Age of Empires II has been gaining a lot of prominence as an esport and the number of tournaments are steadily rising as well. One of the names that is pretty popular in the AoE II scene is Hera, who is hailed as one of the best in the game. VPEsports had the chance to talk with Hera, where we spoke about the recent Red Bull Wololo tournament, the AoE II esports scence, and the upcoming Battle of Africa 2 tournament amongst other things.
Hey Hera! How’s it going? How’s the quarantine treating you?
Hello! Thanks for having me here, it’s going pretty well. Obviously, life has changed with the current global situation, but I feel like I’m coping quite well. I’m one of the lucky ones that is able to continue working, and having finished my University semester online, that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.
Congrats on making the semifinals of the Red Bull Wololo tournament. Did you like the Empire Wars format and is it worth exploring for more tournaments?
First off, thank you. It wasn’t the best result for me, but it wasn’t too bad either. I think Empire Wars was a nice change from the usual format. Faster paced games are always fun to play, but I would probably prefer the regular format for future tourneys. That being said, an Empire Wars event here and there will always be a welcome change.
What about the limited time and score victory? Does that seem good? It did get you a couple of close wins…
In hindsight, I kind of liked the time/score rule, because it prevented any game from going on for too long. Personally, I find the really long games (ones that go past the hour mark) quite boring to watch, and also tedious to play. However, I would like a way to prevent players from camping once they realize their score is going to be higher. Something like hiding the score 30 minutes into the game (halfway through the timer) will make it a gamble for the players to wait. It will encourage players to play normally, but still keep that time rule to shorten the games. While I did win a couple games on time, I also lost a couple on time, so it feels like in the end, there was some sort of balance to it.
What happened against TheViper? In hindsight, any civ or map choices that you should have made differently?
I think we had a couple of close games, in which we both made minor mistakes. Those could go either way, so just small decision errors for me to fix for the next time. The only regret I have is for the Land Madness game. I felt like I played really poorly, despite having the better civilization.
Any new map in Red Bull Wololo you liked particularly?
I felt Wings was pretty cool. Some other ones like Kawasan and Sinkhole were not too bad, but had some flaws in my opinion.
What are your thoughts on the current meta? Any civs you think are overpowered and any that need a buff?
First off, I love the fact that we get a new patch every month. It keeps the game fresh and makes more civs viable. We just had a new patch, so I need to test the game a bit more before giving a definite answer about that. Teutons seem quite decent in some situations now.
The next big tournament coming up is Battle of Africa 2 and I’ll be cheering for Team Aftermath! What are your thoughts on it? Do you prefer solo events or team ones?
I think I have more fun with team events because I enjoy playing with my teammates. They are all funny and great players at the same time, so a combination of banter and strategical aspects make for a great overall experience. That being said, I probably enjoy 1v1 a bit more because I’m a very competitive guy and solo events breed the highest level of play; at least in my opinion.
Considering the format and maps will be totally different as compared to Red Bull Wololo, do you expect the civ picks to be very different than what we saw last week?
Oh yes, Battle of Africa is a completely different game mode. First off, it isn’t Empire Wars, added to the fact that is a team event, which has a meta of its own. Furthermore, we would be playing on a new patch. All that in combination with new maps will mean we will likely see a lot of differences in civ priority and drafting.
What are your thoughts on the AoE II esports scene? Where do you think it is headed and any specific things that need to be changed?
I think 2020 has brought many amazing tournaments that will help push the scene towards making it a popular esport. Having external sponsors like Microsoft and Red Bull is crucial to keep it competitive and to continue attracting new viewers. I hope that there will be many more tournaments going forward. As of now, I can’t think of anything major that needs to be changed. If I had to pick one thing, it would perhaps be how the seeding is done for tourneys. I think random seeding isn’t too fair and would prefer manual seeding based on results from previous tournaments.
You recently had an insane 6 hour Arena game against MBL! Do you think him having a majority of the Relics made the difference in that game?!
It absolutely did! Turks are useless without gold, and he had four relics in comparison to the one which I had. It was just a matter of time until he won. Having said that, I’m pretty happy I was able to hold on for that long.
Let’s talk about your Age of Empires journey. When did you start playing AoE and at what point did you realize you can do this as a profession?
I started playing AoE online in the July of 2013, if I recall correctly. I remember waiting eagerly for the school year to end so I could get into it! Before that, I used to just play from time to time against my brothers or against the AI. I completed some of the campaigns as well. My first username online was ProatAoe (pro-at-AoE), so besides being naive and arrogant, it also shows that I’ve had hopes to become a pro at the game since an early age. It was at the start of 2019 that I quit my part time grocery store (deli) job and pursued streaming. I barely made any money at first, but my love for streaming kept me going and well, that went a long way.
You are a professional player, you stream regularly, make YouTube videos and on top of that, go to university! How do you manage all this?! Is it challenging?
I basically have no life other than this! Well, not literally. I do pursue other stuff in my free time, but I make sure to never involve myself in anything that will require daily commitment. I know for sure I wouldn’t be able to manage it all. I often plan out my streams or prepare for tourneys on the commute to and from university (which is 75 mins each way) so as not to waste time.
Do you play any games other than AoE?
I played League of Legends for a year or so in 2018, when I quit AoE II. I got to the Master rank (which is the penultimate rank) before I slowed down. I also played a bit of Fortnite for a while with friends. Besides those two, I loved the Legend of Zelda games, but I just don’t have the time and patience to play them now. Once in a while, I’ll also play Super Smash Bros with my brothers and friends when they come over. Recently, I’ve just been playing Heartstone Battlegrounds when I have spare time. That game is too much fun!
What does Hera like to do outside of gaming?
I enjoy watching movies and TV shows, playing card games and sports. As long as I have good company, I’m open to any activity and don’t mind trying something new. Just sitting around and talking does the trick for me at most times.
Goodluck in Battle of Africa! Any shoutouts?
Thanks a lot! I’ll just urge people to come out and support us in the first big team game tourney of the year. MembTV is the host of the event and has put in a lot of money and effort into it, so make sure you stop by his Twitch channel and enjoy Battle of Africa 2!