I guess every StarCraft: Brood War (BW) fan is looking forward to watch JangBi vs. Fantasy final match this weekend. But after that game, sadly that's it! We will not be having OSL (Ongamenet StarLeague) in BW anymore. As I am a huge SC2 fan as well, it is exciting to have OSL in SC2. But man, I have watched BW progaming for more than 10 years and it is torturing me to finally see its end. I couldn't let it go like this; I had to do something.
Because I am a Statistics student I did some statistical analysis, mainly to answer the following question: 'Who is the fifth bonjwa?' It is indisputable that Lim-Lee-Choi-Ma (BoxeR, NaDa, iloveoov, and sAviOr) were bonjwas, who showed dominating performance in their respective peak era. But who succeeds sAviOr, the fourth bonjwa, has been a hot issue in BW community. And I thought this should probably be the best time to attempt to answer that question, as we only have 3~5 matches left. (although proleague is still going on...)
Before we start, I wrote the Korean version of this article first. Without question my Korean is much smoother than my English, so those who can speak Korean may refer to here
0. Statistical Model and Data Collection
First of all, let me provide you some background about how it is possible to use Statistics to answer this 'bonjwa question'. For those who hate math & stat, you may skip to the next section. But don't worry too much, as I wouldn't go into technical detail here. I just want to make it clear how I came up with those numbers, so that if you are suspicious you can study yourself and criticize it if you feel so.
In games like Chess and Go, which two players challenge against each other to determine who is the winner, probably the most famous rating system is the Elo rating system which is named after the Physicist Arpad Elo. This Elo system is actually also used in TLPD to rank both BW and SC2 gamers. But the system I used is the extension of Elo, called TrueSkill Through Time (TTT). Compared to the Elo system, this TTT system models how the skill of a player changes over time more explicitly. Actually, it was proposed by researchers in Microsoft to investigate the history of Chess; and as a SC nerd, I thought it would be fun to apply it to BW matchup records.
I used this TTT system with almost no modification, so you may refer to the linked paper about assumptions I had to make for the analysis. I have to admit that the model relies on heavy assumptions. (So again there will be people claiming 'Statisticians are liars!') But using a statistical model such as Elo or TTT is often more useful than just plotting descriptive statistics such as win-rate each month, as the statistical model fully utilizes the information in our data while descriptive statistics may exaggerate certain aspect of data, possibly on purpose. At least in my opinion this TTT model is the standard way a Statistician may formulate the problem.
I used Team Liquid Progaming Database (TLPD) BW database from 1999 September 25th PKO matches to 2012 July 24th Proleague matches for analysis. The original TTT paper uses each year as a time window; as BW has much shorter history than Chess, I used each month as a time window.
The TTT model evaluates the skill of each player at each month as a quantified number. Let me just call it rating. Actually the system gives an estimate of mean and standard deviation of the rating, but if I plot both of them simultaneously the graph becomes messy. So I just defined rating as rating=mean - standard deviation * 3, which is a conservative estimate. When a gamer retires and we do not have any record of him anymore, then the uncertainty about our information on his skill increases, so the rating gets lower.
Also, this TTT model assumes the skill of a player changes slowly, so when we find a surprisingly strong rookie the system thinks he has secretly honed his skill behind the scene. Therefore early outstanding players such as Grrrr... is overshadowed by later gamers such as BoxeR. However, this is just because we don't have enough records in the beginning, and as we accumulate more and more matches the model stabilizes quite quickly.
Enough about statistical mumbo-jumbos! Let's talk about the game now!
1. The Emperor rises, but the Genius takes him over
So, let's see TTT ratings of top 5 players from 2000 to 2003! (of course there are more than 5, as the ranking surely fluctuates)
'Emperor' BoxeR is increasing his skill very rapidly, and 'Kong' YellOw is right behind him! Just at the moment YellOw overcomes BoxeR, however, 'Genius' NaDa suddenly appears and takes BoxeR's crown instead. (What a Kong!) We can find good ol' gamers such as ChRh, TheMarine who is now working in OGN, Sync... and actually H is H.O.T Forever! Sorry for the mistake in the legend.
2. Oh my god! It's a Monster!
Then the 'Monster' iloveoov takes over NaDa's throne. Interestingly, the period of time iloveoov dominated the scene wasn't that long compared to my perception. His skill starts to decline quite soon after the peak and he catches up NaDa's slow declination. Maybe this shows how outstanding gamer NaDa was, in terms of the length of time he remained as a top player.
In this era, there were too many outstanding gamers, so the graph becomes quite messy. But I just wanted to include all of them, as many of you would want to see them as well. I am sorry I couldn't include more...
Note that I am not using a consistent color/style scheme; the color for each player changes over time. I am sorry, but I am a lazy fellow...
The next Bonjwa is the one "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named", but this is too lengthy to type so let me just call him sAviOr. For a brief amount of time Midas becomes the rank 1 gamer, but sAviOr suddenly rises in this era of Terran-dominance and shows unbelievable performance. He was really great at that point of time... Too bad he made a wrong choice. Actually I thought Bisu had no chance against sAviOr, and didn't even watch the match, missing the revolutionary 3.3 moment.
4. The era of TBLS
After his striking 0:3 loss in 2007 March 3rd, the rating of sAviOr plummets and TBLS (Taek-Bang-LeeSsang, or Bisu-Stork-Flash-Jaedong) starts to dominate the scene. From here it is easy to plot top 5 rank players, as there is hardly other. Only Sea was capable of competing with TBLS, but after 2008 even he is no longer able to continue to do so. Jaedong actually continues to be ranked 1st for quite a long time, but Flash follows him right after, therefore it is hard to say whether Jaedong was a bonjwa or not. Maybe this ambiguity was the reason why we discussed so much about who was the fifth bonjwa.
5. The heyday of 'The Last Weapon'
While the performance of Jaedong declines, Flash rises further up. It looks his rating was as outstanding as sAviOr's bonjwa days... Bisu is keep torturing us, by giving us some hope but then crushing it again and again... Fantasy is slowly rising and JangBi is probably experiencing 'Do you know how to play game?' era...
6. And... the end
So this is the last graph, plotting until 2012 July. It looks like recently Flash has not been as dominating as he was before. And finally in the last two months Fantasy achieves the rank 1! Slow and steady paid at last, but maybe it was a little bit too slow; he could be the next bonjwa; who knows? But he is not given the chance...
And at this point, you may ask me 'So who is the fifth bonjwa? It's of course Jaedong, right?' Well... I showed you numbers and plots! :-D I am a Statistician, after all, and I always avoid responsibility! It is up to you how to define what bonjwa is and determine who should be the fifth bonjwa.
I am sorry I could not include more players, as I focused my analysis on top 5 rank players for each era. But we should not forget those who made us laugh and cry, showing incredible matches and giving us unforgettable memories. Thank you BW gamers!
Also, thank Team Liquid for the maintenance of perfect database system. Without TLPD I could not even imagine of conducting this analysis. I hope I am not abusing your system here... Teamliquid Hwaiting!
Thank Josh Menke for helpful comments and discussions. Actually Josh did a very similar analysis long before this, and because he showed me his wonderful results I was not afraid of investing my time on it. While the credit of this work should be given to him, all the blame should be given to me because I did not ask him to verify this post.
Thank you very much, you BW fans, for enduring this horrible broken-English writing, and supporting the BW progaming with me for quite a long time!
Lastly, every opinion expressed here is my personal one and has nothing to do with the official position of Blizzard Entertainment. Still, why don't we also thank Blizzard for developing this wonderful game, following up with constant patches and maintaining the Battle.net server for more than 10 years without any further fee after the box sales? I believe SC2 and its expansions will give us unforgettable wonderful memories as well.
p.s. "Bonjwa" is not a common word; it is never used in day to day Korean. It is actually mostly used in certain fantasy genre in Korea, as a first-person pronoun to brag himself. 본좌 is written 本座 in Chinese letters. 本 denotes 'me' or 'myself', and '座' means 'seat' and its meaning can be extended to 'status'. So 본좌(本座) means 'a person like me with such a status!' So using 'Bonjwa' to refer to a third person is actually abusing the original meaning of the word, but I would not oppose it as I guess it acquired a new meaning in BW community.
8. More plots
Lim-Lee-Choi-Ma + Jaedong, Flash lifetime ratings