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SK Johnson speaks ahead of WCG

By Stuart 'SwitchbacK' Macdonald
Sep 14, 2010 21:15

ImageSK Gaming's Forza 3 racer Johnson gives an interview prior to the WCG Grand Finals in Los Angeles.

SK Gaming secured the services of Niklas 'Johnson' Krellenberg back in April 2009, but this is the first time he has been interviewed since his arrival.

The German racer qualified for the World Cyber Games Grand Finals without dropping a single race, and has all the right reasons to believe he can pick up a gold medal in Los Angeles.

Who does he see as the driver he's destined to play against? Are there any easy paths to the medals in the Forza tournament? How stacked is the competition? Johnson answers all of these questions and more.

You've been a member of SK Gaming for a while now. What's your best memory within the team so far?

I think our domination on Forza 3 in Germany. Our team has won every important event I can remember. In addition our booth at GamesCom was a very nice memory. I met the whole team again, we had a lot of fun.

The WCG groups were drawn a couple of days ago. Tell us what you know and what to expect from your opponents (Daveyskills, Darkmax and rolfu).

I've known Daveyskills for 3 or 4 years and every time he's one of the favorites for the title. This year it is more than that. Everyone expects that he wins the WCG. A victory against him would be a very hard piece of work. rolfu is a good player from Switzerland where he has no competition. With some luck he can beat one of us. But I have to beat him...

The player of Russia, Darkmax, is a dark horse. Nobody in the community knows him but I won't overlook him. All in all I have to reach the quarter final. In the quarter final I'll race another tournament favorite.

You've competed at three WCG Grand Final events prior to this year's, but this is your first time out as a Forza racer. Back in 2008 you were also drawn with Daveyskills in your group, where he beat you: are you looking for revenge this time around?

I think it's my destiny to play against him every time. In 2008 I lost my match because of a stupid mistake. Davey, me and Burberryqq were on the same skill level and beacuse of a tie situation we had to do time trial. I lost it by 1 tenth of a second. Of course, it would be very satisfying to win a match versus him but he's the big favorite of the whole torunament and getting revenge is going to be a very difficult piece of work. I'll focus on reaching the next round.

As you mentioned, in that group you were involved in a three way tie and didn't proceed through to the knockout stages. At this year's WCG the top two will advance from four man groups; do you see yourself and Daveyskills as the two that will progress?

Under normal conditions we are the 2 players who will progress to the next round. rolfu will, as I mentioned before, try to beat one of us with some luck but I'm confident that you'll see me in the knockout stage.

ImageObviously the World Cyber Games events are a big step up from what Forza players are used to - online cups, hot lapping, etc. As big events are a rarity for you guys, does it give you a bigger incentive to perform? It seems like if you mess up at one big tournament, you're done until the next which could be a year away.

The problem is the support in Europe. In the USA are some really big tournaments but you can only participate if you are an American. This is really disappointing because I know that we would play an important role there.

The WCG is the biggest event for us in this year, it's something special. I think everyone wants to be the world champion of something. That's why everyone trains harder than for any other tournament. We got 6 or 7 players who are able to get a medal. This tournament is very challenging.

Who are you looking forward to facing at the tournament? Is there anyone in particular you're looking to beat, or someone you're genuinely hoping to run into?

I'll face someone of group D in the quarter final. The favorite of it is the American, TPR Conman. He's on the same level as me. This would be a very interesting race that could be decided by one mistake. In that case I got a really unlucky drawing. Handewasser, Project Gotham Racing world champion, will have no competition in the quarter final because in group C is no one who has at least a chance against a good driver. The WCG didn't seed the groups, thanks for that. If I win the quarter final I'm able to win a medal.

Would you say that the winner of World Cyber Games will be regarded as the best Forza player in the world? Do you see anything like an "easy path" for perhaps a certain racer to get lucky?

The players of group B will get easily in the semi final and have a good chance to win a medal. But it in the semi final they are playing against my group and group D. The winner of the WCG deserve the win for sure but the way into the top 4 is very lucky for some players, this is what makes me angry. But this may not be an excuse for me. I want to reach the top 4 and if you are in it you want the medal.

ImageWho would you say the top five Forza racers are right now?

The first one is Daveyskills. After him there is Handewasser, YggdrasiL, Conman and myself.

How's practice going? Do you play with any of your close opposition at all?

Sometimes I play with them to see how I improved my skill. The most important thing for me is getting consistent. You can be a very good hot lapper but if you are doing one stupid mistake the race can be over. One race is around 7-8 minutes long and you have to be flawless. After a race I don't take a look on my fastest lap, I look at the overall time. The fastest laps of us are probably the same.

Many readers may be unfamiliar with WCG's rules regarding Forza; explain what vehicles drivers are restricted to, whether custom tunes can be used, how the races play out, and whether they're beneficial for competitive play.

The rules are really good. All cars are allowed what means that everyone is using the fastest car in the game. Setups und upgrades are forbidden. I really like that because the best driver is winning and not the best tuner, everyone has the same requirements. The car which we are driving is the Peugeot 908. The tracks are famous ones from all over the world: Catalunya, Silverstone, Sebring, Suzuka and Mugello. The number of laps is 5.

When people refer to big esport titles, Forza is nowhere to be seen. It had a stint in the CGS, but what do you think needs to be done for the game to hit the big time?

The only thing is the absence of sponsors and big tournaments and that it is an Xbox game. I'm pretty sure that it would be bigger on the PC. Like I said before, competitve console gaming in America is much bigger than in Europe or Asia, there is more interest of the people. In my opinion the problem is the absence of some acceptance of the people in our region.

Domestically you're the reigning German champion and have been for a while. Is obtaining the title of best in the world all that's left for you?

It's a really good feeling to be the German champion. It's my fourth time that I won the German finals. Now, I want to get more. I wouldn't say that I have to be the world's best to improve my achievements. A place in the top 3 would be very awesome.

Any final words?

I'll give my best at the WCG and hope to bring home a beautiful medal for my collection. Wish me luck guys!



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