MLG wasn't lying when they said this Anaheim event would be bigger than last year. Headlining the event presumably for most attendees was the KESPA tournament and the Hots gaming area.
People buzzing and bustling left and right. Matches were literally happening everywhere. Soul Calibur V and King of Fighters XII players duking it out on the left stage. League of Legends teams grinding victories out on the right stage. On center stage, Starcraft players were shining. The crowd roars as each respective match gets underway and subsequently ends. Comebacks in fighting games are a sight to see. A team earning a pentakill in League of Legends generates applause and unbridled cheers. We notice all the little nuances in play styles and experience the ups and downs of each player as they go through it in real time in Starcraft 2.
This is eSports.
Right when one steps through the convention doors, a dominating statue of Kerrigan looms over the Hots gaming area. My friends and I made a beeline towards the Hots station because there was no line. There was only 3 of us, so I was paired with a random stranger. We made a gentleman's agreement to just mess around, or so I thought. I play random, but chose Protoss on my first go around. I experimented with the mothership core, oracle, tempest. At 11 minutes, he attacked with all roaches and probably 3 swarm hosts. What gentleman's agreement, right? I did get to use the other 2 races against my friends and we used the full allotted time exploring the new units.
The three words that describe my experience with Hots are intrigue, style and anticipation.
Intrigue The countless videos and casted exhibition matches for Hots have shown the new units and what they bring to the table. Seeing the new units and playing them are like night and day. Issuing the command for a hellion to transform or transporting a mothership core from your main to your natural are fascinating. Controlling each of the new units was fun and a breath of fresh air. The curious thought of pro players getting their hands on these new units and incorporating each into their builds is making me impatient.
Style Even more distinct styles could form for each race and player.
Zerg feels much more zerg-like. They feel like the swarm. The swarm host constantly producing locusts give temporary siege units at a player's disposal. They could lock down areas, especially with locusts' ability to attack air. They feel fast. When I say fast, I mean quick as hell. The hydra has running shoes now instead of flip flops. Who needs creep?! They feel endless. They feel scary. Marines hanging out at a natural base, then BAM, an ultralisk charges from underneath to crash the party. Moving burrowed banelings could have been too much for all players to handle or deal with. You see those siege tanks and colossi at the back of your opponent's army? Get Over Here! (abduct) is what the viper says as those units are engulfed by the heart of the swarm. Yikes! Get ready for the swarm. They've stocked up and reloaded with speed and some handy reinforcements.
The addition of the warhound and battle hellion mode give a different dynamic. Blizzard wants to break up the monotony of tanks leapfrogging each other ever so slowly over and over. Warhounds with their anti-mech missiles will help this notion immensely. The battle hellions give mech Terran players a more meaty, melee unit to battle those pesky zealots. These additions could make mech more viable as a choice in any matchup. Goody will be mighty pleased. Widow mines go boom, boom, and boom. Either you be incredibly cautious when widow mines are out or have cat-like reflexes to separate the widow mine doomed unit. The map control the widow mine provides is frightening, yet intriguing. Protoss and zerg players must do a better job scouting and checking for burrowed units. This Mech style is something I cannot wait to get my hands on. Is anyone else tired of using and winning with MMM?
The unit for protoss that stood out most was the oracle. Protoss players have been clamoring for a harass unit for aeons. Cloaking for units could serve well in the pinch. Entomb is what players will likely use the oracle for. The ability to take away mineral mining at a base for almost a minute is annoying. Every time I casted entomb, my friend would yell, "LAME!" back at me. While extremely annoying, it also has to be dealt with or it will happen again. The Tempest's 22 range was cool to use in action, but the damage is quite low. I'm sure players would exchange some of that range for a buff in damage. The mothership hasn't been removed! We can all rejoice. The addition of mothership core helps in deflecting early attacks (purify) and retreating when the player's attack looks dire (mass recall). These new additions potentially could add some early game safety and mid game harass. Something the protoss have lacked.
Anticipation Sadness overtook all my feelings of joy and awe after leaving the Hots station for the very last time. The anticipation for the 2nd installment of Starcraft 2 is at an all time high. Each time I returned to the booth for these 20 minute morsels was not enough to satiate my hunger. Am I alone in this thinking? I think not. Beta cannot come soon enough. New strategies and new builds should hopefully emerge.Think about Goody finally having mech as viable option versus any race. How about Kiwikaki and his creative protoss mind? Can you imagine TLO and his wonky, out of this world builds? Oh boy.
Yes, of course there are units that feel a bit, *gasp*, overpowered, but we all have to remember that this is a beta. *cough widow mines, oracle cough* Nothing is final, though.
Rest easy, everyone. Blizzard will find a balance. The top 3 at MLG Anaheim was each race.
For now, let's watch the Hots Battle report featuring Day9 and Rob Simpson over and over until the beta is announced. Oh, just me?