Mike Udall is a Business and Communications freshman at ASU with a minor in philosophy and psychology. At the age of four, he started playing video games with the Warcraft II tutorial for hours on end.
Sunday night was beyond anything he could have dreamed when he first started playing. Udall was part of the ASU e-sports team that competed on ESPN2 in "Heroes of the Dorm" which pitted the Sun Devils against Cal in the Heroes of the Storm video game. The finals took place in Los Angeles and it was the first nationally televised e-sport event ever.
Cal may have won the match, but ASU Twitter couldn't get enough. House of Sparky spoke with Udall by phone Monday night to talk about the game and his experience in Los Angeles.
House of Sparky: As an avid gamer, what did it mean to you to be a part of the first nationally televised e-sports event?
Mike Udall: It's surreal man. This whole experience was one of the most fun weekends I've had. It still hasn't hit me how immense and large of an event this was. When we finished the game they told us it was trending on the world Twitter, it was number two behind promotionals. Then I was like wait, I was just a part of history so I'm really excited about it and I'm really excited to see where e-sports goes and the growth that will happen.
HoS: You finish playing, you check your phone, how many texts did you have?
MU: I had around 215. My parents were in a group message with my aunts and uncles and they were all going pretty crazy.
HoS: Then you check Twitter and Mike Bercovici is tweeting about watching it. What's your reaction?
MU: It was honestly pretty awe-inspiring. It's a good feeling but it's odd. It's a good odd, I just didn't expect it. I didn't expect it to blow up and everyone at ASU would be so excited about it.
HoS: The saying that went viral is "Going ham on the core..." which one of the broadcasters said. What are your thoughts on that?
MU: I actually haven't been able to see the broadcast yet. One of the ASU accounts had like a 30-second clip that showed how we were going ham on the core and that was blowing up. I never heard it described that way.
HoS: How long have you been part of the team?
MU: I've been on the team for three months.
HoS: Leading up to the tournament, how long did you guys practice and play together?
MU: We practiced 10 to 15 hours a week leading up to the Final Four and then that week we probably practiced about 25 hours. This past weekend we flew up Friday and then put 10-12 hours into the game just practicing as a team.
HoS: Explain college e-sports to the average person who doesn't follow it
MU: College e-sports is not that big outside of League of Legends. It's kind of like any competitive sport. You have regions, so you have a Pac-12 kind of area, so the top team out of each area goes on to face the top of every other area in the United States. It's very much like March Madness in the fact that you have 64 teams so the top 64 teams compete in it.
HoS: Throughout the year are there rankings for this? Do you guys have a schedule of matches?
MU: So there is a month and a half of qualifiers. There were over 900 teams that applied so we had to get down to the final two teams. On Saturdays we would play events and play against teams and whoever had the best record in each group, they advance.
HoS: How did ASU e-sports come into being?
MU: So I was never involved in e-sports at ASU. The way we came together was this tournament was announced by Blizzard (Entertainment, the group that makes Heroes of the Storm) and we just formed a team of competitive players by posting on Reddit and skype.
HoS: Was there any friendships in the group before the tournament?
MU: Before the tournament I didn't know any of the guys.
HoS: Reddit and Skype, I know what those are, but how did you contact each other there?
MU: There is actually a skype "free agent" chat. There is one for America and one for Europe of top tier players. So if someone is looking for a team or someone to play with them then you post on it and say ‘Hey, we're interested.' You can kind of pitch yourself to them like ‘Hey, this is how good I am.' Then Reddit, it's just forums. After the tournament was announced there were a lot of Heroes of the Dorm Reddit forums where different schools could post about who they wanted.
HoS: So who's paying for all this?
MU: The way the tournament was set up, all the final four teams got all expenses paid to go to California. The people who put on the tournament, Blizzard, actually paid to fly us out to California and paid for our hotel and a computer set up that we can practice on.
HoS: How did the games before the final four work then? Were you in two separate locations playing each other?
MU: I would make the game, I would invite your team and then I would invite my team. Then there are observers, referees essentially, to make sure that we actually won. All the games before the final four were just online.
HoS: What kind of strategy goes into the game?
MU: The game is extremely strategy based. It depends on each map. Each map has particular objectives that are specific to each map. So I saw everyone got hyped about the dragon? The way you get the dragon is you take the top and the bottom shrine, hold them both, and then click on the dragon and that person will turn into the dragon and that's one of the objectives for that map. So the strategy we used was rotating between shrines and try and pick the enemy team off.
HoS: When you captured the cores and temples, the announcers seemed to think that was a pretty big deal too
MU: The ultimate goal of each game is to kill the enemy team's core. So we have a core and we're trying to defend it. It's kind of like capture the flag in that you're defending and attacking at the same time. And something like the dragons or the shrines, they help damage the core.
HoS: Who is Melkor?
MU: He's one of the five players on our team. He's really good.
HoS: Is he your best player?
MU: The game has different roles. It's like football in that there are the best defensive and offensive players. It's hard to compare a quarterback to a linebacker. I'd say we're all good in our certain role. There are warriors, assassins and support and they all do different things so it's hard to compare and say who is the best.
HoS: What's the next step here for you?
MU: I honestly am just very grateful. I don't know where I see myself going. I'm open to going pro, I'm open to starting a college team, I'm not really sure what I want to do yet. I'm honestly just so grateful for all the attention that we've received, especially from the ASU Athletics Director. There were so many people watching who were like ‘I have no idea what's happening' but they were so enthusiastic and crazy over it. It's just good for ASU. I love this atmosphere and I love how much everyone gets into it.
HoS: Well that's all I've got Mike, I really appreciate your time.
MU: Awesome, thanks so much man.