Helo welcom 2 my websight
First of all, I’m happy to let you know that I started a separate blog for all of my KeSPA articles so you won’t be spammed here with stuff you don’t care about on a weekly basis.
The blog is called 스타사랑 (Star(Craft)Love) and can be found here.
And, secondly, I do have a long story full of stuff you probably don’t care about right here! However, since I don’t have to write it in the style that’s required of me by the KeSPA blog, I can at least make it all a bit more readable.
Because last weekend, Blizzard Entertainment hosted the I <3 StarCraft event in the COEX auditorium in Seoul. It was supposed to be a celebration of all that is StarCraft, so obviously I couldn’t pass up the chance to drop by. In fact, I was so hyped that I ended up accidentally dropping by a day too early due to the English language Blizzard blog mistakenly mixing both America and Korea time, making me feel really dumb and kind of pissed for wasting my time.
That pissiness, however, would soon melt away like zerglings in a hail of siege tank fire because the actual event turned out to be so much more amazing than I could ever have expected.
I had to be present fairly early in the morning because Blizzard was rumored to be making a major announcement before the start of the StarCraft 1 show matches and since I’m officially a writer for the Korean e-Sports Association now, I do actually want to try to provide some decent articles, so I set out for COEX at about 9 AM. Unsurprisingly, I arrived way too late as hundreds of fans had already been lining up since the early morning in order to get tickets.
I didn’t really feel like waiting in line with everyone, and I really, really wanted to feel like signing up for this KeSPA thing would actually come with some sort of benefits, so I decided to just throw all of my integrity out the window and attempt to receive a press pass for the event.
And that’s how I ended up here:
Yep, that’s me in a room full of actual reporters, trying not to seem too out of place.
I actually felt pretty nervous as I was sitting there with my crappy camera and little notepad, feeling like everyone knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. But now that I finished writing the articles for KeSPA, I feel like me being there helped a lot in writing articles that are actually worth reading instead of just an account of someone who watched a few games.
Anyway, soon after I got to terms with the fact that I was actually in the Press Room, I heard that Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime, Vice President Robert Bridenbecker and Senior Producer Pete Stilwell would be showing up to reveal something to the press for the first time. This something, it turned out, was something that had been rumored to exist for quite some time now and had already garnered considerable hype in the e-Sports community: StarCraft Remastered. I literally got goosebumps when the lights went off and the video, posted below, came on. Knowing that I was one of the first people in the world seeing this made me feel really impressed, even though the ‘news embargo’ would be lifted a mere 2 hours after the end of the press meeting.
I felt like this would probably be what people attending E3 or other big gaming expos would feel like; this kind of “Wow, I am totally slightly more special than all those other nerds” feeling, I guess? Either way, after the reveal video played, Pete Stilwell, Senior Producer on the project, elaborated on the process of bringing the original StarCraft into the current age. He said that production on the remaster began 18 months ago, and one of the main goals of the team was to keep true to the source of the original game. As such, StarCraft Remastered will feature a graphical overhaul, but no changes in gameplay and game systems. One of the reasons for this, was that StarCraft is widely regarded as the best balanced RTS with the best mechanics and the team did not want to change that. In his own words: “This will still be StarCraft when we’re done.”
It was very clear from the presentation that Blizzard cares a lot about the Korean player base. It’s no secret that original StarCraft still has a huge following, especially in Korea, and Stilwell emphasized the importance of the player community in the development of the remaster. He also thanked Blizzard Korea for their help in connecting the development team with the Korean StarCraft community, mod makers and patch creators who could tell them exactly what would be needed to update the classic game without ruining it for the fans.
An important part of this, was to strike a balance between what makes StarCraft a classic and making it playable on modern gaming systems. In order not to impact the classic gameplay that millions all over the world know and love, the remaster was built upon the exact same gameplay engine, updating only the graphical side of things. As Stilwell said, everything that wasn’t a blatant bug (the example he gave of this was Valkyries sometimes being unable to fire more missiles due to engine limitations) will also be present in the remastered version of StarCraft, including enemy AI and the infamous wonky Dragoon pathing.
What the remaster will do, however, is bring StarCraft into the modern age by supporting 4k widescreen resolutions, adding a true observer mode and enabling cloud saves. This last feature, according to Stilwell, was inspired by the Korean phenomenon of PC rooms, where people go to play games such as StarCraft when they don’t play at home. With cloud saves, it will be possible to access your save files, replays and key bindings on any system at any time. StarCraft Remastered will also include a modern ladder system with a race-based MMR, and players will be able to link their legacy accounts to their Blizzard accounts.
As for the graphical overhaul, the team worked closely with professional gamers to keep the disruption to the game at a minimum. Upon their recommendations, the silhouettes of units have not changed at all, making them just as easy to recognize and tell apart as in the original game. Furthermore, because StarCraft Remastered will run on the exact same client as the original game does, players of either version will be able to play against each other, while players of the remastered version can easily switch between SD or HD graphics and 4:3 and widescreen while playing. According to Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies, professional Brood War players who have seen and had hands on experience with the remastered version ‘naturally transitioned’ from SD 4:3 into HD widescreen because the game looks so good and plays so well in this mode. Flash, the winner of the Brood War show match later in the afternoon and a StarCraft legend in his own right, later mentioned that the remaster made the game a lot ‘cooler’ and more attractive to watch for spectators. He said he would have liked to have played the remaster on stage today but he wasn’t surprised they couldn’t considering the release of the game is still some ways off. Bridenbecker, while emphasizing that the team at Blizzard is fully aware of the important role the original StarCraft plays in e-Sports, would, however, not comment on whether or not we will be seeing the remastered version at any official tournaments any time soon.
After the press briefing, we all got our free lunches and got to watch the StarCraft: Brood War show matches between the legendary SC1 players Flash, Jaedong, Stork and Bisu. My Starcraft loving friend Gary assures me these guys are absolutely amazing, but since I haven’t followed the StarCraft 1 scene at all and am not that familiar with the strategies and types of play in Brood War, I kind of just skipped over those matches and instead spent my time forming the notes I took in my notepad into a coherent whole.
There’d be plenty of time for that, because the next event, the GSL Finals between soO (어윤수) and Stats (김대엽), was still hours away.
Even before the start of what would unfold to be a frantic match-up though, my fanboy heart was already in full overhype since none other than former GSL (and Blizzcon, and pretty much any other prize that you could imagine) champion ByuN (변현우) was sitting just a few steps away from me. Turns out he was there to receive a special present from Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime to commemorate ByuN’s rise to the absolute top of the StarCraft pro scene in 2016 and his receiving the ESPN e-Sports Player of the Year award. After some deliberation (I don’t really have anything for him to sign.. Maybe he’d be annoyed if people keep bothering him.. I’m supposed to be a journalist now, right?) I decided to just take advantage of the opportunity and shove my phone in his face for him to sign, and he actually asked me if I wanted to take a picture so of course I couldn’t turn that down either.
After that short intermezzo, it was time for the real protagonists of the night to take center stage for the final of the 2017 GSL Season 1: The unbeatable Protoss Stats and the Zerg that just won’t stop soO.
Both players had a very difficult road to the finals, with soO making a spectacular comeback against TY, one of the best Terran players out there, in the quarterfinals and a 4:2 victory over former Blizzcon champion sOs (a victory that I, as a huge sOs fan, very much regretted). And sOs wasn’t the only Protoss player soO sent back into the void in order to make it to this point; in earlier rounds he also destroyed Billowy, who looked to be in prime form this season, and GSL staple Classic.
With soO’s 66.7% win rate versus Protoss, you’d think his opponent, Stats, would be worried. But Stats didn’t make it to the finals by resting on his laurels either. Not only did he defeat possibly the single best Terran player in the world right now, INnoVation (another match that didn’t end the way I had hoped ;_; ), in the quarterfinals, he also seemingly effortlessly shoved this season’s breakout sensation, Ryung, out of the picture in the semis. With only two GSL matches against Zerg though, and the pressure of his first GSL win resting on his shoulders, it was anyone’s guess how well he would perform that night.
soO had been a fan favorite since the early rounds of this season, people chanting his name whenever he knocked out another opponent. And for good reason, as his fans just couldn’t wait to see him finally take home the prize he has been working so hard for ever since StarCraft 2 was released. soO had, so far, somehow always managed to come in second. As one of only two players who ever made it to the final of the GSL five (yes, 5!) times, it was about time for him to pick up his trophy. The bracelets his fans had prepared for the occasion read “At the time of farewell”. A farewell to the failures of the past, and a sign of new hope.
Stats, on the other hand, had never once reached a GSL final before this day. Besides coming in second in the 2016 SSL and two IEMs in a row, his career doesn’t feature nearly as many awards as you’d expect from a player of his caliber. But his fans believed this year to be his year. And this, as well, for good reason. Stats had been in magnificent shape during the run-up to this day, only losing a single match this entire GSL season. In all of his matches he had shown remarkable control, precision and steadfastness, and he seemed the clear favorite for winning the finals as well.
In addition to the hundreds of fans crammed into the COEX auditorium, fellow pro gamers such as TY, Zest, Classic, INnoVation and Leenock as well as the Blizzard elite including CEO Mike Morhaime and several key members of the StarCraft: Remastered team were present for a match that, whichever way it went, would redefine the career of one of the finalists.
Initially, the match-up felt extremely one-sided, reminiscent of the less-than-stellar previous GSL final between ByuN and sOs where ByuN dominated so completely as to make his opponent look like a bronze league nobody instead of a world-class player. In this case, Stats was the one dominating the game, overwhelming soO with unstoppable harassment, dictating the pace of the game and tearing soO apart with his multi-tasking. soO proved unable to deal with Stats’ interesting use of the stasis ward ability of his Oracle, getting his drones trapped when they should have been mining.
When it looked like all hope was lost, however, with Stats in a 3:0 lead, soO seemed to suddenly remember what he came here to achieve. Perfectly staving off a massive Oracle attack by Stats, soO massed his forces in the 4th game of the series and in a desperate attack managed to overwhelm Stats, who was holding on for dear life. The atmosphere in the auditorium changed as soO’s fans rose up in support for their favorite player, and with his second consecutive win in game number 5 after holding off an almost impossible attack by his opponent, it suddenly looked like we might have a pretty amazing series on our hands.
The 6th game was an exciting back-and-forth between Zerg and Protoss armies as soO and Stats fought tooth to nail to outwit their opponent. Stats Oracle play was, again, top notch and his constant tagging of soO’s army and more importantly his Lurkers helped him immensely during the mid-game. In the end, it was Stats’ amazing use of the High Templar’s storm ability that really turned the game around as soO’s Corruptors fell from the sky like flies on a hot summer day and Stats’ Carriers and Zealots made short work of his ground army.
Just like that, soO’s dream of finally stepping out from under the runner-up shadow that had been following him around for years were crushed, and Stats sighed a sigh of relief as he came to terms with the fact that he did, finally, manage to become the champion he always deserved to be.
After the match, Stats just kind of disappeared, but remembering the interview after the Brood War matches, I quickly made my way back to the Press Room where, indeed, he was giving an interview to the few journalists that didn’t leave after the StarCraft Remastered reveal. In the interview, which was basically just him sitting at a desk kind of uncomfortably while tired journalists made him wait for questions, Stats thanked his parents, friends, fans and his younger sibling who was unable to attend on the night. He mentioned that he had slept very little the night before due to staying up practicing, and expressed his deep gratitude to Zerg player ByuL who helped him out significantly in honing his builds and playing practice matches. In spite all of that he admitted to having been very stressed before the first match, but felt like his confidence grew with his first win. Of course, when his opponent suddenly started striking back, and he caught a glimpse of the control that soO is famous for, he was worried about what could happen, but when he managed to return to his usual play, Stats felt confident in his victory. He closed the talk by mentioning that “Blizzcon is a dream for every pro gamer,” revealing his aspirations for this year.
Of course Richard wouldn’t be Richard if he didn’t try to get his commemorative GSL Finals entry card signed on the way out, and after awkwardly circling around the area where Stats was giving some final interviews for about 10 minutes, I managed to build up the courage to ask him. As always though, he was extremely good natured (well, who wouldn’t be after just winning one of the most prestigious awards in StarCraft, I suppose) and happy to oblige so in the end I went home with lots of great memories of a very long day, and a very long blogpost.