Written for Cadred.org
White-Ra, Duckload: Already at a beta stage test Starcraft 2 had caused to itself a great interest. Many high-grade games can envy such popularity. I think SC2 is the new engine of all cybersport for the future.
In recent weeks the popularity of Starcraft 2 has probably escaped few of us, exploding with absolutely brutal energy into electronic sports. True, hype for the game has been long in the making and the beta provided a fairly solid outlook of where the game was headed, but the sheer scale on which Starcraft 2 has galvanised is admirable.
Starcraft 2 Winners at Global Challenge Gamescom.
Players, organisations, Blizzard and Korea are the ones to thank, and I’ll tell you why.
I could spend several paragraphs explaining which infamous leagues, websites, LANs and organisations are endorsing the game with open arms in order to explain just how popular this game has become competitively. It’s actually easier to tell you that Starcraft 2 features in nearly all of them and will soon dominate those it hasn’t already.
So why has the game become so popular? Obviously its predecessor carries some weight for Blizzard in sales but to me there are several factors involved.
For the game to have exploded so successfully on a competitive scale there were certain conditions it had to meet. Blizzard had to deliver the intricate yet enjoyable gameplay that makes the game so competitive in the first place, and to do it well. This was probably the most crucial of the factors involved. You could have all the people in the world waiting for game release but if the game itself wasn’t worth playing, you’re left with nothing.
Blizzard are masters of their domain. Whether you or I think World of Warcraft is the most nerdy thing ever to have touched the earth’s surface, it’s a multi-award winning game played by millions of people across the globe because they made the game properly and they marketed the game properly. The same obviously goes for Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War.
It’s probably a bit unfair to compare the two but when Battlefield Bad Company 2 was released for Beta, people were genuinely flabbergasted by the unfinished form the game took, even at full release. At the same time, S2 Games had released Heroes of Newerth for what seemed like an eternal Beta period, but what they ran in Beta (the very same as Blizzard did for Starcraft 2) felt like something we could love and cherish immediately. In game Betas, one of two things happens:
Protoss vs Terran battle, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
1) People endlessly whine and complain about how unfinished the game is and threaten to cancel their pre-orders. The level-heads whine and complain at the whiners and complainers, reminding them it’s only a Beta.
2) People wet their pants at how the game has lived up to their expectations and get all excited about the competitive future for the game. They play the beta religiously so they can prepare themselves for full release.
Blizzard don’t fall into the first category and probably never will. Blizzard know what their fans want, and more often than not they don’t announce a release date until they know for sure that polished, near-finished look in Beta can be achieved. When Diablo 3 is released, you’ll see what I mean.
Fan fiction or fan art may or may not be a term our readers are familiar with but more often than not it symbolises an almost cult-like following of a particular game, book or television series. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to have a little insight to some of the fan work that’s out there for Starcraft 2 to give people a real taste of the following the game has besides in esports and the public domain.
Fan Art from Blizzard.com; Author Anonymous
Fan fiction is in particular a way for people’s creative flare to run wild by using the detailed and intricate world created by Blizzard, in this case, to develop even more detailed stories or poems for other like-minded people. People enjoy immersing themselves so thoroughly in the game world, much as World of Warcraft might draw people in with its story arcs, and so fans of these games are free to create their own stories. Here’s an extract from a story called, “Parralax” by Mirari1:
The first inkling Captain Melissa “Stubs” Rhodes had that this day was about to go very sour was the metallic chime in her ear.
“Aw, hell,” she muttered, eyes flicking to the icon in the corner of her banshee’s HUD – blinking an ominous red now – that monitored her cloaking device’s power level. Ten minute warning…they’d already obliterated the air defenses of this particular Tal’darim outpost, but, like most banshee pilots, Stubs always got a little jumpy in plain sight.
“Getting low on juice here, sir,” she said, punching in the com signal for Banner, her squadron leader. She knew he could see the state of her batteries – as well as those of the rest of their squad mates – on his own display, but a little pointed “reminding” never hurt.
“I know, Stubs, trust me,” he replied. “Fritzy’s been bitching for ten minutes now.”
She snorted. Fritzy hoarded his power supply in much the same way as the Kel-Morian Combine hoarded mineral rights. He’d even – unbeknownst to Swann, who probably would’ve stuffed him headfirst into one of his own lift turbines – hooked up an extra generator he’d filched from a busted wraith to his cloaking rig as a backup. The additional weight threw off the handling of his ship and the power load blew out his capacitors more often than not, but he claimed it made him feel “safer.” Safer. Right.
Sure, the creation of your own stories in fantastical worlds created by computer designers may seem geeky, but the very act and following of fan fiction for Starcraft 2 gives you a real sense of its popularity worldwide and the lengths people are willing to go to in order to immerse themselves or affiliate themselves with the game and its brand.
In many ways, Blizzard are particularly lucky in that electronic sports has been suffering from a lack of high calibre competitive games and people have been somewhat disenchanted since Modern Warfailure 2. We’ve all played our respective games for years but most of the time find ourselves trying to reach the top or look for something new and different. By the time you reach the top you have the best view of the dying game you’re playing and realise just how little there is out there to get stuck into. This has changed now Starcraft 2 is on the scene.
Do many of us at Cadred see the game as a saving grace for electronic sports? What appeal does the game have to the average player? Why is the game so immediately popular? Some of these questions are easier to answer than others and some can’t be answered without being packed full of opinion.
So how is Starcraft 2 appealing to the average player? Well for a start as football fans appreciate watching football and tennis fans appreciate watching tennis, Starcraft 2 fans appreciate watching Starcraft 2. ESL provides at the very least 5 community match streams for each nightly cup it holds, whether it be Go4SC2 or a Gold/Platinum Cup. Demos uploaded by the pros of their mammoth clashes in various finals or ladder matches at ESL have never been easier to download and watch with the SC2 interface. The interface itself is packed with a variety of options for slowing down the game, offering different game perspectives and showing the all important build orders.
In addition to this you have the Youtube channels created by Day, Husky and several others which seek to help new or developing players to improve their game. There are other forms of this for other games such as Juansource or NetcodeIlluminati but nothing as easily digestible and directly applicable as those on the scene at the moment for Starcraft 2.
Apollo and Day Shoutcasting at Global Challenge Gamescom.
The game’s interface itself nurtures playability. Ladder matches are so simple to participate in and creating custom matches with other players is also piss easy. Furthermore, playing vs the AI gives players a decent opportunity to try out their new builds or their own tactics in preparation for league or ladder matches.
So in short, the game has such a following already – thanks partly to its predecessor – that following your favourite players or trying to replicate their strategies has never been easier. Being able to watch those epic finals live on stream or with commentary afterwards gives fans that buzz and the fleck of hope that they too will be a hero of the Koprulu sector one day.
Starcraft has been called the national sport of Korea, and not surprisingly. The heights to which the game has climbed there is probably fairly hard for many of us Europeans to grasp. In many ways, they set the bar for the competitive scene in Starcraft and whatever the Koreans do, the rest of us wish for competitively.
Because of the following the game has in Asia, you have this niggling feeling that a company like Blizzard cater almost entirely to that audience. I can’t explain why exactly, just that because the original game was so staggeringly popular there – spanning into everyday life and becoming as visible as the “WeBuyAnyCar.Com” or your regular toothbrush advert – Blizzard would be mad not to make a sequel just for them.
The sheer calibre of player produced through the institutions of competitive gaming in Korea are mind-blowing and they, more often than not, are the players to beat. That said, it’s a relatively short period of time before players from across the rest of the world aspire, improve and win. Setting the standard is a sure way of nurturing further competition further down the line.
I hope that in a relatively short article I’ve been able to provide an insight into the cult that is Starcraft 2 for those who are not in the know. I for one admire the game because of the massive success it has already achieved and I will enjoy watching it develop as one of the world’s most entertaining and popular esports games immensely.