A Beginner's Guide to the Most Exciting Game in the Universe
Starcraft 2 is a real-time strategy game, or RTS, that is the successor of the gigantically popular Starcraft: Brood War, a game that is practically South Korea's national sport. Starcraft 2 was designed by Blizzard Entertainment from the ground up to be a spectator sport. Everything about it from the flashy battles, to the sneaky strategies and the difficult to master skill set make for a very exciting game to not only play but to watch.
Sean 'Day' Plott, a professional commentator (or 'Caster') once said:
"We believe that our game, StarCraft, is the chess of our generation. StarCraft requires the dexterity of a pianist, the mind of a chess grandmaster, and the discipline of an Olympic trainee." [Sean 'Day' Plott]
If you are not familiar with esports then the concept of huge stadiums full of cheering fans watching professional players struggle for huge prize money and fame may seem a bit foreign. Starcraft 2 and esports are huge, there is no doubt about that, a final match between two of the top players can often draw spectators that outnumber Football grand finals. However, esports in general has still managed to evade the public eye for the most part. In this article I will do my bit to change that by introducing the game and it's esport scene in a way that is as beginner-friendly as possible.
How the Game Works
All games have their rules or winning conditions and Starcraft 2 is no different. Starcraft 2 pits two players against each other in a strategic and skill-based showdown. The player who can better plan and execute their opponent's demise will be the victor.
Both players start with a main base and a few 'worker' units which they will immediately task to the collection of resources. There are two type of resources in the game; the blue Minerals which are the basic building blocks of an army and the green Vespene Gas which allows the player to construct more advanced military units and technology. Players must manage gathering as many resources as possible with the creation of a base and army strong enough to defend or attack the opponent.
From this basic beginning of resource management the players are essentially to do whatever they want to defeat their opponent. Some players will make large armies of basic units quickly in an attempt to overwhelm an unprepared opponent, while other players will attempt to build up an impressive force of high-tech units to crush their opponent with superior firepower. Some more sneaky opponents will try to execute clever strategies that rely on the element of surprise to win.
As a spectator you will be able to see exactly what both players are doing and a lot of the excitement comes from knowing what the players themselves do not know. Will this surprise attack work? Or will the opponent suspect it and lay his own trap?
Who to Cheer For
In Starcraft 2 esports there are four different levels of competition and it's possible to have your favourite for each.
The Three Races
The in-game battle between the three different races is the first level of competition. Even if you don't know any of the other levels it is easy to have your favourite race. The three races of Starcraft 2 are: the adaptable Terrans (Humans), the advanced Protoss (Psionic Alienoids) and the overwhelming Zerg (the Swarm).
Pictured Below: The logos for each race. Terran, Protoss, and Zerg.
Most players are proficient at controlling one of these races and matches can see any of the three facing off against each other (mirror matches such as Terran vs Terran also occur). You will likely gravitate towards the race that you like the most which will give you someone to cheer for in the beginning.
East vs West
South Korea has a long history of dominance in the Starcraft world that began with the original Brood War. Perhaps you will cheer for the highly skilled Korean players, or perhaps the underdog western players?
Just as people have their favourite football teams, so too do they have their favourite Starcraft 2 teams. These teams of players are usually from one country but they can sometimes be mixed. Players typically fight for themselves (except in team leagues) and this can sometimes means a heart-wrenching battle between teammates. There can only be one winner in Starcraft 2.
Some of the top teams you may hear of are:
- Team Evil Genuises (EG) based in the US. (Pictured above right).
- Team Liquid (TL) originating in the Netherlands and now based in the US.
- Team Old Generations (oGs) based in Korea.
- Quantic Gaming (QxG) based in the US.
- Team FXO (FXO) based in Australia/South-East Asia.
- Team Slayers (SlayerS) based in Korea.
It's only natural that the final level of competition is the players themselves. This is often the most passionate because not matter what race they play, their country of origin or what team they play for the struggle of players has the most feeling and intensity. As you watch Starcraft 2 you will notice a huge variety of playstyles and personalities between the players. From the positivity and manners of 'White-Ra', to the playfulness of 'HuK' and the seriousness and passion of 'IdrA' there is someone for everyone to cheer for.
Nicknames or Handles - White-Ra, IdrA and HuK are all examples of player nicknames or 'handles'. Players are usually referred to by these aliases as they are more memorable and a part of their gaming persona.
Pictured Right: Chris 'HuK' Loranger from Team EG.
Where and How to Watch
There are a huge number of tournaments that you can watch for free via live streams or via pre-recorded videos on YouTube. Some of the major ones are the Global Starcraft League (GSL), the Global Starcraft Team League (GSTL), the IGN Pro-League (IPL), Dreamhack, and the North American Starcraft League (NASL). These tournaments are played throughout the year some bi-anually and some like the GSL are played every couple of months. There really is a huge variety of viewing options.
Above: A very exciting game between MouseSports teammates MaNa and Naama at DreamHack. This is game three of a best of five series where MaNa is currently down two games. Will he make a comeback?
If you are instead looking to get to know players more personally many players stream their practice in between tournaments. Some players such as Destiny make most of their money from having entertaining streams that run most days. You can easily jump on to a player's stream, watch them play in first person and sometimes even chat to them via the chat window. Some streamers will answer questions or otherwise interact with viewers.
You can find streams on Twitch TV or on the Team Liquid streams list. Alternatively you can search YouTube for the names of players or tournaments.
Interested in Playing?
Starcraft 2 is a very difficult, yet rewarding game. If you are interested in playing the game you can purchase a copy and start learning to play. All you have to do is buy a copy of the game either digitally or physically and make an account using the serial code provided.
There are a huge amount of resources available to people looking to learn how to play Starcraft 2 and many friendly communities and people that will be more than willing to help you get started. There is a level of appreciation for the esport that can only come from trying to play it yourself so I highly recommend it!