For Hbox and Chillin, Ultimate commentary is a bold new world

March 21 2019

Now that Hungrybox has become a commentator, Team Liquid has some of the best commentators and competitors in Smash Bros. We often talk about our players’ performances and interests, but we haven’t talked as much about talking. Commentary for any sport is an art form all its own, and it’s an art form the Hungrybox and Chillin both excel at.

Hungrybox’s recent move into commentary for Ultimate gives the perfect excuse for starting up the conversation. I sat down with Hungrybox and Chillin to talk about commentary, but in that time we also discussed characters, community, and the wider world of esports. In this first part of the interview, we focus on the interactions and separations between Melee and Ultimate, as well as Hungrybox and Chillin’s feelings on new characters and age-old matchups. What Melee matchups do they love? What Ultimate characters get them hyped? Are Melee and Ultimate compliments or competitors? What was it like for Hungrybox to drop into a new community?

Chillin and Hungrybox are elder statesmen of Smash, two people who have helped establish one of gaming’s longest competitive scenes and poured their hearts into it, and it shows in the thought and feeling behind what they to say. What they had to say offers a lot to anyone that wants to know their history, the history of the scene, and what the future might hold.

ARR: Who do you think is the hypest character to watch in Ultimate so far?

HB: Any character that has to take huge risks in order to win heavy interactions. The top tiers. I really like seeing Peach do crazy strings in the bottom. I really like seeing players with unknown talent step up to the plate. So for me, it’s not so much the characters that have been hype rather than how people have been using them, like Zackray with wolf or Samsora with peach. So, I mean obviously it’s hype to see Captain Falcon land knees as usual, but I think the meta still has to develop in order to determine which character is the hardest to pull off these high-risk, crazy maneuvers. So I’m enjoying a wide variety of them now.

CD: Yeah, I kind of agree. At this point, it’s super hard to pick one because there’s so many characters that are really fun to watch. I’m really biased towards Wolf because I play him. Especially when he does the crazier stuff, which we didn’t really see — Zackray plays a smart, calculated Wolf but Wolf can do some crazy off stage risky stuff. That stuff obviously is the dopest for me to watch. But as HBox said, Peach’s combo strings are super good. Pretty much any sword character Leo plays he makes look really hype as well. It’s super hard to say. I feel like some of the lesser represented characters with more potential are really fun to watch at this point too but we just haven't seen too many of them come up. Once we see an ICies that can do all the infinites it's gonna be ridiculous to see.

HB: You know it’s hype to see Puff landing rest. Just let me get that!

ARR: Turning towards Melee, what matchup do you like watching most, what matchup do you like playing most, and what matchup do you like commentating most?

HB: The matchup I like watching most is anything to do with either Falcon or Falco. I like seeing low tiers like Amsa’s Yoshi destroy a Fox. I think like a really great matchup to me is Marth vs Falcon — the strings they can do to each other are nuts — and then Fox vs Falco are two easy ones. The one I enjoy playing the most — believe it or not — I enjoy playing Puff-Fox the most. It’s the one I’m most familiar with and it speaks the most Melee to me. I also like doing Falco dittos. In terms of commentary, people think my Melee commentary sucks so there ya go — but it’s all good.

CD: [Chuckles] dang. No, I think the most fun to watch for me is Fox vs Falco because it’s the two fastest paced characters in the game and obviously they can combo the hell out of each other, so the matches, in general, are really quick. The matches frequently last under two minutes for a 4 stock match so it’s pretty wild to see.

As far as matches to play, I agree with Hbox about Falco dittos. Probably anyone that plays Falco would agree that’s one of the most fun matchups to play in the game. And Fox vs Sheik I really like as well because that’s another two characters that can kind of mess each other up and it’s like as soon as you make a mistake you know you’re in for a lot of pain so its very execution based in terms of how little you mess stuff up on both ends. As a Samus main, I really like Samus vs Fox. Because I think that’s one of the things that makes samus really viable because she can contend with the spacies really well and she can just combo the hell out of them. There’re a lot of the stocks where I spend the entire stock getting comboed and then I land one hit and then their dead so, it’s really fun to play.

As far as commentating [goes], I think it would probably go back to my favorite matchups to watch, but I think there’s actually a lot to be said for commentating a slower paced match because it allows you to actually get into discussions about the meta and gameplay. Where if it’s a Fox-Falco, Mango vs Leffen matchup you’re not going to be talking about the meta as much you’re literally just gonna be describing what’s happening on the screen, so I think the slower pace matches actually help sometimes for commentary because it lets you discuss different stuff.

ARR: For a lot of people, your move into commentary was a bit unexpected. What got you interested in doing commentary for Ultimate, Hungrybox?

HB: I’ve always had the idea that I wanted to do broadcasting — especially when I was in college. I tried to do commentary for Melee and I tried to do the same style but I think [chuckles] I think being that dude in Melee and being the one that people are like “oh God not this guy again,” has definitely sort of tarnished that. I get that, and I’m like, “alright this isn’t really my role,” and there are people who are way more enjoyable to listen to.

I did some Smash 4 commentary. I was invited to Frostbite last year. For fun, I think Vayseth brought me on. [...] I did my style of commentary for there but I added a level of excitement, especially for guys like Rod The Dutch and EE. We had some of the best blocks that I’ve had in a while. Because of that, I thought “huh, maybe I could try for Ultimate and see how it goes.” I just felt really good at it, felt really natural, and I realized I really enjoyed this — a lot more than even playing the game. So at this point, I just made sure to get as many gigs as I can. It’s just a really fun thing to do. It’s one thing to do something because you’re good at it, but it’s another thing to do something because you love doing it.

ARR: Being that guy in Melee and moving to Ultimate, do you feel a sense of freshness, a sense of entering a new community?

HB: Yeah, I really do. All of a sudden the slate is wiped clean. I’m not a threat anymore. I’m not the guy being like “This guy’s gonna hurt our viewership! This guy’s gonna ruin the meta!” or something like that. No, Puff’s a much worse character in that game. I just try do fun stuff and land fun stuff in that game. I take it less seriously because I know less is riding on it. It was a good thing for me to do and I think people have been responding to my stream and commentary well. Overall, I haven’t enjoyed being in the community this much in a really long time and a lot of that is because of Ultimate, because Melee — long story short, it’s been hard for me. A lot of bad tastes in my mouth, a lot of bad blood, so this is a nice helpful reminder of the good parts of the community to me.

ARR: You guys are both really well-known personalities in the community. Do you feel that your personality comes out more in the way you play or the way you commentate, or neither, both?

HB: I think if people want to get to know the real me, just like walk up to me and talk to me when I’m not in a bracket, when I’m not in a tournament setting. Basically, when I’m at a tournament I see it as, “this is my job. I’m here to win. I’m being paid to win this tournament, I’m here to represent my team.” It’s really important, I get really focused and dialed-in, and a lot of people don’t understand that. They just see me walking around the tournament floor and say, “oh he’s there, I’m just gonna go talk to him…” and I encourage my fans to do so, but they have to understand that I take these events really seriously.

When I’m outside of tournaments, when I’m at like a pizza place in Orlando and someone’s like “Oh hey, you’re Hungrybox!” I’m always more than willing — in fact I go up to them and I’m like, “Yeah can I get you guys a picture, what do you guys wanna talk about?” I really love meeting fans. [...]

That’s my way of seeing it — personality and playstyle. Sure I play Puff, Sure the way I play might really be confusing, annoying or frustrating to people but that’s not me being like, “Yeah this is what I want you to watch!” This is the result of trial and error over 13 years and getting my ass handed to me so many times in this game. And I’m like, “Okay, if I remove all the factors which cause me to lose, what do I get then?” And then you get the HungryPuff, whatever the fuck you wanna call it. My only desire is to win and so I do that and I do it at any cost. That’s what’s important to me.

CD: I definitely think it [my personality] comes out more in the way I commentate. To some extent, a player’s personality can be reflected in their playstyle but it’s not necessarily a one-to-one thing. There are aspects of their personality that might be reflected in aspects of their gameplay but the relationship is not that strong. The correlation is not that strong.

When you’re commentating I think a lot of people’s personality will come out because you’re kinda just talking about the game. That’s a lot of your personality demonstrated there, although a lot of people do kind of have a commentary persona that they’ll sort of put on when they get on the mic but I think for the best commentators it’s very natural. They’re not like putting anything on, that’s genuinely just their personality.

ARR: I feel like it’s an obvious answer but I think it might be a useful answer to throw out into the community.

CD: Right, right. Some people over-conflate the relationship between the playstyle and the player’s personality. With HBox especially that happens a lot where people think he’s a lame person because [they think] he plays lame. That’s obviously not how it works.

ARR: Being in both communities, do you think that Ultimate has a chance to hurt Melee’s viewership and clout, or do you think that they’re more compliments?

HB: They’re definitely more compliments and I feel that, especially with something like Genesis, it’s only gonna help both scenes together. People love seeing Smash in general and it’s only a matter of time before we see some really ample crossover. Right now the game’s still new and fresh, just like with any other Smash game that’s just released, the first year is all the hype and then year two is really where you sorta see how homogenous both communities can be. It’ll definitely be a test trial run but the early signs are really promising to me and I’m just happy that — for the first time — I feel there’s a really great opportunity for players from both games to enjoy one or the other.

CD: Definitely compliments to each other. I think Melee, despite how long it’s been out, it definitely struggles from the fact that it requires CRTs, it requires these older systems that a lot of people don’t own at this point. It’s very difficult to try to just go to a store and buy a Gamecube or Wii. [...] It’s definitely a little more effort than going into a BestBuy and buying a Switch and an HDTV. So, I think Melee can kinda use all the help it can get even though it has survived this long. The growth that kind of exploded with EVO and the documentary [has definitely slowed down]. I wouldn’t say that the community is getting smaller by any means, just that the growth has slowed. Ultimate obviously brings in this whole new pool of potential players that, despite enjoying Ultimate, they might see that Melee is also really cool too and wanna get into Melee as well. And at least — at the very least! — it’ll bring in a lot of viewership into Melee. If not new players, it’ll get people watching because they saw Ultimate and they’re like, “Oh, there’s an even faster version of this that people are still playing?!” I think it’ll open a lot of people’s eyes to Melee at the very least and so it’s definitely a good thing for Melee in general.

For Ultimate’s sake it just has a very good competitive framework built up starting from Melee, and then Brawl, and then Smash 4. All these competitive players exist already because of those games and so all of them kind of contribute to Ultimate immediately coming out of the gate. [...] So the games definitely help each other out in that sense I think.

Writer // Austin Ryan

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