The eSports Effect: StarCraft 2

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Updated: March 15, 2014
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It’s time to talk about the game that skyrocketed the current era of eSports: StarCraft 2. I thought about separating Wings of Liberty from Heart of the swarm, however the former is essentially obsolete so I have merged them into one review. StarCraft 2 came out in 2010 and immediately flew into the scene with great anticipation and support. Its predecessor, StarCraft: Brood War, played a huge part in its hype and community support. StarCraft: Broodwar was, until recently, a hugely popular eSport in South Korea. The game was even broadcasted on TV and spawned what eventually became some of the best StarCraft 2 players in the world.

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 StarCraft does not get a very high score in this category. The game is made for the elite of elites and someone with little RTS strategy will have a very hard time playing this game with much enjoyment in 1v1 ladder. Thankfully, Blizzard has done a great job with custom maps and team ladders which make the game very fun for all level of players and really broadens their player range. I can’t even count how many people I know play sc2 just for team games. Blizzard managed to hit this nice little pocket of elitism and fun on many levels. The problem with the 1v1 ladder for most players, is that you want to win your games, obviously. Bt the more you win, the harder opponents you play which makes it so that you will never really reach the best in the world, and you realize that rather early and ask yourself why your still playing. Couple that with the fact that the game is very unforgiving and one simple mistake could mean the end of the game,and you have a tornado of bad emotions for inexperienced players.

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Gameplay is spectacular for StarCraft 2. The game, its units and its interface are all very intuitive and responsive. The buttons are generally reasonable and most importantly completely reconfigurable. The graphics and physics are excellent and all of this combines to make it an entertaining game to play. And onto that the different ways to play (1v1, team games, customs games, etc.) and you get a very enjoyable experience for all players.

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StarCraft only allows the play of 3 races, the Terran, the Protoss, and the Zerg. That means that if you play one race, you only have 3 different matchups. However, there a ton of different builds and openings for each race that you can explore. So you have a lot more variety than appears at first. Plus there are tons constantly rotating map pools. Not to mention the ability to play team games, or Free for Fall, or custom games using the Battle.Net Arcade,

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The maps for StarCraft are generally very balanced. The map pool for each game type changes every season (2 to 3 months per season). There are about 6 to 8 maps per season per game type so there are different maps for all game types (so there are eight maps for one of the 1v1, 8 maps are to be 2v2, etc.) The map pool comes from a large pool of sources including from team liquid who hosts a seasonal map contest where users can submit maps to team liquid team liquid takes the top three winner and sends them to Blizzard who will evaluate them and put them in the map pool. You also have companies like  GOMTV and GSL that create their own maps for their own tournaments those sometimes eventually get put into the ladder map pool as well. Each of the maps have different number of bases some of them have gold bases which you more minerals some of them have rocks blocking bases some of them have bases in the back of the main base for easy natural others give you a front natural but don’t give you an accessible third. There are just so much variety for maps and they’re all very well-built and usually very well-balanced and when they’re not balanced there taken out of the map pool and replace with something else the next season.

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Blizzard is a company who really strives to create great balance of their game. There constantly looking to the users for feedback on what should be buffed or what should nerfed. Blizzard understands that the way the game is played affects whether or not certain units are actually balanced. In other words just because someone is using a specific unit frequently and it’s dealing a lot of damage doesn’t necessarily mean it’s and balanced; it could mean that the other races just haven’t figured out a way to stop it yet. They don’t want to change anything they don’t have to but when they do change something they change it pretty drastically. Their thought process is that if it needs to be nerfed they will over-nerf it and if that destroys it they will start backtracking from their instead of inching their way from an overpowered unit to a balanced unit, they work from underpowered to balanced. Take that into consideration with the fact that they change and balance all their maps pretty frequently and this games a lot of serious balance to it. Many of the arguments you find online are about whether or not a certain race or certain units are overpowered but the real answer is that nothing’s overpowered. There is an answer for everything and while some are more difficult to counter than others that’s just the nature of the game.

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Blizzard has done a great job allowing users to spectate StarCraft II. Especially in the Heart of the Swarm, they have added many different spectator features that are very valuable to the game. For example you can now zoom out to see almost twice as much he used to be able to in the first game with what you see multiple attacks at the same time on the screen. They’ve also added the abilitiy to see each players’ upgrades each players’ army units and other resources as well as being able to see the vision of just one player or both, based on your preference. The game is really easy to watch and it’s really easy to see what’s going on because you know that one player just trying kill the other. While it’s difficult for you to understand which units counter other units, you understand that if one group of units destroys the other group of units the group units the Destroyed is probably in a pretty bad position. Regardless blizzard is that a great job making this game easy to spectate gets an A+ of this category.

eSports In-Review Title - Tournaments PNGBlizzard recently changed the tournament structure StarCraft II. They used to be all over the place with different tournaments at different times like MLG, IEM etc. Now, however, they’ve consolidated all of these into one giant tournament called the World Championship Series (WCS). The WCS is separated into three regions: Korea, America and Europe. Each region has its own tournament and its own standings, but each tournaments grants WCS points which are used to rank all the players over all regions to get a top 16. The top 16 then go on to the WCS finals where everything is merged and more points are given and then finally a global WCS is is hosted at Blizzcon where an ultimate seasonal champion is crowned after two seasons. This format makes it very easy for you to watch alternative ones and it makes it extremely interesting compelling to watch storylines throughout the season.

eSports In-Review Title - Developer Suport PNGStarCraft 2 has a huge amount of developer support. Blizzard, as explained above in multiple portions of this article, has done a great job supporting the game in the eSports industry. They host their own tournaments at their annual conference, and provide a lot of support for tournament organizers wishing to use their game in their tournaments. They are constantly listening to fans and players, and especially reaching out to commentators, analysts and professional players to tweak the games balance and add additional features. Almost every professional gamer was given a pre-beta key for Heart of the Swarm to both get massive amounts of feedback on the game from the people who play it for a living, and give those players a chance to learn the game before its release and make their transition to the expansion easier.
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StarCraft 2, as a product, makes money from the same of its game (which is very well protected from pirates and illegal downloads). It ost $60 at launch but is now $30 for the expansion and $30 for Wings of Liberty. The game does not feature any in-game purchases, but is linked to its other games in Diablo III and World of Warcraft and many of te purchases you make in those games unlock portraits or decals in StarCraft II. Blizzard likely makes most of it money off StarCraft 2 now from its advertising streams and licensing agreements because of tournaments and eSports in general.

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StarCraft’s following has seriously diminished since its release in 2010 but it is still going strong. The new format for their tournaments, in the WCS, has reignited the first in the game and has gained a lot of momentum because of it. While it still isn’t reaching the same numbers of spectators as League of Legends, but it is still getting 40,000-50,000 concurrent viewers for their finals events. Don’t be fooled. Many people think StarCraft is dead but its the strongest it has been since launch and its exciting to watch.

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