Tonight, at the slightly absurd 4am BST (or the more sociable 8PM PDT), the League of Legends Series 3 World Championship final will take place between SK Telecom T1 and Royal Club. Not to undermine the achievement of the two teams who have battled their way to within sight of the Summoner's Cup, but, as someone who doesn't watch the DotA-like wing of e-sports, I'm more impressed by this: Riot's celebration of the competition. Taking some of the best players from the tournament, they've created anime counterparts imbued with the powers of their chosen champions.
Dota 2 tournament The International has released its prize pool breakdown for this year's event, with more than $2.7 million now on hand for the competition that begins August 7 in Seattle. While the competition is already well-funded, the prize pool continues to grow as more copies of developer Valve's Interactive Compendium are sold.
Collectors of Dota 2's virtual e-sports bible, The Compendium, have boosted the prize pool for the upcoming International tournament by an extra $1 million. That's not quite as much as Valve themselves have contributed - with them supplying the base $1.6 million that fans have built upon with their Compendium purchases. But then, most International fans don't have Steam's money hose continuously flooding their building.
I visited Valve early last month, and while I was there I was treated to a world-first, last-minute screening of the first part of ‘Free To Play’, the Dota 2 documentary that the devs have been working on since prior to the first International tournament.
The version I saw was so raw it was being shown directly from the editing software, and there were a lot of first-pass effects that undoubtedly be finished by the time the film comes out. That said, I’m in a position to provide a sense of where Valve are going with it, as well as a few of my concerns over things it might be missing. I’m going to run through my first impressions below, but bear in mind that I will talk about a few specifics of what the movie covers - if you’d like to go in completely spoiler-free, consider this your warning.
Lee Young Ho sits in the lobby of the Anaheim Hilton hotel. He’s five feet ten, wearing a black and white jacket, and armed with an easy, toothy smile. He flashes it at his friends as they chat among themselves. Around them swarm suited Japanese businessmen trailing wheeled suitcases; American families clad in various-sized versions of the same khaki-coloured shorts on their way to Disneyland; and transplanted Texans in stetsons and buttoned-up dress shirts, their faces pink and swollen from the Californian heat outside. Few eyes flick toward Lee Young Ho.
During the final beta weekends, players jumping into Guild Wars 2's structured PvP maps may have noticed the first signs of its broader e-sports aspirations, like the tournament tickets granted as rank-up rewards. The first Guild Wars had a booming competitive scene - it is, after all, an MMO named after its PvP mode - and according to systems designer Jonathan Sharp, the sequel is going to take things much further.
Shootmania has laid its e-sports cards on the e-table early. The customisable FPS is still in beta stages, but developers Nadeo have attempted to cultivate a competitive community, running tournaments and presenting showmatches on the global scale during E3's Ubisoft press conference.
Nadeo's next Shootmania event will take place at Gamescom. The 'Op3n' features 16 teams – including established e-sports names like Team Dignitas and Millenium – and will pay out three thousand euros to the winners.
I spoke to Nadeo Publishing's Managing Director, Anne Blondel, about making an e-sport, and how Shootmania will support the competitive community. Read on for her answers.
Blizzard have announced that the grand finale of the Battle.net StarCraft 2 World Championship will take place in China on Novemeber 17-18. Shanghai will host the event, which will also feature the finals of the global World of Warcraft Arena competition and give attendees the chance to sit down for some "hands-on play time with some of the latest Blizzard games."
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime says that Blizzard are "looking forward to seeing the best players in the World Championship Series face each other at the Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai this November," he adds that “the level of StarCraft II and World of Warcraft Arena competition we’ve already seen around the world has been amazing, so we’re anticipating a truly epic finale."
The internet detectives over at MP1st have spotted changes to Battlefield 3's Battlelog service that suggest that e-sports matches and spectator modes are on their way. Proper match viewing features could be a big deal for Battlefield 3, as they'd make the game's best moments accessible to commentators, and therefore the wider e-sports audience. There are so many different mechanics in play in a given match that you'd think it'd make for ideal viewing.
"AAAEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” A high-pitched sound was echoing through our Ventrilo server at 20:55 last Thursday. Rich was our sniper. Rich was nervous. Rich was making noises.
A few weeks ago we got a mail from Hi-Rez asking us if we’d like to participate in a Tribes Ascend showcase match against OnRPG and MMOHut. We accepted the challenge. The match was streamed live by LevelUpTV and commentated by top Tribes shoutcaster Ziggy Orzeszek and Hi-Rez eSports and Competitive manager Bart Koenigsberg.
To see Tribes: Ascend in its hyper-competitive e-sport glory, you’ll need to watch a set of pros in action. However, if you’re interested in watching the UK staff face off against some less experienced players, click away. Thanks to everyone involved for organising the match, and to OnRPG and MMOHut for being such good sports. As Graham (who fulfilled his infiltrator role admirably) mentioned on Twitter after the game, “We won via careful planning, hard work, and, um, having played it before, unlike our opponents.”
Don’t forget that Tribes is now in open beta. If you like what you see, visit the official site and download the client. You've got nothing to lose apart from your bandwidth.
Editorial: If SOPA passes in its current form, it will be a disaster for gamers and the games media worldwide
In the next week, the US congress will return to Washington for a bit of work. The first item on the agenda is to debate and pass the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. SOPA is intended to give media owners the tools to act against those who infringe their copyright in all forms of media, be it audio, video or text. Be it the movie industry, the music industry, the publishing industry, and yes, the games industry.
But the legislation is awful, and it affects gamers worldwide. Under SOPA, e-sports is under threat. Game streaming is under threat. In-game voice chat is under threat. In-game text chat could be turned off. Gaming forums are under threat. And the gaming media (us!) will no longer be able to exist in its current form.
The powers SOPA will grant if it passes are broad and troubling and spell doom for certain sections of gaming. Copyright holders will be allowed to seek court orders against infringing websites, and in its current form, against companies that provide services for them. That means that under a SOPA order, a copyright holder could demand restrictions from not just the site itself, but partner companies and clients such as the hosting domain, the advertising networks that provide ads, payment facilitators and search engines.
E-sports' growing popularity among spectators shows no sign of slowing down. The MLG have posted some remarkable figures from the 2011 season. Around 3.5 million unique viewers in total have tuned into MLG Pro Circuit weekends this season. The Pro Circuit National Championships in Providence, Rhode Island drew more than quarter of a million concurrent viewers at peak times, from 175 different countries. MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni says that in the 18-24 age range, "MLG now pulls in larger audiences than several traditional television cable networks."
As reported on Blues News, Blizzard are planning on combining some of Starcraft 2's region-specific servers. It'll result in an improved player experience no matter where you're playing from.
South Korea's Global StarCraft II League and the USA's Major League Gaming represent the twin peaks of global e-sports. Through a new league exchange system, those peaks are beginning to merge together to one glorious, truly international mountain.
The system kicks into gear in June, with MLG's Columbus leg. Four Korean players – up and coming stars ST_Bomber, IM.LosirA, SlayerS_MMA, and ex-Warcraft III hero FOXMoon – will be added to that show's lineup to compete for the title.
Fans of e-Sports rejoice! We've got lots of exclusive coverage coming up in the next few months. Keep your eyes on the site for updates. But, just to get you prepared, here's a teaser: one of the best Starcraft 2 matches we've ever seen.
Great sporting moments are also great human moments. Tears, incredible fightbacks, and skin-of-the-teeth survival in the face of overwhelming odds – this Starcraft 2 match, from the semi-finals of the GSL's World Championship, has it all and then some.
Best of all, it's free to watch. But fair warning: the World Championship has now finished, and if you haven't watched past the quarter-final stage and want to avoid spoilers, don't click through. If you're up for some incredible action, though, join us through the link.
The Sunday night question. How to wind down your weekend? Slippers and a giganto-cup of hot chocolate before drifting happily into slumberland? Or HARDCORE COMPETITIVE GAMING FOR MONEY?
The second one, obviously. Fortunately, if you're at a loose end now, you're just in time to tune into the Major League Gaming Dallas StarCraft II finals. The games have been rumbling on all weekend, with some of the world's best professionals going mouse-to-mouse, casted by delightful talky men Day and djWHEAT. We've included a stream of the games below. Tune in right now, and you'll catch the second set of semi-finals, with the finals to follow at 7pm CST.
At GDC last week Dustin Browder, Starcraft II's lead designer, talked about how Blizzard's development was intensely focused on making the game an e-sport. One of the most interesting points he made is that an e-sport can't just work for its players: it also has to be interesting for spectators.
“We did anything we could to make this a more watchable viewing experience,” says Browder. Anyone obsessed by the intricacies of Starcraft II, and PC Gamer is guilty as charged, would say mission accomplished. But what if you're curious rather than obsessed? Don't know a drone from a battlecruiser? Where to start?
Over the following pages we'll take you through ten awesome games of Starcraft II, old and new, where you'll never see the same strategy twice. They showcase some of the world's top players, commentators, every race combination, and the majority of each race's units. Some of our favourite matches are on GOM.tv, but they require a paid-subscription to watch. Our picks are free for everyone.
We've taken the liberty of preparing a basic glossary, but we'll leave the rest in the capable hands of the casters. No excuses: stick the kettle on, sit back, and let's get ready to rumble.
Blizzard designer Dustin Browder has given clues into what we can expect from Heart of the Swarm - the first expansion to Blizzard's Starcraft II. He also stated that the expansion will have as much of an e-sport focus as Wings of Liberty, and made a plea for gamers to embrace the new breed of spectator sport.
The final of GomTV's second Global StarCraft 2 League is about to kick off - at 10am GMT, 2am Pacific Time. It's free to watch live, but if you miss it, you need a season ticket to watch it later ($20, likely reduced once the tourney's over).
Both in terms of prize money and the talent it attracts, the GSL is the biggest StarCraft tournament in the world, and one of the biggest e-sports tournaments ever. The English commentary is done by my personal favourites Tasteless and Artosis, who make high-level play easy to understand even for noobs - season one of this tournament is what turned me around on e-sports. Grab breakfast or a midnight snack, depending on your time zone, and check it out.