Steak Review: Bar-roque Grill ðŸ‡¸ðŸ‡¬

Finally back in SG after 1+ year, and reunited with my favorite housemates! One of them (bestie), has excitedly prepared a list of steak places for us to try out.

We agreed to go for something that’s more affordable first, thus bringing us to this little bar & grill that’s situated just outside the Amara Hotel in Tanjong Pagar.

Photo of Bar-roque Grill from TripAdvisor.

We took a look at their menu. Since there were 4 of us, we thought of ordering their signature dry-aged beef tomahawk.

I haven’t had much dry-aged beef since my first experience with it at Vantador 🇲🇾, reason being that I really didn’t like the strong flavor that reminded me of peanuts and their slightly pungent edge.

Also, most steaks that they would dry-age are not wagyu, i.e. less fatty, more chewy.

Tomahawk was the signature item on the menu.

Well since it’s bestie’s recommendation I decided to keep an open mind and give it a try anyway.

Pre-cooked tomahawk!

Ours was 1.3kg so about S$205. I generally feel like tomahawks are a scam because you get charged for the weight of the bone (it’s heavy af). Bestie disagrees though, he feels that the bone adds a lot of flavor to the meat.

Anyway.

Starters

Bread with butter (FOC).

The bread was barely warmer than room temperature, and not nearly warm enough to melt the butter. So we just placed the slabs of solid butter on top of the bread, and so each bite was room temp bread with a chunk of cold butter.

Plus the skin was so tough (not crispy just tough) that I gave up on it after a while.

Grilled Octopus (S$32). Chermoula Sauce, Piperade & Chickpeas, Harissa Dressing.

We were all confused upon first tasting it because both the texture and taste were not what we’d expect from grilled octopus.

The spicy and creamy sauces were nice but a tad overwhelming, reminiscent of thousand island sauce with added herbs & spices. The octopus was breaded, but the breading was soggy unfortunately, and it felt like we were eating chicken rather than octopus – the meat somehow lacked the springy texture.

After a while we concluded that it tasted like mamak tandoori chicken. Mostly because of the sauce.

Tasted really interesting, just not something we expected when we ordered grilled octopus.

Seared Foie Gras (S$32). Blinis (Russian pancakes), Mesclun (Salad), Morel Sauce.

First time having foie gras with pancake which was something new, but the morel sauce that the dish came with somehow made it taste like Chinese cuisine. It tasted like the 卤汁 (marinade) in marinated duck.

And because the pancake is so porous, it soaked up lots of sauce and when you bite into the whole thing at once, the first thing that hits you is the marinated duck taste, then if you really pay attention you may be able to discern a faint hint of foie gras.

So once again, as in the previous dish, I’m really not sure if the sauce is necessary or suitable.

Main Course #1: Wagyu Steak

Hanging Tender Wagyu 200g (S$48), medium rare…?

When it was first served I recall thinking, “Wow, that looks really red. Is it rare? Or is that what dry-aged beef is supposed to look like? We ordered dry-aged?

I honestly thought we ordered regular, non-aged steak, because I already knew from experience that I may not like the dry-aged one, and so this was to be my back-up plan for the night.

But the color just looked so odd and suspect.

We grabbed a piece each and started eating. Then, one by one, we all frowned.

Eh it tastes really weird…

There’s this sour taste to it.

Ugh no I think I’m gonna spit it out…

It just tasted… really off. There was this rancid, sour taste. Two of us immediately spat out the pieces we were chewing.

We asked the server who’s a very nice aunty, to help ask the chef if it’s supposed to taste & smell this way, and to maybe sear it so it’s fully-cooked. Doneness is honestly less of a concern at this point than food safety.

After a while the aunty returned, menu in hand, “The chef said everyone’s taste buds are different, so maybe you cannot accept the taste. He asked you to order another steak instead.

We were puzzled, but politely declined to order a replacement steak as the tomahawk was already served by then and it looks pretty huge.

After the aunty left, we started pondering why the chef didn’t pick the option of cooking the steak fully for us.

And we thought, maybe he also found it problematic but can’t admit outright that they served meat that had gone bad, which was why he asked us to order another one instead.

Because if “everyone’s taste buds are different“, what are the chances that all four of us, with our different tastes & preferences in food, found it unpleasant at the same time?

I asked bestie to describe his experience. He said,

“It smelled as if the meat was rotting, but not in a controlled way.”

At the thought of it, we all scrunched up our faces in disgust.

Main Course #2: Dry-Aged Tomahawk

Tomahawk / Côte de boeuf (S$205), 1.3kg for 3 persons. With Romaine Salad, and two additional sauces at S$5 each.

After the ordeal of the rancid (?) steak, the tomahawk was a saving grace. We were almost in tears.

Omg, THIS is beef!

God I didn’t know beef could taste this good. Amazing.

Drama-aside, the meat’s color was nice. I commented that it was quite unevenly cooked, i.e. almost well-done near the edges, and medium rare in the middle, and bestie commented that tomahawks are usually that way.

Close-up on a middle slice of the tomahawk steak.

The tomahawk was better compared to the other steak but for S$50 per pax it definitely can be better.

Portion-wise there was enough meat for 4, but overall it’s a tad dry. The outer layer was crisp and nicely-charred, but the meat itself was not that tender or juicy.

In fact, it’s rather chewy and there was also a lot of silver skin that was unchewable & can’t be cut through.

Dessert

Eton Mess (S$16). Raspberry & Mango Sorbet, Meringue & Mix Berries.

This one was really popular among my sweet-toothed housemates; I personally only tried a little bit of it and found it sickeningly sweet. But to be honest it’s probably the tastiest dish we’ve had all night.


Food: 3/10

I hoped that this place would be able to change my mind about dry-aged steaks in general, but after this meal my impression of them went from bad to worse.

Throughout my steak-tasting journey, the hanging tender wagyu was the first piece of steak I’ve encountered where I wasn’t able to swallow even a single slice of it.

The tomahawk was just okay and not really worth the price.

I appreciate that they’re trying to be creative with other dishes, but the sauces are simply too overpowering or out of place at times.

Service: 7/10

For a bar & grill-type of establishment, our server tended to several tables in the area, but was very attentive and responsive. She also helped to relay messages between us and the chef about the problematic steak, and asked us to rate or provide feedback for the restaurant online when we were leaving.

Points were deducted due to the chef’s response to our feedback, which barely made sense.

Verdict

It wasn’t a particularly good experience for us, and we won’t return for another meal.

Damage: S$390 for 4, so about S$97 / pax.

Wagyu Omakase Review: Wagyu Dojo ðŸ‡²ðŸ‡¾

In town for a bit before flying off to Singapore, so decided to give this new establishment a try, since I saw in ads that they do wagyu omakase. When booking they specifically mentioned that they’re not a restaurant, but a “wagyu experience hub“. Color me intrigued!

Photo by World Orgs.com.

A small unassuming shop front hidden in a row of old car workshops & hardware stores just off Old Klang Road. The interior was cosy, just enough to fit an L-shaped bar that could host 3 diners on each stretch.

The bar counter.

Hello! You’re Tiffani, right?” I was greeted by name by a friendly, suit-clad server once I entered the shop, and while I sat down in amazement of the fact that they remembered my name from the reservation, I was even more surprised when I caught sight of my name on the place mat.

Spot the “Tiffani Lim” printed in gold atop the menu.

I arrived half an hour ahead of time for the 6:30pm session, and was told that they can only start serving food when two other diners for the session has arrived. Of course I said okay, and while sipping hot genmaicha I was given an introductory course to the basic types of wagyu and cuts, and shown the block of Miyazaki wagyu with its ID and certification.

They mentioned that they’ve been around for a long while as a wagyu supplier, and they’ve decided to branch out into a wagyu experience hub about half a year ago. Initially it’s just to serve their friends, but they recently started opening up for the public to reserve & dine in.

Soon after the other two diners (a couple) arrived, got seated, and after another brief round of introduction to their block of Miyazaki wagyu that’ll be used in the courses today, the server & chef started preparing the first course together. It didn’t take long, because it was sashimi.

1st Course: Wagyu & Tori Sashimi

1st Course: Wagyu & Tori (Chicken) Sashimi. The beef came with kombu salt, and the chicken was topped with special wasabi.

They checked prior to serving the first course if we were alright with raw food. I had no issues with the wagyu, but the chicken was a little iffy to me.

Out of respect towards the chef I took one bite of the raw chicken. It had a fresh springy texture but was relatively tasteless without the wasabi, and that’s when I decided that I won’t be missing much, and requested the chef to sear the rest for me.

While serving the seared chicken to me later they added that it’s common in Japan to eat chicken sashimi, and reassured me that they’ve tried it personally hours before serving it to customers and that they use food-grade sanitizer etc.

I knew that chicken sashimi was a thing in Japan, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that my apprehension was stemming from the fact that we’re in a country where food safety is not as strictly-regulated, and I’m really not sure if they’re trained in handling sashimi properly. And even if they’ve tried it and survived doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of parasites or bacteria on other pieces that were served to us.

So though I allow myself to be adventurous with food at times, one bite was as far as I’d go this time.

A5 wagyu sashimi with kombu salt.

The raw wagyu tasted good with the kombu salt, though I also questioned if it would taste better lightly-seared. With my limited understanding of wagyu I imagined that a bit of heat would release the juices and melt the fats and make it taste more buttery. But that’s just my own speculation.

There was also a bit of silver skin.

2nd Course: Wagyu Spring Roll

2nd Course: Wagyu spring roll with tartar sauce.

The chef explained that the vegetables were fried using wagyu fats, but overall I didn’t really get much of a wagyu taste from the spring roll itself. Even when biting into the meat it was overshadowed by everything else that was going on in the spring roll.

I’ve never been a fan of spring rolls, so it just felt very… fusion. The homemade tartar sauce had a refreshing lemon tinge to it though.

3rd Course: Wagyu Brisket

3rd Course: Wagyu Brisket with Quail Egg Yolk.

The brisket was tender, but the fact that it was minced (iinm) was quite disappointing to me. It’s not that I wasn’t open to new ways to eat wagyu, but it simply tasted like minced burger patty, just a bit more tender and flavorful than normal beef I suppose.

I’m not sure about the act of mincing up wagyu though, like don’t you lose the original buttery fatty texture that highly-marbled wagyu is prized for? Maybe that’s the right way of processing that cut of meat. But from a diner’s perspective I don’t feel like it’s particularly tasty.

4th Course: US Wagyu Tongue

4th Course: Caviar on American Wagyu Tongue, lightly seasoned with Foie Gras.

It’s tongue. It’s chewy. And it’s not Japanese wagyu.

After the meal I reread the menu and asked the chef about the foie gras, to which they replied that it was lightly shaved onto the dish. I missed it though, was too caught up with chewing the tongue.

Anyway, the reason that I love wagyu so much is because it requires minimal chewing.

So if we’re trying to introduce wagyu to people or get people to fall in love with the texture that wagyu offers, I’m really not sure if serving chewy tongue is the right way to go about it.

5th Course: Wagyu, Enoki & Asparagus Maki

5th Course: Asparagus and Enoki Mushroom wrapped in Wagyu.

This one was really tasty and juicy. The seared wagyu went really well with the crunchy vegetables, and though the asparagus kept threatening to overpower the wagyu, it all melted together in the mouth into a perfect blend of juices. One of the courses I really enjoyed!

6th Course: Wagyu Katsu Sando

6th Course: Wagyu Katsu Sando (Fried Wagyu Sandwich).

This one was a pleasant surprise for me, one of the best wagyu sandos I’ve tried eaten. I think the bread made all the difference, it was coated in a layer of wagyu fat and lightly grilled so it was crispy and not oily at all. The wagyu too was crispy on the outside yet tender and juicy on the inside.

The plate came with some blueberry jam, a sweet juicy tomato and a small salad with strips of pear. It was a great mix of sweet and savory.

This was when we were also served a cup of sweet yuzu sake to be paired with the dish. The sake was so sweet that I didn’t manage to finish it; I suppose it was also meant to balance out the richness and oiliness of the sando.

I took my time to finish up this sando dish, alternating between sweet and savory as was intended by the chef. Everything was amazing, including the creative touch that was the blueberry jam.

7th Course: Wagyu Tendon Soup

7th Course: Kansai-style Wagyu Tendon Soup.

The soup was very rich in umami and flavorful, and the pieces of meat were surprisingly soft, tender and easy to swallow. I don’t particularly like soup, but this to me was acceptably tasty.

When the chef asked me how the soup was I wasn’t sure how to reply though. I figured in hindsight that at that point I was a little disappointed at how little wagyu (in the conventional sense & style of cooking) there have been in this omakase, and this was already the second last dish on the menu. So I went with a pretty bland,

“Uh, it’s soup lor.”

That was when they started asking me about omakases I’ve been to and which one was my favourite. They’re rather attuned to the omakase market locally, and introduced me to a couple of other must-try omakases.

But truth be told, I was unimpressed not because I’ve tried too many other omakases before, but because I love wagyu, I came for the wagyu and we’re at the 7th dish and I feel like I’ve barely had any wagyu.

8th Course: Wagyu Yakiniku Don

8th Course: Wagyu Yakiniku Don with Truffle & Egg Yolk.

This was by far the closest to what I came for, just grilled wagyu on rice, no frills, no fusion. But the sad thing was, by the time I got to this last course, I was already so full that I was hard-pressed to force the dish down so as not to let down the perfectly-cooked wagyu.

They should really have served grilled wagyu as one of the earlier courses.

This. Perfection!

There was also another surprise in the form of crispy beef fats (牛油渣). As a sucker for fried pork lard, I was really excited to try out the beef version. However, some pieces were impossible to chew, some had an unpleasant oily taste, some were just okay. Either the frying wasn’t done well or pork lard is superior.

Dessert: Wagyu Ice Cream

Dessert: Wagyu Ice Cream!

This was yet another surprise, this ice cream tasted like salted caramel with heavy hints of something meaty. According to the chef it was made with wagyu fats. It was rich and salty, with bits and pieces of what feels like beef jerky. Pretty unique as ice cream goes!


Expectations vs Reality

To be honest, when I saw “wagyu omakase“, I was expecting more wagyu and less omakase. Perhaps my expectations were a little misplaced, which is why at some point during the meal, I started to wonder – where is the wagyu?

Also, the price point is set at RM 628 per pax. My initial thought process was along the lines of, based on the market price of raw wagyu steak that I’ve bought from suppliers before, sans the service & presentation, I should at least be expecting 300g+ worth of wagyu.

Truth be told, I was expecting a full educational course on how wagyu should be prepared, with the melty buttery meat served in different cooking styles; perhaps the chance to explore the differences between wagyu from different prefectures/farms.

Some different unconventional cuts and small creative dishes are welcome, but preferably not anything filling.

Comparison with Yakiniku Great’s Wagyu Omakase

I tried another wagyu omakase in KL about 4 months back, at Yakiniku Great. I went for the RM 390 per pax one, and I remember it to be a pretty darn good meal full of buttery wagyu goodness.

My only complaint about Yakiniku Great is the lack of personal touch in terms of service, as they had the servers going from table to table serving and explaining each dish. There were no counter seats where the chef would cook, serve while chatting with you about wagyu, which is different from other omakase experiences. And the wagyu they used was from Kagoshima, which in my limited knowledge is not among the top wagyu brands (cmiiw).

For Wagyu Dojo, they use primarily Miyazaki beef which is presumably superior, but it’s more of the style of cooking which I feel takes away from the experience.

I can understand where Wagyu Dojo is coming from, since they brand themselves as the wagyu experience hub, that perhaps this omakase is meant to be an introductory course to someone who’s had beef before but not Japanese wagyu per se, to be shown the difference between the two.

But personally, the soup, tongue, spring roll & minced brisket were a tad far from what I expected. Not about the type of the dish or cuts, but more of the texture.

The Wagyu Dojo chef cooking the briskets & chatting with us about the types of wagyu.

In terms of the omakase experience itself, Wagyu Dojo did it much better. The ratio of 2 chefs to 3 diners made for an intimate session; the friendly and down-to-earth mannerisms of the chefs, patiently explaining about the wagyu, and politely observing before clearing / serving up each dish making you feel comfortable without being intrusive, also added a lot to the overall experience.

Having a friendly and chatty chef who’d excitedly and proudly chatter away about the food they’re serving, to me has always been a big factor in omakase.


Food: 7/10

I especially liked the katsu sando & truffle don. The rest of the dishes are nice, but not something you’d expect to eat at a wagyu restaurant, especially considering the fact that what most wagyu lovers like about the coveted type of beef is for its high marbling ratio and the resultant melty buttery texture, and there wasn’t much of that in the omakase.

I mean it’s okay to introduce some variety or different flavors to avoid overwhelming diners with the jelak feeling from too much oily wagyu, but they really shouldn’t take the spotlight away from wagyu itself.

Service: 10/10

Personalised place mat and greetings, intimate 2 chefs to 3 diner ratio. The chef & server were really friendly; they patiently explained to us about wagyu, types of cuts, other omakases in different parts of the country, and sincerely asked for feedback at the end of the session.

Verdict

Nice omakase experience, but can really do with more wagyu content, or wagyu-like textures.

Purely based on the amount of wagyu served, I personally feel it’s not really worth the price, at least not the current menu that I’ve tried. But they seem really open to receive feedback, so I might give them another chance later in the future.

Damage: RM 628 / pax (RM200 paid in advance as deposit)

About the Restaurant

Exquisitely curated with novelty, introducing Malaysia’s very first House of Wagyu! In the spirit of gastronomic excellence, Wagyu Dojo pursues the finest state of Wagyu culinary perfection.

If you wish to visit Wagyu Dojo, here’s the address:

Bandar Park, 48 Kompleks Bandar Park Jalan Mega Mendung, off Jln Klang Lama, Old Klang Road, 58200 Kuala Lumpur

Steak Review: Fat Cow ðŸ‡¸ðŸ‡¬

Visited the renowned Japanese-style steakhouse Fat Cow with my housemates; it’s located at Camden Medical in the Orchard area.

Photo by Tatler Singapore.

Two of my housemates have had steaks at Fat Cow before a few years prior, and they gave it rave reviews unanimously so it’s been on my restaurants checklist for a while now.

They offer a great selection of wagyu steaks from different prefectures; the ones shown here include Himeji, Saga, Tochigi, Hida, Ohmi and Miyazaki wagyu.

We have been enjoying home-cooked wagyu steaks for the past 6 months thanks to our resident aspiring steak chef Mark Twein, and even then there were many types of wagyu here at Fat Cow that are new to us.

Excited to try out the steaks! Couldn’t stop grinning.

We were seated in a private corner, probably since we were ordering ala carte rather than omakase. Upon entry we were also given zip-lock bags to hold our masks; a pretty nice touch on the restaurant’s part.

Starter: A sashimi platter.

Kinmedai ($29) and Otoro sashimi ($68) platter.

I didn’t try the kinmedai (splendid alfonsino); apparently it tastes rather fishy.

Otoro, on the other hand…

I absolutely love otoro; almost a must-order for me whenever I see it on the menu. It’s the fattiest part of the blue fin tuna belly, which practically melts in your mouth.

Next: The wagyu sandwich.

The Fat Cow Wagyu Sandwich ($88) – Toasted brioche, toriyama A4 tenderloin

So the story here is that I ordered a similar cutlet sandwich during my Tokyo trip earlier this year, cost around 500 SGD but ended up being really disappointing for me.

Breading and frying a densely-marbled piece of wagyu till it becomes dried up and chewy, then jamming it in between two pieces of oil-soaked fried bread is almost the worst way to prepare wagyu in my book – a waste of perfectly good meat. Texture ruined, no more melty buttery fats; the whole thing just becomes thick, sinewy & chewy.

And because this dish was introduced to me by our resident chef Mark, he wanted to make it up to me for the ill-advised recommendation by ordering the same thing here at Fat Cow.

Though he claims that it’s good, he’s always preferred his steak chewier in general, so to each their own. And I stand by my statement:

Wagyu cutlet sandwich is sacrilegious.

I do enjoy a good katsu or cutlet sandwich; I just don’t think it’s necessary to use (read: waste) highly-marbled wagyu for this purpose.


Main Course: Wagyu steak!

Time for the main course – what we came to Fat Cow for! I am a sucker for fatty steaks, so I picked the hida wagyu as advised by the server.

Hida A5 Wagyu Steak 150g ($188)

The sauce was amazing; the garlic was fried just nice so it’s crispy and not bitter.

The hida steak is almost 90% fats – the fattiest one on the menu indeed.

The outer layer or coating of the steak was crispy and the meat itself was tender and required minimal chewing; it was just so rich in fats that I could feel the meat melt on my tongue and the oil trickle down my throat, so texture-wise it was great, exactly what you’d expect of top-grade wagyu.

Unfortunately, all these were overshadowed by the fact that the entire steak just tastes overwhelmingly like blowtorched mentaiko.

And this wasn’t the only steak that had this problem – between the 4 of us we ordered 3 main courses:

  • A 21 days dry-aged nagasaki A5 wagyu donburi
  • A hida A5 wagyu steak (mine)
  • A saga A5 wagyu steak

And all three of these shared the same issue.

We took turns to try out the different steaks, but sans some minute differences in texture, they all tasted the same. We weren’t even able to taste the supposed nutty note that should be present in the dry-aged steak.

Hyped it up too much beforehand, somewhat disappointed by the steak.

We shared our feedback with the friendly team of servers, who then explained to us that the chefs don’t blowtorch the meat, so the overwhelming blowtorch-like taste was probably caused by the fact that the meat was partially cooked over a gas fire / grill.

My housemates mentioned that it didn’t used to taste this way when they visited a few years back, and the servers explained to us that they used to cook their steaks fully over a charcoal grill back then, but it takes too long to cook and resulted in a long wait-time, so they eventually switched to a half-gas, half-charcoal cooking method, allowing steaks to be served much faster.

It’s probably the gas fire portion of the new cooking method that made the meat taste like it’s been blowtorched.

We also told them that we definitely wouldn’t mind waiting longer for a good 100% charcoal-grilled steak on our next visit.


Dessert…?

And as we were chitchatting over green tea and looking at what to order for dessert, the servers suddenly returned to our table and informed us that the chef would like to offer us another wagyu steak on the house, only cooked slightly differently this time, to see if there’s a difference in taste.

Of course we were all pleasantly surprised by such a nice gesture from the restaurant. They offered us a full steak, but because we were already feeling jelak from the sheer rich oiliness of the prior courses, we asked if we could just have a small tasting portion instead.

A smaller Tochigi A5 steak for the 4 of us to share.

The steak was served after a while, we asked them what was done differently – they replied that this piece was done mostly over the charcoal grill; they turned off the gas part of the grill, but since it’s been on for the entire day there was bound to be a bit of lingering smell.

This one turned out to be great, much to our satisfaction; there was a lot less of the gas or blowtorch taste, just a subtle hint of it in the crispy outer layer. And with that we could fully taste the natural sweetness of the wagyu meat and appreciate the tender, melty and buttery texture.


Food: 8/10

If only the steaks we ordered were cooked over charcoal! Their ingredients were fresh and top-grade; and we had nothing to complain about the sides dishes; everything else from the foie gras to the steak sauce was really tasty.

Not penalizing them for the cutlet sandwich too because it’s the whole concept of it that’s bad, not the execution. It tastes the same everywhere.

Customer Service: 10/10

The gestures from the restaurant and efficiency with which our feedback were handled really speaks a lot about the management of their restaurant, they could’ve easily just ignored the issue but instead, they chose to go the extra mile. And that really made up for our initial disappointment over the steaks.

Total Damage: $800 for 4 pax; so about 200 SGD / pax.

About the Restaurant

Fat Cow is a Japanese-inspired meat atelier where the promise of a bespoke dining experience is carried through from a handpicked selection of the finest Wagyu beef to its luxurious wines, sakes and signature cocktails. Guests may enjoy their choice of beef over a variety of Japanese preparation methods – Shabu-Shabu, Sukiyaki, or the ever-popular Sumibiyaki (charcoal-grill).” – TripAdvisor

If you wish to visit Fat Cow, here’s the address:

1 Orchard Blvd
#01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre
Singapore 248649

Can Esports be Considered a Sport? – The Age-Old Debate

A recent article posted on The Straits Times insinuated that esports athletes are inferior to other sports athletes because they’re mostly game addicts who sits around all day, only moving their eyes and fingers. The author also implied that esports is in essence not too different from hobbies such as knitting and baking.

Truth is that the author is pathetically misinformed about the strict training regimens of esports athletes nowadays, and isn’t able to effectively tell the difference between esports players and casual gamers in the first place. And unfortunately, many others share these misconceptions about esports.

Prize pools in esports have amounted to exceed that of conventional sports, with stakes as high as tens of millions in USD per match. Under these conditions it is incredibly naive of these naysayers to still think that any esports team or professional player would not be doing whatever it takes before matches to ensure their physical and mental states are in tip-top condition.

1. First of all, GAMING ≠ ESPORTS

Gaming is a hobby, esports is a full-time job.

Many non-gamers love to throw the term ‘esports‘ around with contempt and thinking it simply means ‘a bunch of game addicts wasting time‘, without even bothering to find out what ‘esports‘ really means. The difference between esports and gaming is essentially the difference between the NBA League and street basketball that you play with your friends.

And similarly, comparing esports athletes with casual gamers is like comparing Muhammad Ali to a someone who punches a sandbag at home to destress everyday – apples and oranges.

Esports by definition means competitive gaming, but as we have so many top-tier competitions nowadays with insane amounts of prize pool, esports should be more accurately defined as “the top level of competitive gaming“. As such, anyone can become a competitive player, but it’s definitely the cream of the crop who’d come to be referred to most often as “esports players“.

Professional esports athletes chose esports as a full-time job. They made the conscious decision to dedicate their life to the craft, moving into a bootcamp / training house, and hone their skills on a daily basis with the help of support staff such as full-time coaches, analysts, psychologists and chefs or nutritionists. As players are contractually-obligated to commit to daily training, and share the same goal of winning as the organizations paying their salaries, most of them only take short breaks from daily training at the end of competitive seasons.

At the top level of competitive gaming, hard work is something that’s so ubiquitous that it’s expected of everybody – nobody would brag of training diligently; results would speak for themselves.

Professional esports teams train against other pro teams (often from another country / region) on a daily basis, and in between training they’d either be watching and analyzing replays, coming up with new tactics and strategies, working on improving teamwork and communication, studying recent changes or trends in the game, or exercising in order to keep their stamina up to prepare for long hours of intense concentration.

Loving the game doesn’t equate to being good at the sport.

Gaming is a huge industry made up of billions of gamers worldwide, and many gamers aspire to become professional players. But the sad truth is, perhaps only the top 0.00001% can eventually make it to the international stage. Hard work, top-tier skills, dedication and the right mindset is a given; and you’d need more than a bit of luck to get scouted and picked up by a proper team / organization, have compatible teammates to compete with, build a strong reputation for yourself, for the slight chance to eventually get picked to represent your country when the time comes.

And the five in every SEA country who eventually get selected, would be your esports athletes representing their respective countries in the SEA Games.

So insinuating that our national esports athletes are just a bunch of lazy bums sitting around all day is honestly a rather huge insult.

2. Of Physical Aspects and Sacrifices

There are in fact many parallels to be drawn between esports and certain conventional sports titles. Take competitive shooting for example – when competing at the international-level, like esports it requires intense mental focus maintained for a prolonged period of time, excellent physical condition as a basis for stamina, as well as strong psychological resilience in order to excel.

The international esports stage is where a momentary lapse of concentration could mean losing a million-dollar game; a well-timed skill instinctively executed by muscle memory could as easily turn the tides in a team’s favor in a close game. There’s no room for mistakes in a top-tier match – one player’s error could mean the loss of millions of dollars for the entire team; there’s simply too much at stake.

As such, maintaining tip-top physical form is essential to winning games. Many esports teams have taken to incorporating some form of daily physical training to their training regimes, as physical form is well-known to be linked to greater stamina and better mental focus, both essential skills for esports athletes.

Most physical sports require maximizing the potential of various parts of the human body, and esports as well has incredibly high requirement for hand-eye coordination and lightning-fast reflexes. Repetitive reflexes and muscle memory training are thus included as part of some teams’ daily schedule.

And diet-wise, since a couple of years ago nutritionists and full-time cooks are already included as part of the support team living in esports team bootcamps. Many teams ban fried or unhealthy food in general during competitive seasons as it’s said to slow your reaction time.

What people don’t see is that many esports teams also impose strict rules on social behavior, prohibiting the use of mobile phones, messaging apps and stopping players from leaving the bootcamp or seeing their partners during competitive season, as all these would tend to distract players and affect their emotional state and eventual condition in matches.

These are some of the common sacrifices made by esports players who compete at the top level, mutually agreed with and enforced by team organizations.

3. Definition of Sports – Not a Comparison of Brute Strength

When it comes to the definition of sports, we disagree that it should be a comparison between the extent of the usage of bodily muscles, as suggested in the original article. If we go by this logic and go about defining what’s sports and what’s not based on the amount of ‘physical challenges’ involved, does that mean that anyone who can lift a 100kg weight or display a certain amount of physical prowess can effectively be considered an athlete?

If that’s the case, what about sports titles such as golf, archery and shooting? Should they be considered sports titles since the amount of ‘physical challenges’ required are also limited to certain body parts and doesn’t necessarily require Herculean levels of brute strength? Just where exactly do we draw the line?

4. Esports is Not in Desperate Need of Recognition

Esports is already a billion-dollar industry on its own – with a strong fanbase and lines of merchandises built around its unique pull and high entertainment value as a spectator sport. With numerous competitive game titles across different platforms (PC, consoles & mobile), most international esports tournaments nowadays have no trouble filling up entire stadiums.

After all, esports still has its roots in gaming, and it relies heavily on the sponsorship and investments attracted to the huge gaming consumer base. And with that, within the past decade we’ve seen the formation of healthy ecosystems surrounding esports, creating more and more full-time, sustainable jobs, including match commentators, team managers, esports journalists, game analysts, etc.

Even with the huge stigmatization towards gaming and widespread misconception towards the notion of ‘esports‘, the industry is already standing strong on its own, having regular competitive seasons and league systems, solid fanbases and markets, high-quality media production, engaging narratives, an ever-growing pool of talents and support staff keeping the scene running and expanding exponentially. Seeing the potential in a budding industry, an increasing number of professionals such as lawyers and psychologists as well as entrepreneurs and investors are exploring or creating opportunities in esports as well.

Gaming is a widely-favored form of entertainment in this generation of youths, and as they grow up to make up the workforce and make the conscious choice to join and further grow the esports industry, it won’t be surprising if esports eventually comes to edge out conventional sports.

Hence, we’re glad to say that at this point in time, esports is really not in desperate need for recognition. Being part of the SEA Games or the Olympics is definitely a huge step forward for the industry in raising awareness amongst the general public or gaining governmental support, but we’ve done fine on our own in the past decade, and are thus completely alright with not being part of these mixed sports events.

Like a “well it’s nice to be included, but we’ll also do fine without it”.

Because with or without the support of the older generation who refuse to open their mind and understand esports, the industry is here to stay and will only keep growing stronger as the years go by – and that is the truth whether or not you choose to accept it.

This article was originally published on the Battle Arena Malaysia Facebook page.

MAJOR ALL STARS æœ‰æ„Ÿ

*以下所有言论仅代表我个人的观察与意见,与任何机构无关。照片来自赛事官方帐号。

 

MAS 期间参与了 falloutgaming 团队(此后简称 FG)。

FG 四位创办人当中的两位,Francis 和 Adrian。

本来也是抱着一点想进谏的心态,因为从一开始主办方就是采取跟本地电竞人保持距离的立场。打从他们允许几个打假赛的队伍参赛、允许在游戏中用快捷指令(Macro)键等风波开始应该就有好多人都极想跟主办方沟通了,我也是其中一个。后来也就顺利地认识了他们,发现跟他们在许多方面都很投契。

FG 一直都很自信,感觉好像很清楚知道自己在做些什么。他们本身是广告 / 活动公司的背景,之前都是帮一些著名汽车饮料品牌和歌手办大型活动的,然后因为自己都有打 Dota,于是决定把线下比赛、著名战队都带到东南亚来,让这里的粉丝有机会零距离接触自己的 Dota 偶像。

而我在加入这个团队后,在比赛期间的职务其实就是跟战队交涉、照顾选手,基本上就是跑腿兼战队的“奶妈”总管,另外也帮忙承办赛前的宣传和送票活动,这些工作我都驾轻就熟,也没多聊薪酬的事,就欣然答应了。

我是一个电竞人,不过也通过结识了主办方而了解他们的一些背景、处事态度,甚至苦衷,所以想分享一下我个人作为这次比赛工作人员的一些观察和感想。

东南亚电竞圈普遍匮乏的专业理念

东南亚的网民,尤其是爱电竞的族群,大部分还是不太成熟的。热情,但不成熟。看看东南亚的一些页面上分享的内容素质和网民的行径就能窥见一斑,许多东南亚著名的电竞人物也是抱持比较不专业或不成熟的态度在行事。这是一种很典型的东南亚风格,大家都很喜欢在一些灰色地带试探,只要有漏洞就钻,无孔不入。这种风格有时候是很纯朴可爱的,可是常常也叫人扼腕。

这是 FG 一开始比较不涉身本地的电竞圈子、也不太寻求本地电竞人帮助的原因。他们要在东南亚电竞圈子里打造一个专业的品牌。这点其实甚为艰难,跟这种未成熟的大环境形成冲突,他们那种较为疏远而专业的沟通方式可能会不为大众所理解,不过相较于西方的一些大型电竞机构却更为相似一些。这其实也是我当初选择支持他们的一大原因。

话虽如此,他们最终在执行的方面无法跟上这种专业的理念,眼高手低。其实也是有点骄傲轻敌了,以为靠着办活动的丰富经验就能简易地办好一场电竞比赛,殊不知电竞比赛里各种技术方面的问题都是需要有专门知识才能搞定的。

本地电竞人对本次比赛的态度

有些电竞人听说这个大型赛事即将在自家门口举行,口口声声说要帮忙,被婉拒之后却在网络上不断地对本次比赛冷嘲热讽、煽风点火地引起舆论。这种居心我比较不了解,且作为电竞人卡在中间的我也是比较两难。

一方面我真心希望比赛可以成功,而要达到这个目的我需要马国电竞粉丝们的支持,可是同时我又不想出面得罪那些唯恐天下不乱的人、徒惹是非,何况其中一些还是跟我颇有交情的朋友。于是开始各种私信劝导,希望他们可以停止动作,把一些有建设性的提议给我由我转交予主办方。然后其中一些人听了我的话也决定从旁帮助(这里要特别感谢一下)。

eSports Malaysia 代表 Rinie 在记者会上发言。
(本地赛事要付费才能获得此政府机构的官方批准)

那些真心想帮助的人,开始把信息以各种不公开的方式传达到 FG 的手中,渐渐开始了一些信任与合作。中间也曾经因为错信了人而差点出了事,这里说说一个小插曲。

插曲:E 君的故事

话说,某本地知名战队经理 E 君在决赛两个星期前通过各种管道,软硬兼施地要求赛事方把自己的战队强行加入线下赛中,或是替补当时已经受邀的战队。可是由于我们都觉得这样对其他早已受邀、参加预选和成功出线的战队太不公平,于是就没有同意他的要求,同时邀请该战队在我们的全明星赛中亮相。他们的选手之后好像也是推却了,事情不了了之。

不久之后,E 君从朋友口中探知了比赛相关的敏感机密内容,随即有意地将之泄露出去,并施以各种低下手段企图把比赛搞垮。这种人的居心也是比较明显,就是你们不让我参加比赛,我就让你办不成比赛。之后多亏了一些愿意帮助我的人把此事消弥于无形,不过这也让我看清了某些人道貌岸然的嘴脸,给我上了非常宝贵的一课。

赛前筹备:门票

筹备方面我并没有参与很多,主要只是帮忙卖票和送票而已。主办方的原意就是要让众多的东南亚粉丝到场观看大型比赛,和自己心仪的选手接触拍照等,可是可能跟粉丝的互动和沟通不够好吧,到了一星期前还发现好多人都不知道只要是持票入场的(不论哪种票价)都有机会见到偶像索取签名合照,而 VIP 的好处则更多一些,比如可以参加庆功派对等。我相信他们在客服和沟通方面都还有待加强。

不过个人还是觉得,如果广大粉丝没有受到一些负面舆论的影响,或许也会对这个比赛抱以比较支持的态度,而不是事事都以质问、谩骂的方式企图得到解决;这是一种非常不健康的文化,也真心希望以后本地的电竞粉丝能够对本地的活动以及赛事有着更加正面支持的态度,这样定能鼓舞从事电竞的主办方们,进以提升比赛和活动的素质。

赛前隐忧

我去过的大型比赛也有好几个了吧,每次都是以经理、领队或是内部人员的身份参与。难得终于有机会亲自参与,我就在这次比赛开始之前把自己可以想到的可能出差错的东西都列成了一个清单,呈给主管们。奈何这份清单并未得到什么肯定就被抛之脑后,到了赛前突发状况还是频频发生,从赞助商到技术方面的问题层出不穷。

比赛本身的筹划部分已经不足,实际的准备更是与纸上说的差了一大截,比赛前一晚解说台的电脑都还没准备好,我急得要命,解说也急得要命。当晚我陪着越南和英文解说们来来回回跑了好几趟场馆,可是 FG 他们当时好像还有其他问题要解决,一直都没能腾出时间来把电脑问题搞定。许多问题我只能干瞧着无能为力,安慰解说们说“明天应该就没问题了”,可是心里其实一点底也没有。

知名选手 Dendi 在电脑赞助商 tbun 店里出席赛前粉丝见面活动。
第一天:网线、插座与电路问题

第一天主要就是网线方面的问题吧。原来的电脑赞助商派了一些人来帮 FG 设计场馆的网线,可是比赛第一天早上俄语解说台怎么都连不上网的时候却找不到技术人员来解决问题(整个早上 tbun 负责人的手机都打不通)。之后具体究竟发生了什么我也不太清楚,我自己就是想到先去安抚一下解说们的心情,然后问他们有没有办法解决,毕竟他们自己也常办大型线下比赛,这种网线问题应该是家常便饭。

忽然想起 Empire 的经理本身是个网络专家,就跑去请他来看看网线和伺服器是不是有问题。他一看之下却也只是摇摇头,说他自己也没有十足把握可以解决问题,而且电脑内部的系统都是 tbun 那里的技术人员才可以解锁的,他要帮也无从帮起。

当下我真恨不得自己也是个网络专家。可是我什么也不能做,只能帮忙给赞助商那里打了好几通电话,然后像个热锅上的蚂蚁,后台前台到处跑,试图安抚在场的战队和解说。可是安抚之际还是难掩自己心中的那种无力感。等会儿技术问题真能解决吗?明天真的能打完剩下的比赛吗?我其实自己也不知道。

之后好像还出现插座过热以致溶化的问题,当时 Invasion 和 Navi 战队先后从台上迅速跑到后台来说他们好像闻到什么东西烧焦的味道,随即发现是台上有个插座连接器被烧坏了。FG 方面找人把电路和插头重新修复好了,可是网络问题仍是无法得到解决。不久之后下起了雷雨,雷电交加之际场馆某处的电线更出现短路,场馆所有的网线终于一并烧坏。此时问题再无法修复,于是第一天提早结束。

好多选手和工作人员事后都跟我说,第一天的我看起来一直是一副眉头深皱压力很大的样子,想要劝慰却又不知道说什么。这也使我有点啼笑皆非,作为战队奶妈应该是由我来安慰选手不是选手反来安慰我吧。后来想想当时自己也只是一直干着急却又无能为力,其实又有什么用呢。

插曲:Empire 的 “训练赛”

这里又要说一段小插曲。话说第一天早上我在场馆安排好各战队的对战和休息房之后,忽然听说 Empire 选手在网上发了一些表示不满的状态,说他们的第一场比赛没有裁判也没有解说。我也是觉得有点纳闷,那一块因为不是我管的所以一开始我也不想越界去干预,可是出现这样的情况总是非常不合理。于是就跑到后台去问问那里监管后台比赛的裁判们(志愿者),结果一听完他们的回答我当场气得破口大骂。那好像是我生平第一次冲着这么多我不认识的人喊吧,现在想想也有点内疚,毕竟不是他们的错,这里想对他们说声报歉。

反正第一场的情况就是,选手自行建主机,投币之后马上开始,主机里没有裁判,在场的和国际的解说都不知情。基本上跟训练赛没有两样。我当时脑中根本无法理解这种情形到底为什么会发生。之后我就跟那帮裁判(志愿者)说,此后比赛我来负责,我会通知 OB 来开比赛主机,然后知会所有解说,经过我的允许才能开始。我擅自插手此事虽是有点惴惴不安,不过我觉得是必要的。否则线上的观众看什么?

Team Empire 在后台的选手休息室。
第一天晚上:重新修改赛程

第一天的活动在下午接近傍晚时分取消了。我和其他奶妈们把各自的战队送回酒店之后就接到了一个不属于我管辖范围的任务,就是编排隔天的比赛行程。可是接到这个差事的时候我其实非常兴奋——终于有机会在修复问题上贡献自己的力量了,编排赛程也是我一向来比较熟悉了解的东西。

我花了约 4 小时的时间排出了几种可行的赛程,可是当中牵涉到很多同时进行的比赛,当时我脑中瞬间又浮现起 Empire 打 TR 第一场的情况。于是我果断地跟 FG 要求,请他们允许我在安排赛程之余,主持和监管之后的所有比赛。他们也爽快地答应了。不过看情形,当下他们也没有更好的选择了。

这天晚上我收到了很多温暖的问候与加油鼓励的话语,一整天都没有流下来的眼泪终于也忍不住了。许多朋友们也纷纷热心地提供自己的帮助。这个比赛的成败本来不是我们的责任,但为了挽救局势和本地的电竞,大家的目标一致,许多客套的话语也无需多说。

第一天晚上:两批人马的加入

当晚场馆里来的两批人马,第一批是 eSports Malaysia (eSM)的行政人员,第二批则是 Mineski Events Team(MET)的工作与技术人员。在活动与执行方面,eSM 好像是跟 FG 做了一些沟通,具体我也不太清楚,好像就是训斥了一番,并且监督第一天晚上的修复与准备过程。据我所知,他们并没有提供任何实质性的帮助,但在嘴力和眼力方面的贡献绝对是毋庸置疑的。

在技术与电脑方面,当晚所有工作人员和 MET 的人员合作把烧坏了的网线、伺服器都换成了新的,然后电脑也(免费)换成了 MET 之前自己办的比赛中所用的白色电脑。第二天到场馆的时候,广告板上电脑赞助商的标志也随之更换了。有了专业技术人员的帮助,我的心其实定了很多。

第二天:后续的小问题

新进的一批 i3、i5 的白色电脑荧光灯五彩缤纷我非常喜欢,然其性能却不如之前的 i7,隔天因为显示卡与系统的问题再度引起了一些解说和选手的不满。由于电脑采用的都是网吧系统,所以每次重启时解说们都得重新录制直播软件,性能方面又有点负荷不了直播的重担,所以又出现了一些新的问题。一些西方的选手也向我反映了游戏中的显示以及 FPS 问题,说打团战的时候看不清楚,要求更高性能的电脑。出现了新的问题也是令人头疼,不过至少 MET 的技术人员有强烈的责任感,在场随时候命,在沟通和处理方面都高效方便多了。

网路方面在更换网线和伺服器之后也稳定了很多,并没有什么大问题,这也令我非常庆幸。

然而,如果这一切都事先准备妥当的话,其实第一天的所有问题都是可以避免的。

第二天:赛程与执行

第二天的赛程是我做的,所有比赛的执行也是我来操办,在确保比赛都能准时开始准时完成的前提下我也做了许多艰难的决定。我能够做到的,就是尽力安排让每个战队都有出镜、签名或是上台打比赛的机会。

知道第二天的执行肯定比第一天要更为艰难,而且我完全不认识那些管理比赛的志愿者,于是我在得到批准之后在第二天上把 10 几位朋友带入场馆帮助我监管比赛,在这里也要特别向他们致谢,因为他们也是第二天比赛顺利进行的大功臣。各个队伍的奶妈们也在忙碌的第二天上帮了我非常大的忙,从战队、解说到主办方的各种需要他们都一一办到,四处奔走,非常辛苦。

战队奶妈们(Team Nannies)帮我准备的晚餐!爱死他们了,整场比赛对我最好最支持最温暖的团队。

疯狂地和众位朋友们忙碌了一天下来,却一点也不觉得累,第二天结束时向我致谢的人们也包括了 eSM 和 MET,大家其实都是为了我们国家的电竞而付出,我向他们都回以了热烈的拥抱。终于得以贡献且获得认可和感激的那一刻让我觉得,再辛苦都是值得的。

插曲:战队签名会

记忆中第三天也并没有发生什么,只是好像有一个有关战队签名会的小插曲吧。Na`vi 当时刚战败了得了比赛的第四名,心情不太好,却还是很配合地答应在场馆门口为久候的粉丝们签名。主办方于这类有明星或重要人物的活动是很有经验的,重心很明显是放在明星人物身上,在 MAS 期间的话就是那些国际选手。所以在保安的重重包围下 Na`vi 来到了门口,当时排队的大概就是场馆里三分之一的观众数吧。

在照顾选手方面他们做得非常好,然而在照顾群众方面就不尽然了。有些群众只要某个知名选手的签名,但碍于时间的缘故保安人员必须让久候的群众只拿其中一位选手的签名就离开,这又再次造成许多人的不满。其实说到底这也是由于工作人员不了解电竞的缘故,不了解说有些选手较其他队友更有人气。

归根结底,非电竞人要承办一场电竞活动,需要照顾到的方方面面真的很多,很多管理方式和经验也是由上到下一起累积的,绝非一朝一夕之功。

结语

这次比赛中我看到了学到了许多,也要非常感谢 FG 给我亲身体验这一切的机会,我对比赛的认识也终于从战队经理、选手、翻译的视角涵盖到了战队负责人和主办方的视角。

然而每当我回想起这次的比赛,我始终想不通的,就是我事先写好呈给主管们的备忘录真的好长好长,都是我基于自己带队参加海外比赛的经验,绞尽脑汁想的许多可能会发生的状况,最后也几乎每一件都发生了,但为什么他们就是不听劝、非要以自己的方式去做?或许是当时的我人微言轻,他们只当我是一介可以免费为他们宣传的实习生兼万用跑腿,在办理活动方面也毫无经验,所以并没有人真的重视或是针对我的备忘录作出任何相应的调整,导致事先准备的和一个国际赛事应有的设备真的差太远。尽管后来我们竭尽全力地力挽狂澜,在许多方面始终是无力回天。

当我清楚知道事情应该要去怎么做好,却还是有太多事情在自己的掌控之外,那种心理上的挣扎是很痛苦很无力的。这就是我在本次比赛最强烈的一种感觉,贯穿全程。这种无力感在我接管比赛后的第二天上得到了改善,但还是不免想到,如果给我几个月的时间来筹划,我至少可以确保一切能思及的东西都已准备妥当。

但每每思及大家在我极度无助之时予以帮助的时候,心中总是一片暖烘烘的。

数年后新增后续:欠奖金与薪酬

我在整个 MAS 比赛的工作,包括每日去办公室参与筹备解决问题商讨对策、多次线下卖票、线上宣传、编制赛程、与各界各方做翻译沟通、照顾战队选手、简单来说就是包山包海,包括他们(似是在我不知情的情况下)用我的名义邀请国外众战队等,他们给我的,或觉得我应得的,一共是 3000 马币的薪酬。

不过赛后的我其实已经不想再和 FG 有任何合作关系了,只想敬而远之,所以那三千块我其实也没多计较,也没多想去讨回来,免得还要跟他们见面交涉。反之,FG 的人赛后不断尝试联系我,想找我一起重组整个公司并在改名后重新起航,继续在电竞圈打拼。但当时我的心好累,虽然赛前赛后我已经竭尽所能地去力挽狂澜,但我始终觉得愧对了支持我的人们,包括很多远道从新加坡过来观赛的朋友。所以我拒绝了。

我在许久之后仍没有收到我应得的薪酬,后来在跟一位当时赢得奖金的国外选手闲聊时,才赫然发现他也始终没有得到他的奖金。后来我再去询问了几位其他国家战队的成员,得到的答案亦然。

我后来也询问了几位西方知名的解说,发现他们已经决定组织起来向 FG 讨一个说法了,于是我才加入他们,一并跟 FG 谈欠奖金与薪酬的部分。而选手方面,也是在社交媒体施予压力后才得到一个“能否分期付款”的答复。还有许多没有公开施压的选手或战队,看来也已经是放弃了,让奖金的事不了了之。

对我来说,我从此次 MAS 比赛得到的并不是薪酬,而是人生中非常宝贵的经验与成长,让我在一夜之间看清了好多人事物,而且因为我选择在 FG 需要帮助时加入他们而非与他们站在对立面,更让我发现了许多之前看不见的丑恶,以及许多千变万化的嘴脸。这些是多少钱都买不来的。

但事后的我每每听到 falloutgaming 的名字、他们更名后重新征战电竞的公司 The Gaming Co 又有什么新搞作、或是有人跟我说他们还在欠奖金、不守承诺、搞砸什么比赛的破事儿,瞬间就觉得好累。仿佛完全失去了热忱… 又或许他们动摇了我对人性根本的理解?我不知道。也不想去理了。

心累啊。

STRIX Gaming Peripherals Review

If you follow my Facebook page you might’ve seen these photos of an orange-colored set of gaming peripherals I tried out during the PC Fair back in Dec ’14.

The headset, mouse & keyboard are all part of the new STRIX series, a new gaming peripherals line developed by renowned IT brand Asus. Compared to their previous ROG line that engineers expensive top-end products, this new Strix line offers a purely gaming-oriented series of mid to high-end peripherals with more affordable price tags.

Introduction to STRIX

Taken from the ancient Roman and Greek word for owl, Strix means the keenest hearing and sharpest eyesight. Strix means feeling your environment so that you detect and react to the slightest movement. Strix means survival on the very edge of instinct. Strix is in your blood, as it is in ours.

Aside from the obvious reason that it’s orange-colored, I felt really intrigued by this new line of gaming peripherals as the whole “Owl” concept seems to complement these high-end gaming gears & their designs really well.

I’ve had the chance to get my hands on some of these beautiful gears for the past few days, courtesy of Asus Malaysia; tried them out on couple of FPS & MOBA games that I usually play. I’ll do a review of each of these Strix gears from a gamer’s perspective.

Headset (Mid-Range) – The Strix Pro

(Retail Price: RM499)

Strix offers 4 different headsets differing in performance and price-range. The first headset I got to try out was the Strix Pro, a mid-ranged headset with a detachable microphone, volume control switch and foldable ear cups.

I’ve tested it on a couple of FPS & MOBA games so far etc., and I’d say that it performs better than expected – In most FPS games you will be able to tell the direction and source of in-game sounds with it, and that’s a pretty commendable feat since it’s not even a surround sound headset, so I’d say it works perfectly well as a cheaper alternative for FPS gamers.

You can clearly notice where they integrated the owl element into the design too.

Design-wise, I really love the orange eye-like design on the ear cups’ exterior, likely to attract second glances when you’re wearing it out. Also when you wear it the leather cups fit comfortably around your ears and block out noise really well. The ear pieces are also not stuffy at all, surprisingly, despite the material.

Wearing the Strix Pro headset.

For gamers though I believe the best feature in this headset would be the environmental noise cancellation (ENC) technology a built-in mic in the volume control box would actively detect and cancel out environmental noise. I’ve tried Skyping with teammates during a game with this headset on at a cybercafe, and the feedback from them was that they didn’t really hear much of the background noise & apparently the clicking sounds from my mechanical keyboard got filtered out too. In my opinion this is definitely a huge plus point in favor of this headset.

My only complaint about this headset would be that, despite being compatible with hand-held devices, it doesn’t handle music all that well, especially when it comes to bass (too soft) and high-frequency sounds (often beyond its limits). However it’s meant to be for gaming and not music, so unless you’re playing an intense horror game or say, Skyrim, in which case the lack of bass might dampen a bit of the effect/mood, it’s still more than enough for most other games.

You may check out the technical specifications here.

Mouse – The Strix Claw

(Retail Price: RM199)

The one and only mouse model offered in the series, the Strix Claw features a 5000 DPI optical sensor without prediction & acceleration, an ergonomic design allowing for really firm grip, on-the-fly DPI switches & 3 programmable side buttons.

Sleek overall design with a thumb groove and 3 buttons on the side.

I quite like the grip on this mouse with its contoured thumb rest – it’s shaped similarly to the Razer Imperator or Logitech G500, allowing for more control over mouse movements. The DPI switches come in pretty handy as well, though I’ve noticed that the cursor went a little jittery/shaky at the highest DPI setting available. The tiers/options offered by the switches are quite far apart too, though if you are particular about the mouse sensitivity you can always tweak it in-game or via your PC settings. Nonetheless I’d say it works adequately as a gaming mouse, and if you consider its price the performance is definitely better-than-expected.

This small and agile mouse seems to be a comfortable choice for claw-grip gamers.

The left, right & all 3 side buttons are rather nice to click, though the middle mouse button takes a lot more effort to press, which might limit its functionality if you’re a frequent user of that mouse button like myself. You might just find it exceptionally tough to throw a grenade, for instance, during a heated in-game gunfight.

Check out the technical specifications here.

Keyboard – The Strix Tactic Pro

(Retail Price: RM499)

The owl element here isn’t immediately apparent at first glance,
but you will realize the top part of the keyboard has been cleverly-shaped to resemble ears of an owl.

Likely to be the jewel in the crown, the Strix Tactic Pro is pretty much an all-in-one keyboard featuring a staggering total of 21 macro keys, a volume control panel (top-right), built-in profile switches and a convenient & simple macro recording system. It comes with a PC software suite that allows for easy customization & macro management, with a plug-and-play hardware mode available too thanks to its built-in 4MB memory.

The Tactic Pro comes in variations of different-colored Cherry MX keys (Red / Blue / Brown / Black) – the one I’m reviewing here has brown keys.

One key feature would be the N-Key Rollover (NKRO) technology, i.e. simultaneous key presses will not cause key-ghosting or jamming. This would be pretty useful in avoiding accidental key presses, especially in musical games or other instances that require rapid or simultaneous key presses. A number of other mechanical keyboards I’ve used before were able to do the same too, so I’d consider this feature as more of a pleasant addition to complete the wide-ranged functionality of this keyboard.

The Tactic Pro offers almost everything you might need in a keyboard, but to me it feels a bit too much. It’s a matter of personal preference – I’ve always preferred minimalistic keyboards over full-length ones, and it’s been a while since I’ve used a keyboard with numpad & macro keys on either side.

I’ve asked the opinion of a couple of professional Dota 2 and CS:GO players, and they’ve all expressed similar sentiments about the functionality of macro keys & numpad in a keyboard – accidentally pressing the macro keys can get annoying at times especially when you don’t use them often. I can see how they can be highly useful & customizable in MMO, RPG or casual MOBA/RTS games, but at the end of the day it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a keyboard. So if you’re the type of gamer / PC user who has the need or use for macro keys then this would be the perfect keyboard, but otherwise the macro keys on the side could be nothing but two extra row of keys that might even hinder your movement when you’re using the usual QWER or WSAD.

Hence I’d probably suggest that they manufacture an alternate edition without the extra keys for those who have no use for them.

Other than the macro keys though I have nothing to complain about the other parts of the Tactic Pro – from the pleasantly springy brown Cherry MX keys to the beautiful orange back lighting in breathing mode, this keyboard is definitely a high to top-end one for gaming, no doubt about it. So if you’re looking for a keyboard that can handle all your macro needs then this would be the keyboard of your choice.

Check this link for the full technical specifications.

Mousepad – Strix Glide Control

(Retail Price: RM99)

Strix offers two different mousepads to complete its series, one being the Strix Glide Speed and the other would be the Glide Control that I got to review. The weaved, textured surface provides for accurate & controlled mouse movement, with pixel-precise tracking that works with both laser & optical sensors, and finally an overall design that’s geared towards durability.

All in all it’s a beautiful mousepad that completes the set. Pick the Control version if you’re looking for more stable & controlled mouse movements in-game; pick the Speed edition if you’re looking for swift mouse movements with minimal effort. More details here.

Conclusion

The Strix line has a lot to offer when it comes to performance and functionality, on top of the stylish, owl-based design that certainly rates high in terms of aesthetic value.

Strix Pro Headset: 3.5/5  Does its job as a gaming headset, despite lacking in bass capabilities.
Strix Claw Mouse: 4/5  Nice ergonomic design, 3 side buttons & DPI on-the-fly, definitely good for gaming; slight issue with middle mouse button.
Strix Tactic Pro Keyboard: 3/5  Slightly too many macro keys for my liking; otherwise it’s an all-in-one high end gaming keyboard, nothing to complain about.
Strix Glide Control Mousepad: 5/5  Perfect complement to the other gears.

The design is definitely a huge plus to the series though!

Price List

Strix Pro HeadsetRM499
Strix Claw MouseRM199
Strix Tactic Pro KeyboardRM499
Strix Glide Control MousepadRM99

P.S. I’ll be giving away some discount vouchers for ASUS ROG & Strix products on my Facebook page soon, so stay tuned!

If you have any further questions, feel free to head to the official Strix homepageASUS ROG Malaysia FB page or just leave a comment under my Facebook page post.


༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ Give DIRETIDE!

Right I know the hype is like almost over now, but just in case you have been living under a rock (or maybe just not following Dota 2, Volvo, Najib, Namewee or Obama’s pages) for the past week…

Namewee – One of the many public figures affected by the Give Diretide movement

1. WTF is Diretide?!

Back in Oct 2012 when Dota 2 was still in beta, Valve created a Halloween event for the game – an alternative, fun game mode was introduced, with festive twists to the game map, funky costumes for in-game characters, ‘candy-stealing‘ replacing tower-defense for the gameplay & a 100% cosmetic item drop-rate as a reward for completing each round.

It was a really well-crafted in-game event, just take a look at the official page here for an idea of how it was like!

2. How did you like Diretide 2012?

Loved it, of course! I was only just starting Dota 2 (and Dota as a game in general) at that time last year, and it was through Diretide that I got to try out heroes outside of my comfort zone.

Not to mention that the game mode is much more fast-paced and exciting than the original.

3. So uhh, what happened this year…?

Fans would of course assume that it’s an annual event. But guess Valve spent too much of their resources into making TI3 an absolute success (mind you, it was fantastic), so perhaps Diretide just happened to slip their mind.

Or maybe they just didn’t realize the impact that the event have had on the community last year.

Official statement by Valve was along the lines of them wanting to stabilize the normal game modes first since the game was only just officially released.

To make things worse…

Fan-made images like this started appearing over the Internet a few days prior to 31st Oct this year.

And then, on 30th Oct Valve actually released a 73MB update for Dota 2. So of course, hopes were raised –

But as it turned out, that update only contained hats. Like, cosmetic items. Hats.

So Dota 2 fans, being the most non-toxic community there is, proceeded to spam Volvo’s page with

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ Give DIRETIDE!

Some guy even called Volvo up to enquire about this outrageous lack of a Halloween event.

And here’s another guy who was lauded by the D2 community since this incident –

AwesomePageAdmin13 @ Volvo.com

So that’s what happened, in a nutshell.

Orange’s Guide to How Pub Games Should Be Played

Few months back, if you were to tell me to do a ‘trilane‘, ward excessively & stack creeps as a support, or to lane instead of nc just because it works better for the team, I’d probably just laugh it off and say ‘chillax la‘!

Because I’m used to gaming to de-stress and have fun with friends, especially in Dota. When everyone would Skype and talk cock, and things like wards placed wrongly, fail ravages, missed hooks etc. become food for entertainment.

Things ranging from your most basic failed hooks…
… to high-level, unintentional suicides

“RELAX, YOU’RE DOING FINE”

My daily gaming stack comprises of my closest friends IRL, and yet even amongst this group of about 10 people there’s a clear-cut division between those who prioritize playing serious / winning games and those who just want to have fun in game and troll each other / opponents whenever possible.

Before I was made aware of the existence of a competitive Dota 2 scene, I was all for the latternot that it’s in my nature to troll others, but gaming with that mindset makes Dota a highly enjoyable pastime & my daily dose of entertainment. 

Around April this year though I started trying out Captain’s Mode. Before that, I didn’t even know what “drafting” was. But just for the fun of it, I’ve decided to join in. And that’s when I first came across the phrase:

ggwp tryhards

I didn’t understand that term initially.

But now from what I understand, there are several common defining characteristics of teams/players who’d be called ‘tryhards‘ in general:

  1. If you opt for trilanes instead of doing it 2-1-2
  2. If you pick NagaDS Enigma, SD + Mirana or other combo heroes
  3. If you wait for the other team to pick their heroes and then counterpick them
  4. If you have roaming supports setting up early smoke ganks
  5. If you get lots of sentries / dusts i.e. well-prepared to detect invisible heroes
  6. If you keep warding / dewarding around the map

Basically, it’s a summary of things normally done in competitive matches in order to win the game.

See what I don’t understand is, if you were playing in Captain’s Mode or Team Matchmaking, presumably the need and drive to win is already there, and it’s a more serious game mode compared to normal All Pick games.

Thus shattering the logic behind the act of calling others ‘tryhards‘ in Captain’s Mode.

And if we were in an AP game, we usually random or pick heroes we’re comfortable with.

The reason why I end up picking Na’ix so much is because I can slack and just right-click in the NC for a while. Some might have seen me eating bread while farming early game.

So nope, with that mentality there’s no ‘game plan’, no stacking; loads of fighting for farm, KS-ing and casual blaming…

And of course not forgetting denying Aegis, buying a Rapier and delivering it to oppo’s base, etc.

Example: Getting two Mantas and a Refresher on Weaver, just to see if you can get four illusions.

 

Also, a Mjollnir on Zeus so that you get double arcs. And lifesteal so Zeus can solo Roshan.
Because throwing games is part of the fun.

Babyoling’s Step-by-Step Guide: How Pub Games Should Be Played

  1. Random a shit hero
  2. Play it like a boss
  3. Feed or throw
  4. Wait in fountain for the other team to end
  5. Buy LOTS of couriers / wards
  6. Decorate
  7. Run around
  8. If opponents have a Pudge, get smoke and hide
  9. Report everyone on the other team
  10. Laugh
  11. Type “http://www.babyoling.com” at the end of the game
  12. Actually have fun playing the game
  13. Rate enjoyment as Very High
  14. Get item
  15. Find another match
Jokes aside.
 

Course it’s the best if you can win the game WHILE having fun, but it’s just utterly pointless to play a game and let your mood get ruined because you’re trying hard but unable to win, even worse if you actually argued with people over the outcome of teamfights or the entire game.

It’s just not worth it.