In the wake of Intolerant’s Battlerekt win, we sat down with Joltz to talk about his thoughts on the future of Battlerite esports and his philosophy as a player.
Congrats on your victory! I want to start by asking about you personally. You’ve had a lot of success in Battlerite as a top player and a streamer. Have you played on a competitive level in any games in the past?
Joltz Not really, no. I used to play Bloodline Champions and that’s pretty much it. I played in Dreamhack 2011 with Team Ninjapull, but after that I didn’t play anything competitively. I played some games in Overwatch and we won the King of the North qualifier, but that’s about it.
So you played BLC at the top level. How do you feel Battlerite compares right now as a competitive game?
Joltz Well, the main difference is in the hitboxes and hurtboxes. In BLC it was way harder to hit your enemy and it was easier to dodge. In Battlerite, that’s not the case. It’s more about cycling cooldowns. There’s not that much outplay potential in Battlerite compared to BLC, but I don’t really mind because in 3v3 you can actually outplay your enemy as a team, and I think that’s a fine aspect of the game. That’s why 3v3 is far superior to 2v2, in my opinion. But the main difference between the games is that BLC was a bit harder on an individual level.
Recently SLS revealed some of their plans for future development, including some core gameplay changes. Do you think these changes are required or is the teamplay focus enough?
Joltz I think the update will bring the game in a better direction. Right now the game is quite shallow. It doesn’t have that much depth, which can make it a bit boring. I really do hope that the hitboxes will be a bit smaller in the next patch, but I think it’s a bit too early to judge because we don’t really know what exactly is going to be changed yet.
Of all the suggested mechanical changes, would you say any one aspect is the most important?
Joltz It’s more of a combination of many small aspects. I also think if the upcoming champions were to be more interesting in terms of their skills, that would already make the game much more enjoyable. Right now a lot of abilities are too similar. For example, a lot of characters have a shield ability, weapon charges, small stuff like that. Pestilus, for example, is unique compared to a lot of other characters, which is a really good thing. I hope the next characters will be more like that.
A lot of people have discussed changing mechanics, but not many have mentioned more varied champion design as something important to the future of the game. Do you think that could make a big difference in the complexity and depth of Battlerite?
Joltz Absolutely. There are more things I think players would like to see. If you compare some of the characters, for instance Bakko, Ezmo, and Ruh Kaan with their shields, they all have very similar skills. Bakko has weapon charges, Shifu has weapon charges, Rook used to have weapon charges. Most of the characters are similar to each other in a lot of ways, which is a bad thing in my opinion. It’s like, what should I pick? There aren’t as many interesting choices due to the similarities.
That’s why I picked Ezmo. In my mind, he’s unique in Battlerite because he has the most damage compared to other DPS classes. If an enemy makes a mistake, I’m able to punish it in the most optimal way with Ezmo, and punish pretty hard, which is why I love Ezmo. He has some copied abilities from different characters, but he just feels so good.
Ezmo is kind of an underutilized character. We see other competitive players pick him up sometimes, but he’s not very popular. Do you think his uniqueness makes it harder for players?
Joltz I think actually people don’t want to play Ezmo because he’s awkward to play. It’s kind of like Iva, with the short range. It’s hard to know how you’re supposed to play Ezmo right away. From what I’ve seen, most other Ezmo players just blow up their space for no good reason and just leave themselves in a bad position. Your space is your only ability that lets you get out of bad situations. That might be the reason people don’t play him, but I’m not entirely sure.
A lot of people talk about the balance and strength of characters, but not always how they feel to play, how fun they are. Is that important to you?
Joltz Of course you want to play a character that is fun and interesting. Ezmo’s abilities are pretty much copied from other characters. M1 is Jade, the pull is like Ruh Kaan’s Claw, the shield is really similar to other skills, space is like Croak space, the root is just like Jumong’s trap, the book is like Poloma’s Pixie, and the ult is kind of like Poloma’s ult. So it’s pretty much like copied skills, but that doesn’t change anything because Ezmo has fun combinations. Like when you get a full-range pull into your book and get maximum damage, it just feels so good to punish someone like that. Especially when that happens in a tournament.
You mentioned Iva as another character that can be awkward to play. Your teammate Nyy is an Iva player and played her in this week’s Battlerekt. Intolerant is one of the most daring teams in terms of picking champs that aren’t strictly in the meta. Is there a philosophy behind that or are they just comfort picks?
Joltz Basically we had one rule when we made the team: we would play whatever is fun to us. We want to keep everything interesting. We enjoy playing with each other, of course, but the basic rule is that you play what you want to play. We had to kind of temper that with Iska because he wanted to play Sirius, but Sirius isn’t really working in EU because everyone is running Poloma/Varesh, and Sirius can’t really initiate and do damage. So we made a choice that he would mostly play Lucie. Lucie is a good universal pick, everything works with her.
As for Iva, she can be really solid, and we also played Rook. But right now I don’t think Rook is that strong in the meta because of Poloma/Varesh. It seems like most people are shifting to just play full ranged compositions, so Rook can’t really do much in that situation. Rook is really good at playing against other melee characters, but most of the game is just throwing boulders and chasing other people. It gets kind of boring.
How is Iska doing on support? He used to be more of a damage player, right?
Joltz [laughs] He actually wants to play DPS. He’s been talking a lot about Jumong, but Jumong isn’t that strong in 3v3. We’ve had to shift away a little from the idea that we have a lot of fun all the time, we’re focusing more on winning and practicing and getting better, especially since the Enter the Arena tournament was announced. Right now it’s all about winning and having the most optimal composition that will beat most of the teams. That’s what we’re aiming for.
But even though you’re shifting to a more serious mindset, you’re still playing characters that most would say aren’t optimal. Is there more room for pick diversity in competitive play? Are there strong comps that people haven’t discovered yet?
Joltz Oh, absolutely. That’s why we’ve been so successful with this ranged comp. Most of the people have no clue how to play against it. It’s about surprising your enemy. Right now most of the top players in the game think that the meta is set, but I don’t think that’s the case. The meta is changing all the time in every patch, and even though they think they have the most optimal comp in the patch, that might not be true. There might still be better comps among those characters that aren’t played often. Like our characters, for example.
What do you think about SLS funding a large tournament like Enter the Arena? How do you think a higher prize pool like that might effect the growth of Battlerite right now?
Joltz I think right now it might be a bit too early, considering the release is scheduled for late 2017. But a lot of the top players, myself included, think that it’s a good thing. It keeps our interest in the game high because money is a good motivator, and it makes us strive to practice more. It will make the games more interesting, and since Beyond the Summit is going to stream it, there will definitely be an audience. It can make the game grow larger, but I am still worried that it’s a bit too early.
With everyone practicing harder for the tournament, do you think we’ll see an increase in the level of play? Will the challenging teams become stronger with that new motivation or will we see the same teams that have dominated up until now continue to win?
Joltz My personal opinion is that I think the same teams will dominate it. The current top players of this game are mostly former top-level BLC players, so they’ve all got the experience, the muscle memory, and everything that also applies to this game. Of course a new team is able to compete as well, but they’ll need to practice a lot.
Our team, for example, practices maybe 20 hours a week against other top teams. That’s what new teams need to do as well in order to compete. I do think that the gameplay will improve. For example, we have scrimmed a lot against TelRoskMi and we beat them quite a few times, and then they switched up their playstyle and battlerites and it was way harder for us. We kept losing games against them.
So there’s still plenty of room to improve and new things to learn even at the top level. If people would pick new battlerites and test things out, they might find more optimal ways to play. I don’t think it’s true that the game has been figured out — especially in 3v3, there are so many factors, so many different playstyles.
What’s your personal history in competitive Battlerite? Before you formed Intolerant, you played with Bruce Lee for a while. How long were you with that team?
Joltz It was kind of short term. Condemned asked me personally if I wanted to play one tournament with them as a stand-in. We won the tournament. That was unexpected. We played Ezmo/Shifu/Lucie, which is a pretty good comp, and Condemned’s playstyle is really aggressive. He just keeps tunneling one target and rarely switches, so with Ezmo you’re able to provide that support Shifu needs, that constant damage and immense pressure. It was really hard for other teams to play against, but I think they started to figure us out. I didn’t leave Bruce Lee because we didn’t win a couple of tournaments though. I just didn’t enjoy playing on the team. The atmosphere was just too serious.
And you’ve been playing with the same Intolerant roster ever since? Do you think sticking with the same players is important even if you don’t have instant success?
Joltz It’s been the same group ever since we started over a month ago. You need to stick with the same team. Just keep practicing and practicing and practicing. Once you start seeing the fruit of the practice, it just feels so good. You feel with your team like, “Okay, we have practiced toward this and we have accomplished it.” It feels really good for everyone. That’s the key to winning.
That’s why TelRoskMi is such a successful team. MyCon Broken Comp have played together for a long time too and they are successful. There are many successful teams that have played as a team for a long time, and teams that constantly shuffle players don’t tend to do much. For example, we’ve played with Iska and Nyy for a long time now and we have learned about each other’s playstyles and can adjust to each other. It’s like, I back you up, you back me up. It’s trusting each other.
Speaking of consistent teams, the invites for Enter the Arena were recently announced. Any squads you think are favorites right now?
Joltz In Europe, it’s either TelRoskMi or us. That’s how I see it. After TelRoskMi’s rough performance in the last tournament, they’re going to practice nonstop. It will be really hard to beat them. So it’s either them or our team. And in NA, it’s going to be Arakune. Onslaught is the team to beat. But right now, there’s many people asking for scrims constantly ever since they announced the tournament. So it seems like NA has finally figured out that maybe now it’s time to practice. I think that’s a good thing, more competition in NA.
Alright, I have to ask the question I ask everyone: how much stronger is EU than NA? Do any NA teams have the potential to catch up to EU?
Joltz I think so, yeah. They have good individual players, and if those players gather up in the same team and start practicing, they will be really good.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Anyone you want to shoutout? Where can people follow you?
Joltz Yeah! Shoutout to my boy Zab! He’s the legendary Glutton player from BLC, and right now he’s in the game. He hasn’t competed yet, but he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. He’s got a really good mindset to keep improving, he just needs a good team to play with. That’s the case with most people: they just need to find the right people to play with. You can follow me on my Twitch channel.
Thanks again to Joltz for his time. We’ll be cheering for Intolerant in the Enter the Arena tournament this weekend!