Piltover Parley Ep. 2 ft. PiraTechnics

Welcome to Piltover Parley!

This is a series (Sometimes audio and sometimes written) where I interview significant figures in the League community and get their viewpoints, thoughts and ideas about the game!

The LCS and League Pro Play has begun across the globe. What better way to celebrate than to interview one of League’s casters? I pulled Devin “PiraTechnics” Younge over to Piltover for some words on pro play, being a caster, working with Riot and more.

Bear in mind: This is a SHORTENED TRANSCRIPT of the full interview which you can find here for full viewing or here for listening. This written portion will merely cover some questions for those who are looking for the specific questions/answers.

Becoming a Caster

David aka “CaptainMarvelous”: Starting off, tell us a little bit about how you got to be a caster and what made you decide to be a caster.

Devin “PiraTechnics” Younge: So I played League some years back and I was working long hours at a medical company doing software. I saw people doing community events as well as things like the LCS and Starcraft. I started making little video series that I just threw up on youtube and it was a fun hobby for a while.

CM: And then you got approached by Riot?

PT: Well there’s more to it than that. When I got into League it started getting more serious. It was a long time before I got anywhere near at Riot level.

CM: So you created a better portfolio to show to Riot?

PT: I’m not sure if they ever saw all my applications. I submitted at least three-to-four over the year. I quit my job and was trying to pursue doing casting full time. It wasn’t the only path, I thought about “hey, do I wanna write about esports?” I don’t know how viable my skills are to that, I wasn’t particularly good at it. Casting was something a little more natural to me. All the same, I just immersed myself in esports, particularly League watching everything I could. The key was to get online and to start casting events. It wasn’t until I started meeting some people who were doing bigger and better things that I started getting more recognized.

CM: So it’s all about beating your head against a wall until you hit that one big moment that gets you noticed, right?

PT: Well you make yourself available. First off; Constantly be doing casting. Be it a three person stream or a tournament at someone’s house. You just start to make those connections because you’ll always meet people. Eventually you start growing a list of contacts and eventually somebody knows somebody doing something a little bigger than what you’ve been doing. That’s when you show them your portfolio and you start to move forward and that’s what happened to me. I got the chance to cast the LPL because the people who were looking to start an English stream knew me for a while and invited me to come along board. That kinda launched things into space.

Casting For Riot and the “Caster Cage”

CM: Casting for Riot, how has your experience been specifically casting for them?

PT: First thing is the level of production is completely out of this world. There’s really nothing like it and there are so many little things that Riot just gets right time and time again. I don’t want to shit on anyone else, it just is a high standard of quality. It’s something I can show to people who don’t even watch esports. I can show it to my parents and the first thing they’ll say is “I have no idea what’s happening but this looks really professional”. That’s a point of pride for me and it’s a really important thing that Riot sets the standard for what esports production quality should be.

CM: How is Riot in developing your casting from what it was to today? What is your experience with that and how have they (Riot) supported you in your rise from Devin to PiraTechnics?

PT: It’s really about who you work with. They definitely do take care of me in terms of getting vocal coaching and taking care of my throat because I lost my voice last year. It’s definitely played a really big part in my development. We have this really big emphasis on giving and receiving feedback. It’s definitely a “Riot” thing in general but in our office it means we VOD review each other and we really just want to push each other to be better. If I do something in the office that people are like “Hey, that wasn’t OK. That wasn’t cool” etc. etc. , someone’s going to let me know. It’s a really good environment to foster growth both personally and professionally.

CM: As a comparison to casting for Riot; Late last year there was what I’ll call the “caster cage controversy” when MonteCristo came out about working with Riot and Riot’s esport department comparative to the rest of the industry. Some of the biggest criticisms he had working with Riot were that, for one thing, you can’t really grow a brand of your own. The other thing was that there was a lot of work without a lot of pay compensation associated with it. A lot of people were saying that Riot isn’t good for a tier one caster to work at. What’s been your take on that?

PT: To be honest, there’s not a lot I can really add to this. What I can say is that if I want to, I can always go to my boss and negotiate for more money, etc. It’s not like there’s a moratorium on discussing salary. From the content side, there’s a lot of stuff I’m empowered to build with Riot that I couldn’t do on my own. For me, it’s kind of cool to have the environment of “Hey if you want to make something related to League let’s do it in the Riot ecosystem”.  It kind of makes sense too because if I was making something, people are going to associate it with me no matter what and with Riot. If it was crappy quality, it’d be like “WTF is this”. That whole policy on content and creating things in certain ways makes sense to me. It’s not like I can’t just go and stream something and say “Hey I think this champion is really good”. It’s not a total lockdown of what we do.

CM: Building on that; There’s a sort of Reddit mentality that you can’t really “talk bad” about Riot or about League of Legends. There are a lot of people that because you’re Riot employees you can’t talk ill about things they make.

PT: I’d say that in a standard employment contract that’s par for the course for a public statement.  You’d find that a lot of that stuff is totally fine for us to say. The balance team probably wouldn’t be happy if we went on a tirade about how bad things are but I don’t think anyone actually feels that way. We can totally call a bug or the idea that we can’t say “this champion is OP” or whatever. Some of us do that more than others. One of the reasons I don’t particularly do that is because my game knowledge usually isn’t up to the same level as color casters. I’ll know basic stuff like I know Camille is overpowered and a little bit about why but I don’t know the exact details about how she could be fixed perfectly. There’s really nothing to the idea that we can’t talk about things that aren’t totally balanced or working-as-intended.

The LCS and Favorite Things to Cast

CM: The LCS began all across the world. What do you think about it right now and all the changes, such as the ten ban system and some interesting pocket picks?

PT: There’s a lot of cool stuff going on! There’s a lot of pick diversity thanks to the ten ban system. We saw Camille playing against Jax, that was interesting. Speaking of ADCs, we’ve seen Ziggs a couple of times. Bang played it on SKT the other day. I think they experimented a bit more in the east. NA and EU haven’t really not quite gone outside of their comfort zone as much. There have been a few really interesting things out of there but they’re definitely missing a few of the newer champions.

CM: Speaking of the meta, you see a very sort-of basic meta right now; Tanky toplaner, damage-oriented midlaner, tanky-bruiser jungler, a utility or long-range ADC and finally you have the AP “support” who gets more kills than the ADC. What do you think about the current meta?

PT: It makes for a lot of interesting teamfights. ADC gets a little more pinch that a lot of the roles but obviously at a competitive level there are some cool things going on. I think it’s really interesting to watch because you have so many picks-to-counterpicks-to-compositions-to-countercompositions.

CM: On champions, what’s your favorite champion to cast?

PT: I’d say I have a couple of them. I would think that my absolute favorite, which I haven’t seen in a while, would be Jinx. Watching outplays with that champion is actually incredible. Seeing a super mega death rocket connect from halfway across the map is really really cool. Another one I’d say is Kalista. There’s a moment going back to MSI of last year where I got to cast CLG. Stixxay had this really incredible Kalista game and it was just a pleasure watching him play. Kindred is another one. There’s something of a theme that I enjoy casting ADC champions because of my solo queue.

CM: I think we’ll have a clear answer for this one: Who is your favorite player to cast, be it in an EU LCS sense or a worldwide sense?

PT: Actually casted some players in China before I ever stepped on the EU stage. From those days, one of my favorite players to cast was Uzi. That guy just does highlights-after-highlights so it’s super sick to watch. Even if he facechecks into five people he gets a double kill out of it. On the EU stage, there are definitely a lot of fun and interesting players to cast. I would say Jankos comes to mind, “The First Blood King” as we call him. Another player I enjoy casting is Perkz, Zven, most of G2. Most of G2 have pretty cool highlights but those two in particular. I’d also say Steelback because he’s always been this sort of underdog player. When he was on Roccat he was kind of the shining light on that team. They might lose day-in and day-out but he would do so much work and you could see how tryhard he was going. Players like that are just enjoyable to watch because it’s not just mechanics but their passion.

Closing Thoughts and Changing League

CM: As a sort of closing idea: What are some gameplay changes you’d make to League to make it a better game in your eyes or make it better/more enjoyable to cast?

PT: Well, most of the things coming to my mind are really trolly. If I had to make a change off-the-bat, nothing super specific? I would say an in-built system to track movement around the map would be cool for spectating. Looking at heat signatures that wouldn’t be built from data but actually select and put in the corner of the screen to cycle between players. Having a little more clarity with items with stacks and numbers. In actual gameplay design? I don’t know what I’d really change. Maybe change some of the build paths for ADCs because that’s sort of a point of contention. The number one important change, though, would be that whenever someone scores a sick play it goes full Mortal Kombat and someone says “Toasty!”.

CM: You did say you had a few troll ideas. C’mon, let’s hear’em.

PT: Besides the toasty one? I would love when Baron dies for there to be an explosion of glitter and streamers and stuff. Not every time but maybe like one in fifty times. One of the great things about League is that even casting it like a sport, it’s still a game and I really love that aspect about it. It really lives on in how skins are designed and how game modes are added. I’d love a little silly RNG that doesn’t affect the state of the game but silly things like blue buff taunting you one in fifty times. More of them than we have anyways.

CM: Closing off; Do you have any final words for those who are fans of League of Legends or the LCS specifically?

PT: I guess I would just say that if you’re a fan, really appreciate you for tuning in to watch. We do the show for you guys. If you’re an aspiring caster, I can’t promise any of my advice would be good, I just know it worked for me. You just gotta hustle as much as you can and get your name out there. I feel like if I can do it anyone who has the drive to do it can do it.