“I really want to use this momentum to create a brand on Twitch and YouTube. There has never been a better time for that and I want to share my experience and knowledge about the game with the community,” says the 2018 ForzaRC Series 1 Playoffs Champion Robin ‘bbbb0x’ Betka of Noble esports when asked about his
recent victory in Seattle. It was his first tournament win at the Forza Racing Championship, and with his newfound winnings combined with the overall excitement surrounding his victory, it’s clear from speaking to Betka that he aims to accelerate towards new possibilities and push himself further than ever before.
Esports, brand development and professional gaming – it’s all the talk lately in the competitive Forza community, but it’s important for many reasons. Players want to develop brands surrounding their name, create content to build up an audience, and make a fulltime career from professional racing on Forza
Motorsport 7. There’s never been a better time for it, but for Robin, he took an immediate interest in video games from his early youth.
“I grew up in the east of Germany and in the 90s, western technology was still kinda new to us,” he tells me when reflecting on how he first got into gaming. Back when he was four years old, Robin managed to get hold of a Sony PlayStation console – years before Microsoft entered the console space for themselves with their own competitor, the Xbox. One of the games he acquired with the system was a Formula 1 racing game – back when Sony held the license to exclusively develop F1 titles before it later switched to Codemasters in 2008.
“I spent countless of hours on that game and I loved the racing genre, which continued even more with Gran Turismo later,” he adds. “Surprises me now how I could play games without being able to read back when I was four, you don't really think about that. I always loved gaming especially racing games.”
However, it wouldn’t be until the Forza Motorsport franchise when Robin discovered his love for competitive gaming and the potential of developing a name for himself in its early esports scene. He had a lot of successes in the Forza franchise when the series was still establishing itself back in the Xbox 360 days. In 2010, Robin competed in his first live event on Forza at the WCG National Final, where he finished in second place.
He also won many hot-lap competitions on Forza Motorsport 4, including prizes such as Xbox 360 consoles with copies of games like Forza Horizon. “I always said my peak was in Forza 4 and that ForzaRC is coming too late,” Robin explains, before referring to his recent victory in Seattle by quickly adding “maybe not!”
It wouldn’t just be his love of gaming and competition that would lead Robin to where he is today. His personality is undeniably a strong point and it’s why so many players in the Forza community highly respect Robin. His overall humbleness and frequent stutter in speech also adds to his personality, and I feel they’ve helped shaped the person he is today. I asked him why he thinks the community cheered him on and supported him so heavily in the Series 1 Playoffs, and he said, “It's not easy to understand and I can only try to reflect on myself to find an answer.”
“I'm not thinking like ‘do this, they will love that,’ I just do what I think is right and fair,” Robin explains. “I think one of the things is that I'm honest. And sometimes it gets me in trouble because if something is bad I'm calling it. And either I get lucky or unlucky – got mega lucky in Season 1, but been unlucky since then, until, well, this happened.”
Robin had a lot of support heading into the Series 1 Playoffs, and his journey towards becoming a champion saw him spend around four hours each day practising on Forza Motorsport 7. However, his overall goal and expectation leading into the Seattle Playoffs wasn’t to win – it was to land somewhere in the Top 7, which would’ve earned him a decent share of the event’s $75,000 prize pool. “I don't know how it happened in the end,” he says about his victory. “I just kept going as good as I could. I never saw the job done until the final race – even when I got on pole, I have a history of choking the first race in the finals.”
“RoadRunner is one of my toughest competitors and I need to bring my A game to beat him,” he mentions. Luck was on Robin’s side though, as not only did G2 Laige – considered one of the best racers in the Forza Motorsport franchise – have “a nightmare of a weekend,” as he described it, but Lighting also had a series of unfortunate races – which led to Betka starting at pole position. At this stage of the competition, it was “now or never” for the German driver. “It was definitely a very emotional victory,” Betka adds.
The final race event of the Series
1 Playoffs – which saw the drivers compete on the Circuit de la Sarthe in celebration of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was by far one of the most intense and surprising I’ve watched in the history of the Forza Racing Championship. An early accident saw Robin off the track before RoadRunner of Alien
Motorsport later smashed straight into a tire-wall as he got stuck on the grass in the process. This was the chance for Robin, the newest recruit of Noble esports, to get back ahead of the ForzaRC
Season 3 Champion and take home that first-place trophy – and that’s exactly what he did.
Once the race was over, you could see a lot of emotion on Robin’s face. This has been something he’s been trying to achieve for years, and since the Forza Racing Championship’s inaugural outing in Summer 2016, Robin has tried to achieve top position – but would always end up choking it before he could grip onto victory. That certainly wasn’t the case at the 2018
Series 1 Playoffs, where Noble’s newest professional gamer dominated the overall event leaderboard.
With four hours of practise each day leading up this event, Robin has decided to take a short break from Forza Motorsport 7 until Series 2
begins on July 9th. This is when the drivers will compete for their place at the Series 2 Playoffs being hosted in Mexico City this September and ultimately, the Forza Racing World Championship finals in London, England this October where drivers will battle it out for their share of the $100,000 prize pool and the title of Forza Racing World Champion.
Outside of the ForzaRC, Robin has invested into streaming equipment. “I really want to get started in streaming and producing YouTube videos,” he says. His first livestream was hosted the weekend following the Series 1 Playoffs, where he provided tips and tricks for the ForzaRC
Pro-Am Bounty Hunter event whilst also trying to outdo his best time. He also invited viewers to join him for some multiplayer racing. When asked about the recent ForzaRC Pro-Am event, Robin says “Pro Am is one of the media events I'm very proud about.”
“There is always lots that can be done,” he adds, regarding the expansion of ForzaRC. “I always say media, media, media. The more content there is about us, the better. And it's not just Turn 10's responsibility, as nothing stops us to create content and get recognized. I think many people don't know how awesome this is because they never came across this.”
Robin recalled the time when Call of Duty World Champion Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow of OpTic Gaming tweeted about the Forza Racing Championship during one of its Wednesday Showdown livestreams last month. “Watching Forza championship and this guy held first all the way until the last turn,” Barlow wrote. “Poor guy,” referring to the moment AMS Vanquish accidently drove wide and lost two positions on Mugello’s often-punishing final turn if taken incorrectly.
The Noble esports driver believes that this type of exposure is what the ForzaRC needs more of, because once potential viewers find out about it – they’ll keep tuning in. “If we can get players with a huge following to promote ForzaRC, I think lots of viewers will stick to it because they will be blown away by the quality of this event,” he says. However, the ForzaRC is undoubtedly gaining a lot of momentum. From the podium celebration at Le Mans last year to the IMSA-themed
Seattle Invitational event last March featuring motorsport broadcast legend John
Hindhaugh, not to mention all the excitement surrounding the 2018 season, the racing esports spotlight is certainly shining
towards Microsoft’s series. “I'm happy to see ForzaRC is finally taking off this year!”
I asked Robin if there’s any features developer Turn 10 Studios could implement into Forza Motorsport 7 that would help improve exposure and discoverability of the Forza Racing Championship and its biggest and best drivers. His response was interesting, as it came in the form of a Gran Turismo-style ‘License’ mode that would teach players how to drive whilst slowly disabling the assists. Demo laps would be presented by an official ForzaRC driver, with an accompanying audio description. “Let's call it ForzaRC Driving Challenge,” Robin says, before adding that it could also discipline players by teaching them some multiplayer behaviours.
Beyond Forza esports, Robin is also a game developer and software engineer. I asked if his recent win at the Series 1 Playoffs will see him shift focus in his career to becoming a fulltime esports athlete, and he said, “I'm currently definitely taking esports over my job, especially as it's the thing I can only do now, and in 5-10 years maybe not anymore.” After Forza Motorsport 4, Robin temporarily left the Forza series behind him as he focused on programming.
“But programming will be there waiting for me all the time, esports is now,” he says. “I can use my programming experience very well with my streaming as I can write custom programs that support me.” Robin’s expertise in software engineering can also be applied to the new ‘Data Out’ feature in Forza Motorsport 7, which was added to the game in the June Content
Update. This unique addition allows developers and third-party OEMs to retrieve telemetry data from Forza Motorsport 7 to build their own applications and accurately calibrate motion sleds.
“The more data we get to work with, the better,” Betka explains. “Everyone knows I'm dying to bring a leaderboard app to Android and iOS. Get a notification when you got beat at work. Tell your boss some emergency happened and go home.”
“On the Data Out feature I'd like to know what gear I'm in, current lap, last lap, sector times, if telemetry is open and if it's paused during gameplay,” he continues. “The application I'm looking to do is a custom speedometer. You hide the original in the HUD settings and display your own one via the app, rendered above the screen on the PC version of the game.”
Going back to his competitive side, Robin recently signed to join the professional organization Noble esports. In fact, he announced that he was joining the team just days ahead of the Series 1 Playoffs. “Noble Esports supported me very well up to this event and I am very grateful for that,” he says about his new team.
“I think it's amazing how we now have 3 professional racing organizations in Forza Motorsport,” Robin adds. “This shows how Forza is being taking serious by the big boys now and this is going to continue.”
In terms of newcomers to the scene, I asked Robin what advice he’d share for those aspiring to make it big in the Forza Racing Championship and other racing esports initiatives. “Practice. I played so much Forza Motorsport 3 it was unhealthy, and I got in trouble in school,” he recalls. “But somehow it paid out in this weird working world. Try to think about what's possible, try everything. Watch the number one replay and try to copy that guy.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this story, Robin is hoping he can use the momentum and funding from the ForzaRC Series 1 Playoffs to kickstart a brand for himself on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. “In the past financial restrictions and a bad connection kept me from doing it,” he says, recalling the torturous 2-hour upload times he’d face when trying to release a 10-minute video in 720p HD. However, that’s no longer an issue, and Robin is all set for the world of streaming and content creation.
In terms of looking ahead for the Forza Racing Championship, his expectations haven’t changed all that much since winning the Series 1 Playoffs, and he remains quite humble about where he expects to finish. “I mean I didn't beat Laige by pace. So, I would still be buzzing about a top 3.”
Thanks to Robin for
taking the time to do an interview with us. You can follow Robin ‘bbbb0x’ Betka
and stay up-to-date with his livestreams and videos on Twitch and
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.