MSI 2017: SKT Faker, Bang, Peanut

Standout Performances from Day 2 of MSI Group Stage

Day 2 of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational Group Stage has come to an end. League of Legends fans have settled into expectations for their favorite teams. While the tournament has had its fair share of under-performers, these players deserve recognition for outstanding performances on the day.

SKT v. TSM: Peanut

Consistently ranked as a top player internationally, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho has shown up just as expected. During SKT’s match-up against TSM, Peanut demolished the field. He finished the match with a 13.0 KDA, and 82 percent more damage per minute than Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen (375 to 206). Due to Peanut’s early pro-activity, and punishing Svenskeren’s map movements, SKT was able to secure a 5,000 gold lead around 14 minutes in. Peanut’s Lee Sin continues to be undefeated, and this match illustrates why.

GAM v. FW: Betty

Gigabyte Marines built a huge lead on Flash Wolves, but they were unable to secure the win. Much of the comeback was mounted by Lu “Betty” Yuhung on Ezreal. After he finished building Blade of the Ruined King and Muramana, Betty was able to melt through GAM’s team, particularly Phan “Stark” Công Minh’s Galio. Using proper positioning, Betty stayed safe through most of the mid-late game and put out high damage. He finished with a 16.0 KDA, and an enormous 819 damage per minute (39.2 percent of FW’s total damage).

G2 v. WE: Condi

A 10.0 KDA, 100 percent kill participation, and 21.9 percent of Team WE’s gold are all the highlight stats for Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie against G2. His Graves delivered tons of damage while accelerating the tempo of the game, which finished in 28 minutes. This win was definitely a team effort. Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun and Ke “957” Changyu contributed Ashe and Kled ultimates to lock down G2’s carries. However, Condi’s early control of the jungle neutralized Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun and blew the game wide open.

FW v. TSM: Karsa

Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan has been having a good tournament so far, despite Flash Wolves’ overall poor start to the MSI Group Stage. Playing against TSM, Karsa was the catalyst for countering Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell’s Fizz, which got ahead early in this match-up. Karsa moved around the map to always be in the middle of the action. He finished with a 14.0 KDA, 459 damage per minute, and 5.9 CS per minute. Beyond the first eight minutes, TSM’s Svenskeren paled in comparison.

GAM v. G2: Perkz

Fizz has been much more popular in top lane so far at MSI, but Luka “Perkz” Perković decided to take him mid against Gigabyte Marines. Once he reached level 6, and unlocked Chum the Waters, he was a true force. Not only did Perkz do the most damage in the match-up (27,677), but he also controlled the side lanes throughout. He engaged, disengaged, and re-engaged effectively, hopping in and out of fights using Playful Trickster, Hextech Protobelt, and Flash. His risky plays around Baron and Elder Drake dazzled the Brazilian crowd.

WE v. SKT: Bang

Bae “Bang” Jun-sik’s two deaths were both within the first 15 minutes of this game. From there, he was able to amass seven kills and six assists, ending with a 6.5 KDA. SKT was confident to put Bang on a squishy hyper-carry, Twitch. Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan were given Ivern and Nami, respectively, while Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was drafted Orianna (all healing and shielding champions). If Bang had failed to rebound after the poor early game, then SKT would have most likely lost their first match of the tournament to Team WE.

Player/Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Stage.GG

Featured Image: LoL Esports Photos


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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Keybind

Keybinds, Brood War 1.18 and a Letter to Blizzard

Earlier this week, Blizzard made the announcement that custom keybinds will be dropped from the upcoming Brood War patch 1.18. Now, this was a confusing call for a lot of reasons. Primarily, praise for the feature seemed almost unanimous, so of course, the community has been quite vocal in response.

How can something as simple as keybinds spark a debate? That’s a valid question, so let’s get into it.

 

Lack of Transparency

To start, the announcement itself was a bit awkward. Literally all the information we were given was that the intention was to gather feedback and that the feature will not be live with 1.18. And of course, the promise to continue the conversation in the feature.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

If you feel like something is missing here, there is. And that something is context. As in, there was absolutely no context here to work with whatsoever. Was this a decision based on negative feedback or was it that the version in testing was simply to buggy to meet the intended release date? We don’t know, and naturally, wherever there is a lack of information, speculation and assumptions rush in to fill the gap.

Many have expressed concern that this was an intentional design choice while others insist it is only a temporary deferment. But the reality is we’re all just taking turns in our attempts to read between the lines.

 

A Letter to Blizzard – A Matter of Common Decency

The debate over whether or not custom keybinds should go through is largely a stubborn rivalry between purists and progressives. Before we get into the details, its important to note that purity is very important to the StarCraft Remastered project. Particularly, preservation of the original gameplay absolutely must be kept as is.

Brood War, even after 19 years, still has an active playerbase that rivals, if not surpasses, that of the StarCraft 2. Particularly in Korea, the home of StarCraft, StarCraft 2 never had lasting appeal over its predecessor. To say StarCraft 2’s Korean playerbase is a fraction of their Brood War scene is still saying very little.

For this reason, any type of change that may affect Brood War’s gameplay is a very touchy subject. For the most part, both the foreign community and feedback from Korean pros seem to be in agreement that features such as unit pathing and control group sizes are important pivots in Brood War’s gameplay and absolutely should not be touched.

Keybindings are a bit more of a grey area. It’s not at all controversial to say Brood War’s default layout is absurd. Some of the most basic interactions require you to move your hand all the way across the keyboard and back. Not only is it exceptionally awkward for new players, the setup has the effect of tiring out your wrists making Brood War largely inaccessible for players with weak wrists or wrist injuries.

Preservation of the original gameplay is important. That’s something I would never argue against. Keybinds, however, don’t have a direct effect on gameplay. Nor does having the ability to customize layouts have a negative effect on professional players. In StarCraft 2 for example, at the highest level players are known to use Standard layouts and Grid among others with minor customization.

On the other hand, the inability to customize hotkeys ostracizes any player whose wrist can’t take the stress of the default layout. The arguments against this have been, from what I’ve seen, non-existent. The firm stance of Purists on the matter has been either “f*** casuals” or the more ironic declaration to “stop being lazy”.

Brood War is an iconic game and I understand purity is important. But this isn’t a matter of purity, it’s a matter of common decency.

Wrist related injuries are becoming more and more common in the esports world. And failing to accommodate players with injuries for the sake of purity isn’t a road anyone should consider going down. Because right now we’re at keybindings and it raises the question: what is the next stop down? Refusing to allow colorblind mode because “f*** casuals”?

 Keybinds

 

This is Brood War and Korea remains King

At the end of the day, StarCraft Remastered, and Patch 1.18 by extension, is Blizzard’s own love letter to Korea. And the truth is they’ve more than earned it. While StarCraft 2 never met a warm reception in Korea, Koreans have long stayed loyal to Brood War. Even 19 years later it remains one of the top five games in the country that laid the building blocks for modern esports. Brood War wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t for Korea’s passion for the game.

And regardless of how highly our approval was for this feature, we’re still the foreigners here. Ultimately, the country that has kept Brood War alive for over 19 years will be the ones to make this call. And that’s as it should be.

Unfortunately at the moment, like everything else, we don’t know what the reception of the Korean community has been. What we do know is that many Korean Brood War pros were consulted and intimately involved in this project. Including the legendary “TaekBangLeeSsang”, the four most dominant players in the history of StarCraft.

It’s very unlikely this feature would have even gone into testing without the approval of at least some of Brood War’s pro scene and that is perhaps the one hopeful thought I have to offer.

If there is a resistance against this feature within the Korean community, we haven’t been told so. But if there is, I can only ask to Blizzard to appeal the humanity in your audience. Because while indeed some foreigners see Koreans as Gods, I can assure you wrist injuries and disabilities affect them every bit as much as they affect us.


Featured images courtesy WallPapersCraft and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Brood War HD

The Brood War Renaissance

The Brood War HD rumors are back again. And if you’re anything like me, your first reaction would have been to roll your eyes and move on without a second thought. For those that have been keeping up for the last year, this would seem all too familiar. We’ve been down this road before, and we know from experience it leads to a dead end.

The rumors originally started prior to Blizzcon in 2016, and at the time, why wouldn’t we believe it? The Afreeca Starleague (ASL),  had just completed her maiden season. Brood War was back in the spotlight for the first time in six years and the audience was there. And the legends that built, not just StarCraft, but all of esports, were slowly but surely returning to the frontline. The news from Seoul said the announcement would be made at Blizzcon.

Why wouldn’t we believe it?

Yet Blizzcon came and you could almost hear the grasshoppers chirping as the StarCraft community stared on in utmost confusion. We had assumed far too much and we were asses for it.

Brood War HD

Now four months later, here we are once again. You’d be a fool not to be skeptical. I sure as hell was.

Then a Reddit user by the name of Voltz found something. The Battle.net Store, ie. Blizzard’s official store, ceased sales of the original StarCraft Anthology. As of this posting, downloads of StarCraft and Brood War are still listed as “sold out”.

This came just as Blizzard announced a special event to take place at the season 1 GSL Finals in Seoul, the StarCraft capital of the World. An event that would be attended by the CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime. And would feature a special showmatch between the “TaekBangLeeSsang”. Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong, Song “Stork” Byung Goo, two most feared of the 6 Protoss Dragons. Lee “Jaedong” the Tyrant and Lee “Flash” Young Ho, simply called God. Four of Brood War’s legends known as the most dominant of their respective races.

Very quickly, the burns of the past went out of mind and the realization of what was happening came crashing down.

 

The Second Coming

As exciting as the prospect of a Brood War renaissance seems, it’s important to remember this can still go badly. The second coming isn’t a given, it’s a work in progress that must be polished to perfection.

Balance

One of the more entertaining misconceptions among those that know of Brood War’s role as the progenitor of modern esports but have not actually watched or played it is that it was a well-balanced masterpiece of a game that StarCraft 2 never matched. The reality, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Brood War was and still is an imbalanced mess of a game. Cracklings are overpowered, Mass Recall is overpowered, Siege Tanks are overpowered. Every race in Brood War is horribly overpowered in some way or another. And this is something that should absolutely not be touched.

If Brood War’s balance is such a mess, why leave it alone? Because that’s exactly what made Brood War amazing. The game was like the world’s hardest equation that programmers were constantly trying solve. For this reason, Brood War went through several eras where on race or player would dominate for months.

One of the most famous moments in Brood War was the legendary “Bisu build” that solved Protoss vs Zerg. Protoss vs Zerg was a matchup that was previously heavily Zerg dominated. The Bisu build shifted balance back into the favor of Protoss eventually leading to the Era of the Protoss Dragons.

Brood War always has been a game of using your races’ overpowered crap to deter or counter your opponents overpowered crap. And Mapmakers played a crucial role in this by crafting areas of the map that each race could use to their maximum advantage. This is how Brood War was truly balanced, not by crunching numbers but by putting the onus on the players themselves to use what resources they had available in the smartest way possible.

 

Mapmaking Resources

With this in mind, it should be clear fostering Brood War’s mapmaking scene is critical to building a healthy second generation. Remastered models and textures are a given. But extending new textures and resources for mapmakers to build beautiful new worlds is important to drawing creators back. Brood War has very different art style to StarCraft 2 so the canvas is there to work with. They just need to be given the tools too.

 

Brood War HD

Abyssal Reef by SidianTheBard is a recent and beautiful example of what mapmakers can do if you indulge their creativity. Naturally, I’m not saying this should be the standard but just give them a fighting chance, their imagination is our greatest asset.

Mistakes of the Past

There are a lot of features that took a frustrating amount of time to reach StarCraft 2. This is something that absolutely must not happen again. Automated tournaments and micro-transactions immediately come to mind. But some issues require us to take a hard look at Blizzard’s design and structure choices. And why a lot of it may not still be up to date.

Prioritizing Accessibility

One of the most obvious grievances that has plagued StarCraft 2 is the first thing you see before you even start a game. I’m of course referring to the game client. StarCraft 2 features a client that is so completely overloaded with bells and whistles, that there have been reported incidents of the game menu putting as much as 3 times more strain the GPU than the game itself. Just to put that into context there have undoubtedly been incidents where there are players able to run the game itself but find the menu unworkable.

StarCraft 2’s beautiful but less than practical game menu. Featuring an animated background taking up the vast majority of available space.

And I can say this with certainty because I was one of these people. The laptop I used at the time could run the game but would suffer heating issues and fps drops attempting to navigate the menu. It’s for this reason that I actually switched to League of Legends as my esport of choice for several years before I eventually upgraded. And as grateful as I am to be back with StarCraft, it seems a bit ridiculous to say that I was driven away from a game because of the menu you have to navigate to play the game.

Now, this is of course my personal opinion but I genuinely don’t care about that massive animated background that is taking up 90% of the menu. What I care about is being able to run my Hello Venus playlist in the background without my game client having a seizure.

Brood War HD may be a re-mastery of a 1998 game but this is 2017. And a lot of the standards from then have gone out the window. Perhaps back then we would have stared at our menu screens and admired the visuals but now a menu is just a lobby that we tab back to just to queue for another game.

Brood War HD

League of Legends game client. Simple, un-intrusive design that prioritizes information and accessibility.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment. Abyssal Reef designed by SidianTheBard.

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