A few days ago, a new studio concept was launched called moonduck.TV. It features some of the best known casters, talents and personalities in the DotA community, including many of the people everyone enjoyed at The International 5. 2P got the chance to speak to Andrew 'Zyori' Campbell about the the new project and its plans for the future.
2P: OK so firstly can you just explain the idea behind moonduck.TV, your role in it all and how/if it will be different from other casting studios the DotA community is used to?
Andrew 'Zyori' Campbell: The idea behind moonduck.TV was originally to be a virtual studio, but as we fleshed out the idea it seemed clear we wanted to do more than just broadcast matches. We want to help represent all of the talent on our label in finding more gigs and making sure they have the tools to get the best contracts possible. The idea is to put all of our brands and knowledge together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
I am the host of the group, so you'll see me on camera most often when we are doing events with analyst panels. I'll still be doing some play-by-play commentary, but considerably less than I did at Beyond the Summit. I'll also be working behind the scenes, doing business development and general management of the studio.
The key difference with Moonduck Studios is the agency. We not only allow, but encourage our talent to freelance for other events when possible. Most studios don't offer talent this level of flexibility.
2P: So the real innovation behind the idea is getting casters/talent well represented in the DotA scene? Do you think it is a bit static for casters at other studios like Beyond the Summit or JoinDOTA?
Zyori: Of course. the real innovation is creating an agency in addendum to a studio.
2P: So from what I can tell most casters etc. are self-starters in that they just go out and do some casting/content creation because they love it. Cleary you are quite an entrepreneurial person (business major background) so in that sense it comes quite naturally to you, but do you think many casters/talent are underrepresented and would really benefit from this kind of agency?
Zyori: Absolutely. I've been involved with esports but about 5 years now, and throughout most of that time I had no mentor or experienced, trusted source I could turn to for advice.In the dream world, talent should be able to focus most of their time improving their craft rather than negotiating contracts and constantly scouring for work. Banding together gives everyone more resources as they continue to develop their skills.
2P: Definitely. So down the line do you think there will be some kind of application system for the agency?
Zyori: In short, yes. To launch we wanted to have enough talent on deck that we can offer a full tournament package to organizers with multiple casting pairs, full analyst panels, in-game obs, and onsite interviews.That said, we didn't want to bite off more than we could chew in the first go. Our highest priority is being able to confidently say we can find work for everyone we represent. If we bring on too many people too quickly, it could cripple the project before it gets any momentum.We hope to eventually open up the gates for applications, but probably not before 2016.
2P: Back to the studio aspect, how will it work in practical terms? Unless you are all at a LAN you won't physically be together so will it be casting from different locations via Skype or something?
Zyori: Indeed, the studio is primarily a virtual one. Pimpmuckl is a production mastermind that makes it all possible through virtual means. We will have a 'home-base' set up in the states for the occasions when a tournament organizer wants everyone in a central location.Though I feel inclined to say we don't use Skype for anything beyond text. #productionvalue
2P: In terms of tournaments I think you said that you would hopefully be hosting some of your own? Have you got some already in the pipeline? And what is the aim with moonduck.TV in house tournaments? To provide more for teams/give the chance to more casters?
Zyori: Time will tell. We have a rather unique tournament on the horizon, but the details are still not ready to be shared publicly. We are currently talking with tournament organizers, but most of the dates and details are still private.The aim is to create cool content.
What our virtual studio lacks in big desks and shiny backdrops is made up for by our diverse pool of personalities. We will mostly be covering third party events, though future plans for running events really depend on what the landscape looks like after the first major.
2P: Right, so on the theme of content will you also be doing shows etc. alongside the the casting? What kind of stuff can we expect?
Zyori: Yes, we will be doing content outside of just tournament coverage. At the very least, we will be doing a weekly talk; other content plans are still in the works.
2P: How did you all come together to do this? You have such a wide range of people so well known in the DotA community; it must have taken quite a lot of organisation and back and forth?
Zyori: It was surprisingly organic. When I was first introduced to the idea my biggest concern was that everyone would be too business to dedicate time in building a new brand. Much to my relief, everyone involved has realized the potential value of our collaboration and have been very eager to contribute to the group effort.We also wanted to create a culture of honest and open communication amongst our group. Internally we are as transparent as possible about cash flows, expansion plans, and workload distribution. So far things have been fairly smooth.
2P: What do you think is the place of 'eSports journalism' in the DotA community? Mooonduck tv seems to be a holistic package that pulls together nearly every aspect of DotA. Will you have a sort of 'news' section with dedicated writers?
Zyori: I think in general 'eSports journalism' still has a long way to go. There are handful of journalists out that there doing good work and actually breaking stories, but many of the articles you'll find on popular sites are reposts, click-bait, or misinformed.
I think the fundamental issue with journalism in this space is that its still too small. It's very difficult for journalists to get in and ask the hard questions because of how easy it is to be blacklisted by players/teams/orgs if you portray them in a negative light. It's tricky issue to fix.As of now, we don't have any plans to be a news source.
Our core competency is event coverage and live broadcasting; it would be difficult to integrate journalists into our group in it's present state.
2P: OK finally - how are you feeling about this project? Excited, scared? You all have a lot of experience, but it is something brand new that you have to just go out there and do.
Zyori: Excited!! I was very nervous when I left BTS that it would be difficult to find people with which to collaborate.
It was a huge sigh of relief for me when this project starting getting momentum, and especially after it launched. I'm beyond excited to work with all these great Dota folks to produce some top tier content.
2P: Great! Thanks so much for giving me the time for this interview and good luck with moonduck.TV!