An in-depth interview with yumi_cheeseman: ‘There’s no way to truly earn a living here as a caster’

David “yumi_cheeseman” Lane is a Rocket League caster and analyst from Australia. Known for his high spirits, yumi grew into a crowd favorite over the last seasons. In the past, he was a high-level player in the Oceanic region, but he set his sights on casting instead. These days, we hear yumi speak about others during Rocket League tournaments, but who is he?

We reached out to Yumi for an interview and he was happy to sit down with us to talk about his life, Rocket League, and the upcoming season of RLCS.

Thanks for sitting down with me, Yumi. How are you doing these days? Anything exciting going on?

Not really, I haven’t done much at all since the last RLCS and I’m looking forward to what 2019 has to offer. Obviously, it was a difficult end of the year, missing out on RLCS, so the big hope is to be able to go back and do both the world championships this year.

You did accompany the Chiefs to WSOE, right?

Yeah, WSOE was sending over a manager to look after [the team]. So I went over and coached/managed them for a week and tried to help them out as much as I can. They’re a brand new team with ZeN onboard, so that was good and it was a great experience for them and for myself to see a different side. They’ve never had a manager before at an international event, so it was a nice little extra thing they don’t normally get.

Before we fall into the rabbit hole that is Rocket League talk, let’s talk about you first, as I like to do with these interviews. Get to know our commentators a bit better. How did you get into casting?

I was working [in corporate engineering] at Google when Rocket League came out. I was under a two-year contract and I started playing Rocket League a lot, just playing it for fun. But towards the end of my Google tenure, I was playing on a competitive team. A small one, just with a couple of friends I met through Rocket League.

When I left Google I finished the season with that team and wanted to play with some people that I felt really wanted to win and develop. So I got two guys that I liked from ranked. One guy, called DaBeastXD, was very mechanically good, he would copy all the things Kuxir did mechanically [on stream]. We worked really hard and eventually we got quite good. We kept coming second or third in all the major tournaments we entered, but second or third just doesn’t cut it, right? Even first doesn’t really cut it for a guy who was an old man – 29, unemployed – just competing in tournaments wasn’t enough. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of nerves.

I’d been doing some for-fun casting and I just tried that. I started taking that a bit more seriously, I got an offer and I was like alright, I’m gonna try and focus on the casting side.

That sound similar to what James did, who also was a little bit older and decided casting was the better option.

At the time – and this is the way that I think, I’m a very negative thinker, like I always pull myself down – I thought “I’ll never be the best player, so there’s no point in going down that route.” Later on, late 2016, early 2017, I was both the coach and the sub for Alpha Sydney (now Chiefs). During that time I was the best I ever was mechanically. I was very competitive; I’d play together with them, scrim together. I’d be in scrims with them three or four times a week. And that helped me with the coaching too, because I understood how they played as individuals on the pitch.

But even now I don’t consider myself the best caster. I don’t consider myself to be, without a doubt, the best OCE caster. But I have had the privilege and honor of being voted OCE’s Caster of the Year by the community for the last two years. But it is something I believe I can reach someday. And that is the big goal.

Would you consider moving regions if you’d be given bigger opportunities?

Hell yeah! It’s the same with the Drippay thing (who moved to North America). There’s no way to truly earn a living here as a caster. I get paid less than an RLCS caster and there’s less work. So it’s tough. Realistically I need to go and find a part-time job now. If I could move to America I’d suddenly be earning twice as much per broadcast and doing twice as many broadcasts. And I think that Oceanic and even European casters are sometimes overlooked because of the travel and visas required. So if I was overseas I’d potentially get more casting opportunities, which is what everyone wants to do.

When it comes to me as well, when people think of me, they think of OCE Rocket League. And to some degree that’s not to my benefit, right? It’s great I get to go across as the Oceanic representative and I get to be biased as hell on the desk and be like “Yeah, go OCE, F Gibbs, he’s wrong every time, he’s never predicted an OCE team!” But on the same side, that also means people don’t really consider the fact that I do have knowledge of the North American and European teams. And that they don’t consider me as a caster, they consider me as “the OCE representative.”

What did you imagine your future to be as a teenager? Did you see something like this coming at all?

I wanted to be a game developer. That’s like a common adolescent teen male video game dream. But I never really knew what I wanted to be. I’ve never truly known what I wanted to do. I’ve done a million different things, I messed up so many different things, I did two different degrees and spent twice as long as anyone else. I’ve done multiple different jobs and I still ended up here, in a job that I love, but is not earning me [enough]. In the end, you have to do what makes you happy.

What do you do when you spend time to relax?

I play games. That is my thing. Nowadays I play less Rocket League to relax. I’m a very competitive person. Even in my casting, I’m very competitive. I constantly reel that in. I’m not going to sh*t-talk any other casters, but in my mind, I’m like “I have to be better than that person. I have to be at the top.” So I love playing anything that’s competitive in nature. I’ve been playing a lot of Apex Legends, I’m level 100. Played CS:GO for a while, and I love playing RPGs. That’s how I get my solo time. I’m currently in an RPG right now, literally as we’re talking.

Got anything you’re excited coming up this year that’s not related to Rocket League?

I am excited for competitive Apex Legends. We talked about Rocket League casting not being enough for me, so I’d love to start casting Apex Legends when that becomes a thing. Maybe getting onto some hosting for other esports, rather than being an analyst/caster. Being an analyst is difficult for multiple games because you need to know the games and teams inside-out. So I’d love to be a host on a few different esports. We’ll find out. I don’t know what this year has to offer, so I don’t know what to be excited about, to be honest.

Let’s do a lightning round of basic questions and basic answers. Favorite food?

I love Mexican, I make Mexican at home. Typically nachos and enchiladas, that kind of thing.

Favorite movie?

The Lord of the Rings.

Favorite band/artist?

That’s a weird one ‘cause I’ve been listening to a lot of musicals. So let’s just put Moana in there for fun.

Oh, I like that! Favorite game of all time besides Rocket League?

I’ve played so many of them… The most hours I have is in DotA, but that game is infuriating. I don’t think anyone enjoys playing that game. I do things obsessively for a few months and then move on, so I’ve played a lot of different games. Okay, Unreal Tournament 1. UT99.

Favorite holiday destination?

That I’ve been to? I really loved Europe, so that’s like my favorite place. But my favorite holiday was going around New Zealand and doing a Lord of the Rings tour for two weeks.

Favorite book, if any?

Let’s just say, Harry Potter.

Alright, let’s talk a little more about Rocket League, as I’m sure people are eager to hear your thoughts. We talked about ZeN stepping in for Chiefs. Who do you rate higher now? Them or Tainted Minds (now Team Icon)?

Realistically you have to give it to Team Icon in terms of the OCE region. Internationally it’s still up in the air. Icon finally got their first international win with a 3-0 over Splyce. They played quite well, they seemed quite comfortable.

Last season Chiefs and Icon were pretty close in their head-to-head match-up. And considering how long it usually takes a team to integrate, you have to put Icon in the lead. But I think it’s not super relevant until we get to the end of this season where you get to go back to Worlds. That’s where it really matters. Chiefs have the potential to get back to close to where they were and try to get the same placement. Icon now has a little bit more experience internationally, so they might be able to make a push, too. This world championship is gonna be really interesting, assuming they both make it.

Do you think ZeN can fill Drippay’s shoes if he’s given enough time?

ZeN was picked up for his potential. Very high potential player, known for his mechanics. Drippay is the best player, been playing with Torsos for two years, really smart player, knows the game, knows how he wants to play, he grinds and knows how to improve and perfect his game. A lot of players don’t know what to do to improve but Drippay always has a goal in mind.

He’s a really good teammate to have. No one can fill his shoes, so that sucks. Even Torsos and Kamii have to start stepping up a little bit and let ZeN relax as he’s entering the team. But ZeN can do it. Give him a year’s time – he’s a fast player, he has a great work ethic, and has that drive and motivation. He’s currently finishing up high school, so when school ends I see him going full-time Rocket League. And that’s where we’re gonna see the rise of ZeN, the same way we saw with Drippay.

The reason we saw Drippay become consistently good last year was because he took the year off to focus solely on Rocket League. And no one else in OCE can afford to do that, there’s no big salaries here. So when [Zen’s school] ends, I can definitely see a ramp up depending on how he takes it.

What roster shuffle surprised you the most this off-season?

I’d say the biggest was Kaydop to Vitality. I think anyone who answers differently is kidding themselves. I guess maybe not necessarily a surprise because we know Kaydop and Fairy are friends, but it feels like Dignitas was still so ready to win. Even at the world championship against Cloud9… They had a bad series. They were playing very well in the tournament and they just crumbled and I think Cloud9 got under their skin as well. So that could’ve been their world championship. For me, it’s all about getting those big Ws. Now I could see Kaydop not even making the world championship. Luckily they had a good performance at DreamHack, so that’s gonna carry a lot of weight into this season and potentially show how good Kaydop is on two different teams.

What new team is the most dangerous?

You have to look at Savage, especially after their DreamHack performance. They showed they are a top contender right now. It might not have been the best situation going into DreamHack; they don’t have the support of an org right now despite being an RLCS team. And despite that, they still got so far at DreamHack. They’re three really good players. Alpha looks like the potential rookie of the year already. I have high hopes for Savage and I expect to see them at the world championship.

What should, in your opinion, be the main priority for Psyonix to increase the growth of the esport?

In terms of game development, I’m interested in seeing a public stats API. And having a tournament mode with meaningful rewards. Like entering Psyonix-ran tournaments in-game and winning decryptors, or something like that. Things inside the game to motivate me. I like stats, so having a stats API would be huge. Having access to more than just goals, saves, assists, and being able to very quickly catalog them, not just for ranked, but for something like 6-mans it would be really useful.

And if I was to talk outside of actual game development, I’d love to see them hire representatives from other regions. Psyonix right now is an American company and you see it a lot of what they do. They do a very good job of reaching out and involving other regions and you can see that with the addition of South America. But you see in the broadcasts, in the way they run tournaments, there is an American culture to it. That’s part of the reason I love seeing Shogun on the caster desk. It’s a different style, it’s a different humor, a different culture. I think they could be more multicultural, hire some representative for EU, hire someone from OCE to really develop that region. And even with Asia and South America. There’s nothing better than having someone on the ground of that region, even if they have to move to America.

If you could change one thing about the RLCS, either for the upcoming season or long-term, what would you choose?

There’s obviously a massive change for RLCS right now [with South America]. So by default, the world championship format has to change. It can’t be a three-day double elimination, unless they start not broadcasting some matches, which I can’t see them doing.

So I’m thinking the world championship is gonna be four days. I’m hoping it’s a group stage format into a play-offs. I’d love to see two pools of six, round robin. Two teams of each group going into an upper bracket and two teams from each would go into a lower bracket. Run that over the next two days. Hopefully, that’ll be the format – it feels really robust and fair. And maybe you can’t broadcast all of the matches, which would suck, but you could do an A and B stream, maybe an uncasted stream.

But for me, right now there’s so few tournaments [in OCE], you really have to think about what’s outside of RLCS. There need to be more non-RCS tournaments here to get players to play the game. And to get the players/organization/sponsors in front of more eyeballs. That is, I think, the big shortcoming for the Oceanic region.