.
Q. TSL_FruitDealer's games are considered to be entertaining, because they're always so close.
A. That's because I suck (laughs). That's why there's been so many close games. I even made a lot of mistakes since I was very nervous, the situation turns out that way if I start with a disadvantage. However, good zergs were supposed to barely win even back in SCBW, and I still think that way. For viewers, those types of games might be entertaining.
Q. Don't you think that those games were a result of zergs being unbalanced in season 1?
A. That could be a part of it. Even though I got knocked out in season 2 and season 3, zergs became a lot better since season 1. If I look back now, I sometimes wonder 'how did I win during that time', but I think the tight schedule helped me focus. I also think that I was able to succeed in season 1 due to the things I did back in closed beta. I'm always good at games that are just released.
The champion of TG Sambo - Intel StarCraft 2 Open Season 1 TSL_FruitDealer.
Q. What was the hardest match in season 1?
A. It was obviously the match against oGsTOP in the round of 16. I won flawlessly in the first set, but I ended up doing an all-in that would never work. I kind of wanted to show it off on TV, and wanted to make an image for myself. I also wanted to try a different style of play for my future games. The second set on Lost Temple was a map that I half gave up on, so I ended up losing.
After starting the third set on Kulas Ravine in a disappointed mood, I was terribly damaged by early hellions. However, I had a feeling that oGsTOP would play like he did in the first set, he pushed out really late after getting 3 command centers, and that was the recent terran trend. I was hoping he would do that, and that's what he did. My decision to drop everything altogether and just pump drones actually worked (laughs). Honestly, I played the game thinking that I lost, that's why it's been the most memorable game so far.
Q. May things must have changed after winning in season 1.
A. I thought my life was cursed for 2-3 years. I didn't believe in any myths, but I almost started believing in these unfortunate myths. I even went to a fortune teller on the streets (laughs). They told me that I would be cursed from when I'm 26 to 40 years old. I even heard that I would fail no matter what I tried. I didn't actually believe in those words, but things were hard as nothing seemed to work out.
Q. Ah, it must have been very difficult.
A. I went to the army and came out right after. The draft letter came as a surprise, but once I entered, I was released due to a pre-existing condition on my thyroid gland. I had many farewell parties and many people showed up on the day I went into the army, but it was so embarrassing to be out again. I think I went undercover for a month. I started doing other things, and I started playing SC2 during that break.
Ah, what was the question? Ah, after winning... (laughs). After winning, I thought 'I can't believe this luck is happening to me', and 'maybe things will go well from here'. I started thinking positively, even though I looked optimistic before, I wasn't really like that in the inside. I think I became fully optimistic after winning.
Q. Isn't it a big honor to be the first champion?
A. It's true that I thought 'I was the best' since closed beta. However, I only thought that, because I started before anyone else. I thought it was more important to do well in the official tournaments. That's why I was even happier to win in the first tournament, the word 'first champion' is very powerful. I didn't really expect to win, but ironically, I thought 'what do I do if I don't win'.
After winning, I gained the confidence to proudly address someone. I can now confidently scold the younger teammates as well (laughs). I think I gained that definite image of the 'champion' from that of an 'old player that is decent'. It doesn't matter how good you are, it's very hard to be recognized if you don't win. I'm sure this applies to any other field.
Q. Do you think that you've hit your prime after winning in season 1?
A. I really thought that I was good when I first joined e-nature. I thought I'd be in the discussion of the top 5 zergs. It's weird for me to say this, but I really was that good (laughs). Back then, I purposely practiced without taking my natural against terrans and focused mainly on 1 hatchery or in-base 2 hatchery builds. However, I really disliked broadcasted ZvZ matches. I lost them all (laughs). Even though the game is different, I think my skill level stayed relatively the same. If anything is different now, I have an appropriate environment to practice and I now have the desire to keep going. Since I have that experience from before, I'm always thinking a lot and trying hard, but my personality hinders me from progressing further.
Q. Still, you're a little bit older and your previous experience must be helping you out.
A. That's somewhat true. I don't want to repeat the same mistakes I made in the past. Also, as the champion of season 1, it would be horrible to get destroyed in Code S after partying and drinking my life away. It definitely makes me feel like I should do better and I want to show consistency before I enter the army. I absolutely have to. I don't know if I can win again, but I want to stay around and get good results. I want to reach at least the round of 8, I'd hate to do any worse than that.
Blizzcon 2010, world star 'FruitDealer'.
Blizzard presented an art work for season 1's champion TSL_FruitDealer.
GSL is an abbreviation for 'Global StarCraft 2 League'. Anyone can view the games after installing the GomPlayer. For that reason, many fans are watching GSL despite the fact that they have to pay to do so. The popularity of the first season, TG Sambo - Intel StarCraft 2 Open Season 1, was outstanding. The champion TSL_FruitDealer enjoyed the fame of a world star during Blizzcon 2010, people supported him, even translating his Korean ID to 'FruitDealer'. He played show matches against SlayerS_BoxeR, and the match caused hot reactions as a showdown between SCBW and SC2's top stars.
Q. Let's talk about Blizzcon 2010. Wasn't it your first time playing games in a foreign country?
A. It was the first time being in another country since I visited Southeast Asia, and it was the first time flying out to play games. The city of Anaheim felt rather rural, but it was very thrilling to play games on the stage. I think it was there was 10 times the hype compared to 2010 G-Star All-Stars. It was insane to see so many people wanting to watch SC2. Of course, there were some difficulties since it was in a foreign country, but in the end, it was very fun. Koreans tend to be shy, but foreigners are very expressive and outgoing so their cheering culture was amazing. The atmosphere was very passionate. It made me realize the power of a mere game and wished for a similar atmosphere in Korea too.
Q. Were you aware that there were many shots of you in the 2010 Blizzcon opening video?
A. When I was there, I only heard that I was in the video. It didn't really approach me during the stay, but I realized how big of a part I took when I watched the video back in Korea. It could have been more thrilling if I watched it back then, it's disappointing. When I realized that it was such a big event, I regretted not enjoying it a little more.
Q. Many foreign fans supported you, recognizing you as 'FruitDealer'.
A. There were barely anyone in Korea that recognized me off the streets. There were maye 1 or 2 instances, once when fans recognized me on their way to a different progaming house, and twice when a convenient store worker recognized me. I thought it was weird how they knew me in the Unites States, everyone knew me, and it was a little awkward. I didn't know how to speak English, so I didn't know what to do in this situation. I kind of regret that I didn't fully enjoy those moments. I was originally scared of foreigners, and it looked like they were about to pull out a gun (laughs). Everything got better after the Blizzcon though, everyone was very nice.
Q. You must want another opportunity to play overseas.
A. Of course I do, it's super fun. I can travel and play games at the same time. I don't usually like traveling, but I want to visit more places after the recent trip. I think it's better to enjoy the games when I play in a foreigner tournament, with prize money and other things aside. I heard that foreign fans are much more interested in players that win in a tournament. I think I should play better whenever I'm overseas too, as I might be representing Korea (laughs).
Hot issue maker, TSL_FruitDealer.
Games aside, TSL_FruitDealer is very popular outside the gaming stage. Of course, there will be players that can top him as the game develops and more players enter the scene, but for now, he is the most interesting player without a doubt.
Fans use the shortened version of 'FruitDealer' and refer to him as the 'director'. In response, TSL_FruitDealer has shown many ceremonies using fruits. There are many photoshopped images using the concept of a fruit dealer, and he is a frequent main character on the after-comics featured on the GSL homepage. Unlike the previous progamers, he communicates with the fans on community sites and QQs saying 'practice is too hard' right before important matches. He is definitely one of the 'hot' SC2 players.
Q. The ID 'FruitDealer' must be very special to you.
A. It's very special. People liked to create their ID's in English in the past, so I wanted to make mine in Korean. I thought about it a lot, but 'FruitDealer' was actually made without much consideration. I think it's a great ID though, I think it has an ID effect? sort of thing. I'm fully enjoying that effect. I ended up creating my own nickname, that's amazing (laughs).
Q. You must get a lot of fruit gifts.
A. Ygosu's team manager Apple bought me 3 boxes of fruit, he qualified for season 2 round of 64 as a businessman. My family said that they would continue sending me fruits. Actually, I think I tend to give more fruit gifts than to receive them. I think it's better for my image to just spread fruits everywhere, I'm a fruit 'dealer' after all (laughs).
Q. You seem to like writing on the SC2 community site, PlayXP.
A. I originally liked writing on the forums. It's a site I visit everyday, it's fun to just hang around. Since I'm a progamer, I told myself to stay away from such behaviors, but I wanted to play SC2 with some freedom and initially wanted it as a hobby. I want to leave even more posts, but I'm holding myself back. I think I'm doing this since I'm so used to hanging around on internet from my days in PC Communication. In the past, I used to leave comments on threads regarding myself using a different account (laughs).
Q. Fans are liking TSL_FruitDealer's posts too much, a lot of them make it to the notices section too (laughs).
A. I think the effect is dieing since I've been leaving too many posts, but I tend to ask a lot of questions. I asked 'where is a good place to go snowboarding' once and there were people telling me to go where they work (laughs). I think it's a huge bonus.
Q. You posting 'die HongUn lololol' on the forums before the round of 8 has been an issue.
A. I think it's reasonable to leave comments like that. Don't we all fool around when we're having fun with friends, it's like saying 'don't you dare 6-pool me'. I'm revealing this now, but there are many cases of me leaving comments after drinking. I think I was crazy, it's becoming a drunk habit. I don't even remember writing some comments (laughs). At least the fans are happy, so I'm happy too. Progamers generally aren't active on the community sites, but I like doing this. It's good that I can leave a comment after reading the forums everyday. I see almost all threads, including different zerg stories, and get a lot of tips and information from them. There are plain stupid threads occasionally, but it's beneficial to read what others are thinking. It's hard to meet other people due to gaming, so I'm sort of filling in my lack of social life this way.
Q. You're making frequent appearances in CoCoShoo's 'GSL After-Comic'.
A. I really like that series. CoCoShoo claims to be my fan, but I'm his fan as well. My face is expressed as a fruit, and I really like the character. The cartoon may be more popular since I'm in it, but those contents motivate me to do better. I think it'll be sad to see other players on the cartoon, I want to make even more appearances on the cartoons. He is really good at drawing.
Q. Whenever there is a weird picture of you, it becomes photoshop material.
A. Whether it's photoshopped pictures or weird expressions, I really enjoy it. I actually like people that leave hurtful comments too. They're doing it, because they're interested. Strange images and abusive comments are all interests towards me. The worst thing as a progamer is to have no interest from the public. So, I like to see these kinds of things, I sometimes want to feed them with weird pictures of myself (laughs). It makes me proud that I can make them happy, and it really makes me aware of my popularity.
Q. I'm curious to know about your life in TSL.
A. Coach Lee Woon-Jae is very considerate. Honestly, I don't think the life of a progamer fits me very well (laughs). It's because I like to be free and I don't want to distract other players. All the players are very nice, even though it seems like they're learning boxing to beat me up later...(laughs). That's why I'm learning too. I love the free atmosphere of TSL, and I think it's great living with TSL_Killer and TSL_sSKS. Half of us are from e-stro and the other half is from MBC Game, and everyone just works very hard. Besides, the food is great too, thank you, maid.
Q. You're known to be very close with season 2's champion IMNesTea.
A. I've known him back since our amateur days. We've separated after joining our respective teams, but became close again due to SC2. TSL_RevivaL is the only other zerg player on our team, and it really helps a lot to discuss things with IMNesTea. I think it's because we feel the same way about the game. He doesn't like to talk online, but he's a big help when I talk to him face-to-face. Ultimately, he's still a rival. Since we absorb information immediately, we tend to hide some information from each other (laughs). We're really close though, I really like him.
Q. Many people are wondering how you spent your prize money.
A. I've repaid for the favors other people have given me, and spent a lot of it on food. I actually haven't decided what to do with the money yet. I think it's best to leave it with my mother. I don't usually use the word 'respect', but I genuinely respect her. She is the best. I'm hoping that the money can grow if I invest the money on her.
Q. You posted a picture of your prize money on the day you received 100 million won.
A. I had a drink with a few friends the day before, and I said 'I'm going to post a picture of my prize money the moment I receive it'. That's what started the occasion. I tend to be dull over money, so I didn't have too many feelings towards the 100 million won. However, it was still a very strong motivating force. It made me work really hard in season 3. Also, other players must have seen my post, they must have stomachaches. I was hoping that it would motivate them as well. I wanted to gather interest from people that didn't know about SC2 leagues, it wasn't just to show off, but it ended up being that way (laughs).
Q. You must be happy that good things are happening since you started SC2.
A. I'm finally having a plan now that I've been having some success. I want to accomplish more things positively, even though I don't know how things will go due to the army situation (laughs).
The future of SC2, the future of TSL_FruitDealer.
As well-known, GSL officially starts in 2011. The 3 open tournaments that started in September were just to separate Code S from Code A. GSL will mainly focus on Code S, Code A and Code B leagues, as well other events such as ladder tournaments and world invitationals. SC2 leagues have unlimited potential. This applies to TSL_FruitDealer as well. He may have to go to the army sometime in the future, but army is no longer an obstacle for him.
Q. I want to know if you think GSL is progressing well.
A. I don't know exactly, since it will be different how I view things compared to the average viewer. However, it's good for gamers that there are many tournaments going on. I'm expecting a lot of things since there will be even more bigger tournaments next year. I just don't know how the viewers think as I haven't thought about it in their perspective. Still, I think it's doing pretty well. I didn't know that so many people would show up to my final match, but a lot of people came, at least 2-3 times as many. It was amazing when I stepped on the stage. There was a similar number of people in season 2 as well. That definitely made me feel that the league was doing well. I was happy that so many people showed up, even though there is no 'Taek Bang Lee Ssang'.
Q. As a player, are you considering to do things that will improve the league?
A. I don't know (laughs). I didn't have too much time to think since I've been focused on gaming, and it's my first time being in this position. I only think about how I can improve as a player, as these problems are difficult to solve. That's why I've been wanting to study more, not like English or math, but how to use my brain and think. I set my mind to do that, but it's hard. Right now, I'm just thinking about how I can play better games, I trust in others to lead me to the right path once I start showing good games. If I mature a little bit more, I believe that I will be able to do things to improve the league and the lives of other progamers.
Q. I want to know your goal in the 2011 GSL seasons.
A. There will be many leagues. There will be more than 10 tournaments, and I want to reach the final in at least 1 of them. If you're in Code S, you get paid monthly. If I had to consider it money-wise, I want to make as much as a 'director' of a big company would. I want to earn a bonus by winning, that is my goal.
Q. You must be ambitious to show the fans entertaining games.
A. Of course I am. Winning is important, but entertainment values are important too. Honestly, this round of 8 was too tough. Since it was difficult to win, I set the concept to go all-in. However, I think going all-in every game can be boring, a player should show a variety of game styles. If the game turns out to be entertaining, it's enjoyable even if I lose. So, winning in entertaining games is my ultimate goal. If I did well in season 2, I could have played in season 3 with a different race, but season 2 was disappointing. I'm good with other races too (laughs). I do all this to provide the fans with entertainment.
Q. So do you want to participate in a tournament playing another race?
A. Sometime in the future, even though I don't know when that will be. It's not just for fun, I want to show everyone that I can do just as well playing another race. I should have done this before the average skill level increased... (laughs). I'm a little worried, but I'll definitely be looking for an opportunity next year.
Q. You must fulfill your duty in the army sooner or later.
A. I'm already planning things to do after returning from the army. By doing this, I realized that I have to be more successful now to do the things that I want to do afterwards. To continue to be involved in SC2 e-sports, I need to be more famous and be more skilled. I want to make a clear impression as a progamer, so that people don't forget about me after I'm released from the army. Everything is forgotten so easily nowadays, even in this GSL, I felt like I was being forgotten since I was knocked out so early. This is why I want to leave a definite impression for people to remember me by.
Q. Can you make any last comments to the fans?
A. I hope everyone spends the holidays safely and drinks responsibly (laughs). Taking care of yourself is really important. Also, I'm looking for someone to teach me how to snowboard (laughs). I really like snowboarding, and it helps me focus better on gaming. Snowboarding also makes me drink less (laughs). I'm trying to snowboard as much as I can this winter and I'm willing to teach everything I know about SC2 to the person that teaches me snowboarding. I will make them an amazing gosu.
There are 3 players on our team without Code S, but the skill level of these players is truly unbelievable. I hope they do well in 2011. They shouldn't give up after making just a couple of mistakes. Lastly, I wish that TSL_Rain can win in the upcoming season 3 final match. TSL_Rain and TSL fighting!
Original interview in Korean (http://www.fomos.kr/board/board.php?mode=read&keyno=113441&db=issue)