StarCraft 2 2016 Year in Review: Beyond WCS (VI/VII)

While the focus of this Year in Review has been on World Championship Series, it would be an incredible disservice not to mention the astounding work going on in the StarCraft2 community. The overarching narrative in the professional scene this year has been largely doom and gloom, and if you focus solely on Korea in particular this certainly appears to be the case. But, despite the headlines, looks can be deceiving.

Content:

Part I: Transition (The release of Legacy of the Void and the new WCS System)

Part II – New Beginnings (WCS Circuit Winter/Season 1, ProLeague Round 1)

Part III – Korea Rising (WCS Circuit Spring/Season 2, WCS Korea Season 1, ProLeague Round 2)

Part IV – Setting the Stage (WCS Circuit Summer/Season 3, WCS Korea Season 2, ProLeague Round 3)

Part V – End of an Era (The last ProLeague, KeSPA Cup, WCS Global Finals)

→ Part VI – Beyond WCS (BaseTrade.tv, Wardi, Gauntlet, and the SC2 Community)

► Part VII – Epilogue


The WCS isn’t the only place to compete professionally in StarCraft2, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the scenes biggest and most die hard fans. While the big institutions in the scene hemorrhaged players or shut down completely, the little guys stepped up to try and fill the void and re-balance the professional atmosphere of StarCraft2.

Here is an absolutely non-comprehensive, alphabetically organized overview of some of the biggest events and developments from the excellent people toiling away to support the players and fans of StarCraft2.


BaseTradeTV (Twitch.TVYouTube)

If probably know BaseTradeTV, even if you’ve only barley follow the scene outside of the WCS. Graham “Rifkin” Rogers, Jessica “ZombieGrub” Chernega, and all-too-briefly Ravi “feardragon” Pareek, along with Olivia “Olimoley” Wong, Joey “nice_username” Hay, and the epiphanous game observer “Partouf”, may have done more for the pro-scene than anyone else outside of Blizzard.

Focusing just on Korea, BaseTradeTV provided basically the only alternative tournament options for pros in Korea outside of WCS Korea. Their essential role in the OlimoLeague, a crowd-funded weekly online Korea tournament series, gave players a place to compete and earn, and fans even more of the best StarCraft2 from Korea.

BaseTrade also provided two seasons of the Ting Open, an online tournament for players from across the world to compete against each other in a mixed Korean and Non-Korean format that became very rare in 2016.

There are literally dozens of other smaller events that BaseTradeTV hosted and organized themselves throughout the year, as well as casting WCS events, non-WCS events, building and supporting the community. I mean, they played a pretty big part in the rise of Neeb, at least as far as publicity and sponsorship goes, and seem to have been the catalyst for bringing in a new sponsor to the SC2 scene at a time when everyone else seemed to be abandoning ship.

BaseTradeTV has done so much for the scene this year that I could literally make an entire write-up on the events they were involved in alone. Check out their YouTube channel for great content, their Twitch stream because they’re probably live right now, and support one of the best grassroots organizations in StarCraft2.


Female Starcraft League (Twitch.TVYouTube)

Founded by Marc ‘Judeau’ Dochan in 2016, the Female StarCraft League is a truly unique and, frankly, much needed organization for the StarCraft2 scene. Of all the entries on this list, I suspect the FSL is the one most people haven’t heard of, or had a chance to enjoy. That’s a damn shame, rectify it here.

Seasons are essentially one large round-robin group, the top 8 players at the end of the season are invited to the Playoffs. The Playoffs are Best-of-Five single elimination series until the Best-of-Seven Finals. Catch the Season 1 Playoffs here, completed in at the end of September. Season 2 is currently underway.

Along with the ongoing FSL Seasons, special events and show-matches are also hosted by the Female Starcraft League, such as the 2v2 StarCrafts Mod 2v2 Cup, the FSL Diamond Skill Cup, and Real Starcraft Master Tournament.


Gauntlet eSports (Twitch.TVYouTube)

The North America based online event organizer Gauntlet eSports expanded their operations in 2016 by hosting weekly events, first the weekly Monday Night Gauntlet events followed by an excellent Season 1 Global Finals. The second half of the year saw an second season of Gauntlet Season 2 Weekly events, and another epic Season 2 Global Finals. These types of events provided a unique mix of Korean players, non-Korean pros and breakout players from around the globe not available in the WCS system.

On top of that, Gauntlet hosted some great and innovative community events such as their Amateur Hour, and the Pro vs You!? Series, featuring Scarlett, ByuN and PartinG and the best of the StarCraft2 community.

A big part of Gauntlet’s success came from their casting crew, Nexus Recall. Hilarious casting, innovative production, and some of the highest event production values in the entire scene makes any event they cover an absolute pleasure. Cheers lads, keep up the good work!


Oseanic StarCraft 2 Championship (OSC)

The OSC is basically the WCS for non-WCS events. Handing out points, rankings, bounties and prizes for a huge cross-section of tournaments not incorporated into the WCS system. The OSC calls the South East Asia/Australia/New Zealand region home,  hosting and supporting many local SEA events on top of their overarching OSC-Point system. Most OSC events have a global focus however, and many are open to players from around the world, making the OSC a place for StarCraft2 talent to compete not matter where they hail from.

The OSC Championship sees the top 50 players ranked via OSC Points accumulated over the course of the year compete for a piece of the $10,000 USD prize pool. The best players from around the world will compete in one of the biggest (and first) events of 2017 to determine who takes home the crown of the OSC Championship.

The great people of OSC add value to any event that is incorporated into their OSC-Point system. Pros of all levels have an instant reason to compete in smaller online events simply because of the OSC-Point draw, and the rest of us have actually financial incentive to compete against the world’s best. The mix of new and established talent that competes across OSC integrated events is a truly unique and essential part of the StarCraft2 Professional and Amateur scenes.


Polygon Invitationals (Twitch.TVYouTube)

Polygon Gaming began hosting Best-of-Seven invitationals about midway through 2016, by their third event the quality of both the production and of their competitors had reached a level that set them apart from other community tournament organizers.

Combining quality analysis with cheeky self awareness and the Trolloling that being an independent production allows, Polygon’s streams make for some great StarCraft2 content. From friendly grudge matches like the nail-biting Scarlett vs Neeblet series, to the upcoming clashes of Korean titans (Classic vs soO & Seed vs GuMiho), Polygon Gaming is starting off 2017 with all the momentum of their excellent start in 2016. StarCraft fans should look forward to more high-profile showmatches from these NA upstarts.


TotalBiscuit’s SHOUTcraft Kings

I hesitated to put TotalBiscuit’s return to StarCraft2 here, not because it doesn’t deserve to be here, but because the man is an institution. I bet he brought more people into, or back into, the SC2 scene just by hosting the first SHOUTcraft Kings than any WCS tournament. I believe proof of that could be gleamed by his personal tournament’s appearance at BlizzCon. TotalBiscuit is amazing, SHOUTcraft Kings is amazing, and this kind of high publicity innovation is exactly what was needed this year.

SHOUTcraft Kings is a king-of-the-hill best-of-one style tournament where players receive $250 USD for winning a map, and continue playing and earning until they are dethroned. The first Kings were crowned in July, continued through to December and was renewed for 2017!

Checkout all the VoDs on YouTube here!


WardiTV (Twitch.TVYouTube)

Rebranding to WardiTV from SC2 Improve was one of many important steps in a breakthrough year for the English Caster and event organizer. Wardi covered pretty much every event humanly possible, online tournaments from around the globe, some prestigious offline events (HomeStory Cup), hosted his own WardiTV Open events, but perhaps most importantly, he has taken up the Team League torch.

Wardi has been hosting the remaining team league outside of Korea since 2013 under the SC2Improve Team League banner. Rebranded the WardiTV Team League, this humble host has become the spiritual successor to ProLeague. With Korean players resigning with teams from across the globe, 2017 should hold some legitimate ProLeague caliber contests in the Wardi Team League, with a worldwide player base never truly embraced and exploited by the former KeSPA counterpart.

Checkout his YouTube and Twitch channels, there is a ton of quality StarCraft2 content there!


The Takeaway

While the implosion of StarCraft 2 in Korea was especially jarring in 2016, and the prospects of professional eSports continue to adjust to the realities of the game’s place in the current market, it is incredibly encouraging to see the grassroots scene experiencing a kind of renaissance. While some very notable public figures have left the scene for greener pastures over the last year or two, the void has been filled.

I can’t stress this enough: there are content creators here I haven’t mentioned who surely deserve it, but there has been so much content that I could have done an entire series on the Grassroots StarCraft2 scene. Promote your favorites, the little guys starting out, the cringe-worthy, and the surprisingly professional. They will be the future of StarCraft 2, because they have the passion to stick with the game through it’s hardest years.

There has been no lack of StarCraft2 content this year, at the amateur, amateur/semi-pro, and professional levels thanks in large part to passion projects and investment by the undying fans of the game. The hard work of the organizations and individuals mentioned above has helped prop up a scene that big-budget corporate productions have largely abandoned.

And this is a good thing. It proves that despite StarCraft2’s decreased share of the eSports limelight, the game has a robust following and community that will support it through the good times, the bad times, and for a long time ahead.


Up Next: Part VII – Epilogue/TL;DR

part-7
Photo Credit – Blizzard Entertainment

Images used in this article are reproduced without the express permission of their copyright holders under Fair Use as defined by USA federal copyright law (17 U.S.C. 107) as nonprofit review/commentary with full credit given to original creators and copyright owners. If you feel your work is being infringed please contact the author.

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s