Behind the scenes: Ugrilainen – The Warcraft Globetrotter
This interview is a special one, because the tide has turned. The interviewer becomes interviewee. Today's interviewer is nobody else than me myself - ena1337. I am an occasional WarCraft 3 fun streamer playing Orc competitively in 1on1, 2on2 and FFA and support/organize leagues and cups. I am asking Ugrilainen 14 questions about himself, his connection to WC3 and his opinions about the current state and future developments. Everyone who is involved in the scene should know Ugrilainen. He is well-known for supporting and organizing Warcraft 3 events, tournaments, showmatches and leagues for many years.
1. Hey Ugri, can you tell something about yourself? We know that you are from France but your family lives in China. How comes?
Hey, my name is Julien and I work for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I’ve been appointed to Wuhan/China in 2014 in a role of consular chief officer - also in charge of promoting France as a destination for Chinese tourists. I was working in Florida before and in the Republic of Moldova before that. I am in my 11th year abroad, working for my country.
Of course, I have a deep passion for Warcraft and I have been involved in many projects for more than a decade.
I am married and have two daughters - 5 years old twins. They go to a Chinese school since we arrived, so sometimes they act as my little translators!
2. Ugri .... lainen ... that must be something Finnish, right? What does it mean?
It means "Ugric" which is part of the classification name of the Finnish language. I was learning Finnish in my early twenties.
My first LAN was in 1999. We did not have fast Internet to play online games then! I chose the name "Ougrien", French for Ugric. I went to Finland on vacations the following summer and told Finnish friends about this anecdote. They started to call me Ugrilainen all summer. I kept it since then as it was a very good memory.
3. You are a French guy living in China who loves Finland? What? :D
Yes, I suppose that I have a … quite complicated life, and my daughters were born in the USA, too! When I explain what I do for Warcraft at work, they have a confused look at first, same look players can get when they ask me what I do for a living. This makes life more interesting, not only being “one thing”.
I joined the Foreign Affairs primarily to try to work in Finland at some point but it ended up not being interesting financially or professionally. Those travels got me to get close to all Warcraft Communities (Eastern Europe, America and Asia). The scene I know the least is probably the Western European one, quite ironically.
4. Can you elaborate on your history in the Warcraft 3 scene? When did you start, what roles (player/admin/manager/reporter) did you fulfil at which time?
The role of a player, I did not really have it. I was pretty bad and still am. Before 2005, I was a CW organizer for my clans.
Then I switched to FFA which is such an epic game mode that I loved it. FFA is the “Game of Thrones” of Warcraft with big armies, power struggles, betrayals... and ultimates in every game!
In 2006, I joined Worpex who had created the FFA Masters League and I was an admin there for several years with some gaps.
In 2012, seeing Battle.net collapsing and FFA games being impossible to be found, I took it upon myself to find a way to "save" the game and created "playFFA", a crossrealm FFA ladder. There I was a community manager, webmaster, administrator...
I also streamed on Twitch which was actually my favorite activity. I had to stop once in China due to connectivity issues.
In 2015, I gave playFFA to W3arena and stopped all Warcraft activities, just to come back a year later to fix the system. That's when I suggested to Neo that I could go to GCS Spring to cover Foggy coming to China for the first time. We did not know each other before that since at this point, I never followed or watched any solo competition. I barely knew Grubby and Moon by name - that was about it. I am ashamed to say!
Ugri and the crazy boys at WCA
Nowadays, I organize competitions or help others to organize them, write articles and do a little reporting during the biggest offline events.... I never wrote any article before so I had no idea that I had that “talent”. Comments were pretty positive so I kept doing that, especially since very quickly those articles ended being published on Replays.net in Chinese and Goodgame.ru in Russian.
I also help with prize payments between China and Europe for example. I do many different things, which makes my hobby so interesting. I like to work on Warcraft with people from the whole world and not having just one role.
5. The FFA scene clearly was and is one of your favorite parts in WC3. How does this scene work nowadays, what is your role?
Now, my role is very limited. I lost all access to the former playFFA platform, now named FFArena. But I believe it runs pretty well despite some needed changes. The new owner Profforg actually improved some aspects: more realms are now connected and activity is what matters the most.
FFA runs healthy with the FFA Masters league being in its 25th season. They probably have the most active Discord channel in Warcraft.
In general, I go where help is needed. I don’t think I am needed in FFA anymore. I am more useful in what I am doing now. I still have an idea of trying to convince Netease to make an FFA ladder or maybe hosting an FFA tournament that I could (co-)organize.
6. We can guess you are quite busy with real life, job, family, and so on. What motivates you to still take the time to attend events such as WCA 2016? Did you also go to GCS?
Well it is an incredible opportunity to bring joy to Warcraft fans while also being able to fully live my passion for Warcraft. It's all about logistics.
For writing, I do it in the car, during lunch, at night, on Saturday mornings... I find time for my family and also my friends. I love my job too, life is good.
For GCS and WCA attendance, I simply saved my days off for December. I truly believed that with good work I could get invited to one or maybe both events. I like to have challenging goals and projects. To the disbelief of my friend Chatwin, I was invited to both events so I've put those days to good use.
For WCA, I believe I was the only non-player/streamer to be invited. Once again, some players were quite curious about me when I was being picked up at the airport with SC2 players: "Which game do you play? What is your ID? Ugri-what???".
I thought I could be useful to forward what was happening to the fans on my Twitter. It was reposted by Ivan on VK and Chatwin on war3er.com, so the whole world could follow while most of the games were NOT streamed.
I tried to be helpful to B2W, too. The night before their arrival, I discovered that they were planned to stream only three matches from the venue. I negotiated a casting booth for them in the internet cafe. They didn’t miss a game and were the only ones to cast the group stage. For example, Ted could sadly only cast these 3 matches (1 group stage, 1 semi and the final).
At one point, WCA organizers even asked me to help them with the group stage organization. They were having a crisis with Hearthstone, were quite overwhelmed and barely had any sleep. In the end, I didn’t do much on that part, but that was a nice sign of trust.
7. In your articles you surely elaborated on your impressions, but could you tell us something about what it was like to meet Neo, Remo and the others at WCA? How was the overall experience?
The experience was fantastic! I had a strong feeling of comradeship. There are so many anecdotes, not sure where to start...
For Neo, I felt like I was meeting an old friend. We talk a lot about many things and we usually share the same ideas.
Oh and I signed my first autograph ever - a Chinese fan wanted it! I thought he confused me with a player or something, but no - he wanted an Ugri autograph!
These three days were so busy and exciting, I will never forget them. Especially the last night, we had this very nice dinner with Lyn, Lawliet, the Westerners, Yumiko and the admins. That was pretty cool.
What a feast!
8. You made many new contacts and friendships in the recent 18 months. That was when you returned to WC3, right?
Indeed, when I decided to help Neo and the solo scene in general, I needed to make many contacts everywhere to be efficient.
In China, I have direct or indirect contacts with nearly everybody. This is thanks to my friend Chatwin and to my articles being published on RN, I believe. Chatwin is an important influencer for the community there and he helped us a lot. Laofen and Tolkien run replays.net and are part of the organization of many of the Cups we watch (Taidu, for example). Laofen is also a streamer and of course there is Keke who is involved in all fields. I will write about her later.
In Korea, it is somewhat harder for me, but I am making some progress. I know Huahua who translates Moon's stream and who also works on all the logistics for Korean players coming to China. I will write about her, too.
In Europe, Hundredkg would be the most important one (see my article). In Latin America, I think Andres/MartialSpirit has the potential to become an influential figure. He started to organize a few things successfully.
Sadly, I don’t know many people from the NA scene apart from OverAdmire who is involved in organizing many tournaments and Yosh for Clan Ownu.
9. WarCraft 3 is in a storm between old-versioned w3arena v1.26, high-ping slowly-patched B.Net v1.28, chinese-meh-ping NetEase v1.28 and Blizzard's promises of upcoming balance patches and improvements within the original WarCraft 3 client itself. What is your opinion on these developments?
Problems are piling up on Reddit!
If my intel is correct, the impact of Blizzard’s changes should be major. But I am not the most involved person in the Blizzard project discussions. Of course, having Blizzard back supporting the game would be important news. We wouldn’t have to donate for having a quality server to play on anymore.
What will it mean for W3Arena? They used to have discussions with Blizzard themselves under non-disclosure agreement so maybe they will have information to share, too? I have no idea.
I believe that the best Europeans will keep playing on Netease. Of course that will still be the Premier League of Warcraft. For the others, I hope for a single server for America and Europe, that would take America's ping issues seriously. For so long Americans have wandered from an unofficial server to another without a real solution to play properly. No surprise that their community has been hit so badly. They deserve better.
Such a server would give a new life to Warcraft especially if Blizzard Classic team works on refreshing the graphics like we heard.
10. Ugri, we have talked about this in private chat. But maybe in public: You announced on your Twitter, approximately around February 2017, that you will back off from WC3 activities. How comes? What happened?
Well, after a very successful year 2016 came the time of wondering what I could do better in 2017. Nostalgia Battlefield was kinda ok to write about I suppose, but then came many bad news, including the WCA downfall that started to demotivate me a bit.
This was combined with an increasing frustration with my writing work and here I touch a very sensitive subject for me - the one of workload/satisfaction ratio that started to turn unfavorable in my mind. It may sound "butthurt" (I’ve been called that lol) but it is frustrating to write articles without much of a comment or a retweet or anything. Writing an article takes a couple of hours.
You start to wonder if what you do is useful, if people care at all. A good comparison is the one of a streamer: Would Neo and Remo be so enthusiastic without any chatroom on Twitch and without knowing how many viewers they have?
There were also some non-fulfilled engagements that ended putting me on tilt (sorry). Like Niels said on Reddit, I am an "all or nothing" type of person, for better or worse.
In the end, it is simple: Warcraft takes a lot of time so it must feel satisfying. Otherwise I’d rather focus on many others things. I went to the gym 5 times a week during that period for example.
Ugri's physique during his WC3 break. Just kidding ;)
11. Why are you "kinda back" now?
I swear, I did not watch any game or check any stream for a while! What changed my mind was Netease wanting me to co-organize GCS Western with Neo, especially since they gave 4 spots for our boys. I agreed to help and to make interviews with the winners.
On the organizational part, I suggested straight up that we should work with Ivan and we started setting up the dream team that we have. You see how smoothly those qualifiers went?
After Foggy and Happy won, I made the articles agreed upon. Before that, I had talks with Chatwin and Keke who advised me to write faster and simpler. I worked on a new format for my Happy/Foggy articles and I believe they were pretty good (small amount of questions, not a full recap).
Then I was not sure what to do but suddenly 20 new followers appeared on Twitter which always makes me very happy. I helped Remo with one day of solo casting and it felt good to be involved again. And David@warcraft3.info suggested that I should write on his site. The site is so great and full of content that it sparked something in me. Also he agreed to help me with designs and put my Twitter on the front page. The feeling of teamwork is very important.
12. Do you wish for changes within the WC3 community? What would these be?
I believe you mean community management? I don’t believe in extremely long bans for two reasons: There are very few Warcraft players left. I'd rather keep all the sheep in the herd. When I was running playFFA, I just banned them to force them to come on the forum and discuss their situations. When we agreed on the appropriate behavior, we usually unbanned the culprit. At that point, the said player could connect with others FFA players and sometimes, become an important part of the community.
I did not even ban the hackers. I forced them to connect through a hack-free server (W3Arena). A hacker is still a Warcraft player.
Also long-term banned players have a tendency to create havoc on forums and social media (right Ena?) bringing much negative/toxic content while Warcraft should be about exciting news only.
Like for Sonik, I hope he can return to Gera soon. I don’t know the details of the dispute. I know he is hot tempered and sort of stubborn. He also has talent and an entertaining playstyle. The audience is suffering from the ban too.
13. What do you offer to tournament organizers, sponsors, WC3 enthusiasts and E-Sports-Businesses? How can they reach you?
Good question! I can help set up nearly any kind of event like the elite race based Team FFA game, America/Europe Challenge, etc. Working with the community, I can insure that the tournaments will be well-organized, well-promoted, will have streamers in them - and that winners will be paid right away! Of course, I don’t do everything. Sometimes I barely do anything. Just putting the right person in contact can be sufficient.
I have never been contacted by E-Sports businesses. I want to make clear that I never received any money for my work. I usually sponsor myself. If an E-Sports business is interested, I am easy to reach for sure!
Netease ID: Ugrilainen
14. Which are the must-know pillars of the WC3 community? Homepages, hubs?
South America: South America Facebook Group (needs admin authorization)
Thanks for taking the time, Ugri. Last words for you, freestyle, maybe greetings…
I cannot thank everybody, would be too long (sorry!)... A special thought to Neo and Chatwin, thanks to whom I entered the scene and made so many great memories. Thank you, my wechat friends for the translations in Chinese (Mirror, Will, Sirui...). Also thanks to Izzard and Hundredkg for publishing in Russian and helping me reach a wider audience. Finally, thank you Ena1337 and David for giving me this opportunity to talk a little.
One thing I’d like to say is that you should all be proud of whatever you do in Warcraft. The day before I was leaving for WCA, my boss asked me where I was going on holidays. My colleagues already knew and so I explained what I was doing. He was very curious! As for colleagues and friends, you discover progressively that one plays Dota, the other is a TH000 or SKY fan... another saw the Warcraft movie in theater.
If there is an important game going on when I go for a drink with my friends, I just put my Ipad on the table. We can watch football in bars, why not Warcraft?
And sometimes, I end up not watching alone…