"I am not a big, burly, hosty kinda guy": an interview with Scott "SirScoots" Smith

Scott “SirScoots” Smith is a well-known name in the CS scene, but even for the oldest veteran some things are still new. For the first time in his career, he swapped his position behind-the-scenes for a spot in front of the camera. At gamescom, ESL got the chance to talk to him about the transition, his preferences, his thoughts on the ESL One tournament and the progression of CS:GO as an eSports title in general.

ESL: Thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us! How have you enjoyed gamescom so far?
Scott “SirScoots” Smith: First time to a gamescom. I’ve attended many many E3s in the States, which is a closed industry show, and many PAXs.I was always told: “Think three times E3 plus the public being able to come in like at PAX and you’ve got gamescom.” And it’s crazy. It’s huge for one thing, but unfortunately I got here, did some rehearsals and immediately started the shows, so I haven’t even really gone past a few halls. We are in Hall 9, I think I’ve ventured into Hall 10 and that was it - after that, I already had to be back to work. So I haven’t really seen all of gamescom - that’s how big it is. It takes you hours to go through it. It is really great, the fans are really excited. Today was the first day we had a stage for CS:GO. Everything yesterday was done ‘stream only’. Even the terminal where the players were playing the crowd couldn’t see in the game. The fans could only see the players’ faces, and there was already a line just to watch the players playing. Today it was pretty much packed the whole time. It’s a great event, lots of people.

ESL: ESL One is an eSports event inside a games convention. What do you think about that structure?
SirScoots: I think it’s good and bad. I think in some regards it does limit the creativity that a company like ESL can have. Limited floor space, you don’t really own the venue if you need to stay late, you know. There are lots of things that are being loaded in and worked on - that would be different at an eSports event. It would be a more eSports-centric issue. There’s always going to be issues, especially at big conventions like this, you know, they close, while we’re in the world of internet games where computers crash and things get delayed, or we go into overtime. You can’t ever have a perfectly set eSports schedule.

The plus side of it is that you have an inherently built-in fanbase that fills your stadium - well, in our sense, not quite a stadium. LCS basically built a stadium, which is amazing. It also adds exposure - there are a lot of gamers since it’s obviously not an eSports convention, so there are lot of people just wandering in and wondering themselves. They usually go like: “Oh, what is is? Hm, I just bought this game, I had no idea this existed!”. I hear that all the time, like: “I play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but I never really knew.” Not everyone is super deep in this niche of eSports like us. They sit down and go like: “Oh, these guys are way better than me and my buddies.” The lightbulb goes on and they wonder where they can read more. Then you direct them to Reddit or HLTV and all that stuff.

I think it’s that kind of Ying and Yang, if you will. The fans are not only the dedicated eSports fans who go to eSports events. You get that trickle of both, the newbie fans and the eSports fans.

ESL: Yesterday you were the host on stage, doing interviews and all that, while we’re usually used to seeing you as a host of a panel and analyst desk. Which role do you enjoy more?
SirScoots: I love them both. I am kinda new to both sides of it - I mean, I spent a decade plus doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff in eSports, whether it was for GotFrag and GotFragTV production, and I actually do some freelance production work for ESL and a couple of other companies, but behind the curtain. Directing shows, that kind of stuff.

So it wasn’t until the first major at DreamHack, they reached out to me and told me: “Hey, we want you to work.” I was like: “Oh, what stream am I helping produce?” And they told me: “No, no, no, we want you to be on this CS desk.” I was like: “Are you guys crazy? I’ve been on talk shows and done interviews, but this is not what I do.” They said it would be fine and I decided to go for it, because it was a major and I love the game. And then that led to me doing ESL One Katowice, which led to Gfinity asking me to do their event and ESL asking me to do this one.

I think, coming from both sides of it, production is where you have to worry about the lighting, the audio, the spectator clients, all the technical stuff, which a lot of people don’t grasp how big it is and how many people it takes. To be the talent, if you will, takes a different skill set, but it’s way less stressful. You are only really worried about you not screwing up - you say the right thing, you need your diction to be good, but you really don’t need to worry about the audio guy, the lighting guy, computers crashing. I was very nervous today. When you sit behind the desk, you are in your own little world - almost like you are at home. I’ve gotten comfortable in that role, but this time it was different. ReDeYe was unable to be the host on day one, so he reached out to me like:” Hey, we don't have an analyst desk on Friday, but we’d like you to be the host onstage.” Once again I went like: “Paul? I’ve never done that, bro. It’s not really my statue, I am not a big, burly, hosty kinda guy.” He said he thought I could do it and I would know what to do basically from me directing hosts in the past. So I agreed.

I had a great time today - I was very nervous in the beginning. You are the first entry point for the whole event. I think I only mispronounced a few things, I said iBUYPOWER when I meant Virtus.pro, that kind of stuff. But overall, I think this is easier. I don’t want to take anything away from those who do it for a living, but in comparison to all the worries of a producer behind the scene? It’s easier and sometimes more money, right? Talent always gets more money. I love it equally, I love eSports and I would do anything. People complaining after the event about hours and so on - I’m an old guy, and I usually respond: “Wait a minute, we just got paid for watching CS:GO for 10 or 12 hours. Go dig ditches, go be an accountant, go be all these other real jobs. Trust me, you would smile all day long.” It is long and it is boring sometimes, a lot of waiting, but I am blessed I am able to make a little money doing what I would do anyway. If I wasn’t here, I would have woken up at 2am and started watching CS, would have stayed up all night to watch all the games. So to be here and be a part of it is great.

And again, this is my third major, and there’ve only been three. So to have been a part of all the majors is really cool.

ESL: Going into the tournament, were there any big surprises that caught your eye, positive or negative?
SirScoots: I think a lot of it played out as everyone guessed in the sense of who moved forward, maybe not the order. I don’t think anyone would think NiP would scramble out of the lower part of their group. I thought iBUYPOWER would play a bit better today. They got beat up really bad by VP on cache.

I am actually pleasantly surprised by Cloud 9 - not a whole new team, but new player in shroud, a little bit of a bootcamp that had tons of technical issues. Their monitors weren’t good, their computers weren’t good where they bootcamped. So they didn’t get the best practice in, but Thursday they were on fire - yesterday that comeback against Dignitas was legendary, you know. I’ve known Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert for a long time. The kind of stuff he did in the game yesterday was the kind of stuff that made him a star in CS 1.6. He would have those breakout rounds that would not only flip his team’s momentum, but would negatively flip the other team’s momentum. He can really turn games around - he was super clutch. In CS:GO, he’s been very streaky, even he knows that. Today between him and Hiko, they crushed it. They all played well, but that momentum of Jordan, when he does well he screams, he yells, he motivates the team. It was really nice to see him have a solid breakout. Dignitas is consistently the number four team in the world. They took them to the wall, won the rounds they needed to win and actually beat them.

ESL: Did Cloud 9 impress you the most or was there another team that impressed you more?
SirScoots: Not to be North-American-biased, but I didn’t expect that much from them. On paper, they were in a very tough group. It was Titan, Dignitas and Cloud 9. One of those was going home, the fourth one was Vox, but they were expected to fall down. They are a great team and great guys, but they simply lack the practice. If you look at that on paper, you see the new guy in shroud, NA not having a regular practice partner, so the conclusion would be that C9 would go down. I didn’t pick them in Valve’s Pick’Em - I went with my head and not my heart, so they definitely surprised me the most.

ESL: Speaking of NA CS:GO, how do you explain iBUYPOWER dominating North American tournaments but not being able to go through in Europe?
SirScoots: I don’t know, they seem to have this curse. At Gfinity, they got out of the groups, which was a big thing for them considering they haven’t done that in the last year. After the groups, they faltered, you know. At this event, they ended up with Cobblestone twice, which isn’t necessarily a great judge of the better team. Who practiced better, who got a bit luckier. They won one, lost one, had to play the lower match, where they met a very warmed up and pissed off Virtus.pro. You don’t want to piss off TaZ and his boys, but I still thought it might be okay. They played cache, I thought: “It’ll be a close match, they might not win, but at least a competitive game.” They never really were able to open the door, and VP just kicked them around.

ESL: As a spectator and an analyst, how do you feel about Cobblestone and Overpass?
SirScoots: Overarchingly, they were pushed onto the scene a little bit too early.They probably have some potential, but with edits and tweaks based on high-level CS feedback. How the kids or I play in matchmaking isn’t necessarily ever the way these guys play a map. These guys figure it out and we follow their lead and example. Maybe it would have been better to know the chance a couple of months in advance.

Overpass has more potential, though. Cobblestone is too big, it’s too hard on rotations. Both maps, unfortunately, have so many nooks and crannies and hidey holes, so on a rotate or even on a take, you have too many spots to check and lose it in time to plant the bomb. That situation doesn’t necessarily create the best Counter-Strike. You want the interaction, you want the smokes and flashes coming in, you want to see if they can make this retake work. If they can’t get to the retake in time, back off because two people are too far away from the spot - it’s really not the greatest Counter-Strike.

I understand why Valve did it, though - we need new maps. The community is stubborn and has been forever, so the only way to get them to change is force them to change. Online leagues and tournament have done it so far, given the players the map pool and told them to adjust to it, but in this case I think Valve pushed the button a bit too early. Again, now we’ve done it, the games on it were good, but until the top teams break down a map in their own mind and play each other - that’s when we see the greatest Counter-Strike. Here it’s just good aim and movement, but you don’t see the strategic part of it, all the head games that come into play, fakes - all that is missing until they have all dialed it into their minds.

When you talk to all the players, they get it - they weren’t happy about the push on it, but most understand it. Most of them say: “Overpass is actually not bad, a couple of tweaks here or there and we have a new map.” Cobblestone no one really seems to like. Those of us who remember the original 1.6 cbble know that it was replaced the minute we could replace it with a better map. It was incredibly CT-sided. This version is not really the same Cobblestone - it’s more spread out and different, but still very CT-sided. It still has crazy AWP lines, but it’s even wackier. There are more entrances to all the bomb sites and all that stuff.  To make a long answer short, I think they are both here to stay. Valve is really good at listening to pro feedback, so now the process starts. They will ask all the players and we will see new versions of those maps coming out. I personally would like Cobblestone to go away, see a Tuscan or Season get in, while Overpass receives tweaks.

ESL: While three maps were added, Train, one of the most classic 1.6 maps, was removed - how do you feel about that change?
SirScoots: I am kind of okay with it, although more and more teams picked up on this version of Train recently. You started to see better high-level play on it. When they first started using it in tournaments, everyone vetoed it. No one practiced it, no one picked it, but then they realized that it was going to be a map, much like the others, so they started to work on it. Then you started to see how it might be. I really like the 1.6 version of it - it was cleaner, just like every other 1.6. Still they drastically changed bomb site placements, ladders, trains and how it all worked, you know? It wasn’t like Inferno, with only slight tweaks here and there - this map was drastically tweaked, which didn’t sit well with most of us. Still, it got used more recently, but at this point I don’t know if it’ll come back. Maybe we will end up with nine maps we all play - a tournament is going to say “these seven maps are for our tournaments”, so we get a rotation. Honestly, the more maps, the better. It will be more work for the players, but then again, if your job is to play Counter-Strike, then you just have to learn some more maps.

The biggest issue is that they all have to be used online. These guys play online nightly almost, in cups, tournaments and ladders with all the different league play outside tournaments. All those organizations need to pick those maps up as well, because that is the best practice. You are not calling up buddies or scrimmage teams, but you need to compete on those maps. That will definitely help elevate everyone's game.

ESL: With the playoffs starting, which storyline the first two days have created intrigues you the most?
SirScoots: Again, I think a lot of the people we expected to go through went through - I kinda thought Hellraisers would do better than they did, but again, I think with the veto system changing a bit and best of three, which is always better Counter-Strike, will change it up.

Now the difference with this veto system is that each team bans a map and picks a map. We still end up with three, but then they pick first map, second map - the rotator only comes in for the third map. So a decider map for the tournament and lots of money could end up being Overpass and Cobblestone. Again, we saw those maps today - it will add that random factor, which doesn’t necessarily make for the best pure CS. Exciting stuff? Sure. I love Inferno, I know people complain about it being used, but it is a solid map - everyone’s got strats for it, so you really get to see the best perform against the best.

ESL: If you had superpowers, were able to look into the future and be able to tweak it a bit, what would you ideal grand final be at this event?
SirScoots: I’d like to see NiP in the finals and also see them win. [Hiko walks by] And Cloud 9, should win the whole thing - Hiko is here, I’m just saying this because Hiko is right here. NiP has been the bridesmaid the last two majors. They are obviously ranked the number one team in CS - they added a new coach in Pita and I feel like they are kind of due, right? People sure caught up to them, they had a long streak, just like Titan had a long streak, which is very great, because we need and want people that can beat anyone. They’re kind of due to win a major - they’ve been bitterly defeated twice. Part of me wants to have an NiP against VP final - I love the guys of Virtus.pro, you know - with NiP being victorious. With Cloud 9 making it through, the simple fact what they did with Dignitas and how they won yesterday, against Titan, a huge team, C9’s confidence level will be up and they probably say to each other: “Well, we can beat anyone now.” Again, maybe they can - you never know. It comes down to maps, momentum and all those things. Would it be great to see an NA team in the finals of one of these? Absolutely. But realistically, their dream might end tomorrow - I always say “any given Sunday”, you never know. In conclusion, NiP against anybody - I would be happy.

ESL: If you were a betting man and had to place money on the winner, what would your pick be?
SirScoots: I want to say NiP, but the way they played yesterday was just not ‘superstar-ish’. They are champions in their own right - they will show up when they have to. I am going NiP.

ESL: Any final words or shout-outs?
SirScoots: Well, thanks to every new and old Counter-Strike fan who’s enjoying the new version. Majors like this are funded by us, the community, so I would say: “Keep opening those eSports cases, buy those keys.” It is really cool what Valve does with the stickers, as you buy a sticker capsule and that gets split between teams as well. A team like Vox, that doesn’t have a huge fanbase, gets the same cut as the other pro teams, because you buy the capsule, not the stickers - that is a really cool feature. Otherwise a team like NiP would make huge money, while the rest would probably not make much at all. I love that Valve looks at what they do in Dota 2 when it comes down to interactions with the fanbase and are slowly figuring out what works with the CS community. I love the addition of the Pick’Em challenge - really cool stuff. I had great conversations with those guys, shout-out to them for sure.

The best thing for everyone who is a hardcore, hardcore fan is that they have to balance two communities. They have the masses that play matchmaking, Arms Race, they play cs_office 24 hours a day, and then there is us, a smaller niche. They kinda have to weigh both when they change anything. I think they are doing a really good job - I think they are one of the best developers when they love your game. In talking to them, we are going to get more majors, so this is just the beginning. Every time we do a major, the player base grows, the viewer base grows, the excitement grows, so it’s just really nice to see our game back. Yeah, it’s a new flavor - I am a 1.6 guy - but I’m okay with it. You have to move up and on, but our game was never this popular before. In our world, it was hardcore and it was great, but we didn’t have 270,000 people watching, we didn’t have Twitch and all those things. So shout-out to everyone who cares about the game - keep playing it, keep buying skins, trading skins, betting skins, buying capsules and all that stuff.

ESL: Thanks a lot for the interview!

To watch SirScoots anchor the desk and see the best Counter-Strike players in the world compete and slug it out for US$250,000, head over to Hall 9 at gamescom to experience the great atmosphere and live thrill that is CS:GO. For all surrounding information, including the online stream, be sure to check out the official ESL One site to stay up to date with everything happening in this third major Counter-Strike tournament. You can also check our interview with Richard Lewis here.


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