Daniel ‘Memb’ Molina is an Age of Empires scene veteran and one the most passionate and dynamic esports casters out there. Memb is currently hosting a 3 v 3 AoE 2 tournament, Battle of Africa 2. VPEsports caught up with Memb to talk about BoA 2, the AoE 2 esports scene and how his tryst with the game began, amongst other things.
Hello Memb! Thank you for taking the time. How is it going? How are things in Spain with the current situation?
Hey man! I’m doing fine, just l a bit tired because the Battle of Africa 2 work is quite exhausting. Spain is getting better, but it doesn’t help to stay at home all the time. Things are starting to open again. Hopefully, we’ll be back to normal soon.
Let’s jump into Age of Empires right away! Firstly, congrats and thank you on behalf of the AoE 2 community for making Battle of Africa 2 happen. According to you, how has the tournament gone so far? Everything according to plan?
It’s my pleasure, I just love this game a lot! The tournament has been great; there has been a lot of action, which is good as according to me, the meta is a bit slow right now. But thanks to the crazy maps developed by Chrazini (who is the tournament admin and the map creator), the games have been incredible! So far so good, and the best is yet to come.
I’m glad you brought up the maps because I agree, the maps are amazing and bring out some great strategies! Kudos to Chrazini. Did you two decide together on what features to include in the maps? How does the map development process usually take place?
Chrazini did majority of the job, I just checked and reviewed the maps to see if there were any features that could be improved. He is great with maps so all I had to do was give him small ideas and he would implement them perfectly. For example, in the original Donut map, the terrain connecting the players was shallows. I asked him for a way to keep the map similar, but avoid the shallows as you can block passages with Docks and the concept of Demolition Ships on land is just weird. He just switched that to rocks and now, I believe the map is a lot better.
New maps definitely keep adding to the fun in tournaments. Which is your favorite new map, that you think brings out the craziest strategies?
Maps are definitely important. If the maps aren’t good, it is impossible to get crazy games and strategies. But what’s more important is how teams approach a certain map. Grand Bara is a slow paced map and it doesn’t really bring out the most aggressive games. But when YinYang took on Team Secret, there was constant fighting between Lyx and TheViper from the first minute! It was just an incredible performance by Lyx. As such, I don’t have a favorite map. We need a few things to fall into place for every map to deliver, and luckily till now, that has happened.
Oh yes, that Lyx performance was pretty insane! What has your favorite series been till now? Any team that has surprised you?
The Secret-YinYang series was one of my favorites. YinYang have definitely surprised me.
Let’s talk about you, Memb. When did you start playing this great game we all love and when did you realize you wanted to make a profession out of it?
I started playing Age of Empires a long time ago. I would love to say when it was when I was a kid, but I but I can´t, because I’m already 42 years old. So I was already a grown man when the game released. Basically, I’ve played it since the very beginning. I never really thought I’d make a profession out of my passion for the game. It started out as fun with Katsuni, he was casting on Voobly official channel. I had some health issues and couldn’t work. Since I was home, I had more time to spend on the internet, which is when I learned about streaming and thought that I want to and can do that. That was towards the end of 2013, and here we are now…
Here we are indeed! So you’ve seen AoE change through the ages. What would you say have been the most prominent changes that have taken AoE towards the path of it being a proper esport? Was the Definitive Edition a big step?
It’s a huge boost that a company like Microsoft is behind the game, but we can´t forget that many people have worked hard to keep this game alive and interesting. The HD edition was a good, but to be honest, it wasn’t the best game. A lot of people kept the game alive on the Voobly platform. Katsuni and I used to stream the game when nobody else did. Initially it was on the Voobly official channel. Eventually I moved to my own channel and kept streaming alone for a year or two. There were a lot of players playing the game, but hardly anyone streaming it. It took a while, but in due course, others started streaming, tournaments starting emerging and the game began to gain prominence. It was a long path, but we got there. The sad thing about this long path is, a lot of people who got us here are no longer associated with the game. Let’s hope that we keep moving forward and Microsoft keeps supporting AoE for a long time.
We definitely hope so. Going ahead, what do you think are the steps that need to be taken to make AoE as big as maybe Dota 2 or League of Legends? It is surely possible with someone like Microsoft backing the game, as you mentioned…
That is the million dollar question. I think the problem is – and no offence to Dota 2 or League of Legends here – if you ask me, those games are faster in terms of game speed and the action happening and it’s easier to become a good player. Of course, I don’t mean professional; that requires a lot of skill and effort. I just mean a decent player. I feel the new generations prefer the faster paced games, and AoE 2 being a bit slower and difficult to learn does not draw in new players as much as these other games. That’s just my opinion. I find the game amazing, but without the ability to draw new players, it will be a bit difficult to get to the level of Dota 2 and LoL.
Hopefully the growing scene works as a tool in drawing new players and viewers. As a tournament organizer, how difficult do you find setting up something like BoA 2?
It is something very complicated and not at all easy. You need the proper settings and you need to work with many people that, sadly, don’t prioritize Age of Empires, so scheduling becomes difficult. Sometimes, it is just better to stream recorded games to be able to organize everything properly. You can’t really tell players from many different time zones that they have to play at a specific time. The AoE 2 esports scene isn’t fully developed yet and a majority of the players don’t have a sufficient salary or income from tournaments. On top of that, there are other things like ensuring the maps are not bugged. The game itself has a few problems, so we couldn’t really setup everything we wanted. Chrazini, the admin, is having a tough time with the organization. But on the positive side, the tournament seems to be going alright, so it’s all worth it in the end. Another important factor in tournament organization is the prize pool. Without a proper prize pool, you can´t get people hyped and motivated and finding sponsors is in no way an easy task. For Battle of Africa 2, I’m adding money to the prize pool myself, along with Microsoft and 2 other community members. It is a big risk.
I agree, sponsors are a big requirement to make an esport grow. Hopefully we will have more arriving on the AoE 2 scene. Let’s talk about the current AoE 2 meta, how do you like it? You mentioned the meta game is a bit slow. Any civs you think are overpowered and any that need a buff?
Civilizations don’t really have a problem. But there are a few other things, like the pathing not being the best for melee units, which makes them struggle quite a lot against archers. There are always debates about civilizations, but I think they are fine. If I had to knit pick though, I’d say maybe Aztecs is a bit too strong in 1 v 1 games. In general, the Meso American civilizations are quite strong. But I’m not an expert, the players and developers know better than me.
Do you like the monthly patch system Microsoft has implemented?
The monthly patch system is a great idea. The problem is, however, a lot patches lead to disruptions in the game instead of improving it. The last patch (May patch) had a negative impact on BoA 2. Because of the problems the patch has, BoA 2 is being played on the previous patch (April patch). Due to that, some of the features that lead to crucial changes in the maps aren’t there for this tournament. The top priority should be to resolve the bugs immediately and get pathing working. It’s also important to create a better community feeling, which isn’t happening currently. You can’t reconnect with opponents in case you get dropped from the game.
I totally agree with that, the bugs need to be fixed right away and a reconnect option is needed as well. Do you think they are just waiting for AoE 4 to release? Any thoughts/guesses on how the path of professional AoE will shift after the release of that game?
I really hope not, because that would probably mean the end of support for AoE 2 DE. Definitive Edition is making good strides, so ideally, they should stick with it in terms of growing AoE as an esport. We don’t know a lot about AoE 4 and what kind of effect it could have on the scene.
Personally, I hope so too that we continue with DE, but let’s see. Quick question about BoA2, if teams end up at the same points in the group, will there be a tie-breaker or will previous results be looked at?
For equal points in the BoA 2 group stages, we will be looking at previous results. But based on how the groups are looking right now, I don’t think there will be any need for that.
What does Memb love doing outside of AoE 2? Any other games you like playing?
I love watching TV shows and movies in my spare time. But the thing I love the most is going outside with my wife and two kids, especially since we have really good weather here right now. I like playing other games as well, mostly interactive story games. I loved Detroit, The Last of Us, Beyond Two Souls and a few others. I also love sports games like NBA and FIFA.
Shoutout to many people – to my team, Chrazini and Nkodragas, without whom BoA 2 would have been impossible. Resonance22 and Tarsiz for the help with the videos and narration; and many others who belong to my Twitch channel community. I’ve been streaming for six years, and without them, it would be impossible. Thanks of course to the sponsors of the event and special mention goes out to Pkz, who helped me a lot for BoA 2. Last but not the least, a big thank you to Rorarimbo, who is an amazing person and has been a true friend for the past many years.
Hopefully, Memb keeps on hosting great tournaments like Battle of Africa. BoA 2 is midway through the group stages with the quarter finals set to begin from the coming weekend. You can catch all the action on twitch.tv/membtv.