Chillindude talks casting at DreamHack, rivalries, future of Melee

Super Smash Bros. Melee proved it was here to stay at DreamHack Anaheim. The nearly 20-year-old game saw a massive turnout, with an entire portion of the festival dedicated to a Melee tournament that saw some of the best players in southern California compete for a share of a $1,000 prize pool. 

One of the most familiar faces at the tournament was Team Liquid's Kashan "Chillindude" Khan, a high-ranking Melee player who acted as a caster at the event. WIN.gg spoke with the Fox main about his new commentator career and why Melee will continue to thrive despite its age. 

What made you decide to get involved with DreamHack?

Chillindude: I live in SoCal now so Anaheim is only 30 minutes away from me. I figured I might as well, seeing as it’s in the neighborhood.

Have you attended a DreamHack event before? 

This was the first time I went as a caster. Before, I’ve played at DreamHack events a few times. I’ve been to Atlanta and Austin a couple times.

What did you like about the DreamHack tournament? 

It’s kind of a different vibe from Smash majors. There’s all these different games in the same event. You get a different perspective of how other games work and how other communities work in general. That aspect is really cool in general. The afterparties have all these esports scenes mingling together. It's a great chance to meet people from other games we normally wouldn’t meet from a Smash event.

What got you into casting?

I’ve been casting for a few years now. Originally, when I became a full time streamer I got really comfortable talking about a game while playing it. A lot of people in my chat said I’d be a really good commentator. I figured I should give it a try.

2016 was when i started. I got a lot of really good feedback. I just kind of built off of that. I just commentated top 8 at Genesis. I’ve made a lot of strides in the past few yeras as a caster.

What do you like about casting?

It’s just my favorite game ever. I still feel like it’s constantly evolving. There's always new stuff happening in the game, which is really cool. A lot of games can get stale after a while. Melee has new scenarios we’ve never seen before. Which is crazy for a game almost 20 years old.

A lot of my co-casters are great friends of mine as well. We’re just chatting about the match. We’re having a good time. But it’s also something that’s enjoyable to lsiten to for people watching.

What are some of the new things players have discovered in Melee?

Espeically in the past few years, it’s not necesarily people discovering things, but implementing them. There’s a few different things. Shield dropping is the biggest one. That lets you fall through a platform while shielding without doing a spot dodge, if you hit a certain spot of the control stick. This opens up more defensive options, allowing you to punish.

It also helps with offense. Normally when dropping through, you wait a few frames to crouch. Shield dropping is instant. You can instantly fall through and do an attack. That has sped up Melee in general over the past few years. 

Another big thing is ledge dashing. You take invincibility from the ledge and wave dash onto the statge. This is a huge thing that also speeds up Melee. It forces you to respect characters coming off the ledge if they do it well enough. It's a very technical input. If your opponent isn’t getting it well or doing it smoothly, they lose invincibility. You can start punishing them. But if not, you have to respect the ledge and let them get back.

Another smaller but important addition to the current meta is slide off DI. If you get hit onto a platform and you’re toward the edge, instead of teching on platform, you can DI toward the edge of the platform and down. That will push you right off. As soon as you slide off, you’re actionable. You can counter-attack or escape the situation. It used to be a guaranteed tech chase if they had you in that position but now you can potentially get out of it.

What is the goal of a caster?

There's a few different goals. It varies by the event. For example, in a big open event that’s maybe sponsored by Nintendo and you know there’s new viewership, like when Ultimate first came out, I was trying to be informative.

But I also know there’s core Melee viewers that already know a lot of the mechanics. I don’t have to explain what DI is to most people watching Melee these days. It's more about giving a deeper analysis. A perspective they didn’t have about what’s taking place and the interactions between players and why they’re doing certain things.

Does your past as a pro player help with that commentary?

For sure, that’s one of my biggest advantages as a commentator. I have the experience playing at a high level. There are things I see between these interactions that lower level people might not notice. 

Another goal is also to establish storylines. It’s really good for people to have context behind two people who may be heated rivals. Why is that? What's their history. That really paints a picture of the whole match instead of the current set you’re watching.

Why are rivalries so good for Melee?

It’s partially because it’s one of the few really popular esports out there that is just 1v1. That’s the main form of competition. Most other esports are teams or doubles. But Melee is singles. That in itself makes rivalries more heated. Because you play that specific person head to head.

Melee has a lot of personality. The top players have a ton of personality in general. That leads to a lot of intesting clashes happening on Twitter.

You had a beef with Leffen a while back. Have you had any other rivalries more recently? 

Not really. With Melee in general, we get over them and hang out and become friends. There’s a lot fewer serious rivalries these days. It’s more friendly, if there is one. I have a "rivalry" with HugS. It's just us bantering and poking fun at each other. Nothing too serious about it. But that’s good to have, too.

Are there any misconceptions about commentating that you found not to be true once you became a caster?

That it’s a high pressure thing all the time. It’s normal to experience nerves if you’re commentating on stage for the first time or your first bigger tournament. But at the end of the day, if you’re doing it right, commentary should be a fun thing to do. You shouldn’t be stressing out. That translates into viewership experience. If you’re having fun with it, viewers are having fun with it, too.

What was a particularly memorable moment from the DreamHack tournament? 

The S2J versus Westballz match; it was losers finals. It was a really good set. It started off with S2J winning game one. In the second game, Westballz killed himself on his second to last stock. S2J jumped off stage as a homie stock.

It ended up leading to a close game five set. It shows the homie environment of Melee. With money on the line and ranking on the line, he still threw away a stock. He even ended up losing that match. Things like that emobdy Melee. It’s so grassroots and we all built it up together. The fact that he was willing to help his friend like that, it’s pretty impressive.

What has made you hesitant to switch over to Ultimate?

I have gotten into Ultimate and watch it pretty regularly. But honestly, the main thing that prevented me from getting more into it is that the online is so bad.

Ultimate online is so inconsistent. That makes it really difficult to grind the game when that main form of grinding is very bad. Very laggy, all over the place, depending on who you play, too. It’s all over the place.

I do prefer Melee in terms of gameplay. It’s faster paced and has more movement options in general and more defensive options. It kind of just feels smoother to me after having played every Smash game pretty regularly. Melee feels the best in terms of movement. What makes Smash a good game to me is dynamic combo system. All these different creative options to continue combos or get out of them. Melee exemplifies that in particular.

You're a Fox main in Melee. Who would you main in Ultimate? 

I would play Wolf in Ultimate. That’s who I do use. I just really like him as a character, both in game design and just who he is. He’s just a cool, badass character in general. I wanted to play him in previous games but he wasn’t as fun to play. And then he wasn’t in Smash 4 at all. I was hype he came back. He's definitely an awsome loking character. All his animations look cool.

You mentioned the homie culture of Melee and how long most people have been playing together. Do you have advice for a new player looking to get into Melee? 

There's tons of resources out there. I recommend looking on Melee Reddit or YouTube for guides. There’s training guides, and Leffen has one where he breaks down how he practices and learns new stuff.

The big thing to remember is that it’s not going to be easy. So many people played Melee for so many years already, so you’re starting off at a disadvantage in that sense. Don’t get discouraged if you’re a new player. It’ll be months before you even start taking games. It could be that bad. If you do really like the game, I recommend practicing a lot. Don’t put too much stock into the results at first.

With such a tough learning curve and the game being so old, do you see Melee continuing to grow in the years to come? 

I do think that Melee can continue to grow. There’s some hurdles and it will take some action on our part, the community’s part.

It's almost 20 and there are other limitations, like you have to play on a CRT [television], which are becoming more and more rare. There’s ways around it, but it’s going to take a lot from the community going forward to keep Melee growing.

But for at least the next few years, it’ll definitely continue to thrive.