I spent the first half of 2013 just playing poker, getting ready to move, and traveling a bit (Hong Kong with my girlfriend, great trip). Started feeling a crazy itch for something competitive when summer started and actually played a little bit of SC2 (my profile says I played about a 100 games with around 75% winrate) before I replaced it wtih... MMA! I've been training 5 days a week, 3-4 hours per day since around July along with cutting out 99% of all junk food and I'm in the best shape of my life basically.
Me with Korean pro fighter Bae Myung Ho
I'd like to have my first amateur fight this year. The rest of the year, I spent playing poker and - once again - traveling (Japan and Sweden, both of which were completely amazing trips but this isn't the blog for that).
Anyway, I didn't really follow SC2 all that much during this time, just didn't feel like I had the time or inclination... but then at the end of January I busted one of my ribs a bit during wrestling practice with a giant korean guy (I'm 80kg, he's 100kg and he did a hiptoss from clinch and landed on my side... ouch). Thankfully I didn't break the rib (just bruised, which still meant agony anytime I sneezed or coughed for the next 2-3 weeks), but coupled with a cold it did give me some down time from both Poker and MMA.... So I started watching SC2 again!
As I mentioned I found myself with a bit of free time, and I started reading TL again, noticing what tournaments were going on and what not... From my initial reading I was sort of expecting SC2 to be in a horrible place with "no hope for the future" (if you get the reference, you're pretty old school by SC2 standards), every game an all-in or a swarm host camping fest.
But I've got to say, after having now watched IEM Sao Paulo, ASUS Rog, plenty of GSL and Proleague matches as well as most of the games from the on-going IEM Cologne... what I have seen in these games and what I expected from the comments in threads beforehand, could not be further removed.
I can very honestly say that in terms of watchability, the game has never been even close to where it is at now. Let me give you a few examples of the state of the game when I left.
This was a ladder map
... this was half the PvZs:
... and this was the other half:
An alternative take
... every TvZ:
... and most PvPs:
A strategical mastermind
Yeah. WoL had some really good periods too (the era that produced Nestea vs SC was amazing), but not only would I say that maps now are better, but so are the players, and the actual base game!
Some of the things people really wanted were ways for terran and protoss to scout early game, protoss to have a harassing unit, and for there to be more fight over map control/positioning.
- The hots era reaper is amazing for scouting, and I think has made the game so much better compared to the mist of conflict present in WoL.
- Mothership core might be a bit too strong, but overall this has definitely made the game better... PvP is maybe not the perfect matchup, but compared to WoL? Is there anyone who wants to go back to that?
- The swarm host. You know what? I think this is a great unit. Yeah, it's not perfect right now but you know what I've been seeing that I basically never saw in the past? The map actually being more than a theater for two death balls to collide. It probably needs some changes, but it's really not the first time in the history of starcraft that something has seemed stale... which brings me to my next point of contention with the current discourse.
Oh and before I forget, as much as people love to hate on Reality vs SoulKey, any game that has dozens of pro-players tweeting at eachother arguing about what to nickname an especially heroic unit in the game... can't be that big of a disaster.
But in Broodwar...
... Nobody ever balance whined... there was no turtling.... everything was perfect...
Yeah. OK. Let me google that for you.
Look at the links from 2006 and earlier and watch the tears.
I can't find any good screenshots of this, but back around 2004~2006, most PvZs (especially vs european zergs, which is funny considering its analogous to the current situation) the zergs gameplan would be to get to 3 bases, spam lurker/spore/sunken and then depending on the map, take islands (and use the same defense there) while dropping ultra/ling, or just go straight 3 base hive ultra ling into more bases with the same defense.... It really did not look too different from SH turtle, and was infuriatingly hard to break.
How was it solved? Game evolved, maps got better, etc. I'm not saying SH is the exact same situation, but it's not such a horrible unit that it needs to be removed from the game --- if people had seen some of the games that occurred back during this period of PvZ today, they would have probably called for the BW designers heads.
Another thing that happened was when Protoss players started switching from trying to get carriers every game, into quick arbiter builds... Well, as you can imagine this was a big adjustment for the Terran. When you make the carrier switch, your army will necessarily be smaller (lots of resources and supply tied up into units that wont be ready for a long time since they have to build interceptors too), and as long as the terran is careful, the protoss can't take him head on.
Well, everything here changed with arbiters - not only did they make straight up engagements way better for the protoss with stasis and cloak (requiring more conservative use of scan as well), but with recall+ramp stasis, terrans suddenly found themselves with a protoss army in their main and their army halfway across the map...
Terrans did not like this, not at all. Especially on Luna, this was the initial response in strategy change: never attack. Build 30 turrets in your main + spider mines. Camp half the map until protoss mines out trying to fight for the last expansion.
If you've watched any recent BW match, you can tell this didn't last too long, but the fact that it did exist for a while, is something I think people are quick to forget (or just do not know).
So David Kim is actually a hidden progamer, crouching genius?
No idea, but I don't think Blizzard are as clueless as people make them out to be. HotS is a far better game than WoL, todays maps are so far beyond what was available just 2 years ago that it's not even funny. I've been laddering a bit lately and the only map I mind getting at all is Habitation Station, and it's not even a big deal. Compare this to 2011 or early 2012, laddering was honestly a pretty sad experience sometimes with how bad the maps were, and looking back I think this was at least a small factor in killing my motivation to play.
I'm not at all trying to say that the game is perfectly balanced, or that there isn't a lot of room for improvement still, I just don't get this extreme pessimism I sometimes see perpetuated in this forum. We have gone from "Chat channels? People want those?" to a region unlocked game with free to play arcade, from "Ladder maps and tournament maps should be different, tournament maps are too confusing for casual players"... to, well, pretty clearly todays map pool does not follow this creed.
So, as someone who watches the game in bursts every 6 months or so, I have to say the quality of games has approved tremendously, proleague seems stable, GSL is going strong and there has just been an announcement of a potential new korean tournament... Even WCS seems to have improved a lot compared to the first season. Suddenly there's a ton of Koreans living in Europe, and long term that's amazing for the quality of the European ladder. Polt and Violet (and bomber?) have ATHLETE VISAS in the US, that's fucking outrageously cool.
I just don't see why people are so pessimistic.
I'm excited as hell for LotV, and I actually think Blizzard has kept up their track record of making every expansion better than the previous game (Broodwar was a lot better than SC, TFT kicked the crap out of WC3 vanilla, and HotS is every bit as superior to WoL as the previous two games).
I'm not trying to say the game is perfect, especially as someone who isn't playing the game seriously anymore I feel like that would be a bit out of place, but I wish people would be a little more optimistic and try to remember what the game used to be like. It's like how when you practice a lot, you sometimes feel like you aren't improving at all, but if you were to show an outsider a game from day 1 of your training and then a game from day 30, he'd think you were waaaaay better.
SC2 will never be Broodwar, not because it's not as good a game (because it's honestly good enough that it doesn't matter), but because the esports scene is way different today than back then. But what it can be is a really great game, with really amazing tournaments, great personalities and a long life left.
I've got some more things on my mind, some thoughts on competition and normal life and what not, but I'll save that for another blog as this is already quite long and rambly as is.
Alright, time to sleep. 4 am, IEM making me stay up the latest I've done ..... in like close to a year
Good night, and remember just because one work of art is beautiful doesn't mean another one can't be too!