TIG interview with NesTea: "I still hold a big desire for gaming."
Korean eSports news website Thisisgame has recently interviewed Jae Duk 'NesTea' Lim on his 2 years as a StarCraft 2 professional gamer. Born in 1982, NesTea is 31 years old in Korea, but has continuously achieved good results one after another.
Winning the 2010 Sony Ericsson GSL Open Season 2, 2011 LG Cinema 3D GSL May, 2011 Pepsi GSL July, he was the first one to win 3 GSL and the first one to qualify for GSL Code S 10 times in a row, which created an award named after his name. He is the oldest progamer to win eSports leagues at his time, and the only progamer to achieve a perfect championship win.
These are only parts of LG-IM Nestea's accomplishments. Since his debut in Starcraft 2 leagues, he fell down to GSL Code B for the first time on October 2, disheartening many fans and the media. NesTea has just returned from China as he finshed placing 5th in World E-sports Masters (WEM) 2012. He is planned to attend GSL Season 5 Code A qualifier between November 10th and 11th.
Full translated script is available below:
Interviewed by Mr. Ahn from Thisisgame, photos by Thisisgame
NesTea, who has just returned from China looked the same as usual. Being a man of secrecy, he seemed as normal as he could be. But once the interview and conversation started, I could see his regrets and tendencies toward WEM 2012 and his goal of winning a foreign tournament.
Being up there in age I rarely contact him to avoid disruptions in his practice, but whenever I see him I feel friendly vibes from him, offering me a drink.. 'It is good to see you to come all the way from there. Do you want something to drink?' he says. Being a close friend of him and used to the casual talk, we started an interview casually as well.
Thanks for your time for the interview.
No. Thank you for calling me. I can already guess what kind of questions will be asked. It's about GSL isn't it?
Yes, but that will only be a portion of the interview. Don't you worry. I will go easy on you.
I guess we'll see. (Laugh)
I want to ask about recent events first. You have spent about a week in China for WEM 2012 back in October 23. How was your first visit to China?
Unlike other tournaments, the schedule was favorable for me, but it was also sort of boring. Eating chinese food was a bit hard to get used to, but everything else was pretty much okay.
You lost a chance to win WEM 2012.
Indeed. I actually had high hopes to win this one, but the invited players were all extremely competent, so I knew it would be hard. Although it was a bit regretful, I think it was a good experience overall. Nonetheless, I feel good about finally beating Mvp who has been defeating me time after time. This will be my precious victory. (Laugh)
You seem to be thinking about other topics because of this question. I will ask quickly. You have just fallen to GSL code B. You must be feeling pretty bad as it was right after 10 consecutive qualifications in GSL Code S.
I was waiting for this question! (Laugh) I don't feel bad at all. I am bit sad that I fell into the qualifier as I was always in Code S, but I try to stay positive as this is a turning point for me to stay focused on practice and start from the basics. This mindset is necessary to perform better games later on.
Being the first to qualify for GSL Code S 10 times in a row, you have received an award named after you. Who do you think will be the next one to receive the 'NesTea Award'?
SuperNova was the most likely to have this as he was a 9-time GSL Code S player, but as he fell from Code S this season, he lost the opportunity to do so. I don't think he can do it anymore. Mvp from my team has just qualifed for the 9th time in a row, so he should be able to do this by the next season of the upcoming year. Since the 'NesTea Award' was created from LG-IM, I want Mvp to win the next one.
Let's not talk about depressing stories anymore. You are currently the oldest progamer out there. Is there any pressure or negative mentality coming from the outside?
Isn't this depressing as well?
Of course not.
Alright, in truth I would be lying if I told you I feel no pressure because of my age. Right now there is a steady income for me so I do not have any financial pressure. But I do wonder about 'How long can I do this?' from time to time. I want to go on as long as possible. I know that time will come when I won't be able to do so even when I want to continue. That is why I want to try my best whenever I can. I am very happily playing my games at the moment.
As a three-time GSL champion, you must have a desire to win a foreign tournament, am I correct?
I have never won a foreign tournament. I had two finalist runs and two 3rd place runs. I want to win of course, but schedules for foreign tournament are difficult to handle and their impact on my stamina is too big of a toll, so winning a tournament isn't the easiest thing to do.
Tell me about your most memorable tournament if you have one.
I actually remember every one of them, but the first one that comes to mind would be when I went to BlizzCon back in 2011. It was my first time going overseas. When I arrived on the site, I thought, 'Woah, so there is a place like this..' I was able to go there comfortably thanks to Blizzard. I also felt that the tournament was worth it as Mvp and I placed 1st and 2nd as Korean representatives. I remember it as a good tournament as the Korean staff took care of me very well. My most memorable tournament was the first Iron Squid tournament. Four players were selected after an online qualifier, and when I went to France, people took care of everything for me. They accomodated everything I wanted. The soundproofing was good as well, as they cared about it more than in Korea.
You must have been a part of a tournament that you didn't like.
I am a player at first, so I feel very annoyed if soundproofing isn't done very well while playing a match. To my surprise, there were many tournaments with poor soundproofing. Even me, who doesn't understand English, could hear everything casters were talking about. Any players able to understand the language could prepare according to the casting. Some even had me play the match without a booth and only a headset.
Any memorable fans?
I remember many, but especially the one from BlizzCon. He drove 3 days by car just to see me. I was so surprised. I was so thankful that I took many pictures with him and signed as many autographs as possible.
NesTea's fame is on a different level indeed.
Known as the Great Detective and Strategy King, NesTea was heavily criticized by the media after his win at last year's Pepsi GSL Code S July, with comments like 'Age is getting into his play,' or 'Strategies are all he has doesn't he?' But he continues to show his prowess by getting 2nd place at BlizzCon, 3rd place at IPL4, and 3rd place at Iron Squid Chapter 1. He evaluates that current StarCraft 2 players' skill levels have increased considerably, as almost every possible strategy have been discovered in Wings of Liberty.
Meanwhile, NesTea also became a player representative for the official statement in response to KeSPA's absence on GSL back in August. Revealing his reasons for such action, NesTea also acknowledged KeSPA teams' standpoint.
Next question. I want to know what you are thinking of the current metagame in Starcraft 2.
I was once called the 'Great Detective', but only because there weren't many strategies at that time. I could see what strategy the opponent would do only by looking at his unit count. Nowadays a lot of matches have been played out and many interesting and unusual builds and strategies have came out, which makes it more difficult to predict. Although better mechanics are also important, I think Zerg's Broodlord and Infestor army is too strong. I don't know about ZvT, but in some maps they are way too strong in ZvP. Daybreak is a good example. Even though I am a big whiner for Zerg, I honestly think this composition is imbalanced. Solutions for this strategy should come out pretty soon though.
Personally, I think one of the changes that happened in StarCraft 2 was how the characteristics of each race was considered. For example, Zerg was known for their swarm of units, Terran was known for defenses, and Protoss was known for its death ball army. Recently however, Terran seems to be more like Zerg with a lesser ability to macro, and Protoss is doing more drop harassments against Terran. Zerg on the other hand, is becoming more defensive until it pushes with a death ball army.
In the end it was all to find the best strategy to win the game. And to win, we must do what we have to do. We didn't know about such strategies back then. After numerous tries we can finally find a niche and right strategy. One can look at this as a trend happening over time. I think Wings of Liberty has expanded to end of the strategy lines. For Zerg and Protoss, nine out of ten strategies seemed to be explorered, while Terran seems to have more room to develop.
You were once called a 'Strategy King', but your condition seemed to wind down a bit.
I feel the pressure. At WEM 2012, I showed a new strategy against Mvp after putting a lot of thought into it. Thanks to that I was able to win. (Laugh) To play better at the game, it would be best to have good mechanics and strategical thinking at the same time, but if one lacks at one of these, it would be good to concurrently use both of them. In my case, I tend to show new strategies whenever I feel like it. Of course, fans want to see me win every game, but unlike in the past I do not think I need to do so. Things have been changed a bit. Instead, I have somewhat of an unreasonable desire to show the most entertaining, fun games to my fans.
As a progamer in their 30's, people are saying that your mechanics are not as good as others or you are relying too much on strategy. Recently people's expectations of you seemed to have gone down. What you do think of these reactions?
It's true that I lack mechanics like those teen players. Truthfully, mechanics do not matter during practice. I win a lot and am positioned high in ladder ranking. But whenever I show up for an official match, I seem to be defeating myself. Many times I lost by suddenly switching my strategies. This is my own personal problem so it is something I must overcome by myself. It's an unfortunate fact that people are losing interest in me because I am not producing results at the moment.
Back in late August, in response to KeSPA's absence of GSL, you have published an official statement as a player representative. I would like to hear your reason.
GSL is something I cherish as it was the only tournament I had put my heart and soul into. It is very meaningful and has a significant place for me. If you look at the the opposite side of the coin when half of the players won't show up for OSL, I did not want to see all players attending for OSL while some do not come to GSL. After talking to the other players, I thought GSL's reputation might take a hit, which will damage players as well, so I decided to participate in the statement.
Whenever things like this happen, I think there is a need for a player union. What do you think of the possibility of a union?
I also think this is needed. Not just for the non-KeSPA party, but for KeSPA as well. Players need to have a right to speak for themselves and be protected of wrongful actions or to be able to report on incorrect business practices. This will create a stable basis for the eSports market.
What do you think is lacking in the general system of eSports?
I think there needs to be a place for fans to socialize. Organizing tournaments or taking care of players seem to be going well for now. When I was a part of KeSPA, it was difficult for me to partake in other tournaments. Although there weren't any new particular tournaments, there was no need to solve scheduling issues for SPL, OSL, and MSL. OSL has recently started to adjust schedules for players, but this change is still at its infancy stage, so I will wait and see how they will do it. GSL has been helping us solve most of the scheduling issues. What we know for sure is that even GSL won't be able to fix all scheduling issues in the future. For tournament organizers, they have their own league to worry about. It's up to the players to make up their decisions. I just wish that organizers can help us whenever such situations arise.
KeSPA seems to be unhappy about changing their schedules, your thoughts?
I understand. I would have done the same thing if I were them. eSF and KeSPA are different entities. KeSPA's biggest focus would be SPL. If SPL's schedule is changing, the possibility of discord is unavoidable. Right now, I believe eSF's system is better than KeSPA's. Being able to directly interact with foreign fans and playing against foreign players is a priceless experience. Having experienced both KeSPA and eSF systems, I believe eSF is far superior than KeSPA's. Players who have been a part of KeSPA teams tend to like this part of eSF. That doesn't mean KeSPA is bad. Don't they provide a safe and steady salary instead? Ultimately, it all comes down to a player's decision. A player must choose.
NesTea expressed his surprise and gave a high praise to Startale Zerg player Seung Hyun 'Life' Lee, who had just became the first GSL 'Royal Roader'. Being the same race, he tried to mimic Life's style, but decided that his style was impossible to imitate. He then talked about his teammate Mvp, who gave up his championship title to Life as he analyzed the reason for Mvp's loss. I could see how much NesTea cares about Mvp when he talks about him.
The biggest talk right now is about the GSL Season 4 champion Life. What do you think of him as a fellow Zerg player?
I knew Life was a good player. He seems to be finally in the spotlight. I was so surprised when I watched the finals. Something like, 'So Zerg can play like this'. When I watched DRG and Leenock's play, I just thought of them as being 'good', but Life is just amazing. He is different from the current Zerg style and it was something fresh. He showcased a play nobody else can show off. I expect good things from him.
You probably tried out his style at least once.
Yes. I tried it many times, but every time I tried I lost. (Laugh) This is a style he created through extensive practice. Whenever I try a ling run-by, I lose to a full-front assault at this timing, to the point of total devastation. He knows which time is to attack, when no army is at the opponent's base. Players facing Life get attacked at the most unusual timing that have never been faced before, so they get shaken up and lose. The most impressive thing he does is how many lings he makes. That doesn't mean his drone count is low at all. This makes the game flow seamlessly.
So what is your answer to his style?
Hmm... maybe if I was a little younger? (Laugh) If I was at Life's age, I could have tried something like that. I put much thoughts on it, and my answer is that it's impossible to imitate. His concept is totally different from mine. Many other Zerg players probably tried it themselves and came up with the same answer. They might try to mimic here and there, but it's not something the conventional Zerg can easily follow.
In the finals your teammate Mvp lost to him. As you watched the game, what do you think was the reason for his loss?
There were games where Mvp could have won. I'm not saying this just because he is my teammate. Even the last game could have been won by him, but he was too impatient. His condition at the finals wasn't very good either, and he made too many mistakes. It looked like he was shaken up by a new style of play. Mvp at the finals was definitely a different person from practice. If he was in his best shape and played against Life again, he wouldn't lose that easily like in the finals. When that happens, it would be a fun game to watch.
When you think of NesTea and Mvp, you can't help but think of the word[s] '[balance] whiner'.
There is a story behind it. (Laugh) Most of the times we talk about it as a half-baked joke. Whenever I play against Mvp in practice, Terran seems to be amazingly strong. That's why when I get interviewed after practice, I tend to whine about balance. This doesn't happen to me when I practice against other players, but Mvp is way too difficult. Whenever I practice with him, I become motivated. When I see my teammate winning, I can't help but think that I want to play better as well. It seems to affect both of us. Like, 'Since you won the last season, I will win the next one.' We practice what we researched, and try to perfect it. Mvp is someone I try to compete for the higher place, a friendly rival in a way. If I did not have someone like Mvp, I probably wouldn't have been motivated for playing the game.
When we talk about it, your affection toward Mvp is shown as well.
Among the players, Mvp was the first one to be a friend. He is a considerate, amicable guy. When I started to talk to him, his younger years were similar to mine. He was good at taking care of his seniors, and his actions were very likeable, so we became friends very quickly. Ages aside, Mvp is someone whom I can always count on.
You must be worried about Mvp's injury.
He didn't develop the injury recently, but rather had this condition for a long time now. I still think he is at the condition to continue play the game. Even though I wish for him to get the treatment quickly and continue his professional career, there isn't ample time to get a proper treatment. If he takes a break to get the treatment, his performance will naturally go down, which in turn makes it difficult for him to come back to his top form, so it seems like he is continuing as is.
For champion NesTea, one prefix always follows. 'Oldest' champion. This shows that he's no longer in his prime. Even against a harsh rejection from his family to be a progamer in his 30's, one person never let him go. He is the LG-IM coach Dong Hoon Kang. According to NesTea, he was able to win GSL and looked away from his family's objection because of coach Kang, whom he feels deserves great gratitude. He also expressed his happiness to fulfull his filial piety to his parents as he became a fully matured gamer.
Being at the prime age of getting married, NesTea expressed his plan to wed by next year, and wishes to continue playing after the marriage.
I heard you and coach Kang are close friends. When did you first meet him?
I think it was around when I was 21-22. I met him through one of my friends and we easily became friends as we were the same age. We wanted to become progamers together. We worked under the same dream. We lived by going to the PC cafe for practice, then I had to work my normal job. Around August 2006, I joined KT gaming, and we talked a lot over Battle.net. Then when I quit my coaching job and took a break in August 2010, I started meeting old friends and saw coach Kang as well. We talked, and he asked me, 'Why don't you try playing a game again?' He told me to play for a week and quit if I didn't like the game. But then I started getting better at the game quite easily. Back then, my family was strongly against the idea, but he continued to hold onto me. He told me to not to give up til the end, which raised my confidence. After losing in GSL Open Season 1 Ro64, my family's objection became even stronger, which made me unable to focus on the game. I practiced like I have never practiced before. Coach Kang entrusted his faith to me and helped me until the end.
Your family strongly objected gaming, but why did you go on?
In truth, I had my regrets as I only played team games in KT. After experiencing GSL Open Season 1, I felt my passion coming back. I normally live by the motto of living without regrets, and I felt like my regrets would get bigger after years. So I continued the challenge.
Then you won GSL Open Season 2. Were you confident about winning?
After looking at the bracket, I thought I could win if I won against Min Chul 'MC' Jang. Back then I was ranked 1st in the ladder and I was playing the game like crazy. I wanted to do this no matter what. I thought it was okay just to win Ro32. Ro16 and 8 were ZvZ so I was confident. Ro4 was the biggest obstacle. My opponent was the current SKT head coach Yo Hwan 'BoxeR' Lim, and we traded wins and losses on ladder. Then Mvp gave me a really big help. He pointed out a likely place to plant proxy raxes and said, 'If I were BoxeR, I would play like this.' Almost everything he said came true.
When that kind of prediction comes true, what do you feel?
I feel like 'today is my lucky day'. When I find [proxy raxes] on the place I predicted, I think like, 'Woah? Really? It's really there?' and think that the luck is on my side. I sometimes smile during the game as well. When I shove my Overlord with little hope and find what I predicted, I can't help but smile.
As your predictions came true, you went to the finals and won the entire season.
Back then in GSL Open Season 2 finals, the 1st and 2nd sets were just plain impossible. I practiced against cheese rushes so many times, but I lost so easily to them. After losing the 1st set, my mentality just shut down and straight out lost the 2nd set as well. Now that I think about it, it was insane to play the game with that map pool. Of course, the concept of playing the game was completely different than it is today. I managed to drag it into the 7th set. My opponent Jung Hoon 'MarineKing' Lee, started out in the unloseable position with a cheese rush, but then my drones and lings beautifully surrounded his army. It wasn't my intention to surround it like that. At that moment, even though the game wasn't over, I realized that I had won, and was overjoyed with happiness. I did not understand when people said that you can cry out of happiness, but I cried a little right when I surrounded his army. After receiving the GG, the tears started flowing. I was extremely happy.
It has been 2 years since GSL started with Starcraft 2. Your most memorable moment must have been when you won the championship?
Yes. I was 29 when I had my first championship win. Before that I only played team games. It was no easy task to play those games, but my parents finally acknowledged me after my first championship win. Since then it became a reason for me to play games. I probably won't forget that moment until I die.
Open season's championship prize was 100 million Won (approx. $92,000 USD), unlike today. Has anything changed after your win?
My family's pressures and obejctions have completely vanished. (Laugh) After my first win, I was able to play the game with no worries. They even actively supported me afterwards. Before that they often ignored me and scolded on me about what I do with my age, which I fully understand. If my brother or my son does the same thing, I would have scolded them the same way as well. But thanks to them, I was able to bite my tongue and try harder and harder.
The household must be getting better?
A lot better actually. (Laugh) Whenever I receive my prizes, furnitures and appliances in my house were changed. I felt good every time that happened. I was glad that I was helping my mother, but I was even more glad to see my mother being content as well. When would I have a chance to do such a thing if I stayed working at an office?
After your win, a few people would come to you or be jealous of you.
It wasn't just a few. After suddenly having so much money, more people came to me to borrow money. I of course hung out with my close friends and bought them dinners and lunches, but way too many came to me after the win. Even a classmate from middle school whom I never talked to after graduation came to me for money. Good things happened to me more than bad ones, but I felt lamented for the whole affair, so I tried not to have any financial relations with others unless they are my closest friends or my mother. There's a lot of money I lent out which I never got back. I don't intend to get it back ever. I don't want to tarnish my relationships over money. I tried to donate to charitable organizations as much as I can after winning. I think of it as, 'Someday good things will happen to me' and stay positive about it.
Since you're at this age, you should try to plan marriage as well.
Right now due to matches after matches, I am not preparing any particular plan. I'm thinking next year [for marriage]. I had a long relationship with my girlfriend, and she is a great housekeeper. I already met her parents and grandmother. I sometimes think about establishing a family and having a stable life.
Then are you thinking of continuing your career after marriage?
I think marriage is irrelevant. Even now my girlfriend is supporting me a lot. When I started playing StarCraft 2, she gave me strength. If I think I can still continue, and if I'm not at rock bottom with my passion still strong, I can still play.
Even though you receive salary, you are at the situation where you are dependent on prize money. Have you ever thought about having a secure job?
I never thought about it too much. I still hold a big desire for gaming. I want to focus on this only. I will probably think about it after some time.
Let's talk about LG-IM now. LG-IM has produced 3 GSL champions. But there are still many teammates who hasn't gotten into Code S. As the elder brother in the team, what do you think of them?
I feel very perplexed. In practice, they play extremely well. Horror, True, and YoDa are all great players. For Protoss, players like YongHwa and First are good enough to placed well in foreign tournaments. So I feel even more troubled whenever I see my younger players failing to advance through the qualifier. Not only are they young, but they must feel frustrated since their results and earnings aren't enough too. I wish for them to change their mentality. They seem to be lacking sense of immediate crisis.
In your personal opinion, who is the most anticipated player on your team?
That should be YongHwa. He was always a good player, but his weakness seems to be televised matches. I think his results will get better once he overcomes this weakness. YongHwa seems to be favoring playing defensively too much. If he mixes in some agression, results should surely follow. I expect great things from him.
You are now facing Code A qualifier. How are you feeling?
Looks like the focus has turned back to me.
No it's just your imagination. Do you think you can advance through the qualifier?
I have to. Once I grind through the basics, I should be doing fine in the qualifier. I believe I can climb up there again.
How many times do you think you can win another championship in your career?
I already won in Korea, so I wish to win at an overseas tournament. I have gotten 2nd and 3rd place before, but never won. If I can be a bit more greedy, I want to win OSL and GSL one more time as well. This would be my long term goal until the end of my gaming career.
I will personally cheer for you. Our interview is finally over. I always wanted to ask these questions after watching a certain show, so I want you to answer them without thinking.
Oh it's finally over? Hurry up, I'm feeling tired.
Alright. To NesTea, Mvp is?
A bitter man. He is like poison in his play against me.
To NesTea, coach Kang and LG-IM are?
My second family. A warm family that will yield relentless support and cheer for me.
To NesTea, Starcraft 2 is?
Stress? It's really hard during practice.
To NesTea, winning is?
Like honey? Like a delicious tasting honey.
Thanks for doing such a long interview. Any last words to your supportive fans cheering you on?
Thanks to you and thanks guys for reading this entire interview. (Laugh) Recently my performance hasn't been too good. As my results wind down, I understand that some fans will leave me and others will cheer for me louder. There are still fans out there cheering for me, so I will do my best and try my heart out to achieve your expectations. Please continue cheering for me. I will answer you with good play.
Translated by Jin-Hong Cho from ESFI World