Why watch MLG? It's on at bad times at best for Europeans, there's a seemingly infinite amount of MLG's on throughout the year, every tournament is as stacked as the other and for new eyes StarCraft 2 can be incredibly unwelcoming.
I beg to differ, not because I already enjoy StarCraft 2, but because this MLG is probably the perfect moment for new enthusiasts to step in and join the fun.
That is because this MLG is going to be one of the major changing moments in the ever-so-young StarCraft 2 scene. It's not just like any other MLG, where a ton of Koreans are going to be schooling the seemingly incapable foreigners, and by that I mean not exclusively, as instead this time Major League Gaming have also sorted out a lot of different and worthwhile activities surrounding the main tournament. You can watch the Koreans fight for the title as well as catching a glimpse of the future of StarCraft 2, and with that the future of e-Sports as a whole.
An anxious crowd watching the MLG Winter Championship live in Columbus.
I know from experience with some of our Cadred contributors (who shall remain unnamed) that StarCraft 2 can be extremely unforgiving for new eyes. The mechanics of the game are simple in principle. Two players battling each other, where the one with the biggest and strongest army will probably win. That said, the range of races, units and tactics makes it incredibly hard to understand the big question, why does player A win and not player B? This intricate part of competitive gaming, understanding how and why a game turns out as it does, means a lot of people might perhaps be reluctant at delving deeper into StarCraft 2 in favor of other, more intuitive, titles such as perhaps Counterstrike and League of Legends.
Firstly, let's see why an MLG is a good opportunity for spectators and gamers in general to get into StarCraft 2. The Major League Gaming, often abbreviated to MLG, has been around for a decade now, under the constant supervision of CEO Sundance DiGiovanni. Throughout these 10 years MLG has supported a range of competitive games, from fighters to FPS games and as of the last few years, MOBA and RTS. With prizemoney and the number of tournaments steadily rising throughout the years, MLG is now easily the biggest tournaments organizer in North America. In doing this, it has achieved the backing of many games and their communities, including StarCraft 2, meaning on normal tournaments a large portion of the top players of the respective scenes will be in attendance. This makes the MLG a perfect opportunity for newcomers to start learning about the best in the world and see them in action on the big stage straight away. Their tournaments are under the guidance of a great council of casters and commentators, often (but not always) having household names like Artosis, Tasteless, mr.Bitter, Apollo, DJ Wheat and many more visible on one of their many streams. These casters usually commentate on StarCraft 2 for a living and can almost always explain the in-game mechanics to even the simplest of souls, often in very catchy and entertaining manner.
The Casting Kings of StarCraft 2.
This MLG tournament is somewhat special though, as it concludes the Spring season of MLG with one major Championship. There will be 272 competitors in attendance for SC2 alone, with people trying their luck from every corner of the globe. In two parts, a main tournament (for those already qualified) and an open bracket (for those hoping to qualify on-site) MLG brings stories to your screen throughout the 3-day weekend. No meaningless days with group stages, waiting for 1 or maybe 2 upsets, if any. Instead players fight for what they're worth right from the get-go. The open bracket brings an exciting storyline with it for every person who comes out of it victorious, as players have to play through about 10 other competitors before they make it to the main tournament, only there to find themselves amongst even harder competition. It's grueling at best, but seeing people defy the odds and fight through to the main tournament always adds something to their personality as a player. It adds excitement and makes the game a lot more interesting.
What the MLG Spring championship also brings is free streaming for the entire event, albeit 'only' HQ, and not HD quality. It's not glamorous, but for those willing to give SC2 a shot, HQ should be all you need. If you end up disliking the game you lose nothing but a tiny bit of your spare time, for the chance that you might just find a new e-Sports title to keep you occupied through the long nights. Trust me, StarCraft never sleeps.
So far so good, the event is almost just like any other, except with a lot of very good players and a bunch of entertaining commentators. Why does this tournament pose a better chance for you to get into StarCraft 2 than just about any other tournament? The answer is simple. MLG has incorporated a lot of potentially scene-changing exhibitions in it's weekend of e-Sports. It's more than just any other tournament because it provides a glimpse of the StarCraft 2 future.
A major factor that makes this MLG so special, is that it will provide a first live in-game glimpse of the newest expansion to StarCraft 2, named Heart of the Swarm, or HotS. Although the parallel might be somewhat crooked, I like to think of HotS the same way as I think of the newest addition to the CounterStrike family: Global Offensive. In principle the two games stay majorly the same: the same maps, the same weapons or units, the same match format, etcetera. However both additions feature new challenges, new ways of going by your strategies, just enough to make them intrinsically different. Much like the new molotov in CS:GO, HotS features new units for every race, changing the battles and army compositions and thus changing the way the whole game is played. Although being a bit simplistic, this means that those who hop in on the action during this MLG will be on equal footing with virtually everyone else, even the ones that have been following SC2 throughout it's development over the years. It seems like the best moment in a long time to hop in and start understanding the game, after all it's easier to start with HotS from the start than to try and catch up on 2 years of the original SC2, Wings of Liberty.
Some of the new units that will be featured in Heart of the Swarm.
Somewhat unrelated to the game, there will also be a major shift in the community of StarCraft 2 following this MLG. Their exhibition event in cooperation with KeSPA, The Korea e-Sports Association, will bring to cream of the crop of the South Korean Brood War legends together in one bracket, making it the one of the first times we will see them in action on StarCraft 2. You can once again think of it kind of like the CounterStrike scenes. Brood War is the old version, with players specializing in it for over a decade. Much like with 1.6 teams, many fans consider the Brood War pros to be more skilled than those who are now top of the bill at StarCraft 2. Perhaps this assumption of skill is false, looks can be deceiving after all, but it is a major turning point in the development of the game and the development of the community. As the pro's switch over, so do the fans and thus a new influx of players and fans will be moving over to the newer title. It'll create an interesting dynamic, and even if this specific tournament might be somewhat of a farce by putting up players against each other that have had a couple months of practice (at most) to master a title so diverse, it is still big news to see the old masters transition to the new game.
All in all, this MLG will offer more than just a weekend of Starcraft 2, it offers new insights and opens up a new chapter in the book of StarCraft. That's why this might be the time to check it out, if you've always wanted to but never got around to it. StarCraft 2 not as simple as a shooter, not by a long shot, but it's worth a try for those genuinely interested in e-Sports as a whole, as opposed to those who just enjoy just playing video-games.
This piece is part of Cadred's MLG Spring Championship coverage. For our other pieces and news updates surrounding MLG click here