Hello and welcome to the first interview of two about League of Legends in Japan. With the announcement of Riot to start hosting a Japanese Server in the first half of 2014, I wanted to direct the spotlight a little bit on the Japanese Scene. We all know that PC gaming in Japan is not as successful as in other parts in the world. My goal with this interview was to give an insight into how League of Legends is received in Japan. The second interview will be with Matsujun who is the organizer of the JCG League ~ one week after this one.
TL-Chexx: Hello, thank you for agreeing to do an interview. Can you introduce yourself and your team?
Nick N.: Hi, nice to meet you, and thank you for the Interview. I’m Nick, the manager for AF1.
AF1 Burst consists of Estelim( Mid), Awaker (Top), tAltAltAl (Jungle), Tanu(ADC) and Rusalka(support).
AF1 Assault consists of bDreamer(Mid), Carilrui(Top), Sneel(Jungle), Type89(ADC) and Zenith(support).
The A and the B does not mean one team is any less than the other team. It was just a coincidence.
TL-Chexx: How did you end up on a Japanese team?
Nick N.: I used to work with NA teams. Maybe 2 years ago I was the manager of a team with Megazero and Meryb. We were not that great at the time and the team disbanded because the jungler was recruited by a team named 4not . After that I looked through the Ranked 5s ladder to find a new team to manage (I really wanted to be in eSports at the time). So, I contacted Jpak and friends. We did very well after I joined, but it was not because of me. I do not think I was a great manager back then. I could have done a lot more for the team. After a tournament (I think it was GGc tournament), I started looking for sponsors for Jpak and friends. I rushed it a bit because I was not experienced enough and just wanted a sponsor. When we joined AL, we were doing okay, but we slowly started to fall apart. Players were not respecting each other. We had a lot of roster changes. The last roster I managed was Kikomeplease, Naya, XJ9, Sneaky, and Evaniskus. Then, a player on that roster stopped coming to scrims and that made the other members and me lose motivation.
After that, I quit and focused on real life for a couple of months. I casually returned to the scene as a hobby. I just wanted to see League grow. So I started to help smaller scenes at the time such as Brazil, the Middle East, India and finally Japan. Brazil evolved very fast and it looked like they did not need to much help. The Middle Eastern teams all wanted to meet in person to talk with me. [laughs] Unfortunately, I could not travel to Dubai or Kuwait with no money only to help the LoL scene improve. I moved on from that scene very quickly and started helping the Indian scene for some time. They only had a player base of 500 when I started, but now have over 2000 players and tournaments every week. I can't take the credit for that. I would give the credit to the staff of Fragnation.in. They are doing a wonderful job in India and do not need my help.
I was looking through streams on Twitch one day and saw a Japanese streamer named paparazzi and started asking him questions about the Japanese scene. He got me in contact with the people who ran the Japanese League of Legends community and I started to work with the Japanese teams. I contacted some NA teams to scrim with the Japanese teams. Not long after that came a big moment for Japan in my opinion. TSM needed a team to replace a team that could not show up for a TSM tournament. They asked me if I knew any teams and on my suggestion TSM gladly took Rampage, one of the best Japanese Teams, to play in the tournament. They did not do well, but it was a great experience for them. Afterwards, I needed to find teams at the Japanese skill level because NA was too strong for them at the time. I contacted some Brazilian teams and the Japanese teams did well against them. On the other hand, the Brazilian teams were playing with 190-220 ping. I also contacted Erica, the manager of TPA at the time, and she got me in contact with some people from Garena and my contacts for SEA teams kept growing. At the moment we scrim SEA teams to try and improve, but it is hard because some Japanese players get lag spikes on the NA and Garena servers.
TL-Chexx: Which Server is your team playing on?
Nick N.: We play on NA for solo queue, but we scrim on both the Singapore server and NA.
Tl-Chexx: Why don't you try to get accounts on Chinese or Korean servers?
Nick N.: We can get accounts on China very easily, but China has 12 servers and the good ones are full. Korean accounts are almost impossible to get.
TL-Chexx: How do you handle the language barrier and timezones?
Nick N.: At least two members on each team speak English and they start scrims at 9:00 PM EST. I wake up at the perfect time.
TL-Chexx: What is the skill level of the Japanese LoL community?
Nick N.: Hmm hard question, I would say a lot like Vietnam. Not that many people know the Vietnamese teams. I think Japan should have been in the wildcard for World Finals.
TL-Chexx: You said you are scrimming against SEA teams. How are your teams doing?
Nick N.: Our teams are having a hard time against SEA teams. Recently AF1B scrimmed against Black Bean and we lost 1-2. It is a good learning experience for us, but we need to become more solid. On the other hand, Rampage manages to win most of their scrims against SEA teams. Therefore I would say that the regions are quite even.
TL-Chexx: Can you describe the Japanese LoL structure at the moment? Which are the best teams? What kind of tournaments exist?
Nick N.: I would say the structure is improving with JCG (Japan Competitive Gaming). It needs work though. We have very few tournaments. We would love more. I think the only tournament we have at the moment is JCG.
The best team in Japan is Rampage. Det FM are a little behind Rampage and 3rd-10th are almost the same skill level with each other.
TL-Chexx: You recently started a thread on Reddit that you were looking for an analyst. Did you expect to get that much support from the community?
Nick N.: I was very surprised. I honestly thought it would be downvoted very early and I was just going to delete it. I just told myself "Why not? Just give it a try and see what happens." I'm very thankful for the great responses.
TL-Chexx: What are your long term goals for your teams?
Nick N.: I would like to be able to set up a team house, make a salary from playing League of Legends, and, of course, grow the League of Legends scene in Japan.
I also asked Awaker, Estelim and Zenith from AF1 some questions regarding League of Legends in Japan. I hope you find the point of view from the Japanese community as interesting as me.
TL-Chexx: How did you hear about LoL?
Awaker: A friend of mine who I knew from a different game showed me League of Legends.
Estelim: I heard about League of Legends not from a friend but from a video uploader whom I really like. He played LoL and because of him I started playing too. I've played since Season 1.
Zenith: I heard about it from a friend when I played another online game. MOBA is a genre which I haven’t played before, and that's why I got addicted to it.
TL-Chexx: How is LoL received in Japan?
Awaker: LoL became known in Japan because a famous Japanese FPS player reported about it. Many people post about LoL on sites like Nico Nico which has an influence too.The most important reason for its popularity was that there were no games like LoL in Japan before. Therefore it felt fresh and got popular.
Estelim: In Japan, games like DotA are not well known. Therefore LoL was received as a new genre. Shortly before LoL got famous in Japan, DotA-likes such as HoN were played, but LoL's casual and easy playstyle in comparison to other games is a reason for its popularity in Japan, I think.
Zenith: The people who play LoL all say that the game is very interesting, but in Japan PC games are not very popular...
TL-Chexx: What is your opinion about Riot starting a Japanese Server in the first half of 2014?
Awaker: One reason is that I am looking forward to playing with good ping. Another reason is that once there are servers in Japan the amount of users and tournaments will increase which will make the game more fun. I would like to play a solo queue game where I am able to communicate with my teammates, since I can’t speak English very well.
Estelim: I am looking forward to being able to play with low ping, and so I support a Japanese server.
However in Japan there are many people with bad manners. Because of that, I don’t want to imagine what kind of BM and flaming will be on the Japanese servers. It might be that I won't be supporting much in that case [laughs].
Zenith: I really like being able to play with low ping. I can finally do the inSec.
TL-Chexx: In your opinion, what does Riot need to do to have success in Japan?
Awaker: I don’t think that the way Riot collects money from players will get much flak from Japanese gamers. Therefore, I think that it is okay to continue this way. Additionally, I think that Riot needs to focus on advertising because the game is new in Japan. Without advertising not many new players will join. I think it would be good to encourage LoL player streams in Japan, since Japanese people start playing when people around them start playing.
Estelim: I think it is important to increase the amount of new players and to make the game known to the Japanese public. I think there are many people who would like League of Legends if they play it.
Zenith: If the Japanese people's impressions of the game could be changed then Riot could have a lot of success in Japan. It would be nice if they could bring LoL to game conventions like the Tokyo Game Show to host offline tournaments and show what kind of game LoL is.
TL-Chexx: Which region do you pay the most attention to?
Awaker: I pay attention to the Chinese players and teams. The reason for that is that they have an unique metagame and tactics. It is very interesting because they have different picks or tactics than NA and Europe which I'm less familiar with. This gives me new ideas when sometimes I do think about team comp or call shots.
Estelim: Europe. Because my favorite mid laners are players in Europe.
Zenith: Korea is the strongest region in terms of team skill and their personal skill is on a high level too. I always watch videos from Korea and try to copy them.
From other regions, I watch Chinese teams. Triple Smite strategies and the unique Picks/Bans makes it very interesting.
TL-Chexx: Do you have any idols?
Awaker: I particularly respect Wickd and Soaz. Their picks have had great influence on me and their play is very refined and high class. I can learn a lot from it.
Estelim: I LOVE FROGGEN AND BJERGSEN <3
Zenith: Ocelote! I have been cheering for him since the Season 2 Championship. I was touched when he started crying after the game out of happiness. I would like to have his scarf! Someday I would like to take a photo with Ocelote.
TL-Chexx: What is your goal?
Awaker: I would like to participate on a Japanese team at the WCS. Obviously I'd like to go as Japan's #1 Top Laner, but I need to overcome many obstacles first. When you have high goals, it's easier to push oneself.
Estelim: I want to become the best mid laner.
Zenith: I want to become the best in Japan and make money playing something I love to do as a hobby.
Nick N.: Thanks for doing the interview. It was very kind of Teamliquid to do a interview with a team from a small scene like Japan. Please follow us on Twitter @AllforOnejp