I wanted to introduce the esport I will be covering for the next little bit during its World Championship, Smite. Smite is a 3rd-person massive online battle arena (or MOBA, for short). As of October 2016, Smite had an average of 10296 players online at a given time. The characters are gods, goddesses, demons, demigods, and heroes from various pantheons: Greek, Roman, Mayan, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, Norse, Egyptian and coming soon – Celtic. Playable characters include Zeus, Hercules, Xbalanque, Amaterasu, Sun Wukong, Kali, Thor, and Anubis.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Luminosity Gaming’s hunter and captain, John “BaRRaCCuDDa” Salter. As anyone who has ever watched his stream knows, “Barra” is a pretty cool, down-to-earth dude. The fact that he would take time out of his busy schedule of preparing for Smite’s World Championship, streaming, and being a new home owner to talk to me about Smite is pretty rad to say the least.
I wanted to get to know a little bit about what “Barra” is like in real life or “IRL” for all of my fluent gamerspeak-homies. On his smite-wiki page there’s a fun-fact down at the bottom of his biography saying that his favorite food is jelly beans. So naturally, being the food-lover I am, needed to know what his favorite flavors were, and much to my satisfaction/disappointment, his answer was “I don’t even like jelly beans! How did that even become a meme?! I haven’t had a jelly bean in like 7 years!” I also had one more food question to ask because I was actually pretty hungry when I did the interview and full disclosure: This question may spark controversy, so be wary – I asked what he liked more Popeye’s or Bojanlges. His answer was depends on his mood, but
Bojangles for breakfast and Popeye’s for chicken.
Focusing more on sports, I asked if he played any competitive sports growing up and after a chuckle he said he played baseball in the 2nd grade at 3rd base, but his team lost every game that season and killed his drive to play baseball, even though he only struck out once the entire year. Proving once again that even when Barra is the best player on the map, he can’t strap everyone on his back and carry them to victory, despite JeffHindla’s efforts to make sure he has to. (Just kidding guys, please still let me chill in your twitch-chat!)
My favorite question I asked Barra was about advice he would give to someone who wants to get into professional gaming and get really good at their game of choice and he said to watch a lot of streams of pros, and to play to get better and not play to win. “If people try to win every game, they’re going to be focused on that, and not getting better.” That’s good life advice too friends, it’s not all about winning. Improvement is important too.
Moving on to the Smite stuff! It’s always interesting to know the beginnings of a professional’s career, whether it’s Willie Mays playing stickball or Barra downloading a game because his best friend told him about it, while the graphics for Smite were not as good as they are today, the power of friendship-persuasion would be enough.
One of Barra’s earliest memories was spam-playing Sun Wukong (who would eventually be re-worked into the Hun Batz of today) and playing magical Guan Yu and building Warlock’s Sash (an item that gives a lot of health) 2nd every game for a year.
After reminiscing about face-smash Ymir, super-heal Guan Yu, and the days of Beta Smite for a while, I asked him about one of Smite’s most coveted accolades. The Pentakill. Killing all 5 members of the opposite team in a short period of time. Everyone remembers their first (mine was with He Bo in Arena mode because I’m a scrub.) For Barra it was on Hun Batz (or early Sun Wukong, timing gets hazy for us all), he remembers finishing off the Pentakill with an Overhand Smash move and thinking “Oh man I’m gonna get this! Oh man! I got it!”
One of the things I personally have noticed in the MOBA community (especially between Smite and the RIOT’s MOBA, League of Legends) is that there is a lot of animosity from the other game, so it surprised me when I asked Barra about other MOBA’s and if he has played or watched them at all and if it had helped him as a professional. He said that watching League of Legends has helped him because there’s always something more to learn about pressuring and warding (an item that grants vision of the other team in a defined radius) and how the teams play together. It’s hard for other things to translate from League to Smite, but there are still some things you can learn and apply to Smite.
World Championship Prep
Superstitions among athletes fascinates me. Whenever I interview an athlete I love hearing the answers to what superstitions amd rituals they have. Barra had a few that I have found to be similar across any professional competition, particularly on multi-day events. If he performs well on the first day, he will try to do everything the same the next day, and vice versa. If he doesn’t play well one day, he will make sure that he does something different, like eat at a different restaurant, or do something noteworthy that’s different. He also doesn’t wear shoes on stage while he’s playing. He says it’s more of a comfort issue than superstition, and I think a lot of gamers feel very similarly. He also doesn’t eat anything heavy on gameday and that’s actually sound advice for players of all sports. Don’t overload yourself before a game, especially with 13 tacos. Trust me. Words of wisdom from isportsmike, free of charge, kids.
Preparation for the upcoming World Championship (Worlds) for Barra is the same as his preparation for regular season play, just twice as much. It makes sense that way, if you’re in the playoffs you’re going to prep twice as hard as you normally would (without wearing yourself down, of course).
The Smite World Championships are on Jan. 5th-9th. The first opponent that Luminosity Gaming will face will be the champion of the Chinese league, Harbin Brewery. Barra’s confidence heading into Worlds is super high despite almost not qualifying for them after a devastating loss to SoaR Gaming. I asked Barra if he changed his mindset after being beaten by SoaR and going to the elimination bracket, he said that his mindset didn’t change, that he was still playing Smite and he still needed to win. Personally his game-plan didn’t change a whole lot, but Luminosity as a team watched a lot of video, and strategically just played their game.
He has a lot of confidence in his teammates as well. It’s a very different feel this time for Barra because 3 of the members of Luminosity’s team are rookies. Luminosity’s team has a very high skill-cap, being one of the best teams in the online portion of the regular season, and it’s only a matter of transitioning to LAN and being comfortable with the differences between the two.
The biggest worry for Barra in this first round against Harbin Brewery is not completely being prepared for all of the outcomes of picks and bans from Harbin and knowing they still might have some pocket/niche picks that are slightly on the cheesy side of things.’
The most important thing that Barra said about being a team is chemistry, take chemistry over talent any day of the week, and that’s a perfect Barra line to end this on.