Interview: CLG Psalm talks Fortnite Esports, and qualifying for the World Cup
Harrison “Psalm” Chang recently qualified for the Fortnite World Cup. He now has an opportunity to win a portion of the $30 million that is up for grabs at the main event. With that, GameCrate sat down with him to discuss his journey to qualification and the state of Fortnite esports.
GameCrate: How did you choose your gamer tag?
Psalm: Psalm is my favorite book in the bible and I thought it looked like a cool name. I grew up with religion and it helped me through the more difficult times in life.
GC: You had a tweet saying that you considered yourself old for esports. What challenges did you think you'd encounter because of your age?
Psalm: It really depends on what game you play. In a game like LoL or DOTA 2, 24 is a pretty average age. But in a game like Fortnite—Fortnite is a game where you have to be super-fast with your fingers. You’re building multiple pieces in a second, editing all over the place, and making lightning-quick judgements and decisions.
I feel that when you’re younger—16-18—you’re at your prime of speed in terms of gaming. In that sense, I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage because of my age. I also think that my experience in games and wisdom helps carryover.
GC: What carryover are you referring to?
Psalm: I came from Heroes of the Storm, and MOBAs are strictly strategy and decision making. I think that really helped me when I moved to Fortnite in terms of game analysis and taking on different strategies and approaching Fortnite in a more methodical sense.
Psalm on stage during his HOTS career
GC: Were you in HOTS until Blizzard shut it down?
Psalm: I actually quit in May of last year as soon as Epic made the $100 million announcement. A lot of people gave me crap about it, “Oh, you’re not going to make it in Fortnite. You’re at the top of HOTS, why are you quitting?”
Ironically, they announced the shutdown of HGC, even though they said they would continue for 2019. Pretty good decision on my part, I’d say.
GC: Your recent success in the World Cup Qualifier put you in the World Cup, can you describe your feelings when you realized you qualified to take some of that $30 mil Epic is putting out?
Psalm: I was pretty much just waiting after all the games were finished waiting to see the leaderboard update. Those were the most nerve-wracking 5-10 minutes of my life. My hands were on my face, my legs were shaking, and I was just constantly refreshing hoping I wouldn’t get bumped out of the top 6.
When I finally saw my name up there in the top 6, I was just like, wow, I did it. I invested, switching from HOTS to Fortnite—I was in utter shock that I actually pulled it off. I was ecstatic. I was in the MSG office by myself and was slamming the walls. I was going crazy.
GC: Was there any one player that you were worried about that would bump you off?
Psalm: Funny thing, I ended at 64 points and there was like three other people with 64 points. But I had the tie-breaker over them. There was Clix who had 63 points, I think. There was another dude who was really close to bumping me out, too.
GC: What were the biggest challenges in that qualifier?
Psalm: Surprisingly, toward the end—I’m normally the kind of guy that gets better as the pressure mounts. I was choking. The first two hours I was killing it. I was constantly taking the number one spot on the leaderboard whenever it refreshed.
The last hour, though… I was just throwing. I kept dying and not getting points. I kept choking on my builds and missed a lot of shots. It was kind of a miracle getting the sixth spot with the perfect amount of points and the tie-breaker win.
GC: Any players you're looking forward to playing against?
Psalm: I’m looking forward to playing against all of the European guys. I’ve played against all the American guys. I used to scrim with them all the time. I’ve never played against the big EU people. Players like Mongraal, BenjyFishy, or MrSavage. That should be a really interesting experience.
GC: Anything specific about their gameplay that makes you want to play them?
Psalm: I think they’re flat out insane. They’re so fast and precise. Their decisions in late-game are just so crisp, and their synergy between their duos is just on point. They’re so good at staying alive and securing kills.
And @TSM_Myth tells us how everyone is feeling about the new Fortnite update
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) December 30, 2018
GC: A lot of pros, such as TSM Myth, have expressed their frustration with how Epic handles Fortnite Esports (see above clip), what are your thoughts?
Psalm: I want to preface this by saying that I understand that Epic is trying esports in a new way. They don’t want a standard pro league or franchising. They also care about their casual player base more than their competitive player base.
The majority of their player base is probably around 14 or under, and when you’re around that age you probably don’t care about esports. You just play the game with your buddies and have a good time. I understand why Epic caters to their casual player base so much compared to other competitive games.
I feel like it would be minimal effort for them to make changes in the competitive scene that wouldn’t affect their casual player base whatsoever. I think they’re really messing up, in that regard.
They could easily make a separate loot pool or separate game set for competitive. Really minor changes that would be a huge quality of life change for competitive Fortnite and not affect the casual player base much.
They dump $100 million into it, you’d expect them to listen a little bit more.
GC: What would be one of those quality of life changes?
Psalm: Some of them are just bug fixes. Actually, in a recent patch, one of the quality of life changes they made it so that the wind tunnels deactivated after Zone 5. That was pretty much due to the competitive side since casual games don’t really go past Zone 5.
It was really messing with the late game of competitive Fortnite because you still have around 40 people alive at that point. It’s one of those changes that really helped us out, but didn’t really matter to the casual player base. Changes like that.
GC: Are there any changes to the game that you think were huge mistakes and should be reverted?
Psalm: Pretty much every update they’ve made before any major tournament. They made one right before World Showdown of Esports (WSOE), Winter Royale, Intel Extreme Masters, and several right before World Cup tournaments on the weekends. I’m pretty sure they had one right before the Secret Skirmish, too.
I don’t think it’s on accident. I’m pretty sure they’re doing it on purpose.
GC: It’s been said that Epic wants players to be adaptive and that’s part of what they want for Fortnite esports.
Psalm: Right, but in a similar blogpost they also said they would refrain from making game-changing updates right before major tournaments. They’re kind of contradicting themselves.
GC: Would you and a lot of other pros prefer a stable patch for tournaments?
Psalm: I think the vast majority would. You’ve been practicing for so long on one thing and developing strategies, and then you wake up the day after and you realize all your practice is wasted. It can be frustrating.
GC: Is that detrimental to the longevity of the scene?
Psalm: 100 percent.
GC: Any other changes Epic has made that you agree with?
Psalm: There have been some recent balance changes that have been good lately. Like the Drum Gun nerf. It was severely needed.
GC: You participated in WSOE, which is a private tournament, did they run the tournament differently from Epic at all? Any things they do that you'd like to see Epic do with their tournaments?
Psalm: Both major third-party tournaments, WSOE and IEM, had a different point structure than Epic. What they did was award, for the majority of placements, for every kill.
Epic used to have kill threshold points and placement threshold that were a lot stricter. Now they’ve adjusted to like a top 25 you get points, a top 15 you get points, top 5 you get points. And you get points for every kill now. It used to be you get one point for every two or three kills. Top ten gets one point. It was really tough if you placed eleventh and had two kills multiple games.
Epic adjusted and made it more similar to the third-party tournaments. I would like see more adjustment to have less of a threshold. We’ve come a long way, though.
GC: Any general improvements you would want to make to Fortnite esports?
Psalm: I would say that Epic has picked it up in the last few weeks than they ever have in the last year. There have been some good balance changes, recently. The quality of life change that shows they’re listening to feedback.
In the recent patch notes they added developer comments for every single change; Epic’s biggest problem has been communication. They’re starting to communicate more about why they’re doing certain things now. Even if we don’t agree with them we at least know why.
That being said, there are still a lot of bugs in the game that really affect gameplay. The player base really wants the Ballers to be gone, but Epic decided to bring them back. Oh well.
GC: You've earned quite a bit of money just in the tournaments you've played since September of last year. Has it changed your life at all?
Psalm: Big time. While I did make good money playing HOTS, I’m definitely doing better in Fortnite financially and in regard to my own personal brand.
GC: If you won a sizable amount at the World Cup, what are one or two things you'd do with the winnings? A vacation? Maybe some new hardware from Newegg?
Psalm: We talking a million? Several hundred thousand?
GC: You pick.
Psalm: If I won a million, first off, I’d help my parents pay off their house. They’ve been stressing about money for 15-20 years, every single day. That would be one of the first things I’d do.
I have no debt right now, so I’m not worried about my own near financial future. I’d literally just love to help them out, first and foremost.
After that, I’d look to invest half of it, save a quarter of it, and a quarter for spending money. I’d probably buy a car for the first time. I haven’t had a car in about six years. Besides that, I don’t really need anything.
GC: What kind of car?
Psalm: Probably a Tesla. They’re cool.
GC: Any specific Fortnite tips for what amateurs should practice if they want to go pro?
Psalm: The most thing is to study and analyze. At the top, everyone is good mechanically. Everyone can build and everyone can edit. That’s just a matter of practice.
What really sets people apart are the strategies they take on and the decisions they make in-game. That really comes from studying and watching people that are better than you.
GC: Anything you want to say to your fans?
Psalm: Of course, I’d like to thank all of my fans that tune in and support me in tournaments. I’m not the biggest, but I have my own little community and I’m very thankful for that.