From The Rooftops: Jannes Tjarks Shouts About Warcraft III

Jesse Collins,

February 23, 2018 2:25 PM

It takes some real dedication to keep a 16 year old game alive. But, Jannes "Neo" Tjarks manages to do just that with Warcraft III with his channel Back2Warcraft. With the announced Invitational upcoming, he gave us some thoughts on his journey.

When it comes to esports, everyone talks about the pro players, the streamers, and the team owners. But, what about the commentators? What about the shoutcasters that call out the goods, consistently, on a regular basis? Jannes “Neo” Tjarks is the guy to talk to!

The original Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos came out in 2002. But, this 28 year old Hamburg, Germany local has been shoutcasting since 2008. For the past 10 years, Tjark’s Back2Warcraft has been the to-go place for any events or tournaments when it comes to Warcraft III.

Back2Warcraft was announced this week as being a part of the Warcraft III Invitational, taking place Tuesday, February 27 and Wednesday, February 28, and Tjarks is heading up the charge. He went into detail on what his channel, Back2Warcraft, does exactly.

“This journey started in 2008,” he reminisced, “when I applied for a voluntary casting job at ESL-Radio (a side project of ESL TV). We streamed our voice via WinAmp and listeners were able to sync it to the in-game picture they got from a tool called WTV. Today, I'm leading a Twitch channel with over 30k followers and made my hobby a side-job, travel to tournaments in China, and organize grassroots-work that the old Warcraft III scene never did. This includes things like a Wiki or re-building a community. I'm casting basically every important Warcraft tournament there is in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s European, Korean or Chinese. If the games start at 5 AM, we're there. If it's in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, we're there.”

Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks
Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks

He elaborated on his past a bit more with ESL Radio. “Our team was quite big, we had Warcraft III, (the original) DotA, Counter-Strike 1.6, CS:GO, and even FIFA. It was all German. I had just turned 18 and my friends were not interested in gaming at all, so the ESL-R crew became a big part of my life. I maintain contact to most of them until this day and it's a blast every time we meet. It was all voluntary work, but we covered every single clanwar of an entire Warcraft III Champions League season with seven to eight matches a week that lasted usually for four to eight hours. We were so dedicated, and all we got were these lousy ESL Premium Codes. We gathered a lot of experience though and it's amazing to see that some fans from back then are still following us until this day.”

He explained that he plays, but the majority of his time goes into others’ tournaments and play. “We never stream our own gameplay, so people know that they only get high quality action when they tune in. So, I see ourselves as the only high quality Warcraft III broadcasting team in the western world. I would love to play more, but time is an issue. We're two casters and we cast three to six times a week, organize tournaments, do editorial work, try to stay ahead of the curve by thinking about new broadcasting technologies for Warcraft III, work in our regular jobs, and still need to live a ‘normal life’ besides that.”

The game is sixteen years old. We asked him how it feels casting about such an old game and if it’s really still as active as he makes it sound. “We've been through very rough times indeed, but nowadays we cast at least three times per week, mostly more. The norm is that we have one big tournament running that occupies us for two to four days a week. In addition to that we have two weekly cup series. Maybe I'd rather put ‘big’ in quotes (when it comes to the tournaments). Compared to Dota 2, League of Legends, and Starcraft II, it is very small. But it’s a few thousand dollars of prize money, so I’d call it big.”

Although Back2Warcraft focuses solely on Warcraft III, Tjarks was adamant that it remain untainted from other games, including DotA and DotA All-Stars, which are mods for Warcraft III. “If people visit our channel, they can be damn sure they get what they came for. I do love myself some DotA and Starcraft II, but there's enough incredibly talented people covering it. I love to learn from guys like TobiWan, Artosis, Tasteless, Rotterdam, and ToD. These scenes are blessed with the casters they have and they don't need us. The Warcraft III scene needs us and we'll not let them down.”

Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks
Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks

Although DotA is a mod, he believes it to be in a world of its own. “I think DotA is a mix of Warcraft III and Counter-Strike. Just because it's a Warcraft III mod, it doesn’t mean it's the same game. It has a very different approach and it requires a totally different skillset. It's far more developed than Warcraft III now and, in my opinion, the best esport game there is.”

“It's a very interesting time,” Tjarks went further, talking about the recent patch and Invitational, “and our numbers show that people become more and more interested in this old gem again. So, I guess it's a pretty good timing.”

Tjarks has been following the game on a near daily basis for just about a decade and had interesting and precise insight on the latest patch this week. “It's been 7 years,” he explained, “since the last patch and two years since the initial announcement that Blizzard is working on Warcraft III again. Many of the patches that we've seen since then did nothing for gameplay or balance, but built a more solid foundation for what was released yesterday. But, for the normal fan, it was just disappointing and even annoying, since many community tools weren't working anymore because of it.”

Tjarks went into detail on some of the new features that come with this new patch. “Now, we have native 16:9 ratio, cool new balance, and a way better mappool. I expect a lot of changes here. Usually as a caster, we're looking for very small differences in games, like timings, creep routes, etc. With this, I hope to see a much bigger variety in hero choices for every race.”

He wanted to shout out to the fans of the game, who may have been disappointed or expected more. He offered his best advice for the time being. “Blizzard might need to ‘learn’ balancing [for] Warcraft III again. Give them time. It's a very good approach to start rather slow and buff heroes and spells that were never used. You can’t break too much that way. It's small steps towards a greater goal. This goes for the features as well. We all want a remastered Warcraft III and many people got super hyped. Well, it's kinda their own fault that they're disappointed now. We don’t need a remastered edition, at the moment. We need 16:9, which we have now, better matchmaking, anti-hack protection, and more variety. Otherwise, people will be annoyed by the outdated system and turn their backs on the game again.”

Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks
Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks

He has high hopes for an eventual Warcraft 4 or a Remastered Edition of III, at the least. “If it's Warcraft 4, then it'll be full hype for quite a long time and we'd surpass Starcraft II as the leading RTS title. I don't think that's very realistic for the near future though. Warcraft III: HD could be incredible, as it'd be a mix of Starcraft II and MOBA i guess? I feel like the hype for Starcraft: Remastered died super quickly, due to several factors that might or might not be repeated with Warcraft III: HD, if so. It'd definitely be a huge boost for the scene, but I guess neither Blizzard nor the remaining community is ready for that step yet.”

With the announcement of the Warcraft III Invitational this week in conjunction with the new patch, Tjarks is pumped! His channel, Back2Warcraft, was part of that announcement as the place to go to get all news and follow the games during the event.

“This is kind of my baby,” he elaborated, “and I've been working on this with a very little team for two months now. I never thought it'd would be possible for me to create something like it. I'm pretty sure this is the closest I'll ever be to a proud young father. It was stressful, cost a LOT of sleep and nerves and I annoyed a lot of people with my demands and ideas, but in the end it was all so worth it. I'll be in Blizzard Headquarters, where my favorite game ever was born, with a couple of my best friends and my heroes of the past. I'm SO excited to meet [Swedish Warcraft III player] Fredrik Johansson, AKA MaDFroG, it's like christmas to me. I hope we can deliver some entertaining hours for you guys so hopefully it won't be the last time we do this.”

Even with all of the current commotion, Tjarks keeps a cool head and remains humble during his weekly broadcasts. He offered some advice for those looking to get into streaming and shoutcasting. “I think the most important thing is dealing with praise, criticism and trolling. I will never think I'm the best at what I do, so I try to keep on improving. People can call me trash, but I think they're wrong or I'm just not their taste. I know how to handle feedback and I think that can be pretty rough with Twitch Chat, if you're just starting a channel. There's many things like how to set up a stream, how to improve quality, how to interact during times without a game. I became the head of content at ESL-R pretty quickly, so I'm used to thinking ahead. When is the next tournament? How to we get in touch with the organizers? How to advertise it? What does our stream lack that fans need? How do you handle social media? The list goes on and on and on.”

He continued explaining by going to the beginning. “First, start with a plan. Develop a theme for your stream, think about a name that is easy to remember and to find, and finally look if it’s available on social media as well. Educate yourself about streaming software, so you know what you're doing. Don't just follow a guide, play around with settings and see what they do. I'd always start to record stuff locally, revise it and if I liked it, I’d go live!”

“Start small and have fun,” he continued. “Pick a good ‘bang for your buck’ mic and a camera and just go. You don’t need a green screen, fancy lighting, or animations. From that point on, interact with viewers a lot! Talk to them, explain what you're doing and why, it might feel weird at first to talk to a screen while you're alone in your room but it becomes the most normal thing in the world. I don't get why people stream if they don't want to talk! Use social media, build a small community, build personality, and then you can improve your brand and equipment from there. Try to connect with other streamers you like and cooperate with them, but don't be obnoxious and push it down people’s throats. I see many small streamers and the first thing they do is put a donation button into their twitch description. If you do it for money, don't do it. Do it because you love what you do.”

Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks
Source: Back2Warcraft/ Jannes Tjarks

Sometimes all you need is luck. Tjarks explained that even with good luck, it didn’t stop him from having to put in the work. “I know that i'm in a very lucky position because we have a monopoly on Warcraft III, but it was a lot of hard work and we were always the first to do stuff. Nobody used Twitter in the scene before we came. Nobody saw the need for a Sub-Reddit or a Wiki before we started it. Try to think ahead of the curve and just do it. Things don't need to be perfect right from the start, viewers will recognize that you work on the status quo and reward you for it.”

But, how does a channel gain traction so fast? Tjarks explained he had help from his past. “I built a pretty solid base for the years that were to come during my days at ESL-Radio. It was a very rough transition at casting though. As a radio caster, you have to describe everything, because some viewers might not have a visual. It's the same with sports commentary on radio.  Now, with Twitch, viewers have the same vision as I have, so the cast has to go way beyond what’s happening right now. It was hard, but I got used to it and it made my casting a lot better.”

Will the steam behind Warcraft III’s return remain? Tjarks explained that he doesn’t see any slow time any time soon. “We're just picking up pace again. The only thing that can stop Warcraft III is Warcraft III: HD or Warcraft 4. The game itself is just so unique, that there's nothing you can compare it with. We have a decent foundation for the pro scene thanks to NetEase, the Chinese publisher of Blizzard games. They built a new client in 2015 and they run a world championship twice a year so there's always something to look forward to. For the players, there's many small tournaments even now without big companies behind it. We learned to live without Blizzard's support. Also, since there's only one or two bigger tournaments at a time, it's easy to follow for people who have to work a lot because we don’t over-saturate the scene.

The guys at Back2Warcraft remain ever vigilant and continue to build up resources for those that choose to continue following the Warcraft III scene. “We made it easier to follow the scene by setting up an amazing Liquipedia, Reddit, and a community page called Warcraft3.info. It's still work in progress, but these fundamental tools just weren't there when I started to cast again after a little break in 2014. We build everything from scratch. What you see in the scene today is the work of our team and our fans and it's beautiful!”

Jannes loves to play the game as well, when he has time to, and is known for maining the Undead race. But, he offered some advice for those just jumping into the game. “Play Night Elf. It's not about balance, but Night Elf is the easiest to learn, I think. Easy economy, easy to micro, and in most matchups, you can play the same with a few adjustments. So, start with Night Elf to build a basic knowledge about the game, then try other races and see how they suit you.

As for his Undead race, things are a little bit more difficult. “Generally speaking, only fight on Tier 3 when Lich has the Orb. Before that, it's really hard. Use your skeletons for scouting, makes things a lot easier if you know what your opponent is doing. Also, try to imitate creep routes and movement of 120, WFZ, and Happy. They're by far the best players.”

Tjarks had one last sentiment to mention at the end of the interview.”Warcraft, he said, “has a very special aura: nostalgia mixed with a great action and entertainment. That makes it stand out from anything else, so I wouldn’t trade the world for it.”

For more details on the upcoming event, check out our coverage about the announcement of the Warcraft III Invitational and then check out why the Dota 2 community was upset over Katowice this past week!



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