Arten “Ballatw” Esa is a well-known figure within the Fortnite world for his casting and VOD reviews. Ballatw helped host the Fortnite World Cup Finals and the most recent Trio Champion Series. He also does a lot of work behind the scenes to help the game improve. He has developed and continued to improve upon a competitive Fortnite league or ladder. With the help of others, he created a system and environment where players could practice and compete at the highest level. The ladder runs out of a discord server called T1 Scrims. Finally, Ballatw has been part of the team that works to improve the broadcasting and hosting of tournaments. The infrastructure is limited, but the team has done a great job thus far.
Ballatw talked with Daily Esports to discuss his career, thoughts on the current FNCS, and much more!
Q&A with Ballatw
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Please listen to the audio for full context.
Daily Esports: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
Arten “Ballatw” Esa: I am Ballatw, a competitive Fortnite caster and analyst (from Maryland). I am the one talking to the audience during a competitive Fortnite game trying to walk you through the action. This hopefully enhances the viewing experience by bringing you the most exciting stories. I also make educational content where I break down competitive Fortnite gameplay. The goal is to teach players what the pros are doing and why they are so good.
What was the first game you ever played?
Duke Nukem was the first FPS I ever played. Then I got into StarCraft. That was technically the first competitive game I ever played. In high school, I began playing Counter-Strike. My friends and I made a team, and that was my first real experience within competitive gaming. Since then I played StarCraft, Quake, Counter-Strike, and have been so excited to play competitive games.
Did you always have aspirations to cast competitive games?
It came in spurts. When I moved back to the United States, I became very interested in competitive Counter-Strike. I dabbled in casting those games. Eventually, StarCraft became a thing and I did amateur casting for the game. I never thought that it would become a career. It was my passion and I love to share it with other people.
When did you begin playing Fortnite?
It was the end of season 3, March 2018.
Was your goal to become an analyst or caster in Fortnite?
It was not my goal at the start. It originated as a game that I just enjoyed playing with my friends. I was a believer that the battle royale (BR) genre could not be competitive. Then I watched Ninja Vegas 2018. It changed my mind, and I knew that this game could be competitive. I thought that it could become the next big thing. Fortnite would become like League of Legends or Counter-Strike.
You do more than just simply cast event. You help with production and scrimmages. Tell us about that.
I feel there is a lack of everything within the bottom tiers of Fortnite. No one has run leagues or ladders for those players. I have been working to improve that infrastructure for players. Additionally, I have worked on the production side to observe and cast events. Right now, I feel that there is nothing supporting the bottom and I really want to change that. In order to have a healthy Fortnite ecosystem, we need a strong base.
What advice would you give to an upcoming player?
Just play as much as possible, but the structure of Fortnite requires you to do more than play. In addition to playing, you must network with other players and create content. This will help you find teams to play with and receive recognition. It helps you learn and improve too.
What is your favorite meta so far?
Honestly, right now is the best meta. We finally have big teams, which I thought was the next step for viewing. It is much easier to follow only 25 teams. As far as the game, it truly feels like a battle royale. The loot pool, map, and mobility are all phenomenal right now.
What would you put on your Fortnite wish list?
I like the bandage gun. I would like to see more items like that. Not necessarily only healing, but different types of utility. Additionally, I would like to see Arena improved to an actual competitive ladder. Players should be able to play competitive games whenever they want without going outside of the game.
What are your thoughts on Week 1 of FNCS?
I think they knocked it out of the park. The only issue was what happened in the EU semi-finals with the top 500 teams not being able to queue. I really enjoyed watching everything. The performance of Zayt, Saf, HighSky, and Commandment was incredible. Overall, the storylines focused on the players and not technical issues or broken game mechanics. No complaints from me, none.
One more note is that the format of the final round is perfect. A custom lobby where the same teams play multiple games. That is competitive Fortnite to me.
First, let me preface this. People have expectations that you can make predictions. It is very difficult to make predictions in a BR. I do not even know who qualified yet or who will be contested off spawn. (This interview was recorded before Week 2 of FNCS.) All that said, my picks are:
- EU: Crue, beehive, chapix, and ritz
- NAE: 72hrs, Vivid, Chap, and CizLucky
What are the characteristics or aspects of a squad that make teams successful?
I believe it is chemistry and how long a team has played together. Additionally, the intelligence of players is important. The chemistry, longevity, and IQ of players are the keys.
What do you like to do outside of gaming?
I do not do too much outside of gaming. I like consuming content, watching TV, reading, playing games with friends, and having a good time in life. I used to play sports but developed arthritis. Gaming has been my passion and hobby; now it’s my job. I do not need to do anything else.
What did you do before you made gaming a career?
I was an electrical and computer engineer. I designed medical devices and industrial manufacturing equipment. I worked on the printed circuit boards inside those devices.
Who is your favorite player/caster/streamer?
My favorite caster, by far, is Sadokist in Counter-Strike. I also enjoy Quickshot from League of Legends.
As far as players, I like to watch the mechanic beasts Bugha, Aspect, Kylix, Khuna, and moqii. I do not care for the interaction with viewers. It is just so much fun to watch mechanic gods.
What has been your favorite experience within esports?
I am from Massachusetts and went to the CSGO Boston Major. It was intense, exciting, and emotional to watch the finals. It was over 10 years since a U.S. team won a major tournament. The experience was magical and something I hope we can see here in Fortnite.
What is next for Ballatw?
I am going to do more casting. I want to do as much as I can when the opportunity presents itself. There is a possibility of trying to play the game at a high level. If there is no broadcast for the next FNCS, I might form a squad.
Daily Esports thanks Ballatw for taking the time to speak with us. He was a pleasure to speak with. Ballatw does wonderful work for everyone in the Fortnite world. We wish him the best in his future endeavors and a long successful career.