Aether League Portraits:  Interview with Ice Phoenix

The second installment of our Aether League Portraits series takes us elsewhere entirely. While, ultimately, community events and tournaments like the Aethercup and the Aether League are all about high-level play, there is a lot of work that takes place behind the scenes in order to make them happen. Organization, branding, increasing interest, viewership and participation are all vital parts of any successful event.

With that in mind, we sought out Ice Phoenix for our next interview. Having been involved in the PvP community for years, she has taken on a lot of the aforementioned support work and has been instrumental to many past community events, most recently the Aethercup - her implication as Aether League staff comes as no surprise. Volene had the chance to ask her a few questions.

Volene: First of all, thank you for accepting to take part in this interview, it's really appreciated!

Ice Phoenix: Sure thing!

Q: Could you start by introducing yourself and your overall PvP profile? Feel free to speak of your community involvement beyond your experience as a player.

A: I'm Ice Phoenix, I do graphic design work for some of the fan-made PvP events such as the Aether Cup and Aether League. I started PvPing at the very end of Secure being the popular mode and Seal Rock being introduced, back when the Grand Company rivalries were strong and the queue times were 45+ minutes long. The PvP community was a lot smaller back then, and you easily became familiar with the regular PvPers of your grand company. Discord had just started up so I decided to make my own Immortal Flames server and would invite other Flames that I saw in Seal Rock to join. This eventually lead to us trying to coordinate queues to attempt to get into the same match, since this was before cross-server party finder was a thing. I had heard about the Team Tryhard Discord from a friend and was one of the first Aether players to join, and thus eventually became a mod there.

Q: Specifically about ranked Feast now - do you sometimes feel like this is the only mode that is discussed and that the community considers relevant? What is your experience with it or Light Party?

A: I do feel like it's really the only mode that people consider relevant at this point in time. I think a lot of what that has to do with is that Frontlines is far too objective based - Shatter in particular, I mean, in theory you can win the mode without killing another player for the duration of the match. That just doesn't sit well with me for a PvP mode, whereas Feast is all about strategizing, communicating effectively, and killing as a team.

I queued solo for the first two seasons, although as a ranged DPS the queue times were pretty abysmal and honestly I couldn't commit to queueing daily due to things happening in real life - and in my free time I didn't want to sit around for an hour to maybe get a game or two in. Season 4 was my first experience with light party and it was far more pleasant than solo queueing, it's a shame they removed the mode, although cross-server customs kind of help with that.

Q: Did you consider joining a team for the Aether League once cross-server customs were brought back to the game? Why, or why not?

A: When I had initially heard about the concept of Aether League I was very excited for it. Although once 4.0 and the changes to PvP came, it's unfortunately just not something my heart was in. I'll gladly help the community with organizing things and offer input where needed, but the changes to PvP has caused something to be lacking for me. I guess I enjoyed the complexity of pre-4.0 ffxiv PvP. If a team is needing a ranged/summoner and assuming I'm free at the time, I'll hop in and play as a sub, though. I don't care to discourage others from getting into it, if you enjoy it, then that's great!

Q: With that answer, I'll ask you the same question I asked Nex. A lot of veteran PvPers echo the thought that PvP lost a lot of depth with the changes in 4.0, an opinion which you seem to share, but how do you think if affects a Light Party setting specifically? Do you think good coordination could mitigate this lack of depth, at least to an extent?

A: Part of me feels like I haven't observed enough post 4.0 light party to give a very accurate answer. I feel like if you were to take two veteran, light party teams that are relatively on the same level (IE, Nex & Co. vs. RareX or something) then it's possible for the matches to still have a bit of that 'depth', so to speak; however, if you take the aforementioned team versus a less experienced team, I almost feel like the skill gap is worse in a sense now than it was before 4.0, albeit in a bit of a different sense.

Q: Moving elsewhere now - Could you describe to us what your work in the community has consisted of prior to the start of the League? You said you did work as a graphic designer?

A: I've made a couple of Twitch assets (banners/buttons/offline screens) for some of the Feast streamers, including King Stefan and Nex, as well as for the previous Light Party tournament, the Aether Cup. For the latter I pretty much gave the tournament its brand identity, similar to the Aether League, although with a bit more creative liberty. I also designed the logo/logotype for PvPaissa.

Q: What would you say is the best part of your community involvement? In other words, what do you like the most about it?

A: Aha, this'll sound a bit sappy but I honestly love getting to know the community and seeing how they've changed and grown over time. I love the people who can genuinely take a bit of criticism and improve on it, and to see them improve is phenomenal (a good example would be yourself, but no need to include that in the interview!) [Editor's note - it will be included in the interview]. I mean, I've gotten to know people from all over the world, and it's very interesting to me not only how different their day to day living is, but how different datacenters have different strategies and metas for PvP. It really puts things into perspective that just because we do things a certain way in Aether, it doesn't mean it's the only way, or the right way to do something in the game. People just play differently on different datacenters and I find that fascinating.

Q: On the other hand, what would you say is the hardest part of what you do?

A: Hm... well I would say the hardest part about doing graphic design work for the PvP community is that I have an idea of what might look good, but most of the time that is not what the coordinator has in mind. It's very rare to design a piece for someone and have it be spot on how both of you had imagined. So that takes a bit of work. I don't really know if I'd say it's hard but it certainly is time consuming.

As for the community and moderating, probably the hardest thing for me is trying to be as open minded as possible. One thing I do notice the community has a bad habit of jumping/criticizing a single person and others are quick to join in, and it's not always warranted. So playing devil's advocate and trying to offer a different perspective to calm the flames a bit is necessary but certainly isn't something I consider myself good at. I mean, it's PvP and tensions run high and people get mad at each other, it's to be expected to an extent... just gotta know when to draw the line with it, ya know?

Q: Yes, I can see what you mean. Lastly, could you speak of your role in the upcoming Aether League? Getting it started, and keeping it running. Will you be mostly doing graphic work again? Or moderating?

A: Scyn first contacted me a few months before 4.0 hit and asked if I was interested in helping him design things for the Aether League (as well as participating in it at the time). I gladly obliged and we set out to make the logo, Discord icon, and Twitch assets. I've also designed a few award features that people may or may not be seeing in the foreseeable future, you'll have to wait and see. Although I've been told that I am just as much a moderator as anyone else within the group, I consider myself a bit removed since I am not an active participant. I will offer my advice and input on anything that's brought up as well as relay any concerns that I may hear, but that's about the extent of it. Oh, and I am somewhat a liaison for the Aether League in the Team Tryhard Discord because it seems that someone is a bit intimidated by Falz.

Q: I don't understand, Falz is really approachable, you just have to ping him! At any rate, that's all that I had planned. Is there anything you wish to add?

A: No, I can’t think of anything.

Q: Well then, thanks a lot for all you do and thanks again for accepting this interview!

A: Thank you!