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.
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”?
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.
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