Meet Ravi “feardragon” Pareek, a man who has spent over a year and a half trying desperately to bring respect and appreciation to the North American scene in StarCraft 2 through a show he has created entitled “Breaking Out”.
The show features mostly semi-professional StarCraft 2 players looking to impress premier teams with their play, and also to introduce these players to a prospective fan base. Ravi is always looking for ways to improve the quality of his show, and has continually asked for constructive feedback from the community in hopes to produce compelling episodes.
A selfless individual who puts forth so much energy into promoting other people, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Ravi and give him a chance to talk about himself and his show.
First question for you Ravi, where does the name “feardragon” come from?
It’s actually pretty simple! You know how kids that get e-mail addresses or AIM accounts pick the dumbest names that “sound” cool in their heads? That’s basically what the name is. I think I first used it when deciding on a name for my first e-mail address. In my head I just thought dragons were awesome, but most of the names like “firedragon” or “icedragon” were taken. I honestly have no idea why I went with the name feardragon but I never felt the need to change it!
You have devoted so much time into “Breaking Out”, how much support do you receive from family, friends, coworkers? Do they know how important this project is to you?
Haha this is an interesting topic of discussion for me. My coworkers pretty much have no idea what Esports even is. My friends are a mix, but most know I’m pretty invested into Starcraft even if they don’t know what exactly I’m doing in it. My family has been hit and miss on my involvement in Esports in general. They are very aware of how much of my life I invest into it and there are aspects of it that they like and aspects they dislike.
They’ve been fairly supportive of casting and organizing events more recently because they’ve started seeing real world applications for the skills involved (public speaking, management, etc.) but they’re a bit less supportive of actually playing or watching things myself.
…I was a nervous wreck casting with people as amazing as iNcontroL and Day…
Prize pools for the “Breaking Out Invitational” each have a base amount which is added onto in terms of donations. Who are some of the key contributors for both the base amounts and the donations?
There have been a few especially key contributors across the seasons of “Breaking Out”. FilthyRake of PSISTORM Gaming has probably contributed the most every season, effectively being a sponsor for some of them. A few others such as Crot4le, Patrick Quist, Kalle Christenson, and others (including you!) have also consistently contributed to the prizepool and for that I’m extremely grateful. As for the base, I guess I can thank Amazon for paying me to be a software developer!
Being a resident of NA, I’d love to see the scene do well and I’m happy to help. We spoke a year ago if you remember, and one of the points I made to you was that players really need to sell themselves when given an opportunity such as playing in “Breaking Out”.
Which player in your opinion has taken full advantage of the exposure you’ve given them, and what came of it all?
This is a fact that I’ve known for a long time, but I’m still coming to terms with. Not every player on the show really takes full advantage or the opportunity, and it’s a bit frustrating to me when I see it happen. Although the good eggs of “Breaking Out” definitely make it worth it to me, and some of the names that come to mind are Kelazhur, JonSnow, Intense and Arium.
All four of those guys haven’t just made a name for themselves through their own hard work, but they really won me over as just being players that aren’t content with being “good for a North American.” They really want to achieve something, and they either have or are very close to. There are others that have also taken advantage of the show, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind for me.
You continually ask for community feedback, and make an effort to address each and every point. What has been the single most important comment so far, and how did you use it to improve the show?
It’s hard to pick one since I’ve messed up so many things and gotten a lot of feedback. I think the most important one has been to shorten the format. It’s something that I’ve been told every season, and it’s made the show better in a lot of ways. It’s something I’m still working on, but I hope people understand why I’m a bit slow on the uptake since removing content but keeping quality actually means it takes more time to make.
It’s one of the many reasons I have an unbelievable amount of respect for JaKaTaK. Of almost every content producer in Starcraft, I think he respects the viewer’s time more than anyone else. It’s always important to remember that you will never “deserve” viewers. You will always get the exact number of viewers you “deserve” based on the quality of your product and your advertising.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in drawing viewership or attention to your show? How have you dealt with each of them?
Let’s be honest, in terms of growing viewership this was probably one of the *worst* ideas I could have tried. North American Starcraft is not regarded with the highest degrees of respect right now, and I have never been a big name personality that would naturally attract viewers. I knew that going into this, but I wanted to do it regardless because I felt like it was what North America really needed. Those two things combined are definitely the biggest challenges I have faced and still face in drawing viewership.
As for what I’ve done? I guess it’s mostly just been listening to feedback and being relentless about asking for it. I’ve also been very lucky with how supportive bigger name personalities have been. I’ve gotten advice from iNcontroL, djwheat, totalbiscuit, redeye and others at either events or online about the show and even more help with casting, promoting, etc. I think I still have a long ways to go though since I still believe both “Breaking Out” and my casting are much lower quality than where I want them to be.
It’s well known that your casting ability has been scrutinized, and in season three you had guest casters such as Day, Temp0, ZombieGrub, and iNcontroL. Was this move in an attempt to appease viewers or simply to have a well known caster bring in more viewership? Was the return worth the investment either way?
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some motivation in having recognizable casters on for the invitational to drive viewership, although it definitely wasn’t the only reason. I was a nervous wreck casting with people as amazing as iNcontroL and Day, but it was also something I wanted to do so I could grow as a commentator.
The best way I could describe it is it’s like a silver leaguer getting a taste of playing against Innovation or Life and seeing the gap in skill for themselves. It’s really motivating to see how much room there is to improve. I definitely recognize that as a commentator, I’m actually pretty abysmal.
…It’s really painful for me to say but no, I don’t think I’ve succeeded…
You have said that “I have selfish reasons for having myself cast” in a previous r/starcraft thread. Which reasons would those be, and are you willing to potentially sacrifice the quality of your show for them?
Like I said, I realize as a commentator that I’m actually pretty abysmal. I would say the number one frustration I have when I read feedback is seeing very well meaning people who don’t actually mean any offense saying I should just take backseat in content production and stay behind the scenes. I can handle the trolls that say I’m bad and should feel bad, but legitimately well meaning people saying that they think I’m such a lost cause that I couldn’t possibly improve my casting enough to make a quality show? That drives me insane!
I really do enjoy making the show, but a lot of people are sorely mistaken in thinking I enjoy every aspect of it. Editing video is probably one of my least favorite things in the world to do right now, but I put up with it because I love casting and I love recording the actual interviews. If I had to go completely behind the scenes right now in esports, I would probably just quit because that’s not what I enjoy.
I consider myself a commentator first, and a tournament organizer second because commentating and trying to share my own enjoyment and emotions when watching Starcraft is what I’m passionate about…not editing. So those are my selfish reasons. To me casting is the reward I get for the grunt work I do for the show.
It seems that you are not yet satisfied with the reception “Breaking Out” has received. What were your expectations for the show when it first started, and have they changed since?
When I set out to start “Breaking Out”, I had three objectives. One was to create something I could cast because as Day had so eloquently said, “if you don’t have a job then go make one!”. At the time there weren’t as many things that I could cast so I just decided to make something I could cast. The second objective was to boost the overall skill level of the North American scene.
“Breaking Out” attempted to do that by being a stepping stone for up and coming players trying to make it into WCS at a time when even challenger league was filled with Koreans. It’s difficult for players to stay motivated if they are expected to make this enormous skill jump from “top of NA ladder” to “beating Koreans like Jaedong and Polt in WCS Challenger”. If there’s no reward for the entire space in between, it feels very all or nothing. “Breaking Out” was supposed to be a way to keep players motivated to *continue* pushing through that gap and rising to be a top NA player.
My third objective was simply to drive more attention to the NA scene for those who were looking for storylines in the players we would see making it into WCS in the future. While I appreciate the foreigner vs Korean story as much as the next guy, I think we as a scene could gain a bit from remembering there are other stories to be told. Though I think lately the scene has recognized that a good bit more.
You have said that one of the main reasons for starting “Breaking Out” was to bring notice to up and coming players in the NA scene. After 3+ seasons, do you feel you have succeeded or failed in doing this and in what ways?
It’s really painful for me to say but no, I don’t think I’ve succeeded. I mentioned the three objectives I had with the show and I think the only one I’ve remotely achieved so far is the least important one, giving me something to cast. I will admit, there is *some* more recognition of the up and coming talent, but I don’t think “Breaking Out” can take any of the credit for it. Players like JonSnow, Kelazhur, Intense, Arium, etc. that have started to make a splash in the scene are already driven to succeed because they aren’t content with being “good”.
I don’t know if “Breaking Out” has inspired or motivated any players to hit the next level of their play, or given a player a spotlight that they wouldn’t have already gotten if the show and tournament never existed. I won’t say “Breaking Out” has done nothing, but there have been a lot of fundamental flaws in the way I’ve structured the show/tournament. I haven’t entirely given up hope on those objectives, but I know some radical changes in the format will be needed.
How has this season gone for you so far?
This season has gone fairly well overall. I think a fairly good mix of players got on the show and there’s definitely some great storylines I think will be great during the invitational. The support from bigger casters, hosts, personalities and streamers has also been amazing and I’m incredibly grateful for things such as Twitch.tv hosts from streams such as basetradeTV that really increase the number of people who get to see the players.
It can be a bit frustrating having big ideas for drastic change to improve the format midseason though, since I know I can’t realistically make drastic changes right now and still be fair to the players. Changes aside, I’m actually really excited for the invitational since it’s always a pretty emotional time for me.
What is the long term plan for “Breaking Out”, and where do you see yourself in the StarCraft 2 community one year from now?
I’m going to use my “cop out answer” here and say I don’t know where “Breaking Out” will be in the future. I’ve gotten a LOT of really amazing feedback, but it’s clear that if “Breaking Out” Season 5 is going to happen, it will happen with very, very drastic changes. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot and I probably won’t have a concrete answer for a few months. As for me, I don’t plan on going anywhere.
With all the uncertainty about “Breaking Out” that I’ve expressed, I still have a very strong fundamental enjoyment of both playing and watching the game. The reality is I can honestly say I would cast even if I didn’t have a single person watching because I do sometimes. I really just enjoy the game and the competitive spirit, and casting is my outlet for that enjoyment. Beyond that, I have no idea where I’ll be in the future.
Is there anything you would like to add as we finish up?
Thank you so much for the interview! I hope people give me more chances in the future as someone who may not be a great caster now, but is willing to work to improve. I also want to give an enormous thank you to everyone who has supported anything I’ve done in the scene. The list is longer than I could reasonably mention here and I’m insanely lucky to have so much support. Please check out the players on the show and give them a reason to stay motivated! You may suprise yourself and actually end up enjoying some NA Starcraft! =]
Thank you Ravi for taking time away from your busy schedule to spend some time with me. I greatly appreciate the honesty, and wish you the best in the future!