Ilyes 'Stephano' Satouri: "I didn't sign it [my contract] as a return to SC2"

The most successful non-Korean SC2 player casually talks about his recent sponsorship with Meltdown, being able to return to competition and more.

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This article was originally published on GameSpot's sister site onGamers.com, which was dedicated to esports coverage.

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Having recently left Evil Geniuses after being retired for close to a year, the most successful non-Korean player in Starcraft history announced that he would become part of the eSports bar 'Meltdown's' eSports team. OnGamers decided to ask him about what this entails, and his general thoughts surrounding his past success and returning to competitive SC2 when he sees fit.

I guess the best place to start is by asking what it was that made you come back to SC2 when so many other people seem to be leaving it.

Let me reassure everybody, when I said I was going to quit Starcraft I meant I would not be doing it full time anymore. And right now I am playing only once a week for streaming. So there is no comeback, the contract I have with my new team gives me more flexibility, I didn't sign it as a return to SC2.

How does it feel then that you still increase the viewer numbers substantially for every tournament you participate in?

Well I can say it's quite hard to go from being rather famous in the gaming industry to being unknown at university. And each time I make a tournament I still see so much people cheering for me and being interested by my play, it's actually boosting my confidence and it's very reassuring.

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Do you think it reflects the state of SC2 as a whole? That nobody has yet actually reached your level of status in the game an entire year after you've retired?

I believe that accomplishing what I did today as a foreigner is almost impossible. I was lucky to come at the early stage of the game with a lot of creativity when the match ups were not really stable, and I could abuse that. Today all the strategies are almost known, so the only way to beat someone is just to have more skill. Right now the game is no doubts dominated by Korea and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Moreover we do not see new faces on the foreign scene very often, so no surprise on this side as well. Let's hope the new expansion will give SC2 a new breath of life.

It sounds like you still watch the game actively.

Not very much to be honest, this situation is not new, it started at the end of WOL/ beginning of HOTS.

Do you still enjoy playing the game? Many viewers complain about your use of the Swarm Host, which draws the games out for an incredible amount of time.

Some complain, some enjoy how disgusting it is. Sadly I do not have time right now to practice decently, and SH is not an easy style to master, but it focuses more on decision making than pure skill. So it fits perfectly with what I’m good at. I used to feel no joy playing the game a year ago, but now that I spend all day at university, playing SC2 actually feels like playing and not working. And add to that the SH style, which can be funny in a way, I do have fun playing SC2.

Do you think the level of your competition has stagnated, as you were recently almost able to reach the Ro16 of the WCS EU Premier League?

I am sure I can improve a lot if I spend the right amount of time doing it. My results in LSC and WCS are, in my opinion, excellent. Only I know how much time I put into it and what I get back from it, and I feel satisfied by it.

Do you feel like the other players you play against aren't improving, though, since you could return to competition extremely fast. Like you almost never stopped competing.

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I was very surprised by the level of some players, and I'm not saying that with arrogance. As you said it feels like some of them just don't get better despite their daily practice and it's rather sad. I think some players just play on hoping they'll improve, but to improve you have to know your weakness and work on it in every game you play. This advice seems obvious but when we are in-game we can easily forget the purpose of this game and just try to win.

Could you work us through your own process of improving, in that case? You stated during your peak that you never viewed replays that you lost in, so how do you process exactly what went wrong and how it could be improved upon?

The way I scheduled my practice was very focused on my own play and not giving any attention to my opponent. My strengths were good decision making and good micro in fights usually. My weaknesses were on the macro side, so I had to focus on each step of the way. Starting with injections, I play games and only focus on this point and try not to miss a single one. Then creep spread. Then supply blocks. For me it was impossible to just try and improve on every aspect of my play at the same time.

Historically, you always seemed to have an issue with the ZvZ match-up. Was this something you could never improve upon in practice, even with the gradual approach you just explained?

My issue with ZvZ is psychological, even in WC3, I had issues with the mirror match ups. I've never complained about the balance because in a mirror match up with both players on even ground, yet I feel like my hands are tied and I can't play at my best level.

If we look at your recent successes in both WCS and the LSC, do you miss the progaming lifestyle you lived two years ago?

I think I miss it now but I'm sure that if I come back I'll remember why I left.

Do you think it's ironic that you are now sponsored by a bar?

Haha, some people would say it's fate. For me it's just a lucky coincidence. I have no doubt I'll be fully satisfied being sponsored by a bar!

Many other players who simmer into retirement often make the transition into either a caster or a general streamer, this seems to be universal in all eSports. Why isn't that as appealing to you, since you have so much knowledge about the game and you've got the ability to get so many people to tune in?

I am not really a showman, I might be a good analytical caster but I'm just unable to make people get excited about what they are seeing. That's one of the reasons, the other being that I just don't see myself doing that for a living. I enjoyed being a competitive player but I wouldn't enjoy being a caster.

Hypothetically, is a competitive career in eSports something that could still happen for you after you complete university, or will you put an end to it following school?

I think with years I will not feel a longing back to my competitive career. So most likely no comeback after university. But it's not impossible!

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ESports in France overall seems to be very popular, like the recent LoL All-Star event showed. Is a future career in eSports still something you'd consider, maybe in a different role from a competitor?

If I was to come back somehow, it'll only be as a player. Any other eSport position does not interest me. But that's how I feel right now. Maybe with time my opinion will change and I'll be more open to work in eSports.

What are you hoping that Legacy of the Void will bring to SC2?

As previously mentioned I hope it'll give a second breath to a game that seems to be less and less followed and played. If it does, it could also bring a whole new set of foreign players who could challenge Koreans. If that happens, people will have a lot more interest in the game.

Alright, any final words to the readers?

Thank you for the interview, a big THANK YOU to my fans who proved that they would follow me throughout the good and the bad in SC2. I'd like to thank Meltdown for believing in me as well.

Photo Credit: Dreamhack, ESWC, This is Game, Blizzard Entertainment, TakeTV

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