Growth. eSports. Two words we often hear together, but what does it really mean? How much have we grown over the last decade and a half - and how do we measure it? Starting with some anecdotes, I’ll try to give a small look into the various aspects of the growth eSports - or lack thereof.
I never used to know about eSports initially. Playing Brood War for about 5 years, on and off, (1998-2002) the main site I consumed data from was a little site called www.battlereports.com. What their writers would do, is to type up a whole replay in a text format so you can read it without having SC1 installed. They’d supply screenshots and write funny subnotes underneath to show what kind of game it was. I’d typically use the site if I were on a PC that didn’t have StarCraft installed. Occasionally, I’d download replays of longer than 50 minutes (my favorite kind as you’d see a huge war of units) or under 12 minutes (my second favorite - smart rushes like slow-overlord Lurker drop into someone’s main base). The players would have weird names which I didn’t recognize. It was strange, because I’d download replays of SlayerS`BoxeR` but then in the game no one had the name BoxeR. I didn’t know about “smurfing” (the act of hiding one’s identity by using an alternative fictional nickname) yet so it was confusing, but I figured out who was who anyway.
My first tournament, and ‘mine own ladder fear’
My own personal first tournament that I experienced in a live fashion was consumed long-distance; as an observer. Clikarena in France hosted some of the world’s best WC3 players. I knew of players like SK.Insomnia, mTw-Tak3r, DIDI8 and 4K.TillerMaN and I saw them in action here. It was at this point my appetite for tournaments got well and truly whetted. Another thing that made me feel ready to get involved was my ladder “results”. I’d typically level up my account until it was in the top 20 of the EU (Northrend) ladder. It’d have stats like 150-12. With the scaling difficulty as you got higher on the ladder, I was afraid to ruin my win % and pretty stats and would usually start a new account as I roughly hit Top 20 or so. It also gave me an excuse to challenge myself to get as high xx-0 record as possible. The furthest I got, incidentally, was 98-0 :( almost triple digits, damn! (I did use to have a 135-2 account on the NA ladder, but anyway I digress). All in all, it was inconclusive evidence that I was legit good, but I had some of the prettiest stats on the ladder. Even as people were calling me an online hero or “can’t perform on LAN”, I felt even hungrier to try and make a mark on the LAN scene. My first international tournament was ESWC 2003. I heard about the ESWC and its Dutch qualifiers through the grapevine, and I decided I’ll try my luck. I had previously won three small Dutch LAN’s for first prizes like €100 and €200, so international was the next step. As it stands, I was the only player to show up at the qualifiers and got the qualification spot by virtue of being the only one present. The hot summer weather stopped people from coming, or perhaps my reputation had preceded me. Whatever the reason, this meant that I got to spend MY summer in Poitiers, France!
Frenchies Got Game
So, July 2003, ESWC in France! I met my first three Korean progamers, one of which was ShowTime.WeRRa, my Night Elf idol (I played Night Elf at the time). He and the other Koreans were kind to me, and even knew me by name, which was unbelievably fantastic to me. I did fairly decent, finishing Top 16. It was one of the best experiences of my life back then, and I was hungry for more. ESWC had left a great impression on me. They had set it up in giant theatres with a very big walk-in traffic attendance, and the theatres provided headsets with trilingual shoutcasting (you could choose which language shoutcast you wanted on your headset). Even to this day, it’s rare to see this, so we’re not “only growing”! It really does seem that the Frenchies have always set up sick events, from ESWC 2003 through to Iron Squid 2 (2013).
ECG & WCG 2003
It wouldn’t be until September 2003 that the next event took place for me. This time it was the European Cyber Games, a kind of awkward precursor to the WCG intended for players who had already qualified for the WCG. It wasn’t particularly memorable to me, and also I didn’t perform too well (lost in first round). WCG 2003 took place in October. It was the first tournament where I felt more ready and more hungry to really do some damage, but I fell to the eventual tournament winner SK.Insomnia by a score of 1-2. In the third and final map, I creeped better and I dare say micro’d better, but he outstrategized me, was more daring and generally more “winningy”. He aggressively took an expand from a disadvantageous position (I was level 5/3/1, he was 4/2/1, all else was same) and I passively waited, scared to commit to anything. He pulled ahead and it was the end for me.
In January 2004, following a 2 week Christmas school holiday, I had been “let off the leash” for the first time ever, as I had for the first time had 2 weeks straight of nothing-but-practice. It was my first tournament victory! It was also the first time I was defrauded (though definitely not the last), as the $10,000 first prize pay-out was pocketed by the event organizer and never paid out. In more ways than one, CXG for me was about making an acquaintance to eSports ugliness and beauty alike; the unprofessionalism and fraudulant activity on the one hand, but much more than that it was about the raison d’existence; overcoming challenge and that lusty victorious feeling one gets after achieving ultimate and sweet victory, and hearing the crowds’ cheers (there was no crowd at CXG, though, nor at the WCG 2004 I won come to think of it).
Anyhow, if you look back at these 4 events, I can say that they reflected certain trends about eSports a decade ago: one or fewer events per month, and no streams or anything of the kind in between these events to tie storylines together or to keep people entertained. You’d be lucky if the prize money was paid out quickly, IF AT ALL. Sometimes players missed tournaments because they simply didn’t know they were going on. Prize money on WCG was high ($25,000 for first) but most other events offered $2,500 - $12,500 for first place. My salary for the first year in 4Kings was $0, for the second year it was between $300 and $600, and we were one of the wealthier teams. Most teams got by on one or two major sponsorships per year. The first time I ever streamed (on XFire), I quickly reached the maximum viewer limit of 50. It was capped at 50! At the same time, I was so amazed that I was playing in front of 50 viewers, it was unbelievable. Lastly, besides the ESWC 2003, the vast majority of tournaments I went to in 2003 and 2004 and very few live visitors / fans. Looking at all these things, one can only marvel at the leaps and bounds we’ve made (one step backwards, two step forwards) in eSports, and marvel at the steps we’ve yet to make - and will surely make.
eSports has its ups and downs, and unfortunately even some drama. We take one step backwards with every drama, unfortunate incident and growing pains, but we take two steps forwards every time we witness the passion that exists for all of eSports’ games; yes, even if it’s League of Legends! It’s still dudes and dudettes checking out other dudes and dudettes playing games at a high level. That’s eSports. IEM Poland with 9000/200 supply of spectators in the stadium? That’s eSports! Streaming to thousandssss of viewers simultaneously while practicing? That’s beautiful - that’s eSports. Player(s) being able to make it independently with several high profile sponsors. Yeah - a huge thanks to Sony Xperia*, BenQ* & TwitchTV*). That, too, is eSports.
Enjoy everything this year has to offer.
*On this note, I really want to stress how lucky I am to have been able to make these connections with said sponsors. Besides the crucial financial support that they offer me, from which I pay all my tournament expenses, you’ll be surprised to know that help comes in other forms as well.
Sony Xperia actively supported me at all the MLG championship events in 2012, setting up signing sessions and fan interactions, which helped me connect to the audience, get me pumped up for my games and makes me feel like an eSports star. They also gave me their awesome phones, the Sony Xperia Ion and Sony Xperia TL.
BenQ America set up Q&A Video’s where fans asked me questions and I answered. They set up a GRUBBY$20 discount code for my fans on their gaming monitors. BenQ also provided me with the tournament training monitors RL2450HT and XL2420T so I get ideally prepared.
TwitchTV has obviously helped the most by making streaming readily accessible to anyone and everyone, they also helped me with finetuning my stream quality and with general PC issues. They’ve also set up TwitchTV player lounges at dozens of events throughout the year, of which the relaxing effect should not be underestimated for the tournament. Much love and gratitude to them all.
A big change is coming soon™ which will have a massive effect on everyone who watches or plays SC2. The Heart of the Swarm expansion set, should it live up to the expansion sets that preceded it in previous Blizzard titles, should be improving the overall gameplay and viewing experience immensely for SC2.
The effect of the expansion sets on the original games
StarCraft 1 was great, but it wasn’t until Brood War that it became more balanced and as fun as it is even today. WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos was a fun game, but the gameplay was quite passive; you could creep until level 10 Heroes and the gains for creeping were immense. Imbalanced items like Staff of Mastery would allow a player to steal 3 units of their choice and those would permanently become yours; could be powerful neutral creeps or 3 of your opponent’s units. Yay, I’m Orc and now I got 3 of your Tier 3 heavy hittin’ Abominations! Haha. The gold gains for creeping were also like 500% bigger than what they were in The Frozen Throne expansion set. The incentives for creeping instead of harassing or attacking were very great.
So WC3: TFT encouraged more player interaction, strife, struggle, since hero levels through creeping was capped at level 5 - the rest of the experience would only come through bloody battle with the adversary. Brood War filled in some extreme gaps like Terran Bio healing (medics) and Protoss anti air (corsairs) as well as Zerg crowd control and zoning (lurkers).
My sincere hope and expectation is that HotS will do for WoL what those expansion packs did for the predecessors. Or, if anything, at least contribute 50% of what those did (since the SC2 Legacy of the Void expansion set is still on the horizon).
Tournaments making the switch
As HotS is about to come out on March 12th, 2013, tournaments are getting ready to make the switch. March is going to be an extremely interesting month, as MLG announced a championship event on 15-17 March and people speculated if they knew the HotS release date was 12 March when they booked their venue. If they did know, MLG is definitely looking to capitalize on that by having probably the first major HotS retail event ever. While qualification or invitation rules have not been made public yet, you can rest assured that the event is going to be big news, especially with January and February being a bit of an unofficial off-season. .
Looking back on 2012
I feel like 2012 was a great success. To name just a few things; 1) my comeback run at WCS Europe (“kick in the balls”-moments), 2) #2 placement at premier event IEM Singapore, 3) having higher stream numbers than I dared think I’d ever have, 4) loving every moment of my crazy busy life, 5) playing against the Ultimate Weapon “Flash” at MLG, 6) Consistently qualifying for all the EU Qualifier events I participated in, and so much more. I know without a doubt I owe this all to my fans - thank you - and to my fantastic sponsors; Sony Xperia with the sickest mobile phones, BenQ with the industry leading and best gaming monitors and TwitchTV, THE live streaming platform. In the end, though, nothing of this would be sustainable without “enjoyment of the game” and “enjoyment to entertain.” And that’s where you guys come in - the magic ingredient - my fans. Thank you again :)
For the rest, I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be “my year” where my personal goals and dreams for SC2 can be fulfilled. If I had to compare WoL and HotS, I’d say that HotS is more “my game”. I’m so glad to see how Protoss is changing and am looking forward to playing as much HotS as possible! :)
Check out Sony’s Xperia TL (or, the Bond Phone): http://www.sonymobile.com/us/products/phones/xperia-tl/
My MLG 2012 Season
Hey guys! I just wanted to share with you guys a quick recap of my 2012 MLG season. As you may know, MLG held 4 Arena events and 4 Championship events this year. They also held 4 European Qualifiers to qualify for those. So how did it go for me overall? There is a red line in the story here which I’d like to show you ;)
For the first three EU qualifiers:
For these qualifiers, you needed to be top 7 or top 9 or so to get placed for the main events.
- The good part: I qualified through each of the three qualifiers!
- The not so good but still OK part: I always qualified in last place (7th, 8th or 9th) :)
That’s just a funny little statistic to entertain myself with. It’s that “try hardest when you’re on the brink” attitude that has been some of my greatest help as well as greatest thorn sometimes. Although it may be exciting to always fight back on the edge of a precipice, you don’t really have much space to trip, and it was nearly giving me heart attacks. However, the important part was that I qualified for the Arena events, which also functioned as fully paid qualification spot qualifiers for the Championship events – very important!
The last EU qualifier:
I did better in the last qualifier. I didn’t drop down the loser’s bracket. I started off with a freewin against XlorD because he did not show up, and then won against roxkisPomi, Gaulzi and Cytoplasm to place myself as Top 2 alongside FXO’s BabyKnight. You can find a Video Blog where I talked about this, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVW7JoYKOHc
The Arena events
I really, really loved the Arena events. It was cozy and comfortable in a way that many events are not. I got to hang out with a lot of the foreign and Korean players, watch the stream on the 80” TV in the Dr Pepper Ultimate Access Lounge, and most of the times there’d be a practice PC available to use when not competing in the tournament. More than that, having so many awesome games happen in a small area allowed me to watch a lot of the developing tournament games. More so than almost any other event, I feel like I grew tremendously as a player through learning from the other players in attendance. I’ve also had some good results at the Arena events; at the 3 Arena events that I attended, I qualified for the Main Event twice; beating players such as LosirA, ThorZaIN, Oz, and Ryung. I also valued my losses against players such as HerO, Naniwa, Rain and DeMusliM.
The Main Events
My favorite moment was when I realized I was going back to Anaheim. MLG Spring Championship was being held in Anaheim (08-10 June) and this is one of my favorite cities to go to. I’ve got a lot of good memories accrued here from my WC3 days, even winning a BlizzCon in 2005. I also felt good leading up to the event, and it became my best MLG of the year! I took out the Koreans GoldenLight & MVPDream, and took a map off Symbol & MarineKing. I then lost to ThorZaIN and SaSe (who went on a rampage, beating Leenock, Polt, Stephano before falling to Alicia). It was an awesome MLG for me even more so because I got to hang out with my friend Joshua “Raihn” Keyes who came to visit and support me. Socke and him are two contributing factors to my “feel-good” factor and subsequent performance at the event!
My hardest moment came in the very first MLG Championship that I attended in 2012. I had played MLG’s before, in 2011, but I was only just starting out with SC2 and didn’t expect much in the way of results. In the MLG Winter Championship (Columbus, 23-25 March), I made the acquaintance with PartinG, aLive, TheSTC, Oz and Rain, all of whom were in my group – and all of whom defeated me ^_^. Having 5 Koreans in my group as opposed to other groups which only had 2, did not bother me in the slightest. I even feel privileged that I got to experience getting such a beating, because I think I learned more in that weekend than I’d learn in one month at home. I got my first really important breakthrough in understanding of the PvP match-up in losing my series games against PartinG & Oz! It’s that kind of “revelation”-type of feeling that draws the curtains away from a previously obscure point. Still – having said all that, 0-6 in series play was a tough break to accept (I lost to the Korean SeleCT in the Championship Bracket), but I grew stronger from it regardless.
As an independent player, I really value the support and sponsorship of my valuable partners such as Sony Xperia. You know, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this, to enjoy the experiences and the thrill of competing against the best players in the world. Moreover, many people might not think about it a lot, but MLG has made sure that everyone who qualified for their events can also make it out to the States, irrespective of whether their team or sponsors can fork up the travel expenses. That’s because every player who qualified, was given full travel support and accommodation. As a result, there were barely any drop-outs and the quality of the player attendance & skill was insane! I’m really looking forward to seeing what MLG’s plans are for 2013, and I hope to come back a lot stronger :]
I wanted to make this MLG “my MLG”. I’ve had mixed results in the first three MLG’s of this year. With only one MLG remaining and my ambitions fired up, I was determined to make this one my best yet. So far, my highest placement was Top 16 at MLG Spring in Anaheim. Could I do better? I had my work cut out for me – my first opponent was going to be Flash, “The Ultimate Weapon”
Great Turnout! (Taken w/ Sony Xperia TL)
Preparation & Goal Setting for Practice
In order to try and give myself the best possible preparation leading up to this event, I booked a plane to Korea after casting the WCS Asia Finals (15/16 October). The two weeks I spent there led up to the MLG Fall/Dallas event on 02-04 November. I had previously spent two weeks in Korea and gained a lot from it, getting Top 6 at WCS Europe finals, beating players such as Ret, DarK_ForcE, and Nerchio. My goals for this training session were to (1) Drastically improve my PvT knowledge, (2) Keep up my speed and confidence, (3) Prepare specific strategies against my potential opponents. The luck of the draw gave me a PvP-filled bracket, but I spawned on the PvT side of it. For the past 6 to 9 months, my PvT match-up hasn’t been very good. I wasn’t going to get an easy start with FlasH either.
Although I’d like to say I made a lot of progress, I wasn’t gaining a lot of confidence over the course of my practice session. I was practicing a lot on the ladder, as well as with some top NA Terran Pro’s like TheOgnis, Major, KawaiiRice. I also played a session with aLive – that one started out well (2-1 for me), but he was relentless and probably figured me out. After losing the next 8 to 10 or so maps in a row, I threw the towel in the ring, deeply disturbed, and went to sleep. I was working on my foundations rather than on gimmicky strategies, and my practice & ladder results weren’t very encouraging.
View of Main Stage (Taken w/ Sony Xperia TL)
My practice session at an end, it was time to go to MLG Dallas. I felt quite a lot of pressure since I was going up against such a legendary player, and the match was being hyped up as the opening match. It feels good to get that much hype for a match, but I didn’t want to disappoint the fans. Therefore I had practiced almost exclusively just to win my opening match, and didn’t worry too much about the rest of the matches afterwards. I was hoping to win. However, Flash beat me 2-0 pretty handily, and my confidence sank a little lower. I dropped down to the Lower Bracket, where I lost 0-2 to IdrA. In game 1, IdrA played very well – a lot better than many other Zergs I’ve competed against, with a very solid defense of spores & spines, making my harassment ineffectual. I confounded things afterwards, making a pretty horrible mistake in Game 2. I guess you could say I was on tilt already. At 8-9 minutes, I discovered I had not even started Warp Gate research – a fatal error.
My best games of the tournament came against formerly-oGs JookToJung, which I lost 1-2. I had a real chance of winning (unlike the previous two), but by this point I was not only a little flustered, but also quite exhausted due to the emotional stress and it being a generally long day.
My Feelings about the Tournament
Given the situation, I don’t think I could’ve done much better in this particular case. My opponents played well and I wasn’t confident enough. I’ve really got to thank the fans and MLG attendees/audience here. I would’ve felt pretty horrible if this was all that happened, because I put so much time, energy, and money into my preparations for the event, and I feel like I performed poorly. However, I wasn’t allowed to mope and pout since so many people came up to me and said that I held my own really well against Flash. Even if I disagree, they were heartfelt sentiments shared with me by the fans, and that’s why it means a lot. They also cheered me on a lot in the series vs JookTo. I love playing for a crowd – even if I lose – and this gave my weekend some meaning. I’ve also had great fun meeting people at the meet & greet and signing sessions for Sony Xperia and BenQ, as they help me feel closer to the fans and the community in a way that was nearly impossible back in my WC3 career. It’s really awesome ;)
Hope to come again to MLG’s in 2013, make my mark, and meet more awesome SC2 fans! Thanks for reading ;)
Here are some pictures I took with the new Sony Xperia TL phone:
Oz vs Leenock on mini-stage
BabyKnight and me
and Ganzi (posing^^) & CranK!
Epic Naniwa vs Flash Series
The Sensei is hitting stores soon and the first reviews have now gone public:
“SteelSeries Sensei is the best mouse I’ve ever tested.”
- XSReviews (full review)
“The SteelSeries Sensei is the most powerful mouse we have tested to date.”
- Hardware Heaven (full review)
“It’s clear that the Sensei is an amazing mouse with absolutely no issues at all.”
- Lan OC (full review)
More to come. :)
I’ve recently launched my new website “FollowGrubby.com” (Beta). This is the official Grubby homepage - the one-stop website for all news regarding me, including blogs, updates on my next tournament, results, when I will be streaming, the ability to download my latest replays, wallpapers, and you can watch VODs - Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2 commentaries and so on. Be sure to also check out the photo gallery and Grubby Shop (Coming soon, Team Grubby jerseys, jackets).
Though the page is in Beta with improvements and changes on its way, it’s already fully functional, with a few hundred users signed up. Signing in with your Facebook account is possible - Just click on the Facebook icon on the top left. Come join our sweet community today, hang out in our discussion forums, discuss strategies and make friends with the same passion, talk about anything under the sun!
See you at http://followgrubby.com/ !
Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen