ppd on his adjustments ahead of the Shanghai Major and building his brand

by Dennis Gonzales Feb 24 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / ESL One

Peter "ppd" Dager is a support player and captain of Evil Geniuses, who are the current holders of the Aegis of Immortality after winning The International 5.

ppd started a YouTube channel a year ago and began uploading vlogs and videos of himself playing video games on a consistent basis. But more recently he's been uploading vlogs on a daily basis, some of which show a side of himself and EG that fans haven't seen before.

He took the time to speak in-depth about the motivations behind his vlog, building his brand and video editing as a creative outlet. On the Dota 2 side of things, we also talked about EG's winter season, the ridiculousness of 6.86 and the adjustments the team will make going into the Shanghai Major.

What was the motivation behind starting your YouTube and vlogs?

I look at the Call of Duty games and all the professionals in Call of Duty, they have these enormous YouTube followings and a lot of these players have even stopped playing and have just become full-time YouTubers at this point. I feel like I’m in a very opportune position to be doing something like that and it would be a shame for me to waste that. Other people would be very grateful for an opportunity like the one that I have.

So it's a bit more of a practical reason for starting the YouTube channel?

It's also a way for me to express myself creatively, which is often hard to do, especially for me, because I don’t like playing instruments or anything like that. I suck at art. Video editing is kind of a cool thing, because it’s a way to express yourself creatively but also it kinda fits in the space that I am in.

Do you get an emotional response when you’re doing the vlogs?

Yeah, it's really nice to be able to put work into something and post it, especially reading people’s feedback and especially when they say nice things. That’s really cool for me. But I do it mostly for… I don’t know, I'm not sure if I do it for other people or for myself. It's mostly branding, I'm trying to build a brand for myself and have something to continue to develop my brand as a personality in this internet gaming world.

You talk about your brand, I notice you've done quite a bit of casting, you were actually on the casting lineup for DreamLeague. Could you talk about that?

Casting isn't my favorite thing in the world, it's not something I really enjoy doing too much, just cause I think as times it can be very tedious and very boring, for at least me. But I do think it is an awesome opportunity for players to get involved especially at a professional level where they can get paid to go to tournaments.

Peter "ppd" Dager on the casting desk with David "Luminous" Zhang at the ASUS ROG DreamLeague Season 4 LAN Finals at DreamHack Winter 2015

I used it as an excuse to go to Sweden and visit some friends, but I also used it to show other professional players that that opportunity is out there for them, especially the ones that aren’t on these top teams and aren’t winning tournaments when money is tight.

You still have to pay rent, you still have to pay bills. You can go to these tournaments and you can offer some top level analysis, which a lot of these tournaments are lacking and it’s a good opportunity for players to earn a little extra money. I would like to see more people doing it, especially if you don’t qualify for a tournament, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate.

Yeah, there's always a positive response whenever a player does casting, like at The Summit.

People love it. A lot of these professional players have awesome personalities which are just hidden behind their in-game names and their plays on Dota 2. Believe it or not people like them, they just need to put themselves out there.

That seems to be a going theme for yourself, with your vlogs and your casting. What do your teammates say about that? I ask because Arteezy himself kinda said that a lot of the people that play Dota 2, if not all of them are introverts. Is putting yourself out there important to you?

I’ve never been too shy, in terms of being introverted. I've always been a pretty good public speaker and not afraid to speak up and that goes hand-in-hand with my role a leader. I’m very good at facilitating my ideas and putting them out to everyone else.

But in terms of recording videos and being around my teammates, it is tough. I think that we as a team are becoming more and more comfortable as a group of guys with a camera being around us. When we're at events and we're at tournaments, we're used to having cameras around us and in our face. We're used to that, but now that I've brought a camera behind the scenes, especially with me as an equal players, it can be a little weird at times.

But recently we've all become more aware of our brand and how well these kinds of videos and content is received from the public. And we know that by doing this we are capitalizing on our position in the space and we're not letting it go to waste.

I think that in recent months or in the next couple months, especially at this Major, we'll probably be doing some more content as a team, in terms of videos. And those will probably be posted to EG's YouTube, not mine, but I think we'll, as a team, make a more focused effort on providing video content for our audience.

Would you prefer it if it was more grass roots where it's you or Phil having the camera, rather than a crew following you guys around then?

I don’t know, I think that we’d like to keep it as simple as possible. You can edit it around and make it interesting, but the more personal it is the better.

For example at TI5 we had ESPN following us around and doing their E:60 documentary and it was OK, but there were definitely times where it was like, 'get these cameras away from me.' Because the thing is, they'll record everything, especially the shitty moments. They want those, they want the teams fighting with each other, they want one player getting really upset and storming out of the room. That's the kind of stuff that makes good television and good videos.

The way that I've been doing it, the way that I would like our team to continue doing it is just to have a very personal touch to it and kind of give people that behind the scenes look that isn’t super filtered but mostly positive. I think having positivity is very important for the kind of direction I want this to go.

You also had, or still have, a reputation as being salty. You kind of represented that NA spirit. With the way you've been doing your vlogs and your more personal videos, do you think you've changed the way people have perceived you?

I wouldn't say it changed, but I think that a lot of people now can see the other side of me and my teammates, which isn't really as vile and bad mannered as they may or may not want to believe it is. For me personally, the salt thing doesn’t really bother me, I’m very very used to it now, I kind of embrace it sometimes.

Yeah, I remember the salt portrait, that was awesome.

Yeah, it's actually hanging up in my room, right next to me.

Peter "ppd" Dager posing next to his salt portrait, presented by Dakota "KotLGuy" Cox on the stage of ESL One New York 2015

That’s awesome. Do you think that's something that certain teams or certain players would benefit from doing this sort of thing?

Absolutely, that's the thing, I don’t even think my personality is very good, in terms of marketability. I just couldn’t even imagine the kind of clicks that someone like, Artour did something like this, or Dendi, or Puppey or someone that's really well received or really popular in the public eye.

I imagine the amount of views and the response they would get for these kind of videos would be enormous, it's just I'm one of the few that's putting in the effort to actually make this happen, at the moment. But other people will probably start doing it as well, it's just a matter of time.

How do you think your team performed in the winter season?

The winter season was, for all intents and purposes, after the Major right? So after Frankfurt, we went to The Summit, we got first, we went to Star Ladder, we got second, and we went to MDL and we got second.

I think that our team performed very well, it's tough to say that your team didn't perform well with a first, second and second. That being said, I don’t think our team was operating as we wanted it to at a lot of these tournaments, especially MDL and The Summit.

I think that, even though we won The Summit and got second at MDL, I think that we just weren’t a well oiled machine. There was lots of tension in terms of what we need to be doing. We're trying to figure ourselves out, we're trying to figure out how it's best for us to play Dota 2, especially with having Artour and Sumail. Those are kind of two very polarizing players and it is tough to make both of those players work in the meta, especially this meta.

What's your opinion of 6.86 so far?

I want to say it's pretty good, there's just a couple things that are ridiculous. I think that Earth Spirit is incredibly broken, the whole idea that you can pull your teammates with Aghanim’s Scepter is absurd.

I like that they did a recent nerf to him where it’s really short range; being able to pull allies through stuns and disables is just a totally broken idea.

So do you agree that patch 6.86e was the right move, in the context of the patch being so close to the Major? How it worked before, at least with The International and the previous Major, there was at least one other non-Valve premier tournament before the actual Valve event, but there's no testing ground for 6.86e. But, that's fine?

I mean yeah, it's fine. That's the cool thing about Dota, there's tons of patches, so it's always changing, that's what makes it different than CS:GO, for example. CS:GO has some patches but nothing too much changes, it's been the same game for a long time. Dota is always changing, which keeps people interested.

I’m OK with it, I just think that, like I said, there's just some things in this patch that I just think are too ridiculous. Earth Spirit, Invoker is crazy strong, Death Prophet’s Soul Siphon goes through BKB, which is just crazy to me that that is actually a thing. Also Lifestealer being inside of Ancient Creeps with a Radiance, even if it's not even that good, it's just, why is it in the game?

There are just some ridiculous ideas that are present at the moment that are just disappointing to see, that haven't been changed. I also just really just hate the new hard camp on the offlane, I think that it just promotes an awful kind of gameplay style.

More passive farming?

Not necessarily. People used to trilane safelane to shut down the offlane, and to secure farm for their carry, but now if you trilane safelane you just lose the game. That offlaner is just going to go to the jungle with an Iron Talon and he’s going to be just fine, while the other two lanes free farm. So it's just a different game, and maybe it's in a good direction I've yet to explore entirely but we'll see what will happen at the Major, it should be fun.

I want to talk about MDL, primarily the grand finals. Just as a reminder: In the group stage you guys were tied with Newbee, you won the tie-breaker, you were sent to the lower bracket by EHOME losing 2-1 and then you made your lower bracket run to the grand finals against EHOME.

After playing against EHOME earlier in the playoffs, what was your game plan going into the grand finals?

At the point that we lost to EHOME our team was significantly in a different place than it was when we went into the Grand Finals. I think going into the finals we were all very confident that our loss to them earlier 2-1 was more of a fluke, rather than them being the better team. That being said, in the finals, I think we learned that at that moment they were definitely the better team.

The finals we lost 3-0 but I think the games were relatively close. Beating OG in the series before 2-0 very decisively was nice confidence booster for us, that basically meant that we were the best western team. Losing to China is not something I do very often, but EHOME played incredibly well and definitely deserved the victory.

I kinda want to talk about the last game, the draft. The series went longer and longer as the series went on, it looked like you guys were playing better and better, but in the third game, Earth Spirit was let through in the draft. Did you have a plan in mind with that?

We were confident playing against Lone Druid going into the series but after Games 1 and 2, after just having to deal with this offlane bear, Iron Talon jungling, etc. We just lost to it twice so we decided it just had to go.

We had to make a decision whether we wanted to play against Earth Spirit, Lone Druid, Void or Death Prophet and we decided that Earth Spirit, as we were Radiant, was a lot harder for Earth Spirits to camp mid as Dire. That being said, this game was more or less lost from Artour and I’s laning in the bottom lane. We just got totally caught off guard that Earth Spirit was down there and they just ran us over.

It was also a last pick Enchantress, was that a surprise?

It was a bit of a surprise, but EHOME is one of the few Chinese teams that isn't afraid to pick anything. LaNm is an incredibly creative drafter, which I think is a reason why that team is so strong right now. He takes that last pick and just picks any hero that he thinks is necessary to win the game.

There's a thread on Reddit, that had translations from the Chinese community and one of the comments was the reason why EHOME won was because their heavy emphasis on the success of the offlane. Is that something that you agree with?

Yeah, I absolutely agree, whenever Universe is off to a good start our games are super easy. And I kinda think that goes the same for them with old eleven.

With the event all said and done, now that hindsight is 20/20, is there anything that you learned from the event?

I think that I learned that we definitely have some gaps in our hero pool. I think that, starting in this break, in between the Major and MDL, I think we're all going to be practicing some new heroes and just making sure that we are ready to play anything and everything come the Major.

That answers part of my next question, will you be making any other changes?

No role adjustments. I think that Captain’s Draft game we played, we had Sumail playing support and Fear playing Arc Warden as a carry, but that was more just an Arc Warden thing, Fear loves playing it.

That was kind of disgusting.

Yeah, it was pretty crazy. But I think that having Sumail in the mid lane, Artour in the safe lane, Universe in the offlane, Fear playing some greedy 4-position support and I think I’ll be playing some more offensive supports. I think that’s kinda where we’re headed, but we’ll see; less defensive supports most likely.

Why are you guys competing in Captain’s Draft? I mean, you guys have competed in it before but...

Yeah, we competed in Captain’s Draft in the first season, I think this is season 3? We didn’t play in season 2 but in season 1 we played with the old iteration of EG with Arteezy and Zai.

The S A D B O Y S.

Yeah, the S A D B O Y S. So, the reason why we’re playing this go around is, we just wanted to get into matches, instead of just playing pubs all the time. We don’t really scrim too much, just because there aren’t too many teams for us to scrim.

Just getting some actual competitive games from some competitive opponents as a team is really important, even if it is in the more clowny Captain’s Draft mode. Also, this is the longest break we've had between tournaments since we became a team. I think it was like three weeks long with no tournaments and no LANs, so filling the space, getting matches in. Also, it's just fun to play.

Have you learned anything from playing Captain’s Draft? Other than just Arc Warden being broken as hell?

Yeah, Arc Warden, definitely broken, we played Wisp the other day, so maybe we can start playing a little more Wisp as we kinda left that out [of our hero pool].

Just to go back a little bit, you kinda talked about having a lack of scrim partners, is that a commentary on the North American region?

Yeah, that’s mostly a North American thing, there's a couple teams that we can scrim, but a lot of them are busy. DC and compLexity are the two team that I think about the most and those guys are playing in your Canada Cups and qualifiers for whichever leagues, so they’re generally pretty busy, so it’s tough for us to get some matches against them.

That’s actually something I kinda wanted to talk about a little, what is your opinion on Resolut1on moving to DC?

Resolut1on is an awesome player and an awesome person in my opinion. I never teamed with him, but he’s always expressed interest in playing with me.

Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok at the ASUS ROG DreamLeague Season 4 Finals at DreamHack Winter 2015.

Every time we have a little shuffle, he’s always one of the first to message me, 'Hey, if there’s a spot for me, keep me in mind,' which is a totally awesome, smart thing to do. If you’re a player out there and you're trying to join a new team and you see some roster shuffles going on, put your name in the hat and see what happens.

One of his big concerns was the English language boundaries, if you've ever talked to him before he speaks pretty good English, so I told him that if he wasn’t happy in his current scenario he should just switch it up. So I’m really excited to see him making some moves.

Whether or not it’ll be good for him, we’ll have to wait and see, but he obviously wasn’t winning The International with his current setup, so mixing it up, if that’s his goal, is good for him.

Do you think more players will make a similar move?

Empire was a pretty good team before and I think the previous version of Empire might be better than the current version of Digital Chaos, which is kind of a surprising move. But then there’s that whole idea of going to NA and being able to qualify for Majors and being able to qualify for TI, which gives you more opportunities to actually do things, to have a chance at these big tournaments.

We’ve already seen it with compLexity, they have three Europeans and now we have Resolut1on joining DC, so I think we are going to see more and more of that. I don’t think anyone’s going to make the jump to Southeast Asia yet, but maybe some day.

You've had European players on your team before, with Zai, but if there was a European player currently that you'd want to snipe, who would it be?

I think that I've always had a lot of respect for s4, I think Chessie from compLexity is a super awesome player and an even better person; awesome teammate to have. Cr1t too, I think. I haven’t teamed with him before but I played a bit with him. I think he’s a really talented player, really good 4-position player.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore eSports who enjoys whiskey, Dungeon & Dragons and first-picking Timbersaw Windranger Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90. You can follow him on Twitter.