Daniel “DDK” Kapadia on the state of esports: ‘There’s going to be a lot changes’

Daniel "DDK" Kapadia calls a CSGO match for ELEAGUE. Photo credit: Courtesy of Turner Sports.
Daniel "DDK" Kapadia calls a CSGO match for ELEAGUE. Photo credit: Courtesy of Turner Sports. /

ELEAGUE commentator Daniel “DDK” Kapadia talks the current state of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, talent schedules, and his esports podcast.

Tonight, Turner and IMG’s ELEAGUE continues to take esports fans through the ELEAGUE CSGO Premier 2018, showcasing an important matchup between Fnatic and FaZe Clan that includes the return of legendary player Olofmeister.

One of ELEAGUE’s longest-tenured commentators, Daniel “DDK” Kapadia, spoke to FanSided to give his thoughts on the state of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in 2018.

He also discussed what the competitive schedule is like for CSGO talent, how CSGO commentary can further develop, and his outstanding new “DDK Talks Esports” podcast.

Read what he had to tell us below, then check out another ELEAGUE installment tonight starting at 11 p.m. ET on TBS.

FanSided: You’ve been part of every ELEAGUE Counter-Strike tournament. How far do you think the brand has come?

Daniel “DDK” Kapadia (DDK): It’s cool. It was Turner Sports doing esports; it was a very new thing. It’s really interesting to see the people who work [traditional] sport products start to understand how esports and Counter-Strike worked.

Now we’re two years down the line, it just feels really natural because everyone is family at this point. Turner Sports is very familial, like everyone on the crew is very passionate about what they do. So I actually love coming back down to Atlanta, and I think as far as doing a show, obviously there’s been a couple budget cuts here or there but I think that the show still runs very smoothly. I have zero complaints because it’s a lot of fun.

How does ELEAGUE compare to your other work with FACEIT and ECS (the Esports Championship Series)?

With ECS, we’re still doing the classic studio online seasons, and we have a lot of fun with it. That’s always been our thing, really. It’s very casual; it’s more about the entertainment value instead of the grind of the online matches, because sometimes you’re going to have boring matches. Sometimes you’re going to be jet lagged. Sometimes you’ve got situations that aren’t going to create the best Counter-Strike. But you can always create the best show and entertainment, and that’s always been our focus.

And we’ve got a very small team. ECS is a very different vibe, because we don’t have a huge studio. This is a lot of fun, it’s really smooth, but it’s a TV studio so it’s a more serious vibe in that sense.

I know people aren’t fond of these long two-month stretches where you have online games and it dominates the Counter-Strike space and it’s not the most efficient way to do a league…So maybe we’ll end up going away from that at some point, and I’ll be a bit sad if that happens.

Even though at some points I hate the long grind of my matches, I still have a fondness for it. Every time I wake up in the morning I’m like, this is really cool. I get to go to the studio and have some fun with some Counter-Strike, and that’s really nice. So ECS is a very homey vibe for me.

What’s the current state of competitive Counter-Strike in your opinion?

I think it’s really interesting. Mousesports, for example, Snax is a great player and if he’s able to, now on a motivated team, find that form that we know he’s capable of, then it can be a great pickup. Obviously they’ll have to change a few roles because he’s a very different player to STYKO, but at the same time, there’s probably a world where they wouldn’t have dropped STYKO had they had time to just chill out.

Mousesports have been going really hard, event after event after event. So no time to practice, you’re going to get stale with what you’re doing, it’s very easy for people to prepare for you and you can’t do anything about it…I think that Mousesports will follow what Astralis is doing and start not attending all the events, to prevent that burnout and to be able to work on their game as a team, and practice properly and have more energy and be more motivated.

Astralis have been pretty consistent with their lineup and performing very well. Team Liquid actually looked really, really solid, so I would say Na’vi, Team Liquid and Astralis are the three teams that look the best [at the CSGO Premier].

You’d expect FaZe to be right up there as well but they’ve had Olof come back in, and it’s never quite the same when you’ve been away for a while. Things have changed for the team. It’s going to take a bit of adjustment and you’ve already seen they have a lot of issues. You look at the list of players and have no doubt if they get time to put the work in they’ll be okay, but how long is that going to take.

I think there’s going to be a lot of changes. I think the landscape around online leagues is going to be different; I don’t think they’re going to dominate that much space. I think a lot of teams will be skipping a lot more events, so I think we’ll hopefully get to more consistent Counter-Strike, which is great.

Do you think that’s true for commentators and analysts as well? Because you also have that same grind of doing many events with not a lot of downtime.

It’s definitely something of concern. It’s a really complex thing, because for example, let’s say at the Minors, you don’t want to have all your Tier 1 commentators. Those commentators, they’ve already come off of doing a couple events already, so they’re going to be much more tired. And they’re casting ENCE and Kinguin, it’s not like they’re casting Na’Vi and Liquid, so that’s a big step down for them.

If you take the Tier 2 commentators and stick them there, it’s another chance for them to prove themselves and to get experience, and they’re going to deliver their best work. Whereas it’s not going to be the best work of the Tier 1 commentators, for the reasons I mentioned. But at the same time, in the freelance market, you’ve got to more or less accept everything you can get your hands on most of the time. So the whole infrastructure is not optimized, really, for anybody.

Your podcast “DDK Talks Esports” is the best podcast in esports right now. What’s your goal for that podcast?

The vision I have for the podcast is that it’s going to be a really good, safe space for players to say whatever they want and have a very good conversation and discussion about things. The things I like to focus on are psychology, performance and the interesting details around those things. The nuances of being a professional player. What it’s like at the top level.

I have a friend that works in a really high position for Microsoft, and he knows things about matchmaking algorithms and stuff, so I want to get people that are really interesting from outside as well. I want to build that trust with the audience, so they’re like I don’t know who the hell that guy is but this podcast is good, so I’m going to listen anyway. That’s where I want to be.

I think the format’s really good, it’s the most convenient format for a commentator, someone that travels and does events. Because your environment’s constantly changing, it’s really tough to be consistent.

What are you looking forward to in the future, whether it’s with ELEAGUE or just in Counter-Strike in general?

One thing I’m most thinking about is what is happening [with] the amount of Counter-Strike. How is Overwatch going to affect everything, because they’re going to expand even more, and I’m wondering if this will bring more into Counter-Strike, or where is it going to be on a global scale.

I do have a fear that there’s going to be a time when [Valve] need to make it more hands on and take the reins, because right now we have so many different companies vying to have control of the space and while it’s a good thing for innovation, it’s also bad because we have this incredibly competitive schedule.

To the other extreme, the Overwatch League is a franchised league. There’s control there. Six months of the year you don’t have to worry about anyone else, everyone can work around it. It’s easier to produce content around it.

One of the other issues as well, making it a better experience for viewers, is that analyst desk. The problem is someone like Janko [Paunovic] has a lot of insight he can give and he can do it in so many different ways. But on a five minute desk segment, it’s very difficult to accomplish that, and there’s times when you won’t even have the tools you need to do that.

It was over two and a half years ago at Malmo when we had the first weatherman segment, and they’re absolutely great, and we’ve tried to do here and there some. But for some reason these things seem to get cut and not prioritized as much…We’re still waiting until we get to that point when everything’s been more calm, people have had more time to prepare content, because the schedule of the entire year is less busy. There’ll be way more time to produce proper content.

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A new episode of ELEAGUE CSGO Premier 2018 airs tonight at 11 p.m. ET on TBS. For complete ELEAGUE coverage, follow the Gaming category at FanSided.