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CatsPajamas, Diggity, Seguer, and Totalbiscuit Talk Casting

From left, CatsPajamas, Diggity, Seguer, and TotalBiscuit
From left: avatars for CatsPajamas, Diggity, Seguer, and TotalBiscuit

Casting is a complicated job. It requires the capacity to think on your feet, adapt to an audience, and speak quickly and clearly (mouth micro, if you will). What’s more is that Starcraft’s unique nature creates an environment where audiences are particularly varied (and picky) in terms of what they want to hear. Some are looking for pure excitement; others want education; many want a mix of both. To get some insight into the world of casting, we came up with eight questions and reached out to CatsPajamas, Diggity, Seguer, and TotalBiscuit, all of whom graciously agreed to share their thoughts.

CatsPajamas is a self-made caster/streamer who’s done work for the IPL. Diggity got his start in the Brood War days and has recently done casting work for the NASL. Seguer is a regular in the Penny Arcade forums SC2 community, and has cast for the Taiwan Clan League (TCL) and SEA Intel Extreme Masters (ESL) alongside Kelly Milkies and FXO’s mOOnGLaDe. TotalBiscuit has a metric ton of original gaming and casting programs and has done work for the IPL, NASL, Dreamhack, and more. You can find all of their respective links at the bottom of the article.

Table of Contents

Let’s start with some history. When did you start casting? What made you decide to take the initial dive?

CatsPajamas:

I initially played a bunch of SC2 after it’s launch. Playing led me to sites like Team Liquid and /r/starcraft, naturally, where I started to become acquainted with the works of people like the great Day[9], Trump (<3 your instructional videos), and other casters and streamers. Eventually, I started watching WAY more than I was playing. My playing dropped to about an hour a day, but I was watching 5-10 hours of streams a day. Naturally, I became a spectator and a fan of the large events. However, I noticed that there were a lot of people that were very knowledgeable about SC2 casting, but not many of those people approached casting from a pro-sports play-by-play style. I thought that I could provide that. So, I fired up a stream around the end of October of last year, and just started casting mass replays. For the first few months, I was only casting to 5-10 people, but the numbers steadily grew and I was asked to do larger and larger tournaments.

Diggity:

I started casting late 2007. In the early days there was a Youtube caster named Klazart casting professional Brood War matches occasionally. Shortly after the OSL finals between Iris and GGplay he announced his intentions to retire. Moletrap and I decided to start casting in order to fill in what we perceived to be a huge gap in the community.

Seguer:

I started late last year/early this year casting the Penny Arcade forum community tournament, or CSL (Curvy Star League), hosted by Simon. After watching a few of the SEA casters (and various other casters of course) I figured hey, casting’s not that hard ;) (it may not be hard, but it is time consuming!)

Totalbiscuit:

My casting background is tied into my radio background. I started online broadcasting 11 years ago and moved into university and local radio later on. Casting is something I transitioned into doing as part of my time with WoW Radio, I did some commentary for The WoW Trading Card Game, The Spoils Trading Card Game as well as the game Savage 2 and an entry into the WoW Arena Shoutcasting Contest 2009, where I won the grand prize. I started Starcraft 2 commentary when the beta began. Commentary was a natural transition from the gaming podcasts I was doing at the time, I felt like branching out and my success in the WoW Shoutcasting contest inspired me to give SC2 commentary a try.

Do you feel your casting style has evolved since you began? If so, how?

CatsPajamas:

I do. Mostly that’s grown with game knowledge. I’ve seen/cast several thousand games. Now, I’ve never done overt analysis in my casts, but I try to blend and create conversation with analysis casters. That has gotten much easier the more I’ve learned about the game. And now I have players like PainUser saying my analysis is pretty damn good, so I’d say the hard work has paid off. :D

Diggity:

I feel like my casting style is always evolving. When I started I tried to cast with as little emotion as possible. I found that when I got excited my brain would speed up and my mouth wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Eventually I built up speed and then began working on more casting mechanics (such as avoiding saying “uhhh” or repeating something I said a few seconds ago). At that point I began to copy Klazart’s style of commentary which I believe originates from UK Soccer announcers.

Since then I have tried incorporating a variety of elements from different styles of casting. Most recently I experimented with a style that involves more long pauses in order to create tension (something that Totalbiscuit utilizes in his casting). At large its still a work in progress.

Seguer:

I originally started as a very play-by-play caster, castings things as I saw them. Recently in my casting of the TCL (Taiwan Clan League), I’ve started talking more about the strategy and potential options each player has at any given moment. When not solo casting, of course, it depends on which role I have at the time.

Totalbiscuit:

It’s not so much evolved as it has been refined. I learned what my strengths were and how to play to them as well as my weaknesses and how to minimize them as much as possible. The most important thing was, from the very start of SC2, I knew I was going to do play-by-play and focus purely on providing a sportcast style, which was not being done by anyone at the start of the beta and is still not all that common at the moment, with a large number of analytical colour commentators in the community and very few people with any actual broadcast background, be it amateur or otherwise.

Do you find yourself changing the way you cast based on venue? For instance, what changes when you’re casting on a personal stream versus a larger scale tournament or show match.

CatsPajamas:

To a degree, yes. When I cast a large tournament, I always seek out an analysis caster and kind of go into serious business mode. I always strive to present a very professional cast. When I’m doing a side project or just casting on my channel, though, I’ll often just sit back and joke with chat, have a good time, things like that.

Diggity:

I generally change my casting style based on two factors. The first is the audience. If I know a newer crowd will be listening to a particular cast, I will tend to dumb down the terminology and amp up the energy. If it’s a smaller, hardcore crowd I tend to do the exact opposite.

The second factor is who I am representing. If it is just a Youtube cast I will pretty much cast based on my currently mood and energy level. If I am for a group like NASL I will try to be as professional as humanly possible. I remember being at one event put on by a legitimate business; initially I took on a professional role, but I quickly realized after talking between matches that the sponsor was looking for something more off the cuff.

Seguer:

I definitely tend to be more professional when casting the TCL as opposed to casting some of the Penny Arcade stuff – as a community, Penny Arcade is pretty laid back and we can joke around a bit more; but because there are sponsors etc for the TCL, I try to keep the audience chatter limited to the downtime between games.

Totalbiscuit:

Not especially, consistency is more important. Obviously my casting is different from my streaming, which is just my laddering, but in general I want people to know what it is they will get whenever they tune in to one of my casts. That said with a live crowd, the performance is often amped up, just because the ambiance and the environment is so awesome, it’s difficult not to feel more excited.

Do you feel you appeal more to any specific niche of the Starcraft community, based on skill level or any other factor?

CatsPajamas:

I’m really not sure. It would be interesting to be selectively omniscient and see what types of viewers prefer my casting. My honest, real goal is to prove that play-by-play casters can be serious SC2 fans as well. I watch hours of matches per week. I’m an honest to god fan of the game. :D

Diggity:

I think niche appeal is highly dependent on personality.

I actually feel like running off on a tangent about niches here so I just will. Right now I would categorize the viewer base into 4 major crowds. The first crowd contains the viewers that just want to spectate. I would characterize this crowd as young and looking for energy. If I were to take a wild stab at the demographic I would put it in the range of Jr-High School to early college. This crowd really keys in on high energy action so they naturally gravitate towards players like TLO, Kiwikaki and Huk and enjoy the high energy casting of guys like Totalbiscuit and Husky. They dabble into day9 but more so during large events like IEM, Dreamhack or MLG. This is probably the largest fan base.

Then there are the players. Generally these guys are more interested in watching to improve their game than watching for raw entertainment. If you aren’t divulging high level knowledge they are quick to get bored and ladder instead of watching the cast. They tend to follow guys like IdrA and SeleCT and favor casters like Day9, PsyStarcraft and MrBitter.

IdrA is actually the perfect caster for this audience as he can layout extremely in depth knowledge at a rapid pace. Day9 is currently the largest figure in this community in my opinion. I think the audience is fickle, but if you get on their good side they are infinitely gracious and enthusiastic about Starcraft and eSports.

Then there is the GomTV crowd. I think they are still in it for the entertainment but they don’t need the high energy drive of a Husky or TotalBiscuit. They prefer a laid back feel and casts filled with jokes and non sequiturs with game commentary smattered in the mix of it all. They want casters that they feel they could sit and have a beer with. Tasteless and Artosis are masters of this style. I would say this audience is mostly peopled with people in their mid to late college years.

I think my favorite audience is the 4chan audience. I realize I have zero appeal to them whatsoever but I enjoy observing the antics from afar. This audience is extremely diverse but centered around the wild “spirit of the internet”. They live for the lulz (drama) and will actively foster it in a joking manner. Destiny is by far the best caster (well really a live streamer) in this region.

As for myself, I feel like I fall between the cracks at the moment. I don’t know that my personality is really lent for mass appeal.

Generally I try to treat the game itself and the players with as much respect as possible. As a result I come off as “professional”. My casts end up being lower energy than a Husky and TotalBiscuit but with higher information content, but not as high as a Day9 and thus I don’t appeal to the improving player crowd. I assume I appeal to the working man but I guess I am somewhat blind towards characterizing my own viewership as I try not to treat any of them like a statistic.

Seguer:

I probably lean more towards the lower-league players, as I am only a Diamond player myself. I don’t quite have the experience and knowledge of the game that a masters or grandmasters player is able to lend to a cast, so I talk more about potential options. I generally feel more at home casting Protoss players (as a Protoss player myself), and can talk about their options a bit more definitively.

Totalbiscuit:

My casting has a following from a surprising number of demographics. I created the SHOUTcraft brand to be an entry-level gateway drug to non/new players, but in reality while it is certainly enjoyed by a great many of those, it’s also extremely popular amongst pros, who have frequently told me how much they enjoy it. The reasoning that is most commonly given is that pros don’t want analysis because they are almost always better and know more than the casters, they want exciting hype which is why they prefer my play-by-play.

When you watch other casters, as a fan or otherwise, what do you look for in their performance?

CatsPajamas:

Mostly how genuine they are. If I see someone forcing analysis that really doesn’t have any business doing such, it makes me cringe. Also, when people think that play-by-play is simply getting loud on a microphone, it makes me a sad panda. What I like is genuine enthusiasm and a caster that tries to develop their style rather than emulate others.

Diggity:

I definitely enjoy listening to other experienced casters. Generally I try to pick out elements of their specific style and compare it to my own as to improve my style overall.

Seguer:

Accuracy and clarity are pretty important for me and I try to do that on my own casts. There are the flavour casters which definitely have their place as they make watching more enjoyable, but as a player in my own right, learning more about the intricacies of the game (accuracy) in an easy to understand manner (clarity) is what I look for.

Totalbiscuit:

The ability to speak, which I’m told is kind of important for casting! I don’t watch SC2 for in depth analysis, I watch it for entertainment value. Give me that hype and I’m happy. I dislike seeing great moments that are clearly not appreciated and the casters deadpan the entire way through. I am easily bored, what can I say?

What is your opinion on co-casting? Are there any specific types of caster you feel you work well with? Are there any you think you’d clash with?

CatsPajamas:

I love co-casting. I VASTLY prefer it to solo casting. I believe that I work best with analysis casters that I can create a conversation with. I see a lot of play-by-play guys just ask questions of the pro players they cast with, like “Oh, gas first. What does that mean?”  That’s not conversational. Let’s say a Terran went gas first. I would make a comment like, “Gas first. This could indicate fastest possible hellions or a quick transition to banshees.” That doesn’t prompt the analysis caster to say any one specific thing, but lets them explore the topic based on the knowledge they may have of the players or matchup. So, to finish the question, I imagine I’d clash with a pure play-by-play caster.

Diggity:

I definitely enjoy co-casting. I feel like a bit of a black box as far as dual casting. I can be inserted into any cast, do my thing and let them do theirs. I definitely prefer dual casting with Moletrap but that is simply because we have known each other for such a long period of time. I have a feeling I would clash with Totalbiscuit as my impression is that he only wishes to cast with high energy commentators. It takes a lot of energy to maintain that sort of composure. I am sure it would be even harder with a even keeled caster like myself.

Seguer:

Co-casting makes a cast more than twice as good. If the casters have chemistry (the two best examples of course are Artosis and Tasteless) they can bounce off each other and get some of the “flavour” in the casting without losing too much in terms of game knowledge. I tend to work well with casters who are similar to myself, trying to cast professionally with a good understanding of what’s happening. Unfortunately this means I’d probably clash with the flavour casters, as I don’t have enough analytical knowledge myself to interject with ;)

Totalbiscuit:

I’ve co-cast with several analytical casters before and it’s worked very well. Apollo for instance is my co-caster of choice, he brings a lot of knowledge of the pro-scene as well as his personal SC2 skills to the fray and is the perfect analytical co-caster to compliment my play-by-play style. I tend to believe in the strict separation of roles used in broadcast sports for the last few decades and don’t believe we should reinvent the wheel in that regard. As a result I will actively avoid co-casting with another play-by-play commentator (I did it once with Khaldor and it wasn’t so much a cast as a talkshow. People loved it and we both had a great time but it’s not something I would do for major tournaments). I would clash with any caster who has an alpha personality and wants to take over the play-by-play, we’d have to have a very serious discussion about role-definition before we started.

What’s the most fun game or event you’ve ever cast?

CatsPajamas:

Ha, I had a great time casting with my friend DoA at the St. Louis Midwest Championship a few months back. There was a certain Kencorp vs Hunger match that was excellent. And the recent IPL games have been stellar.

Diggity:

I think the most entertaining game I cast was Nony (Tyler) v Melon during a scforall show match back when I was a complete and utter neophyte in the Brood War days. The match was part of a series where players from Excello were taking on players from the Korean team eStro. Melon was crushing through the entire line up until he hit Nony on blue storm. Nony managed to pull out a victory that came down to fights over the last few resources on the map.

Yankee league from that era also holds a special place in my heart. It was a lot of fun playing and interacting with the clans then.

Seguer:

Fun? Definitely the CSLL, or Curvy Star League Lite. This is a version of the CSL that is limited to lower leagued players, so I can relax a bit more during casting. They also pull out the strangest strategies which you’d only see at that level – and sometimes they work! Seeing them work is often times baffling, but always interesting and fun.

Totalbiscuit:

While they’re not the biggest tournaments, the iSeries always has the loudest and most enthusiastic crowds, plus it’s my hometurf.

As eSports broadcasting continues to grow, where do you see casting heading in the future? Will it become more exclusive to major events, or stay informal on the net?

CatsPajamas:

I think eSports will stay on the web, but quickly become more professional as more money is invested. I think in the past that companies have tried way too hard to push eSports into media that aren’t good fits for it, like cable TV. But, I think that web based viewing is outpacing traditional media in growth and that, while eSports may always just stay on the web, it will rival the viewership of traditional media programs in the future.

Diggity (Note: Diggity took a more personal route with his answer):

I think I am at a wall in my casting career. I am married, I work full time encoding video at DivX and I am terrible at self promotion. For awhile I thought that I might be able to break through and hit full time status via Youtube at some stage, however I don’t have the time to dedicate to produce the mass of raw continuous content necessary nor do I have the mass appeal as described previously. I tend to feel like casting is a young man’s game. It’s good for the college or grad student with few obligations who can throw caution to the wind.

As far as casting the occasional major event, I can cast but it requires spending limited paid time off from my job or driving around on Saturdays so I have to pick and choose. It seems like fate also enjoys punching me in the face when it comes to this as well. For example I was briefly approached to cast an MLG but it just so happened I was getting married.

As far as a regular casting position goes (should one arise), I would have a hard time uprooting my wife. I know she would be willing to follow me across the country for a casting position, but I think she would be miserable at the same time.

So I am sort of stuck. I have a billion ideas in my head and a ton of things I would love to cast but absolutely zero time or energy to do it. In the meantime I try to churn out at least a commentary a night on weekdays (and fail miserably most weeks) and I live stream whatever I am playing to relax at the end of the day before I sleep.

Seguer:

I think we’ll start seeing a class of caster that is more formal and exclusive to major events, but that they will have their roots in the informal casting of local tournaments, catching a break here and there before they get the popularity and experience to move up. With the current expansion, I can definitely seeing this happening sooner rather than later – the current juggernauts of casting can’t be everywhere at once :)

Totalbiscuit:

It will expand in both directions, which can only be good for the scene. I would predict that more regular casting teams will be setup rather than just Tastosis and as a result we’ll get better casting overall. Solo-casting is never optimal.

Where can we find more of you and your work?

CatsPajamas

Facebook
IPL
Twitter
WellPlayed
Youtube

Diggity

Justin.tv
Twitter

Youtube

Seguer

Justin.tv
Twitter

Totalbiscuit

CynicalBrit.com
Justin.tv
Twitter
Youtube

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