A decade and a half ago, I strolled into a Kmart with a plastic pencil case full of saved-up change to buy a game called StarCraft. At the time, no one could have expected it to become the dominant competitive RTS for 15 years. Its sequel, which just received a first expansion earlier this year, is growing in popularity with over $1.6 million in prizes available for competitive play for the 2013 season.
Last week, we got a look at the format for the 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series in the North America region. Today, Blizzard released a detailed explanation of the global prize pools and point system for the new face of top-level competition. If you like eSports, looking at large sums of money, and purple-tinted infographics, this might be the most personally relevant thing you read today.
With the announcement of the new, unified World Championship Series for StarCraft II, the structure of competitive play is going through a lot of changes. Here in North America, Blizzard is partnering up with Major League Gaming to crown a continental champion using a format similar to South Korea's GSL. It can be a little confusing at first glance, so we've broken it down into a simple, straightforward explanation.
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm was designed to be a competitive sport, so it's only fair that it nicks some of sport's idioms. The most important of these is cribbed from football: it's a game of two halves.
The front half: a 20-odd mission campaign with a steadily evolving spread of controllable units spurred on by an earnest, overwrought story of revenge. Dig through that, learn the game's many long and greasy ropes, and you'll find the back half: a competitive strategy game so finely balanced and so tactically varied that people are able to play it as their job.
No matter your experience with Heart of the Swarm's predecessor, Wings of Liberty - first of Blizzard's planned three StarCraft IIs - it's the campaign you should start with. Not simply because it does an appreciable job of teaching new players the basic mechanics for one of the game's three races - the Zerg, the swarmy stars of this StarCraft show - but also because it's incredibly well put together in its own right.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is still fresh off of the oozing, globular presses, and its community is still in a state of contention over the new units and the metagame still taking shape around them. A lot of the current concern is surrounding the new booster ability for Terran Medivacs, which allowed some relatively unknown players to defeat legendary Zerg players like Leenock in decisive fashion. Many have taken up the cry of "Nerf! Nerf! Nerf!" Blizzard, however, thinks the problem lies in the newness of the expansion more than the Medivac or another unit being overpowered.
We caught up with Level 85 Elite Tauren Chieftain frontman (oh, and he's also Senior Art Director at Blizzard) at the Heart of the Swarm launch last week to discuss the visual design of the expansion. What inspired the new campaign's aesthetic? How do you create Zerg characters that are both "zergy" and relatable to players? Between the two of us, is there enough hair in this room to knit a sweater? Listen in and find out!
Not only did I get to chat with the voice of Jim Raynor earlier this week at the Heart of the Swarm launch event in Irvine, CA, I also stopped by Blizzard HQ to interview Chris Metzen, Blizzard's VP of Story and Franchise Development, about the story of Heart of the Swarm... and beyond. Among the topics discussed are games as storytelling tools, where Kerrigan fits into Blizzard's roster of iconic characters, and what Thrall would order at Outback Steakhouse.
This week in eSports: MLG Winter is finally here! Heart of the Swarm has launched, and now is as good a time as ever to start eSportsing. Plus, competitive gaming has earned itself a spot at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. Have a look at all of this and more inside. gl hf!
We sent intrepid, Viking-like Contributing Editor T.J. Hafer down to Irvine, California yesterday to take in the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm launch event at the Spectrum Mall. He was met by giddy pre-orderers, a hat, a Kerrigan, and the Robert Clotworthy, the voice of Terran good guy Jim Raynor.
From your cold, distant position hovering above a Starcraft 2 map, it's easy to forget that the armies you control are full of tiny representations of people. That SCV you sacrificed for crucial scouting information? Only two months off his final mortgage payments. That Colossus you mis-microed? Proud father to a litter of baby colossi, whose small stature admittedly makes their name redundant. And those Zerglings you rushed... Admittedly, not a lot going on there. Hive mind and all that.
Still, there's potential tragedy with every click. Especially when centred around the characters of Heart of the Swarm's plot. That's the subject of the prequel webcomic, Hope and Vengeance, which Blizzard have uploaded to their site for the launch of the latest RTS expansion.
StarCraft 2 developer AMA reveals why some things had to be cut from HotS, the problem with pro player feedback
The developers of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm recently did an AMA on Reddit, which brought to light some very interesting answers on everything from expansion features that didn't make it, to eSports, to release timetables. Game Director Dustin Browder (whom I interviewed not long ago) took point, providing responses to some of the community's most pressing inquiries.
This week in eSports: the Swarm approaches, and vengeance is upon us all! By this time next week, we'll have a champion for the GSL and IEM, Heart of the Swarm will be burrowed on our hard drives... and that's just StarCraft. Get off one last inject on your hatch, then 1-A your way down into this week's eSports news. gl hf!
The debate has raged, on Battle.net and around the counter at comic book stores, since '98: Terran, Zerg, or Protoss? But finally, in the eyes of two researchers in Edinburgh, a conclusion has been reached. Science has spoken. And the winner is...
This week in eSports: the death knell sounds for IPL6, but an announcement from QuakeCon gives us something different to look forward to. Things have come right down to the wire in The Defense 3 and the GSL, and the next MLG is right around the corner. There may be no better time this year to 6 pool or gank your friends into giving eSports a look. gl hf!
Much as we've all had a love-hate relationship with brick and mortar game stores, some of my fondest memories as a PC gamer have been lining up in the freezing cold with dozens of other gamers to grab the next big collector's edition at midnight on launch day. If you're hoping to have that experience with Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard has created a dedicated page to find launch events in your area.
This week in eSports: EVE Online gets its first ongoing, competitive league. The IPL could be changing hands. And only the final four remain in the GSL Code S. Get ready to face-check your weekly helping of competitive gaming news. gl hf!
There's only about a week left in the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm beta. Then you'll have to hug your Brood Lord plushie and rock back and forth for a whole 13 days before the game officially launches. As expansion day fast approaches, Blizzard has released the last of its video previews, and this one focuses on the new eSports and competitive features.
2012: The Year Without a Blizzcon. It was also the year I was finally ready to attend, which made the absence of Blizzard's annual blow-out all the more poignant. But at last, we've been told that the life-sized-Thrall-statue-shaped hole in our hearts will be filled once again on November 8 and 9 in Anaheim.
Starcraft Universe, the RPG mod for Starcraft II, has been released through Battle.net. It's singleplayer only while the team test their ambitious project - so doesn't yet live up to the original World of Starcraft title that once raised the hackles of Blizzard's legal team - but future updates promise Raid-style multiplayer dungeon crawling for five to ten players.
Blizzard is preparing to deploy the 2.0.4 patch for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the last major patch before Heart of the Swarm, which will implement many of the changes teased for the expansion. A new interface, the new training modes, and the new replay features will all become available. Basically, everything except the new campaign, the new xp system, and the actual HotS multiplayer units will be included. Read on for specifics.