Home ยป Skriv on EPIC.LAN: “It’s a rite of passage”

Skriv on EPIC.LAN: “It’s a rite of passage”

At ESL Premiership, Skriv shares his journey and why EPIC.LAN is a needed process amongst UK casters.

by GrimyRannarr

Harvey “Skriv” Rodgers has been around UKCS for years, starting his career at EPIC.LAN 22 in 2017. Since then he has lent his voice to tournaments from Los Angeles to Katowice.

Garnering huge amounts of success with his new duo Neo “Ne0kai” Caine, it seems it is only time for the two to be called up for Tier 1 events. Before they got to that stage, Skriv returned to his UK roots and was a part of the broadcast team for ESL Premiership Autumn at Insomnia 71.

After the finals, Skriv sat down with UKCSGO to talk about the event, his progression through the UK scene using EPIC.LAN as a catalyst for his success and what the future holds for him.

Now we have come to the end of the ESL Premiership, what are your overall thoughts on the event? There was also some backlash and negative press about this event, do you think that was fair?

It has been a great weekend in general, really really enjoyed the cast on the final which is obviously what I am here for. I think in terms of some of the things that have been said, the LCQ qualifier may need working out a bit. I think at the same time there was an idea of bringing ESL Premiership back to LAN, so we have that as an option, but at the same time I think obviously iSeries runs a BYOC and they have to get that involved somehow as well. The two things came together and are not quite perfect but on the right lines.

We had an upset in the finals with Raptors EC winning. Was this ever something you anticipated coming into this event?

Not really to be honest. I thought they might grab a map, and maybe bring it close against Verdant, but winning 2-0 against them was a surprise. Then continuing it on shows these guys really fit in the LAN environment well, a banger final but a really solid result for UKCS in general.

This win shows we are out of this period of dominance that for a while it was just; the midfield would have some battles going on, that would be interesting. Then when you get towards the end of a Premiership season, it will just be Endpoint finishing the final in two hours and calling it a day. That was not something that will be the case anymore especially if we can keep these LANs coming and get these players more and more experienced in this environment.

Skriv and Ne0kai on the desk at ESL Premiership Autumn

Would you say these LANs are important for the progression of the UK scene?

Oh definitely. I think it adds way more pressure, it feels so much more real. You are keeping yourself together, keeping your head in the game, when you are at home it can be sometimes difficult if you have come off a long day of playing as these Premierships can be. Maybe you have other games going on, you have other leagues or CCTs. I do feel like when you come to LAN, the main focus is these games, it is all about winning and the environment feels great.

It feels great this happens instinctively, you don’t have to realise it, you don’t have to be conscious of it, you just have the music being loud, bumping the stage and that flows through you. For a good while this will be an environment that ups your energy, then you eventually get to the point where you get comfortable in this environment and then maybe the quality of your Counter-Strike will step up even more. I think they are very very valuable. From an overarching statement; it adds a sense of legitimacy to these UK events.

We have had a lot of potential star players rise up during the ESL Premiership, are there any players you were impressed by?

Awayken is the obvious answer, he really stood out, especially during the series versus Verdant, with close to 50 kills in just two maps. Awayken was really one that stood out, as I spoke about the Raptors boys looking comfortable, I think Awayken was a really big part of that. He was able to give a bit back, standing up after a few clutches which was really great to see, you can see the passion is there, and it is being channelled effectively, rather than getting annoyed at the game or his teammates.

Awayken at ESL Premiership Autumn

ReegaN also had some great rounds, really really solid to open up bombsites when they were in those two-man down scenarios. A lot of times they just sent ReegaN in and he looked really good.

Freestylazz is maybe one, give a shoutout to the Signals boys, he looked really good. Always difficult to tell if it is because he is head and shoulders above his teammates, or if he is actually good. They came together the week of ESL Prem, some of them don’t play Faceit. He looked really good, a leader, and AWPer, there is a big repertoire there for him.

I think we saw flashes from the likes of Azuwu, in the second half of Ancient against Raptors EC he really turned things around on that map. He was showing why he was picked up by Endpoint, but hitting that consistency is obviously going to be an issue for him.

You made a casting debut at EPIC.LAN 22, how important was it for you at that period to get LAN experience and do you think it is important now for casters to get that?

It was pretty serious for me. Up until that point, I had done a few things online with a few basic operators, nothing consistent and no real opportunities to get clean feedback. That was a big issue for me, you just do your broadcast and then everyone goes “Cheers, see you next time.” Whereas at EPIC.LAN you finish a game, and I did a lot of my early stuff with EternalJay, and he would go “This was really good, you were super comfortable here, maybe work on this a bit.” I was open at this time for people to tell me what was up, what was going right or wrong.

It felt like a much more serious place to be. Production was sorted for you, which was something that was a bit of a rarity back in the days of the online stuff since you had to do it yourself. That took the pressure off, and you could mess around a little bit, still taking it seriously, but in the sense of “I want to open this time”, and be like “Hey what’s going on everyone… I want to try colour this game, I want to do hard PBP.” You had a lot of options in terms of what you could do and what you could experiment with. They were really good for that and it is just getting you into the grassroots esports, the taste of esports.

Some of these days are going to be long. Even this weekend, we finished our first day here at iSeries at 11 pm, then the obligatory after-work diet coke, and then you go from there back to bed, back up at eight am, you have a bit of energy you need to get rid of before you go to sleep, etc etc etc. You are functioning on less sleep than you would like, just because of how quickly they turn everything around.

EPIC.LAN taught a lot of that when teams were still playing group stage games at one am, and then because you were bright-eyed, you’d already agreed to wake up in the morning to cover the morning games on the Saturday. Now massively regret that because you would have to be in the room at 8 am. There are pictures of me from the second EPIC.LAN I did in October of 2017 where my hair is just a mess, I look like I have just been smacked in the face. I was awake for maybe five minutes before we went on camera. That is just how it was. Now they have figured things out a bit more to run a smooth enough ship for everybody involved, people dedicated to the EPIC.LANs a lot more now. They will get hotels, they know enough people that they can share with.

In a long-winded fashion, bringing it back to your question of ‘whether the events are important for upcoming casters.’ I think they still are.

Especially since the game and the community continue to grow, it is a really good way to get noticed and to build a bit of a profile for yourself. It is maybe a bit harder to get involved with the paid work or the online work which is now my bread and butter because there are a lot more guys doing it.

Experiences are important and EPIC.LAN gives you that, now you can also use EPIC.LAN is a pretty big stepping stone to the networking game.

I think EPIC.LANs give you a lot more opportunities to find yourself a bit, make some connections, and find a partner. The system makes a bit more sense now, get a duo, find contacts, don’t be afraid to just ask anybody. “Do you have a contact for whoever?” I think everything I said about myself is not reiterated. Experiences are important and EPIC.LAN gives you that, now you can also use EPIC.LAN is a pretty big stepping stone to the networking game.

Do you feel like those EPIC.LANs set you up for success; If you can do that, you can do everything?

It is a rite of passage, you just have to do some fun work, but some more laborious work.

There was a little bit of that. If I am sleeping on floors, everyone is snoring… including myself [laughs]. It felt like you could work from there thinking surely it gets easier when the events scale up. But also it is a rite of passage, you just have to do some fun work, but some more laborious work. Once you have done that, it feels like everything else comes a bit easier when you get your own big hotel room and everything sorted for you, you have this battery and reserve that you know you can go back to when things go a bit sideways, or you have a long day. Something like an EPIC.LAN, not even from a casting perspective, gives you the ability to ask a lot of yourself.

They are really good for that, it is part of it. Everyone in the trenches together is how you form quite quick bonds with people, by the last day you may have well been through the wars. I had one EPIC.LAN that was maybe a bit like that, I think you then do one of them and you think, “Okay maybe I can’t sleep on the floor as much as I thought I could.” So you make sure you’re a bit more prepared for the next one that comes around, bring an air bed type thing.

You set yourself apart from others with your use of content, how important do you think this was for you to pursue the higher tier?

Skriv on the desk at ESL Premiership Autumn

There was a lot of space at that time to get in on broadcasts. The competition wasn’t as rife. Also, there was a certain skill level you could hit quite quickly, and people would be like “Wow that is pretty good.” Now you hit that same sort of level as a Tier 2 commentator and a lot of people are able to do that. Because there were fewer people around, you seemed a bit better to the hiring parties, maybe than you actually were. For some broadcasts there definitely was a space where they needed somebody, and as I mentioned they needed somebody to run the full-on production.

One of the things I used to do, that you can’t really do nowadays because they don’t do as many Tier 2 LANs, was when the HLTV article came out about the event being hosted, I would follow the Twitter of the person who wrote the article, then just DM them and ask if they have a contact. Email that and that got me a few gigs like the IBUYPOWER Masters event in LA.

It is just a bit of a networking game, definitely back in those days. I didn’t network as well with other members of talent, I think I was a bit nervous around them sometimes, felt like I was trying to make friends and form genuine connections, but then they were also my competition. It was a weird sort of vibe sometimes, maybe that was on me. A lot of my networking was just seeing a company host a tournament, reaching out and looking for someone to give me the right email, and then just going from there. I got a few gigs off that.

One of the things I used to do, that you can’t really do nowadays because they don’t do as many Tier 2 LANs, was when the HLTV article came out about the event being hosted, I would follow the Twitter of the person who wrote the article, then just DM them and ask if they have a contact. Email that and that got me a few gigs like the IBUYPOWER Masters event in LA.

If you are paying attention to HLTV you will get in there quite early. HLTV news is quite fast, before it really goes anywhere else, I got a few gigs from just finding emails and sending emails. It doesn’t really work as much like that, I think you can still form connections, but there was a very quick turnaround back then. We would have a conversation and they would just go “How much money do you want?”

It was all a bit fast honestly, at that time I was only going for a year or so when I was getting these international LANs, and it was too early. I wasn’t good enough to do it justice or to really get noticed. Your first international LAN, you want to smash that, you want the community to be like “Wow this guy is really good.” The issue was, that I hadn’t been doing it long enough, and hadn’t put enough work in at that time to not just be ‘another commentator.’ It was fun, but felt like the timing was a bit off.

Regardless, you can’t really complain about flying to different countries to do the thing you love.

Looking back at that moment when you got events such as iBUYPOWER Masters IV, has it negatively impacted you?

Skriv at iBUYPOWER Masters IV

I think nothing super negative came out of these events, but the opportunity to use it as a springboard wasn’t there. It is tough, do you want to get your face regularly on broadcast and have people be like, “Oh that is someone I know, he is pretty good, he has potential, maybe if he gets put into an arena he would do a good job.” Or do you want to do one event and have everyone go, “Wow this guy is crazy, he should be on every event.” The community reception also doesn’t necessarily get you the gigs but can be important.

I think the big thing is that you don’t want the feedback to be negative: put your foot in it and say something wrong, do a bad job and have everyone question why you are even there.

I don’t think I ever really had that, there was potential at the iBUYPOWER Masters because my duo Dean ended up having a few issues getting across America, so they brought in DDK. I was going to be casting alongside DDK, someone who is super experienced, one of the greats, and then me. At that time this was my second big event, but this was the biggest. It was at the peak of the Astralis versus Liqiud rivalry, and Liqiud ended up winning. I think this might have been the first event that Liquid dethroned Astralis.

Big event, with a lot going on, very cool, but in a way we will never know what people would have said about my casting because it was just terribly run. Mad audio issues, like REALLY bad. We have a few memes about audio in recent days, but this was almost unwatchable bad.

So my casting got overshadowed, and people didn’t really notice which is whatever, in one way I might have gotten some good feedback, but I have seen a few guys who are not around at all now because they did a few events a little out of their depth. People notice and then the Reddit mob gets their hands on it, it is a very difficult position to get out of, thankfully I haven’t really had anything like that.

Now with Ne0Kai, do you feel like this might be different compared to what you have had with other duos?

Ne0kai with Skriv at ESL Premiership Autumn

I really fell into a decent place with Neo. I was working with Allan Hender a fair bit and still do bits and pieces with him, we get on very well. He chose to begin working with DarfMike, he felt like that was a little better for his career. They were at a similar stage in their careers, maybe a little bit above where I was so it made sense to sell themselves as a package. Again, I do get on well with Allan, but I really think Mike and Allan have a solid connection.

One day, maybe about a year ago, Neo just messaged me and went “I don’t have a partner anymore, I know you don’t have a partner and the only guy around our same level that is a PBP who is duoless. Let’s do some stuff and see how it goes.” We took it pretty casually, his family lives close to me, so we quickly met up in person which was really good for the repertoire, and getting comfortable. Neo is a really approachable guy, a fair amount of people reading this will know of him, he is really easy to get along with.

We hit it off and just went from there. We have been doing a lot of work, his networking is pretty good which helps because mine is decent but was a bit slow for a few years. Neo has really hit the ground running. Overall a very talented guy. Can do an awful lot and we chat a lot about what we want to do with the duo and review what is good and what isn’t good.

We had the opportunity out in Sweden for the ESL Katowice Challenger event to work in person for the first time. It was really good, the bounce and flow, just getting on in general. It does really help to have someone beside you who is also very good at what they do. You just know if you throw them a bone, he will pick it up, he is going to have a bit of fun, throw it back. There is no friction.

It has been a good time, now it is just a waiting game, continue what we are doing, and hope the big boys give us an opportunity.

Finally, looking back at UKCS. You left the space for a little bit, now you’re back within UK CS, why did you want to come back to your roots?

I think it just comes down to getting more of a community element going for myself. It can be a weirdly lonely job, you do work with a lot of people but it is all online. I am still at home living with my parents, in a little village, a good place to grow up. Now that I am a bit older, I want to get my own space and see people. I am a social guy and want to be social with people. Casting is this weird middle ground online where you can get some games in and chat with them on broadcast, but you are not seeing people, and it is not visceral.

It can be a weirdly lonely job, you do work with a lot of people but it is all online. I am still at home living with my parents, in a little village, a good place to grow up, but now that I am a bit older I want to get my own space and see people.

One of the big things for me trying to get back to a few EPIC.LANs and a few other events are to just meet people that I know online like some of the guys we have mentioned. Hang out, have a few drinks maybe, sing a few songs, meet some new people. One of the big things this weekend, when you do these events, it is really good to have little bits of knowledge of the teams that you wouldn’t be able to get from research. When it comes to a grassroots scene, there are going to be things you pick up from a coach or one of the players. On broadcast, we would drop little bits of knowledge that you just simply wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t spoken directly to the players.

That is also another aspect, you build these relationships with players, that really help on the broadcast when you are casting UK games. A lot of the inspiration for showing my face again is just for fun. Meet people, have a good time, try to be social. Like as I say, it can get a bit lonely. All my home friends live far away, I like to chat with people and these UK LANs give you that opportunity.

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