This month we sat down with Eugene 'Yuuj' Tseng, former captain of UT Arlington's 2017 Heroes of the Dorm National Championship team. We talked to him about his start in gaming, and how focusing on school helped him achieve success in esports.

Hi Eugene! We’re super happy you agreed to interview with Tespa. Before we jump into the nitty gritty, would you mind telling us about yourself? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What are you going to school for currently?

Eugene: I went to school for finance and just graduated. I’ve mostly been trying to do things with Heroes of the Storm (HotS) recently, and I’ve just taken a coaching position. So, my time is spent evenly between playing HotS, streaming it, and coaching a team. Gaming is a large part of my life, and my social group at UTA is all gamers. We also hang out outside of video games of course. But, you know, gaming is the centerpiece of it, and that’s mainly my major hobby.

Locally, I’m involved with UTA’s esports club, which we’re trying to build up right now and we’re working together with our university to do that. After dorm, we had a lot of meetings with the president of the local club, our advisor, and we lunch with the president of the university, which was cool. He seemed interested in esports, so that was great, and for him he was passionate about it in the sense that he wanted to know more. It just seems like our school wants to do something more with esports, so they're working together with our esports club. 

Now as you just said, you’re a giant HoTS fan, but let’s talk about the gaming path you took to get you to Heroes of the Dorm.

Eugene: Alright, well, we’ll start with way back when I started playing video games. That was when I was four, and the first game I played was Super Mario 64 when my dad brought home a Nintendo 64. He was interested in it, and was like “oh this is cool”. My mom was into gaming as well, and was really into Tetris, so like, that was her thing.

My aunt and my uncle were also big gamers. He was really into RTS stuff, so he actually bought me my first RTS game, Red Alert 2, for Christmas. I played the crap out of the game because of how fun it was. I also grew up playing the standard video games like Pokémon, but Red Alert 2 was my first step into RTS games.

Within Asian families you always have get togethers every holiday. You don’t go home to your family, you just have this giant potluck with friends every time. So, I would hang out with my family friends all the time, and they introduced me to StarCraft. I don’t even remember how old I was at that point, because I jumped between so many games. I played Warcraft III for a little bit, went to Brood War and played that for a long time.

Eventually in middle school, I went back to Warcraft III with DOTA being a thing, and that was when I started playing MOBA’s. I would play with my friends all the time, and you know I wasn’t that great. But I was that one guy who would disappear, and come back 1 month later really really good, you know? I would play so much!

It was the type of thing where you’d be in the middle of the night playing, and your mom told you to go to sleep, but you just got up to keep playing. I had the computer in my room, so it was pretty easy, but I’d still get caught about half the time. You’d see me up at like 2:00 AM even though my mom told me to go to sleep at like 12:00 AM. But, that’s what I would do, and that’s how I got really into DOTA.

Eventually, we switched over to League of Legends, when League came out. At that point, it was just the beta. That was senior year of High School. I think I spent more time playing the game than in class during that period of time. I was playing with like 200 ping cause we had to move to China. I was like Gold or something. 

I then went to Purdue for a bit, and progressively got better at League there eventually getting to Challenger. At that point, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life, and didn’t know what major I wanted to do. Eventually I settled on Business and figured I might as well transfer schools, since Purdue was known for its engineering and computer science. I decided on UTA because it was my parent’s alma mater. I was still playing League, and started playing with the guys at UTA. We did pretty well and ended up in the top 16 in CSL, but eventually we decided we were just done with it. 

Right around that same time Heroes of the Dorm was first announced, and we decided to switch over to Heroes. We couldn’t carry our teammates in League, so 2 of my teammates and me just left and went to play HoTS and thought “We’ll figure it out”. We started playing 3 days before Dorm began.

I had a friend who had switched over from League to HoTS and he was pretty good at the game. He gave us a 1 month crash course while we were playing in the tournament, and ended up smashing every team in the group phase. We outplayed everyone based purely on the mechanics we had built up during our time with League. We made it all the way to top 16, but guess who we lost to? ASU. We were the only team that got them to level 20! After it all we ended up being good friends with Akaface and MichaelUdall. 

Gaming can be pretty divisive at home with the family. How do you talk about your passions with your parents and siblings?

Eugene: My parents were pretty much not that supportive of it. “You’re playing too much. You’re ruining your life.” While my sister is over on the side trying to persuade them being like, “But he’s really good!”. Eventually, we actually got to a place where they’re okay with it but it took a while.

They definitely didn’t like me playing video games in middle or high school, and I used to have restrictions on the amount of time I could play. I started caring less and less about school, which was not good. I always got into arguments, and I remember my dad broke my Warcraft III CD at one point. He actually broke it. I forgot what happened, but at that point you had key generators and stuff, so I got around it. My sister would be like “just get good grades, and they won’t complain. You can do whatever you want as long as you get good grades”.

Thankfully, I’m a pretty decent test taker, so for me the SAT is what got me into college, not my grades. Literally, if you get good grades, your parents aren’t gonna complain. If you do that, they’ll let you play as much as you want. As long as you’re still doing what you need to do, you’ll be okay. 

Now they’re relatively supportive, but are still kind of on the fence, because it’s not guaranteed. The idea is that you could be doing really well, and it all comes down to one game. If you lose that game, then you have nothing. They understand why I do it, but it's more of a “it's not worth working so hard to do that. Do something else that's easier.” They want something more reliable and easier.

I’m sitting here like, “that’s not the point,” you know? It’s not that I don’t get anything, it's that you wanna have that goal and accomplishment. 

When you first came to college, you said your grades were faltering because you were focusing on gaming. Can you give us your tips and tricks as to what worked for you to fix that?

Eugene: My grades definitely improved a fair amount after I decided not to screw up again like I did at Purdue. I think the main issue for me was not going to class, so I made sure to fix that. Literally, college isn’t that hard. You just have to go to class. Like, if you don’t go to class, you’re gonna fail. The hard part is actually making sure you have a schedule and actually following it. The reason you fail a class, is because you don’t go to it. That’s generally it.

As for studying, it was more of the standard college student, cram before an exam. What would happen is someone would say “I have an exam tomorrow, so we’re not practicing today.” That would actually happen! We would only practice a little bit, or not at all, and we’d cram for exams. Then we’d practice the next day. 

So making school a priority was really just the way it was. Cause, if you’re not passing classes, you know, you’re not gonna be able to play on the team. We’re at school, and that should be the priority. If you’re just going to school to play video games, then you could just focus on playing instead and try to go pro. Everyone wanted to get their degrees, and knowing Heroes of the Dorm was there, we just made sure we were working our hardest to win that and go to school.

That’s awesome that we were just talking about your team, cause I’m sure everyone would love to hear about your team’s “routine” or “method.” Can you outline a general week playing with the team in the build up to the tournament? Does this change once the tournament takes swing?

Eugene: Every year was a little bit different. The first year was literally just getting the crash course and trying to play the best we could.

The second year we were practicing with our team every week, and we would practice against other Dorm teams. It was like 2-4 hours a day 4 days a week. The week before Dorm we started scrimming, because we were just coming off playing on a pro team. We took a break from competitive, and we only played with our Heroes of the Dorm team. We worked our way up to the finals and we played it like it we would a normal tournament, but I feel like we didn't prepare enough. Cause ASU prepped so hard. I saw their draft sheet afterwards, and they literally had every single one of our drafts on there. I was sitting there like, alright, no wonder you won. They had already read us.

This year, we didn’t scrim a single Heroes of the Dorm team. We only scrimmed pro and some of the top amateur teams. We played in the HGC open as just our Dorm team, just for practice. The goal this year was to hide all our strategies, so the same thing that happened last year couldn’t happen again. We basically avoided any contact with any other Dorm players, so they couldn’t scout us. We weren’t scared of their playstyles, we were scared of them being able to read us.

Gameday emotions can be super hectic. What was going through your head as you battled your way through Vegas in the live finals?

Eugene: So it was a lot different the first year, because the second year, we were super calm. The first year, it was super hectic; there was like so much media stuff. We were all over the place cause you know, we were playing in the pro scene at the time, and it was nothing like Heroes of the Dorm. All of those matches were in the ESL studio and I think we only had one live event at like Esports Arena. Most of our matches were in Burbank.

Anyway, at Dorm, we were just running around doing media stuff, and we didn’t have time to mentally prepare ourselves for the game. So everyone was kinda overwhelmed, and we still did our prep as much as we could, but it was new to all of us. We didn't know what to expect, because when we got on the stage it was a completely different feeling. The audience was bigger, the production value was better, and it was insane. We were up there and it was just “Wow.”

We played the first series, and we kinda got used to the stage on the first series. I know when we played ASU, the stage is what really affected us. When you’re up there, you don't want to look bad. You know, you don’t want to look like an Idiot. You try your best, and I know, in our series, in the first game we threw the game. We were so tilted from that, in the second game, I tried to make plays, and they were bad plays, and it made it even worse. Then, we made a gamble in our draft, saying “Shot doesn’t play this one hero,” and he picks the hero! He tells us after the game, “yeah I haven't played that hero in 6 months.” If we had been a little bit more patient, and just executed, I think we could have reverse swept them, but it was super anticlimactic, and we ended up losing.

The next year, we worked super hard to make sure that never happened again. The only thing we could think of the whole year was how badly we wanted to get back up on that stage, because it was awesome. It was such a good feeling. That kind of feeling is what you play the game for. I know definitely that like Kure, our teammate, said he was gonna go back to League of Legends after. But after he played the tournament, he changed his mind, and he kept playing HoTS and now he’s a pro. 

This year, we were a lot calmer, we made sure that we never tilted again. We played better teams and we were actually losing, so it felt better when we were playing against Heroes of the Dorm teams. We took all the measures to make sure it didn't happen again. It was also a one day experience this time, and so we kept our momentum. We’re super calm going on stage, we’re confident in our own skill, and we decide that we’re gonna play our own game.

We play UC Irvine, and they do really well in the first game. We were actually really surprised. We were like, “Wow, these guys are actually really good.” We have to step it up, and I think we do really well the second game. And then, we’re calm and we go right into the Finals after. Kure’s sleeping schedule is beyond messed up, and he’s chugging red bulls throughout the matches. But, we’re hyped and we’re going into the Finals.

So we go into the finals against LSU and we win the first game. We’re just really calm, and we realize we just need to close out the series and play our own game. Everyone has their own moments, and  everyone gets pretty hyped. Kevin plays really well, Toby plays really well, our whole team, everyone has a shining moment.

We end up winning, and my first thought is “Oh, we won.” I’m sitting there, and I know its supposed to be this super super hype and happy, and I realized I need to at least look happy. It’s just that feeling, and it doesn’t hit you. It didn’t feel like it was a hard fought win to me. It doesn’t hit you there though. We were super happy a few hours afterwards, but at the time it was just, “Oh”.

Let’s talk about the after effect. After that whirlwind of emotions and that calm period during the finals, but how has playing on such a big stage affected you in the past two months?

Eugene: It was a really fun experience. It was great. It was a really good way for us to end our college career, you know.  Everyone was really happy, you don’t have to worry you know. We can focus on playing video games for enjoyment rather than having to worry about loans and money. Especially at UTA, a lot of people have jobs as well. We actually had people who couldn’t play in Heroes of the Dorm because they were working. 

For a lot of us, it was like now I won. After I graduate, now I have a window where I can actually kind of do what I want. I can focus more on HoTS rather than go immediately and focus on a finance job.

Well Eugene, This has been a wonderful experience, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to talk with you. Given that window that you were talking about, what’s your future looking like with HoTD behind you?

Eugene: Well right now, I’m focusing on coaching No Tomorrow, a professional Heroes of the Storm team.

I’ve always been more of a like strategic player. So, I’ve always played the map more than anything, macro game, cause my mechanics aren’t the greatest. I’d always win because I know where to be. Coaching for me is helping people grow, and that’s more to my strengths

Want to make any shoutouts?

Eugene: Well I’d like to say thanks to the whole UTA team, cause the whole thing was good, and we’re still friends, we still play together. Also shoutout to UTA, since they’ve been trying really hard to push esports I think, and it’s looking good.

Shoutout to No Tomorrow for giving me the chance to coach them, and one more for Gale Force for helping me get to where I am.

You should also check out my stream on twitch!