As a popular shoutcaster for both the League of Legends Pro League in China and the Oceanic Pro League, Indiana “frosukrinn” Black remains busy at just about all times. She casts seven days per week and is immersed in the League of Legends world.
Slingshot contributor Amanda Stevens, host of The Analyst Desk podcast, conducted an extensive Q&A with froskurinn about the Oceanic scene, comparisons to other regions and her start in casting (with some Marvel superhero talk at the end). As always, you can also listen to the audio version below:
Amanda Stevens: So the OPL season just wrapped up. What’s it like casting the Oceanic region, comparatively to the LPL?
Indiana “froskurinn” Black: Well every single region is going to have a very different and unique community and flavor. The OPL is no different. There’s a clear difference between the NA LCS and the EU LCS. The thing I really enjoy about the OPL and the Oceanic league is how tight-knit the community is. It’s a much smaller league, but you have a lot more banter access to players and fans, and how they treat the teams, and kind of where they hold the teams in respect is very different. It’s more of like a club scene than a team scene. I always describe it as kind of like being a part of a festival. I know that sounds very weird as maybe an outsider, but it’s very Australian. We did tipping, which I had no idea what tipping was. It’s effectively betting. You’re betting on who you think is going to win.
AS: OK. I was about to ask you what tipping was, but you (said it).
IB: Yeah, they held like a tipping contest, where if you could figure out who was going, like the exact outcome of the upcoming super week, you’d get a prize or something. And I think we had like seven winners out of thousands of entries. So that’s how upsetting and up and down super week’s expectations were. But, it’s called tipping. I’m like, “What is this?” It’s a very Australian thing. It’s a very cool, close-knit, festival type of community.
AS: Yeah, one of the things I thoroughly enjoy about the OPL broadcast more so than the other broadcasts is that it feels a little more tongue in cheek. It feels way more fun.
IB: That’s a very Australian thing. It is a very tongue-in-cheek, kind of cheeky broadcast. We’re also the only broadcast, I think, that has a producer as a character.
AS: Wait, what?
IB: Well think about it. Do you know who what our producer’s name is?
AS: Who is your producer again?
IB: It’s Benji. But you hear us talk about Benji all the time on the broadcast. We had cute things like “Jayce Cam” because Benji’s a Jayce main. So, if any Jayce player is played in the OPL, he goes crazy about it. But there’s never going to be a time in the NA LCS…No one can name the producer in the NA LCS unless you know him, or the EU LCS producer. It’s also very different about how they treat the audiences. I’m not saying one is bad or better or worse than the other, but it’s just very different. I would say the NA LCS treats the audience like a fly on the wall. When they’re doing the analyst desk, they’re discussing within themselves and it’s kind of more closed. Whereas when the OPL is doing an analyst desk or a cast, there’s much more audience-to-desk or audience-to-caster interaction, and you are a part of the show as opposed to just a bystander on the wall overseeing everything. Does that make sense?
AS: That makes a lot of sense. So then how would you describe the LPL broadcast in comparison?
IB: The interesting thing about the LPL is I still think it’s figuring out its own identity. In my opinion, I feel like it’s dramatically changed from last season to this season, and I feel like it’s changed because we’ve matured as casters and as personas in our own rights. Obviously, the broadcast has gone through its own form of upgrading in terms of a new studio, and resources like multiple camera angles. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but instead of being kind of like a broom closet with one shot on two casters at the desk, we now do a tri-cast, we have multiple shots, we have a new studio, more graphics that come in. So it’s building itself up, but I actually think one of the primary things is finding a direction for the LPL and giving it its own core identity and voice. Because right now, we’re still really riding off the back of China. So it still has its own unique flavor as the Chinese broadcast, and something that puts the China broadcast apart from the LCS is something like the finals. Typically at the finals they have these massive cosplay shows, i don’t know if you’ve seen them.
AS: I know for Korea they did a little cosplay segment. But I don’t know anything about (in China). I tune into Snake games, and that’s about it because Flandre is my spirit animal.
IB: In China, a big thing is their cosplay contest or cosplay shows that they do. They usually do it for big events, and it kind of gives it that really unique Chinese flavor.
AS: OK, so who do you think is going to come out on top for OPL?
IB: Well, naturally, Legacy are the favorites going in. They’ve only lost to one team, and that is the Chiefs, with the return of Swiffer. That was the big upset in the Legacy vs. Chiefs match. They played phenomenally well. They’ve played phenomenally well for the entire season. They probably have one of the most talented rosters the OPL has ever seen. I believe it’s Tally,Carbon, ChuChuz, k1ng and Regret9. The fact I could name off OPL rosters is pretty astonishing to me.
That said, I don’t actually think Legacy will win. I’ve been one of the hardest people for Legacy on the desk, and it’s not because I dislike Legacy. I really enjoy watching them as a team. They’re very exciting. Their players are very intelligent and incredibly talented. I cannot understate this enough. In the OPL, Legacy has such a stacked, mechanically-gifted roster that they’re able to just brute-force victories they otherwise shouldn’t have won, just because they’re superior players.
But for me as a person, strictly what I prioritize in League of Legends? I prioritize macro play. I love really clever teams, and I love when teams can out-fight superior opponents and out-smart them. And the thing about Legacy, and this has been my grind on them for the majority of the season when I’m on the desk, I say they play the opponent and they don’t play the map. What that means is they will constantly find — Legacy don’t set up for objectives, or they rarely do. What they do is set up fights. And off of these one fights, they take objectives. They actually play a rather sub-par form of League of Legends, and they get by on their talent. So it’s kind of cool in that sense that they’re kind of cheating their own weakness because they’re so gifted, and it makes a great storyline from that aspect. But I think the Chiefs are the more well balanced, mechanically gifted team, as well as the strategically intelligent team. So I actually think the Chiefs will end up winning
AS: OK, so for those of us that don’t watch OPL, is there NA or EU teams you could relate Legacy or Chiefs to? Are there any regional teams people would be able to (compare them to)?
IB: Just think about this story, because this is the thing. People often overlook the wildcard regions because they don’t realize some of the identities and the narratives of these teams are just as cool and interesting as some of the major regions. So the Chiefs were the super dominant team last year. They won every single game. They effectively did what Legacy did this year. They won every single game. They went to the finals. They dropped a single game to Legacy in the grand finals of the OPL last year, and then this year they lost their all-star mid laner Swiffer. He went on vacation, I think through Europe, and they picked up this new guy named Cheese. They were still incredibly dominant, but not nearly as dominant as they were last year, and the Chiefs started to not crumble, but falter, and they fell down in the standings. Meanwhile, Legacy, the second best team, upgrades its roster. They get this all-star AD Carry named k1ng. He’s effectively the Uzi of OPL. This guy is crazy. He just puts his face all in it, and they’re just destroying everyone. Just rampaging through, and they’ve always been the constant rivals.
And the most beautiful, non-scripted moment, Legacy vs. Chiefs, the ultimate rivalry, the OPL finals rematch, Swiffer, a mid-laner, comes back from vacation and goes through like a boot camp. He plays. He starts, literally that game. This is like TSM vs. CLG if Bjergsen was on vacation and comes back the last game at the last moment. It’s PawN ripping off the hospital things like “EDG needs me” and coming back. And then, the Chiefs smash Legacy in the final game.
AS: Yeah, I watched that game.
IB: So you saw?
AS: Yeah, I’ve been watching a lot of OPL. As I’ve admitted between talking to you and Atlas, I’ve been sucked into the OPL.
IB: But that’s such a great storyline. And that’s not the only cool storyline in OPL. And it’s not the only cool storyline in the wildcard regions. It’s just a coverage thing. I’m sure there are just as many incredible storylines in Brazil and Japan and Turkey.
AS: Oh, Japan’s a fairly interesting region to watch.
IB: I enjoy Japan
AS: So then, the other region you cast, which is the LPL, who do you think will be the MSI representative?
AS: EDG? It’s that simple?
IB: Yeah. I still think EDG are the best team in the LPL. And I simply think this despite the fact that they’ve faltered and had one of the worst seasons EDG have ever had on record. They’ve still remained kind of like the most versatile and well-balanced LPL teams. So if you think about it, if we take the Chiefs/Legacy example. Legacy have this one thing they do really well and it compensates for all of their other weaknesses because they’re so good in that single area, it’s effectually Qiao Gu or the QG Reapers. QG are so good at team fighting, but it compensates for their inability to play the macro game or all these different little elements.
RNG are so good at the early-game skirmishing, but their 5-v-5 sometimes falls apart because they don’t have the individual performers cohesively firing at the same times. And then you have EDG, who are effectively the best of both worlds but are right now just playing below expectations. They have this issue right now where they’re a bit slow to transition to patches. Obviously they have a different coaching staff in place. I think there’s been a definite adjustment there. The rotation between Pawn and Athena, but it still stands that EDG have the most versatile roster to choose how and where they’re going to beat you on the map, and not necessarily where, as in dragon pit or baron pit, but where as in “we have Koro1. We know this guy can either be super tanky and be the role player, or he can be a hard carry. We have PawN. We know that this guy can either go crazy out of his mind, or he can be the role player. And we have Deft.” You know what I’m saying?
They can pick. I can feed PawN this game. I can feed Deft this game. ClearLove is gonna go off this game. So the fact they have that many threats, it’s just a matter of time until EDG get back into their groove.
AS: So as a lot of people, I get my news from Reddit. So apparently Scout is going to EDG? Do you have any opinions about as a seemingly EDG fan?
IB: Umm, EDG has tons of players. It’s not like they have just Koro1, ClearLove, fireloli, PawN Athena, Deft, Meiko and Scout in the house. And the organization has made it clear that they want developing talent, that they want to take their developing talent and train it for the future. They want to create a flagship organization and standard in the LPL. It’s not about the immediate results of the team right now, but the future of EDG. Whether I can say that means Scout’s gonna be starting next week, I doubt it. I’m fairly certain it seems more reasonable this late in the season that if Scout started on the main team, it wouldn’t be until next split if at all. My guess is he’ll go to either a sister team of an LSPL team.
AS: I find that interesting as somebody who predominantly who watches NA and EU, we don’t seem to have teams that do that sort of system. We have this like, almost like a farm system of players they’re building up alongside their teams. I guess Liquid is the only team that tried to do something similar this season, or it looked like that was the original intent. It’s a weird thing to wrap your ahead around unless you also follow traditional sports.
IB: I agree, and I think it comes down to the differences in infrastructure in the LPL versus the NA LCS.
AS: So what was the first thing you ever casted?
IB: Like event? Go4LoL was the first event I ever casted, and I did the European Go4LoL with a guy names Spellruler.
AS: How was that? What was that like
IB: Definitely very different than casting traditionally is now. He was my play-by-play caster. I was his color caster. I think it was my first time ever casting, and they did sort of a mentorship program in the North American ESL, and he was my mentor. So it was his job to sort of train me up as a new caster. And he was training me for the opportunity to try out to be a part of the EPS, which was the Electronic Pro Series, which was effectively the NA CS before the NA CS existed. It was the Challenger sort of league at the time, and it was run by ESL.
AS: What made you go, “Hey, I can do this caster thing?”
IB: I was a high elo player at the time and I was a streamer, and coaching didn’t exist, so I called it commentary. And when the spectate feature was released, I would add my viewers, I would spectate them, and I would record my commentary over their play, cut the video and then send it to them so they could watch it back and learn. What ended up happening was I created a library of different matchups at different elos. And I had like hundreds of these videos. So I thought instead of just doing the commentary streaming thing, I could probably get into casting. So I interviewed and auditioned to ESL in the North American branch, and I got the job.
AS: How did the opportunity to work with the LPL and, by proxy, the OPl come about?
IB: When I was doing the EPS, because I applied and they thought I was good enough to cast for the EPS, I met a guy named PiraTechnics. We met at ESL, and we ended up casting together one of the nights, just through random rotation. And there was a guy in Twitch chat who just wanted to have a conversation with us after the game, and his name was Zirene. He pulled us into a Skype chat, pretty much following our game, and he liked our cast and how we were casting together. He was intrigued by us, and he wanted us to assemble resumes to send to Riot, and he thought that we were one of the few good duos he had heard in the amateur casting scene, and that he thought we should continue casting together and building up that synergy.
And so Pira and I decided to become friends and work colleagues, and we needed a project to practice casting on top of our EPS gig. I was doing content creation at the time for a thing called the Runeterra Report, which then became China Talk. My social circle there wanted to do an English broadcast for the LPL. I was one of the casters that they knew. I asked Pira to do it with me because we needed to practice, and so we picked up the LPL EN broadcast, where we did the English broadcast for Chinese League of Legends. We took that from eight viewers to 48,000 for the grand finals.
After we did the grand finals, we were preparing for the next season, increasing our contact in China with Tencent so we would have more resources for next year’s broadcast. Riot contacted us and told us they would be taking the broadcast rights, so we could no longer run the stream or the broadcast. Pira then went on to be hired by the EU LCS, and I was hired by the Oceanic team when they picked up the LPL English broadcast. From there, we’re such a small team. I think we’re the smallest of any of the broadcast, big major region broadcasts. Maybe LMS, I don’t know their broadcast size. But of the Riot-owned ones.
So it was just a matter of we need as many resources as we can, so if you can alleviate stress from the OPL, we’re going to. We do everything as a team. We broadcast seven days a week. I’m not going to be like, “Oh, no. I’m only broadcasting LPL. I don’t broadcast OPL.” I enjoy the region. I enjoy the community of the OPL. It’s obviously more practice. It helps alleviate the stress or balance the stress across the team as a whole. We’re a team of six casters doing seven broadcast days per week. LPL days that means we’re broadcasting between four to 11 hours. Normally, you don’t broadcast that long. That’s absurdly long. Saturday and Sunday we have three best-of-threes. That’s possibly a total of nine hours if every game is just an hour long, plus the breaks in between. So that’s very easily an 11-hour day where you’re actually just broadcasting. And of course you come in before that, and you do all your prep and get ready. So you’re looking at like a 13- to 14-hour day.
AS: Speaking of prep, since not a lot of people know what goes into making the broadcast that they get to watch. Could you kind of walk people from when you walk into the studio to when you hit live
IB: So you have to understand that our team is fairly unique in that we have a broadcast day every single day. So preparing for broadcast is part of our day, whereas for other teams it would only be for a portion of the week. So I come in, probably around 9 or 10 a.m. I’ll run stats. I’ll come in and check my calendar just to see that I’m organized for the day and what my meetings are. Meetings can be anything from practice casts or review of a cast. We are constantly reviewing the work that we do and trying to be conscious of everything that we do and improve ourselves as casters. That could mean something as simple as sitting in a room and loading up a game that we did last week and just kind of talking through it. Oh, Rusty, you’re talking right now and actually it should be Julian talking. I didn’t explain this well enough and should have bounced off your point better. Then from checking my meetings, I’ll typically go to Reddit and make sure nothing’s blowing up that I’m not paying attention to. I’ll check some VODs. I’ll then check who I’m casting tonight, whether it’s an LPL or an OPL match. I’ll rewatch the relevant VODs and make sure I have talking points or opinions on the teams that we’re watching.
I’ll then go into stats for OPL. Atlas does a lot of our stat work. So he’s really organized on that. For LPL, I do our stat work. I’ll pull relevant stats to see if they support the observations I’ve made from watching the VODs. I’ll read a couple of articles or if there are new articles released, check on those. So there’s a large amount of time gathering information and organizing it in my notebook so I at least feel like i’m prepared for my talking points that night. Then usually later on in the afternoon, it’s going to be sitting down in reviews or practice casts and actually practicing the craft. Sitting in front of a VOd and pressing play and casting it and stopping it. Rehearsals, going in and sitting down with your producer and making sure everyone is on the same page for what does the show look like. What does the narratives look like? Is this what we expect?
You don’t want someone to be on the desk and go, “Oh, this is gonna be a super close game. It’s gonna be really intense.” And then have the person next to you go, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is going to be a stomp. This is the last place team vs. the first place team.”
Then you have your broadcast night, and then after broadcast night, we play some solo queue. That’s your team bonding. Sometimes we have meetings. Like, I’ll schedule meetings with the color casters, which will be Jake, Rusty and I where we’ll actually sit and break down a patch and theorize what we think will happen on this patch or what we expect to see, different talking points. I’ll listen to the EU or NA LCS or LCK casts, and I’ll listen to how they do champion selects, or I’ll listen to how they explain certain points to see how they’re short-handing it, or what the best, most cohesive and fluent way to explain something is. So things like that. So it’s really gathering as much information as possible and then organizing it into a streamlined way we can produce or publicize for broadcast.
AS: OK, that was only slightly more involved than I thought the response was going to be. The only thing I didn’t expect was the practice run throughs.
IB: We practice a lot.
AS: I figured you guys practice, but I thought it was a more personal, own-time thing, if that makes sense. I didn’t know that was part of the work day.
IB: There’s no one standing over us being like, “Oh, you guys better practice now.” It’s definitely an individual thing we take on ourselves. But it is part of our (job). We come in to be available so that other teams and our team can utilize us. And since we’re in the office, we might as well use our resources, which are our co-workers, so let’s go practice cast. Or let’s listen to this VOD and see what worked and what didn’t work. Let’s get different opinions. So it’s not just externally going on Reddit and looking up comments, but also gathering that information internally.
AS: So as we shift toward the end of the interview, what are some skills that people who want to get into shoutcasting, what are somethings they can start looking into doing or practicing. Three things who people who want to shoutcast need to be able to do.
IB: Good public speaking. Fluency in English. Good teamwork mentality. Mentality is very important. There’s never going to be a scenario where you cast on your own. You can be an individual content creator. You can be an individual journalist and never work with other teams. But as a caster, you are just as successful as your partners are, so it’s very important you understand how to work in a team dynamic and how to give good feedback. Because if my team doesn’t grow, then I don’t look as good. You only look as good as your co-caster.
AS: Is there anything people can do to help build those skills? Talking to Dash and Jatt, they recommend doing improv classes.
IB: I mean those probably wouldn’t hurt. I know that I’ve taken vocal lessons. But the biggest thing, especially with starting out, is I just casted. I did Go4LoLs and I did EPS and I knew I wanted to do more practice on the side of EPS, so I picked up LPL EN. I literally made a broadcast to practice casting. It’s just doing it but constantly making sure you’re reviewing what you’re doing. It’s not enough to just cast. Always, always listen back to your cast. If you read any sort of sports casting book, whether it be NFL, NHL, anything. They constantly talk about how you’re always playing to record yourself, and then you hit rewind and you’re playing it back so that you can listen to yourself, and you have to get used to it. A lot of people say they hate the sound of their voice, but it doesn’t matter. You have to do it. You have to be consciously aware of everything you’re doing.
AS: When I was researching for this, I saw you did an interview recently where the agreement was you had to get a chance to talk about Batman. Is Batman your favorite superhero?
IB: Have you seen my Batman tattoo?
AS: I have not
IB: So the tattoo is unfinished. It’s a half sleeve. Batman will be here with Harvey Dent and the Joker, so right now I just have the Gotham City sirens.
AS: So are you stoked for Batman v Superman?
IB: No, not really
AS: Because of the reviews? Or was that before the reviews even came out?
IB: I’m sure it’ll be an entertaining enough movie. Do I think it will be a masterpiece? No. But I’m sure I won’t leave the cinema thinking I just wasted three hours of my life. I’ll leave the cinema thinking that was junk food for my eyes.
AS: Who is your favorite movie Batman?
IB: So my actual favorite Batman film was Tim Burton’s second one, Batman Returns, with Michelle Pfeiffer. And the reason why is that I’m actually very critical of Burton himself. I think he’s kind of a one-trick pony as a director, if you will. It’s kind of like, “Who will Johnny Depp play? Who will my wife play?” He always uses the same composer (Danny Elfman) so it’s like, “What will he write for me?”
But the thing is, Burton’s style, it’s very whimsical. You think Edward Scissorhands or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It works perfect for Gotham. He did two movies. He did the original Batman with Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and then he did the second one with Catwoman. And if you watch these two movies back to back, you see that they are drastically different with their art direction. You wouldn’t be able to tell the first one was also Tim Burton, and that’s because on the second one, Burton got much more license and creative freedom with it. The thing is, Gotham fits so well to Burton’s innate style. It’s almost like the patch when the meta shifted to what he was good at.
AS: I think that’s the best analogy I have ever heard.
IB: It was so excellent because you felt like it’s the Penguin and he’s this creepy bizarre gothic circus type of vibe. And then Michelle Pfeiffer is being really creepy It was just perfect Burton. And this is sold as a children’s movie because it’s Batman and they want to sell toys. And I think there’s a moment where Penguin bites off some guy’s face or a piece of his face. And that’s so classic Burton. So that’s my favorite Batman.
AS: Do you watch the Marvel movies at all? Are you a Team Cap? Or are you team Ironman?
IB: I hate both those heroes. I actually, I’ve been wanting to talk about Jessica Jones forever. It got to the point where I was taking segments of it, and I was going to put together an analytical breakdown of Jessica Jones.
Jessica Jones, if you haven’t seen it, is possible one of the smartest shows to come out in ages. It’s incredible. Have you noticed the motif of doors?
IB: OK. Perfect. I love talking about this. So for the viewers out there, there’s a motif of doors in Jessica Jones. The very first scene when you meet Jessica is her throwing this guy through her door, which is Alias Investigations. So, like, smashing his head through it, and it’s an upside-down shot. Now why would the director take this time as the opening scene as the introduction to this character to come through a door? And then you notice this motif continues through every single character.
Trish, Jessica’s wealthy, good friend has like a fortress, where there’s actually an entire episode dedicated to a guy trying to break through her door, and there’s like fortified steel, and everything is like this castle built on a high hill, and trying to enter it. When you meet Luke Cage, the love interest for Jessica Jones and the unbreakable man, his bar, there’s a very prominent scene where Jessica makes the point that his bar is the most important thing to him. But there’s no attachment or memories on the wall, but how clean it is. And his door is kind of like this bright red, and what he bar represents to him. It’s so good. That element of being artistic, and if you want to be analytical and break it down but still have a very entertaining storyline in general, I think is what makes Jessica Jones top-notch entertainment.
The use of sex in that show as sort of control. The conversation it has on being a victim, victimizing yourself as well as being victimized through society, and then also control through sexual encounters is also very well done.
Photos by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com