Great moments in sport are often elevated to iconic status simply through their commentary. Think Martin Tyler and Andy Gray’s ‘lovely cushioned header…’ for Steven Gerrard’s Champions League knockout round clinching volley or Peter Drury’s ‘Agüerrrooo! Staggering!’ for Sergio Agüero’s last-minute title-winning goal in football. Basketball has a few as well, such as with ‘LeBron James with no regard for human life!’ after James slinks his way to a massive dunk, or when Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning shot is preceded by the prophetic ‘is this the dagger?’. MMA, American football, even table tennis — the list is long and will continue to grow.
But this isn’t just limited to real sports. Despite its comparatively young age, the world of esports has also produced some famous commentary lines as well. Though we may not understand the language, we certainly feel how big the moment is when the Korean commentators scream ‘PENTAKILL!’ at the top of their lungs during League of Legends competitions. Like their sports counterparts, they make these flashes of brilliance feel even more immense.
These commentators, dubbed shoutcasters, undoubtedly play a big role in the appeal of esports. And within Singapore’s burgeoning esports scene, several local players exist within that field. Eugene Eu is one of them, and is a seasoned hand (or voice rather) in the business. He recently met with us to talk about being a local shoutcaster, and it was clear in our chats that he has had many years in the game.
Also known by the pseudonym ABSTRACT (which stems from his love of abstract art as a designer) and recognised for his signature phrase ‘Alllllright!’ (a homage to his idol Breakycpk), Eugene has shoutcasted for big competitions like the Free Fire World Series and MPL Singapore’s first season, among others. Recently he has also been crowned Caster of the Season by MPL Singapore.
“Right, to be very honest when it was announced, I just woke up!” Eugene sheepishly says when asked about the circumstances behind it— his mentee was the first to break the news to him. It’s his first significant recognition since working as a shoutcaster, but he remains modest even with his appreciation of receiving it.
“I guess having this Best Caster Award does give me a sense of accomplishment; like I’m finally noticed. But it’s not exactly something that I need to tell myself that – look I’ve reached there. Because as long as I’m satisfied with myself, (it’s) good enough.”
And reaching there has been quite the journey in itself. Starting out early between the age of 16 and 17, he was sucked into the world of esports after joining a Heroes of Newerth event as a player. Despite being wiped out in the first round, Eugene shared that the entire atmosphere enthralled him to the point that he was eager to be part of that world, hence pursuing shoutcasting.
Admittedly though, the road was initially stop-start according to Eugene. Having put in the work for a year or two, he was handed ‘small little contracts’ by Garena to do events and was able to garner more jobs from there. However, the involvement of polytechnic and national service meant that he had to take a hiatus from shoutcasting for some time. Now that those obligations have been completed, it has allowed him to return to shoutcasting on a full-time basis.
As a shoutcaster, Eugene fancies himself as a jack of all trades — he has shoutcasted on games like Overwatch, DOTA, Brawl Stars, and even Overcooked; a rather unusual game to commentate on.
“It was more like an impromptu thing where they told me to come in and then try to cast Brawl Stars,” Eugene explained. “They told me like, ‘Well, look, we only have Brawl Stars for like one hour’, and I’m just like, ‘I travel all the way here to cast for one hour and I go home meh? No lah, y’all got something else or not so that I can clock in more time?’ Then they said, ‘Overcooked ah’. Ok lor, do it lor!”
However, on chatting with Eugene, it is clear that he has an affinity towards doing shoutcasting for MOBAs and shooters. There is a feeling of excitement as he talks about the two genres, and his familiarity with them helps with the job. “That’s why I do MOBA, I do FPS; because they are all transferable to other places like Free Fire, PUBG…battle royales; (all) back and forth.”
For Eugene, preparation for a shoutcasting session starts roughly a week before the event begins — usually involving watching many videos and researching on Liquidpedia to understand how the team or specific players play. “It’s really just about power rankings. The power rankings help you understand which team is better than which team, and even if they have never exactly fought with each other before, you can kind of imagine how it’s gonna be like,” says Eugene.
Of course, this helps with predicting who is going to win a competition, and there’s nothing like making a correct prediction. As Eugene puts it, “even if you make the wrong call, it’s okay, people forget, but if you make the right call, everyone remembers.”
Our discussion quickly turned to the process of shoutcasting, and when it comes to doing the shoutcasting itself, there are two defined roles — the Hype Caster and the Colour Caster.
As the name suggests, the Hype Caster is all about bringing excitement to the audience, and that means setting the pace and tone while narrating the story in a fight between two teams. On the other hand, the Colour Caster can be thought of as the analyst. Their job is to analyse and explain why something has happened, further giving their opinions, suggestions and predictions; it’s all about providing the audience that cognitive gratification from learning information.
Eugene, ever the flexible one, does both roles as a shoutcaster, but that depends on the game. For the game Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB), he assumes the role of a Hype Caster. “As a Hype Caster myself, I would only need to understand what’s going on. I would only need to be comfortable, know that this is a thing, but I don’t necessarily need to know the in-depth idea as to why they are doing that because that would be my partner’s job as a Colour Caster/Analyst, for him to break down and tell the viewers more.” he divulges.
A game like Free Fire has him acting as the Colour Caster instead. Eugene states, “I needed to know the ins and outs (for Free Fire). I needed to have a very basic understanding of how the game flows, and then an advanced understanding of how the game is worked out between teams; think about things logically. Because to be honest, in order for you to say something right about a specific team or a specific game, there just needs to be proper logic that works between the two.“
In essence, shoutcasting is very much a partnership between the two shoutcasters. He admits that despite his flexibility, he is better at being the Hype Caster. Thus, he often looks to his regular partner for MLBB, Justin (also known as 0Eris0), to provide the in-depth analysis for games they are casting while he brings the main play-by-play.
“We will understand each other’s chemistry, and we will just talk to one another before a show starts and see what kind of speech patterns that he has, what kind of speech pattern that I have, so that we’ll be able to move along with the flow better,” says Eugene on his partnership with Justin.
As a Colour Caster in Free Fire, he works with another caster named Tom Pickering. Tom gets more hyped during games while Eugene has more information on hand than him, so the roles obviously picked themselves.
Shoutcasting itself is long, gruelling work — the average length is at least 4 hours, and the longest session that Eugene has personally been on was 16 hours on a set with a rotation of casters. Certain games are also more energy draining. The volatile nature of MLBB, for example, means that shoutcasters have to constantly keep their minds alert along with keeping their commentaries running. A period with no fights can change quickly to an action-packed one.
Ironically, it isn’t the length of a session that tires Eugene but rather the number of breaks. “If within eight hours, you give me three games, spanned out between break after break — yeah, you will kill me there. Like, that is the main killer, too many breaks. Not the fact that you cast too much,” he elaborated. The only real downside to doing it too long, he says, is that his throat will get adversely affected, so he has to be mindful of choosing when to be loud or to conserve his voice.
He cites one of his early shoutcasting experiences, a North American cast of a Heroes of Newerth event, as a harrowing one for him back then since it took place around 3 to 4am in the morning. Now those times don’t fuss him, given how frequently he has done them since.
At competitions, shoutcasters usually have their own area to conduct their commentary. Setups vary, but it is common to see some form of green screen and gaming chair be in among them. Even though the voice and commentary are the main sells, shoutcasters also need to look presentable since they are to be broadcast to a large audience.
It’s something that Eugene credits his girlfriend for helping with. Now he is able to do his own makeup and groom himself for the camera; he even has no problem shaving his eyebrows! And he’s brought that aspect over to his personal life as well, arriving at our offices in an unconventional but aesthetically pleasing purple shirt paired with grey pants and a blue blazer.
Unfortunately, the effects of COVID have put a spanner in the works for the entire esports landscape. Where previously shoutcasters could go to the event with a set prepared for them, they now have to do the job from home. Eugene himself was fortunate enough to have had a proper setup of a green screen, camera, lights and microphone to enable him to stream, but mentions that a mentee wasn’t so lucky (he does eventually get one from one of the organisers, though).
“It can be good when it comes to staying at home and casting; it can be bad as well. Good, meaning that you don’t have to spend on transportation; that’s the most important thing. You can wake up super late, and then just wake up, style your hair. You’re good to go. And the bad thing is connectivity wise, right? Connectivity-wise, when it comes to the internet connection and when it comes to caster chemistry — something is lacking there because you can’t relate to your partner side to side, you can’t have a proper conversation.” Eugene explains.
“You can only hear each other through a 0.5 seconds delay, which can be a deal-breaker at times. Reactions, genuine reactions are often missed out and off-timed because of those very sad latency checks.”
However, all of these issues pale in comparison to not being able to network in person, he says. Esports competitions bring a wide range of people with different professions and roles into a single space, making for an excellent opportunity to bump shoulders and get to know each other. Having it all online of course, means that that isn’t able to happen.
“I would imagine if I get to do like a super big event, like for example the Free Fire World Series, if I have to do it online, I think that that would be a rather sad thing. Because I can’t get to know the other people within the production team or whoever’s involved with it; no connection,” says Eugene.
Thankfully, with restrictions easing up, Eugene has finally been able to attend events in person recently. Upcoming events in his schedule are the E-Delta League and Global Esports Games 2021, the latter of which is being held in Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa.
In addition to working as a shoutcaster, Eugene also acts as a mentor to budding shoutcasters (whom he affectionately calls minions). He previously was a mentee when he joined Sin Esports and has graduated to teaching others the ways around shoutcasting — though it wasn’t his goal to do so initially.
“Technically, it only happened because I was hosting for the SCAPE commentary and events mentorship…Sin Esports came to me and (were) like, ‘Hey, so the winners will have a contract with Sin Esports, so I would want you to be their mentor,’. Then I’m just like, okay!” he explains. The idea was that he was just helping Sin Esports with the new contracted talents; teaching them how to cast and giving them advanced tips along the way.
“Then shortly after (taking on the role), I realised that I get a little bit more absorbed because ever since from the start, like when was a child, I want to be a teacher, but I’m too stupid to be a teacher. So one way or another, I managed to make it there as a teacher right now, right? I’m teaching people how to shoutcast!” jokes Eugene. Now, through the SCAPE ELEVATE program, he scouts anyone who has the passion for shoutcasting to join him.
One important thing that he looks out for in a talent is how they sound. While some people may tune in to hear information from the commentary, it serves to be white noise to others, hence the need for a shoutcaster’s voice to not distract the audience.
Accent plays a part in that respect. Though I personally have enormous affection for Singaporean cadence and the Singlish vernacular, that wouldn’t be able to fly during shoutcasting. But the bigger obstacle is actually trying to hide it — do so poorly, and complaints ensue, labelling a shoutcaster as fake. Eugene himself has been criticised many times for trying to mask his accent, though it has died down in the last four years.
A tip he gives to mentees is to try to use American-accented English as a way to obscure the Singaporean cadence. “American English is also technically lazy because we don’t say the T’s, right? We just say the D’s, and it still sounds good. So, at least for Singlish and American English, it can merge, and it could work well together,” he explains.
Overall, the mentorship has proven to be pretty successful. A few successful exports that were under his wing include talents like Jayz (Chris Yeo), Ghobbles (Ray Teo), and ScrubbyCheeks (Mae Chong). They have gone on to shoutcast for competitions like ROG Masters, Campus Legends and MPL Singapore.
He leaves a final piece of advice for those wanting to get into shoutcasting — just reach out to anyone in the scene!
“Just find anyone from Instagram or Facebook. Ask us for help, and very likely, we will help. And if there’s anyone that’s promising, if anyone that is not tied to an organisation, I would probably bring them under my organisation, so that they get a fast road forward with connections. Because once you just join the esports scene, you don’t know who to look for mah when it comes to jobs, so I’m the one that will give them the jobs.”
Right now, Eugene’s stock is as high as it has ever been — winning an award, commentating on some of Singapore’s biggest esports competitions, and overseeing a fruitful mentorship program. He tells us that his next goal is to cover more international tournaments, mentioning that going to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show for his job has been a great accomplishment for him both professionally and personally as a self-confessed Otaku.
But most of all, he just wants to live a good life, with him continuing to shoutcast for as long as possible.
“So that’s my goal. It will be a goal that I will never reach because the whole point is covering that amount. Instead of having 100 events, just keep on adding over and over again because I don’t want to be the kind of person that hits a goal and then lose passion. I want to be the kind of person that just follows the goal over and over again.”
Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC Team. Additional visuals courtesy of Eugene Eu.