"A friend gave me the nickname ‘Frogger’ since I didn’t have one. After a while when I got better, I thought Frogger wasn’t that cool and I needed to add some fear in my nick. So, it became "MaDFroG."
That nickname will indefinitely be forever forged in the history of Warcraft III competitive gaming.
BEST OF THE BEST
The Definitive MaDFroG Interview
BY BRENT RUIZ
Fredrik’s gaming history goes back a long way, as far as 1990 when he was 6 years old. “Back then, all there was to play were the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega consoles,” Fredrik tells me.
"After that, my friends got computers, so I was over at their place all of the time playing Warcraft I and after that, Warcraft II. Then, Starcraft was released and we got a computer at home, and me and my neighbors started digging down cables so that we could play on network without moving the computers out of our own houses. But like in all LANs there is not only one game to be played so I played many games like Quake I, Quake II, Quake III: Arena, Age of Empires 1 and 2 and so many other games."
As he mentioned earlier, the Age of Empires series was Fredrik’s first experience with the real-time strategy genre of games. It was only a matter of time until he started to play the best real-time strategy game of the time, Starcraft.
"When all of those games got older I was putting a lot of time into school and it was time for me to move on to Starcraft: Brood War and Battle.net. I spent about 4 hours a day playing but only after 6:00 pm since I had a modem and maybe some more hours on the weekends. I was mainly playing the Brood War ladder and I was getting pretty high," he says.
Growing up in a town called Gothenburg/Kungalv/Ytterby in Sweden for all of his life, he soon joined his first clan, which was a small one based out of his own neighborhood, Tega. That is how the group got its name in fact, as it was named the "Tega Dog Squad". Fredrik explains more about his earlier clan history and the beginnings of his gaming career:
"I was very young so I could not go on any tours or anything like that. But then I turned 15 years old and I joined up with [Elite] and I went to Uppsala, Sweden for my first offline tour. I believe I placed 5th or something at that tournament, and after that I just kept playing several hours a day. Then, I went on to play at larger events and my first real breakthrough in my career was when I earned a top 3 position in the Swedish qualifier for the World Cyber Games."
Fredrik continues by admitting he eventually got tired of playing Starcraft: Brood War, and wanted something new. "After playing at the World Cyber Games, I was kind of sick of Brood War and started some Diablo II with friends and played it for about 2 months. After that, I switched to Warcraft III."
And thus the man we know as MaDFroG began his Warcraft III gaming career. Frog finishes up by saying, "there are so many things missing, but I would have to write a book to get every single bit of my gaming history on text!"
Sometimes people start playing a game competitively from the beginning to try and be the best. But for Frog, it was a bit different in the beginning. He says that when he was playing Brood War, it was all just for fun – until he participated in that very first LAN tournament, knew he had some potential, and soon wanted to become a pro gamer.
“Even though I never thought I would go this far, I am still really happy that I did. Deep down we all have a goal and I was just trying to keep on going for mine, even though sometimes it was really hard with school and all. But now, I am sure I made the right choice.”
As we now already know, MaDFroG used to be an avid Brood War player. However, he probably is praising himself right now for switching games from Brood War to Warcraft III. I asked him about the transition from one game to the other, and how his mentality was different when playing Brood War and when he switched to Warcraft. Fredrik knew he had potential from his performance in Brood War, but did he think he could do the same and much more with Warcraft III?
“After making some money in Brood War and with all the talk about Warcraft 3 being the new game to make money in, I had to change if I wanted to reach my goal of going pro.
But as I said, under a period between Brood War and when Warcraft 3 was released, I was playing Diablo II only for fun with my friends. But then I realized that this was not what I wanted to do since it could not bring me into the pro gaming world, so I switched to Warcraft 3 after all others had played beta. I think I bought my copy of Warcraft 3 about two weeks after it was released or something like that. In the start I really didn’t like it. The control was very different (from Brood War) and I thought it all looked so simple. But I kept playing, hoping for some patches because I knew Starcraft was really bad in the start also, so my faith was in Blizzard’s hands."
"And now," he continues, "when I compare Warcraft 3 to Brood War, I feel Warcraft is the better game, mainly because in Brood War you need such a high APM (actions per minute) to be able to do all the things efficiently. But in Warcraft, it is much easier to do all the things you want to be able to do, and I think that is fairer for the new players who want to enter the gaming world.”
Evolution of Pro Gaming
People who are following the pro gaming scene will know that Sweden holds several top names, in a variety of games. The best obvious example is Schroet Kommando’s Counter-Strike division, recognized as the #1 Counter-Strike team for a while now, and whose majority of players are from Sweden.
What I and many others want to know is if gaming as a profession is evolving into a true reality in Europe? I asked Fredrik a related question regarding this, asking him if he has seen any signs of the scene evolving from the time he began playing Brood War to today’s times where he is playing Warcraft III. Frog has high hopes for the future of gaming in Europe.
"It is so hard for me to tell what has changed," he starts, "but for me the profiles were much stronger in Brood War, maybe because I am looking on it from a different angle. I can see that gaming is growing so much in general and I hope that the real pro-leagues with money and television channels are not far away in Sweden or the rest of Europe. I think there are so many more gamers in Europe than before but it’s just what I think. Gaming will grow; it is only a matter of time in my opinion."
Another topic Fredrik touched on was the increase in prize money given out in tournaments. It has obviously grown. "The prize money is so much higher now," he clams. "I remember when I went to Prague to play a tour and first prize was $1000 and that was one of the biggest tours in Europe. Now, we have tours like ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup) with $25000 in prize money. This is a really big change. Now even some of the Europeans are getting salary, so the change from back then and now is just so big so it’s hard to understand how fast it has all passed by."
Europe is closer to Korea than any other continent, so what about America? Fredrik has been away from Europe for 7 months now and doesn’t have a strong enough grasp to talk about America’s lagging behind Europe and Korea in the pro gaming aspect, but he still had some words to say about comparing the European and Korean gaming scenes.
"If you compare Europe to Korea it is pretty easy to say that the main reason Europe is not as big is because Korea is much smaller than all of Europe. There is no centrum for the pro gamers in Europe so there can’t be any big television leagues yet because of the travel distance. But, maybe if someone made a TV station in a city in Europe, pro teams could move there. I mean, it is not impossible if all parts want this, and I really think there is enough interest by gaming fans for a television channel showing games all day."
Being a talented player in Warcraft III is one thing, but joining an awesome gaming team is another. Fredrik talks about his "big break" in his Warcraft career as he talks about his clan history. Did it all start with Schroet Kommando? Or was it before that? Fredrik responds, "Well I was playing in eSu (E-Sports United) before joining SK (Schroet Kommando) so I think my big break was before joining SK. I know there were some different offers for team-Q (that is where the ]Q[ comes from) but I was not really into that. It was dsco and kovax (team Q members) who made the choices and I just followed. I didn’t really care about the clans that much back then because all of the teams were promising way more than they could deliver. But Schroet Kommando was pretty fair with what they said, so I think it was a good choice."
A Dream Come True
More than half a year ago, Fredrik’s dream finally came true. He, along with some of his Schroet Kommando team mates, received the opportunity to go and live in Korea to play professionally under a sponsorship from Intel.
"I was really excited because this was the whole meaning of my playing. So when HeMaN and I got the offer, there was nothing holding me back. I just packed my bags and left some weeks after."
Frog explained to me that he felt confident in the beginning, but once he arrived in Korea and saw how top tier the Korean gamers were, he knew he had to practice more. "We spent so much time practicing and I got my self confidence back, even though we (Team Intel) lost both the 1on1 league and the team league. After that it was just non-stop playing for me and when I saw Insomnia and Dominator go back to Europe, I was sure I wanted to stay."
"I had not fulfilled my dream yet."
Whenever one moves to a different area, things change. When one moves to a whole new country, things not only change but they change a lot. This was the case for Fredrik. Going to Korea meant a completely new lifestyle for him to adapt to. The food. The language barrier. The women.
"I had to change some things, but in the start it was really hard to adapt to the food. We mainly went for Burger Kings or Pizza Doll every day. Now when I moved again into a new apartment where I can have the computer there with me, all the food places are far away and I have to eat noodles and rice but I’m starting to get used to it and it is really a much more healthy life style."
A typical day with Fredrik: "I wake up at 12, go and get some water, and take the seat in front of my computer, looking at some replays sites and listening to some music. At 1 we go to the lunch hall that is 200 meters away from our home, then we get back and it’s nothing but playing until it’s gym time at around 7:00. One hour later we get back home and order some food, then I play some more or watch some television or something until I feel sleepy. But sometimes I just go out and do something else. It is not good to sit too much in front of the computer. It's not good for my gaming."
When telling me about his gaming computer he uses at his apartment, he says it is not important to him at all, just as long as he uses the same one every day! "I use Logitech MX 300 mouse or something and just a normal mouse pad, nothing special. And then I got a gray computer and a black keyboard....as I said, really not that important to me, only thing I can’t change too often is the mouse."
"As for the language barrier, it’s really hard when there is not many people speaking English here in Korea. In my home there is only one player who knows English and he’s not very good at it, but I don’t need to say so many things so it’s not that big of a problem. Also, I have some good English-speaking friends so its okey, but in taxi it can be hard sometimes."
And the women? Fredrik is from Sweden of course, so I thought maybe he still liked Swedish girls more than Koreans. I guess not! "I prefer Korean girls," he admits. "They are much cuter and smaller. Even though I don’t think I can say one kind is better then the other, it all depends on the person."
MaDFroG joining the best Korean Warcraft 3 team FrienZ has undoubtedly been his career highlight and largest accomplishment throughout his entire gaming career.
As mentioned earlier, when Fredrik first arrived in Korea with his SK clan mates they were there to play in the Korean leagues as Team Intel. Unfortunately they did not do as well as planned, but Fredrik’s winning heart kept him in the game and look where it has landed him.
"I really enjoy playing with this team," says Frog. "They are just so good and I’m still amazed over their skills. I thought it was going to be hard to change teams but it was really the right direction for me to take. There is not that much to tell or maybe there is really much to tell, depending how u see it. The thing that is really funny about being a pro gamer is to going to events and meeting all your fans. The 17th of this month (April 17) we are going to play in the MBC Clan Team Battle finals in a place that can hold 8,000 people. I am really looking forward to that."
So everyone wants to know what it’s like to be a part of those MBC Game and OnGameNet televised league shows which you may have seen in some VODs (video on demand). MaDFroG says it’s not that big of a deal really:
"We arrive 1 hour before the game starts and get some makeup and some food. Then, we get changed and go up to the computers and play the game. When there's not a final going on, there is not that many people there watching so it is pretty calm, even though you know there are so many people watching u live on television."
Fredrik is paid a salary and has gotten to know his team well – they do nearly everything together and are good friends: "I’m with my team almost all the time, since we are living, practicing and going to events together. But sometimes I meet some other people but that is not very often and when I do, my team is mostly with me, like when we go out drinking and things like that."
Words of Warcraft
Fredrik has a countless amount of fans in the Warcraft III world. Many people know he is the best Undead player in the world, if not the best Warcraft III player in the world period. How does he do it? There’s obviously an insane amount of practice involved, but is there more to that? MaDFroG makes a good point, by saying if you see all the time that he spends on Warcraft, it would really be quite odd if he wouldn’t get anywhere. He plays a lot, but it’s more than just nonstop playing.
"In the start you really need to like the game and play it a lot because it is fun and you like to learn. You cannot go in a game thinking you will be the best. I see myself and my old team (Tega Dog Squad) - we were all playing together but they got tired after some hours while I just wanted to go on and on because I really enjoyed it that much. But I think one important factor was that I really didn't like school that much so my spare time was so important for me, and when I was on Battle.net in Brood War I was never in a chat channel almost. Only 4 hours of constant playing every day, and I couldn’t get tired of it since I liked it so much. Some people get angry by losing, I do too sometimes but mainly I try to learn from my losses and see how I can prevent the same thing to happen next time. I almost never lose to the same strategy more then a few times, because I won’t let it go until I got the counter for it. So my recommendation for all players out there is to stop whining and start enjoying this great game."
If you can remember, Fredrik actually used to play nothing but Night Elves back in the day. He then switched to Undead, and the things he can do with Undead are just unbelievable. Many stories are told about players watching MaDFroG replays, instantly inspiring those players to go practice more and try to be the best they can be. He told me the reason he switched from Night Elf to Undead was because he actually started off as Undead, but switched to Night Elf. He had always played the Zerg race in Brood War so he felt he had to go back to Undead when they weren’t the weakest race any longer.
The majority of players agree that there are still some changes needed to balance this game out more. MaDFroG thinks that, "it is pretty balanced. There are still some few things that need to be changed, but overall it’s pretty balanced. Maybe Undead is a little too strong on some maps."
Replays: good or bad for the Warcraft community? "Good because lots of fans get to see their idols playing. Sometimes it can be bad though. Bragging people who only upload their wins and those who are not into the game that much think that he is the best player. I respect all players who don’t upload replays to brag and these are the real pros in my eyes."
Looking into the Future
Warcraft III is a very addicting game. But after playing so many games for many hours a week, some players might get tired of it. I asked Fredrik what he thinks the future is holding for him and his gaming career. Will he continue to play Warcraft? Are there any new games he is looking forward to play competitively after Warcraft III?
"I will be finished after Warcraft 3. At least, that is the way I feel right now. You never know. I’m not really getting tired of it since there are so many new things to learn every day, I would get tired if I won 100% but since I’m not, I am still learning. I really have no idea if I will keep gaming after Warcraft 3, I cant see into my future so it’s really hard to tell what doors will be opened for me in one or two years."
Fredrik is not sure if he wants to continue to actually play the games competitively – he has another passion in addition to gaming: "Maybe start developing new games, but it's all in my fantasy and I have no idea what will happen. But it’s definitely something I want to do as I can’t see myself doing some boring work that I don’t like."
His future with Schroet Kommando is a little more certain. "Nothing is for sure right now," he explains, "but if I got kicked out of Korea this very day I would join SK for sure, but only time can tell."
For now, Fredrik is anticipating attending ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup) 2004 in France, as well as the 2004 World Cyber Games which will be held in San Francisco, California, USA. "That is my main goal for this year, and I hope I will get 1st place in both!" he remarks.